A/N: Happy Easter. This Easter, I'm hiding Easter eggs again. Except instead of eggs, I came upon some really cheap toblerone chocolates, so I'll be wrapping them in tin foil and hiding them instead, alone with one actual chocolate egg just for homage to the tradition.
Take On Me
Everyone showed expressions of surprise.
The only two to react immediately were Tenten, because she had been just a little expectant of trouble, and Gai because of pure battle instinct.
Tenten bit out a 'damn', immediately and unhesitatingly leaping high into the air. She landed like a feather upon the branch of a tree.
Gai, on the other hand, burst forwards in an explosion of speed and power.
This minute difference in reaction would determine the entire course of the battle.
Because Tenten, having spent so much time listening to her Boss, understood intimately the basics of sealcrafter combat.
Since the discipline had been founded they had, ultimately, been regarded as trapsters and field-controllers.
And conflicts with them could be categorized into either battles where one was able to get away from writable surfaces and ones where you couldn't.
"The Frictionless." Extario intoned, standing straight and unmoved, failing to even flinch.
It was then that the floor flashed, and Tenten winced in sympathy as her Sensei slipped on seemingly nothing.
His prideful burst charge fell completely out of control, he fell forwards at high speed, and dropped onto the giant fist of silent Bogroll without being able to control anything.
Perhaps the most amazing yet, but Bogroll himself was actually able to send Sensei flying through the air with a pained cry.
Like a bullet, he shot through the air with a cry, becoming little more than a distant star as he faded from view.
What?! Tenten cried in her mind. What the hell?!
"Sensei!" Lee exclaimed. "Why you!"
"Wait!" Tenten cried. "Don't move!"
Too late, both Lee and Neji attempted to move forwards and slipped to fall in an undignified lump.
'Frictionless', he'd said. Not 'slippery', Tenten frowned.
'Frictionless'. A total lack of traction. A completely useless floor, like something out of a fantasy.
There weren't even jutsu that could do this – this was a grade-A absurd world that no one would even think about seriously. A sealcrafter's world.
But how did he? When did he? He had been walking behind them all this time so why was everything in sight covered by this seal?!
Ah, well, She remembered Naruto saying. It's not like there I don't have equipment choices to make either, even though I just use ink and paper. Like the kind of paper – sheets or scrolls. Or the type of ink – like the Ghost Ink I used for Tsunade, or like Living Ink that can crawl along the ground and cover large areas easily. Just, they're all mega expensive and hard to use. I also could only use Ghost Ink that time because Tsunade came to me with a requisition license. Personally, I have to get a permit to use Living Ink no matter what, because I'm not even allowed to keep any on the premises according to an old Uzumaki-Konoha insurance claim settlement. Being able to write something, and have it just crawl around the floor or expand at your convenience... it's kind of cheating.
Living Ink! This wasn't good!
Bogroll, who was wearing a simple outfit of baggy brown pants and a plain, loose shirt, revealed that he must have something written below those baggy clothes as he floated across the frictionless floor corresponding to gestures from Extario.
He glided forwards and then stopped on a dime before Neji.
Neji was unable to get up, because any hand he placed on the floor would fly away with no effect. He was unable to move forwards or back because he literally could not exert force on anything but free air.
And Bogroll reared back a fist above his head.
A slow, bone-crushing attack from outside their range. Completely clunky. Completely artless. A totally arbitrary one-sided attack.
Having the enemy was operating in close-range and still being unable to do anything, Neji found it to be the most shameful and incomprehensible way to die.
But that's how it was.
A shinobi's pride, their speed and technique, both were completely meaningless in a frictionless world.
Only jutsu or…
"That's why I told you idiots," Tenten bit out, reaching over her head and into her pack, "ranged weapons…. are great!"
Intercepting the descending fist of Bogroll, a cyclone of metal met him.
"Fuma shuriken!" Lee exclaimed, seeing the familiar giant shuriken fly before his eyes just in time to intercept Bogroll's massive fists.
And it stopped.
It stopped, like a shield in midair.
Tenten had her fists clenched together extended before her. "The Unchanged." She muttered.
Even Bogroll's fists were unable to move it.
"Damn." Extario muttered. "So you had something like that, Uzumaki Shopkeep!"
Of course she did, Tenten thought.
She still had an employee discount.
Tenten leapt high into the air. Twisting and turning, she nevertheless reached out to empty air. As she curled her fingers around this emptiness, handles would appear. Daggers, kunai, and all manner of impliments of sharpness entered her grasp. Obediently she let them loose in a rain of glistening razor steel.
Something briefly flashed on the arms of Bogroll as he lifted them above his head, and in the next moment all of Tenten's blades seemed to glance off of him, as if pinging off of hard steel.
Ghost Ink. Tenten recognized. They have that too?!
Delicately twisting like a falling feather being played about in the wind, Tenten primly landed exactly on the ring of her suspended Fuma-shuriken, meters away from the giant.
"It's ironic." She muttered. "For you to be beaten by a cheap everyday seal like this." She pointed downwards. "But I heard you can't have conflicting seals over the same area."
That's right. The upper body could block attacks relentlessly, but the seals hidden under his baggy pants were used for movement on this frictionless world.
Bogroll looked down and saw the metal at his feet. Kunai that had glanced off of his folded arms, with little tags fluttering in the wind.
Tenten snapped her fingers and Bogroll's cries of agony were swallowed in the accompanying echoes of explosive detonation.
Lee and Neji looked up at that moment, at Team Gai's unassuming background teammate. They looked up at her, suspended on a giant shuriken frozen in space, with her hair fluttering in nuclear wind, and plumes of smoke framing her features.
She was truly beautiful.
"Oy, get up you idiots!" She barked.
The kunai Tenten had thrown had not only rained down and struck Bogroll, they also hadn't struck her prone teammates. Perfect precision, not a wasted shot.
And Lee and Neji reached out to grasp the kunai handles protruding from the ground.
Extario peered through the explosive tag smoke as it cleared. Before him was his faithful servant Bogroll, fallen in battle with severe injuries to both legs, the Uzumaki shopkeep standing defiantly on her shuriken, her white garbed teammate balanced with one foot upon a kunai protruding from the ground, and her green garbed teammate performing a one-handed handstand on another.
All three glared at Extario.
"Hmph. I wonder if you're mistaking something…" Extario scoffed.
"We should run." Tenten whispered to her teammates. "Regroup. Find Sensei. There's no way he was taken out. He can't sense chakra for his life, and thinks a compass is something to put on a swelling, so he's probably just lost again."
"Tenten," Neji said seriously, "just give us a path. It's possible with your skill, right? A trail of kunai that won't fall over, but stay firmly planted in the ground to use as footholds."
"Osu!" Lee barked. "I can't let it end without paying this guy back for making me look like such a fool! Extario-san, I'll inscribe what hard work can do into your body!"
"Hah! I'd like to see you try!"
"Idiots!" Tenten berated. "He's had too much time!" She exclaimed.
"Yes." Extario agreed. "Listen to your shopkeep. Indeed, I've been given far too much time to write."
And, so saying, he reached over to his side and tapped the tree there with the back of his hand. "Separate."
A flash. A line of blue on the base of the tree and then it fell forwards, towards the group.
"He misjudged it." Neji frowned. "That tree will fall short of us. Can we use it as a bridge to him?"
"Won't it slip on the floor?" Lee asked. "Can you anchor it, Tenten-chan?"
"Run." Tenten exclaimed. "We have to run!"
There was no way…
There was just no way a sealcrafter could be content to put only something as minor as 'separate' on a canvas of that size. It was going to reach them. His canvas was going to reach them!
She turned, but it was too late.
As if shot through with electricity, her body spasmed and all power fled her in a breath.
She fell, and somehow unable to even control her neck, her vision swam in a panorama from the horizontal to the vertical, panning up until she saw the sky. In freefall, falling backwards, Tenten briefly saw a glimmer of her crystal necklace slipping out from her shirt and shining before her.
Ah… she thought. Boss.
It reminded her of Naruto. The sky did. The necklace did. Her weakness did. Her streangth did.
She missed him. If she was allowed to be selfish and say the truth at a hopeless time like this then honestly she missed him so bad.
And she fell to the floor, drained of all strength.
And so she could not save the necklace from being shattered upon the hard earth.
x-Earlier: With Naruto-x
"You have been called before this council, Uzumaki Naruto." The old man intoned. "And you have responded promptly. This is good."
"Better than good." Naruto replied, undaunted in the face of these old men on their higher platforms, looking down on him. In fact, he went so far as to flip a coin and catch it before pointing a thumb over his shoulder at his escort. "This guy was late." He complained. "And, he wanted to stop for porn."
"Erotic literature." Kakashi coughed beside him.
"Uzumaki Naruto, I'll make it clear." The man said. "This council didn't call you here in order to treat you like a child." The man said these uncharacteristic words. "From a long time ago, Konoha and the Uzumaki have had an understanding. We're…partners."
Naruto sighed and crossed his arms. "I appreciate that. And I'm aware of the history."
The old man crossed his own arms. The councilmen on either side of him considered the boy before them seriously.
"…What do you think, Uzumaki Naruto, about Konoha?" "Konoha…" Naruto muttered. He uncrossed his arms and flipped his coin into the air again. Heads. That was two heads in a row.
"Do you like it?" The man asked uncharacteristically. "Do you resent the people that still look down on you for housing the Kyuubi?" Not a word was mentioned about the odd behavior. If one went around trying to fuss out everything an Uzumaki went around doing, why nothing would ever get done.
"Konoha is… where I live, and where all my friends live." Naruto explained. Flip. Tails. He didn't like tails. "Tenten-chan likes it… Kaa-chan liked it, Tou-san liked it…" He muttered. "And… it's where I keep all my stuff."
"Yes," the man felt an uncharacteristic smile creep up his face, "it's where you keep all your stuff."
The councilmen on either side of him visibly relaxed.
Where an Uzumaki kept all their things – their work, their libraries, their ancestor's work – it became their dragon's den. A place where riches were hoarded and protected fiercely.
For the first time, Uzumaki Naruto walked up to the small table placed into the middle of the room. Upon its old wooden surface was a single contract paper. Naruto placed his coin upon the table. Unfortunately slipped off of the slightly slanted surface, but Naruto put it aside for now. Naruto read over the paper before him and reached for the provided quill and signed. He produced his family stamp and applied it to the top right corner. He rubbed his thumb in a pool of provided ink and pressed down firmly beside his signature.
"Uzumaki Naruto is hereby tasked to investigate the rumored existence of a Sealbreaker being within our country. If one is so found, Uzumaki Naruto is tasked to bring this individual to justice. This council authorizes Uzumaki Naruto limited access to the Uzumaki Inkhouse kept in Konoha's trust, for use on his mission. Jounin Kakashi will be assigned as your escort and to aid in capturing the criminal. Do you require any additional aid?" The man asked.
"Then, one thing before you leave, Uzumaki Naruto." The man said, looking at the floor besides Naruto with interest.
"Yeah?" Naruto asked.
"What were you doing with that coin earlier?"
"Oh, that?" Naruto scrunched up his nose and asked. "Just a game I've been playing. Heads I win, Tails I lose." Naruto arched an eyebrow. "Why?"
"Well, just that since you dropped it; it's settled on its side." The man uncharacteristically said. "Is that normal?"
Immediately he dropped to his knees and observed the coin, perfectly stopped on its side.
It was an alien feeling. It was a new degree of horror, to think that somewhere where he couldn't see her, his good acquaintance was in danger. That Tenten that liked to complain about how slow the work day was, and how he couldn't pick up after himself, and how he shouldn't keep bugging her to cook for him…
That Tenten that took care of all the troubles she complained about while saying 'you're hopeless' and smiling.
This coin seemed to defy fate, neither heads nor tails, but suspended in between, balanced perfectly on its side upon the marble floor. It filled him with an indescribable dread.
And Naruto didn't like it.
Naruto didn't like it one bit.
As for the council, the old man at its centre had to recover quickly from the surprise of Naruto bursting out of the room.
But even though he ran outside quickly, he understandably paused upon seeing the Uzumaki on his hands and knees in the middle of a street surrounded by inkwells. His fevered complaints and curses didn't help much either. "I told her not to break it. I told her to never let it break, and what happens? First mission, broken, goddamnit!"
And beyond just giving the boy space to work, the locals were quickly running away at maximum speed.
Local shinobi presence, including Naruto's dutiful ANBU detail also wouldn't approach closer than four meters.
"Uzumaki Naruto! We aren't finished until the meeting is convened!" The old man shouted.
"Councilman Danzo!" Kakashi shouted, throwing his arm out to bar the man. "It isn't safe."
The man turned to Kakashi upon hearing such a tremor in the man's voice.
"That's… the Thunder God." Kakshi bit out. "The Flying Thunder God! Naruto, are you insane?!"
"Just stay out of it." Naruto said without looking. "I'm trying to concentrate."
Then he produced a bottle of painkillers in a puff of ninja smoke and took a liberal dose.
"Concen – You aren't ready!" Kakashi said. "You'll simply implode without moving an inch, or be lost in the dimensional void! Even if by some miracle you navigate it, do you really think you can land in just one place – in just one piece?!"
"He can…" Danzo muttered, the makings of a wicked smile encroaching onto his face. "…He can use it?"
"He can probably trigger it." Kakashi confirmed. "He can trigger it in the wrong way. A lot of people are capable of using it improperly. They all end up dead or missing, lost to the dimensional void! No one can land with it, no one can pilot it! What the hell are you doing, Naruto!"
"I changed my mind." Naruto said abruptly, standing up. "I do need something from you." He turned to Danzo. "Cover for me."
"Flying Thunder God!" Naruto hollered, thrusting his right hand into the air. With a wordless scream, he brought his raised fist crashing down into his own palm. "Version 2!"
It wasn't accompanied by a puff of ninja-smoke. It wasn't that he faded out.
The Flying Thunder God wasn't that kind of weak transportation. It was instant. Complete.
In one moment, such that it made the eyes strain with the unnatural abruptness of it, Naruto was simply not there. Not a trace remained.
Because he was in that moment already somewhere else.
"Naruto… why… what could make you so desperate?" Kakashi asked the empty air.
There was no telling what the boy had done. He could be anywhere, in any number of places, in any number of pieces. The Flying Thunder God, based off of the summoning seal, was one in which a person reverse-summoned themselves to a marker in the same world. It was one that pulled a person half-way to a summon realm, and then pulled them back to their own world, just somewhere else.
Naruto hadn't even done that. Version 2… to use the seal where you are now, and launch yourself randomly into that half-space and try to exit where you wished. The most free-roaming form of teleportation. The most insane.
For a young seal crafter like Naruto, he may as well roll a die to see where, which dimension, and how he would turn up.
"Hmm… You spent too much time with your teacher, Kakashi." Danzo observed as he walked towards the empty area. "And not enough time with the boy's mother. If you'd had to deal with half the damage complaints that the council has had to, you'd understand. The Uzumaki are an insane, insensible bunch. Thinking of them as humans, to begin with, is a mistake. The precious 'rules' they follow… the very world they see and how they live in it… these are fundamentally different things and ones we can never understand. In fact, it's that very trait that makes them indispensable. It's that very reason that they cannot be controlled – must be negotiated with using both frankness and equality. The moment we're able to understand why they do the things they do, or if ever they were stripped of their individuality or freedom to innovate, they become completely unnecessary." Within the now empty seal lay a single piece of glimmering silver. Danzo picked up and observed the coin with some amusement. "A game, huh? All right, Uzumaki Naruto," He flipped the coin. "I'd be delighted to play with you. But it's quite a handicap to start by owing me a favor."
"Kuh!" Naruto gasped quietly. It worked. Damn. Aaaagh.
As expected, he was nowhere near ready for it.
The price. The price?!
Why did it hurt so much?!
No way. Naruto looked at himself.
He could see there, the grievous wound he had suffered in transit.
Or… was 'wound' the right word at a time like this?
Snapping his fingers, Naruto produced a sheet of paper than he plastered immediately to the wound, 'the unchanged'.
He charged it, and then downed a dose of painkillers.
No way. No way. No way.
And then he heard a voice. A familiar voice.
Tenten. The only thing that could break him out of his preoccupation. Tenten.
Naruto stayed quiet and collected himself.
He needed to prepare himself to jump in and assist. He wasn't in any condition to charge in, kunai flying.
Hey. Was she… crying out?
Tenten, utterly no power in her body, nonetheless opened her mouth. "Ah." She cried. "Ah! Ahhhhh!"
She couldn't help herself. It broke.
When she fell, it broke. Naruto's necklace. She stared at it. Actually, she could hardly stop staring at it with her head lolled in its direction. She lacked the power to do more than keep her eyes open. Still, she screamed.
For there before her lay the most beautiful, sprawling mass of nonsense that Tenten had ever laid eyes on.
Oh my God, oh my God. It can't be. It can't be!
Tenten's heart was racing, pounding.
What did he sneak into her necklace, that guy! What did he think he was doing?!
Didn't he say that it was gone?! He burned it himself, and cried sorrowful tears about it!
The Sannin of power and invincibility had tried to scrape its ashes off of the shop room floor!
He said it was too powerful to live!
Why in a place like this!
Always wear it, but never let it break.
He'd done it! He'd written one more!
Against all his principles, against everything he'd said!
An existence that could crack the world in two, and could only be used once, because it was too risky to survive outside that one room!
And he'd done a hat-trick on it!
True and Ultimate Luck.
"Ah!" Tenten cried, hot tears streaming down her face. She willed her arm to move. Her body seemed to have no power, but she desperately dragged her arm across the dirt road. "Ahhh! Boss! Naruto-kun!"
For her. She knew it was only for her.
Oh God, Tenten thought, he's so good to me.
Let me reach it, Tenten cried in the confines of her mind. Let me not waste this. In all my life, if I can have one wish, I wish to not waste this!
With grit teeth, and exerting an ungodly effort, Tenten slid her tired arm so that the back of her hand lay over the scribble.
"What's that?" A voice asked in curiosity.
Tenten's eyes turned up at her enemy.
"Well, it won't help anyway." Extario observed. "It's true that I've released 'the frictionless'. Therefore, if that is a seal it could in theory be charged now that the floor is 'free space'. However, there is absolutely, completely, totally no way. You haven't the power. I've taken it."
Tenten glared hatefully at the man.
"Yes, I like that. I like that glimmer of understanding the most." Extario admitted. "Let me explain something. I want to make it clear. I am not a Seal-Breaker." Extario held his arms out. "That is one who purposely destroys another seal crafter's work. Their precious libraries. Their all-important heritage. Said to be dangerous existences, because they are mad – isn't that nonsense?"
"Hahaha." Extario shrugged emphatically. "Silly girl. You don't get to decide that. But I must agree that there is something inherently evil about destroying another crafter's work. You probably don't understand, so I'll explain. The work, you see, bears no sin. It is understanding. It is truth. For crafters, basic knowledge and advancement of the art, if you remove the applications and the users – in other words the papers themselves – they are pure. They are something like holy. But destroying them is not what I do. I told you before, what my truest belief was. If you want something," Extario grinned broadly as he reached out a palm and clenched it before Tenten emphatically, "you grasp it. You go out and you take it. Experiencing all my pain and trials for being utterly talentless in the arts… did in fact give me just one thing. I was able to make it. With my deep desire for more, which plagued me day and night, I came to have a profound understanding of the desire that drives men to theft. Like this, I was able to make it."
Extario reached over and pat the fallen tree coated in ink lovingly. "'The Ephemeral Taking'. Things that can't be taken, I take them. Your power, I can take it. Except I don't' want it. I'm a crafter, and above such brutish needs. No, your power I feed into Bogroll here." So saying, he kicked his fallen companion, who groaned. "My good old, honorable teacher."
Tenten's eyes widened.
"Yes, the Master I spoke of, he was the first one I stole from. Poetic, isn't it? What do you think… I 'took' from him?" He spread his arms wide.
Tenten could only look up in abject horror. "You didn't… not that…" Tenten gasped. "Anything but that!"
"You get it!" Extario laughed. "As expected of an Uzumaki Shopkeep, you get it, right!? His mind!" Extario roared. "I took his knowledge! I took his talent! I took his wisdom and his experience! His philosophy! His happiness at learning something new, his curiosity of the unknown, I took it all and left this useless, mute, brutish assistant!"
"…monster…. you…. Fucking Monster!" Tenten cried.
Extario only laughed again.
It seemed so funny he had to hold his sides.
"Ah… but when I left konoha, I thought I would just prey on a jounin and his group – power up my Bogroll a bit, I suppose." Extario shrugged. "But I got you – and you are a nice little bonus. Well. Thanks for everything." He said leisurely. "You really are great."
"I hope you die." Tenten replied honestly. She had never in her life so sincerely hoped this much misfortune on anyone.
"Not likely." Extario smirked. "Certainly not in this situation."
"Likely enough." Tenten spat. "Likely enough to end you in the worst way. With a little luck."
"Hah! Well we shall s…" Extario trailed off, for he had noticed something truly strange.
Tenten saw it too.
Completely out of place in this hopeless situation, floating upon the wind, a symbol of freedom and childish purity… little paper airplanes.
Floating down towards them.
"Ah…" Extario gasped, snapping to his senses. "Impossible!" He swore and backpedalled with maximum speed. The airplanes fell to the floor gently, seemingly left inactivated with their target now out of range. "It can't be! There was no way you could know! And we've been walking since dawn! Even for the fastest shinobi, it would be impossible! What did you do? What did you do, Uzumaki!?" Extario cried.
"Oh, that's something…" A voice commented. "You knew it was me? Not bad" Naruto asked, stumbling out of the forest line. "By the way, sorry I'm late for the party." Naruto sighed. "Traffic was a bitch."
"With this timing, who else?" Extario asked sarcastically. "It could only be the knight in shining armor. Except…. Hah. Hahaha! Look at you, Uzumaki! What a price you paid! The blood you've put up as cost! Oh, I can't believe it! To meet you here, outside of your village, your guard, and even your ancestral ground! None of your vast resources! I can't believe you'd put yourself nicely in my striking range! Oh, to think I could take from you! The things you must know, the secrets you've inherited! I'll be unstoppable! "
"No!" Tenten cried. "I thought…" Hot tears flowed from Tenten's eyes. "I thought I was supposed to be-!"
"Shh…" Naruto hushed, finger to his lips. "You were. Enough that I happened to get here in the nick of time. Enough that I have just barely enough left in me to beat the enemy down and save the day narrowly, from the jaws of defeat. Like a real Saturday morning hero." Not only was she still lucky to get help at all, in fact it even seems more extraordinarily fortunate because it's a close thing. That's how it worked. "Poetic, isn't it? It's fine. I don't mind. I'm just glad… so glad I made it here. I'm really, really glad. And you! I think I heard plenty while I was applying blood-stopper seals to myself. You're a real piece of work you bastard." Naruto addressed Extario. "You're going down."
"Stop it! Stop talking like its okay now! Look at you!" Tenten protested. "I didn't want this!" Tenten was crying. She hated crying, and she avoided it like the plague. She wasn't that kind of girl. But some things – some things were just going too far.
He was so good to her.
He was maybe too good to her. So good she didn't know what to do with herself. So good it hurt.
"Your arm!" Tenten gasped. "Your AAAARM!"
A bloody stump. Emergency measures. A white paper dyed red, lines glowing blue, the only thing keeping Naruto functional.
Immaturely using the Flying Thundergod technique, he was lucky enough to reach the right battlefield, out of all the battlefields in all the worlds in all the universes of the fabric of the multiverse.
But as Kakashi had said, just not all of him. Somewhere in the dimensional void, he'd lost something important.
But things come, and they go, and prices had to be paid.
That was the rule.
But, Naruto thought, he would choose what he lost and what he kept. That was his prerogative. That was his answer.
"I know you might want to fight, Tenten-chan. You're that kind of girl." Naruto nodded, seeing her left hand scraping at the floor angrily, summoning power through frustration and fury. "But stay right there, just like that. Hold that… position." With your hand upon the ground, upon the true word. It was really the ultimate support already. "I've got this."
"My name is Uzumaki Naruto."
"Extario." The thin short man replied. "Last name unnecessary."
"What a suitable name you've got, Unnecessary." Naruto replied. "The world doesn't need jerks like you."
"Big talk. In truth, normally, I would not deal with you! Your family is too crazy for anyone to bother with! Playing with gods, keeping demons as pets, spitting in the eye of creation! I wouldn't want the trouble! But here you are, heavily exerted, a one-armed seal crafter!" Extario exclaimed. "What's your dominant hand? At this pace, don't tell me you've lost it?! Your writing hand?!"
"One hand's fine." Naruto replied. "To begin with, brushes have always been one-handed."
"But writing isn't. Holding the paper steady. The art of seal crafting while writing with two brushes. Unfurling a scroll!" Extario exclaimed joyously. "You want to take me on one-handed?!"
"How about you?" Naruto replied. "That's a pretty heavy duty seal you have there. And you can't release it, can you? Heck, I bet you can't even take your hand off of that log. The second you do, your targets will have their strength back and then you'll really be screwed. Can't complete it without leaving yourself open to me. Can't stop it without getting screwed. Seems we're both one handed and strapped for resources?"
Extario said nothing.
"At least I have this." Naruto held forth his gloved hand. Predictably, a seal was inked there.
The first stroke departed from the centre of Naruto's palm, and it was the approaching. The second stroke lay in the middle, and was the identity. The last stroke encircled all others, and that was why it was 'the world'.
It was exactly the same as 'gather', but the order was reversed.
'An inverse writing of 'the gather'
Extario's keen eyes roughly understood what the black lines on his opponent's white gloves represented. "The Gathering. A strange thing to bring to a fight. What will you target?"
"Nothing." Naruto replied. "Just what's there. Just… air."
And so saying, Naruto thrust his palm forwards to the ground.
A pulse of air moved away from Naruto's position, as if running away.
And upon these fleeing wisps of wind, carried loftily once more on the breeze were those innocent white messengers.
"The paper planes!" Extario gasped. "Bastard! So you inverted it!"
It was difficult for him to write in this situation, Naruto admitted to himself, but there were pre-written things and wasn't that good enough?
Unexpectedly, Extario sneered. "But you're forgetting something! BOGROLL!"
The fallen man let loose a sudden roar, surprising all there who thought he was out of the fight. Surely, his legs were bloody and contained nothing but crushed matter, but his arms were mighty and his pain threshold seemed para-human.
With a lurch, the giant man launched himself with his arms and fell upon Naruto in a bear-hug, his upper body glowing with the defensive seals inscribed there.
And Naruto twisted, grasping something about his neck.
And Bogroll was blown back by an incredible force.
A shockwave resounded through the clearing. A plume of smoke and flame arose, enough to obscure the entirety of what transpired.
All that could be said was that Bogroll, who even sent Tenten's teacher flying with a punch and had a seal-reinforced upper body capable of surviving an explosive tag blitzing unscathed, was charred black and crushed completely with broad scar diagonally across his chest.
As the smoke cleared, what was left was only Naruto standing with the scraps of an orange sword-hilt in his left hand.
A transforming, exploding sword. It's was still unfinished, for the blade still could not survive its own explosive power and its strength could not be controlled. However this Explodia: the 135th's power could not be complained about.
Extario smiled warmly. "I knew it. I knew you had another trump card. Always something, right Uzumaki? But! That's it, you've wasted it! Even if you have more, even if your clan is acclaimed to be endless supplies of tools of horror, you're done! With that hand incapable of holding a brush, that armory is out of reach! I win! You are in no condition to fight! You are pathetically, already defeated!"
It was true. Naruto's whole body was shaken.
After using the Flying Thunder God… well, even though it was a chakra-guzzling technique he was still an Uzumaki. He could have confidence in his energy capacity. At least, he wasn't running on empty.
But his body was suffering quite a shock at losing the arm in transit. And now, Explodia had been used. The cross guard needed much more work. The explosion shook him as well. It rattled his bones and numbed his fingers. He didn't know what kind of damage his hand sustained, but it was too much.
Furthermore, the explosion just now was enough to send his paper planes fluttering in the wind as paper planes were wont to do.
It was here that Naruto would be decisive. "I've got one move left." Naruto insisted, stepping forwards.
"You… that's my seal, you fool." Extario muttered in awe. "I inscribed this fallen tree with my signature seal, the Ephemeral Taking, you fool!"
"Want to take me?" Naruto asked. "Come get some."
And so saying, Naruto slammed his left hand onto the seal.
At first, Extario didn't understand, but then it all came together.
The paper airplanes fluttering in the wind, caught in falling currents and the fancy of the air, they all came together.
In a line on the tree trunk that held Extario's seal, they coincidentally came together back to back as they landed in sequence, unfolded with a signal from Naruto, and revealed the arcing, approaching strokes of 'interception' and the intertwined strokes of 'the diversion'.
"*Ngh!* You!" Extario gasped, experiencing for the first time in his life, the effects of his own work. "Hacking! You want to hack my seal?! That's a riot. Engaging me like this, you're just saving me time!"
They were not offensive seals, but hacking seals. Just how far had he anticipated. How could he have known it would come to this?!
Extario understood. Tired from blood loss, limited to only his off hand, he wasn't fit to engage in any competition of strength or even skill.
Instead, the boy boldly and shamelessly decided to hack the thief.
And now it was a battle of control. Not of writing seals, but of understanding the essence of this particular seal.
Of f*cking philosophy.
So like the genius clan! F*ck the Uzumaki!
Naruto, in truth, didn't plan any of it in detail. He had patched himself quickly, gathered his baring, gotten a gist of what was going on upon the battlefield, and judged that he was too disadvantaged.
He just wanted to hack it. He needed to hack it.
For the sake of justice, the man couldn't keep that knowledge. The basics of capturing a thief, is to return the stolen property. He couldn't very well perform the 'ephemeral taking' so all that was left was to hack it.
With this vague feeling, he winged it completely.
Paper planes seemed fine. He wrote upon them with his left hand. He wrote upon his left hand with the brush in his teeth.
Why the inverse gather?
Because he hardly saw a point in the regular gather… but it was his first seal. Coincidentally, it was the easiest seal for him to the point where he could write it with his teeth. That's why.
At present Naruto also felt strength start to leave him. But he insisted. He persisted. "It's fine. You know, I don't like to criticize too much, but there's a big fat chunk missing in your work!"
"And what's that?!" Extario said angrily. "Are you going to talk to me about your philosophy, damn Uzumaki?! What would you know about any of it! You, who were blessed by the inheritance of your forefathers! You, who's blood flows with ink! You who bleeds talent! What would you ever know about my work!"
"You're wrong." Naruto insisted. "I do get it. This thing here, it's 'the taking' right? You're the absurd one. You're going to use something crazy like this when what you know is only desire. Only wanting to take! But you! For all the whining you're doing, when have you ever lost anything?! When have you ever been taken from, in all that time?! Me, I know exactly what it means to take, because I've lost it all. Mother, gone. Father, gone. Aunty, gone! My place in my own village, it was taken, and I had to work to get any of it back! And my wife!" Naruto growled. "You tried to take her, and when I realized that I was going to lose her too, I realized that I'd had enough! What I lose, what I keep, what I take! I'll decide it! I'm not going to stand for this anymore!"
"And people call me insane!" Extario grunted, sweat beading down his face.
Why couldn't he kill this kid? Why couldn't he plunder this last trove of knowledge!
He had stolen so much already, and now he had a whole mountain of plundered knowledge and wisdom behind him! Who cared! He didn't understand what the hell this kid was saying!
"You're too young to be married anyway!" Extario argued. "Just let it go!"
Of all the things he could say, that was what Extario said. Despite himself, when the chips came down, in the end he was a realist and he was simple.
"Screw that!" Naruto shot back. "I know we're not married! And I haven't even asked her out! I'm pretty sure she only finds me annoying! But I'm still going to marry her! Uzumaki Tenten! That's my wiiiife!"
Responding to his opponent's senseless fighting spirit, Extario felt his control of 'The Ephemeral Taking' slip and slip. His knees got weaker and weaker. No! It couldn't end like this!
Damn talent! Damn Uzumaki!
"Don't I get a say in this?" Tenten asked despite herself, too in awe.
"No. You don't!" Naruto answered stubbornly through grit teeth. "The shop's empty and the food's bland! I have nothing to do at night, and it's boring all day! Yet when we were there together, it was the happiest time of my life! And I'm not gonna lose you! Even if I have to take you!" Naruto cried, lurching away from the seal of 'The Ephemeral Taking' and trying to rip it free from the confines of its canvas. "You're gonna be my wiiiiiiiife!" He roared.
The sky cracked. Or rather, it snapped out in an unearthly cry. The ink inscribing one of Konoha's fallen great oaks peeled free from its base amidst splinters of flying bark and wood chips. This dark fluid stretched and groaned as Naruto pulled with all his remaining might, until at last the tension was too great.
It snapped free from its 2D prison into the 3D world, like a rubber band in flight, flying at Naruto in a jumble of limbs and sprawling mass. For a second, it seemed to writhe around him, attempting to consolidate itself now that it was free of its canvas, and Naruto did the only thing he could do.
He trudged forwards and shoved it into a container.
And as Naruto fell unconscious, exhausted, the unconscious Bogroll in turn gasped awake as he felt ink pouring into his already charred black skin.
A/N: My waiiifu!
The true power of youth.
When it comes to a wedding the guy's responsibility for wedding preparations (aside from smiling, nodding, and putting up with things) is just one. The proposal. Everyone wants to make their proposal stand out or at least be sufficient, and with this one act of romance they wonderfully get out of having to be romantic for the next five to eight months if they're lucky. Naruto would like you to rate his proposal on a scale 1 to 10.
Take On Me - Take because that's a theme. Relevant to the like 'come get some'. The order's a little inversed, so it's 'I'll take you!" Or something. Really, I just like the song, and it had take in it's name.
I bet no one expected to ever see that again, ultimate luck. Tenten didn't either. If you recall, he had to practice it rigorously until he could write it in invisible ink on a pig. Actually, even now he could drop it on a whim but the cost is very high. The ramifications are too scary, and it is deeply against his judgement to write it for any reason. Even so, he likes Tenten too much. Truly, he's an unreasonable guy that follows his heart and causes all kinds of problems for people. But he is still very sad because it will never be preserved for future generations, and he shall take it to his grave.