Naruto noticed how the majority of the guild's fighters roughly surrounded him as they ran through the shrubbery but made no mention of it. Lucy and Levy were leading the charge home, their consistent bickering quite a change from what the blond was used to. A couple of mage's had a few queries that were brought before these two and each time, the aggressive girls got into a verbal scrap before the answer was given. Entertaining as it was, it showed a power struggle between the girls, indicating they could very well be fighting for top position of the guild.
That was food for thought for Naruto then because back with his home guild yes, decisions were made outside of the Master's knowledge but everything ultimately lead back to him. Here though it didn't seem quite so, so that begged the question, where was the Master?
Drawn from his train of thought, it took Naruto a moment before he realised exactly where they were. When he thought of 'guild', he imagined something similar to what was back in Earthland. He couldn't be more wrong.
Standing about twenty meters tall was a great viny tree wrapped up around itself in tight knots. It looked to be many centuries old with the lack of foliage and gnarled green off-shoots. The only thing that showed it was more than what first appeared was the large, round door wedged into the main trunk and a Fairy Tail flag strung up above between vines.
None entered though as all attention was suddenly turned onto the foreigner. As Lucy stomped up aggressively, Naruto held his hands up, unsure of what was to happen next.
"Alright alien let's get one thing straight. I still don't trust you. You are damn lucky we're even showing you this place, so don't you dare ruin the trust my guild has placed in you. And mark my words, no matter how strong you may think you be, if you double-cross us, we will hunt you down and end your miserable existence. Are we clear?"
Naruto nodded once, "Crystal."
Dangerous brown eyes bore into blue for a moment longer before Lucy spun around with a sharp flick of her hair, striding into the guild as the doors opened before her. Naruto moved to follow, but a sudden twinge in the back of his neck spun him around. Narrowing his eyes, the blond looked back into the greenery they had just sprung from.
Something… something had followed them. He couldn't tell if it was human or not since these strange people were empty of any Ethernano. Whatever it was though, it was giving off a very weird, faint signal. It wasn't large by any means though but it was still worth a look.
Moving to the back of the group, Naruto crossed his fingers and whispered a soft command. A minimised puff of smoke vanished in the breeze as his doppelganger appeared and transformed itself into a bug faster than anyone could notice. Leaving the reconnaissance mission to that, he followed them in.
Once inside, Naruto quickly perused the area.
Tables and chairs spotted the communal area. They appeared to have been grown from the guild itself as large, moulded fungi. Further towards the back was the job board and bar and each of those looked to be crafted from the tree itself.
A large desk with all sorts of knobs and buttons on it was embedded off to his left which Levy had instantly taken command of, shouting at anyone who came near enough to touch anything. Lucy had placed herself at the bar with a very familiar Mirajane manning the drinks. Curious as to what their next step would be, the teen slid past pairs of distrustful eyes as calmly as he could.
Planting himself down beside the hunched blond girl, he waited for her to finish her drink before speaking. "So, what now?"
Eyes narrowing, Lucy stared down at her mug being refilled. "What do you mean, what now?"
Naruto adopted a similar posture to reduce conflict. "Well, getting my guild back. I need to go find them and I don't know how to get to the King's castle from here. I have a map but this place is so different from what I know that I wouldn't know what direction is which."
Snatching the cup from Mirajane, Lucy chugged back another mouthful before wiping her sleeve over her chin. "That's fantastic, but now that you've managed to piss off that witch Knightwalker, I suggest you keep your head low for as long as possible. I don't say this for you either, if you get caught around us by her, and she then finds us in turn, I will be very unhappy."
"Understandable," Naruto allowed, "but remember that this is my guild. You have an immense amount of love for this place right?" Lucy inclined her head slightly. Taking that as a yes he continued. "So wouldn't you want to help them if they were in the same situation as I?"
Dropping her empty mug, the blond spun around. "A past version of me would have folded upon hearing that, but that was before this happened." She gestured to the guild. "You think it's easy having to keep this lot free? The King is forever on our tails trying to wipe us out. Too many times we've come home with less members than what we left with. That burden is very heavy and I will not take it lightly, so sadly for you I'm not helping until I deem it safe."
It was a frustrating answer but the teen could see where she was coming from. He could ask someone else later about that. Seeing a chance to extract a bit more information about this wild Fairy Tail though, Naruto subtly changed topics. "Yes it's a heavy burden, but wasn't Levy there helping you? I noticed you and her were…"
The girl grunted at the name. "Don't mention that tramp around me. She's forever undermining what I say. Honestly, if she'd just shut up and do her job it'd make mine so much easier. Not like she'd know a thing about running a guild anyway, she wasn't a Master in training."
Naruto pushed the opening given. "Come to think of it, where is the Master?"
"Uh…" That caused a pause in the girl's words. Her face tightened in memory as unwanted emotions briefly flashed through her eyes. "He was taken from us by the Royal Guards." Naruto noticed her fists tightening, knuckles letting out pops as the grip increased. "Our Master, taken." Her sharp eyes, filled with unfulfilled vengeance snapped to Naruto's. "Our best was taken from us by that wicked troop, so now that you know I do hope you can understand why I'm not too keen to help out some random who's just appeared. These people need my immediate protection and nothing will get in my way of that."
Naruto didn't break eye contact, but didn't say anything in reply. Pain like that wasn't something to be argued with, he was best to just let it go for now. Finally letting out her breath, Lucy scrunched her nose as turned away without so much as another word and walked off.
Letting out a sigh as he leant back, the teen rolled his eyes in thought. What to do now… A clearing throat behind him drew his attention back into the real world as the Edolas Mirajane offered him a pleasant smile. "Do please understand her position, she has a lot on her mind." Her smile dropped a touch. "We all do. Still, they're doing their best so don't hold it against them."
Naruto smiled back, staring at the beautiful woman. It was good to have someone still similar to what he knew from home. "No, no, I can understand and it's a heavy task. I can manage on my own somehow."
A hand was pushed in his direction with a giggle. "Well that's very brave of you! I'm Mirajane."
Taking the soft hand, Naruto shook it once and smiled in return. "Yeah I know, Earthland has a 'you' that is your splitting image so it'd be impossible for me to not know you! My name is Naruto."
She placed a finger to her lips in surprise as she tilt her head questioningly. "So you really are from another world! I've heard rumours of things like this but never thought I'd see anyone actually from there! And another me? Really? So does that mean there are doubles of everyone else?"
The teen nodded. "Yeah! Well, mostly. There are differences in personality and age though I've noticed. For example, our Wendy is only twelve!" He motioned over at the buxom twenty-something year old lady that was a splitting image of their resident dragon slayer, save for being a foot and a half taller with many more curves. He hardly dared mention the massive difference with Erza though. For Mira to believe that murderous woman from here was an ally of Fairy Tail back home would probably be quite offensive.
"Haha, really? Well isn't that something! So what am I like over there?"
"Well…" Looking over the girl, Naruto shrugged. "To be honest you're the most perfect set of twins. I haven't met too many of our guild's doubles but you are the closest to being what I know."
"Wow that's lucky! I hope I get to meet her." Mirajane leant in, wonder in her voice. "So what's the guild like?"
"There may be differences but the sense of comradery is still exactly the same which is awesome. One big difference though is our guild isn't a dark guild. That's actually a bit confusing too, as you all seem to hold the same morals as us. Could you fill me in a bit more on that?"
"Yeah, I suppose I can." A melancholy tone drifted into Mirajane's speech as she began. "Originally, Edolas was full of magic. Limited mind you, but full. It had been used to power our lights and all sorts of things for as long as anyone's grandparents can remember. However, as society grew, demand on our magic grew. Vehicles and weapons, lifestyles and fashion, all of it began to draw more and more of it up. Now as you can see, we're running very low and as such, all guilds were ordered disbanded by the King."
Even the sweet girl visibly tightened at the mention of the tyrant. "Oh, on the surface it sounds sensible, but beneath it all that vicious man just wants to hoard it all for himself. Magic is power, literally, and the more he has the less chance of him being overthrown. We were threats to his reign, so all guilds who didn't comply were systematically hunted down and destroyed. We… we are the last one remaining and it's only thanks to Lucy and Levy that we've made it so far."
Her clasped hands squeezed tighter as she continued. "And now it seems he's found a way to tap into your world and has dragged you into this. He is nothing but pure evil!"
Noting her downtrodden expression, Naruto smirked and tapped the bar with his knuckle. "Well then it's a good thing I'm here isn't it? You guys might be tough, but you can't physically manipulate magic. I'll help sort this out, I have to since my friends are a part of it now."
Blinking, the silvery haired girl's eyes widened. "You mean to say you can? But that's impossible!"
Naruto snorted. "Impossible? What you and I think is impossible is pretty different. From my point of view I honestly don't even know how you people are alive!" Now really able to coagulate his thoughts on this impossible scenario, he began drawing out questions from when he first mastered Senjutsu (Sage Techniques). "In my world, Natural Energy – I mean, Ethernano exists in everything! It moves through us as life, every breath taken, every heartbeat, every muscle twitch, every electrical impulse within any animal or plant is charged with Ethernano. For you to live… honestly, to me you all feel like voids! If you weren't moving I'd have thought you were dead."
"Really?" Resting her elbows in the table and head in her hands, Mirajane's eyes twinkled in curiosity. "What does it feel like? To have it run through you? I don't know why it's so different here, all I can offer is that while a parallel dimension, we must have adapted to our environments differently. Perhaps this limited nature of Ethernano here has pushed our life forms here into different forms of adaptation?"
Considering the idea, Naruto really couldn't come up with anything to dismiss it. For them to exist with no 'life' in them was so absolutely impossible that Naruto would never ever have even considered it as remotely plausible, yet here they were. "I guess that's as close an answer as I'll ever get. I don't know what it feels like for the rest of my guild as I go about drawing it in a bit differently, but to me it feels warm. Vibrant. Dangerous. Untameably powerful. It fills me up and I feel indestructible, like the very earth itself has put it's all behind me." A wide smile cracked across his face. "It feels incredible."
A dreamy sigh to his right concluded his description as Mira placed her head down on the table. "I'm trying to imagine it and it sounds absolutely wonderful. I'm just regretful that I'll never know that feeling. Could you show me a bit of how it works?"
"Hmmm, yeah I suppose I can. Just stand back a touch."
Pulling herself back up obediently, she bowed slightly to the seated teen and grinned. "Thank you for humouring my questions!"
"Heh, it's nothing," he chuckled with a wink. Intertwining his fingers, the teen muttered an indistinguishable word and before Mirajane's very eyes, vanished from his seat and appeared in the one just over.
"Struggling to contain her squeal of delight, the barmaid bounced vigorously with her hands slapped over her mouth. Finally composing herself, she slapped her hands down on the table and her voice trilled out an octave higher, "How did you DO that?"
"Magic!" Oh how Naruto cherished that puffed face of frustration he got in reply to that.
"Now, abo –" Cutting off abruptly, Naruto looked back at the front door in confusion. Someone, vibrant with Ethernano flowing through them, had just stepped through and was walking over to the bar. Strangely, she looked incredibly like Mirajane, though she had much shorter, cropped hair. Her walk was similar to Mirajane, the way she greeted the few mages at the tables, her smile, everything.
"Lisanna, you're home!"
Glancing up at Mira, Naruto eyed her as she waved cheerily at the girl. "Lisanna?"
Turning back to stare at the silver haired girl, Naruto watched as she wandered over to the bar.
"Yes, I'm back. Thankfully I didn't have any run in's with the Royal Guard or even any soldiers. They seemed to be occupied with something else so all supplies were very easy to gather this time. Lucky!" The girl slumped down in a seat a few spots over as Mirajane filled a mug for the new girl. "That's wonderful! I do always get worried when you go out by yourself."
Thankfully accepting the drink, Lisanna threw it down as Mirajane giggled. She noticed Naruto's dumbfounded expression and tutted as she waved a finger in front of his face. "Now now, you've only just arrived and you're already throwing eyes at my sister?"
"She's your sister?" Blinking in confusion, Naruto desperately tried to remember if anything had ever been said about that before. "But, I don't understand, no one ever said anything about that back home."
Scrutinising the girl, she visibly shrunk under the uncomfortable gaze of the stranger. Finally feeling awkward enough, she looked over at him from the corner of her eye and asked, "Is everything ok? I don't really appreciate you looking at me like that."
Naruto just narrowed an eye though and circled a finger around her form. "Lisanna is it? You're different to the others, why haven't I heard of you before?" She stiffened as he continued. "And your form, I can sense the magic in –"
With a loud crash she stood up making as much noise as possible. Jumping back in surprise, the blond teen blinked in shock as Lisanna whipped around and stomped away as rapidly as she could.
"Well thank you very much for insulting my sister like that! I hope you're happy!" Stinging words from the barmaid were left as she ran after her distressed sister.
Confused and hurt, the blond furrowed his brow. Disapproving eyes and angry murmurs filled the room as he leant back down over the bench top. 'What did I do? She was different and she knew it I think. But, how was she able to hold magic when no one over here could? Does that mean she's from Earthland too? But I've never heard of a 'Lisanna' before… This is way too weird."
Suddenly, an influx of memories rushed back into his mind and he spaced out, cataloguing them all. Shaking his head, he pushed himself up and hurried towards the door.
"And where do you think you're going, alien?"
Pulling the door open as Lucy shouted at him, he stepped through with a clipped, "I've clearly annoyed too many people so I'm going for a walk." And slammed the door shut behind him.
While unfortunate, that couldn't have given Naruto a better excuse to leave. He'd found the thing that had been following them and it had offered to talk further with him about the King. Striding into the woods, the teen pushed through a few stray branches and stepped into a small clearing.
Standing before him was a hunched figure with a sackcloth draped across his body. A hole was cut around the face for whatever it was to see out of, but their face was pulled back too deeply in the fabric for Naruto to see who it was. There were no sleeves or other distinguishing features about it save for a pair of thin legs in a basic pair of sandals poking through the bottom.
The strangest thing about it though was the abnormal energy pulsing through its body. There were four bright energy cores that he could sense, one between its shoulders, two more on either side of its chest and one large one roughly located where its stomach was.
"Heh heh, so there was two of you after all. Good, very good."
From the memories Naruto could see that whatever this was seemed to have a rudimentary understanding of what he was doing. It didn't have any issue with observing that the clone he was talking to could have very well been that, since he'd seen Naruto walk into the guild hall. It was cause for concern, but when it mentioned it knew where the King was and offered to take him there Naruto couldn't say no to a meeting. "What is it you want?"
The figure chuckled and shook its head. "No, no, none of that, we must take turns! Since I have something you want, you must have something I want. So I get to ask the first question." Its voice was strong, not at all weak, but there was a hint of something a bit eccentric in its tone. Naruto frowned, wondering just what this thing could want from him. "It's not so much a question though as a confirmation. Confirm for me that the person I spoke with earlier was not you. I want to see the physical process with my own eyes of you becoming two."
It was a mysterious question and the teen had his reservations. "What if it has been me all along though?"
The happy shuffling abruptly stopped as the figure looked up at him. A shrug and a grunt was all Naruto got as it turned and began walking away. "Huh, if you can't do that then I must have been mistaken. You have nothing I want. Good-bye."
"Wait, wait!" Seeing the figure pause, Naruto paused. This wasn't one lead he could afford to lose. Sighing, the blond nodded. "Fine, but only because I need your help."
Naruto could imagine the smirk that pulled across this things face as it drawled, "Naturally."
Crossing his fingers, Naruto muttered to himself as an identical replica popped into existence beside him.
Gasping excitedly, the figure ran over and began circling the duo. "Fantastic, absolutely fantastic. I knew it was real, there was no way I was insane. Ha! How dare they insinuate this."
Hopping back several paces, the figure nodded with glee. "Yes, yes this is very good. Come, I'll show you the way to the King right now. Hurry now, we have a long way to go!"
Turning, it dashed into the shrubbery with surprising speed. Stunned with the abrupt change of attitude, Naruto rushed after it with a call over his shoulder. "You, back into the guild to stop that lot getting suspicious! I'll notify you when you can disperse!"
The clone saluted as Naruto disappeared and turned around to run back into the unwelcoming building.
Dashing along behind the creature, Naruto pondered where they were going. They never seemed to run in a straight direction, always carving off left and right here and there as they went. "So where are we headed? This is a strange way to go."
"Things here are a bit different from what you know, yes?" The creature pointed up to the sky, hand still beneath the sackcloth. "You use the floating rocks to guide here, they are the landmarks, the earth shapers, the stars. Without them nothing happens here."
"Oh." Naruto nodded but with no understanding. He decided on a simpler question. "So what do I call you?"
"'L' will do just fine for now," came the reply.
Not much, but at least the being now had a label. "Well L, mind telling me why you're so interested in what I can do?"
"You verify everything I believed to be true." L's deep voice deepened further as his hands began rustling under the cloth. "I stumbled across a book many years ago that hinted at the possibility of other dimensions where magic worked differently than to here. That people weren't just users of magic tools, they themselves were the tools. Magic flowed through them like the blood in their veins. People called me insane for hoping such a thing was true." A throaty chuckle paused the monologue. "With you here now though, you prove everything I said true. Not that I care to show you off, those imbeciles don't deserve any effort wasted on them. No, you are of much more use than that."
Now, the blond teen did not like being used for anything he didn't understand. However, information was information so for now he just had to suck it up and tag along.
Or so he thought.
Eyes snapped open wide as he dug his heels deep to skid to a stop. L stopped a moment later, spinning around impatiently. "What are you stopping for? We have a lot of ground to cover!"
Looking back from where they came, a memory of a massive beast bearing down on the guild was seared into his mind. 'How did she heal so fast?'
"I'm sorry!" Naruto waved frantically as he began dashing back. "Fairy Tail is in trouble, I have to help!"
L stamped the ground in a mini tantrum, body trembling in anger. "Who cares about them? We've just left!"
"It doesn't matter, I have to go, I'll catch up later!" One mighty leg pushed him up in a massive leap and Naruto was airborne, chakra system firing and shooting him off into the distance.
Meanwhile, L was locked rigid to his spot, unable to comprehend what he just saw. Rubbing his eyes, he stared at the receding figure as his chest began to swell. His cheeks puffed up and burst forth in a mighty scream, "YOU CAN FLY?"
While livid his prize had fled, the fact he could fly only further reinforced his desire to achieve his goal. Should he carry on though and it was a guarantee he'd never see Naruto again. Grumbling to himself, L kicked the sand out of his toes and took chase.
The vicious face of Knightwalker's Legion ran circles in Naruto's mind as it bore down on the guild. His clone put up a valiant fight against it but it wasn't long before it was destroyed. It did however manage to redirect an attack that was about to level the guild so it did its job.
It wasn't long before the teen could make out the mighty animal in the distance as it readied itself for another attack. Kicking up his momentum a notch, Naruto gauged his attack. As the beast swooped in again, Naruto timed himself so that just before it hit the guild, Naruto's fully charged legs smashed into the side of its head.
The kick shot the beast away with a mighty howl, Erza's footing completely blown out from under her surprised feet. Not giving her a chance to counter, Naruto smashed a fist into what he hoped was her face and sent her spiralling after her animal.
Whipping around to check the guild, he was just in time to watch in amazement as the guild glowed brightly before sucking in on itself and retracting into the ground with a pop. Rubbing his eyes, Naruto blinked at the great hole where it used to be, unsure of what just happened.
"Mmmm you, up there! Mage of Fairy Tail! What is the meaning of this?"
Hearing a long, drawling voice, Naruto looked down and spied a tall man in bright red armour gawking up at him.
"What do you mean what am I doing? I'm helping stop that bitch from destroying the guild!"
"Clearly, but why didn't you escape with them?"
Gently easing down to ground level, Naruto looked over the odd man. The armour he thought that covered him was actually restricted only to his chest, arms and gauntlets. Matching shin guards protected his lower legs, however sadly above that he only had on a set of briefs that didn't leave much to the imagination. Naruto endeavoured to never look past his waist again.
His weapon of choice was a large sword that sat strapped to his hip, the blade thin at the floral hilt, widening as the blade moved towards the tip. Blue eyes a few shades darker than Naruto's sized the teen up, mouth puckered in concentration. His large blond pompadour twitched in the wind and finally the man pointed at him. "Why don't I know you? That was a mighty powerful kick you have there, I'd have thought we had all the top mages accounted for."
"You have all the mages accounted for? Who does that make you then?" Naruto's curiosity was peaking. The man may have been hunting mages, but at least he was talking first rather than hitting.
"Hmm, you mustn't be from around here. I can't think of anywhere else you'd have come from though. Never the less," the man took a sweeping bow before lifting his head up, "I am Sugarboy, Royal Army Captain of the Fourth Magical Division. Might you tell me who you are?"
"Naruto, teenager." The teen was hardly about to give him any more information upon that revelation.
"Hmmm Naruto, a very exotic name." Standing back straight, the lavish man placed a hand on his hip as he continued. "You wouldn't be kind enough to tell me where you're from would you? Erza did mention she fought a dangerous new mage and I can only guess that it was you."
"She was trying to kill me. Of course I'd fight back."
"Oh but it's a first that someone has given her so much trouble!" Sugarboy interjected as he waved a hand. "You wouldn't even begin to know how angry she was when I met her. I dare say she has placed a bounty on your head, now that she's healed."
"Yeah, about that, how did she heal so fast?" That was a gnawing question to Naruto, being that there hadn't been any hospitals around for miles when he fought her.
"Ah-ah my boy, why would I reveal my secrets if you don't reveal yours?"
Not the answer he wanted.
"Perhaps you can answer me this though?" Naruto frowned as the man changed topics. "Why were you out to protect Fairy Tail? You're not from here, yet you fight for them. What motivation do you have?"
The teen squared his chin and spat back, "When evil people like you attack a lesser group I don't like that. I know Fairy Tail in a way, so I had to help them."
"Hmmm… in a way…" Considering Naruto's statement, Sugarboy rubbed his cleft chin as he considered the possibilities. That slowed though as his eyes began to widen and he vocalised his thoughts. "Your impossible strength, flying, cloud copies of yourself… boy, you wouldn't be from Earthland would you?"
Blinking in surprise, Naruto stiffened a touch at being called out so easily. "You mean to say there's such a place?"
"Come now don't play dumb. Clearly you are. I noticed that orange stamp on your palm. Your confusion at this place. There is a lot to be said for Erza's strength, but she isn't interested in details. What you just told me, that is very interesting, though it begs the question, how weren't you absorbed like the rest of them?"
THAT was a secret that was not being released so Naruto remained silent. Realising this, Sugarboy sighed and shrugged. "Whatever, it matters little. For now though, I've got what I need to know and Erza can finish the job. As you would, m'lady."
Realising now that all he'd been doing was stalling for time, Naruto whipped around to stare up at Erza, eyes boiling as she very nearly glowed with a furious intensity that bore down heavily upon him. "Sugarboy, step back. I'm going all out."
The man bowed and disappeared back into the foliage around the clearing. A clone was promptly created and it dashed after the Captain to watch for any sneak attacks.
Jumping from her beast, Erza landed in a crouch and slowly stood up, her very being rippling in fury. "Last time was lucky you son of a bitch. It really hurt so I'll give that much to you. As for now though," Erza crouched, lance pointed directly at Naruto's chest, "this is your end. Struggle for me, make it fun!"
Blasting off from her spot, the powerful Captain roared as Naruto snapped into a defensive stance. Rolling backwards with the attack, Naruto slapped the blade away with a palm and allowed his momentum to transfer into a sharp roundhouse. A bright blue shield met his heel though and deflected it away.
Naruto's eyes widened a split second before he sucked his head in, a spear jabbing in just millimetres above his scalp. Leaving a few hair strands in his place, Naruto slapped his hands together and executed a Kawarimi (Substitution) just as the spear-turned-sword slashed down upon him and bifurcated the stone that took his place.
Unable to fully avoid the surprise rear attack, Knightwalker suffered a large slash across her back as she rolled forward, Naruto's kunai being just a few inches too short to do any real damage. Rolling to a stop, blood began oozing over her legs and down into the dirt. Sparing it a glance, the violent red head smirked. "Lucky shot. You'll need one thousand more of those to slow me down though."
Flicking the kunai into reverse grip, Naruto reset his stance. "Funny, you said I was lucky about our last encounter and look where you ended up."
That seemed to pinch a nerve as the woman growled deeply. "Mark my words outlaw, I WILL have your head!"
Naruto's neck hairs prickled as she readjusted her stance. "Come at me and try."
The warring pair began to circle one another, each waiting for the other to make the first move. The air was positively electric as the tension rose.
Come to think of it though, Naruto's neck hairs hadn't stopped prickling. In fact, the prickling hairs began to trace up to his scalp. Suddenly the blond knew something wasn't right. Knightwalker had realised this too but apparently wasn't the cause, the woman looking around suspiciously as her hair began to stand on end. "What on earth…"
A sudden bolt of lightning smashed into the ground before them, blowing dirt and grass away and instantly melting the sand to glass. Eyes widening, Naruto hardly had any time to react as thousands of surprise bolts of lightning lit up the area.
The warring pair were instantly caught in the storm, screaming out as their muscles contracted violently from the electrical onslaught. Through the haze in his mind though, Naruto could swear he heard a third voice screaming in pain too.
Then as suddenly as it came, the immense bolts vanished, a kick of wind left swirling after the massive temperature changes. Feeling the residual charges still coursing through his muscles, Naruto fought through the stiffness and opened his eyes to try see what happened to Erza. Struggling to focus, he spotted a shock of spiky red hair cloaking a burnt looking body, sparks rapidly fading around her form. Her eyes were rolled into the back of her head, mouth gaping wide and a light wisp of smoke swirling up from particularly burnt looking areas.
Groaning as his recovery began, Naruto forced his limbs to move. He stiffly began making his way over to Erza, intent on disarming her properly and for good.
"Stop right there mage of Fairy Tail!" The sudden appearance of Sugarboy from a cluster of shrubs halted him.
Kneeing beside his comrade, the fancy knight kept a very close eye on the teen as he checked over Erza. "Mmm you know," he began, "I have no idea how you aren't as incapacitated as my dear partner is here. I only just escaped by using my sword as a lightning rod." The knight continued on hastily though, not giving Naruto a chance to speak. "I can now see how you gave her so much trouble. However, as you currently are, if I were to attack you would not survive. So may I propose a current truce?"
The blond raised an eyebrow.
"I'll let you go if you you'll let us. It seems fair does it not? For whatever reason that lightning struck it may return again and I for one do not wish to try avoid it a second time."
"Wait, so it wasn't you who set it off?"
Manicured fingers ran across his cleft chin as Sugarboy shook his head. "Alas that was not me and I know for certain you didn't unleash this. I don't understand this phenomenon and don't wish to deal with it again until I know more."
Naruto clicked his tongue in annoyance but nodded. "Fine. For now you go. But tell that woman, when she comes for me again, and I know she will, there won't be anything saving her from me."
Nodding the affirmative, Sugarboy lifted the burnt girl up and let out a shrill whistle. "Very well my dear Naruto. For now, we part. I look forward to seeing you again soon."
Suddenly jumping, the cry of Erza's beast rang out and it swooped beneath the two knights, catching them on its back before shooting off into the sky.
Watching them until they had disappeared over the horizon, Naruto finally let out a shaky sigh and dropped back onto his backside. "Man, what the hell was that?"
"I'll have you know that was me."
Turning to the voice, Naruto was surprised to see L walking over to him, though his movements were stiff to say the least. "You were hit with several thousand volts then, I'm shocked you weren't incapacitated the way Knightwalker was. No burns either, you're quite the healer aren't you?"
"That was YOU?" The stunned boy gaped up the strange man. "HOW?"
"Just a little thing I've been working on since my revelation about your dimension. Electricity is the easiest element to generate spontaneously I've found, though it's nearly impossible to properly focus. I'm still working out the details," came the casual remark as he reached him.
Unable to comprehend it at the moment, Naruto massaged his temples. L leered over him as he tried to spy any injuries but Naruto waved him away irritably. "Yes, I heal fast. It helps with what I do."
Sighing as his mind cleared, Naruto finally felt his eyes sooth and he looked up at the strange male. "So how exactly did you do that? I don't see any tools with you and I thought mages here couldn't use magic?"
L leered a moment longer before nodding to himself and began scratching around the area. "We all have our projects," L drawled as a rock circle was kicked into place and kindling lit.
Sitting up a bit in indignation, Naruto frowned a bit in annoyance. "How did you know I wouldn't die?"
"It was a high voltage shock with a medium-low amp rating. Not enough to kill but I'd have thought it would have knocked you out for several hours at least." The nonchalance with which he replied really irked the teen. "But, what does that even mean? And what about Knightwalker? Actually… you know what? I don't even care. I'm over it. What's happening now?"
"Now, we find food because it's almost dark. I had planned on dragging your unconscious form along with me through the night but with you relatively unscathed we may as well eat something."
Raising an eyebrow, Naruto shielded his eyes and looked up at the sun, still very much in the sky. "What do you mean? The sun still looks like it has hours left before it sets."
L grunted as he dragged a rock in for him to sit on. "I guess you're not used to this. Our sun follows wavelengths across the sky. Different seasons, different wavelengths. This is a longer wavelength season so it may be high now but give it forty-five minutes and it'll be pitch back."
Naruto opened his mouth, paused, and then closed it with a simple, "Oh."
"While I sort this out go and find us some food. There's bound to be something around here. Most animals are edible, just don't touch any of the slimy ones. That'll have you spitting fire from your underpants for a week."
Grimacing from the unpleasant mental image, Naruto pushed himself up and wandered into the trees. It was a welcome escape from the eccentric creature who had attached himself to the blond and it gave him a chance to think. It really was a crazy world this place, things seem so similar, yet they couldn't be more different in others.
"And get back here soon! I don't want to have to find you in the dark!"
"Yeah, yeah, quit your whining. Honestly, just let me breathe, weird old baggy creep." Naruto muttered curses to himself as he looked around for animal trails, frustrated that his travelling partner had to be so odd. What was his deal, being so obsessed with the other world and so on? He had the same weird obsession with this as Orochimaru did with resurrection. "And boys," the teen then muttered to himself with a smirk.
Spotting a large ram-like creature, Naruto crept up behind it and pushed a kunai into the base of its scull. It dropped without a sound and Naruto quickly began to prepare it.
Half an hour later the teen dropped the skinned and bled animal in front of an impressed L and dropped himself back onto his rock. "I did the hunting so you can be the cook. You know what herbs and greenery is edible anyway."
L grunted in acceptance and began fussing around. Watching him do his thing, the blond suddenly realised how quickly the shadows were growing. He could actually see them stretching out and away, it really was quite an unusual sight. Looking up to the sky, he watched the sun rapidly sinking behind the horizon, much faster than anywhere he'd ever seen before. Vanishing a few moments later, the teen stared at the dimming light for a second longer before L's voice distracted him. "Must be a real treat watching that for you."
"Yeah… nothing like that happens in Earthland."
"Curious. I suppose it's something you can only really understand when you experience it. Hopefully one day I'll be able to come over and see your world. Now get me more wood, the animal you hunted has extremely tough meat, we need to cook it at a higher temperature."
Rolling his eyes, Naruto slowly obeyed, throwing a few more logs in from the reserve stacked off to the side. The second the heat increased though a wonderful scent filled the air and instantly had the blond salivating. "Wow that smells incredible! I really hope it takes that good."
"If you know how to cook it properly it will." L gingerly turned the meat, his obsession with details coming into good use at the moment. "Luckily for you though, I've lived in the wilderness long enough to have perfected it. It won't take long to cook so sit yourself down. We start moving once we're done here so if you need to rest this is all you're getting."
Nodding, the teen dropped down and the two fell into silence as the meat was seasoned. Before long the thick hide of the animal was split evenly between the two and they tucked in.
'Wow, this really is good! I wonder if I can show Mira-chan this at some point? Wouldn't want to lose this recipe just because we don't live here.'
"So Naruto, what other differences are there between here and your world? I imagine there are doubles everywhere of people you've met here, correct?"
Raising his eyes from the meal, Naruto swallowed and nodded. He wasn't too interested in going into too much detail but a little bit was ok for now. "People wise, the changes range from minor to major. The few guild members I've met so far have mostly been the same except their temperaments are the complete opposite from what I know. There's a few age differences with some people here being older than the ones I know back home but that was just one instance."
Pulling a book from somewhere deep within his covering, L flicked through a few pages and traced a finger across a few lines. "Yes, yes it mentions there can be differences like that. Understandably life decisions and career choices would vary but in most cases mostly holds true between our two worlds."
Craning his neck to see, Naruto tried to read the book title. "Is that that thing you found?"
"This 'thing' is one of the only items in existence that specifies parallel worlds in detail." L grumbled as he continued reading. "To me this thing is my holy book. There is information in here that I simply cannot understand unless I discover something like you or have one of those light-bulb moments." Flicking the page, L read a few more lines before inquiring, "So what's Earthland itself like? Topography? Geography? Astronomy?"
"Ehhh…" This one was a stab in the dark as Naruto had no idea what those things were. "Well, for starters everything is on the ground?"
"You mean as in no solar objects like the aerial islands?" L enquired as he leant in. Naruto gave himself a high five for a successful guess and nodded. "Yeah, well, we have one moon but that's way, way, WAY further away than any of these boulder things. It's actually more like a smaller earth circling our planet, only dead with no air."
Eyes bulging, L pulled out another book and scribbled down some notes. "Incredible! And it's the only airborne object?"
The blond nodded and took another bite of his meal. "Yep. Pre'y borin' if you as' me." He swallowed. "Also, no sky rivers. Like, how does that even work? Ours stay on the ground, where they should be."
L nodded as he jotted down the last of his notes. "I could explain it to you but I doubt you have the attention span to sit through that lecture." Putting that book away, he opened the other and continued reading. Meanwhile Naruto silently burdened the personal barb because there was no way he'd have lasted longer than a few seconds trying to listen to that. With that he decided to settle down to finish the last of his meal, sucking the meat off the bone and attempting to pick his teeth as L read more.
"You know…" A page rustled as L turned it. "Most of my curiosity though is directed at you through all this, and not just for your spectacular abilities."
Naruto shrugged as he pulled out a stubborn chunk. "You're not the first person tell me I'm a stunningly good looking human, but thank you anyway."
The blond could almost feel L roll his eyes in annoyance. "No you halfwit, I'm talking about YOU, as a person, existing in this world."
Studying the mass on his fingernail for a moment, Naruto popped it into his mouth. "How so?"
Flicking forward a bit, L studied the book before speaking. "You mentioned that most people were similar between our worlds. Yes some differences in age and so on, but most everyone thus far had a double that you know of."
Thinking for a moment, the teen bobbed his head about. "Yeah, more or less I guess so."
A finger pointed up at him from beneath the sack. "You however I have never seen before and I have long travelled this world from end to end. Someone as unique as you I'd remember. I'm good with faces and scars like yours would be unmistakable, even with an age, weight, height or any other physical difference." Closing the book, L began leaning in. "You know, the book mentions the probability of further dimensions beyond our two parallel worlds here. Dimensions further removed from our lives, so even more different."
A slight trickle of sweat rolled down Naruto's neck. "And that means to me?"
L was silent for a moment before he sat up slowly and shrugged. "Not a lot I suppose. Just passing comment about your uniqueness. You should be proud of how individualised you are."
Resisting the urge to sigh, the teen shrugged as indifferently as he could. "I have a lot going for me, wh-what can I say?" He then took his feet, patting down his pants of any food scraps. Eager to change topics, the blond noticed L had finished eating and so began stretching. "You mentioned we will be running all night? Well I wanna get started early, from my understanding the King lives a fair way from here so no time like the now."
"Indeed." Snapping the book shut, L tucked it away and began kicking the fire out. "We must hide our tracks. Those blasted knights will absolutely be back here trying to find out what happened to you. I cannot be found out. While I do this, you cover our tracks."
Nodding, the teen stretched a few more times before moving over to the start of the footprints.
An hour or so later found the two unlikely partners dashing along beneath the night sky, veering through the trees and around rocks, following a path strictly understood by only one of the two. Vaulting a low lying branch, Naruto picked up the pace and drew alongside L. "So why have you decided to help me? Surely this isn't just out of good grace."
"You're absolutely correct, Naruto. Truthfully, I want to see how magic can be applied practically in fighting and other circumstances. I am one of very few creatures who can actively mould magic here, albeit I'm still somewhat of an amateur, so to see you in action would help my research jump ahead decades!"
That answer came as a bit of a shock. The teen was expecting to have to read between lines to work out what he wanted. "And that's it? That's all you want?"
"Near enough without boring you with details. That aside, we shall be clear of this area within another few hours. There's a desert not far away. We will want to try and reach the town of Louen before it gets too late in the day. We will rest there during the midday heat and then carry on. I doubt even you could survive this heat without being unscathed. Collect water if you can as we move, you'll need it."
Remembering the heat of the Suna desert, Naruto was quick to create several clones which all vanished off to prepare for the upcoming day.
The heat was murderous. Even the stubborn L had been reduced to walking pace as the pair crossed the sandy landscape. Naruto had fashioned a leaf hat and tunic to cast off the majority of the heat but it didn't feel like it did much. How L was getting on under that potato sack Naruto did not know. From what he'd seen the weird old guy hadn't even had a drink of water yet. Naruto however had managed to guzzle a half seal's worth and when considering he'd managed to collect about a bathtub's amount of water that was saying something.
Wiping his forehead, Naruto adjusted his wilting leaf-hat and stared off at the endless rolling sand dunes and rock pillars. "Are you sure you're not lost? Everything is near identical around here."
L did not look back. "You question me, a resident of Edolas, about how to navigate this world when you, an alien, have been here nought even a week? Please, save me the insult."
Frowning back, Naruto couldn't help but feel a little jaded. His greater-than-thou attitude was extremely tiresome, especially when all he was doing was asking a question. "Well, how far away are we from this Loud? Bet that won't hurt your precious feelings." The blond mumbled that last sentence. No point creating too much drama out here.
"It's Louen. And we are nearly there. Maybe another thirty minutes' walk." L took a short moment to rest against a rock pillar and turned to Naruto. "Once we arrive, you must disguise yourself. We will be able to find head gear and other items there that you can hide your distinctive markings with. We don't want any untoward attention from our friends in the army." Pushing off the rock, L rearranged the hood covering his face and stepped out into the sun. "Come, let's make haste. I feel like a bath."
Grinning, Naruto nodded enthusiastically. "Finally something I fully agree with you on, dattebayo!"
There was a slight falter in L's step as he considered what he just heard. "A speech quirk? Curious."
Slapping a palm to his face, Naruto just groaned and wished he'd stayed quiet.
Looking out over the town, Naruto joyously celebrated their arrival. Nearly a full day of nothing but L berating him for every action he made had worn deep on his patience and Naruto was very ready to get away from the crazy OCD man. Letting out a whoop of delight, the teen started running towards the entrance when a sudden jolt of electricity shot up his spine.
Jumping ten feet in the air, the blond landed flat on his backside as he tearfully rubbed his back. "What the hell was that for you crazy old bastard?"
L retracted his outstretched hand back into his cloak and grunted. "You must have been dropped as a baby to have such a poor short term memory. I did mention that firstly, we find you a disguise and then and only then may we relax."
Growling, the teen stood up and poked a finger into his irritating partner's chest. "Well you could have just asked like a normal human! If I've been dropped as a baby then you must've been dropped and then kicked you're so twisted."
Brushing the accusation off L stepped past him. "I hardly have the effort required to chase after you and I cannot be bothered searching for you in the bowels of Louen and I definitely cannot be bothered to deal with the ruckus the army would make when they found you."
Crossing his arms indignantly the teen followed at a slow pace. "What makes you think I didn't have a disguise in mind?"
"I highly doubt that." Came the clipped reply. "Now if you'd follow me, I know there's a shop over here that will fit our needs."
Naruto's eyes narrowed as he clasped the 'Ram' sign. "I'll give you a disguise you crooked son of a bitch."
Stepping into the shop, L ignored the door open and close again behind him and moved to an isle with simple head gear. Shuffling through a few options, L quickly found one that suited his needs. "Here, I believe this will do. Try it on."
Turning around,he held it out to… nothing. Pausing a moment, he looked around. Seeing a shock of blond a few isles over, L grumbled in annoyance and stomped over. "You impossible child, just stick with me for five more minutes and it will all be done!"
Gripping their shoulder, he forcefully spun the blond around and was shocked to come face to face with a startled female. "What do you want you old creep? Let me go!"
L let go faster than if he'd just slapped a hot plate. "M-my apologies young one! I mistook you for my companion, I'll leave at once!"
Spinning around, the embarrassed male began pacing away rapidly when a familiar, irritating laugh reached his ears. Stopping, he turned to look back briefly. The only person there was the confused girl. Shaking his head, L growled darkly and stomped out the door. Looking around angrily, the cloaked man stomped the ground. "Where the hell have you gone?"
"Who is it you've lost anyway?" Turning to the voice, L sighed as the blond girl exited the store. "Just a young lad about your age with hair your exact colour. We were here to get him some supplies but he's conveniently disappeared."
"Oh really? I may be able to help!"
L shook his head irritably. "Don't trouble yourself. He's a nuisance and probably would just run away if you tried to catch him."
The girl shrugged. "Well, I'll keep an eye out just in case. Anything that makes him stand out?"
Rubbing the back of his neck,L sighed again and nodded. "Yes, he has three distinctive scars that run along his cheeks from his nose to his ears."
"Oh!" Her surprised outburst made L turn to face her fully. "You mean like these?"
The girl then drew her hands across her own cheeks and from behind her concealing palms three scars exactly the same as Naruto's appeared.
"My girl! How did you do that?"
She didn't reply and just held her position. Staring at the blond, L shook his head and looked closer. Those eyes were extremely familiar too, if not exactly…
A sly grin stretched out over the girls face and her eyebrows raised in haughty satisfaction as the penny dropped. "Well what do you know, even YOU were fooled. What. A. Surprise."
L's desire to know just how Naruto had changed his form so drastically was greatly overshadowed by his rage at being humiliated and a battle of epic proportions was raging within his mind. Eventually composing himself enough, L clipped out tightly, "You have two hours to do what you want. We meet back at the entrance in TWO hours. Now get out of my sight."
"Gladly," came the reply and clasping two of his fingers, the blond boy-turned-girl vanished in a swirl of leaves.
A/N – sooo… how's things been everyone? I know, I know, it's been over a year now and everyone's mad at me and I completely understand why. I also understand that picking up on where the story currently is may be hard, but we're only a chapter deep into this arc so a quick purursal of the previous chapter should have you caught up. But surprise! Story isn't dead, I'm not dead and here's an upload to prove it.
However, it's been tough year and a quick breakdown is as follows. I got fired from work because I wouldn't bow down to a horrible area manager and I haven't been able to get a stable source of income since and this was about 6 months ago. I've also been in surgery for teeth repairs (knocked my front ones out 9 years ago and I'm finally getting implants) and hospital for a few unfortunate injuries. Fun fun fun.
I could go on but yes, that's the general idea of things. Lots going on that consumes time. Don't grow up, it's a trap.
As always, please let me know what you thought of the chapter! If it's a bit rough well, you know why.
Take care and until next time,
P.S. I apologies for the double upload, FF's document editor freaked out me and [spanned] every damn paragraph so I had to go through and edit the whole things AGAIN. At 1AM IN THE MORNING. I'm tired :'( goodnight.