A/N - LAST TIME, ON NARUTO TAIL Z, WE FOUND OUR HERO THE #1 KNUCKLEHEAD NINJA KICKING ASS AND TAKING NUMBERS. HAVING DEFEATED THE DASTARDLY KNIGHTWALKER, NARUTO SET ABOUT HIS PLAN TO KICK MORE ASS AND TAKE MORE NUMBERS.
UPDATE - apologies for the confusion, the site went and lined the ENTIRE CHAPTER WITH THE PARAGRAPH AND EMPHASIS CODEX just to make life hard for me. I had to delete it, remove everything and then reupload. Thanks FF. Because this vexes me (and it's 12.30am), I'll get to any typos I missed later.
"Ugh… my head…"
The offensive sounds of metal on metal echoed around him, the blonds head sagging bonelessly against his chest. He tried to move but his body felt like he had an Akimichi sitting on it. Actually… he felt like he HAD the body of an Akimichi. Numb and thick, his fingers and hands felt far, far away and any attempt to move his limbs felt like they had a delay time of several seconds.
"UGH!" Wincing, his mind was immediately assaulted by a deluge of memories as all the clones smashed into him at once. The tower had been so close to being completely rigged but that had been cut short the second he'd been knocked out. 'Damn it… what am I gonna do about that?' There was no way he'd have time to finish this now.
Forcing his eyelids open, Naruto's blurry vision struggled to focus on the surroundings. That annoying metallic noise was still chiming away somewhere, the irritating sound tampering with his ability to concentrate. Bit by bit though he gradually began to take in his new location. A large cave, dimly lit, the walls a composite of metal and rock, hewn a lifetime ago by the looks of it. A doorway off to his left had a soft yellow light flowing out from it, but whatever lay down there was obscured by the angle.
Casting his eyes further, he followed a glow off to his right and saw someone banging away at… something large repeatedly. This was where that noise was coming from and was also the only source of light in the cave. Faintly pulsating lacrima were illuminating everything with an eerie blue glow as the figure continued to work. The large thing was attached to a rudimentary computer by the looks of it, small diodes flashing away and a screen displaying some sort of code in a language he'd never seen. It all buzzed and clicked intermittently as it diligently worked away at its task with what appeared to be a loading bar signifying whatever it was doing was roughly 60% complete.
A distant pain started to throb from the region of Naruto's wrist as he looked over everything. Slowly turning his gaze further, it was now he realised he was bound up by metal shackles. Both arms were held out beside him in a 't' formation, his legs clasped in place below him similarly. A large IV line was wrapped around his arm, the hose ending in a needle being fed into the vein in his forearm. An unpleasantly green fluid looked to be feeding into his body from a very large fluid sack being held above him by a metal clasp.
Somewhat disturbed by the realisation, Naruto gave a tug to see if his arm would come free. All that he succeeded in doing was ringing a bell by a string that was tied to the needle. Immediately the clanging stopped and footsteps made their way over to him.
"Ah, you've awoken! Thank goodness I had enough of the tranquiliser, you have an absurd metabolism, yes you do!"
'I know that voice.' Naruto shook his head gently to try and clear his vision further. "L? Wha… what's happening? Where am I? Why am I drugged?"
L reached the boy and began fussing around with the IV line and needle, assessing their placement and nodding satisfactorily. "Oh! Because it's nearly time and you wouldn't have understood what I'm doing and resisted. It's easier to ask for forgiveness than permission sometimes. This was one of those times. Don't worry too much though, you won't be uncomfortable for much longer."
"What's time? What are you on about?"
Ignoring him, L scurried back over to the whirring computer and began playing around with the dials. Adjusting a few measurements, he then ran around behind the server wires and began dragging something heavy out into view. His strained grunts were accompanied by the nails-on-chalkboard screech of metal sliding over rock as a large antenna dish made its presence known.
Blinking in confusion, Naruto watched as L scrabbled and slipped, his feet pin wheeling for purchase as he pushed the large thing before him. Finally getting it directly in front of Naruto, L then dashed away to hook it up to the main computer. Now that he couldn't see the crazy old man, the prisoner looked up at the dish. Easily ten feet in diameter, three rods converged from the rim of the dish to a single sphere pointed directly at him. It was attached to an equally large metal box that has an assortment of wires, tubing and lights on every surface. From the left facing panel protruded a transparent, downward facing tuning fork, the pointed tip attached to a thick metal tube that held it about a meter away from the main body. It hung about a meter off the ground, just high enough for a man to stand within it, albeit slightly stooped. The grey metal brightened as a click and a whirr indicated it had just been switched on. A strange purple light began pulsing from the centre of the dish, though the actual light source couldn't be seen. It was as if the air itself had suddenly become slightly luminescent.
"Whew!" Wiping his forehead with the back of his arm, L stepped back and chuckled. "Well, that's everything in place. Only another ten minutes or so before the experiment can begin."
Shaking the brackets holding him, Naruto raised his voice, "I asked, what is it nearly time for? And what is this huge thing? Let me go!"
L tutted and wagged a finger at him, chuckling to himself. "Oh, the time for me to prove I was right! You remember my book don't you?" At this he pulled out his tatty treasure. "The one that talks about alternate dimensions? Yes, this! With you, I can prove I was right!"
Struggling to follow what the eccentric man was carrying on about, Naruto growled lowly shook himself against his binds again. "Look old man, I have no idea what you're talking about! Let me be free, dattebayo!"
L seemed to skip a little bit when he heard Naruto's speech quirk. "Fascinating, so fascinating! And that language too, I love it!"
Giving up for the moment, Naruto glared at the man and spat through grit teeth, "What language? What are you on about?"
There was a sharp beep that pierced the air. L whipped around and sprinted to the computer, muttering all the while. The beeping cut out and he let out a sigh. "Don't worry Naruto my friend, all will be revealed in a moment. My experiment is nearly ready and then we can share in your power."
He was literally making less sense right now than Guy and Rock-Lee's obsession with youth. Fed up, Naruto bucked once more against his restraints and felt them give. His feeling was beginning to come back to normal. Give it a moment and he'd be able to tear himself out. However, that unfortunately wasn't to be.
Striding back over, L poked Naruto's forehead demeaningly and released the clamp on the IV. "Ah, ah, calm down child. We can't have you getting out just yet." Immediately the green liquid poured into his body and the blond felt all his control vaporise. Sagging weakly again, he felt the hot burn of the fox's chakra begin to purge his body but it just wasn't fast enough. "All that ability wrapped up in your body, all those skills and techniques, soon I can show everyone how wrong they were!"
Eyes drooping, Naruto found himself falling into a drug induced paralysis. Still functionally awake, still mostly alert, but lacking any sort of physical composure. "Oh come on L, what are you doing here? Why are you doing this to me? Weren't we companions?"
Sighing as he slowed the IV drip, L resignedly nodded. "Yes, we are. More than that, we are brothers for what we've been through. But this is why I must keep going. There's too much at stake, too much to simply stop."
Turning, L then ruffled Naruto's hair almost affectionately. "Your sacrifice will be remembered for all time. I'll make sure of it once I throw down this miserable kingdom."
Trying another route, Naruto began pleading with him. "Look, you clearly have the same goals as me. If you really want the king to pay for all he's done, then let's work together! There's so much more that we can accomplish at a team rather than you doing… whatever this is!"
Chuckling, L shook his head. "No, that would defeat the purpose of this experiment. Tell me, do you have any idea what the Anima was originally designed for?"
Naruto shook his head.
"It was designed to pull power from the lacrima and implant it in a human. There has been a vague understanding for decades that there were people who could exist in other worlds' that were capable of harnessing the magic surrounding them. My book was the foremost literature on it. This would also be a way to stop the excessive use of the finite magic in Edolas. Unfortunately, the first few test subjects didn't work out quite the way we wanted." He mimicked a bomb going off. "Strangely enough, the local fauna to this area were capable of harnessing a small percentage of the lacrima energy before it failed. They had a rudimentary pouch of some sort they could store it in. Us humans though, the magical power seemed to rip right through us. It was like the magic was searching for a place to be stored, couldn't find it and so 'expelled' itself from the body. Forcefully."
Naruto's eyes widened. "You're joking. People died in this experiment?"
"Unfortunately so," came the agreement, "but they knew what they were getting into. Anyway, before we could test my next hypothesis, the current king just decided to blow a wormhole through time-space and suck magic from your world into ours. It's a rudimentary raping of our coexistent universes, while giving him the monopoly over all magic!" L slammed his fist onto the metal table Naruto was strapped to. "It was entirely against MY wishes, the one who first created the anima!"
Trying to absorb everything, Naruto focused on the easiest part of the speech. "YOU created this thing?"
"Not in its final form, but I built the first experimental one you see here." L waved a hand at the mass of machinery off to their side. "The current bastardised one in the castle they're using is far simpler but significantly more powerful. A beastly thing, just brute strength and no finesse. Bah." With that said, L spat on the ground in disgust.
The two then fell into silence, L patiently waiting as Naruto's brain struggled to process everything he'd heard so far. Eventually piecing enough of it together, he then asked, "So why am I here? What do you need me for?"
Taking a step back, L walked over to the antenna. It was glowing more brightly at this point with a soft hum. The sack cloth man rubbed it affectionately. "You fall into my hypothesis. We were trying to extract magic from an inanimate source and implant it into a human. Of course that was doomed to failure. So the alternative was to take the magic from one person and put it into another."
At this Naruto's eyes began to widen. "But why me? Why not anyone else? Surely there's plenty of chances to try this!"
"I already have!" Slamming his fist down, Naruto flinched as the hand quivered beside his head. "I already tried with the rare individual who came over but we weren't compatible. The same problem happened, we from Edolas simply couldn't contain the magic! Those from Earthland seemed to have a special organ that could store and utilise the magic. Even with implants, we here could not handle it. So, after many failed attempts, this is where you now come in."
Looking up the arm to the hooded figure before him, Naruto paused a moment. Then, he swallowed and dared to ask, "How do I fit in to all this? Didn't you say you'd never met anyone who can do the things I did?"
L shrugged. "I lied."
Naruto scowled. "So how am I meant to believe anything you tell me now? What proof do you have?"
The menacing grin that widened across L's face was very unpleasant. "I'll show you how. You're from another dimension, aren't you?"
This caused Naruto to pause. A bead of sweat trickled down his neck as suddenly a whole lot of tension filled the room. Not giving anything away, the blond nodded cautiously and replied, "Yes, I'm from Earthland. You know this."
"Don't be stupid!" L then whipped out and slapped him over the head. "I mean from further beyond that. You are… aren't you?"
Ears ringing a bit from the hit, Naruto blinked several times before throwing the accusation back at him. "Further than that? What the hell are you saying? I remember you said people called you insane for believing this crap, and I think just maybe they were right!"
That caught another slap, harder this time, as L opened his book. "Don't you dare insinuate that! This book has been correct in all its predictions and calculations thus far and I have no reason to believe anything has changed!"
Naruto picked back up in his struggling again and snapped back, "You're mad! You've got no proof!"
"No proof?" He stamped up as close as he'd dare to his captive and thrust out a hand in front of him. In it was a single golden thread of hair. "What's this then?"
Squinting, Naruto then sighed and rolled his eyes. "My hair obviously. What's that got to do with anything?"
L chuckled ominously, clearly enjoying the moment. "No. MY hair."
Reaching out, he plucked a strand of hair from Naruto's head and reached into the sack covering his own head and pulled out a strand. Holding them together, he brought them forward for Naruto to see. Gradually, the blonds eyes widened as he tried to see any shade difference. There was none. Refusing to believe it though, the teen protested, "This is just you seeing things in this dark, smelly hole in the ground! What does this prove?"
A previously unnoticed light over Naruto's head clicked on, illuminating them both in a perfectly clear light. And shining brightly in the outstretched fingers were two identical strands of hair.
"This proves everything." L began to reach up and for the first time, reveal himself to the ninja. Naruto let out a sharp gasp as he finally lay eyes on L's true self for the first time. "Laxus!"
Chuckling, edo-Laxus nodded sagely. He was a great deal thinner than his Earthland counterpart, but just as tall and just as arrogant. "Indeed I am! And how do you know this?"
Naruto grimaced and wrinkled his nose at the memory. "I had the unpleasant experience of meeting your twin back home."
"Exactly, you've met a form of me before," exclaimed the man, "but I have never met YOU!"
Blinking dumbly, Naruto just stared at him. "Well, no dur? I'm not from here."
Laxus chuckled again and looked at him as if he was looking at a child. "I need to explain it further do I? Consider this, my book says between worlds, people's features get scrambled. Slight differences in personalities, looks, behaviours and so on. Between Edolas and Earthland, there's not that great a distance so no great difference. You've already met myself and everyone in that Fairy Tail guild."
Naruto nodded as he followed along. True, Lucy looked the same, but his Lucy vs the Edolas Lucy had personality differences like night and day. Natsu, Erza, Levy, Mirajane… actually, no, Mirajane was identical both here and there. But the point was made.
"And that brings me back to you. I have never met you. No one completely like you anyway." The tall man continued with a wave of his hand. "I've travelled pretty much across this whole world. I've met more people than I care to count or remember, but one thing I do keep is the faces of everyone with me in case a situation like this came up. I have never seen you. I kept wracking my brains for a way to prove who you were until it hit me! The answer was on the top of my head!"
He waved his fingers holding the hairs. "This! A part of you is in me and I in you! We're interdimensional brothers!"
Naruto's mouth dropped in shock. "WHAT?"
"Surely you must be able to think of such expressions among people you know! Who have you met who seem to have similarities far too uncanny to be coincidence?"
Naruto couldn't help but consider this as the revelation was poured out on him. Natsu had been called his brother repeatedly. Grey and Sasuke's aloof attitudes. Ero-Sennin and Makarov's ability to swap between pervy old creeps to protective juggernauts in the blink of an eye. Juvia and Sakura's high levels of obsession for the targets of their love. Hinata and Mirajane's sweet, softly spoken demeanours. Elfman and Guy's obsession with men and youth. As the continual and easily identifiable similarities continued popping into Naruto's head, the final nail in the coffin was when he remembered that spiky haired mage he fought against back in Oshibana, the mage Kageyama. The man even used Shadow based magic, the exact same way Shikamaru used Shadow based Jutsu. The two could have been twins if considered from the point of looks, attitudes, magic abilities and physical form.
Naruto's world spun. Gaping for words, he opened and closed his mouth a few times before all that came out was a clipped, "Holy shit."
A wide smile stretched across Laxus' face as he saw the penny drop. "There we go, now you understand. The book outlines that there are many, many more universes out there that can run parallel to ours. Always moving in a single direction through time yes, but the laws of relativity kick into action here. Some dimensions are moving that quickly through time that they appear to us to be nothing but a blur, while others are so slow they appear to be stopped!"
Having his world rocked, Naruto just hung there with his mouth dropped as Laxus went on.
"Dimensions far, far away with beings we will never experience. Others so close like Earthland that we can touch with the right equipment. Others that swing back and forth like a pendulum, sometimes being far away, other times being closer!"
'This literally echo's everything the elder toads told Tsunade baa-chan. What the hell does this all mean?'
Ignoring Naruto's internal plight, Laxus pointed a finger at him. "And this is also why you're so valuable. While you were out I inspected your body." Naruto shivered involuntarily at the admission. "What I found was a distinct lack of this pocket for magic, yet all the abilities a mage may have. The energy generated from within you is not magic, it is something else! I have no idea what, but I intend to find out."
With that, he shrugged off his sack cloth finally and Naruto resisted the urge to cry out in disgust. Finally, his question of what those strange energy pulses Laxus owned were answered. Five grotesquely implanted lacrima protruded from his body, one in either shoulder, one in each pec and one large one in his stomach. The translucent gems sparkled dimly in the light, just see through enough to vaguely make out Laxus' organs behind them. Lip twisting in revulsion, Naruto exclaimed, "What the hell have you done to yourself?"
"This?" Laxus looked down. "A failed experiment. A bit shocking at first I'm sure, but it was an attempt of mine to implant magic into me. Once kicked out I didn't have many opportunities to experiment so this was a calculated risk. I do have the basic ability to channel electricity as it's the easiest of all elements to control, but whenever I use it, I always receive a painful kickback from it."
Naruto's eyebrows raised in realisation. "Hang on, back then when I fought Sugarboy that was you who zapped us!"
Laxus grimaced. "Indeed. I'm thankful I didn't need to do it again, it hurts like blazes being so close to my organs."
Hearing a final merry 'ping', they both looked over to the mighty computer to see a green tick signifying whatever it was doing was finished. A grin threatened to split Laxus' face as he made his way over. "Well, that's time! It was fun explaining everything to you, but now it's time for the next step."
Pulling against his braces again, Naruto eyes him warily. "What are you doing now?"
The hum of the antenna before him started to rise in pitch and intensity as Laxus set it up. "I intend to extract the energy from you and implant it into myself. Normally I'd run more tests first, but I don't have much time. I'll be running this a little more by the seat of my pants than usual, but no statues were erected to the cautious man!"
At that, Naruto swore he heard a deep echoing laughter bouncing around the recesses of his mind. Eyes widening in fear, he began to kick against his restraints as hard as he could. "No! No don't do this, you're making a terrible mistake!"
"No, no I'm not. I've done all the calculations. It's fine." Completely ignoring Naruto as his shouts were drowned out by the antenna, Laxus slipped on a set of safety glasses and made his way over to the inverted tuning fork. Settling himself in between them, he grabbed each prong and grinned.
"So Naruto!" His voice was barely audible over the antenna as it began to scream. "Let us join as brothers in this momentous occasion! Together, we create history!"
Slapping his hand down on a green button, the air around the antenna seemed to start vibrating as it built charge. "LAXUS, NO, YOU CAN'T!"
All the replied was the scientists barking laughter as the purple light built up before Naruto. The tip seemed to swell with energy before exploding all over his form, slamming right into his belly button before spreading out. Each male let out a scream of shock, Naruto for the awkward feeling of having his energy drained and Laxus with the intoxicating feeling of having his body being pumped full of energy.
Fatigue immediately overtook Naruto and try as he may, that coupled with the drugs still seeping into his system rapidly ushered him into unconsciousness.
For Laxus though, it was everything he'd dreamed of and more. Energy, inebriating energy flowed into him and filled him up. Every nerve ending was on fire as a sensation unlike nothing before filled his body. His mind likened it to a blind man seeing colours for the first time, a flood of information that he'd never known existed before, but once seen immediately understood to be true.
Throwing his head back, he let out a deafening bark of laughter as his body swelled. This was pure ecstasy, blowing away all expectations he'd ever hoped for.
What he didn't expect though was to hear an animalistic growling laughter in return. Sinking from the conscious plane, his mind was sucked back into his own subconsciousness and deep down into the recesses of his mind by some strange force. "What's this?"
The outside world grew dim and muffled as he fell, concern washing over his being as he lost contact with reality. Finally tumbling after what seemed ten minutes, he finally came to rest in a black hole. The only thing he could see was himself, everything else was black. The dark laughter seemed to be echoing all around him all the while though which pulled his hair straight on end. "Who's there? Show yourself? Where have you come from?"
"Ahhh… such ignorance is a blessed gift in this moment."
Spinning around, Laxus saw two enormous eyes floating about twelve feet over his head. "You say you did all the necessary calculations, yet you didn't take into account Naruto. Or, to be more precise, what lives within him."
A wide, toothy smile then revealed itself. "Sadly, your withered form is so weak that you can barely hold a single percentile of my strength. But no bother. That shall do."
Staring up in fright, Laxus backed up. "What are you talking about? Who are you? Let me out of here, I know I accounted for everything!"
Laughing menacingly, the blood red eyes stared down at the man. "No you didn't, because I am here. As penalty, I take everything from you the way you wanted to take everything from that brat I'm sealed in."
Not even bothering to ask what it meant, Laxus just turned with a scream and started running. A booming voice smashed into him with actual force, knocking him down as the creature stomped over. "In his mind, I was a prisoner, locked behind bars until he dies. Here though, I'm free. I'll send him your regards."
Rolling over, Laxus raised his hands in abject fear as an enormous mouth descended on him. A harrowing, deathly cry of, "NOOOOOO…"echoed throughout the black space as his essence was consumed before an unrestrained barking laughter filled the darkness.
"Wake up boy!"
"Ugh…" *SLAP* "OUCH I'm awake, I'm awake!"
"DAMN IT, STOP THAT!"
Self-indulgent snickers greeted Naruto as he shook the pain and drowsiness away. Standing before him was Laxus, arms crossed over a significantly bulked chest. A wide, menacing smile was stretched across his face and a deep red pulsed within his eyes. It didn't take a genius to work out what happened.
The demon fox let out a bark of laughter and swept an arm out in mock introduction. "What a delightful turn of events this is!" He ran an approving eye over his new form as he twisted his arm around to get a look at it from all angles.
Swallowing nervously, Naruto took a breath and considered this latest problem. His arms were still shacked up and he still felt weak. Not good. He had to buy time. Focusing on the most obvious line of questioning, the ninja delicately asked, "So what happened to Laxus?"
"Surely you can work that out for yourself. What have I been desiring to do to you since the day I was imprisoned in you?"
A cold sweat washed over the teen's form. "So you… um… ate him?"
"And it was just delicious." A tongue ran over spiked teeth. "Granted not as delectable as what I'm anticipating as when I get to sink my teeth into you," a clawed finger reached out and traced Naruto's jaw line dangerously, "but still satisfying none the less. To take revenge against anyone who tries to control me is sweet retribution."
Lifting his chin to avoid being pierced, a bead of water ran down the blonde's neck, his pulse point open and vulnerable. He turned his eyes to the red glare pinning him down, hunger clear as day in the pupils as the claw was pushed into his skin. He couldn't help swallowing again, his Adam's apple bobbing against the nail. They stared at one another for a moment as the tension rose. Nerves breaking first, Naruto sucked on his lips as he asked, "So… why haven't you killed me?"
He winced as the nail pushed into him harder, then breathed a sigh of relief as it was removed. Crossing his arms, the Kyuubi grunted in frustration and frowned. "As much as I'd like to, this pathetic form was able to absorb only a hundredth of my power. Hardly anything I could really damage you with. And since my main essence is still captured within you, I would effectively be trapping myself in this desolate waste of a dimension for who knows how long. No, as unsatisfying as it may be, you being alive is much more beneficial to me."
Immediate danger now removed, an unexpected shiver coursed the blonde's body in relief. Mustering up the confidence he had left, Naruto pried, "So what's your plan now then? How long do you have in that body before it expires?"
The Kyuubi shrugged. "Hours? Days? I can't rightly say, it all depends on the balance I maintain between his body falling apart due to my presence and the amount of chakra I use. Once either of those becomes unstable, this form will dissolve and I will return to you."
Kyuubi then scowled as Naruto let out a large sigh of relief. That was everything taken care of then. Kyuubi being free in Laxus' body was certainly not ideal, but of a bad situation this was pretty much the best possible outcome. Relaxing into his shackles, Naruto enjoyed the brief moment of thankfulness he experienced. Allowing his breathing to slow, he calmed his nerves further and began trying to absorb the natural energy around him.
A curious voice interrupted his meditation not a moment later. "What are you doing?"
"What does it look like? I'm trying to engage Senjutsu (Sage Techniques) so I can break out of here."
The Kyuubi let out an indignant scoff. "You do realise I'm literally standing right here, right?"
Naruto opened one eye marginally. "Are you saying you'd help me?"
Unimpressed eyebrows raised as the beast-turned-man looked at Naruto's outstretched arm. "It appears you didn't even realise I removed that drug IV. You should have all the strength you need as you are to break out."
"You did what?" Looking at his arm, Naruto was shocked to see the needle indeed gone and the bag with the green liquid squashed on the floor. "Oh… you did."
Tensing, he found himself able to rip straight through the shackles and he dropped to the floor. Looking around, he spotted his jacket and shirt tossed into a corner haphazardly. Walking over, he dusted it off and pulled them on. Looking back over at Kyuubi, he saw the beast inspecting his nails nonchalantly. Unsure what to do, Naruto cautiously made his way back over. "Why… why'd you do that for me?"
An unamused eyebrow rose again and Kyuubi turned his back to the teen. "And what, have you sit here under the castle as it explodes and buries us both? I think not."
That triggered a memory and Naruto let out a growl. "Damn it! That's right, all the clones I had prepped to go dispelled when Laxus knocked me out. I gotta work out a way to fix this. The guards would all be going mental right now, there's no way I'll be able to get back in to detonate everything."
"Oh?" Looking over, there was almost something… hopeful in his voice. Naruto picked up on it immediately. He almost shut the Kyuubi down but then bit his tongue as an idea formed. The Kyuubi had helped him here, not to mention the way he saved him from being sucked up into the lacrima crystal when they first arrived. To be fair, the Kyuubi had done quite a lot for him since they'd arrived. Sure, it was all claimed to be in the interests of self-preservation, but still.
Locking eyes with the beast, Naruto nodded imperceptibly. "I… I think I owe you a thank you. You've helped me a lot since we arrived here."
"PFFT! Like I care for your thanks!" came the growled response.
Having his gratitude thrown back in his face so carelessly, Naruto grit his teeth, but pushed on. "I'm being serious here. And… I think I have a way I can show you that."
There was a huff as Kyuubi was about to bite back a response. Absorbing what was said though, he simply looked at the blond and motioned for him to continue. "Well, I need the tags set off. They're unstable enough that either a good injection of charka or an explosion will trigger them. The suggestion I have is would you rather do it?"
Sagging in discontent, a scowl developed. "What, and just be a glorified labourer for you? The mighty Kyuubi is NO SUCH THING!"
Holding his hands up disarmingly, Naruto shook his head. "No, not at all! Rather, I want this thing levelled." A dangerous growl shook Naruto's throat. "For everything that bastard king did to the guild and especially for Knightwalker killing the Master, I want this place turned to molten sludge. The best I could do is blow it apart. You though, you could nearly atomise this castle, couldn't you?"
The Kyuubi pursed his lips as he regarded Naruto with an approving eye. "I know you're buttering me up, but at the same time, you are correct. It would be difficult with this level of power, but given enough time I could."
Naruto nodded and looked at the ground. "Now, I don't want to kill everyone in here, but I do want this place destroyed so no one has to go through anything like what I saw in the dungeons ever again. My thanks to you would be simply letting you loose on it."
"And what's stopping me from turning on the whole city?"
Naruto crossed his arms as he explained. "You said it yourself. You've got a few hours at best in that body. Enough to rip this castle to shreds, but not enough time to get out and do much more damage than that. Either you waste away to nothingness… or you get to let some frustration go for a change."
Eyes narrowing as he considered the offer, the Kyuubi let out a deep rumble as he mulled it over. Finally nodding, he clipped out, "You have yourself a deal. It will take me a while to gather the energy to do what I wish. I suggest you use this time to go and make sure anyone left in the castle gets out," A wicked grin stretched over the fox's face "because I promise you, there won't be even a pebble left."
Naruto swallowed and wondered if this really was a smart move. "How long do I have?"
"An hour or two, give or take. You'll know when I'm ready by the signal."
"What will that be?"
Kyuubi let out a deep laugh. "The foundations of this place glowing red."
Small dark balls of energy began appearing around them as the Kyuubi settled himself down on the floor. Holding his hands out, he began drawing them in and collecting them in his body. "You best hurry now, tick tock, time's wasting."
Taking a step back as an extremely satisfied grin settled over the Kyuubi, Naruto frowned as he looked at the creature. What was done was done though. He wasn't about to go back on his word now and he had very little time to play with. Shaking his head, he turned and dashed for the doorway.
Currently in disguise, Naruto was running up the city streets desperately trying to avoid the swarms of people and guards. It was absolute mayhem, people were screaming and shouting with guards screaming and shouting in reply. Lines were trying to be held, crowds were pushing through, new lines were erected to push them back; Naruto had never seen anything like it since arriving in either world. He'd definitely wasted far too long in that science lab with Laxus, maybe half a day, but that shouldn't account for the bedlam happening.
Chaos reigned supreme as chanting and fights broke out all around him. Ducking under one brawl, Naruto pulled himself up against a shop wall and surveyed the street incredulously. 'What the hell is happening? What went on while Laxus had me captive?'
He wished he could get a reading on where his guild mates were, but the time required to get set up into Senjutsu was impractical. There were plenty of explosions happening around the castle so he could only guess that's where they were, but for what reason and who they were fighting he had no idea. Pushing past another angry citizen, Naruto wound his way around a corner and tried to make his way towards the castle. A black afro off to his left caught his sharp eye though. Immediately foregoing stealth, the teen jumped onto the wall of the building and dashed towards his target. Ignoring all screams of shock and demands to stop, Naruto reached out and snatched his fingers around a thick collar. Disregarding the scream of shock from edo-Gajeel, the ninja blazed a new course up the side of the building and disappeared from view.
Reaching a flat section of the rood, he gently put Gajeel down. Naruto then sat down and patiently waited for the deep, hyperventilating breaths to calm. "I am really sorry for that, but I saw you and just had to get us away from everything."
"Where have you been?" Between the heaving breaths, Gajeel was still able to hysterically wrap his fingers around Naruto's jacket and give him a good shake. "Couldn't you at least hear everything?"
"Woah, I'm sorry, I'm sorry! That's a… bit of a long story. But I'm back! Can you tell me what happened? Why is the city in uproar?" Apologising earnestly, Naruto unwound the fingers from his clothes and pushed them back.
Fingers gripped into shaking fists for a moment before the pierced man took one particularly long, deep breath and exhaled slowly. Repeating, the tremours gradually slowed and finally stopped. Still, a final shaking breath was let out as Gajeel wiped a hand over his face. "I really wish you'd given me a warning about that. I do not do well with heights."
Settling himself down as central as possible on the roof, Gajeel let out one final breath and surveyed the city. "So what happened with you? You just arrive with your guild mates and then you just pass out and vanish? What on earth happened?"
Grinding his teeth, Naruto thought back to the revelation and all he had dealt with at the hands of his interdimensional brother. "Well, it wouldn't be too much of a stretch to say I was kidnapped and drugged for my abilities. When I was knocked out I lost control over every one of my clones so that's why I disappeared. Someone wanted my abilities specifically, not just the blue crystal I could have been."
The blood drained from Gajeel's face as he inquired, "You mean they were trying to steal your magic? Like, with a transfer or something?"
The teen nodded. "Yeah, a more advanced Anima actually. Specifically designed in mind of transferring abilities between people."
"That… that is horrible! You survived at least, what happened? How did you escape?"
"I… uh…" Naruto looked around as he hunted for a suitable excuse, "the machine blew up. My magic, well, it's very unique, even in Earthland. It couldn't cope with it and so while the guys were distracted by it, I managed to break free and escape."
"Ok good, very good," came the worried reply. Gajeel leaned forward though and locked eyes with the blond. "But how are YOU? How do you feel? Do you think you're in shock? You seem strangely calm about this."
"Oh!" To this Naruto shot him the most beaming smile he could muster. "Don't worry about me, I'm the toughest badass this side of Earthland. It'd take more than that to bring me down!"
Eyes narrowing in suspicion, Gajeel pried once more, "Are you sure about this? You sure you're ok?"
Naruto gave him the firmest nod possible. "I'll let you in on a secret, I'm not your average mage, not by a long shot. I went through some very specialised training from a very young age. It involved kidnapping and abuse training as I got older too. It was the worst part, but it had its place for a reason." He chuckled. "I'm probably not fully ok, but that just comes with the job. So I'm as fine as I can be, I promise."
Gajeel's eyebrows were wrinkled together in shock but there really wasn't much he could say. He sat there awkwardly as Naruto took charge. "So I explained me. Time for you to explain all this. What's going on with the city? Why has everything gone mental?"
"Right, right." Shaking his head clear, the tall man tried to collect his thoughts. "Uh, so it started right about when you were kidnapped. The castle seemed to light up as we ran outside to chase Lucy and Natsu. There was distant shouting and an alarm sounded not long after."
Naruto winced. He knew all his clones disappearing would have had that effect. Gajeel noticed. "Would your clones disappearing happen to have anything to do with that?"
Naruto nodded and scratched his neck. "Yeah, I kinda infiltrated the guards. That's how I snuck Natsu and them out."
Gajeel's eyes widened. He looked like he wanted to ask more questions, but continued never the less. "Realising there was an opportunity to exploit if things were going, we kicked off our plan early. It was actually on the way there that I discovered that the lacrima in the main square was only a fragment of the larger crystal! A tip off from an informant reached me, apparently the main crystal is above us, suspended amongst the celestial bodies!"
Naruto sucked in a breath as Gajeel pressed on. "That changed things up as you can imagine. Wendy, Charla, Natsu and Happy immediately took flight to try and find it while I and my counterpart continued as planned. Obviously the guards were in a state of disarray thanks to you, so we were able to break through them and strike the lacrima. Apparently this 'Dragon Slayer' magic Gajeel contains has the capacity to revert the crystal back to its original form!"
Naruto's ears perked up at this. "So what, you mean it turned back into a house or something?"
Gajeel shook his head fervently, "No, it turned back into two people! One must have been Erza Knightwalker's double as she was a perfect mirror image of her! The other was a topless man with slanted eyes and dark, shaggy hair. Would you happen to know them?"
Naruto let out a bark of laughter in surprise. "Yeah, absolutely! That's Erza Scarlett and Grey Fullbuster, both mages of Fairy Tail! That's amazing!"
"And amazing they are," gushed Gajeel breathlessly. "All my esteemed counterpart had to do was shout and the three of them laid waste to all the guards in a matter of seconds! In all my days I've never seen anything like the mastery they displayed over their magic and I doubt I'll ever see it again! I shall never forget that moment for as long I live!"
Naruto chuckled at the thought. "You're not wrong. They are a tough bunch."
Gajeel nodded heartily in agreement as he persisted. "Indeed! From there, that was when the crowd erupted. Obviously there was enough noise to draw the early risers and they saw what happened. It split the consensus, one half outraged that the lacrima was made of living people and the other half furious that their power source was destroyed. Crowds have rapidly gathered since then and I doubt even a third of them know the true reason for the riot. Fear and anger are both incredible motivators though and so the rabble have persevered even until now."
The noise below them hadn't dimmed at all in the time they had been talking. Muffled yes, but powerfully consistent. A people in tumult was a powerful force indeed.
Pressing on, Naruto then urged, "So what happened from there? Where's those three now?"
"Four, as Lucy joined them. They went looking for you." Gajeel smiled serenely. "You really have an incredibly loyal group of friends. It truly is a precious connection you have with them."
That caused Naruto to pause. A melancholy look washed over his face as he looked at the ground. Since that reality shaking revelation from Laxus, he felt that attachment to them even more. "Yeah… yeah I do. I've chased this sort of connection my whole life. I treasure it more than my own life. I love them."
A large hand was laid on Naruto's shoulder and he looked back up to gentle eyes. "And you are blessed so much for it. I'm thrilled for you."
"Heh heh, yeah, thanks." The thought of his friends almost made him mist up. That they immediately charged off to try save him made his heart swell in pride and gratitude. "So where did they go? I'd love to surprise them!"
Leaning back, the older man turned his head to the centre of the city. "Why, the castle. They correctly guessed that all the commotion was your fault. They took off back then and I haven't seen them since."
Gajeel's laughter barely registered as the blood drained from Naruto's face. How long had it been since he'd escaped? Half an hour? An hour?
"What? What is it?" Looking up as panic started filling his chest, Naruto sprung to his feet and generated a clone. Ignoring Gajeel's startled cry, the teen bit out, "I really, really have to go they are in SO much danger right now! The clone will get you home!" Diving off the edge of the building, a roaring blaze of chakra enveloped him and he shot off like a bullet towards the enormous structure.
Wind whipped at his hair and clothes as he reached it in record time. He crashed through a window into a wide room, crossing his fingers as he reached the floor.
"Taju Kage Bunshin No Jutsu (Mass Shadow Clone Technique)!"
Filling the room to bursting with clones, the mass scattered out every available door and deep into the castle. Immediately guards began smashing through windows and into floating arms as the clones ran rampant throughout the halls. The tandem effort of throw and catch cleared floors in a matter of seconds as the sparse number of guards on duty were evicted.
Naruto himself headed for the nearest staircase and launched himself down it. His objective was the dungeon to hopefully stop any of the four mages from seeing the horrors it held. He'd intentionally crashed as close to it as possible. Literally blowing a huge metal door off its hinges as he barrelled through it, the teen skidded around a corner and saw a flash of red.
Sprinting down the hall, he reached the corner just as said lady poked her head back from around the corner. The two crashed into one another and smashed into the wall behind them. Gasping for air, Erza choked out, "N – Naruto! What on earth are you doing? Where were you?"
"I'm not even kidding there is literally no time to waste," came Naruto's frantic reply, "did anyone else go down those stairs yet?"
Urgency washing over her, Erza shook her head. "No, only I. Why, what is down there?"
Grinding teeth reached her ears and her eyes widened as Naruto grimaced deeply. "Nothing you should have to see. In any case, you need to get out of here now. The castle is about to be vaporised!"
"What? How?" Erza replied incredulously. "How soon must I leave? If I was to run, it would take me at least ten minutes."
A harrowing chorus of Naruto's voices then began rising in the distance. While muted, there was still no missing it. "The foundations are glowing red!"
Hissing, the blond gripped Erza's breastplate tightly. "I'm really sorry for this."
The red head didn't even get a chance to ask what for as Naruto picked her up and ran at a window. The girl let out a shrill scream as Naruto's body smashed through it and dragged them both out and over open space.
Spinning around once, Naruto catapulted the knight into the air and into the waiting arms of a clone. The throw was so forceful the first clone exploded upon impact and a second had to scramble to catch her. Immediately the clone erupted with wind chakra and blasted away from the castle at breakneck speed.
Likewise, another two clones rocketed away with two larger bodies. Grey and Gajeel. That left Lucy. At that moment, a dispelled clone's memory hit him. She hadn't been found yet. Glancing at the foundations, they were indeed starting to glow with a dangerous colour.
Sucking on his teeth in frustration, Naruto wracked his brains as he dived back into the castle. "Where could she be? The clones would have checked nearly everywhere by now!"
Looking left and right when he came to a T junction, he scrunched his eyes up in concentration. "Why wouldn't she be up here? Where could she be? Somewhere only she knows? Wait!"
Immediately Naruto turned and dived back out of the castle and dropped like a stone towards the ground. "I bet the silly girl went back down to where she was apprehended by me when I was Knightwalker! No one else knew of that place!"
Zig-zagging through the columns of the castle, Naruto smashed through the cellar door and came face to face with a shocked blond face. "Naruto!" she exclaimed with a squeal, "What on earth are you doing! That scared the life out of me!"
Completely ignoring her as he watched the ground turn red, Naruto said nothing as he picked up the indignant girl over his shoulder and launched himself back up the stairs. A deep rumbling started shaking the footings and Naruto's acute hearing could pick up the manic laughter of the fox somewhere deep below. 'Faster, FASTER, FASTER!'
Holding a hand outstretched, an enormous Rasengan exploded to life and began chewing the walls to pieces as he ran through. Finally breaking out into sunlight, Naruto propelled himself into the sky with a chakra boosted jump as deadly beams of light started streaking out from around him. Lucy was howling in fear over his shoulder as he glanced back down at the shuddering footings. It was then he realised he wasn't going to make it. Seeing some clones off at a safe distance, he wrapped a hand around Lucy's delicate ankle and hurled her at them.
It was just in time too as the footings disintegrated under the Bijudama (Tailed Beast Ball). Watching the light engulf the tower, Naruto crossed his arms over his face and internally dove for the only power he could that may have a chance of saving him. A blistering gold cloak immediately drenched his form as the edge of the attack swallowed him.
A unanimous scream of fear and awe went up from the whole city as their beloved tower was disintegrated before their very eyes. The laser focused eruption tore chunks off the walls and dissolved them like sugar in water as a surging earthquake rocked the metropolis. People screamed and dashed for cover as roof tiles were shaken loose while windows shattered and doors slammed open and close.
The beam of light shot up and up, further and further into the sky, knocking various sky islands out of their orbit and into one another with rumbling booms. Over all of this, a distant, piercing, animalistic roar carried far and wide, filling the entire population with a foreboding sense of doom. Coupled with the fear of the unknown, a stampede broke out as thousands rushed for the city exits.
Down on a balcony with the Fairy Tail guild, they all stared up at the spectacle with gobsmacked expressions, the reality of just how close they'd come to their deaths washing over them. If it hadn't been for Naruto's frantic rescue efforts they'd be not much more than puffs of dust.
Lucy was taking it particularly badly as she'd watched Naruto get swallowed up by the light. All the clones had charged back into the mix to save whoever they could from being trampled, so they couldn't even ask them if he was ok. Tears ran down her cheeks as the others tried to comfort her. "B – But I saw him disappear into that! There's no way he could survive that! Tell me it's not true Erza! Tell me he's ok!"
Holding her head to her chest, the older girl worried her bottom lip with her teeth as she surveyed the damage. It wasn't a stretch to say literally nothing was escaping that blast. Whatever it was, it was blindingly powerful, easily on par with the Magic Council's Etherion. Erza sincerely wished she could confidently say Naruto was ok, but in the face of this sort of destruction she could not say.
That damned feeling of unease was getting to them all too, their skin tingling as if an unannounced enemy was about to pounce on them. They banded together, finding comfort in one another, Grey and Gajeel taking point as Erza covered Lucy. "Keep your eyes peeled. Whatever this is clearly is no friend. Be ready for anything."
Grunting affirmatively to the instruction, the men readied themselves as the masses below them dwindled. Peering up at the now easing light, Gajeel's superb eyesight caught a speck of something a long way up. Squinting, the iron mage snapped his fingers. "I see something. Stay sharp."
The group tensed as the speck gradually became clear enough for even those without Dragon Slayer vision to see. They all held their breath as it lowered, a glowing gold starting to shimmer around it. Grey held his hands together as he began charging magic, his face darkening. "If I can get a clean hit in first, we may be able to escape."
"No, don't attack him!" A hand slapped down on Grey's arm and pulled him back.
The group gasped as a whole at the surprise. "Naruto!"
Shaking his head, the blond pointed at the sky. "Nah, I'm a clone. THAT is Naruto!"
Still a way away, he was low enough now that everyone could make out his features. Feral, wild and totally untameable, a bubbling shroud of gold consumed him with what looked like 3 swaying tails fanned out behind him. He cast a cutting light from his body, the power literally rippling the air around him. Brilliant red eyes surveyed the city beneath him before turning back to the last of the light firing up from the hole that was once the castle.
"Guys, what the hell is that?" Turning, the group looked up as Natsu and Wendy drew near, both they and their cats sweating profusely while keeping their eyes trained on the golden spectacle.
"Natsu, I don't like it, it makes my tummy feel funny," Happy complained as he curled up in his lap. Stroking the blue cats' head affectionately, the fiery teen nodded in agreement. "Me either little buddy. I don't like it at all."
Wendy caught Charla in her arms as they alighted on the balcony with everyone. "Wh – what is that thing? It looks like Naruto, but at the same time it feels nothing like him!"
The clone perked up and caught everyone's attention. Its face was grim as it explained, "You all know about the boss' captive so that's the first half of it explained. What you're seeing there is the three tailed shroud. Basically it means that he's using three tails worth of power out of nine. I've only ever used it intentionally once before and let me say that it was a bad decision."
Grey snorted. "No joke, it feels like a horrible decision. What on earth gave you the smart idea to use it?"
The clone caught his eye. "As I'm sure you're aware, the boss was caught up in that blast. Normally we have Senjutsu we can use to fortify ourselves but there was literally no time. The fox might be a bastard, but he's a powerful bastard, so the boss did the only thing he could."
Flicking a hesitant eye from the man in the sky to the blond beside them, Wendy swallowed and ventured softly, "Well… if he's like that, why aren't you? Since… you're him?"
That made everyone sit up a bit straighter. Sighing uncomfortably, the clone scratched its head in confusion. "I really don't know. I feel like I'm super close to working out why things have been a bit whacky with it as of late but I'm not quite there. In any case, last time this happened by accident all us clones dispelled. The fact I'm still here says something pretty drastic has changed. I just wish I knew what."
The oppressive weight then hung down on them as they fell silent, all wondering what was going to come next.
A steaming exhaled breath seeped from his thickened lips as the power rolled around him. The world was sharp; clear; focused as he looked around. Every hair on his body was stood on end as the golden energy seeped in and out of his pores. The temptation was so great to give in and just let go, to succumb to the intoxicating strength on offer and never come back.
He just hung there in the sky, breathing it in for the moment. It had been so long since he could remember feeling like this. Against Pein he had been totally unconscious. Right now though, he was very much aware and able to enjoy it. It was an honest gift he'd been able to draw out this much that fast. The fact both the attack and the shroud were of the same origin probably helped because even with the golden cloak protecting him, he really hadn't been expecting to weather the blast so well. All that had happened was it knocked him several kilometres into the air before he was able to escape the vicious riptide of energy.
Now hovering over the courtyard near the hole in the ground that was once the castle, Naruto reached out to see if he could feel if the fox had survived that. Feeling nothing, he briefly ducked internally to stand before the fox.
Grinning widely, the mammoth creature's eyebrows rose as he took in the form. "Well then, isn't that a magnificent sight. You are beautifully clothed in my chakra. Have you come for more? It is all available to you, as much as you'd like."
Taking a long, slow breath, Naruto gently shook his head and whispered with a gravelly voice, "Not this time fox. I just wanted to confirm that portion of you in Laxus has returned?"
Chuckling, the beast sat back on its haunches. "Yes, I'm all back here. I poured everything I had into that. If I was to liken it to anything, it was like I was finally able to stand up straight and stretch after several decades of being stooped over. It was bliss. You wouldn't happen to be able to let me do that again?"
"Not any time soon, so don't hold your breath. I'll be leaving now."
The image of its captor then flickered out of view, gold cloak and all. With Naruto now gone, the fox's brow furrowed and long fingers cupped its chin in confusion. "Why did he seem to be in so much control? He's usually on the edge of giving in to blood lust by tale three. This is strange indeed."
Unaware of the quiet conversation, Naruto came back with a sigh. That was good to know that everything was back tucked in where it was meant to be. He'd seen his team mates below and was relieved to know they'd all escaped safely. Just as he was about to move towards them, a disturbance within the magic field suddenly caught his attention. Snapping his head around, he keyed in on an obscure hill behind the castle.
To the Fairy Tail guild watching, Naruto then vanished from sight with nothing more than a slight twitch.
"My Prince, you may want to hurry up. I can feel something coming."
The blue haired native to Edolas looked up from the controls at the deep warning. "Why, what's coming?"
There was a nervous swallow as an oppressive weight bore down on them. "It's here."
The soft tell-tale tapping of footsteps caused both men to peer into the darkness apprehensively. The deep cave in the mountain was a great hiding place, but it didn't offer much in the way of visibility. The twisting pathways behind the doorway at the end of the room were meant to confuse any illegal entries. Unfortunately, that helped cut line of sight even further. Whatever it was that was coming though felt incredibly dangerous and very firm in its direction towards them. A gold glow illuminated the figure as he walked, signifying his presence well before he would have been seen otherwise.
Swallowing again, the guard lowered his spear and called out, "Halt! Whoever you are, don't take another step!"
There was a burst of movement and the spear was wrenched from his grip as a fist was firmly planted in his solar plexus. Blowing back, he had to be caught by his companion else risk falling off the steep edge behind them.
"Panther Lily, what are you doing here with Mystogan?"
Stiffening at the sound of his name, the giant panther looked up as he held his chest. "Who are you? How do you know my name?"
A pounding weight bore down on him even further as the figure stepped forward. "Oh I know who you are. We fought once already. Surely that should give you a hint."
It wasn't the cat that replied though as the Prince of Edolas gasped in recognition. "Naruto? Is that you? What… what happened to you?"
He shrugged as his eyes continued to burn a hole in Panther Lily. "Nothing that concerns this guy."
Shrinking back from the glowing teen, both men started sweating under the shear pressure forced upon them. Struggling to breathe, Mystogan bit out, "Naruto, what are you doing to us? Wh… why are you attacking us?"
"Oh, I don't know, maybe because THIS ONE is in leagues with the spiteful bitch who killed the Fairy Tail guild master?"
Mystogan sucked in a sharp breath as Panther Lily's eyes widened in realisation. Struggling to push himself upright, the blue haired man stepped over his large companion and held his arms out. "Naruto, you've got it wrong, Panther Lily didn't have anything to do with that!"
The weight on him felt like it doubled. "How could he not have anything to do with that? He worked in the same ranks as Knightwalker. He was a captain, just like her. Why didn't you go down and save the guild members hmm? You were perfectly happy turning a blind eye to their death?"
Gritting his teeth, Mystogan tried to reply but felt a strong fist clamp around his ankle. Looking down, he saw the big cat with his jaw clenched and his eyes downcast. "It was because I was afraid. I… I was a coward. I couldn't bring myself to go down and see what horrible things they were doing to them. Their screams… they haunted me."
Naruto stepped closer. "So you mean to tell me you even heard them, yet refused to do anything about it?"
Collapsing under the blood lust, Panther Lily gasped for breath as tears began running from his eyes. "I… I did… I couldn't have done anything… anything without anyone seeing… but I was working with My Prince to… to shut down the Anima… it was my way of trying to fix things."
Jumping to his defence, Mystogan took a step forward. "He's been my aid this side of the dimensions! He's been helping me for years… isn't that enough? Even now, we're using the reverse Anima to send all the magic back to Earthland!"
That gave Naruto pause. "All of it? As in, none left here?"
Shaking a sweaty head, Mystogan confirmed it. "Nothing. My father was using it to control and bottleneck all magic in Edolas. There's no telling if someone won't try it again, so it's best if we simply do without. Look, I'll show you!"
Turning, Mystogan pointed to the control panel behind them that was glowing as a steady stream of light rose up from the deep cavern behind it. The text '72%' read on the screen. "That indicates how much magic there is left to funnel out of Edolas!
The pressure eased off them both slightly as the glowing blond considered them. "And what happens to the Fairy Tail guild of Earthland? The crystal they're caught up in? These cats who can use magic?"
Feeling a chip in the defence, Mystogan went all in. "They all get sent home. Even now, that huge lacrima in the sky has been returned. Now it's just about sending all the residual magic over. You can feel it happening, can't you?"
Indeed he could. That strange feeling he's originally noticed now felt like a magical whirlwind, pulling and sucking everything up into the sky and away, back to Earthland. Even now, Panther Lily was starting to glow slightly as his body began to break down and flow skyward. Kneeling down before the cat, Naruto frowned and snapped his fingers to make Lily look up. "So you did all this for the sake of Earthland?"
Struggling to pull himself up, Lily sat down on his heels with his hands on his knees. "I did it firstly for My Price Jellal. I did it secondly to try and atone for my sins." He then dropped his head and exposed his neck. "However, I don't believe even this is enough. If you demand it, you may have my life as payment for the guild master."
"LILY!" Mystogan all but dove over his friend to defend him. "I refuse! You did your best, no one could blame you!"
A gentle flick from Naruto knocked the prince off and he used a finger to raise Panther Lily's head. Stern eyes bore into the terrified eyes of the cat and he spoke. "I don't know if you deserve death. That's not my place to judge, rather it's the Fairy Tail guild's right." He took a breath. "However, if you're heading over to Earthland for the rest of time, then you miss out on facing their judgement. Instead of facing your death, you should live. Our guild master is still alive. If you spend your life working for him and his cause, I think that should be penance enough. What do you think, Prince?"
Panther Lily let out a gasp and turned to look at his Sire. A deeply relieved smile was stretched across his face, all but confirming what Naruto said. "That's a fantastic idea. Thank you so much Naruto, thank you!"
Turning to look back at the glowing teen, Lily was shocked to see a gentle smile on his face as well. "Yeah, I think that's just fine. No one else should die. You've got a lot to make up for, but you've got the opportunity to do it right a second time around. What do you say?"
Clenching his eyes shut tight, tears began running down his snout as he balled his fists in his pants. "Yes, yes I think that's a wonderful idea. I'll see you over there soon."
With that, he exploded into an uncountable number of golden orbs and they all rushed towards the roof as they followed the powerful stream of the reverse anima.
Watching him leave, both Naruto and the Prince sighed as the magic stream continued. Finally looking back down at one another, Mystogan was surprised to see Naruto had stopped glowing and was back to looking normal. "So what was that? That was the fox I assume? It felt positively dreadful!"
Nodding slowly, Naruto opened and closed his hands as he considered the change. While his mood was definitely darker, for the first time ever, he had not lost control. Even being in the most volatile of his coherent states, the three tailed cloak hadn't managed to tip him over. It was a perplexing, but most welcome development. "Yeah, it was. I rarely use anything even close to that amount as it's difficult to control."
Laughing nervously as the last of the blood lust faded away, Mystogan rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "You're telling me. It felt like we were both going to die here, especially Lily."
"Oh don't get me wrong, I wanted to kick his ass so bad for what I saw in that dungeon. Even now, I'm this close to going and finding your father and beating him to within an inch of his life. If it wasn't for you jumping over him, he probably would have caught a pounding." Relaxing with a frustrated sigh, Naruto tussled his hair as he continued. "Watching him grieve like that though, what am I meant to do? Kick his ass even though he knows he did wrong? That wouldn't solve anything. I'm just happy he has a chance to make up for his mistakes. That's a very rare gift."
Nodding sadly, Mystogan looked at his feet. "Indeed he does. I just wish I could be there to see it. As it stands though, this will be the last time anyone is able to move back and forward across our dimensions unless someone from your side builds something. In a few more minutes, there will be nothing left and that'll be it." He then hesitated, biting his lip as if choosing to reveal a secret or not. Glancing at the teen before him, Mystogan set his face and ventured, "To tell you the truth, I'm terrified. How are we going to manage without it? What is a world without magic?"
A hand clapped his shoulder and he looked up to meet a confident set of blue eyes. "The world without magic is still your world. You still have your friends and connections here. You'll manage. There's always a way forward, there's just gotta be someone to lead the way. You're the prince! You'll just have to step up and lead them. I mean, I think you're still the prince? Did you get your dad out?"
Chuckling, Mystogan nodded. "Yeah I got him out. The castle…?"
"Absolutely decimated. No one will ever die in that accursed place again."
"Yeah, of course." Mystogan looked down with a melancholy smile. "I may have hated it, but it was still my home."
A hand then came into vision, outstretched and welcoming. "Well, you better just build it back up bigger and better than before."
Looking up, Naruto had a firmly assuring smile stretched across his face. Looking back down at the hand, Mystogan chuckled and grasped it. "Yes, I think I will. It has been a pleasure getting to meet you Naruto. I wish you all the best in getting home, both to Earthland and to your original dimension."
"I don't need no luck, but I'll accept it all the same. You take care of yourself. I know you'll make a great King when you take the throne."
They both chuckled and shook hands in their final farewell. The moments stretched on as they held one another's hands, weathered veterans each in their own right.
"So when am I meant to start glowing?"
Breaking the serious moment, Naruto looked down at himself and patted his chest. "Panther Lily all up and disappeared a while ago now, is that the same thing that'll happen to me?"
Chuckling, Mystogan shook his head. "You are such a character. I'm sure it's nothing important. You may want to go and check on Natsu and the rest to make sure they're leaving too. Maybe explain what's happening so they don't panic too much too."
Naruto let out a bark of laughter. "I bet Natsu is going right off his head! That's a wasp nest I definitely need to go and poke. I'll tell him the world's collapsing or something."
Stepping back with a bright smile, the ninja bowed his head in respect to the man before him. "It's been a real treat getting to know you. You will do great things here, I don't doubt it for a second! Trust your heart which has brought you this far, it'll take you up the right path."
Humming softly, Mystogan nodded once. "And it's been a pleasure meeting you Naruto. May good fortune always guide your footsteps."
Naruto smashed a fist into his palm. "You know it will! Take care Mysty!"
With that, the blond turned, took two big steps and launched himself up and out of the cave.
"WAH, NATSU, I'M VANISHING! WHAT DID I DO TO DESERVE THIS? I'M TOO CUTE TO DIE!"
With that final declaration screamed, Happy erupted into a golden ball and slowly drifted towards the sky. The rest of the guild were equally stressed as they were all in varying states of dismemberment. Hearing a call, they all turned as much as they could to see Naruto jogging over with a wave. "Hey everyone! I see you're all about meet your maker?"
With a screech of rage, Natsu tried to lash out and grab something as his hands popped into nothingness and drifted away. "I'll never lose to this! I swear I'll win! Just watch me, I'll be back –"
He promptly disappeared in a shower of light and magic. Chuckling as the stressed mage took towards the sky, Naruto waved his hands disarmingly as the last of the mages shouted at him anxiously. "No, no, it's totally ok! We're just all getting sent back to Earthland. Mystogan sorted it out for us!"
"Mystogan did?" Lucy exclaimed. "Whatever, that's not what we're worried about, we are worried about you!"
Naruto paused dumbly. "What?"
Attempting to whack him over the head, Grey growled as his hand passed through his body. "You're not turning into magic like the rest of us you idiot!"
A cold sweat broke out over Naruto's forehead as he tried to grin it away. "Oh, I'm sure it's coming? I mean, you guys are still here!"
This time Erza took over, worry clear in her voice. "No, something is definitely wrong. Wendy, Natsu and Gajeel have all left along with the cats, I can only hypothesise that's because they're very magic dense due to their Dragon Slayer magic. We will nearly be gone too, so why haven't you?"
"I… uh…" Naruto stumbled around for an answer, fear beginning to blossom in his chest. "I'm just a late bloomer?"
Grabbing his cheeks as best as she could with her glowing hands, Lucy stared into his eyes. "How did you get here? Remember back to when you were sucked over! Whatever happened then, recreate it!"
She then exploded into a mass of magic particles and began drifting away.
"Come on you dunce, think! I can't kick your ass like this so –" Grey then exploded into magic particles as well to begin his trip home.
Eyes widening in fear, Naruto turned to see Erza try to say something but vanish as well, leaving him completely alone.
'Oh no, oh no, oh no! Think Naruto, THINK! What happened? What was it?' Wracking his brains, the blond thumped his fists against his temple as he tried to remember every detail.
Tracing his movements back, he remembered seeing the Anima in the sky, then Wendy, then running back from Natsu, then getting into Senjutsu, then…
"BOOM, that's it!"
Naruto was not naturally a magical creature. He did not carry any magic within him. As far as magic was concerned, he was just another Edolas resident. Chakra was internally produced, so the only time he was 'truly' magical was when he was in Senjutsu.
Desperately settling himself down, he tried to compose himself enough to feel out the magic in the air to engage, but it was just too sparse. There was maybe only a few hundred particles worth of magic left that he could feel and even they were disappearing fast.
"Damn it, damn it, damn it what do I do?"
Fumbling around his body, he hands wrapped around a scroll and a memory hit him like a lightning bolt. He'd sealed two clones into the scroll and had been planning on pranking Laxus with them later. Dragging it out, he nearly dropped the damn thing in his haste as he stretched it out on the ground.
"Come on, PLEASE work!" Slapping his palm to the first matrix, he channelled his chakra into it and an explosion went off. Sadly though, nothing but a wisp of chakra remained of the clone which rapidly faded.
Sweating bullets, Naruto filled his hand full of chakra and raised it high over his head. "If this works, I am the luckiest ninja to ever have existed."
Slamming his hand down on the second one, an explosion went off and he was knocked back by the sudden appearance of a body. Opening its eyes slowly, the clone looked around in bewilderment. "Damn, you sure cut that one close. I felt the other guy losing energy steadily. If you hadn't released me now, I'd have been gone too!"
Not even bothering to reply, Naruto crossed his fingers and screamed, "KAI (RELEASE)!" and immediately felt the natural energy fill his being.
Not a second later, his whole body lit up in a beautiful gold and exploded into magical orbs.
A/N - well then, hello again. Lanky Nathan here checking in for the yearly report. Hello to all newcomers too! I never expected this old fic to get injected with a new breath of life the way it did, but we can all thank a certain YouTuber by the name of Rogue Fiction for doing a live read of my story! How cool is that? He did a great job of it, so if you haven't seen it yet, go relive the glory days of A New World as read by Rogue.
Well, it's been a ride to try and get this story up. I had about 50% of the story completed, but then I had to get my tower repaired and all my work got wiped. Motivation immediately = -10 and I sat in a funk over that for a couple of months. Even now, I don't feel like the first half of the story was written as well as I'd managed first time around. Oh well, the joys of technology.
Now, I must announce a MASSIVE milestone I achieved as of last chapter by clearing 5000 reviews. 5000 freaking reviews guys! Can you believe it?! Every single one of you deserve a big old hug from me for helping me reach this. When I started this story waaaay back in the day, I had no idea this would ever get so big, so thank you everyone for sticking it out with me.
This year also marks the 10 year anniversary of A New World! This was first published on March the 2nd, 2012. Never would I have guessed that at 34 I'd still be slaving away at this thing trying to finish it. There are kids reading on this site that are younger than this story. Like, what the hell, that's crazy.
As it stands, we will FINALLY be moving into the last arc of the story. I still have no idea how long it will take me to wrap it up, but that annoying bird in the back of my head still chirps that it's not done so I'll keep plodding along until such a time I can set this to 'complete'.
Hopefully there won't be any further computer glitches to suck my motivation away!
Here's to the next 10 years and another 5000 reviews.
Take care everyone!