A/N: Just got into claymore recently. Clare is quite the complex character and honestly? The yoma scare the bloody hell out of me! My Fairy Tail Yukino idea (oneshot) is next by the way, as is Kagura! Look forward to 'em! As a note, this will be a short story, comprising of only two or three chapters. Hope you like it and I apologize for any OOC!
"If you're a monster...then that makes me a demon. Perfect match, right?"
Clare was knee deep in gore and she was loving every minute of it. She was also scared out of her own mind. Terrified, really. Terrified by just how much she was enjoying it, the thrill of the hunt, of the slaughter. Careful. Even as she told herself this, Clare reveled in it. She'd yet to face an awakened one, not yet, but facing down a horde of yoma was the next best thing.
She tore through the yoma, piece by bloody piece. Not always with her sword; her fingers stained with blood; the pale digits bleached red. She was teetering at the abyss, her yoki surging upwards to the sixty-percent mark. Any higher and she risked the point of no return. And yet she couldn't stop. Not even for an instant. That was all it would take to end it; for them to end her life. But there were so many. Too many! Even striking with both sword and hand, she could not stem the tide.
One such creature rushed forward, overestimating its speed and strength. Underestimating her. Steel slammed into flesh and the latter gave way, bifurcated before the slitted half of the blade. Even halved, the claymore was still a deadly weapon. A broken weapon, but a weapon, nonetheless. Refusing to be lulled or distracted, Clare maintained her crouch, waving her claymore before her in wide sweeps, struggling to spy her foe in time to strike. Behind her, she thought she heard someone mutter under their breath, but dared not glance around to see what it might be doing. Because they were coming.
They came as one, from not one side but every side. Sound without source, movement without form, they remained unseen, pausing only long enough to lash out with clawed hands and taloned feet, before vanishing once more into the inky blackness. She felt blows, rain down upon her, glancing off the plated armor guarding her shoulders. Another flicker of movement and, and Clare swung her claymore in a low arc. With a speed seemingly impossible in so large a weapon, the massive blade sliced the air, whistling a war cry of its own. A jolt ran through Clare's shoulder as something intersected her sweep. An impossible, childish voice rose in an abortive scream and died in a liquid gurgle. Milk crimson, blood that had no business belonging to a human, spattered across the earth and she clearly heard the sodden thump of something striking the earth near her feet.
One down, she reminded herself, grimly, bringing her body to bear at the sound of another, bestial roar. Though the clouds may have reduced her visibility, and though she'd yet to catch a breath since the brawl began, even she could sense a yoma at point-blank range. Her right arm lanced out, fingers taut. A wet, squelching sound was the reply, and she knew at once she'd scored yet another kill tonight.
"Not bad." A voice called from the blackness at her back. Had she not heard the same voice minutes before, Clare might have lashed out. As it were, her hackles rose and she struggled to supress the natural urge to reply in kind. Instead she turned, offering her back to the speaker, a silent gesture of unbidden trust. The stranger known only as one Uzumaki Naruto fought alongside-not against-her bending the elements themselves to his will tearing through hordes of the creatures with his strange techniques. She sensed strangly and nothing from him; no yoki, no demon energy.
And then she saw him, clear as day, as the clouds finally surrendered to the moonlight. He was a blur; a phantasm, constantly moving, never slowing, always attacking. And if he seemed, at times, to be in two places at once, well she could attribute that to the adrenaline and yoki coursing through her veins.
Those that came near him suffered the ultimate end; their throats torn open, sundered the very instant they stepped within range of his arms. Rather than resorting to similar tactics as herself, he clutched a knife-kunai!-in either fist, the deadly daggers making short work of any yoma foolish enough to approach him. And then he dropped them. He stepped back on a sudden, pressing his palms together, shaping a strange sphere between his fingertips, molding it to his purpose, bending it to his will.
"Get down! He barked, unseeing, his attention fixated on the spiraling sphere clenched between his hands. A pair of yoma attempted to attack, to strike him down in the midst of his preparations. They dropped as one, felled by an unseen blow. She soon saw the culprit, a single tail, a veritable curtain of crimson, coiling about his form. There was but a one this time, not the previous seven. She shuddered at the memory; at the beast he'd become, how outmatched she'd been how easily he'd broken through her defenses...
...just like an awakened one.
She blinked, torn from her battle hardened haze by the sharp crack of Naruto's words.
"What are you doing, Clare!" He hissed at her, eyes flaring wide with exasperation. "Get the hell down! NOW!" Again! Again he spoke her name as if he somehow knew her! In the span of the last hour, he'd already said it thrice! Three times! How did he know her? She'd never met him before! And yet when he'd spoken to her on the cliff, he'd looked almost...kind. He reminded her of...someone long since dead. But something in Clare told her not to question him. Not here. Not now. Later, perhaps.
If they survived.
And so, Clare obeyed, throwing herself to the ground. And not a moment to soon. Naruto raised his right arm high, and swung his wrist backward, holding the sphere aloft in his right hand. A terrible shriek rang across her ears, worming its way into her very being. Clenched teeth rattled as he flung his hand forward, as though he actually planned to-oh dear. She saw it in his eyes then, saw it in his face, saw it as he planted his feet and threw his entire body into a single, dynamic movement.
And then he threw it.
Her hair blew across her face as something passed with impossible speed overhead. Clare, glimpsed nothing more than a ripple in the air itself, the faintest whisp of steam or mist wadded into a ball like so much discarded parchment. Had she not been looking right at it, indeed, expecting something very much like it, she'd never have known it was there.
The world erupted. The murky floodwater was the blood of the earth, gushing from the wound inflicted by Naruto's invisible hammer. A ferocious tide slammed into Clare again threatening to knock her from his feet and for the first time she was actually grateful for the tight grip of the muck below her feet. Mud, bits of plant matter-even a smattering of dead yoma and limbs-rained across the town, blinding Clare to anything, everything else. Her ears rang with a deafening crrrrack, follwed by a secondly enormous thump. Blood spattered her face, the surface of the earth, roiled against her legs, and even without sight the claymore knew something had happened. An equally enormous silence descended upon the village, settled upon her shoulders, drowning everything else out.
The street where she'd lain moments before was little more than a crater. Corpses lay scattered about, strewn across the road, draped over blood-soaked buildings. The town was overshadowed by a moonless sky and reeked. The stench of death and blood filled the air with a horrible pestilence and decay. Rivers of crimson vitae flowed through the underbrush in streams as they drizzled and pooled around several bodies.
Naruto stood at the center of it all, wearing the biggest, goofiest grin she'd ever seen. He straightened, and for a moment, just a moment, Clare thought his eyes were golden and yellow. Not the eyes of the yoma, mind you, the slits in his eyes ran parallel, not vertical. And was that orange eye-shadow on the lids of his eyes. She blinked and it was gone, vanished, in the blink of an eye.
That technique just now, what was it? She'd never seen anything like in her life. What had he called it? Rasen...shuriken? He'd certainly thrown it like one. Such power! Power, the like of whch she'd never known! There was no facial distortion to be seen here, no contraction of the muscles or sharpening on the incisors. For all intensive purposes he'd been human all of his life. And claymores were forbidden from killing humans, no matter the reason.
"How many have you killed so far?"
Clare blinked, caught unawares by his sudden inquiry. "How...many?" Such a meaningless question. She lived to kill yoma. What did it matter the number she slew? It did not matter. Not in Clare's mind. But she had fought beside this man, trusted him with her back as she'd never trusted anyone before. She owed him an answer even if she wasn't entirely certain she had one.
"I don't know." She admitted, the words coming to her, slowly. "Ten...thirty, maybe?"
Naruto grin, if possible, grew larger still.
She had slain many, but not that many! How could this man, this stranger, decimate so many, so swiftly? She hadn't paid attention to the number of youma she'd slain during their battle, only that the streets still ran red in rivers in the aftermath of their bloodbath. She sheathed her sword-what remained of it-and stretched out her senses, straining for any sign of yoma energy. Nothing. Either she was too taxed to sense any of the remaining creatures, or they'd finally cleansed the town.
The supposed village had been a veritable breeding nest for Youma. What few humans remained wisely kept themselves hidden within their homes, refusing to engage in even the slightest display of gratitude. Even though the cleansing was complete, none emerged. That suited Clare just fine. She wasn't in this for the glory. Nor was she any good in socializing with others. At that moment, she would have been perfectly content to leave.
Unfortunately, Naruto wan't about to make it easy for her.
"Oi!" The shinobi hollered, his voice ringing amidst the desolate streets, clanging across the empty rooftops. "Oi! Minasan! Everyone! You can come out now!" Cupping his hands to his mouth, the blond continued to raise a ruckus, continued to shout at the top of his lungs. until someone finally worked up the never to open their door. An old withered sigh rose from beyond the woodwork, pursued by a sursurus of whispers as an elderly woman poked her head out.
"Truly? she asked, practically quivering with fear, "Is it truly safe to come out?"
"Sure thing, baa-san!" Naruto folded both arms behind his head.
"Oops! A grimace of self castigation. "Sorry about that. I tend to lapse back into Japanese when I get excited."
"Japanese?" Clare blinked.
"Ahahaha...I'm not exactly from these parts, remember?"
"You...You're human." The woman exclaimed. "Aren't you?"
"Last time I checked, yeah."
"That's so kind of you to tell me that...
Clare didn't even have time to blink.
She could not help but scream as the woman punched between her ruined breastplate and into the flesh of her side, searing her nerves like grain alcohol poured across an open blister. Blood welled thickly between the sundered steel, and though there wasn't enough to suggest an especially deep or gaping wound, Clare felt the strength drain from her legs.
Face beaded with sweat, chewing her lip to distract herself from the pain until it, too, bled freely, the claymore took a step toward her attacker, then one step more...
The ground rushed toward her face, an open-palmed slap delivered by the world itself. Clare tasted soil, felt it filling her nostrils. Her hand flopped like a landed fish mere inches from the yoma's foot. Already the pain was fading into a more manageable if constant burn, but Clare heard the drumming of feet all around her, knew that the seconds she needed to regain her strength were seconds her foes would deny her.
Something shifted above, casting a shadow not merely of darkness but of cold across her exposed back, and Clare all but choked on the bile that surged behind her tongue, the bitterness not of death, but of failure.
The blow never fell, though, for suddenly Naruto was there. Perhaps driven by whatever magics he had summoned, his limbs moved with speed to rival the yoma's own. Clare twisted onto her side and looked up to see a blur of motion from out of the darkness. And she saw Naruto step into the assault, his fist closing on an unseen throat and lifting his enemy high with one arm. For a single heartbeat, Clare thought she could just make out a silhouette, far too lanky and long of limb to be human, flailing as it dangled from the warrior's fist.
"S-Spare me!" It croaked. "Please, spare-
Then Naruto's hand closed with a vicious crunch, and those limbs fell limp and melted away into the endless night. Naruto spun away from his fallen companion/adversary, fire flickering from his fingertips. Clare felt the first burst of searing heat as the shinobi unleased his technique, and then he wound flared with renewed agony and she felt nothing at all...
(Several hours later)
The world was bobbing around her. Up, down, up, down, not violently but sufficient enough to send new throbbing through her aching head, new heaves through a gut that, she was surprised to discover, had already emptied itself. Only with that revalation did she notice that her mouth tasted of bitter residue, and she only hoped that she'd not vomitted anything that wouldn't readily wash away.
Clare pried eyes open that felt gummed shut with dregs of a tanner's vat and gazed blearily at the bed beneath her. It must have been drunk, that bed; since it was so bland hideously out of focus. She actually coughed at that, a dry, croaking sound that ceased abruptly when she realized, not just how badly her throat burned, but, because there was a bed beneath her. She smiled at that, contenting herself to rest, to slumber.
"And here I was sure you didn't know how to smile, Clare."
The sound of Naruto's voice was a dash of cold water to the soul, and Clare's head finally began to clear. Warm sunlight-bright sunlight!-shone upon her face. When she tried to stretch her senses, when she listened, she could hear morning jays in the distance. The night was over, then. The battle, ended. She had survived. Her entire body gave it, a cry of pain, a foolish, feeble protest as she forced herself upright and onto her elbows.
Narut sat across from her, calmly sipping a glass of tea. Even as her mind swam with questions, the blond raised his gaze to meet her own. Cradling the cup in his right hand he pressed it into her palms and bade her drink. Clare complied. If he wanted to kill her he could have done it while she slept. That he had not was confusing, but for now the thirst compelled her to drink, which she did.
"You were out for almost a week." he said with a small smile.
A week? Wait! The village!
"Yoma," She rasped, her words ending in a harsh cough. "Are they-
"Dead." Naruto replied, cheerily.
"Fled." Was the answer, reaching behind his back before she could even hope to form the next question. "They've returned now, most of them, but-
Whatever else he might have said was lost to her the instant she saw the massive broadsword strapped to his back. The second she saw the symbol, etched into its surfsce. A pan of sorrow-or relief-coursed through her very being at the sight of it. "Here." He tossed it toward her, hilt first. Clare caught it, just barely and even so, gasped. Her sword! It was prstine. Perfect. Whole!
"How did you-
"You'd be surprised what you can do with an good forge these days, Clare."
"How do you know my name?" There. She'd said it. It was out there her confusion, her panic, her sadness. That he knew her name; that he spoke to her with such simple and lackadasial normalcy was enough to send shivers down her spine. Now one should know her name because she'd never given it out. Ever. The only ones who knew here name were those of the Organization and she seriously doubted this disdainful man-the one they wanted dead-worked for them. She was expecting anger, confusion, defiance at the very least.
Which was precisely why he caught her off guard. Again.
"Why, Teresa told me it, of course."
His words hit her like a frozen fist in the gut. Teresa. The woman she'd come to see as her mother. Slain by Priscilla, once a claymore, now an awakened being, a twisted, sick perversion of her former self. Clare's only reason for living, her only redemption, was to kill the monster who'd murdered her mother. Which was why this made absolutely not even the slightest bit of sense! In all the time she'd known Teresa, in all their travels, she'd never once seen this man! Not a once!
"She was the first decent claymore I ever met." The blond murmurred, a faint smile tugging at his lips. "Unfortunately, she was also the last." His smile fell abruptly shattering like so much glass. "That was before your little group of pig-headed assholes knew about me; before they decided I needed to die." He let the words hang there between them in unspoken challenge, as though he were just daring her to speak out in defense of the organization. When she did not immediately do so, his smile returned.
"So, are you going to kill me now?" he asked.
She posed a question of her own, in turn.
"Why did you kill the others?" Clared demanded to know. She wasn't about to kill her savior. Not yet, at least. Not while she was weak. If she tried to kill him now, she'd meet the same fate as her sisters. No, she needed to bide her time. And maybe, just maybe...she wasn't sure she wanted to kill him. Yet. Depending on his answer she might try to strike him down here and now.
"Why?" Naruto blinked at her inquiry, eyes narrowing with surprise. "Because I didn't have any other choice." At her protest he raised a hand. "It was a mercy killing. They were already near their limits before they met me. I was forced to put them down before they could awaken. Would you rather I left them to become monsters and turn on their own kind?"
Clare wasn't listening. Why would the organization send almost-awakened claymore to face Naruto? She, No. 47 was nowhere near awakened status. Those who overtaxed the limits of their yoma energy ran the risk of awakening. Push too far, release too much yoki, and you reached the point of no return. She was nowhere near that point? Right? In her time as a claymore she'd always followed the organization's orders to the letter. Always fighting, always growing, always becoming stronger. Always. All for that day, for a chance to kill Priscilla.
"Just how long have you been here?"
Naruto laughed as he rose from her chair.
"Longer than I would like."
He pushed a hand through her sandy blond hair, frowning as she shrank back from him. He pursued her, his hand locking around her wrist. Unfortunately he misjugded their distance and accidentally grabbed her hand. Clare froze. Whipped her hand backwards, found her wrist locked within his grip. Naruto drove her into the wall and held on with all the force of a determined pitbull. Pinned against the backboard of the bed, it was all she could do to meet his gaze and not flinch aside.
"Do I frighten you?" he asked, taking a hand away from her wrist, bringing it to her face. His palm was warm to the touch, leaving her shivering in surprise. Their skin the skin of a claymore, was actually quite cool.
"N-No." Clare answered, cursing herself for the sudden stutter.
Because he didn't frighten her. Not anymore. Not in the slightest. She felt strangely drawn to him, to this man, to this very last fragment of Teresa and their life together. He did not hold her shape, did not have her flesh, did not speak kindly nor softly to her, but she could see it in his eyes. In that faint smile, constantly drawing at the edges of his whiskered cheeks.
Whiskered cheeks that brushed against her own in perhaps the faintest of kisses. Indeed, something warm pressed against her forehead. Something soft yielding and infinitely gentle. And then it was gone, drawn back as Naruto-when had he gotten into bed with her?-drew back and pressed not his lips, not this time, but a finger to her forehead. She blinked, Clare did, startled by the sudden withdrawal.
"Do you still want to kill me?" He asked.
"No." Unbidden the word erupted from her mouth like a predator flushed from its den. Naruto grinned suddenly his lips pulling back to reveal perfect, pearly whites. Clare'd an instant to recognize the smile, the intentions behind it, before he exerted pressure on the finger pressed against her temple.
"Ah, I'm afraid I'm going to have to knock you out then, Clare, for your own good."
Fear rose in her; a great tempest threatening to consume all else. No! No no no no! She tried to rise, tried to force herself forward, to push away from him to no avail. Even in this state, his strength overpowered hers. He forced her back as easily as a parent would a naughty cild.
"Sleep well, Clare."
And then there was only darkness.
A/N: Hahahaha! That's right! Naruto ISN'T a yoma! He's his actual self from the shinobi universe, though he came to be trapped in the Claymore realm does remain to be seen. He seems to have easily made a mess of Clare, I wonder how he'll handle an Abyssal One down the road? Let alone Priscilla...