Why does this website hate me so? It always screws with my formatting. The Kyuubi's speech is supposed to be both in bold and italics, but it drops the bold in several spots, so it's hard to tell it apart from Naruto's thoughts. Oh, well.
I've received a lot of reviews about last chapter that bear answering, so here we go.
Several people commented that the romance between Naruto and Hinata was going too fast. Well… you're both right and you're wrong. Yes, I threw that scene in with little prelude, and maybe it was a little over the top, but Naruto has only gone from thinking of her as an acquaintance to thinking of her as a friend he can trust. A big jump, but she still has yet to win his heart. In nearly every conversation between Naruto and Hinata in canon, she is the one that instigates it, so she is clearly able to speak to him without instantly fainting. Seeing Hermes would simply give her something worth asking about, so she has an excuse to gear up her courage and speak with him.
In regards to her knowing about Kyuubi: Maybe I should have explained this more clearly, but 'a red dot' isn't what clued her off to the Kyuubi. She realized that's what the red dot was after a lot of other things came together. Consider this: She sees the structure of the seal by the way it altered his inner coils from the norm. At the center is a tiny dot of red chakra. "Huh. That's funny. What's that all about? Oh, well, none of my business." She sees how poorly he is treated, and overhears the comments made behind his back, like when people call him a demon. She notices that his birthday is the same day the Kyuubi was "killed". That and dozens of other clues over the years all add up until she puts it all together. That's why I think she could have figured it out. A bit of a stretch, yes, but not too big, I think… yeah, I really should have explained that better. Maybe later I'll go back and change it.
Lu, you make a lot of very good points. First of all, I'm glad you enjoy my work, and yes, I know who Kraken's Ghost is. Hearing things like that is what makes writing worth it. Now, as I've already gone into my excuses for the Hinata scene, I'll keep it short.
P.S. Don't worry, they'll show up. As a matter of fact, Aphrodite getting involved in Naruto's affairs was something I planned on early, but recently I thought of something similar that would fit into the story better. The Goddess of Love and Lust will still be present, just not as prominently. And yes, there will be a fair amount of furor over Kratos taking on a champion.
P.P.S. It's kind of hard to put time-dilation camera work into word form, but I can try, gods damn it! I beat GOWII like the day before I saw 300, so the only thing I could think while leaving the theater was "The only thing that could have made that movie more awesome was if Kratos had shown up, either as a mortal or a god!"
Ninjagaiden119, I'd considered that, and I still am. How awesome would it be to summon minotaurs and gorgons instead of toads? And the boss summon would be the Colossus of Rhodes! But the only time Naruto really needs the summons is the Gaara fight, and I have something special planned for then… I dunno, I'll see if I can work it in somewhere.
Master of cheese graters, it is true that Kratos doesn't shout out the name of his attacks when he uses them. But Naruto does. So deal.
P.S. 1-3: That would be telling (wink-wink, nudge-nudge)
4: Telling people about Kratos is part of his job description, but he's still terrified of people learning about Kyuubi.
Aires Drake, what does "an Underworld of Pandora's box's remains" mean? Is that good? I honestly don't know what you are trying to say here.
St. Alicon, do you stutter in real life? Because I did when I was little. And what I've typed as Hinata's dialogue is mild compared to how I used to speak. And not to sound conceited or anything, but with a registered IQ of about 153, I think it's safe to say I'm not "retarded" because I stuttered.
Disclaimer: The leprechaun that lives under my bed told me to write this. Sometimes he tells me to burn things.Chosen of Olympus
Chapter Three: In the Line of Duty
It was a beautiful day as Hermes arrived back at Mount Olympus- meaning that Zeus was in a pleasant mood. The sky close to the home of the gods always reflected the current mood of the master of the house, storms when he was angry, sunshine when content.
The Divine Messenger alighted upon one of the balconies at the lowest point of the complex of temples, which served as arrival and departure points for the gods when they felt like visiting the mortal world. He strolled down the hall and up the stairs to Olympus proper, admiring the beautiful scrollwork worked into the walls and the tapestries depicting great battles and triumphs of mortals and gods alike. No matter how many times he passed this way, Hermes never got tired of the beauty of his home.
Even at his unhurried pace, it only took a few moments to reach the Lower Courtyard, the largest outdoor space on the mountain. It was filled with gardens, all lovingly tended by Demeter, and carefully crafted marble walkways meandered through the flowerbeds. There was an expanse of soft grass ringed by olive trees in the middle of the courtyard, at the center of which was a small stage. The muses would have a performance there every few days, and even now Hermes could see a few of them tuning their instruments in preparation for later. Poseidon and Apollo were reclining on the grass, deep in conversation about something or other, as they waited for the concert to begin.
As Hermes drew closer, the Sea King's head snapped up, and he called the messenger over. "Hermes! Is it true what we've been hearing? Has Kratos chosen a champion?" The winged messenger paused as he realized how much attention that question had gathered. Every god, demigod, and divine being in the courtyard had dropped what they were doing and hurried over, hoping to confirm whatever rumors they'd been hearing. Hermes shrugged. He always had liked being the center of attention.
"Yes, yes, it's true. Our esteemed God of War and all-around killjoy Kratos was summoned by a mortal, and instead of casting this one into the abyss like so many before him, he gave him the chance to slaughter his foes in the name of Olympus. I just now returned from his home, where I delivered a scroll to help him use his new signature weapons."
"He has the Blades of Chaos then?" someone shouted. The assembled group broke into mutterings and confusion. Aphrodite slunk forward through the crowd.
"It's been a while since any of us have had cause to visit the mortal world," she purred. "I think the most important question right now is… is he cute?"
Hermes smirked at her as many of the other gods listening rolled their eyes. "Oh yeah, you'd like this guy. Blonde hair, blue eyes, big smile, really gutsy. Shows no fear to anyone, god or mortal."
"Ooh… maybe I ought to visit the mortal world for a little while. Maybe this champion would like to see that there's more to the gods then blood-crazed warriors and thieving tricksters." She turned and strolled away, but was stopped cold by Hermes' response.
"I don't think he's your type…"
Aphrodite turned and shot him an incredulous look. "Dear brother, are you forgetting who you speak to? I am the Goddess of Love, Lust, and Passion! There is no man who is not my type… and a fair number of women, too."
The smirk was now a full-blown grin. "Well, I never would have pegged you to one to rob the cradle like that…"
"And exactly what is that supposed to mean?"
"I said I never would have expected you to go after a twelve-year old boy." A whole new round of hushed voices and mutterings followed this announcement. Aphrodite looked affronted.
"Kratos chose a twelve year old to be his voice among the mortals?"
"He did indeed."
"Oh… well, perhaps in a few years then." She left, and a clamor of voices raised further questions to the messenger.
Hermes laughed, and raised his hands. "Dear family, please! I'm running a bit late as it is, and if I don't speak with Kratos soon, he'll be out for my hide! Oh, Leda," the messenger said, turning to a pretty young demigoddess who was apprenticed to the Muses. "How lucky that you're here. Do you know where I can find your father?"
The girl, whose appearance suggested that she was no older than fourteen, smiled up at her favorite uncle. "Of course! He's at the Eastern Arena, sparring with Auntie Athena. Where else would he be while mother is helping Gramma Hera?"
Hermes matched her smile with one of his own. "Of course he is. Your old man really needs to get a hobby other then attacking anything that might fight back." He returned his attention to the crowd and addressed them one more time before flitting off on his winged sandals. "Don't worry, after I go tell Kratos about my meeting with the kid, I'll be sure to fill the rest of you in!"
Hermes arrived at the Arena less then a minute later. He settled against one of the fine marble columns ringing the fighting pit, content to watch two of the greatest warriors to ever live clashing blade to blade. Both Athena and Kratos were in their full armor, ready for war. Athena was resplendent in a white tunic, with a breastplate of bronze and gold over it. Her hair was held in a bun by a headdress of gold wire, which traced down her neck and jaw and over her forehead, with small green gems at the intersections. Her opponent was in plates of iron, with a depiction of a pair of hounds baying on his chest. Curling ram's horns were engraved on his bronze pauldrons, and upon the shining golden guard running from his right shoulder to his wrist: the legendary Golden Fleece of the Argonauts.
Athena was currently on the defensive, parrying the blows Kratos was raining down with superlative skill. She used a pair of short swords, the gilding along the blades shining in the light. It was a testament to her ability that such light weapons were able to redirect the massive force put behind every attack from Kratos and his Blades of Athena.
The weapons, a replacement for the Blades of Chaos that had been both granted and taken away by Ares, were engulfed in blood-red flames. Their wielder finally swept his opponent's defenses aside, and crossed his blades at her stomach, only half an inch of celestial bronze between the Goddess of Civilization and evisceration. Just as Kratos was about to claim victory, he found that her own swords were in position to clip his throat. As was so often the case, the match was a stalemate.
The gods straightened up and sheathed their weapons, their fight over for now. "Your third parry was too slow. I could have taken your head off with ease had this been a real fight." Kratospointed out.
"I had been hoping you would try, that was a feint." Athena countered, as she tried to steady her breathing.
They turned as someone began to softly applaud, and saw Hermes watching their mock battle from the sidelines. "Hermes. What kept you? Did you deliver the scroll?"
Athena ignored her brothers for the moment, not wanting to eavesdrop. She instead focused on readying for her next fight with the youngest son of Zeus, knowing that neither of them would be satisfied with only three fights. She checked that her long brown hair was still properly held back into her elaborate headdress, not wanting it to fall in her eyes at an inopportune moment. It was fine. She tugged a little at her breastplate, shifting it so that it fit more comfortably. Much better. The Goddess of Wisdom overheard Hermes say something about Kratos' mortal champion being disrespectful and fearless. Good, maybe putting up with someone who didn't cower in awe at his might would knock the God of War down a few pegs. She knelt to retie her sandal- WAIT A MINUTE! "Wait, champion? Since when do you have a mortal champion?! You've never taken a champion!"
Kratos shot her an annoyed look. "Since two days ago. The little fool summoned me using an old insignia from a Spartan temple. He had no idea what he was getting himself into, but he had a lot of potential. Hermes is returning from delivering an instruction scroll for the Blades of Chaos," He shifted his glare onto their brother, who tried to look innocent (he failed). "And he was supposed to be back yesterday. He was just about to explain what delayed him. Isn't that right, Hermes?"
"Of course. Well, after giving the boy the scroll and a lift to his academy, I took a look around the city, to try to get a feel for the place. I came to some interesting conclusions." Hermes trailed off, looking thoughtful. There was a moment of silence before Kratos prompted him.
"…And those are?"
"That city has a lot of pretty girls."
"And it actually reminds me strongly of Sparta. A strong militaristic nation-state, where children are trained from childhood to be the greatest warriors they can be. Not as intense, though. Military service is strictly voluntary, and the children aren't separated from their parents, they just attend lessons during the day. And before you dismiss them as a pale imitation of your beloved home, Kratos, I watched some of the adults training. They may not be as good with spear and shield as the crew you used to run with, but they could go toe-to-toe against a Spartan soldier and have a better chance then most at winning. One of their elite could defeat one of the legendary Three Hundred."
Kratos was dubious at this claim, and sad as much. "I somehow doubt they would find it so easy. What about three hundred of them against the entire Three Hundred of Leonidas?"
"They would actually win that fight fairly easily. These mortals… they have some odd powers. I watched some practicing some sort of elemental magic I'm unfamiliar with. It's not just parlor tricks and deception, they were actually breathing fire. Others caused the ground to form into beds of spikes, or soften into mud. A phalanx would be of little use against their such methods. Without their techniques, though, the Spartans would win. None of them typically carry any weapons bigger than a style of sword I'm unfamiliar with, and their throwing weapons would be of little use against a proper shield wall."
"We can discuss the military strength of this nation later," Athena interrupted. "For now, I want to hear about how a mortal managed to impress Kratos enough to be made champion."
The sun was high and there wasn't a cloud in the sky as the newly graduated Genin Team Seven left their training ground. A pleasant breeze swept by, carrying on it the faint sounds of birdsong. It was as if all of nature was celebrating the success of Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura.
Too bad they were too busy yelling at each other to notice.
"I still can't believe you tried to do that, Sasuke-teme!"
The teme in question snorted in derision. "Don't blame me for being a realist. The strong succeed and the weak fail. That's how the real world works."
"What does that have to do with stabbing your teammates in the back?!"
Sakura nervously glanced between her teammates. Ordinarily, she would have already screamed at Naruto for talking to Sasuke that way, and probably bopped him on the head for whatever his response was, but she decided to hold her immediate response for the moment. After all, she was still a bit upset that Sasuke would think so little of them even after they helped him. For now, she would let Naruto say the things she could never bring herself to say to her beloved Sasuke-kun.
The argument continued unabated as they reached the edges of the village proper, but then Naruto stopped walking. Sakura and Sasuke watched, the girl in unconcealed astonishment and the boy in barely contained jealous rage, as Naruto bit his thumbs deep enough to break skin, and drew lines of blood over the chains on his arms. The metal smoked and glowed, and both the chains and the blades crossed over his back seemed to sink inward, disappearing into the blonde's flesh. "Naruto…" Sakura eventually managed to get out. "How did you do that? Where did those weapons go? For that matter, where did you get them? You never had them before we graduated!"
Naruto grinned, scratching the back of his head in his accustomed manner. "They were a gift! They're called the Blades of Chaos! Pretty neat, huh? I'm still learning the basics, but I think I was using them pretty well back there. Wasn't I?"
"What you were doing was the basics?!" Sakura gasped in disbelief. "You made magma erupt out of the ground!"
"Yeah! I can't wait to see what the advanced stuff can do!"
Sasuke's anger deepened every second as he tried to understand how an idiot who would probably die on his first mission could luck into such tools of obvious power. The pink one wasn't helping as she gawked at Naruto (though he certainly wasn't jealous for the attention. No sir. Not at all.). Sasuke sneered as he considered what a waste it was for whoever gave the fool those Blades of Whatever to such an unworthy excuse for a ninja.
"Oi, dobe. Tell me who gave you those weapons."
Naruto gave Sasuke a shocked look. "What? Why do you care?"
"Just tell me, fool."
The shorter genin frowned. There was something about the he had asked, or rather, demanded, that was setting Naruto off… "Why should I?" As he asked, he felt a stirring in the back of his mind.
"He obviously wants to get his hands on a set of Blades of Chaos of his own."
"Do you think I should tell him then, Kyuubi?"
"Heh. Go ahead and tell the moody little meatsock about Kratos. If he even believes you and somehow manages to summon him, he'll never pass the test of the soul. Besides, his reaction to finding out you're the chosen representative of a god ought to be good for a laugh."
"Okay. They were given to me by Kratos, the God of War. I summoned him, and he decided I was worthy to bear his signature weapons in his name. Yesterday morning, another god, a guy named Hermes, he's the Messenger God, stopped by my apartment to give me a scroll explaining how to use them, and he taught me how to hide them like I just did. He said he'd be seeing me around, so I guess I haven't seen the last of him."
Naruto sighed. "Right. So, Sakura-chan? Wanna go get some ramen? I'll pay…"
Blank stares. They appeared to be trying to decide if Naruto actually believed what he had told them or if he was pulling their legs.
"Okay… see you tomorrow, then." Naruto turned and left.
After a moment, both Sasuke and Sakura managed to rouse themselves from their disbelieving stupor. Sakura glanced nervously at the boy she one day hoped to marry, "Sasuke-kun… do you think he was telling the truth?"
The Uchiha simply gave a noncommittal grunt in response.
"Well… would you like to go out, to celebrate? I could treat…"
He grunted again, muttering something about training as he turned away from her and began walking back to the old Uchiha district.
She frowned. Sasuke was so sure that having teammates would slow his progress. Sakura would just have to prove him wrong. She vowed then and there she would become a powerful kunoichi, and never be the one to hold Sasuke back.
Her resolve lasted right up until they were given their first mission the next morning. Kakashi had been late again, saying something about black cats and bad luck, but his pathetic attempt to explain away two hours of tardiness was met with two genin shouting "LIAR!" He managed to get their attention by telling them about the assignment he had selected for their first mission as ninja of the Village Hidden in the Leaves.
"You will be tracking a target of great significance. Intelligence on the subject's location is extremely vague and several hours old, and it is assumed that the subject will resist capture at any and all cost. Recovering this target unharmed and quickly is of extreme importance. Understood?" Even Sasuke was unable to completely hide his excitement at these words, as a challenging mission would be an excellent gauge of his progress.
It goes without saying that all three genin were extremely disappointed when they learned that the subject was an escaped pet cat belonging to the wife of the Lord of the Fire Country.
And as the weeks passed, it became evident at exactly how low on the totem pole freshly-graduated genin were. It was hard to say what the worst mission was, as Naruto, Sasuke, and Sakura all placed greater weight on the missions that inconvenienced themselves the most. Naruto swore that the worst mission was the time they had to walk a massive pack of dogs for the pound. His problem with such a simple assignment was that the dogs had apparently considered his scent to be slightly fox-like, and had chased him all over town. He had lost the seat of his pants and a fair amount of dignity on that mission.
Sasuke's opinion differed, as he maintained that the worst mission was when they had done some repair work to the Academy's throwing weapon range, and an overly enthusiastic second year student had nearly pinned Sasuke's ear to the wall with a kunai. The Uchiha had jerked aside barely in time, allowing Sasuke to leave that incident with nothing more than a small scar on his cheek that Kakashi-sensei assured him wasn't noticeable unless he got a deep tan.
Sakura had taken issue with a mission to baby-sit a set of two-year-old triplets. Each had an allergy to a different food, and they apparently had switched jars when Sakura's back was turned. When she fed them, they all began vomiting all over the kitchen floor and her favorite dress.
And this was on top of needing to hunt down the same goddamned cat every few days.
Surprisingly, Naruto was the least dissatisfied with the missions. Sure, he hated some of the assignments, as most D-rank tasks were things civilians simply didn't want to do; but he was making much more money then his monthly allowance had provided. He had been able to replace his torn pants without wasting half of his cash. Sure, he had dreamed of missions that took him around the world, fighting tyrants and rescuing princesses and all those other things ninja do in stories; but these simple missions that never took them outside the village and lasted only a few hours gave Naruto plenty of time to practice with his blades, catch up with Iruka-sensei, and occasionally meet with his new friend Hinata.
And she was fast becoming a good friend to Naruto, especially considering that neither of them had really had much in the way of friends before. They would meet at Ichiraku's, or the training fields, or they would stop and say hello when turning in mission reports at the Hokage Tower. The two would simply talk, enjoying having a conversation with someone who was friendly and wasn't an authority figure. Topics would run from comparing assignments, to how Sasuke had pissed Naruto off recently, to the latest silly thing Kiba had done, to how Kurenai and Kakashi taught their teams. Naruto had ranted for nearly half an hour after hearing how much effort Kurenai put into teaching and training her students, especially compared to Kakashi.
Hinata was supplying more then companionship to Naruto, though. After he had told her about his patron and his colleagues, she had begun searching the Hyuuga Clan's archives whenever she had a chance, seeking references or histories that mentioned the names Hermes or Kratos. At first she had little luck, but after a week she hit paydirt. She discovered a bounty of very old scrolls and books that detailed the sordid lives of the Olympian Gods, their servants and children among the mortals, and even the Titans. She had shown them to Naruto, and he had been excited by the thought of learning more about the entity that had marked him.
There were dozens of incredible stories of mighty heroes and horrible monstrosities, and the Ninetails added comments from his own perspective, as he had been alive at the time. Hinata was moved to tears by the tragic tale of Orpheus and his wife Eurydice, and Naruto was enthralled by the unshakeable bravery of the Spartans at Thermopylae. The story held all new meaning for him when Kyuubi reminded him that Kratos was from Sparta, and had taken the city under his patronage.
From both the histories and from what the Ninetails knew (which Naruto passed on to Hinata), Kratos was one of the many, many children of Zeus, sired on a mortal woman and kept ignorant of his father's identity. Raised in Sparta, Kratos was trained to be a soldier from the day he could walk, just as all Spartan males were. He quickly rose to the top of his age group, as the toughest, strongest, and most ruthless of all the trainee soldiers. Upon reaching manhood, he became the youngest captain in the entire Spartan army, with fifty men under his command. As the tally of victories grew longer, his command grew larger… until he was the general of thousands of the toughest, most skilled soldiers to ever raise a shield. They never suffered a loss until… that day.
Naruto had realized that the events described were the very same that he had envisioned the night he was given the Blades of Chaos. A barbarian horde attacking Sparta, the city's proud defenders falling back from their overwhelming ferocity, Kratos calling for aid from Ares.
That was another thing: Kratos wasn't the original God of War. Apparently, Ares had been the War God, but he was a conniving, cowardly backstabber. Kratos had served him faithfully for several years, leading his army in the name of the God of War, and then… well, that was when the stories conflicted. No one was really sure what had happened, not even Kyuubi, but suddenly, Kratos had taken over the position of God of War, and Ares wasn't mentioned any further. Thankfully, Kratos placed much more stock in valor and courage than his predecessor, and made the title one to be proud of. It was rumored that he was the only being, god, Titan, or otherwise, to truly be more powerful than Zeus, and that the Lord of the Heavens actually feared his son's strength.
Naruto had taken to reading these stories as his team waited for Kakashi. Sakura had demanded to know what he was reading (she was irked that she hadn't thought to bring reading material first), but had given him a funny look when he had responded "The Labors of Hercules." She was clearly surprised that his book wasn't smutty or about shinobi, and fairly put out that the dummy was reading a book that big that she hadn't heard of.
All in all, things were going better for Naruto then they had for… well, ever.
Konoha's Jinchuriki parted the short curtain that separated the outside world from that little slice of heaven known as Ichiraku's Ramen Stand. Stepping through, Naruto cheerfully greeted Ayame, the waitress and daughter of the stand's owner, turned to his usual seat, and… found it occupied.
Yamanaka Ino was sitting on Naruto's favorite stool, enjoying what appeared to be a bowl of shrimp ramen. Naruto was surprised to see her there, the way she was always going on about being on a diet so she could be nice and thin for her Sasuke-kun. Not wanting to make an issue of her choice of seat, Naruto just sat down next to her on Iruka's usual spot.
"Hi, Ino! What are you doing here?"
The blonde girl turned and raised one delicate eyebrow at him, pointedly lifting a few more noodles to her lips. "I'm eating, what does it look like?"
"Hey, no need to get snippy," Naruto said, before turning and ordering five bowls of miso ramen to start. "I just thought you would be eating with your family, or your team. And aren't you always saying how fattening ramen is?"
Ino just shrugged. "That's why I don't have it often. I can be bad on occasion as long as I stick to my diet most of the time. And I just really needed to get away from those idiots for a while. We've gone to the same barbecue restaurant every night this week!"
"You got Shikamaru and Chouji for teammates, right? They aren't that bad. Cut them some slack!"
"Yeah, yeah." Ino stared into her ramen bowl. "They aren't bad, not really. I could have had worse teammates. They just annoy me so much sometimes! Shikamaru never does anything he isn't forced to, Chouji never stops eating, not even during training, and Asuma-sensei would rather sit around smoking and playing old man games with Shikamaru then train us! At this rate, I'll never be a strong kunoichi."
Naruto grinned at her, wanting to cheer her up. "Look at it this way. At least your sensei teaches you stuff and goes places with you! Kakashi-sensei hasn't taught us anything since that stupid bell test. He just makes us wait for hours before he shows up, gives us some lame assignment, then sits around reading that perverted book of his until we finish!"
"Bell test? Well, I bet your team hasn't had to mow all the lawns in a five block area because the gardener broke his leg!"
"That's nothing! We had to paint three coats onto a quarter-mile-long fence!"
"We had to skim half a ton of leaves and bugs out of a city council member's swimming pool!"
"I got my pants torn up by a pack of dogs! That's why I've got these, now." He indicated his current attire, which Ino had already noticed was different then his normal orange eyesore. His pants were of a similar design, but in black, and instead of his garish orange jacket, he had on a darker reddish-orange vest over his normal T-shirt. Not bad, especially compared to before, Ino decided. "At least now Kakashi-sensei doesn't complain about me standing out on missions."
"Hmmph. We had to clean out an old shed in someone's back yard, and there was a barrel full of year-old apples in there! There were flies everywhere!"
"Yeah, well nothing could have been grosser than when Kakashi-sensei volunteered us at the retirement center. I had to rub this stinky ointment onto an old lady's bunions!"
Ino scowled at Naruto. "Emptying a septic tank."
"Okay, you win."
They sat in silence for a moment, not eating (not after that discussion), and it was Ino who spoke first. "So, speaking of teammates… How's Sasuke-kun? Does Forehead Girl still think she can take him away from me?"
"Uh… that's one way of putting it, I guess. Sakura-chan still keeps trying to get his attention, but it doesn't work." Seeing Ino's triumphant look, he was quick to add, "She's not having any more luck with him than you are." Her smirk became another scowl. "Sasuke ignores both of us whenever he can. Keeps saying that being part of a team will slow him down."
Naruto chuckled quietly before returning to his ramen. "Get this. He's started bringing a kusari-gama to meetings. He won't answer any questions about it, but it's so obvious he's jealous of me for having my own chain blades." He ignored Ino's questioning look. "I still don't get why Sakura-chan chases him so much when I'd go out with her in a heartbeat, but…"
Ino slammed her hand on the countertop, interrupting him. "Of course she chases him! She does for the same reasons I do! He's cool, he's strong, he's hot, he's the best ninja around! Every girl wants him!"
"But he's such a jerk!"
"Don't call him names! He is not a jerk! He's the most sought-after guy in town!"
"Doesn't mean he's not a jerk." Naruto pouted. They both sulked for a moment, but then Naruto thought of something. "Hey, Ino… let me ask you something."
"Let's hear it."
"If you were to describe your perfect guy, not any one guy in particular, just the perfect guy, how would you describe him?"
"Um… why do you ask?"
"Just humor me, will ya?"
"Well… he would have to be nice, and funny, and have a great smile, and be sensitive to my feelings…"
"But Sasuke isn't any of those things."
Ino froze. As much as she hated to admit it… "Um… well, he… I… just shut up!"
Naruto finished his last bowl of ramen, and signaled to Ayame for five more. Ino watched with the usual astounded, mildly disgusted expression most people wore when they saw Naruto eat ramen as he piled into his meal with gusto. "And I thought Chouji was a big eater…"She watched him go for a moment more, before finishing her own bowl, putting the money on the counter, and standing up. "See you around, Naruto. Good luck with your sensei."
The vessel swallowed his latest mouthful of the heavenly noodles, and turned to face her. "Thanks, Ino. You too!" They parted ways for the night, as Ino returned home, she found herself thinking about Naruto. 'Maybe there's more to him then I thought…' She smirked a little as she walked. 'Still not as cool as Sasuke-kun, though.'
"Good morning, team seven… if only just." The Hokage puffed on his pipe as he considered the children standing before him. "Since it's almost noon, nearly all of the other teams have come and selected their assignments already." The three genin, the Hokage, Iruka (who was there to help Sarutobi sort the mission assignments), and even the two chuunin guarding the door shot a glare at Kakashi, who was reading his book obliviously. "So, your choices are… clearing poison oak out of a vacant lot… or clearing poison sumac out of an overgrown drainage ditch. Alternatively, you could clear poison ivy off of the trail leading up the side of the Hokage Monument. So," he said, with a dry chuckle, "Pick your poison."
"NO WAY! Come on, Old Man, give us a real mission!" Naruto's outburst was cut short by his sensei's fist, which had bopped him over the head. Surprisingly, though, Sakura agreed with her loud teammate.
"Naruto's right! Hokage-sama, we've been doing D-Rank missions for a month now! Can't we get a better mission by now? I know we meet official requirements, I looked them up a week ago! 'A genin team must have completed a minimum of fifteen D-Rank missions before a C-Rank can be requested.' We've done twenty-four!"
Iruka slammed his hand on the table to quiet the genin down, much as he had often done in class. "Naruto! Sakura! Show some respect! Sakura, you apparently missed the part in the requirements that specifies that after fifteen D-Ranks, the jounin instructor can request a C-Rank!"
"Iruka." That single calm word from the village's supreme authority figure was enough to silence the chuunin's anger. "They are within their rights, and they are indeed qualified. To be honest, I am surprised that Kakashi-kun hasn't requested one already."
The jounin in question looked up from his book, ran a glance over his students, and returned to his reading. "Mmm… I suppose they could handle one. Hokage-sama, I would like to formally request a C-Rank mission for genin team seven."
The Hokage nodded, but Iruka looked like he was struggling to hold his tongue. After a moment, he sighed in defeat and sat down, rifling through the scrolls on the table before him. "Here's a simple one. It's an escort and guard mission, consisting of two or three days of travel, followed by about two or three weeks of guard work. No distinct threats, just a precaution against bandits and highwaymen. Perfect for a genin's first C-Rank."
Naruto whooped in excitement, Sakura gave a quiet cheer, and Sasuke tightened his grip on his new weapon, a feral grin appearing on his face for a brief second. Kakashi said, without looking up, "I think it meets with their approval."
"So who are we protecting?" Naruto asked gleefully. "A princess? A daimyo? An ambassador?"
Iruka smirked at his favorite student, knowing that the look he was about to have on his face would be priceless. "Sir, you can come in now. We have your escort selected." The door at the back of the room slid open, and team seven turned, eager to meet their client.
An old man slumped against the door frame, a bottle raised to his lips, and the pungent aroma of sake wafted in with him. "These little runts are my protection?" he slurred, blinking owlishly from behind his glasses. "They're just kids! They can't fight!" He took another swig from his bottle, and belched. All three of the "kids" were staring, horrified, hoping that this was a bad joke. "The super short one looks especially useless!"
Naruto took a deep, calming breath, looked to the right, at Sasuke… looked to the left, at Sakura… yup, Naruto was the short one. He lunged forward, only to be restrained by his teammates. His arms flailed in the client's general direction as the blonde shouted "LEMME HURT'IM JUST A LITTLE BIT!"
Sarutobi ignored the outburst from the loudest genin under his command, and introduced the client, knowing that Kakashi was listening, even if his team wasn't. "This is Tazuna-san. He is an architect from Wave Country, and he is on way home. However, there have been reports of some bandit activity along the route, so it will be your objective to see him safely home, then maintain a guard until his latest project is complete. You will leave at nine tomorrow morning."
At noon the next day (damn you Kakashi), team seven and their client set out from the gates of Konoha. Tazuna was softly groaning and rubbing his head, obviously in the throes of a hangover. Kakashi had his nose, as always, buried in his little orange book. Sakura was alternating between talking to Sasuke about anything she could think of and asking Tazuna questions about his homeland. Under any other circumstances, he would have been more then happy to tell her about the Land of the Waves, but for the time being he was just wishing she would let him suffer in peace.
Naruto was walking in silence, and for once it wasn't because he was talking to the Ninetails. He was both nervous and excited at the thought of a real mission with the prospect of real fighting. He was already missing the familiarity of Konoha a little bit, and they had only been walking for three hours. He'd met Hinata-chan for dinner at Ichiraku's the night before, and he had told both the Hyuuga Heiress and their friend Ayame about his newest mission. They'd congratulated him, but also asked to be careful. He promised them he would come back safe and sound, and they both knew well exactly how seriously he took promises.
The blonde had shown up a few minutes late (by the standards of the rest of the group, he was still hours early by Kakashi standards), but he had the Blades of Chaos out and ready. It was the first time he had them visible outside of his own training since the bell test. Sasuke's reaction to this had been amusing, to say the least. He had tightened his grip on the kusari-gama at his on side, a vein throbbing on his temple as he glared at Naruto and the weapons on his back.
A traditional shinobi weapon, the kusari-gama consisted of a sickle at one end, a long length of chain in the middle, and a metal weight at the other end. Normally, the weight would be used as a bludgeon or to ensnare the limbs or weapons of an enemy, allowing the wielder to race in with the sickle before the target could recover. The sickle end would never be swung, as the odds were that the weapon would not strike pointy-side first, and so would bounce off. However, it was quite simple to wield it in that manner when one knew the proper method of applying chakra… unfortunately, Sasuke had yet to master that method and so was restricted to the standard technique. An effective weapon, but nowhere near as lethal as Naruto's chained blades… meaning nowhere near as lethal as Sasuke wanted.
The first day of travel and the first night passed without any significant events happening (well… unless you count Kakashi waking everyone with a low-level water technique as significant). It was now mid-afternoon on the second day, and they were approaching the border of Fire Country and Wave Country. They were in what had become their standard order of march: Naruto was in front, eagerly leading the way (and occasionally ending up far enough ahead of the rest that he would be forced to stop and wait impatiently for them to catch up). Sakura walked next to Tazuna, talking animatedly with the bridge builder, who was now in the proper condition to answer her questions. Sasuke was behind them, close enough to listen, but not so close as to look interested. And Kakashi held the rearguard position, reading, you guessed it, Icha Icha Paradise.
It was at this point that Kyuubi spoke up for the first time that day. "Tell me, have you noticed anything odd about your surroundings?"
Naruto stumbled a bit, startled by the apparent non sequitur from his inner demon. "Um… not really. Why, do you see something?"
"I see many things. Since I must use you eyes in order to see at all, everything I see is what you see. A better question would have been, 'Have I noticed something?'"
"Okay. Have you?"
"Yes. Try and figure out what it is. And do it quickly, as if it means what I believe it does, you have little time."
Naruto started scanning his environment, seeking out anything out of place, but nothing jumped out at him. He began to catalogue everything around him, in the hopes that the Kyuubi would throw him a bone. "Well, uh… there's some birds over there… but it's summer, so that's normal. That squirrel looks suspicious… no, wait, it just looks squirrelly. There's a dead tree over there by the puddle. Is that it?"
"No, but you're closer than you think. How's the weather today?"
Naruto was really starting to wonder if something was wrong with his furry prisoner, but still answered. "Uh… it's nice out. It's been sunny all week. Nice breeze, too. But what does that-"
"Based on what you just said, which of the things you listed is out of place?"
Naruto slowed as he concentrated, trying to see what the Ninetails was trying to make him understand. Sunny… breezy… tree… puddle… sunny all week… He stopped cold. "Where did that puddle come from?" He turned back, as the group had already passed the out-of-place pool of water. He could see Sakura's and Sasuke's eyes widen as they realized what he was getting at, and they immediately took up defensive positions around Tazuna. But none of them were able to do anything more than watch in horror as a pair of unknown shinobi leapt from where a puddle had been a few seconds before, and wrapped a bladed length of chain around their teacher.
That one second seemed to stretch into infinity for Naruto. Everything seemed to hold still, and he could see everything in almost supernatural clarity. He could see his teammates tensing in fear. He could see the terror in Tazuna's eyes. He saw Kakashi's assailants, their ragged gray cloaks shrouding their forms, gas masks covering their faces, wild black hair held back by gouged forehead protectors. Missing-nin.
He could see the light glinting off the steel of their clawed gauntlets, and off the length of razor-edged links that stretched between the two. Naruto's gaze moved to his teacher, mind racing as he tried to figure what he should- what he could do. But to his amazement, Kakashi's eye held no fear. There was confidence, there was calm, and there was absolutely no surprise. And then the loops of edged steel were tightened, and Kakashi fell to the ground in pieces.
"NOOOOOOO!" The world returned to it's normal speed, and the enemy nin were already in motion. "One down," the one on the left muttered.
As Naruto was at the front of the group, he was the furthest from the attackers. One made a beeline for Sasuke, and the other lunged for Sakura and Tazuna. Naruto hesitated, not sure who to help. Sasuke leapt forward to meet his attacker, and managed to intercept the first blow with the kama (sickle) of his kusari-gama. He's managing. Sakura it is, then.
Sakura was standing ready, a kunai held in a defensive stance and Tazuna behind her. The second enemy nin was heading straight for her, and it was taking all of her considerable willpower not to panic. She readied herself for the attack that was to come- but at the last second, the missing-nin from the Village Hidden in the Mist- even under such conditions, her mind noted and identified the symbol on his scratched Hitai-Aite- sprang to one side, and darted past the kunoichi. "Tazuna-san! Look out!" She tried to intercept the attack, but she could already tell she wouldn't be fast enough. But to her great surprise, instead of the expected sound of a man's dying gasp, she heard the clang of metal against metal.
Naruto was there, Blades of Chaos in hand, holding back the missing-nin's strike. The man's clawed gauntlet clutched at the flaming steel, as the two engaged in a brief contest of strength. His gray eyes, cold and heartless, glared into Naruto's deep blue. "Give it up, little genin," he growled, his voice given a creepy distortion by his oxygen mask. "Even if you did have a chance to beat me , my brother will join me as soon as he finishes off your little friend."
The jinchuriki's gaze flicked over his enemy's shoulder, and a feral grin rose out of his snarl. "Really? 'Cause it looks like my sensei is kicking his ass pretty good."
"Nice try, kid, but I'm not falling for a trick as lame as- urk!" The assassin dropped like a sack of bricks, Kakashi's strike to his neck having instantly sent him to dreamland, to join his already unconscious brother.
After reassuring his students that he was alright, he explained that he had merely used the substitution technique to escape the trap and observe the Demon Brothers' (as he called them) intent. It was clear that, after dispatching the jounin, the men of Kiri had immediately targeted the only noncombatant in the party. "Tazuna-san? I do believe you have some explaining to do."
Chapter Three, out the door! I know, I'm sorry, this chapter was shorter than the first two, but I wanted to separate the chapters at this point, as I want a little feedback on an issue before I advance the story any further.
A lot of people are commenting on my choices for Naruto's harem. Some want one person or another added, or removed, for this reason or that. Well, I'm stubborn. But now, there's a change I'm considering, and I want to hear what you think. This isn't a vote, I make no promises. I just want to get a feel for what you think. And I'll say it right now: If you try and provide a reason for why this girl or that should or shouldn't be included, don't bother telling me "It's too common/rare". I don't care. How common a pairing is doesn't effect how much I like it. If I like it, then it's a good thing that it's common. If I dislike it, I'm glad it's rare.
Anyway, here's the issue. As I have stated previously, the current plans are a harem of three girls, Hinata, Ino, and Tenten. However, I am considering adding a girl, or using her to replace one. Here are the options you have to choose from.
Option one: Status quo. Keep it Naru/Hina/Ino/Ten.
Option Two: Addition. Make it Naru/Hina/Ino/Ten/FemHaku.
Option Three: Replacement. Make it Naru/Hina/Ino/FemHaku.
Hinata and Ino are in, no matter what. Currently, I'm leaning towards option three. Though I would feel a little bad about tossing Tenten out in the cold like that, it's going to be tough enough to maintain a balanced relationship between one guy and three girls, much less four.
To be honest, I'm also a little tempted to toss Temari, Kin, Hanabi, and/or Ayame in there, but there is no way I'm going as high as five girls. Probably. Damn my being a red-blooded young adult male and having such an interesting imagination… Seriously, five is more than I could handle writing, even four is pushing it.
Oh, one last thing about this harem decision: No older girls. As much as I like the characters of Kurenai, Anko, Shizune, and (God help us) Tsunade, and as much as I enjoy reading well written stories pairing them with Naruto, I am not adding anyone that much older than him to the harem. Period.
And for those of you who noticed: what's this? Kratos' wife and daughter are not only alive, but they are living on Mount Olympus? How can this be?
To make up this chapter's length to you, and the fact that it may be a while before I'm able to update again, I'm adding a few outtakes and goofy things I thought of and liked, but couldn't work into the story. Don't consider them canon to the main story, or anything. Enjoy!
Outtake 1: History Repeating ItselfThirty Years After the Attack of the Nine Tailed Fox
"Hokage-sama? They have arrived."
"Iruka, how many times do I need to tell you?" Uzumaki Naruto, Rokudaime Hokage of Konohakagure, looked up at his first teacher and longtime friend, bright blue eyes looking up from under his big traditional hat. "I'll always be Naruto to you. You don't need to be so formal."
The jounin smirked at his former student/foster brother/commanding officer. "Understood, Hokage-sama."
Naruto simply shook his head as he settled behind his desk. "I liked it better when I was the smartass. Let them in. Lets see what they have to say to explain themselves." Iruka nodded, turned on his heel, and left the Hokage's office. He returned a moment later, leading a delegation of foreign ninja surrounding a richly dressed ambassador. When the diplomat spoke, his voice was deep, and unctuous.
"I bear greetings from the Lords of Earth Country, Rokudaime Hokage-sama. The Tsuchikage wishes he could meet you in person, but unfortunately, he currently has far too many demands on his time to do so."
"I'm sure. Planning raids on defenseless towns must be exhausting work."
The barb didn't phase the Iwa ambassador in the slightest. "He asks that I come before you in his name, that we may come to a mutually beneficial resolution to thew current situation as swiftly as possible."
Naruto raised an eyebrow at that. "Translation: you're here to give us the terms of our surrender."
"No surrender need be involved, honored Hokage. Simply a token display of fealty to the will of Iwa. A small donation of earth, and water."
"Earth, and water… you've come to the wrong place for that, I'm afraid. This is Fire Country, you're the ones from Earth Country. And as I understand it, you've already launched a few attacks into Water Country, so you should be set for that. We have fire though, we'll happily provide you with lots and lots of fire. Will that help?"
The ambassador from Stone seemed to be loosing his patience with the Hokage's flippant comments. "You don't seem to understand your position here, Hokage-sama," he spat, making the title sound like a curse. "The armies of all Earth Country and our allies wait to descend upon you. They want their revenge for the last war, and they will jump at any opportunity to take it. The only way your people will survive is if you accept Tsuchikage-sama's generous terms, and submit!"
The Chosen of the War God mulled that over for a moment. "Submit… You say we need to submit to your lord." He stood, and walked around the ambassador's escort, sliding open the office doors. "Walk with me." He strolled away down the hall without waiting for the ambassador, who scurried to catch up.
"Tsuchikage-sama offers much, should you accept, Hokage. You worry for your people? They will be safer then they are even now. You worry for your village? It will be more prosperous than ever before. You worry for your seat of power? You will rule all of Fire Country, not merely the region surrounding the village. And all you must do… is kneel before him." Their walk had taken Naruto, the diplomat, and his escort to a broad balcony on the Hokage Tower's top floor, which offered a fantastic view of the village, the Hokage Monument, and the surrounding forest. Several Leaf-nin were already there, and more filtered up behind the Stone-nin to watch the proceedings.
Naruto didn't answer immediately, instead gazing upon the six faces carved into the stone of the mountainside. Two of those faces he knew personally. One he had seen only once in person- the day he was born, the day the Ninetails was sealed within his body. And the last, he saw in the mirror every day.
Naruto sighed, and slid off the traditional Hokage robes, leaving his upper body clad in only a dark orange vest, Doing so revealed a few things, a few… momentos, from the adventures he'd had in the past. Chains of iron and bronze, wrapped around each forearm. A small tattoo in the shape of a blue trident on his left bicep. A massive patch of scar tissue, directly over his heart. There were no other scars, he still healed too well for that.
The Rokudaime tossed the robes on the railing, leaning against it as his gaze wandered across the village he loved so much. This action gave the ambassador a clear view of what else the heavy Hokage robes had covered: the Rokudaime Hokage's legendary weapons, the Blades of Chaos. They were just as magnificent as the rumors claimed, all bronze and iron, with a massive red gem set in the guard of each. The jewels glowed, lit from within by an unknown power. Arcane runes the color of fresh blood shimmered along the flat of each blade. Weapons fit for a king.
His reverie was interrupted by the Hokage speaking, without bothering to turn around. "You still haven't told me one thing. Exactly how does your lord intend to force us to submit, should we refuse to do so willingly? Last I checked, Konoha was still the most powerful Hidden Village around."
The Ambassador smiled grimly, stepping up to the railing next to the Hokage. "You are correct, the Leaf Village is powerful. Enough so that an outright attempt to conquer it would be of extreme difficulty. However, what you apparently have not yet been informed of is that we have accepted the remnants of Sound Village into our fold, and that we have secured the Raikage as an ally."
"Cloud and sound nins, on top of your own forces. We'd be outnumbered a little more then two to one by forces that all bear a grudge against us."
"Exactly! Why throw yourselves into a war you cannot hope to win? Simply bow before the might of Tsuchikage-sama, and all of these worries disappear!"
Naruto sighed, straightened up, and stepped away from the railing. He turned, passing an emotionless gaze across the gathered Leaf-nins, close friends and comrades all, as they waited for his response. Wordlessly, he swiftly drew one of the Blades of Chaos and leveled it at the ambassador's throat. The man's escort began to draw weapons, but were immediately restrained by the Leaf-nin at their backs.
"Wh-what are you doing?! You cannot do this!" The man tried to back away, but he was already leaning against the railing, all that separated him from a twelve-story drop. "No one attacks a messenger! You cannot kill me!"
"You come before me full of threats for my village, bribes for myself, and conspiracies with my home's enemies, and you think I will simply stand by while my people are enslaved?"
"If you kill me, the Tsuchikage will burn your precious city to the ground! You cannot do this! This is madness!"
"Madness?" Naruto, Sixth Fire Shadow and the Chosen of Kratos, God of War, looked away. His spiky locks of blonde hair covered his deep blue eyes from view. A slow grin, a malicious and feral smile more suited to a wolf than a man spread across his face. When his head whipped back up, the ambassador recoiled from the Hokage's glowing red eyes and fanged grin. "This is Konoha" And with that pronouncement, Naruto lashed out at the diplomat, kicking him over the rail to the unforgiving ground below.
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOuttake 2: The Wrong Scroll
At the beginning of Chapter Two, when Hermes gives Naruto the training scroll
"That's right. Oh, and I almost forgot… special delivery!" And with the final word, Hermes rammed the scroll in his hand forward, slamming into Naruto's gut with incredible force… but rather then double the boy over in pain, the scroll simply vanished.
"…Okay, do I even need to ask?! What did you do now?!"
"I put the scroll into the seal. Now, it can never be stolen or lost, and the demon can read it and instruct you. As you reach new plateaus of skill, more will be revealed on the scroll."
"Really? So how do… wait. What's on that scroll that's making the fox go crazy?"
"What? What do you mean?"
Naruto looked confused, and more than a little worried as he looked up at Hermes. "He's… giggling, and squealing about 'hitting the jackpot', or something. I don't think fox demons are supposed to giggle."
"That is odd… wait a minute…"
"He's still laughing about something. Huh… what's a 'Cleveland Steamer'?"
"Eep! Wrong scroll!" The messenger god slammed his hand into Naruto's stomach again, this time withdrawing the scroll, accompanied by a disappointed howl from the fox. "This one was a gift from Aphrodite… here's yours."
Until next time. Later!