Chapter XXV: A Meeting of Sorts
Miya was in the kitchen cooking breakfast, enjoy the silence that permeated the house. That when a thought occurred to her. 'It's quiet…too quiet…' She was thankful for the prospect at first but now there was the feeling nagging in the back of her mind that something wasn't right. It was already late into the morning and the house was usually lively by then. Hell, the only time the household knew peace was when they were asleep, and oddly enough, she was the only one awake. Letting out a sigh, she turner the burner on the stove to low and removed her apron. They had somewhere to be in two hours and she wouldn't tolerate tardiness because the others overslept, even if it was Friday.
She stepped into the hallway and made her way towards their room. She was passing by the bathroom when she heard someone grunting. She pressed her ear to the door and something that sounded like retching came from the other side. "Hikari…are you alright?" she queried.
"Y-Yeah I'm fine. Could you just get Hibiki for me?" The Lightning Sekirei asked. Miya was worried because her voice came out weak and broken but decided to comply anyway. She continued down the hall when a dull roar reached her ears. She let out a sigh as she reached for the door handle to their room when it slid out of her grasp. The door opened to reveal a disheveled Hibiki with an irate expression. Upon hearing the ungodly growls emanating from behind her, Miya could understand why. "Hikari wanted to see you. She's in the bathroom," she said. Hibiki only gave a grunt of annoyance as she stepped into the hallway.
Miya glanced back into the room to see the source of the commotion. Her Ashikabi lay sprawled out on the bed with Uzume curled up to his side, both snoring loudly. It was bad enough that Naruto alone sounded ungodly, the two of them together was unbearable. Judging from the way Naruto was sleeping with his mouth hung open and she snoring was louder than usual, she could tell he'd been up all night, do god knows what. If she had to guess, he'd managed to fall asleep just before she woke up. 'I swear that boy never learns…' Miya thought as she shook her head before closing the door. She decided to let him sleep until breakfast was ready. He was going to need as much rest as he could get.
Hibiki trudge down the hall towards the bathroom where she heard her sister's pained groans. She lid open the door and was shocked at the sight before her. Hikari was on the floor curled into a ball near the toilet. She was paler than the pearl tiles that lined the floor and she was shaking. "H-Hikari! What happened?! Are you alright?!" Hibiki gasped as she rushed to her sickly twin's side. She raised her to a sitting position which brought on another wave of nausea. Hikari's eyes widened as she spewed forth more bile into the toilet.
Hibiki could do nothing but hold back her sister's hair to keep it from being soaked in the revolting fluid. It only lasted a moment and Hikari let out a sigh of relief as she turned to her sister. "Hibiki…I'm late…" she said weakly.
"What do you mean you're late?" Hibiki queried.
"I mean I'm late," her sister reiterated. Hibiki caught onto her meaning this time but was still confused. Something like this had never happened before. They're bodies were genetically similar to that of a normal human's. The only possible explanation would be if she-
Hibiki's eyes went wide and she brought her hands to her mouth as she let out a gasped. "No…" Hikari on nodded weakly in confirmation. Hibiki then did the most logical thing she could think of.
Naruto let out a groan as he stirred in his sleep. His head felt like Miya had landed an axe kick straight to his temple. He sat slowly sat up and soon regretted it. A wave of nausea hit him like a brick wall and his took all of his willpower to not throw up. 'I feel like shit…that's the last time I stay up all hours of the night,' he mentally chastised himself. He glanced around the room so see that he was alone and surmised that the others were already awake. Naruto let out a yawn as he pushed himself to the edge of the bed. He rose to his feet and stretched out his body, fighting back a wave of queasiness that tried to overtake him once more. "Man, I really need some medicine…" he grumbled as he made his way to the door.
He stepped into the hallway, where he was greeted by all of his Sekirei. Hibiki and Uzume looked like deer caught in headlights. Miya looked as stoic as ever. But what really caught his attention was the pale Hikari standing in the middle of the group. "Hikari-chan are you ok?" he asked, concern evident in his tone as he walked up to the sickly Sekirei. She looked weak and fragile, which worried him greatly. "You don't look too well," he said as he wrapped his arms around her smaller frame. Her skin was clammy and cool to the touch. "I-I'm fine Naruto-kun," she said as she relaxed into his embrace.
"Are you sure? I don't want you overexerting yourself," The blonde said as he gently ran his fingers through her wild hair. "I'm better than okay actually. Just a bit light-headed that's all," Hikari sighed in relief. Her Ashikabi kissed her on the forehead before releasing released her, much to Hikari's displeasure, and turned to the others. "We got a big day ahead of girls so make sure you eat a good breakfast. You'll need your vitamins," he said in a mock lecture tone.
"Yes Naruto-kun!" they all giggled at him.
"Alright, now to find some ibuprofen…" Naruto said as he made his way toward the kitchen, leaving his Sekirei alone in the hallway. Once he was out of sight, Miya turned to the group with a serious expression. "Remember what I said…" The trio nodded grimly as they recounted the recent conversation.
Miya nearly dropped the pot full of rice when she heard Hikari yell. Quickly setting it on the stove, she rushed down the hall toward the bathroom. She arrived at the same time as the drowsy Uzume. "What's with all the yelling?" the brunette yawned. Hikari quickly snatched the older Sekirei into the bathroom by their arms and slammed the door behind her. She turned to address the puzzled Sekirei. "Hikari is pregnant!" she all but yelled.
Both seemed to have the same initial surprised reaction and an awkward silence filled the room. Hikari wanted nothing more than to shrink in to nothingness at that point. Uzume was the first to break the tension with an excited shriek as she nearly tackled the Lightning Sekirei to the floor. "That's great news Hikari-chan!" she squealed joyously. "Uzume get off me! Let go!" Hikari barked as she tried to push away the overzealous brunette. She felt someone approaching and glanced up to see Miya staring at her critically.
"How long?" Hikari was unversed by her question. Her voice was calm and she didn't give off the normal threatening aura like she always did. "Um…going on about two weeks now…" Hikari replied meekly. The others waited with bated breath as Miya continued to stare down at the newly expecting mother. The tension in the room was at an all-time high, so much in fact that they were sure someone would end up choking at any given moment. Finally, the lavender-haired woman closed her eyes before speaking. "I guess it can't be helped…" Miya sighed as she crossed her arms over her chest.
There was another squeal from the Veil Sekirei as she latched on to Hikari once more, hugging her so closely that their face rubbed together. Hikari was relieved as well, but she still wasn't fond of being coddled like this.
"So you mean…" Hibiki began as looked at the elder Sekirei.
"Yes," Miya said clearing her throat and gaining the squabbling duo attention as well. "What happened was because you and Koibito acted irresponsibly and this is the consequence. But at the same time I'm happy for you and would never think of asking you to terminate," she said, making the others smile. "But Koibito is not to learn of this," she said sternly.
"What? Why?" Uzume exclaimed.
This time it was Hibiki who spoke up. "Think about it. Koibito already has enough on his plate as is. He already worries for us enough and with an open rebellion with MBI only days away, this will only serve as a distraction for him. Koibito would shelter Hikari, keeping her as far from combat as possible and this is something we can't afford. He'll need all of us if we plan on getting out of this alive."
"Hibiki is right. Koibito is too stubborn for his own good and will try to take on the full weight of the world just for our sakes. If we really loved him, we'll be there to support him, even if he doesn't want us too." Miya added. Uzume nodded in understanding. She loved how admiral her Ashikabi was when it came to protecting them. But he was only one man.
"And while we're on the subject…" Miya began, her expression turning grim. "The next few days are going to be tough. The will be a lot of bloodshed and suffering. Not everyone is going to walk away from this. Naruto will never admit it, but he's scared. We've never done anything of this scale before. Even I'm scared. I can't begin to fathom what I'd do if we lost Koibito. I won't go through suffering like that again…" she said.
"Which is why I'm not going to let that happen. I'm going to protect him at all costs, and if need be, give my life to save his." Miya saw Hikari open her mouth to speak and raised her hand to stop her. "No, this is the promise I made with my Ashikabi. Now and forever. If I can't be with him now, then there's always forever in the afterlife," she said with absolute conviction.
Hibiki walked up to the older Sekirei and placed a hand on her shoulder. "And we'll be with you and Koibito every step of the way. We're a family," she smiled softly. "And pretty soon, we'll be joined by a little one," she said turning towards her sister.
"Oooooh I'm so excited! What if it a boy? What if it's a girl? What is-" Uzume suddenly gasped. "What if it's twins?!" she gushed. Hikari paled considerably at the brunette's words. "Uzume…don't say something like that…"
"As exciting as that is, one incarnation of Naruto is enough. We don't need three running around," Miya chuckled, causing the others to break out in a fit of giggles. "But in all seriousness," She began, gaining their attention. "We must not tell Koibito of this until after MBI has been dealt with. He already has enough on his mind and we don't need this serving as a distraction," Miya said, earning nods from the trio. "Well alright then, let go have some breakfast!" she smiled.
"Now then, everyone go wash up. Breakfast is almost ready." Miya said as she turned away and made her way back to the kitchen. Not even five seconds after she'd disappeared, they heard her yell. "Naruto! I know you saw me cooking! Put the cookies back!"
"But Miya-chan…" They heard the blonde whine.
The trio all laughed as they pictured they're Ashikabi getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar, quite literally.
"This is troublesome…" Shikamaru grumbled as he shuffled his way through the crowd. As if the Sekirei Plan wasn't annoying enough, nearly every Ashikabi and Sekirei in the city were packed into one of the Higa Corporation's warehouses. Saying that the tension in the room was at an all-time high would be the understatement of the century. Ashikabi and Sekirei alike were on edge, glancing around at the other and watching for any surprise attacks. Shikamaru himself had to admit that even he was a little bit uncomfortable. He hated crowds and there was this annoying thought in the back of his mind that a brawl was going to erupt at any given moment.
But despite the tensions, there were whispers snaking throughout the crowd. And the subject of said whisperings was the Phantom Ashikabi himself. Shikamaru's eyes fell on the group in the front of the room. Naruto was perched one of the many storage containers wearing all black and a hood that masked his features. He had his sword resting against his shoulder and with the way he was sitting, it almost looked as if he were asleep. And like their Ashikabi, his Sekirei adopted then same noir color scheme. Miya sat on a box just above the blonde sharpening her sword. Hibiki sat on edge of a crate to the blonde's left alongside her sister, holding a small fox. Their smirks were a bit unnerving to say the least. Then there was Uzume leaning against the front of the container where her Ashikabi sat, arms folded across her ample chest as she surveyed the crowd.
Shikamaru had to give it to them, they sure knew how to put on a daunting display. But knowing them all personally cut their intimidation factor down considerably. When Naruto had called him last night, he'd had his doubts about going against MBI. But seeing the group that had become prime targets against the multibillion yen company and the turnout of other Ashikabi, he began to think differently. Sure, there was still a chance that they'd fail miserably and be utterly destroyed by MBI, but at least it was less of a chance now. Maybe…
The groan of a door opening brought the room to stillness. The crowd turned to spot a regal looking young man dressed in white enter the great room. He had short-cropped brown hair and this smug air of superiority about him. He was proceeded by an entourage of women led by a bespectacled man. Higa made his way towards Naruto's group in the front and turned to address the hushed spectators. "I believe we have everyone's undivided attention now…" He chuckled. "Alright, the floor's yours Phantom-san," he said.
Every set of eyes fell upon the still blonde. An eerie silence overcame the room and everyone waited with bated breath for the notorious Phantom Ashikabi to speak. The silence only seemed to intensify the already foreboding tension that set into the warehouse. Confused, Higa turned toward his accomplice, only to be met with equally confused looks from his Sekirei. Miya glanced down at her Ashikabi to see he was still silent and unmoving, save for his rhythmic breathing. It wasn't long before a low grumble reached her ears.
"You've got to be kidding me…" Miya huffed in annoyance.
Deep within the confines of the crowd. Shikamaru brought his palm to his forehead. 'I knew that idiot was sleeping…'
"Of all the…" Hikari grumbled as she pinched the bridge of her nose. Hibiki let out a dejected sigh while Uzume struggled to hold in a fit of giggles. Miya grabbed her scabbard and leaned down to swat the slumbering blonde in the head. "Naruto!" She barked.
"AH! Hey what gives?!" Naruto roared as he awoke with a start. He threw back his hood and looked up to see his eldest Sekirei glaring at him. "What'd you hit me for?"
"Why do you think you idiot? You fell asleep!" Miya roared.
"So? It's not like anyone is her-" Naruto stopped speaking when Miya simply pointed behind him. He slowly turned to see warehouse was now packed with people and they were all focused intently on him. "Oh…we have guests…" the blonde said in a low voice. His realization was rewarded with another smack to the head. "And they're waiting on you!" the lavender-haired beauty spat.
"Alright Miya but stop hitting me and show some respect! You can't just-" The blonde quickly lost his voice when he noticed the ominous mask hovering behind his Sekirei. Naruto could only grumble in annoyance he leapt off the crate and onto the ground beside Uzume. "Nice of you to join us Naruto-kun," Uzume giggled.
"Yeah, yeah…" Naruto mumbled as he stretched out his body.
"Is this a joke?" a voice called out from the audience. Everyone's attention turned toward lean man of average height with a gruff look about him. Naruto immediately recognized him as Sanada Nishi from the fourth match. "THIS is the infamous Phantom Ashikabi? He's nothing more than some punk kid!" Sanada laughed. Naruto only stared at the man with a bored expression. He noticed an air of doubt begin to permeate the room as others began to whisper.
"There no way that's him?"
"What a waste of time…"
He's just some kid!"
"Now seriously, is this Phantom here or what? Because if not, I have much better ways to-"
"I'm sorry I didn't quite catch that the first time," Naruto said. Sanada flinched backwards when he noticed the blonde was standing face-to-face with him. A looked of shock was plastered onto each of the spectator's features. What they'd seen was unreal. The young blonde before them simply vanished and reappeared in front of Sanada. "You'll have to speak up, my hearing is a little iffy at the moment," Naruto said, keeping his stoic expression.
Sanada stared at the younger man in surprise, but quickly donned a smirk. "So what, you think you're fast? You're still just a-" He was silenced by strong backhand. Sanada blinked rapidly as he brought his hand to his mouth, which leaked a small trail of blood. He looked back to Naruto who simply stood there with his hands in his pockets. "Fast enough for you."
"Why you…" Sanada rushed the younger Ashikabi, his mind clouded with anger. Naruto lazily sidestepped the attack and grasped onto his assailant's arm. Using his momentum against him, Naruto kicked Sanada's legs out from under him and slammed him on his back. At the sight of their Ashikabi being attacked, Sanada's Sekirei moved into action. But as they approached their enemy, there was a bright flash that enveloped the warehouse.
The light subsided just as quick as it came, leaving everyone disoriented and confused. Sanada slowly opened his eyes, only to find himself staring down the barrel of a gun. He heard pained grunts and glanced around. Fear quickly set in his eyes. Kujika and Kuzuri were being restrained by the twins girls, each with a lightning-entrenched hand aimed at their hearts. Chiyo was bent to her knees, the lavender-haired woman standing behind her blade poised just above the base of her neck. Yūna and Hatae were tightly bound by a black cloth being manipulated by the brunette. And then there was his youngest, Shijime, who the blonde had planted firmly beneath his foot with his sword resting just above her heart.
The gruff Ashikabi glanced back toward his junior. "You bastard!" he spat. He attempted to stand but a frail shriek halted his movements. Shijime whimpered as Naruto pressed down onto her chest with his foot while his other Sekirei were brought an inch closer to death. Sanada heard a click and turned to see Naruto bearing that same bored expression, which only angered him greatly. "I see we're not so outspoken now," Naruto said as a faint blue aura began to coalesce around his hand. Naruto only grinned as a single word escaped his lips. "Bang…"
Sanada closed his eyes and the entire room flinched. But there sound of gunfire never came. Confused, the Ashikabi of the West opened his eyes to see Naruto still smirking at him. "Lighten up," He grinned. The group clad in blacked flickered out of sight be reappearing at their original position in front of the crates.
Naruto was one again perched on the edge of one of the many boxes holding Kurama. Hibiki and Hikari sat next to him with stoic expressions. Uzume latched herself to her Ashikabi's backside, letting her arms drape over his shoulders as she held her head next to his, a devilish grin spread across her features. Then there Miya standing behind the all with a stony expression, her katana resting on her shoulder. The group received looks of shock and awe from the mass before them.
"Now that I have everyone's attention…" Naruto began, "My name is Namikaze Naruto, but most of you may know me as the Phantom Ashikabi," He grinned. "I know you all must be wondering why Higa-san gathered you here today. Well to put it simply, the Sekirei Plan is coming to an end."
"For too long Minaka has manipulated us in this sick game of his and I've had enough. All of us have recently found someone special and forcing us to fight until there's only one left is disgusting. MBI must be stopped." The blonde said.
"What are you talking about? How do we know this isn't some plan you've concocted to try and eliminate us all at once?!" a voice interjected from the crowd. This sparked another series a whispers in the crowd as they all stared warily at the young blonde. Naruto only chuckled. "Trust me, if I wanted to I could've taken out half of you by now," he said, making his audience restless.
"You think you're so tough?! You can't take all of us on!" another voice shrieked.
"On the contrary, I can. Without an Ashikabi, Sekirei are useless. And It doesn't take much take out a few frail humans," Naruto rebutted. Of course it was a bluff on his part. The mass of Ashikabi and Sekirei before him had made it this far which meant the weaker ones had been weeded out and that the one remains had developed a better sense of combat and survivability. They wouldn't break a sweat if it came down to taking them each out one by one. By if they all rushed at the same time, then even he wouldn't stand such odds.
"But I'm not here to fight or harm any of you. If I truly wanted to, I would've done so by now. I've come here to ask for your help," Naruto said, watching as the confusion set in. "I'm not going to beat around the bush. I'm going to take out MBI and bring this game of Minaka's to an end. I've already conversed with Higa-san on the matter and has agreed to assist me. But even then, we're only two men with just a handful of Sekirei."
"But if we all band together and rise up against MBI, there not a doubt in my mind that we'll succeed," Naruto said. On the inside he was rather proud of his little speech. But at the same time, he was slightly embarrassed for making it sound so corny. 'That sounded like it that out of some low budget film…' he mentally groaned.
An awkward silence set in the large room as they all stared at the blonde as if he'd grown a second head. He knew it was only a matter of time before the opposing questi-
"What are you crazy?!" a young teen in the front shouted. Naruto immediately recognized him as Hayato Mikogami, the Ashikabi of the South. "I have tons of Sekirei, even a single number, and I'm not crazy enough to fight against the Discipline Squad, let alone all of MBI!" Mikogami exclaimed.
Naruto only smirked as he leapt from his perch and placed Kurama on his shoulder. "MBI's hounds will be dealt with accordingly."
"Alright," Sanada stepped up again. "I'm guessing from that smug that you're going to be the one to take out the Discipline Squad?" He queried, causing the blonde to shrug nonchalantly. "Let's say you do. What then? MBI still has an entire army of foot soldiers, tanks, and gunships."
With the simple call of her name, the Lightning Sekirei smirked as held out her hand. Sparks danced across her fingertips as a field of lightning erupted throughout the room. The bolts danced wildly across the wall and ceiling, even making the power surge momentarily. But it never came close to any of the room's occupants.
"MBI has a mass of grunts at their back and call. They're nothing but regular people like you and me, only with guns. But we have talented individuals that exceed the limitations of normal humans and intelligent people who know how to direct their powers accordingly," Naruto said. The disgruntled and cross looks he received from his Sekirei's display didn't seem to faze him in the slightest.
"But you're not exactly normal," Mikogami pointed out.
Naruto only grinned at the younger teen. "Oh me? I'm just awesome."
"Well if you're so awesome, then why don't you just take out MBI by yourself?!" he heard a yell from deep within the crowd. His patience was wearing thin and Naruto could only sigh before turning to Higa. "I've done my part," He said simply before readdressing the gathering.
"You're right. I can't force you to do anything. My only purpose here was to convince you. The way I see it, this is how it's all going to play out. We'll leave here today and continue on about our seemingly normal lives. Of course, that means the Sekirei Plan as well. You all will be forced to fight one another and your numbers will continue to dwindle. Most will try to hide but it'll be useless. MBI will track us down and force us to fight." He said bluntly.
"I on the other hand, will remain hidden as I always have and more than likely be made into a terrorist once Minaka is through with all of you. I'll spend the next few years wearing down MBI little by little until eventually I slip up. Faced with no other decision, I'll unleash Ku-" The blonde silent, rethinking his choice of words. "I'll unleash an anger like never before seen that will wipe MBI of the face of the earth. I will die and my Sekirei as well."
Naruto looked over his shoulder to see his Sekirei staring at him with sullen expressions. He gave them a reassuring smile. "And I for one won't let that happen. As scary and troublesome as they are, I love these women with all I have and I'll be damned if I let Minaka take the away from me," He said with absolute resolve. "Two days from now, I'm going to assault Teito Tower. I'll eradicate their army, destroy the Discipline Squad, remove Minaka's head from his shoulders, and bring an end to the Sekirei Plan!"
Miya jumped to the ground and took a few tentative steps toward her Ashikabi. "Koibito…" He wasn't aware that the fox's power was beginning to surface. The mass before him was nearly choking on the shear amount of Killer Intent he was releasing. "Naruto control yourself!" Miya cried, taking his hand in her own. Naruto snapped out of his trance and blinked his eyes rapidly. 'That was close…' He turned to see Miya standing there with a worried expression. He smiled softly at her. If one swift motion, he spun Miya around in front of him and encircled his arms around her slender waist, pulling her tightly against him.
"It's a suicide mission yes. But there's nothing I wouldn't do for my girls. That's why I'm asking for your help. I'll admit that there's a chance that we could fail miserably and perish as a result. But there's also the possibility that we could come out of this alive able to live our lives freely with the ones we love and not under the influence of MBI's iron grip."
"I refuse to let my life be dictated like this and I should hope you all do as well. Tomorrow night, I'll be back here to discuss the finer details of my plan with Higa-san. I any encourage anyone else that wishes to fight for their freedom to be here as well. If not, I hope you enjoy waiting for the inevitable end to come," Naruto concluded, letting his words sink in. He wasn't going to press the issue any further. It was their decision to make.
Naruto released Sekirei and turned to face Higa. "I've done my part," he said slipping on his hood. Naruto turned and walked away, giving a single wave before his body flickered out of existence. His Sekirei followed his example and vanished from sight. The warehouse grew awkwardly quiet once more after the blonde's departure. He'd left them all to muse over his words. A single clap broken the silence and everyone looked to see Higa stepping out in front of the crowd. "Well that certainly was…exciting. But I must now ask that you all return from whence you came. I ask that anyone willing to join us return ow evening. I suggest that you take his words into full consideration before you make your choice. There will be no turning back," He said with a serious expression.
"That is all. Please help yourself to some refreshments on your way out." With that, Higa turned and exited the warehouse, his entourage following close behind.
Sorry for the long wait everyone. I've just been so tired lately. I literally wake up, go to work, then go right back to sleep. And I pretty much just sleep my days off. But luckily I put in to go home for 30 days next month.
Truth be told, this chapter has been finished for weeks, I'm just of unsatisfied with some part. I had so many ways I wanted to write it and I'll most likely go back and rewrite it. Oh, and if you guys feel like it's taking too long for an update, feel free to bug me. You guys are my motivation and some times I just need a wakeup call. Just do it respectfully though...
And lastly,I'm going to write a new chapter for Divine before I update again. Neglected that story for far too long. As always, thanks for the support and R+R~