January 26, 2009
Revised: November 4, 2009
Proofread by Tally Mai-chan 
Revised again: January 6, 2011
By RahXephon 
Expanded Summary: Naruto ended up an entirely different world after a battle against Akatsuki. Losing both Kyuubi and his chakra along the way, he is forced to adapt to life in a small village and take a new occupation. When crisis strikes, Naruto and his new friends must flee as enemies want to use Naruto's unique ability to create an army of supernatural warriors and use them to rule all of Tirradon. Along their long and arduous journey, they encounter many wonders, encounter new enemies and make new friends. As Naruto explores the wider parts of the world, he will slowly gain new powers and abilities, while finding out more about the most well kept secrets and change all of Tirradon with him. Naruto/FemOC, AU, OCs.
Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, its characters, and its universe, or work for their copyright holders. I do own the original world and its characters portrayed in this work of fiction, which includes the continent of Tirradon (copyright 2009). This work of fanfiction is NOT a crossover with any established fandom or universe. No commercial income is earned from this story by the author.
READ THIS FIRST: THIS IS NOT A CROSSOVER. EVERYTHING EXCEPT NARUTO HIMSELF IS ORIGINAL CONTENT.
—Our song weaves the future of present times past.
Another body washed against the shore. There was nothing remarkable in that. The currents around the Indus Cape were turbulent enough to merit a mention in the naval chart. Still, there was no end to overconfident crew.
As Elder Mynnis clutched his walking staff tighter and began the slow descent from the cliffs to the shore, his thoughts drifted back to his career in the navy. He was just a young lad back then, far too young to earn the title of Elder. Hot-blooded and thirsty for glory, he had sailed as a mercenary and quickly earned a name amongst his fellow brothers. A name he had long since buried since his retirement.
'It wasn't until...'
The bent and fragile man clutched his sheepskin cloak tighter around his body. The simple movement distracted him from his memories. It also shielded him from the morning winds. Now that Mynnis was closer to the shore, he could finally resolve more than just a feckless smudge.
'M'eyes 'r getting weaker each winter.. how long before Shiamon exacts his price?'
Though he was long retired from active service, the hardened elder made it his habit to stroll down the cool shores. Treasures always seemed to creep up when the tides were just receding. He wanted to be there in the morning, when the sun's solemn glow would announce yet another day of surprises. All manner of things would wash up to the shore, though Mynnis had to admit most of it was useless flotsam. An intact barrel or crate appeared once in a while, but its contents would often be fouled by the salty water. Still, even rusted iron had its uses, if nothing else but for scrap.
Inevitably, bodies would show up. The Elder had seen plenty of hapless sailors wash up on these shores, none of whom survived the ordeal. The only survivor he had encountered so far was a Brond Praetorian, and his unconscious body wasn't a pleasant sight to anyone other than a Guardian. Relations between the Octos and the Brond were always testy, and Mynnis didn't want to risk incurring the wrath of one of the notorious Praetorians.
So he had done what any other Octos citizen would had done. He'd gone scampering back to Oimos as fast as his feeble legs could carry him and barged into the village leader's office. When Royos realized Mynnis wasn't lying, the leader immediately grasped the ruby medallion around his neck and spoke aloud. As soon as he had spoken his words, Royos' hand unclenched, revealing broken fragments of the ruby. The magical device had done its purpose in allowing the regional capital to be informed. The two old men calmly waited in a testy silence while the Guardians took their time to fly to the village and retrieve the Praetorian. Mynnis hadn't heard a word about the foreigner since.
Determined not to be surprised this time, the first thing Elder Mynnis did was look at the body's wrists. 'No bracersl'. Mynnis sighed in relief. Though the unconscious boy might still be a Brond, it was unlikely the stranger would pose a threat to the village. Reassured, Mynnis poked the body with his staff once, then twice, but didn't observe a reaction. 'A corpse, then.' He turned the surprisingly heavy body around and came across a battered sight.
The teenage boy – for he could scarcely see any signs of a stubble – was a bloody mess. The boy had definitely been in a fight, though Mynnis couldn't imagine any kind of opponent capable of inflicting such terrible wounds. There were massive bruises all over his strange body, and his foreign orange clothes was practically ripped to pieces. The myriad of scratch marks and bloody wounds were gruesome. Any doubt to whether this pour soul was dead disappeared. The poisonous seawater must have already seeped in his body and claimed his spirit as its own. Few were granted mercy from the heartless God of the Seas. Morokos was all to ready to embrace another life.
It was a complete surprise then that the body Mynnis had thought dead was coughing up water!
"Hch hhchc ahchh!"
The Elder didn't blink a single time and lowered himself. The boy's head – whose forehead was covered by a strange band of engraved metal – was shaking frantically as seawater sprayed out. The Elder's weak and wrinkled hands quickly came up to the boy's scarred chest before pushing down hard. A whole thrust of water escaped the boy's mouth. The coughs were weaker and the boy breathed more easily now. Mynnis was stunned. Nobody escaped the clutches of Morokos, especially when one was so heavily afflicted. Either the boy was dumped somewhere close to the shore, or…
Mynnis' thoughts didn't stray any further. All he could think of was to drag the unconscious body further up the shore and get some help. He couldn't have known the legend he had uncovered from the shore.
The Songs of the Fox
Scroll of the First Wind
Oimos by the Karamat Sea
Naruto remembered little. Images flashed by of a battle of some sorts against Akatsuki. There was an ambush involved, but he didn't remember much of the details. Kakashi was with him, that he still remembered. Faced against such overwhelming odds, they made a fighting retreat while hoping reinforcements would come in time. Explosions and earth flung everywhere and about as they made their run. The further the battle went on, the more the details blurred. The recollections went from chaotic to patchy, with huge holes between each event. The last memory dealt with his jounin sensei's Sharingan.
A hole of purest inky black appeared for the tiniest of moments in front of Naruto. Kakashi's narrow focus didn't spot Naruto storming against the Akatsuki until it was far too late. Something important happened at that moment when his Rasengan collided with the growing void. An explosion of colors burst from the center as his chakra disintegrated. Screams, both Naruto's own and a far more ominous one erupted as he hurled straight through a tunnel of blackness and stars. As he fell forwards towards an invisible destination, the blue and red chakra around him battled for dominance. For just a split second, the two warring sides suddenly mixed and turned purple before they separated in a violent explosion.
The boy in the rough-shed bed struggled with his half-dreamy state. Small groans escaped his lips as he tried to straighten out his thoughts. The throbs of pain did everything to prevent his efforts. Eventually, he gathered enough of his wits to notice that he was naked. Nothing except bandages and a thin linen blanket covered him from the world.
He fell in and out of sleep for a period. At some times when he woke, his lips would brush against a clay cup full of a lukewarm and nasty-tasting liquid. As much as his throat recoiled, he knew that he was being nursed back to health. So he cooperated. If anyone wanted him dead he would have been long ago.
His whole head was bandaged off so he couldn't see who was tending him. Naruto still had his ears though, and it quickly became evident from the background noise that he was in a cottage. He knew it wasn't an apartment or a large mansion from the way the winds crept through the cracks of the walls. Another thing he noticed was that there were two people around most of the time. One was probably an old man, whose voice vaguely reminded Naruto of the Third Hokage. The woman was probably the spouse of the old man. Both spoke to him gently but reserved, as if they were unsure of his intentions. The boy had no idea what they were talking about because he didn't recognize their alien language.
Soon, thoughts of his current predicament began to dominate his thoughts in an ever-increasing intensity. He could tell that he was not in the Land of Fire anymore. The Hidden Leaf Village must be far from wherever he ended up. The crash of water told him that he was near a sea or an ocean, but there was no way he was in the Land of Waves. The air just smelled too differently. It wasn't as moist or sweet as the slightly tropical environment of his native lands. There was only one conclusion left.
He wasn't in the Elemental Countries anymore.
Desires of returning home burned strong in him. He had friends he needed to return to and a village he needed to protect. As soon as he was awake, he would gather up a wallop of chakra, try the Rasengan/Sharingan-thingie and do whatever was necessary to drag himself back to Konoha. Determined, Naruto focused inward and tried to call up the bastard Fox to heal him faster.
It was then that he found out that the familiar presence in his stomach was missing. It was as if a burning fire had left his body, leaving a gaping cold behind.
"K-Kyuubi? Where are you?"
He could hear the soft footsteps of the old woman coming to his side, probably surprised that he was conscious enough to speak.
Naruto tried to focus his chakra to feel about his own body and find out where the damned fox was. Nothing. Any trace of demonic chakra was gone. Even worse, his chakra organs were scarred and horribly out of balance. He tried hard to get a grip on whatever was left of his chakra, only to feel the elusive energy slipping away from his attempts to tame it. The Number One Most Surprising Ninja received the most unpleasant surprise of all: He wasn't a ninja anymore.
Naruto screamed at that moment. He screamed so hard, his throat practically burned out. He felt nothing more than agony, fear and despair. Everything that made him Naruto was gone, leaving behind a worthless deadbeat ex-ninja.
Tears began to lead from his closed eyes, which stained the bandages wrapped around his head. The old woman sitting besides his bed invited the despairing young man in her embrace. The boy was wild and distraught, but she never flinched from him, having experienced much more hysterical people in her time as a medic's assistant. Minutes passed on while the sobs grew quieter. The shock of losing his power began to fade from his mind.
There was nothing left. Naruto barely noticed he was being embraced. Sleep overcame him yet again.
The next time he woke up, he noticed his vision was restored. At first, his eyes could sense nothing but blurry pastels of brown and yellow. Rubbing his eyes hard, Naruto quickly wiped away the muck and was finally able to see clearly. He could see he was in a cot unlike any other he had seen before, even stranger than the poor farming hovels in the Elemental Countries. Thick heavy spars made up the walls and barely kept out the chill. There was a single window with a single pane of malformed glass, which was too blurry to see through clearly. He lay on what could barely be called a bed. It was simply a collection of hay covered by a large sheet of hemp. The rest of the room seemed equally shabby. A few poorly hammered chairs, a small nightstand carrying a very old-fashioned oil lamp and more pieces of primitive devices scattered the room.
Naruto knew for certain now that he was anywhere but home.
Minutes passed by as his empty eyes stared out the window. It was a bit high, only meant to let in some light and keep out intruders. He could only view the temperate skies, drab and grey and so very different Konoha's warmer climate. The distant crash of waves rang clearly in Naruto's ears if he concentrated enough. The water washing on the surf sounded even harsher compared to the gentle lapping of waves under the Great Naruto Bridge. The seas beyond the coast must be vast.
Could Konoha be somewhere beyond the waters? Was it simply a matter of sailing over that huge expanse of water? Or was his home in a different world altogether?
This was too confusing for him.
Some time passed by before the creaky door opened. A gray and wilting woman stepped in, being careful not to trip over the ledge. She wore a simple gray robe, reminding Naruto of a priest, but without the ornaments. Only a single pendant of bronze with a small white jewel adorned her neck. Her shoulder length hair was loose except for a thick braid on the left side of her face. All-in-all, she might not look like anything much, but her smile told him all that was important.
When she finally stepped closer, the woman began to look at her guest. Expecting him to be fully asleep and recovering from his wounds, instead she found him conscious and lucent. Her eyes went wide as she made a quick cry of surprise as she hurried over to check his temperature. The boy under her hissed immediately, but she calmed him with practiced ease.
Naruto found her presence annoying. She reeked of someone who hadn't been in a bath for a week, but he wasn't stupid enough to interrupt her routine. As she finished, they both stared at each other for a moment.
Finally, the woman brought up her gentle voice and began to ask, "May I ask who you are, young man?"
The ninja's eyes widened as he heard the woman speak in a language so utterly different from his. It was yet another proof that he was somewhere else than home.
"I can't understand anything what you're saying old granny."
It was the woman's turn to utter surprise. This blond and blue-eyed looking young man did seem foreign, in a strange way a mix between the powerful barbarians to the North and the islanders to the East. But never could she imagine hearing an unfamiliar tongue. As a medic's assistant, she had traveled far and wide, assisting Life Guardians in their duties as they aided people from across the continent. The boy's words sounded similar to Koronnian, but she knew enough of the language that the blonde-haired boy's speech differed far too much to be the same.
After a few awkward moments, the woman simply pointed her palm at herself and stated, "Mynnissa."
'Could she be telling her name?'Naruto thought, now in much less pain and more awake to think he had understood. They both didn't know each other's languages, so it was best to start from the beginning. He pointed to himself with a bold finger and smiled wide. "Naruto! Uzumaki Naruto!"
The woman smiled at the boy's liveliness, even if she could see that he wasn't quite honest with himself. She was quite confused by his name though. Again, it sounded vaguely Koronnian. "Narto? Son of Uzmaky?"
"Ah, Naruto." Mynissa tested. That was probably his granted name. Uzumaki might be his father's name.
"Mynnis-sa." Naruto shot back, grinning.
He then pointed at himself and said, "Uzumaki Naruto." Making a confused face, he pointed at Mynissa and asked, "Uzumaki?"
It took only a few seconds to comprehend what this Naruto was asking of her. He asked for her father's name. But wasn't it obvious she was old and not of noble blood? Her grey hair and her Elder medallion was enough to show she had grown out of her family. The state was her family now.
Mynissa simply shook her head and firmly replied, "No."
"Nou…?" Naruto tentatively replied. He could tell that the word was a refusal of some sorts. Did she simply have no desire to tell him her name, or did she not have a family name? All this business was very confusing for him.
Mynissa pitied the boy. He must have come from lands further beyond the continent of Tirradon. His hair and eyes seemed Velkish, but his compact body and speech was more Koronnian. Any corner of the world might have such a strange combination of traits. There were the strange lands of Nidor or Ival Concor to the west of Tirradon, and the rumored continent of Nolendar to the furthest reaches of the East. For all she knew the stranger could even come from the mythical paradise to the South beyond the desert of Milar. Mynissa was well aware that even in the fullness of her life, she had only visited a tiny fraction of the known world. The boy could come from anywhere.
She understood that the boy must be having similar thoughts, and she gave her best smile to reassure him. Wherever he came from, he was still just a teenager. Besides, he looked nice with that large smile and bright eyes. She promised herself to take care of him the best she could.
To distract him from his worries, Mynissa began to teach him some words. She pointed at a chair and said "Chair." After a few hesitant replies from Naruto's mouth, she pointed at a lamp and said "Lamp." This continued for a while, and by the time her partner arrived home, Naruto managed to soak up two dozen words.
When Elder Mynnis stepped in the spare room, he expected to meet a dozing boy. Instead, he was met by a grinning blond. The boy pointed rather obnoxiously at him and said, "Chair lamp window bed wall floor ceiling blanket pillow stick fire!"
The man simply blinked before he laughed. He could tell that the boy would bring a lot of energy in their solitary lives.
The first months were difficult and slow for Naruto. Thoughts of going back home pervaded his mind constantly. Not far behind were dreams of getting back his strength. As soon as he was allowed to step outside, he often found a quiet place where he could try to bring out his powers. He tried to create a Kage Bunshin, then a Rasengan. In desperation, he even tried a simple Henge or normal Bunshin. It didn't work. He simply couldn't push out enough chakra to accomplish the simplest of jutsus. Tree-walking or water-walking was out of the question, let alone infusing seals. Summoning didn't work out either. He had no way of knowing whether the contract was still active, and had no way of finding out.
'Was this what Rock Lee had to face every day?'
It took a few weeks for his loss to really sink in. The days of throwing flashy jutsus were gone, perhaps forever.
Getting his inspiration from Bushy Eyebrows, Naruto started to emulate his friend. Naruto's usual taijutsu was reckless and sloppy, as he relied on either clones or his massive stamina. He couldn't afford to take such massive risks now that Kyuubi and his regular chakra were missing. If he focused deep enough, he could sense his chakra coils recovering. They were still large to be sure, but the chakra simply didn't replenish. His coils were like empty jars resting at the bottom of a dried-out waterfall, waiting for a single trickle of chakra to fall in its waiting maws.
The absence of chakra meant that Naruto would have to hone his bare fighting skill. He lost all his kunai and shuriken on his journey, but made do with eating utensils to practice his accuracy. There weren't any partners to practice his taijutsu with, and he didn't want to scare off his caretakers, so he quietly sparred against the shadows.
Even as he familiarized himself with the Octos tongue and built his vocabulary, he couldn't carry a lengthy conversation with his two caretakers yet. Naruto first thought of the two as brother and sister from their similar names, but it turned out their names weren't given to them at birth. The women went in a long and confusing story about retirement of some sorts where they would gain a new identity, but it went straight past him. He knew it was a big deal somehow, since he couldn't quite figure out how the both of them had enough money to live in sparse comfort.
Sure, Mynnis scavenged the beaches at dawn every day and join an occasional hunting trip. Mynissa often helped in the village and foraged for berries and herbs herself. But there was no way they could earn enough to bring in newly tailored clothes for him. The simple linen shirt and pants he wore barely kept out the cold at night, but compared to the rags the other peasants wore, it must have cost a good amount.
The village of Oimos was a basic fishing and farming community. The central portion consisted of roughly a hundred houses of varying shapes and sizes. Besides the village leader's estate, all the other houses were pretty small and simple rickety wooden buildings. Only the temple dedicated to Morokos of the Seas was made out of solid blocks of stone. Close by, there a small pier further down the road towards the shore where fishermen would bring in their daily catch. Around the village, there were many farms in outlying directions, the furthest a half a day away by foot.
Oimos was quite isolated from both land and sea. Rough currents made it dangerous for many traders to pass by. By land, the nearest settlement was three days away on foot, and it took a week on horseback to reach Cape Indus if the weather was good. One day, Naruto received a roughly sketched map from Mynnis. While it was anything but accurate, it gave him a good idea on the shape of the Federation. It conveniently pointed out where Oimos was, and its place in the wider world.
"Gramps, this country… your country? What is name?"
Mynnis smiled warmly and nodded. "We are part of the city-state of Octos Indus, which is part of the Octos Federation. As you can see in the sketch, Indus is the largest and most strategically placed territory. Neighboring to the north is Cassadia, which is famed for their vast wealth and their highly disciplined armies."
Mynnis began to lecture idly about all facets of his country. He pointed out that the Octos Federation consisted of eight relatively diverse city-states. Bordering to the west was a vast mountainous region occupied by unruly tribal savages.
"A few hundred years ago, there were many wars between the Octos states as they vied for dominance. Only occasionally they would forget their rivalries and fight back the Mulads if they threatened to invade. Those times are long past now, and things are peaceful in this age. The Mulads are more preoccupied with the Deloran warlords further to the west. No, we face a far greater threat now. The most present danger to the Federation these days is the Brond Imperium."
The old man pointed to the claw-shaped peninsula to the south. A thick body of water, the Karamat Sea, was all that stood in the way between the rivaling two nations. The Brond Imperium also bordered to the south of Mulad, leaving the possibility of a land invasion as well.
Mynnis went on about Hamd, a lone independent kingdom that bordered the Imperium to the east, which barely held back the Imperium's aggressive advances. He also briefly mentioned the Enclave of Tiros, situated awkwardly in the middle of the Imperium but nonetheless able to defend their borders well with its prodigious numbers of Guardians. He went on about other lands further away. Mediz, Krasson, Sol Mondius, Koron, Dakkran, Velk and Velkon, Mvaradne, Opos, and Helosor. The names went in and out of Naruto's ears. It wasn't hard, since he couldn't understand half of what Mynnis was saying. He couldn't even read the characters on the crudely drawn map. No matter, he supposed, since none of the shapes remotely resembled the Elemental Countries, and it wasn't as if he would visit these far-off lands any time soon.
After the first few months, Mynnis was confident that Naruto was versed well enough in the language and the ways of the village to introduce him to the others. His first trip to Elders Akros and Akrossa further down the isolated part of the village seemed like a new adventure. Akros was a huge man, even if he had lost half his muscles from age by now. Akrossa on the other hand was three heads smaller than her companion, which didn't seem to matter.
It turned out that Mynnis and Akros were old war companions back when they were Guardians. Their old war stories reminded Naruto somewhat of ninjas, but the two fought alongside large armies in coordinated action.
Each Guardian had an affinity towards a particular element. Mynnis used to harness the powers of water, which was one of the most valuable types in Octos, since they guarded the coast alongside the navy. Mynissa's element was Life, although her elemental core was too weak to manifest, denying her from serving as a Guardian. Akros was a powerful Stone Guardian in his day, protecting the border regions against Mulad incursions. Akrossa, a fierce Fire Guardian who fought by Akros' side early on in their careers.
After the end of their active duty, Akros accompanied Mynnis when the latter wanted to settle in his native village. Though they somehow lost all their powers in some weird ritual Naruto didn't understand, it was evident that they weren't called Elders for nothing. Each of the so-called 'Exformed' carefully showed their pendants to him, pointing out that the jewel in the middle corresponded to their element.
Seeing as everyone but him had revealed their element, Naruto grinned and stated, "I'm Wind element!"
At that, the four raised their eyebrows in surprise. After all, how could this seemingly innocent young boy have the powers of an Octos Guardian or a Brond Praetorian? None of them had sensed any inkling of elemental forces from his body. As far as they were concerned, his energies were unformed and his core was undeveloped.
The Unformed differed from the Formed, like Mynissa, in that they could not hold on to any specific element. The Formed on the other hand were fortunate enough to acquire a fixed elemental affinity, receiving minor benefits associated with the element. Only the Informed were strong enough to manifest and control their element. This tiny remaining elite gained the title of Guardian or Praetorian after rigorous training, depending from where they hailed. Finally, the Exformed were the ones who had passed on their powers to the benefit of their nation. All Elders were Exformed.
When they explained that Naruto was Unformed, he didn't seem to get it. Inwardly though, Naruto understood their explanations, but was afraid that he was an Exformed. It explained his loss of powers and the loss of Kyuubi. While he wasn't certain, he feverishly hoped it didn't happen to him.
Naruto ate his dinner with a heavy stomach that night.
Over the year, he had gotten used to mundane life under the care of Mynnis and Mynissa. Naruto slowly let go of his desires to return to his home and shifted his attention to more daily matters. It didn't mean he stopped caring about his friends, but he reasoned that if Kyuubi was out of Akatsuki's reach, then they would never be able to accomplish whatever they had planned with the Bijuu. Kyuubi's absence was a suitable parting gift.
It was difficult for Naruto to adjust to a life of peace and quiet at first. Life was so simple in the little village. There were no ninjas and no battles. Some of the villagers had varying skill in combat, but they were more concerned with fishing, farming, or some other craft. The only one who seemed to be in charge of defense was a single army soldier, who acted as the local constable. One man was not enough to deter more than a single band of bandits, but the constable kept the peace amongst the unruly villagers. Other outposts and forts along the roads took care of most of the bandits before they strayed any nearer. Oimos may be an isolated rural village, it was not a lawless cove.
Naruto didn't have much luck making any friends amongst the villagers, most of whom distrusted outsiders deeply. But he did manage to gain a few young friends.
His very first friend was the local blacksmith's apprentice. He wasn't taller than Naruto, but he was almost twice as heavy. The Formed boy had a very weak affinity for Metal, but enough to be useful to the gruff and harsh blacksmith. Whenever he wasn't occupied with fixing horseshoes or farming tools, he'd join Naruto and go on an 'adventure' in the forest.
They first met in the forest, actually. Naruto wanted to make himself useful to the Elders and resolved to hunt for rabbits or squirrels. The well-used eating knife was a poor replacement for a balanced kunai, but it would do for his purposes. In fact, it was a challenge Naruto had set upon himself to improve his accuracy. His lack of chakra made him nearly useless in every craft, so he was determined to improve his remaining talents to make himself useful. He didn't want to live on generosity forever. A man had to stand on his own two feet.
One fine summer day, he stalked the forest, when a brown and furry animal scurried somewhere further off. He instinctively flashed his throwing arm, just moments away from flicking his wrist.
"Wait-wait-wait!" A voice yelled in the same direction.
Naruto's concentration was broken as the brown shape began to move and reveal itself. It was a thick furred boot. Naruto followed up the leg and ended up at a human face topped with a short black mop. The wary but innocent teenager smiled harmlessly at Naruto as he slowly stepped closer. Naruto kept a wary glance at the newcomer's sword arm, which currently held a crude but solid sword. They both took in their counterparts.
Finally, the boy spoke up. "Hunting as well?" and pointed at the knife in Naruto's hand.
"Yeah. Rabbits and squirrels. You?"
"Deer, if they let me close."
"Have they ever?"
The boy shook his head and sighed. "Once… skitter buggers they are. And you? Are you hitting anything with that tiny thing?"
Naruto turned red and stammered, "Uu-mm.. maybe once or twice."
"I can help you straighten that out. I'm Ovro, son of Omos. What's your name?"
The ex-ninja couldn't help but smile back. Ovro was different from the other local boys and girls who liked to sneer at his supposed 'savagery'.
They soon began to meet each other more often. Ovro helped Naruto out by hammering out shuriken and a kunai from the materials Naruto bought with his allowance. In return, Naruto helped Ovro by teaching him how to use throwing weapons and letting his friend spar against him. The sparring sessions were interesting, to say the least. Naruto's taijutsu was crude and thoroughly unsuited to his current situation, while Ovro's style was more brawler-like than a proper discipline. Even though the bruises wouldn't go away as fast, Naruto still enjoyed polishing his skill against his heavier opponent, albit one who was not trained in combat.
They were soon joined by another regular companion. When Mynnis brought Naruto over to a village celebration dedicated to some God, he had a hard time fitting in with the celebrations. Not that it mattered which God was being worshiped at that day. No one seemed to engage the foreigner. The small group of children and teenagers all gathered in cliques of their own, having grown up together all their lives. Naruto searched for Ovro when he almost bumped in another solitary teen.
The newcomer's face was horribly scarred, to the point that one of his eyelids was permanently closed. His dark unruly hair was long and could have covered his face when he wanted to. Now though, he purposely left it aside when he met Naruto's stare. His single green-orange eye met both of Naruto's blue ones. The boy curved his mangled face to smile. It came more as a half-twisted scowl.
"I am Mikos, son of Miklan. You must be the washed up one, Narto, right?"
Mikos extended both his hands, palms up. Naruto hesitated for a second, but returned the formal Octos greeting by extending his own arms palms down and cover Mikos' hands with his own.
When they pulled back their arms, Mikos continued to speak in his distorted drawl. "You must be wondering who I am, seeing you don't recognize the names. I'm the constable's son."
'This slim and wiry looking boy is the constable's son?'It all made sense to Naruto. The others probably thought the constable's son was an outsider and stayed away from him. His mangled face probably had something to do with that as well. Naruto looked at Mikos with in a different light now. Even he knew how strict and harsh the constable was. He couldn't imagine living under such a father. It almost made him grateful that he had lived without any parents.
They both started to make polite conversation. Naruto never asked how his face was disfigured. Mikos never asked about Naruto's past. When Naruto tentatively revealed he was skilled in throwing weapons, Mikos eagerly prodded him further. When he mentioned he was practicing with Ovro, Mikos hesitantly asked if he could join. Naruto agreed, detecting no ill will from the only one willing to keep him company that night.
Naruto could relate with Mikos. He was probably the outcast of the village, the strange kid no one wanted to play with. It didn't differ that much from his former position in Konoha when he had an immortal demon in his belly. Indeed, at the end of the celebrations, Mikos let out that he felt he was taking advantage of Naruto's ignorance. But Naruto countered that anyone who couldn't see the real him underneath probably wasn't worth his friendship. They both left with genuine smiles.
The next morning, Naruto met Ovro at the usual spot at the edge of the forest. When Ovro wanted to go practice throwing at some rabbits, Naruto didn't immediately join him when he went further into the forest. When Ovro asked, Naruto simply told him to wait. It took a while before Mikos came, seemingly clad for war in his leather armor. A sheathed bronze sword slapped against his hip. Ovro's pig iron sword was nothing compared to true craftsmanship.
An unpleasant surprise ensued, and Ovro seemed terrified. It took some explaining to calm him down, and it took weeks for him to accept Mikos' presence without objection.
They still couldn't disregard the face. But they could get used to the sight.
The three quickly became a regular feature in village life. Though Ovro was occupied as an apprentice, business was slow in the tiny village. Mikos likewise had his own duties and often patrolled with his father, but he managed to scrounge up enough free time. They were all having a good time with each other. Many times they simply headed into the wilderness, intending to fish from a stream or construct an elaborate trap to capture deers. They also helped shape each other's fighting skill. Naruto's taijutsu became much less reckless as he started to learn to avoid the wounds he would usually sleep off in a day. Ovro got some discipline and technique hammered down from the others, and fought less like a drunken brawler and more like a sober brawler, though he was no match to his friends. Mikos was the best fighter of the bunch. He was thorougly drilled in the Octos army fashion, though he was slow to adapt to the unorthodox tricks Ovro and especially Naruto could come up with that he hadn't seen before from his father.
Ovro was quickly isolated from his old group of acquaintances, but he didn't mind, only saying, "They probably weren't true friends of mine to begin with if they're willing to turn their backs on me so soon."
Naruto spent his days in peace and joy. All thoughts of constructing a raft and sailing the great blue expanse to the East was gone from his mind. He started to accept that he would never see his home again. Mynnis and Mynnissa were edging for Naruto to learn a trade so he could start earning a living by himself. It didn't take long for him to make a decision, considering his skill in throwing weapons.
He would become a hunter.
The local hunter was a sour looking gruff with balding grey hair. He took one nasty look at Naruto and turned his back at him.
"Wait Hunter-san! Please please please let me be your apprentice!"
"Eh?" The man turned around and showed his nastiest scowl. "Buzz off, I don't take no 'prentices. Got m' arms full with the comin' winter and I don't need no lead-footed brat to scare off all the game."
Naruto's fists clenched tight. He would show him.
The next day he barged in the hunter's hut and dropped three rabbit carcasses on the man's table, right next to his stew. The man took one good luck at the bloodied red corpses before he whistled appreciatively.
"Good kills, could fill many stomachs this night. M'be you could help me out after all. Next time try to hit 'm in the head, those pelts could be worth more then."
Yaros, son of Krobal, was a veteran archer with a limp and a constant pain from a badly healed arrow wound. He was a Formed with a moderate affinity for wood. Although he was impressed by the accuracy of Naruto's throw, his range and power couldn't compare to Yaros' composite bow. On a good day, Yaros could land a carefully aimed arrow in the middle of the animal's head thrice the range of Naruto's best throw, ensuring a killing blow.
The hunter forced Naruto to pay for a cheap shortbow from the merchants, and taught him how to make his own arrows. The weapon was clunky and awkward in Naruto's hand, and his aim was atrocious. He could barely hit a rabbit at more than ten paces away. Over time, he improved, but it was obvious he had no talent with bows. Half of the time, Naruto simply threw a shuriken instead of troubling himself scaring away prey. He'd be cuffed against his cheek for that, but Yaros didn't mind too much in general. He was hoping Naruto would get proficient eventually and would appreciate the range and power advantage. Some animals were simply too tough to take down with a few cuts. Yaros' affinity to wood made Naruto's progress look sluggish, and the hunter frequently reminded his pupil of that fact. It didn't go very well on Naruto.
Archery wasn't all that Yaros taught his new apprentice. There was so much more involved in hunting than simply killing their prey. There was the art of skinning, of prowling and stalking, of tracking, and dozens of other survival skills. Naruto learned how to handle a pack of wolves by being thrown right in the middle of it one night. He almost survived a bear charge by hitting its eyes with his shuriken before he dodged to the side. Naruto thought that Yaros' teachings were more extreme than any ninja training, but it sure beat lounging around all day. Yaros seemed to know exactly how much Naruto could take, and it was admittedly a lot.
Some of the techniques and insights Yaros showed him were new to him. Even the things similar to his ninja teachings, which he previously ignored as boring, renewed his interest. If there was a problem in front of him, he'd simply fight his way out. Now, though, he needed to take advantage of every single trick to survive. He couldn't out-kyuubify himself out of trouble anymore.
Slowly, Naruto began to learn the tricks of the trade. He could skin and gut a rabbit and string it in a sack in less than five minutes. He could hit a squirrel with his bow and arrow thirty paces away. He could sneak up to a wolf without alerting it when the wind was blowing the right way. Even Yaros was impressed with what he thought was just another foreign brat.
'He'd make a mighty fine hunter in a year or two of seasoning. Though I do wonder what he was previously trained in. He must have started out very young to have such skill.'
A year and a half from his first arrival in this new world, Naruto still wasn't accepted by the village's social circle. It wasn't as bad as his earlier days in Konoha. He still received polite nods, and the merchants would accept his coin without trying to demand an unfair premium. Still, he could feel the hesitance of a small village isolated from much of the world. The villagers simply didn't know what to make of a foreigner coming from lands they didn't even know about.
It wasn't any ill will on their part, Naruto concluded, so he couldn't blame them. He'd accept the cold and stoic treatment without a peep and earn their trust the slow way.
Naruto was carrying a small orven boar on his back as he made his way towards the small market in the center of the village. Commerce was slow in most days, and the market wasn't truly something special unless the monthly caravans brought their exotic goods such as jewelry and fruits. The prices were outrageous, naturally, but most of the villagers have never left Indus, let alone the village. Naruto shook his head. He never really had a use for such luxuries. He was saving his meager hunting profits to acquire a quality iron ingot the next time the merchants visited. Kami knew how he needed a tough and durable kunai. Ovro's craftsmanship was improving over time, but he could only go so far with left-over pig iron and copper.
It took all his strength to carry the heavy animal back to the village. The season was soft this year, or so the others claimed, but he was having plenty of trouble drudging through the snow. He was just about exhausted when he bumped against someone. Naruto let go of the carcass immediately, lest he would be crushed. He couldn't avoid falling onto the person he bumped though. They crashed together in a plume of spraying snow.
"Ouch-ouch-ouch! Get off me!"
Naruto was so tired that all he could do was breathe.
"Ewww, don't get excited over me you perv!"
Pain exploded when a knee smashed into Naruto's privates. He let out a peep in pain as he tried to soothe his private parts. Meanwhile the girl underneath him wriggled her way out and stood before him as she brushed herself off from all the snow.
"Teaches you not to mess with girls."
Naruto could sense the smirk behind the words without even looking at her face. When the pain finally got manageable, he opened them to see the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. There were plenty of homely women and girls in Oimos, but nobody could be called drop-dead gorgeous.
The young lady in front of him was exquisite. She was moderately tall and with a slim figure that other farm girls envied. Her silky brown hair was long and completely smooth which entranced his eyes. Her own large eyes were large, with a tiny slant that made her look exotic. Her dress was thick and white and decorated with gold-like patterns. A thick white woolen cloak was draped over her form to shield her from the cold.
'Who is she?' Naruto wondered absently. 'I've never seen her before in the village.'
The girl merely sneered. "You're the dork they fished out from the sea, right?"
"Hey!" Naruto growled back, snapping, "Who're you calling a dork, Fish Eye!"
The girl scowled and before he knew it, a heavy boot landed on his head.
Her footsteps left wisps of snow behind. Naruto couldn't help but stare at the first true beauty he had seen in this world. He briefly entertained thoughts of winning her heart, before realizing how hopeless he was.
'She doesn't like someone poor like me. I probably don't have a chance with her at all.'
Brushing himself off, the hunter-in-training continued to lug his heavy prize over to the local butcher. Naruto kicked the door in with his homemade leather boot and entered the warm shop, which reeked with blood and guts.
"Oi Hastos! I got a fat one right here, just in time for the Solos Festival!"
A heavy set voice behind the doorway quickly replied, "Put 'm at the usual spot Nar'to, 'll be at y' in a moment."
The figure that emerged from the open doorway was a heavyset man. Naruto couldn't quite figure out if he was more muscle than fat. He also couldn't figure out how he'd got so big in the first place when he was just a small-time butcher in a tiny village. The man gave a cheeky smile at the boar on the table and rubbed his hands.
"A young one I see, but this one's got plenty o' fat left, and that fur will fetch a good price at the tanners. 'll give ye 2 gold for it all."
"No way Hastos! You're not going to rip me off again! Yaros told me a fat one like this would get him at least 5 gold at this time of year!"
The Chouji-like figure hmphed and crossed his arms. "Yeah, well, you threw your big fat knife 'n the neck, didn't ya'? The cut there is all ruined and dirtied, and the fur won't fetch good enough a price f' me. 'll be givin' it three gold pieces tops."
Naruto bared his fangs and slammed his hand against the table. "You'll give me four, or else…"
"Or else? Hahahaha! What're gonna do? There's no other butcher in this town! 'll be gentle with y' and give it three gold 'n five silver. That'll be th' last offer."
"Fine." Naruto grumbled as he held out his hand, where Hastos' greasy fingers dropped the coins. He rubbed the coins against his wolf skin coat to get rid of the fat before putting it in a pouch in his coat pocket. Three gold and a few silvers wasn't that much compared to the trouble and risks he had taken, and he had to pass half his earnings to Yaros.
"Enjoy the Solos." Hastos' heavy voice called out as Naruto stormed his way out of the butcher's place.
The familiar path took him straight to the edge of the village and the start of the forest. Still tired from his previous task, Naruto exhaled and dropped himself on a nearby frozen tree stump. As he looked back at the village, he thought of how much it felt like home. Granted, Oimos wasn't anything like Konoha with its luxuries like instant ramen. Life was harsh in this world, but somehow it humbled him. He wasn't an all-powerful ninja anymore, able to defeat chuunins and hold off jounins. He was Naruto the apprentice hunter now. Once he was proficient in the art of killing. Now, he was reduced to hunting game. While some part of his mind chafed at the stepping down, the rest of him accepted the new reality as a fact. The Octos army wouldn't accept a foreigner like him in their ranks. He wasn't even sure if he was able to kill others who he had no animosity over. Hunting animals was simpler and safer. It was a trade he could easily imagine growing old as, unlike the perilous path of a ninja.
In time, Yaros would give him one final test, and if he'd manage to gain his approval, Naruto could proudly call himself a journeyman.
Normally, an apprenticeship would last about five to seven years, but many of Yaros' teachings overlapped with Naruto's ninja training, even if he never really paid too much attention in class. The game of stalking was not so different from tailing a target, after all. The only real knowledge Yaros had left to teach was on the behavior and habits of several dangerous animals not native to the Indus lands. There were giant birds, tigers, massive grey animals with horns, and more that hunted the lands beyond. The final test involved a month of traveling all the way to the edge of the Mulad mountains to hunt one of their elusive dangerous beasts.
He was looking forward to that and the independence he would finally achieve. He wouldn't have to rely on Mynnis' generosity or pass on his earnings to Yaros. Soon enough Naruto could afford to have his own cottage built for him, and he'd be living in the village on his own. Perhaps he'd get lucky and find a girl to marry and move in with him.
A cloud of frozen breath escaped his lips as his mind drifted to the shape of that beautiful brown-haired angel.
"What's up Naruto!" Ovro's timbered voice called out as he lumbered into view. His brown hide clothing was thick and padded even more than usual, since he couldn't stand the cold as well as the heat from a nearby forge. Just behind him was the ugly face of Mikos. If it weren't for his visage, he'd look dashing in his black leather armor and thick black woolen cloak. Both of them were carrying their swords as usual. Naruto grinned and hopped off the tree stump.
"Heya fella's. I'm fine." He replied, and when both his friends extended their one of their palms up, Naruto slapped them with his own like a horizontal 'high five'. It was grossly offensive to slap a palm in Octos custom, but that made it an even cheekier greeting. Naruto didn't care since it was all new to him, and the others did not feel the need to conform.
"So what're we gonna do this time." Mikos drawled. He had lost a lot of his reserve over time as he got caught up with Naruto's enthusiasm for the strangest of things.
His question was met with a foxy grin. "Hehe.. they say there's an old bear snatching Ykaras' goats over by cliffs. Want to go check it out?"
"As long as we don't let it get close."
The three set out and trudged through the snowy path that led them closer towards the shore and its dangerous cliffs. It was a half-hour trip along a winding path between farming territories. The sky was clear this day, but the wind was howling harder the closer they got towards the coast. Mikos' cloak kept flapping away from the violent gusts.
"Hey guys…" Naruto began, a bit hesitant, "Have you seen this girl in the village lately?"
"Pff, there's plenty o' the same wenches we see everyday, Naruto." Mikos replied. He ten narrowed his good eye. "Don't tell me you have it for one of those witches?"
"No!" Naruto stammered back immediately, eyes wide. "It's just.. there's this new one.. very slim, straight brown hair, big eyes, expensive clothes.."
A huge hand slapped Naruto's shoulder, almost bouldering him towards a tree. "'s Lyssis, the princess!"
"A real princess?" Naruto raised an eyebrow.
"'Course not, she's just the village leader's granddaughter." Mikos answered back, his face bitter. "Looks like she's paying a visit to her grandfather to witness the Solos here."
Ovro noticed Mikos' mood and attempted to console him. "It won't be that bad. She's got to get back to her academia the next day."
"That's exactly what makes it worse." Mikos complained. "You don't know how much I want to rip up her pretty face when we're at the big table having dinner. She's the village leader's granddaughter, while I'm the constable's son. There's no way I can shirk my place next to her. Every year she visits, it's always the same. Ugh, get your pigface out of my view –or – Eww there's pus coming out of that scar!"
Naruto couldn't believe what Mikos was saying. Was this 'princess' really so cruel?
The observant Ovro noticed Naruto's disbelief and added, "She's a city type through and through. There's nothing but bad business if she's interested in you – there's plenty'o broken hearts back in the village."
"Anything else about her that's special?" There had to be more about her than having rich parents.
"Yeah," His scarred friend admitted. "She's a strong Formed. I know it sounds unbelievable, but her affinity's Life. That makes her even more stuck up."
"B-But that means she's not Informed, right? She can't be that special then, right?" It was peculiar that Naruto had never met an Informed – those elite Guardians with powers that sounded a lot like ninjutsu.
Mikos shook his head. "You don't know how rare and valuable the Life Informed are. They're one of the few who are capable of true healing. The Water Informed can take care of scratches and bruises, but Life Informed can meld a chopped off arm back to its owner. Life Formed like Lyssis act as an extra power source for them, since healing even a single serious wound can drain 'em quickly."
Naruto listened in wonder. Informed could leech off Chakra from Formed. Something similar happened once in his career as a ninja, when he lent his chakra to bring a friend back to life. That these Octos Guardians perfected the trick and used it often was impressive.
Naruto noted something else. It sounded like these Life Guardians could heal more effectively than the Medic Nins back home. The price for that seemed to be more energy.
They finally reached the cliffs. The sight of those craggy rock formations always seemed to impress Naruto. There was power in their strength, and the realization that something even stronger had managed to carve them out.
They each swept their gazes up and down the cliffs and the winding paths that travelled up and down the sides.
"See any bears?" The anxious Naruto asked. "Do bears even hang out this far down the shore?" Yaros would have disapproved trying to kill a grown bear with nothing but a sword or a kunai, but the three had some prior experience with other animals. They started hunting wolves at first, which was dangerous because they rarely traveled alone. More often than not, the three wouldn't find anything by the time they needed to return to do their chores. There had been a few times when they caught up with the elusive animals, and the fights were both exhilarating and dangerous. A wolf could bite you hard even through thick layers of leather! The risks were well worth it though, since the encounters quickly hardened Naruto's friends. Besides, the moment when things got lethal, Naruto could always incapacitate their prey with a few well-aimed shuriken he always held ready in his palm.
They had recently decided to scout out real bears. While they hadn't actually found one yet asbears usually roamed well inland, they didn't really care.
"Look! I think I see something big and brown down there!" Ovro pointed his finger at the end of a particularly notorious goat trail that ended at the bottom.
Naruto could just figure out a tiny brown smudge before it turned around a corner near some rocky breakers. "Let's go!" He said and grinned. None of them really knew what bears were doing down near an uninhabitable place next to a salty sea, but all they could think of was finding a real living bear.
The trek down was dangerous – at some parts there wasn't even enough room for both feet. One misstep and you could drop straight down those deadly rocks that continually splashed against the waves. However, none of them were queasy, especially Naruto who had once traveled through treetops with the ease of a squirrel.
The snow was thinner at the bottom. The icy waves occasionally spilled against their feet.
"Have you ever been down here before?" Naruto asked, eying the dangerous and slippery surface.
"Nah, but we've been down elsewhere plenty 'o times during the winter." Mikos replied.
When they neared the outcrop of the tall formation that their target had passed, the three slowed to prepare themselves. Mikos quietly unsheathed his finely tempered bronze blade. It was thick and broad, and fairly short for a one-handed sword. It was a military weapon, designed for slashing and chopping, but only as a backup since the standard foot soldier used spears. Ovro didn't have any fancy pommels or a fine scabbard, but he worked at his own blade for over a year now. The poor iron was hardened sufficiently to be able to withstand other hard weapons, and a cross guard was added later on to provide decent protection against crafty fighters.
Naruto simply grabbed his bronze kunai from one pocket, and three shuriken from another. None of them intended to fight with their melee weapons, so it was up to Naruto to disable the animal if it charged on them.
They slowly rounded the bend and came face to face with the most surprising sight in their lives. Instead of the massive bulk of a ferocious beast, they were faced with the massive bulk of a man! A heavy round wooden shield attached to the man's back was currently facing the three. The unknown warrior was working on something peculiar, something involving piling up branches.
'He's making a fire? Out here at the edge of the coast?'
More curious than afraid, Ovro tentatively asked to the stranger, "Um, may I ask what you are doing, great warrior?" He barely got off his question before Mikos slapped his palm against the blacksmith apprentice's mouth. It was too late though.
"Hrum?" The massive thing rumbled, and turned to face the three youths. Seconds passed by as the fierce warrior sized up those who intruded upon him.
'The man's pure muscle!'
The thick furry bearskin hides couldn't hide the man's incredible physique. His face was a wild tangle of beard and hair, all blond, but dirtier than Naruto's. His lips began to move, but all the three could hear was rough babble. Sensing their confusion, the man stepped closer, frightening the boys. He took one arm to retrieve his shield from his back and strapped it against his forearm. The teenagers knew by then that they were in big trouble.
The man growled as he took a one-handed battle-axe from his hip. His eyes went excited as he screamed two simple words that struck fear into the boys' hearts. "VELK MAGAR!"
"I-I.. He's a Velk!" Mikos exclaimed. "A barbarian! A raider or a mercenary maybe, but Gods they never stray so far south! We've got to run!"
"Gods, a dung-blasted Velk!" Ovro added in hysterically, and already turned back to run.
The only one standing his ground was Naruto. He was confused by the sudden behavior of his two friends. 'Are Velks always so feared? I heard about them before, but I thought they only raided villages along the Northeast Sea. The Octos Sea is too far south.'
"Naruto, what're you doing standing there!" Mikos called out, and beckoned Naruto to run back up the trail. "You've got to run back to the village and warn them!"
Anger crept under Naruto's skin. "I'm not going to run away from this guy! I've faced tougher people!" Though he never really fought against someone this big without his ninjutsu. That didn't meant he was defenseless. He prepared his shuriken arm.
"Watch." And with that Naruto swept his arm in an expert throw, unleashing the three shuriken he held just moments before. All three projectiles had hit the unsuspecting warrior. One dug itself deep against the heavy shield. Another went against his chest, but his coat was too thick and tough to penetrate. The final shuriken raked the man's right cheek as he flung back, drawing a deep line of blood, but otherwise enraging him even further.
"Uh oh." Naruto swiftly backpedaled and grabbed three more shuriken. As the bloodthirsty barbarian thundered closer, intent on plowing down the annoying blond ninja. Naruto threw his next three shuriken. The warrior expertly lowered his head and hid himself behind his shield, which thunked three times against the impact of the small sharp objects.
Before Naruto knew it, the massive man was right up his nose, and he struggled to lift his kunai in time to block the heavy chop of the barbarian's axe. The impact was heavy, and Naruto was utterly stunned as his knees collapsed. As the man lifted his axe again to deal the finishing blow, Naruto was calling up his ninja reflexes. He kicked against the man's shin, which evidently hurt the man, but not enough for him to stop what he was doing. Desperation in his eyes, Naruto did the last remaining action that could save him: he threw his kunai straight at the man's throat.
The man's arm got in the way as he raised it to his face just in time. Naruto didn't waste a single moment and jumped up to deliver a well-aimed uppercut, which cracked against the jaw. Both Naruto and the man buckled back from each other in pain. His fist hurt! At least he won enough time for Mikos and Ovro to take over, and they went past Naruto to finish the barbarian.
Ovro used his heavy arms to good and bashed aside the Velk's shield with a large swing of his heavy sword. Mikos passed Ovro from the left and made a quick stab at the man's injured arm, cutting it and spilling a lot of blood. The Velk yelled again in his own language but was forced to drop his battleaxe. Before Mikos could deliver the coup-de-grace, the warrior bashed the edge of his shield down against the feet of both of his attackers, disorienting them. Having bought some time, the Velk retrieved the kunai buried in his arm and was about to stab them at Ovro.
Naruto could see what was coming, but was too far away to stop it. He was all out of shuriken, and the only weapon he had left was a spare kunai. Both his friends were blocking his view, so he had no chance of injuring his opponent without risking his friends.
'If only my jutsus worked. If only I could do a Substitution!'
The ninja closed his eyes and willed his empty reserves to gather enough strength to do that simple academy level jutsu. Both his hands were clenched tight as he concentrated deep within his stomach where his chakra was supposed to gather. He practically squeezed his chakra coils to come up with the energy he needed.
For the first time since he'd landed upon this world, he felt a familiar warmth that graced his coils and bloomed his hope. It was just a tiny sliver, a simple caress, but it was enough.
Naruto put the handle of his kunai between his teeth, not trusting himself to have enough chakra or control to do a single hand-seal. His hands quickly went through the familiar motions.
- Ram Boar Ox Dog Snake -
Two puffs of smoke emerged. When the white puffs blew away, Ovro found himself surprised that he was suddenly standing away from the menacing death stroke that was sure to strike his head. When he looked in front of him, he noticed that somehow, Naruto had taken his place. His eyes went wide as he saw the Velk's downward slash being blocked – by Naruto's mouth! The blond quickly slammed his palm against the middle of the Velk's chest, knocking out the huge man's breath. Naruto didn't pause and quickly lashed out his boot against the man's shield. The impact was strong enough for him to drop Naruto's kunai. A final kick sent the barbarian flying backwards, something Ovro found impossible. How could a thin squirt like Naruto knock back someone twice or thrice his weight?
"Mikos!" Naruto yelled. His friend got the picture and quickly approached the fallen warrior. His buckled knee crushed against the Velk's chest as he pinned the warrior down. Without another word, Mikos stabbed his sword in the man's exposed neck, instantly taking away the warrior's life.
For a time, nobody moved as the tides crashed against the rocks. Everyone was shocked as they tried to catch their breaths and process what happened.
Naruto's thoughts strayed towards his reemerging powers. If he could manage a Kawarimi, he might be able to do more later on. How long would it take for him to make a Shadow Clone? Was this the start of his recovery? Hope welled inside his heart.
Ovro was simply stunned. How in the hell did his friend… he was pretty sure that the Elders proclaimed him Unformed. Did they make a mistake? Ovro was yet again reminded that he knew absolutely nothing of Naruto's origin. In their time as friends, Naruto had never uttered a single word about his capabilities. How much more was Naruto hiding from him? Had Naruto deceived all of them from the very beginning?
Mikos had not missed the amazing stunt Naruto had pulled off, but his mind refused to stray from what he had just done with his sword. He, Mikos, Terrorface of Oimos, disappointment to his father, had just killed one of the ferocious Velk. Admittedly, he had help, but it was rumored that a single Velk could best five regular soldiers. That only three half-trained youths had managed to defeat such a fearsome dread made his pride shoot up his throat.
Eventually, Ovro was the first one to snap out of the spell. "Guys, what did we just do?"
"Uhm..." Mikos started. "We just killed one of the Terrors of the North?"
"Yeah, but Naruto," Ovro turned to his friend, afraid but awed at the same time. "You did something, didn't you? Don't tell me you're a hidden Praetorian!"
"Wait guys! You have it all wrong!" Naruto quickly lowered his kunai and calmly waved Ovro to listen. Mikos looked at him in suspicion, but he wasn't as fearful as Ovro.
Not exactly knowing how to proceed, he started, "I'm not from the Imperium, okay? It's just… before I washed up here, I was… something."
"Something?" Ovro didn't quite look convinced it was safe, but he started to lower his weapon.
"A kind of Guardian or Praetorian.. but different. We had powers, but they worked differently."
"A-And one of those powers is you go poof and we're taking each other's places?"
They all stayed silent after that. Mikos looked thoughtful, and asked, "You're not a Rogue, are you? You're definitely older than eleven. Are you hunted?"
"Feh." Naruto spat. "I wish I was hunted. I'd be valuable enough that someone would drag me back home. It's different in our place. I think I'd be called a Missing-nin but—" Naruto paused to see if his friends would react to the term, but they didn't. "I already told you my home is far away. There's no chance someone would come after me."
"But why hide your powers up to now? I can understand that you don't wanna be hunted down by the Guardians, but we're your friends." Mikos remarked while he cleaned the blood from his blade before putting it back in its scabbard.
"I didn't know I had any powers left. When the Elders said I was Unformed, I thought I had lost my powers forever, like the Exformed. My.. 'core', as you say it, didn't recharge. I thought it was permanent. It was until now that I found out that.. perhaps I was still Informed after all."
"But—" Ovro began, but Naruto held out his hand to silence him.
"Please, no more questions, okay. I have to figure out all of this myself before I can tell you more. Friends?"
Relieved that he wouldn't have to explain everything, Naruto turned to look at the corpse. "Let's look at his belongings and find out why he's here."
The trio got into the business of checking out the man's equipment while Naruto was retrieving his shuriken and kunai. There wasn't much on the unknown Velk besides his thick garments and his equipment. There was food and water for a day, and some flint and tinder to spark a fire.
"Who the hell would want to spend the night out here in the cold near the sea?" Ovro commented, shaking his arms against his body. "It's freezing out here, especially with these winds. It's much better to spend the night in the woods up above."
Mikos narrowed his eyes. "How did the Velk get here in the first place? And why did he only bring enough rations for just a single day?"
"Velks travel by ships." Ovro commented.
The constable's son ran the facts through his mind, as he was trained to. He finally came across an idea. "Velks never travel alone, even as mercenaries. This guy was up to something here, and," He pointed at the bundle of wood nearby. "I think that fire wasn't only meant to warm him up. It's to signal his friends."
Both Naruto and Ovro's eyes widened.
"A raid? An attack? During Solos?" Ovro stammered.
"Psh." Mikos spat into the sea. Now that he noticed, this was a good place to make landfall well out of sight of the village. Unlikely, dangerous even, but in the realm of possibility. "Those heretics don't even celebrate Solos. Only the Velks would actually dare to attempt such."
The situation finally sunk in their minds.
"We have to warn the village!" Naruto decided.
"They won't believe us. Velks never go this far down south." Ovros replied.
"Then we just have to bring proof." The energetic boy pointed eagerly at the heavy corpse.
"There's no way we can lift something that heavy up the dangerous path. Even I'm not strong enough to do that."
That was easy to solve in Naruto's eyes. He wordlessly approached the dead body and picked up the man's discarded battle-axe. It was heavy and clumsy in his hands, but it would do. He carefully lifted the weapon over his head before bringing it down in a heavy chop.
A hairy bearded head rolled away. Ovro and Mikos were speechless.
"Ovro, please take this axe. You'll have to bring it with us." When Ovro hesitated, Naruto simply pushed it in his hands. "Don't drop it."
Naruto went back to the corpse and pried away the straps holding the round shield on the headless corpse's forearm.
"This is for you to carry." He said, and Mikos wordlessly took it over, unable to tear his gaze away from the headless body.
When Naruto grasped the hair of the head to lift it up, Ovro had the strongest desire to empty the contents of his stomach in the water. Blood continued to seep down from the severed neck like a twisted creek.
"What are we all waiting for? The village needs to be warned. Let's go."
Naruto lead the way back up the trail, hoping that nothing would ruin the peace that reigned what had been his home for the last one and a half years. He might not be a native to these lands, but even he could recognize that the warrior was just a prelude to the chaos that would follow. Oimos might not be his home, but he was damned if he would let Mynnis or Mynissa suffer from the ravages of war yet again. It was his ninja code.