Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto. Don't sue.
Second Chronicle: Fantasia of Apotropaic Esoterica
Awakening of the Apotropaic God – Esoteric Reality
"We are done. You may leave now, if you so wish."
Seated in seiza position next to her, Shiki dismissed the nude Uchiha Mikoto. Placidly, the woman, too, got on her knees to put on her single piece of clothing. The woman felt almost hurt as she got dressed. The young-looking Shiki, lost in thought, wasn't even paying attention to her. Truly a unique man.
"Anything?" She said plainly. The seal specialist shook his head.
"Nothing we didn't know before. While I have no doubt the person who made those seals was skilled, his knowledge of applying seals to human beings was lacking. You are fortunate the seals are simply useless and didn't trigger any harmful response."
"Should we remove them?"
"I wouldn't recommend it. There's no way to know if trying to remove them would actually trigger the response their presence hasn't caused."
"No sense poking a sleeping tiger?"
Shiki made an odd face. "Interesting analogy. Yes, I would say that is a way to put it. I take it there are no issues with…?"
Mikoto tightened the knot on her waist. "Nekomimi Mode is working perfectly, as you saw."
"Hmm…" Shiki lowered his face in thought for a moment before looking back up at the standing woman. "About that…I might be able to tell you more about Nekomimi Mode…sometime soon."
Mikoto blinked. "That's…good, I guess. What about…?"
"You are free to stop by whenever you want to read what I have on Mangekyou Sharingan. I cannot let you take the material out of my house, though."
"That is acceptable." Mikoto bowed with utmost politeness. "I cannot thank you enough for your kind assistance, Houraisan-sama."
Shiki shrugged. "It's interesting, to say the least." He placed his left hand on the ground to support himself and stand up. "It's not every day I get to study a-"
Mikoto's eyes widened in alarm when Shiki suddenly brought his right hand up to cover his mouth and smother the nasty fit of coughing and rasping that followed.
"Hou…Houraisan-sama?" She tentatively asked. Having fallen back on his rear, with his left hand clutching his chest and his right hand on his mouth, he looked like a frail, sickly teenager. Mikoto had to suppress a face of disgust at the sounds that came from his throat.
The fit ended with a pained groan and a wheeze, followed by a minute of heavy breathing. By the time his breathing returned to normal, the thin sheen of sweat covering his face was clearly visible under the moonlight.
"You…you may go." Shiki's voice came out tired and raspy. His right hand was still covering his mouth. "I need a decent sleep after this."
Mikoto almost raised an eyebrow. What kind of idiot did he take her for? However…
"Very well. Have a pleasant day, Houraisan-sama."
"Ye-yes. I'll leave Naruto to your care today."
With that, the stunning Uchiha gracefully made her exit. She had no hurry, so she walked normally.
Shiki finally moved his hand away. His tired, gray eyes stared at the ugly spot of lifeless blood on his palm.
"Thank you for coming, Hina-sama."
"Thank you for the hard work." The goddess responded as she emerged.
Unlike their last meeting, this time she revealed the draconic traits of her otherwise human-like frame. Her wavy, curly long hair was tied near the end with a thick runed golden ring. Two small horns protruded from her scalp, and her ears were pointed on both the upper and the lower ends. Her legs under the knees were protected by a layer of metallic scarlet scales. A cute little tail could be seen wiggling out of her back (Shiki always thought it looked more like a tadpole's tail, but he wisely chose not to share his thoughts) and three other protrusions shaped like dragon fingers emerged from her tailbone, two of the resting on her sides and the third travelling down her shapely rear to cover the slit of her vagina.
Shiki, however, fixed his gaze on Hina's personal emblem, embedded on the middle of her chest: a red shape resembling a Y letter, with a red dot in the middle of the two short arms. Shiki thought it looked like a man-shaped doodle as made by a small child, only without legs.
A pair of green eyes glowed with mischief. "Like what you see?"
Shiki smiled in mild amusement. "While your current form is not precisely…sexually arousing, there is no denying that it is beautiful. And that little fang peaking out of your mouth is quite cute."
"So I've been told." A flat-topped pillar of compacted soil popped out of the ground in front of Shiki, for Hina to use as a seat. She provocatively crossed her legs in front of the man. "But, you know, I have seduced my fair share of males with this form."
"There is no doubt in my mind about that."
Hina's playful expression disappeared. "So, it's happening."
Shiki restored his initial seiza position, presenting himself in a respectful manner in front of the mighty goddess.
"I couldn't predict the celerity of this…development."
"How much longer?"
Shiki slowly shook his head. "It is rather pointless to try to make predictions. It will happen when Shinigami-sama wills it so. May I ask you a question, Hina-sama?"
"You may ask."
"Do you know how old I am?"
Hina tilted her head, visibly puzzled by this question. "Well…I am aware you are older than me. We've known each other for, what? A hundred and fifty years? Something like that."
"Yes…" Shiki closed his eyes and took a deep breath before opening them again. "…I will be eight hundred and forty-one years old in a few weeks."
"While the contract ensures that my soul stays in this body for eternity, it is a fact that the human body was not made to live for so long."
"When Saya and I became…this, we took diametrically different paths. Saya sought perfection of body, stopping its natural decay with chakra and rigorous training. That is what led her to study and later develop Taijutsu."
"I sought lucidity of mind, and devoted my existence to learning so as to prevent my brain from going stagnant."
Shiki blinked. "Pardon?"
"Do you think I haven't noticed?" Hina looked more amused than anything else, hence why Shiki didn't feel threatened by her words. "What you have done to your body? If it's about 'perfection of body', isn't yours then an example?"
The seal master sighed. "Nothing escapes you, Hina-sama. I am awed."
"You may have taught me Fuuinjutsu, but never forget that I can wield powers far beyond your grasp."
"I am aware of that. I apologize for my carelessness."
"However, what I have done in no way can prevent what is happening. At best, it has delayed it, but the matter remains that this body is old and in the verge of collapse."
"As it is right now, it is not electrical impulses which drive my nervous system, but chakra. As for Saya, it is her 'Hourai' chakra that keeps her body healthy, but her brain already shows signs of deterioration."
"So you're saying your wife is going to lose it?"
Shiki didn't answer, and Hina was kind enough not to push.
"Speaking of your wife, you did notice her Kage Bunshin peeping on you a while ago, didn't you?"
"That is something I shall deal with myself."
Shiki pulled away the long sleeve of his black shirt to reveal his right wrist. Tapping it lightly, with the index of his left hand, a scroll appeared.
"Using your own body as a storage medium…" Hina mused. "And to seal a storage scroll, no less! Truly the mark of a master."
"I am honored by your words, Hina-sama."
From the scroll Shiki summoned a paper bag and a tray with two bottles and a small cup. Hina giggled in delight.
"Steaming hot Taiyaki and warm Sake? You certainly know how to pamper me, Houraisan. Give me a nice fuck and I'd love you forever."
Shiki chose not to comment on that, but the goddess found the mild blush on his face absolutely lovely.
Once the half-dragon was properly served, the two resumed their amiable conversation.
"So, about Uchiha Mikoto…"
"No doubt about it." Munch. "She's like me. Damn, this is good." Hina was more interested in her Taiyaki. Shiki was forced to ignore her absolute lack of manners.
"The daughter of a human and a supernal."
"It's weird that she can turn her supernal traits on and off like that, though."
"You mean Nekomimi Mode?"
Hina nodded. "I can change my appearance however I like, but my powers remain the same. It's just that, a shape-changing technique. Most supernals can do it. That girl…her supernal powers drop to zero the moment she dismisses the ears and the tail. If I hadn't known beforehand I would have assumed she was just another human."
"Hmm…so we are looking for a male feline god."
"Who might possess the Moon Agenda, if we take into account what she said about this new…technique of hers." Hina added. "…I…guess I can find him if I really try, but…"
Shiki nodded. "Mikoto knows enough about Supernals to realize her father probably doesn't even know or care about her. She won't try to look for him or anything like that."
"Good." Hina chugged down a sizable shot of Sake. "She might just piss him off like that."
"So, with that settle, I guess you're going back to Suwa?"
"Well…" She refilled her cup. "Since I'm already here, I could pay a visit to my children."
Like all other chakra-based combat disciplines, the Eight Gates were humanity's attempt to mimic the feats of the gods. It was Ryuuguu Hina who first taught a group of six talented youngsters (one of them happened to be a seven-hundred-and-something years old Saya, but she didn't know that yet) how to break through the body's self-imposed limiters. This is a secret all Gatekeepers have protected for approximately a century and a half. They call themselves 'Dragonblooded' or 'Dragonbranded' and Hina affectionately calls them 'her children.'
Whether Hina has actual children or not is another thing entirely. Shiki has no idea.
"For their sake, please oh please put some clothes on, Hina-sama."
The little goddess made a dismissing gesture. "Pfft. It's their fault if they can't handle this." She alluringly slid a hand on her flawless skin.
"No, I don't think that's the issue here…" For the second time, Shiki tried to get on his knees. "Now, with your permission, I will leave you."
"And where exactly do you think you are going, Houraisan?" The girl's eyes narrowed one more time. "You still have to pay the fee for my cooperation."
In a moment, the pleasant atmosphere between the two simply dissolved into nothingness. They weren't friendly acquaintances anymore. There was only a goddess and a lowly male.
The seal master looked up at the dragon princess, unsure of what to say. She simply continued, her lips curving into an unpleasant smile, at least to him.
"And Taiyaki just won't cut it this time."
Shiki glanced at the goddess for a second too long. The moment she raised an eyebrow in irritation, the Lord of Houraisan dropped his head in submission…and a hint of defeat.
"How can I serve you, Hina-sama?"
Hina chuckled darkly. Her sneer looked out of place on her youthful appearance.
"How stupid…not a Supernal, but not a human either. Nothing but a pale shadow; a mockery of existence crafted to be Shinigami-sama's plaything. I pity you, Houraisan."
Shiki only clenched his fists in restrained annoyance.
"You know as well as I do that there's nothing you could offer me that I cannot acquire myself."
Her right leg still crossed over the left, she offered a small white foot to a visibly stunned Houraisan Shiki. Despite the fact that she always walked bare, it remained astoundingly pristine (Guess that's gods for you… Shiki thought), and he didn't fail to notice the dangerous-looking talon protruding out of her heel. It was unique in that fact that it didn't seem to be made of bone, looking more like some sort of reddish, metallic, alien crystal.
"Lick it. We'll see where that takes us."
Uchiha Sasuke could not sleep.
From the warm comfort of his bed, he could stare at the cloudy sky beyond the small window. While his eyes were fixed in that direction, his thoughts remained aimless and unfocused.
His mind replayed the fights over and over. As it is prone of humans to do, he pondered possibilities. What if I have done this here? What if I moved like this instead? Such questions troubled his young mind.
Beyond that, he also evaluated the other two fights, the ones involving Hinata and her little sister (whose name he just couldn't keep in his head, apparently).
The conclusions he reached were unsettling.
There was no way around it: at their current levels, Hinata was way above him. Even above Naruto, in fact. It would be next to impossible for Naruto to keep Hinata away from the close-combat range where she excelled. No amount of skill with seals and mid-to-long range combat would help Naruto in that situation. As for Sasuke, it was plainly obvious that Hinata's Taijutsu was superior to his, and her technique rendered his Katon jutsu useless.
So, Hinata was better. Surprisingly enough, he could deal with that. Their careers as shinobi were just starting.
Then there was Naruto's chibi-Hyuuga. The first thing that astounded him was that the little girl did not rely on the Hyuuga style he had heard from his mother, but on the Wind-elemental style Naruto had taught her. And she was good. Astoundingly good.
He, Sasuke, was called a genius due to his Uchiha name. That little girl was a true Taijutsu prodigy.
However, Sasuke was quite perceptive. He knew there was another factor which contributed even more to the girl's outstanding performance the afternoon before.
Naruto and that girl knew how to fight together. He couldn't remember Naruto giving instructions to his student (except at the very beginning); they instinctively complemented each other's actions. Sasuke wondered if that was what happened when two people trained together for years. Of course, he was aware that the Third Hokage was holding back, but still, the way those two fought against the strongest one in Konoha was nothing short of amazing.
The lone Uchiha let go a deep sigh. It was not fair. While he was limited to the now-clearly insufficient instruction at the Academy and what few he learned from the family scrolls, Hinata had learned from the penultimate Taijutsu Master and Naruto had received an immensely more substantial education. And the little girl learned from Naruto, but Sasuke would worry about her in a few years.
How could he expect to improve like this? How could he expect to prove the Uchiha name was still synonymous with strength and skill?
How could he expect to reach out to Itachi like this?
Turning to his right on the bed, Sasuke looked at the figure sleeping on the floor. Houraisan Uzumaki Naruto placidly rested as if all were right with the world. While Sasuke had expected the other boy to sprawl himself all over the bedroom floor, he was surprised to see that Naruto's posture was almost solemn in its rigidity.
Sasuke understood Naruto. He knew why Naruto behaved the way he did and he knew why Naruto made it a habit to annoy him whenever he could. Sasuke could deal with that…except when his mother decided to join in the fun. That was just wrong.
What is it? What did you do to get so damn strong, Naruto?
"Could you stop staring at me like that, Sasuke? It's really creeping me out."
Sasuke's miffed stare persisted for a few seconds. "…you're awake."
"Never been asleep." Naruto grinned. "You do remember I don't need to keep my eyes open to use Senrigan, don't'cha?"
Sasuke sighed and leaned back on the bed, spreading his arms to the sides. "Can't sleep?"
"Well, I'll have to get used to sleeping on the floor. Got spoiled by my nice bed at home."
"More like sad."
"So, why were you staring longingly at me like that?"
"I was not!"
"No way I can tell."
"There you go." Sasuke nodded to himself, and said no more.
Silence. Sasuke followed the tranquil pace of the clouds outside, his mind quietly reminding him that Naruto would never be able to see such a thing again.
"Are you thinking about the fights?" The blonde suddenly asked.
"And now you must be thinking just how inferior you are compared to Hinata and me."
A moment later, Naruto was up and stretching his tired muscles. "Get up. And bring your equipment. I left mine at home."
"Just move!" Naruto hissed as he tapped his chest as if looking for something. He would have expected the pain from whatever Saya had done to him to linger still, given its sheer magnitude. He was surprised to see that was not the case. While he did feel the expected soreness after all the activity of the previous day, there were no traces of the unbelievable agony her surrogate mother had put him through. It was as if it had never happened. Being somewhat acquainted with incredible agony, it was somehow hard to believe. Just what exactly had she done to him? Some sort of Genjutsu?
A few minutes later, they were strolling through the vast garden areas of the deserted Uchiha compound. While Sasuke had begun to notice that some of the buildings were beginning to be reoccupied (namely those closest to the rest of the village), most of the clan grounds were still avoided by the population of Konoha. Not like there was any reason for anyone to go there, anyway.
Sasuke did not fail to notice that Naruto was putting distance between them and the house, obviously to avoid the possibility of disturbing his mother.
"Senrigan is a very complicated jutsu." Naruto began, his back turned to Sasuke. "It 'reads' the flow of wind around and through objects and turns it into an image I can understand. It also 'reads' the very small temperature gradients caused when the heat emitted by objects heats the air around them."
"This means that I can perceive the shape and position of objects in every direction and from every point of view."
"Hina-chan's and Hana-chan's Byakugan also gives them all-around vision, but it is fixed to the frame of reference of their position. In other words, they can see in every direction but only around themselves."
Naruto pointed at a tree approximately twenty yards away to their right. "If I want to, I can see things from the perspective of that tree over there." He dropped his arm. "Or I can pretend I'm the grass down there and look upwards." Then he pointed up at the sky. "Or I can look down at the two of us as if I was a bird."
"This must sound really cool to you, and it is, but there's problem. Senrigan 'feeds' me every possible perspective at the same time. Do you get it, Sasuke? If I let Senrigan run on its own, my head would explode. It's like having infinite eyes, and not just stuck to my body. Defective and limited in what they can see, but still, infinite."
"The way to deal with this is, fortunately, very simple. What Senrigan shows me is an image created by my brain from information acquired through my chakra. An image, see? It's not real sight. Looking at it like that, it's not different from Genjutsu. That means I can decide what I want to see and what not."
"Right now, for example, I have my back turned to you, but I'm seeing things as if I was facing you, and that's because I 'told' Senrigan to show me things that way."
Naruto finally turned around to face Sasuke. "Do you get it?"
Sasuke frowned. "I…think I get what you said, but I don't see the point-"
"Senrigan's primary weakness. The one weakness so blatantly obvious Father didn't even have to mention it."
Lowering his center of mass to assume a combat stance, Naruto taunted his raven-haired friend. "Try to hit me."
"Come'ere. Try to hit me."
"Naruto, just what are we doin-"
"Punch me, you pathetic, pansy momma's boy!"
Sasuke twitched. "DOBE!"
The taller boy struck with a right hook that Naruto parried with his left arm. Naruto's right hand caught Sasuke's left arm before the Uchiha's fist could reach his solar plexus. Feeling Naruto's right foot hooking his left from behind Sasuke avoided the obvious attempt at being tripped by spinning around Naruto to get behind him. Naruto turned around in time to weave to the right of Sasuke's low blow.
The puzzled Sasuke did as told.
"When you moved to get behind me, what did I do?"
Sasuke frowned, but answered. "Well, you turned around to…face…me…"
While Naruto couldn't read Sasuke's face, he could understand the sudden pauses in his speech. "You get it? If Senrigan works the way I told you, why did I turn around?"
Sasuke let go a half-smile before reassuming a normal posture. Naruto, too, had relaxed his stance. "Because that's the normal reaction."
"In a one-on-one fight, you always want to be facing your opponent." Naruto nodded. "That's Senrigan's weakness. Because of the need to control where I want to look at, even when I turned around to look at you, Senrigan was still showing me what was in front of me."
"Every time I move, I have to make Senrigan move its perspective accordingly."
Sasuke released a long, deep breath. "That's harsh."
"Yup." Naruto sat down on the grass, and Sasuke followed. "Hana-chan already figured it out. Every time we spar, she keeps moving all around me to confuse me, and Yokazeryuu is a perfect style for that kind of strategy. If it's a faster opponent, like you, Hina-chan or Saya-kaa-chan, I'm done." Naruto flicked his fingers. "Of course, if I notice you're trying to do that, I can switch to all-around vision, Byakugan-style, and problem solved. That's what I do most of the time, and that's what Hina-chan does with her Byakugan to sorta keep up with okaa-chan, I guess. My problem is that all-around vision wastes chakra like you can't imagine."
"It's kinda weird." Naruto mused. "My 'eyes' cannot keep up with my body, or something like that."
"Why are you telling me this?" Sasuke did not look amused.
Naruto shrugged. "Dunno. Guess I wanted to tell you."
Sasuke let himself fall on the grass. "I don't need your pity, you bastard."
Naruto snorted. "Give me a kunai."
"Hnn." Sasuke growled but complied. Naruto threw it up, and then the projectile began to fly randomly above them, making sharp turns every second or so.
"Tesabaki. The idea is simple. I create wind currents that move an object with the speed and direction I want. It's a very rough way to move things from a distance, and it gets obviously harder to move them the heavier they are. Even changing the direction of this kunai and make it fly with the tip pointing forward…it took me a while to get the hang of it. I call it 'Manipulation', but it's really more like 'juggling'."
Indeed, Sasuke could feel the trails of the gusts of wind Naruto used to fling the kunai around. The flying weapon made a last sharp turn downwards for Naruto to catch it.
"You're doing the same stupid thing." Naruto declared as he joined Sasuke to rest on the grass. "Just like when Itachi-nii-san left."
Sasuke frowned. It bothered him, how the single mention of that name still made his heart freeze and his blood boil at the same time. It was disgusting.
"Don't forget that you're not the only one who has problems, teme."
Naruto's voiced was quiet, almost a whisper.
"These jutsu…this knowledge…"
"Hina-chan's stronger than you because she trained harder than you, as simple as that. She fought, she sweated, she cried and she suffered. I saw the beatings she got from Saya-kaa-chan. It wasn't easy for Hina-chan, you know. At the beginning, she had nothing. She was weak, both her body and her mind. But she refused to stay weak. She wanted to become stronger, so she gave it her all, and now…now she's strong…and she'll become even stronger." Naruto smiled to himself. He was definitely impressed. Hinata had only encouraged him to work even harder.
"And I…I want to be Hokage."
An ominous spring breeze fluttered over their faces, half-awake, half-asleep.
"Most of the time, people ignored me. They still do, you know?"
Sasuke nodded. Umino Iruka and some others at the Academy were good examples. It was impossible not to notice.
"Father…he really believes I can do it. Become Hokage. He believes in me, and that's why he's teaching me everything he knows."
Naruto turned his head to look at Sasuke, and Sasuke returned the gesture. Naruto's smile was bursting with affection.
"Sasuke, finally, there's someone who is willing to listen to me, to answer my questions, to show me the world I can't see anymore. Someone who's willing to teach me, to help become the person I want to be."
He turned back to face the sky he could not see.
"I want to know things. I want to understand this world. Because, you know, people respect smart people, and, well, being smart is good. Old man Hokage is pretty smart, so are my parents, and Mr. H. One day I will be the guy who answers the questions instead of asking them."
"So, that's why I study hard. Father really tries hard to teach me, and he really, really likes it…it makes you kinda like studying, too. It's cool. And it's really hard, but I keep studying, because I never forget the reason I'm trying so hard…even if Fuuinjutsu is a hassle. It's awesome, yeah, but a total hassle."
"You want to become stronger; do it for yourself. And throw all you've got into it. Doing things in a half-assed way is stupid."
"And do it for yourself, really. Forget about Itachi-nii-san." He was grinning when he looked back at Sasuke. "When the time comes, we'll kick his ass together. I mean, he's totally badass, but if we do it together, I'm sure we can beat him. And you'll get your answers."
Sasuke, his face an emotionless mask, hadn't moved his eyes off Naruto's face the whole time. Why was it that, the more he tried to push Naruto away, the closer he seemed to get? Why was it that the person who reminded him of Itachi the most was also the person he kept the closest? Why was it that he agreed to tolerate his frustration, his pain and his envy just to bear with Naruto's presence?
"I wish I could hate you." But…you are…
Naruto smiled. "Good to know you don't."
Sasuke snorted. "Hnn…" Finally looking away, he enjoyed the night sky for the two of them. "…I am Uchiha Sasuke. I won't stand in your shadow. I refuse to."
The blonde to his right simply chuckled. "Tough. My shadow is going to cover the whole world."
"And then, when you look up, I'll be there." Sasuke afforded a smile. To fly…it was a nice metaphor.
"Fair enough…oof!" Naruto grunted when he got on his feet with a single impulse. "But you're not gonna get there unless you train!"
"Now?" Sasuke complained half-heartedly, as he was already standing up. Naruto made the familiar cross-shaped seal, creating a dozen shadow clones behind him.
"Like Anko-chan says, no time like the present."
"Wise words from a crazy woman."
"Ah, so true, so true…" Naruto chuckled. "Did I tell you of the time she filled my bed with snakes? To 'start the day pumped up with adrenaline', she said."
"No, and I wish you hadn't."
Sasuke chuckled, and then attacked.
Thank you, dobe.
Much to Shiki's relief, the dragon princess looked more amused than annoyed or exasperated.
"You have an uncanny ability to escape my clutches, Houraisan."
"My deepest apologies, Hina-sama."
"Pfft." The dragon princess snorted. "Don't say things you do not mean."
Night approached its end. However, in its last heartbeats, it refused to fade away and be forgotten. The night breeze caressed the leaves and whispered eerie lullabies to whoever was willing to listen. It was a song forbidden to humans; those who have lost the power to listen to the world around them in exchange for everything that makes them human. Tender lullaby, sorrowful nocturne; the song that did not escape Ryuuguu Hina's supernal self was the song she wished the man with her could enjoy.
Hina chuckled and shook her head. Her small, delicate fingers trailed Shiki's ebony hair. The elder Houraisan rested on the moist grass of the "Clan Grounds," his head using the mighty goddess' bare lap as a very comfortable pillow.
Hina loved humans. She loved their ephemeral existences, struggling to stand above the limits of their selves and reach for whatever lies beyond. Struggling, growing, and evolving, ever and ever. It was something she admired, really, but that never changed their inferior status. She admired some of their qualities to the point that she was willing to teach them, nurture them and, of course, explore new avenues of pleasure with them.
Then what about this man? Something more than a mere human; something below supernal. Something that shouldn't be, but is, and the goddess, in all their years of association, has not being able to make something of it.
Nonetheless, Hina was not a goddess of complexities. She was not one to dwell on things like that.
For a dragon, she was unusually brazen. Then again, it could be her human half.
"Well, I guess I cannot blame you if you suddenly start coughing and vomiting. That is a real mood-killer." She added; her tone mirthful and playful.
Shiki did not say a thing, but made an awkward face. Hina's amused expression softened, aging in the lapse of a second, becoming wise beyond her apparent age.
"I…am afraid I do not understand."
"Why do you refuse me?"
Unlike the goddess' expression, Shiki's face became a mask of stone. "I would never refuse you, Hina-sama."
"More like you can't."
Shiki remained silent.
"We…" Hina continued. "…we have had our share of flirting, but…this is the first time I command you to pleasure me."
Shiki remained silent.
"…you did as told, of course. At least, you tried."
The seal expert closed his eyes. He did not want to admit it, but he was feeling more and more relaxed under the watchful gaze and the pleasant touch of the dragon goddess.
If only the knot in his stomach finally decided to untangle.
"It was obvious to me that you did not want to do as I told you. Why is that, Houraisan?"
Despite her amiable expression unchanging, Shiki felt the air around him become noticeably colder.
"Am I not beautiful enough to the likes of you?"
Shiki held back the urge to chuckle. Who knows how she would read such a reaction?
"Hina-sama, you are beautiful beyond words. No being in its right mind would think otherwise."
"Hmm…" A single finger drew a line on Shiki's right cheek. "Big words…and honest, they seem. I am flattered."
Shiki didn't respond to that. Hina's words were nothing but a formality.
He did not like the pang of disillusion in his chest. Why was it that his human feelings struck him with the same frenzy as in his earliest years? It was unfair.
"Then, Houraisan, why does your self reject me?"
Opening his eyes to meet her emerald pupils, Shiki spoke.
"I am a married man."
Hina gave him her best 'who do you take me for?' look. "That is not really an excuse."
Shiki sighed in response. "Sadly, it isn't."
It was a regrettable truth that marriage was not a bond strong enough to resist the wiles of a beautiful female.
The night breeze, the flutter of leaves and the dances blades of grass, they were all invisible, intangible and inexistent. Even with all their commodity and familiarity, the presence of the goddess drowned reality and commanded all attention. From his position, laying on the grass and resting on a flawless pair of thighs, he could not gaze at the dark sky, the swaying clouds and the twinkling stars. There was nothing but the twin pools of green that stared down at him, framed by one of the loveliest of faces.
Houraisan Shiki's mind punished itself, like it had done so many times before. He had become Saya's husband long before Hina was even born. His marriage was older than the Elemental Countries, older than shinobi culture itself. But it didn't change the fact that his wife was just one corner of a triangle.
A glorious trinity of females who had claimed his heart.
It was the truth. And it hurt.
It was the surprise that prevented the dragon princess from stopping him. Without her retaliation, Shiki found no resistance to getting off the comfortable support of her lap and sitting on his knees, his back to her. He would speak the truth, but he did not dare look at her.
Hina tilted her head, a cute gesture suitable to her child-like looks. "Hmm?"
"Many, many years ago…before I became…" His right hand, which had been clutching the fabric of his pants, moved to grasp the white shirt on his chest. "…this…I made a promise."
"I broke that promise, because I was stupid and selfish and desperate." Shiki dropped his head, succumbing to the unpleasant memories that haunted him for centuries. "I broke that promise, and I damned her to this…" His voice was the reflection of his disgust. "…this unlife."
Hina wordlessly stared at the seal master's back. She was very intelligent, and very perceptive. She was a half-dragon. She could tell Shiki was baring his soul to her. She could tell his words were very important, and she gave them the attention they deserved.
"Shinigami-sama never gave her a choice. I never gave her a choice. She never asked…to become this…to exist like this. It was all me…I asked the Death God to save her…to do whatever he had to do…to keep her with me…it was all…my selfish desire…"
Hina could not keep her mouth closed. "Houraisan, what…?"
But Shiki spoke again. He spoke for a very long time, all for the ears of a stunned and amazed Ryuuguu Hina. Shiki spoke of a time before ninjas and Hidden Villages, a time when countries did not exist as political entities. A time when 'chakra' was a novel discovery and the word 'jutsu' was yet to be coined.
A time over eight hundred years before, when Houraisan Shiki was still human.
He spoke of his childhood, of the original Hourai Mountain, of his family and their wealth. He narrated the day he was introduced to a young and pretty girl, Haruno Saya, of how they became best friends and of the games they played together.
Of how they fell in love.
Then he spoke of the Hyuuga and of the plot which led to the birth of the Byakugan and to the young couple's death and undeath. Had she not been a supernal, Hina would have probably found the whole story farfetched and beyond belief. Aware as she was of the truth in Shiki's words, she could not even feel pity for his tortured self. While she was used to the dalliances of supernals and humans; affairs in which the human almost always ended up on the losing side, Hina had never heard something quite like what Shiki had just revealed to her. Being the artificer of some of those tales, she knew and accepted the simple fact that, more often than not, supernals used humans; playthings, chess pieces set to act for the supernal's amusement and/or benefit.
To her eyes, Shiki and Saya were just another pair of losers in the endless games of supernals. For most of them humans who dealt with supernals, death was nothing but a welcome release. The Houraisan couple could not even count with that.
But she could not pity them. Shiki had just said it. He asked for it, unaware of what he was asking for, unaware of the single, simple fact that deals with supernals are always losing deals.
So, no, she did not pity him. She did however, understand him. His tragedy. His regret. His uniqueness.
"I…hope you understand now, Hina-sama." Shiki concluded. "As long as this body works; as long as these lungs breathe and this heart beats, I refuse to break that oath again. I love her…and I owe it to her. It's my happiness…and my atonement."
They were surrounded by a fierce breeze, as if calling for him, cursing the name of the broken man who refused to die and doomed himself to a forbidden existence. The whispers of the trees spoke ill of Houraisan Shiki; echoes of an underground goddess who rejected and despised his very self.
"Houraisan. Look at me."
Hina was surprisingly patient. It took Shiki a whole minute to gather his wits and obey the goddess' command. While he wanted to do nothing but the very opposite, he fixed his eyes on her small, round, lovely face.
"Who else knows this story?" She paused. "Besides your wife, that is."
"Only Yukina knew before you, Hina-sama."
Hina nodded. She remembered Yukina, the stunning snow-haired nekomata: the twins' mother and Shiki's original summon ally.
"Why do you tell me this? To answer my question you didn't need to go into such detail."
Shiki sighed. He felt pathetic.
"For the same reason I told Yukina. Because I wanted to share my entire self with someone I love."
An ordinary human would be feeling the cold of those last wisps of night. Hina remained impervious, shamelessly displaying her naked beauty. On the other side, her face unflinching, her skin unchanging; the mighty draconic being unwilling to show her heart. It would be below her. As a goddess before a lesser being, she always had to be in control, no matter the situation, no matter the words.
No matter the truth.
When the young dragon goddess closed the distance between them to kneel in front of him, cup his face in her small, flawless hands and lock her lips with his, Shiki did not resist.
As much as it pained him, the truth was that he did not want to.
Before the first lights of dawn, as expected of all high-ranked shinobi outside a mission, Masaki Kouki woke up. Well-honed shinobi senses quickly scanned his surroundings, even before his eyes opened. The familiar feel of the fabric and the instinctive awareness of the position of objects around him gave him reassurance that he was in his bedroom.
The first and only (not so) abnormal thing he noticed was the spaciousness he had available to him on the bed.
Yume was gone.
He allowed himself a small smile. It was one of the reasons he was in a relationship with his noticeably attractive Genin underling: despite her infatuation, she was capable of keeping her priorities straight. She was not a fangirl; the very thought was insulting. Yume was a Kunoichi. A very decent one, Kouki would admit, with looks that could prove deadly.
While he knew having preferences among his students was unfair and improper, truth be told, it would not feel right not to give Yume special treatment and training in exchange for the mind-blowing blowjobs (and other things) she gave him.
There was no doubt in his mind that Yume's skills already stood above her teammates'. Maybe she was ready to try for Chuunin, even.
Not moving from the bed, Kouki stretched his well-built musculature, starting from his neck and moving downwards. Maybe they should not have gone so wild last night, he thought. He did not doubt Yume would be already getting ready for the day, no matter how sore she might be feeling.
A Kunoichi alright.
Two or three minutes later, when he was done working out his toes, he jumped off the bed, his sleepiness long gone. He had a long day ahead of him.
He and his team had a mission to prepare, after all.
Under the cold shower, Imamiya Yume cleansed her body and washed away the scent of hours of sex. She guessed she could afford to take a while longer in the shower that morning, to properly wash her hair and remove all hints of her hidden liaison with her Jounin sensei.
She was in love. There was no doubt in her mind about that. And it wasn't the silly pre-teen love that made prepubescent girls chase after boys like Uchiha Sasuke. That she was also absolutely certain of. Maybe it had been like that at the beginning, but she knew it was true love when her feelings didn't fade when faced with Kouki's negative points.
Being the only one in her team who had seen their sensei taking a life, she was the only one aware of Kouki's worrisome quirk.
Her lover is a man who enjoys the act of killing. He is not one who actively seeks the death of others, for Yume would never love a serial killer, but, when given the chance, Kouki relishes it like the most addictive of substances.
Yume would not be surprised to know her beloved became a shinobi simply because killing is part of the job description.
But, despite that, she loved him. To her, he was a good shinobi, a dedicated teacher and an affectionate lover.
She loved him and she cared for him.
She would follow him anywhere.
That is the reason she never gives anything but her best.
That night, that mission, would not be the exception.
"Haaa…that was good." A sweaty but satisfied Houraisan Uzumaki Naruto disposed of his soaked t-shirt. In a surprising act of carefulness, he used it to wipe his feet before reaching the wooden floors of the sole remaining Uchiha residence.
He couldn't know that there were still around fifteen minutes before sunrise. He only knew he had been training with Sasuke for what felt like hours. He was tired, but it was a good kind of tired. Every single fight, even a mock fight with Sasuke, was a learning experience. It was an endless growth: furthering his swiftness with Senrigan, combining Yokazeryuu with Tesabaki and learning when to switch from close-combat to middle-range strikes with projectiles. It also reminded him of his lack of offensive techniques outside of attacks using his scrolls and tags.
I really have to work on my Ninjutsu…
Ever since Shiki let him know that he wasn't teaching Naruto any Fuuton jutsu, Naruto had put that issue aside to focus on Yokazeryuu with Hanabi and his studies of Sealing Techniques.
He had delayed it long enough.
Another good thing was that Sasuke had restored his fragile self-esteem. Despite Yokazeryuu, there was no doubt of Sasuke's superior skill with Taijutsu. Naruto needed to enhance his speed and dexterity with slight bits of wind-nature chakra to match Sasuke's natural fluidity of motion. It was amazing. It addition, his fire techniques made an offset Naruto could not match without plenty of weaponry, tools and explosives.
Sasuke was still fighting a horde of Shadow Clones, left behind by Naruto, who wanted nothing more than a good shower. If his friend wanted to fight some more, so be it. Naruto wasn't going to stop him. The very opposite. Even if it hurt like hell.
He was looking forward to his shower to the point that he didn't hesitate to slam the bathroom door open.
That was when he stopped.
His limited perception caught the "sight" of a shapely body seated on a tiny (pink?) stool. Long, black, soaked hair stuck to soaked skin, contouring a body with pronounced curves on all the right places.
"Ara…good morning, Naruto-kun." Uchiha Mikoto didn't stop rubbing soap on her body, even as she greeted the blonde boy. She did, of course, turn to welcome him with her warmest smile. "Didn't know you were awake."
This was, of course, a lie.
Despite his inability to fully glimpse Sasuke's mother in all her naked glory, Naruto still possessed firm knowledge of concepts such as shame, and an awareness, instilled by his mother, of what is improper and of what isn't.
Blind as he was, he still knew that walking in on a naked female was not right.
Unless it was a female Hyuuga, apparently.
"Please close the door behind you."
Naruto did as told. It took him ten full seconds to realize that he had closed the door with him still inside.
"Agh! Ah, I'm so-"
"Is that really necessary?"
Mikoto's smile never faltered. "I can see that you want to take a bath, Naruto-kun. Since you are already here, you might as well join me?"
"Huh?" Naruto repeated. His head turned down to "face" the sponge he was being offered.
Mikoto's smile remained lovely. "Wash my back?"
Some girls have the habit of taking objects with them to bed. Some simply grab a large pillow; some prefer the company of stuffed animal dolls.
Yamanaka Ino once pondered making a stuffed Sasuke doll, eventually discarding the idea as "too creepy."
Hyuuga Hanabi literally squeezes the stuffing out of her precious (and notably large) fox doll.
Hyuuga Hinata sleeps in the nude and completely uncovered. It began as part of her training for the Karyuu style, as she was supposed to discard her clothing and the bed sheets and use her Fire chakra to ward off the cold, even as she slept. She simply got used to it.
Mitarashi Anko simply takes off her jacket and skirt. She actually likes the feel of her semi-transparent undershirt to the point that she wears it to bed.
Houraisan Saya and Yuuhi Kurenai had curiously similar preferences. They both prefer sleeping in nothing but her panties, but sometimes enjoy wearing exotic and silky smooth kimonos to sleep. However, while Saya hopes to entice her husband with these occasional choices of nightwear, Kurenai only collects them as one of her few guilty pleasures.
That previous night, Tenten slept with a scroll trapped in her embrace.
A scroll full of exploding, cutting, slashing, piercing and maiming tools made by her and Naruto. It was like all her previous thirteen birthdays compressed into a single bundle of joy.
She went to bed late that previous night, wearing a huge smile, after hours of toying with and tweaking with the scroll and its contents. In her dream, she rained sharp steel death upon hordes of faceless enemy shinobi. Then she unleashed full stacks of exploding tags and converted the battleground into a wasteland of ashes. But then a new battalion of enemies assaulted her and she responded with a hailstorm of shuriken. That exploded.
Yes, it was a very good dream, and when Tenten first opened her eyes that morning, she did it refreshed and with a smile.
If asked about her love for weapons, she would respond with a long diatribe on the fabrication of such weaponry. She would speak of the detail, the care and the effort of the smith when making a single shuriken; and the blissful satisfaction of watching it fly true when in the hands of a professional.
If asked about her love for explosions, she would just say "because they're cool!"
Tenten is, in many ways, a simple girl becoming a simple woman. She would not like it any other way.
However, when she looked at the scroll pressed against her developing chest, she saw more than its sheer destructive potential.
She saw a bond of friendship and loyalty. Naruto was always so eager to please her and to make cool things for her…it bothered her a bit, but she also could not deny that she liked to be pampered a bit. She had never had someone so willing to be kind to her, besides her parents, of course.
She saw the brilliance of a young blind boy. Naruto was far from a Seal Master and he admitted it was very difficult to figure out, but he still managed to do things that amazed her. She guessed they were not really that amazing, but the fact that they had only taught her the simplest of storage seals in the Academy –and only because she asked and insisted until she got what she wanted– and none of the basic theory immediately resulted in her awe at the things Naruto showed her whenever he could. The fact that he was always willing to teach her only gave him more points.
She saw the potential to become stronger and more skilled. Naruto obviously knew Tenten did not waste time reverse-engineering every single new seal she found in whatever scroll he gave her. Tenten knew Naruto actually expected her to.
And, finally, she saw her own blossoming feelings.
Her fingers trailed the rough surface of the rolled scroll, just like they had traced Naruto's face and torso the previous afternoon, after the last of his fights. The thoughts that invaded her mind; the idea that she proposed herself; the electrifying, uncomfortable sensation produced by the contact; they all came back to the forefront of her thoughts that early morning, making her squirm.
"Mou…what are you thinking?" Tenten whispered to herself. "Saa, you have to get ready."
"Moving to stare at the ceiling above her bed, Tenten raised her right arm, holding the scroll above her head. Trailing circles on its cylindrical surface with her thumb, she gathered her thoughts on the events to come. Her first C-rank.
She was ready. She would do her job flawlessly. She hoped she'd get a chance to try the things in her new scroll. She would quickly return to share the tale of her exploits with Naruto. The idea of the short blonde devoting the entirety of her attention to her while she narrated the details of her latest mission made her giddy for some reason.
There was, certainly, something therapeutic about beating the living shit out of a horde of Narutos.
When the last one disappeared with a loud "pop" sound and a burst of white smoke, Sasuke sighed contently. He was sweaty and sore all over, but he found the pain satisfying. It was the pain of a thorough training, the award for hours of physical exertion.
Naruto had a point. He, Uchiha Sasuke, should be proud of his combat skills. But he still was a little annoyed at Naruto revealing the weaknesses of his techniques so half-heartedly.
"Hey, look at it from the bright side! If I suddenly decide to betray Konoha and run away to join some evil ninja, now you know how to stop me."
"Idiot." Sasuke muttered with a muted chuckle.
With the training over, the only thing in Sasuke's mind was taking a long, soothing bath. He wondered how long it had been since Naruto left him in the backyard and whether the blond was already done with his own bath.
Big was his surprise when, a few steps away from the bathroom door, it opened to reveal a towel-clad Mikoto. She did not stop drying her hair with a second towel, not even after noticing the mute stare of her youngest offspring.
"Ara, Sasuke, dear, I can see you've had quite the workout." It was one of those occasions his mother's placid smile really grated on his nerves. "Are you hungry? Let me get dressed and I'll fix you two boys a quick breakfast, ne?"
The raven-haired twelve-year-old stared at his mother's back as she walked to her bedroom, humming an unfamiliar tune.
It took a few seconds, but Sasuke shrugged the whole thing away. It wasn't precisely the first time he caught his mother straight out of a bath, or even while seated on the toilet. He guessed those things just happened, and it was just his mother, after all. It was, at worst, mildly unsettling.
Only when his hand reached for the doorknob did his brain register the facts.
"Wait, if mom was in there, then Naruto…"
He opened the door.
Oddly, Naruto had traded his sweaty and dirty orange bandana for a white version, stubbornly refusing to show his "eyes" to anyone outside of his family. He sighed and reveled in the warm embrace of the bathtub…or at least, he was, until the familiar shape of Sasuke appeared under the doorframe.
"Uh! Sasuke! Umm…" Naruto had no doubt his friend had seen his mother exiting the bathroom and connected the dots. The initial embarrassment returned full force. "Uh…well…"
"Waah, so close!" Sasuke had seemingly halved the distance between them in a split second. "Wa-wait!"
"Dobe." Sasuke repeated. He was standing by the edge of the tub. Naruto was secretly grateful for his inability to look up at Sasuke's pitch black pits of doom he called eyes. Swallowing hard, Naruto accepted his fate the only way he could: smoothly.
"Sasuke. As much as it pains me to admit...it is exactly what it looked like-mmmmbbbrgggglll!"
Naruto's suave moment was interrupted by his head being dunked deep in the water courtesy of Sasuke's left hand.
Mikoto couldn't escape the urge to blush in the presence of IT.
Why she had suddenly opened the second door of her closet, where IT was kept hidden, she did not know. She had been looking for something plain and comfortable to wear, and somehow her search had led her to IT. Maybe it was because they had a visitor for the first time since, well, ever, and as a consequence she wanted to wear something special, even if their visitor was her son's twelve-year-old friend.
If that was the case, then, why could she not stop staring at IT?
It was something she had secretly acquired years before, a few months before Itachi did his thing, in an embarrassing attempt at rekindling the embers of her marriage. A rather exotic item in its craft as well as its purpose and its uniqueness; it was this embarrassment which stopped her from using IT, until it became too late. IT has stayed hidden for years inside that closet, forsaken and forgotten by ITS owner.
Yet it was there, right in front of her, that otherwise ordinary morning. If she had known that her eldest child was going to go homicidal she would not have hesitated to try IT in front of her husband. She was forever left with the question of whether Fugaku was into nekomimi. Not that it really mattered anymore.
"Hmm…" The more she thought about it, the more amused she was by the idea brewing in her head.
"Very well." Mikoto concluded. "At the very least, it should be amusing."
With those words, IT was released from its confinement to be unleashed upon the world.
Shiki was not surprised by the lack of a response. The only sounds came from the kitchen, where his wife cooked breakfast. It was a routine for them, part of their attempt at pretending to be human. They did not really need to consume food at the rate humans do.
Slowly, he claimed his usual seat on the dining table. To be so tired so early in the morning, it was troublesome and mildly depressing. He wondered if this was somehow similar to the aches of old age. In the end, Shiki faced it as he did everything: as a new, enlightening experience.
But his declining health was not the matter at hand, after all.
As quietly as his wife, Shiki watched her cook. While he was just as capable of cooking, he always considered his meals bland compared to what Saya could prepare. He watched her as intently as he had watched her so many centuries ago; when she had actually dragged him away from his studies to personally teach him how to do it.
The voice was low and calculating. It was a voice Shiki had heard before, but one he never looked forward to hearing. However, she asked a question, so he answered.
"That would not be the word I'd use. The results were satisfactory, that I must admit. Did I wake you up when I left? I'm sorry."
Shiki winced when Saya slammed her hand on the stove. The pot above the fire shook dangerously. Even he felt the reverberations of the impact from the floor.
"Why didn't you tell me?" Saya spoke softly, again.
"I did not see a reason to."
The pot shook again.
"How long?" The voice seemed tired, defeated. Saya's knuckles were white from squeezing the soup ladle, and her shoulders shook from many contained emotions.
"It started a few months after the massacre. Mikoto-san came to me. She needed help and I was interested."
Finally, Saya released the ladle. Bringing her now free hand up to her face, she felt the first tear tracing the curve of her right cheek.
"Ah…aah…" From her lips escaped a quiet, sorrowful lament. Her other hand squeezed the stove so strongly it threatened to break it.
"Saya." The husband continued. "I believe I must properly explain what you saw-"
"WHAT'S THERE TO EXPLAIN?"
The pot jumped for the third time, spilling some of its contents, which hissed and bubbled up as they slid down the pot's heated metal surface and came into contact with the fire underneath.
Shiki's body tensed and his eyes displayed unusual amounts of emotion. He did not clearly remember the last time Saya raised her voice like that.
She finally turned her face to him, and Shiki got to see her glowing, bloodshot eyes. He had never seen Saya this furious outside of combat. Unwillingly, his heart began to beat faster, and he acknowledged the painful feeling of realizing he was afraid of his wife.
"WHEN WAS IT?" She screamed. "WHEN DID YOU STOP LOVING ME?"
Those words triggered a switch in the seal master, granting him the courage to face this new obstacle.
"Saya, you don't understand-"
"Like HELL I don't understand!" With her teeth bare in front of him, she looked like a rabid beast poised to strike. Shiki would have hoped such emotions would never mar his wife's beauty like that, but it seemed that was just wishful thinking.
"You…" She lowered her head. Her shoulders were still shaking. "You don't need me anymore…you don't want me anymore…"
A bitter chuckle. Somehow that pained Shiki more than everything before. Then she looked back up, and he quickly changed his mind. The oxymoron that was her smile, both bitter and affectionate, hurt him beyond anything else.
He was losing her, as she lost herself within her painful delusion.
"Saya!" He spoke forcefully, yet carefully, as he did not want to stoke her anger by mistake. "You have always being first and foremost in my heart!"
It was a rather convoluted way to put it, but it made the job of carefully ignoring his feelings for Hina and Yukina.
Had Saya been on her senses, she would have looked at Shiki's face and acknowledge his words as nothing but the truth. However, at this moment, reason was not completely effective anymore. In fact, it seemed as if she had not listened to his words at all.
Still carrying that horrible, yet beautiful smile, she felt so distant, even if she was only a few steps away.
"I guess…" She spoke; her tone soft and remorseful. "…I guess…you never really forgave me, did you?"
Shiki's eyes widened in alarm. He was truly scared by now. "Sa-Saya!" He inched a step closer. "That has nothing to do with-"
"I…I really tried my best, you know…" Saya continued, completely deaf to her husband's voice. "I tried to be a good wife, really…" She clutched her left arm with her other hand; a clearly defensive gesture. "I really wanted to make you happy…make you forget…" Another bitter chuckle. "I guess…it didn't really work, did it?"
Her face darkened, and alarms blared in Shiki's head one more time.
"…if you need to go to some other woman…"
Shiki would have been enraged by the insinuation if he weren't so worried. "Saya, I have never-"
"You should have just told me…" Her sad words were laced with a dangerous tinge of womanly wrath.
"YOU SHOULD HAVE SPARED ME THIS PAIN!" She yelled, and Shiki actually took a step back. Saya's chakra had flared for a moment there. Having a chakra as monumentally immense as a tailed beast's was not precisely comfortable. It was fortunate that the safety measure installed in the Houraisan grounds would prevent the sudden flare from reaching the awareness of Konoha.
Drawing courage from his love (or so he thought), Shiki tried to approach his wife. "Saya, you don't know what you're saying…"
"DON'T MOCK ME!"
There was absolutely no way Shiki could have reacted in time. In a mix of fright, anger and mindless desperation, Saya lashed at him in an attempt to reject his advance. Her right fist, almost as mighty as Tsunade's, stuck Shiki by his jaw, under his left cheek.
The effect was instantaneous.
The haze in Saya's mind faded when she heard the sickening sound of the back of Shiki's head slamming the wall by the front door. His body then fell on the ground like a string-less marionette.
For several moments, the only sound in the house was the hissing of the overflowing soup on the stove behind Saya, spilling its contents as it boiled beyond necessary.
The ever-young lady watched Shiki's still form with uncertain eyes. The longer he remained completely still, the further her uncertainty polluted her mind.
At least in presence, she was alone in that room. Fearfully, she moved a step closer.
"…Shiki? Ah…aaa…you…you okay?"
The sheer stupidity of that question seemed to escape her. Not only her shoulders, but her whole arms were shaking by this point.
"Shiki…" Her right hand caressed her lower lip for some reason. "…Shiki…"
She had not walked two steps when the door by her fallen husband's side exploded inwards. Saya shrieked and ducked as the wooden pieces flew dangerously close to her head. Her body went into full alert when the clear sound of footsteps reached her ears.
"`That is something I shall deal with myself`, you said…" A small, feminine figure looked down at the still body. "…idiot."
"Y-You…" Saya recognized the newcomer with a trembling voice.
Hina's divine chakra flared angrily. "That is no way to address a goddess, you deathless!"
The older woman shuddered when the furious pulse of chakra pass through her, rooting her to the floor like a terrified puppy.
"Both your insolence and your stupidity have not waned with the years, Houraisan Saya." Hina's talons made a resounding sound on the wooden floor with every step, as if the goddess wore high heels. "I don't know who's more of an idiot: you or your infuriating husband."
Saya tried to move away from the approaching goddess, but Hina closed the distance between them in the blink of an eye and seized Saya's throat, effortlessly closing her windpipe.
"I haven't forgotten, Saya. Your traitorous, insolent thievery."
The deathless' eyes widened with the princess' green pupils became thin and reptilian.
"My Taijutsu. My Dragon Gates. My gift to humankind. You shamelessly abused my kindness and made my techniques yours when they were not yours to have!"
The hurt, broken Saya had long being reduced to a whimpering, almost child-like figure. Whether it was the pressure of Hina's presence or the aftereffects of her violent argument with Shiki will remain unknown.
"I should have killed you then. I wanted to; oh you have no idea how much I wanted to."
Saya shrieked one more time when the smaller goddess flung her over her shoulder and threw her over to the fallen man.
"HE saved your life, you disgusting woman! He pleaded! He begged! He shed tears for your worthless self!" Every sentence was a roar.
The fallen woman turned her gaze to her husband. Nothing seemed to be broken; for that she was glad…and a bit surprised. She would have guessed he'd be faring much worse after that punch. He was just unconscious, it seemed.
"I spared you out of respect to the man you call husband. I spared you because he gave away his most precious possession in exchange for your unlife."
"His Fuuinjutsu. His most advanced, most secret theories and jutsu, he gave them all to me! He did it for the likes of you!"
It seemed the more she thought about it the more furious Hina became. However, right when it seemed she had reached the dangerous peak, Hina took a deep breath…and calmed down.
"Stupid…humans are…truly stupid."
Even after calming down, there was a frightening luster in the half-dragon's emerald eyes.
"I could easily destroy you, you know? Destroy you and take him for myself. I doubt Shinigami-sama would give a damn."
Saya, while she did not take her eyes off the goddess, did lower her head and tense her muscles. She had always been aware of Ryuuguu Hina's interest in her husband (she could not call that love). She had always been aware of the fact that Hina could kill her with three fingers while blindfolded.
"Sometimes I really wonder why I don't do it. Now I think I know."
Looking down at the unconscious figure, Hina finished. "That moron…he'd probably kill himself if I killed you."
With the calm pace only a divinity could muster, the dragon princess claimed Shiki's seat by the dining table.
"Now, heal him. Once he awakens we'll make this stupid misunderstanding clear."
Sasuke had followed Naruto's idea and taken a long, soothing bath after him. After a stop in his bedroom to get a change of clothes, he proceeded to go to the dining table. The pleasant odors of cooking filled the entire house, drawing him like a hook on his nose, only not as painful.
Mikoto seemed to be humming a tune Sasuke did not recognize. He got into visual range of the kitchen…and once again, a part of him suffered a horrible death. Really, at this point he would run out of parts of his soul to trade for more power.
"Hey, Sasuke! Check it out!" An excited Naruto pointed at the woman happily working in front of the stove. "She looks awesome, right?"
True, Naruto couldn't fully appreciate the view, but he actually liked how Mikoto's unusual change of clothes changed the shape of her body. It was…unique, to say the least.
"Oh my, Naruto-kun, you're such a flatterer-nya!" Mikoto chuckled happily. She truly appreciated Naruto's attempts at complimenting her despite his blindness. It was rather endearing, and it was always good when somebody else made her feel beautiful. "That deserves an extra special portion for you this morning!" She declared before breaking one more egg and adding it to the sizzling pan.
"Woo-hoo! Thank you, Miko-neko-chan!"
"Mu-nyaaan! Tee-hee!" The woman returned Naruto's smile with one just as childish.
"Wha…wha…" A trembling finger pointed at Mikoto. "…what the HELL?"
Mikoto turned off the stove and presented herself before Sasuke. "Ah, ahahaha…well…" She scratched the side of her head. "I've had this dress for a while, but I never got a chance to wear it, so I saw it today and wondered 'why not?'" She actually seemed a bit shy before her younger child. "So…what do you think?"
With her hands clasped in front of her, her forearms pushed her breasts together, further adding to the notorious bust-raising effect of the revealing dress itself. Looking down, he saw more of his mother's legs than any child should ever see outside of a beach or public bath.
"Wha-wha-bu-wha…" Sasuke shuddered. "Ne-nekomimi…meido…"
Mikoto rather self-consciously toyed with the frills of the overly short skirt of her maid costume. "S-So…it's not good?"
"Of course it's good!" Naruto gave his friend's mother a thumbs-up. "Sasuke's just a lousy jerk."
"I…" Sasuke seemed to be almost in pain. In the end he just shook his head and turned his back to the dining room. "…I'm going now."
"Ah? Whe-where? Breakfast…" Mikoto inquired.
"To develop Lightning Manipulation. Maybe if I send enough electricity to my brain I'll be able to forget this entire morning."
Naruto and Mikoto remained silent until Sasuke's steps could no longer be heard. After that, the woman turned to the blindfolded boy.
"So!" She started excitedly. "Do you think he liked it?"
Naruto chuckled. "Of course he did! He's just not good with words."
Mikoto seemed honestly encouraged by the words. "Thank you, Naruto-kun. You're truly a wonderful young boy." She praised while she walked back to finish making breakfast.
"Of course! I'm awesome!"
Setting the voluminous scroll on the wooden floor in front of her, Hinata rubbed her temples. She had a serious headache.
One of the most important things she had learned at the Academy was to appreciate the magnificence of the human body. It was such a fantastic machine, capable of performing all sorts of different and highly complex actions. It was obvious to her that this fantastic machine had to be extremely complicated in composition.
The Academy's lessons in anatomy could only be described as sufficient. There was no need to go into much detail, as the institution did not intend to train medic-nin.
Most unfortunately, Houraisan Saya was not as considerate. If Hinata wanted a chance at learning Fukyuu no Ryuu, she would have to learn a few aspects of human anatomy, physiology and chakra theory.
"Shiki has been teaching Naruto how to understand the world around him. What you, Hinata, need to understand is how your own body works. With that understanding, the Immortal Dragon will allow you to become one with the world."
Those were Saya's words. For that reason, she was surrounded by scrolls and books and pages and pages of notes since early in the morning, reading topics from anatomy to physiology to biochemistry, as well as pathology and an essay on something the author, somebody called Tsukiji Suika, called "natural" or "nature chakra." Besides the heavy stack of material she received from Saya, she had retrieved everything in the clan's library even remotely related, and she fully intended to seek out more from the village library. It was a lot of work, but she had a very good reason to do even beyond her best; a reason even more important than her own growth as a Taijutsu Artist.
"Do not even dare slack on this, my girl. Both Shiki and I expect you to teach this to Naruto sooner or later."
"I must learn this. My knowledge will be Naruto-kun's knowledge. I will not fail."
It was at this point that the sliding door of the dojo was opened.
"What is it?" Her voice was harsh and steeled; a perfect mirror of her lack of interest in engaging in conversation.
After a moment of surprise at realizing he was being addressed, Hyuuga Neji quickly composed himself and lowered his head.
"My apologies, Hinata-sama. I was unaware the dojo was occupied."
"Now you know." The girl coldly declared before turning back to her reading. Sure, she had noticed the subtle change of intonation when Neji said her name, and she needed no special eyes to know she was getting a cold glare from her cousin. She just did not care.
Hizashi's death was regrettable, true. He was a good man, and a good uncle. She no longer blamed herself for it, though. She understood how this ruthless world works. Besides, she was a completely harmless girl at the time. What could she have done?
"You just can't sit down and cry and hope for someone to show up and be nice to you! Believe me, I know! Your clan sucks? TRY TO CHANGE IT!"
Naruto's words remained clear in her memory.
Neji could hate her, blame her and look down on her as much as he wanted. Once she was in control of the clan she would demand either his loyalty or his life.
It was as simple as that.
The clan's prodigy's face incensed when he realized Hinata had absolutely no intention to speak to him anymore. She was blatantly ignoring his presence!
Closing the door slightly more loudly than the norm, Neji stormed his way away from the dojo. Hinata held back a sigh.
"Such a waste of time…" She muttered to herself as she grabbed a different scroll, her favorite amongst the ones she had checked so far.
That and the chapter on blood were giving her a few interesting ideas.
It was not very often that Saya felt remorseful. Regret was not something she carried in notable quantities. Having lived for as long as she had, pondering the consequences of her smallest actions became utterly asinine. In the dusk of her existence, she only bothered to live every day: both the things she wanted to do and the things she knew she had to do.
That day, however, she felt like crap.
The worst thing was that she still was not sure what made her feel the worst.
Hina's punishment still hurt substantially, of course. That was to be expected: the second dragon princess was one of the strongest divinities Saya had ever met.
Then there was her pitiful misunderstanding. In retrospective, of course, it became obvious that she had not put enough thought into this. Just for starters, she was so old she could not feel the slightest attraction for the short-lived humans anymore, no matter how good-looking they could be. It was obvious her surgically stoic husband would feel the same; even if he was a man, he had undergone andropause quite a long time ago. And his unliving body had never produced the normal concentration of testosterone, anyway.
She had always been more cautious around female Supernals, anyway. Saya had always been wary of Yukina's closeness to Shiki. It did not help that the albino nekomata, the moment she became of age, declared she wanted Shiki to be the father of her children.
It sickened her to admit it, but Saya had been just a little bit glad when Kyuubi put an end to Yukina's life.
The twins? They were just silly children. If anything, Shiki saw them as his daughters. If they got too cocky in a few years she would sic them on Naruto and problem solved.
Then there was Hina.
In the middle of the supermarket, Saya gripped her basket until the handle almost cracked.
For the Gods, she hated that accursed pseudo-loli. A divinity should not be so infuriating.
Still, there was no denying that the dragon princess was mighty. It was the reason Saya once pretended to be an ordinary (albeit very talented) human and underwent training with Hina's tutelage.
There was also the fact that, even with the situation cleared, she was still angry with Shiki.
It had never infuriated her so; the colorless, frustratingly scientific way in which he tackled most things. It was easy to blame him and his personality for this entire mess. Most people would have brought out the whole Mikoto thing at some point: a conversation in bed; a topic to discuss during a meal, whenever.
Shiki did not share it with her simply because he did not see a reason to.
Sometimes you don't need a reason to bring something up. Sometimes you just want to talk, to gossip, to share something with someone. Why couldn't her husband understand something as simple as this? He was a deathless, not a machine.
To him, Mikoto was just another Fuuinjutsu experiment. Just like he did not discuss his many other projects with Saya, he had omitted this particular one, remaining blind to the obvious misunderstanding until it was too late.
And she had hurt him. That was probably the worst.
She had never hurt him before. Outside of training, of course. And he had never harmed her, either…not even in training, thinking about it.
Saya grimaced, even as she grabbed a plastic bag and began to fill it with tomatoes. It was almost as if Shiki deliberately wanted her to feel horrible about herself.
How could she have lost control like that? While she was (comfortingly) surprised by her husband's resilience, she knew she could have seriously harmed him, had she used a little bit more force.
"You can control your emotions better than this, Saya." She muttered to nobody but herself.
A hand reached the carton of milk before hers.
A girl Saya had only seen once before rested the carton in front of a particularly gifted bust.
"Oh, you are…" It took a moment to retrieve the particular piece of info from that recent memory. Her mind was not what it used to be. "…Imamiya."
Imamiya Yume nodded and respectfully bowed before Saya. She was the wife of a clan leader, even if it was a three-person clan. "Good morning."
Saya curtly returned the nod and proceeded to pick her own carton of milk, plus three more. "Shopping at this time of the day?"
"Ah, umm…sensei gave us the morning, so I thought of sparing my parents the hassle…" The girl chuckled timidly. It was obvious she was not sure how to address Saya.
"Hmm, such a good girl. Well then, take care."
"Ah, yes. Thank you."
The aged woman was already thinking of the next item on her shopping list when the beautiful Genin spoke again.
Saya stopped but did not turn to face the girl. "Hmm?"
Yume only stuttered and hummed a few times, however. "Uhh…um…it's…it's nothing." She dropped her gaze. "I'm sorry."
Uncaring, Saya walked away, uninterested in the pair of eyes on her back.
She finished her shopping in silence, ignoring the odd glances she got from the cashier (as the mother of the fox brat, of course). Her husband waited just as quietly near the entrance, standing by the magazine counter and…was he checking women's magazines?
"You can find valuable knowledge in the most unlikely places." He explained once he became aware of the utterly horrified look on his wife's face.
Somehow his words were just not very convincing.
Konoha's weather was very soothing that afternoon. Spring was in full bloom; it could be seen in the reborn greenery and on people's faces. Saya effortlessly carried two bags with a single hand. She did not need to look at Shiki to know that his body was moving automatically; his mind wandering who-knows-where. Whatever he was thinking about, it probably had to do with seals.
Saya tried to remember when her husband became such a pragmatist. He was a few weeks short of his fifteenth birthday when they died. Until then, he had been a rather average child, if a bit unenthusiastic about most things. Saya did not remember ever seeing the young Shiki playing with other children, or even hanging out with friends other than her. The fact that he was the heir of a wealthy family had a bit to do with that, true, but Saya guessed the young Shiki was just not prone to making bonds with others.
Her aimless reminiscence was abruptly interrupted when she felt her husband's hand reaching for her own. She shot him a wordless stare.
"We haven't walked like this in quite some time, right?"
It was true. In the past few years she had held Naruto's hand many more times than her husband's. To bring it up at this precise moment…
"…idiot." It annoyed her, but she was actually blushing a little. She was not supposed to act like a teenager, just look like one!
"…curious. Only women say that to me."
"You mean the half-dragon bitch."
"I will ask you to refrain from using such words to address Hina, my dear."
Saya's expression darkened considerably. "So it's 'Hina' now."
"I apologize. She asked me not to use honorifics."
"You know she's doing it to piss me off."
"I am aware."
Saya felt her husband giving a gentle squeeze to her hand. It was an unusual gesture from him. His eyes never left the street road, however.
"Sometimes…I have wondered…how my life would have been…if I had been the only one returned to life."
Those words made the Lady Houraisan more than a little bit alarmed.
"It should have been like-the only reason you were brought back…"
Husband and wife locked their eyes on each other; their feet coming to a stop. The man, used to veiling his emotions, could only be read by the woman, who had centuries of experience on her side. The woman, used to displaying her emotions, freely showed with her facial expression that she was plainly confused.
"We had this conversation before, didn't we?" She inquired. "I mean, my memory is not what it used to be, true, but I remember…when you explained to me just how we came back to life…"
Saya's words trailed off and her pupils widened when the ideas rapidly clicked in her head. It was an epiphany.
All of a sudden, everything that is Houraisan Shiki became absolutely clear in Saya's head. Had she not been amazed by the revelation, she would have kicked herself for taking over eight hundred years to figure it out. She would later regret that the revelation did not come in a more dramatic situation.
On the way back home from the supermarket was just too lame.
He…he's been dwelling on this, all the time. He's still…all these years…he's been…
She smiled. It was the smile that gave her the name "Chiyu Egao," and the smile Houraisan Shiki fell in love with so many years ago.
He blushed, and Saya's smile broadened. Yes, she still got it.
Shiki blinked when his wife wrapped her free arm around his, inching closer to him and urging him to restart walking. Noticing the man's puzzled face, Saya chuckled.
"I can be selfish too, you know."
Stunned, Shiki stared at his beloved's radiant face for several uncomfortable seconds, until he finally sighed, defeated. He could only return the smile, albeit tiredly.
"Of course you can. That's how we got a child, after all."
A chortle was Saya's response. "Ah, right, right."
Like that, the strange couple; a clan leader and his wife; walked together through the busy streets of afternoon Konoha. A glance at the two would give the appearance of nothing but two rather pale-looking youngsters in love, while their ages summed together gave a number higher than the age of most current gods.
"…do you think we're good parents?"
He certainly did not expect that question. However, he was ruthlessly honest, as always.
He could hide things, but he would never lie to his wife, after all.
"I like to believe we've been good teachers." He began. "As for good parents…I honestly don't know."
Saya winced. Truth was painful, indeed. "He might hate us by this time tomorrow."
And with several good reasons; their secrecy regarding Kyuubi being only one of them.
"If that happens…we can only hope we've taught him well enough for him to walk on his own." Shiki concluded with an awkward smile, which Saya easily read through.
"I hate it when you use fake smiles."
"My apologies, love."
Mikoto lifted a single eyelid. From the hammock where she had been placidly resting for most of the afternoon, she could hear her child's grunts as he practiced the most basic sword katas over and over again. She had spent the whole morning introducing him to his new "Weasel Beater" (provisional name), and the boy seemed determined to learn how to wield it skillfully as fast as possible. The strongest incentive was realizing that, indeed, her mother was a Kenjutsu specialist and actually knew what she was talking about.
The Uchiha demigoddess could not help but feel an itty bit of pride at seeing at least one of her children following her path.
However, that last moan had not come out of his son's mouth. Uchiha Sasuke does not moan dejectedly…or so she thinks.
Wriggling her body to allow herself to see the world beyond the hammock, Mikoto quickly found the source.
"Anything wrong, Naruto-kun?"
"Eh? Ah, no, no-ah." Naruto quickly remembered that, even if he did not need to turn his head, it was still proper manners to face the person he conversed with. "Umm, no, it's nothing, really, Miko-neko-chan."
Mikoto was quite amused. It seemed the name stuck. Not that she really minded, anyway. It was kind of cute.
Naruto was seated on the floor just barely out of her arms' reach. He had opened a tremendously large scroll filled with nothing but text and more than a few equations, as well as the occasional diagram. It dazzled Mikoto's pupils for a bit.
"That looks harsh." She commented, a bit stupidly. Naruto sighed.
"Yeah…and I guess I can't ask you to teach me Harmonic Bounded Fields, right?"
Mikoto sweatdropped. She did not have the slightest idea what Naruto was talking about. "Haa…I guess not."
Not only was Shiki's knowledge of seal theory on a level of its own (he helped create the art, after all); the approach he used to describe Fuuinjutsu was fundamentally different from the one used by all other seal experts. Those versed in the topic called them the Two Schools of Fuuinjutsu: the Standard School (also known as the School of Six Paths) and the Houraisan School. Neither was better than the other; the Houraisan approach was more appropriate than the Standard for many applications, and vice versa.
Shinobi (and other people who studied seals) chose to focus on the Standard theory because it was much simpler to understand at a base level and because it was most useful for the usual applications they use seals for.
"Argh, well, it's not like I'm in a hurry…" Naruto concluded, giving up and proceeding to roll up the scroll. Not even the bandana on his eyes could hide the obvious disappointment, however.
Naruto stiffened for a moment when Mikoto stretched her arm to reach his hair. The woman was reminded of a startled cat.
"I'm sure Houraisan-sama would not give you anything you are not capable of learning, Naruto-kun."
"I…would have to disagree, but…" He grinned half-heartedly. "I don't think this is one of those cases. I'll just have to take it slow."
"Whatever works." Mikoto ruffled the boy's hair a moment longer before pulling away.
Naruto was aware that, until his sealing skills reached a certain level, he would be bound to depending on tools such as exploding tags and many, many projectiles. Without his storage scrolls his offensive capabilities were greatly diminished, as he was forced to rely entirely on Yokazeryuu. He lacked the balance Sasuke had. Hinata…Naruto guessed Hinata did not really need anything else.
Putting Fuuinjutsu aside for a while, he moved to his Ninjutsu project. He wanted offensive Wind techniques, but so far no ideas had formed in his mind…well, that is a lie.
Naruto's Wind Taijutsu inflicts little damage on average, the only exception being Hakke Kyoufuushou, which is a very circumstantial technique. However, the constant was that Yokazeryuu's wind attacks inflict impact damage.
What Wind truly excels at, is cutting.
However, a straightforward cutting attack was, well, too simple; too standard. Too dodgeable.
An original 'cutting wind' jutsu with Naruto's official seal of approval would have to satisfy two conditions. First, it had to be FAST. So fast that, even if he used as a frontal, easily visibly attack, the opponent would have problems avoiding it. Second, it had to be unconventional in its approach.
Naruto sighed, which elicited a tiny chuckle from the beauty on the hammock. He was probably asking too much from himself. He had just become a Genin, after all.
On a more positive note, that morning he had come up with an idea for a new jutsu. It was a utility jutsu, and something he would try to teach to Hana-chan as soon as he could. Thinking of how excited the little Hyuuga would be brought a smile to his face.
He got on his feet and stood by the hammock, looking down at the female figure stretched on it.
"Sasuke won't train with me right now. Can you train with me?"
Naruto could not see the lovely pout on Mikoto's face. "Does it have to be now? I'm so happy here…"
The lone surviving female Uchiha curled her body in defiant opposition to Naruto's idea. This only amused the boy.
"You know, you're really like a cat when you are like that."
As if on cue, Mikoto's feline bits popped out of thin air, twitching almost invitingly.
"You look like you have nothing to do, Naruto-kun. Would you jump in and scratch my itch?"
Some distance away, Sasuke had to do a double-take when his eyes happened to come into contact with the sight of Naruto and his mother cuddled together in the ample hammock, the former gleefully scratching behind the latter's cat ears. Mikoto had contently nestled her head on Naruto's torso, her left arm reaching around his waist to embrace him.
"Is she purring-no! Wait!" Sasuke shook the weird thoughts aside. "She does that on purpose!" He hissed. "She wants to distract me! One with the blade; must be one with the blade…"
"Ahahaha, this is kinda relaxing!" Naruto pointed out.
"It is very, very pleasant, I must say." Mikoto admitted. "Do you think you could stop by our place more often, Naruto-kun? I'd very grateful if I could get this kind of treatment more often…"
"She could ask her son to do it…" Sasuke mumbled angrily.
"Why don't ask Sasuke? I mean, he's your son and everything…"
"Nah, his hands are surprisingly soft and smooth. You know, like a girl's."
"Ah, that's too bad." Naruto shook his head, having nothing but pity for the young Uchiha lad. "Well, his loss. Sure, Miko-neko-chan, I'll come scratch your itch whenever you want!"
Mikoto chuckled in unbridled amusement. "That's the spirit, Naruto-kun. I promise I'll make it up to you…somehow."
"With ramen?" Naruto asked excitedly. Mikoto giggled, and her lips threaded deliciously close to Naruto's earlobe.
"Maybe I can find something even better."
Sasuke facepalmed. What did he do to deserve an idiot best friend and an obviously insane mother?
I swear I'll kill you for this, brother.
"I'm a lady, you know." Mikoto continued, ignoring her child's inner battle. "I need the touch of a man from time to time…"
"NOW WHAT THE HELL IS THAT SUPPOSED TO MEAN?"
Sasuke seemed about to invent the "Body on Fire" jutsu.
"Your hands are quite rugged, Naruto-kun…"
"Hmm…feels so nice…"
I'll kill you, and then I'll kill myself. Sasuke concluded, like some sort of yandere. And Naruto too, just for the hell of it.
The sun had come down about an hour and a half before.
Hanabi had noticed, as she departed from the dining room, how her father fixed his clear orbs on her back. Even Hinata had been aware of how intently Hiashi had been watching his youngest daughter's back.
The littlest Hyuuga was a bit startled by her father's attention, but not enough to trouble her. It was not like she intended to run away from home to meet Naruto or something like that.
She was a good girl, so she would obey her father. Also, she believed in her nii-chan. If Naruto said he'd find a way for them to keep in touch, she would just believe in him and wait for the good news.
If she remembered correctly, Naruto had stayed last night at the Uchihas. Naruto and Uchiha Sasuke should on their way to the Houraisan residence, where Naruto would return the favor by inviting Sasuke over.
The next day, she would spend it with Naruto. Their last day together.
She was excited, but also very, very sad.
Walking by the northwestern-most edge of her clan's grounds, Hanabi tried to improve her mood by thinking of all the fun things they would do together. Maybe they could play the kissing game again…
Two muted impacts on the grass behind her announced that she was no longer alone. She was startled for a moment there (not having Byakugan active), but that was quickly dismissed.
"Ah, you're here-"
The end of the sentence got caught in her lungs; stopped by a hit to the back of her head that sent her to the emptiness of unconsciousness, her face frozen in a question that remained unasked.
Yume caught the young Hyuuga before she could hit the ground.
"Was that really necessary?"
Her Jounin sensei effortlessly picked up the tiny girl, wrapping his arm around her waist and holding her to his side. "The better to keep her quiet and still."
The attractive young woman nodded, but she was still a bit uneasy about knocking out a little girl. "And now?"
"We take the established route. It's better to stick to the plan until we're outside Konoha proper."
"So that means the boy, Naruto…"
Kouki jumped away before Yume could properly state the question. Startled by the suddenness of her sensei and secret lover, Yume shot him the evil eye for a second before proceeding to follow him.
Everything was silent in the Hyuuga Clan grounds.
Maybe too silent.
Naruto was amused by the difference in size between his baggage and Sasuke's. While he had only taken a change of underwear, basic hygiene products, his trusty scroll and the one Shiki had given him to study ("Harmonic Bounded Fields and Split Hypermatrices"); Sasuke's backpack looked like he was about to desert Konoha and become a missing-nin.
"Seriously, mom…" Sasuke whined in quiet tone. Of course, it was a cool whine, not a…well, whiny one.
"Really, she went a bit overboard back there, huh?" Naruto chuckled. He wished he could have seen Sasuke's face while Mikoto stuffed the large backpack with all sorts of stuff. "Well, at least you got your thermos with strawberry milkshake!"
"I wish you were dead."
"Now that's just not the sort of thing you say to your ex, Sasuke."
"Actually, it is."
Naruto just laughed at that. "But, man, Miko-neko-chan sure is fun. You gotta invite me over more often!"
"I'd be a masochist if I did that."
"Pooh, you're no fun. I promised her I'd scratch her itch every once in a while, you know."
"STOP SAYING THAT!"
"Wha-?" Naruto was noticeably confused. "Why? I mean, it's a promise…"
"AAAAAARGH!" Sasuke groaned in frustration, as he was definitely NOT going to explain the innuendo in that sentence.
A series of very distinguishable sounds drew the two children's attention in an otherwise deserted road. They had already made it past the former Uchiha grounds and the Hyuuga clan grounds, slowly approaching the northeastern corner of Konoha, where the forest that housed Houraisan beckoned.
Naruto did not need Sasuke's cue. His Senrigan had been expanded two seconds before. He did not like sudden noises he could not identify. So, he noticed the two roof-jumping figures before Sasuke did, as they approached from behind.
One of them had a really odd shape…
The two figures dashed past the two newly graduated boys as if unaware of their presence. One decidedly female, the other just…weird, to Naruto's perception.
"Hey, isn't that…?" Sasuke squinted to try and get a better look in the dark of night. "It is! Naruto! It's your girlfiend!"
"The lit-WHAT DO YOU MEAN 'WHICH ONE'? IDIOT!" Sasuke did a perfect tsukkomi and smacked the crown of the blind blonde's head. "It's your chibi Hyuuga! Those two have her!"
"Hana-!" Naruto's gasp got stuck in his throat.
It was as if Sasuke had flicked a switch in his friend. Naruto quickly associated the odd shape of the largest person as a man carrying a smaller form by his side.
"Those two…" Naruto's voice had become sharp as a blade; icy as a glacier. "…they did not look Hyuuga to you, did they?" Before Sasuke could agree, Naruto continued. "No…a Hyuuga would not carry Hana-chan like that."
"I think she's unconscious, Naruto." Sasuke's voice had sharpened considerably, too. This was serious. And the way Naruto's body was trembling was a bit unsettling. "We have to-"
Naruto was already on the nearest rooftop, chasing after the kidnappers.
"…call for help." A slightly miffed Uchiha finished to himself. "Oi, Naruto!" He called much louder, quickly catching up to the blonde. "We have to-"
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu."
Two clones departed in opposite directions.
"One will get my parents; the other will look for the nearest patrol. The moment we enter Houraisan territory, drop your luggage."
"Hnn." Sasuke nodded. It was good to know Naruto was still keeping his cool…to a point.
While it was not certain they had taken this specific direction, it made sense for both children that anybody trying to get away from Konoha would try to reach the vastly unguarded forest as fast as possible.
"We weren't fast enough, they got too far." Sasuke muttered angrily. "In this forest-"
"For as long as they stay within my clan's grounds, I'll know where they are." Naruto did not bother explaining Hakke Happou Fuuin Kekkai. "After that, I'll see if I can find them with Senrigan, but I can't promise anything."
Naruto was aware he could not rely much on his perception jutsu for very long ranges.
"I'll follow you, then." Sasuke agreed.
They jumped off the last roof tile and made it to the first branch. The rooftop chase had become a treetop venery.
"Did you see their headbands?" Naruto happened to inquire.
"Doesn't matter." Naruto declared. "Whoever they are, or where they come from, I'll make them pay."
The hunt was on.
End of chapter five…
Author's notes: so, it's been how long? Ah, not like I really care.
This is Fantasia, chapter five. I hope you enjoyed it; I also hope it was worth the wait…maybe not. I mean, it was pretty much exposition and NaruMiko antics. The next chapter is definitely the most important in Fantasia and one of the most important in the "Wind God Chronicles" as a whole. I'll put a lot of effort on it, so please do look forward to it…whenever it comes out.
So, no music this time. Really, this chapter was just transition. And I'm kinda lazy right now. No Narutionary, either: there are not any new terms, after all.
Next chapter! What should have been little more than a game becomes a deadly confrontation. Revelations abound in the heat of battle, and something awakens within Naruto. Whether it will be a god or a demon, it might not depend on him at all.
Fuuton: Fuujin Senrigan no Jutsu (風遁: 風神千里眼の術, A-rank, Supplementary, All ranges,): Wind Release: Wind God Manipulation Technique. Naruto's wind-based perception jutsu, which combines perception of convection heat and mechanical waves to gain three-dimensional, all-around awareness of his surroundings.
Fuuton: Fuujin Tesabaki no Jutsu (風遁: 風神手捌きの術, C-rank, Supplementary, Short-to-mid range,): Wind Release: Wind God Manipulation Technique. The user can control and manipulate objects from a distance by means of wind nature manipulation. It also grants instinctive awareness of the flow of air the user creates when he uses this technique.
Kage Bunshin no Jutsu (影分身の術, B-rank, Supplementary,): Shadow Clone Technique. Creates identical, fully-functional copies of the user (clothes and equipment included) by dividing his chakra equally among them.