Disclaimer: If I owned Naruto and Air Gear, I'd probably still be writing FanFiction and getting my ego smashed by all the awesome writers out there... But I don't. Well, I don't own Naruto and Air gear, which are owned by Masashi Kishimoto and Ogure Ito, respectively.

'Baxter's Thoughts/words' / 'Thoughts' / 'Thoughts.'

"Conversations" / "Conversations."

"Conversations through a phone."

"Amaterasu/Computer AIs."

"Messages through electronics."

"Jutsu/Techniques/Tricks" /"Jutsu/Techniques/Tricks" 'or emphasis on certain words in a sentence"

If none of those are followed, chats are usually marked by a person saying stuff, so there should be a rudimentary understanding on how to read a conversation at least to understand this story. ;)

- Pre-Chapter Author's Notes: -




TheHumanWiki - hmm, I'm not sure if I should... it was in first person... not mine, but it was Naruto's. I'm pretty sure it should have been clear somehow. *Frowns* I'll go check on it...

chm01 - hmm, you bring up many a good points. Some which may be addressed at a later time. But there will be some answers later on or even down there, in the chapter. Thanks for clarifying that bit about Mikan, but I was going to mellow her out a bit... in a good way, but still retain that awesomeness she usually shows in canon... hopefully I don't mess it up. As for him using the Gale Road... hmm, not sure quite yet. I'm still finalizing exactly what sort of 'road' he'll end up on, really. So we'll see, eh? And as for that last question... it will be shown, and if not taken from this chapter, will be shown soon. (Damn... I think it's too obvious then from my words, isn't it?)

Lena7213 - Ahh, thanks for clearing that up and no problem :). About the whole situation between Naruto and Rika... it was kinda a good lead-in, I think. It's not the ideal one, but, it works, huh. Thanks for the support, hope you enjoy this one :P.

sh8ad8ow - Thanks for those words, shadow (mind If I call you that?), but no, I don't have my own pc yet. But I do make time to bum one off my friends or head off to the Comp Lab, so it isn't bad. The story does have direction. It may take a bit longer to write each chapter because I want to maintain some sort of continuity, but hey, I'd rather have that than get spam flagging me because I messed up. :P

ChronoMitsurugi - aww, shucks, lol. Thanks for the review. As for how I view Simca... hmm, how do I put this? Yeah.. I guess she did get gypped. She is pretty cool, but hmm, I do like her character and personality, but I think she just 'acts' easy... and they're making her do 'some' stuff in the manga now... so we'll see. And that scene was just ridiculous in the anime, hehe. She made Ikki work for it, lol. And for the hair... I seriously agree with you. I do like it, that cute pixie look, but she's not technically the 'migratory bird' in my opinion without her awesome 'wing hair.'

Hmm, as for your views on Rinta... I guess I could see some of that. He wasn't actually planned. Heck, most of this story, sad to say, wasn't planned at all ever since it's conception. It was really just me running with an Idea. I've got more focus and direction now though, so you'll have to be the judge of that. Technically, one could be the Sky King without being a wind user. But they just said that the wind king/road has the easiest way there or something like that. Have to find that set of words again, but that was the gist of it. Hmm, I'd think that people wouldn't always be set in one sort of personality. Heck I'm generally a serious guy, but when I'm with my girl or with my siblings, I don't mind being messed with. That's what I was trying to convey. Hmm, going to have to do a bit more variety or something then :P.

As for the other stuff,the whole regeneration thing will be seen later. Heck, there'll be repercussions to the whole thing as well later on. As for how long later? we'll have to see. And technically, hew wasn't really going to 'ZOMG AWESOME!' all the time. Oh, he will be the best... well, one of... stiill haven't gotten that planned. But he will be practically untouchable. He was going to be, but there were mitigating circumstances, don'tcha know? :P Shit happens, and now he has to deal with his first pair of regalia being gone as well as the humility and lesson from being pwned so easily. hahaha, I guess he does seem to be kinda worthless, huh? But well, I hope to rectify that soon enough.

Thanks for the review though. Hope I meet your expectations once again

Thanks for the reviews and P.M.'s guys and gals. Thanks to everyone for reading, favoriting and/or alerting.


Any questions and/or Concerns, please leave a review... or a p.m.

Any inconsistencies that appear in the chapter below should be immediately reported to me so that I could check over it and/or correct/clarify it.

This chapter was done with effort undertaken after the flames of authorness have been fanned by that awesome writer-dude robst, an HP FF writer :P. His new story, No Hurry At All. Go read it, if you read HP fanfics. It's great.

As for how the story is losing it's shine... in the words of 'ChronoMitsurugi' hmm, well, like I mentioned before... this whole story was actually thrown together at the last minute. Seriously. The very Idea sprung forth from my brain as I was trying to write a regular old Naruto fic. And I ran with it. And People enjoyed it. apparently, not as much if the lack of reviews is any consideration. On the other hand, the amount of alerts and favorites seem to be pointing in the other direction. So I don't know. IN any case, I'll just try my best, eh? Better than just dumping the story, Am I Right?

So, Hmm, not sure if this'll be up to any standards that have been set up for me. But it think it met the criteria I usually give myself. It does the job in introducing the first official air gear arc as well as finishing the 'entrance arc.' So it did the job, IMO.

ACL: 13,159 (Word Length- from FF dot Net)

Posted: February 25, 2011

Updated: February 25, 2011... later. Corrected error pointed out by Gaijin Samurai

Maelstrom's Road

Ch 10…

~An Invitation? To What? : Start of Arc II~

- Chapter 10: Start -

- Location: Training Lab, Trophaeum Tower -

Year: 1989 – A Few Months before 'The Fall'

"Hey, Mal, what do you want to do once we get out of here?" a dark haired boy asked his older blond friend as they walked away from the Lab where they were just tested.

"What do you mean by that, Sora? We're done with our tests and training today." Mal replied, watching his friend from the corner of his eye.

"No... what I mean is… when we get out of this place." Sora asked him, looking serious for once, "When we're out of these labs. When we get to see the world on our own… without any of them looking over our shoulders anymore."

Pondering the question for a few moments, Mal hummed to himself, quickly annoying the younger kid, before he answered, "Hmm… let me ask you this. What do you think we should do when we get out?"

"I… don't know. That's why I was asking you, Mal."

"Honestly, Sora, I don't know." Mal muttered, turning away from his friend, going through the doors and into the locker room where they stored their clothes and gears. "I guess I just want to find a place to be happy."

"Really?" Sora replied skeptically a few minutes later, when they were changing in their separate stalls, "Don't you want to visit all the things they've shown us in the videos and pictures? To go out there and fly, to see them for ourselves?"

Mal chuckled in response, putting his long sleeved white shirt, "Well, Sora, it seems like you know what you wanted and you've gotten it already set in stone or whatever. Seriously though, I don't know. I'm actually okay where I am. Sure, we're kind of caged. Yes, I want to see what's out there. But really? I'm happy staying here."

"What?" Sora exclaimed, quickly walking out of his stall to confront his friend, "Why would you be? They test us, they do all of those things… They don't let us leave, to do what we really wanted to do!"

"It's because my family is here, Sora." Mal grinned, patting his friend on the shoulder, "My friends are here. Besides, isn't it enough that we could visit the outside through 'that place'?"

"No!" he denied vehemently, "There's more than this place, Mal! Can't you see that? Don't you-." He continued, only to stop as Mal held up his hand to stop him.

Looking down at his friend, Mal muttered, "I know, Sora. There is more than this place. I see it, and I know it. But there's always one thing that holds me back."

"What is it?"

Mal grinned, putting his hands behind his head as he stretched, "Like I said earlier, my family and my friends are my reasons for doing whatever I do."

Sora pouted as Mal walked by him, "You're scared aren't you?"

Raising an eyebrow at Sora, he stared at him for a few moments, unnerving the younger boy before he chuckled under his breath, "What do you think?"

Stunned at his relatively quick admission, Sora peered closely at Mal, quickly realizing how serious he was at that moment, more than he was usually, "Of what? You're the most capable of all of us, Mal! You could leave and be free!"

Turning away from the younger boy, Mal walked away, "Could I really, Sora? When I can guess at what happens once I leave? About what will happen to the others? Especially my siblings… do you know, Sora? I can't take that chance… Besides," he paused at the door and looked at the younger boy, leaving a shadow that covered most of the room due to the difference in lighting, "Even if I do get out… When I fall… what will happen to the things I care about?" he finished, his shadow departing, lightening the room once again despite leaving the other boy in shadow.

"What do you mean 'when you fall?' that isn't right, Mal." Sora asked himself, dropping himself down onto a bench, staring at his gears in the locker. "Shouldn't it be if?" he asked himself angrily, slamming his fists into the lockers.

-Post-anesthesia Care-Ward -

December 16, 2000 : 1:13 P.M.

Sora woke up with a start after reliving the day right before he'd started to hate Mal. For having the ability, the 'choice' to do as he wished and wouldn't take it. The fact that their handler didn't like him or his twin much drove that hate deeper. But when Mal fell from the ceiling… fallen despite his perfect form as he whirled up the wall, his anger was lost. To this day, Sora didn't know how Mal fell. Mal had taught him how to wallride and he still used that same technique to this very day. Heck, Mal taught most of their group his useful tricks.

His thoughts drifting off to what had transpired the night before his 'fall,' which consisted of another argument, he let loose a snort of derision, 'He was too stubborn.' he thought to himself. Honestly, though, he'd ridden through the same path, the same way, even worked to get his body to the same 'specifications' that Mal had at the time of his fall. And even with the help of the others, he still couldn't find out just how it happened. He'd tried to keep resenting Mal, but the fact that even in the face of his anger, Mal kept on going. Kept teaching him, kept trying to stay his friend… it made him feel horrible especially once they realized he might not be coming back.

And, true to form… even after all these years away from them, Mal came back and left him the regalia and the rank of Wind King despite the fact that he would have been able to take over…

When he'd met him for the first time since he came back, however, he'd felt angry. Angry that he'd taken Rika away from him… but after their chase throughout the city, he realized that he wasn't as upset as he should have been. 'Did Rika mean that little to me, then?' he asked himself, before he quickly shook his head clear of those thoughts. 'What's done was done. Besides, it looked like they enjoyed being together anyways.' He thought to himself, remembering their faces that day and the others they'd spent together as a group. He wasn't about to antagonize his friends at this point over something so trivial.

Pulling himself up carefully, he ignored the aches and pains he felt in his legs as he reached for the buttons to control his bed. Keep him in a hospital bed, fine. But unless it was low enough to look up nurses' skirts, or high enough to look down their shirts when they were checking him… he'd rather not stay in one. 'Speaking of which…' he grinned to himself, rubbing his hands together with glee as he eyed the help button. 'This is going to be so awesome!'

Naruto's Mind

Time - Unknown

"Where are we by the way?" Rika asked after a few moments, only to receive a finger to her lips from Naruto as they reached a turn, from which the light shone through.

"Just a few more minutes." He said, grabbing her other hand and pulling her up the slope, "This is something I haven't shown anyone else."

"Just what-?" she started, before the sudden orange light of dawn overtook her sight, blinding her and making her shut them in response, "What are you trying to pull?"

"Open your eyes." He said in reply, ignoring her protest and letting go of her hands.

Slowly, she opened them, receiving the beautiful sight of a city… except it couldn't be called that, as all of the buildings were primitive compared to 'today's' standards. "What-?"

Interrupting her, he held out his hands in front of him, "This…" he paused, giving a smile that was both happy and sad, "This is my village, Rika. My home, Konohagakure no Sato..."

"I don't understand, Naruto… you are a Gravity Child. The Tower was your home." She stated, confused. "Where is this?"

"Do you remember me saying… I'm not exactly Naruto?" he asked with a serious tone, receiving an uneasy nod in response.

"I am yet I'm not. I came from this village. Konoha. I loved it yet hated it at the same time, you know?" he mentioned with melancholy, accompanied by a small smile.

"Naruto… I'm scared. You're scaring me."

Nodding in assent, he stepped back, "Please, you've followed me this far… Just allow me to finish this." He asked, "Then I'll answer everything that wasn't answered."

"O-okay." She whispered as she hugged herself like she'd suddenly gotten cold, only to feel a warm coat draped around her shoulders. Eyes widening, she saw Naruto smile and nod.

"Anyways, Konoha was a ninja village. One of the five great villages of the Elemental Countries." The scenery changed, showing a map of the Elemental Countries, the regions of the 'Big Five,' highlighted with their symbols and colors. "Ninjas were the work forces of our world. They did everything." He mentioned, the area around them showing images of various ninjas doing their jobs. Some were helping citizens, others were fighting each other, and some were spying on other people. "Konoha was the 'greatest,' the most peaceful. But when I was born, there was a demon that attacked my village." He continued, beginning his story, the scenery around them changing from dawn to night, where they saw a huge nine-tailed fox attacking the shinobi forces. "The Kyubi no Yoko… the strongest of nine tailed beasts that existed on my world," he explained to a stunned Rika, "The village didn't know how and why it was attacking them, only able to respond to its attack without any effect." he stated, showing the damage Kyuubi's rampage brought to Konoha. "It was the same time I was born and the same night the leader of my village, the Hokage, sealed the beast into me with the skill of Fuuinjutsu." He continued as they focused on a large, several-stories tall toad with a blond-haired man dressed in common Jonin attire but with a white cloak edged with red flames."

Seeing the similarity between the two men, Naruto and the Hokage, she whispered, "Your father?"

Nodding in assent, he replied, "My father, Namikaze Minato. He sealed the beast into me." He told her, the scene focusing on his father summoning the Shinigami, the aura of the reaper-death-god still palpable despite it being a simulation of his mind. Probably taken from his memory of the Shinigami's aura. "He told the village that he wished for me to be seen as a hero." He finished with a sad tone, turning to her with a slight grimace. A small acknowledgement from Rika showed she understood his tone and expression.

"They didn't?" she asked, not really wanting to hear the response, but needing to in order to figure out the enigma in front of her.

"They didn't." he said succinctly. "They spat on his memory, Even his most prized student ignored his wishes." He growled, the scenery blurring and depositing them at a small clearing, showing a small four year old Naruto look up at a figure of a silver-white haired man with a dog mask that was in front of him, staring at the boy with such hate that Rika cringed despite it not being aimed at her. "The only ones that did were my mother, and his other student, which was alive." The scene blurring once again, showing him at home, laughing with a tall, red-haired woman, whose hair was a deeper red than her's. More crimson, in fact, yet with a tinge of violet in the right light; a brunette with purple rectangle marks on her cheeks stood at the side, laughing against the wall at the boy's antics. "My mother, Uzumaki Kushina, and my 'aunt,' an orphan whose name was Rin." He finished with a sad smile, his eyes watery as he stared at the scene in front of him. Rika stood, pulling the cloak tighter around her, wanting to comfort him, but aware that he didn't want her to just yet.

"They were the most important people to me. They cared for me," He spoke with compassion, clenching his fist, "and they paid for it."

"What!" she exclaimed, only to for the image around them to blur once again, placing them in the middle of the street, where Kushina pushed a figure beating Naruto up, off of him. Stunned at the mere sight of the violence brought onto the small Naruto, Rika rushed forth to protect him, only to phase through him. "Why can't I help him!" she screamed at the older one who was watching the scene.

"I can't…" he whispered, locking his gaze with hers, "I can't change the past, Rika." He intoned, before turning his gaze back to the scene, just as Kushina told the small Naruto she loved him. "I love you too, mom." He whispered softly, barely audible to Rika just as the whole block burst into flames.

"Naruto…" she whispered, staring at the carnage that explosion caused before the area was covered in darkness. Only with her and Naruto's forms still visible. "What is that? What happened?"

"That's all I remember happening after that, Rika." He whispered, before he shook his head and wiped away the tears. "After that… I guess I broke a bit. I changed, I tried to forget what happened," He said with a frown, as they focused on him running around with a bright orange jumpsuit with a large smile, "Instead of trying to get back at the people by fighting them, I pranked them." he said with a small chuckle, visions of his most memorable pranks appearing around them… the time when he painted the Hokage Monument without getting caught, one of his favorites.

"But that wasn't all, actually, I tried becoming a Ninja, you know? I wanted to become strong enough to protect everyone I cared for. Which was my surrogate family, the owners of a Ramen stand, Ichiraku Teuchi and Ayame." He said, his smile growing larger as they came up to a ramen stand with a smiling old man and a pretty brunette who brought him in and gave him food. "And I succeeded." He said proudly, the scene jumping to his graduation, where Iruka gave him his headband. "Any questions?"

Shocked at the state of the scarred Chunin, she could only shake her head at him to continue.

"It wasn't all great though," he chuckled drily, "My team sucked, an uber-obsessive fangirl and a bastard who'd gotten everything handed to him. And Him…" he growled as they jumped to the Team Seven training grounds, where a pink-haired girl smacked Naruto around, screaming at the top of her voice just as a dark-blue haired boy walked up and she switched gears and asked him for a date, only for him to grunt and turn away. Then their sensei showed up, a familiar figure appearing in a burst of smoke.

"Huh?" she asked, dumbfounded, "Seriously? A guy who happened to hate you…"

"Ironic, huh?" he asked with a shrug.

"No… stupid." She retorted, "Why didn't you say anything… or ask for a transfer or something?"

"I couldn't transfer out until I hit the next rank. Besides… they wouldn't even if there was a small chance of it happening."

"Why not?"

"They didn't like me, remember?"

"Oh yeah… that."

"Anyways. It wasn't all that bad. I got through it, you know?"

"I guess…"

"Hehe," he laughed, giving her a smile, as he put his hands behind his head, "It's fine. I've got you… and the other guys now."

Warmed by his words, she nodded, "Right."

"But we're nearing the end of this half the story… The demon… Kyuubi." He spoke, drawing her attention, "Apparently, he wasn't himself, really. He wasn't even a true demon. But he was controlled by something to attack the village."

"But isn't something like that out of the blue suspicious?"

"I guess it is, but I decided to give him a chance, you know? He asked the Shinigami to allow me to live a life free of the hate that I had in exchange for his services. It was accepted."

"So…how did you end up here?" she asked, still doubting his story despite the feelings she experienced at each event.

"Ahh, now we get to the tricky part, Rika." He stated, "The offer was offered to me and I accepted after several concessions were made."

Interested, she motioned for him to go on, "Yeah?"

"I didn't want to live there anymore for one, another was for me to not take over anyone's body, but combine with them if they wished so that I wouldn't really be taking over anything. And…" Intrigued, Rika peered at his eyes, which took on a somewhat glazed hue, "I wanted to fly." He whispered, "But above all else, I wanted to have a family, and maybe even one of my own."

Putting the pieces together, she spoke up, "So… they sent you here… because the Other Naruto was in a coma?"

Nodding at her quick uptake, he showed himself talking to a practical mirror image of himself, standing over the comatose body of Maelstrom. Rika then noticed that the body and the other figure didn't have any whisker marks, "I'm the one with three whisker marks by the way," he grinned cheekily, only to dodge her light slap, "Anyways, he agreed, but he had his own stipulations… he wanted us to combine our strengths. My ability to use chakra and my regeneration which I got from Kyuubi, combined with his natural abilities." He then gestured at himself, "But it took time, but we hit a snag… as the body was 'rebooting,' Uncle Inari was afraid of our drop in our bodily functions,"

"So… at that time, he put you in the Cryogenic freezer." she stated, more than asked. Nodding, Naruto, waved his hands and they watched Inari prep Maelstrom/Naruto's body for storage.

"And… three years-ish later… I appeared." He finished, clapping his hands together, "Any questions?"

"You're serious?" Rika asked worriedly, "You're not lying to me?"

"Of course not... I've never lied to you. I might have not mentioned some things, but I've never lied to you."

"Where are we, really?" she asked, daring to believe him despite how outlandish the idea he presented to her.

"Like I said… we're in my mind. Time here is… faster. We could spend an hour here and it'd be only a few minutes outside… although it depends on what I'm doing inside of my head, really."

"So, if that's true…" she stalled, before she came up with an Idea, "You can show me everything? And anything I ask?"

Realizing what she was asking, he shook his head, "Pretty much everything. But only what I've experienced, really. So I really can't show you what a star looks like up close or something."

"That's good enough." She smiled sultrily, as she let the coat fall from her shoulders, "So, you wouldn't be against me asking you to show me anything I want, if you could do it?"

His face heating up at her actions, he stammered, "U-uh… I. I, uh. As long as it isn't too private."

Pouting at his resistance, 'At least he's honest about that,' she thought, before she spoke up, "So, you wouldn't mind spending some time here showing me your world, right?"

"Of course not. Anything I've experienced, we could look through."

"Soooo…" she started, moving closer to him, trailing her fingers up his arms before she locked her hands behind his neck as she looked at his flustered state, "We could see exactly how we look like when we've kissed or gone on dates?"

Spluttering, he tried to pull away, only to be held by her strong grip, which, he had to admit, was quite strong, 'Why the hell are all the chicks I happen to like so strong?' he asked himself, only to stop struggling at the sound of her laugh.

"I'm joking, Naruto… but... maybe later?" She offered, wondering exactly why he was so easy to fluster in here, "I want to see your world."

Taking the lifeline he was given, he nodded hurriedly, "Y-yeah… sure. Whatever you want, Rika."

Deciding to stop teasing him, she gave him a peck on the cheek as she released her hold on him, "So, are you really Naruto? Or are you Maelstrom?" She asked, staring into his eyes to make sure he wasn't lying, "I'm both… of course, I've show more traits of Naruto than Maelstrom, but that's because Maelstrom was in a coma for years, so he was 'alive' only for nine years while I was alive for fifteen, almost sixteen years."

"Gotcha… so, can you show me some of Maelstrom's memories after, just to make sure that you really are, you know…" she trailed off, looking to the side, before she looked back up at his face, "It doesn't matter, though… you're you. Whether or not your Naruto or Maelstrom, you're my Naru-kun."

Smiling at her admission, he gave her a tight hug, "So, where do you want to start?"

"Before that, though… exactly why was the stuff you were seeing in third person? How were you able to show me something that happened before you were born?"

Her questions gave Naruto pause, "Actually… I never looked into why the stuff was in third person… maybe it's because you're here? It's usually in first person whenever I look back at my memories. As for what happened with Kyuubi and my Father… I've heard loads of stories about how it happened, and I happen to know exactly what they all looked like. Some of the damage was still present when I looked, and that was about twelve years later. I met the toad boss and there were enough pictures of the Kyuubi around the libraries and stuff…"

"Any other questions?" he asked teasing her at her interruptions, receiving a shake of her head in response. "Where to then, Rika-chan?" he asked in a decidedly lighter tone.

"Show me… everything." She breathed.

Shaking his head at her, he pulled her closer to him, whispering, "Everything? Rika, I've done so much… I've given up so many things just to be here…" he sighed, staring into her eyes, "… then what would you give me if I do?"

Realizing that she might have asked for too much, she blushed slightly, "Show me Maelstrom's life and how we ended up here. It doesn't have to be everything." She decided, patting his cheek, "But I want to be sure… this is way too much and too good to be true, Naru-kun. The very least… I'll always be there, even if we're not together… okay?"

Nodding, he hugged her, "Alright… that's the least I could hope for." He whispered into her ear, only for her to stiffen and pull away. Surprised, he stared into her face, which was adorned by a cheeky smile. "What?"

"Show me what you could do, Naruto. Show me what you've done… will you do that?"

Chuckling at her, he asked, "What do I get for doing this?"

Standing on her toes, she whispered into his ear, "Whatever you want." She breathed, hoping that he would pass her test. If he got through this, then his chances would…

"You don't have to." He said, looking into her eyes, "I owe you something for letting me stay at your home anyways." Seeing her small smile, he added, "I've always wanted a second view on what I could do anyways…

- Kilik's Office, Neo-Sleeping Forest Base –

December 16, 2000 – 1:30 P.M.

Kilik sighed, watching over the surveillance videos that he'd set up all over the city. "Is… this right?" he asked himself, switching over to see his elder brother at Rika's side, both of them sleeping in the room she was kept in. "Dammit…"

"What's done is done, Kilik." A female voice called out from behind him.

Without turning around, Kilik gave a slow nod, "I guess we do. Are the others don't mind staying here?"

"Gabishi and Om have no problems. They've missed this place. I have as well."

"Nina… that's not what I meant." He chuckled sadly, "They sky… we'll be missing the sky if we stay down here."

"It's alright, Kilik." She grinned, "Using Regalia to destroy Regalia is the new motto of Sleeping Forest, is it not?"

"I just wish it didn't end up this way… with my brother back… and Sora and them…"

Shaking her head at him, she walked up to him and placed her hands on his shoulders, "Don't worry, it will be fine, Kilik. We'll support you. We'll be the forest that protects them from the sky. Is that not why we were gathered?"

"Despite how much it hurts them… we'll keep them safe." He added, tilting his head back and looking at her face. "Caged, yet free… with enough space to fly. So long as they don't yearn for something that is beyond their reach."

Nina looked down at him. Her platinum blonde, cut in a way similar to his, framing their faces as she placed a kiss on his forehead. "Don't worry, Kilik." She whispered, seeing the troubled and anxious look in his eyes, "It'll all turn out fine. You'll meet your siblings again someday."

- Makigami Ine's Office, Tool Toul To Building –

- December 16, 2000 – 1:37 P.M.

Ine got up from the terminal and stretched. After she'd gotten permission from Naruto to use his blood to synthesize a regeneration agent, she worked practically nonstop on the cure that would allow her to help the patients in the other room. Sure, they would heal on their own, but they'd never reach the level that they once wielded because their own healing wouldn't cut it. She had a chance to help them and to ignore that chance would be unacceptable. She knew how they felt about their abilities and their bodies. Suddenly, something struck her about her actions and considered Tool Toul To's new position about AT teams and riders… 'If I'm really neutral… why am I helping them?' she thought, pondering over that question for a few moments, she shook her head and ignored that thought.

She was a doctor. A Medical Practitioner. Not only that, but they were and are her friends. "Besides," she said aloud, getting back into her seat, "Despite how much I hate Kilik right now for making me do all this work… I'd probably treat him anyway."

She kneaded her forehead as she sat back down. The biggest problem with the agent was the fact that it wouldn't take. The only person who would have benefited from the agent would have been Spitfire. Not to say that she wasn't glad… but the others were in either similar or worse states. Sora was worse off than the rest, however and without this help that she was trying to procure… it would be almost impossible for him to ride again. Hearing footsteps behind her, she turned around, only to come face to face with Rune. "What is it, Rune?" she asked, straightening herself in her chair.

"They're starting to wake." He said, walking off without waiting for a response.

Turning back to the screen, she couldn't resist looking towards the room her 'patients' were staying in. Letting out a low curse, she locked the computer and got up, heading to their room. They'd want to hear the news from her anyways.

- Naruto's Mind -

Time: Unknown

Rika just stared at Naruto after they watched his fights and accomplishments. "What the hell?" she muttered, her eyes peering at him, making him uncomfortable.

"What is it?"

"If your training after that 'survival exercise' in the forest was any indication… you should be loads better than you've been showing me." She stated, her foot tapping in annoyance, "And if you really were a ninja… how were you taken out so easily… and in such a backhanded manner, huh?"

"I, uh…" he started, scratching the back of his head at the questions, "I don't know?" seeing her expression, he trudged forward, "I mean, like… Obviously, I'm not back to a hundred percent. And the stuff you've seen me doing, it was when I was back at the elemental countries anyways. Besides, I'm a fusion of two people, a kid who was sent into a coma at nine years old, who hadn't had any real need to move his body, and myself. Our bodies weren't even at the same status. Genetically, my body's a bit closer to the Naruto from the Elemental Countries… but it took training to make it that good." Scoffing, he crossed his arms in front of him, "And aside from that… I've only been here for a month." He finished, giving her a heated look, "Satisfied?"

She nodded slowly, a small smirk beginning to grow on her face, "That was a great explanation… and it makes a lot of sense, so I'll give you that. But you see… you didn't answer the other question, Naru-kun." She whispered, gliding her hands over his arms at the end of her sentence. Hearing a muttered 'damn' she mentally giggled. He truly was someone she enjoyed being with.

"Ah… well, you see." He began, now scratching his cheek, "How did you get knocked out like that?"

"I was used to being on a team, and didn't watch my own back like I used to do." She grinned, seeing his dumbfounded expression, "Now back to you."

"But… but…" he stammered, "You were supposed to dance around the subject, allowing me to evade answering yours!" he exclaimed, pointing at her in emphasis.

"Nu-uh… I was asking you questions, it was only fair I'd answer every once in a while…" she answered, her hands behind her back.

"Damn… you've got me there." He muttered, "Well… you , do you want to see-."

She cut him off. "No. Answer the question."

"I was overconfident, okay?" he grumbled, pouting at his admission, "I didn't expect something so big to move so fast, so I was caught off guard."

"So you're saying you don't think Dontores can move fast?"

"That… that's not fair! No way, Don's awesome…" He protested, "Don could move pretty damn fast if he wanted to. I was talking about the robot. When I was fighting it, it didn't seem that fast at all." He explained, the scene around them rewinding back to the part where he was fighting Rinta in the suit. Looking back at the replay, she had to admit that it was indeed, somewhat slow. Only to see the difference in speed after the talk Rinta and Naruto had, seeing him relax, thinking that the fight was over with after their talk.

"Hmm… alright." She teased, seeing him relax at her acceptance. "You need to be better next time, though. Okay, Naru-kun?"

"Right!" he agreed. "More training!" he shouted, only to be shut up when she kissed him.

"Think you could teach me some of this stuff?"

"Defenitely." He stated with confidence, before he added as an afterthought "They might be a bit different here though… can you handle that?"

"Hehe, Defenitely." She replied, showing him a bright smile. It'd be nice to get through a fight with only fatigue and no body damage for a change.

- Takeuchi Sora 'Nike's,' Home, Somewhere in America –

December 15, 2000 – 11:18 P.M.

Sora frowned as he read over the reports about the confrontation between Kilik and his twin. This would definitely push back his plans for several years. Getting up from his desk, he made his way to the basement of the flat he'd gotten in America. Pausing at the door, he heard the chains and whimpering come from behind the door. He grinned ferally, unbuckling his belt as he opened the door. "If Sora wanted me to be more like him, then I'll do that." He muttered, wrapping the belt around his fist, "but I'll do it my way." He intoned, opening the door and grabbing the chain that led to a bitch that was cowering in the corner. "Get over here, I'm gonna have fun with you tonight." Smirking, he pulled her to him and inhaling her scent, ignoring her pleas to let her go. Oh, he'd do that… but not after he'd done what he wanted with her. Just like all of the other ones.

She didn't say the safe word.

He was still good to go.

- Makigami Ine's Office, Tool Toul To Building –

- December 16, 2000 – 2:18 P.M.

Naruto got up first, carefully reaching around her neck to pull the seal off. 'Did I do the right thing, Baxter?' he asked his companion as he paused, his fingers at the edge of the sealing tag. 'Was it right to omit that much stuff?'

'I think not, kit. The fact of the matter is, you're already in murky waters at the moment. Omitting the fact that I exist was a good move. It's more than likely that it would be a bad idea to mention me at all. The fact that in this world, the deities aren't held in the regards that they were in the Elemental Countries… it wouldn't have made it easier attempting to tell her about Amaterasu-sama and the rest of them.' Baxter truthfully replied, giving his own take on the situation, 'Of course, I would rather have not told her at all, but it was your decision, not mine.'

Sensing his friend's feelings on the situation, Naruto merely grunted as he pulled the tag off of Rika. 'Of course it was my decision, if I was going to wreck any relationship that I had, I'd rather have done it near the beginning before it started. Keeping all of that information would only have made things worse in the end, Baxter.'

'How would you know that, kit?' Baxter asked skeptically.

Naruto merely stayed silent as he watched Rika start to come to, 'I don't… but I'm not taking any chances, Baxter.' Standing up, he placed the seals into the pocket of his pants, before he turned and smiled at her, his face being the first thing she saw as she woke up, bringing a smile to her own as well. 'It may not have been the way I would have planned, but flying by the seat of my pants has never really let me down before.'

-Post-anesthesia Care-Ward -

December 16, 2000 - 2:23 P.M.

"Wh-what the hell happened?" Falko groaned out, feeling the full effects of the pain-fest they'd gone through earlier.

"Trounced." Rumbled Dontores from somewhere on his left, "Got taken down quickly."

"Don't remind me, Don." Blackburn spoke up across from where Sora was laying, "The mere fact that Kilik could get those people to help him."

"We're all alive though." Spitfire added, somewhat chipper despite the overall mood that shadowed the room.

"Alive, but with none of our Regalias." Sora sarcastically put in, seated on his bed, quickly dampening Spitfire's mood.

Not opening his eyes just yet, Falko asked, "Hospital?"

"Hospital." Was the unified answer of his roommates, followed by small chuckles that made them feel a little better.

"Ine-chan's isn't it." Was Spitfire's addition, only to be received by silence. Quickly sitting up (as quickly as he could anyways), he addressed his teammates, "Quick, let's-!" not noticing the quieting motions that they were making at him.

"Let's what?" a feminine voice that was quite familiar to all of them asked, halting him in his tracks.

Turning around slowly, both due to the fear and the pain, Spitfire met Ine's eyes, "Get some more sleep, Ine-hime?" he asked meekly, only to receive a shake of the head from her.

"Guys… I have news."

"Aw, shit." Dontores replied, summarizing the thoughts of the gathered, "Bad or Good?"

Thinking for a moment, making them sweat a little, she slowly answered, "Bad… and uncertain."

Stunned, Blackburn quickly pulled himself together, "What do you mean uncertain… that's not good at all! You should have said bad and bad."

Snickering, Spitfire retorted, "Yeah, but if she did that, then you'd be even more depressed. She probably has something, but isn't sure it'd work. Am I right, Ine-hime?" Seeing her nod and smile in thanks, he looked around at the other guys, who were completely focused at this point, "Bad news first?"

Seeing them nod, Ine began, "The bad news is… Sora."

"I know." He smiled softly, remembering the pain from when they were cut, accompanied by his legs feeling like they were sent through a shredder. "I felt it."

"Umm… right. Blackburn… your natural healing should take care of the internal damages your body sustained, especially since we treated them really quickly." Receiving a nod from him, she continued, "But the burns… they'll be leaving some marks and you'll have some scars on your upper body."

Chuckling slightly, taking care not to disturb the bandages too much, he replied, smiling, "It's fine. My hime fell for my personality. The looks were just a bonus. At least nothing below the waist was affected."

Receiving chuckles from the rest of them, she turned to Dontores, "Don, you've noticed them, right?" After his assent, she carried on, "Your tendons in your legs, unlike the rest of them… were really light. They should barely affect you. However, you'll retain the heavy scarring over your arms and your chest. You may occasionally feel tightness in your chest or in your arms, but you should be able to do what you do with no problem."

"Good." He said, in a somewhat happy tone, "That's just fine with me."



"You're lucky compared to the other guys here. Not only did they not get your tendons, but unlike the rest of them, what you received wasn't too severe. The scarring won't be as noticeable for you due to the size of the wounds you've received. The largest being the one by your collar bone. You'll have to take it easy, however. Your bones need to have time to heal."

"So on the outside, I'll be practically the same?" he asked, raising an eyebrow in her direction.


"Then I can't complain too much."


"Go on, Hime."

"Your tendons were damaged as well. However, we sighted miniature 'explosions' that were spread throughout your body similar to the wounds Blackburn received. However, yours were focused on your joints and specific muscle groups."

"This means?" he prompted, seeing her pause, not wanting to guess.

"You'll be here quite possible longer than the rest." She answered, followed by silence as the occupants of the room thought about what happened.

"What exactly was bad about that?" Sora asked despite the state they were in. "What was the uncertain thing anyways?"

"What do you mean 'what was bad about that?'" Ine shot back, "There's something wrong with you if there wasn't anything bad about it?"

Falko came to his defence, however, "Ine. What he means to say, I think, is that what we received wasn't really as bad as losing our limbs when our lives could have been taken away. Am I right?" A nod from Sora accompanied his explanation, "So, what exactly was bad about it?"

"But the scars!" she exclaimed, wondering why they didn't see what she was talking about. "The time you'll have to spend recovering! Your bodies!"

"Scars are fine. I'll probably get tattoos to cover them up." Dontores answered first, looking at his arms and feeling for the wounded areas through the bandages, "They'd look great then."

"But-!" she protested.

"Pshh, recovery, Ine." Blackburn interrupted, "The tower won't open for a while, anyways. This just shows how unprepared we were, you know? And I like Don's idea. I'll just have to put it past Yuki-hime. Speaking of which, have they visited?"

"Yes, they're resting right now, but-!"

"I'm quite fine with my body, Ine-hime." Spitfire interrupted her as well, "Besides, you like me for me, not just for my body, right?"

Seeing her turn towards him, Sora interjected, shaking his head at his friends' antics, "What was the uncertain part?"

Grinding her teeth in frustration, she took a deep breath to calm herself, "Well, fine. If you guys aren't worried for your bodies health then I don't need to tell you."

"Aww, c'mon, Ine-hime." Spitfire pleaded good-naturedly, accompanied by nods from the rest of the guys.

"It's just frustrating that you guys could be so casual about this!" she yelled, surprising them. "Don't you have any regards to your own lives? Let alone those close to you? Not only that, but you keep interrupting me!"

Cowed by her words and her emotions, they looked away from her, only for Sora to speak up, gathering their attention. "Ine... you know as well as I do… that we're all just fine. Not great, but we're fine. Even though we were horribly maimed, Kilik wouldn't kill us. Gabishi, though… I never expected him to be there."

"That still doesn't change the fact that you were so-."

"Severely beaten?" Sora finished asked with a twitch at the corners of his lips, "Yeah, we were. But that just shows how much…"

"How much?" Ine asked, prodding him to continue.

"How much we really weren't ready." He said with a sigh. "You guys know me. Right?" he asked, receiving affirmations from his friends, "My dream was always to be one with the sky. Even though we have these bodies... these abilities, with which to fly with… we don't have the heart to do so."

"I don't get what you're talking about, Sora," Spitfire interjected, sounding confused, "Are we not one with the sky? We could fly, yes? Then what's the problem?"

At that, Dontores chuckled, "Your road isn't as attached to the sky as his and mine are, Spittie."

Blackburn added, "I get what you mean, Sora, Don… Even though, like you said, my road isn't as attached to the sky, I feel it too."

Sora smiled grimly from his bed, "The lack of connection. We have the desire, the ability, the resources to fly the highest, but we can't enjoy it like we could. There's always that wall that's between us and the directive, the want, the need to be one with the sky."

"That's why we wanted to get to the Sky Regalia." Falko finished sagely, nodding his head.

"I could guess at what you guys are talking about, Sora. But I haven't even seen you going for it, Don…" Spitfire said, looking at his friend, only to receive a shake of the head.

"I have tried, believe me," Dontores grumbled, looking away, "I've worked at it, but I can't achieve it. So I turned to another direction."

Eyes lighting up in recognition Blackburn raised his eyebrow at Dontores with a slight smirk, "So that's the deal with the hip-hop/rap business?"

Grunting, Dontores nodded, "It lifts me up in a different way. But it's more than enough for me."

Sora merely sighed at that, "Sadly, I can't do anything like that. I suck at musical instruments."

Ine shook her head at him, "It's your fault you do. You don't even try."

"I do try!" he exclaimed hotly, before his face took a more serious expression, "What's the uncertain thing, Ine?"

"I haven't completely finished analyzing it yet, but-"

"It's a regeneration agent based on something that I have." Naruto finished as he walked in the door, quickly followed by Rika.

"I refuse." Sora said, a seriousness permeating his being, shocking the rest of the room into silence.

Naruto's eyes narrowed, locking onto Sora's, "If this has anything to do with-."

Holding up his hand to stall his friend, Sora smiled lightly, "Do you remember, Mal?" he asked, "The day before you fell…"

"What do you mean?" Naruto asked, confused, "You don't mean the conversation we had, do you?" Seeing Sora nod, Naruto tilted his head to the side, somewhat confused at the way the conversation was going. "I still don't get it, Sora."

"I asked you why you wouldn't go for it. Remember your answer?" Sora prodded, trying to make his friend realize what he was talking about.

Still confused, Naruto stayed silent, his gaze moving to the floor, trying to find something to focus on. The others were quiet, wanting to know what exactly went on between them. Suddenly, Naruto's eyes lit up in recognition, "What happens to what I care about when I fall…" he whispered, quickly looking back up at Sora.

Sora spoke, "I kept thinking that it was foolish of you, you know? To not take that risk…" he frowned, "I fell, Mal… this is something… something that I need to work around."

Ignoring Sora calling him Mal, Naruto stepped forward, "It doesn't have to be that way, Sora. We're your friends, why can't we help?"

"Because I have my answer to that question…" Sora replied, grinning a little bit, "I'm going to work my way around this. I'll push myself back to where I was."

"Even without the use of your legs?" Falko interrupted, incredulousness lacing his words.

Sora still grinned, before he glanced at Dontores, "Does Dontores need ATs on his feet to use his regalia?"

Quickly deducing what he was implying, Blackburn added, "No, he doesn't… so exactly what would you do now, Sora?"

Pausing, Sora shrugged, leaning back in his bed, "I haven't thought that far yet."

Ine finally inserted herself back into the conversation, "Actually… I have an Idea after Naruto here decided to take one of the wheelchairs on a joyride."

Chuckling nervously, Naruto scratched the back of his head as he backed away slowly, "Yeah… sorry about that, I needed to work out some stress… If you need me to clean it up?"

"Sora's eyes gleamed at the info, quickly sitting back up, "A wheelchair." He whispered, his tone quickly getting excited, "Seriously!" he asked, turning to Ine and wondering if it was true.

"It certainly is possible, Sora." Ine answered him, causing him to breathe out a sigh of relief and lay back down slowly in his thoughtful state.

"A wheelchair, huh?" he asked himself, visions of him beating riders with full usage of their legs making a smile grow on his face.

"I think he likes it." Rika spoke, seeing the smile on his face.

'Then the girls I would get,' Sora gushed, his eyes twinkling at how he could use the wheelchairs and his newer height to look up girls skirts. 'Oh, I like this idea.' He cheered inside his head, his smile becoming a bit too lecherous.

Wrinkling her nose at his new countenance, Rika muttered to herself, "Actually… a little too much."

Snorting, Naruto crossed his arms over his chest as he looked at the rest of the group, "So… what happens now?"

Blackburn merely chuckled even as he winced from the pain that seared through his chest at the motion, "We prepare, Mal, for the next time."

"Hmm… any idea when that is?"

"We'll know," Spitfire piped up, resting his head and looking up at the ceiling, "We'll know." Clenching his fists, his eyes focused on a point in front of him, "And I'll be there."

"Che, Don't get bent out of shape, Spitfire," Sora rebuked him from his corner of the room, "I'll be there to help you out. Even if Kilik was an ass, he's still my best friend. And I'll be damned if anyone else will be taking him down until I get answers."

Naruto's eyebrows went up in interest, "What do you mean by that, Sora? I thought you both knew what was going to happen."

He shook his head, a frown marring his face, "I was never going to go that far. I was going to make an attempt," he chuckled, the frown still present on his face, realizing how much sense he was actually making, "Guess he took our talk too seriously. I was trying to stress to him how important it was to me, but I never thought that he would assume that I would throw our friendship… heck, our bodies or our lives for this thing."

"I understand." Naruto stopped him from going further, "We'll see, Sora... we'll see."


Tool Toul To Base – Makigami Ine's office

December 10, 2002 - 11:48 A.M.

Ine looked around the room at the gathered former members of Sleeping Forest from her seat behind her computer. Looking straight at her boyfriend, who was stretching in the corner, she let out a small smile. Despite Spitfire rejecting the treatment that she was working on, she was still glad that he'd recovered nicely. True, he'd probably never reach the same pinnacle that he'd once wielded, but compared to normal humans, he was still loads better.

Turning to the loveseat situated on the left side of the room, she noticed Naruto holding Rika close, his arm draped over her shoulders. If there was anyone or any two people she was concerned about the most, it would have been those two. Not only did the two of them go through a rocky patch in their fledgling relationship after that night. One that had lasted for almost a year but was repaired when Naruto took care of Rika and her sisters when the girls' parents died on the way to the airport on February of this year. A trip that was coincidentally headed out of the country for a repeat honeymoon on their twenty-fifth anniversary. The same sort of flight that Naruto's and Spitfire's parents had been on at the time of her deaths. Quickly making a note to prevent any of them or their friends to take precautions especially when making honeymoon plans, she got up just as the door opened and Blackburn and Dontores walked in.

"Hey guys…" Ine called out, pushing out her chair to give her friends hugs, "Nice to see you could make it."

"What's this about, Ine?" Blackburn asked after his hug, "I'm pretty sure this isn't a social call. We have those hangouts twice a month."

"Yeah… doesn't make too much sense considering the fact that Sora's and Falko aren't here." Naruto mentioned after seeing his friend wasn't there.

"Don't you guys know what will happen within the next week then?" Rika asked from beside him at her place on the couch.

At that, Dontores nodded, "Two years since that night."

Ine nodded at Dontores' correct assumption, "Stormriders everywhere are gearing up for an assault on the tower once again."

At her statement, Naruto's eyebrows furrowed in concentration before he asked, "If they were going to assault the tower again, then why didn't they make an attempt last year?"

Ine merely shook her head at his question, "It's because there was no need to tell you about it last year."

Rika shook her head at that, "What do you mean, there was no need? We asked you ourselves whether or not we should come here. People knew when the tower was last open, but that didn't mean that they wouldn't make a yearly attempt, would it?"

A voice called in from all around them, "It's because we took care of it."

Naruto's eyes widened, recognizing the voice, "Kilik…"

"Nii-san." Kilik greeted, a projector popping up from the ceiling, projecting his figure onto the blank wall in Ine's office.

"Bastard!" Spitfire yelled, breathing deeply, trying to calm himself. "What the hell do you want, huh?"

Kilik merely sighed, his fingers kneading the bridge of his nose at the hostility he'd felt even though he wasn't exactly present, "I guess I deserved that, didn't I?" he asked himself, before turning his sights to Ine, "Thank you, Ine, for giving me the chance to meet with them."

At that, the rest of them turned to her with suspicious looks, only to receive a glare in return, "Tool Toul To is neutral, despite how much I wish we weren't." she said drily, "That means that we would have to accept any invitation for peaceful talks between factions. Otherwise, we'd have to turn everyone away."

Nodding at her explanation and seeing Spitfire's mutinous look, Blackburn smacked the back of his head, "Stop glaring at her. You should realize how much stress she's been under if she had to set it up, let alone keep it from you."

Sighing Dontores took a seat at one of the chairs set up throughout the room, "So, what is this about, Kilik?" he asked, getting himself comfortable.

"I'd like to say… that I'm sorry for Gabishi and Om's actions." He said, with a frown, "I'd told them to just leave you knocked out if possible, but they were a bit too bloodthirsty, apparently."

Hearing that, Spitfire grunted, still somewhat miffed at being caught flatfooted by his brother's appearance, "That's an understatement."

His statement causing most of the occupants in the room to laugh for a few seconds before silence permeated the room once more. "If you have taken up the defense of the Tower, Kilik… with those people with you and any others that have joined you," Naruto began, threading his fingers through Rika's hair, "Why do you need our help."

Rika added, "Not to say that we would, but why would you need our help anyways. You have the help of several other Gravity Children, Kilik."

Blackburn nodded, grinning slightly, "Not only that, but other than my Regalia, which was left probably because it's a suit," he pondered, trying to see Kilik's reaction, "We wouldn't be much help for you."

At Blackburn's statement, Dontores chuckled, "Not only that," he muttered, "but you didn't leave us in great shape after all."

Naruto nodded, "Not only that, but neither Falko nor Sora are here, Kilik. That's one of the things I want answers to." He stated, the others agreeing with him.

Seeing the validity of their arguments, Kilik nodded and crossed his arms in front of his chest, leaning back onto his chair. "Starting with your last question, the reason that Falko and Sora aren't here… is that they're no longer parts of the AT scene." He began, "Falko is more interested in his programming these days, especially if he hasn't come to any gatherings that he'd been invited to… am I right?" Seeing their reluctant nods, he continued, "Not only that, but if you'd noticed, Sora's left to go with his brother, Nike, in the United States yesterday."

At that, Naruto stood up quickly, "What do you mean, he'd left to go with Nike? Without telling us?" turning to Ine, he looked her in the eyes, "Did you know anything about that, Ine?"

Shaking her head quickly, she responded, "I had no idea. Hell, this is the first I'd heard of it."

Spitfire said, "She doesn't know." After making sure that he had his friends' attention, he sighed, "We were together the whole day yesterday and today. My only question is that if Sora really did leave within the past day, how did you, Kilik, know about it before any of us did."

Surprised at Spitfire's rationale, most of the room was silent, only to be broken by Kilik's chuckle, "It's because like it should have been implied," he smirked, "We're keeping an eye on everyone that's relatively important. May we move onto the reason that I've asked all of you to be gathered here today?" he asked. Receiving nods from the gathered, he continued, the reason why I've asked you to gather here today is because there's unrest in the AT community."

Rika's face took on a skeptical look at that, "What do you mean by that, Kilik? I hadn't noticed anything like that."

"That's because most of the discontent is present in other regions of the world. Many are asking around, trying to find out about the Tower. News of it and the events surrounding it from two years ago have circumnavigated the globe." Kilik answered.

"They're going to eventually make their way back here, aren't they?" Naruto asked, raising an eyebrow at Kilik.

"Yes. In fact, if they do something like that, then their 'invasions' would likely be year-long round. And if that happens, with all of the attacks made and people sent to the hospital-."

Chuckling, Dontores interrupted, "No doubt due to Gabishi's actions at the very least."

Ceding the point, Kilik continued, "There would need to be a way to funnel the 'invaders' into a place or time when the damage would be the least severe."

Tired of being left out of the conversation despite how much information she was receiving, Ine interrupted from her new position, sitting beside Spitfire, "So why did you need them here, Kilik? Why do you need my help as well?"

"Not only that, Kilik." Spitfire added, "But what's in this for us?"

Naruto inserted his own opinion, "We still want to know what the hell happened two years ago, Kilik."

"I admit…" Kilik began, "That what happened two years ago wasn't really planned." He chuckled weakly, "Hell, I didn't expect that fight to escalate that quickly. I had planned for the eventuality of a fight, but the ferocity and the height of the violence surprised me and I'd reacted on pure instinct."

Knowing the feelings themselves, the occupants of the room merely nodded at his admission. Naruto, however, stared at his brother's image, "I still want to know why, Kilik. Not only that, but why would we help and what do we get out of this?"

Knowing that this was coming, Kilik sighed from his seat before he leaned forward, tapping a few keys on the computer he was sitting at before leaning back once more. "You want to know why, Nii-san?" he asked, staring back at his brother, "Do any of you wish to know why?" he asked, looking at the rest of them, "Then participate. Help us with knocking out the competition. Win, and you'll get something in return. Chances are," he paused, a smirk threatening to overtake his face, "This is the reason that Sora left to visit Nike." He finished, before cutting off the video feed.

Stunned at the abrupt end to their conversation, the room was steeped in silence, only to be broken by Spitfire's incredulous tone, "What. The. Fuck?"

Only to be answered by a beep, their focus turning once more to the screen. More specifically, a message that had popped up. Intrigued, Ine pulled out a pointer from her pocket and opened the message from her seat. Clicking on it, she raised an eyebrow skeptically at the message. "Am I reading this right?"

Blackburn merely stared at the message for a few seconds before reading out loud, "You are invited to participate in the First Annual Gram Scale Tournament. It will be held on the Summer of 2003. The prize of this tournament will be this set of Regalia, The Rumble Regalia."

Dontores eye merely twitched at the audacity of his now 'former friend,' repeating Spitfire's earlier words, the tone of his voice mired in disbelief "What. The. Fuck."

Hearing Dontores speak with less words than usual, Naruto burst out laughing while Rika muttered, "The nerve of him." Shaking her head at the audacity by which Kilik had ended their conversation.

Seeing that there wasn't much need for him to stay there anymore, Blackburn got up, stretching, "What do you guys think?" he asked as he pulled out his phone to send a message to his wife.

"What do I think?" Naruto pondered, his fingers tapping restlessly on the shoulder of the couch, "I think it's up to Don." He said, turning to his friend. "I'm up for it if he's going to go for it."

Rika nodded in assent, snuggling deeper into the heat that Naruto consistently produced, "Same here."

Spitfire grinned widely, his arm making its way around Ine's shoulder, "At the very least, It'd be fun."

Ine placed her hand on Spitfire's "I'll join in as well." Seeing them look at her like she'd grown an extra head, she shrugged, "Tool Toul To may be neutral. But I, myself could join at least in the capacity of your Tuner. Hell, Simca may want to join in as well."

Seeing them all look at him, Dontores looked down at his hands, "This is a bit too much, guys." He said, turning to his friends, "You guys would really go for this?"

Blackburn walked up to his best friend, and punched him lightly on the shoulder, "Hell yeah, we would. You know that, Don. Best friends forever… Remember?"

Smiling gratefully, Dontores smiled back at the support that was presented, quickly facing Naruto, "What's the plan, boss?"

"Boss, huh…" Naruto mumbled to himself, remembering the last person to actually call him that, "Alright, first order of business," he declared, getting up and pulling Rika alongside him, "let's get some food." He shouted, pointing out the door and was quickly cheered on by the male members of the team.

Shaking her head at their antics, Rika nevertheless agreed with him, turning to Ine, "We'll discuss this once we've gotten some food."

Giggling, Ine nodded, shutting down her PC and grabbing her jacket, "You're right. As long as it isn't ramen though."

Rolling her eyes at the statement, Rika held the door open for Ine, "Tell me about it." She grumbled, "At the very least you only have to deal with Spitfire eating that much ramen. I have both Naruto and Mikan eating Ramen all the time."

- Higachu Park -

December 15, 2002 - 2:56 P.M.

Several couples walked around in Higachu park, the white snow amusing and bringing forth those who wished to partake in it considering the usual lack of snowfall in the area. One particular couple consisting of a blonde haired boy with a pair of marks on his cheeks wearing a white windbreaker jacket that had dark maroon sleeves over t-shirt with the word 'WiN!' and a pair of blue jeans who walked with his arm around a red-haired girl that wore a dark green zipped up snowboarding jacket over a pair of cream-colored jeans, a dark brown scarf covering the lower half of her face.

Although she was used to walking around with him, especially on her dates, the girl seemed unable to stand the uncomfortable silence that emanated from the boy for the past couple days, making her finally turn to the boy in annoyance, pulling him to a stop by one of the numerous fountains in the park and asking him firmly, "Hey, what's wrong?"

Turning to her, he gave her an uneasy smile, "Do you think I did the right thing, Rika?"

Confused at his question, Rika tilted her head back, her scarf muffling her voice for a bit. "What are you talking about, Naruto?"

Sighing, he turned and swept the fountain's edge free of any snow and sat down, clearing the space beside him in order to both organize his thoughts and give her a place to sit. "Rika, do you remember what I'd told you about Rinta?" he asked, offering the now clean seat to her.

Raising an eyebrow at him and taking the pro-offered seat, she asked once again, "What brought this on, Naruto? You've been horrible the whole day. I thought you'd be happier once we'd gotten you set up with actual identification and records, Mr. Kazama Arashi."

Incapable of resisting a chuckle at her, he replied, "I guess. Honestly though, Rika… I'm just wondering exactly what the repercussions will be to this sort of thing."

Giving him a wide smile, visible to him even through the scarf, she stated proudly, "It doesn't matter, Naruto, we'll deal with it."

"What makes you so positive about this?" He asked, his eyes softening due to her confidence and the cute look she was sporting.

Giggling, she leaned into his side, prompting him to reflexively put his arm around her once again, something he'd come to do automatically since she loved it, "I guess I'm just happy, Naru-kun. Not only do we have you set up as an actual citizen and stuff, but you're coming to class with me."

Pouting at that, he grumbled, "Tell me about it."

Shaking her head at his still present resistance to coming to a college with her, she whispered, "I'm just glad that we can, you know, officially date."

Raising an eyebrow at that statement, he questioned, "So, these past few months weren't real?"

"They were, but…" she paused, trying to find the words, "All this time, I wondered exactly what was going to happen in the future. What kinds of stuff we'd have to do to support ourselves other than the money we would get from Mom and Dad's businesses. But… that…"

Finally seeing where she was going, he finished playfully, "I'll be able to do something with my life?"

"No! I mean, yes, but-." She stammered, failing to come up with the exact words she wanted.

"I understand, Rika-chan." He interrupted, nudging her head with his, "You're just worried how the world will see us, how they'll view us taking care of your sisters and Ikki."

Giving a firm nod, she asked, "How'd you work that out, anyways?" she asked, "You're not exactly the most… studious person, you know?"

Letting out a nervous chuckle, he replied, "Yeah… Ine-chan and Spitfire kinda jumped in one day and scolded me." Hearing her laugh at his misfortune, he couldn't help but laugh along, "I know… but I guess after all of the time I spent training and being tested… I wanted a little vacation, you know?"

"Yeah." She answered, leading into a few minutes of comfortable silence, only broken by whispers about how cute they looked from some of the older couples, making her blush and snuggled deeper into her boyfriend.

"You didn't answer me exactly, you know?" Naruto said from out of the blue. "about Rinta and the situation with the Gram Scale Tournament."

Sighing, she tilted her head to look him in the eye, "What exactly is the problem, Naruto? Sure, you're going to be doing this thing… but simply by being there even if you don't participate, you've already affected people's reactions and stuff."

"Hmm?" he prodded, focused on her words.

"You know… just by being there, with Blackie, Don and Spitfire, they pulled themselves together and decided to do this thing." She stated, "Hell, who knows what would have happened had you not allowed me to get there in time in the first place."

"But-!" he tried to protest, only to be quickly slapped at the back of his head, "What was that for?" he asked indignantly.

"That's for being stupid." She declared, staring him down, which was quite an accomplishment considering her head was at a lower position than his.

"Huh?" he asked eloquently.

"Exactly." She smirked, "Don't think about that sort of stuff too much, Naru-kun. True, things might happen, but do you know what allows me to let it go?" she asked, her tone getting quieter but more forceful in the end.

Shaking his head in response, he honestly replied, "No."

"You." She whispered, poking him in the chest.

"Me?" he asked, unconvinced, "How could I do that?"

"Silly boy," she teased, "By merely being here, I know that whatever happens you'll be there. And if something happens, you'll be with me, at my side… or wherever we need to be, Naru-kun."

Biting his lip, he looked down at her. Her eyes, the green orbs that shined with mirth, love and determination in a way that pulled him in, conveying what she felt, making finally understand what she saw. "I get it." He said, leaning forward, pulling her scarf down in order to get to her lips. 'She's right.' He thought to himself, 'I can't think of everything. I sure as hell can't prepare for everything. But that doesn't mean I couldn't try. And if something happened…' he trailed off as she wrapped her tongue around his, dragging him into a fierce lip lock that soon left them both out of breath. 'I'm going to do whatever I can to take care of it.' He finished, a focused look coming into his eyes.

Seeing that particular gleam, she grinned, licking her lips to take care of any residue from their kiss, 'Finally,' she thought, as her grin grew wider, "Good," she declared, standing up and drawing his attention, "Now, for this you owe me a date."

"What!" he asked, getting up as well, "How do I owe you?" he prodded, confused.

"I've had to stand you being so mopey and 'emo,'" stated, her voice taking on a whiney tone at the word 'emo.' "for three days, Naru-kun." Seeing him flabbergasted, she huffed and turned around, quickly setting a march straight back to their home, "For that, you owe me two."

Stunned, his jaw slack at her actions, he watched her until she took a turn at the next path, "What the hell?" he muttered, dusting the seat of his pants before he took off after her, ignoring the chuckles that the older couples were being afflicted with, "That was unexpected." He murmured, before a wide, untroubled grin adorned his face for the first time in the last couple of days. "Oi, Rika!" he called out, catching her attention, "Where do you want to go then?"

"Hmm..." she thought, before she remembered the name of a restaurant that they hadn't been to in a while. She waited for him to come to a stop before she replied. "There's Lotteria, we haven't been there in months, Naru-kun."

An "Oh." was his response.

"Oh!" she asked him, her temper quickly rising. "What's wrong with that place?" she inquired, "You asked me, that was my answer."

"I didn't mean it like that!" he quickly amended, scratching the back of his head, "I just thought you'd want to go somewhere more fancy or something."

Her anger abated, she giggled, taking his hand in both of hers and quickly pulling him along in the direction where she knew there was a Lotteria, "It doesn't have to be."

"But I was all 'emo' !" he countered. "I mean, if you were, I would have asked for something a bit different."

Shaking her head at him, she came to a stop near a cross-way that exited the park before she let go of his hands, "Naru-kun... you know me. I'd rather not waste money, you know?" she scolded him, reminding him of her thrifty ways, which she had gotten from her parents and were only magnified after their death.

Flashing her an apologetic smile, he nodded, "Alright, Rika. I hear you, loud and clear."

"But if it's an important event, I expect you to go all out, okay?" she asked, giving him a cheeky smile.

"Of course, Rika-chan. The very best for my rose." he agreed. Hearing clapping, they noticed some older couples that were around the area. "Ahh, sorry about that!" he apologized quickly, unconsciously taking Rika's hand in his.

"What's there to be sorry for?" an elderly woman asked, laughingly, "We're just happy there's love like that still present these days."

"Well, umm, thank you?" he said confusedly, scratching the back of his head while Rika leaned closer to him.

"Mmmhmm." her friend agreed, "See, they're so cute together," she chortled, pointing at their joined hands and their closeness, setting the young couple blushing.

"Ahh, thank you, but we'll be going now, I guess..." Rika stated, both nervous and pleased at all the attention before she started to pull Naruto away with her, "Bye!"

"But wait!" Naruto protested, "They were talking to us!"

"No, we're going to be late." She said in response.

"Late for what?" he asked as they reached the other side of the street. Seeing that she wasn't stopping, he looked back and waved at the old ladies, calling out "Bye! Sorry for leaving so soon!" setting them laughing.

Deep within the recesses of Naruto's Mind, Baxter rolled his eyes at the conclusion of three days of angst. 'Finally' he muttered, turning the Hokage's Chair around to look outside, 'It definitely would have sucked if he stayed like that any longer.' he chuckled, seeing the rain finally stop. Standing up, he stretched, eyeing the windowsill before shaking his head to walk down to the records department. The kit would be coming in here eventually to look at what they could do to prepare for such an… interesting event. It wouldn't do to be unprepared after all.

- Chapter 10: End -

- Post-Chapter Author's Notes: -


So, yeah... the past few issues of Air Gear... hmm. They depress me somewhat, considering the amount of shit I now have to wade through in order to decide whether or not to add shit to my story. I mean, the introduction of Blackburn, or Black Burn as he's also called... was ridiculous. He beats up his own kid ; P lol... jk, well, not really considering that shit really happened. But anyways... he looks... interesting and calls himself the 'Hanged Man.'

Anyways, Buccha isn't so fail no mores! I mean, the whole Sucking in water is ridiculous. Don't forget the ridiculous sized legs as well, but meh . I'm still glad he isn't ZOMG!FAILZ! anymore. A feeling I get whenever I read other people's awesome FanFics (looks to the side, *sniffs*) But anyways... This will get an update, unless I die. Which shouldn't be possible as I always look both ways before crossing the street as well as stop on all the stop signs. So probably the only way I'll stop writing real soon is if a meteor jumps down from the sky and grants me wishes or gives me superpowers. (looks outside and sees somewhat clear sky) But that didn't happen. So you will see an update. BELIEVE IT!

Believe in the you, who believes in the me that believes in the me that writes the me stuff on Fanfiction. So there! I will write. Expect update sometime in March... cuz I'm not sure If I can finish a chapter before teh months' done. Have homework and projects to do.

Oh yeah, Look up Alienware Commercial 2010 - M11x on that you tube thing… that shit cracks me up.

Not sure what else to put down... Thanks for reading, reviewing, alerting, favoriting or heck, just clicking on my pages!

Thanks for reading,