"The Seventh Level"
By Nes Mikel
I herby acknowledge that the work of fiction presented here is written for the sake of my own personal amusement and entertainment purposes alone. I hereby also acknowledge that this story is a crossover between Miyabe Miyuki's "Level Seven" and Kishimoto Masashi's "Naruto", and thus, I acknowledge that the original story concept and ideas, while heavily altered for the sake of the crossover, are copyright Level Seven, Miyabe Miyuki and Shinchousha Publishing, while the characters are copyright Naruto, Kishimoto Masashi, Weekly Shounen Jump and any others I may have forgot.
Note that although this story is a crossover, it is not necessary to have knowledge of Miyabe Miyuki's "Level Seven". This story is designed in a way that's readable as a stand-alone story.
Although I have tried to make most characters in this story in-character, some will, naturally, be slightly out-of-character.
With that said, enjoy.
"The Seventh Level"
"But did you know? It was a dream. This story was all but a dream."
- Miranda, "The Binding Ending"
- Prologue -
The sun was already starting to set in the distant horizon.
Adjusting the collar of his shirt to ease an itch, the man casually stole a glance towards the watch he wore on his right wrist, and at the precise moment the large clock tower behind him started to chime. The clock tower wasn't that impressive, just a small cubical pole rising three or so meters above the ground with an oval clock, the standard model of all parks around here perched at the very top. The tower was located in the middle of this open roof of this department store's top floor, which was in turn in the middle of the giant city that surrounded itself with skyscraper buildings.
Once, twice, three times it rang, eventually ending at the seventh chime. It was now 7:00pm.
His eyes drifted back towards the setting July sun and then towards the light the skyscrapers around him reflected back. With the countless amount of glass windows embalmed into the walls of the tall buildings, sometimes the man could see the entire city's color turn into a burning orange with the dying embers of the sun's rays reflecting back everywhere. It was a beautiful spectacle, but unfortunately rare, and today he wasn't as lucky. Soon, just minutes away, the sun will have done its duty and sink back down the horizon in order to give the other stars a chance to shine. Indeed, if one looked at the opposite end of the horizon, one could see the bright moon already showing its face.
Another long, summer day was drawing to a close.
The man lit himself a cigarette and smoked on it lightly, his eyes not once moving away from the dying embers of the city's natural lights. He silently noted to himself to get a few more packs on his way downstairs. The one in his mouth was the last one he had.
He also noted that, from here he couldn't see the people on the ground floor. It wasn't that he was blind or anything, it's just that from up here all he could see down there was just a massive wave of some sort slowly moving from one location to another. With so many people bunched up together and constantly moving around, with so many people crowded together in the countless buildings, streets, windows, pointing out a single person among that chaos was a difficult task. Come to think of it, without binoculars, it probably would've been impossible.
Shifting his view away from the ground and to his left, he saw a Skyway, an elevated highway that rose twenty to thirty meters off the ground that ran through the middle of the skyscraper city known as Tokyo. Amused, he noted that rush hour was still going on strong, as the man saw the highway packed with cars in all shapes and sizes hardly making any progress in terms of distance – although, it was hard to tell the cars apart with the guardrail that blocked most of the cars from his view. He then quietly allowed himself a light chuckle. The view reminded him of a booth in a fair his father once took him when he was young. He remembers, as a child, picking up a small toy gun and shooting at the slow moving targets inside the booth from behind the counter, and depending on which target you knocked off from the aisle you won different prizes. That highway and those slow moving cars, it looked so similar to the booth from that long ago.
The man noticed that his cigarette was almost finished. Taking it out of his mouth, he flicked out the ashes and dropped the cigarette on top of the concrete floor and grounded it out with the heel of his foot. He should be going now.
He wasn't exactly sure why he doing this, staring down the city of Tokyo on top of a building like he'd been doing for the past hour or so. Perhaps it was to collect his thoughts, to make up his mind. Maybe even perhaps to calm down. Or maybe out of simple habit. He always liked being at high places. Looking town at Tokyo from such heights always had the pleasing effect of calming him down.
It was odd, really. It really should've had the opposite effect. But instead, staring down at the mechanical but still oddly beautiful monster known as the city of Tokyo from such heights allowed him to temporarily forget about all those bad memories he collected over the past twenty or so odd years. Memories he wished he never had.
And finally… air.
In reality it must've lasted for only but an instant. But his memories were not as kind and allowed him to recall the events in not only in vivid detail, but also in slow motion. So slow sometimes he thought it was going to drag on forever. Those 'memory attacks' were not as frequent as from before, but whenever it happened he always had to find himself a place where he can stand at such high heights and had to tell himself over and over again that he will never, ever fall from such heights, ever again…
His raises his chin and slowly rolls his head left and then right to ease the stiffness in his shoulders. I should relax. He told himself. It begins now, after all.
"Udon, Moegi, we should be going home now!"
"So is that how you got that clear? Awesome…! Oh, coming mom!"
The man turns around to see where the source of that voice came from and sees a pair of kids, one a boy and the other one a little girl, both of them looking a little annoyed that their conversation with another boy (probably their friend) was interrupted by their mother. The open roof of this department store was a miniature playground of sorts, with some small rides and a collection of small balls and hoops for little children to play around with so there were quite a number of children running around here. Of course, as a safety precaution, there was netting all around the fence that surrounded this open playground to prevent children from falling, but parents will be parents and a few adults were here as well to supervise on their children.
"Come along now, if we don't hurry daddy will be home before us." The mother was saying to her children as she handed some light bags for them to carry.
"What's for dinner?" The girl asked.
"Well, it's daddy's big bonus day today, so anything you like!" The mother answered with a grin.
"Really? Anything? Then I want spaghetti with meat sauce!"
"All right, as long as you promise to finish everything on your plate."
The girl pouted. "But I don't like mushrooms!"
The mother laughed at the outburst. "Fine, fine, I promise no mushrooms, but only because today's special!"
"Really? Thanks mom!"
"Not a problem. Well then, say goodbye to Konohamaru-chan. What did I tell you about manners?"
Looking a little embarrassed, the girl turned around and waved at the friend they were talking to excitendly just moments before. "Sorry, Kono-chan. See you tomorrow at school!
"See ya, Konohamaru!" The brother of the girl waved back.
"Yeah, tomorrow! And remember, be careful of the seventh level!"
The man unconsciously froze at the boy's words.
It only took him but a second to realize that those kids were talking about some RPG video game when the girl and the boy, the brother and the little sister, passed by him in order to take the elevator downstairs. While they were waiting for the elevator the man eavesdropped on their conversation to learn that they had been talking about what to do when the hero of the game reached a the seventh floor of a building. He breathed out a sigh of relief. So they were talking about something else entirely. There was nothing to worry about.
"It's pretty, isn't it?"
It took him a moment to realize that he had been spoken to. The voice was cheerful and filled with joy, so he never expected it to be directed at him. Only out of curiosity did he look towards the source of the voice, and it was only then did he realized that the girl who spoke was staring at him, waiting for an answer. Their eyes met, and the girl smiled.
She was a pretty girl, probably fifteen or sixteen. Lightly tanned skin, a light shade of red lipstick on her lips, wearing black jeans and a fashionable red t-shirt with some symbols he didn't recognize, something the young ones typically wore nowadays probably. He also noted that she had a silver earring on her left ear, but what caught his attention the most was the color of her hair. He assumed it was dyed, but honestly, pink hair? And he thought blue was bad enough.
"I never realized that they changed the neon light colors of Tokyo Tower." The girl said, her eyes drifting back towards the distant tower that everyone in this city knew as the symbol of Tokyo. "I wonder when they changed it?"
The man didn't know how to respond. Was she hitting on him? Granted, he enjoyed the company of women, but to him she was still just a child, easily young enough to be his daughter – if he had such a thing as family. He scowled at that train of thought and wordlessly turned his back around and walked away from her, much to the teenage girl's apparent annoyance, that much was clear on her face. He sort of regretted it. She was probably just there to strike up a casual conversation with a lonely looking man and he pushed her generosity away just like that.
But it was better this way. Getting the uninvolved involved was out of the question.
He got on the elevator relatively quickly and made a beeline towards the department store's exit. Pushing the heavy glass doors open he then took his first steps into the large city. Soon he spotted a train station, and climbing up the station's stairs he bought himself a ticket to get on a train that was headed southbound. And during those times, only three words occupied his mind.
The seventh level.
And eventually, those three words eventually then evolved into one sentence as he walked into the restaurant he and his contact promised to meet.
The seventh level is the point of no return.
When he arrived, the man noticed that his contact was already here, sitting by the seat next to the window, already eating. His contact waved his hand as soon as he noticed him coming into the restaurant.
"Hope you don't mind." His contact said. "I was hungry."
"I don't." The man said and he sat himself down in the lounge seat in front of him. The man looked around. Besides them, there were only a few other customers around, and none near them. He quickly checked his behind to see if there any other customers entered the restaurant when he did. There weren't any. Good.
"Worried if you've been followed?" His contact asked as he sat his chopsticks down, the food he was eating now finished.
"A little." The man answered. "Although… a girl hit me on just a few minutes ago. A teenager, about your age."
"That's a surprise. So there are still women that's willing to hit on you left in this world." His contact said, his eyes laughing.
"It'll be even more surprising if that girl turns out to be the one that was following me."
"Do you think?"
"I checked. She didn't follow me here."
"She could've switched roles with somebody else."
The man waved his hand in front of him in a dismissive gesture. "The possibilities are endless. We wouldn't last if we have to consider every single one."
"I suppose so." His contact said, shrugging.
The waitress came to their table to clear the table. The man raised his hand to catch the waitress's attention.
"Can I have some green tea please?" The man asked.
"Sure thing. Different bill?"
"Ah, can I get some as well?" His contact quickly added from the side.
The waitress sat the tray filled with dirty dishes down for a moment and quickly pulled out a small notepad out of her apron and nodded back at the two men "Gotcha. Be back in a sec." The waitress picks up the tray again and she leaves.
"…You sure you want to do this?" The man asks his contact once he was sure he felt safe to speak again.
The man doesn't answer, and instead frowns at the overtly cheerful attitude his contact was showing him.
Seeing the disapproving look on the man's face, his contact laughs. "Sorry. Just kidding around."
"Are you sure?" The man asks again, making sure to stress his words.
"Of course I'm sure."
"There's no turning back after this."
"I know. I won't back down. I decided this for myself, after all."
"…I was the one who suggested it."
"And I was the one who agreed to it."
A brief pause. Then, the man speaks, "Success or failure, it doesn't matter. One way or another there will be problems. You know that, right?"
"It's no laughing matter." The man said, seeing the smiling face on his contact's face again. "The police will become involved."
"I know." Then, for the first time his contact's face undergoes a change. His face contracts, his eyes become narrow, a look of seriousness dawns upon him. It was rare of the man to see his contact like this, and it was almost scary. "I sacrificed a lot of things to get to where I am." The contact said.
The man sighs. "Fine."
"After all," His contact says as he traces the scar on his face with his fingers, the serious look still not leaving his face. "Someone has to take responsibility for these."
"Fine, I get it now." The man reaches into his pocket and takes out a small notebook out of his jacket pocket and places the notebook on top of the glass desk. White cover, no markings.
"So that's it, then? The whole thing?" His contact asks, egging the book with the corner of his chin.
The man nods. "It is."
His contact's finally releases that aura of seriousness that surrounded his face and settles back into the usual grinning expression he's so used to. Scooping up the notebook with his two hands and tucking it into the small backpack next to him, the contact then turns around and gives him the brightest of smiles. "Well, I guess I'll see you on the other side then?"
This time, the man allowed himself a tiny smile. "Sure."
The waitress delivers their tea.
It tastes bitter.
- Prologue -
Apparently, I like confusing people. If anyone can figure out what the hell's going on with this prologue alone, then kudos to you.
First time writing a story with the Naruto cast in a Modern AU setting (although not many have appeared yet, they will eventually), and a crossover too. Hope I'll do well.
Before some of my readers ask me why I'm writing this and not working on my main Naruto project Empyreal Paradox, this story was more like the spur-of-the-moment thing and I'm kind of suffering a writer's block. I have the whole outline planned in my head now but when it comes down to sitting in front of the computer and writing it, I just can't. So basically what this story is to get my writing mood back, so to speak. I'm still working on Empyreal Paradox, so don't you worry.
For those who are wondering, "Level Seven", the novel I'm crossing over with Naruto in this story, is a Japanese novel written by an author named Miyabe Miyuki which I recently became a fan of, although "Level Seven" itself was written fifteen years ago so I doubt if anyone is actually familiar with the story. Although, that's the main reason why I chose this story to crossover with Naruto so people can enjoy the story without knowing what the hell's going on. But like I said in the disclaimer above, you don't have to be familiar with the story of "Level Seven" at all to enjoy this.
Anyway, so there you have it. We'll see how this goes. I'll still do my best to honor my self-declared promise of updating Empyreal Paradox at least once every month. Wish me luck.
- Nes Mikel
Prologue, Complete, December 2nd, 2006