A/N: Trolls all over the comment section again. Pay the fools no mind.

Now, then. A warning. This chapter is told from multiple viewpoints, with multiple scene breaks. I do hope you're prepared, because its a trip.

Don't you worry about Tock. We haven't seen the last of her just yet. Snarky little thing that she is, she DOES work for Salem. Even called her "Master" at one point. That much has been outright confirmed thus far...although her Semblance is bullshit. There are ways around it, naturally. One minute of pure invincibility means nothing when your foe is faster than you, stronger than you, and outnumbers you. Especially when said Semblance breaks your Aura after using it.

Case in point! Lets say Naruto fights little miss Tock. She activates her Semblance and attacks him. Result? He backs off, swarms her with clones and waits her out. That or he just blitzes her for a minute. Why, its even possible to simply pin Tock or just trap or just trap her for those sixty seconds, and then bam, she's got no aura and she's a sitting duck. Tock may be the worst matchup for someone like Maria, but against an opponent with a range of options...yeah, she's gonna have a bad time.

Nevermind if she ran into the rest of Team Seven. Naruto may not kill, but I wouldn't put Kakashi or Sasuke past torture; certainly not if Tock ticked them off. Sakura? Ha! The second her Semblance is down, she'd knock that little twit's head right off her shoulders. Heh. Just realized I accidentally made a pun there. Tick. Tock.

As ever, I own no references, themes or memes.


"To know what is right, and actively choosing to ignore it...

...that is the act of a coward."


Reasons To Stay

"You have failed me."

Four little words, and yet they brought Tock lower than anyone ever had before. Put the fear of gods into her, right and proper. Ghastly red eyes bore into her from across the darkened room and left her helpless as a newborn babe; stricken and kneeling on the ground, unable to move. She dare not raise her eyes; didn't dare speak out against her mistress, lest she provoke her wrath. She'd seen the fate of those that did so. To speak now was to be struck down.

Salem did not tolerate failure.

Yet how had she failed? Try as she might, the assassin couldn't understand it. She had been thorough. At least she thought she had. She'd killed that whelp of a girl, slain her parents, set their house on fire and left their remains for the Grimm. None of them wielded even the slightest bit Aura. It hadn't even been a proper fight. More a slaughter, really. She never liked those. They always left a bad taste in her mouth for some reason; one she didn't understand. It was one thing to kill a trained huntress or huntsman in pitched combat, but killing kids never sat right with her. She'd ended the brat quickly and painlessly. She should be dead.

Had she been careless? Only a day had passed! There was just no possible way-

"The child lives." her mistress declared, words rippling through the Seer before her. "I can still sense her foul presence. You killed her parents, yet failed to slay her."

"How do you know?" the words tumbled out before Tock could think to hold them back.

"Are you questioning me?" scarlet slits narrowed at her through the orb and the Seer's tentacles bristled ominously.

"No!" Tock saw them and hung her head again. "Not at all! I'm just curious!"

A beat of silence passed between

"A stray nevermore saw her this morning." Salem deigned to spare her life. "You know as well as I do that their eyes are mine. She lives. Trust me in this."

"I'll go back." Tock slammed a fist into the ground, trying to ignore the ugly feeling in her gut. "I'll find her and finish what I started-


Tock blinked. "N-No...?"

"No." Salem's voice purred with silken menace. "Someone has found her. They will be on guard."

Tock held a sinking suspicion in the pit of her stomach; one that told her precisely who rescued little Summer Rose.

"In any case, it matters not." once more Salem's words flummoxed her but she dare not speak out against them. "Those two will starve long before they reach the city...if the Grimm don't find them first. After the torment you've inflicted on that girl, they'll be drawn down on her like a beacon."

But she wasn't unprotected, was she? Tock knew better. That was why she was so afraid.

That damn blond must've resuscitated the brat somehow.

He knew how to fight, too. She'd been sorely pressed until she'd managed to surprise him with her Semblance, but when she'd struck him, he turned to smoke. That implied a Semblance of his own, one Tock wasn't keen on facing again. Did she dare mention that? Did she dare mention him? She could tell Salem about his abilities. Warn her...and in doing so risk her wrath. Was it worth the risk?


Salem may have tolerated this slight failure, but if she knew the brat had a capable protector? Someone to raise and train her? Someone to keep her safe? Nope. Big nope. All bets were off. She'd seen what had become of her predecessor; speaking up now would be suicide. And she didn't want to die.

So she held her tongue and waited as the Seer bobbed in stoic silence.

Finally, her mistress spoke.

"I have another task for you, my dear." The Queen of the Grimm drawled each word slowly, drawing out every second of her anxiety. "Seek out the Grimm Reaper. She was recently sighted in Vale and has made herself an annoyance. I would not have Ozpin recruit her to his side. Slay her."

Tock perked up.

"Waitaminute," she croaked out, "That woman's real?"

"Frightfully so." Salem's smile was a sneer. "She may kill you if you're not careful.

It sounded like nonsense. The Grimm Reaper was a rumor. A whisper. A myth. A bloody legend. Emphasis on bloody. No one knew who she was or who she worked for. Many said she was a lone huntress. Some claimed that she was a murderer, one who took lives for the sole pleasure of it. Others called her a vengeful spirit. The truth was shrouded in mystery, but one aspect remained constant. Wherever she went, Grimm died in droves. Others were turned to stone and left behind as a warning. There could be no doubting that she'd mastered the power of her Silver Eyes.

"Grimm won't be enough against someone like her." she warned. "I'll need resources-no, I'll need a crew."

"You shall have them." her mistress waved a hand. "Recruit as you see fit among the criminals of Vale. Money is no object, but be sure to dispose of any survivors afterwards. There can be no witnesses to tell of you. Ozpin cannot know of our movements."

"Right, then." she made to stand. "I'll do it."

"Oh, and Tock?"

The girl stiffened.

"Do not fail me again."

Tock stifled a convulsive shudder as the Seer fell at her feet, lifeless and inert. There it would lay until their next communication. She nudged it once with her foot, just to be certain it wouldn't spring back to life when she turned her back on it. Damn thing creeped her out, right and proper.

She wouldn't screw up this time.

So long as she made herself useful, Salem wouldn't kill her. Her semblance was too valuable to toss aside...even if she loathed what she was doing. So long as she survived, she could find a way out of this. Someday. She would show her. She'd show them! She'd show them all.

Tock was nothing if not a survivor.


Someone once said tears were beautiful, that the art of crying was beauty in-and-of itself.

Naruto wanted to find that someone, smack them in the mouth, knock out their teeth and leave them in a ditch.

It took the better part of the next day to lay little Summer's parents to rest. She bawled the entire time, the poor thing. Digging a pair of holes for their bodies proved easy enough; he had strength and numbers in spades these days, a literal army at his back thanks to his clones. That didn't take an hour. From there he dressed the corpses as best he could and gave her time to say her goodbyes before he buried them. Time enough for her to grieve as she saw fit.

Summer didn't sob. She wailed, like the child she was.

It was a miserable sound, one that would stay with him for the rest of his days.

Against all odds, he was able to scavenge a few meager supplies from the wrecked cottage; a pair of cloaks for Summer and himself, an empty canteen for each, alongside a bit of dried food from the sealed cellar. Another stroke of luck there. He stuffed the later into a pair of worn backpacks he'd found and cinched them tight. It wasn't much and he knew it wouldn't last long, but it would do. For now.

By the time he was done Naruto felt worn down and miserable; Summer looked much the same. She still hadn't move from her parent's graves and so he busied himself further.

Branches and twigs were gathered and thrown together to create into a makeshift campfire for warmth.

Naruto pulled up a log and settled in to wait.

"You'll have to hunt for more food on the road."

"I know." Naruto groaned, shouldering his pack. He didn't even know how to hunt. "It can't be that hard, right...?"

"It really can." Kurama sighed. "Still, we'll cross that bridge when we come to it. I'm sure you can run down a deer or two if you have to."

The blond grimaced at the idea. With no weapon hand he'd have to wrestle them down and break their necks. That was...an unpleasant image. Any of his more explosive jutsu were out of the question. They'd destroy the meat. Thankfully he at least knew how to skin and cook animal properly. Yamato's lessons hadn't gone to waste on that front.

"Just...just keep an eye on the kid, alright?"

It was the concern in his partner's voice that finally roused the wayward shinobi from his stupor.

He risked a glance over his shoulder. Summer still hadn't budged from where he'd left her, though her tears seemed to have run dry. Conventional wisdom -and a nugget of guilt deep in his chest- told him to leave her be and let her work out her issues on her own time. Intruding now would just draw her grief down onto him.

"Why?" the word was a bitter cry as she gazed forlornly at the wrapped bodies of her parents. "Why did Mommy and Daddy have to die? They didn't do anything wrong."

Naruto felt something lurch in his chest. Since when did he listen to wisdom?

He found himself moving before he even realized it.

"C'mere, kiddo." he pulled her away and drew her close to the fire in the hopes of warming her up. "Its freezing out here. You're going to catch a cold, ya know."

Summer didn't resist, but she didn't answer him either. Numbly, she plopped down on the log beside him with nary a sound. Blank glassy eyes stared into the fire. She picked up a stray stick and drove it into the flames with a bit more force than was strictly necessary. He didn't challenge her on it, but he did watch her. In her current state he was almost afraid she'd throw herself onto the flames. He wasn't sure she would, but he made ready to catch her just in case. Grief was a powerful thing, but he was sure her parents would want her to live on.

"Why did you save me?"

Her question closed around Naruto's heart like a invisible fist. No child should ask such a thing.

"I couldn't let you die." he lifted his hands to warm them by the fire. "That's not the kind of person I am. If I could've saved your folks, I would've."

...I know." her admission surprised him. "You're nice. Not like her."

"No." he returned her words freely. "I'm not."

A shadow flitted over her face.

"She killed them. That woman. I remember her face." He witnessed the precise moment Summer's sadness and sorrow turned to hatred. "We didn't do anything to her," she growled the words. "But she broke into our home and attacked us. Said I had silver eyes. Mommy told Daddy to take me and run tried to hold her off, but then the Grimm came. I hate her." she reared back and spat viciously into the fire. "One day when I'm big and strong, I'll get her for this. I'll hunt that monster down and make her hurt. Then I'll kill her. Slowly."

For a moment she almost reminded him of Sasuke. There were differences to be sure, but the bile in her words was all too familiar.

Naruto wasn't usually the sort to advocate for murder. He felt that could be forgiven under the circumstances. In his heart he wanted nothing more than turn Summer away from this path, but the words withered on his tongue. Her father had died shielding her. She'd probably laid in his arms as he choked out his last breath. An uncomfortable sensation burned in the back of his throat. It felt like anger. Toward himself, for the lives he'd been unable to save, for the burden now placed on Summer's back. He hadn't been angry in a terribly long time. Not like this.

"And then?" he found himself asking.

"Then I'll be happy." Summer granted him a grim grin. "I'll live and have a family of my own, just to spite her. At least, I think I will."

With those words, the anger drained out of Summer and she seemed to shrink in on herself. She turned and gazed into the fire again, tucking her little knees into her chest. All the heat and fury in her eyes burned away, leaving her looking smaller and weaker than ever before.

"What's going to happen to me now?"

"Do you have any family?" it was almost too much for him to hope for.

"Got an aunt back in Mistral." Summer lisped. "Don't like her. She used to hit me when we visited."

An alarm wailed in the back of Naruto's head. Nope! He wasn't consigning a child to an abusive aunt. Nor could he bring himself to leave Summer behind. There was only one option. There had only ever been one to begin with, though he'd been slow to see it. He wrapped an arm around her trembling shoulders and drew her close. "I'll look after ya, then."

"Really?" A spark glimmered in those dull silver eyes as she gazed up at him. "You will?"

"Course I will." he muttered. "I won't let anything happen to you."


Naruto leaned back as her words blurred together. "Pardon?"

"Teach me!" Summer inched forward, eyes welling up with hopeful tears. "You fought off those Grimm and chased that woman away. You must have," she reasoned with the surety only a child could possibly possess, "If you hadn't, I'd be dead. You're strong, right?"

"Oh, you sweet innocent child." Kurama cackled. "You have no idea."

"I mean...if you don't want to...

Summer's confidence wilted in the silence that followed. Her eyes strayed back to the fire, orange light dancing in her gaze. Naruto watched her closely, wondering if she would blame him for the death of her family. A part of him almost expected it. If he'd been just a little faster, they might've survived. He'd make a horrible teacher. He knew that. She wouldn't be able to learn any of his techniques, surely. But she couldn't defend herself as she was now. Not at all. Surely he could teach her something...? Just a little. Just a bit. Enough for her to stand on her own?

"Fine." he deflated. "I'll see what I can do to help."

"Pinky promise?" she raised her little finger.

He hooked in his own. "Promise."

"Then you're papa."

"EH?! The young man nearly choked on his spit and fell off his log. Papa?! Him?! Nope! Lots of nope! Nope sandwich! He might've been willing to take responsibility in getting her to the city he'd seen, but acting as a foster father for her?! He was too young for that! Way too young! He wasn't even twenty for crying out loud!

He tried to say as much, tried to protest. "But-

"No buts!" came the cry.

Naruto could hear the desperation it. At a glance Summer seemed to carry herself with determination and confidence; her back was straight, chin held aloft, shoulders squared up against everything the world had to throw at her and more. It would've been impressive if she weren't so damn small. Naruto couldn't help himself. He snorted.


That snort turned into a snicker and snicker a chuckle; soon enough he was outright laughing, hunching over himself as he slapped at a knee. Not at little Summer of course -no, never at her!- but at the situation he found himself in. Because if he didn't laugh now, he was fairly certain he was going to cry. Summer didn't need his tears. She needed his strength. She needed his help and breaking down right now wouldn't help anyone. He could get through this, he told himself. He knew he would. He'd beaten worse odds before.

"Where's the closest city?" he asked.

"Vale." his ward chirped.

"Vale it is, then."

"Here," he said, dipping a hand back into his pouch. "You must be hungry after all that. This isn't much, and its a bit crumpled, but you need to eat

Summer all but tore it from his hands and crammed it down her mouth.

"Mmf!" She gave him a watery smile around the crumbled muffin. "Tastes gooth!"

"Don't talk with your mouth full." Naruto poked her cheek with a finger. "That's rude, you know."

"Grr." The silver-eyed child pouted slightly at his remark, but scarfed her treat down all the same. "Sowwy, papa...

"Ach, my heart!"

Naruto blew out a sigh and pulled out a napkin to clean Summer's face. They'd bury her parents later. For now he wanted to keep her distracted and happy. He'd seen the city at a distance when he was falling; even at a dead sprint -which he knew Summer couldn't handle- it would take time for them to reach the city of Vale. Time in which Summer might sink back into misery and depression. He wouldn't allow it. Come what may, he wouldn't allow this girl to die. He'd fight for her. To hell and back.

And if that woman came for little Summer again...he'd break his rule. Just once.

If that assassin tried to finish what she started...

...she'd have a bad time.


"Die, huntsman!"

Was this what fury felt like?

Sasuke didn't like it. No, not one bit. It burned in the back of his throat like an angry dragon, choking down reason and sense as he stormed down the road. He'd had to sleep outside in the elements last night, leaving him with an awful crick in his neck, an empty stomach, and a seething temper that threatened to slip from his grasp even as he struggled to reel it in. Damn Kaguya. Damn her to hell. Bad enough that he'd woken alone, bad enough that he'd been separated from the others, but this...

And now these fools were taking potshots at him!

Another arrow whisked past his cheek as he stormed toward the compound ahead. Sasuke caught it in his fist.

Ah, how lovely. Another volunteer.

"You must have rocks in your head, hunter!" the gate guard called out to him, seeing his drawn sword. "You think you can take the Tribe alone?! We are legion! And you are one man! We'll shoot you full of holes!"

Sasuke launched the arrow back at him and lodged it in the man's throat. The fool clutched at the shaft protruding from his windpipe for all of a moment before he pitched forward and pitched off the walls with a bloody gurgle. The Last Uchiha permitted himself a small smile. Finally. That one had been braying for the last two minutes now.

"He got Bert!" Someone cried.

He'd just wanted to ask directions. That was it. That was all. Instead these fools had taken one good look at him, run back into their fort, and sounded the alarm. That last one had called him...what was it? Huntsman? He wasn't familiar with the unusual term. His mind filed it away for later. Now was not the time for questions. Now was the time for action. Dark eyes pulsed into mismatching shades of crimson and violet. At this range, few could hope to see just how furious he truly was. Didn't matter. They would learn soon enough.

When he reached the gate, he burned it down, walked over its scorched remains, and stepped into the camp. Weapons were drawn. Shouts were given. Bandits rushed him.

"I came here seeking directions," he admitted freely as they closed on him, "But if its a fight you want, I'll oblige. You brought this on yourself."

The Last Uchiha threw himself at them and lost himself in the chaos that followed.

A man lunged at him with a roar, brandishing a rusty machete. Sasuke scoffed and hacked it down, followed by the hand holding it. The man screamed and clutched at the ruined stump of his wrist but the Uchiha was already gone, spinning into a tribesman raising a bow. He drove a heel palm beneath their chin with an almighty crack, leaving them to slump at his feet with a broken neck.


A woman cried out and rushed him, wielding an ax as large as she was tall.

Sasuke flowed backwards, allowed it to crash into the ground, and touched a hand to its metal haft. Sparks shot forth from his fingers, racing up the length of the weapon to find her flesh. Skin smoking, she twitched and spasmed for a soundless moment. When she didn't fall, he planted a bloody boot into the woman's nose, producing a visceral crunch as he obliterated her nose. She toppled backward like a fallen elm.

Two men tried to flank him from behind; he shattered their minds with a glance and turned them on their comrades.

"Get him!" someone brayed, stabbing a finger in his direction. "GET HIM! He's just one man!"

Sasuke flew at them.

Such a senseless slaughter. Once upon a time he might have enjoyed this, even taken pleasure in the suffering he inflicted. Now? This was a waste of his time, and his mood grew blacker with each kill. They thought they were strong, the fools. This wasn't strength. This was stupidity. Fallacy at its finest.

He carved a bloody swathe through everyone and everything, yet still them came. Mercy meant nothing here. They wouldn't stop until they were unconscious...or dead.

Finally the chief stood before him, eyes wide and trembling.

Not solely through his own merit at that, but because the survivors had finally pulled back. They were bloodied and battered to a man. He'd carved through their ranks like a holiday ham and none of them had managed to land so much as a single blow on him. He glowered at them and they shrank back, cowering in fear.

Hmm. Seemed they had some sense of self-preservation after all.

"Monster." the chieftain spat at his feet. "You damn demon!"

Sasuke flicked a glance to their leader. He was a great big brute of a man in dark leathers, standing head and shoulders above the rest. An eyepatch dominated the right side of his scarred face, a telling tale of the battles he'd won and the wars he'd waged. He might've been intimidating...if he weren't sweating like a pig.

"What's the matter?" the last Uchiha flicked his blade forward and happily threw the man's words back at him. "You clearly respect strength and nothing more. Am I not strong?"

"Only the strongest rule the tribe!"

The Chieftain lashed out at him with a mighty two-handed mace, powerful yet slow. It would've bashed his head in if he let it land. Not that he would. That wasn't his fault, Sasuke reasoned as he stepped aside. They were all slow compared to a shinobi. Even a rank genin would've torn through these amateurs like wet paper.

And he was so much more than that. He felt no need to draw this out any longer.

Catching the massive weapon by the haft, he lifted the man's dominant arm up and neatly severed it at the shoulder. Bloody sprayed forth, spattering his face and clothes as the man clutched at his grievous wound with a scream. One blow. A single strike. That was all it took to break such a weakling. The man fell backward onto his remaining hand and knees and skittered away. Like a drunken crab. Whimpering and crying. Did he think he would survive? He'd already lost too much blood.

"Kill him!" the fool brayed to his men. "Kill him! I command you! Kill him!"

None obeyed his decree. They knew to do so meant death.

Sasuke saw the moment he realized his doom.

"Outsider! Filthy interloper...! "The Chieftain croaked out as he crawled away. "You can't just take over the Tribe! Its...mine! Not yours...! You have...no right...!"

"You said the strongest ruled this tribe." Sasuke paced after the bloodied man like a panther, trailing the edge of his blade against the ground. "I'm simply following your rules. And you lost." Pitiful. Was this the strongest warrior they had to offer? All brawn and no brains, this one. Naruto would've advocated mercy. Second chances and whatnot. After the day he'd had, Sasuke wasn't feeling merciful.

No...an example must be made.

"Bandits." he raised his voice to be heard by the throng of wounded men and women surrounding him. "Look at your leader. Drop your weapons and run." he let his words rip through them, beheld the naked terror in their eyes, drank it in as he held his sword aloft one last time. "Or this will be your fate."

His blade fell in a clap of thunder and the Chieftain lost his head.

In the chaos that followed, one or two fled. The rest didn't.

"Well?!" he snarled. "I told you to run! Go!"

They knelt instead.

Sasuke didn't know what to make of that, and felt his mouth twitch into a familiar scowl as nearly every man, woman and child, bowed before him. He'd told them to run. His instructions could not have been more clear if he tried. Why, then, were they prostrating themselves? Did they want to die that badly? It baffled him. None stepped forward. None challenged him. They just...lay there.

In that moment, his exhausted legs finally betrayed him and he sank into the first seat he found; a mighty throne made of bones in the center of the camp.

In hindsight, he really should've picked a better place to put his legs up. If only he had, perhaps he could've spared himself what followed.

"The Bandit King is dead." someone murmured. "Long live the King."

"What?" Sasuke balked. "No. None of that. I'm no king."

"Long live the King!" a second echoed.

"Stop that, the lot of you! Cease!"

Another took up the cry.

"Long live the King!"

Within moments, others took up the hue and cry, drowning out any protest Sasuke tried to make. He sought to shout them down, but their cries only grew louder as his gaze roved across them. His eyes flared and he was on the verge of simply putting them all to sleep on the

That was when he saw them.

He spied a pair of young children watching him from the shadows near the back of the group. His heart twisted at the sight of their fearful expressions. Just a little. A boy and a girl, each with dark hair and blood red eyes of pure crimson. The latter scowled at him as if he were some horrible demon come to kill her while she slept. Had he killed their father? He wasn't sure. He'd killed many people today. Should he feel guilty about that?

"You, there. You can come out now." he called out to them, then grimaced when the camp fell silent before his words. "I'll not hurt you. You have my word."

They didn't budge an inch. A thorn of regret stabbed at his heart until finally, almost abruptly, the smaller of the pair bulled forward.

Piercing blood red eyes regarded him.

"Who are you...?"


Try as she might, Sakura Haruno couldn't quite keep herself together.

"Next patient!" she barked at her aide as she raised her trembling hands. "Send them in!"

She didn't know where she was, much less what to do it about, or even if she could do anything at all. She knew the why, but who, what, when, where or how. No food, no resources to speak of, no idea where the hell she was. By some manner of luck, she'd landed near civilization. That should've been a good thing. But it wasn't.

This was an island. That was the extend of her knowledge.

When she'd asked where she was...the looks she'd gotten were downright strange. She'd finally managed to wring a name from someone.

Menagerie, they called this place. There were so many injured and sick people here. She hadn't been able to help herself. At the end of the day Sakura was still very much a medic. Instinct had taken over; she'd offered to help the first wounded party she came across, and events had snowballed from there. She'd never forget the look of wonder on their face as she mended torn.

She still didn't know what a Grimm was, but apparently there had been an attack just prior to her arrival.

One thing led to another, someone talked, and quite suddenly, she found herself with a makeshift clinic and a line of patients. She'd nearly worked herself to the point of exhaustion trying to heal whomever she could. A day had already passed. She wasn't sure she liked the way some of them were looking at her, either. Not with hate or scorn or anger at all...but reverence. As if she were someone to be respected. Worshiped. Feared. Nevermind the fact that most of them had animal traits of some sort. Just where the hell had Kaguya sent her? The boys would have take care of themselves for now. She had more pressing concerns.

"I found another one~!"

Sakura looked up, wiped the sweat from her brow.

"Good girl, Kali." She unbent enough to pat the little girl's head. "Send them in."

There was work to be done. So much work. If the girl wanted to help, then she was welcome.

They'd taken to calling Sakura the Lady of the Isle. Not a bad title. Why did she have a bad feeling about it?


Too damn cold!

As far as first impressions went, that was a particularly bad one.

Kakashi Hatake was no stranger to the elements to be sure; as a shinobi, he'd traveled the world and learned to be prepared for just about everything. Expect the unexpected, see underneath the underneath, that sort of thing. But this? This was just too damn much for his liking!

Sheathed in snow and clutching his arms to his chest, it was all he could do to trudge forward, to plod toward what he hoped -prayed!- was civilization. Or shelter. He'd take either at this point, frankly. His tattered uniform didn't provide much in the way of warmth right now, and the storm only grew worse with each passing minute. Still, he forged on.

Kaguya was to blame for this of course.

She'd stranded him in a world of ice and snow and left him to die, the vindictive little bitch. No doubt his precious students were suffering problems of their own. They'd find their way out, just as he would. He believed they would. He had to believe. If he didn't despair would take him. So he marched onward, cursing his luck all the while.

Until something shifted in the white wasteland ahead of him


For a fleeting instant, Kakashi thought he spied a shadow ahead of him. A person, perhaps? What manner of fool wandered around in the middle of a blizzard. Whatever it was saw -whomever they might be- they saw him too. He called out, and they retreated rapidly into the storm before he could give chase. A spark of defiance burned in his eyes and he hastened his pace, squinting through the storm.

He nearly tripped over something lying in the snow.

Brushing the drifts from their frail form, he beheld a wisp of a girl with dark hair and a bruised face, clad in little more than rags. His heart lurched at the sight, even as it leaped. If there was a person out here, that meant there was a chance of civilization nearby. But what manner of monster left their child out here to die? And those injuries...

Something hardened in his chest and he stooped down to retrieve her. Whoever was responsible for this deserved to hang.

"C'mon, now." he muttered, channeling a pulse of chakra through his palms. "Don't die on me yet."

Golden eyes fluttered open for the merest of moments and drifted shut again.

A weak, thready pulse greeted his questing fingers and he released a breath he hadn't realized he'd been holding. Against all odds, she was still alive. Well! Wasn't she a survivor. She couldn't be more than five years old at that. Perhaps even younger. Too young to make it out here on her own. Someone had abandoned her. The thought stirred unpleasant memories in the back of his head, memories he'd rather not recall right now. She gave a tiny whimper and curled up against him, her tiny frame instinctively seeking warmth.

Bundling the girl against his chest, the weary shinoby forced himself up a snow drift; a drift which turned out to be a hill.

And for his faith, he was rewarded.

Cresting the hill, he finally beheld some semblance of civilization on the horizon. A village perhaps?

No, he realized as he squinted through the haze, it was too large to be a village. Much too large, and protected by walls.

And there, looming ominously overhead...a city in the clouds. He blinked at the sight of it. Once. Twice. Thrice. At first he thought it was his mind playing tricks on him

Look again! His brain squawked at his eyes.

We are! came the dumbfounded response. Its real!

"Well, damn. That's new." Beneath his mask, Kakashi felt his jaw click open. "I don't think I'm in the elemental nations anymore...

A/N: Well, well, well!

Chapter might seem a little episodic in nature, but that was intentional.

Your eyes do not deceive you, that was a very, very, VERY young Cinder picked up by Kakashi at the end. One left in the snow to die.

You thought she was lethal before? Ohoho, you are not prepared for the terror that she's going to become now. Not. At. All. And that's before she meets Willow. Oh, did I spoil that?

Yes, let it be known that Kakashi has both eyes and still maintains the Sharingan...for now. Time will tell if he keeps it. Manga was never quite clear on that point; he kept it until Kaguya was brought down, but since Kaguya wasn't defeated in this story...meh.

Now the gang's each set out on a journey of their own, with none the wiser of one another. At this rate they're going to wind up being worshiped. Then again, that's sort of the intent here; none of them want to be put up as gods or treated like deities, but there's no denying they've got some bullshit powers that can't be explained away using Aura or Semblances. Naruto? Giant Fox. Sasuke and Kakashi? Massive freaking flying samurai/tengu, what-have-you. And then there's Sakura's healing and freakish strength.

The hilarity and chaos have only just begun~!

So...in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review...Would You Kindly!





"No." Naruto regarded the greater Grimm with a flat look. "Don't even think about it."

The Ursa lunged at him with a yowl.

"Can you eat?"

Silence reigned supreme.

Kakashi sighed. "You can stop glaring at me now. I'm not going to hurt you."

The little urchin regarded the offered bread in his hands balefully...but she accepted it all the same.

"What's your name?"


"Train me and my brother."

Sasuke arched an eyebrow. "And why should I do that?"

"Because you're a God. Gods need worshipers, right? We'll follow you if you train us."

There it was again. That misunderstanding. He regretted showing off as much as he had. "I'm no god."

"You can lie to me all you want; don't care about that." she wrinkled her nose at him, yet refused to move. "Just train us."

Raven was small. Scarcely seven years old. Her head barely even come up to his waist. Still, he recognized the fire in her eyes all too well. She wanted power. For herself, and her brother alike. Not for vengeance, not for retribution, not for any of those things. She just didn't want to be weak. And so she stomped her foot and pouted, tried to look strong. Damnit. Sasuke realized he'd already made his decision. He could FEEL Naruto smiling at him and the bastard wasn't even here! Taking in two runts. He'd never hear the end of it.

...we'll start at dawn. Be ready."

The blade flashed out at Maria's wide eyes.

Someone shoved her before it could connect, slamming an open palm against her back. It saved her life. Rather than rake across her gaze and blind her forevermore, the assassin's blade ripped a chunk of her ear instead. Maria choked down a scream and tumbled forward. She landed in a quick crouch, straightened, touched a hand to the side of her face, and scowled when it came away bloody.

"You have my attention." she hissed. "I hope its what you wanted."

Tock swore softly. "Oh, bugger."