Caliburn Initiative Chapter 10
Tenth Step: Ten Thousand Times
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha belongs to Seven Arcs and Naruto belongs to Masashi Kishimoto.
Happy Father's Day to the current and future fathers reading this fic.
Supercell – Perfect Day
Naruto OST – Menma's Theme Extended
Skillet – Rebirthing
Evanescence – Everybody's Fool.
Naruto Shipuuden OST – Experienced Many Battles
Stephanie - Friends
"Signum-san," The pretty and young officer who had accosted her bowed politely. Behind Signum, the rest of the Wolkenritter simply watched with bored expressions as they lounged around the training room where they had just concluded a practice match for the examiners, "I'm sorry for the delay, but there have been some complications in the paperwork."
A faint annoyance flashed across the tall Knight's cheeks as she anxiously glanced at her wristwatch, a gift from their Master. She made a great effort not to let her annoyance show but even the neutral yet severe look she sent the secretary still caused chills to run up and down her back, "Can you do something about it? We have an appointment to keep with our Master soon."
The harassed clerk bowed profusely again, "I understand that you're in a hurry, but while you wait, why don't you look through our training recordings?"
"I hope Hayate-chan won't be angry if we're late for the Hatsumode." Vita mumbled what everyone else was thinking before she sighed irritably at the poor girl scurrying away from Signum's wrath, "Might as well do what she said I guess. I want to see if we did anything wrong anyway. Shamal, do it for me please?"
The pale blond woman who was leaning on the wall sent the small girl lounging lazily on the sofa a slight glare before tapping the console on the wall with a resigned expression. Bringing up the list of choices, one eyebrow quirked, "Hmm… there are more recordings here than just ours."
"Are there any interesting ones?" The wolf lying by Vita's legs barked calmly.
"….. Ranking Match; Uzumaki Naruto vs the 109th Batallion."
"Heh…. Hehehe…" Vita began giggling with an evil smirk at the thought of lording this over the frustrating blond, "Can we watch that? I want to see how badly he must have done to only get a B-rank."
Signum who had been standing alone on the other side of the room slowly nodded in agreement, "It would not hurt if we had more accurate information on his abilities."
With a crystal like sound, a large transparent and display appeared at the head of the room while the recording played.
Immediately, they saw two groups of men gathered around a table, or rather, a group of rather resentful looking officers in brown uniforms on one side, presumably because they were being forced to fight against one lousy kid, and Naruto, with his typical bored expression on the other.
"Please place your equipment on the table for inspection checks before proceeding to the arena." Someone they could not see announced.
Silently, the two sides shuffled out some items and placed them on the table for inspections. While the other side of table had a large collection of typical combat items such as Devices a First Aid Box and some other accessories that could be used in conjunction with their Devices the blond only had a roughed up Caliburn, a roll of wire and a sheaf of rectangular papers that looked like charms of some sort.
"…. What is he doing with paper?" Vita mumbled quizzically, half amused and half exasperated at the blond's sleepy expression. She half suspected that the blond had completely forgotten about the match and had been sleeping on his paperwork when they woke him up, "Is he even serious about this?"
When the order was given, the two sides recollected their equipment and began heading through the arena through the same door.
"May the best man win." The man who they assumed was Commander of the 109th battalion muttered quietly, although not quietly enough if the recorder still picked it up.
The way the brown haired man was looking down on the boy made it clear that he didn't include the bored looking ten year old in his little joke, his friends laughed boisterously at his little joke while the only female in their ranks looked at the young ten year old boy with something that resembled pity.
Sighing, the blonde adjusted his scarf and tucked himself deeper in it, "Sure, and may dirt taste good when I feed it to all six of you."
When they were finally gathered on opposite sides of the field, a loud and clear bell rang out, signifying the start of battle.
The 109th battalion immediately lifted up their Devices, "Set u-"
They were fast, and apparently well trained in Mage combat, but it wasn't fast enough.
Before they even finished invoking the start-up sequences and protect themselves with their Barriers, a yellow and orange blur that was Naruto instantly crashed into the heavy set man who had been carrying the first aid box, driving one knee into his gut before swinging around to sweep one leg underneath him. Then he finished the turn with an axe kick that drove the large man who was built like a brick house into the ground face first.
Zafira winced, immediately recognizing the same set of manoeuvres that Naruto had used on him the first time they had met, "Did… I really look like that when he knocked me out?"
"No. you weren't drooling."
"Ah…" It was small comfort, but at this point, Zafira would accept it quite willingly.
The dust slowly cleared and the blond stood there with a highly indifferent expression and a knocked out medic at his feet.
There was a stunned silence as they stared at him.
"What?" Naruto questioned eloquently as he audaciously tapped on the back of the unconscious man's head with one foot, "The bell rang. Nobody said I couldn't hit you before your Barrier Jackets were ready though."
Even having to dodge a series of shooting type spells as the angry group chased after him, the blond still looked half asleep, but Signum was beginning to realize that rather than any real lethargy, his lazy appearance was simply his way of taunting his opponents, driving them into an unthinking frenzy so he could take advantage of it.
Jumping from broken rubble to broken rubble, the agile blond crouched, letting a searing beam harmlessly soar by before he back flipped. Unfortunately, he seemed to have made a mistake as a series of binding spells caught him mid jump, chaining him so he hung by one hand that had been suspended in mid-air when one of the ones that had laughed at him earlier charged in with an angry snort.
His entire front was engulfed with a deep red aura as he bellowed his way towards the suspended blond like a comet.
"Caliburn, Round Shield!" Twisting his body like a snake, the blond tucked himself behind the small buckler shield that lit up from the bracelet around his free arm and there was a loud gong like noise as the comet collided with the shield.
"That's interesting…. I don't think I've seen a Mage do something else other than stand there and tank the hit with a Shield." Zafira commented lowly. The Wolkenritter's Guardian Beast who specialized in shields watched as the blond boy angled his body, instead of pinpointing the shield to hang in the air, he attached it to his wrist unlike the original Round Shield, allowing for a more portable version. Compensating for the lesser defence by angling the shield, the comet only struck a glancing blow that broke the Binding spells.
The blond immediately sprung out of the ball like a compressed spring and whacked his attacker in the face with the shield attached to his forearm. The man who had been thrown back by the violent assault skidded to a stop and spat out some blood and a broken tooth into his palm.
He stared at it the blonde incredulously, "You hit me with a shield."
Naruto gave the tooth in his hand a pointed look, "I think we've already established that. Would you like another demonstration? Though I must admit that I'm actually kinda surprised that worked myself." Naruto muttered to himself under his breath.
"It's a shield; it's supposed to be for defence!"
Naruto bashed his face in again.
As the blonde watched the man in the brown and black uniform fall from the sky, he glanced at his bracers before shrugging, "If it works, it works."
Cancelling the flight spell, he dropped like a rock before he could be caught again, winding his way through the broken buildings before he seemed to disappear into a shadow somewhere.
The remaining four members gathered around something in the shadows. As if responding to the Wolkenritters' curious looks, the insubstantial display seemed to adjust the lighting so that they could see that the 109th Battalion was gathered around a manhole of some sort, "He went down here! I saw him!"
"Verra," the brown haired leader gestured violently to their only female member, "You go down first!"
She gaped at the order, her long black hair fell lustrously along her shoulders and her heart shaped face was tainted by disbelief, "Go down?! Without even checking for traps? Are you insane?"
"We read the file, he doesn't have any trap spells or projectile attacks unless he's been hit by one once before," the man repeated his order with furrowed brows at her insubordination, "Now go!"
"It's not like he needs it given how thoroughly he's been trouncing us even without a Barrier Jacket." The woman muttered under her breath in a disgruntled tone before straightening up again, "All the more reason why we need to lure him out into the open and attack in cascades isn't it?!"
"Just take point!"
Quite clearly doubting his orders, the woman named Verra warily lowered herself into the manhole before her comrades followed behind her, their eyes burning with a terribly eager light to extract retribution from the cornered blond.
The screen remained in place for a moment, showing nothing but an empty building and a manhole much to the Wolkenritters' confusion when something stirred in the far shadows of the building.
Stepping out from behind a piece of black cloth with a sweat drop on his face, he face palmed. His expression clearly had, 'Did they seriously just make it that easy for me? What idiots.' plastered all over it.
Reaching into his scarf, he pulled out something before he began calmly rolling up a wad of those strange papers. Then he looked at the small ball he had made and scratched his head.
A mischievous, loony grin slowly spread across his lips.
It was the same kind of stupid grin he had on his face when he used Earth Breaker for the first time and Signum could almost hear him thinking, 'If I'm going to do this, I might as well go for broke,'
Pulling the rest of his papers out of his scarf, he added them to the wad of paper as well before he chucked the basketball sized ball of papers into the hole much to everybody's confusion.
"I sincerely hope your Barrier Jackets are as good as they claim to be." He called down the manhole with a wicked grin, prompting several curses from the dark hole. He waited a while as he listened to them climbing back up the manhole.
"If they don't… well… I'm sure they've got enough pain killers."
Humming a silly tune to himself, he stepped away from the manhole when there was a massive explosion behind him that rocked the entire field.
Towers of pure flame shot up all around the field as the explosive force charged down the sewers, looking for an escape while four blackened figures could be seen hurtling through the horizon from the force of the explosion when they were violently thrown from their manhole.
Amidst the orange inferno that roiled around him like a furious deity, the blond was very clearly doubled over, giggling to himself like a mad man.
Ranking Match Over.
Winner; Uzumaki Naruto.
"For the record, they survived my little firework and that Verra girl was the only one who got promoted to the Primary Ground Forces," Someone noted from beside Signum, causing the rose haired woman to start a little at the blond who had suddenly appeared beside her, "Because she was the only one with enough brains to wonder if it was wise to go down that manhole without confirmation."
"Why are you here?" She hissed warily, glancing at the rest of the Wolkenritters who were still staring at the empty screen with open mouths as if they couldn't really believe what just happened, "And rather than that, I'm more curious why they haven't chucked you into an asylum before throwing away the key."
"I'm too cute?"
"You're perception of reality is rather skewed," Sighing, she folded her arms stiffly, "And is there nowhere safe from your eavesdropping ears?"
"Well…. I haven't been able to get into this really interesting looking room on the highest floor but I'm working on it. Oh, and I'm just a clone." He replied blandly, "Just figured I'd let you know that the original is already at your house and waiting."
"I'll keep that in mind." Signum said stiffly as she glanced out the window where the secretary was walking towards them with a wide smile and a sheaf of papers, "We should be done fairly soon anyway."
He nodded noncommittally, "Incidentally, Hayate forgot to bring in the laundry today."
"Did you know that Hayate-chan puts name tags on all your clothes?"
She looked at him with one arched eyebrow, "In a house with so many females, it's only natural isn't it?"
There was a slight pause.
"Pink ribbons? Really?"
She punched him.
Supercell – Perfect Day
Naruto suppressed a long yawn as he walked alongside Nanoha and Fate; the two girls were humming peacefully, hand in hand as they walked to Hayate's home while the sky was still dark and he briefly wondered if it was really necessary to wake up so early for something like this.
He didn't really get the importance since his culture had never emphasized it, but there was no point in resisting them. He might as well go along with it and humour the two hard headed girls walking beside him.
The three of them were supposed to meet up with Hayate and the Wolkenritters at her house, before they went to the local shrine for a strange ceremony called Hatsumode, sort of like greeting the New Year.
Pulling his orange scarf even tighter around his neck, the blond let out a muffled sigh as the auburn haired girl reached up and began knocking on the door.
"Hai, coming." Hayate's accented Japanese rang out from behind the door. There was the sound of wheels squeaking on wood before the door opened, and the girl sitting in the wheelchair beamed at them, "You made it!"
It seemed like Hayate had mentioned that she had never been able to go out for the traditional greeting before because of her poor health, or at least, she couldn't remember the last time she had been allowed to go out at the very break of dawn and visit the shrine while the temperature was freezing. But since the Tome of the Night Sky had stopped leeching her Core, her health rapidly began to improve with some help from the TSAB and Reinforce.
It even looked like she would well enough to join them when the three of them went up the fourth grade next spring.
Nanoha and Fate both smiled warmly and hugged the frail looking girl affectionately, "Of course we would! We promised."
Behind the two of them, the blond felt his lips curl up a little with amusement, "Yo."
"It's not 'Yo.' Naruto-kun," Hayate grinned as the violet eyed girl with her arms still around her neck began scolding the blond, "You should greet people properly."
As Hayate led the three of them into the warmth of the house with Fate's help, she could hear the other two bickering, or more precisely, Nanoha protesting his lack of manners loudly while the blond simply humoured her with a bored nod every now and then since he knew that she was covering up her nervousness with an extra dose of manic energy.
"Ah, Master." The tall silver haired beauty who was behind the counter stirring a pot of red bean soup with an expression of intense concentration looked up from her task and nodded to them, "Takamachi-san, Testarossa-san, Jackass."
"Oi! I HEARD SOMETHING REALLY IMPOLITE JUST NOW!"
The calm and cool beauty whose figure made a simple sweater and jeans look like the finest robes merely gave him an indifferent look, "You must have heard wrong, Uzumaki-san. May I suggest you submit yourself for a health checkup if you can't even hear properly anymore?"
"I'm perfectly fine!" the blond protested.
"Then they obviously didn't do good job."
Giggling, the three girls sat around the table while Naruto and Reinforce began insulting each other. Sighing, Hayate propped herself up on one cheek and watched the two of them go at it, "I wonder why they just can't be nice to each other. They seem like such good friends too."
""Totally impossible."" The two of them immediately retorted in sync.
She laughed again when Fate looked around, "Signum and the rest aren't here?"
"Ah… They'll be joining us later," The brown haired girl explained as she served the two girls some tea, "They're still at the TSAB, handing in their registrations and getting their ranks so that they can begin work, but they'll be here before we have to leave."
"Ah…" Nanoha's puzzled look was replaced by a wry one as she understood the situation, "I forgot that the office is still open. It's really too bad that Mid doesn't celebrate this holiday either."
"They don't really celebrate Christmas either." Fate noted blandly.
Nanoha snickered, "Teaching Fate-chan about Christmas was fun though."
The blond boy who had slid into the seat beside a blushing Fate grinned widely and winked at Hayate conspiratorially, "She stayed up the whole night you know, worried that a stranger was going to sneak into her bedroom, but she didn't want to lock her door since Nanoha told her that Santa-san was a good person."
"Naruto-kun! I don't want to hear that from you!" She poked the grinning boy, "When you heard that someone was going to hide gifts in a sock, you went out and bought a huge sack shaped like a sock!"
This time it was his turn to glow red and splutter, "How could have I known that it didn't work that way? Besides, weren't you the one that snuck into my room because you were too scared!?"
She blushed until the red reached her neck and Nanoha made a pleased sound at the two of them, "Really?" Her eyes twinkled at the two blondes, "How have I not heard about this?"
Watching the two of them try to adjust to Earth life seemed like a never ending source of amusement to the nine year old Mage.
"Nanoha-chan, not you too!" Fate rarely complained, but there was a slight hint of whining in her words as she pleaded with her friends to stop teasing her.
"Hai, hai," Hayate clapped her hands with a grin, "Let's stop teasing Fate-chan. Why don't you two come and help me change into a kimono while we wait for the rest?"
Reinforce looked up from her bean soup, "I can help too, Master."
"You need to change too, Reinforce-chan." Hayate added crisply.
The blond girl shot her a grateful look as the females left the hall, leaving Naruto to sit alone in the hall.
"What am I? Air?!"
"You're always welcome to help me and Reinforce change, Naruto-kun," Hayate's kansai dialect rang out, thick with mischief, "I know you can barely restrain yourself from peeking into this garden of flowers as it is."
"Do it and I'll castrate you." Reinforce's voice echoed from the next floor, unmistakably cold.
"Do it and I'll poke your eyes out." Nanoha chirped happily.
"Why do I feel like my reputation cannot go any lower in your eyes?" He sighed mournfully, "At least Fate-chan still believes in me."
"Naruto-kun…. Do it and I'll break your spine."
Naruto detached his face from the table top and glanced at the wall blearily as he heard the sounds of somebody opening the door.
Pausing to stretch the kinks out of his muscles, he called out, "Hayate-chan, I think the rest are back."
"Ooh," Hayate who was still in the room with the other three even half an hour later called back, "They are back? Send Signum and the rest up here will you? I already have Kimonos prepared for all of them."
Shuffling towards the corridor, he waved at the Wolkenritter, "YooO?!"
The moment Signum's eyes landed on the sleepy looking blond, they flared with righteous anger. With great big strides, she reached his side in a split second and smashed his head with a sheathed Laevantein, "Memory Crushing Strike!"
"Signum? What was that sound?" Hayate called out as she heard the sound of a body hitting the floor.
"Nothing, Master." The rose haired knight answered plainly as if she had not just bashed someone's skull in, "I was just crushing a dirty bug that is even worse than a cockroach."
"…..Oh... Just make sure Naruto-kun doesn't bleed all over the carpet again." She replied lightly, "And come up with Shamal and Vita when you're done. Hurry up, or we're going to be late."
"Of course, Master."
Zafira watched all three of them gave the blond, who was pretty much dead to the world, a kick each before trooping up the stairs, very clearly ignoring the fact that they had a face down body sprawled in the middle of their hall. Making a doggy shrug, he stepped on the blond and went to the hallway before curling up on the floor.
"Are you alright, Naruto-kun?" Fate asked with concern as she rubbed his back.
"I'm fine…" The blond who was rubbing his neck made a confused face, "but for some reason I can't remember what happened after Signum came home… just a blinding pain, and something about the colour pink…"
"Fuumu…" in front of Nanoha, Hayate made a huffing sound, "You didn't even have say anything about our kimonos, even though I went through the trouble of making such nice ones."
"Yeah, nice. Very nice." The blond muttered flatly, making it very clear that he was more concerned with his missing memory than Reinforce's fresh ice blue Kimono that suited her chilly demeanour, Signum's rose pink Kimono that went well with her hair, or even Vita's bunny styled Kimono.
"Muuu….." Hayate continued to steam in her wheelchair, with Zafira walking beside her until they reached the foot of the shrine when someone called out to them.
Her angry pout vanished as she waved at Arisa and Suzuka energetically. The two young girls rushed up to her, Fate and Nanoha before they piled on each other in a loud group hug.
"Why do they always do that group hug and squeal, even though the last time they saw each other was yesterday?" Naruto half mumbled to himself.
"It's a girl thing. Just put up with it."
He glanced beside him and widened his eyes at the brown haired boy, "Hideyoshi? What are you doing here?"
"Came with Suzuka," He answered dryly, "It was either that or get dragged."
"Huh? Why would Suzuka want you to come?"
"Didn't you know we were neighbours?" The basketball player who was in a male kimono like he was waved one hand lazily, "We've even been in the same class ever since kindergarten."
"…. That actually explains a lot."
"Eh? What does?"
"Nothing." The blond replied blithely.
"… If you say so." Stuffing his hands into his pockets to protect them from the cold, he sighed, "Let's just go before the lines get really bad."
Grunting, the two boys and a dog trailed behind the group of chattering girls, their scowls made it very clear that neither of them wanted very much to be out in the freezing cold when they could be curled up in their nice, comfy beds.
The Uzumaki looked up blearily and made a face as the auburn haired girl bounced up to him, "Look! They're selling Taiyaki here!"
"Yeah," Wetting one finger with a lick, he rubbed it along her lips and wiped away the bean paste with a wry expression, "I can tell."
Beside him, Fate tugged at his sleeve and spoke softly as she offered him the bean filled pastry that was shaped like a fish, "I bought one for you."
"C'mon, there some other shops over there! Let's see if they have any drinks!"
"Hey wait!" Hideyoshi felt blue eyes gazing at him, reluctant to leave him alone.
"Go ahead and break a leg man."
Naruto, who still wasn't very used to the metaphors and sayings that were used today, only gave him a puzzled look, "I only have two. If I break one, I won't be able to stand properly."
"Then break your arms."
"How bout I break your head since you don't seem to need it?" The blond commented with a mild look.
"Whatever, just go, you idiot."
Hideyoshi watched the blond get dragged off by Nanoha and Fate with a wry smile before glancing down at Zafira, "Looks like it's just us guys huh?"
The overly large dog regarded him with a dry look before promptly going off to find Hayate.
Breathing into his hands to warm them up, Hideyoshi sighed to himself when he felt somebody's presence beside him.
"That was nice of you."
He briefly glanced at the well-dressed girl standing beside him, "We're friends. It's what friends do." Hideyoshi observed blandly, "He'll owe me for this though."
"Hmm…" Reaching into her kimono, Suzuka brought out a steaming packet of taiyaki, "Here."
It was about half an hour later, after some drinks and food, before it was finally their turn at the offertory box. One by one, they threw in some coins and pulled on the bell, making it jangle loudly before they prayed a wish for a good year.
At the very end of the line, Hayate clasped her hands together and prayed, "Kami-sama, may Fate-chan's wishes come true this year." She clapped twice.
Beside her, Fate secretly glanced to her right and squeezed her eyes shut, "Kami-sama, may Nanoha-chan's wishes come true this year."
As the blond girl clapped twice, the auburn haired Mage glanced to her right as well and frowned, "Kami-sama, may Naruto's wishes NOT come true this year."
Beside her, the blond who had mimicked them with his hands clasped together tightly, frowned, "Kami-sama, may - EH?! Why is mine different?!"
Play Naruto OST – Menma's Theme Extended
Giggling, Nanoha danced out of the blond's grasping fingers and waved at him cheekily.
Watching the nine year old dance away with a softly smiling Fate while Hayate followed behind with a mischievous look, Naruto sighed and smiled faintly.
He glanced at the shrine behind him and whispered a prayer.
"Kami-sama.… Whoever you are, I'm probably not considered somebody under your jurisdiction but if you can hear me, I pray that they will always be happy."
Removing the ocarina from his lips, he looked up at the girl in the white and blue uniform as she landed on their roof with a gentle touchdown, "Hey yourself. What are you doing here?"
"Hmm….. I wanted Hayate-chan to enjoy her first New Year with Reinforce-san and the rest, Lindy-san went to visit her husband's grave with Chrono-kun and Amy-san and Yuuno-kun is still at the TSAB," Allowing her Barrier Jacket to dissipate, the auburn haired girl kicked away the snow that had collected around the Harlaown's roof and made a place for herself to sit, "So I was wondering what you two were doing up here."
"I suddenly just felt like it."
It had been about two hours since their visit to the shrine, after which the group had slowly separated and gone home. Perhaps it was the atmosphere of the shrine visit and the significance it held, but he had been seized by a sudden urge to go somewhere high and isolated and watch the sun rise.
Somewhere that reminded him of top of the Hokage Statues.
Somewhere where he could wonder if everybody else was greeting the New Year just like he was.
"I think she didn't want me to be alone, so she stayed with me even though Lindy asked her to go grave visiting." The blond briefly looked down at the girl sleeping on his lap and made a non-committal sound as he pulled his white and red cloak tighter around the sleeping girl with a half-smile, "I told her to go to sleep in her bed if she was tired, but she didn't want to listen."
Nanoha chuckled quietly, "Sounds like her."
Keeping his eyes on the rising sun that dyed the clouds a bright red while he ran one hand through Fate's hair, he gave her a nudge, "How are your parents?"
He gave her a mild look, causing her to flush a little. Along with Lindy's support, Nanoha had finally made it clear to her parents that she wanted to go to Mid and train to become a proper mage after the Tome of Darkness incident. While her mother had kept quiet, her father had been somewhat reticent, perhaps understandably so.
Having worked as a bodyguard for most of his life until he met her mother, Nanoha's father, Shiro was more than a little reluctant to let his little girl enter a life of battle. At least, if it had to do with fists, blades or guns, it would be something that he could understand, but spending the rest of her life as a Mage who could fly and use earth shaking magic?
Not very damn likely.
At first he had outright denied her the chance to train, but seeing her daughter's distress at his vehemence, Miyuki had persuaded Shiro to at least think about it, promising that they would give Nanoha a proper answer on New Year's Day. This was the reason she had been somewhat overly energetic the entire morning.
"They're still hesitant about the whole thing, but Tou-san said he would let me go." She kicked her legs aimlessly, "Even if I had to go to another planet, if becoming a mage was what I found meaning in, then he would swallow his fear and believe in me. T-then he hugged me and said I was growing up too f-fast."
Naruto pretended not to notice her wiping her eyes.
He knew that she wasn't sad, it had just never hit her how much her father loved her.
"As long as I showed him that I could handle both training and high school at the same time… and as long as I remembered where my home was no matter how high I flew, he would let me become a Mage."
"…He loves you."
"Yeah." Nanoha agreed with a croak and leaned into the blond's side, "Yeah, he does."
He pretended not to notice the chilly tears soaking his shirt as he pulled the girl a little closer.
Palming the ocarina with his free hand, he began to blow on it again, creating a hauntingly familiar song, and the only song he knew how to play, that lulled Nanoha to sleep.
When she woke up again, she would find herself back in her bed and a small knitted puppet sitting beside Raising Heart's standby mode.
Play Skillet – Rebirthing
"This is such a pain in the ass." Naruto muttered to himself as he stood in the middle of a crowd of students, not even paying the slightest smidge of attention to the principal, a kindly looking old woman's droning voice. Not a single face was familiar to him here, and the blond wore a stiff scowl on his lips as the only outward proof of his unease. Of course, the fact that almost everyone here was… taller than him didn't help his mood at all.
While Mid culture didn't really care how old you were as long as you proved that you had the passion and desire to contribute, 8 years old was the minimum cut off point for the Mages to at least have a reasonable grasp of their responsibilities and nature as people who could wield Magic. That being said, he was still surrounded by a majority of people that were 11 years old or older.
Naruto consoled himself at the thought that with proper food and exercise, he would at least hopefully grow to be somewhat taller than his original height….
Assuming he wasn't permanently stuck as a nine year old.
Now that would really suck.
At least they didn't make him wear that dopey white uniform and childish black tie here.
Speaking of childish uniforms, school hadn't actually resumed back on Earth yet since it was still on New Year's break, the scarred blond was simply attending his first day at the Academy, as were Nanoha and Fate. However, the two of them were attending another Academy on the North side of Mid specifically for trainee Mages that were ranked A and above, which left him alone here.
As the crowd around him began to murmur and move towards the exit, Naruto finally perked up from his half daze. Together with the large crowd, they began to move to the training fields where it seemed like they would be given a preliminary assessment about their basic skill before being streamed into groups that would be easier to administrate.
Accepting the training Device that he had been given along with a piece of paper with something written on it, the blond twirled the spear like weapon around his hand with absolute boredom.
"Now, please go to the training ring that you have been allocated," One of the teachers yelled out over the bustle, "You will your find your opponent there. It is okay if you do not have any offensive spells, simply make do with what you have and we will mark you accordingly."
Twirling the simple Device around his wrist while he made sure not to channel any chakra to the fragile looking thing, Naruto calmly wound his way through the crowd to the stage at the very end of the field where his opponent was already waiting.
A blue haired girl with a haughty expression on her face looked down on him, and Naruto frowned. He wasn't really affected by her expression, but more that it seemed really familiar for some reason, as if they had met before….
Ah. That idiot that had mocked Pigtails during their exams, so she was ranked B or lower as well.
Indifferently, he passed his piece of paper to the examiner and climbed onto the stage with a little dinky hum where he faced the proud girl.
Scratching his cheek with the pointed end of his Device, the blond carefully listened to the regulations that were being read out before their referee lifted a whistle to her lips and blew on it.
"Ha!" The girl whose name he had not bothered to acknowledge lifted her Device and an array slowly materialized on the other end, "Pierce Drive!"
Naruto calmly shuffled half a step to the side and let the blue bolt pass him by harmlessly.
Giving her a bored look, he squatted on the ground and began picking his nose when another blue bolt was shot at him. Almost dispassionately, he batted it away with his Device.
That pretty much set the rhythm for the next five minutes.
He simply sat there with an expression of absolute boredom and simply knocked away anything she threw at him with his Device or his bare hand until right before the timer rang.
By that point though, the blue haired girl had lost all signs of dignity and was practically hopping up and down in mad fury, right up until Naruto flicked his wrist and hurled his Device at her like a javelin.
The blue haired girl stood there as stiff as a plank as the Device roared by her, missing her head by an inch. Swaying in spot with her knees shaking, she stared at the emotionless blond before her eyes rolled back into her head and she finally toppled over backwards.
"…. Wow. That was… sad."
The blond's bored comment seemed to knock the sense back into their stunned referee, "Uh…. Winner; Uzumaki Naruto?"
"Why are you asking me?" The blond observed sardonically, prompting her to flush.
"Uhm… yes, I mean no." She handed him another piece of paper, "Here. Take this to Principal Diavel and she'll sort you into your group." Giving the medics a sign, she called out to them, "Someone get Inova-san to the infirmary and let her know what her marks are!"
So that's what her name was. Both her and the Principal that is.
"The Principal? I imagine she would have had better things to do than watch a bunch of idiots wave a stick around." Naruto noted wryly as he watched the group of white clothed women cart a drooling Inova away.
"She likes to do it herself, says it keeps her connected with her students. Does it every time we have a new batch too." The young teacher commented with a light shrug that the blond returned as he meandered towards the large podium where the grey haired woman sat, watching the large stages around her with a warm smile.
"Principal Diavel." Naruto said with a nod as he handed her his results.
Glancing down at the sheet with a well-practiced eye, she smiled at him faintly, "Uzumaki Naruto huh? Interesting battle style. Was there a reason you chose not to use any magic?"
"There was no reason." Naruto replied blithely.
"No reason to use magic or no point wasting it on someone who wouldn't be able to match you anyway?" Diavel asked with a thin smile.
"Both" He answered bluntly, as she handed him yet ANOTHER piece of paper.
"Here's where your dorms are. Your luggage will be sent to your room along with some documents for you to peruse until 4pm." Rather than get upset at his callousness, her eyes twinkled warmly, "By then Inova-san should have recovered and we should be able to continue with the next part of orientation. Until then, feel free to use that time to do anything"
Feeling strangely like a mouse under her gaze, the blond meandered off to his dorm and threw himself onto his bed. The week passed quickly since all of them were required to attend a mandatory month long course which introduced them to the many types of Magical disciplines available at the Academy, along with some etiquette and some other nonsense that simply irked him.
Unlike Nanoha or Fate who had chosen to head home after lessons or their orientation, the blond had decided to simply stay there until school started, the week passed like a blur, mostly because he simply sent a clone to class with orders not to speak to anybody unless spoken to first, instead of attending it himself, choosing to hide away in the mountains near their campus all day and night.
Naruto rather quickly realized that that particular order was a little pointless. Even though he was sure that his clone's somewhat blank disposition had encouraged the situation; with the exception of one person, most of the student body avoided him as a general rule, if not they were jealous of the nine year old prodigy, then because he had very quickly established a reputation as a fighter who could make a brutal beat down look lazy both in and out of classes when the first bully made his appearance.
That one amused him, it seemed no matter how advanced or enlightened the civilization seemed, the typical bully with an intimidating swagger that tried to force weaker students into obeying him would always exist.
Fortunately for Naruto, and not so fortunately for the bully who had decided that the youngest Mage on campus would make an easy target, he left the blond alone fairly quickly after the first time Naruto had broken both his legs and all his fingers before being left outside the Principal's office in a pool of his own urine and a sign permanently glued to his forehead saying, "Kick Me."
This was why Naruto was rather surprised to find a tall and heavy set teenager looking down at him from a cliff, while he was taking a break from his training to stare up at the sky and chew on a blade of grass. He had thought that everybody would avoid him like the plague rather than do the opposite and seek him out.
The two of them stared at each other before Naruto promptly ignored him and went back to his contemplation of the sky.
Before long, the boy left without a word.
This happened another three times, and each time Naruto doing something else, whether it was knitting or punching a rock. Though he made very sure that he was not doing anything that would reveal his capabilities, it only seemed like it was making the boy even more curious.
Or at least upset enough to keep inching closer each visit.
That was the first word he said to Naruto, who only faintly recognized him. Though the course was devoted to understanding the Magic Styles available and the background of the current interplanetary Magical Society for at least another week, they still had intensive physical training every day after lessons, culminating in a simple physical spar to rate each trainee at the end of the week.
And the boy was, alongside Naruto, one of four trainees who had never won a single spar. Though that was admittedly because Naruto only showed up to throw the match. In his mind, there was simply no point showing everybody what he could do in a real match.
"Why do you act like this?"
"I'm surprised you even found me here. I thought it was pretty remote." Naruto observed easily as he sat up, spitting away the blade of grass in his mouth.
"My father works for the Academy as a handyman. I know these mountains as well as I do the back of my hand." He declared confidently before narrowing his dark eyes at the blond who had propped his chin up on one hand with an indifferent look, "So when I realized that there was someone hiding up here, I started investigating immediately. When I realized it was you… I was confused. How could you be here, and in class at the same time? So I began watching you in sleep away in class every day, until I realized that the you in class was nothing but an illusion, a clone, while the real you was up here in the mountains."
"So… you came all this way to tell me that you've been watching me?" The blond asked quizzically with a mildly scared expression, "….Are you hitting on me?"
"LIKE HELL! I came to ask you what the hell you were doing up here!"
Naruto smirked and spread his hands around the grass, "What do you think?"
Evanescence – Everybody's Fool.
His fists clenched with restrained anger and his head bowed, "I've always thought about winning but I've never thought about whether I can win or not because I know I can't. every time I lose, I know it's only understandable, as long as I stagger up again…."
He pointed at the blond with an accusing finger, "But you! It's only natural for someone like you who has the ability to be so good at everything you do. You are naturally fast, you are naturally strong and you were blessed with a Core that won't lose to anybody and yet you don't try at all, even though there are people like me who have to struggle just to be accepted into this place!"
He began shaking in place as his aura flared, "To everyone else, to people like me, even if we try our hardest, can never match up against you, all we have left is to console ourselves that we've tried our best against you, even if we don't give up, So why do you spit in our face by throwing each match even though we know that you are strong, why do you belittle our efforts by sleeping in class and lounging around?! Why does a prodigy like you rub salt into our wounds by playing around when you are so favoured!?"
His eyebrow twitched.
Naruto really hated the word prodigy.
Staring at the sandy haired boy who looked about 11 or 12 with an empty gaze, he slowly stood up, "So what are you unsatisfied with? You want me to go all out, to properly show my best so that your loss feels justified. Is that correct?"
The boy glared at him defiantly, "Ye-"
He put everything into it, every inch of power he could dredge out.
Fury so pure, that he couldn't control it.
The wind blew violently as a fist that had not been there a microsecond ago grazed his cheek.
His eyes widened incredulously as they locked onto crimson ones, that one little graze had left behind a deep red scar behind on his cheek. A fiery gold aura blazed around Naruto as they stood face to face, barely an inch apart, and he growled, "I will ask you again. You wanted me to go all out. Is that correct?"
The ground beneath them cracked under the pressure as the stranger's knees went soft and he collapsed weakly.
Behind him, the entire mountain had simply disintegrated.
There was no rumble, not a crack, and no dust. It had simply disappeared.
The blonde merely stared down at him with blazing eyes, "When I was your age I was even weaker than you, so don't give me that crap about accepting your loss even though you never gave up to the end. It doesn't matter whether or not your opponent is immortal and invincible. Scoping out the competition is fine too, but for someone like you, the awareness of the gap between you and him is what weakens you. So ignore it, and just keep blindly fighting like the idiot you are."
Making a tsk sound of disappointment for letting himself get so riled, the blazing inferno like aura dissipated like fog on a sunny morning and the blond quietly left the clearing, resolving to find another place to train unbothered.
As the saying went, men could plan but God decided. The moment Naruto woke up, he instantly knew that it was going to be a bad morning.
Mostly because the strange boy was sitting outside his dormitory door even before the sun had rose.
"Are you SURE you're not going to hit on me?" Naruto murmured flatly at the boy who was shivering violently in the cold morning, "Because you're starting to act a lot like that other stalker I accidentally picked up."
"Then why are you here?" He asked the boy who winced at the cramp in his muscles as he slowly struggled upright; a bandage covered the gash in his cheek from last night.
Silently, he pointed at Naruto's right hand, the one that had nearly torn his face off.
"Someone whose hands are this rough can't be a bad person. Besides, if all you could do when you went all out was nothing but a simple punch means you're a fairly straightforward person right?"
"…. Oh God, he started hitting on me."
"SCREW YOU!" struggling to regain his composure, the dark haired boy whose hair fell across one eye glared at him, "You said you used to be weak and untalented. I want to know how you got strong. I'll even train with you if necessary."
The blonde smirked, "Are you sure you want to train with me?"
"Very well, every morning I wake up at 4 a.m. and begin with a quick and simple run."
The boy drew a deep breath and stomped his feet a few times to get the blood in them running again, "Where are we running?" he asked with a rare resolve.
"When I first came here, I noticed this weird wall outside town. We're running on top of it, none of that magic crap either. Oh and if the guards see you, you have to start over again."
He stopped with his mouth agape, "Wall? That's the wall that encircles the Grand Cathedral…" Then it finally clicked for the boy, "That's at least 100 kilometres a lap!"
Naruto nodded casually as he focused on his shoe laces, "I normally do five laps and then 5 sets of 100 sit ups, push ups and whatever ups in 45 minutes or I won't be able to bath in time for lunch. But now that you're here, we can just keep sparring instead of boring sit ups. Fighting with a clone tends to get a little predictable since I can guess what they're about to do."
"Ah, I guess that is a bit too much for someone just starting huh? How about we just run two laps?"
"Don't worry about it, when I got unfrozen, I was a little rusty as well, 400 kilometres in an hour is rather abysmal. But I tried to keep at it every morning until I was back in shape. Now that you're here though…."
"By the way, what's your name?"
"Anthony," The broad shouldered teenager slowly grinned at the magnitude of what Naruto was asking from him, "Anthony Cruze. Don't call me Tony though, it's too common. Call me Anttt-GYAAAAH!"
The dark haired boy whose boyish good looks had gone as grey as week old porridge stared at the smoking hole between his feet.
Another inch upwards and he would have lost everything that made him a man.
"WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT FOR?!"
Naruto gave him a puzzled look, "I'm not sure. I just had this sudden urge to castrate you. Don't worry, I won't do it again."
"THEN WHY THE HELL DO YOU HAVE A FORK AT MY BALLS?!"
"Huh… how did that get there?"
"Alright, everybody get in line." The instructor clapped his hands a few times to get the attention of all the students, "I know that most of you are excited that your Orientation course has ended and you can finally get to the meet of our training, but make no mistake, we will continue to keep doing intensive physical training and spars every single we-"
There was a loud blam as the gym doors were knocked open, and two figures staggered into the hall, two of four greatest trouble makers in the entire Academy. Unlike the usual bland confidence that the blond one held in his posture, he at least seemed to be somewhat anxious this time.
Anthony however, was a whole different piece of cake. The dark haired boy with a deep scar on his left cheek could barely lift his head long enough to nod at the instructor while his arms hung from his shoulders like limp pieces of rubber.
"As I was saying," The instructor began again with a warning look at the two of them, "We're still going to have spars every week. Despite being a Magic Academy, maintaining physical fitness is a core tenet for ANY Mage. Now, you know the drill, get your numbers and get ready."
The swaying boy who looked like he couldn't even stand on his own without Naruto's help shuffled over to the instructor and weakly picked out a piece of paper from the box. Giving it a passing glance, the hunch backed Ant practically crawled over to the nearest stage, thanking every Kaiser in existence for that little blessing.
When he saw who was on the other end of the stage however, he began cursing them instead. Standing with a simple wooden sword at his side was a good looking boy of about 15. His well-groomed hair fell across his eyes rakishly as he gave the haggard looking Ant a worried look.
"Are you sure you want to do this, Anthony? You can always just forfeit like your other friend you know."
Anthony's dark eyes shifted over the other side of the gym hall where his friend had forfeited again. Only this time, he didn't simply leave the hall after. Blond hair obscured his eyes as he stood in a corner with his arms folded and Anthony knew that the blond was judging him.
Play Naruto Shipuuden OST – Experienced Many Battles
They had done nothing but run and fight for an entire week. It was now time to see how much he had truly gained.
"I'm not the same person I was a week ago, Elva." The broad shouldered boy muttered flatly as he joined the good looking sandy haired boy on the stage with a confidence his tired limbs did not feel, "I've trained and I've fought so much I can barely feel my toes, but I can't lose here."
Elva smiled with some resignation, "Then I'm truly sorry that I have to do this."
The wooden blade was in front of his eyes before he knew it. Dropping down with the swiftness of thunder.
All eyes blinked as the wooden blade thunked on the floor uselessly, most of all, Ant who stared at the blade like it had just talked.
The instructor who was overseeing them slowly smiled as he made a notation on his clipboard. At the very last moment, Anthony had shuffled half a step back before stepping back into range. He was simply too tired to do anything else, much less jump away like he always did. The move was so tiny and insignificant that he wondered if anybody else had caught it.
"Hahah…" Elva laughed nervously, "I must be feeling off today."
He swiftly swung the blade again, but to all but the most attentive watcher, it simply looked like the swordsman was swinging his blade with increasingly desperate cries while the wide eyed dead last of the year just… stood there.
"How many times could you have possibly fought to have changed so much in one week!?" Ant made shuffle before he flowed back in with another shuffle.
'We aren't talented people, we learn slower than those who are gifted. But that doesn't mean that we have to give up, that doesn't mean that we don't try at all just because we don't have that requisite talent.'
His hands were all but useless since he could barely lift them, but there was one last weapon he had left.
In front of his eyes, the small blond who was nearly two heads shorter than him, wrapped his tiny arms around a boulder that was bigger than four of him put together.
'It just means we wake up earlier, and try harder than any of those prodigies ever will.'
With a mighty roar, he crushed the boulder in a bear hug.
"How many times did I fight this whole week?!" Ant slammed his forehead into Elva's nose, breaking it with a roar, "10000 TIMES!"
In the dark corner of the gymnasium, a small smile touched a blond's lips. Stuffing his hands in his pockets as Ant keeled over in a dead faint, he left the building with a quiet whistle.
Play Stephanie - Friends
"Well, at least you look happy."
His eyebrows shot up and he gaped at the two girls standing by the side of the gymnasium, "Pigtails? Fate-chan?"
The auburn haired girl scowled, "You made us wait long enough. We've been here for two days but no one could find you."
"Oh… I was… out?" Naruto offered lamely, "Did you waste too much time?"
Fate smiled gently, "It's alright, Naruto-kun. Your principal said that she would let us know when you came back so we made it in time." Giving the blond's dirty clothes and smudged face a worried expression, she rubbed his cheek with concern, "Are you sure you're alright here? You look like you haven't been eating well."
"Uhm… yeah." Naruto glanced around uneasily as Fate fussed with his clothes, "Don't worry, I'm fine. Why are you two here anyway?"
"Why else would we be here?" Nanoha snapped at him grumpily, "You don't come back for a whole month; you don't even send a simple message with Caliburn. Everyone was worried about you but no one wanted to disturb you. Then we come here and find that you've been missing for an entire week. What else were we supposed to think?"
"It's alright, Nanoha-chan. What matters is that he's fine." Fate said as she rubbed her friend's back soothingly. Then she smiled at the boy on her right sweetly, "Naruto-kun won't go missing just like again right?"
"That smile of yours is scary."
"Okay, okay." Lifting his hands helplessly, the blond finally let the warm smile appear on his face, "I really missed you two."
"Was it really that hard to learn here? Maybe we could try and arrange for you to join us at the Academy?" the blond girl between Nanoha and Naruto suggested.
"Did anyone ever tell you worry too much?" Naruto commented blandly. On her other side, Nanoha snorted.
"Naruto-kun." Seeing her reproachful look, the blond boy waved vaguely, "I'm fine. It's just been a rough week, but on the positive side, I haven't blown anything up and I haven't had to hide any bodies."
He pursed his lips as Inova's grating voice reached his ears, "Yet."
"An admirer, Naruto?" Nanoha observed sourly as the blue haired woman pranced towards them, "You worked faster than I expected."
"You can have her if you want." Naruto nodded with a faint look of distaste, "If she ran as she much as her mouth does, she'd be one of the strongest people around instead of one of the skinniest bitches around."
The auburn haired girl shot him an amused look, "She looks familiar though…"
"The one we met outside the exam hall."
"Ah! So…. why is she running towards us like that?"
"The same reason why my boxers have been going missing recently."
"Crowbel, what a pleasant surprise."
"Laura, it's been a while." Crowbel nodded as she gracefully took a seat and accepted thec up of tea that her old friend had offered her.
"And what brings you here?" Diavel questioned with a faint smile as she watched the lavender haired woman sip her tea with a happy sigh.
"Can't I just come to visit you?"
"We visit each other almost every other month, Midget." The principal pointed out gently, "And you never mix work with private matters."
Pretending to cough behind one palm, the General looked out the window and observed the group of students milling around the courtyard of the Academy, "The newest abtch of students just finished their first month here isn't it?"
Diavel made a sound of agreement, "Soon they'll begin spell crafting while we try to help them understand what suits them the most and what they want to do with TSAB. The core of our training so to speak, but that's not why you're here."
Hearing it being stated so plainly, Midget only chuckled nervously, "Any interesting students this year?"
"You mean the one you specifically recommended to our Campus?" The placid Principal smiled as she sipped her own cup of tea, "Uzumaki Naruto no? He is an interesting child. Somewhat secretive but not without reason I believe?"
"Well… I do believe he just bonded with another student recently." One of Diavel's eyebrows rose at the pleased look on Crowbel's face, "Does this have something to do with why you intentionally kept him off the records?"
"Hmmm….. which means his current rank is not representative of his abilities... what's his true rank?"
"It depends really." The lavender haired General admitted, "He doesn't seem to have any motivation to do better, nor does he have the abilities to fully utilize his Core, so his overall rank really does hover around C or B at best.
The principal blinked, "Wait. When you say he doesn't know how to fully utilize his Core yet… what does that mean for his composite rank?"
The lavender haired woman stirred her coffee with an intense look, "Though we still don't exactly know how he escaped it, we…. suspect that he is a descendant of a splinter group from the original Al-Hazredians that managed to survive the Great Cataclysm even though they were isolated in a pocket dimension as a result."
"What does that mean, Crowbel-sama?" the principal asked again with a penetrating look as Midget winced at the formal tone.
"Other than the fact that he's probably a living, breathing representation of our precursors and a relic that we must not let go?" Midget breathed in deeply and spoke reluctantly, "By himself, he is quite possibly the first SSS-ranked Mage since Sankt Kaiser Olivie herself."
"You're still dodging the question, Crowbel-sama." The grey haired lady immediately pointed out.
The Head of Investigators and Inspectors sighed and wondered why she was so easy to read to her friends.
"During more invasive testing, we realized that Naruto-san contained some sort of parasite within his Core, and when they worked together; his already powerful Core had no upper limit that we could define. With the right spell and mindset, he could probably achieve what the old Al Hazard Mages could, up to and including reshaping the world as he saw fit." Midget snorted, "In fact, if we take his stories about the battles back home as the Truth, he's probably not the only one since resurrecting the dead seems like a pretty trivial thing where he comes from. Something that not even Precia Testarossa, a SS-ranked Mage in her own right could achieve."
The lady opposite her was stunned speechless.
"Simply put, together with the symbiote in him, Uzumaki Naruto is the first EX-ranked Mage in existence that we know of."
End Chapter 10
We should really get to work…. But right now, Kur0's bouncing up and down again. I think she wants to write another crossover… probably not a serious one, but I think she fell in love with Crestia Bell and Emerald Etouve from Hataraku Maou.
Yes. My sister is an unrepentant lolicon.