Hello, thar. Meinos Kaen here!
Welcome to the third chapter of Pactio Quindecim! For more info about the reason of my delay, and the future of this and all my other stories, please check my profile.
Third hour: Dumb teachers, dumb students, a strange library
"Honestly, Naruto. What were you thinking?" Naruto found himself, years after finishing the academy, in the principal's office. "Disappearing in the middle of the night, leaving only a letter?"
"When you came back plastered it was dawn, ero-sennin." The blonde shinobi retorted with a frown.
"My... Familiarity with alcohol aside, it still rests that you disappeared! Do you have any idea how worried me and Tsunade were?!" That made him feel a sting of guilt. He hadn't been that sympathetic for the drunken pervert, but his baa-chan was another matter entirely. "And then I find you here, in the company of a mage, feigning being his 'guardian'! Just what the hell happened to make you act like this?!"
"Heh. Bet you would have liked to come along, since-"
"This isn't a joke, Naruto!" Jiraiya usually chided Naruto's antics, but this time he wasn't in the mood for any of that. "You have enemies! People after your own life! You can't just go and do whatever goes through your mind any more! We were lucky that Konoe-jii recognized you and contacted us otherwise we would have never known where you were!"
"... Recognized me?" Naruto blinked, turning his attention to the headmaster. "You didn't just recognize me as a ninja?"
"No, Naruto-san. I must confess that I knew about you way before you arrived. Also, that was the second time I met you in person." The old man's words just confused Naruto more and more. "Although, you couldn't possibly know." Konoe suddenly opened a nearby drawer, picking up an object that Naruto identified as a photograph as it was handed to him.
"... This..." He recognized the picture, if only because he had an identical one in his home. It was taken on his seventh birthday. It was him and the Third Hokage. He raised his eyes from the nostalgic image to the headmaster again. "How did you get this?"
"Sarutobi was a dear friend of mine, Naruto-san. Truth be told, the first time I saw you in flesh and blood was at his funeral." Naruto's eyes widened at that.
"You knew Hokage-jii?! But I don't remember seeing you at the funeral!"
"I was invisible, Naruto-san." Naruto was a bit taken back by that. Konoe smiled and opened one eye. "Do you really believe an apprentice, although skilled, like Negi would have been sent in a place without any other mages for his first assignment?"
"... Got it." Right that moment, Naruto understood that there was more to the headmaster than a perverted old man.
"Getting sidetracked here, Naruto." Jiraiya cut into the two's conversation, brusquely. "Magic existing was a big surprise, but it worked out in our favour in the end. Instant transportation and all that... Well, whatever. Come on, we're going."
"... I can't." Naruto lowered the picture, putting it back on Konoe's desk. He pretty much ignored Jiraiya's glare. "Don't look at me like that. If I could go back travelling with you, I wouldn't have disappeared in the first place."
"What about your training?"
"It's not like I can't train here, ero-sennin."
"... What exactly did you get yourself into, Naruto? You do realize that you have little more than an year left before your time and most importantly, Sasuke's time is up, do you?"
"Of course I do. I'm not stupid. And I didn't forget. It's just..." Naruto scratched the back of his head, in thought. Ermines. "I can't leave until I figure something out."
"Something, something! What?!"
"I can't tell you, you stupid hermit!" Naruto stood up from the chair in a burst of anger, glaring back at the taller man.
"Hohoho. You two are quite alike, aren't you?"
"ARE NOT!" Konoe stroked his beard with one hand, thoughtful.
"Naruto-san, could you leave me and Jir-chan alone for a minute?"
"... Fine." Naruto said, content to get out of the room. The atmosphere was getting quite heavy. Once the door was locked, the headmaster snapped his fingers.
"That should give us some privacy." Jiraiya blinked, snapping his fingers too.
"You mean, just like that?" He whistled. "Magic sure is convenient."
"But it's not perfect, Jir-chan. Nothing ever is. Try to remember that." Konoe turned with the chair until his whole body was facing Jiraiya. "Returning to the business at hand, yes. This inconvenience that befell your apprentice is magical in nature."
"Sonuva-You know what it is, do you?" Konoemon chuckled. "Well, can't you do anything about it?!"
"I could but there's two matters to take into consideration. First, it's not a curse nor anything life-threatening. Some would think of it as a blessing." The headmaster opened one eye. Jiraiya had seen the gesture enough times to understand what it meant. "Second... I don't really want to."
"What the hell do you mean, you don't want to?!" Jiraiya raised his voice and slammed his hands on top of the man's desk, quite rudely. Konoe just observed unfazed.
"To begin with, I can assure you that Mahora is much more safer than anywhere in the Elemental Countries. And it's not a matter of distance only, Jir-chan. The only reason you're standing here in front of me at the moment is because I want you to." He owned the field. Jiraiya got that. "Also, I think this is an opportunity. For both Naruto, his friend, and for our worlds."
"... Look, can you be clear about this? I won't tell Naruto, if that's what you want." Jiraiya sighed and Konoemon chuckled. That's what he wanted to hear.
"Well, the tie between me and Sarutobi ran a little deeper than simple friends, Jir-chan. You see..."
Naruto, for all his anger and boldness was a bit nervous. He knew that if push came to show, nothing short that unleashing the Kyuubi would make him able to resist a Jiraiya bent on bringing him back home with him. That was why he was pacing restlessly in front of the door to Konoemon's office. "What the hell are they doing, in there? It's already been twenty minutes..."
"Naruto, you can come in, now!" That was when Jiraiya's voice echoed from the inside. He stopped right in front of the door and the proceeded to slowly open it. Stretching his neck, he put his head first in the room to see Jiraiya standing, arms crossed, beside a sitting Konoemon. "Alright. After talking with Konoe-jii, we've come to an agreement. You can stay as long as you need."
"On two conditions, though." Jiraiya cut off Naruto's enthusiasm early off, raising the index and middle finger of his right hand. "First, you're gonna have to pass a test. Konoe-jii is going to be the one administering it."
"A test? Of what kind?" Naruto asked, surprised. Jiraiya shook his head.
"I don't know." He lied. "Second..." That was when Jiraiya's smile turned carnivorous. "You're gonna have to update me periodically on any and all incidents concerning the female student body."
"WHAT?! NO WAY IN-"
"Either that, or I stay and supervise you." Naruto halted mid-rant, weighting the alternatives. Having to talk about embarrassing things or having Jiraiya be the source of much more embarrassing things?
"... You win, you damn perverted hermit." He gritted his teeth and balled his fists, but acquiesced.
"Retroactive. Starting now." The vein on Naruto's forehead started twitching.
"When this is over, I'm so going to make him pay..." Naruto muttered as he walked back to the apartment complex, holding two envelopes in his hands. One said 'Teacher in Training Negi Final Task', the other said 'Uzumaki Naruto Permanency Test'. "... I guess I'll open mine when I give this to Negi."
"Naruto-san!" If he hadn't become adjusted to it, Sayo's sudden appearance would have startled him. "Is everything alright?! You're not leaving, are you?!"
"Eh? N-No, I'm not."
"Really?! Really really really?!" She floated further and further in his face, to the point that their noses almost touched.
"Y-Yeah! Really! Calm down!" He went to use his hands to push her away by the shoulders and found them solid enough to do it. She kept on staring at him, though, worried. "Sayo-chan, what's the matter?"
"... You're really not going anywhere?" Sayo asked again, this time in a softer, pleading tone. "I don't want to be alone again."
"... Way to put pressure on me, Sayo-chan." He sighed but didn't deign the confused expression on the ghost girl's face with a reply. He just patted her head with one hand and smiled. "Don't worry. I'm not going anywhere."
"Promise." He chuckled and then rubbed her hair a bit. "Hey, you've been working on becoming solid automatically when I touch you or something?"
"Heheheh... Yes." Sayo admitted, chuckling. "I'm sorry for being so pushy but I finally found Naruto-san and thinking of being alone again all the time... It's scary."
"... Being alone, huh?" Those words struck a cord inside of Naruto, since that had been the defining situation for many years of his earlier life but Sayo had probably felt it for much longer. He smiled. "Feel confident about that hug, now?"
"Eh? C-Can I?" Naruto nodded and opened his arms wide.
"If you can manage it." Sayo flushed and focused, her eyes squinting cutely before throwing her arms wide and slowly bringing them to rest around Naruto's body. When she felt secure that her arms weren't gonna give out on her, she strengthened the hug. Naruto returned it, although not as intensely as Sayo herself.
"Naruto-san, you're so warm." She hugged herself to him further, leaning her head on top of his right shoulder, long silver hair tickling his nose as he rested a hand on the small of her back and the other on the back of her head.
"Heh. And you-Huh." Naruto was going to say how cold she felt, but the thing was, she didn't feel cold. Not as much as the first time he touched her hand. 'That's weird.'
"Ah. Welcome back, senpai." Naruto closed the door, confused. He recognized the voice as Sakurako's, but it lacked the usual cheerfulness that he had come to associate with it. He removed his shoes and found the copper haired girl in her pajamas, sitting under a out of season kotatsu. "Sorry if I don't get up but I feel kinda dizzy..."
"You're not feeling well?" He put away the letters and noticed that she had books opened on top of the kotatsu. "You should be in bed, not studying. And where are Madoka-chan and Misa-chan?"
"Out for dinner. Didn't want to make them stay for me and since I was bored, I thought I could try and get some studying done... Awww! I hate end of term exams!" She whined cutely, slowly leaning her upper body on top of the kotatsu.
"End of term exams?" Naruto repeated, sitting beside Sakurako who just nodded from her semi-planking position.
"They're next Monday. And, want to know something funny? This school graduates classes based on the results of their members. Ours has always been dead last!" Sakurako chuckled and Naruto stared amusedly.
"... Dead last, huh?" He raised his eyes to the ceiling. That brought back memories. "Does that bother you?"
"Nah. We may not have the best grades, but we're a fun class and we all get along great. Also, it helps that this school is an escalator until university. That's when you can start to worry." She laughed some more, and Naruto sighed. He guessed those words didn't hold the same value when it was applied to a group of people. "Hmm, head feels heavyyy... I think I'm gonna sleep here."
"No! You'll get worse! What will happen if it lasts more than one day?! You gotta get in bed!" Naruto admonished her playfully, but she just pouted.
"But Naruto-senpaaaaai, I can't move..." He sighed, knowing that it was a lie. He decided to acquiesce.
"Alright, alright." He pulled on her shoulders and got her out from under the Kotatsu, then picked her up bridal style. "This way you can get to bed, right?"
"Oh, senpai! So naughty! We haven't even had our first date!" He blushed and shook his head before hurrying to her bed and dropping her on it. "Aaan! So rough!"
"Will you stop that?! Geez, I give you a finger and you take a whole arm..."
"Ah, can I? Thank you!" Sakurako threw her arms to the side and Naruto managed to get his right arm out of grasping range just in time, leaving the cheerleader pouting.
"Going to cook something. Get under the covers." Naruto ordered her, and Sakurako acquiesced. Once he was satisfied, he turned to leave for the kitchen. 'Geez, what am I going to do with this girl?'
"Ohohoh. Seems like your student just raised a flag." Jiraiya sighed.
"You and sensei really are alike, aren't they?" The hermit stretched and turned away from the water screen displaying the scene in Naruto's apartment. "By the way, what do you mean 'raise a flag'?"
"There will be time for lessons about terminology later on, Jir-chan. Now, I think you should go back." Konoemon commented, to which Jiraiya could only answer with a nod.
"Yeah. Gotta report this to Tsunade..." 'She's probably going to want to visit, sooner or later.'
"Ah, Naruto-san! I was worried when you disappeared so suddenly, the other day!" Negi commented as Naruto reached him just before he entered the classroom. "What happened?"
"Well... Remember the drunkard I was travelling with?" Negi nodded. "Well, seems like he found me. Also, Konoe-jii knows him. Like, personally."
"Eh? Really?" The young mage, blinked. It was strange. From what he had learned, mages had a law that prohibited interacting with the denizens of the world Naruto came from as actual mages. "That's weird."
"Long story short, they said that if I want to stay with you until we discover what happened to us, I have to pass a test." Naruto pulled out of the right pocket of his uniform the two envelops. "And you have one too."
"Wah?! A final task?! I didn't know anything about this!" The shinobi brought a hand behind his head, to scratch. As Negi grabbed on the envelope.
"Is it such a big deal?"
"Yes, it is! If I can't pass this test, I won't be able to become neither a real mage nor a real professor!" That gave Naruto pause.
"Yep. It's a big deal alright. Well..." Naruto brought to the front his envelope as well. "Shall we open them together, then?"
"A-Alright. On three." Negi mimicked Naruto, who suddenly grinned.
"Waaah! Naruto-san!" The shinobi laughed at the mage's expenses as he saw his partner in misfortune scramble to open the envelope. He opened his own one with care. There was a single envelope sized paper, with the following text on it...
If you can manage to get to second base...
He crumbled the paper and threw it at a nearby bin. "DAMN ERO-SENNIN!" He shook in anger and then noticed another paper inside the envelope. He picked it up.
Ahahah! Got you, didn't I? Ok, let's talk seriously, now.
I want you to search for the legendary Book of Merdiselek, which is hidden somewhere in this academy. Do that and show that you haven't lost sight of your objectives and your way of the ninja, and I will allow you to stay.
Jiraiya, hermit of the toads
"A book?" He squinted his eyes, confused. He then groaned. "I have to look for a book. How am I supposed to find a single book in the middle of a school this big? This is gonna be hard... What about you, Negi?"
"Well, it's quite easy! I just have to make 2-A no longer the worst class in the academy!" Naruto blinked and then recalled a conversation from the previous evening.
"... I think you may be worse off than me, Negi." He murmured, confusing the young mage. He shook a hand, dismissing the matter.
"Well, if it's about a book, why don't you ask Miyazaki-san?"
"The Book of Merdiselek?"
"Yeah. That's the name." Naruto said, arms crossed behind his head. "Pretty strange, I know, but it's supposed to be somewhere in the academy and I thought, if there's anyone knowing about it, it's probably Nodoka-chan."
"Y-You give me too much credit." The shy librarian bowed her head, embarrassed. "Ehm, I don't recall any book by that name, but, um..." She turned around with her chair and started typing on a nearby computer. In a few seconds, the search program reported exactly... "No results."
"What?" Naruto moved forward, leaning a hand on Nodoka's left shoulder. She blushed brightly as he moved his head past her own one, blonde hair brushing her left cheek. "Damn it. A big fat zero."
"What?" He turned in her direction, which lessened the distance between the two of them even more. She flushed further. "Why are you so red?"
"P-P-P-Personal space!" She squeaked out. Naruto stared a bit more and then shot back like a spring.
"Wah! Sorry sorry sorry!"
"I-It's okay." She breathed deeply to calm herself down. "Senpai, are you sure that this book is supposed to be in the Academy?"
"Y-Yes. I'm positive." He couched into his fist, looking around and remembered that they weren't alone, if the chuckles coming from the surroundings were any indication.
"Then... If it's not in our database, there's only one explanation." Nodoka said, her blush slowly settling down. "It has to be in an unexplored section of Library Island."
"Library Island?" The name sounded ominous. "What's that?"
"It's the building standing on the island in the middle of the academy's lake." Naruto just stared at her owlishly. She sweatdropped. "Ehm, here..." With a few clicks, she opened a photograph depicting the interested area. Naruto leaned forward again, this time being careful not to get too close to the shy librarian. "That's Library Island."
"Eh?!" It took Naruto a few seconds to comprehend the scale of the photo and when he got it, he couldn't help but be amazed. "That whole thing is a Library?!" Nodoka chuckled softly at his face.
"Yes. To be honest, it's the world's largest library." Naruto kept his eyes on the computer screen but Nodoka could easily read the interest. "Y-You see, it was first established in the Meiji Era, more than a century ago. During the last World War, many important and rare books were brought there for safekeeping and as they continued, they also continued expanding the library, building new underground levels. As a result there's no one left who knows the full size of the complex."
"... Wow. That... That must be a lot of books." Naruto said, sincerely impressed. Nodoka chuckled some more.
"Yes. The Academy created the Mahora Academy Library Expedition Club for the sake of its exploration only." Nodoka continued, as Naruto finally removed his face from the screen. "It's a middle school, high school and university joint project. We explore the unknown sections and catalogue the books in it. It can be dangerous because there are many kinds of traps to protect the books."
"... That's..." Naruto stared at Nodoka strangely, his eyes wide and his stare vacant, which confused the girl. Then his eyes brightened and he forgot about the personal space rule as he grasped her by the shoulders. "That's the coolest thing I've ever heard, Nodoka-chan!"
"A-AAAH?!" She was just a little startled, of course.
"You're so shy and yet you do that kind of stuff on a regular basis! All out of dedication to the things you love, even though it's dangerous! You're the coolest thing since Ramen, Nodoka-chan!" Naruto shook the girl's shoulders slightly for emphasis, much to her chagrin. She was becoming redder by the second.
"Ah-Eh-Uh-I-AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" With that deafening cry, she spun the chair around and ran away, sending the object into some kind of perpetual spin, a smoke trail left on her path as she ran out of the library.
"... Oh, crap! I did it again!" Naruto cursed, slapping his forehead as he realized he had broken the 'personal space' rule once again.
"Nodoka isn't used to compliments." He turned around at the sound of a familiar voice. He had to lower his head a bit to look at the source in the eyes. "Remember? The same happened with the hair, although not with the same intensity. I can positively say that it's the first time someone has ever given her such an enthusiastic praise."
"Ah, right." He nodded, bringing a hand to his chin, eyes rolling around before returning to the figure in front of him. "... Sorry, you are?"
"Nagase Yue. I'm in Negi-sensei's class and in the same club as Nodoka." The petite girl answered, seemingly not disturbed by Naruto's faulty memory. "Also, the one who proposed to give you CPR when you passed out in the bathroom."
"... The one who what?" The shinobi's skin suddenly went pale. Then he blushed. He remembered her from a glimpse before he hit the floor of the open air bath.
"Well, you weren't really in need of it, since you breathed just fine. Fuka was pretty eager to try and save her sensei, though." Naruto's skin became even paler if possible, and his blush's strength intensified. Pale because he would have to tell this to Jiraiya, the man had a special nose for when he tried to keep certain things from him, and blush because of the mental images. Then something clicked.
"This is revenge for not remembering you, right?" Yue just smiled.
"I heard you're interested in the library." She commented, and Naruto was grateful for the change of subject. "Looking for a book that is in the unknown sections."
"Yeah... If that's true, then the chances I have of finding it are pretty slim, hn?" The shinobi sighed. 'Well, with normal methods, at least. I guess it's spamming Kage Bunshin, tonight. Even if that may not be enough.'
"Well, there may be a chance." Yue's words got Naruto's attention again. "Tonight we're probably going to take a little trip into the library's lower levels."
"Probably? What do you mean, probably?" 'And where did she get that juice pack from?'
"There's the possibility." 'I was pretty sure that those rumors are unfounded, but what Negi-sensei said today in class... I'll tell the others and then let them decide.' "If it comes down to that, you're obviously invited. Be at Library Island at Midnight. Leave by 1 AM if you see no one coming."
"Hmm... Alright." Naruto nodded. It was a bit more cryptic that he would have liked, but it was worth a shot. Also, he was pretty excited. The way Nodoka had talked about that place just screamed adventure to him.
"Good evening!" Naruto exclaimed cheerfully as he reached the agreed meeting point, finding the three members of the MALE Club waiting for him, Nodoka not looking in his actual direction but waving shyly. "Here I am! I'm ready!"
"Good. We just have to wait for the last members of the expedition." Yue replied as she adjusted her head-torch.
"Yeah?" Naruto adjusted the straps of his backpack as he stared at the huge construction behind the three girls. "Who are they?"
"Hmm, Asuna-san. Where are we going so late?" Negi's sleepy voice provided him with part of the answer. As he turned around, he had a suspect.
"Just be silent, okay?" Asuna was also there and apart Konoka, all the other girls accompanying her plus Yue made up a peculiar group of five people fittingly dubbed as the Baka Rangers of class 2-A.
"Naruto-san. Such a coincidence de gozaru." He turned his head to the side, hoping his blush wasn't too noticeable. The bathroom incident and the thing with her clothes came to mind... Which only brought back images of Yue, Nodoka and Iincho and... He sank to his knees. "Ara, a stomach-ache, Naruto-san?"
"Stomach. Yeah." Girls were evil incarnate. He was by then completely convinced of that.
"Wooow!" Fortunately, the feeling of adventure came back as soon as they entered the library. He would have never thought of being this excited by laying eyes on a big amount of books of all things, but there he was, admiring the contort architecture and complex twisting. "It's enormous!"
"This is basement level 3 of library island." Yue explained as she produced another juice pack out of hammer-space. "Middle-schoolers aren't usually allowed to go farther than this."
"Because of all the traps and stuff Nodoka-chan was talking about?" He had been a bit disappointed when he realized Nodoka wouldn't be accompanying them but he guessed this was a baka-ranger plus ninja problem. As he looked around, a 'twang' echoed from behind him. He turned around to catch a glimpse of Kaede catching an arrow aimed at Negi's head in mid-flight. "Yup. Definitely because of the traps."
"Eeeeh?! Scaryyy!" Makie wailed, sharing Asuna's outrage at the deadly contraptions. But it only served to make Naruto shiver in excitement.
'Damn. This is going to be fun! Now I understand why Yue asked me to come along. Even if they don't know I'm a ninja, I-Wait a minute.' Realizing that traps could be hard even for him to detect, ninja and all, made Naruto realize that for a normal person catching a flying arrow wasn't exactly ordinary. He shot his head in Kaede's direction, who just regarded him with a mischievous smile and a half-open eye. The same expression from the dodgeball game day. She knew and was enjoying his confusion. 'Who the hell is that girl?!'
"If we head to basement level 11 and then take this tunnel, we should reach our destination." Yue spoke as she examined a map. "It should take 4 hours to make the round trip."
"... Well, what are we waiting for?" Naruto made a mental of not intervening unless it was strictly necessary. Just to see exactly what Kaede was made of.
"Alright. Who the hell put together this class?" Naruto whispered under his breath as he observed his current team. They had just reached a 'rest zone' just like Nodoka had told them over the radio. A safe haven from all the dangers of the library. Dangers that, nonetheless, the girls had escaped without him or the currently powerless Negi-sure, make brash decisions without consulting him first, grumble-having to lift a finger.
He had witnessed the scared Makie dodge a pitfall trap by latching onto a ledge with a cloth ribbon in a split second, the aru girl aka Ku Fei kick back a falling library full of books without hurting herself and the less said about Kaede's feats of speed, the better. He first had a theory that it was compensation for their lack in academics, but then scrapped it. It wasn't just strength like Sakura they had displayed, it was skill. You didn't just do something like that. You had to learn it, practice it. "... Yue."
"Yes, Naruto-san?" The blue haired girl turned in his direction, munching on a snack.
"When you asked me if I wanted to come, you just thought you'd make me a favour, right?" Yue nodded. She hadn't asked because she thought they'd need help with the traps. "Talk about over-WAIT A MINUTE! I FORGOT TO LOOK FOR THE BOOK!"
"Don't worry, Naruto-san. We didn't come across any book by that name." Yue declared, finishing her snack. Naruto turned to her, confused. "I was checking as we proceeded. There wasn't any books with that title."
"... You managed to check the titles of all the hundreds of books we passed on the way here?" He blinked owlishly. "Even the ones not in japanese?"
"I had a bit of a problem with ancient anglosaxon, but... Yes." Naruto just stared. Then he nodded and turned around, trying to occupy his mind with food.
'Ancient anglosaxon. Right.' He had never been one to be impressed by brains. Between Nodoka, Yue and Negi, it was time to start, he thought. 'So, all I've done up till now is looking like an anonymous passenger.' He grinned. It was time to show off a little, then.
"Thanks for helping me with the climb, Naruto-san."
"Well, right now you're the average nine years old." Naruto slowly moved his hands and feet downwards towards the next ledge, Negi strapped to his back. "What kind of guardian would I be if I didn't help? Although..."
"Yaaaaaa! What is with this place?!" The duo sweatdropped as they observed the swinging Makie, hanging from her safety harness as she lost her footing.
"I wish I could use my techniques." The shinobi sighed as he returned his gaze downwards, just a few meters separating them from the end of the huge wall-library. "We would all already be at the bottom of this thing if I didn't have to keep anonymous."
"Hehehe... Although, that would be a bit like cheating, no?" Negi chuckled as he thought about how ironic the whole situation was. After having a discussion with Asuna about cheating during which she reprimanded him, here they were finding a book so they could cheat and he was discussing with Naruto the merits of cheating. "An accomplishment's value is given by your efforts. If you cheat, or copy, what you get out of it may be valuable to others but it'll never be really valuable to yourself."
Naruto didn't stop climbing down but he grinned at Negi's words. "Too bad I'm not your student, Negi. That was serious teacher material!" He turned his head so that the young mage could see at least partially of his face. "You can do it, after all! I'm so going to tell that same sentence to a friend of mine!"
"Heh... Thanks, Naruto-san... I think."
"Aaah! I'm sick of this! My uniform's all dirty!" Naruto had to agree with Makie. They had been crawling through that passage, which was filled with small bookshelves as well, which bode the question of how they did it and why they thought it was a good idea, for a good twenty minutes.
"Passing over the fact that we almost all stupidly came here in school uniform..." He glanced back at Negi. "And PJs, I have to ask: are we there yet?"
"No. Just a little bit further to go." Naruto sighed. How much longer was he going to have to crawl in the dark? Yes, in the dark. The main reason Naruto was annoyed wasn't that he was crawling through a narrow space, it was that he was crawling through a narrow space following girls wearing mini-skirts and as such his eyes would be closed until they could stand upright again.
'Stupid school uniforms, stupid mini-skirts, stupid striped panties. But damn, Makie's wearing a cute pair. Also, because of the earlier trek into the lake, it-NO! DON'T GO THERE, NARUTO! THAT'S THE PATH TO ERO-SENNIN!'
"Something bothering you, senpai-aru?" Thankfully, the one who talked to him was the most clothed person around. "And why are you keeping your eyes closed?"
"... Training." He replied, but if he could see the feline amused expression on Fei's face, he would understand that he hadn't fooled her.
"Aaah! So you're a fighter too, aru!" She replied, her voice sounding like she had just found a new favourite toy. "And what is this training for, aru?"
"Well, you know... Finding my surroundings in the d-GMPHL!"
"KYAAA! SENPAAAAAAIII!" Makie shrieked and hit her head against the low ceiling as Naruto tried to disentangle his face from her behind. "Auuuu! Senpai, we stopped..."
"IHMMPH-RRY! SORRYSORRYSORRY!" Naruto said as he pulled back, red in the face. Then, again striped panties. His eyes were open. "ARGH! OW!" He knocked his head against the ceiling as well. "Auuu..."
"Ahahahah! Senpai is ecchi, aru!" Naruto didn't retort, pain and mortification impeding any trace of oratory ability. Also, he was trying to knock out of his head the sensation of soft skin.
"Incidents aside... We've arrived." Yue announced, looking back at her companions and pointing at a visible trap door in the ceiling. "It's a testament to the athletic ability of the Baka Rangers that we've made it this far. Congratulations. Come, the book lies right ahead of us."
"Thank god." Naruto exhaled as the group started climbing out one after the other, Asuna being the first. When it was his turn... "... Wow!" He couldn't help the exclamation of awe at their surroundings. If what they had seen till that moment was strange, this was down right incredible. It looked like some old lair, giant statues, pillars, engravings in the wall and in an arc above a huge sealed door.
"It's the vault of the magic book... We reached it." Although Yue's facial expression didn't change much, the shaking of her body betrayed her excitement.
"To think that such a place was right under our school..."
"Look!" Makie was the first to notice the book resting on a small altar in the raised section of the room, which just screamed 'important'. "There's the book!"
"T-That's-!" Negi instead, recognized it as a particular book. "That's the Legendary Book of Merdisedek!"
"Eh?! The book I'm looking for?!" The shinobi gaped, turning his attention to the volume as well. So, they had the same objective from the beginning. "Well, talk about coincidences. Also, you know what it is, Negi?"
"It's a magical text of the highest level!" The young mage continued, surprised. Naruto facepalmed at his use of the world 'magical'. "It's true that you may become a bit smarter by reading it, but it's not-"
"Heeee?! Really?!" Makie cried out, excited that all their trouble hadn't been for nothing.
"Well, whatever! Mission complete!" Naruto started running in the direction of the altar, the Baka Rangers right behind him.
"Ah, wait!" Negi was surprised that Naruto had suddenly decided to give caution to the wind. "A book that important is bound to be-"
"Eh?" For a second, Naruto and the girls found themselves standing on air. "WAH!"
"KYAAAAH!" The next they were all falling, for a thankfully short distance.
"... Booby trappeeeeeeed." Negi finished with a whine.
"You alright, de gozaru?" The only one who had landed on her feet was Kaede.
"Ooow... What is this?" Fei commented as she observed the stone slab they had landed on, full of circles containing a Katakana or Hiragana each.
"Huu... Hm?" Naruto raised his face, finding that he had impacted the outside of the slab and the rock floor below, precisely the engraved word... "Twister? What's Twister?"
"Heeh? Naruto-san, you don't know?" Konoka said, surprised. "It's a party game! You have to touch the circles with your hands and feet without falling and you can only move one limb at a time!"
"A game? Then why-Huh." Naruto almost lost his balance again. "Did the ground just-!" The slight tremor he had felt came back increased a hundredfolds. "What the-"
"Hohoho." Loud noises, like giant steps, echoed from behind them. Naruto gaped at the sight behind him. "If you want this book, you'll have to answer my questions first! Hohoho..."
"T-The statues?!" The two statues framing the altar had started moving down the small steps in front of it, a yellow dot shining from the fissure of the helmet of the one holding a sledgehammer, causing surprise and fear in the ragtag group.
"T-This is-!" Negi was probably the less shocked, since he had already seen similar things happen. This was the work of magic. 'That voice... It sounds familiar...'
"First question! What's the translation for the english word 'Difficult'?" The statue asked. Naruto raised an eyebrow... And then his eyes fell to the floor. Were they supposed to-
"E-Everyone calm down! It'll be ok!" Negi had taken charge when he saw most of the girls panicking, only him and Konoka standing out of the game-board. "If you answer the questions properly, we should be able to get out of this trap!"
'Well, as long as Negi helps us, how hard could it be?'
"... The geezer drives a hard bargain."
"Yeah. Also, it finally gives most of the things that happened around Konoe-jii sense." Jiraiya rolled his eyes at the memories. The man suddenly disappeared at random times, to begin with. Like when a young Jiraiya tried to sneak attack him.
"Still, Naruto has the strangest luck, doesn't he?" Tsunade sighed, a lock of hair flying up with the air pressure. "To think that he would find a mage and-How the hell did something like that happen, anyway? I mean, I don't see Naruto doing any of the required rituals with a nine years old boy. Not willingly, at least."
"Beats me. Also beats Konoe-jii. The only ones who know are Naruto and that kid, Negi." Jiraiya chuckled, amused at the thought of Naruto stuttering and embarrassing himself trying to explain what had happened to tie the two together. "Well, when are you going to drop by for a visit?"
"Should I?" Tsunade said, raising an eyebrow. His grin suddenly turned mischievous.
"Well, I still haven't told you just what kind of place Naruto ended up into." She raised an eyebrow at that. Yeah, he hadn't. So what?
'Dear buddha, ero-sennin, kami, whoever put me in this situation, screw. You. Royally. Signed, Uzumaki Naruto.'
"Kyaaa! Senpai, please tell me you're not looking!"
"I'm trying not to! I swear!"
"I'm gonna die, in here! Asuna, your knee!"
"Freaking-! Whoever thought of this thing meant it as an instrument of torture! Party game my ASS!" Naruto exclaimed, red in the face because of a number of things: because of anger at their situation, because no matter how hard he tried he still couldn't help but catch peeks of what he had stuck his face into before, and because of the sensation his knee was giving him as it brushed against something soft and round. "How long is this thing going to drag-"
"Last question!" Naruto breathed out in relief, seemed like his prayers had been answered. "What's the translation of 'Dish'?"
"... Negi!" Again, he immediately turned to their two knowledgeable aids.
"You stack them! They're considered dinnerware!" Dinnerware that you stack. He mentally snapped his fingers.
"I-I got it!" A shaking Asuna let out. "It's Osara, isn't it?!"
"Osara! Got it!" Makie was the first to react, being the one on top of everyone else. Naruto's eye widened as her privates almost came in contact with his nose. "O!" She touched the corresponding circle with one of her feet.
"Sa!" This made Asuna free to stand up straight again and touch the second circle with her right hand. The shinobi mentally cheered.
'Yes! The last one and then-'
"Ra!" Makie and Asuna touched the third one together.
"... Ook?" Naruto let out on instinct. Then, silence followed. You could hear the proverbial pin drop. In a sudden, high-intensity moment of stupidity...
"... Osaru?" Negi murmured 'Monkey' in perfect Japanese.
"OH, COME ON!" Naruto let out in outrage and stood up, breaking the group and sending the girls sprawling on the floor. "ARE YOU FU-When did it get dark?"
"Wrong! Hohoho..." Naruto threw his head up just in time to see the statue's giant hammer descending upon them.
"Everyone, watch out!"
"Wah!" Yue yelped as Naruto grabbed her around the waist and jumped away, Fei and Kaede not needing any help. The hammer impacted the Twister slab, shattering it... Along with the floor.
"... SonuvaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Naruto let out as gravity did its job, the rag-tag group falling in the darkness.
"Asuna, you monkey!" Ku Fei let out in a shrill voice.
'Holyshitholyshitholyshit!' Naruto's mind was somewhere else. He was back in that ravine, when Jiraiya had had the oh-so-brilliant idea to literally present him with a do-or-die situation to make him unlock the Kyuubi's chakra. Again, the fall was so high that he couldn't see the bottom. Again, he was about to-'No.' He came back to his senses. This time, he wasn't alone. He looked around, the girls all in various types of distress, Asuna grabbing onto Negi to shield him somehow. Kaede just looked worried, but he guessed that was to be expected. This time, if he didn't do something, he wasn't going to die alone. "... Screw secrecy!"
"Heh?!" Negi blinked, feeling a strange surge of energy coming from Naruto's direction. Wasn't it- "Naruto-san, what-"
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu!" With several pops of smoke, several copies of Naruto sprung to life.
"H-Heh? Sen-WAH!" Makie broke out of her desperate screaming as she got thrown by a Naruto to another Naruto, which then threw him in the direction of the original. The other copies were acting similarly. "T-There's more than one senpai?!"
"Keep close together!" Naruto barked, effectively cutting Asuna off. He then began to focus. 'Come on, furball! Do your job!' He shivered as he felt the familiar feeling permeate his body. The strength, the warmth. His body went through the usual motions. Bit thumb, apply blood, handseals. "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!"
"Aaah!" Yue yelped as smoke filled their entire vision, then they impacted something soft on the way down. She couldn't see anything, but she could touch cloth.
"Hang on tight!" The smoke cleared and he could see that his Kage Bunshin had helped the ones too shellshocked. They were all promptly secured. And just in time.
"Waaaah!" Makie shrieked as she saw huge shapes throw out from under the thing they were holding onto, impacting the walls at their side. Their ride started shaking wildly, dust and debris flying off the wall as it scraped on the way down. The Naruto clone shielded her head with his body. "Kyaaa! What's going on?!"
"Damn brat! Where the hell did you summon me, this time?!" The roaring voice that suddenly boomed in their surroundings didn't help.
"Hell if I know, oyabin! Just help us!" Naruto retorted, hoping that the toad wouldn't be too difficult. Then, some light started to pilfer through from below. "Oyabin!"
"Too little time, and the tunnel is not narrow enough! I can't slow us down enough!" Naruto gritted his teeth as the light became even stronger. "End of the line!"
"Aaaah!" The quick passage from darkness to light left him momentarily blinded to his surroundings. Next thing he knew, water splashed over him, knocking him off his summon's back. He could feel his Kage Bunshin dispelling as they also impacted the water's surface, hard. 'Ngh! Sonuva-!' He started blacking out. He had hit the surface head first.
"What's going on down there, guys?!"
"P-Please reply!" The radio silence had been going on since the beginning of the Twister game, but the impact with water had activated the radios that much that was needed for Nodoka and Haruna to hear the group's collective screams. "Awawawawa! What should we do?!"
"We should contact someone! But everyone's asleep at this hour! Auuuu...!"
"... Damn it. I passed out." Naruto sighed as he found himself staring at a familiar cage with a seal on it, already soaking wet from head to toe. "I hope Gama-oyabin gets us all out of the water."
"You really are a magnet for trouble, aren't you?" The Kyuubi let out a heavy sigh, head leaning on front paws. "That, and accidental homosexuality."
"Hey!" Naruto shot back to his feet, angrily pointing a finger at the bijuu. "Take that back!"
"Oh, wasn't accidental? An homosexual and a shotacon, then. Should have seen that coming." The gargantuan fox smirked, tuning out Naruto's outraged screams. "Your floozies are going to be disappointed."
"Shut up! And what do you mean by 'floozies'?" Naruto gutturally mimicked the fox's voice while flipping him off.
"That mini-brat who pranked you? The touchy hyper one? The dead one?" Naruto raised an eyebrow at that.
"You mean Fuuka-chan, Sakurako-chan, and Sayo-chan? What about them?" If he wasn't aware that it would look ridiculous, the Kyuubi would have rolled his eyes.
"I swear, you must be denser than that statue's hammer." Naruto frowned and was about to utter another angry retort when he noticed something.
"Wait a minute. What the hell are you doing?" Kyuubi was confused, as the question seemingly came out of nowhere. "Mocking me? What happened to 'accept my hatred', 'let us scorch the earth' and stuff like that?"
"There's nothing I'd like to destroy here." Naruto was even more confused by that affirmation. "My grudge is not with a school of brats."
"Weren't you supposed to hate all creation?" The Kyuubi snarled.
"Weren't you supposed to be me?!" Naruto instinctively took a step back as the bijuu roared in his face. Not much because of fright or the suddenness of the gesture, but because of what the Kyuubi's words had made him realize.
"... Ah." He was making assumptions. Jumping to conclusions. Just like everyone in Konoha did whenever he was concerned. Hell, even his team-mates had done that until he started pulling victories and miracles out of his ass. 'I thought I was better than that.' No one would really blame him. After all, who would not make assumptions about the Kyuubi? "... Sorry about that."
"... Whatever." The Kyuubi seemed to calm down a bit. Still, a low growl echoed in the air. "You should be waking up soon. Good luck with explaining what you did to those brats. Especially the feisty one." Naruto met him with a questioning stare. "The one with the weird name. Kagurazaka."
"Like Kyuubi's any better." Naruto rolled his eyes. Then, the fox equivalent of scoffing happened.
"Shows how much you know about me." The blonde stared, confused.
"What do you-"
"Ah! Naruto-san!" His eyes adjusted to the light to find Negi and Fei crouching over him.
"He's woken up, aru!" They moved out of the way, allowing him to stand up again.
"Hmm, where-Aaah?" As Naruto observed his surroundings, he laid eyes on what could only be described as a tropical island crossed over with a library. The lake they had fell into was formed by a waterfall, and many kind of plants stood tall alongside bookshelves near pools of crystal water.. "... What is this place?"
"The legendary Deep Library." Yue replied from her crouched position nearby a bookshelf, observing the various volumes resting in it. "I can't believe we were so lucky to end up in such a place."
"Lucky?! I was so scared that I started hallucinating!" Makie let out, still a bit shaken by what they had barely survived. "I thought I had seen Naruto-senpai multiplying and then a monster appear! And now we're stuck in here!"
"Heeeh?! You too?!" Konoka let out, surprised that they had had the same hallucination.
"R-Really? How strange..." Naruto played it off nonchalantly, or as nonchalantly as he could.
"I guess the better plan, for now, is to study and wait for someone to rescue us. Like Negi suggested." Asuna admitted, with a sigh. "Damn Twister..."
"We also lost the book, de gozaru. He fell down with us, but..." Kaede added, staring in Naruto's direction. He silently cursed. He probably hadn't fooled her. Again, he found himself wondering about the real identity of the girl. Then, he processed what she had said.
"Damn it! It's true!" He shot back in a standing position. 'This isn't good!' "Okay! Everyone, I will look for a way out or back up! You should try and find some food in the meanwhile!"
"Eh?! But Naruto-sa-Wah!" Konoka let out as Naruto jumped high and away, surveying his surroundings.
'Curses! If I don't find that book, I'm going to be in trouble!'
"Hmm... Where did senpai go?" Sakurako whined, leaning her head on the desk. "He wasn't in his bed when I checked tonight and he didn't come back in the morning..."
"More like you sneaked into his bed." Ayaka let out with a sigh, the class gathered together even if it was Saturday. 'Honestly, what was the principal thinking, putting a boy in the same room as three girls?'
"What?! Sensei has disappeared?!" Fuuka was immediately at Sakurako's desk, a worried look on her face.
"Hmmm..." The cheerleader whined again. "First the thing with Negi-sensei being fired and now this."
"... What did you say?" Ayaka froze and turned in Sakurako's direction. The girl went through the words she had just uttered.
"Whoops. I wasn't supposed to say that."
To be continued
In the next chapter...
Naruto and Negi's deadline is approaching. The two boy's tasks get intertwined together, and no matter how hard they try, it seems that the only option is failure. But, do they know everything going on behind the curtains, here? Stay tuned!