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Now, I want you all to enjoy the chapter!

Chapter 30: A Reason to Help Someone pt. 3


With the decision to help Haruka and Kuno escape from Shinto Teito made, Naruto began working more closely with Matsu, planning the operation by using her ability to hack into any network within the city to its fullest. There was a lot that had to be done, not just planning the escape route, but also determining the best way to keep the Discipline Squad from running afoul of the two as they made their escape. Fortunately, Naruto had plenty of experience in planning operations like this.

"What about that building over there? What does it contain?"

"That's a weapons depot. MBI stores a good deal of their weapons and ammunition for the Eastern District in there."

"And that's the base for the entire satellite network, right?"

"That's right. From there they can control and direct any one of the satellites under MBI's control, and MBI has over fifty-two satellites under their direct control."

"I see..."

Naruto stared at the computer screen, which was currently displaying a map of Shinto Teito. The map was a combination of road map and political map. It showed all of the major and minor highways and roads, as well as places like airports, city locations and points of interest like parks and monuments. The major highways and roads were highlighted in red, while minor roads and thoroughfares were highlighted in blue.

Of course, the map did more then just show major roadways and points of interest. It also showed the 'political boundaries' of the five major powers in Shinto Teito, as well as the few minor powers. The North was highlighted in orange (because if there was one thing that never changed about Naruto it was his love of the color orange), the South in purple, the West in green, the East in yellow and the center of the city in brown. Within each section of the city were a myriad of other colors that represented the minor powers, namely those Ashikabi who had more then one Sekirei, but were not strong enough to be a big contender in the game.

"You also have to take into account that MBI satellites aren't your standard satellite."

Matsu took a moment to type something on her keyboard. The screen soon changed from the map Naruto was looking at to a 3-dimensional model of one of MBI's satellites. The image rotated a full 360-degrees before the satellite moved off to the side and shrunk as an image of the earth appeared on the other side of the screen.

"They have a very powerful, high intensity laser that can be shot from any one of the satellites to any part of Shinto Teito" As she said this, the satellite's bow oriented itself towards the earth. A small, red beam shot out from a cylindrical hole in the front and connected with the earth. Where the laser hit, a small red splotch appeared, as if to show that area of Shinto Teito had been destroyed. "The beam is incredibly powerful, able to sheer straight through any kind of matter regardless of thickness or density."

"That's a pretty handy toy to have." Naruto leaned back and rubbed his chin in thought. "So, if we want to have any hope of helping Haruka and Kuno escape then we need to take care of those satellites first."

"Yes."

"Can you take them offline from here?" asked Naruto. Matsu bit her lip, then gave a tentative nod.

"With my Norito I can, but hacking into an MBI satellite remotely is no easy task. It won't be long after I hack into the system that they'll realize what's happening and wrest control back from me. What's more, I can only hack into one at any given time."

"What about shutting them down? Can you shut down all of them at the same time? Or just one?"

"I can shut them all down just fine." Matsu shrugged. "But your window of opportunity to accomplish your goals would be very small. I'd say you'd only have about fifteen minutes at most."

"That would be cutting it a little too close for my tastes," Naruto admitted with a frown. "Especially because there is more objective that I want to accomplish with this mission aside from helping Haruka and Kuno escape."

"That reminds me, why did you agree to help them escape?" Matsu asked, her body perking from it's slouched position so she could stare at him more intently. The act caused her breasts to jiggle enticingly, which Naruto took note of, but did not visibly react to. "I honestly didn't think you would help them, especially after you told them you wouldn't that first night."

"I already told you, this will be a good test for you Sekirei. I want to see how well you can operate and how powerful you are compared to the Discipline Squad."

From the skeptical look Matsu gave him, it was clear the busty red head did not believe him.

Naruto decided to change the subject.

"I want you to look at this data I've found on the Sekirei Crests and tell me what you think."

XoX

"I do not like this!" Tsukiumi declared for what must have been the one hundredth time that day. The group of four were currently walking down one of the many boulevards located within one of the various shopping districts located in Northern Shinto Teito. They were on their way to a meeting, and Tsukiumi had been complaining the whole way there. "Husband, why do we have to help these two? They have done nothing to deserve your aid!"

"I already told you," Naruto said with an exasperated sigh. "We're not helping them because they deserve it. I am merely using their desire to escape as a test for you."

"I do not buy that for one second!" Tsukiumi scowled at her Ashikabi. "If that was the reason you decided to render them aid, you would have agreed to help them the first time they asked! Do not lie to me! There is another reason that you are helping them! I want to know why!"

Naruto said nothing to her words. Not necessarily because he didn't plan to, but because Homura spoke before he could say anything.

"I think Naruto's doing a good thing here," the fire user declared. "I'm glad he's agreed to help the two of them."

"Of course you would, you nosy busybody!"

"What did you just call me?!"

"I called you a goody two-shoes who can't keep his nose out of other people's business!"

Naruto felt a minor headache coming on as he watched the two Sekirei of opposing elements butt heads. Literally. The pair were actually grinding their foreheads against each other as they glared daggers at the other. They looked like they were just seconds away from hurling elemental attacks at each other.

"Alright, that's enough you two," Naruto demanded sternly, staring at the pair with a commanding look that forced any who saw it to stop in their tracts. It certainly forced the two Sekirei to cease fighting with each other. "You're causing a scene... and you're upsetting Ku. Do you want a repeat of what happened the last time you two argued in front of her."

The two Sekirei quickly shuddered as they recalled what had happened when Kusano had caught them arguing in the hallway yesterday. The little girl had created a giant plant that burst from the ground and wrapped them up like some kind of strange tentacle bondage. Not only had they been forced to stay tangled up for a whole hour, looking like something out of a perverted mangaka's wet dream, but Miya had also lectured them for that entire hour... while using her Hanya mask.

Cue another shudder.

Not wanting to experience something even remotely similar to that again, the two Sekirei of water and fire looked away from each other with a huff.

Naruto resisted the urge to rub the bridge of his nose. Instead, he looked down at the youngest member of their group. Little Kusano, who Naruto had decided to take a long for this meeting, was looking around the city with interest. She was clutching one of Naruto's hands with her left and had a small fox plushy that the blond shinobi had gotten for her in her right.

"Are you ready to see Takami, Ku?"

Kusano looked up at him and beamed. "Uh huh! Ku-chan really wants to see Takami-nee!"

"I'm glad, we're almost at the meeting point."

"I still do not see why we have to help those two," Tsukiumi sulked with a sullen expression on her face. "There is no need for us to test ourselves. I am the strongest, therefore, testing myself against someone who is weaker then I am is a complete waste of time. It would be better if we just kicked those two out and told them to escape on their own."

Naruto sighed. Lifting Kusano into his arms, he handed the little girl to Homura, who looked at the tiny Sekirei in confusion. The fire user then turned his questioning gaze on Naruto.

"Just hold onto Ku for a moment," Naruto said, grabbing Tsukiumi by the hand. "I need to speak with Tsukiumi alone for just a second."

"H-Husband!" Tsukiumi gasped in both surprise and embarrassment. "What are doing?!" Once she got over her surprise, anger began to trickle into her voice. "Unhand me at once!"

Naruto did not let her go. Instead, he dragged her into a small alley.

"Husband, I demand that you let go this instant!"

Finally, Naruto released her, but only after he had pushed the blond-haired Sekirei against the wall. Tsukiumi's eyes widened as her Ashikabi's body pressed against her own. She opened her mouth to speak, but never managed to get a single word, or even a syllable, out of her mouth.

Because Naruto had just kissed her.

Pressing his lips against Tsukiumi's, Naruto used his considerable skill to quickly find out what brought the blond-haired, blue-eyed Tsundere the most pleasure. He had not shared as many kisses or intimate moments with Tsukiumi as he had with, say, Akitsu, but it did not take long for the woman he was pressing his body against to begin releasing soft moans and tiny whimpers of ecstasy from his ministrations.

Tsukiumi's mind was on the fritz. Even if she were capable of coherent thought, she would not be able to come up with the proper words to describe how incredible, nay, how divine, her Ashikabi kissing her felt. His mouth were on hers, caressing, nipping, nibbling, rubbing and sucking her by now bruised lips. His body was pressing against her, the heat from which was causing her own body to feel like it had been set to boiling. In particular, her loins and breasts felt like they were steaming. It was an unfathomable pleasure that bombarded her on all sides, leaving her nearly insensate to everything except Naruto's touch and kiss.

The blond-haired, blue-eyed water user was so busy being overloaded by sensations of pleasure from Naruto's kiss that she did not even see her wings flare into existence behind her and crack the walls. She also missed the seal Naruto had slapped on the wall behind her to both reinforce the structure and also make sure that no one who walked by noticed the two of them heavily making out.

Seconds later, just as Tsukiumi's legs were about to give out, Naruto released his hold on her lips. His hands went to her hips, keeping her body from falling to the ground as the water user's legs turned into something resembling jello.

Tsukimi's eyes opened, having closed sometime during the kiss. She could not see much of anything, just a blurry outline that she vaguely recognized as her husband. Her eyes felt like they had gone crossed.

Soon, her vision cleared to show her that Naruto was indeed the one standing in front of her. The immortal shinobi pressed his forehead against her's. Tsukiumi's wide, surprised eyes stared into his. She quickly averted them, however, her cheeks flushing a pale pink that complimented her regal, princess-like beauty perfectly.

"Tsukiumi."

The way Naruto called her name had the water Sekirei shuddering. There was something in his tone that made her loins boil over with desire.

She looked at him, his blue eyes piercing her own sapphire orbs. His hips pushed into her's, making Tsukiumi gasp in barely restrained pleasure.

"I need you to trust me," Naruto continued, though Tsukiumi was barely paying any attention. Her mind was a bit distracted at that moment by the feeling of her 'husband's' arousal rubbing and caressing her sacred flower. "Please trust that I know what I am doing. I can't do this without you." His face came even closer to her own, so close that Tsukiumi could feel his hot breath hitting her lips. The burning in her loins increased in intensity, as did her desire to claim his mouth with her own. "I can't do this without you. I need you, Tsukiumi."

"I... I..." It took a great effort of will to just think much less answer the blond man's unspoken question. Yet no one could claim that Tsukiumi was weak willed, and she was indeed able to answer him, though her voice was a mere whisper, displaying none of the confidence it usually did. "I will follow and trust you, husband."

The smile Naruto graced her with would have made Tsukiumi weak at the knees, were her legs not already on the verge of giving out.

"Thank you," he said, pressing their noses together and rubbing them in a gesture of intimacy that had Tsukiumi's face tingling. He then kissed her on the lips, gently this time. It was a kiss that Tsukiumi was all too happy to reciprocate now that she was beginning to gain her mental faculties.

"Ahem!"

The sound of someone coughing brought the pairs attention away from each others mouth and towards the entrance to the alley. There, they saw Homura standing with a scarlet flush on his pale cheeks as he stared at them in shock. Meanwhile, Kusano was staring the pair with a small pout, her arms crossed over her chest.

"Are you two done now?" asked Homura, masking his embarrassment with agitation. "If so, then maybe we could actually get a move on. We do have a meeting to get to, you know."

Tsukiumi squeaked as she realized that her intimate moment with her husband had been seen by another. She quickly pushed Naruto off her, her face a mass of red as she tried to regain her regal bearing.

Needless to say, it didn't work.

Tsundere protocols activated.

"I-I-I know that! Idiot! Who do you think you're talking to!?"

Homura twitched.

"A-Anyways!" Tsukiumi continued, her voice a lot higher in pitch then it normally was. "We should really be getting to that meeting! It wouldn't do if this important person ended up leaving because we were late! Hahahaha! Come, husband! Let us be off!"

As Tsukiumi walked out of the alley with an almost mechanical gait, Homura stared at Naruto, who was looking just as calm and composed as always.

"Damn, you're good," the fire user said at last. He looked at where Tsukiumi was now walking into the street, then shook his head. "I used to think I was talented when it came to the opposite sex, but I've never been able to make a woman experience an..." he trailed off, his eyes glancing down at Kusano. "That much pleasure from just a kiss," he finished.

"Yeah, well, I've got several thousand years of practice, so of course you're not going to have the skills to match me."

"What?"

"Nothing," Naruto said as he took Kusano from Homura's arms. The tiny blond stared up at her Ashikabi with large, puppy-dog eyes that only a child (or Musubi) could ever hope to achieve.

Needless to say, the adorable was overwhelming.

"Ne, ne, onii-chan?"

"Yes, Ku?"

"When are you going to smooch, smooch Ku-chan like that?"

Naruto just doesn't get a break, does he?

"When you're older, Ku-chan." He looked down at the little girl as she puffed up her cheeks. "Much, much older."

XoX

After Naruto had basically seduced Tsukiumi into going along with his plan, it did not take long for them to reach their destination. It took even less time to find the person they were supposed to meet there. If the premature white hair did not make it easy enough to find the woman in question, then the scar over her eye certainly did the trick.

"Takami-nee!"

Kusano shook her hand out of Naruto's and shot towards the white-haired woman like a blond rocket. Hearing the shout and seeing the tiny Sekirei barreling towards her, Takami stood up just in time as the girl barreled into her leg.

"Hello, Kusano," Takami greeted the Green Girl with a smile and ruffled her hair. Kusano beamed up at the much taller female. "How are you doing? Is your Ashikabi treating you well?"

"Mhm!" Kusano nodded her head effusively. "Onii-chan's the best onii-chan ever!" Her face darkened, sort of. She was a bit too cute for it to look truly dark, making it look more like a childish pout. "Cept when he's being a meanie and refus... refus..." Kusano scrunched up her face, her tiny nose crinkling cutely.

"Refusing?" suggested Takami.

"Yeah that! Onii-chan is refusing to smooch, smooch Ku-chan! He's a meanie!"

"Smooch, smooch?" She looked from Kusano to Naruto, raising a single eyebrow.

"Don't ask," Naruto said as Homura coughed into his hand in order to hide his chuckles, which sounded far more like girlish giggling then any man had a right to sound. Though, given the modestly sized knockers on his chest, it was safe to say he was not all man anymore.

Naruto glared at Homura, who looked far to amused for his liking, then looked back at Takami.

"I guess introductions are in order, then," Naruto held out his hand. "Uzumaki Naruto."

"I know who you are."

Takami sat down without taking his hand. Naruto raised an eyebrow, but didn't say anything as he also sat down.

"You've caused me enough headaches to last a lifetime." Takami glared at the blond man. Naruto was unaffected by her hostile look, but imagined that any normal human would have been petrified by that gaze. "The only reason I even agreed to this meeting is because Homura has vouched for you."

"I see." Naruto eyed the woman sitting across from him as Kusano climbed onto his lap and plopped herself down. He then gave her a mild smirk. "Is that why you have sixty military personnel currently standing standing by on the rooftops?" When Takami's eyes widened, he chuckled. "Am I to assume they're here to shoot me if this meeting turns hostile?"

If she hadn't been sweating bullets before this meeting, Takami certainly was now. How had he known about the men she had stationed around them? Each of those soldiers was currently being concealed by one of the most powerful cloaking devices MBI had! It should have rendered them all but invisible to the human eye!

"Let's just call them added insurance," she said, trying to keep her voice calm and indifferent. "They're here for my safety, nothing more."

"Ah..."

Takami forced herself to relax. Like a subconscious instinct, she pulled a box of cigarettes out of her lab coat. She took one of the cancer sticks from the package and stuck it in her mouth. She then gave Homura a look, which the fire user interpreted very easily.

With a roll of his eyes, he stuck out his index finger. The tip of his finger ignited into a small blaze, which he then used to light Takami's cigarette.

"Neat trick, that," Naruto commented as the fire on Homura's finger extinguished. "Is that one of the parlor tricks you used when you were working at the gentleman's club?" It had been a very practiced move, like something the fire user had done hundreds of times.

"It seemed to impress the ladies," Homura said with a shrug.

"Speaking of ladies..." Takami eyed Homura's breasts as she stuck the cancer stick in her mouth. "You've got a nice pair on you, Homura. Are they new?"

Homura squawked indignantly as he covered his chest. He had forgotten to bind his breasts today, so they were sticking proudly out of his chest.

"Tsukiumi's are better."

Homura squawked some more. He also glared at Naruto.

"H-Husband!"

Tsukiumi was just as bad as Homura.

Takami snorted in minor amusement. It was very short lived amusement, as she quickly remembered who she was dealing with.

"Why don't you tell me why you wanted to see me." It was not a suggestion.

In response to her words, Naruto pulled out a small file, which he then handed over to Takami. The white-haired woman took the file from him. Opening it, she perused through the content. After several seconds, she looked back at Naruto with a raised eyebrow.

"Haruka and Kuno? They're the reason you had Homura call me and set this meeting up?"

"More or less," Naruto shrugged. Before he said anymore, the whisker marked man hailed down a passing waiter and put in an order for some coffee. When the young woman left, he continued speaking. "I'm sure you know that they tried to escape from Shinto Teito a little while ago?"

"They're not the only ones," Takami sighed tiredly. A hand came up to rub her eyes, which had small bags under them, denoting a lack of sleep.

"I imagine so," Naruto mused, rubbing his chin. "I can't imagine any of the Ashikabi or their Sekirei are happy knowing they'll have to fight their brothers and sisters in a battle royal for the pleasure of a madman in order to stay together." Takami couldn't disagree with his words. "It probably doesn't help that you have Ashikabi like Higa, Hayato, Sanada and myself, who are considered some of the more powerful players in the game and the ones most likely to win this."

"No, it doesn't." Takami frowned at the man before her. She looked back down at the file in her hand, then glanced up at him again. "So why don't you tell me what this is all about? I can't imagine you would come here just to tell me about these two." She tapped a finger against the file that was now sitting on the table.

"You're right. I didn't." Naruto grabbed the file again and slipped it inside the inner pocket of his hoodie. "Haruka and Kuno came to me a few days ago, asking for aid in helping them escape." Takami sucked in a breath. "I've decided to help them."

"E-Excuse me?"

"I said, I decided to help them."

Takami worked her mouth for several seconds before she was able to speak properly. "You're going to help them?" Naruto nodded. "You? You are going to help them escape the city?"

"I believe I have already established that I plan on helping them."

"And why are you telling me this?" asked Takami, looking somewhere between skeptical and worried. "You do know that I work for MBI. By telling me this, I am obligated to stop you."

"I am telling you this for three reasons." Naruto held up his left hand and extended a single finger. "One, I know for a fact that you do not like the Sekirei Plan and that you hate what Minaka is doing even more." He held up a second finger. "Two, Homura has vouched for your integrity and I'm willing to place my faith in his words." A third finger. "Three, you owe me."

"I owe you?" Takami looked at the man with a gaze that clearly said 'what the hell are you talking about?'. "How do you figure that?"

Naruto withheld himself from speaking as the waitress from before came up with his cup of coffee. He took another moment to gently blow on the steaming liquid before answering Takami's question.

"Higa Izumi."

Takami sucked in a breath. She knew that he was talking about the incident with her daughter. Yukari had called her shortly after leaving Maison Izumo. She had been able to practically hear the girl salivating as she spoke about the 'bond hunk' who had rescued her.

Of course, she had spoken in a way that didn't mention her involvement in the Sekirei Plan. She just said some perv abducted her, but Takami had been able to do some research of her own and learned the truth.

It still galled the woman to know that her daughter had been in danger and she had not known until well after the fact. Even more galling was that the person who saved her was the man sitting before her.

"Besides," Naruto, unaware of Takami's thoughts, continued. "If you don't agree to help me, I'll just kill you right now."

Takami's eyes widened as she felt something sharp poking her in the stomach. She looked down, her eyes widening even more when she saw a katana underneath the table, the tip of which was being gently pressed against her solar plexus.

"Naruto!" Homura hissed out angrily.

"Don't look at me like that, Homura," Naruto said calmly. There was not an ounce of emotion in his voice. It was as if he were not currently holding one of MBI's top researchers at sword-point. "You're the one who wanted to help Haruka and Kuno escape the city. We can't do that without this woman here. She's the only one aside from Minaka who has the clearance we need."

"I know that... but still, you shouldn't threaten to kill her! And didn't you just say we need her? If you kill her, then she can't help us."

"Better she dies without helping us then letting her go back to MBI with the knowledge that we plan on helping Haruka and Kuno escape."

Homura sputtered. "But that doesn't... I mean it's not... it's not right..."

"I don't care."

Homura sputtered even more.

Takami looked at the blond, then the fire user, then at the little girl sitting on Naruto's lap.

"I'm surprised Ku-chan hasn't said anything about you threatening to kill her Takami-nee," she said as calmly as someone who had a sword poking them in the chest could. Inside though, she was nearly panicking. Why hadn't anyone seen this? Why hadn't her men shot this man already?

"Kusano can't here anything we're saying," Naruto answered with an amused smile. When Kusano looked at him curiously, he ruffled the girl's hair, causing her to pout. "Or, to be more specific, whenever we speak, she is hearing something completely different then what we are actually talking about."

Takami narrowed her eyes as she surveyed the blond and his three Sekirei. She couldn't make heads or tails of that statement. "What do you mean?"

"Sorry, but that's all the information you are going to get out of me."

Her lips thinning into a tight line, Takami thought about her options. There weren't many. She either agreed to do this, or she died. Well, that, or she could just say she agreed and then simply not help him.

"Very well," she sighed, "what do you need me to do?"

"All Sekirei have a chip that is implanted into their Sekirei Crest."

"What!?"

"This chip can not only track where a Sekirei is regardless of where they are in the world, but also serves as a deadmans switch." Naruto ignored Tsukiumi's shout of outrage, as well as the sucking in of breath from Homura. "Basically, if any Sekirei gets too unruly, or manages to escape from Shinto Teito, all Minaka would have to do is press a button to shut them down."

"And you want me to turn the device for Kuno off?" Takami deduced. "Why not just get Matsu to do it?"

"Please don't take me for a fool," Naruto said, smiling when he saw Takami wince. Whether that was because of his words or the sword that poked her hard enough to hurt was unknown. "You and I both know that the controls to shut off the Sekirei tracking device/deadmans switch can only be accessed remotely via a terminal located in the subterranean levels of MBIs main base of operations, and the only two people who have the clearance to go down there is yourself and Minaka."

"You're awfully well-informed about how MBI works," Takami spoke calmly, even though she was anything but calm. There was no way Naruto should know any of this. Not even with Matsu helping him. The Sekirei tracking devices were a secret so closely guarded that it was not on any network or data storage unit.

When she got back from this meeting, she was going to do a thorough background check of all the people working in MBI. There was a leak somewhere, and she was going to find the idiot who did and boot him off the clock tower.

"I make it my business to know potential threats to myself and those important to me," Naruto poked her with the tip of his sword again. "And you're stalling."

Takami cursed, then sighed as she realized she had been backed into a corner.

"Alright," she said. "I'll help you, but only because I hate Minaka and don't want to see any needless deaths or deactivations."

"I'm glad you're finally seeing things my way."

The tip of the sword that had been poking her disappeared. Takami looked down to see some smoke disappearing within a gentle breeze.

Naruto stood up, his arms holding Kusano against his hip like a parent would hold their child.

"I'll get in touch with you when the time comes for you to deactivate the device within Kuno's crest," he told the woman.

"And how will you get in touch with me?" Takami asked, sounding more then a little agitated. She did not like the fact that someone had gotten the better of her and was now hanging her by the figurative balls.

"You don't need to worry about that," Naruto said, "Just wait for me to contact you." He was just about to turn around, but paused at the last second and looked back at Takami. "Oh, and those soldiers hanging on the rooftops, you're going to want to get them some medical attention."

"What!?"

"Come on, Tsukiumi, Homura. We're done here."

"Of course, husband."

Homura did not say anything, just frowned as he followed Naruto.

"Bye, bye, Takami-nee!" Kusano waved one of her tiny arms at the white-haired woman as they departed, leaving a frustrated and defeated Takami behind.

XoX

The past few days of planing to help Haruka and Kuno escape Shinto Teito had been proceeding smoothly. Much of the plan itself had already come together; the basic course of action, as it were, was all there. All Naruto needed to do now was convince a few more people to help him, so he would have some extra hands to accomplish the tasks he couldn't have his Sekirei do.

That was why he was here, sitting in the bullet train as it sped down Shinto Teito towards one of the less populated residential districts just outside of the North's jurisdiction.

Sitting beside him were Akitsu and Musubi, who he had decided to let tag along for the ride. Kusano would have likely come as well, but she had been very tired recently because Naruto had started training her more extensively in her powers. She was likely still sleeping in Uzume's room.

"This is so exciting!"

Musubi was bouncing up and down in her seat. The shrine maiden presented a stark contrast to Akitsu, whose upright posture and rigid bearing made her look like a block of ice. A very sexy block of ice, albeit, but still a block of ice.

"Isn't this exciting Naruto-sama?" the busty girl with the naivety of a child asked as she turned to face him. Naruto gave Musubi an indulgent smile.

"We're just going to see Seo and the S&M twins."

"Mu~ Musubi knows that," she said, puffing her cheeks out a bit. "Musubi is just excited because we're going to be helping Haruka and Kuku."

There was a slight pause in their conversation. All three of them cocked their heads to the side. Maybe it was just them, but they could have sworn they heard someone wailing "its Kuno! Not Kuku!" somewhere in the distance.

Huh. Must be their imagination.

"Musubi's really happy that Naruto-Sama decided to help Haruka and Kuyo!"

Another pause ensued. Was it really just their imagination that they were hearing? Or was that actually the despairing wails of a certain Sekirei whose name no one seemed to remember?

Musubi gave Naruto soft smile that made his stomach twist into knots. "That's why I love you so much, Naruto-Sama. Even though you try to act like you don't care, helping people is in your nature." She took his hand in her own. Her smaller hand seemed to fit into his larger one perfectly, like they were made for each other. "That's why I responded to you. Why you're my Ashikabi."

Naruto swallowed heavily. He wanted to deny her words. To tell her that she was wrong. That he didn't care about helping others. That he wasn't doing this for Kuno and Haruka's sake, but for his own ambitions and desires. That it was only coincidental that their desire to escape Shinto Teito matched up with his plans. He wanted to tell her these things.

But he couldn't.

Worse still, he did not know why.

"I-I guess..."

He quickly looked away from the fist fighter. He didn't want to see her staring at him with those warm, brown eyes. Those eyes that seemed to draw him in and refuse to let him go.

The rest of the trip to Seo's apartment was silent. They exited the train when it reached their station, then walked to the complex that the man Miya often called 'trash' was staying at.

The apartment complex Seo lived in was not glamorous by any definition of the word, but it was a right sight better then the one he had been staying at before Naruto gave him the job of keeping the blond ninja up to date on anything interesting going on in Shinto Teito.

The complex itself was very large, had a number of balconies sticking out on all four sides, and a flat roof. Like all buildings in Japan, this one was built 'up', meaning that rather then the complex being spread out over a wide area, it was confined to a small space and simply expanded into the sky.

Japan had a very conservationist approach to utilizing their land.

Entering the apartment building, Naruto and his two Sekirei walked over to the nearest elevator and got in. When they were all inside, Naruto had Akitsu press the button for the fifth floor, which was where Seo resided.

It wasn't long before the trio found themselves standing in front of a door with the number 526 etched into a small plaque. Yet, despite arriving at their destination, the three were hesitant to actually let their presence be known.

"WHAT THE HELL DO YOU MEAN YOU SPENT ALL OF OUR MONEY ON ALCOHOL!?"

ZAAPPPPPP!

"GRAAAAA! I'M SORRY! I'M SORRY!"

"SORRY ISN'T GOING TO CUT IT, SEO! THAT WAS 65,000 YEN YOU JUST SPENT! ALL THAT MONEY WE HAD BEEN SAVING UP FOR A RAINY DAY IS NOW WASTED THANKS TO YOU!"

ZAAAPPPPP!

"Do you think we should go in?" asked Musubi.

"STOP SHOCKING ME, DAMMIT!"

"NOT UNTIL YOU'VE LEARNED YOUR LESSON!"

ZAAPPPPPPP!

"Why don't we wait outside until they're done," Naruto suggested as several more 'zapping' sounds came from behind the door they were standing in front of. The trio stood there, listening silently as the noises that could only be human flesh getting shocked by lightning rang clearly through the door to them, along with the screams of said human who was getting shocked. Eventually, the sounds stopped coming, meaning that it was safe for Naruto to knock on the door.

"Just a second! Dammit, Seo! Get your ugly ass out of the way!"

More sounds of someone getting shocked occurred, as did more screaming, though now it sounded like a dying pig squealing. Looking down at the bottom of the door, Naruto could actually see the pale blue light of lightning coming in through the crack.

A second later the door opened and Hikari stood in the doorway, a rude look on her face. "Look, whatever you're selling, we don't want... oh..." she blinked when she saw who was standing in front of her. "It's you. I take it you have a new job for Seo?"

"One that could potentially earn back all the money your Ashikabi just spent on booze."

"Well, don't just stand there!" The door opened more fully and the lightning user moved out of the way, her invitation obvious. "Come on in!"

Naruto did as told. Stepping into the threshold of the room with Akitsu and Musubi following close behind, the young looking shinobi finally got to see what had become of Seo after he had been zapped with somewhere around several thousand volts of electricity by his girls.

The man looked like he'd stuck his finger into an electric socket. His entire body was black and crispy, and his hair looked like something you'd see on a mad scientist who just had an experiment blow up in his face. Steam was wafting off his body, rising lazily into the air like smoke from a small fire.

Naruto thought the whole scene was just amusing.

"Still letting those two walk all over you, I see," Naruto commented to the groaning, moaning pile of burnt flesh.

"I'd like to see how you do when getting double-teamed by a pair of girls that can shoot lightning from their hands," Seo ground out from where he lay on the ground.

Naruto took one look at Hibiki and Hikari, one who was glaring at him and the other who looked away as soon as their eyes made contact. He smirked. "I could take them."

"What was that!?" Hikari glared at Naruto. She clenched her left hand into a fist and shook his menacingly at the blond-haired, whisker marked ninja. "You wanna go!? Cuz if that's the case..." blue arcs of electricity began coursing through her arm, her threat obvious.

"Hikari..." Hibiki gripped her sister's shoulder and began shaking it. "Did you forget that this guy fought Higa's Sekirei to a standstill?"

The lightning stopped. Hikari's face took on a look of consideration, then grimaced as she too remembered that fight; the fight where a human fought against two Sekirei and came out unscathed.

"Besides," Hibiki continued, "It's only thanks to Naruto-san paying Seo for all the rumors he picks up that we were able to move into this apartment and afford enough food to live off of."

Hikari grimaced some more as she conceded the points made by her sister. "Alright, fine. I won't fry him to a crisp."

Hibiki sighed in relief. "Good."

"But you'd better watch what you say, buddy," Hikari was back on Naruto again, giving the spiky headed blond a fierce stare. "Make a comment like that again and I won't hesitate to shove several thousand volts of lightning into you!"

"Sounds fun," Naruto commented, uncaring at the way Hikari bristled at his statement. "But I'm afraid that will have to wait for another time. I've come to talk business with Seo."

"Business, huh?" Seo stood up, having recovered from getting God-only-knows how many volts of electricity shoved into him. He walked over to the couch, where he flopped down like a sack of flour. His feet swung up, the heels smacking against the coffee table with a clang as he leaned back against the headrest, completing his lazy-boy image. "You don't usually call me for actual jobs. I take it you've got something big for me?"

"Big enough that I needed some extra hands," Naruto said as he also sat down. Sitting on the couch opposite of Seo, he was joined by his two Sekirei. Akitsu sat as close as possible so that she could set her head on his shoulder, while Musubi was simply looking around the apartment in curiosity.

"Does it have something to do with those two strays you took in?"

Naruto was not surprised that Seo knew about Haruka and Kuno. There was a very good reason he hired the man. He had an uncanny knack for keeping an ear to the ground and sifting through rumors to find those hidden gems that were oh so useful. More then half the plans Naruto had made for the Sekirei Plan was based on information given to him by Seo.

"It does. It seems that Haruka and Kuno wish to escape Shinto Teito."

Seo raised an eyebrow. "And you've agreed to help them?" When Naruto nodded, the much younger man blinked. "I'm surprised... I can't see you helping out two complete strangers. I mean, you've helped Uzume and Kusano when they needed it, but one was your Sekirei and the other someone you lived with. It doesn't seem like your style to help two people you don't even know."

"I didn't come here to listen to you giving me a psychoanalysis about myself," Naruto nearly snapped.

"Woah, woah, take it easy." Seo held his hands up in a nonthreatening gesture. "I didn't mean to offend you or anything. I was just curious, you know?"

"Whatever," Naruto sighed as Musubi looked over at him in concern, having been dragged out of her self-inspection of the room by his snappish tone. "Can you help me or not?"

"If you're paying," Seo said with a Gaelic shrug.

"Then our business is concluded." Naruto stood up from his seat. Akitsu smoothly followed his actions while Musubi looked startled by the abrupt motion and took a second to rise jerkily to her feet. "Come by Maison Izumo two days from now and I'll let you know what I want from you."

"Yeah, sure."

Naruto nodded towards Seo before making his way out the apartment room. Akitsu and Musubi followed closely behind.

As the door shut behind them, they heard Seo say, "Hey, Hikari! Get me a beer, would you!"

This was soon followed by a shout of, "Get your own damn beer!" before the sounds of crackling lightning and Seo's screams filled the room.

That man just never learns.

XoX

Naruto divested himself of all his clothing. After folding said clothing, he placed it in one of the many hampers that were located in the changing room right next to the bathhouse. Now naked, the blond-haired, blue-eyed male wrapped a towel around his waist and walked into the bathhouse.

"EEK!"

Naruto stared oddly at Homura for several seconds as the man let out a girlish shriek.

"Was there any reason for that?"

"What are you doing in here!?" Homura asked harshly, ignoring his question. The fire user's cheeks were flushed a deep, dark red. Although, the color could be attributed to the heat, Naruto was positive he saw the hue darken several shades more than what could be considered normal for someone bathing in hot water.

"The same reason you are, I suspect," Naruto replied easily enough. "To clean myself off and relax in the bath." It had been a trying day; meeting and blackmailing/threatening Takami into working with him and speaking with Seo was tough work. He needed some time to just relax and unwind.

He walked further into the room as Homura made to cover his breasts with his arms.

He also ignored the glare the fire slinging Sekirei tossed him.

Sitting down on the stool, Naruto proceeded to scrub his body with a soaped up sponge, scrubbing down his chest, arms, and armpits. While he did this, he looked at Homura out of the corner of his eye, and nearly snorted in amusement when he saw the fire user staring at his body with a look that somehow managed to combine mortification with admiration. After a few seconds, though, Homura looked away, the Sekirei's face so red it looked like it might catch fire.

"You could have at least waited until I was done."

"I could have," Naruto agreed, "But I didn't feel like it."

Homura twitched.

After he finished scrubbing himself up, Naruto poured the bucket of warm water over his head. The clear liquid cascaded down his body, washing away the soap suds. He then stood up and removed the towel.

"Eep!"

Grinning at the mouse-like squeak Homura unleashed at the sight of his naked body, Naruto slowly lowered himself into the steaming water of the large tub.

"You're awfully embarrassed about seeing another man naked, Homura," he said, sending an idle and lazy glance at the other occupant of the tub.

"That's because you have no shame!" Homura spat.

"That's probably true," Naruto admitted. He was pretty shameless, and he didn't have many taboos when it came to public decency, or anything else for that matter. That's what happened when you were immortal. You just stopped caring about human morals. "But I'm not sure how you can equate my lack of shame to me being shameless because I'm taking a bath. You kind of have to be naked to take a bath, you know."

"I-I know that! I just meant... what I mean to say is... it's like..."

Naruto chuckled at Homura's inability to explain himself. In return, the white-haired fire user sank even deeper into the water until just the upper half of his face was visible.

"Relax," Naruto sighed. Closing his eyes, he leaned back against the edge of the tub and let his arms use the rim as an armrest. "You've got nothing to worry about. It's not like it's unusual for two guys to take bath together. This is Japan, after all."

Japan was famous for it's bathhouses, which usually had same-sex bathing. Mixed bathing wasn't practiced very often these days, though, some bathhouses still had it.

Homura did not say anything. Or maybe he tried to and Naruto just couldn't hear anything because the fire user's mouth was still underneath the waters surface.

The silence that soon engulfed the pair as they both sat in there in the tub was broken by the sound f the door sliding open. Naruto did not open his eyes, already knowing who it was. Homura did look over, however, and another 'eep!' escaped his mouth when he saw who had entered.

Naruto chuckled when Homura sank even further into the water in an effort to hide those globes on his chest. This also caused said fire user to send his Ashikabi a rather virulent glare.

"Um... Hey," Haruka said as he walked into the bathhouse. "Do you guys mind if I join you?"

"You can do whatever you want," Naruto said, still not bothering to open his eyes. "This is Miya's house. She's the one who makes the rules. I'm just a resident."

"Thanks..." Haruka mumbled. Naruto did not reply, and the much younger man quickly cleaned himself off on the same stool that the ancient shinobi had been using just a few seconds prior.

Soon enough, Haruka had joined Naruto and Homura in the tub, letting out a content sigh as the water did its job of relaxing his muscles.

Homura turned away from the boy, not wanting to be seen by him. It was bad enough that Naruto was here, but at least that man was his Ashikabi.

More silence soon followed. For two of the people in the room, it was an uncomfortable, stifling silence. Homura remained buried almost to the nose under the water. Haruka, on the other hand, kept sending unsure glances at Naruto, who continued ignoring the two of them.

Finally...

"You got something you want to say?"

Haruka started in surprise as Naruto finally said something, but he quickly steeled himself. "I just wanted... to apologize, for the other day, I mean," he added, "I was... angry, and scared, but I shouldn't have taken it out on you. So... Sorry."

"It's fine." Naruto sighed, and shifted where he sat. "It's in human nature to lash out at others. That's just how humans are."

"You say that like you're not human," Homura finally spoke up, eyes narrowing. Naruto said nothing, causing the fire user to frown.

"I also wanted to thank you," Haruka added, feeling the strange need to continue. "I know you don't have any obligation to help me, so I'm grateful that you have."

"Don't be too grateful," Naruto told the boy. "I didn't do it for you. I did it because this will be a good chance to see how well my Sekirei can fight in a real life and death battle."

"You don't need me to do that," Haruka countered. "If you wanted to test your Sekirei, you could just order them to attack MBI headquarters or something. You don't to help me and my girl escape for that."

Naruto did not say anything, nor did his face reflect any of his emotions. His mind was a different story, however. A tumultuous storm was brewing in his head as conflicting thoughts and emotions ran rampant within him.

Haruka's words rang very true. If Naruto wanted to, he could have planned an attack on MBI headquarters, or he could have had Matsu hack into MBIs satellites, track down the Discipline Squad and have his Sekirei engage them in combat. There were so many things he could have done to test his Sekirei that did not require him helping Haruka.

So why? Why was he agreeing to help this boy, this selfish, spoiled little brat, escape the city?

'Because that's who you are,' a voice echoed in his head. 'You can't help but want to help others.'

Naruto shook his head irritably, dispelling those thoughts. That was not it. He had long stopped caring for other people.

'Oh, but it is,' the voice seemed to chuckle inside his head. 'Isn't that the reason you chose to forsake most human contact? Why you've never allowed yourself to get close to another person? Why you never allowed yourself to fall in love since her? Come now, don't delude yourself. We both know what kind of person you are.'

'You know nothing!' Naruto snarled at the voice. 'I'm not that stupid child that used to form attachments to others! Don't talk to me like you know me!'

'Hehehe, but I do know you. In fact, I would even go so far as to say that I know you better than you know yourself!'

A growl escaped from Naruto's throat, causing the two other occupants of the bath to look at him.

"Eeep!"

"Dude, sit back down!"

Naruto blinked, then looked at his surroundings with a startled gaze as he realized he was now standing up in the tub. Just when had he done that?

With a heavy sigh, he sat back down. Homura and Haruka finally relaxed.

"Ugh, I think I've been scarred for life," Haruka groaned as he leaned his head back against the lip of the tub. "I really didn't want to see your thing hanging out like that. I think I'm going to be sick."

"Then you shouldn't have looked," Naruto deadpanned. "It's your own fault for staring at me."

"You were the one who stood up!"

"And you were the one who was staring."

Haruka gaped at the immortal shinobi.

"By the way, Homura," the idle, almost curious tone in Naruto's voice as he spoke had Homura on edge. "When were you going to tell me that you finally lost your fishing tackle?"

XoX

While Naruto, Homura and Haruka were in the bathhouse, sharing in what would have been male bonding if one of them had not been fully transformed into a female and another being an anti-social immortal who spurned human contact, Tsukiumi was standing on the roof of Maison Izumo.

The water using Sekirei's arms were crossed under her well-developed bosom as she gazed at the setting sun. The sky above was casting bright colors onto her hair as it waved in the breeze. Though her face was composed as she watched the dying sun cast it's glow upon the city, her mind was in turmoil.

She just couldn't understand it. Why was her husband agreeing to help that foolish monkey of an Ashikabi and that pathetic excuse for a Sekirei? Her husband had always been a logical, well-reasoned person. So why? Why had he decided to extend his aid to those two when he had first rejected them?

"I thought I might find you here."

Startled out of her frustrating thoughts, Tsukiumi uncrossed her arms and turned her head to look at the person who had snuck up on her.

"Oh, landlady," Tsukiumi greeted the woman with respectful nod. Out of all the people living under this roof, Asama Miya was the person she respected the most. Aside from her husband, of course.

"Are you thinking about what's going to happen?" Tsukiumi did not need the woman to elaborate to know what she was talking about.

"I just don't get it," Tsukiumi released a frustrated gust of air.

"You don't understand why Naruto has agreed to help Haruka and Kuno," Miya stated her response almost like a question, but they both knew it wasn't.

"He shouldn't have to help them," Tsukiumi huffed. "It is not any concern of his whether those two escape the city or not. He did the right thing when he denied them aid when they first asked it of him."

"And now you are wondering why he has changed his mind and decided to help them." Tsukiumi was silent. Nodding her head, Miya walked up to stand beside the water user. She gazed out at the sky for a moment, putting her thoughts together, before looking back at the blond Sekirei. "Would you like to hear why I think Naruto has agreed to help them?"

Tsukiumi hesitated for a moment. There was no way this woman could offer any insight into her husband that she herself did not know. The idea was preposterous! As if someone could ever know her husband as well as she did!

She still ended up nodding, though. Not because she thought Miya had any sagacious wisdom to give that may enlighten Tsukiumi as to what her husband was thinking. No. Of course not. She was just curious.

"Since the very first moment I met Naruto, I sensed there was something different about him, something that no one else, be they human or Sekirei have."

Tsukiumi nodded. She too had come to that conclusion. Her husband was special in some way, though she did not know how special.

"He is a surprisingly complex person, more so than anyone else I have ever met. When you first meet him, he comes across as cheerful and care-free, yet there are times where I scan sense a deep melancholy residing within him." Miya held a hand to her chest. She could feel her heart beating erratically at the thought of Naruto. "He has suffered great loss in his past. I suspect he has lost may loved ones, and it has affected him. He tries to shun contact with others, first by putting up a facade to keep everyone from seeing the real him, then by pushing them away when that fails. I think he is afraid of letting others get to close because he is afraid that he will eventually lose them like he lost those other people he loved so much."

Tsukiumi was silent for a moment, deliberating over everything the landlady had just told her. After a second or two, she scowled and looked away. "That still does not explain why he has agreed to help those two."

"Naruto might shun contact with others, but that does not mean he doesn't want to make those connections," Miya said. "I think that Naruto wants to let others in, but is afraid." She paused. "And just like Naruto desires to form bonds with others, he also wants to help people. It's a part of who he is and is not a facet of himself that can be gotten rid of so easily. This is also why he shuns getting close to others, because he knows that if he sees someone in need, he will want to help them."

"So you're telling me that my husband has some kind of hero complex?" Tsukiumi frowned. "Preposterous!"

"Is it?" Miya asked. "Despite the amount of times he has pushed all of us away, every time someone has come to him for help, he has helped them."

"He's only helping those two because he wants to test our skills," Tsukiumi defended weakly.

"You and I both know that is a flimsy excuse at best," Miya countered. "He doesn't need to help those two to test you. That's just the excuse he uses to justify helping them."

Tsukiumi wanted to deny Miya's words. To tell the woman that she did not know what she was talking about. But she couldn't. Deep down, she knew that the kind and beautiful landlady was correct.

"Naruto is a naturally kind person who enjoys helping others," Miya continued, taking Tsukiumi's silence as a sign that the other Sekirei knew she was right. "It is as much a part of him as his arm or leg." The purple-haired woman smiled at the other female. "Isn't that why you responded to him?"

"I-I ― of course not!" Tsukiumi scowled. "I only responded to him because he is strong... for a human, I mean! Strong for a human." She nodded to herself. "A strong Sekirei like myself needs a strong Ashikabi. None but the strongest would do."

Miya raised her arm, hiding her mouth behind the voluminous sleeve as she giggled demurely. "Oh my, how cute. Getting all tsundere over your Ashikabi."

Tsukiumi scowled and blushed at the same time. After hearing that term from Homura a couple of times, she had looked up the meaning of the word. Needless to say, she had not been pleased. She wasn't tsundere! She wasn't!

Was she?

Just then, as Tsukiumi was about to deny Miya's baseless accusation, fire erupted from the bathhouse, blowing out the windows and causing black smoke to pour out of the now glassless holes in the wall.

"YOU DAMN PRICK! HOW COULD YOU JUST SIT THERE, ACTING LIKE NOTHING WAS WRONG WHEN YOU KNEW I HAD CHANGED INTO A WOMAN!? HUH!?"

"Oh dear," Miya said with a sigh as Tsukiumi gaped at the amount of smoke coming out of the bathhouse. Or maybe she was gaping at the words she recognized as coming from Homura. "I'd better go deal with Homura before she gets out of hand." Miya huffed. "Honestly, blowing up my bathhouse just because her Ashikabi knew she was no longer a he."

As Miya jumped lightly off the roof, Tsukiumi stared after her, blinking.

Several seconds later...

"Did she just say Homura has become a woman!?"

XoX

One week. It had taken taken one week of planning and preparation, but Naruto was finally ready to execute his plan.

He and all of his Sekirei along with Seo and the bondage twins, Uzume and Chiho, and Haruka and Kuno were standing around the long table in the dining room of Maison Izumo. Miya was also there, standing off to the side, but as she was not going to be a part of this daring mission, she was not actually a part of the group. Her role here was merely as an observer.

"Did you guys plant the tags?"

"Of course," Seo answered the blond's question, rubbing the nape of his neck as a queer look crossed his face. "Don't know why you wanted all those tag things placed around the city, though. I don't see how a couple hundreds sheets of paper with funny scribbles on them is going to help you."

"You don't need to worry about that." Naruto turned to look at Uzume and Chiho. "You know what your part is going to be?"

"I'm going to be the one escorting Haruka and Kumo to their extraction point," Uzume recited dutifully. Naturally, she and everyone else ignored the mutter of "it's Kuno..." from the Sekirei in question just like every other time she spoke. It was as if she wasn't even there. "Don't worry about a thing, bro. I got this in the bag."

"Be careful, Uzume-chan," Chiho asked of her Sekirei. The young Ashikabi looked at Uzume in concern, causing the busty brunette to squeal.

"Oh, come here you!" Before Chiho could comprehend what was happening, Uzume had pulled the girl's head down to rest upon her bosom. "You don't have to worry about a thing. I'll be back before you know it! Then you and I can have some passionate, raunchy sex!"

"Ahem," Miya coughed into her hand before plastering a sincerely false smile on her face. The aura of death and despair she was exuding did not help make those present feel any more comfortable around the woman then her smile did. "What were you saying, Uzume-san? I don't think I heard you probably."

"Ah... Hehehe," Uzume swallowed, "What I said was that Chiho and I would be... uh... um... cuddling! Yes, cuddling. As soon as I got back we're gonna snuggle under the blanket and just cuddle. Nothing else. Certainly not erotic, steamy, hot..."

"Uz-u-me!"

"We weren't gonna do the nasty, I swear!"

"Uzume..." Chiho sighed.

"Yes?"

"You're just digging yourself into a deeper grave."

"...I think you're right. I'll be quiet now."

A large trickle of sweat fell down the sides of several people's head as they stared at the cloth user.

Several seconds later, they all decided to ignore what had just happened. It really wasn't worth the trouble.

"Haruka."

Haruka straitened up as Naruto addressed him. "Yes?"

"Here." Naruto handed him a large folder that was tied together to keep its contents from falling out. The young man took a glance at the object, his curiosity obvious on his face. "That folder contains several documents that you'll need. When you arrive at your destination, you're going to meet one of my contacts." Actually, it was one of his brainwashed spies, but there was no need to tell Haruka that. "There's an image of him in the folder, so you'll know who to look for. He'll be able to get you the necessary documentation that will allow you to live your new life; passports, IDs, the works. Don't lose that folder."

"R-Right." Haruka looked at the folder in awe, then sent a grateful look towards Naruto. "Thank you very much."

Naruto did not respond to Haruka's words of thanks. Instead he said, "Uzume, wait until the fireworks start before escorting Haruka and Kuno to the extraction point."

"You got it, bro!" Uzume gave the blond a playful salute, winking as she did so. "You know, you're pretty good at this planning thing. Have you done this before?"

"Maybe."

Uzume pouted. "That's not much of an answer, bro."

"Yeah, well, that's all the answer you're going to get." Naruto ignored Uzume and turned to look at Seo. "Seo, you, Hikari and Hibiki will also be going with them, just in case MBI doesn't take the bait and sends someone to apprehend Haruka and Kuno. I expect you to support Uzume completely. Give all the aid you can in getting to that extraction point. If Uzume is deactivated during this, I am going to make sure you die a slow, painful death."

"Yeah, yeah," Seo grumbled, "I got it ― wait!" He gawked at the blond. "Did you just threaten to kill me!?"

"Now then." Naruto looked at his own Sekirei. He ignored Seo's "Hey! I'm talking to you!" as he addressed the five standing before him. "All of you are going to splitting up into three groups. Tsukiumi and Musubi." The two straitened their backs as his sharp blue irises fell on them. "You two are going to deal with numbers 104 Haihane, and 105 Benitsubasa. Musubi, Benitsubasa is a fist-type like you, however, she also uses Earth attacks for long range. She's going to be your opponent. Tsukiumi will take on Haihane."

"Got it!" Musubi cheered, pumping a fist into the air. "Oooh! I'm so excited! I'm going to get to fight a strong opponent!"

"Don't get too excited or you'll pass out before the fight even begins," Tsukiumi snapped irritably. She then turned to look at Naruto. "I understand what you want me to do. And I will make sure that woman rues the day she ever crossed me!"

Naruto, Uzume and everyone else stared at the two Sekirei as they stood side by side, their left hands clenched into fists and metaphorical fire surrounding their bodies.

"Well... at least their pumped up..." Uzume offered weakly. Naruto just shook his head and turned to look at Akitsu and Homura. "You two are going to deal with MBIs military. Akitsu, I want you to attack anything that comes from the air. Homura, you're going to deal with the ground troops. Watch each others back while you're out there."

The two Sekirei of nearly opposing elements looked at each other, nodded, then looked back at Naruto.

"Don't worry, we've got this."

"Ah."

A pause. Everyone stared at Akitsu, waiting.

"Don't worry, Ashikabi-Sama."

"...Right," Naruto shook his head. "I guess that's it. Matsu will be the one keeping all of us in communication with each other via those earbuds I gave you. She's also going take control of one of the satellites once they take the bait."

"Leave it to Matsu!" Said red-haired, perverted hacker thumped her chest. "Matsu will get the job done, Naru-tan!"

"What about Ku-chan!" Kusano pouted as she looked up at Naruto, her arms crossed over her chest. "Ku-chan wants to help too!"

Naruto stared at the Green Girl for several seconds before kneeling down. He gently ran a hand over her hair, causing the girl to squirm under his ministrations.

"You're a bit too young for this, Ku," he said kindly, a stark contrast to how he usually spoke to others. "Plus, you still don't have full control of your powers." Kusano pouted at her Ashikabi. Her cheeks puffed up in childish consternation. "Besides, I need you to keep an eye on Matsu while we're away. Who knows what kind of trouble she might get into with Miya if there's not someone constantly keeping her in check."

"That's a mean thing to say," Matsu gave him a childish pout that would have suited Kusano more than her busty frame and adult face. "I don't get into that much trouble..." she trailed off as everyone looked at her, deadpanned. Rubbing the back of her head, she laughed nervously. "Okay, so maybe I get into a bit of trouble with Miya-tan. It's still a mean thing to say."

Naruto shook his head. Returning his attention to Kusano, he asked, "Can I count on you to keep an eye on her?"

Kusano seemed to think about his proposition for a moment. Several seconds of silence passed before she nodded her head, slowly. "Ku-chan will keep Ma-chan out of trouble." As Matsu pouted even more, the life giver gave her Ashikabi and imperious stare. "But Ku-chan expects Onii-chan to play with her more later!"

"Of course." Naruto leaned over and placed a tiny kiss on Kusano's cheek. The young Sekirei's skin took on a darkened hue, flushing in pleasure at her "Onii-chan's" affectionate gesture.

"Now isn't that sweet."

Naruto sent Seo a sharp glance. "You say something?"

"No, no," Seo took a step back, his hands held in front of him in a universal gesture of peace. "I didn't say anything."

"I thought not."

"What are you going to be doing while all this is going on, Naruto?" asked Miya, finally speaking up. "It's not like you to leave your Sekirei to do all the work by themselves."

Naruto stood up. His head turned towards the open Shoji screen door, his eyes looking out at the grassy backyard, even though it was clear he was not looking at anything on this plane of existence. His eyes were glazed over, as if he were looking at something only he could see.

"I've got my own battle to fight," Naruto said at last. He did not elaborate. There was no need to inform them of what he was going to do. This battle was to be his and his alone. Nothing and no one would stand in his way.


So, here it is, the next chapter of Ashikabi no Shinobi, finished. The next chapter is going to be very long, and will contain at least half of the Escape from Shinto Teito Arc. There is going to be a lot that's involved with that chapter, as the arc itself is going to be vastly different from the canon arc. No stupid bridge here.

Anyways, that's all for now. If you have any questions, comments, concerns, leave a review and I'll likely answer it in my blog, which you can find the link to on my profile page.