Unwavering Sky Chapter 12
Disclaimer: Don't own anything. All source material belongs to their respective creator and I'm illegally using them without explicit permission...
Kishi: Some of you already know that I'm moving away from Adelaide after graduation, but if you didn't then you do now. Rest assured that I love working on all our fics, even Boobs on Legs the Manga Minus Common Sense so I assure you that we will try our very best to find a way to write our stuff together. However, since there was a slight, very absolutely tiny, possibility that we might never write another chapter again, we wanted this Unwavering Sky to be our last update, so we poured everything into this chapter.
Don't worry; it's just a little intense.
P. S: Ichihara Yuuko is a character from the xXxHolic series. I recommend you at least see one or two episodes of you want to grasp the significance. Don't worry, I'm just borrowing certain philosophies from her and her verse, we're not doing a third crossover in this already complicates story.
Supercell - Tsumibito
Asian Kung Fu Generation – Mugen Glider
Tari Tari – Kokoro no Senritsu
Chiaki Ishikawa - Prototype
Jia Peng Fang – Silent Moon
Play Supercell - Tsumibito
The light of the burning city seemed to illuminate the entire night sky as a figure floated above the carnage. Though he had neither wings nor any visible method of doing so, the man seemed to hang in the sky, ignoring the smoke and heat that rose from below, scorching his face and parching his throat as crystal spires that reached for the Heavens crashed to the Earth with an almighty groan.
Like the courtrooms filled with condemning looks, each crash was a resounding shout against humanity, crying out for their destruction, casting down Judgement. Dead, broken blue eyes stared at the blood soaking his clothes, his entire body and dripping off his hands.
Above and behind him, the sky shimmered, warping light around it, as if there was an invisible titan behind him, holding him up effortlessly. Higher even than the Titan, the moon seemed to shiver as if it was cracking apart, as if something was trying to dig its way out with a dreadful anticipation.
All around him, huge chunks of rocks, flaming meteors fell from the Heavens to strike at the city, but a glowing barrier made of beautifully symmetrical polygons held firm even against those heavenly strikes, although one or two occasionally managed to break through when it wavered.
"What have you done?!" a feminine voice screamed in anguish. In the air beside him, some sort of window formed out of white wisps of smoke, a woman, one that would have been truly beautiful had she not been crying with despair as she reached out to him with long fingernails.
Barely giving the apparition beside him a passing glance, his clouded blue eyes returned to their contemplation of the burning city, once the symbol of a rising empire, easily ignoring the strange looking woman who was peering at him through some sort of window.
She screamed again, her throat tearing with pain and sadness, "Why have you done this?!"
His lips opened slowly, his throat had long since dried out from the heat and the voice that echoed from him sounded far more like granite gnashing on each other rather than the sound of a human voice, "Why shouldn't I?"
The woman's dark eyes bugged at him in soundless incredulity.
"I raised them up. I was the one who met their ancestor, gave him the secret of power because he was an honest and sincere man. I raised them up, presided over them like a God year after year, ensuring their future while they flourished like a magnificent tree. I watched over them as they brought the secret of chakra far beyond anything I could ever have imagined by merging it with technology."
The man chuckled mirthlessly, and continued speaking to the stranger as if it was something he did every day, "And what did they do? So proud of their achievements, secure in their superiority, they decided to enslave the rest of the world, if not by words then by force because it was the duty of the strong to guide the weak." The man who was floating in the sky with as the smell of burning flesh rose to his height laughed, a deep cracking sound that seemed to mirror his psyche, "Even when their deity who has watched over them for centuries got on his knees and begged them to stop, they decided that they had outgrown him. They tried to cage him and experiment on him. What else was my response supposed to be?"
"That's the point you ignorant fool!" Her jet black eyes flashed with a thousand emotions, "Like an idiot desperate for company, you thought that you could vanquish that pain by helping other gain immortality, but that's the point!" The woman continued to rail at him from behind her window as thick tears ran down her cheeks, "You GAVE them the knowledge! But they lacked the meaning, the WISDOM to use it, WISDOM they were supposed to acquire during the journey towards that Knowledge! Without that wisdom, all your knowledge was nothing but writing on a tablet, they didn't understand the significance, the meaning behind the knowledge!"
The man whose long sunshine yellow hair wilted under the greasy smoke regarded her with another dead stare, "And so I rectify my mistake."
He lifted one hand to the sky.
"Wait!" The woman thundered in anguish, "There's still time!"
"The Sum of All Fear."
A quiet, deadly voice echoed. The titan heaved and a truly massive weapon that resembled nothing so much as a huge, naked blade made of pure, glowing light appeared in its fist.
Her eyes widened as she threw her hands at the window uselessly, trying do something, anything to stop him.
If it had been possible, she would have done something, talked to him earlier, helped him.
But how do you find someone who had spent entire lifetimes hiding? You didn't. All you could do, all you CAN do, was wait until he showed HIMSELF.
And show himself he did.
The gigantic blade, whose very point was as large as the island below him hung in mid air like a terrible guillotine.
And when it fell, the displaced air didn't whistle, it roared.
The barrier flickered just for the briefest of seconds before it cracked and shattered uselessly, allowing the Titan to bury its blade deep in the bowels of the Earth, crushing whatever remained of the Mu Empire. It remained there for a second, two seconds, before the massive naked sword dissipated with a huge rush of wind, leaving a gaping wound in the Earth.
A wound that would remain gaping and bleeding for the next thousand generations.
The woman in the window cried and bucked as she felt millions of lives being extinguished uselessly before she fell to the ground with a breathless cry. The heaving bundle of clothes sobbed into her hands before obsidian eyes, burning with hate glared up at the impassive man through black bangs.
Slowly, she staggered upright again, her long black hair floated around her with the power she was gathering into her.
"Because of your own foolish loneliness, you made a mistake." Her voice rang out with sheer hate, "When you realized the mistake, you threw it aside like an unwanted toy without any regard for the thousands upon thousands of innocents who simply wanted to live. Because of your pride and ignorance, I curse you. I CURSE YOU TO FEEL EVERY THE PAIN ALL OF THEM SUFFERED AS THEIR LIVES WERE EXTINGUISHED BY A PATHETHIC GOD!"
The long haired blond who was standing in mid air merely stared through her impassively, his eyes focused on the stinking huge hole on the surface of the Earth.
He would be the first, last and only person she would ever hate enough to truly curse.
Dead blue eyes looked up curiously, and for the first time since they had met ten minutes ago, focused enough to understand what he was looking at, but it was a little too late.
At first it was a simple itch, a certain uncomfortable emptiness in his chest, but the longer he stared at her, the deeper that hole became and the more it seemed like it was being filled with the burning grudge of dead.
Black eyes flashed in satisfaction as the man clawed at his face, screaming horrifically. He gouged his eyes out, tore his own heart out, but he just wouldn't die. He tore and clawed at his skin, screaming until his throat burst into shreds, until even his own body gave up on healing but the pain would not go away.
Then he suddenly stiffened and went slack like a puppet whose strings had been cut, huge gaping scars ran across his body as blood fell from him like rain. His eyes no longer showed any sign of consciousness or awareness.
Then he fell from the sky and the Dimension Witch watched him plummet to the ground like a broken bird with a satisfied expression.
Naruto woke up with a jolt. Sweat ran down his forehead as he spun around in his comfortable chair before he relaxed back into it with a heavy sigh.
"Haven't had THAT dream in a while…" the blond mumbled to himself as his chair swayed with a nice, regular rhythm.
Outside the window, scenery flashed until the train slowly eased into the station.
He smiled faintly as his window stopped right under the sign proclaiming his stop.
Naruto sighed to himself, "Time to meet the apprentice I guess."
Turquoise blue eyes blankly watched the clouds puff away above her as she sat on the window seat. Her eyes turned downwards to where she could hear the people bustling away on a semi busy street that was lined with quaint looking stores.
There was a somewhat mellow atmosphere in this part of the city and the little homely two story house she had found herself in only added to the feeling.
In the background, the small tv was buzzing, announcing the beginning of the second stage and the closure of all routes that led out of the city. What the tv didn't mention however, was the fact that now all the Ashikabi's in New Tokyo would have to Wing the remaining 10% of Sekirei, including herself.
Pretending to gently brushing back her way golden hair, Tsukiumi took the chance to stare at her guardian. The man stood a little behind her, leaning on the wall with his eyes closed.
As if he could feel her gaze, he opened one eye, "Are you cold?"
As vigorously as her lethargic body let her, Tsukiumi shook her head and returned to her contemplation of the sky.
However a slight chill ran down her back as the open window let in a cold breeze that smelt of the coming autumn.
Without saying anything, the man who had picked her up that night shrugged off his jacket and leaned forward.
He ignored her violent flinch at his proximity and wrapped his jacket around her thin shoulders.
Once that was done, he folded his arms again and closed his eyes.
"….." Tsukiumi opened her mouth, but her throat didn't want to function. Though that was probably more because she had not used it for an extended period of time rather than fear.
Licking her lips, she tried again.
"C-Can… we go out and walk?"
His eye opened lazily at her tentative croak and he smiled sincerely. Hearing her talk for the first time since he had found her in that forest was a little reassuring since he had almost begun to think that she was a mute.
"You can do anything you want."
Tsukiumi who was dressed in nothing but an airy white night dress and the man's black coat around her shoulders eagerly tried to stand up, but she had overestimated her own strength.
Her knees wobbled once before they gave way and the well-endowed water Sekirei swayed before the man calmly caught her elbow.
Ignoring her flinch again, he gently helped her into a wheel chair that hadn't been there before.
"Just relax, and tell me where you want to go."
"O…kay." Tsukiumi whispered.
Play Asian Kung Fu Generation – Mugen Glider
"So…. What do we do now?" Matsu finally said quietly, breaking the thick drawn out silence that had filled the room ever since a certain blond's revelations had filled their hearts with confusion as easily as it had filled the room with an uncomfortable uneasiness. Miya unsurely shook her head from beside Matsu.
Ever since the blond had left the room to give them some time to think, thanks to Akitsu's surprisingly quick thinking, neither she nor Miya could bring themselves to look each other in the eye even though they kept close while Karasuba simply laid in her futon with a pale and withdrawn face.
While Miya and Matsu were simply coming to terms with the information they had been given, Karasuba was having some problems trying to accept that everything she had done, her utterly desperate need to fight Musubi and destroy everything could be so simply explained away with a few sentences.
She couldn't, wouldn't accept it.
The alternative would simply mean that she had been venting her anger by tearing other Sekirei apart with her duty as MBI's Watchdog as an excuse on top of the fact that she was still struggling to believe that she had been summarily defeated by a human despite everything she had personally witnessed.
Her entire belief structure had been crushed within a span of ten minutes. Revealing that, no matter how much more physically powerful they were compared to human; she was still just as weak as them.
Just like a simple, barbaric human.
With a snap, she made her decision.
She needed to get out of this place before the blond came back and made things even worse.
"Where are you trying to go, Karasuba?" Miya suddenly said sharply as she gave the grey haired woman who was trying to get up from her futon a warning look.
"I need to leave." She grunted and threw the blanket off her disgustingly weak body, "I can't stay here any longer."
"You're not going anywhere in your condition." Miya replied stiffly as she pushed Karasuba back into bed, "I don't want you to be here anymore than you do, but I won't let you go out and hurt yourself either."
Karasuba snorted, "Says the woman who nearly killed me."
Turning her face away from Miya's complicated expression, the grey haired woman cursed under her breath. She knew that she hadn't been injured too badly but her body refused to move as she wanted. According to Miya, the Uzumaki had refrained from doing too much physical damage simply because she would be more interesting alive than dead but no matter what, she could barely even muster the energy to even stand up, until the door banged open again.
"Hai~" Naruto chirped with a childish grin as he set the plate down. Two rows of delicious looking rice balls sat on the sparkling plate, emanating a mouthwatering aroma that had even Karasuba struggling to stop salivating as her stomach growled, reminding her that she hadn't eaten anything since breakfast.
Her pale skin flushed faintly as she glared at the strange blond man in the kimono, his good cheer almost seemed like blasphemy when you realized that he had almost single handedly shattered a few worldly truths, like how Matsu had been hiding her feelings, or how Sekirei could be beaten with nothing but simple if efficient human skills.
His wide, earnest grin as he forced the rice balls into Miya and Matsu's reluctant hands only served to aggravate their already frayed nerves and make it all the more obvious that he still hadn't been able to put his abrupt and random mood swings back under his control.
She half expected him to suddenly go monotone again, or just start cackling evilly any minute now.
Sitting back down with Akitsu and Kaho by his side, the childish seeming blond began munching on his rice ball without reserve, scattering bits of rice everywhere.
Sharing a look filled with mixed feelings, Miya and Matsu sighed with a long suffering tone and daintily took a bite out of their rice balls.
The fresh smell of seaweed that was wrapped around the rice ball flooded their mouth while the rice was so fresh that it was still crunchy. Each bite they took sent a uniquely salty yet sour taste shooting through their taste buds….
"PFFFT!" Miya inadvertently sprayed rice all over Karasuba, earning her a heated look, and began coughing into a handkerchief.
"Gah! What is this?!" Matsu spat the rice ball back out with a grimace, "What did you put in here? Sweat?"
It would appear that, just like his ability to deceive, Naruto's ability to cook had temporarily abandoned him as well.
The blond continued nibbling on his rice ball like a squirrel and cocked his head, "Oh…." He looked down at his own rice ball, "I need to cook the rice first don't I? No wonder it was so hard to keep them together… so Akitsu suggested using c…. something sticky. Isn't she smart?"
Beside him Akitsu smiled proudly while Kaho stared at her and made a mental note to never let the ice user near a kitchen.
Karasuba was mildly thankful that Naruto hadn't forced one of those deadly items on her.
"What did you use to stick them together?!" a wide eyed Matsu spluttered, "That pause in the middle of the sentence when you were about to say something else sounded really bad!"
He grinned at her stupidly, making the red head growl.
Miya sighed exasperatedly and restrained Matsu, "There's no point taking it out on him now. He doesn't look like he would even understand why we're punishing him anyway." She shot the only male in the room a searching look, "Before that though… we might as well find out if there's anything else our friend here would like to shock us with?"
Hearing the tired and weary note in Miya's voice caused Matsu to settle back down with a grunt.
Brown eyes flicked to Miya and Matsu made a discontented sound in her throat. She didn't want to hrut Miya anymore than necessary, but she had to know.
For years she had had memories of older Sekireis doing things with their minds that she was unable to, for years she had kept her grudge to herself and the Uzumaki represented her best chance of finding out why they had practically lobotomized her.
"Do you know why Takehito did that to me? Matsu finally asked with a desperate look in her eyes as she pretended not to notice Miya's flinch.
Naruto slowly placed his half eaten rice ball back onto the plate and regarded her quizzically.
"I never said directly that it was Takehito who did anything," The blond cocked his head innocently, "I simply outlined that I suspected you were depowered and let your agitation answer everything else, whether by actions or words. The actual culprits were your own assumptions."
Naruto paused before adding, "While I believe that MBI certainly did something to you and the other Mind Type Sekireis, I don't, even for a moment, believe that the boy I raised had anything to do with it, and I won't until someone can shove solid proof under my nose. In fact, I wouldn't put it past MBI to have done something to him because he tried to fix the project when he realized they were doing something he disagreed with but ultimately, I will NOT move until I have seen the arguments from both sides of the fence."
Beside Matsu, the purple haird landlady went ashen as she considered his argument. From the very onset, Minaka had known far more about the Sekirei Plan than Takehito did as an adjuster who only worked according to the guidelines they had been given, and Naruto had made a very compelling point.
"Is that why you don't usually harm our sisters, as opposed to… to humans?" Kaho suddenly thought of something as she remembered the five men Naruto had incinerated, "Because they seem pitiful to you?"
The blond very clearly hesitated before he shrugged.
"Partially. As far as I'm concerned, adult humans must have an understanding of what they're doing while Sekirei lack that particular benefit, making them much more pliable and earnest. To borrow Miya's quote, I cannot punish someone who doesn't understand the significance of his actions."
A flicker of his usual composure floated to the surface of his blue eyes as he squeezed her small hand in his own large ones, "Whether they retain that earnestness, honesty and ability to love even with that awareness is something I look forward to finding out. For now…. Until then, as long as they don't actively harm me or mine, I will let it pass."
"Why are you doing this?" Karasuba muttered quietly from her corner, "Everything you have said so far makes it look like you wants to understand us, but for what purpose? What is this end goal you are seeking?"
Blue eyes twinkled merrily, "So I can kill all Sekirei."
Everyone in the room face palmed simultaneously as he contradicted everything he had said barely a minute ago.
"I knew it. Letting him go earlier was a bad idea. He's beginning to deceive again."
The blond's facial muscles twitched as he tried to make a chagrined expression at being found out so easily, but it didn't quite take and only succeeded in making him look constipated.
"Knowing him, killing all Sekirei was probably one part of the plan or a metaphor for something else though." Kaho muttered. Naruto shot her a betrayed look that was countered with an impishly adorable one.
"Let me rephrase that," Miya uttered exasperatedly, "What are you planning to do with this knowledge and what is your ultimate goal for the Sekirei Plan? Use us to conquer the world?"
"Why would I want to do that?" Naruto hedged with a strangled tone, "I can do that myself perfectly fine. I just don't because humans are so ludicrously easy to kill that it's boring and they kinda taste like raw beef on steroids anyway."
They stared at him.
"Now, Naruto." Miya gave him a severe look, "Tell us the honest truth!"
His eyes wildly looked around the room as his mouth slowly opened despite his not entirely connected brain telling it otherwise.
"I…. can't tell you!"
He grinned triumphantly.
Then he punched himself in the face.
Everyone stared at the blond who was snoring on the floor, face first.
"He just broke his own nose because he thought telling us right now would make everything less funny didn't he?" the raven haired Kaho grumbled wryly.
Matsu made an agreeing grunt, "That and probably so he can keep lording it over us."
"I REALLY don't like that man." Karasuba noted flatly.
Miya made a half sob, half chuckle, "At least we agree on that. Incidentally, will you be joining us for dinner?"
MBI's feared Black Sekirei stared at her as Miya pretended not to notice that she had just made the first move to repair an old friendship.
"….As long as you keep him under control." She finally said carefully.
Miya used her the back of her katana to hit Naruto on the head again. "There. Done."
Giving the landlady an injured look for hurting her Ashikabi, Akitsu cradled Naruto's unconscious head and delighted herself by running one hand through golden yellow locks and listening to the blond purring on her lap.
As Kaho and Akitsu carried the blond out of the room, Miya thought she heard a whisper.
It reached her ears as if it was being carried on the wind.
I have now given you the tools that endless secrets cannot. Where the Sekirei go from here, how they decide to move from here, whether they discover why they have been sent to this planet and whether that results in their destruction at my hands, or their revival, is up to you.
If she didn't know any better, she could almost imagine hearing the blond crow triumphantly if he wasn't already knocked out.
"All according to plan."
Play Tari Tari – Kokoro no Senritsu
Kazehana scratched her head and blinked rapidly.
Sure she still had a headache after waking up from an unplanned day time nap, but she figured that the scene before her eyes was a little too real to be a product of her fevered, alcohol soaked, imaginations.
At least she didn't think so.
Her eyes shifted from the head of the table where Miya was sitting in a dignified, straight backed posture to the woman beside her.
Miya and Karasuba were speaking to each other amiably, if a little too politely, but they were still having a conversation that did not involve insults and pointy things.
An ACTUAL conversation.
If that wasn't already bizarre enough for Kazehana to desperately wish that she was flaming drunk, every time Karasuba lifted up her chopsticks; the exceptionally well endowed Sekirei couldn't help but automatically brace herself for a miniature war in Izumo Inn's dining room that didn't happen.
On Karasuba's left, a girl called Musubi was nattering away happily as she force fed a lanky looking kid that seemed really familiar for some reason though she avoided looking at the tall blond man on the other side of the table.
Speaking of the blond, he had a small beautiful little child on his lap and a freaking wooden kitten that pawed and MEOWED at him for scraps.
She was beginning to think that this was a rather realistic dream of some sort brought on by the stress of loneliness.
Despite his rather interesting companions, the blonde man merely smiled faintly as he fed Kusano another bite of stew. On his left was Akitsu and Kaho took his right.
"Slow down, Ku-chan. Your food isn't going anywhere." Naruto chided as he wiped away some smudges on Kusano's cheek with his thumb, "And stop trying to feed Mi-chan, he can't eat no matter how much he wants to."
Ku pouted at him sadly, "Really?"
Naruto tapped her nose with a boyish grin, "Really really."
"Mew!" The small kitten on her lap yowled at him in protest, causing the blonde to tap its nose as well.
With an angry yowl, Mi-chan curled itself up and froze into a stationary carving of a kitten; the wooden animal equivalent of a cold shoulder.
Just as he was about to start digging in, Akitsu tugged at his sleeve and looked at him almost expectantly, he wasn't really sure since her expression had hardly budged an inch. Rolling his eyes with amusement, he brushed away the smudge of curry smearing the corner of her lips with his thumb. Akitsu immediately brightened a little and returned to her food, though Naruto noticed that the normally neat Sekirei was now deliberately being messy, somehow missing her mouth several times with her spoon.
Even before Kaho tugged his right sleeve, Naruto already knew that his other Sekirei was feeling competitive and that it was only a matter of time before one of them dumped the contents of their plates down their kimono so that he could peel their clothes off and lick….
So he WASN'T completely fine yet.
Baggy hakamas were made for a reason, BANZAI!
A few hours after dinner, Kazehana stumbled down the stairs with a pounding headache.
Gripping the neck of the bottle in her hands a little tighter as she went looking for a suitable spot for a nice drink, she smiled happily; at least Miya had allowed her to drink once Kusano went to sleep.
Maybe then the headache and the strange delusions would go away.
"Oya, you're here too."
The blond who was leaning on the wooden support pillar on the veranda sleepily looked up at her, "Hmmm? Ah. Booby old hag."
Her eyebrows twitched and she struggled to smile pleasantly, "Shouldn't that be at least nee-chan?"
"Mrgh. Is that what I said?" He thoughtfully sipped his cup of tea again, "Sometimes, things just slip out, so I'll apologize in case something rude slips out again."
"Did you really get your brain cut in half?" Kazehana asked curiously.
"More like squashed and mushed inside a meat grinder. I take it Miya told you?"
"I… still find it a little hard to believe that you're an actual immortal." She commented in reply as she slipped down on the veranda beside him.
The blond regarded her coolly, "You don't look very surprised about it though. Even Miya still hasn't accepted it, at least I think she hasn't."
"Oh I am." Kazehana giving the bottle in her hands a significant look, she smoothly cutt the top off with a small gust of wind and took a deeeep swig straight from the bottle, "But this helps. Plus Miya-chan was always something of a stick in the mud, wanting to be a prim and proper Japanese housewife before you even knew what a blowjob was will do that to you."
The blond chortled at her blunt honesty, "You're definitely different from the rest of them."
She smirked seductively and ran one teasing finger up her long and luscious thigh, "I aim to please."
"You can stop that now." The blond commented dryly, "It doesn't work on me."
Kazehana made a discontented pout; she had never met a single man who had never been at least a little affected by her skimpy attire, "You're no fun. I'm sure Minato-chan would have given me a more interesting reaction."
"You'll have to excuse this old man then. Pleasures of the flesh get a little repetitive after a while."
Feeling a little better after her fifth gulp of sake, she blearily looked at him, "That must really suck…. You can't even fall in love can you? Everyone will just keep dying while you watch them waste away."
"It's better than some other things I can think off." The blond replied coolly.
There was a pregnant silence as Naruto peered into his cup.
"There was once, a long time ago, when I had enough of getting hurt, so I isolated myself. I went and hid in the mountain, far away from everyone else. If I was alone, I couldn't make friends. If I was alone, I couldn't be hurt by others." He emptied his cup of tea, "That desperately lonely existence, keeping to yourself and stopping yourself from forming bonds…. Even getting your heart broken again and again was better than that. Though when the pain from THAT starts getting too much, I just go back into the mountains and spend a few years alone again."
"In other words, you just stopped caring and picked whatever seemed less painful at the time?"
The blond smiled thinly as he remembered Akitsu's words before she pledged herself to him, and how easily she had seen through his façade.
'Even if you might outlive us, you will accept us, if only because you are too tired to run and resist. You think that a fleeting comfort is better than none at all.'
"It's less trouble." Peering at the woman who was swaying back forth unsteadily, he wondered if she was already drunk, "Do you know how much effort you need to put into shielding yourself? Eventually you just stop caring altogether unless you can find something, an idea, a fleeting passion, anything to remind yourself that you're still there."
"Sounds like there's nothing but pain…"
"It has its up and downs." The blond commented blandly.
Kazehana chortled, "So what do you do? If you're really as old as you say, what do you do for fun? You must know some sort of special secret to spending your time right?"
Gesturing at the block of wood in his hands, the blond smiled faintly, "I carve, I watch and I survive."
"That's boring…. You must do something else to wait it out… Don't you even smoke?"
"Do you drink?"
"You don't even watch porn and… you know."
One yellow eyebrow arched at the jerking motions she was making with one hand, "Do cave paintings count?"
"No..." She took another swig directly from her bottle, "Then how in the world do you have fun in life if you're really so old?"
"I lie to idiots who equate smoking, drinking and porn with all the fun in the world," Naruto deadpanned with a pointed look.
The big busted alcoholic gaped at him for a moment before she collapsed in giggles, "I deserved that didn't I?"
Naruto smiled faintly at the giggling woman, "A little."
Sighing, Kazehana rolled on to her back, ignoring the pounds of meat rolling around on her chest, "I still can't even imagine how that works. I've been alive barely 20 years now, but I already feel like life isn't worth living unless I'm drinking. How did you deal with it?"
It depends," The heavily scarred blonde replied softly, "Sometimes you get stupid ideas, and sometimes you stay drunk for a century or two. I only drink when I have something sad to drink for though, or when there's something happy to toast for."
That one line was what told Kazehana that the strange man probably wasn't as bad as he looked.
Play Tari Tari – Reflectia (Choir Version)
Kusano cheerfully hummed a happy tune to herself as she bounced towards a patch of wild flowers. Even though she was a little lonely that Minato-nii chan was a little too busy to play with her all the time, she didn't mind because Naruto-jii chan always took her to new and fun looking places.
Today, Naruto-jii chan had taken her to a day care center that belonged to an acquaintance of his. All around them, children were playing in the sandbox or the playground but she had stuck close to his knees.
At least she did until their conversation bored the little blond girl enough for her to wander off alone; feeling a little scared of all the other children. As she knelt down beside the little bush of unknown flowers in order to inspect it a little closer, she felt someone tapping her shoulder. Looking up, her long, bushy golden hair fell in waves as another small girl that looked her age held up a ball, "Play?"
Looking to where the blond man was still talking with his friend for permission. Naruto, who had Akitsu-nee chan and Kaho-nee chan standing a little behind him while Miya-baa chan stood a little apart from them, ostensibly only there to watch out for Kusano, nodded gracefully at the unspoken question.
Her round little face lit up with happiness as she bounced up, "Unn!"
Darting over to the blond with her new friend, she grabbed his wrist and grinned as they pulled him away from the warm, homely matron he had been speaking to, "Come play, jii-chan!"
His lips turned up in an innocent grin of his own as the two girls tackled his middle and he went down rolling. Before long, several other children joined their little group and before he knew it, Naruto was carrying at least five children on his back for a ride.
A tiny smile touched Akitsu's lips as a certain warmth filled her chest at the sight of the blond rolling around on the ground with a loud chuckle, play wrestling with the three boys that had charged him.
"You really don't see an adult who would just start rolling in the ground without regard for his clothes very often." The plump woman clapped her hands, "Just don't be too rough with the nice uncle alright?" she hollered at the little kids that frequented her kindergarten.
Giving Akitsu, Kaho and Miya a warm smile she bowed politely, "If you'll excuse me, I have to go and get something."
A small sigh escaped Akitsu's lips as the nice lady left them, "… He looks like he has shed a few thousand years of burden doesn't he?"
"I'm not sure if it's because he's a big child himself or because his brains are still partially scrambled though." Miya noted stiffly.
On the sandbox, Naruto squawked as he lost to the three boys.
"….Isn't it good either way?" Akitsu pointed out in her customary monotone although anybody who heard her would also hear the adoration in her voice, "… I just want to see him happy."
"So… you're saying that we just need to stab him in the head every few years to keep him a little carefree?" Kaho quirked her lips in an amused smile, "I don't mind as long as you volunteer to cook…. Or not…" Sighing, she rubbed her temples, "You can't cook either can you? Miya-san, can you teach me how to cook?"
The purple haired woman smiled beatifically, "Of course, Kaho-chan. All you had to do was ask."
The three of them continued to have a hushed conversation when they noticed the matronly woman appear again, this time gingerly carrying a stringed wooden instrument in her hands, "Uzumaki-san, here it is. I haven't been able to find anybody who was good enough to take care of this thing except you, so it's just been sitting in my storeroom all this time."
Handing him the stringed instrument with gentle hands she beamed at the blond who was careful to keep any sand or curious boys away from it. Gingerly plucking a few strings, the blond listened carefully before he tilted his head in her direction, "It's in pretty good shape, so I won't have to do much."
"When I heard you had come back, I was delighted," the woman replied as the blond cut a sliver of wood from a block with his black knife, "I had almost given up on finding somebody who knew how to help me take care of it and I just couldn't trust anyone with a family heirloom like this."
Matsu did mention that he used to work as a handyman around here didn't she?
Gently wedging the wooden sliver into the lute's soundboard to tighten the strings a little, he plucked them again, "I'll need to change the strings and replace some of the worn out wood, but you took really good care of it."
Tapping on the wooden board to create a rhythm, Miya watched the blond slowly begin crooning a melody. All around the playground, children slowly began flocking to the scarred blond who towered above them even if he was sitting, bewitched by his melody.
Winking at her once, the blond suddenly burst into a slow song.
He sang of a child who climbed a hill with his friends and looked down on the wide blue sea that lay before them and a lazy spring.
His deep, husky voice warbled smoothly as he sang about dancing in a shower of falling petal blossoms and the difference between simple greed and wishes.
He sang about the gentle evening breeze and how to conquer fear.
The entire time, his blue eyes never left theirs.
Clutching her chest, Miya's eyes widened in horror as the pounding returned with a vengeance.
"What's wrong, Miya-san?" Kaho observed with a sly smirk, "Imagining yourself surrounded by golden haired little girls and boys?"
"NO!" Miya mouthed silently.
It wasn't that she couldn't imagine that scene at all, in fact, she found it almost too easy to do exactly that, which made it all the more horrifying.
Then the song ended and the spell the blond's song had cast on everyone ended. Time seemed to move again and the usual noises of a residential neighborhood seemed to flood back, bringing them back to reality as Miya immediately avoided Kaho's knowing gaze.
The day care center principal sniffed and wiped her tears while the children around the blond couldn't seem to stop staring at the strange uncle who would play with them unlike all the other adults and still sing so nicely.
"After 12 years, it finally sings again. I'll pay you any price you want for fixing it, Uuzmaki-san."
The blond waved her offer away with an audacious wink that caused her to blush, "It's alright. Brushing up an antique like this is a reward of its own. I'll bring it back by the end of this week."
Placing it back into its case with a rare gentleness, he hefted the bag up with him but not before giving all the children one last hair ruffle.
"You can play musical instruments?" Miya questioned quietly as the two of them sat on the bench.
"I had to find something to do didn't I?" Naruto retorted as he watched Kaho and Akitsu talk with some of the older girls on the grass. Every so often, the group would look back at him and giggle, "Besides, I think this thing might be older than I am." He declared humorously.
She made a non-committal noise and the silence between dragged on before she spoke again, "You seemed to know that lady very well."
Nope. That didn't sound accusing at all.
"Hrrrmm… I guess. She used to be one of the most popular girls in the area, still is really, but there are grey hairs in her head now, and wrinkles." He smiled mirthlessly, "Time really does pass when you don't notice doesn't it."
One eyebrow arched at his strange words, "Regretting it already?"
"A broken heart." She breathed out softly, "Watching us all grow old while you stay young and healthy."
The blond was silent again for a very long time.
"You can't break what wasn't whole in the first place. Not really."
A tinkling sound broke the comfortable quiet they shared, and Naruto suddenly began digging around in his pocket. Frowning, he pulled out a vibrating cellphone, causing Miya's eyebrows to rise, "I thought you broke it already."
"I did…." The blond scowled thickly, "I don't know how this one got here…."
Flipping it open, he lifted it to his ear, "May I know who managed to pick my pocket while I wasn't paying attention?"
Over at the garden, Kaho and Akitsu looked up when they felt his discomfort. Quickly excusing themselves, the two beautiful women headed for their Master. At the silent urgings, he placed the call on speaker so they could hear who was on the other side of the call.
A cultured and silky voice sounded out from its speakers, "Ah, Uzumaki-san. You might not have heard of me before, but my name is Izumi Higa."
The blond grunted, "What do you want, Higa-san? That you would go so far as to gift me with a free phone?"
"It was a necessary expense." Izumi commented amusedly, "I heard you were a well-travelled person, so I thought your acquaintance would be worth the trouble."
Naruto rolled his eyes at the small talk, "I've been to a fair few places."
Hearing him agree, Izumi smirked, "Did you enjoy broadening your horizons? Paris perhaps? I've always found the nightly landscape to be an enchanting picture."
"Once." Naruto admitted.
"Oh? When?" Izumi inquired politely, "I might even have met you."
"I'm not sure. I didn't stay very long either way. The local customs weren't very attractive at the time."
"What do you mean?" He said in a completely shocked voice, "How could Paris NOT be attractive?"
"They tried to shove some glowing rocks up my behind. Said it was popular AND it would increase my libido. Now I wasn't a very scientific person at the time, but I was fairly sure that sticking a piece of an eternal atomic sun into my asshole would definitely do something. Just not increase my libido, so I offered to break his ass with some dynamite and a shovel if he came anywhere mine with his nice glowing rock."
Izumi wasn't sure if the man was joking or not.
"No. No you don't." Naruto replied with a smirk, "Here's a hint though; don't try to kiss my ass. I'm allergic to toadies and small talk so you might not like what comes out that end while you're licking it."
"You are an annoyingly blunt person, Uzumaki-san. Very well, I will do as you wish. I know that you are an exceptional Ashikabi, but are you aware that the Second stage of the Sekirei Plan has started?"
"You could say so."
"That is why I want to hire you and your Sekirei's services, Uzumaki-san."
"Why?" The blond asked dryly, "Finally gave up on trying to dig up dirt on me?"
"…..I will not ask why you are aware of that, but I assure you that you will be compensated accordingly."
"I have enough money, Higa-san. Enough that I don't want your entire empire even if you offered it to me." The scarred blond grinned, his eyes flicking towards Miya, Kaho and Akitsu's worried expressions, "So you might want to up the ante and offer me something better."
"What about half of MBI? Think about it, with all the secrets they are hiding, the technology they have fostered. With all of that at the tips of your fingers, there is nothing you cannot achieve."
"I can tell you now, Higa-san, even if you investigate their race down to the very last genome, even if you take apart their ship, even if you travel to the ends of the universe, you won't find what you are looking for. THERE'S NO SUCH THING AS A CURE TO BEING A PERVERT! ECCHI BANZAI!"
"DON'T SAY SOMETHING LIKE WITH SO MUCH PRIDE, BAKA-ASHIKABI!"
On the other side of line, Higa Izumi winced as he heard three rapid smacks of flesh against flesh and a long pause before Uzumaki-san spoke again with his usual composure.
"Ah, I seem to be having some problems with blurting out my thoughts at the most random times, and my cute little Sekirei got embarrassed since we're at a day care center."
Off to the side, Miya sighed and rubbed her temples as she mumbled under her breath, "No wonder you're immortal. You're so stupid you wouldn't know how to die if someone killed you."
"Is there anything I could offer you to persuade you to join me then?"
"Maybe a rare antique since you seem to like them so much, like the first porn movie ever made."
Naruto went silent while they stared at him.
Money couldn't move him, material wealth couldn't move him, knowledge couldn't move him, but he was hesitating for an erotic film?
"Don't you dare agree with him," Kaho hissed, "Don't you have any pride in yourself?"
"A person like me who has no need for pride! LET ME HAVE THAT MOVIE!"
"Ah. It's showing."
"His real colors are totally showing."
There was another smack.
"I mean, no. I do not need the world's first porn movie." Naruto said in an utterly flat monotone, "So I'm afraid that we have nothing left to talk about."
Izumi sighed on the other end of the connection, "I'm afraid that you don't understand what you have done, Uzumaki-san. By rejecting me, I can no longer promise you or your Sekirei's safety."
"Trust me, if you try anything on them, you might as well just bend over and clean out your anus right now."
The man laughed ingratiatingly, not a hint of the anger he was feeling showed in his voice, "And how do you plan to do that when you can barely protect yourself?"
A loud laugh was his answer, "I have a long arm, Higa-san. Make no mistake, you might not see it, but I have a VERY long arm."
"This conversation is over." Izumi said frostily as he ended the call.
Naruto glanced at the sleek phone in his hands and shrugged. Closing it calmly, he casually dropped into the pocket of a passerby, much to the three Sekirei's confusion.
Clapping his hands as if to clean the dust from it, he yawned indifferently, "Shall we leave? It's getting late anyway."
The three of them glanced at each other and sighed at the hopeless Ashikabi.
He was probably the only person in existence that would treat a serious threat like that like it was nothing but hot air, "I wonder what's for dinner tonight."
"Ah…." Akitsu who was anxious to try out the new confirm win technique that her new friends had taught her spoke up, "Master, I would like to learn how to cook…."
"Hmm? Sure, why not."
"Would you me to wear a naked apron while I learn to cook, Master?" Akitsu inquired coolly.
Naruto spluttered, "That's wrong!"
Miya sighed in relief, at least the blond still had some sanity left in his…..
"IF YOU'RE GOING TO WEAR APRONS, IT MUST BE FRILLED APRONS!"
"I don't believe I want to hear the rest of this conversation." The purple haired landlady muttered as she kept her hands on Kusano's ears.
"What's up with her?" The blond wondered as she left with a huff.
On their way home, the five of them coincidentally bumped into Minato and Musubi who were just coming back from his part time job.
Letting go of Naruto's hand, the small blond girl squealed happily and hurtled into Minato's hug, "Onii-chan! Tadaima!"
The timid boy chuckled warmly as he hugged the small warm body tightly, "Ku-chan. Did you enjoy your day?"
"Unn! I met a lot of girls and made friends!"
Ruffling her hair affectionately, Minato looked up, "Ah, Naruto-san, do you mind if I have a moment? There's something I need to speak with you about."
He tried to discretely jerk his head at Musubi and Miya to signal the blond that it had something to do with the Sekirei Plan.
"Ahh… of course. I was just accompanying Miya-san to the market anyway, she was on her way to buy a birthday cake."
Miya blinked, "I was?" she blinked again, "Ah... I mean yes. I was."
She nudged him and whispered, "Whose is it?"
"Yep. Don't forget the candles. 25 of them."
Her eyebrow twitched, "I-Isn't the number of candles a little off?"
"Oh, you're right." There was a slight pause then Naruto, sounding far too gleeful for his own good added, "We need at least 10 more candles."
Miya smiled sweetly at the blond's ribbing, "Ku-chan, remind me to break Naruto-jii chan's arms as soon as we get home."
"What in the world are you teaching children?" the blonde spluttered with aghast.
"Necessary skills to be a woman." Miya countered in a clipped tone as she picked Kusano up, already understanding that Minato wanted to talk to Naruto about the Sekirei Plan while she was supposed to be the unknowing landlady.
Puffing up her cheeks adorably, she left in a huff.
"What's wrong with her?"
Play Chiaki Ishikawa - Prototype
"Musubi, catch!" A cream puff flew through the air before Musubi leapt six feet into the air and caught it between her teeth. Grinning happily she landed and spun around three times, "Woof, woof, woof!" Before devouring the puffs that she had missed so much.
Naruto-san made really nice puffs but Miya-san and Kaho-nee san always scolded her when she wanted some.
Minato sweat dropped, he would have been upset at the way Musubi was being treated if not for the fact that the brown haired girl obviously loved playing this game with the older man, it also alleviated some of the guilt he felt at not being able to properly take care of Musubi due to his work.
Winding back another puff, Naruto threw the next one as far as he safely could with a grin as Musubi scarpered after it with a delightful laugh, "We probably have some time before Musubi makes it back. What did you want to talk about?"
The brown haired boy leaned back onto the bench with a worried expression, "You heard about the Second stage didn't you? They're going to close the city and no one is allowed in or out."
The taller man was silent as he leaned against a tree, lighting his pipe, "What about it? It just one nut job arbitrarily closing down the city."
"I still don't really understand the reason for this Tournament thing, but I understood that Musubi wanted to fight. But Kaho-san and AKitsu-san don't seem to want to fight, aren't you afraid of losing them?"
"Oh, wasn't this what you wanted to talk about that day?" Naruto inquired with a puff of smoke. When Minato nodded, the blonde continued, "I don't understand, exactly what are you so scared about?"
"Of losing Musubi, Matsu and Kusano." He answered simply, "If I could fight in their place… I'd do it in a heartbeat but…"
"Then take the three of them and run away. Far away from this pointless fight, live with them. Grow old, have a family." Naruto tapped his pipe gently, knocking out some ashes, "It's not like it's too hard, not with Matsu with you. Of course, I'm not entirely sure if running away counts since that crazy Minaka guy might tell those who still want to participate in the Plan that they have to hunt you down to get that wish."
"But don't you see? I can't!"
"I…. I have my exams here!"
"Is that worth losing your girls over? Are you really that much of an idiot?" The blond's words seemed to seep in his consciousness like a malicious toxin, "Saying that you don't want to fight while you stay in the middle of a battlefield? In fact, I'm already aware that you're not originally from ShinTokyo, so I'm sure you have somewhere to go run for help. Musubi can be persuaded pretty easily and I'm sure Ku-chan doesn't care either way plus Matsu is already on the run from them anyway. I can help you leave you know. Keep Musubi, Kusano and Matsu safe."
"That's right," Musubi piped up, "Minato-sama is too nice!"
The scarred and grizzly blonde frowned, "Nice won't stop wars. Nice didn't help feed you when you and Minato-san were thrown out of your former residence, luck did. Being nice just means that you're giving permission to all and sundry to freely walk all over you without consequences."
He breathed deeply to calm his agitation, "The only reason why being nice MIGHT work, is either because a) the people you are dealing with have a conscience and are capable of feeling bad about draining your blood dry when you give them the wet puppy eye stare or b) complete idiot-"
"Go!" a figure wielding a large blunt weapon burst out of the undergrowth and headed straight for Musubi in what the blonde figured was meant to be a surprise attack.
All it did was annoy him even more.
Stopping the heavy hammer with one hand, he frowned at the almost tiny girl in the white thigh length gown on the other end and her not so happy Ashikabi, "Do you NOT know how rude it is to interrupt someone while their talking?" he spun around and kicked her directly in the abdomen lightly, sending her skidding backwards with a look of shock on her face as she doubled over at the pain in her tummy.
Another figure who had been hiding in the shadows slowly made his entrance, "Yashima, you stupid bitch! I thought you said only the girls were Sekirei!?"
"I-I did… This man doesn't feel like a Sekirei… I-I didn't even realize he was there." The girl protested timidly.
The nondescript man in the red beanie scoffed at the downtrodden woman and slapped her, "Then you're obviously wrong, not like that's any different from usual. I figured that the more you take out now, the less we have to fight afterwards but you end up like this even after only one kick," Mercilessly he kicked the downed girl repeatedly, "Honestly, why did I have to end up with a useless Sekirei like you?"
"Stop that! Can't you see that she's in pain!?" Minato yelled angrily as he brushed past a solemn Naruto, "How can someone like you be an Ashikabi!?"
"Ha? Are you an idiot? That's what these sluts are made for isn't it?" With a lewd grin, he bent down and squeezed her breasts, "Just look at her. She can't cook, she doesn't know how to work, she has no common sense; all she has is that stupidly huge hammer, the MBI card and her body." He shot Minato a cruel smile as his hand drifted towards Yashima's lips and entered her mouth, "So what are you going to do? Take her from me? Can you really do something like that, when I'm her one Ashikabi when all that will do is reduce her to a street prostitute?"
While the two of them had been talking, Naruto simply relaxed against a tree, and lit his pipe with a casual flick of the wrist as he signalled to Kagari not to interfere, his eyes set squarely on a hesitating Minato, "Th-that still doesn't make it right! It's your responsibility to take care of her as her Ashikabi isn't it!?"
"If you ask me, she should be the one doing me a favour for taking her in. I mean, I'm already pretty nice, you should see what some of the others are doing." The man commented lightly before capturing an unresisting Yashima's lips. Heat surged through her body at the contact as wide transparent wings of light materialized from her back.
"Hmph, maybe now you might be able to at least take one of them out before we run."
Yashima nodded with her head lowered as her wings dissipated and picked up her hammer again, "Hammer of my pledge, shatter my A-Ashikabi's misfortune!" Yashima gasped out through her heavy breathing as she took a few shaky steps forward before bursting forward towards the biggest threat in the area, far faster than she could before with her hammer held high, "Gravity HAMMER!"
Naruto only sighed as he stopped the glowing hammer cold with one palm, the ground under his feet cracking under her power. His other fist swung out before stopping just short of her nose, but the sheer force behind the punch still managed to cause her short brown hair to stream out behind her utterly shocked eyes.
"Are you sure you really want to fight me, Ojou-chan? Explaining why there are body parts all over the park is a little annoying." Naruto kindly commented as Yashima weakly slid to her knees as the strength somehow seeped from her bones. Behind her, her Ashikabi had been completely blown away by the force of the blonde's fist until he hit a wall imprinted the shape of a massive fist amidst flattened trees.
"Ha-Hauu….. I'm go-going to be abandoned..."The pale haired girl began sobbing quietly until someone wiped her tears away gently.
"If he abandons you, then why don't you come with me?" The blonde asked lightly as he flung the hammer away easily, "You won't have an Ashikabi with you, but people who will love you and take care of you will be there."
"He-Eh? Bu-but….. He's my Ashikabi…" Yashima, more stunned than anything stared helplessly at the man.
"Which would you prefer? Living a loveless life with your Ashikabi, being cursed and punished for your so called weakness, or being loved and spending time with people who care for you?"
Her thoughts were jumbled up, her desires warring against her conditioning but slowly, very slowly, she reached out for the offered hand.
Naruto gently squeezed the small hand in his, "Very well. Welcome to the-"
The dirty and unshaven man leapt at the blonde man, having taken the chance to creep up on the blonde and his Sekirei with a knife, "That's right Yashima, keep him occupied. Yaargh!"
Naruto frowned and caught the tip of the penknife with two fingers. The tiny blade instantly began melting in front of the rogue Ashikabi's very scared eyes.
"Now what did I say about interrupting other people's conversation?" The blond said coldly.
His temper already somewhat frayed, he swept his legs out from under him before backhanding him into the ground. Scoffing a little, he stepped on the man's knee to stop him from escaping, "This is the leg that kicked Yashima-chan isn't it?"
A cold, grim leer decorated his face as the pressure increased, "You won't be needing this anymore."
"GUUUUUAH, MY LEG!"
Filled with horror, the pale brown haired Sekirei dashed to her Ashikabi's side as he desperately tried to crawl away, clutching at the bleeding stump that used to be his left leg, "Ju-juunichi-sama!" she looked up at the blonde desperately, "I-I already said I'd go with you, pl-please spare him!"
"Tha-that's it Yashima, you can stay with this monster, just LET ME GO!" the man in the beanie sobbed as he painfully crawled away from the blonde monster.
"You see Yashima, he'd rather sacrifice you even after everything you've done for him." Naruto calmly noted, "Now move away, I'm just going discourage him from trying to ever find you again. Maybe he'll start thinking about people other than himself once he learns that he can't feed himself anymore."
"Wai-Wait, Uzumaki-san!" Minato who had been stunned stupid for the entire encounter after seeing the blonde man's strength finally spoke up, "He-He's already hurt enough, just let him go!"
"Oh? I didn't know that you condoned rape and abuse, Minato. I thought you were better than that."
Minato hesitated again at the coldly calm blonde man, a stark contrast to the warm, prankster of Izumo Inn, "I don't!"
"Then why are you interfering? You were angry that he treated Yashima badly. So I stopped him. Now you want to let him go? What exactly do you want?"
"I-I'm just saying that we should hand him to the police instead of doing this! It's not right! Attacking someone like this is wrong!"
A frown broke the cold mask, "Hand him to the police? And what do you think will happen then? You know as well as I do that they willfully ignore anything to do with the Sekirei Plan. At best, they'll give him treatment and let him go, if not because of orders from above, then because they consider Sekirei as nothing more than subhuman creatures. It's pretty obvious what will happen then isn't it? This boy hasn't repented; all that's going to happen is that he finds another Sekirei to take his frustrations out on." Naruto explained in a simple matter of fact tone.
"I… I… argggh!" Minato grabbed his head, thoroughly confused by everything, "You've already warned him alright!? His learnt his lesson, he won't do it again!"
"It's not the severity of a punishment that deters crime, boy. It's the certainty that he will be punished." The man chuckled lowly, "In a perfect world, he would have certainly learnt his lesson and left it at that, but we're not in a perfect world now are we?"
Seeing the boy's hopeless expression, Naruto sighed and relented, "Well… I guess since we're housemates and all that, I could give you a chance…."
"Eh? Wh-what do you mean?" Minato looked up hopefully.
"It means that I'm going to let you choose." the intensely cold expression returned with a vengeance as the scarred blonde lifted his hands, one pointed at him and another pointed at the man called Juunichi.
"You were scared of watching Musubi fight weren't you? So here are your choices."
He snapped his fingers.
A group icy spears were immediately launched at the stunned Musubi, spearing her through her clothes and trapping her in a cage of sharp icicles that cut deeply if she moved even an inch. Behind Naruto, a naginata scythed through the air and stabbed into Junichi's palm, staking him to the ground.
This, combined with the chilly way the blonde stared at him was far worse than anything he had seen from Miya, if only because right then and there, Minato knew that Naruto meant every word he said, "Swear to never see Musubi again, abandon her, and I'll let this piece of trash go."
"Wh- I can't choose something like THAT!" the dark haired boy yelled out angrily.
"Really?" Naruto calmly asked with a questioning cock of the head, "Should I assume that means that you choose Musubi over them?"
Kaho, resolutely ignoring Musubi's cries as Akitsu pricked her neck with a shard of sharp ice, while she slowly dragged her naginata up his arm, cutting in half until it was stuck in the boy's shoulder. Clinically, she didn't think the boy would survive much longer with how much blood he was losing, even his begging was barely a whisper now, but the all-consuming fury and disgust Naruto had for these two Ashikabi surged through the connection she had with him, overwhelming even her own reasoning.
"Pl-please… no more!"
Naruto had often commented about how their emotions affected him, but none of them had expected for the connection to work in reverse as well.
They weren't three separate people anymore.
There was only one.
"Musubi!" Minato tried to pull her out of the cage of ice, but simply touching the sharp edges of the icy spires cut his hands badly.
"I'm al-alright, Minato-sa…" Akitsu stonily pushed the shard in a little deeper, silently telling her to be quiet, "Kyaaah!"
Minato dropped to his knees, Musubi's cries of pain ringing in his ears, not knowing what to choose, "Uzumaki-san! Stop! Please stop, I beg you!" He just couldn't choose to abandon Musubi, but at the same time he couldn't let Naruto maim the Ashikabi, even IF the man had just been trying to kill Musubi minutes ago.
Naruto observed the boy for a moment before speaking in a chillingly factual tone, "You're a very nice person Minato, there's nothing wrong about wishing for a world where everyone is happy but you don't seem to understand the way this world works, or maybe you're just too nice. Reality doesn't give a damn when the only distinguishing feature you have is being nice."
The blond's tone was frosty as he slowly closed his fists as if strangling the bleeding and torn Ashikabi, "I could be polite and say that the effort you put in is all that matters but potential will always remain just that, potential, if you don't actually USE it. Without strength, being kind just means that you are weak. Now will you let your insecurities stop you from choosing?"
The lightning sparked louder and louder and Naruto raised his voice to match, "Will you sit there and watch as you lose everything again because you were scared or WILL YOU ANSWER?"
Gravel crunched under Minato's clenched fist as he slowly got up, "I choose…."
Play Jia Peng Fang – Silent Moon
Humming a gentle tune to herself, Miya absent-mindedly held Kusano with one hand while the other carried a medium sized cake that would be enough for their little… family.
"Ah, Miya-chan!" the meat shop's boss called out to the passing landlady with a knowing grin.
Bowing polite, Miya greeted the cheerfully plump woman, "Good evening to you as well, Nakai-san. How was your day?"
"Business was usual," Her beady eyes glinted at the little blond girl hiding behind Miya's skirt, "I see you're here with your… adopted daughter. Where is the father?"
"Unfortunately, we are not related in the way you think," Miya retorted icily, "Nor are we in a relationship."
Nakai made an unsatisfied sound, "You're no fun, Miya-chan. Always so stiff and formal, aren't you even a little bit bored of living by yourself? All those admirers and suitors… wasted…"
Sighing, the purple haired landlady sent her friend a knowing look, "I can handle myself just fine, Nakai-san."
"But having a strong man around the house would help a lot would it?" the curly haired butcher said with a grin, "By the way, where is the lucky man?"
"He had something to do." Miya answered with a vague wave of the hand.
"Really? I saw him here this morning though."
Miya blinked, "This morning?"
"Yep. He was going around the shopping street and buying up all the rice and sundry items." The short and stumpy woman made a disgusted sound, "The sundry store couple was crowing about it all morning, but he didn't buy any meat. Said it couldn't last."
"What time exactly did you see him?"
Stumbling back a little at the intense look on Miya's face, Nakai stuttered, "About 9 in the morning. Right after we usually open."
Miya bowed again, "Thank you for letting me know, Nakai-san."
As the purple haired landlady hurried home, her mind was consumed by thoughts of how the blond could possibly be in two places at the same time since she had been standing right NEXT to him while they were at the day care center.
"Ku-chan, why don't you go and play with Mi-chan while I put this cake into the freezer." Gently giving the small girl an encouraging push, Miya leaned against the fridge as she finally had some time to herself.
….. While she didn't want to believe it, it was beginning to look like the enigmatic blond could somehow separate himself. It was either that, or he could control time, and Miya wasn't ready to believe THAT yet. Even clones were a more digestible alternative.
Purple eyes looked up at the sound of feet pattering back into the kitchen, "I found Mii-chan playing with this in Naruto-jii chan's room!"
Holding up a scroll proudly for Miya to see, the little girl dropped it in her palm before she pattered off again.
Unfurling the strange scroll filled a flowing script, her breath hitched.
On it was a list of Sekireis and a general description of their physical traits as well as abilities.
Wide eyes ran through the list and a few names seemed to jump out at her since they had extra notes attached to their personal details.
Directly connected with self.
007, Akitsu: Positive, affiliated. Battle capacity increased by 40%
087, Kaho: Positive, affiliated. Battle capacity increased by 50%
Winged by unaffiliated persons.
010, Uzume: Positive, Taken. Battle capacity increased by 35%
005, Mutsu: Neutral, Taken. Battle capacity reduced by 30%
004, Karasuba: Negative, Taken. Battle capacity reduced by 60%
005, Homura: Positive, Neutral. Battle capacity increased by 25%
002, Matsu: Neutral, Neutral (at time of experiment). Battle capacity reduced by 20%
009, Tsukiumi: Negative, Neutral. Battle capacity reduced by 40%
001, Miya. Inconclusive.
[All tests are conducted after initial period of hostility for independence purposes. Allied subjects seemed to experience magnified levels of gratitude or resentment as per treatment, while Subjects allied with outside influences are affected a little less. Neutral Subjects who are not allied with anybody else have the smallest emotional multiplier to external influence.
All subjects also show a greater reaction to negative treatment than to positive treatment. Ongoing experiment also notes possibility of unwinging an already winged subject without extreme added trauma to be less than 0.9%
Appendix; Experiment 001 has been compromised by emotions. Objective evaluation of Subject 001 is no longer possible. Results are inconclusive.]
The scroll dropped from her lifeless fingers.
He had never lied about treating Tsukiumi or Matsu as experiments but she had never considered the possibility that the experiment could be extended to include them as well.
Things immediately got worse as she heard the sound of the front door opening.
Hurrying to the reception hall, Miya let out a gasp as a blood soaked Musubi rushed in and laid an unconscious Minato on the couch with Kaho, Akitsu and Naruto following behind. Even though he had blood all over his clothes, the lanky boy seemed to be uninjured as Musubi fussed over him.
"What happened, Musubi?" a frazzled Miya immediately asked the sobbing girl.
Instead of answering her, the brown haired shrine maiden turned around and gave Naruto a questioning look, "Why did you do that, Naruto-sama? Why did you hurt Minato-sama?"
The fact that there was not a hint of accusation or anger in her eyes, only an honest confusion, made it all the more worse from Miya's perspective.
"Was that really necessary?" Miya questioned with a calm that she did not feel one she had got the frantic Musubi to calm down enough to explain everything that had happened.
Outside, she was the same, calm and graceful pillar of Izumo, but inside she was a confused mess.
"It was to me, if he was going to suffer then it might as well be at my hands since he would not lose anything significant that way…" He replied with a calm sense, "Everything I said was common sense and simple logic…. but…"
"But?" she gently urged the taller man.
"Common sense said that ninjas have to be warriors of the shadow; stealthy, rational and coldly calculating instead of attention seeking hot headed knuckle heads. Common sense said that optimism cannot outweigh an army. Common sense dictates that light will triumph over dark, common sense is knowing to give up when there's a less than 1% chance of succeeding…. Common sense also says that I should be dead a billion times over by now."
He grimaced tiredly, "Sometimes, all you need to win a war is a moron and sometimes a sincerely kind gesture can take you further than any amount of self-sacrifice but when I saw him so innocent… I just got so upset."
The blond didn't say anything.
"One of the most important rules that Takehito set was that we would not accept any fighting between housemates. It doesn't matter if it occurred here or outside, but it happened."
She drew a deep breath and steadied herself.
"Uzumaki-san, I'm going to have to ask you to leave Izumo Inn. You have one day to pack everything."
The scarred blond said nothing, merely bowing politely at Miya's curt orders.
It wasn't his house any longer after all, and while he was in her home, he would follow her rules.
Besides, it fit within his plans after all, there was no point in spending resources to hold a losing base when you could transfer to a more strategic one.
That night, Miya found herself struggling to fall asleep.
God knew how many hours had passed before she finally fell in to a fitful slumber.
Which was why, when she heard the voice of a woman echoing in the darkness, Miya immediately shot up right and reached for her Katana, but her fingers grasped uselessly in the void.
Blowing out her frustrations with a sigh, she reined in her curiosity with an iron will and began systematically inspecting the dark void she seemed to be floating in until she heard the voice again.
If she didn't know any better, she would have said she was talking to herself.
But the woman who had suddenly appeared in front of Miya didn't look anything LIKE her, even though they sounded exactly the same.
"Who are you?" Miya demanded warily, "And why do you sound like me?"
"Shouldn't you introduce somebody before you asked for their name?" The exceptionally beautiful woman lounging on an invisible couch that seemed to hang in mid air replied with an impudent smirk.
"Asama." The purple haired woman replied with dignified posture, "Asama Miya. Now what is your name?"
"Hmmmm…. How interesting."
"What is?" She was getting a little annoyed by the strange woman's roundabout way of speaking. It reminded her quite harshly of a certain blond, and she was not in the mood for that.
"Did you know? Names contain a lot of power. With your name, I could even extract your soul." She paused, "Not at the moment of course. As for why I sound like you…. Who knows…." The lounging woman drawled out lazily, "But I can tell you that that was the same question that a certain blond asked himself when he first met you. In fact, he was so surprised that you managed to hit him and then knock him out when by all rights he could have dodged it."
"Who are you?" Miya demanded again. The woman smirked.
"Yuuko. Ichihara Yuuko."
End Chapter 12