The Legend of Gaia's Sennin
Phase 2: The Search for Sephiroth
Arc 6: Across the Ocean
Chapter 25: The Monster in the Sea
It had only been a day since Yuffie had joined their little group and she had already integrated herself with them seamlessly.
"Ne, Ne, so what are you going to teach me, Naruto-sensei? Is it going to be some awesome, super powerful attack!? Or maybe you'll teach me how to create some kind of elemental shield! What about a giant tornado of fire! That would be so COOL!"
Well, mostly seamlessly.
...At least she found her niche with them. The annoying little sister. That had to count for something, right?
While some had accepted Naruto's decision to let Yuffie join them without reservation, others weren't as gung-ho about letting the girl become a member of their ragtag team of world saving misfits. It may have had something to do with the way she had tried to steal their materia. Or it could have been because of how annoying she was, constantly chatting and asking questions and just in general not acting like the ninja she often claimed to be ― weren't ninja supposed to be quiet and stealthy? Whatever the reasons were, these few people who disagreed with Naruto's decision were unable to do anything more than grumble quietly about it.
"Can't believe he's jus lettin' that girl waltz in like this."
It should not come as a surprise to anyone, but while just about everyone else was perfectly fine accepting Yuffie onto their team, albeit, they wished she was a lot quieter, Barret had been against it from the very start.
"That little ninja girl tried to steal our materia and he's lettin' her join us! Who does that? What's to say she won't just steal our materia the firs' chance she gets?" As far as he was concerned, allowing Yuffie into their group was just asking for trouble. The girl had proven herself untrustworthy the moment they met by trying to pilfer from them.
"Relax, Barret," Tifa tried to reassure her former leader. "I'm sure Naruto knows what he's doing... I think."
Barret grunted in response to her words. The action caused the busty young woman to smile in amusement before she looked over at the trio in front of them. Naruto was currently conversing with Yuffie, his hands making wild gestures as he presumably told the girl what she would be learning from him. The girl in question was looking at the young Sage with wide eyes and an awed expression. Beside them, Aerith watched on with an amused smile.
"And besides, it looks to me like Yuffie's pretty much enamored with our esteemed leader." It was true. The girl in question was looking at their current leader with what appeared to be stars in her eyes. Metaphorically speaking of course. "I doubt she would try to steal from us when doing so would upset her new teacher."
"I still don't trust her."
As Barret continued to stubbornly refuse to trust their newest member and Tifa tried to convince him to give Yuffie the benefit of the doubt, Cloud, who was walking alongside the two, sighed.
"Do you honestly think Naruto is just letting Yuffie join us without ensuring she won't be able to steal our materia if she gets greedy?" he asked. Barret and Tifa stopped arguing to look over at the other blond in their group. Seeing that he had their attention, the spiky-headed former SOLDIER member gestured towards the proclaimed sage among them. "In case you haven't noticed, he hasn't let Yuffie out of his sights for a second. Even when it looks like he isn't paying attention to her, he always keeps an eye on her. And than there's that seal on her neck."
"Seal?" the question came from Barret, whose face took on an expression of confusion.
"On the back of her neck."
Barret and Tifa both looked over at Yuffie, who was animatedly speaking with a just as enthusiastic looking Naruto. As they stared the two were able to spot the seal on the back of her neck, just barely visible above her shirt; it looked like a spiral with chain links lining the edges and several symbols that neither of them understood. It was easily the most unusual thing they had ever seen, like a tattoo, but different.
"I don't know exactly what that thing is, but Naruto explained the gist of it to me," Cloud continued speaking, his arms crossing over his chest as they continued to walk along the plains they had become accustomed to after getting out of that forest. "He said that it's an intent based seal, meaning that it will activate if Yuffie ever decides to let her greed do the talking."
"What does it do?" asked Tifa. Between the two of them, she was far more interested in learning more about what their strangely mysterious leader was capable of than Barret.
"It takes away her ability to use materia. I didn't understand a lot of what he was talking about, but basically when it activates it will 'seal' her ability to use mana until Naruto deactivates it." His eyebrows furrowed a bit as he continued talking. "He also mentioned something about it using her own chakra to activate and how it activated whenever her chakra spiked, but I didn't really understand any of it."
"I see..." Tifa didn't, but said that due to the fact that she was lacking anything of substance to say.
"Hey you guys!"
Three sets of heads turned to see Naruto looking back at them. When the blond realized he had their attention, he gestured up ahead towards what looked like a small outcropping of boulders.
"It's getting dark, so we're going to set up camp there!"
"Okay!" Tifa replied for the three of them while Barret grunted an affirmative and Cloud merely gave his assent with a nod. When Naruto turned back to his conversation with Yuffie, the young fist fighter looked up at the darkening sky and sighed.
It looked like they were going be spending another day under the stars. She liked looking at the night sky as much as the next girl, but she was really hoping that they would reach civilization soon; preferably the next day. She could really use a bath.
Night had fallen on the small group of would be planet savers. The canvas that spread itself above the earth was painted a deep velvet and dotted with a million tiny, white lights. A large silver sphere also hung on this canvas, it's own rays partially eclipsing those of the stars.
A small fire crackled in the midst of them and the remnants of food could be seen in the form of several bones that looked like they had been picked clean, a number of plates and a good deal of utensils scattered around the campsite. The atmosphere, while not lively, was in no way stifled. There was an easy going vibe around the small camp, even Barret had loosened up once Naruto brought out some alcohol for them to consume.
Of course, considering Barret was the only one among them who drank anything at all, maybe he was the reason Naruto had got all those booze in the first place. Nothing made friends better than getting shit-faced together.
Or watching one of them get shit-faced while the other snickered as the drunk one made a bit of a fool of themselves. Whatever works.
The friendly and light-hearted ambiance had cooled down somewhat as many of the people there went to sleep. Barret was snoring away by the fire, several empty alcohol bottles laying around him. The man had drunk quite a bit, so it was no wonder he had essentially passed out where he stood. Several feet away from the fire and Barret was Red XIII, who was simply lying on the ground, using his paws as a pillow. He didn't need any form of human sleeping equipment to be comfortable out in the open plains, not like Cloud and Tifa who were snug as a bug in a rug in their sleeping bags a good meter away from the fire. The two of them were already asleep.
Which left the last three members of this group; Aerith, Naruto and Yuffie as the only ones still awake. Aerith and Naruto had first watch and the man with spiky golden hair had asked Yuffie to stay up with them so he could confirm something.
"So what are you trying to do?" The youngest of the group asked the most experienced. Yuffie was sitting crossed-legged in front of Naruto, her back to him. She was definitely curious to know why he had asked her to turn around for him. She was even more curious to know why he had placed his hand in between her shoulder blades.
She was also trying to ignore the warmth that spread throughout her body from the touch of his palm and fingers. It was almost like the heat of the fire had been placed against her back, except unlike fire this fire didn't burn. At least not in a painful way.
It did, however, cause her pale cheeks to feel rather hot. Almost like someone had taken a blow torch to them.
"I'm checking to see if you have an active chakra network," Naruto informed the girl, his eyes closed in concentration as he prepared to do something he had only heard about in theory. "Chakra, or what you guys call mana, is actually an internal energy source located within the body. It uses a network very similar to the arteries that carry blood throughout the body."
"But why would you need to bother with that?" asked Yuffie. "I thought you were going to teach me stuff." She crossed her arms over her chest. "This doesn't sound very useful."
"That is where you are wrong. See, those materia you tried to steal from me ―" Yuffie blushed brightly at the mention of her failed attempt at theft, but Naruto ignored it for now, "― are very special in that they only work for me because I have active chakra coils. If you want to be capable of using my materia, then you need to have active coils."
"Oh... that makes sense, I think."
Naruto chuckled, causing Yuffie's face to heat up once more. For some reason, even though she was sure her new sensei was laughing at her, she didn't feel any anger towards him, quite the opposite in fact. His laughter sent strange shivers down her spine.
"It's okay if you don't get it right now," Naruto told her. "The mechanics aren't necessarily important at this stage of your training, and I'll give you a better handle on the theory later. Right now, simply understand that in order to use my materia, you need to have active coils. Hence the reason I am checking to see if you have active coils."
"I gotcha," Yuffie said, then paused. "So wait. What if I don't have active coils? Does that mean you won't teach me!?" Over exaggerated despair filled her being for all of several seconds. The idea that the new sensei she had just found, who was strong and awesome and a ninja that could probably kick her old man's ass to boot, might not teach her was an abhorrent thought.
"Of course I'll still teach you," Naruto scoffed at the idea that he would not take her on simply because she couldn't use his materia. "Even if you can't use my materia, I still have plenty I can teach you. I've got an entire handbook filled with the tricks of the trade that every ninja needs to know."
"Few." Yuffie wiped the sweat from her forehead. That was a close one. She had been worried there for a second.
"Now then, let's see what I'm working with here."
Now that he had assured Yuffie that he would still be teaching her regardless of her possible lack of active chakra coils, Naruto began to truly concentrate on the task at hand. This was going to be a delicate operation, the most delicate he had ever done. In order to discover if Yuffie had working chakra coils, he would need to send his chakra directly into her body and seek them out. If they worked, he should get a response of some kind from them, though just what that response was he did not know.
Of course, that makes it sound a lot easier than it really is. If Naruto used too much chakra, he could just as easily burn out her coils as he did discover them. That would be bad. Not only would it cripple her ability to use chakra, but it may also destroy her ability to use this worlds materia, theoretically at least. There was a chance it would do nothing, but he did not want to leave things to chance.
It could also kill her, but he didn't want to think about that.
Breathing in deeply, Naruto carefully began to circulate his chakra. He was using his neutral materia, which allowed him to use all chakra techniques that required no element. This meant techniques like the Kage Bunshin, Rasengan and chakra control exercises like wall walking and water walking. In other words, he could freely use raw chakra when this materia was stored inside of him.
"This might feel a little weird," he warned Yuffie. "Just bare with it for a little bit, okay?"
"Don't worry about me, sensei. I'm ready for anything."
Nodding just a little at her words, but not really paying attention to them, the blond-haired, blue-eyed young man got to work. Acting with far more care than he ever had before when dealing with his own chakra, Naruto extended the internal source of energy through his fingers and into Yuffie. The young girl stiffened almost as soon as his chakra entered her body.
She did not say anything, however, and Naruto felt his respect for the girl rise. He remembered when the Chunin teachers at the academy had done this to him, the invasive feeling of someone else's chakra surging rampantly through his body. It was not a pleasant feeling at all. For nearly a week, Naruto had felt tainted by the foreign chakra. That Yuffie did not react very much impressed him.
He did wonder why she was blushing though.
"It seems you do have an active set of coils," Naruto said, surprised. He had honestly not expected her to have any. No one else that he knew in this world did, but he was able to quickly come up with a theory on why she might when Aerith ―who was an ancient ― did not. "My guess is that because you're still young, your coils haven't closed off. Most people lose their ability to mold chakra if their coils aren't opened when they're in their teenage years. You being on the cusp of adulthood is likely the only reason yours are still active."
At least that was the theory he had come up with. One of the reasons the Shinobi Academy taught children as opposed to adults was for this very reason. As a child, a persons chakra coils were easily opened and very malleable. They had room to grow and expand. Once a person hit a certain age, their chakra was no longer able to grow if they had not been opened.
"Does that mean I can use your materia then?" Yuffie was very excited by the prospect of using her sensei's unique materia. The things she had seen him do were awesome. The thought that she would eventually be able to do those things was even more awesome.
There was a whole lot of awesome here.
"Not yet," Naruto decided to nip her enthusiasm in the bud. "I still have to open your coils, and because your sixteen, your chakra coils aren't as malleable as a child's. That means the process is likely going to be painful."
Yuffie gulped at the knowledge that opening her coils would hurt. "How painful are we talking?"
"I don't know," Naruto shrugged. "I was six when I had my chakra coils opened. That was the usual age this happened where I was from, though I know that some of the clans opened their children's chakra coils when they're much younger. This is the first time I've ever heard of someone over the age of ten who will have their coils opened."
"So basically, you have no idea."
Geez, talk about a comforting thought.
"Don't worry too much," Naruto assured the girl. "While it will likely hurt, it will be over with pretty quickly. I doubt it will last more than a minute, maybe two."
Yuffie deadpanned. "That doesn't make me feel any better, sensei."
The journey through the grasslands lasted two more days before the group arrived at Junon. During that time they encountered a cornucopia of enemies, including creatures such as Nerosuferoth, strange reptilian birds that were incapable of flight and Zemzeletts, overly large bats with glowing red eyes and clawed wings. Neither of those monsters was very threatening in and of themselves, and the large group made short work of all enemies that came their way.
After arriving at Junon, the group was shocked by what they saw.
"What is this?" Tifa's eyes were wide as she surveyed what looked like it had once been a small, peaceful fishing town, but was now a run-down little village. The buildings were all just a bunch of shacks and bungalows made from rotted out wood and rust covered bricks. The bones of large fish could be seen strung from the village like decorations, but they looked aged, as if the bones had been there for decades and no one bothered to take them down.
In short, the place was a dump.
She took a step forward, but stopped upon hearing a loud, crackling crunch that made her entire body cringe. Upon looking down, the young woman was greeted with the sight of disgusting, blackened dirt. It looked like someone had dumped several trillion tons of oil into the sand and it just sat there for centuries, corrupting the very earth until it was nothing more than a disgusting mass of waste.
"What happened to this place?" Cloud was of like mind to Tifa. He had been to Junon once or twice before back when he was still a member of Shinra, but he didn't remember this. He recalled this tiny fishing village, though he had only seen it from afar, his memories of this place did not have it looking so derelict. "This place is so run down..."
"There's a lot of despair in this place," Naruto added, his eyes scrunched shut as he tried to block out the feelings emanating off the very grounds of this village. Being a Sage of his caliber meant that even without entering the famed Nine-Tails Shroud he could still feel the negative emotions of his place: fear, despair, desperation, misery. The entire village was a pit of negativity. "The people here have lost hope."
"Naruto..." Aerith looked at her boyfriend as he grit his teeth, her eyes softening as she realized how much this place was getting to him. Sometimes his abilities were as much of a hindrance as they were a help. With his empathic personality, seeing something like this and feeling the mass of negativity the place embodied was bound to be painful for him.
The others also looked at their chosen leader in worry, but none of them got a chance to say anything as a voice they were unfamiliar with spoke up.
"That is an accurate summation of this place." Naruto's eyes snapped open at the sound of the voice. All of their heads turned towards the source to see a weathered looking old woman with more wrinkles on her skin than any of them could count walking towards them. Her cheeks were sagged and depressed, and her brow sunk so low that her eyes were forced to squint shut. She stopped a few paces away and gave the group a sad smile. "You are a very astute young man. Many of the people here have indeed given up hope."
"Do you know what happened to this place, granny?" asked Naruto, only to wince as he was promptly elbowed in the stomach. "Gah! Aerith! What was that for?"
"For being rude," Aerith replied, sighing a bit. She loved her boyfriend, but sometimes he had no tact. "You don't call someone you've just met by such a rude name."
"It's quite alright," the old woman replied, still smiling. "I would actually prefer to be called that. It's refreshing to see such a vibrant young man whose not afraid to speak his mind."
"See?" Naruto grinned at the brunette by his side. Aerith huffed, but smiled when he placed an arm around her shoulder.
"Oh my. Don't you two make a cute couple."
Naruto grinned while Aerith's cheeks became dusted a light shade of pink. Meanwhile, Tifa was looking over at Cloud with a slight frown on her face and puffed up cheeks. On the other hand, Cloud was staring at the old lady, as if he were hoping she would just get to answering the question. He was curious to know what happened to this place too.
"So do you know what happened here?" asked Naruto.
"Shinra happened here." Her answer got many of the others to stiffen. Barret released a growl while Tifa had a pained grimace on her face. Aerith's eyes were closed, but if one looked closely, they could see the barely noticeable way she worried her bottom lip. "It's all due to that city they've built above us."
At the words spoken, the group looked up towards the city she spoke of as one. They could not see much of the city itself, just the large roofs hovering over the giant, steel-gray wall that had been built around it. That meant little, however, as the city would not have been their focus anyway.
Really, how could it be when the most impressive and obtrusive object by far was the giant canon jutting out from the fortress-esque building that towered above even Junon Harbor itself.
It's steel glinting as the sun reflected off it's gleaming, polished surface, the enormous weapon looked extremely impressive and intimidating from where they stood. There was no telling how big it was, though Naruto realized that it easily dwarfed Kurama in size. Hell, it was probably larger than all the Bijuu combine, including the Juubi!
"Ever since they built that city, all of our resources have dried up. The fish no longer come here due to the waste Junon Harbor releases into the ocean, because we're always in that cities shadow we cannot grow crops, and with no crops growing all of our livestock has long since died."
The more the old woman spoke, the worse those who had just arrived felt. They had all suffered at Shinra's hands in some way, and they had seen what the large conglomerate could do. And yet for some reason, not even having first hand experience could prepare them to see more of the evils that company could commit upon the innocent.
"Many of our young have already left for greener pastures," the woman continued, causing the group to return their attention to her, "These days only the elderly, those too young to leave, and the parents of those young still live here."
The group remained silent as they listened to the lady speak. None of them knew what to say. Really, what could they say? Words would not make these people feel better, empty promises meant nothing in the face of such despair and the monstrous sight of that canon. So they said nothing, merely grit their teeth in silence.
"Ah, but I'm sure you did not come here to listen to an old lady rant about Shinra's corruption." The woman smiled, though it was a hollow one. "Please enjoy your stay here. We don't have much, but we will provide what hospitality we can."
As the old woman began walking away, Yuffie was the first one to speak. "You see, this is why I don't like Shinra. They always take, take, take, destroy, destroy, destroy. Bunch of grubby, no good bastards!"
"You said it," Barret grunted, folding his arms together and giving a nod of assent. "Glad to see that we can actually agree on somethang."
"Yeah we ― hey!" Yuffie glared at Barret after her mind replayed the words just spoken in her head. It sounded suspiciously like he had just insulted her. How rude! "What's that supposed to mean!?"
"It means what it means."
"Stop speaking in riddles, old man! You're not very good at being cryptic!"
"Old man!?" Barret sputtered in outrage before growling at the young girl. "Listen here you snot nosed little brat, I ain't no old man! I'm in the prime of my life, goddammit!"
"Is that what you keep telling yourself to help you sleep at night?" asked Yuffie, grinning slyly at Barret as he growled at her.
"Keep on talkin' girly!" Barret snarled, the barrel of his gun-arm whirring ominously. "See where it gets yah!"
"Ha! I dare you to shoot at me!" Yuffie returned his intense look with one of her own. "I'll beat you black and blue with all the new stuff sensei's taught me!"
Ever since Naruto had opened her coils a few days ago she had felt like a whole new world had opened to her. Sure, it had hurt. By Gaia had it hurt! But the pain was nothing compared to what she had gained from it. Chakra. Having gained the ability to use chakra like her sensei, she saw the world differently now. It was like she had been seeing everything in black and white all her life, but now she could see color.
And she had been itching to show just what seeing color had taught her.
By now the two were quite literally butting heads, which was kind of a funny sight if you took the time to think about it. The much taller, bulkier form of Barret was growling and pushing his forehead against the shorter and nearly childlike Yuffie who was doing the exact same thing. Sparks were flying between these two as they fought each other in a mental battle of supremacy. With both of the two being more stubborn than a pack of mules, a contest like this would only end if someone ended it for them.
Fortunately, Naruto was not in the mood for bickering.
"Alright you two, knock it off!" Naruto snapped at the pair. "This isn't the time or the place!"
The two glared at each for just a little bit longer. It almost looked like they would keep at it and Naruto would have to beat some sense into them, but eventually the two looked away from each other. Yuffie did so with a huff while Barret grumbled about disrespectful brats.
"They act like a pair of children," Red XIII sighed from where he sat on his haunches. He had been quiet for most of the journey here, as well as the explanation. The plight of humans did not interest him as much as it did the others.
"What was that!?" Barret and Yuffie spoke in unison, glaring at the red-furred feline, who merely began licking his paws.
Naruto sighed, then decided to ignore the two in favor of speaking with the people who would help him get things done. "Come on you three," he gestured towards Aerith, Cloud and Tifa. "Follow me."
"Where are we going?" asked Tifa as she and the others made to follow the spiky-haired, whisker marked blond.
"To help these people," Naruto informed them, his eyes blazing with determination. "Even if it's only a little bit, I want to help. We might not be able to do much, but we can at least ease some of their suffering."
The trio looked at each other, all of them, even Cloud, nodding in affirmation. Aerith quickened her pace to stand by Naruto's side, her hand sliding into his as she sent him a smile. "Count us in."
That night the scent of freshly cooked meat could be smelled wafting along the ocean breeze. It was a delicious scent, mouthwatering even, mixed with various herbs and spices that blended together perfectly with the meat. This very smell, which had attracted the attention of everybody still living in the run-down hovel of a village, was also the reason why the malignant emotions of despair and hopelessness had been lifted, even if only for a bit.
Naruto Uzumaki grinned his vulpine-like grin as he manned the gas powered grill, which he had bought back in Kalm. He had not had the chance to use it before now, mainly because they had been all out of gas tanks at the small store he got it from, and since the opportunity to use it had presented itself in such a spectacular fashion here when he found someone who had a single tank left, the blue-eyed Uzumaki wouldn't dare to not take this chance.
Naturally that meant he was the source of this delectable scent.
It was wonderful to be presented with the opportunity to showcase his talents as a cook, and to such a wide audience as well! Dressed in an apron with the words 'Master of the grill, Dettebayo!' and wearing a chefs hat, Naruto flipped the carefully sliced cuts of meat on the grill, cooking the other end. After observing the cooked side he smiled. These would be done in just a few more minutes.
Taking his attention off the grilling food for a second, the young Sage looked out at the gathering that had come for the food. There were at least fifty people in total, most of them around the ages off forty and older, or ten and younger. That old lady had been right when she said that only those too young to leave and too old to want to leave were still living in this village. There were only about a dozen people that were around a little older than him present.
Not that these vast age differences mattered right now. Watching the people eating and talking, all Naruto saw was a group of individuals gathered together and enjoying the festivities, such as they were. From where he was observing the crowd, he could easily see the other members of his group; Tifa was sitting with Cloud as the two of them ate. They were by a group of children who seemed to be listening to the busty young woman tell a story of some kind. From the smile on her face Naruto could tell she was having a good time.
The same could not be said for Cloud. He looked distinctly uncomfortable to be surrounded by so many children. It was kind of funny.
"Let's go, horsey!"
"Awight! Here we go!"
A large grin made it's way to his face as he watched Barret moving about on all fours like some kind of quadruped, a rather large group of children riding on his back; there had to be at least half a dozen on there! He had to admit, the large, gun toting, vulgar mouthed former AVALANCHE leader had a really good heart. More and more Naruto was reminded of himself when he looked at Barret.
All the more reason not to let that man make the same mistakes he did.
Sitting off to the side and letting a young girl who couldn't be older than four or five pet him was Red XIII. Despite his comments about how he did not care about humans, he was being awfully accommodating. Then again, very few beings in this world could stand up to the wonderful and innocent smile of a little girl. They carried a power all on their own.
"...So there I was in the middle of this cave, surrounded by Shinra soldiers!"
Surrounded by another circle of children, about seven or so – as well as a few adults – was Yuffie. It sounded like she was telling some kind of story about her role in the war between Wutei and Shinra. He doubted any of her story was real, or if it was, it was likely greatly exaggerated. Still, he would not begrudge the girl for weaving a fantastical tale for entertainment purposes.
He had done that more then a few times himself.
After looking around a little more, a frown marred Naruto's face as he realized he could not find all of his companions. One of them was missing. The most important one to him.
"Are those about done?"
Ah. That would explain why he couldn't find her.
Turning around to look behind him, Naruto caught sight of Aerith standing there, her hands clasped behind her back as she leaned forward just a little bit. The long pink skirt of her dress ruffled within the slight ocean breeze along with her tresses of light brown hair. She was smiling at him, causing her beautiful green eyes to crinkle slightly.
He shook his head in slight bemusement. "It never ceases to amaze me how you can always sneak up on me like that." Aerith didn't possess even an ounce of malicious intent; Naruto didn't even think she was capable of it. And since she couldn't use chakra because her coils were permanently inoperable like most people of this planet, he could not sense her through chakra sensing either. His sensing abilities just weren't that acute.
Aerith just smiled more, causing him to grin a bit.
"Yes, they're done."
"Good," Aerith determined. Naruto raised a single eyebrow. "That means you can finally stop cooking and start eating." She gestured to everyone currently residing in the small inlet beside the ocean. "Everyone's gotten something to eat except for you."
"That is true..." Naruto's glowing blue eyes swept across the crowd once more, his sharp vision taking in all the people there. "Alright, I guess I'll stop and get some food for myself. Too bad, I was really beginning to enjoy getting to use this grill."
"I'm sure you'll be able to use it some other time," Aerith shot back in amusement. Naruto's response was to give a sheepish grin as he cut off the gas, causing the fire to put itself out, and scooped up the rest of the meat with a spatula. He put them all on a large plate, then grabbed three decently sized slabs for himself. Absently, his nose inhaled a bit of the scent wafting from his plate. This meat was surprisingly good considering it was made from monster remains.
As he followed Aerith over to one of the tables, his head panned off towards the ocean. His walking slowed to a stop upon spotting an anomaly by the water; two actually. The first was a little girl who looked to be about ten or twelve, and the second was a strange animal; a fish of some kind, with a sleek body and a long gray beak. The girl was trying to feed the animal some monster meat, and it wasn't eating it.
"What's wrong Mr. Dolphin?" asked the little girl as she waved the meat in front of the sea creature. "Don't you want some food?"
Having realized that Naruto had stopped following her, Aerith looked back and noticed what her boyfriend was looking at. Smiling, she walked over to him and grabbed his hand. The blond turned his head upon feeling her fingers lacing through his. He looked at her, their eyes connecting and a silent conversation taking place. After a second or two, he was wearing a large grin to compliment her smile.
A second later, the pair made off towards the girl, stopping directly behind her.
"I don't think Mr. Dolphin likes that kind of food," Aerith told the girl, who looked up at her upon realizing the two of them were standing there.
"I don't think so," Aerith smiled gently, "But you know what he would like?"
The little girl shook her head.
As the words were spoken, a small cloud of smoke appeared before them. The two turned to see Naruto kneeling on the ground, his hands buried elbow deep in the white smog. When a stiff wind blew the residual smoke from the seal activating away, the Sage removed his hands to reveal a small pile of fish.
Picking one up, he held it out to the girl. "Here, try feeding him this."
The girl took it, not even seeming to be bothered by how slimy it felt in her hands. Most girls would have probably shrieked, but not this one. Instead she held the fish like she would anything else, eying it curiously before turning back to the Dolphin.
"Here, Mr. Dolphin! Have some fish!"
At the sight of what looked to be some kind of bass, the dolphin pumped it's tail to make most of it's body ascend above the water's surface. It then, while still managing to stay above the water's surface, moved as close to the beach as it could and opened it's mouth. Seeing this, the little girl giggled and smiled brightly.
"Here you go!"
Bringing her hand back, she threw the fish with an underhand toss. The slick, aquatic organism flew upwards in a parabolic arc, ascending nearly a meter above the water's surface. At the apex of it's flight, the dolphin jumped into the air and caught the morsel before dropping nose first back into the water.
The little girl clapped at seeing the incredible display and began throwing more and more fish above the water, all of which were caught by the marine mammal.
Naruto and Aerith stood back and watched as the girl fed her friend. The blond decided to finish his food while watching, and Aerith was merely content to stand by his side as he used tiny blades of wind to cut his food before spearing it with his fork. It was a terribly childish way to use his materia, but that had never stopped him from doing something before, and it wouldn't stop him now. By the time the girl was finished feeding the dolphin, the Uzumaki ninja had also finished his own meal.
The girl turned to look at them with a beaming smile on her young face. It was a sight that caused the two adults to smile as well.
"Thank you very much for the fish, Mr!"
"Mr?" Naruto said the word in distaste, like he had tasted something foul. Aerith giggled into her hand at the expression on his face. "That makes me sound so old. Why don't you call me Naruto instead."
The girl tilted her head slightly to the left, her expression an inflection of curiosity.
A second later she was beaming again.
"Alright! And my names Priscilla!" The girl, Priscilla, turned to look up at Aerith. "What's your name pretty lady?"
"Aerith," said pretty lady smiled. "And is that dolphin over there a friend of yours too?"
"Yeah!" Priscilla's head nodded eagerly, bobbing up and down with the kind of enthusiasm only a child could produce. "His name is Mr. Dolphin and he's my best friend in the whole world!"
And thus the two began listening to Priscilla as she talked about Mr. Dolphin.
It would be almost an hour later that they were finally free when Priscilla's parents came by to take her home.
"Thank you so much for everything you have done for us," the owner of the small inn located within the little town that was overshadowed by Junon Harbor bowed before the group. Coincidentally, he was also the grandfather to Priscilla, who had already gone to sleep at the house belonging to her parents.
"It's fine," Naruto grinned as he waved off the man's attempted thanks. "We couldn't just stand around doing nothing, you know?"
"You are very kind, young man," the proprietor of the inn sniffled for a second. A hand came up and wiped away a tear that came to his eye. "If there is anything I can do to help you, please do not hesitated to ask."
"Well..." Naruto rubbed his chin in thought. "We could use a place to stay for the night. We'd need at least three rooms..."
"Consider it done!" The man said with an enthusiasm he had been lacking hours before. Naruto blinked. So did the other members of his group. "No one ever really comes here anymore, so our inn has more than enough room to accommodate all of you!"
"Oh... thank you," Naruto grinned as he turned to look at his friends. "See that! Now we've got a place to stay."
"Yes, yes," Tifa smiled at the spiky, golden-haired man in amusement. He looked almost like a child with that dopy grin on his face. "We see that."
Barret made his own grumbling comment. "Look at him, grinnin' like some kind of idiot. Ya sure we should have made this guy our leader?"
"I do not see why not," the comment came from their resident feline. Red XIII looked at the blond man with the glowing blue eyes thoughtfully. "We know that he can be serious when he needs to be. And his happiness is rather infectious. Even I am feeling strangely affected by his ongoing enthusiasm."
"And besides, sensei is awesome!" Yuffie added with a cheer. "Who else could possibly be our leader when no one else is as cool as he is?" She was still starry-eyed over the fact that she was being taught by a ninja of his caliber. Oooh! She couldn't wait to get back to Wutei and show everyone how powerful she would become under his tutelage!
"Grr! Whatever!" Barret crossed his arms over his barrel of a chest and glared at nothing in particular. Naruto ignored his pouting and the comments as he turned back to look at the owner of the inn.
"So how much will three rooms cost?"
Naruto paused as he was just about to unseal his frog wallet, Gama. He looked at the man, blinking. "I'm sorry, I don't think I understood. How much was it again?"
The man chuckled at Naruto's stupefied expression. "It's free of charge."
"I can't let us stay for free," Naruto scratched the back of his head, looking away awkwardly. "I would feel bad if I didn't pay you. Like we were freeloading or something."
"After everything you have done for us, it would not be free loading or anything of the sort," the man replied firmly. Before Naruto could even begin making another protest, he started speaking once more. "Now why don't you all sit down. I'll have my wife make you all something to drink. The rooms will be ready in about an hour or so."
With that, the man walked off, leaving Naruto to stare after him with a sullen expression.
"Does it really bother you that much?" asked Aerith, leaning down so she could look up into her boyfriend's eyes as he looked at the floor. "Not paying for room and board, I mean?"
"If it were anyone else, probably not," Naruto admitted with blinking eyes as he saw Aerith's green irises staring up at him. He straightened, the light-haired brunette following his example, then sighed. "It's just that these people don't have much to begin with. I feel bad staying here for free when they really can't afford to let us do that."
"Hmm..." Aerith smiled as she cupped his cheeks with her hand, directing his face so that he was looking at her. Glowing blue eyes blinked several times as they stared into the warm green of the last ancient. "You really are too nice for your own good. You know that?"
"Heh..." Naruto's lips peeled back to form a small half-grin, half-smirk, "So I've been told."
Green eyes strayed to those lips; held back as they were in a small grin, Aerith could not help but think they were the most tantalizing pair of lips she had ever seen. Her tongue poked out to wet her own as she felt a nearly overwhelming urge to place a kiss upon those lips. It was an urge she had absolutely no intention of denying.
"And there they go again," Tifa didn't know whether to coo at the obviously adorable and tender moment, or sigh as she was once more reminded that Aerith had something she was lacking.
At that thought, her eyes strayed over to Cloud, who looked distinctly uncomfortable at seeing such affection being displayed in front of him. The poor blond looked like he wanted to run out of the room. It was very different from Naruto, who would have probably cheered or done something equally ridiculous had he seen two people kissing.
"I doubt they even realize there's an audience," the words were still spoken to herself, though if the way Cloud's head turned towards her were any indication, he had obviously heard them. As he looked over at her, Tifa could not help but give an amused smile as she gestured towards the love birds that seemed to have blocked out the rest of the world in favor of each others lips. "Think they even realize they're still standing in front of us?"
Cloud looked back at the pair once, taking note of how they were wrapped around each other, practically melded into one form. It wasn't just their lips that were locked, the rest of their body seemed to come together as one as well. If not for the distinct shift from one color scheme of clothing to the next, he would have almost assumed they were a single entity.
After a moments contemplation, he shook his head. "No. They've probably forgotten we even exist by now."
Tifa smirked at his answer. She had been thinking the exact same thing.
"I know, right."
Of course, they were not the only pair that had something to say.
"Oooh!" Yuffie was practically biting her hand as she glared at the brunette smooching her sensei. "I can't believe she's kissing my sensei again! And in front of me... again! Who does she think she is!?"
"You've been traveling with us all this time, but you're still not used to it?" Red XIII phrased his words as a question, but it sounded more like a statement. "I'm surprised. They do this every day, several times every day. They seem to have trouble keeping their hands off each other for a single hour." The red furred feline looked thought. "Come to think of it, unless there is a monster or something to fight, they are almost always like this." He shook his head. "Is the human mating cycle really this long?"
The others just gave him a funny look before someone, Barret, huffed in disgruntlement.
"Whatever. Let those two do whatever the hell they want. I'm getting' a drink!"
With that declaration, the group soon followed him into what looked like a small, dingy lounge area with Yuffie being the last to leave.
Aerith and Naruto were still caught in each others arms.
"I can't believe you two are still acting like that after all this time," Tifa shook her head in a mixture of emotions as she looked out across the seat she had taken and gazed on Naruto and Aerith. The two of them had finally realized what they had been doing a few minutes ago ― fifteen minutes after everyone else left and only after they were interrupted by the old proprietor bringing them all drinks ― as well as the fact that everyone else had left and quickly went into the lounge to join their friends.
Of course, the word lounge really didn't accurately describe the place they were sitting in. Run-down, beaten up old dive was more like it; the tables and chairs were old and rusted over, the overhead ceiling was covered in grime and stains, the carpet was ragged and had patches missing from it, everything looked outdated and old. They didn't say anything though. It would be rude to comment on how poorly maintained this place was, especially when it was through no fault of the owners.
While Aerith blushed at the implications Tifa's words had, as well as the fact that they were completely accurate, Naruto merely grinned a sheepish grin and scratched the back of his head. "Well, can you blame me?" he asked before gesturing over to Aerith. "I mean, look at her; Aerith's the most amazing person I know! She's so kind and compassionate, not to mention absolutely gorgeous! How could I not want to shower her with love and affection every chance I get?"
His words had two affects. The first was that redness on Aerith's cheeks not only gained a near luminescent brightness, but the color also spread to the rest of her face and crawled down her neck. The second was that Tifa's face soon followed those of the other female there.
Yuffie also blushed, but hers was of anger. Her sensei should be saying those things about her!
"W-Wow," Tifa stuttered out, her eyes wide in mixed shock and embarrassment. "That's some really deep stuff." She looked over at Aerith who, while her face was lit up like a thousand suns, had a radiant smile on her lips as she looked at her boyfriend. The busty woman shook her head, then looked back at Naruto. "You must really love her, huh?"
"Of course I do," Naruto stated, blinking. "I thought we had already established that?"
"Yeah, well," Tifa's face was feeling very hot under Naruto's gaze. His blunt proclamation had really done a number on her, and she wasn't even the one it was directed at! "I knew that, but what I mean is that... I knew you liked her, but I didn't know it was that... that... powerful. You know? I thought it was kind of like those first romances you have where you think you're serious about it, but it turns out it was just a fleeting love. You know?"
Naruto tilted his head to the side, contemplating. Aerith, Tifa and even Yuffie were now leaning in as they awaited his response, each wondering what he would say now.
"I guess, I can see where you're coming from... sorta," Naruto admitted. "But I've never really been like that. I'm not the kind of person who allows himself to love fleetingly. Call me selfish, but I know what I want in my partner, and I'm more than willing to fight to keep her with me. Aerith is the person I want to be with for the rest of my life, and I'm not willing to give that up for any reason." He crossed his arms and nodded to himself. "That's all there is too it."
As the girls swooned and cooed ― yes, even Yuffie was prone to swooning despite not being the recipient even though she clearly wanted to be ― Barret snorted into his mug of ale before taking a long, deep swig. The alcohol sloshed over the sides a bit, running down his mouth and into his beard. The large, dark skinned man with the gun arm didn't pay this any mind as he chugged the entire content of his mug down like it was nothing.
"Ah!" He sighed deeply as he slammed the now empty drink back onto the table. "Nothin' like a good, hard drink to set the mind at ease." He glared over at where Tifa and Yuffie were asking what appeared to be very embarrassing questions to Aerith and Naruto. At least, they seemed to be embarrassing judging by the blush on Aerith's face. Naruto just looked confused. "I'm gonna need it if this keeps up. What's up with those two anywaysh? Naruto ain't thash great..."
"It looks like the alcohol is beginning to affect you," Cloud observed as he took a slow sip of his own beverage. He had been nursing it for nearly fifteen minutes now, unlike Barret who had just chugged down his fifth mug. And they were big mugs too.
"Noneshensh!" Barret rumbled, his voice slurring even more. "Thish ishn't even closhe enough ta getsh me drunksh. Hey barshtender! Getsh me anosher drink!"
Cloud sighed. "There is no bartender, Barret." As he spoke, his eyes discarded Barret for a second to look back at Naruto. Observing the other blond it was easy to see why people, girls especially it seemed, were taken in with him. Aside from being strong, knowledgeable, and a skilled fighter, he had charisma and tended to hand out high paying compliments with ease.
Still, Cloud wondered if Tifa and Yuffie would swoon as much as they did now if they realized Naruto wasn't really saying those things to give out compliments. The young Sage was as blunt as a hammer. Everything he said was exactly what he was feeling. He wore his heart on his sleeve and simply wasn't afraid of stating exactly how he felt or what he thought regardless of what others might think.
But then, maybe that was what appealed to them, so long as he said the right things. Cloud didn't really know. He had never thought much about romance.
As the conversation being held by the group continued, an elderly woman with many wrinkles lining her aged face and wearing a drab gray gown, walked up to them and gave a small bow.
"Your rooms are all ready. If you will follow me."
The group soon stood up and followed the woman out of the small lounge, their footsteps echoing off the walls. They soon arrived in a small hallway that held several doors, three in total.
"These are your rooms," she gestured to the three doors. "Unfortunately, none of them contain two beds."
"I suppose that's fine," Tifa said, "I don't mind sharing a bed with Aerith and Yuffie." It wasn't like it was all that unusual. While it had been a while since she'd had a sleep over quite like this, Tifa did remember when she was younger and used to share a bed with her girl friends when they were over for the night, or visa versa.
"Actually," Aerith began correcting her chesty friend. "I'm going to be sharing a bed with Naruto."
"Huh?" Tifa looked confused for a moment, but then her eyes widened. "But if you're sharing a bed with Naruto, who am I going to sleep with!?"
"And just why are you sharing a bed with Naruto anyways!?" Yuffie demanded to know. Naturally, her question went ignored.
The spiky male with golden hair and his girlfriend looked at Tifa, who felt herself pale. Was it just her? Or were Aerith and Naruto wearing near identical grins?
A shiver ran down her spine and she felt dread welling up inside of her chest.
"Cloud," the pair said in unison. At the answer the two gave, several sets of eyes widened. The largest pair belonged to Cloud and Tifa. The two looked at each other, their eyes almost identical in their wideness, then quickly looked away as the redness on their cheeks intensified to near atomic levels.
"Oh no," Tifa tried to glare at the two. When their grins just widened, she began waving her arms defensively in front of her face. "No, no, no, no! There is no way I am sleeping with Cloud! Absolutely not! You can't do this to me!"
"Of course we can," Naruto smiled, "Besides, you don't need to worry; Yuffie will be there too."
"I can't believe they did this to me!" Tifa was nearly crying as she sat in the bed provided to her. It was small, lumpy, and nowhere near as comfortable as her sleeping bag, which really just went to show you how poor the quality of these beds were. "What did I do to deserve this!"
From where he was kneeling on the floor, spreading out his sleeping roll, Cloud sighed. "Look, Tifa, I know you don't like this. I'm not particularly fond of it either, but it seems the decision has been taken out of our hands. All we can do now is make the best of our situation."
"Oh, shut up, Cloud!" Tifa snapped. "Don't you realize how humiliating this is for me!? I've never had a man sleep in my room before!"
"Oi! What am I? Chopped liver?" asked Yuffie. No one answered her, causing the young girl to frown. Why was everyone ignoring her whenever she asked them a question?
"But didn't you sleep with myself, Barret, Biggs and Wedge back in the Seventh Heaven?" asked a confused Cloud.
"That was different!" Tifa flushed red, whether from anger or embarrassment was unknown. "And I wasn't the only female there, Jessy was too, you know!? And don't make it sound so vulgar!"
"Vulgar?" Cloud tilted his head in confusion. "But all I said was ―"
Cloud was unable to say anything more as Tifa threw a pillow that smacked him flush in the face. The pillow was light so it didn't hurt, but damn if she couldn't throw hard.
"I don't wanna hear it! I don't wanna hear it!"
The busty young woman quickly lay back down on the bed and covered her head with the only other pillow on the bed.
"Hey! That's my pillow!"
"Look," Tifa ignored Yuffie and turned away from the girl as the ninja in training tried to retake her pillow. "Just stay on the floor and I'll sleep here and when tomorrow comes, we can pretend this never happened."
Not really sure what he had done wrong ― or was it something he said? ― Cloud quickly agreed. With that, the three of them settled down for the night.
Or at least, they tried to.
It was very hard to settle down when there was a series of loud thumping in the room next to them, followed by a very loud gasp which was proceeded with a loud, pleasure filled moan that seemed to embody the very essence of the word erotic.
Three sets of faces lit up the small room like beacons in the dark interior.
"AND WOULD YOU TWO SHUT UP! FOR THE LOVE OF GAIA, THESE WALLS AREN'T VERY GOOD AT BLOCKING OUT SOUND YOU KNOW!"
The next morning Naruto Uzumaki woke up on a lumpy mattress situated in a room that smelled of rusted metal, old residue, and had very little light. Despite this and the several other reasons he might have woken up on the wrong side of the bed, he was content.
The reason for this was currently in his arms. Spooning him, her back against his chest, wearing nothing but a large T-shirt and white panties was Aerith. One of his arms was hanging over her shoulder and curled upwards, ending with his hand firmly cupping her left breast. He could feel the modestly sized and well developed boob as it rested within his palm, a perfect fit for his hand; it was just large enough that it swelled out of his hand, but not obscenely huge like a certain busty young barmaids.
His other hand was currently buried in her panties. Much like the hand cupping her bare breast, this one was pressed firmly against the flower petals of her womanhood. This hand was also wet due to his ministrations the previous night.
Thinking of last night had Naruto wanting to both smile and frown. Last night had been amazing; he and Aerith had deepened their relationship and physical intimacy to beyond what it had been before. They had finally explored more of each other last night, Naruto remembered how it felt to have Aerith's hands holding him, rubbing him in ways that made him feel like he was going to burst; and he in turn had explored his girlfriend's body without all those pesky clothes. He was sure that had they been allowed to progress, Aerith would no longer be a virgin.
Naturally Murphy had decided to fuck with him by throwing an angry former barmaid with incredible martial arts skills at him. How was he to know that the walls weren't sound proofed? Sure, they looked like crap, and he could actually hear the wind flowing through the holes in them, but he had been busy with more important matters.
Like introducing Aerith to the world of sexual pleasure.
Still, perhaps it was better that they had been interrupted. Naruto wanted to take that final step, and he was sure that Aerith did too, but he wanted their first time to be special; not a moment of passion in a dinky, run-down room. Yes, it was probably a good thing that Tifa had alerted them to the fact that she could hear them when she did.
That still didn't mean he had to like it.
Removing his hands from Aerith's boob and mound respectively, the young Sage pushed himself into a sitting position. The bed creaked slightly as he moved, but nothing else.
Now more or less leaning over the still sleeping form of his girlfriend, he could see her face as she dreamed. There was a small, content smile on it. Actually, it was kind of large. He wondered what she was dreaming about? Regardless, she really did look stunning like this, so peaceful and beautiful. He almost felt bad about what he was going to do to her.
Leaning down, Naruto took Aerith's ear into his mouth and began to gently nibble on it. Aerith twitched against him, but didn't respond otherwise.
Grinning despite not succeeding in waking her up, the whisker marked Uzumaki switched targets from her ear to her neck, finding the small sweat spot just under the curvature of her jaw and suckling on it. This got a more provocative response as Aerith's mouth opened and she released a breathy sigh. She still didn't wake up, so Naruto decided to use more drastic measures.
One of his hands quickly found it's way under her shirt. He pressed his palm flat against her firm, taut tummy. He could feel the goosebumps rise up on her skin as her flesh met the searing heat of his hand. While his mouth continued to work over her neck, which was beginning to cause more beautiful sounds to escape her lips, his hand moved up her stomach slowly, oh so slowly, before it arrived at it's intended destination.
A loud gasp escaped Aerith's delicately parted mouth and her eyes flew wide as two fingers tweaked her left nipple. Her surprise was such that she almost started struggling against the very welcome and pleasurable feeling.
"Morning, love," Naruto's husky voice whispered against her ear. Aerith instinctively turned her head and was soon met with a pair of lips. Knowing now that this was the man she had fallen in love with several years ago, the light-haired brunette began kissing back.
As their mouths and tongues began that age old dance; touching, rubbing, pushing and pulling against each other, both of Naruto's hands got busy. His right hand was still firmly grasping her bosom, skillful fingers kneading her flesh as his finger grazed over the sensitive and stiff nub. Meanwhile, his left hand had slipped into her panties and was now rubbing her most vulnerable spot.
"N-Naruto..." Aerith pulled back to speak. "We shouldn't... not here ahn!" The beautiful symphony her voice wanted to make was just barely stifled by the girl biting her lip, making her gasp instead of cry out to the heavens.
"It's fine," Naruto murmured as he kissed his way down her neck. He reached her shoulder, which he lightly bit, which did not help his girlfriend at all in stifling the chorus of music she wanted to unleash. She felt like a harp and he was the one plucking her strings. Or perhaps it was caressing in this instance.
"Oh... b-but... we really shouldn't be do ― oh!"
Aerith's eyes went wide as saucers as Naruto entered a single finger into her. One finger quickly became two and he soon began to pump them both.
"OH ― Mmmph!"
Her cry of ecstasy was hampered when Naruto clamped his lips over hers. Rather than be surprised or startled by this, Aerith just went with the flow, kissing him back just as hard as he was her. And with her mouth and tongue otherwise engaged, any sounds that were produced ended up being muffled and would not extend beyond the small bedroom they were using. Hopefully.
Aerith's hips bucked wildly against Naruto's hand as his skilled fingers drove her to delirium. Her body moved in rhythm to the pace her blond lover set. Before long she felt it, the coiling knot in her stomach that felt like it was ready to explode, the taut string that was set to snap. Having felt this once last night before their interruption, she knew what was coming.
And despite knowing it was coming this time, she was still in no way prepared for it. Her mind exploded in an array of sensations that she could not possibly describe using any word in the human vocabulary; it was beyond terms like pleasure, ecstasy and sexual gratification. Her eyes saw only white; for those several seconds, Aerith was blinded as her mind tried to comprehend the feeling her body was undergoing and failed utterly. Her body writhed and spasmed as it tried to ride out the extreme sensations of her second ever orgasm.
When she finally did come down from the extreme heights she had been sent to, her body slumped, completely spent. Her mouth breathed out in harsh pants as she tried to take in some much needed oxygen. Despite feeling like she had just run 200 miles in a single day, she felt a satisfaction deep within her that she was sure she would never get tired of.
After a certain point, Aerith became aware of the hand gently stroking her hip. It was calloused from years of hard work and combat. It was familiar and comforting as well. Not to mention gentle and warm.
"Naruto..." the word came out as a soft sigh. Soon enough, the grinning face of the blond in question came into view.
No words were spoken as Naruto leaned down and placed a soft, ephemeral kiss upon her lips. Aerith tried to return it as best she could, but she was still tired from her pleasant wake up call.
"So..." Naruto's face was set in a Cheshire cat grin before he leaned don and kissed her again. When he pulled back, the grin was set in place once more. "How did you sleep?"
"Wonderfully," Aerith sighed into their next kiss. She really did love how affectionate her boyfriend was. "And you?"
"Any night I get to sleep with you is perfect." It was a pretty corny thing to say, but she knew that Naruto wasn't saying that as some kind of post-sex line or something. He really meant it, which made it actually sound kind of sweat.
"That was really corny, Naruto."
That did not mean she wasn't going to tease him about it.
"Yeah," Naruto chuckled sheepishly. "Sorry about that, I couldn't think of anything else to say."
Because Naruto was just too cute with that sheepish look on his face, Aerith kissed him again. "S'okay." One kiss was soon followed by another kiss, and another one, and another one. Before too long, many kisses became one long, languid kiss that, while less passionate than the previous ones of a few seconds ago, was also a lot more sensual as well.
"I really wish we could stay like this," Naruto murmured after their long kiss had ended.
"So do I."
"But we're going to have to get up soon," Naruto sighed, "And we're going to need a bath." Aerith could not help but agree; she was feeling very sweaty, and sticky.
With one last kiss Naruto stood up.
"Wait here while I see about drawing us a bath."
Aerith smiled as she heard him say 'us'. She watched as he walked towards the door, but stopped him before he could open it.
He turned to look at her, his gaze inquiring. "Yes?"
Naruto blinked at her for several seconds, confusion more than evident in his eyes. Another several seconds followed that before he caught the draft blowing across his lower region. He looked down at himself, then blinked, once.
"Ah," Naruto murmured, his face flushing as he realized he had been about to walk out into the hall in the buff. That would have been embarrassing, especially if anyone else was awake to see him. "I guess I should put some clothes on."
"Yes," Aerith giggled, "Maybe you should. I don't want Tifa or Yuffie seeing you like that."
"You're just afraid they'll get funny ideas," Naruto teased as he found his boxers and pants from the previous night and put them on.
"Actually, I'm afraid they might die from shock," Aerith informed him. In response to her words, Naruto stuck his tongue out at her before leaving the room. She giggled some more before Naruto left the room, closing the door behind him.
Ah, young love.
Naruto returned to the room several minutes later carrying two buckets that were filled nearly to the brim with warm water.
"They don't have a shower installed," he informed Aerith upon noticing her inquiring look. "So instead of taking a bath or shower, I figured we would just get clean like this." So saying this, he set the buckets down beside him and began rifling through his scrolls.
"And by like this, you mean like what we did when we couldn't find a stream to wash up in?"
"Yep," Naruto popped the 'p' as he pulled out a scroll labeled soap&shampoo, set it on the ground and unfurled it. Less then a second later three bottles revealed themselves to their eyes as Naruto unsealed the contents of the scroll. "Unfortunately, I won't be able to wash your hair."
"I guess that's fine," Aerith sighed a bit. She had been looking forward to getting a more thorough cleaning in a real bathtub. Still, there was little she could do about that. "It can't be helped, right?"
What followed soon after the conversation finished was Aerith stripping down, exposing herself completely to Naruto's eyes. Not that she was alone in this, as her blond-haired boyfriend also removed his clothes. Equal rights and all that.
The two washed each other off, using some rags and the now soapy water to help wipe off the worst of the dirt, grime and stench that covered them from not only being out in the plains for a couple of days but also their previous activity that night and this morning.
"I ran into Cloud on my way back," Naruto told her, grinning as he looked into Aerith's green eyes. The girl in question was now lying on her back as Naruto straddled her legs and ran the warm, wet, soap covered rag over her body. He paid special attention to certain areas, and from her breathy sighs and stifled moans he received for his efforts, she appreciated it as much as he did. "He was pretty red. I don't think we were as quiet this morning as we should have been."
"It was your fault," Aerith whispered as she closed her eyes and enjoyed the sensations of Naruto cleaning her. It wasn't as good as what he could do with his hands, that rag as getting in the way, but it was still very pleasant.
"Or maybe you should have just kept more quiet," Naruto teased. Aerith opened her eyes to mock glare at him, making the young Sage chuckle. "Or maybe it was my fault."
When the two were finally clean, at least insomuch as they were able to get clean with their limited cleaning supplies, they got dressed in a new pair of clothes and left the room.
No one was in the hallway when the exited their room, thus they were unimpeded as they walked to the small lounge where Cloud, Tifa and the others were already waiting. One thing the pair noted as they entered the room was that all of their companions were red-faced, even Red XIII, though that could just be due to the fact that he had red fur.
"Can you two at least try to keep your hands off each other from now on? At least when you know other people can hear you?" was the first thing said to them upon their arrival. Naturally, that came from Tifa.
"What she said," Barret grunted. Even with his dark skin, the redness on his cheeks was easily discernible. "I don't wanna wake up and hear the two of you doing that first thang in the mornin'. Fuckin' seriously."
"Gonna kill her. Gonna kill her. Gonnakillher! Gonnakillher!" That was Yuffie. She was glaring daggers at Aerith.
"I'm sorry," it was clear he wasn't. While Aerith might be feeling a bit embarrassed that they had been heard, Naruto had stopped caring if people heard or saw what he got up to in the bedroom. Actually, he took that back; he didn't care so long as they were female or didn't see Aerith. If either Cloud or Barret had got a glimpse of his girlfriend nude, all bets would be off.
He would shove three feet of sharp steel up their ass.
Barret grunted while Tifa merely frowned at him. Both clearly realized how unapologetic he truly as from his tone, but they couldn't really say anything to make him stop, could they? It wasn't like they could control his every action.
"Since we're all awake, let's get some breakfast and come up with a plan to sneak into Junon Harbor undetected."
Breakfast consisted of several bagels and muffins that Naruto had sealed into his food scroll before leaving Kalm. After unsealing the contents, he bade everyone to grab something before getting some food himself.
"Cloud," Naruto got his fellow spiky-headed blond's attention while the rest grabbed whatever they felt like eating from the large plate in front of them. "You've been to Junon before during your time in SOLDIER, right?"
"A few times," Cloud admitted as he grabbed a bagel and some spread.
"Are there any ways for us to sneak in? Maybe a backdoor or something along those lines?"
After thinking about the question posed to him for a moment, the younger man shook his head. "Not that I know of. We always went in through the front gate, which is heavily fortified and guarded against intrusion. Back when I was in SOLDIER, they used to have daily pass-codes that had to be used in order to enter the city. If you didn't have the pass-code, you wouldn't be able to get in." He paused for a moment, then shrugged and finished spreading the spread across his bagel. "I suppose we could try and get a pass-code, but it's a very drawn out process. It will take several days at least."
"And they're likely to be on the look out for us," Naruto added with a sigh. "Okay, so the front gate is out and you know of no other way to sneak into Junon." The young ninja thought for a moment, rubbing his jaw, before deciding on what they would do. "I suppose we'll just have to ask around. If worst comes to worst I can always use my transformation ability to sneak in through the front and find a backdoor, so to speak, but that could take days that I would rather not spend searching for something that may not exist."
Junon was a big place. One of the largest cities after Midgar. Who knew how long it would take to find an entrance for the others, if one even existed.
"So it's looks like we're stuck here," Barret did not sound too happy about that.
"Looks like it," Tifa agreed.
Just then, a scream tore through the town.
The head of everyone there snapped up.
"Sounds like trouble." Naruto stood to his feet. "Let's go!"
The scene that Naruto and the others arrived at was not a pleasant one.
"Don't go out there! You'll only lose your life too!"
"I don't care! I have to save my daughter! Priscilla!"
Several people were standing beside the ocean front, directly in front of the massive skyscraper of metal and power lines that was buried in the water several dozen feet out. One of the people, a man who looked to be a few years passed his prime was crying out and trying to make his way into the water. Meanwhile, several other people were holding him back.
The reason they were holding him back probably had something to do with the giant serpentine monster swimming about in the water. It was difficult to discern what this monster looked like, or how large it was, mainly because the only time a glimpse of it was ever shown was when it long, sinewy, body breached the water's surface.
The green, filthy looking water bulged like an overripe fruit that had been filled with air. Seconds later it burst into a million water particles as the monster burst up from the surface.
Naruto, whose eyesight was better then most, could only widen his eyes in surprise as the monstrous sea serpent soared out of the water. The thing was truly massive, bigger even then that monster Hojo had created and made them fight. It had row upon row of razor sharp teeth that looked like they could easily rend and tear through flesh, and a strange, feathery looking mane running around it's neck. What got Naruto the most were the large feeler-like tentacles on either side of it's body and the spikes that ran along the back of it's tail. This things main weapons, perhaps?
Of course, after assessing the situation, Naruto quickly determined why the man was trying so desperately to get into the water. A little girl, who Naruto recognized as Priscilla, the girl he met last night, was unconscious and floating in the water. Or she was, until the tidal wave created by the monster breaching the surface forced her under.
Situation assessed, Naruto began snapping out orders like the commander of a standing army.
"Aerith! Barret! Long-range support! Try and draw it to the surface! Cloud! Tifa! I want you two to get everyone out of here! Things are about to get hairy!"
"What about me?" asked Yuffie.
"You're going to watch as I show you what I plan on teaching you!"
"Aye! Aye! Sir!"
Now that everyone knew what to do, Naruto didn't waste a single second and began sprinting towards the water. He quickly put his neutral materia into his arm. When his feet hit the water, he began running across it and swiftly headed to the last place he had seen Priscilla on the surface.
As he moved across the water, a giant shadow followed him.
"Get ready you two!"
"Locked and loaded!"
Responding to his words, Aerith and Barret prepared their respective weapons. The gun-arm on the large, dark-skinned man began to whir as it warmed up. At the same time, Aerith readied herself to use along-range ice spells. She normally would have used lightning because of how well it conducted electricity, but with Naruto and Priscilla in the water that was out of the question.
"Everyone, clear out! This place is about to become a danger zone!" Tifa shouted to the crowd of onlookers who were gawking at seeing the young Sage running across the water's surface as surely as if he were running on land. They snapped out of their stupors when the busty young woman growled and cracked her knuckles menacingly. After that, they were all too happy to oblige her.
Only Priscilla's dad refused to leave.
"I can't leave! Not while my daughter's in danger!"
"Right now, you're presence is only hindering her rescue," Cloud informed the man calmly. "Naruto will do everything in his power to rescue your daughter, but you have to leave or your liable to get killed during this battle." When the older man still wouldn't budge, Cloud narrowed his eyes. "You don't want Priscilla to be left without a father, do you?"
For a second, it looked like Priscilla's dad would still refuse to leave. Several seconds passed, in which time Cloud continued to stare the man down, before the older male sighed. "Alright. I'll leave this in your hands, but if something happens to my daughter..."
"I understand. Now please hurry and get out of here."
The man soon left, and Cloud and Tifa turned just in time to see Naruto leap high into the air as the water underneath his feet burst in a mass of water and a giant body. The moment they could see the creature they were supposed to hit, Aerith and Barret opened up on it.
"Suck on this bitch!"
Thousands of bullets struck against the giant monster. Some did nothing, merely creating sparks as they bounced off the beast's incredibly hard scales, but others struck true, slipping in between the tough scales and puncturing the soft flesh underneath. When the metal shells penetrated flesh, spurts of blood squirted out of the holes caused by the damage and the creature screech in anger.
Ten sharp, long and pointed spears made of ice coalesced into existence in front of Aerith. The moisture gathered and flowed into a stream it came together. Each spears was about two feet long and looked like jagged spikes rather than spears. Responding solely to Aerith's will, the spears launched out at the giant beast before it could complete it's fall back into the ocean.
Four of the spears missed, but six struck true. Those that hit the serpent penetrated deeply into it's flesh, causing massive quantities of blood to gush out, especially when the ice dispersed back into water, revealing the large, gaping wounds that Aerith's spell had caused.
While all this was going on, Naruto was beginning his descent, his body flipping until he was pointed face down in correlation to the water. His hands in front of his head in a diving position, the blond-haired, blue-eyed shinobi slipped into the water with very little breakage.
He quickly descended, his eyes wide open as he used his water materia ― which he had switched with his neutral materia with at the last second ― to keep the disgusting water from getting into his eyes. He went deeper and deeper beneath the water's surface, looking, searching for any sign of Priscilla. It took him a few seconds, but he was eventually able tp find her, lying at the bottom of the ocean amongst some jagged looking coral.
Increasing the speed of his descent, Naruto dove down further and further until he hit the ground. Dirt kicked up around him, but he ignored that as he lifted the young girl into his arms.
Not wasting even a second longer, he launched himself upwards. His feet kicked as he made to breach the surface as fast as he could. Harder and harder they worked, his leg muscles straining as he pushed them as much as he could, trying to crank every last bit of energy and power out of them.
The monster, which had descended again, was following him, gaining, it's tail and streamlined body granting it speed that he simply could not match.
Swearing to himself, the young man began manipulating the water directly, focusing on having it push him up rather than keep his eyes clear. In return, he closed his eyes so he would not be blind during the fight to come; the last thing he needed was being forced to fight without his vision because he had gunk in his eyes. Because of this, he did not see when he breached the water's surface, but he certainly felt it.
He also heard when the monster came up as well. The sound of water shooting upwards like a geyser and the roar of the creature's terrible screech were easily recognizable for what they were.
Eyes finally open, Naruto looked down to see the beast, it's gaping maw open wide as it tried to consume him and the girl in his arms.
Not on his watch.
Having no desire to turn into fish food, Naruto began kneading chakra into his stomach. Because he was using the water materia, the chakra was quickly converted into water chakra, which he quickly released upon the massive creature below him.
"Suiton: Suidanha (Water Release: Water Severing Wave)!"
What came out of Naruto's mouth was not a massive geyser of water, but instead a highly focused and compressed beam. Despite only be around three inches in circumference, the beam contained within it several million gallons of water. So compressed was the water that the liquid looked almost like a solid as it blitzed the serpent at speed.
The beam of water struck the creature with incredible force. It hit the left eye, sheering straight through it like a hot Zanbato through warm butter. The scales, muscle and bone might as well not even been there for all the good it did.
Blood sprayed out of the newly created wound, a thin but long hole that ran straight through it's eye and exited it's back. The hole created was small, but easily discernible from even this distance even though it was difficult to see with the carnelian liquid like gushed out of it in a never ending stream.
The serpent gave an agonized screech as it writhed about in pain. Now that it was no longer looking at him and the girl like they were it's next meal, Naruto used this opportunity to get back to shore. His feet touched down on the creatures back, but only for the split second it took him to swap back to his neutral materia and channel a massive amount of chakra to his feet, which was soon released and launched him like a jet towards the beach.
He landed on the ground with a loud crash, then burst out of the dust that had been kicked up in mass quantities and began running further inland.
"Hold that thing off!" He ordered as he set the girl down on her back several meters from the shore. He heard the shouted replies of affirmation, but didn't pay much attention to them as he pressed two fingers against the girls neck.
"Dammit!" Naruto swore as he began to use CPR, placing his hands on her solar plexus and pushing down for one, two, three times, followed by opening her mouth, plugging her nose and breathing oxygen into her body. Checking her pulse again and finding it still not there, he repeated the process. He would be damned if he let this girl die on his watch.
And while Naruto was busy trying to resuscitate Priscilla, Aerith and Barret were preparing to launch their next attacks.
Within the large barrel of Barret's gun-arm, a bright, yellow ball of light began to make itself known. Brighter and brighter it glowed, it's luminescent radiance chasing away the shadows from the large Shinra city overhead. The barrel began to turn red as the furnace of energy and ordnance began to heat up.
Barret waited until the monster had breached the surface of the water before firing off what appeared to be a miniature sun. It was a large, glowing ball of melted ordnance, hundreds of bullets that had been melted and compressed together in the form of sphere. The superheated metal struck the creature along it's tail, plowing against the scales and exploding on contact, sending molten steel and led splashing all over the serpent's tail.
There had been enough power behind that explosion that several large chunks of the serpent's flesh was blown away. Scales and fleshy chunks of meat flew off in all directions. The scales, flesh and blood that exploded out from the wound began raining down on the water, breaking the surface with a loud splash.
And while the creature was shrieking out it's pain as it tried to descend back into the ocean, Aerith hit it with her own spell.
Like a discharge of static, crackling tendrils of lightning skittered and danced along Aerith's staff as she thrust it forward. The lightning, which went from light yellow to blue, shot off the staff at speed. Within seconds it had shaved off the distance between it and the giant serpent, striking the creature with enough force to knock it off course.
As the creature's screech resounded through the air, Naruto continued his task. One. Two. Three. Open mouth, seal nose, breath oxygen.
One. Two. Three. Open mouth, seal nose, breath oxygen.
Over and over the former Shinobi of Konohagakure tried to resuscitate Priscilla. When the twenty second mark hit, he began to worry that the girl was well and truly gone. Had he failed again? Had he really been unable to save this little girl from dying? Was this the extent of his power?
A cough and a sputter, followed by the heaving of lungs as they tried to take in as much oxygen as possible was his answer. Naruto sighed in relief as the girl started breathing again, her eyes opening wide in frightened panic before the shock of almost dying overcame her and they fluttered closed again.
"Kage Bunshin no Jutsu."
Naruto lifted the little girl into his arms and handed her off to his newly made clone.
"You know what to do."
"Just leave it to me."
The clone was off like a shot, leaving Naruto to deal with the menace that Aerith and Barret were still fighting against.
"Eat led bitch!"
Switching out his neutral materia for fire, Naruto walked over to his friends, his chakra surging like a typhoon as he fired off several enormous fireballs into the atmosphere. The giant spheres of fiery chakra soared high into sky, disappearing as they dispersed among the atmosphere.
"Keep it occupied!" Naruto ordered the only two long-range fighters of their group. "I need time to prepare my technique to finish it!"
"How much time!?" Barret demanded to know, grunting as he fired several hundred rounds into the dark mass underneath the water.
"Until my jutsu is ready!"
"And when will it be ready!?"
"Trust me! You'll know!"
Barret grumbled a bit about cryptic ass blonds, but didn't comment further as he lobbed a grenade into the water. The explosion caused a massive spray of liquid to burst in the air and scatter like so many particles. It also had the effect of making the giant serpent rear it's ugly head, which was then struck with a bolt of lightning from Aerith's staff.
And as the two made a job of keeping the beast busy, the air around them began to swirl. Streams of white appeared within the sky, moving and spinning more rapidly as the mass of a billions of frozen crystals of water accumulated above them, forming a giant cumulus nimbus cloud.
Lightning soon began striking the ground in a series of loud, rumbling roars that thundered out around them. Large chunks of dirt and rock was gouged out of the ground, the land began to crack and splinter as the lightning hit it like the fists of a pantheon of angry gods. Soon the lightning congregated in the sky, a massive series of flashes and arcing tendrils of power that cast a blue glow upon the earth.
"It's ready!" Naruto shouted above the rumbling of thunder. "Get your asses out of there now!"
"Ya don't gotta tell me twice!" Barret yelled back as he and Aerith turned tail and ran. Both of them knew not to be around whenever Naruto had some kind of attack at the ready. And since this one was causing the weather to act out of whack, they understood that whatever he planned on launching at the serpent was not something they wanted to be anywhere near when it struck.
Naruto quickly made his way to the highest point he could find, the massive tower of steel girders and power cables. He jumped, swung and yanked himself up, steadily ascending the towering structure until he was only a few meters below the cloud itself. When he was situated, his hand became encased in lightning.
"Never thought I'd see the day I took a page out of the teme's book," Naruto murmured to himself as he absently tossed a grenade into the waters below. "How shameful."
As the grenade exploded, the serpent burst out of the water, roaring it's outrage to the world.
"Your bark's a lot worse than your bite."
Naruto raised his hand into the air, launching a small bolt of lightning release chakra into the atmosphere. It struck the cumulus nimbus cloud where the lightning was at its strongest.
Seconds later the lightning began to gather. It became a mass of white rather than a series of tendrils so much lightning had accumulated in a single place. This lightning soon began to take shape, it's form shifting from a mass-less blob to an enormous creature the likes of which no one in this world had ever seen. This monstrosity possessed the head of a dragon with a single backwards curving horn on it's crown. Despite having the head of a dragon, it's body was equine-like, looking more like that of a deer than anything else. As the creature's entire body became visible, everyone was able to spot the large, ox tail coming out of the chimerical creature's hind end.
Using his lightning covered hand, Naruto directed the giant dragon composed entirely of lightning towards his still airborne foe. The creature let loose a roar that sounded of a million spears of lightning striking the ground.
Then it surged forward, and the world was engulfed in a bright, white light.
I hope this long chapter makes up for how long I've been gone. Anyways, let me know what you guys think. Good? Bad? How's the grammar. I went over this chapter a few times, so I'm hoping it's better than usual at least.
And don't forget to check out my blog. I know I've been saying this a lot, but a lot of people are asking me the same questions over and over again. You'll never get your answer unless you check out my blog, which is where I answer questions asked in reviews.