Disgaea: When Worlds Collide
By Random Writer 46
The New Netherworld
"What did you call me here for?" asked the red-haired man as he looked about the rooms of the castle. Formerly owned by the fake Overlord Zenon, it had been given over to Rozalin upon his death and then shunted onto Tink when Rozalin had rejected living in such a place for a peaceful life in Holt Village. Today was a bit of an occasion, as rarely did Rozalin ever come back to this place, much less call him along. He shifted on his feet nervously, although he would never admit it.
Rozalin turned to look at him, her crystal red eyes sparkling. His heart couldn't help but warm a little at that look, although the relationship between them was very strange right now. After that kiss two years back that had turned her away from murdering all of them, their relationship had gone on the same as usual, although there was awkwardness here and there.
"Look," she gestured towards the basin of water in front of her. The Four-Leaf Clover, emblem of the true Overlord Zenon, glimmered on the surface of the water. Doubtlessly she was using her abilities as Overlord of this world. "There's been a change in a nearby universe! A new Netherworld just… appeared out of nowhere!"
"What?! Why?" asked Adell, surprised and a little apprehensive. He remembered the last time demons from other universes decided to invade; he had been rendered completely ineffectual against their blinding power. If it did happen again… Well, this time it'd be different. He'd been training nonstop since they had defeated the fake Zenon, and although he still couldn't hold a candle to Rozalin when she took off the kiddie gloves, he had become a more capable fighter overall.
Rozalin cupped her chin in thought. Ever since coming to live at Holt Village and stripped of her illusions, she had decided to change her choice of attire. What had been before a luxurious evening gown was now a very simple skirt and halter combo, with a jacket over top.
"I'm not quite sure… There appears to be a human world; it's been there for a long time. The Netherworld of this universe is definitely new, though," said Rozalin, in thought. She quickly snapped out of it, however. "That's not what I called you here for! I've got a mission for you!"
"Mission? Me? What gives you the right to assign ME a mission?!"
"The right as the Overlord of this universe, of course!" smiled a triumphant Rozalin. "And, as a demon, a resident of the Netherworld, of course you have to listen to me, the Overlord!"
"I've told you a hundred times, I'm hu—"
"Oh, stop it. Are you still sticking with that excuse?" asked Rozalin, turning her head to the side haughtily. Although she had mellowed out a lot compared to when they had first met, that spoiled princess side of hers wasn't gone just yet. Honestly, it was never going to go. It was a part of who she was. "I'm not a demon, blah blah blah. I'm definitely human, since I came from a human family. Oh wait, you're adopted. How do you explain your power and THIS?!"
She stepped forward, and, before Adell had a chance to react, pried open his hair. The red-haired boy reacted the moment he realized what had happened, jumping back with a yelp, but it was too late. They both knew that she had seen the pointed ears he constantly hid under his long red bangs.
"Your ears are pointed!"
"No they're not!" Adell fought back defensively. She had accidentally walked in on him showering a couple months ago and had seen what was under his hair. He had always known he was different, the ears of the other children in the village were all round, and so he had taken to growing his hair long and hoping nobody would notice. Not until Rozalin explained it to him did he realize that pointed ears were the sign of demon heritage, although he still denied it. "They're mutations or something! I'm not a demon! I'm human, born and raised!"
Rozalin shook her head; obviously tired with the entire ordeal. She had been trying to convince him unsuccessfully for the last couple weeks that he was a demon, and that as a demon it was only proper for him to be her vassal. He had rejected her ideas time and time again, and it really culminated in an epic display of immaturity and denial when he had plugged his ears last week during one of her lectures and started to sing 'White Tiger'.
Of course, she had given him a beating for that one. Nobody ignored the Overlord just to spout that idiot Dark Hero's theme song at her! Nobody!
"Whatever. Just listen," said Rozalin. "I've been thinking."
"That's a fir—"
"Continue with that sentence and I'll start calling down Rose Liberations on your red-headed butt," said Rozalin, glaring at him fiercely. Adell wasn't cowed, he found the sight more endearing than terrifying. "Anyway, I've been thinking. Although I'm an Overlord, I haven't really been doing much lately for my Netherworld, since I'm living here in the human world."
That was basically true. Rozalin had taken to Holt Village like a native, and was now a familiar face within the community. Nobody really noticed or cared that they had the strongest demon in their universe living amongst them. She had taken on the duties of the fake Zenon, using Tink as her intermediary to the Netherworld.
"There's a bit of an overpopulation crisis in my Netherworld right now," explained Rozalin. "Since my fake disappeared, many of the demons got a little too happy and started procreating, which is a problem since we were already at full capacity before. What we need right now is some new land."
Adell's eyes widened in realization.
"Wait, so you mean…"
"Yes," smiled Rozalin. "I need you to take over the new Netherworld, and become its Overlord."
Before she had even finished the sentence, Adell had started walking out the door. Gritting her teeth, Rozalin gripped him by the arm and dragged him back to where they had been standing before.
"Look, listen to—"
"Nuh-uh, no way!" cried Adell as he tried getting the pampered princess to loosen her grip. Ever since she had unlocked her powers as the true Overlord Zenon, she had become many times stronger than him. It was really unfair, but so was life. "I'm a human! Humans can't become Overlords, and don't want to become Overlords! Ask Tink or something, or maybe one of your apprentices! Not me!"
"—Would you listen for a second!?" asked Rozalin, finally losing her temper and smashing her red-headed companion on the head with the butt of her gun, the Noble Rose. Although it wasn't the most powerful gun they had gotten their hands on during their adventures, it was the one that spoke out the most to her. Since then it had become her signature weapon of sorts. "Look, you battle maniac! Tink can't go because he's the middleman in my dealing with this Netherworld, and I can't trust my vassals since they're so weak! You're the best option!"
"No way! I don't want to go!"
"Stop acting like a petulant child!" cried Rozalin, pistol-whipping him once more. Adell let out a yelp and clutched at his head; ever since she had unlocked her powers, she had gotten STRONGER too. Enough to bruise him with a flick now, which motivated him even more when training. "Look, you'll be able to fight a lot of battles in this new Netherworld, alright?! Lots of tough enemies, strong ones! Not to mention all the powers you would enjoy as an Over—"
"Wait. Battles, you say?"
Rozalin smacked her forehead. Yes, of course. This stupid idiot would ignore all the rights and privileges he would get as an Overlord as well as all the sights and new things he would come across in his travels in a new land for the mere thrill of the fight. That was Adell alright. Why hadn't she tried this tactic in the first place?
"Yes, battles. Plenty of them, I'm sure," said Rozalin.
"But you said that this Netherworld is new," said Adell. "How can there be any tough enemies already? It's gotta be some sort of uninhabited wasteland."
"It is, more or less," said Rozalin. "It's a newly formed Netherworld, and it lacks demons right now. But, since it is a new Netherworld and provides plenty of easy-to-obtain land, other Overlords and Demon Lords will definitely try to invade and take it for themselves, like I want you to do. That means you're going to be clashing against all kinds of strong foes, alright? Are you happy?"
Adell thought about it. Although the thing about becoming the Overlord was a pain, and something he really didn't want to go through, the thought of battling against strong enemies like that Overlord Laharl and that Demon Lord (er, Beauty Queen) Etna again really intrigued him. He looked down at his hands; it'd also be a good way to ascertain how far he had come since his training.
"Positive," smiled Rozalin. He had taken the bait, and she was reeling him in. He'd be in her clutches real soon now… Now all she had to do was finish him off. "Once you become Overlord, I'm sure that plenty of people will notice your abilities and start challenging you. In fact… I'm sure the fights will NEVER end."
The red-headed Demon Hunter's head swung upwards, and Rozalin could see the flames burning from within those black orbs he called eyes. Every fiber of his being was dedicated to the thought of imminent battles, and Rozalin could only sigh. A battle maniac indeed… Too bad he never slowed down to take a look at what else he had.
"Alright, just tell me when!" grinned Adell, already thinking of the things he would need to pack. Oh, his parents had no problem with him going out to fight in another Netherworld, they always said it was high-time he moved out anyway (the only reason he didn't was because Holt Village had no vacancies). He'd bring his old Hustle Gloves; he had neglected to upgrade his equipment, why fix what wasn't broken? "I need to run home and pack, just give me a message when you're ready for me, alright?"
Just before he ran out the doorway, however, Rozalin stopped him once again, grabbing his arm. He looked at her, slightly confused, before a soft feeling washed over his skin.
She had given him a kiss on the cheek.
"Don't die on me, alright?" requested the blushing princess as she broke away, her eyes facing the wall. "Make sure you eat plenty, and drink a lot of water too. If you find yourself in trouble, send a message. If things… get too dangerous, get out of there."
Then, as though she was biting them out, more words flew out of her mouth.
"Your life… is worth more to me than some land."
Adell smiled. The warm feeling that had enveloped him before did not stop, not until it reached the very core of his being. Although he knew that he had been conned into taking up this mission, he really didn't regret it. Not after this.
"…Sure," said the red-headed Demon Hunter. "I'll be sure to come back safe. Don't worry, alright? You'll get bags under your—"
"Get out already!"
A chair was thrown across the room.
Which lead to the current situation of him being surrounded on all sides by unfamiliar demons, grinned Adell. Any other person would've been cursing his fate by now, but Adell was no ordinary person. He was a Demon Hunter; he lived for the fight. He was also a battle maniac, Rozalin's endearing nickname for him.
Two headless knights, and three zombies. They would've been easy to take, had it not been for the two spirits behind them. The knights would attack with their swords physically, and the zombies would annoy him with their constant puking and twirling, all while the spirits cast ice spells at him. If there was one thing he hated, it was ice spells.
Dodging a sword swipe from a nearby knight with a back-flip, he landed and quickly charged forwards, his hands ignited in a holy blaze. Driving the fist into the stomach of the armor, or what would've been the stomach had there been a person within, he used the momentum to launch the headless knight into a nearby wall, shattering the metal and making sure that the monster wouldn't be getting up again. The red-headed Demon Hunter nimbly ducked under another attack, this time executed by a zombie, and dealt several powerful blows to the monster's gut, causing it to throw up… its lungs? Ew.
They were fighting in what seemed to be ruins of some sort of castle, noted Adell. It had been only three months since this Netherworld had been created, according to Rozalin, and only half-a-day since he had arrived; which meant that said castle must've been raised and destroyed within the space of ninety days. An Overlord contender was sure to have gone down with the castle, especially considering the excessive damages to some of the debris that he had seen while fighting.
Quickly, he dispatched two zombies by engulfing them in flames, before shattering their burning bodies with well-placed kicks to the weak points of the body, which left only one headless knight, one zombie, and two spirits.
He looked at the spirit impaled on his arm morbidly.
Make that one spirit.
Dodging the ice spell, he flipped over what seemed to be the remains of a wall. The headless knight that tried to follow him found a burning leg placed within its gut, and exploded into burning pieces of metal as the force of the kick hit a structurally weak point in its armor. The zombie that had been following behind it found its body impaled with said burning pieces of metal, and quickly hit the ground rolling in agony. Adell ended its misery with a well-placed soccer kick, decapitating the zombie and striking the last spirit with the head in the same smooth move.
Without giving the spirit time to get out of its daze, Adell quickly closed the distance and dealt a piercing blow to the spirit's chest, impaling it upon his arm. The creature made a strangled noise, before slumping over and bursting into flames.
Adell sighed. It was finished.
Still, that didn't really satisfy his urge for battle. The enemies had been too easy… Not quite at the same level as the Overlords and Demon Lords he had fought before. He needed something of a higher class, more intelligent. Monsters were all and fine, but they fought like monsters, brash and unthinking; not at all like humanoid enemies.
Well, before he went out searching for battle, there was something he needed to do. From his pack, he retrieved a red cell-phone with flame decals at the side. The design was something that Tink had come up with, and although tacky he kind of liked it. He dialed in a number, and surveyed the area with a critical eye.
"Hello?" came a voice from the other end.
"Rozalin, I've arrived."
"Adell? You were supposed to call me as soon as you arrived, not half-a-day after!"
"What? But you were the one who said to call you once I've found a place with a good foundation!"
"Call me twice, you idiot! Did you turn off your phone? I've been trying to reach you for hours!"
"Well, I'm sorry, princess," said Adell. "But I've been involved in a fight for my life, you know. I think making phone calls is secondary to fending off ice spells aimed at my head."
"Anyways, I've found a good place," said Adell, deciding to ignore the earlier parts of their conversation. It was something they were used to, it was their thing. Argue for half a day and then completely forget about it later. It was one of the things that hadn't changed since he had met her. "I don't know if it's what you're looking for, but… Well, it looks solid enough to build on."
"Send me a picture, I'll decide."
"Do you not know how to use a cell-phone?" asked Rozalin, exasperated. "Look, just put take the cell-phone, and point the other end at the location. Press the camera button, it's the one that looks like a little camera, and when the picture shows up on your screen select 'send', then select my name from the list of contacts. It's not that hard, Adell."
"Sorry, princess, not all of us are as technology-savvy as you…"
"What century do you live in, Adell?" cried Rozalin. "It's a cell-phone, for Baal's sake! It's not a supercomputer; all you have to do is press a few buttons and there's even an instruction manual! I'm supposed to be the sheltered one! Battle maniac!"
"Whatever! I'm sending the picture now."
"Wait, give me a second," said Rozalin. "Yes, I've got it on my end. This looks like a ruined castle of some sort. It seems like the fighting's going pretty fast over on your side."
"Tell me about it," said Adell. "As soon as I set out I get into a fight, and it's with weaklings too. Just my luck."
"Well, the foundation seems good. It doesn't seem too ruined… I could see electricity and water pipes there, and they don't seem that badly ruined. It'll take a bit of fixing, but it's better than building from scratch," noted Rozalin. "Good, just settle down there for a bit. I'll send a Prinny work crew over as soon as I can get Taro to gather a few up."
"Still using the ones that Etna lent you, huh?"
"Oh, shush. She never said she wanted them back, and they're so useful. Twenty hour work days, meals consisting of only lettuce and porridge, seven days a week and no holidays for the entire year. It's like a supply of penguin slaves! Well, except you have to pay them. Two Hell a day."
Humans that had committed serious crimes during their lifetime were turned into Prinnies upon death and sent to Netherworlds and Celestia to work off their hours. He had long ago resolved to live a sin-less life after being exposed to the conditions that Prinnies had to go through to gain redemption and the possibility of transmigration.
Long ago being the moment he met THAT Beauty Queen.
"Shut up, you idiots! None of you can do something this horrible, but I can!" cried Uzumaki Naruto out at the large group of ninja yelling angrily at him from underneath. "But I can! I'm incredible!"
From below, the Sandaime Hokage stared up at the orange-clad boy dangling from the top of the Hokage monument with a length of wire, smoking his pipe. Although as harmless as his usual jokes, this time Naruto had managed to offend quite a few people by defacing the mountain depicting their rulers. As a Hokage himself he wasn't really bothered, but too many people looked up to him as a hero of the village to simply let something like this slide.
"Geez… What has that idiot done?" pondered Sarutobi to himself.
"Hokage-sama, I apologize for this," said a nearby Chuunin.
The Sandaime turned to face him. His baby face was marred by a scar that ran horizontally from one cheek to the other, crossing over his nose. It was Umino Iruka, one of the teachers at the Academy.
Said Chuunin walked to the edge of the platform they were standing on, raising one leg over the railing. He took in a deep breath, before letting it all out in one fierce shout that resembled more the cry of a lion rather than the scream of a man.
"WHAT THE HELL ARE YOU DOING DURING CLASS TIME?! GET DOWN HERE, YOU MORON!"
"Yikes, it's Iruka-sensei!"
Adell watched as the Prinnies worked. Virtual slaves they may have been, they worked fast and well. Their flippers worked with incredible dexterity, and their peg legs gave them surprising balance. Each of them carried out the work of three men, and at a third of the speed. The red-haired Demon Hunter was sure that if Prinnies were ever introduced to the human world in large quantities, most of the skilled labour sector would be put out of business faster than you could say 'Pringer X'.
It had taken only half a day for the first floor of the base they were building to take shape, and he was willing to give them about a month before the entire thing was done, furniture included, at the pace they were working at. From his position on a nearby tree, he snacked on a meal of rice balls, enjoying the evening breeze.
"Hmm, Taro!" noted Adell from his position up high.
The boy, who had grown slightly since two years ago, waved at him from below, carrying a big piece of lumber. Although the horns he had been born with were gone now, he still wore that silly cow print shirt all the time. However, although his powers as a demon had disappeared, his physical constitution remained the same. Being born a demon had given him strength that no natural human possessed, and even having been turned back into a human most of that strength remained. For five years now, since Taro was six, he had been the uncontested champion of arm wrestling in Holt, although it was probably only because Adell himself never participated.
"Big brother! Princess sent along a Dimension Guide and a Dark Secretary!" cried Taro from down below. "They've been sitting down over there waiting for your orders. Where should I tell them to go?"
"Already?" pondered Adell outloud. "She works pretty fast. Let them stay wherever's comfortable. Did Rozalin say anything about a Dark Hospital worker or Rosenqueen branch stores?"
"Um," muttered Taro. "Dark Hospitals need space, and stores too, right? I think we'll get them when we finish the second floor of the castle, probably."
"Good enough," said Adell to himself. "I just need to make sure that I don't get wounded or use up too much of my Mana. Just to make sure though, we do have a good supply of healing items, right?"
"More Rooster Bloods than you could shake a stick at, Adell!"
"Ugh," blanched Adell. "Gross."
"Speak for yourself, Adell. It tastes great."
"Oh, you're growing a backbone now, aren't you?" grinned Adell, dropping from his position high up in the tree. Before Taro could even react to the sudden movement, the red-headed Demon Hunter had his little brother in a noogie powerful enough to crush oranges. "Say it! Rooster Blood tastes nasty!"
"Alright, alright! Rooster Blood tastes nasty, now let me go!"
The two brothers separated, Adell grinning at his little practical joke and Taro simply rubbing the spot on his head that said joke had probably burnt a little hair off of. When Adell gave you a noogie, it wasn't like a normal noogie. When the recipient said that it felt like it was burning, it probably was.
"You're so mean, Adell… Princess is way nicer."
"Yeah, yeah, sure," nodded Adell. "She totally brainwashed you, we both know it. Rudimentary education for when they become my servants, my butt. Propaganda's probably her most powerful weapon."
"Don't let her hear that, Adell. She'll kick your butt."
That was probably true, reflected the red-haired Demon Hunter. It had been sort of a sore point for him that she was so much stronger than he was now, although they both knew she kept that power under control because she didn't like flaunting it. Although perhaps a little petty, he had always prided himself on being the strongest one in Holt Village. Still, it wasn't something that he would let get the better of himself. Rozalin was a close friend – perhaps she meant even a bit more to him – and he wouldn't let his selfish feelings get between them.
No, instead he'd train his heart out until he became the strongest in Holt again. That's just his style. No cheap tricks of any kind, no selling his soul out to the devil to gain power. He'd play it fair, or his name wasn't Adell.
Although he really couldn't afford to get himself injured now, what with the Dark Hospital not in order. Until the place opened up, he'd have to take it easy. Then he'd be able to duke it out with the nearby demons all he wanted. Speaking of which…
"Oh yeah, Taro," noted Adell. "Is the Dark Assembly open for business?"
"Not yet," shook the boy's head. "The Dark Secretary said she'll need some time to fill out all the papers to legally gain entrance into the Dark Assembly from here. Why, Adell?"
"Well, I was thinking," said the red-headed Demon Hunter, surveying the construction. The Prinnies were taking a little break now, some of them even opening up little blue lunchboxes with lettuce and porridge inside. If Etna or even Rozalin were here, he was sure they wouldn't have had the guts. All of the Prinnes knew that Adell was less of a hardass than the girls, though, and so they took advantage of that. Not that the Demon Hunter had a problem with it, he felt that they deserved the break. "It'd be a good idea to get a couple vassals and train them up a bit. If I go out demon-hunting, this place is going to be completely defenceless. Well, except for the Prinnies, but these guys aren't as strong as Etna's personal Prinny Squad. They wouldn't last five seconds against a serious assault from even a Demon Lord."
"Hmm, that's a good idea," said Taro. "You should probably stay here until you train up a couple vassals strong enough to guard the house while you go out, then."
"Ugh, add another problem to the list," groaned Adell as he rubbed his forehead. He just wanted to go out and bust some heads; was that all so wrong? What he had done to make the Seraphs want to give him one obstacle after another? "Say, how long are you going to be staying, Taro?"
The pre-teen boy cocked his head.
"About three days, give or take," said Taro. "Princess said I should stay until the Prinnies get the rhythm of construction down, whatever that means. She says I should report back to her after three days, and then she'll tell me whether to stay or go."
"I see," said Adell. "Well, I'm not going to hold you up any longer. Go ahead with whatever you were doing before."
"Alright. See ya, Adell!"
The red-headed Demon Hunter watched his little brother run off with the lumber on his shoulder, before shaking his head and climbing up the tree once more. Making himself comfortable, he made sure to keep at least one eye on the construction site at all times. Lord knew that such a racket was going to attract any nearby demons, and it'd be up to him to stop them before too much damage occurred.
It was evening, and the moon was starting to come up.
Luckily, he was used to sleepless nights.
"Why were you doing that to the monument?" asked Iruka from his position on the stool. In front of him was a steaming bowl of ramen that he had been halfway through eating. "Don't you know who the Hokage are?"
They were at a ramen stand, specifically Ichiraku's. This place was known for good food, and was one of the few restaurants that not only actually let Naruto eat there but also liked him. The boss was a kind man, and his only daughter had long since taken a shine to the whiskered boy. It was as close to a haven as Naruto had.
Naruto looked up from his slurping.
"Of course! Basically, those who receive the Hokage name are the strongest ninja in the village, right? And among them is the Yondaime, who saved the village from the Kyuubi, right?"
"Then why?" asked Iruka, confused. It had been a bit of a surprise to him that Naruto even knew about the demon fox, considering that they had never really talked about it in the Academy, and the few times they had Naruto wasn't there. It seemed that the boy was more serious about becoming a Hokage than he was about his classes, at least.
"Because one day I'm going to get the Hokage name…" said Naruto, slurping down the rest of the broth. Once he was finished, he pointed his chopsticks at Iruka in the most dramatic fashion he could muster. "…and then I'm going to surpass all the previous Hokage! And then, and then! I'll make the village realize my strength!"
Iruka slurped his noodle surprised by the exclamation. Although he knew Naruto pretty well as a teacher, he had never been so aware that the boy's boasting wasn't just boasting. It was a dream, something he strived towards. It was good… Having a goal was good for shinobi, as it caused them to try and improve. Having such an unrealistic goal, however…
"By the way, sensei. I have a request."
"What, you want seconds?" asked Iruka. It wouldn't be surprising to him if he did, considering Naruto's appetite for ramen was rather well-known throughout all of Konoha. He was pretty much Teuchi's star customer.
"No, can I borrow your hitae-ate?"
"Oh, this? Haha, so that's why you removed your goggles," said Iruka with a smile. "Sorry, but this is something for after you graduate. This is a symbol that you've come of age… You know, maybe you'll get one tomorrow after you pass the test."
"Haha, don't be like that—"
The pair, teacher and student, consumed their ramen quickly, and soon went their separate ways after Iruka footed the bill. Naruto bounced across the rooftops, searching out his home. Although he talked big about becoming a Hokage, in order to do that he first had to become a ninja, and that meant passing the Genin exam tomorrow. Still, there should be no problems, as long as the jutsu selected for the final part wasn't Bunshin.
The hitae-ate... He could feel it already!
Okay, he was used to sleepless nights, but this was just ridiculous. Since construction had begun, there had been two attacks by roaming squadrons of demons that had just happened to be passing by. They weren't strong enough to be problems, perhaps twice the level of the Prinnies, so they, Taro and he, had taken them out with deadly efficiency. The problem lay within the fact that Taro would be going soon, and even if he devoted his time to defending the new base twenty-four seven it wouldn't be enough.
Adell resolved to himself to get himself a couple new vassals at the Dark Assembly as fast as possible, once the Dark Secretary had filled out the forms. Then, once he trained them to a high enough level, they'd be in business.
"Taro, give me a hand!" cried Adell as he ducked under the swipe of a golem's electromagnetic sword, bending his knees to the extent that his head almost hit the ground.
Taro charged at the monster from behind, pounding at the monster from the back. With his immense strength, even the childish attack was enough to mess up the demon's balance, allowing Adell to drive a burning fist through its armoured carapace. The demon slumped, and burst into flames as all of the other foes he fought did.
Both brothers slowed down to survey their work. All around them were the bodies of demons, about ten of them. Mostly headless knights, zombies, spirits, with the odd golem around. Judging by the species, this group was at least affiliated somehow with the previous groups he had been beating down. Finding a less-burnt body, he flipped it over, only to be confronted with the same seal on the chest.
"Hey, Taro. Do you know of any demons with this kind of seal?"
The boy with the cow print shirt looked at the seal closely. It was a two-coloured seal, violet and red, that hinted at the identity of the lord of these demons being a Demon Lord, at least.
"I don't think so," said Taro. "But Hanako might know, if she was here."
Adell scowled. Hanako had left home almost immediately after the fight with the fake Zenon, following Etna to her dimension and becoming the vassal of that brat Overlord. Although human, she seemed determined to try and become a Demon Lord at least, which made absolutely no sense to Adell. What kind of normal person wanted to try and turn themselves into a demon anyway?
But... it was the truth that she was getting to learn a lot about the Netherworld from Etna, that cutesy fallen angel who kept spouting about love and justice, and that bratty Overlord. Perhaps it wasn't such a bad thing for a girl with such high ambitions anyway; Lord knew you could do much worse than having a Demon Lord for a little sister. Like a Dark Senator.
Adell shuddered, he hated politicians. His bribes were never enough for them.
"Hmm... Well, it looks like we have a Demon Lord set up nearby, and chances are he knows we're out here too now," said Adell as he observed his surroundings. The Prinnies were hard at work as usual, even during the middle of the night. When Rozalin said twenty hour work days, she really meant it. "We've been attacked twice already, and he should be getting pretty suspicious when none of his patrols are getting back to him. We should be on guard, just in case. I'm going to need your help, Taro."
"You can count on me, Adell!" saluted Taro with a small smile on his face. Adell fought back the pride that was threatening to show on his face. Brainwashing though she did, Rozalin had been a great influence on Taro. The shy boy now had a little more confidence in himself and was more energetic than he used to be. His strength, if what Adell had seen from their previous fights was true, had definitely increased. Probably as a result of all that milk he drank.
"Good. Speaking of which, did the Dark Secretary mention an actual time? When she'd be done with the papers, I mean."
"She's already filled them out and submitted them, big brother. Now we're just waiting for the reply from the Dark Assembly to finalize the process. Once we do that, we can start going to the Dark Assembly."
"Alright, any idea how long that'll take?"
"Umm, Princess always said that the Dark Senators work really slowly, and something about buraue... beurou... bure... official red tape and stuff. She says it's usually half-a-day in the best case, and you could wait up to a week in the worst case."
There was something to be said for waking up early, Naruto decided. Too bad it was completely overshadowed by the fact that waking up so early left him tired, cranky, and completely unresponsive when it came to roll call. Well, that didn't matter anyway. After today, he'd be a real ninja! No more crappy Academy assignments for him anymore... No way!
Iruka, who was standing in front of the student desks, began speaking up.
"Now, for the graduation exam, you will be doing the Bunshin no Jutsu," explained the Chuunin instructor. "When you are called, come to the next room."
Shit, that was just great. Bunshin, his worst skill and everybody knew it. With the way it was going, there was like an eighty percent chance of him failing. The orange-clad boy swore to himself. But that didn't matter, not in front of a future Hokage like yours truly. He'd ace that exam, Bunshin or no, otherwise his name wasn't Uzumaki Naruto!
He'd do it!
"Bunshin no Jutsu!"
The Dark Assembly, when you didn't know what to expect, was honestly a pretty terrifying experience, Adell realized. Luckily, however, he was experienced in such matters, being force-fed information about the place by his more politically-minded friends – read, Rozalin and Tink – who wanted to fill his brain with more than thoughts of fighting. How many times did he have to tell them; it wasn't like he was stupid or anything, he just preferred fair fights above anything else! That was just his style! He had even been made Dark Senator for a short time, although that was an experience he'd rather forget.
This time, however, he was standing in front of the Dark Assembly as somebody making a request. Staring out into the crowd, he recognized several demons that had been rather friendly with him during his short tenure as one of their members, as well as one or two that he had somehow inadvertently managed to anger. Oh well, that didn't really matter. Worst case came to worst, he could beat the hell out of them.
"The Dark Assembly will hear the request of Adell, Demon Hunter."
Oh, smooth move. They had to go and do that, didn't they? Maybe for the sake of playing political games in the Dark Assembly, he should change his title to Demon Lover or Hugger or something, although that would probably creep out the majority of the Dark Senators. He had learnt by now that most demons acted allergic to words like love and peace.
"I'm here today to submit a request for vassals," announced Adell, enunciating clearly. It was a good thing that his usual outfit had a tie; it made him more refined-looking, and appearance was important in the Dark Assembly. "Currently, I'm in the middle of an expansion. I intend to take over the new Netherworld as its Overlord, but for that I need able soldiers and fighters. Rest assured, once I reach the top, I will forge closer ties with the Dark—"
"There is absolutely no way that this Dark Assembly could approve a request like that from a self-proclaimed 'Demon Hunter' such as yourself!" interrupted a gargoyle sitting towards the right from the direction Adell was looking at. The red-headed Demon Hunter groaned. It was Senator Ross, the gargoyle. He was the one who hated him with a passion. "Think on it, my fellow Senators! If we provide weaponry to one with such obvious ill intent, do you think he will hesitate to turn those weapons upon ourselves?!"
Those were some good points, Adell had to admit.
"I object!" cried a voice from another part of the room. It was Senator Magdalena, a succubus. She had always been fond of him during his days as a Dark Senator, and although she often came on a bit strong he was glad to have her as one of his supporters. "Adell has been nothing but helpful to the Dark Senate, and has even worked as a Senator when we had that imbalance a year and a half ago. He has demonstrated obvious loyalty, and although he proclaims to be a Demon Hunter he has never assaulted anything of a higher rank than a Netherworld Noble! Adell the Demon Hunter is a valued member of the Dark Assembly, and his request should be granted!"
"I agree with Senator Magdalena," growled a low rumbling voice from another part of the room. It was the holy dragon, Senator Goodman. Although rare for a holy dragon to vote 'aye' in a Dark Assembly at all, Adell had managed to get a few of them on his side. "Adell, during his dealings with the Dark Assembly, has never been less than noble and fair, something sorely lacking here and in politics in general. We, the holy dragons as a whole, will definitely vote 'aye' in case it comes to a poll."
The room burst into a cacophony of noise as Senators screamed at each other from across their seats. The entire Dark Assembly had turned into a madhouse, with demons flinging curses and insults at others. Adell rubbed his head; this was practically routine for the courtroom. Demons couldn't agree on anything after all, and usually in the end it always came down to a –
"Enough, it seems that there is a difference in opinion here," said Senator Ross. "Although I am loathe to admit it, there seems to be quite a similar number of both supporters and detractors. Let us settle this in a vote!
There it was.
Within seconds, the entire room quieted, and the Dark Secretaries that lined up alongside the outer edges of the courtroom had their tallies ready. There were two Secretaries for each row, and they would be charged with making sure that the votes of the Senators they were in charge of were correct.
The Head Secretary, a red mage, appeared beside Adell.
"The vote shall commence!"
Voices rang throughout the courtroom as the voting process began. Demons slammed their hands on the tables, and jumped and yelled. 'Aye's and 'Nay's came flying from every direction as the Dark Secretaries hurriedly jotted down all the votes that came.
Adell crossed his arms. His part was pretty much over.
"So, what you're saying is that all I can get is a Good-For-Nothing?" aksed Adell, crossing his arms. The Dark Assembly was over now, and all of the Senators had gotten out of the courtroom. He had won by the tiniest of margins, by the space of about two votes. With a margin that small, he wasn't really expecting to get anything good, but... "I expected at least two Good-For-Nothings. Isn't that the standard procedure when it comes to acquiring vassals?"
The Head Secretary nodded.
The Dark Assembly ran a screening process during which they determined the potential of a demon, from Genius to Distinguished all the way down to Good-For-Nothing. It was a universal scale, one that all demons, humans, and even angels were subject to. Although Good-For-Nothings were generally known to be very weak, it was a challenge for many a mentor to try and raise a Good-For-Nothing to be the very best they could be.
"It is, generally, but this Netherworld is a special case," said the Head Secretary. "Due to its recent creation... There haven't been a lot of demons created yet, you see."
"Created?" asked Adell, puzzled.
"You don't know? When a Netherworld is created, where do you think the first demons come from?" asked the Head Secretary. "They aren't born, you see. Instead, they are created out of free-floating Mana and shaped by any nearby demonic influence."
"I see," said Adell. "Whatever. Just give him to me."
He really couldn't afford to be picky, after all.
"Very well," smiled the Head Secretary. Dark energy started gathering around her hands, as she prepared to cast the spell that would locate a demon that fulfilled all the necessary requirements. "One Good-For-Nothing, coming right up."
The sun was shining, the birds were chirping. It was three in the afternoon, and school was over. The last school day of the year for the Academy students. Well, except for the graduates. They still had to come the next day to get their team assignments, but otherwise they were all done. No homework to do, no more tests to worry about. For the graduates, they would be moving onto much bigger and better things; fighting as ninja for the good of the village.
Well, that was only for the graduates, though.
He had failed.
Uzumaki Naruto had failed.
Sitting in the shade, on those abandoned swings, he watched as those who had passed met with their parents and received praise. The way their faces brightened up only served to deepen his depression. It wasn't fair... Dammit. But there was no bemoaning fate. What had happened had happened, and there was nothing else for it.
He Uzumaki Naruto, was a failure.
"Great job! That's my son!"
"I'm so proud of you, I'm going to make your favourite dinner!"
The voices of praise reached his ears, and he could feel himself slipping deeper. Although he had always been good at fighting depression before, this time it was different. The combined weight of the test, and the hateful glares that the parents drove at him drove him to the edge.
He, Uzumaki Naruto, was a good-for-nothing.
As soon as that thought hit him, he felt it. Energy was gathering around him, winds from every direction. The leaves and twigs on the ground flew into the air as some unseen force moved towards him, and he stumbled off the swings in shock. Before he had another chance to react, before any of the parents and Academy graduates that had been staring at him could do anything, he disappeared in a flash of purple light.
For the first time in several hundred years, Kyuubi, still trapped within his cage, wondered about the form that he had filled out for the Dark Assembly all those years ago stating his wish to become a vassal. As soon as that thought came to him, he banished it just as quickly. What was the point of dwelling on old memories?
It was like he had been chopped up into pieces, put through a grinder, and then through a blender, Naruto decided as he rubbed his forehead. There was a dull thud of pain in the back of his head, but it was overshadowed completely by the humongous migraine that he was currently suffering from. He opened his eyes, only to be blinded by the glare of lights above.
Voices from around him could be heard, although he couldn't really make out the words that they were saying. There was the voice of a young man, as well as what seemed like the voice of a younger boy, around his age. And there were other voices as well... strange ones. They kept going 'dood'...
"...I don't get it, did the Dark Assembly screw up?..."
"...Look, his ears are round, dood..."
He could feel the migraine fade until it was nothing more than a dull ache in the back of his brain, and Naruto opened his eyes once more, this time blinking several times to get used to the bright light. Sitting up, he realized he was sitting on a bed in what seemed to be a half-finished hospital room. A red-haired man noticed his awakening, and got up from where he was sitting to greet him.
"Hey there," said the man with a friendly smile on his face. The first thing Naruto noticed other than his bright hair were the marks on his cheeks – they seemed to be scars – and his attire. It wasn't like anything he had ever seen in Konoha before. This guy must've been a foreigner then. "The name's Adell. You were knocked out when you arrived, must not be used to being warped by Dimension Guides, huh. You submitted a request to be a vassal, right?"
Vassale…? What the hell was that? Naruto struggled to get up before finally doing so, staring at the red-headed man in a sort of half-hidden curiosity.
"No, no. Adell," grinned the red-headed man. "Since I introduced myself, it's only right that you do the same, don't you think?"
"Adell…" repeated Naruto, rolling the name off his tongue. It definitely wasn't a normal name; the guy was definitely a foreigner. Oh well, that didn't really matter. He still hadn't really shaken off his depression, so his demeanour was less cheerful than normal. "I'm Uzumaki Naruto."
"Uzumaki, huh? Nice to meet you."
"Um, no. My given name's Naruto," said Naruto. He had realized pretty quickly the source of the strange feeling that Adell gave him; he was the first stranger that he had ever met who was older than him yet didn't treat him like dirt. He had resigned himself to being despised and ignored all his life, it was the reason he wanted to become Hokage after all – to change that, so this was a bit of a pleasant surprise for him. It probably had something to do with him being a foreigner. "Nice to meet you too. Where am I?"
Adell rubbed his head.
"Well, this is the Netherworld. Or Hell. Whatever you want to call it."
Naruto's eyes widened.
"Wait, so I'm dead?!"
"What? No, no, no! Whatever gave you that idea?" asked Adell, suddenly nonplussed. He put a large hand on the boy's shoulder. "Jeez, and here I thought I was the one with misconceptions about the demon world. Don't worry about it, kid, you're alive! How do you not even know about the Netherworld? Are you a demon at all?"
"What are you talking about?" asked Naruto, he was starting to go into hysterics. Here he was, in a place he knew nothing about with a person he knew nothing about and the guy was calling him a demon. There was something seriously strange going on around these parts, and he wasn't sure if he wanted to be a part of it. Maybe it was a revenge prank from the villagers or something, he didn't know. "A demon? Is that what you think I am? How did I get here?!"
Adell scratched his neck. Well, it seemed that the Dark Assembly made a mix-up somewhere, but there was nothing for it. It was already too late... If the kid was here, it was because paperwork had been filed in his name.
"Look, don't worry about it, alright? I'll try to explain things as best I could," said Adell. "Let's start over. My name's Adell, and I'm a Demon Hunter. I'm here in this Netherworld to fight for the title of Overlord, which is kind of like the king of demons."
"This is my little brother Taro, and these guys are Prinnies. Basically, they're the soul of human sinners working off their hours with community work and slave labour. Just remember not to throw them, or you'll probably get blown up."
"Oh yeah, something went wrong with the Dark Assembly, so now you're stuck as my vassal," said Adell, sheepishly. "Basically, you're like my servant. Sorry about that, but the bond between a mentor and an apprentice is basically unbreakable. You're going to have to stay here to help me out with becoming an Overlord and everything. You can fight, can't you?"