Fate and Fantasy
Chapter 1: Divine Intervention
"How could they do this to a child?"
It was not the first time that night that Sarutobi Hiruzen had uttered that question aloud as he stared at the comatose boy laid out on the hospital bed before him. Uzumaki Naruto was entirely too still for such an energetic child and covered head to foot with bandages that left only his eyes, nose and mouth uncovered.
In the corner Hatake Kakashi, who had discarded his ANBU mask shortly after the last doctor had been escorted from the room, fidgeted anxiously. "With any luck Ibiki will have an answer for you before tomorrow," he nearly snarled.
Sarutobi shot the younger man a quelling glance. "Contain yourself, Kakashi," he admonished. "I know it is hard on you to see him in such a state, it is the same for me, but that is no reason to lose control."
"But what if this isn't the first time they allowed something like this to happen?" Kakashi seethed. "I tried to keep an eye on him as often as possible and I know you checked up on him periodically but neither of us could be there all the time. What if-"
"That is enough, Kakashi!" Sarutobi interrupted sharply. "We mustn't allow ourselves to become mired in pointless 'what if's'. Naruto has never showed any signs of abuse or mistreatment before this and I'm fairly confident that between the two of us something like that wouldn't have slipped past our notice."
"Then why wait until now?" Kakashi asked, giving voice to a question that had plagued both men since Naruto's rescue from the orphanage. "Why let a bunch of drunks into the orphanage and allow them to set his room on fire? Why not just kill him in his sleep themselves? Why-"
"Kakashi, I thought I told you to stop that," Sarutobi interjected with a tired sigh. "You'll grow old before your time and give me more gray hairs."
Kakashi sheepishly rubbed the back of his neck and gave a weak chuckle before lapsing into an uneasy silence. He blinked his one visible eye in confusion though when something put his finely tuned senses on alert, his hand unconsciously moving for a kunai as a sense of wrongness settled upon him. Kakashi looked towards Sarutobi and the elderly Hokage nodded slowly, he felt it too.
It took a few moments to realize just what had them on edge. It was much too quiet, almost dead silent were it not for their breathing. The various monitors and machines that were hooked to Naruto were frozen and silent. Naruto, unnervingly still before, wasn't even breathing anymore and if it wasn't for his uncommonly large chakra signature that continued to assault their senses they would have assumed he was dead.
Something about this seemed eerily familiar to the Hokage as Sarutobi discreetly signaled for Kakashi to check on the ANBU guards just outside the door while he kept an eye on Naruto. This effect was disturbingly similar to an experimental stasis seal the Yondaime had been testing shortly before his death that was supposed to encase someone, a dangerous prisoner for instance, in some manner of time displacement field. Minato hadn't been able to create a stable prototype before his death and unfortunately any and all notes he might have had were sealed away in the Namikaze estate and out of their reach unless he was willing to risk Naruto's identity as the Namikaze heir to be uncovered.
"After this though..." Sarutobi thought worriedly. "We were so close to losing him tonight, at the hands of our own people no less. Is it worth protecting him from enemies without when he could be so easily struck from within?"
He pushed that thought aside to glance over his shoulder and check on Kakashi, who used ANBU hand signs to indicate that the strange stillness was not confined to the room and encompassed the guards and staff outside as well.
"So it is like Minato's stasis seal, just on a much larger scale." Sarutobi mused as he turned back to check on Naruto. "Though how Kakashi and I aren't affe-" his train of thought came to an abrupt halt at the sight that greeted him.
Three people were arrayed around Naruto's bed with no obvious sign of how they managed to get past the two highly trained shinobi in the room. One was a girl that looked no older than twelve, with silvery-blonde hair and pale blue eyes and dressed in a snow white kimono, that was perched on the edge of his bed running her hand tenderly down his bandaged cheek with a sad smile on her face. Standing just behind her was a beautiful woman with long black hair and emerald green eyes clad in a pitch black kimono. A grim look marred her almost unnatural beauty as she laid a consoling hand on the younger girl's shoulder. There was a glint of something in her eyes as she looked down at Naruto that sent a shiver down Sarutobi's spine and he couldn't help but wonder what about the boy would inspire such a look. The last figure towered head and shoulders above them all and was wrapped in a ragged gray shroud that prevented him from telling whether it was a man or woman though he caught a glimpse of wild gray hair peeking out from under the shroud.
Kakashi instinctively moved, kunai in hand, to protect Naruto but Sarutobi caught him by the shoulder before he could get very far. If these three were responsible for essentially stopping time around them, there was little even he, the Shinobi no Kami himself, could likely do against them.
Without looking up from Naruto the young girl spoke. "Such darkness clouding his future, sisters," she lamented. "So much loneliness on the path waiting for him. Where could it have all gone wrong?"
The older woman gave her shoulder a comforting squeeze as she shook her head. "It's hard to say, sister, the shadows of this world are deep and hide many things even from our eyes. They will only grow deeper as time passes."
"Never before has one of our Chosen been forced to shoulder their destiny in such solitude," the shrouded one intoned in an aged, yet distinctly feminine, voice. "The burdens he will be forced to bear will keep him from seeking the light of his world's salvation."
The two shinobi shared a confused glance as the trio of strange women nodded gravely. Much of that short conversation had gone completely over their heads but they hadn't missed the mention of Naruto's future and it's bleak outlook.
"Are they fortune tellers, or true seers perhaps?" Sarutobi wondered briefly but something about them, a sense of hidden power or danger from all three, made him keep his silence and tighten his grip on Kakashi as a precaution.
"We cannot let things proceed as they will sisters," the young blonde declared.
"That goes without question, dear sister," the dark haired one agreed. "But what does remain in question is how shall we go about shaping a new path for our Chosen?"
They fell into a contemplative silence that lasted long enough that even Sarutobi began to fidget uneasily as he simply stood by and allowed these strangers to discuss the future of the boy he considered a surrogate grandson. It was only a feeling deep in his gut, one that he had come to rely upon over the years, that kept him from lashing out.
Eventually the young blonde grimaced. "Our choices are very limited it seems. We cannot simply replace him now, events have already been set into motion that not even we could change. Even if we could there were only two others that could have been suitable but the one is already dead and the other fallen to the darkness."
"Well if we cannot replace young Naruto, then what about displacing him?" The black clad woman suggested.
"Time is not something to be meddled with lightly, sisters," the shrouded one admonished lightly. "Even if we were to attempt it we would simply have to deal with the same issues as a replacement and then some. He would view the world through jaded eyes and be burdened with not only his destiny but his knowledge of the future. The fear of changing things for the worse or being unable to change things could very well crush him far more effectively than any foe."
The younger pair nodded thoughtfully, eerily in unison, as they mulled over her words. "Well don't keep us in suspense, dear sister. I assume you have a plan?"
"We must, as the saying goes, think outside the box in this instance. If we leave things as they are the Elemental Countries might know peace, but in the end nothing will change and the world will die a slow death. What Elementia needs is a hero and as the last true chance for it's, and magic's, survival, young Naruto is the best we can possibly hope for."
She paused as if to gauge her sister's reactions, who continued to stare intently at her, before continuing. "As such I pose this question: who better to train such a hero than another who has shared his burden?"
Her siblings blinked bemusedly and glanced at one another, again in perfect synchronization, before responding. "You are suggesting we bring one of our former Chosen here to instruct him?" The younger asked in surprise.
"Not just one," the elder corrected. "There are foes in his path that could challenge some of our greatest champions if they were without their comrades and Naruto will be forced to face these battles alone. As such he must surpass all those that came before him in every way. We must simply choose those most suitable to pass on their knowledge."
"Perhaps we should take the time to set certain...events into motion to safeguard his future first," the black clad sister suggested delicately.
Quite suddenly the two shinobi found themselves the focus of three piercing stares, the shrouded one shifting to reveal a mask in the shape of a demon's leering visage that only intensified the effect.
"Thank you for your patience with our rambling, Sarutobi Hiruzen, Hatake Kakashi," the younger girl stated.
"We did not mean to ignore you gentlemen for so long," the middle sister continued apologetically. "We simply could not allow this situation to unfold as we had foreseen."
"I'm certain you have many questions," the eldest rasped. "We shall endeavor to answer what we can."
Sarutobi and Kakashi stared at the trio in something of a daze, their minds struggling to comprehend the situation they found themselves in. Kakashi recovered first, pushing the majority of his confusion to the back of his mind while the Sandaime continued to puzzle over all that they'd heard, and asked the question that was forefront in both their minds.
"Who are you? What are you?"
That drew amused smiles from the sisters. "An understandable reaction I suppose. We are the Keepers of Order and Life, the Guardians of innumerable worlds. The people of the Elemental Nations know me as Kami, goddess of creation and life," the younger girl stated, holding one hand to her chest and giving a slight bow.
Her black clad sister gave the shocked pair a wicked grin. "Yami, goddess of judgment and hell," her bow was mocking. "At your service."
The shrouded sister shook her head in exasperation. "There is no need for that, sister," she chided. "As for me I am the Shinigami, goddess of darkness and death."
Kakashi looked between them in disbelief for a few moments before sitting heavily on a chair near the door, his lone eye fixed on the one that claimed to be the being that was ultimately responsible for his sensei's death and Naruto's burden. Sarutobi however took it in stride and bowed in return before moving to stand opposite Kami and Yami, staring down at Naruto in concern.
"You are taking our words at face value, Sarutobi?" Yami questioned. "I am surprised a Hokage would be so trusting."
He spared her a glance and a small smile before turning back to Naruto. "Your power," he said, sweeping his arm to indicate Naruto's still form and the silent machines. "Is quite apparent despite the fact that I couldn't, and still can't, sense you even though you're standing right before my eyes. The way you speak as well...was his life truly going to be so terrible?"
Kami gave him a sad smile. "As we saw it...yes. Incidents such as this were few and far between but each one would be just as vicious, if not more so, and would drive him further into his shell. It is the neglect and hatred that leaves the greatest blemish upon his future however."
"Neglect? Hatred?" Kakashi echoed incredulously. "What about us? Why would we just let things like that go unanswered?"
"You, Hatake, are one of the most valuable assets in this village and eventually you can not be spared to guard one child, no matter how important he is to you." Yami explained. "The majority of attempts on his life take place when you are conveniently out of the village and your replacement is, at best, indifferent to Naruto's plight."
"While you are a powerful shinobi, Sarutobi," the Shinigami continued. "The position that allows you to give Naruto a measure of safety also limits the amount of effort you can put forth to watch over him. Together you still manage to keep the very worst from reaching him but you fail him in so many other respects..."
Kakashi flinched at the hint of accusation in her tone but Sarutobi simply shrugged it off. "You spoke of safeguarding him...what would you have us do?" He asked with conviction.
"First and foremost his heritage must be revealed," Kami paused a moment, perhaps to give Sarutobi time to protest, but he merely gestured for her to continue. "It is not worth protecting him from enemies outside the village when he can be struck down so easily by the very people he will grow up to protect. Konoha has recovered enough to make any enemy think twice before trying to strike at a lone boy, no matter who his parents were."
The elderly Hokage nodded firmly as the goddess echoed his earlier thoughts. "With his safety more or less assured and the village firmly supporting him Naruto's considerable talents will not be allowed to waste away and that, combined with his magic and our gifts, will make him a force of change in this world." Yami declared.
"That's the second time you've mentioned magic," Kakashi noted quietly. "I thought monsters were the only ones that could use magic anymore."
"The last known magic users in the Elemental Nations were the Kazama Clan," Sarutobi added slowly. "But they were wiped out nearly five centuries ago after trying to conquer Iwa. Are you saying that Naruto is related to them in some way?"
"Indeed he is, on his father's side," the Shinigami confirmed. "Before the Kazama were wiped out the Namikaze were a branch family of sorts, where members who didn't have any noticeable aptitude with magic were relegated. Minato was probably the strongest Namikaze since the fall of the Kazama and the closest to reawakening his kekkei genkai, until Naruto here that is. Our gifts shall ensure that his magic does awaken."
"And what of these gifts then?" Kakashi inquired. "If he has so much latent ability that such a small change will let flourish then why give him, I would assume, so many other advantages and training?"
"Rather than just tell you about our gifts, how about we show you?" Kami replied. "Would you summon him, dear sister? I think he has everything we need and then some."
A gleeful smile appeared on Yami's face as she moved around Naruto's bed and opened the room's only window as wide as it could go. The two shinobi watched with interest as she clasped her hands together then flung them out before her, releasing a ball of green energy with an orange symbol floating in it's center that meandered around for a second before shooting off into the sky.
She turned back to them and her smile was, if anything, even larger. "As for the why, it is pretty simple. By revealing his heritage and allowing his true potential to grow unhindered we paint a target on his back and enemies who would have ignored or underestimated him otherwise would do their damnedest to see him dead. Naruto must not die before his destiny is fulfilled, for if he does Elementia will fall. Perhaps not immediately, perhaps not even for centuries but it will fall and with it's death hundreds, if not thousands, of other worlds will follow."
Seeing the startled looks on the the two shinobi's faces the Shinigami shook her head in exasperation again. "Stop being so dramatic, sister. Our Chosen will ensure he becomes the hero this world needs and your friend will help protect him until such time as he can face his enemies on his own," she assured the two men before they could worry themselves further.
Kakashi rubbed his face wearily, this was starting to be a little to much for him. Even Sarutobi looked somewhat troubled. "It saddens me that he must bear so many burdens from such a young age," he lamented.
"It is necessary though," Kami informed him sadly. "With Naruto's father dead and the other lost to us he is the only one we can rely upon."
"Enough of this depressing talk," Yami exclaimed, clapping her hands together sharply. "He's on his way and it looks like he wants to make an entrance. Sarutobi, dear sister, I would suggest moving aside."
The Hokage blinked once in confusion before complying, moving to stand next to Kakashi. Kami merely stretched out next to Naruto, propping her head up with one hand and leaving the other resting on his chest. Yami shot the younger looking goddess a small smirk as she leaned up against the wall beside the window and the Shinigami simply shook her head, yet again, in exasperation.
They held that strange tableau for several moments before the sound of laughter cut through the silent night air.
As the two shinobi in the room tensed, a dark red blur shot through the open window and flew mere inches over Naruto's bed, crashed into the wall across the way with a sharp yelp of pain and crumpled to the ground just out of sight. Two of the goddesses sighed wearily and Yami giggled at the slack jawed looks that the two shinobi sported, which were undoubtedly about to become worse.
The dark red blur shot up once again, skimmed the ceiling and landed, light-footed, on the railing of Naruto's hospital bed revealing itself to be a fairly tall red cloaked figure.
A red cloaked figure with mottled gray skin and six arms.
It took a moment to survey the room and it's occupants before it began swaying and weaving it's arms around in complicated, and utterly ridiculous looking, patterns. "The Seeker of Blades and Collector of Relics both great and small, magical and mundane! A Wanderer of Worlds and Swordsman Supreme! A hero? A villain? Neither! I am GILGAMESH!" As suddenly as it began the strange dance stopped and the figure dropped into an exaggerated stage bow. "At your service!"
"Your entrance still needs a little work, Gil," the Shinigami deadpanned, eliciting further giggles from both her sisters.
Gilgamesh's arms fell to his sides and his shoulders slumped dejectedly as he heaved a mock sigh of sadness. "First the stupid bridge and then the cliff and now that stupid wall and..." they could almost hear the pout in his voice as he trailed off into indistinct muttering.
The two shinobi shared a quick glance and, seeing the shocked look mirrored on each other's faces, quickly closed their mouths and regained their composure.
"Get down from there, Gil," Kami ordered. "We have important matters to discuss."
As the gray skinned man nimbly hopped down to the floor, Sarutobi couldn't help but be reminded of Jiraiya, one of his wayward students. Despite his unique entrance and introduction, not to mention the somewhat silly dance plus the odd manner of clothing he was wearing, white pants with red spots all over them and that tattered red cloak concealing all but his eyes, there was something about the way Gilgamesh moved and carried himself that didn't allow you to simply dismiss him as a threat whatever your first impression.
"Must be important indeed, to call me away from my normal stomping grounds," Gilgamesh remarked airily. "And with my entire collection no less. Need me to poke holes in some heroic egos or throw a wrench in some dastardly villain's plans?"
"A little bit of both actually," Yami replied, her earlier grin fading away. "Circumstances have forced us to intervene on behalf of our Chosen and our solution to this dilemma leaves you in a...unique position to help us set things right."
Gilgamesh nodded thoughtfully as he looked over Naruto's bandaged form, absently placing a hand on his forehead. After a few seconds he stepped back with a shudder and frantically rubbed his eyes much to Sarutobi and Kakashi's confusion
"Oh dear god!" He exclaimed. "The orange! So much orange! Please, please, please tell me that's something we can change," he nearly begged.
"Gil," the Shinigami began warningly. "You are hardly one to criticize another's fashion choices...although," she added, almost as an afterthought. "I suppose we are early enough to prevent that particular...quirk."
"Oh thank god!" Gilgamesh quailed under the glares from the three goddesses and he quickly changed tack. "So what was the plan then? I'm awesome and powerful and all that but I don't think I can teach him a whole lot. He's...a few arms short I guess you could say," he finished somewhat sheepishly.
"Teaching him isn't what we had in mind for you," Kami assured him. "We are going to be bringing a couple of our old Chosen into this world to handle that aspect. For the most part we wanted you to act as an additional protector and perhaps as a test of his power once he's old enough to utilize his skill and magic."
"So I'm going to be that kid's personal guard dog and glorified measuring stick from now on?" He asked somewhat moodily as his shoulders slumped.
Yami placed a consoling hand on one of his arms. "Well if you wish to think of it so bluntly...then yes," she said. "Think of it this way, not only will you have the chance to catch up with some old friends, you'll be allowed free rein to roam this world and expand your collection after young Naruto is fully prepared."
"You mean I can have my rematch with Bartz then?" Gilgamesh asked eagerly.
"I'm afraid not," the Shinigami informed him, causing Gilgamesh to slump again. "While Bartz and his companions were strong they relied far to heavily upon the Crystal shards for their power. Furthermore, we dare not introduce the Crystals to Elementia. Even broken they could shift the balance of power in the world irrevocably."
"Well damn," Gilgamesh responded dryly. "So, just who is going to be stuck teaching the brat then?"
"We hadn't decided yet," Kami informed him absently, having gone back to stroking Naruto's cheek. "But one thing is certain, we must find the best."
"Well," Yami began thoughtfully. "Sword and hand-to-hand combat skills are pretty standard fare for this world so that narrows our choices severely."
"Well if it's the best we want, then Cloud would be my first choice," the Shinigami suggested. "Despite his origins and issues, with his natural skill and instinctive chakra control he was probably the greatest swordsman to live in the Crystal Realms."
"Or at least the greatest that didn't turn to evil," Kami remarked airily. "Still, his personality will work as a calming influence for Naruto in the future. That will certainly lessen the amount of trouble he might find himself in."
"That is something we'll have to be careful of as well," Yami interjected. "Too many conflicting personalities could smother his own."
"Wait a minute, 'smother his own?'" Kakashi echoed incredulously. "What the hell does that mean? I thought you were just bringing people here to train him?"
"If only it were that simple," the Shinigami replied with a tired sigh. "We are not the only powers at work in the 'verse, and we must abide by certain guidelines or risk conflict. If we were to physically bring these heroes into Elementia, each of them with power comparable to or greater than some of your greatest Kage, our opposition would be able to do the same or worse in equal measure. There are some forms of evil that we cannot allow to take root here." she explained.
"As such we must take a unique approach," Kami continued. "Naruto already holds a second soul inside him and the seal is more than adequate to contain more. The problem with introducing foreign souls is that, with time, they will begin to merge with the host soul, which in turn causes the host to develop similar mental processes and physical traits."
"This merging doesn't apply to the Kyūbi since his soul is immortal and immutable," Yami assured the two men before they could ask the obvious question. "In fact he will act as a sort of buffer, which will slow the process considerably and allow more time for Naruto to be trained."
Sarutobi nodded slowly in understanding but gestured at Gilgamesh with some confusion. "Then what about him? Won't his inclusion in this have consequences?"
"Nu-uh, old man," Gilgamesh said, wagging several fingers reprovingly at him. "I'm a special case. A free, or third-party, agent if you will. I suppose if you want to be really technical about it, I'm an agent of Chaos. This will hardly be the first time I've fought or helped a would be hero. Though I suppose this'll mark the first time I do both from the get-go," he finished thoughtfully.
"Back to the original discussion however, if we are worried about him losing himself how about anchoring him with a someone with a similar disposition?"
Both Kami and Yami looked at their sister appraisingly. "That might work," Kami replied slowly. "And if you're thinking of who I think you are that will certainly cover his martial arts training as well."
"Oh please tell me you don't mean...you do," Gilgamesh said with a groan that ended with a shudder. "Well I suppose Zell is hardly the worst choice from that particular world," he amended.
"Indeed, just imagine what he would be like with Squall's or Irving's influence or, heaven forbid, Selphie's even?" Yami retorted with a giggle.
The Shinigami snorted at her sister's suggestions. "Oh yes, either he'd become a recluse that pushed everyone away, which isn't something he needs, a hopeless womanizer, something Konoha can do without, or a hyperactive ditz that would drive everyone around him mad."
"Please, sisters, focus," Kami said with a small grin. "The nature of combat in the Elemental Nations makes our next choice fairly simple, as there have been only three heroes with ninja training that could match the ninja of this world."
"Why would Naruto need ninja training from some outsider?" Kakashi cut in sharply. "He's going to be raised in a village filled with skilled ninja already."
"That's true," Yami replied with an unconcerned shrug. "But none of you understand the workings of mana or magic anymore. Furthermore, when his bloodline awakens, Naruto will lose his natural elemental chakra affinity and the ability to gain others with time and training."
"Which would make learning even the weakest elemental jutsu a challenge for him and using them would drain him more than normal even if he did master them," Sarutobi concluded.
"Precisely," the Shinigami replied. "There are ways to weave mana and chakra together to mimic the ninjutsu used by your own ninja, but any records or teachings of such has long since been lost to this world. It also gives us only one real choice to train him: Edge, the Ninja Prince. His style of ninjutsu may have lacked the finesse that the Kazama prized but it certainly had more power."
"Ninja Prince?" The question flitted through both shinobi's minds as they shared a bemused glance, wondering what could warrant such a peculiar title.
"All fine choices," Kami stated. "I would propose a fourth however: Zidane."
"The thief? Why?" Yami asked, quirking an eyebrow at her sister.
"You and your odd fetish for tails again," the Shinigami sighed.
"It has nothing to do with that, sister!" Kami exclaimed with a slight blush. "The others are all great warriors, the greatest in some respects, and he is certainly a match for them but Zidane has something they don't: charisma. He understood people and how to inspire them."
"And he was good with the ladies," Gilgamesh broke in with a giggle that was echoed by Yami.
"Yes, there is that too," she agreed. "I rather think Naruto may need that in the future."
"A fair point I suppose," the Shinigami said. "We are pushing the limits of our interference however, I don't think it would be safe introducing more souls to this realm. Shall we get started?"
Kami kissed Naruto lightly on the forehead before rising up in the air and floating so that she was at eye level with Yami, glowing with an inner light that gathered on her palm as she held it over him. Yami moved forward to join her sisters as the shadows in the room began to flow towards her and likewise gather in her palm. The Shinigami waited for a moment before thrusting her hands into the aura created by her sisters, molding them together in an amorphous, swirling mass.
Gilgamesh stepped away and joined the two shinobi by the door when the mass began to expand, swallowing up Naruto and the three goddesses in the process. It was an impressive sight, the white and black energy warring and mixing with the other with a hint of crimson light shining out of the grayish center. It silently bulged after a few minutes, looking like it was going to burst, before collapsing swiftly inwards to reveal four more figures at Naruto's bedside.
The four men, who wavered insubstantially like wraiths, stood still as statues at Kami and Yami's sides with their eyes closed peacefully and seemingly dead to the world around them. The two shinobi took a moment to carefully examine these so-called Chosen "heroes."
To Yami's left was a man that could easily have been mistaken for some long lost relative of Kakashi's, with his spiky white hair and pure white face mask covering the lower half of face. His outfit was similar in some ways to the standard ANBU uniform, though the additional traveling cloak and pants were white like his face mask and the armor was form fitted and his arm and shin guards were fairly ornate yet functional and made of high quality materials. This was most likely the one the goddesses had referred to as the "Ninja Prince," Edge.
To her right stood a blond haired man with a ridiculous looking hairdo, sticking up in the very front with the rest swept back, that looked no older than Kakashi and seemed rather nondescript for someone who could supposedly match a Kage. His clothing lacked the armor of his white haired companion, consisting of a black vest with red designs stitched along the zipper over a simple black shirt. Jean shorts, red and black running shoes and unadorned fingerless gloves completed his look. In truth he could have been mistaken for a simple civilian if it weren't for his lean but muscular physique and the tattoo on the left side of his face that stretched from his hairline to his jaw that was of a style neither man recognized.
Opposite of him, at Kami's left, was another blond haired man that reminded Sarutobi eerily of Minato. His hair, although slightly longer, was spiked in much the same way, with two bangs framing his face and he was nearly the same height. His entire outfit was black, though his high-collared shirt, pants and boots were a lighter shade than the rest. His left arm was bare while his right was covered by a long sleeve secured by a single pauldron with a wolf's head brooch anchoring the strap that held it in place. A long, loose, piece of cloth covered his right leg that was held in place by a second strap that crossed over his left shoulder. They could just make out several harnesses and loops attached to these straps on his back that looked as though they were made to hold several blades of varying sizes.
To Kami's right was yet another blond with shoulder-length hair, slightly longer in the back and tied into a pony tail. He too lacked any real armor and his clothing seemed more ostentatious than functional with a blue half vest over a sleeveless white shirt with a ruffled collar and a pair of finely tailored blue pants held up by an overly long leather belt that was tied into a loose knot rather than fastened. Only his heavy duty gray gloves and boots and the empty sheath on his hip gave a hint to his familiarity with travel and combat. His most striking feature however was the three foot tail that extended from his backside and was curled slightly around his legs.
"Awaken, Chosen," Kami commanded softly. "It is time for you to fulfill your roles once again."
As one the four men opened their eyes, blinked a couple of times, and began examining the room, it's occupants and their own insubstantial bodies with great curiosity.
"This feels so weird," the one with the tattoo murmured as he flexed and stretched his limbs experimentally, that drew agreeing nods from the others.
"I thought you were going to be sticking us into the gut of some brat," his white haired companion drawled. "What gives?"
"There were a few more steps involved in the process, and we figured it would be polite to introduce the "brat's" future teachers to his most stalwart protectors first," Yami informed him wryly, gesturing to the three standing near the door.
"Chosen, allow us to introduce you to Sarutobi Hiruzen, Sandaime Hokage of Konohagakure no Sato, Hatake Kakashi, one of his most powerful shinobi, and Gilgamesh, our agent and a familiar face to some of you," the Shinigami said, pointed to each in turn.
"Jack, it's been too long!" The one with a tail exclaimed as the young man with the tattoo waved jauntily to the six armed man, who returned the greeting with gusto.
Kami picked up where her sister had left off, introducing their Chosen. "Gentlemen, to my left is Cloud Strife, a former mercenary and master swordsman," the man who reminded Sarutobi of Minato nodded respectfully, his blue eyes actually glowing with an inner light that, combined with his wraith-like appearance, was somewhat intimidating.
"To my right is Zidane Tribal, an accomplished thief and stage performer," he greeted the raised eyebrows at the second appellation with a cheery grin and a bow.
"Across from him is Zell Dincht, also a former mercenary and master martial artist," the man with the tattoo winked and gave them a thumbs up.
"And the last is Edward Geraldine, King of Eblan although his moniker of "Edge the Ninja Prince" never really fell out of use."
"I made it a point to respond only to Edge except in court or during important functions," he informed them with a short bow which they returned.
"It's a pleasure to meet all of you," Sarutobi said as he straightened and continued in a softer tone. "And thank you for agreeing to help us look after Naruto."
"You don't have to thank us," Cloud replied softly, resting one hand on Naruto's bandaged shoulder. "This may not be our world but I think I speak for all of us when I say that we couldn't just stand by and let the boy suffer."
"Damn straight!" Zell growled, pounding his fist into his palm.
Zidane nodded in agreement. "Are you certain you can change how things will turn out for him?" He asked the goddesses. "All the power in the world might not be enough if everything remains the same."
"That is actually the easiest part," Yami informed him as she drew a syringe seemingly from nowhere. "A little blood will convince the sheep of his lineage and give the shinobi a new reason to look after him."
"It's sad how easily human opinions can be swayed sometimes," the Shinigami groused while her sister drew some blood. "But as we said that isn't the real problem. The real problem is Kyūbi and his corruption."
Seeing the concerned and curious looks around her, Kami began to explain. "The Kyūbi no Yoko is the second most powerful of our guardians in this world but he is just as susceptible to the evil that preys upon the hearts and minds of humans and was subsequently consumed by it. The seal that was used to contain him was designed to filter out the corruption when his power was accessed. We dare not try to simply remove the evil directly, not even we are immune to it's twisted properties, but with our Chosen here there is a way to speed up the process now."
Yami broke into a wide smile as she straightened up and allowed the now full syringe to float carefully into Sarutobi's hands. "You four will have to battle him inside the seal, forcing him to use his power which will, in turn, flow through the seal and be purified."
"So we have to kill one of this world's guardians then?" Cloud asked with such casual confidence, as though it was something that he'd done before, that Sarutobi and Kakashi couldn't help the incredulous looks that they shot him.
Looking at the others though Sarutobi couldn't help but wonder just what trials these four men had been forced to endure in their own worlds that none of them looked worried in the least at the thought of facing down one of the most powerful forces in the Elemental Nations. In fact they all exuded the same sense of confidence, Zell was practically bouncing on his toes in eagerness, that Cloud displayed.
"Nothing quite so dramatic," the Shinigami replied with a dry chuckle. "He only has half of his full power at his disposal, we're keeping the other half until he is free again, and you wouldn't actually be able to do lasting damage to him any more than he could do to you. Only Naruto has the ability to do that, as it is his body and soul keeping the Kyūbi in check."
"Kinda takes the fun out of it," Zell mumbled in and undertone but not quietly enough.
"This is not a matter to be taken lightly," Kami admonished sharply. "Even weakened as he is the invulnerability you both will share will make him no less dangerous than if he was in the physical world."
"So now that the introductions are out of the way what's next?" Zidane interrupted, steering the conversation back to the matter at hand. "You mentioned a few more steps before we got to work?"
"Yes, first and foremost we must awaken his magic otherwise some of your own powers will be limited during your battle," Yami began. "Gil, you still have all the Master Materia don't you?"
"Naturally!" Gilgamesh scoffed, drawing his cloak across his body for a moment before throwing it back with a flourish to reveal three large crystals, one red, another green and the last a sickly yellow, resting in his palms. All three floated up and away from him, coming to rest in the air before the three goddesses. Cloud stared at them with a thoughtful frown.
"I can understand the Magic, and the Skill Materia to an extent, but isn't the Master Summon a bit much?" He asked.
"Not particularly," the Shinigami replied. "This world already has summons of their own, some of them more than a match for all but the oldest and strongest Eidolons. It will take them time to establish themselves but one more world under their purview is not so great a stretch."
"Is all that truly necessary?" Sarutobi broke in. "I understand that my student, Jiraiya, had intended for Naruto to take up the Toad contract like his father when he was old enough."
A thunderous look flitted briefly over Kami's features before she regained her composure. "What that man wanted is of no importance anymore," she growled. "This mess is his fault and the less influence he has the better."
Seeing Sarutobi about to speak up in defense of his most faithful student, Yami cut in before he could draw her sister's ire. "Jiraiya is a whimsical fool Sarutobi, well meaning perhaps but a fool never the less, and that whimsy allowed our enemies to influence his actions to their favor," she explained.
Sarutobi deflated at her words. They were quite similar to what both Orochimaru and Tsunade had once said of their perverted teammate, though Orochimaru's were much harsher, and he couldn't honestly refute them. In truth it was that very nature that made him such a successful spymaster, it was nearly impossible for their enemies to trace his contacts since they were usually the oddest choices imaginable and there was little to connect one to another. It was also that nature that fueled the "hobby" that spawned his budding Icha Icha series as well and made him so infamous with the opposite sex across the entire continent.
Mentally shaking himself free of that line of thought Sarutobi turned his attention back to the scene before him just as the goddesses vanished Naruto's bandages, drawing grimaces from the four heroes at the sight of his badly burned body. Slowly the three Materia disintegrated into a fine glittering dust that swiftly settled upon Naruto like a second, shimmering skin. It stayed there for several seconds before it seemed to sink straight though his skin leaving it perfect and unblemished.
Whatever force that had been holding Naruto relinquished it's grip as his back arched up off the bed accompanied by a massive inhalation, his eyes snapping open and glowing bright enough to illuminate half the room with an eerie light. Slowly Naruto exhaled and his body relaxed until he was laying comfortably on the bed once again. His gaze swept over the faces gathered around him, bathing them in the intense light and seemingly studying them with curiosity, though it was hard to read his expression through the glare. His eyes closed wearily as he fell back into a natural slumber this time, hints of light still peeking out from under his eyelids.
"Well that was...interesting," Edge opined after several moments of silence.
"What was that?" Kakashi demanded with no small amount of shock.
"It's a side effect of Mako infused into the body, though I've never seen such a powerful response before," Cloud explained. "Of course I've never seen such a concentrated dose of Mako ever fed straight into a child before either. That isn't going to harm him, will it?"
"Of course not," the Shinigami assured him. "Within a day or two it will die down to a softer luminescence, like your own. The way we bonded the materia to him will make it a permanent and hereditary trait for his family in the future."
"That's a very distinct way of distinguishing members of his clan," Sarutobi murmured. "Won't that mark them too easily for their enemies?"
"Perhaps," Kami allowed, before breaking into a dark smile. "But I pity the fools who think they can simply kidnap him or his descendants without repercussions."
Sarutobi and Kakashi shared a curious look but filed their questions away for later. There was so much about tonight that they still had to process, and more yet they had to do, that it wouldn't do them any good to add more to the pile before they could work through it. It was a situation Sarutobi was intimately familiar with after dealing with paperwork, of all things, for so many years.
The elderly Hokage was almost certain the ensuing round of giggling from the goddesses was at his expense.
"Well," he said after clearing his throat loudly. "Unless there is anything further you need us for, Kakashi and I can begin the process of reclaiming Naruto's heritage."
The three goddesses shared a quick look before Yami nodded. "That should be fine. Gilgamesh will be able to answer any further questions you may have in the future."
"That shouldn't be a problem," he agreed, rubbing his chin thoughtfully. "In fact I might have an idea or two about how you can keep the council sheep from bleating too loudly about this, a little shock and awe perhaps. You'll need to head to your office first yes?"
When Sarutobi nodded Gilgamesh moved to the window, putting one foot up on the sill. "Then I shall meet you there so we can discuss our options," and with that he leapt out into the night, his cloak flapping noisily in his wake.
"I suppose there is little reason left to delay," the Shinigami declared with a sigh. "I expect it to be many years before our paths cross again, Sarutobi, Hatake."
With those final words the goddesses, their Chosen and Naruto seemed to blur before the two shinobi's eyes. The effect quickly spread to the entire room, leaving the two men trying to hold in the contents of their stomachs as the feeling that the world was shifting hit them. Nearly as quickly as the feeling came it passed and the room came back into focus, without the goddesses or the four heroes and them back in the places they'd been before everything had begun.
Sarutobi and Kakashi shared a dazed look, wondering for a second if everything they'd just seen and heard had been some kind of shared delusion or genjutsu, but that line of thought quickly faded with a look at Naruto's peaceful and unblemished form.
"So what do we do now?" Kakashi asked, rubbing the visible portion of his face wearily.
"We act," Sarutobi declared firmly. "I need you to make your way to the Clan Archives to release Minato and Kushina's wills and bring them and whatever copies there may be to my office. You will need my signet ring to authorize it."
Kakashi tentatively took the old bronze band from the Hokage. "What about Naruto's official birth records and the documents authenticating sensei's marriage, shouldn't I be getting them too?"
"All of those are stored in the secure safe in my office so as soon as you bring the wills I shall have everything we need to prove Naruto's heritage."
Kakashi quickly donned his ANBU mask and moved to follow as the Hokage strode to the door and threw it open. The three ANBU stationed right outside the door straightened almost imperceptibly when they noted the intense look on their leader's face.
"Neko," Sarutobi barked out. "Relay orders to the Messenger Division that I'm calling for an emergency Council meeting. Every councilor is expected to attend, failure to do so will be punished. Are my orders clear?"
"Yes, Hokage-sama," the female ANBU replied and with a quick shunshin was gone.
"Taka, I want you to find Dr. Yakushi and inform him that Naruto will need his eyes bandaged, carefully mind you. When that is done you will remain in the room until either Inu or I relieve you, am I understood?"
With a quiet murmur of acknowledgment Taka was gone in search of the doctor. The bear masked ANBU turned to them and Sarutobi could just barely hear the hint of worry in his voice when he spoke. "Is Naruto alright, Hokage-sama?"
"Naruto is fine, Kuma," Sarutobi assured the young ANBU with a small smile. "In fact after tonight he'll be better than fine."
He could almost feel the confusion radiating off Kuma so Sarutobi seized upon the first thing he could think of to keep him occupied. "I want you to remain here and guard Naruto with Taka when he returns. Should Naruto wake, answer what questions you can without delving into the more gruesome details and tell him that I shall be back sometime tomorrow, I trust you can handle that?"
"Of course, Hokage-sama," Kuma murmured as he moved past them into the room.
With a quick nod Kakashi vanished with a shunshin to his appointed task and Sarutobi allowed a smile to grow on his face, the first true smile he'd had in many years. He'd almost forgotten just how good it felt to do something simply because it was the right thing to do.
A/N: There you go, the first chapter of Fate and Fantasy, my response to the Final Fantasy/Naruto challenge posted by DragonMaster4381 in the last chapter of his story Naruto Unlimited, a fun little time travel fic that I finally broke down and read a few months ago, so if you want to know the full details (he has a list of 35 guidelines/suggestions as well as lists of magic and summons, which I have altered greatly and may release in later chapters, and alternate Biju, which I haven't altered) go check it out.
For those of you who are curious this will be a Naruto/Hinata and Naruto/FemHaku fic and, depending on reader preference, may branch out into a harem (probably no more than four or five women in total), so speak out and let your voices be heard! Remember, despite what most authors might say, we are doing this for all of you, and your input is valuable (if I wasn't doing this for you I'd be more than happy to just keep it all in my head). If enough people call for it (or I just break down and write it anyway) I'll start a poll for the members of said harem in the second or third chapter.
Now, for those of you who did enjoy my work thus far, I feel obligated to warn you that Fate and Fantasy will likely suffer from sporadic update speeds, at best. I started writing this chapter nearly two months ago immediately after I received permission from DragonMaster4381, and was quickly stymied by planning out the plot, refreshing my knowledge of both sources (thank Damon for Narutopedia and Final Fantasy Wikia) and the severe lack of attention span that I frequently suffer from. Never fear, I AM writing and this will update...eventually.
By the by, during one of my frequent stumps, something started bothering me. It took me some time to figure out what it was but I finally realized that something Gilgamesh said shortly after he arrived, the part about Naruto not having enough arms for him to be an effective trainer, was tickling my fancy and so I arrive at this idea: Just what do you guys think about Gilgamesh training Kidomaru, that six armed, spider themed member of the Sound Four? I think it has a certain amount of...apropos that the game obsessed ninja be raised and trained by a former video game boss. That sound interesting to any of you? If Gilgamesh does pick him up he'd take the roll of a kind of big brother figure for Naruto perhaps and will probably be decked out in the Genji gear and some Final Fantasy weaponry (replicas of course) courtesy of his sensei in addition to the skills and jutsu he already has, just no Curse Mark of course.
Never the less, thanks for reading! I'll catch you all on the flip side!