I do not own Naruto or Kamen Rider Fourze. They belong to their respective creators and not me. I am only writing this for fun and not for any kind of profit. If you have problems with what I write then you don't have to read it. For those of you left, thanks for stopping by and I hope you enjoy the chapter.
Kamen Rider Fourze: Cosmic Maelstrom
By Ten-Faced Paladin
Chapter 10: A Vanity Star
The Kamen Rider Club was hard at work again with their daily activities concerning the actions of the Zodiarts. With the appearance of Leo, even if Naruto had destroyed him, it meant that the dealers Perseus and Andromeda would likely become much more active since they likely figured that they were on the right track for whatever they needed the Horoscopes for. On that train of though, the club members were hard at work with improving their tactics.
Sasuke was pouring over the readouts of Fourze's suit. Leo's savage attack had broken open the helmet, something Sasuke wasn't sure was possible up until that point. Fortunately, the suit had a function to absorb cosmic energy when not in use to repair any and all damages that it may have undertaken. Hinata and Sakura were looking over blueprints for more Astro Switches and trying to get one put together and increase Fourze's arsenal. Tenten had taken to looking over the fight with Leo along with other Zodiarts to try and put together a better training regimen. Neji was merely sitting in a corner of the room, meditating and making sure that Hinata was in sight at all times.
Neji's inclusion into the Kamen Rider Club was like Sasuke, in name only. The difference was that Neji didn't care if he was included in the club's attendance or not. So long as he was able to fulfill his duty to protect Hinata, he didn't care what people said or labeled him as. So he had yet to actually take part in anything the group would call club activities, using the time to complete his homework or simply meditate. He obviously didn't approve, but he respected Hinata's decision to do something about the Zodiarts threat and thus didn't say anything about it.
As the group continued their work, the door to the Rabbit Hutch opened and announced the arrival of Naruto.
"Where have you been?" asked Sasuke, noticing the blonde's arrival. He looked glum like he usually did after being chewed out by a favored teacher over something.
"Baa-chan saw the bandages on my face and flipped out," Naruto huffed, peeling the last of said bandages off of his features. Leo's attack had scratched him up a fair bit when it broke through his helmet. Fortunately, it was all superficial rather than anything serious like damage to his actual eyes. "She thinks a bunch of street thugs picked a fight with me because of my hair or something. She's on the warpath now."
"Principal Tsunade always did have a soft spot for you," Sakura commented, looking up from the blueprints. "No one else would have stayed in school for as long as you have with all the pranks you pulled."
"She's my godmother so I guess she is softer on me," Naruto agreed. "And it's not like I destroyed anything or hurt anybody in my pranks."
"True," Tenten nodded. "Your pranks usually just make a mess. Not like the football team."
"Not like you'll have anymore time for pranks, though," Sakura said to Naruto. "Not when you're Fourze and having to keep an eye out for Zodiarts."
"Yeah, yeah," Naruto sighed, slumping at the table in the center of the room. "Not like the pickings are any good anyway. Baa-chan has all the teachers going heavy on anyone pulling anything on people. Not to mention everyone's still sore about the football team. I'd get suspended for sure if I pulled any of my stunts." Say what you like about Naruto, but he knew that there was a time and place for pranking and the current atmosphere of the school was not it.
"Well, Principal Tsunade is dealing with the fallout of what's been going on under her nose," Hinata offered. "I'm sure plenty of people are giving her criticisms over how she missed such events happening."
"Shizune-nee said that too when she warned me after Baa-chan flipped," Naruto nodded. "Some guy named Danzo has really been grinding her gears about a proper principal to an important school like ours. He keeps bringing up all sorts of incidents that somehow she didn't know about but he knows everything."
"Councilman Danzo is impressively diligent in his duties and keeps his ear to the ground," Neji spoke up, not opening his eyes. "He has also been a longtime opponent of Hokage-sama's somewhat softer policies, of which Principal Tsunade is a supporter. Likely he wishes to use this to try and garner support to some of his own policies."
"If the guy knew about this then why didn't ge tell Baa-chan?" Naruto frowned. "All this could have ended way sooner and people wouldn't have gotten as hurt as they did by the pranks!"
"Probably wanted to let it all blow up in Principal Tsunade's face so he could make his point," Sasuke shrugged. "Now shut up about politics. I get that enough by people hoping to gain the support of the Uchiha holdings."
"Right, right," Naruto huffed. "Okay, Tenten-chan what's on the schedule today?"
"You need more agility and speed training," Tenten replied, pointing at her blonde friend. "Leo was able to really get the jump on you and the rest of the Horoscopes may be just as fast or even faster. So we head off to train speed."
"Right!" Naruto nodded.
Inside his sanctum, the Red-Eyed Man was staring up absently at the night sky above him. Among the numerous constellations, Leo was lit up with golden stars that were radiant compared to the others. He seemed to be basking in the light of the constellation before he looked to the shadows of his room. Perseus and Andromeda were kneeling on the ground, but between them and standing on his feet was Leo. Wrapped around his shoulders was a multi-layered mantle which was decorated with red clouds and was otherwise black with gold lines running along its surface.
"I trust that our operations are continuing despite the...interruptions?" asked the Red-Eyed Man.
"We are progressing," Perseus nodded. "We have already passed on another switch to a potential Horoscope."
"We believe this one has great potential," Andromeda backed up her husband.
"Tsk!" Leo snorted. "Why are we wasting our time on those wastes of space? Can't we just get the Switches to evolve so we can get the others in on this?"
"You know why we cannot," the Red-Eyed Man replied. "And until we discover the Judgment Star we will have to continue with our current methods." His eyes flared brightly, "Do you have a problem with that?"
Leo stiffened and turned his head away, "No, no I got nothing against it."
"Very well then," the man nodded, the light in his eyes dimming. "Keep an eye on the new wielder.
"Yes, sir," the three Zodiarts nodded.
Konoha Gakuen - Hallways
"Okay, okay, wait a sec," Naruto frowned as he and Hinata were walking down the hall. Hinata had her notebook open and was allowing Naruto to jot down copies from a class he had missed recently. "When did this come up? Asuma-sensei usually gives us a chance to study ahead by telling us what's going to happen in his next class."
"He mentioned it at the end of the class you missed Naruto-kun," Hinata replied. "Try to keep up okay?"
Naruto groaned and scratched his head, "It's not my fault I had to go get my face treated after what Leo did to me. Ero-sennin usually is mellow about most stuff but once he saw me all scuffed up he dragged my butt to the clinic to get checked out. He wouldn't let me go to school until the doctor said I was clear." the blonde them grumbled. "We may have gotten out sooner if he wasn't busy flirting with the nurses though."
Hinata sweatdropped slightly at the comment, having remembered seeing the older man flirt with the principal only to get slugged. He did seem like the flirting type to her, and Naruto vocally admitted that the man was a pervert many times. She didn't really believe that the man was as perverted as Naruto said...but just in case she'd keep her distance if she saw him.
The pair turned the corner and the blonde took notice of several purple posters stuck up on the walls. Glancing over at one, Naruto saw that they were promoting a contest called Miss Konoha Gakuen. From the flowery writing and decorations, Naruto assumed that it was some kind of contest for girls. He hadn't really taken notice of a contest like that before.
"Miss Konoha Gakuen?" Naruto frowned, turning to Hinata. "Huh, is that something new?"
"U-uhm!" Hinata flushed slightly. She in fact did know that the school hosted a girls idol-like contest and many of her other friends tried to convince her to enter but she never wanted to. Some of the things contestants had to do was just too embarrassing for her.
"Figures the school's dead last doesn't pay attention to the important things!"
Naruto and Hinata turned to see Ino approaching them, hands on her hips and looking her best as usual. She had a grin on her lips as she approached. Hinata greeted the girl formally and Naruto huffed at being called dead last once again.
"So what is it already?" asked Naruto impatiently.
"Only the biggest contest for every aspiring idol in this school!" Ino huffed. "Miss Konoha Gakuen brings out the aspiring idols, models, singers, whatever to shine. Some model agencies and music studios send agents out here to see what kind of new talent is rising up! That's just for the second, third, and maybe fourth place finalists. The winners have the whole fashion, music, and other industries open up to them!"
"Oh, so it's one big beauty contest," Naruto nodded, unimpressed. "Okay."
Ino blanched, "Okay? Okay? That's all you can say? The chance of a lifetime for any girl to become an idol and that's all you can say?" She shook her head, "Ugh. I'd call you dumb but I know boys just don't appreciate such things besides the bikini contests."
"Hey," Naruto frowned, making a point to not perk up at the thought of a bikini contest. He was not ero-sennin thank-you very much!
"Anyway!" Ino huffed before looking to Hinata. "I'll be seeing you on the stage, right Hinata?"
Hinata flushed brightly with a squeak, "Ah! U-u-um, n-n-no. I-I-I'm not into t-th-that kind of thing."
"What? Again?" Ino frowned. "Hinata, you're kidding! You've got absolutely nothing to be ashamed about and I know you'd do real well in the contest! You've got a lot to offer Hinata, you shouldn't be ashamed of that! I know Naruto would sure like a glimpse."
"A-a-a-a-a-ano…" Hinata's face turned bright red and she became wobbly on her feet.
"Ah well," Ino shrugged. "If you change your mind then you know where to sign up. I welcome any and all challengers. It's not a victory unless you prove yourself after all and I hate to win by technicalities."
"Ha! I bet Hinata-chan could win the whole thing!" Naruto boasted, inadvertently making Hinata's blush brighten.
"Spoken like a good boyfriend," Ino laughed. She then turned to leave, "See you guys at the finals! Root for me!"
Naruto nodded, overlooking the boyfriend remark as teasing, and looked to Hinata and blinked The heiress looked like steam was ready to fire out of her ears. He could have sworn that he could hear a steam whistle coming out of her ears as well. It may have been sheer heat pressure coming inside of her body that kept her from collapsing, but left her passed out on her feet.
"Uh...you okay Hinata-chan?" he asked confusedly.
Konoha Gakuen - Student Government Office
Stationed outside the office of the student government was a table which was being tended to by a student. The homemade banner on the front revealed that the table was there to promote the sign-ups for the Miss Konoha Gakuen contest. The lone student tending to the desk looked a little bored since he had already eaten lunch and his friends were out doing their own thing. His only stimulation was the random cute girl that would sign up for the contest which while nice, was hardly the most time fulfilling event.
A pink blur suddenly stormed down the hall before skidding to a stop in front of the desk, stunning the hapless student. Finally able to see who had come, he was a little surprised to see that it was Sakura Haruno who was all but engraving her name on the table through the paper with how hard she was pressing down on the pencil. He knew he was supposed to impart the rules of the contest to her, but the manic look on his face made him reconsider doing anything that might catch her attention.
"Ow! Dammit Sakura, what the hell?"
The hapless student looked to Sakura's unoccupied hand and took notice of Sasuke Uchiha having been dragged along by his girlfriend towards the sign up station. He looked more than a little scuffed up and likely banged into a few things during Sakura's mad rush to sign up for the competition. For once, he was finding himself glad that he wasn't the last Uchiha if he had to deal with a girlfriend like the pinkette.
"Sasuke-kun, it's time of the Miss Konoha Gakuen contest!" Sakura explained, not even looking at her boyfriend. "You know Ino and I are going to be competing for this."
"You compete over everything," Sasuke grunted, trying to pry his blue fingers free from Sakura's grip. It looked painful and the desk attendant had to marvel at Sasuke's pain resistance. He'd be screaming bloody murder if it were him.
"Well this is important since its still undecided!" Sakura retorted.
"Undecided?" Sasuke frowned. "She took second, you took third, and both of you lost out to that Kohada girl!"
"Well she graduated and Ino's still ahead!" Sakura barked, her face turning to that reminiscent of the Inner Sakura. "This year we'll be decided once and for all who's going to be Miss Konoha Gakuen!"
Sasuke groaned and rolled his eyes. The rivalry between Ino and Sakura was always fierce, but the two would compete over everything since Sakura managed to become his girlfriend. It was like the only way the two of them could be friendly with each other was when they were in competition with each other. Were it anybody else then that likely wouldn't be such a bad thing. Of course, when those two started to compete then things started to get scary, both for them and for everyone caught up in the storm around them.
Sasuke just prayed that one of them won since when Kohada beat them both to do it, they ended up going on the rampage for a while before Sakura demanded 'cuddle time' to help her get over it. With normal Sakura, that was fine but when she got out of control like that it got scary.
"What are you looking at Tenten?" asked Neji, approaching his classmate and fellow KRC member.
"Just something silly," Tenten shrugged, crumpling up a flyer and tossing it with unusual accuracy into a wastebasket. "What's up?"
"Although I haven't been instructed to do anything about Hinata-sama's friendship with Naruto, I am collecting information about them," Neji admitted. "So I decided to ask those who have seen them alone together."
"Ah," Tenten nodded, although inwardly she snorted in amusement at the Hyuuga Family's paranoia about one blonde kid. Granted he was a bit of a troublemaker, but he had a heart of gold. Hinata could do a lot worse if she decided to have a crush on someone. "Well, I don't quite think they'll be sucking face anytime soon. Hinata's too shy for that and Naruto's just clueless."
"True," Neji nodded. "However, I prefer to be sure rather than confident."
"Fair enough," Tenten nodded, taking a moment to think of what she knew about the pair. "Well, Hinata's over the blushing fits for the most part, but when Naruto gets all buddy buddy with her they come back. He never got the fact that she has a crush on him even though everyone else does."
"I noticed that as well, which stemmed some of my concerns," Neji agreed. "However, what do you think would happen if someone told him or if he figured it out?"
"Probably panic, wonder how he feels, and maybe ask Hinata out on a date," Tenten replied. "Clueless guys like him usually do that."
"This isn't an anime," Neji sighed.
"Yeah, with the armored hero fighting monsters this is more tokusatsu," Tenten grinned cheekily.
Konoha Gakuen - Courtyard
The lunch bell rang with its usual precision and all of the students headed out to get something to eat or stay in their classroom with friends. Naruto had to go to the cafeteria himself since he had brought instant ramen (as always) and needed to use the communal microwave to heat it up. After the usual shoving match just to get to the thing, Naruto cooked his ramen while staring down the impatient jerks who wanted to use it after him. Once it was done, he headed off to the school's courtyard so he could find a pleasant place to eat. He'd have usually eaten at the Rabbit Hutch or in his classroom, but Sasuke was at the club's lunar base and Naruto had zero interest in getting in another fight with him. Hinata had been dragged off by Sakura for some reason so Naruto didn't want to hang out in a classroom if his friends weren't there. Oddly enough, his other friends weren't on the rooftop either which was a little confusing. So with nowhere else to hang out, Naruto headed to the courtyard…
...and found a zoo waiting for him.
"Vote of me! Ino Yamanaka! I'll make it worth your while!"
"Vote for the classical beauty! Sakura Haruno!"
The courtyard was a convoluted mess of students who were milling between several stands set up with various girls names on it. Two of the biggest ones were stands advertising Ino and Sakura which were, worryingly enough, right next to each other. Both girls were throwing glares at one another while endorsing themselves as contestants of the Miss Konoha Gakuen competition. Helping Sakura's side were Tenten and Hinata, both looking a little haggled. On Ino's side were Shikamaru and Chouji, both looking like they would rather be anywhere else but there. Naruto could practically feel the tension from where he was standing.
Blinking in confusion, Naruto searched for an open spot which he found at a picnic table. Also at the table was Kiba, but he wasn't eating. he hadn't even brought a lunch or had already eaten. He was grinning as he seemed to be examining the contestants for the contest.
"You leer any more you'll be drooling," Naruto commented as he sat next to his friend.
"Hey, Naruto," Kiba greeted, his grin not vanishing nor his gaze wavering. "Welcome to the circus."
"Yeah. It's wild enough to be called one," Naruto grunted, settling in so he could work on his ramen. "Ino said this whole Miss Konoha Gakuen contest was big, but this?"
"It's big. No doubt," Kiba nodded. "But with all sorts of judges and bigwigs coming to see the show its a big deal. I on the other hand love it when this time of the year rolls around."
"Oh?" Naruto mumbled around his ramen noodles.
"Heck yeah! A singing portion, talent portion, modelling, and even a swimsuit portion!" Kiba grinned. "And with all the honeys taking part in this there's going to be an awesome show this year!"
"Good thing we're all high schoolers or Ero-sennen will come running," Naruto grumped. He didn't want the old pervert to be hanging around the school trying to peep on the girls and giving him a bad name. Tsunade would go on the warpath for real if she caught Jiraiya doing that. He'd seen her do it enough times when she and Jiraiya got together outside of school. Sakura and a bunch of other girls may have decided to hunt down Naruto just to make sure he didn't get any funny ideas if they heard about the old man.
"A shame your girl decided not to enter," Kiba laughed. "She's probably be a top contender without even trying. She's got that Yamato Nadeshiko vibe going on. Mix that with a body like hers and she'd be a tough one to top."
"Kiba, is all you do while you're here is oogle chicks?" Naruto frowned. "Especially my friends?"
"Just saying it how it is," Kiba shrugged. "But relax already. I'm no poacher. Your girlfriend is safe from me."
"We're just friends," Naruto huffed, slurping up his noodles.
"Well then, if you're both just friends then you wouldn't mind if I asked her out," Kiba grinned, his eyes narrowed in a sneaky fashion Naruto recalled Jiraiya using now and then. It was the look he had when he was sure he had something over Naruto or had some kind of scheme going on. It took all of the blonde's self-control not to slug his friend on reflex.
"You'll never get that close," Naruto replied, his eyebrow twitching. "Her cousin is always around somewhere and he's her bodyguard or something. Beating off guys like you is a day on the job for him."
"Ah, no wonder you got blue balls then," Kiba nodded, causing Naruto to choke on his ramen. "Family is one of those things that can get in the way of scoring a home run."
'I want to hit you in the head really hard right now!' Naruto thought to himself as he choked down the noodles in his throat. A particularly thick noodle got caught, making Naruto go into a coughing fit.
"Sakura Haruno has a pizza face!"
"Huh?" Naruto wiped his lips, looking around. "Did someone say something?" He had been coughing so much he couldn't hear properly, but was sure someone had said something about Sakura. The voice sounded a little weird too...
"Man, I admit Sakura's got confidence to get up looking like that," Kiba sighed. "But if she's hoping that will clear up before the competition starts she's going to be in for a sad surprise."
"Huh?" Naruto looked at Sakura, trying to see what Kiba was talking about. As far as he saw, the pinkette looked the same as she always did. Only the crowd's reaction to her had completely changed. Many of them were simply giving a passing glance before ignoring her for Ino and the other contestants. Some of them were even heckling her, but she snarled at them and they took off running. Tenten and Hinata were merely watching, apparently looking like they were expecting such a reaction.
"Kiba, what are you talking about?" asked Naruto. "A minute ago you were leering at every girl here and now you're saying Sakura-chan's not up to snuff or something?"
"Well she could be if she'd just let her face clear up," Kiba shrugged. "I mean, look at her! She's broken out in one hell of a case of acne! There's no way she'll end up winning with that face!"
"Huh? Are you smoking something?" Naruto frowned. "Kiba, there's nothing wrong with her face. I don't see one pimple on her!"
"Naruto, there's being supportive and then there's being in denial," Kiba sighed. "You can't pretend that much red and white away no matter how hard you try."
Now Naruto was getting confused, "Kiba, you're not making sense. Sakura-chan's skin isn't breaking out. Did you eat something weird or something?"
Kiba looked like he was about to laugh at Naruto's joke, but then he saw the face his friend was making and stopped himself. Naruto honestly believed that Sakura wasn't a pizza face who just had the guts to get on stage. Kiba could see it as clear as day glancing back at the girl who Ino was heckling, but Naruto apparently couldn't. Kiba also knew that Naruto wasn't prone to fits of delusion so unless one of them was high on something then…
"This isn't right," Naruto frowned, getting up from his seat. Pushing through the crowd, he approached the stage and managed to get Sakura to notice him, "Sakura-chan, something's up! Everyone's saying you're some kind of pimply mess!"
"I know! I'm gonna crush Ino-pig for spreading that rumor!" Sakura growled, her fist clenched. "My skin is softer than a kitten's fur! Not one blemish or bump has been on me since middle school!"
"No, I mean they really believe it!" Naruto shook his head. "Kiba was looking right at you and he said you were as pimply as they come right now! Everyone's all hopped up on something which is making them see things!"
"Naruto," Tenten grimaced, approaching the group. "Sakura's been breaking out for the past few days. We didn't want to say anything but when it got this bad…"
"Tenten, you got hit with it too?" Naruto blinked. "Look, I may fool around but you know when it comes to my friends I don't lie to them about stuff! Keep it a secret yeah, but I don't lie!"
"Th-that's true," Hinata offered, looking between Sakura and Naruto with a bit of envy in her eyes. Not that he noticed it. "Naruto-kun is very honest."
"Seriously?" Tenten blinked.
Sakura frowned and looked at the crowd again, some of them grimacing as they caught her eye. A minute ago they were cheering for her just as much as they were Ino and then suddenly they all just seemed to back off and fade into disinterest. Some of them had been heckling her about her face all of a sudden as well. Looking back to Naruto she said, "I think we'd better get to the Rabbit Hutch. Something is not right."
"Read my mind!" Naruto nodded. "Let's go!"
Sasuke yawned as he worked through more algorithms and tried to find something in what files he could recover concerning Fourze and the Zodiarts that he could use in their battles. So far, he had read all he could get twice and nothing stood out. There were no hints or clues which could guide him to learning just what the heck the people behind the Zodiarts wanted with the Horoscopes. And he also couldn't find hints about why Naruto was capable of using the Driver and no one else could.
"Dammit," Sasuke sighed, rubbing his eyes. For all the hours he was putting in, he was getting nowhere.
The door to the Rabbit Hutch opened and Sasuke heard his fellow 'club members' entering and arguing about something. Glancing over, he saw Naruto, Hinata, Tenten, and Sakura who were...
'That acne still hasn't cleared yet,' Sasuke thought to himself as he turned back to his work.
"Hey Teme! Is there some kind of medical scanner or something here? Something's wrong with Sakura-chan!" Naruto spoke up.
"I know," Sasuke retorted, not turning around. "It's called acne dobe. Some of us are unlucky enough to get it. I'm going to the pharmacy after school to pick up something for her."
"Sasuke-kun…" Sakura whimpered.
"Dammit, did this thing hit everyone or what?!" Naruto snapped. "Dammit Teme! Nothing's wrong with Sakura-chan! There's some kind of illusion on her or something that's making everyone think she's got a bad face or something!"
"What?" Sasuke frowned, finally turning to face Naruto. "Dobe, that's ridiculous. Why would a Zodiarts craft an illusion like that?"
"Well…," Tenten offered, rubbing her chin in thought. "Most of the Zodiarts are teenage kids like us right? We can be pretty petty when the mood hits us."
"Someone just get the medical scanner and scan me already!" Sakura huffed. "I'm telling you I'm fine!"
Hinata and Tenten went to one of the connecting rooms and brought out a machine attached to a crane arm and rolled on wheels. Bringing it over to Sakura, they turned the machine on and let a blue beam of energy pass over her body and begin collecting data.
"If this is some stunt to see of Cosmic Energy can cure acne Dobe," Sasuke threatened.
"I'm not that stupid," Naruto hissed back.
After a few moments of working, the machine finished its work. Tenten tapped a few buttons on the machine and brought up the results and sent them to the main monitor. The screen lit up and revealed Sakura's body. Everyone focused on the face to see if Naruto was right and someone cast an illusion on them, or someone did it solely to Naruto and Sakura. When the image resolved…
"Ha! I knew it!" Sakura cheered.
"Wow. Her face is entirely clear," Tenten blinked, seeing the perfectly normal image of Sakura's face. "Then why does her face look like pizza topping to everyone else?"
"Watch it!" the pinkette snapped.
"Hold on," Sasuke frowned. It was a frown that was even deeper than normal as he worked the controls. After pressing few buttons, the image turned to a black version of itself, but a miasma of red energy could be seen over Sakura's face. "There's your answer."
"What is it?" asked Naruto.
"Dark Cosmic Energy," Sasuke replied. "The kind Zodiarts use to transform and use their powers. This one apparently applied a portion of it to Sakura's face to create the illusion. Everytime someone sees her, the energy warps their senses to make Sakura's face look like whoever made the command wanted."
"Then how come it didn't work on me?" asked Naruto.
Sasuke pondered the question for a moment, "Likely something to do with the delivery system. Whatever the Zodiarts did to set the purpose of the energy, Naruto didn't get hit with it. Either that or because of his constant exposure to Cosmic Energy via the FourzeDriver it's made him immune or at least resistant to it."
"I-Is there any way to end it?" asked Hinata.
"Take out the Zodiarts who did it," Sasuke replied. "Without the source, the Dark Cosmic Energy will just fade away."
"Well that shouldn't be so hard, is it Sakura...chan?" Naruto trailed off, looking at his pinkette crush before slowly backing away.
His reason? A dark miasma had spread over Sakura and she was hunched over with her fist clenched tightly. Her face had taken on the Inner Sakura aspect again and it was quite obvious that she was pissed. No one dared to say anything, fearing they might set her temper off and be the one taking the brunt of it.
"Naruto…" she hissed. "You'd better find the one who did this before I do or else they're going to be six feet under when I get through with them! Zodiarts or not!"
"Gotcha!" Naruto squeaked in sheer terror before he took off like a shot out of the Rabbit Hutch to begin his hunt. He knew better than to argue with Sakura when she got into one of her moods. He didn't want to end up crippled!
Konoha Gakuen - Rooftops
"Once again we see how feeble-minded the masses are, being so influenced by gossip and hearsay," Andromeda huffed as she and her husband watched the students mill about, talking about nothing but the Miss Konoha Gakuen competition, and how much of a flub Sakura Haruno was with her 'pizza' face.
"They are but ants," Perseus spoke to his wife, wrapping his around her from behind. "Let them mingle, let them run around their little lives, let them believe they are worth something. We will find the ones who truly deserve to stand out above the others."
"Hm," Andromeda purred, leaning back in her husband's arms. "Speaking of which, where is that potential we gave the switch to? I haven't seen her elegant form once since she received it."
"Oh, she's here," Perseus grinned against his wife's neck. "Just listen to the words on the wind."
Andromeda quirked an eyebrow before focusing on her sense of hearing. After a couple of moments, she took notice of something faint being in the wind. The sound of words being spoken, and speaking nothing but vitriol about a number of female students. Hearing it, she began to chuckle.
"Ah, she's been a busy one has she not?" the female Zodiarts giggled.
"Indeed," Perseus agreed.
After Naruto ran for his life to find the one responsible for Sakura's sudden change in looks in everyone's eyes, the atmosphere became tense. Sakura was still stewing over how someone had effectively ruined her chances at Miss Konoha Gakuen. The dark aura hadn't left her and it was making everyone nervous. Hinata had made an excuse about leaving something behind in the courtyard and left to retrieve it. That left Tenten and Sasuke behind. The weapons enthusiast was only remaining for a show of female solidarity while Sasuke...well, on paper he had a duty as Sakura's boyfriend but in practice he knew better.
"Hey," Tenten whispered to said boyfriend, the pair sitting at a monitor while Sakura stewed at the main table..
"What?" an annoyed Sasuke retorted.
"You're her boyfriend. Comfort her," Tenten urged.
Sasuke looked to Sakura who was glowering. While he would not admit it, he was slightly intimidated by her mood. "...I'm not the comforting type."
"Well, too bad. It's in your job description. So, get your butt over there and comfort her," Tenten insisted.
"I have no intention to die just yet," Sasuke replied. "Once she calms down maybe I'll be in the position to do something."
Tenten rolled her eyes and held back on the urge to slap the boy upside the head, "And you're the one your entire year were going wild to get their hands on in middle school?"
"I never asked for it," Sasuke replied. "Sakura's jerk reaction to someone pulling a stunt like this is to get pissed off. Once she calms down she'll be showing her true thoughts. Trust me, I know what I'm talking about."
"Yeah, sure," Tenten huffed disbelievingly.
Konoha Gakuen - Courtyard
That was all Naruto could really say he was coming back to when he returned from the Rabbit Hutch. Coming back to the scene of the crime, Naruto saw that the spectacle of beauties vying for votes had turned into a big jeering festival.
Each of the girls were being heckled by the audience about some flaw about them that as far as Naruto could tell, didn't exist. One girl was being called fat, even a whale, but she was a slim as any high schooler could hope to be. Another was being compared to a gargoyle, but she was as pretty as all of the others. Even one was being called a goth but she was one of those upper-class girls who'd never so much as touch a temporary tattoo much less try to sport one.
"WHAT DID YOU CALL ME?!"
Even Ino wasn't immune as she shook one heckler by the lapels of his short when he called her a ganguro, one of those deeply tanned girls who wore revealing clothes and bleached their hair blonde. In all, Naruto just had to blink at the sheer ludicris of everything he was looking at. What made it worse was that some of those girls were starting to cry from all of the mean things being said to them.
"Who the hell is doing this? What's the point?"
"You don't see the Zodiarts over in the corner!"
Naruto blinked, looking when he was sure he had heard someone talking in a weird voice. They spoke at the same time he did, so he didn't hear them properly. Still, he did hear in which direction that the voice was coming from. Looking in that direction, she spotted someone moving near a tree. Walking towards it, he saw that it was just a regular person hiding there…
..but a Zodiarts.
The newest Zodiarts was a female one, judging by the body shape. She was covered in a purple toga-like arment with silver decorative chains around the neck and waist. Her arms were covered in silver bracers with pointed armor on the fingers and obsidian stones embedded in the steel. On her back was a gold brace which opened up into a wide collar, also made of gold. Her face was pure white with cold blue lips and part of the left side of her face being concealed by a sheen of black hair which curled into a braid and hung down her front. Her visible eye was an emerald green which sparkled in the shade of the tree. At her collar was a gold-rimmed star point like all Zodiarts had with a white centre. One line extended down her torso to her elbow before it continued to the back of her hand. The other side had a similar line scheme, having points on her elbow and back of her hand. In all, she looked like a beautiful Zodiarts, but also rather familiar…
"Andromeda?" Naruto frowned, watching the Zodiarts enjoying the spectacle it was creating. No, the color was all wrong, but there was a resemblance to her. Maybe she had some sort of clue to the dealers!
The Zodiarts hadn't noticed that she'd been spotted yet, too intent on looking at the chaos she was creating. So he quickly drew out the FourzeDriver and strapped it to his waist. Hitting the four activation switches, bringing the machine to life.
"Henshin!" Naruto called, hitting the Enter Lever. The familiar transformation ring roe up, covering Naruto in white Comic Energy which quickly formed into his Fourze armor. Once it was solidified, he took another look at the female Zodiarts, still oblivious to him. So seeing his target, he activated the propulsion pack and launched himself at the Zodiarts. "UCHU KITA DATTEBAYO!"
"Huh?" the Zodiarts turned only to get slugged in the face by Fourze. "Ack!"
The Zodiarts went tumbling down, crashing into the hordes of people who were heckling the Miss Konoha Gakuen hopefuls. The hecklers didn't seem to notice the Zodiarts, but the would-be idols did and they of course began screaming when they saw her. Everyone else saw only Fourze and began backing away, not wanting to get in the Rider's way, but were also immensely curious as to what the hell was going on.
"Ow, ow, ow! You dare hit a girl?" demanded the Zodiarts as she got up.
"When it's a Zodiarts who's messing with my school, you bet I will!" Fourze retorted, landing on the ground. "The name's Kamen Rider Fourze! Let's do this man to man!"
"I'm a woman you dumbass!" the Zodiarts screeched before she inhaled deeply and unleashed a powerful scream. The soundwaves actually were visible as they raced through the air. Fourze yelped and dove to the side as the sonic wave dove past, crashing into the side of the school, cracking the walls and breaking the windows as it went. It served to show the gawking people that something was up and began to get them to run away.
"Woah! Nice vocals!" Fourze teased. "How about we put some base to it though!" Swapping out his Launcher Switch, he loaded in the Beat Switch.
The Beat Module appeared on Fourze's right leg and he immediately began putting out powerful sound waves of his own. The Zodiarts immediately screamed again, causing both forces to crash against one another in blasts of power and tortuous amounts of sound.
Cosmic Energy breath or Cosmic Energy machine, one of them had to give out first.
The mood in the Rabbit Hutch had turned a little bit more cooler as Sakura's temper finally fizzled out and she could think straight again. That of course led to her being upset by all of the things people were saying about her and her so-called pizza face. She let her head rest in her arms and she tried not to cry about it, having painful flashbacks about her younger days when the kids would mercilessly tease her about the size of her forehead.
Sasuke only got one lancing look from Tenten before he finally went to his boyfriend duties. He left his terminal and went to Sakura's side and gave her an well-intended, if not slightly awkward hug. Affection really wasn't one of his strong suits, but Sakura took it for what it meant and latched on to him with a sniffle.
Tenten was about to give the pair some time alone when...
"ALERT! ZODIARTS DETECTED! ALERT! ZODIARTS DETECTED!"
"Crap!" Tenten hissed, shifting to one of the terminals. Sasuke was about to move, but she shot him a look which meant to stay where he was. She tapped up the commands for the school cameras and found the fight between Fourze and the Zodiarts in progress.
"Let's see who you are," she muttered, hitting the scan function.
Subject: Cassiopeia Zodiarts
Model #: 06
Power Levels: Moderate
Last One: Dormant
"Cassiopeia?" Tenten frowned. "Never heard of that one."
"I have," Sasuke spoke up. "In myth, she's Andromeda's mother. Because of her boasting over how pretty her daughter was, she pissed off the gods and nearly brought their wrath down on their city. Perseus was the one who pulled their fat out of the fire."
"Oh," Tenten blinked. "So...what are we up against?"
"No clue," Sasuke shook his head.
Konoha Gakuen - Hallways
Hinata struggled through the halls while trying her best to block her ears from the horrible noise coming from the courtyard. She already knew that Naruto was likely fighting with the Zodiarts since the student population were running for their lives and screaming about invisible monsters. So she followed the chaos back to the source and quickly discovered Naruto in the midst of a fight. Both were launching sonic waves at one another and anything nearby was getting destroyed just from their proximity.
Hinata could see the Zodiarts clearly, thinking that it resembled Andromeda closely. Still, whatever the monster had done to make everyone not see it, obviously it hadn't tagged Hinata with it like it had gotten everyone else there.
The sound attacks from both Fourze and the Zodiarts were pulsing against one another, pushing back and forth. Hinata wasn't exactly sure how the Zodiarts was able to keep screaming without running out of breath but she was doing it just the same. It made her wonder just how long the two could keep their attacks going before something gave.
She got her answer when the ground between the two fighters suddenly erupted, the ground taking so much vibrations from the blasts and had turned to little more than gravel and sand and promptly exploded, sending dirt and rock everywhere. Fourze and the Zodiarts cried out in shock, covering their faces as they tried to get away from the unexpected blast of dirt. Fourze hit the railings of nearby stairs and used them to steady himself. The Zodiarts got tangled in her dress and fell in a heap.
"Woah," Fourze grunted, tapping his head. "Good thing this helmet's on. I'd have gone deaf for sure with that one."
"Ow, ow, ow!" the Zodiarts grunted, sitting up. "You jerk! How dare you attack the future Miss Konoha Gakuen!"
"What?" Fourze frowned. "Don't tell me you started all this just so you could win some contest!"
"It's not some contest! It's the key to easy street!" the Zodiarts screeched. Inhaling, she launched another scream, forcing Fourze to leap out of the way to avoid getting smashed by the sound waves.
"Oh man," Fourze groaned. "There is someone worse than Ino and Sakura-chan getting fired up." He quickly reached his belt, hitting one of his Switches.
The Rocket Module formed and roared to life, taking Fourze across the distance towards the Zodiarts. The female monster tried to scream again, but the nose of the orange rocket smashed into her. Both she and Fourze flew across the courtyard before Fourze abruptly shut the machine off. He dropped and skidded to a halt, but the Zodiarts was had no control of her flight and she smashed into a tree before dropping to the ground in a heap.
"Ha! Take that!" Fourze laughed. "Now, are you going to turn off what you did to the other girls or what?"
A sonic scream was his reply. The blast hit him head on, striking hard and taking him off of his feet before he crashed into a picnic table, crushing it.
"Naruto-kun!" Hinata cried out in fear.
"Huh?" the Cassipoeia Zodiarts frowned, standing up. Hinata paled as the female Zodiarts examined her, "Naruto? As in Naruto Uzumaki? He's the white armoured guy fighting the monsters on campus?"
Hinata clamored her mouth shut, not wanting to give away more, but Fourze shook his head and got up, "Yeah I am. So what about it?" By his logic, it didn't matter if the Zodiarts knew who he was since once he took out the Zodiarts Switch she was using she'd be in the right mind again and be reasonable. It was the same with all the others after all.
Cassiopeia began to laugh, making both Hinata and Fourze tense, "Well, now that I got a name…" she looked up and Hinata could tell that she was smirking, "Even if you didn't sign up, you're still a contender if you change your mind so I'd better distract you!" she traced her fingers across her lips, allowing them to start glowing. She then took a breath and spoke out again, "Hinata Hyuuga is going out with Naruto Uzumaki! They make such a wonderful pair!"
A blue sonic wave emerged from the Cassiopeia Zodiarts' lips and wrapped around Hinata before it flashed and vanished. Hinata had cringed, anticipating pain but she didn't feel a thing. She looked about, and saw that Fourze was just standing still, like he was off in lala land somewhere. Cassiopeia laughed before she shot a sonic scream at the ground, launching herself into the roof of the school where she vanished.
Hinata blinked, now confused as she looked at herself. She didn't feel any different and she didn't see any markings on her body anywhere. What had that Zodiarts done? Was it something like what happened to Sakura? Was she now going to be considered ugly by everyone else? Would Naruto think…?
Fourze came running for the stunned girl and used his booster pack to leap up the stairs towards her. Landing in front of her, he deactivated the Driver and quickly dove for Hinata and wrapped his arms around her. Hinata found herself trapped in Naruto's embrace, her face pressed up against his chest.
"EEP!" she gasped, turning atomic red in the process.
"I'm so glad you're okay!" Naruto sighed, pressing his face into Hinata's hair. "I got so scared when that Zodiarts took a potshot at you." he drew back, looking distressed as Hinata just struggled not to faint. He was so close! He was hugging her! He was holding her! "Are you sure you're okay?"
"Um...Um...I'm...okay," Hinata nodded mechanically.
"That's great," Naruto smiled in pure relief. He then leaned forward and planted a kiss on Hinata's forehead.
Hinata's mind promptly shut down.
She fainted after that.
As Naruto began to panic, fretting over Hinata's form, the pair didn't know that they were being observed from another portion of the rooftop. Standing on the edge, his arms crossed, was Leo as he stared down at the pair. He did not wear his cloak, allowing his full freedom of movement. A soft growl was in his throat, impatient for something to do.
"This is it? Fuck, I thought this bitch was supposed to be strong," the Savage Horoscope grunted.
"Strength is measured in more than just raw power," the voice of the red-eyed man rang in his ear. "The small queen has power in her voice, to force the world to accept her words just as the queen of myth forced her people to accept her bravado. However, we will have to wait and see if the gods will take offence and punish her."
"Tch! Whatever." Leo grunted. "Since I'm here, you want me to take down the little bastard who's been giving us trouble?"
"No, leave him be for now," the Red-eyed man replied. "What he possesses is a point of interest and I'd like to see how it develops for now. Besides, if those he defeats were not strong enough to defeat him then they do not deserve to be part of our night sky."
"Fine," Leo grumbled, disappointed as he watched the blonde pick up his girl in a bridal carry and take her into the school. "I'll check in with Mr and Mrs Fucktards to see what's what. Bet they spent half their time mooning over each other."
"Star-crossed love is not so easily ignored," the Red-eyed man chuckled. "Just get the report and come back. We still have much to do."
"Right, right," Leo grumbled, turning and leaving the scene.
Konoha Gakuen - Infirmary
Hinata returned to the world groggy, feeling that usual heaviness of her body she was used to whenever she fainted. She had done it numerous times so she knew the feeling quite well, but fortunately she was also able to recover quickly from it. She groaned softly and rubbed her eyes, trying to recall what caused her to pass out this time. She remembered that it had something to do with Naruto…
"Well, looks like you're coming around," Nurse Kaori spoke as she approached Hinata. "another fainting spell?"
"I...I think so," Hinata murmured.
"Well don't stress yourself too much," Kaori smiled. "That boyfriend of yours was going into fifty fits when he brought you in. You might just give him a heart attack with all the scares you have been giving him."
As soon as the heiress said that the door slid open and Naruto came in with a bouquet of flowers.
"Hey Hinata-chan, you're awake!" Naruto grinned happily. "I guess the flowers were a little over the top then."
"Trust me Uzumaki, a girl always likes to be appreciated," Kaori giggled as she finished making a note or two for her files. "I'll go file this and let you two lovebirds have some time alone. Just don't do anything that would require me to go to Principal Tsunade."
"Gotcha!" Naruto grinned. "Well, I sure hope the Botany Club doesn't get mad at me for taking these. Still worth it, though."
"There's an empty vase you can put them in," Kaori informed him with a smile before leaving both teens alone.
Naruto walked to Hinata's bedside and placed the flowers in a white vase. After making sure they were okay, he took a seat next to Hinata's bed, "So how are you feeling Hinata-chan?"
"I-I'm fine, but what happened with the Zodiarts?" asked the timid girl.
"Ah, it ran off," Naruto shrugged, but then smiled at her. "To be honest, once I saw you were there I kinda got distracted and worried you were going to get caught in the crossfire."
"O-oh," Hinata nodded.
"Anyway," Naruto shrugged, brightening up. "Think you'll be okay for our date or should we postpone that?"
Hinata's face turned atomic, "D-d-d-date?!"
"Yeah," Naruto nodded. "Our weekly get together at Ichiraku. Did you forget in all of the excitement? Ayame-neechan is always looking to gossip with you about me or relationships in general. It makes you two look as sneaky as me!"
Hinata's mind went into another spiral as she tried to figure out what was going on. She and Naruto were dating? He was publicly stating they were together? Everyone else saw them as a good couple? Even people close to him like Ayame-san thought they were a good couple? Since when did this happen?! It wasn't bad news really and news that she would have welcomed any day of the week. She just...would have liked to have been part of the announcement!
"Are you okay Hinata-chan?" asked Naruto, growing concerned. "You're getting flushed again."
While the idea of dating Naruto was a dream idea, there was still an important matter that needed to be addressed.
"Naruto-kun, don't you remember the Zodiarts?" questioned Hinata.
"Hey, don't worry about that, Hinata-chan. If that Zodiarts gets in the way of our date, then I'll kick its ass like I always do!" Naruto boasted, flashing her his trademark grin.
On any given day, that smile could make Hinata's gloomiest brighten up and even in the midst of her confusion it proved there was no exception as the heiress felt her worries melt away. Well, at least Naruto still remembered about fighting a Zodiarts. Maybe things weren't going to be as bad as she had feared? She was still a little worried though...
The door opened, allowing both Hinata and Naruto to step into the Kamen Rider Club's Headquarters. Naruto had fretted on Hinata the whole way, worried that her fainting spell may have been something more serious. Hinata of course basked in the attention, but she insisted that she was fine even if she stuttered, weakening her argument. As they arrived at the Rabbit Hutch, Hinata's mind turned to the situation at hand, remembering what the Zodiarts had done.
"I think something is wrong with Naruto-kun," Hinata spoke up, getting everyone's attention from their activities.
"What did the idiot do this time?" Sakura frowned, looking up from her work next to Sasuke. "Don't tell me. He forgot his wallet to pay for your date."
"No, he did not." Hinata shook her head. She then realized what had been said and turn bright red again and stuttered, "D-d-d-date!?"
"You both always go on dates after school," Sasuke said as he sat in front of the monitor equipment, not bothering to look at the two teens. "Everyone knows it."
"But we're not-!" Hinata wanted to deny then Neji walked up to them. "Neji-niisan?"
"Naruto Uzumaki, even though you are dating Hinata-sama, that does not mean you must have her foot the bill if you cannot afford it," Neji warned, sending Naruto one of his best glares at the blonde with his arms crossed, looking as stern as Hinata had ever seen him before.
"Hey, relax. I'm no creep," Naruto made warding gestures with his hands. "Can't you calm down a little? I got your uncle's blessing already."
'What!?' Hinata cried mentally.
"Even so, you must remember to treat Hinata-sama properly," Neji warned. He then turned to Hinata, "I do not understand why you think he deserves your affection but you could do better."
"Hey," Naruto snapped angrily, putting an arm around Hinata. "I may not be perfect, but I'm doing my best!"
Hinata continued to blush and have her mind in a tizzy. She had to be in a dream! That was the only way it made sense. It was the only way that her father would approve of Naruto. It would never happen otherwise. However, it just seemed too real. Had she passed out during the Zodiarts attack and was currently dreaming? How long could she enjoy the dream until she woke up and reality set in again?
"Okay, okay, calm down you guys," Tenten sighed, getting between the boys. "Neji, you know your uncle gave his approval already so just cool it. Naruto's been nothing but a gentleman so far so I doubt he's going to just change now." Neji frowned and backed off a margin, allowing Naruto to sigh in relief. Seeing peace was attained, she turned to Hinata, "So what do you mean something's wrong with Naruto?"
Hinata shook her head, trying to stay focused on what she came to do, "W-well, he fought the new Zodiarts at where all of the students were gathering for the rallies. It did some technique with its voice and then it ran away."
"Huh?" Naruto blinked. "Oh come on Hinata-chan! I feel fine! I'm more worried about you since you got caught up in it too! I've got the armor to protect me but you don't! I nearly had a heart attack!"
Sasuke sighed and shook his head, "Spare me from worrisome romantics," He finally looked up from his monitor, looking over his shoulder, "We have readouts going on the suit every time it activates. Other than taking a few hits, nothing else was recorded as affecting the dobe. So quit worrying and just go on your date already."
"Yeah, we're still going over battle data anyway," Sakura giggled. "So enjoy your date you two!"
"B-but-!" Hinata began, but felt Naruto clasp her hand tightly. Blushing further still, she looked to his smiling face.
"Don't worry about it Hinata-chan!" he reassured her. "If we find out anything about this Zodiarts then the others can tell us and we can deal with it later. Now let's get going. Ayame-neechan's probably getting worried about us!"
Naruto then began leading Hinata out of the Rabbit Hutch. The shy heiress honestly wanted to believe that what was happening was real, but she was simply too honest or perhaps to negative in regards to herself to truly believe it. She didn't remember confessing to Naruto, going on dates before, or getting her father's approval.
In short, she knew it couldn't be real no matter how much she wanted it. Still...it wouldn't be so bad if she took the time to enjoy it, right?
To Be Continued…
A/N: Well, this took a while but hopefully it has that bit of drama in it people like. In the midst of another Zodiarts attack, Hinata has suddenly gotten what she's wished for regarding Naruto. She's obviously not shallow enough to buy into it at face value, not after what the Zodiarts did to Sakura and others. Still, is she going to be brave enough to end the dream by helping end the Zodiarts behind it?