Not dead yet! Feeling dead, though. Writing at 1:00 AM does that do you... Chemistry test tomorrow morning, too... Fakk my lyfe.
My laptop on the other hand, is dead. Which set my progress back a surprising lot. I shall attempt to use my electro-necromancy on it... Until I have succeeded to properly reanimate its corpse, my stationary computer will have to suffice, which is an ass to write on for extended periods of time...
More dialogue this chap. A lot of dialogue. Err. I hope that won't sink it. My dialogue skills aren't as good as they should be...
Oh, and a message to that guest reviewer who keeps asking me to update soon: Log in if you want a reply. As it is, you're just spamming me. Please desist. I have my reasons for writing slowly. Your enthusiasm is appreciated, however.
Regardless, haters will, as always, be welcomed with a big, loving hug!
Journey of a Lilmothiit
Chapter 6: Yet still, Life Goes On
Surprisingly many people had gathered by the bridge to wave the three refugees goodbye the next morning. Hadvar's presence was no real surprise, nor was Hod and his family being there, but Faendal's attendance came as a bit of a surprise, even to Naruto who had been running a few odd errands in Riverwood a few weeks earlier, as he'd never even met the elf in person before this. Apparently, he'd inadvertently helped him and Camilla get together at some point. Somehow.
Delphine the innkeeper was there too for whatever reason, although she seemed to keep her distance, watching more than she was participating. In addition, the kids of the village were all there too, to say goodbye to the 'awesome white cat' who'd told them exciting stories and the 'cool yellow bunny' who'd played games with them. Being called a bunny kinda pissed Naruto off, but he supposed kids would always be kids. He still yelled at them for it, for good measure. And glared at Haming for laughing at him.
The goodbye was long and certainly heartfelt by most of them, and Naruto's spirit whose burden had already been alleviated after the previous day's little excursion, seemed to lighten even further. To know that people still cared, that people still wished for him to stay well was, for someone like Naruto who had been alone for most of his life, brought forth a feeling of warmth that would never fade in value.
As the ragtag trio passed the first bridge over the White River, someone came running, calling for them to wait up. It was Camilla Valerius, one of the merchant siblings that Naruto had helped a while back when they'd been robbed, which had resulted in his first dungeon delving and a rather panicked first encounter with the local undead. He'd assumed that they both had simply been too busy with the store to join the farewell. Apparently he'd been wrong.
"Wait!" Camilla shouted. "Why didn't you tell me you were leaving so early?!"
"I did," Naruto deadpanned. "You're just confused again, Camilla."
The woman huffed and flicked his forehead as she caught up with them. "I'll let that pass just this once, but only because it's you, Naruto. Remember that!"
The fox twitched his ear at his companions' snickering in the background. "I'll keep that in mind. Why the hurry?"
His answer was a knapsack being shoved into his chest rather forcefully by the slightly blushing Imperial woman. "Here. After what you've done for us, it's only fair we give you something back. Take it."
Bewildered, Naruto caught it automatically. "W-what? But-"
Camilla interrupted him with a sharp poke right between his eyes. "No refunds."
The blond blinked rapidly in confusion as the Imperial simply ran back to the crowd with a happy smile, looking immensely pleased with herself. Puzzled, he gave them all a final wave and turned back to his companions, who were now smirking at him.
"So, this one sees you have a human fetish, yes? Khajiit had no idea you were the type."
"Big bro's a ladies' man!"
Now, normally this would have caused the young teen to blush up a storm and sputter frantic denials, but after the last few months' many misadventures, his usual, childish demeanour had yet to rebound to its usual level. Instead, he just gave them a half-hearted glare and said, "Oh, knock it off, you two. Look, she's taken, anyway."
And indeed, back in the village Faendal seemed to glare angrily at Naruto, only to be interrupted by Camilla kissing him squarely on the mouth, which soon devolved into something better kept private.
"See? I helped her and her brother out a few weeks ago. She was just... ah..."
"Returning the favour?" Inorra chuckled lightly. "Alright, you win. So, what way is Whiterun from here, hm?"
"Just follow the river!" Haming piped up. "When we pass the meadery, Whiterun is right up the hill. Dad took me there lots of times..."
As Haming trailed off, Naruto rested a hand on his head to reassure him. "And we're taking you there now, Ham. Don't worry, all right?"
The small Nord gave out a quiet hum and nodded, before suddenly perking up, deciding to shift the focus of his attention. "Well, what's in that package, huh? Open it, open it!"
"All right, all right," Naruto chuckled. "Calm down, I'm not a ladder!"
"You're teasing me again!"
"Of course! I'm your big brother, it's what I do!"
Inorra chuckled a bit to herself as she watched the two brothers interact. In the end, they were still kids, even after all they'd been through. Healing would take its due time, but it seemed that they at least were on their feet again.
"Just open it," she said after deciding that she'd put up with their bickering long enough. "We are both curious to see what that pretty girl gave you."
"I thought we already settled that..." grumbled Naruto, sounding rather miffed. "All right, fine. Let's see here..."
Within the knapsack there were two objects, wrapped neatly in linen cloth. Naruto unwrapped the larger one to reveal a large dagger, about the size of his forearm. It was of traditional Orcish standard. Single edge, well-balanced, sturdy and good for close-combat. It also had a strong, magical sheen to it.
Inorra whistled and picked it up to take a closer look. "The Orcs really know what they are doing." She flicked the blade lightly. "Ooh, enchanted too. Fancy that."
"I know. Frost enchantment," Naruto said and swiped the dagger from her hands and handed it to Haming, much to the boy's surprise. The fox just smiled at the little one. "I fight better with my fists, and Catty here has her arrows. I don't like it if one of us is unarmed."
Haming looked up at his brother with wide eyes, clutching the dagger tightly, before hopping up and giving Naruto a tight hug. "I'll take good care of it. Promise."
Naruto chuckled and fished out the second object from the bag and threaded it around his neck. It was a small, very fine whetstone in green and blueish grey, with the emblem of Kynareth carved into one side. Practical and beautiful, just like the Nords preferred. The stone tingled gently against the green crystal that of the Shodaime's necklace, which was the one and only thing that had managed to survive his inter-world journey.
Inorra raised an eyebrow at the older boy's actions. "Fox. You are a pickpocket, yes?"
The boy froze at the implication and growled low as he slowly turned to face his feline companion. "What makes you say that?"
"You have very quick hands," said the cat with a shrug. "And then there is your taste for jewellery. And do not think Khajiit failed to notice the way you moved when we fled through the tunnels, or the speed at which you eat. You move like a thief, Sea Strider. You have lived on the streets, yes?"
Naruto gave her a sharp glare. There were few things he disliked as intensely as being reminded of those years of his life, but he would not deny it. He hated lying more than he did remembering. "I have not stolen a thing in years," he grumbled quietly, mostly to himself, but still just loud enough for his companions to hear him. "They kicked me out, what was I to do?" He punted a pebble in irritation. "Not proud of it, but had to live somehow. [Tried to get a job first, of course. Not like anyone would hire me. Pretended I wasn't there, why would they even consider it? So yes, I stole. Had to. Didn't want to, but I had to. Had to learn to dodge the damn police, too, of course. Damn those red fans. 'Course I-]"
The young teen snapped out of his rant to see two rather worried pair of eyes, although one appeared more puzzled than anything. Inorra spoke up. "You were rambling. We could not understand you."
"You switched to Japanese again!"
"Right..." said Naruto rather awkwardly. "It's just... I don't like to remember that time. Sorry about that."
"No. This one is sorry for bringing it up," countered the cat. "We all have memories we would rather not remember. Khajiit should not have reminded you."
Naruto gently patted little Haming's head and gave Inorra a small and rather sad smile. "Yeah. We do, don't we?"
A rather uncomfortable silence fell upon the small group after that, leaving each of the members to their own thoughts.
When the trio had just passed the old meadery, their respective thoughts were broken by a loud commotion. Up ahead, at the Pelagia farm neighbouring the meadery, there stood a large humanoid figure which Naruto had come to know as a Giant, something he had learned the hard way to avoid. It was fighting three smaller figures, who seemed to be anything but fresh. It didn't take an expert to tell that if they didn't do anything, those three would likely perish.
Inorra said something about staying out of it, but the brothers didn't so much as hear her. They were too scarred by this point to stand idly by when someone was in danger right in front of them. They didn't think; their bodies acted before they could do so. Haming gripped his new dagger and rushed in at the very same moment Naruto let a kunai fly, using the kage kunai bunshin to make the one into a hailstorm of flying blades. The knives found their intended target, but the Giant's hide was much too thick for the small blades to do much more than give the thing a few shallow flesh wounds, something that merely enraged the creature. However, the moment it took to turn around to face its new attacker was enough to let Haming slip in beneath the creature and deliver a surprisingly solid stab at its ankle, which, while shallow in itself, was enough for the giant to wobble thanks to the frost enchatment.
Just as it was about to regain its balance, Naruto was already there and ready with a Rasengan in hand and drilled the swirling ball of death straight into its abdomen.
The giant fell. It had only taken a few short moments.
It was only then that the two realised just what exactly they had just done. Little Haming was terrified of the three now very baffled warriors and hid behind his big brother, while Naruto realised he'd just fucked up. The warriors had been right in the trajectory line for his hail of Kunai. He quickly bowed to the three warriors apologetically. "Kuso. Sorry! Please tell me I didn't hit any of you!"
The only male of the Nord trio, a rather sturdy-looking, heavily armoured but quite friendly-looking guy glanced down on the unarmoured spot on his left arm, where a knife was solidly lodged into his triceps, before rather non-committedly pulling it out with his right and tossing it away. "Nah, we're fine."
"You guys saved our asses!" a second voice piped up. It was a young woman, likely in her early twenties, clad in studded leather armour. She was quite muddy and looked like she had been knocked prone before the two boys got involved.
"We got careless," said the Nord man. "Not enough challenging prey lately. Seems we've gotten too rusty. Name's Farkas, by the way. This is-"
The third voice had barely sounded when a loud rumbling ensued. Against expectations, the giant had survived the energy-drill to the stomach and was now aiming to continue its onslaught with a vengeance. Naruto brought up his fists and the rest brandished their weapons, only for an arrow to pierce right through the giant's left eye.
The mud-covered woman guffawed. "And that's why you always have an archer in your party!"
"Or two," added Farkas, who saw the second arrow, whose point could be seen protruding from the right eye, having pierced the head from the opposite side.
Once again, the giant fell. It didn't get up after that. Getting up with two arrows through your skull is not exactly the easiest task out there.
For a moment, the green eyes of a redhead Nord met the yellow ones of a white-furred Khajiit.
Thus, instant friendship was formed.
"We thank you, strangers," said the redhead, shifting her attention to the group at large. Her tone suggested that she was used to taking command. "I am Aela the Huntress. You've already met Farkas and Ria. Who are you, and what brings you here?"
"Name's Naruto. Little one's Haming and the cat over there's Inorra. Really sorry about that knife, Farkas. I wasn't thinking straight."
Said Nord just waved it off. "I'm fine, really. I heal quick. Nice throwing arm there, though."
"We are refugees from Helgen," Inorra provided, knowing that it was still a sore subject for the two boys. "This one is afraid our nerves are still quite on the edge after the attack."
"So it's true, then," said Aela. "Helgen, torched to the ground by a Dragon."
"Not just any Dragon," said Naruto. "Alduin. We barely got out alive."
Inorra raised an eyebrow. Once again, the Scribe had surprised her; she had not expected him to be able to talk about the event so easily this soon. That boy was stronger than she thought. She spotted Haming hugging his big brother's leg for comfort, an action which put a very slight, sad smile on her face. Then again, she supposed that as older brother, he had to be.
"Wow," said Ria. "Sorry for bringing up fresh wounds like that..."
"No, it's all right," Naruto sighed. "We may have lost a lot, but moping around won't to any good. This is just the beginning, I can feel it."
"Yes, it appears the situation is more dire than we thought, if it's true that Alduin is involved," said Aela. "You should come with us to Jorrvaskr; we've got warm beds and fresh mead. I'm pretty sure old Kodlak will let you stay for a while. Think of it as a thank you for probably saving our lives."
Little Haming gasped in awe and his grip slackened. Like any child raised in Skyrim, he knew the name Jorrvaskr well. "Y-you're Companions?"
Farkas chuckled at the shy little boy. "Got it in one, kiddo."
"Well, that's... words..." grumbled Naruto slightly. He really had to get his hands on a dictionary...
"Good?" hedged Haming.
"Hmm, more like... uh, useful?"
"Convenient?" guessed Ria.
Naruto lit up. "Yeah. That. It's very convenient. We need to talk to you."
"Why so?" wondered Farkas, raising an eyebrow.
"Information, mostly. It's a long story."
At the mentioning of information, Haming's grip around his brother's leg tightened once more, this time taking on a more possessive tone. The teen shinobi gently stroked the little one's head. It seemed like that trip to Winterhold might have to be delayed even further. There was no way he was leaving Haming behind in this state.
Aela took note of the silent interaction but decided to leave it alone for now. Instead, she only gave Naruto an affirming nod, pretending not to have noticed. "Well, you've come to the right place, then. All kinds of folk travel through Whiterun and we tend to hear many things. Come with us, stories are best shared around the fire over a mug of mead."
"Or two," added Farkas, grinning.
"Gladly," said Naruto. "I just need to speak to the Jarl first. What about you, Inorra?" He turned around to face his feline companion. "What will you do?"
Inorra gave him a small smirk. "Thanks to your little stunt back in Helgen and Hadvar promising to help, them Thalmor will not find out that this one survived for some time yet. For now, Khajiit's illusions should be enough. Inorra will go with you."
The walk to the city of Whiterun was a rather lively one compared to before. The two archers were discussing the pros and cons of different fletching techniques and Ria was trying to coax Haming out of his shell with amusing adventure stories, with some degree of success. After all, the boy had idolized the Companions for most of his life, like any Nord child. Meanwhile, Farkas and Naruto already seemed to have become fast friends, which appropriately started off with Naruto unsealing a roll of bandages and handed it to the Nord warrior, an action which caught the older man's attention pretty much instantly. From there, it was a very small step to go before they were discussing fighting techniques.
"Just what was that swirly, glowing ball-thing you did back there?" asked the Nord. "I've never seen anything like that before. Some new kind of spell?"
"'S not magic," said Naruto. "It's a jutsu called Rasengan. It actually does mean swirly ball, too. Really, it's just really tricky chakra forging."
"The heck's 'tchackra'? Sounds like magic."
The Lilmothiit scratched the back of his head. "Well, it's kind of alike. More physical. Inner energy... stuff. Don't know the words. Sorry."
Farkas chuckled. "Don't worry, I noticed your talking was a bit shaky, but I can't say I ever heard your accent before, and even I can see you're no Khajiit. Where are you from, anyway? Before Helgen, I mean."
"Well..." tried the fox, unsure how to put it in terms that both he himself could say and Farkas understand. "There's only one moon where I'm from, if that helps."
That line caused the Nord to halt for a second and scrunch up his face as he tried processing what the long-eared fellow had just said. "One moon?"
Naruto nodded, grinning somewhat wonkily. He knew how insane it sounded. Hell, he'd thought he'd gone insane when he saw the twin ones the first time, so it was only natural that it was the same in reverse. "Yep! Only one!"
"Why would I lie about something like that?"
"..." Farkas was quiet for a few seconds as he tried to process this piece of knowledge. After a few seconds, he said "the heck did you get here?"
Naruto shrugged. "Kel accident. Now I'm stuck here."
Farkas whistled. "Not sure what a Kel is, but you need to tell us the full version of that story. What is a Kel? Some kind of artifact?"
"Don't know the word for it," said the teen, scratching his head.
"Try to explain?"
The younger frowned in concentration as he gave it a shot. "It's... hard to. A Kel is a big scroll, well, it looks like one. Hard to understand. Got something with space and time to do. I think. I..." The Lilmothiit scratched his head again. "I don't think they want to be understanded. Does that make any sense?"
"Hmm..." Farkas pondered for barely a second. "Nope. Sounds like fancy magic stuff. Never been good at that kind of thing."
Naruto shrugged. "Fair enough."
Farkas nodded slightly, mostly as an afterthought and glanced briefly at his companion, mentally changing the topic. Having talked with the fox-person for a while now he got the distinct feeling that he was younger than he looked. Let it not be said that Farkas was a short person. Frankly, saying so would be outright retarded. Nords were a tall folk, at least as far as humans went, and Farkas was tall, even for a Nord. Still, somehow, this youngster had an entire decimetre on him. "Say, are everyone from where you're from this damn tall?"
Naruto blinked a few times at the sudden change in subject, then frowned in confusion. He'd never really thought about it, actually, there had been too many more important things swimming around in his mind for him to think of something so trivial, but it was true that everyone had seemed a lot shorter here. Or maybe he'd just gotten tall. He wasn't quite sure. "You sure you're not just short here? I was always the shortest back home."
The Nord snorted. "You? A midget? I'll believe that one when I see it, Fox!"
Naruto shot him a half-hearted glare. He didn't like being reminded of his... vertical challenge. Which was apparently gone now, at least relative to Tamrielic natives. Well, he supposed it was ultimately unimportant.
Then he sighed and addressed an issue that had been nagging in the back of his head for a while. "You'll really let us stay, though? I mean, I don't want to be a burden-"
"Burden, me arse!" exclaimed the Nord. "You're a good fighter, you saved our asses, and we got way too many empty beds since the Great War. It'll be nice to have a few more faces around."
The teen couldn't help but let a truly heartfelt smile spread across his face at that. He could get used to these people.
As if on cue, a small but merry chuckle could be heard from little Haming. Looking to the side, Naruto could also see a smile play on Inorra's lips. He could feel their happiness. He could feel how they both needed this. How he probably needed it himself too. Yeah. He could definitely get used to this.
It was unnerving just how grateful the Jarl was for Naruto's simple message. For Balgruuf to show such gratitude to a mere footbound messenger did not bode well for the information network of this land, which in turn didn't bode well for the young teen. At least they would send a relatively significant force of their guard to Riverwood, so at least his journey served its main purpose, but the disappointment still stung.
He hadn't quite expected to be redirected to the court wizard right afterwards, though, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise. Even more so when it became apparent that Farengar, as the wizard was called, had been researching the Dragons for some time, and while he appeared rather aloof and disdainful at first glance, he positively lit up in excitement the moment he took a moment to actually take a look at his new, if temporary assistant. The wizard seemed to recognise what he was immediately and was all abuzz about how fascinating it was that one of the fox folk had reappeared in Tamriel now of all times. Naruto honestly wasn't sure how to react to that. Sure, he was incredibly relieved to have finally found someone who might be willing to share a bit of information about the people he now somehow belonged to, but Farengar was way too enthusiastic for him to get any word in. The wizard was simply asking too many questions too quickly for him to be able to inform the man that he didn't have any clue what he was talking about.
It took a few minutes, but Farengar eventually slowed down enough to allow the shinobi to inform him of his situation, and in that moment, the atmosphere shifted quite a bit as the wizard now patiently listened to Naruto's story.
Naruto decided to tell him everything, from the very point of him finding the old ruins in Hi no Kuni to him sitting in the halls of Dragonsreach. If this was the person who was going to help him in his research, there would be no point in withholding information; if there was so much as a single detail that could be of help, he wouldn't waste his chances.
As the story went on, the wizard's frown deepened. This meant that he'd just lost a potential source of immense information on his second greatest area of interest. On the other hand, this presented an entirely new, equally fascinating and quite possibly intimately related issue. The first Lilmothiit seen in Tamriel for centuries is warped in from a different world no more than three months before the first dragon sighting. All things considered, this was unlikely to be a mere coincidence.
So yes, he would definitely help this boy. They would help each other. If his hunch was correct, the fate of the entire continent, if not their whole world could be at stake. Unfortunately, the times his hunches had been wrong could be counted in singular. For once, he did not hope it would stay that way.
It was with a certain sense of reluctance that Jiraya stepped through the gates of Konoha. Maybe he had missed something. Another hidden room, perhaps, or a seal he had yet failed to uncover. He was unsure if he would be able to enter the ruins again, since it was only thanks to Naruto he had been able to enter the first time. What if the ruins acted at the anchor? If the boy found a way to get back on his own, he wanted to help him in any way possible. Wait at the exit point to make sure the process was stable, somehow, or something. Anything.
But no. Apparently, the decryption team had apparently, after endlessly poking at what had seemed to be a figurative wall, finally made a breakthrough. This was good news, of course, but at the same time it was highly underwhelming that after so long, this was the only progress they had made. Not only that, but they needed him there, personally, to confirm their theory. Honestly, this was just sad in his eyes. But then, maybe he was just grumpy. So much time had passed since his student's disappearance and yet still he had not heard a single word of where he could be, apart from the cryptic ramblings of the toad elder. It had taken a rather hefty toll on his nerves.
A sigh. He was getting too old for this.
So, he had been called back to Konoha. As much as he would have liked to stay in the ruins, he knew, deep down, that he had searched through every inch of that cave, from floor to ceiling. There was nothing more to find, and sitting idly in a cave was not how progress was made. Progress was made by acting.
As he made his way towards the decryption office, Jiraya encountered his old team mate, something that served to greatly alleviate his mood. With a smile, he greeted the current Hokage. "You called for me, Tsu-hime?"
Tsunade regarded the toad sage with a nod, accompanied by a small frown. "You sure took your sweet time, Jiraya. I believe I told you this was urgent. What kept you?"
"I can't just half-ass these things, Hime, I had to make sure I didn't miss anything," the sage replied. "I was blocked when I tried getting in before, why would that have changed now? Without Naruto I doubt we'll ever be able to get back in there."
An excuse, and a rather thin one at that. Tsunade sighed. She knew Jiraya better than that. The old toad was fooling himself. If there was one thing Jiraya was, it was efficient. At this point, the man had spent a bit over three weeks sitting in that cave, refusing to leave. There was no way he hadn't been able to cover every inch of the area twice at this point. No, he wanted to stay because that was where his student had disappeared. He had stayed because he blamed himself for what happened, and was desperate. He was wallowing.
However, the Godaime knew she was in no place to lecture others about letting go of their regrets. Thus, she kept silent.
"So," said Jiraya after a second or two of too much silence. "What new finding was so big that I had to be called in?"
Tsunade shook her head. "Better to see it for yourself. This is something better seen, rather than explained..."
If it is of any interest to anyone, I put up a challenge on my profile a while ago. If anyone wishes to take it up, that would be made of awesome. Just give me a holler, eh?