A/N: No excuses for this not being uploaded on time, aside from hitting a wall at one point and leaving it be for 2 months. Review responses at the end.
'Bah, this doesn't make an ounce of sense to me, fox. Are you sure you were able to use my fruit that way? Could it have been something so hidden that even you didn't know what you were doing at the time?' Naruto felt a headache coming on, and he didn't like the look of things, sitting in the room for hours on end with no human contact, though that's what he initially planned anyways. Now he was hoping for some form of distraction to take his mind off of things.
"Of course it doesn't make sense to you, the theory is far more advanced for you, or anyone else without demonic-like intelligence. If condensed enough, even paper can become a steel-like defense, so why not feathers? It's just common logic, or at least to me it is," Kyuubi admonished slightly while ignoring his other comments.
It was a week after the thwarting of Crocodile's plan to take over Arabasta, and Naruto was tucked away in a secluded room in the Royal Palace, being a guest of honor for the King, along with the rest of his pirate friends. In the next few days they would be leaving, not wanting to bring any negative political turmoil to the recovering country, though it didn't affect Naruto in the least. After digging deep enough, he was able to remember part of what Kyuubi had done to the Shichibukai in Rainbase, along with his supposed mastery over his Devil Fruit, making him wonder why he was being held out on.
"I'm not holding out on you brat. Simply said, even if you had mastery over your fruit, you couldn't use it with such effectiveness as I could, because you wouldn't have a clue on how to start training to achieve such results. Start small, like finding a more effective way of exploiting it's main use, defense, and turning it into a offensive technique as well. I refuse to hold your hand on something so trivial, so don't bother asking me to teach you things, cause I can't teach what's natural to me," the fox snapped upon Naruto's inquiry, who felt he'd crossed an unspoken line. And for the last week, he'd spent all waking, and occasionally sleeping, hours holed away in this room, trying to find any, any, use for his Devil Fruit, but had come up empty, forcing him to ask Kyuubi for even a vague hint. He was willing to accept whatever help the fox gave him, as long as it could help point him in the right direction.
A small ship-like analogy later, he was firing off thoughts a mile a minute, wracking his brains for any possible defense-and-offense techniques, and even resorted to talking with one of the Royal Guards, who had a bird Devil Fruit, on any application feathers could have in offensive-combat. Pell, the Royal Guard, suggested a more refined defensive technique, and refining it to the point that it because very solid, and incidentally, steel-like, allowing for good defense, and possibly better offense. Like a kid in a candy store, Naruto gulped down the theory, and after thanking Pell, went back to the room to dwell on how to apply it.
Hours later, he was left with nothing, and Kyuubi was of zero help as he kept telling the blonde to "think and listen", which left him more frustrated than anything as he didn't know what he was trying to hear anyways. The other Strawhats noticed his anti-social behavior, but when confronted, he told them he wasn't being anti-social, but trying to use his Devil Fruit effectively. While not a lie, it deterred a few of them from bugging him, though Robin, the newest Strawhat, did visit him daily, distracting him from turning his brains into liquid meat, and offering suggestions on applications, having a similar problem when she first received her fruit nearly twenty years ago.
The oldest member of the Strawhats was an enigma to Naruto; she seemed open and easy-going when talking to him, but when he dropped a personal question, she just gave him an odd smile and changed the subject. He wasn't going to call her on it, since it'd be hypocritical in his eyes, however it was annoying when he wanted to get to know her on a personal level, since they would be sailing on the Grand Line in the distant future. Kyuubi was of no help either, though Naruto would have been surprised if he was.
"I don't know a damn thing about the woman, except her importance to the world. She is vital to this world, her death will only bring about the death of millions," he told the blonde cryptically, telling him where to shove it after Naruto tried to get more information from him, "Anything I tell you will fly over your head, and only she would be able to understand a bit of it. So until you comprehend her importance, you won't learn why she's so important."
The door opened, and Vivi walked in, holding a candle along with a plate of food, making the Jinchuuriki look up at the princess. "I figured that since you're in this stuffy room working day-in, day-out, you'd like some food and maybe some company," she explained at a raised eyebrow, though he put down the pencil he'd run down to the end, and push the paper to one side.
"Thank you, Vivi," he thanked her, deciding to take a break. Maybe being in the room was affecting his thought process, and getting out and getting some fresh air would clear his mind, let him tackle the problem with fervor. Kyuubi merely snorted at the thought, but left the blonde to his devices.
Two Weeks Later
A blade came from the left, forcing Naruto to dodge to the right while choosing not to counter. It would be a waste of bullets, and consequently money, to shoot him, and he wasn't in the mood the beg Nami for money, not that she'd give it to him granted. The older female held her money more important than the safety and well-being of the rest of the crew at times it seemed, and he would rather try water-walking in the middle of the Grand Line in the nude than attempt to get money for supplies he could easily pilfer from other pirates, which he planned on doing.
After dodging the blade a third time, the attacker found himself rescued by a swarm of hands, which quickly disabled his movements and forced him to drop his weapon and writhe on the floor trying to remove them. He would have thanked Robin for the assistance if not the for sudden dodge he did to avoid a knife attack, which look a bit too fast for a run-of-the-mill pirate, watching the assailant attempt to feint and strike Naruto when he took the bait, while the attacker was shocked he the blade didn't pierce his skin, and even more shocked when Robin disabled him easily, until he changed into a log.
At that point Naruto felt all ease and laziness for fighting disappear. Against pirates he felt he didn't need to fight since all he could do at the current moment was use his pistol with varying degrees of success. Ninjas, were a whole different story, even if he didn't know exactly how they got onto the Grand Line. Closing his eyes he attempted to ignore the sounds of the rest of the crew fighting, focusing solely on his nose, which thankfully had it's sense heightened a good deal, and focused on finding an unknown scent, which was a shot in the dark since there was plenty of unknown scents that he hadn't gotten used to yet.
Smelling the sea approach him, he dodged to the left, narrowly avoiding a large gust of wind that could have taken off his limbs, if not for his Devil Fruit, though he watched the attacker carefully. It was a female, taller than him with dirty blonde hair that looked familiar, though he couldn't remember any of the blonde ninjas he'd met during his time in Konoha. In her grasp was a large battle fan, which bore a resemblance with someone who was often seen with Gaara, during the handful of times they had met, the last time being during the attack on Konoha. Now if only he could remember her name...
"Nice dodge. Bet ya can't do it again," she commented, readying her fan for another assault, while Naruto almost told her she was right in that he couldn't dodge it again, and was surprised when Naruto ran at her suicidally, but continued her attack, wondering if the gust of wind was strong enough to remove his limbs or not. Despite being a ninja, she didn't appreciate the site of unnecessary bloodshed, and preferred for quick and relatively painless deaths, though she figured her growing up with a psychotic brother would make her indifferent towards blood. The blast of wind hit his body, and surprisingly didn't remove his limbs, or anything else for that matter.
Instead Naruto seemed unaffected by the wind, which he was obviously, as he plowed throw it while aiming his pistol at a non-vital area and pulling the trigger. If Gaara was around, and his guessing was right, then it wouldn't do to kill his sister, especially if he was surrounded by water which immediately put him at a disadvantage. Less than a foot from Gaara's sister, the bullet was blocked by a wall of sand, making Naruto release a breath he was unconsciously holding in, making him place it in a holster on his belt, that he'd conveniently found on the dead body of a Millions in the aftermath of Crocodile's assault and figured the guy wouldn't be missing it, being dead and all.
Looking around he noticed that his nakama were having issues piercing the sand, indicating the battle while Naruto searched for the red-headed Jinchuuriki.
"Uzumaki Naruto," a calm voice called out from behind Gaara's sister, revealing the red-head dressed in what Naruto figured was the stereotypical outfit for a pirate captain sans the fancy hat, and he looked strangely older, not to mention taller, making him wonder if Gaara went through puberty overnight since he'd departed from Konoha.
"Gaara," he greeted the apparent captain, who walked out from his sisters shadow and facing the teen. Turning to his sister, he told her to take their injured to the sick bay for treatment, and she obeyed it, though she didn't seem to have a fearful look as she did when he met her last, making him wonder just how much time had actually passed since his killing of Sasuke, since he figured something like being scared for your life didn't pass overnight.
Luffy, seeing the two supposedly having a conversation, walked up to them asking Gaara 'who the hell you are' while making a comment about the sand it's disappearance, and asking who he was again, despite Gaara not having the chance to answer him initially. After explaining that they were friends, and he wished to talk to Naruto in private, Luffy lost interest, instead taking it in Gaara's brother, who was currently tinkering with his puppets now that the battle was over.
As they stepped inside his captains quarters, which he noted was quite expansive and had a large amount of sand moving to and fro, he motioned for Naruto to sit down in a chair that formed itself out of the ground.
"Tell me Naruto, where have you been these last three years?" Gaara didn't want to beat around the bush, and it was apparent as Naruto sat down, confusion playing on his face.
"Three years? What are you talking about Gaara?" internally he felt Kyuubi shuffle about, as though he were suspicious about something the red-head had said.
Gaara gave him an odd look, but remained quiet for a moment, thinking over his words carefully. "Three years ago, just shortly after your fight with the Uchiha, a barrier surrounding the Elemental Continents was broken, and we were invaded by a group calling themselves the World Government. At the time I was unaware of their plans, and the exact reason why they invaded, however from my travels I have learned much of their actions, and possible reasons why they invaded the Elemental Continents. Tell me, have you ever heard of something called Pluton?" at Naruto's shaking his head as a negative, he continued, "Neither had I. Until, of course, we were chased after Marines, who seemed to be bounty hunters hired to track down pirates and bring them to justice. When they tracked down and forced to battle, I interrogated the highest ranking soldiers, two captains, and all I got out of them as the word 'Pluton' before I killed them. Afterwards I found out a bounty had been placed on my head, a total of 40 million, for 'actions against the World Government', which drove me to digging up any information retaining to Pluton, where I eventually found someone who knew a good deal about it, while we were harbored in the country of Arabasta," a look of recognition crossed Naruto's face, as some of the pieces of the puzzle fell into place.
"She called herself Ms. All-Sunday, didn't she," it was rhetorical, but Naruto wanted to make sure he was thinking of the same person as Gaara was. Gaara seemed slightly surprised, but didn't voice why Naruto knew that name.
"Yes, she did. She happened to know a great deal about the weapon, and it's creators, although she never elaborated on why or how she knew that information, always changing the subject when I asked politely. While we were anchored there, she offered me a position in her organization, Baroque Works, but I declined, stating I was not looking for money, or even fame. Just knowledge. Not surprisingly she attempted to kill me, but failed, and I let her live. I do not know why I spared her, if she were any other person I would have slain her on the spot for even thinking about killing me, but I felt she was important to the future, and was just misled at the moment, you could say I did what you did years earlier. We left shortly there after, and sailed to the land of Jaya, in hopes of getting more information, when we stumbled across you and your crew," Gaara told the story of his trip in Arabasta, giving Naruto more insight in why she was so seclusive and quiet about her personal life, while also giving him hints on why Kyuubi dubbed her important and why she should be protected.
"Then your attack on us was to ensure we weren't Marines in-disguise?" he asked, thinking that was why the red-head attacked them.
Gaara chuckled, "No, we attacked you so I could possibly get a larger bounty, and attract stronger Marines to get more information out of them," Naruto paled at the shot-in-the-dark tactic Gaara employed, but didn't say anything.
"You've met Ms. All-Sunday, haven't you, Naruto," it was a statement, not a question, but the blonde answered anyways. "What is her real name then?"
"Nico Robin," a feminine voice answered for the blonde, while Gaara and Naruto turned to face the intruder, revealing the older female, who looked at the two inquisitively. Naruto seemed at ease, but Gaara was tensed slightly, ninja-instincts kicking in and resisting the urge to squash the intruder.
"What are you doing here, Robin? This was meant to be a private conversation," Naruto rudely questioned the woman.
"The captain wished me to tell you we are departing for Jaya," she said simply, her odd smile gracing her features making Naruto at unease. Gaara simply watched the two in silence, noting her odd posture and smile. She stood as though she were in a formal situation, and not one between crew members, though he didn't voice this to Naruto. Standing up and stretching, Naruto turned to his fellow Jinchuuriki.
"See you in Jaya then?" he asked, while Gaara merely nodded confirmation. "See you there then," Naruto said walking out of the red-heads cabin. Maybe he would have some time to himself to think things over, though he had a sinking feeling he wouldn't. Jumping onto the Going Merry, he saw that most of the crew had made themselves scarce, feeling glad that he wouldn't have to answer their questions, at least not right now. Deciding to make himself scarce as well, he walked down into the mens quarters, and laid down in his hammock/bed, trying to go to sleep but failing, instead staring blankly at the ceiling while trying to digest the information.
'Three years? Has it truly been that long since my fight with Sasuke? If so, then how long was I in the water, how long since I started this journey?' Kyuubi decided to leave the blonde to his own thoughts, though he too was sifting through the information he got from the sleep-deprived Jinchuuriki, to find anything of use. Naruto, meanwhile, was going over the memories he'd acquired since his fight with the Uchiha, trying to figure out how he could have floated in the sea for three years without succumbing to the elements and dying.
"I believe I have the answer for that question, brat," Kyuubi pipped up, catching Naruto off-guard, under the impression the fox would leave him be, as was per their agreement; Naruto keeps out of his mind, Kyuubi keeps out of Naruto's unless it has something for him.
'Which is...?' he asked, curious on how he survived three years in the elements without being found by anyone. He knew the Grand Line was treacherous, but he also knew plenty of pirates traveled it, so it was inevitable that he be found, sooner than later he would assume.
"Do you recall when you were sealed by the snake? During those exams where you met the red-haired Jinchuuriki?" at Naruto's mental nod, it continued, "Well he didn't succeed in cutting off the seal's ability to leak my power to you, a small bit did continue to leak, however it was less than usual. My power operates differently from your chakra, while you die if you have none left in your body, it will not affect my movements in the slightest if I'm bone-dry, while it would kill you if you had no chakra. The seal placed on my power at the time of my sealing was designed to have your body absorb my power, to let you use it in time. It's been doing that for the last fifteen years, however the amount leaked fluctuates, and it's a one-minded power. If you sustain a wound, it will focus on that wound until it's gone, if you aim it at a powerful foe it will keep pumping it until the foe is dead, and so forth."
'So then, because I was floating in the sea for three years, it focused more on healing my wounds?' Naruto asked, letting the information sink in. If not for his Fruit, he could have taken advantage of the power, but now it would do nothing more than keep him from being hurt, not that it would be much help anyways.
"Yes, and no." Naruto said nothing, which Kyuubi took as a good thing, "Yes, it focused on healing your wounds, and then it focused on your health, and keeping you alive, albeit in a coma. It kept you alive, but stunted your other bodily functions, like your growth, hunger, and such."
'Doesn't explain why no one found me in the three years though, since you'd think that even the Marines would find me,' Naruto stated, frowning as he tried to wrap his brain around the situation surrounding him in the sea.
Kyuubi gave a mental shrug, though to Naruto it looked like he was just shifting his weight, "I have no answer for why you weren't found, just how you survived. Maybe after more deliberation, I might, but not at the moment. I do suggest tuning into the real world however, since you have a guest."
Naruto sat up, eyes landing on the oldest member of the crew, who he had pledged his life to protect, though he still didn't understand why. She looked at him with that odd smile on her face, one that held no joy, similar to the ones he would wear as a kid, but had since grown out of the habit, while leaning on the table in the middle of the room, intentionally, or unintentionally, exposing her considerable bust and cleavage, not that Naruto noticed.
"Can I help you, Robin?" he asked, slightly miffed at her eavesdropping from earlier but not letting it influence his attitude. For all he knew, she caught the last part of their conversation while going to tell him that they were leaving. He didn't exactly blame her even if it was intentional, since he was going into the cabin of a relative stranger, but it was the matter of the fact that made him miffed.
"I wanted to talk about what you and that captain discussed, about Pluton," she said in a commanding tone, though the smile was still on her face, making Naruto raise an eyebrow at the strange command. She was a strange one, that was for sure. Not many demanded information with such pleasantries, unless they were using an interrogation technique that only the ANBU had, but he doubted the ANBU had such a word in their vocabulary.
"Don't know what you heard, or misheard, but we didn't discuss a thing about Pluton," it wasn't exactly a lie, since Gaara had admitted he knew nothing about it, but wanted to know something. It just so happened that most of the answers originated from Robin, who was tight-lipped of just about everything. "However, I'd like to hear what you know, since you're the expert on the subject, being an archaeologist and all." It was a shot in the dark, he would admit, but it might help him figure out who she really was, underneath it all.
If she was fazed by the statement, she didn't show it as she remained silent while smiling, though Naruto had a hard time trying to decipher what was going on underneath the smile, hinting that she'd been hiding behind it much longer than Naruto had.
"What makes you think that I know any thing on the subject of Pluton, Naruto?" she asked finally, her voice calm, and her tone pleasant with a hint of curiosity. "I just...wished to inform you that talking about Pluton is against the law of the World Government, punishable by death. It wouldn't do to have a boy with potential to die before his prime, now would it?" she continued, though Naruto was visibly spooked by the information.
Kyuubi shifted mentally, like he was struck with a sudden realization, from her tone and choice of words. It had been a long while since he'd last heard someone use the tone, almost 800 years in the past, back to when he found himself on the planet, before heading towards the Shinobi Continents.
"Ohara... So you live as the rumors said you did, running from the kingdom before the World Government rose to power... Interesting," he trailed off, dwelling on the explanation for why Robin was important. "A descendant of the scholar named Ohara... You seem to attract quite the bunch, brat. The descendant of a scholar from a long-dead kingdom, a Jinchuuriki similar to yourself, and Kami knows what else. I wonder who you'll attract next," he continued, earning Naruto's undivided attention.
"Ohara," unconsciously Naruto let the word slip, though he noticed a second later that Robin seemed slightly phased, as she shifted in her seat slightly, again drawing attention to her cleavage. Her smile seemed less prominent, though it still graced her features, though Naruto took this as a good sign.
"This knowledge about Pluton is known but to a few people in the world, excluding you and myself, less than five people would know it, and it would be suitable for it to stay that way. It was designed by the Ancient Kingdom, with the potential to supposedly wipe out a single island with one shot, though there's no recorded proof of it's abilities, or even if it does exist. All information are on stones scatted across the world, called Poneglyphs, which also contain information on the Blank Century," she was quiet for a minute, to let Naruto digest the information she gave to him, and answer any questions he might have.
"Blank Century? What's that?" he asked, not surprisingly, though she noted a curious tone in his words.
"I'm unsure myself, however it is rumored to lead up to the founding of the World Government, though they've banned any inquisitions into it, and any seekers of that knowledge are executed on the spot," she answered, starting to relax slightly, judging from her posture.
"If they Pluton could wipe out a single island in one shot, wouldn't it ensure victory to anyone who had it in their possession? It'd seem a little foolish to create something that couldn't be countered, or at least in my opinion it would be," Naruto stated, hand on his chin thinking of why they would make a weapon of such power, without a way of beating it.
"There was a way to counter it, however I'm unsure of how, as it's just a rumor I've picked up in my travels, however I've heard the World Government executes those who search for that as well," she admitted with a slight sigh, watching Naruto intently as he tried to absorb this new information. The bit about the World Government killing anyone who tried to find information about these weapons shook him slightly, as he couldn't understand why anyone would stop their people from discovering something they could use to their advantage, but then he never really understood why the people of Konoha hated him despite not being the the Kyuubi.
"There's a significant difference between the two. The World Government seems to treat the people with some form of dignity, no matter who they are, aside from the pirates of course. The sheep of Konoha treated everyone but you with dignity, often going out of the way to make your life worse indirectly, although never in an obvious way. At least here the World Government lets you die with dignity, while the sheep wouldn't, if they had their way with you," Kyuubi interjected.
'Do you really think they would have killed me, given the chance, with no significant repercussions?' Naruto questioned, not believing it.
"That, I couldn't tell you. Is it possible? Yes. But it's also possible you would have tapped into my power at a much younger age and wouldn't be in the current situation, so I cannot say exactly what would happen." it ended the small conversation with retreating deeper into Naruto's mind, leaving him to his own devices.
"How do you know all this Robin? I know you're an archaeologist, but this seems to be a well-hidden nugget of information, and not easily obtained if what you say is true about five people knowing it," Naruto asked, noting she tensed slightly, and her smile faded from her face.
"It...is not something that I wish to talk about at this time. I mean no offense Naruto, but I do not feel comfortable enough to share it. Maybe sometime in the future, but not at the current time," she apologized, before standing and leaving the room through the door that lead to the female quarters, while Naruto just sat at the table, debating on what she told him.
"Do not hound her about it. She will tell you when she's ready. Bugging her about it could lead to her isolation, which would put you back where you started when she joined. I do suggest you get some rest, I feel we'll be arriving at Jaya soon, and it would do well to meet the red-haired Jinchuuriki in tip-top shape, in case we get cornered by the World Government and it's lackeys," Kyuubi input, stating the obvious to Naruto, though he didn't say anything about it. It would do well to get some sleep, since he lost a good amount in Alabasta due to his research.
A/N: Chapter 3 done, though behind schedule. Short chapter due to Jaya being a big turning point in terms of plot and it'd take forever to get this chapter out if Jaya was included. Review responses follow this A/N.
T.O.B: Transformation? If you mean him getting "help" from Kyuubi, well it happened in Chapter 2, and will happen a few more times throughout the story. He won't rely on it, since he's striving to be more self-reliant. :P
chm1: I didn't show where he got it, because it would have been a pointless filler scene, which I don't like writing. But, he found it hidden in a chest near one of the Strawhats camps while they were travelling towards Rainbase. Doesn't make the most sense, yes, but then Shanks leaving the Gomu Gomu fruit out in the plain veiw didn't make sense, since he's a Yonkou and such. :P Where he got he it doesn't really affect the plot, hence why it was excluded.
phantomshadowdragon: Akatsuki will play a significant factor in this story, as will the other Jinchuuriki. In fact, one of them will be showing up next chapter. :P As for Naruto's friends, well they're all scattered across the Grand Line and the 4 Blue's, so some will show up, while others won't. Can't say who because that'd ruin possible plot points. :)
QuandraDraconum: I'll keep that in mind. FFN sometimes screws with the page-breaks I have in place, but I can go over the previous chapters and make sure it cuts away at the right time. Thanks for letting me know so it doesn't become an issue later on.
Hiroshima Namikaze: Pairings might not exist. Unsure at this point, though there will be some bonding with Naruto and other characters. Nothing romantic planned, though that might change. Ninja techniques are a moot point for Naruto, since he can only use Rasengan, Kawarimi, Kage Bunshin, and that's about it, which are pointless with his Devil Fruit because of what it does.
Jombra: Care to elaborate? I'm interested in what you have to say, and maybe I can write a better explanation for my reasoning later on.
Thanks to all who reviewed, and I promise to not take two months on the next chapter. )