As the group arrived in Badon everyone felt demoralised and thoroughly confused as to what they were going to do next. Their sole mission to find out about the disappearance of Lord Elbert had been a success only for the man to die within his son's arms moments later, and everyone was sharing the pain and sorrow that Eliwood was going through, especially those who were closest to him.
Walking down the plank Eliwood was followed by Naruto who was carrying the cold lifeless form of his father in his arms, Elbert's expression being one more that he was in a deep sleep that he would never awaken from. The villagers of Badon who saw them return all had saddened expressions or had bowed their heads in respect, none of them saying anything as the group passed through the crowd that had gathered.
"Naruto." Eliwood spoke as they walked into the town properly. "I...would like to be alone...with my father..." Naruto gave him a nod as they entered the inn, the innkeeper seeing them and instantly gasping before wordlessly placing his hand towards the stairs. "Thank you." Eliwood told him as warm as he could before they all headed upstairs apart from some of the horseback riders who had gone to put their horses in the stables for the afternoon. Walking into the first room that was open Eliwood watched as Naruto placed the body of his father down on the bed.
"Come down when you're ready." Naruto told him, Eliwood nodding as Naruto clicked his fingers, producing a small flame that he lit up a nearby candle with before leaving the room, closing the door over after he left. "Let's wait for him." Naruto informed the others, the group nodding before heading downstairs where the innkeeper had signalled to the maids to get something to eat ready for them.
The food came moments later and everyone ate, several of the members stocking up on rations in the case that they ran out sometime down the future. 'Not likely with the way things are now.' Naruto thought as he ate a loaf of bread absentmindedly, Hector, Lyn, Keiko, Florina, Ninian and Nils sitting with him and eating at their own pace also. "We're going to be at an impasse for a while." Naruto informed everyone, who all gave nods of understanding.
Noticing Marcus leave Naruto was sure that he was going to send a letter to Eliwood's mother and inform her of the saddening news, though Naruto wasn't going to stop him as it was not his place to do so. "I'm going for a walk." Naruto told them as he stood up, the group turning to look at him surprised for a few seconds. "There's something I need to think on." they gave a nod as he left the table, Keiko watching him leave before relaxing in her chair.
"You're not going to follow him?" Hector asked her.
"No point. He's got things to think about." Keiko replied calmly.
Leaving the inn Naruto walked back down to the docks where Fargus and his mates, minus Dart, were having a good drink and something to eat with several of the villagers. Giving a quiet nod to Fargus when their eyes connected he nodded in understanding and continued with the small feast, letting Naruto head southwards to the long blocks of wood that stopped anyone from docking without permission. Jumping effortlessly onto the first one Naruto followed them down to the corner of Badon and relaxed, letting his thoughts wander about what they were going to do next.
'Nergal…' Naruto thought. 'Could he be the one Shinigami was referring to?' Dismissing that thought Naruto stood up on the block of wood and placed one fist to his mouth. 'It matters little if he is or not. I have faith that Eliwood and company can defeat him.' He convinced himself before looking up at the sky.
Naruto had never been one to wait patiently for things to happen as he had always found a way to keep himself occupied so he wouldn't have to wait as long for the time to pass. Through his training Naruto had done jobs that were both civilian and shinobi that effectively turned him the way he was now, and he had learned the exact importance of every person's role and how it helped in everyday life. 'Those years of training alongside Keiko really did open my eyes.' Naruto thought as he smiled.
Concentrating his chakra Naruto vanished in a puff of smoke, reappearing back in the harbour before continuing on his way towards the inn where the others were. Pushing open the door Naruto walked inside and saw that everyone was still sitting around and waiting quietly for Eliwood to come down, no-one was making conversation to each other.
"This...this is my fault..." Ninian told the table sadly as Naruto took his seat back. "If I had not been captured...Then..." she trailed off as Naruto placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Ninian, it's not your fault." Naruto told her, the others giving nods of understanding. "Don't blame yourself for things that were out of control." he added with a comforting smile, the girl looking a little happier from his words. "We'll have to keep our eyes and ears peeled though for any sign of the black fang. Now that they know who we are we'll be at constant threat from them."
The group at the table gave Naruto a nod of agreement, as the black fang were ruthless in their job and would kill them all just to silence them. "Isn't there anyone that we can go and receive aid from?" asked Lyn, looking around the table. "What about your brother Hector? Would he lend us aid?"
Before Hector had a chance to respond to Lyn's question there was a scream from outside that got everyone's attention, Keiko watching as Naruto stood up and went outside to see what the commotion was about. His eyes narrowed when he saw a large number of black fang in front of him, an armoured warrior who seemed to be their leader stepping forward. "Hand over the girl and boy and you shall live." He spoke in a slightly arrogant tone.
"How about this? You leave and I don't massacre you all." Naruto responded with a venomous tone, unnerving a few in the group.
The man simply frowned. "Then I shall kill you all!" he vanished into the crowd that rapidly spread out, ready to attack them.
"Naruto!" spoke Eliwood as he walked out of the inn, followed by everyone else who looked just as equally surprised to see him active. "Let's do this!" he told Naruto as everyone prepared themselves for battle, the horseback riders charging around to the stables to mount their rides.
Taking a quick glance at his surroundings Naruto noticed that it was getting dark. "Our vision's not going to be the best." He informed everyone who stood around him, the riders returning seconds later.
"Wait!" came a female's voice, the group turning to see Ninian running out with a set of elixir on her. "I want t-to make up for w-what happened on the Dread Isle. Please?" she looked at Naruto who saw the determination in her eyes and responded with a nod.
"Ok, Matthew and Leila, you're going to be our eyes for the night. Everyone, stick with them and keep them covered in the off chance an enemy tries an attack from either the air or afar. Eliwood, you and Ninian are to keep Merlinus safe. Oswin, Serra, Bartre, Guy and Rebecca will stay with you for support."
Everyone shuffled about and got into position as Naruto cried out. "Let's move." And let them charge into the spread out army, knowing that they would be fine working together in a team.
Raven was the first to run into an opponent, a monk armed with a book of shine. Steeling his grip upon the steel sword he had Raven shot forward as the monk concentrated his magic, launching a blast of shine directly at him that he dodged easily. Swinging his sword Raven struck the monk and injured him before he struck a second time and finished him off, a trail of blood leaking from the monk's chest as he crumpled to the floor.
His victory was short-lived as a wyvern rider flew in, spear armed and ready to fight. Raven instantly knew he was at a small disadvantage due to the rider having his weapon's weakness and the weapon itself being poisonous meaning he'd have to dodge it or fall victim to the poison for a short while. Fortunately he was saved when a blast of light magic struck the wyvern and disorientated it, Lucius appearing at his side. "You can rely on me lord Raven." The man told him, Raven giving a grudging nod of appreciation before a brigand made himself known.
Shooting past the wyvern that still looked as though it had gone headfirst into a castle tower Raven attacked the brigand, dodging the lousy swing with minimal effort before hitting the brigand in the chest with a well aimed slash. By chance the brigand dodged the second strike and swung his axe, Raven moving out of the way at the last second, giving Erk a chance to launch a fireball at the brigand and finish him off with little effort.
As a cry of pain came from the wyvern rider the beast promptly roared before taking to the sky and flying off, Raven turning to see Dorcas and Lowen appear with determined looks. "Let's go." Raven told them, the group nodding to his words and moving to the wall surrounding Badon where several black fang were waiting for them.
Kent and Sain, alongside Priscilla, Canas, Dart, Hector, Lyn, Florina and Marcus had moved ahead of the group to keep their eyes peeled for any trouble. Matthew, Leila and everyone who hadn't been ordered about otherwise had built up a small defence in front of the second arena, as the first one had been closed down for the evening, and were keeping their eyes peeled for any black fang that were daring to try their luck. "Lyn!" Florina cried as she pointed to Raven's group, who were engaging several black fang with a number of others flying about in the sky.
"Wil!" Hector shouted to the group, the youth looking to Hector who pointed to the fliers. "Take them out!" the youth gave a nod as Canas looked to Hector expectantly. "Canas, Florina, you go as well." the two nodded and took off into the fray as Hector turned to see Dart engaging a knight, the dual axe-wielder doing pretty well considering he had only been through a day's training with Naruto.
"Hector, I'm heading south to warn the villagers." Lyn informed him, the man nodding to her words before she took off to inform them of the impending danger. Walking around the side of the village Lyn was shocked to see a brigand about to enter the village and destroy it, her anger burning for a split second before she shot forward, unsheathing her blade and doing one slash across his waist. The brigand didn't even have a chance as Lyn stood on the other side, spinning her katana around and returning it to the sheath where the bandit fell into two pieces upon the click. "That takes care of him...wait, did I just do that?" shaking her head Lyn entered the village to warn them.
"Was that a wyvern that flew this way!" questioned the only villager at the front of his house, Lyn nodding to his words. "I want to know what Bern's wyvern riders are doing all the way out here!" Lyn simply shrugged. "I've heard that magic and bows will take them down no problem. However this will give them trouble!" he drew out a thick sword with a green handle and handed it to Lyn, who looked surprised at his gift. "That's a Wyrmslayer! You keep it, as I won't put it to good use and I know it'll help you more than it will help me."
"Thank you." Lyn told him warmly before taking her leave, the old man heading into his house and locking the door. Walking back up the path she came Lyn ran into both teams that were waiting for Lyn to return, only Wil looking slightly injured from the grazing on his armour he wore.
"Alright everyone, let's go." Hector told them as he walked out of Badon, two knights and an archer attacking him that Dart and Wil responded to. Dart went for one with his dual axes, dodging the attack from the one closest to him and retaliating, both axes making short work of his armour and leaving two deep gashes in his chest that he bled out from. The other wasn't as lucky as he was hit with a combo of flux, lightning and fire before going down alongside the archer who had two arrows stuck in him, one in his forehead and the other in his neck courtesy of both Wil and Dorcas.
"This fighting could have been avoided." spoke the leader, a warrior with a steel axe on his back. "Now I shall end this."
"Leave this to me." Hector told them as he armed his Wolf Beil and entered fighting range, the warrior charging forward with his steel axe equipped and attempting to get the initiative upon him. 'He's pretty fast.' Hector thought as he defended the first strike and pushed him off, making an attack of his own that the warrior dodged. Swinging his axe the warrior hit steel as hector blocked again and swung a second time, the warrior dodging the bulk of the blow but took a hint of damage, the axe skimming part of his armour and scratching it.
Their blow exchange continued for a good minute, neither of them getting the upper hand on the other, before the warrior backed off and drew out his bow. 'Damn.' Hector thought as he placed away his Wolf Beil and drew out a handaxe that was in good condition, deflecting the arrow as he looked over to Matthew who looked ready to jump in. Tilting his head slightly to the young thief he nodded and shot in, the warrior being caught off guard as Matthew's dagger entered his side and the boy fiddled through his items without him knowing.
The warrior grunted in pain and switched back to his axe, swinging it at Matthew who evaded it easily and struck again, dealing an even deeper wound into his side as Hector swung his axe at him. The warrior fell to the ground, a fatal wound across his stomach where Hector hit and a deep wound in his side where Matthew had struck. "Ugh…" he muttered before succumbing to his wounds, Hector smiling as he placed his Wolf Beil away.
"We've cleared out the black fang." Hector told Eliwood and company as they returned to the group. "You gave us quite a fright Eliwood." A few of the group nodded in agreement as he looked sheepish.
"Sorry everyone. I'm fine now." he admitted, giving Hector a nod. "We'll have time for mourning when this is finished. For now, in my father's name, I will do everything I can to stop Nergal and bring peace to the lands."
"I see. So what do you have in mind?" the blue haired man questioned.
"We need to see marquess Ostia."
"My brother?" responded Hector in surprise. "Why?"
"After all we've learned…we can't not tell him can we?"
"Sure, I guess…"
"Hector? Why that odd expression?" asked Lyn, who was now standing by Naruto's side alongside Florina and Keiko.
"Hector doesn't want to meet Lord Uther." Eliwood explained with a hint of humour in his tone. "He's been lax in contacting him and is afraid to face him, right?" Lyn looked at Hector who had the decency to look a little annoyed.
"What! And how did you expect me to send him any messages when we were traipsing around the island like merchants on holiday?" Hector replied, Lyn and Florina giggling at his facial expression.
"Ha ha! He is going to be so mad!" Eliwood said before taking off.
"Come here!" Hector shouted before chasing after him, Lyn, Florina and Keiko sharing a giggle as Ninian watched their friendly game with a curious expression.
"Ha…they're both in good spirits." Lyn spoke absentmindedly. "It's a lot better than giving into despair, I suppose." She looked to Naruto, who gave her a nod of understanding. "It's been a long and hard day. I think I'm going to turn in early for tonight." She turned to Naruto and kissed him, taking several seconds to savour it before breaking apart and heading into the inn.
As Naruto watched Lyn enter the inn he felt a tug on his coat, looking to the source to see Florina blushing slightly. "Are you tired Florina?" he asked, the girl giving a nod. "I'll be staying up to keep watch as everyone looks dead on their feet." She pouted in disappointment but that was quickly gone as Naruto swooped down and pressed his lips on hers, Florina's blush vanishing as Naruto's tongue entered her mouth and his hands wrapped around her for a few seconds.
"Thank you Naruto." Florina told him as she broke away, looking a little tired. "I'll…see you in the morning ok?" her blush returned as she felt Naruto's hand slip underneath her dress and rub her back, though her smile told Naruto she was enjoying it.
"Sleep well Florina." Naruto told his beloved as he extracted his hand from her back, the girl taking her leave and heading inside the inn. "Ninian?" Naruto questioned, noticing she had been staring at him. "Is something wrong?"
"Naruto…" the blue haired girl walked up to him and looked sadly at the floor. "Can I…ask you something?" she asked, hearing no response from him and looking up. "Do you…have feelings for me?"
This question wasn't surprising to Naruto or Keiko for that matter as the two knew Ninian would ask it eventually. "I do have feelings for you Ninian but they are those of a brother to a sister, and not of romance." He answered, Ninian looking somewhat disappointed and unhappy. "Ninian, I've known for a while that you've had feelings for me but I don't have those romantic feelings for you. I care for you more as a brother would than someone who loves you."
Ninian responded by throwing her arms around him and burying her face in his chest, her unhappiness nearly making her shed tears. "Naruto…" she whispered.
"Hey, don't cry Ninian." He told her, placing one arm around her and rubbing her back to make her feel better. "I'm here for you as a brother." he began to feel teardrops upon his chest and he smiled slightly, placing his other hand on her head and keeping her close. "It's ok Ninian. It'll be ok." looking around Naruto saw everyone giving both him and Ninian sympathetic looks as Keiko placed her hand on Ninian's shoulder.
This was the scene that Eliwood and Hector walked back into. "What's going on here?" Eliwood asked in confusion, seeing Ninian in Naruto's arms and wondering what had happened in his momentary absence.
"Ninian was upset." explained Marcus, who had dismounted. "She has been through much over the past few days and the pressure has affected her." Eliwood's expression turned to one of understanding while Hector remained quiet. "My lord, are you feeling any better?"
"Marcus…I'm fine. I know I worried you." he replied as Ninian and Naruto separated, the blonde haired man wiping away the tears on her face.
"About Lord Elbert…at my own discretion, I sent a messenger to Lady Eleanora."
"…I see. Thank you Marcus that was well done." He replied calmly.
"…I thought she should know as soon as possible. The marquess' final moments were so very…noble…" Marcus' tone had a small amount of sadness in it, and Eliwood couldn't blame him.
"Mm." muttered Eliwood, feeling a little sad but knowing there wasn't much he could do. "I'm going to turn in for the night. It's late and the fighting tonight has really given me much to think on." Marcus gave a lone nod as Eliwood walked past him, his eyes alerting him to a flash of light emanating from Bartre as he promoted into a warrior and looked much more muscular and more experienced.
"Eliwood." Naruto got his attention as he was about to enter the inn, Ninian standing next to him with a sad smile on her face. "When we get the chance, I'll bring your father's body to Pherae." The young lord gave Naruto a small smile and a nod before entering the inn, a couple of the group following him. "Kent, Sain, Lowen." Naruto called to the three knights. "I'll take the watch for the evening." They gave a nod of understanding before heading indoors with the last of the group, Ninian giving him a smile before following suit. "Shadow clone jutsu." he muttered with his hands in the correct seal, two hundred clones appearing around him, all of them looking to him for orders. "Split up and keep watch over the town. If there's any disturbance disperse and let me know."
The clones all headed off to various locations to keep their eyes peeled for any sign of bandits or the like, leaving Naruto and Keiko to jump on top of the inn and keep their own watch. "I wonder what Florina and Lyn are up to…" Keiko said suddenly. "Anyway, what did you think about earlier?" she asked Naruto with a lusty look in her eyes.
"Kami's words before we came here." Naruto told Keiko as she wrapped herself in his arms, placing her back to him and smiling as his hands wrapped around her. "Shinigami's power is terrifying in its own right, and a person with a hint of it is a danger to everyone." Keiko turned around in his embrace and buried herself in his warm chest with a content smile on her face, feeling one of Naruto's hands leave her back and run through her hair.
"If he wants the power of dragons then we'll just have to stop him." Keiko answered as she threw her arms around him. "Old greybeard can help us out if things get challenging, and should the worst come to the worst and the dragons do return…" her sentence didn't need to be finished as Naruto knew what she meant.
They would rise to the challenge and eliminate the threat softly with grace.
The next morning
Hector's sleep was interrupted when a knocking on his door roused him from his slumber, part of him slightly dreading the meeting with his brother he was expecting later in the day. "That had better not be the messenger boy…" he grumbled as he sat on the edge of his bed and stretched. "Ok I'm coming." He responded to a second knocking, getting to his feet and walking over to his door.
"Good morning mister Hector!" the little girl from last night told him as he opened the door. "I have a letter for you from someone who delivered it this morning." She said quickly as she held it out, the man taking it and watching her scoot off to continue her errands.
"She's certainly hyperactive…" Hector mused to himself as he closed over his door and took a seat on his bed. 'Oh great, it's from my brother.' he thought as he looked at the envelope that had the seal of Ostia on it. 'Now let's see what he has to say.' He thought as he ripped the side and opened it.
"To my brother Hector. Though I expected you to do something rather reckless in your journey with Eliwood I am very displeased that you went to Badon without my approval, however after I read the part about Lord Elbert I understood your reasons and it saddens me to know that Eliwood's father has passed on. I am glad to know that you are all in fine health and have gained the aid of Naruto in your travels, and I understand you have a story to tell me that cannot be placed down on paper. Later today I will be leaving Ostia for a while and making my way southwards to the small fort that was used as a training ground for most of our soldiers when we were children, so we can meet there and I can be informed as to everything that has happened and what you desperately need to talk to me about. Your brother Uther."
Hector read the letter a second time before smiling. 'I know exactly where that is. We could get there in half a day if we left soon.' He thought as he stood up and began to do his leg and arm exercises, remembering how good he felt during the day every time he did them. "Naruto's training has really changed my outlook on things." He told himself as he felt his own muscles, smirking as the appendage tightened up.
As Hector finished his morning exercises he managed to get his clean trousers on over a new pair of underwear as a knocking on the door got his attention. "Come in." he called out as he put on his clean trousers, Eliwood walking in looking a lot happier than he did last night. "Eliwood! You're looking well this morning." Hector told him, Eliwood smiling in response. "I received a letter from my brother moments ago. He's agreed to a meeting at the training fort our troops used to train at."
"That place?" Eliwood replied in surprise. "I suppose it's a start. Anyway, everyone's already up and waiting for us. Naruto's been scouting the area for any sign of black fang with Keiko."
"I take it there's been no news?" Eliwood shook his head.
"Our route there will be mostly free if we're quick. Anyway I'm going to inform everyone of our next destination." Eliwood received a nod from Hector before he left, walking past the now empty room where he had said his goodbyes to his father. 'I will finish this journey in your name father, and put an end to Nergal's evil.' He thought as he headed downstairs, seeing everyone eating and chatting to each other.
"Lord Eliwood!" Marcus spoke in surprise as the red head joined the table with Marcus and the various knights. "I did not see you there my lord. I was just telling the knights the story when you tried training on horseback for the first time."
Eliwood could not help but smile. "Like I was saying, our lord here mounts the horse just fine." continued Marcus. "The horse is perfectly fine with him and remains steady, until our lord gets the idea to whip the horse and made it take off." Eliwood had the decency to blush as Kent, Sain and Lowen began laughing, several others from other tables now listening in. "The chase that took place lasted for a good hour before we finally caught him."
"I was enjoying myself!" Eliwood defended before they all burst out laughing, several others nearby also laughing or smiling. When they stopped Eliwood's expression turned a little serious. "Hector received a letter from his brother not long ago. We're going to the training fort located about half a day towards Ostia."
"We can make it there in a quarter if we push." Naruto spoke from nearby, making them jump at his sudden appearance as a number of people jumped to their feet. "I'm only a clone; the original is outside waiting for everyone." The clone vanished as those who jumped up turned to Eliwood, who stood up alongside his knights.
"We should get ready." Eliwood's command made them nod as they stood up, double-checking they had everything before heading off to prepare themselves for the day ahead. 'I wonder if Naruto can give me some tips to learning how to use my rapier better?' he thought as he saw Hector come down and walk over to the desk to get something to eat. 'I'll go and see him.' he agreed before heading towards the door.
Leaving the inn he saw Naruto conversing with Keiko and a woman that looked very familiar. "Ah!" exclaimed the young lord as he recognised the female almost instantly. "Is…Is that you Isadora!"
"Lord Eliwood!" she exclaimed as he walked over. "I've finally found you. I'm glad you're well…" she added.
"Isadora, what are you doing here? Don't tell me something's happened to mother…"
"No, lady Eleanora is well. Do not worry. When word of Lord Elbert's death reached her last night…she said not a word…she merely gave her full attention to the messenger."
"…mother." replied Eliwood with closed eyes.
"Then, she issued me orders without hesitation. She commanded I deliver this sword to Lord Eliwood and remain at his side."
"But…the castle defences will be shorthand."
"Lord Eliwood…please, understand your mother's feelings. Lord Elbert is not coming home. All your mother can do now is pray for your continued safety. "Obey your father's dying wish." That is her message to you, and I have delivered it." she instantly dropped to one knee. "I am yours to command my lord."
"I…" Eliwood was rendered speechless as he looked to Naruto, who gave him a thoughtful look.
"Hey Eliwood, if Isadora here is going to come with us in our journey don't you think it would be an idea if she sparred and trained with Marcus and Lowen?" suggested the blonde haired immortal, Eliwood nodding to his words as Isadora stood up. "Though, we can't exactly do that now since we'll be leaving in about fifteen minutes." He added as Lyn and Florina came out, the two seeing their lover and instantly moving to his side. "Good morning girls." he told them as the duo wrapped themselves in an arm each and brought Keiko into the hug.
The second Isadora saw their interaction her expression turned to one of a scowl, as she had been brought up from noble heritage and had learned the rule of one man, one woman. However before she could voice her disapproval she saw the happy expressions of the four and realised that they were content with each other, her scowl fading and turning into a small frown as she looked to Eliwood, who seemed indifferent to all the kissing and hugging going on in front of him.
Before she could question Eliwood about Naruto and the girls however the inn door opened and everyone that was travelling with her lord came out, Isadora recognising a couple of them while the rest she did not. "Lady Isadora?" Marcus said in surprise as she turned to look at him. "What are you doing here?"
"I was sent here on orders of Lady Eleanora." replied the woman, turning her full attention to the man in question.
"Marcus." Naruto called, the man turning to look at him alongside Isadora. "Isadora's joined our cause but will need some tutelage from you. Teach her what I taught you." Marcus' surprised expression told Naruto his response before he gave him a nod and walked off to the stables, Isadora looking confused as she followed alongside the other riders, her horse going with them. "Matthew, Leila, Legault, I know you're there."
"Ah, you caught us." Matthew admitted cheerfully as he appeared alongside the rest of the group that came out of the inn, Leila and Legault appearing either side of him. "So what can I help you with today?" he asked in his cheerful tone.
"I'm leaving it to you to instruct Leila and Legault what I taught you during the time of Lyndis' legion." Matthew's cheerful expression vanished and was replaced by a serious look, one that Leila had never seen before. "Do what you must but don't go overboard." The orange haired thief gave Naruto a determined nod before grabbing Legault and Leila and walking off with them, Leila throwing Naruto a confused look before they vanished around the corner.
"So when do we leave mate?" asked Dart.
"Soon. We're just waiting for Hector to finish his food and we can get moving. We'll be moving pretty fast though, so I hope you can keep up." Naruto told the young pirate with a smile, Dart grinning in response.
Eight hours later
Though the journey to the fort took them a third of the day several of the group were more than happy to be here, feeling safe that they were under cover and in a building with little chance of being attacked. "We're here." Hector told the group as they arrived in the back room, the place looking somewhat clean as if it had been used within the past month. "My brother will meet us here."
"Isn't it risky for your brother to be leaving Ostia?" asked Lyn, who looked at Hector with a confused expression. "Shouldn't we be having the meeting there?"
"Too many spies." Hector responded as everyone stayed in the room on Naruto's orders. "Ostia is full of spies from almost every other nation. If all of us went in there to speak with my brother they'd know something was up, and word would travel easily." He gave Naruto a glance who nodded in agreement.
"There's something else." The blonde added, receiving some surprised stares.
"Mm. Bern." admitted Hector, several of the group glancing at the man as Naruto noticed Florina and Fiora begin talking quietly to each other. "My brother has been receiving very disturbing reports lately from there. King Desmond has been acting very oddly. From what reports have told, if he sees even the slightest crack in Lycia's defences, he will invade in full force."
"Completing what Ephidel set out to do." Eliwood's facial expression turned to one of anger though Naruto couldn't blame him, as it was he who had initiated Nergal's plot to bring chaos to the continent of Elibe. "Even if Bern does try to invade they won't get far, my reputation is too well known and many would flee the moment they saw me."
No-one looked surprised at that. Everyone had seen Naruto's abilities at least once and it had left them baffled, shocked and awed that he was capable of doing what he did, and Naruto was more than happy to let them get a view of what he could do as many times as they want. His chakra reserves were beyond immense after all, and he had the precise control to be able to do them with no trouble.
'Why do I have the sudden urge to pounce Naruto?' came the collective thoughts of Lyn, Florina and Keiko who quickly glanced at each other before looking at the blonde, who had folded over his arms and gotten lost in thought.
"Nils!" came a terrified cry from the centre of the group, everyone turning their attention to the boy who had just passed out. "Nils please!" Ninian cried as the crowd parted, letting Naruto get through to the boy while Eliwood grabbed Ninian to calm her down. "Open your eyes!" she added as Naruto activated the diagnostic jutsu to check what was wrong with him.
'His draconic core's been depleted, but how? He was perfectly fine when we got here.' Naruto thought as he cast his mind around. 'A draconic core does not recover until the dragon in question has rested well, meaning Nils must have stayed up all night worried.' Cancelling the jutsu Naruto stood up; looking at Ninian as understanding dawned on his face. "The good news is he's fine, just very exhausted." He told them, receiving a few relieved looks from everyone around. "The bad news is he needs to rest and remain in this spot, otherwise we run the risk of damaging his bodily core and rendering his power unstable and dangerous."
Before they had a chance to discuss plans a knight came running into the room. "Lord Hector!" he shouted, getting their attention and parting to let him through. "A large force of mercenaries have appeared south of this fortress! They bear the crest of Laus and are led by the Hurricane, Eubans!" he told them, Hector looking to Naruto for a plan.
"Hector, you will take the right side. Lyn, you'll take the left. Florina, Fiora, you two plus Eliwood and Ninian will defend Nils. Soldier, you'll get all of your armoured pals to defend the stairs. Leave the central route to me. Everyone else will split into small groups of about five or six and work together to defend." Seeing everyone give him surprised looks he added. "What? I need to get out and stretch my legs now and then."
"Naruto." Legault spoke up. "I have this member card which should come in handy in the future." Showing the card to him Naruto gave a nod.
"Legault, go with Matthew and Leila and scout out if there's a place here. Everyone else, you know your roles. Let's go." Everyone nodded as they moved out, sorting themselves into groups and leaving Eliwood, Ninian, Florina and Fiora to defend the resting boy as the soldier shot off to inform his companions about the orders he had been given.
Within a moment the stationed knights had all moved to the stairs, two either side of the stairs and four on them to prevent anyone from getting past. "Lord Eliwood…" Ninian spoke shyly as Florina and Fiora stood either side of the boy, the red haired man turning to face her.
"Ninian." He replied, letting her know that he had her full attention.
"I…I'd like to thank you."
"Huh?" replied the young Lord, looking a little puzzled. "What is it? Why the formality?"
"Lady Lyn told me…she told me it was you. You were the one who helped me one year ago."
"Oh, that." Eliwood smiled a little when the memory came back to him.
"I apologise. I…I had lost consciousness, and I fear I never properly thanked you, Lord Eliwood." Her face lit up as Eliwood moved to in front of her, a blush slowly making its way across her cheeks.
"Don't let it concern you. I wanted to help." Ninian's blush continued to grow.
"Hmm…ah, I know! Next time you are free, show me your dancing!" her face lit up bright red as she stared at him. "Not one of the little dances…something special."
"A special dance, my lord?" her eyes lit up as Eliwood suddenly realised what he was saying.
"Er…sorry, I didn't mean to sound too forward."
"No, not at all! I mean, I'd be glad to." She smiled a little as her blush receded a little.
"Great, then it's a deal! I'm looking forward to it."
"Y-Yes, I am, too."
As Eliwood was conversing with Ninian Naruto was at the front gate, fighting off various people of most classes. 'They're skilled I'll give them that.' Naruto thought as he dodged a swing from a fighter and side-stepped a mercenary's downward slash. 'I'm actually enjoying this.' he thought as he back flipped away from them, landing at the entrance.
"He's mocking us!" cried out one. "Kill him!"
Before they had a chance to attack Naruto placed his hand up in a half-tiger sign and smirked. "Wind release." He called out, the colour in the mercenaries' faces draining. "Great breakthrough." cupping his hands together he launched forward a strong blast of wind that tore into the mercenaries, ripping through their clothes and making several minor wounds upon their bodies that they had no chance to defend against. "That was a warning. Leave now and you won't die."
"Wait!" came a shout from above, Naruto looking up and seeing a wyvern flying down with a green haired rider. "Do you happen to be the hero of Etrutia?" he questioned, Naruto noticing that he had placed his lance away and was holding the reigns of his mount.
"I am." Naruto told him. "What of it?"
The rider seemed taken aback slightly by Naruto's words. "I…I wish to surrender." Naruto looked at the man in surprise. "You have women and children amongst you right? I refuse to lower myself to that level to hurt them."
"I see you have some honour wyvern rider." Naruto spoke to him, a small amount of friendliness in his tone. "If you want to join us you can at least tell me your name."
"I am Heath." He told him. "Do you have any orders?" watching as another Naruto suddenly popped into existence the man looked a little shocked.
"Take Heath to Eliwood and get him to guard Nils." The clone nodded as he beckoned for Heath to follow him, the wyvern rider doing so. "Does anyone else wish to test my skill?" in an instant every person who stood opposed to Naruto had dropped their weapon and had more or less surrendered, surprising him. 'I'll admit I wasn't expecting that.' He thought. 'But I'm not complaining.'
Meanwhile Lyn and her group of six, including Oswin, Dorcas, Bartre, Wil, Erk and finally Priscilla were defending the left side of the fort effectively well. Though the mercenaries had managed to break through a large crack in the wall they were met with powerful resistance as Lyn, Dorcas, Oswin and Bartre tore into them, using their close range weapon skill to pile up the body count while Wil, Erk and Priscilla hung back and launched arrows and spells at their opponents.
"Damn!" cried out Wil as his iron bow broke, suddenly realising that he was defenceless. His cry caught the attention of Erk and Priscilla, who looked at him and noticed his discarded broken bow. "I need to go get a bow."
"Use mine." Came a new voice as a horse rider shot into the fray, the brown bandanna and tribal clothing easily giving him away.
"Rath of the Kutolah!" spoke Lyn as she moved back, letting Oswin, Dorcas and Bartre push through. "Well met! What are you doing here?" she added as the bandanna wearer handed a bow to Wil who looked grateful for the assistance.
"After we parted ways, I travelled around for a while working as a mercenary. I am currently in the employ of house Ostia at Lord Uther's request." He explained. "What about yourself? Drawn into something dangerous I assume?" Lyn had the decency to look abashed at that, Rath letting a small smile come onto his face.
"When aren't we?" spoke a new voice, Lyn turning her head to see Keiko standing there with a grin on her face. "Good to see you again Rath. Well then, shall we work together like we did in Lyndis' legion?" the man gave her a nod as Lyn turned around and saw Oswin, Dorcas and Bartre being pushed back through the gap in the wall. "I suppose I should help out shouldn't I?"
Lyn's alarm bells erupted as Keiko placed up her index and middle fingers together and began to focus her chakra. "Dorcas! Oswin! Bartre! Move!" she half screamed, the trio hearing her voice and throwing themselves out of harm's way just as Keiko grinned.
"Lightning release! Lightning ball!" called out Keiko as electricity surrounded her open hand, condensing itself rapidly into a ball before she tossed it into the room and watched as it exploded, sending lightning all over the place and throwing anyone else that was in the room off guard. "That should give you some help. I'm going to keep Nils covered."
Lyn watched Keiko bound off before turning her attention to Oswin, who was standing guard alongside Dorcas and Bartre. "Her support is always useful, even if she is…" he trailed off, not knowing the best word to choose.
"Bubbly?" finished Lyn, receiving several nods of agreement. "I agree, but Keiko's a good person." Oswin had to nod at that as he knew Keiko was a good person at heart, though her actions from time to time were quite odd. "Anyway we can talk later. We've got a fort to protect." As Lyn turned to face the south entrance her eyes went wide when she saw an enemy paladin charge in, catching her by surprise for a few seconds.
Seeing him wielding a lance Dorcas and Bartre shot in, creating a wall that he could not get past as both warriors swung their axes in unison, the paladin defending one attack with his lance and letting the other collide hard with his shield. As Lyn took a step forward to deal with the leader of the mercenaries, from what she guessed, her pathway was blocked off by two horses and a sage and a sniper, all aiming their weapons at the rider who was fighting off both Dorcas and Bartre with not much luck.
"It's unlikely that they will need our help Lady Lyndis. They are doing fine on their own." Erk pointed out to her as the horses moved out of the way, letting her see the battle that was clearly in the two warriors favour.
Bartre and Dorcas weren't finding the fight against the paladin tough, though they were keeping on their guard in case of a surprise attack. 'Never let your guard down. It only takes one slip-up and you're injured seriously.' Naruto's words echoed through their heads as they fought the paladin armed with iron axes, the Spear that the rider was using being not so effective against them.
'How are they so strong?' Eubans thought as he attacked the blue warrior only for his weapon to collide with the warriors axe. 'They were nothing more than a ragtag bunch with no strategy two weeks ago!' defending a blow from the yellow warrior Eubans tried to counter only to have to block an attack from the blue one with his Spear, watching in horror as his weapon broke and left him defenceless. "I…I've lost…" he admitted as he stopped his horse from moving about.
"It's over." Dorcas told his companion, Bartre nodding with a delighted grin as he rested his axe on his shoulders.
"What are you waiting for?" Eubans questioned. "Finish me!"
"No." came a new voice, Eubans turning to see Naruto walk in from the southern entrance alongside the twenty or so mercenaries that had surrendered. "We are not going to kill you. Instead you are going to take your mercenaries and leave this place."
"You're letting me live?" he questioned in confusion. "Why?"
"You only came after us to avenge your fallen Lord Darin I assume?" Naruto smirked slightly when Eubans gave him a shocked look. "Darin was a madman, intent on bringing the whole of Elibe to war. Could you live with yourself knowing that you were following his rule? If he ordered you to attack a village underneath his own rule and kill them all mercilessly, could you follow his command, knowing how much blood would be on your hands?"
Eubans' shocked expression soon turned to rage. "No I could not." He answered after a moment of silence. "I thank you for lifting the veil over my eyes. I will leave here and rebuild my force and make sure his son does not fall into the same path as his father." he gave a nod as the mercenaries looked to him confused and puzzled. "We are leaving. Sound the retreat horn."
It didn't take long for Eubans to round up what was left of his mercenary force and leave. On the side that Hector was guarding only two or three had managed to escape before they were killed, and several on Lyn's side had chosen wisely to not enter while the twenty or so Naruto had made surrender were more than happy to leave with their dignity intact. The man had spoken with Naruto and the other lords and learned of their plight, to prevent the flames of war from spreading over Elibe, and he agreed that he would do everything he could to assist them without directly being involved with them.
"So brother, you're alive after all." Uther spoke when he arrived with his entourage of two paladins, the three lords plus Naruto and Keiko greeting him. "You were so long gone I feared you dead. Another day and I might have arranged a funeral rite."
"My apologies. Been a little busy." He replied calmly.
"Yes. Leila's report covered much." he looked at Eliwood who was standing next to Hector. "Eliwood. I am sorry about Lord Elbert. I was powerless to help."
"No… nothing could have been done." His expression hardened. "More importantly, do you know of Nergal?"
"Only of what was reported. He appeared a year ago and seized control of black fang. Then he ensnared Laus in a plot of rebellion against Ostia. I can't see what he's after…"
"The dragons that vanished after the scouring… he wants to… bring them back again."
"What!" exclaimed Uther in shock. "Can that be done?"
"Yes. Let me explain." Eliwood launched into an explanation about everything that had happened, leaving nothing out and telling Uther what the madman's plans were. During the explanation Uther was speechless as he listened to what the young lord was telling him, though his mind was racing a mile a minute to figure out the best course of action to counteract this threat.
When they had finished Uther gave them the gesture to leave him for a moment, the group of five returning to where Ninian and Nils were as everyone else was either doing training, in Isadora and Heath's case, or just chilling out. "This has even got my brother brooding. He's always been a firm believer in quick decisions. Yet he wishes for more time… that's never happened before."
"It's gone from a simple rebellion to a threat to the human race." Lyn piped up, who had wrapped herself in Naruto's arms and was enjoying the small massage. "Ahh… we saw it with ooh… our own eyes and yet… mm, it's all so unbelievable…"
"Yet… it's all true." Eliwood concluded.
"Yes. I wonder what will happen next. Ideally, we could bring the whole of our lands together to fight as one. It would be a return to the time of the scouring…" Hector suggested.
"However, this all hinges on the existence of dragons themselves." Eliwood pointed out. "Unless dragons are seen in the skies I doubt anyone will believe us."
"And when the dragons arrive, it'll be too late." Surprisingly, Keiko said this.
"We have to stop all of this now. And we're the only ones who know enough to do it!"
"Right!" Hector told Eliwood as Lyn nodded in agreement, Naruto's hands leaving her shoulders and wrapping around her and Keiko. "There we have it! Come on, let's speak to my brother!"
"Naruto, Keiko, Ninian, will you go with us?" the three nodded before they re-entered the room Uther was in, a grave expression on his face.
"I would sooner not place this burden on your shoulders alone. And yet, I see no other choice before me. Listen my brother, Eliwood, Lyndis and Naruto, are you determined to act on your resolve?"
"Yes, we're prepared." Eliwood told him confidently.
"Me, too… I refuse to sit back and do nothing while others act and I will not wait either." supported Lyn, Uther nodding before turning to face Naruto.
"You know my answer already Uther." Naruto told him simply, the man understanding his words before looking at them all.
"…I see. Then I have no more to say. I will aid you as much as I can. Good luck to you all." his eyes drifted over them before settling on Ninian. "And what of the girl? The one we spoke of earlier?"
"Oh, Ninian." Hector corrected his brother.
"It… it's an honour to meet you, Marquess Ostia…" she told him.
"Both Ninian and her brother, Nils, possess a special power." Hector told him.
"Is that so? Then I would ask you. Do you know where Nergal is at this moment?"
"Yes, I can sense him. To the east… he is… very far."
"East? Is he targeting Bern next?" Lyn asked her, receiving no answer.
"Great." Naruto spoke up in a sarcastic tone, everyone turning to look at him. "Just what we need is for Bern to be breathing down our throats especially with how powerful they are. If Nergal does ensnare it though; we're as good as screwed." Seeing everyone sans for Keiko give him looks of understanding, though Lyn was looking quite surprised that he had spoken differently, he took a deep breath of air.
"There's still time…" Ninian continued. "He is… very weak. We must act now."
"So Nergal can't act right away, is that it? Yet, what can we…" her sentence died in her throat as she looked to Hector, who was developing an idea.
"We've no choice but to depart for Bern."
"If there's time, make your destination west." Uther told his brother, watching as Naruto's eyes widened.
"West! That's the wrong direction!" Hector argued.
"Go to the Nabata desert. You may find aid there." everyone apart from Naruto and Keiko looked at Uther confused. "Go and meet the living legend."
"Living… legend?" Eliwood questioned, looking to Naruto and Keiko who both shrugged in puzzlement.
It took just over an hour for Nils to finally awaken from his slumber, much to Ninian's delight. 'I wonder how everyone is.' Naruto thought, wondering how everyone he had met there was getting on, especially the little dragon and the half dragon he had made friends with. 'I wonder how Sophia's studies have been coming along? She was quite dedicated to learning how to help people with her skills in Elder Magic.' An image surfaced to his mind of the young girl alongside her little sister figure, a full dragon that had latched onto him like glue and refused to budge the first time they met. 'And especially you Fae, you mischievous little dragon.' he added with a smile.
Looking down at Keiko, who was in his arms and enjoying the feel of his hand down her trousers, he smiled as Lyn and Florina walked over. "Leaving us out?" Lyn asked, looking slightly hurt until Naruto let go of Keiko and dragged both girls into a four way hug. "Mm… so warm… I could stay here forever…" Naruto heard her mutter as she pressed herself against him alongside the other two.
"Naruto." Eliwood said as he walked over, the girls turning around and staying in his embrace as Florina's horse Huey walked over. "We're ready to leave."
Nodding in understanding Naruto slipped a hand around Lyn and Florina and scooped them up, placing Lyn on his left shoulder and Florina on his right and sitting one hand on their laps to keep them balanced. "I'm ready whenever you are." Naruto replied with a grin, Eliwood nodding and the small army starting to move towards their next destination.
(A/N: I am truly sorry for making you all wait for the next chapter of this story. Events came up all throughout the past four months, and I had to rewrite this twice because I didn't like how it turned out. This story would've been done by early January had my computer's graphics card not died.)
Sh8ad8ow: sorry it's late, but here it is.
EXpertUS: Jaffar will make an appearance eventually, and yes he will fight Naruto for snatching the person he tried to kill.
Kyoshiro: Thank you and thank you.
frytrix and Dias Of All Final: nope, Ninian will not be the third and final member to share Naruto. She will be paired with Eliwood.
(Final A/N: would you all like to see a bit of differentiation, such as the group actually visiting Arcadia or one or two extra members joining their group? Leave me a review if you think I should keep it original, or change a few things to make it different. Either way Read and Review!)