End Game: Ver R Chapter 9
Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Don't own Highschool Dragons of Dragons or Naruto. I do own the concepts and plots that I introduced into the story. Also, because of the connection between Highschool Dxd and multiple Religions and Myths, I am sorry if I have accidentally written something wrong and offended someone's belief/faith etc. I just did some basic research and filled the holes in by myself so it is only natural if I get something wrong.
To Genesis D. Rose, Frozen-Requiem, guisniperman, Blank Observer, Junky, zhunter99 and everyone else who sent me encouraging messages but could not be fit in here, over our long hiatus, I hope you enjoy this chapter.
Two Steps from Hell – Gift of Life
John Dreamer – True Strength
Audiomachine – Homecoming
Azazel dry heaved and retched as he felt someone splashing water on him. Shaking the droplets out of his air, the disorientated man looked around wildly and realized they were in an underground bunker of some sort. Glancing down, he tried to see if he could burst out of his binds when he realized he wasn't tied up.
Not that that would have helped, he could feel nothing below his neck, and for one morbid moment, Azazel thought that the blond had actually punched him hard enough to sever his spine until he figured that if that had happened, he wouldn't even be waking up in the first place, Madara notwithstanding.
"Where the hell is this?" He asked the blank faced blond sitting on a box, staring at Azazel with those curiously unemotional eyes as he bandaged his torso.
"Under my shack. In a bunker I constructed for some of my more volatile experiments to be precise." The blond answered shortly, "Now I want some answers."
"Hey, hey, don't shoot the messenger," Azazel laughed nervously, "I already told you, a mutual acquaintance sent me here to give you an upgrade. Of course, he didn't really mention what upgrade specifically, so I figured I'd test your skills first so that I could think of something."
Naruto sighed and rubbed his temples, "I told Sirzech I didn't want anything to do with his plans."
"He didn't say anything about that. He just told me he wanted you to get an upgrade and that's it." The cool looking middle aged man admitted offhandedly as he watched the blond seem to rub away an incoming migraine, "On a completely unrelated note, I think I'm going to stop getting into bets that involve me getting into massive debts with cheating devils that have absolutely no problems with sending me into a situation that will invariably result in me suffering somehow out of some sick sense of amusement."
"You should have met my grandmother then. The two of you probably would have been best friends." Naruto replied a little too blandly for the fallen angel's tastes as he reached over to a rack neatly filled with all sorts of rather colorful concoctions, "So what kind of upgrades did you have in mind?" The blond asked as he casually pulled out a tube and tipped it over so that a murky blue liquid slowly poured out and filled up a beaker.
"Probably an Artificial Sacred Gear." Azazel replied airily, if the boy wanted conversation, he could do conversation, "I've only recently managed to implant them in people without horrible things happening to them, none of which was lethal I assure you. Sirzechs probably figured it'd be interesting to see how something like that would affect a devil and volunteered you. I just had to figure out what kind of Sacred Gear would suit you, which was the whole point of our entire dog and pony show."
Azazel paused briefly with a slight grimace, "Or at least it was until you punched me over the horizon."
Naruto shrugged, "For all intents and purposes it's not very practical, partly because I need time to power that many seals, and partly because any dumb ass can see the huge ass array coming from a mile away. Literally." The blond gave him a pointed look, "It only worked because I had my coffins lock down your movement before you noticed."
"Ah. Yes. Your coffins." Azazel pursed his lips, "Why coffins? You seriously couldn't think of anything cooler? Or y'know…. Less psychotic?"
Naruto shrugged, "I got them at a bargain sale."
"You bought coffins. At a bargain sale." Azazel deadpanned, "So that you could stuff things in them and have them float behind you."
The fallen angel regarded the fidgeting blond with a gimlet eye, "Y'know, I'm starting to think Sirzechs was right. You need a lot of help. Just not the kind I can give."
"I was looking for containers alright!" The Uzumaki futilely attempted defended himself from the fallen angel's blank stare, "Nothing else was available at the time. Plus, they were seriously cheap."
"I'd bet good money that there's a pretty good reason why they were so cheap." The Fallen Angel noted dryly, "Like y'know, being secondhand or something. Some old bag of bones out there's probably cold and naked in a ditch somewhere instead of inside his nice and comfy coffin because of you."
"Nah, I checked before I bought them."
Azazel frowned as he watched the boy began to mix something furiously at his table, "How in the world would you check something like that?"
"I stuffed the salesman in the coffins first and threatened to bury him in it." Naruto admitted, "When he didn't start crying or pissing himself, I figured it was safe enough."
"….Why would you even do something like that?"
The blond shrugged, "Turnabout. He tried to cheat me before that. I'd preferred to have done something a little more painful than that, unfortunately, he's one of the few smugglers I know that operate in the area that can get some of the more…. Exotic chemicals and parts I need, so I couldn't really afford to do anything permanent."
"That explains the coffins I guess." Azazel observed with a deadpan, "Incidentally, while I try not to deal with some of the more dangerous drugs, or slaves of any kind, I do run a trading business on the side. It's a modest little thing that can get you almost anything from Heaven, Hell or that little ball of mud in the middle."
"Really?" Naruto replied with a somewhat impressed expression, "My acquaintance never mentioned that."
"You know someone that is familiar with me?"
"Sort of," Naruto hedged, "My informant actively refuses to talk about Fallen Angels or Angels, most likely due to her loyalty to the former, and her dislike for the latter. She has mentioned you once or twice, but since she tends to avoid talking about herself as much as her people, the information I have on you only extends as far as your name and your rank."
Naruto pursed his lips, "That and your womanizing tendencies."
Azazel puffed his chest out proudly, "Did you know I was the first of the Grigori to figure out how to have sex? Shemhazai was still busy figuring out what that tube thing between his legs was for when I Fell."
"I thought Lucifer was the first one?" Naruto pointed out curiously.
"Ah, him…" Azazel's expression fell a little, "It's a little complicated but basically there's more than one way to Fall. And more than one result to boot. To explain, I'd probably have to give you a whole lesson on our history and as much as I'd like to do that now, not being able to feel any part of my body other than my face is rather uncomfortable. Ya get my drift?"
Naruto pursed his lips, "I get information on Angels and Fallen Angels, and you can leave without further molestation? Fair enough I guess."
Azazel smiled brightly, "So do you mind removing whatever it is that's binding me? There's this itch on my back that's getting rather annoying."
"Of course." Naruto replied gracefully, "But before you do that, do you mind opening your mouth?"
"Before I answer that question…. what are you doing with tube of really dangerous looking blue stuff?"
"This?" The blond replied a little too innocently, "It's just something I whipped up on the spot."
"I thought we had a deal?"
"We did. But I said further molestation. I never said I didn't already have something planned."
Azazel nervously glanced at the incoming spoon, "Really? Even though we were getting along so well?"
"We were," Naruto admitted but then he began to grin widely, "But you mentioned earlier that you already took an antidote for almost every poison in existence. Knowing you fallen angels are a little more creative with poisons than the average Devils or the Angels, I was a little curious if I couldn't make something that could bypass that on top of your natural resistance."
Shutting his lips tight, Azazel glared at Naruto, mentally daring the blond to do it.
Naruto smiled sweetly.
Then he jabbed the Fallen Angel's eyes.
And stuffed the contents of the spoon into the Fallen Angel's mouth the moment he opened it to curse, "URK!"
"What the hell was that?!" He choked out.
"Toilet Blaster," He glanced at the little tube and continued with an absolutely straight face, "Uzumaki brand. Buy one free one; just don't ask what's in it."
"Are you insane?!" the angel shrieked before Naruto shut him up via another spoonful of pipe cleaner.
"Don't worry, you won't die. My informant assured me that Fallen Angels are significantly stronger than regular people." Naruto grinned brightly, "Besides, this isn't even remotely lethal, At worst, you're just going to be spending the rest of your month in a toilet."
"That doesn't comfort me at all!"
"I wasn't trying to."
"But what about that sense of camaraderie, of friendship, that we had? We were building a beautiful thing!"
Naruto shrugged, "Do you know hard it is to get willing test subjects? And I've always wanted to see exactly how different Angels, or even Devils were from humans on the inside."
A bead of nervous sweat ran down the Angel's forehead as he stared at the liquid filled spoon like it was a guillotine hovering over his neck. He didn't know how, but the insane blond's human concoctions actually worked on supernatural beings like them for some reason. He could even feel whatever was in that solution began to bubble and froth viciously while his tummy protested and grumbled murderously as his pipes were… cleaned.
Azazel had always thought he would go while fighting in a glorious battle or in bed with twenty women.
Not explosive diarrhea.
"Lo-look, I'm sorry for everything, I'll even throw in a discount! A very BIG DISCOUNT!"
The blond simply ignored him with a wrinkled nose before thoughtfully adding, "I hope you ate your veggies or this is going to be a very long month for you."
The blond's expression of warmth and friendliness as he gave his advice did nothing to quell Azazel's fear because it just meant that the blond was going to make him suffer either way.
"Do you even know what the word mercy means?!"
Naruto shoot him a highly amused look, "Sometimes mercy is a pretty word that will let you off after you did something stupid, other times, it's me shoving my foot down your throat. At the moment, mercy is me giving you the mother of all laxatives instead of poisoning you with the worst thing I can think of." He replied cheerfully as he force fed the squirming Fallen Angel another dose of nuclear level drain cleaner.
His stomach practically began rumbling and Azazel's face scrunched up like he just ate an extra-large lemon, "I'll DO EVERYTHING FOR FREE! FOR YOUR ENTIRE DAMNED LINEAGE IF I HAVE TO! I SWEAR ON MY FATHER, MY NONEXISTENT MOTHER, MY ONE THOUSAND THOUSAND CHILDREN AND ON MY TWO GOLDEN TESTICLES," the sobbing angel squealed and wriggled as he felt his digested lunch/ramen getting ready to shoot out his other end.
The blond observed the squirming, moaning man for a few moments then he clapped happily, "That will do I guess."
Azazel almost sighed in relief but whatever he was feeling was cut short when the blond pulled his chin down and poured the whole fucking bottle into the Fallen Angel's guts anyway, "Didn't say I was going to let you off easy though. Do you know how much of a pain it is to heal nowadays? I'm going to be limping for ages."
"GYAAAAAH! IT'S COMING OUT IT'SCOMINGOUTIT'SCOMINGOUTIT'SCOMINGOUT!"
Beneath a squirming Azazel, the severed head that was Madara who had been silent up till now, mostly because Naruto had stuffed a cactus in his mouth began to scream hysterically despite the pain and utter agony of having a thorny plant forcibly shoved in one's mouth cavity.
"IT'SLEAKINGIT'SLEAKINGIT'SLEAKING, OH KAMI IT'S IN MY MOUTH!"
Sometimes, she wondered if accepting the blond's offer had been the right thing to do.
Sure, she had food here, she had water here, she didn't have to deal with any of that politicking while trying to maintain her spot as one of Kokabiel's best lieutenants, heck no one had tried to stab her in the back for nearly a month now, and she was actually getting kinda used to just loafing around the house because the blond didn't really want anything from her outside of the occasional conversation when he wasn't throwing together something absurd from everything lying about the house or concocting something that would make anyone that knew him regret ever meeting him.
But then there were times like when she stumbled on to the blond doing something stupid/insane/irrational, such as bicker with his clone, who as far as she could tell, was a perfect copy of him, right down to the stupid/insane/irrational logic that governed the grey mush in his brains.
And then there were times like this.
Getting as old as she did had benefits, but one of the more glaring disadvantages was that you generally got really bored of everything because everything tended to be a variation of everything else.
Watching the insane blond force feed super powered toilet cleaner to a General class Fallen Angel and then blackmail him until he shat bricks was not one of those 'everything elses'.
Which was why she was still slightly pale and somewhat grateful that she had not had time to have lunch when the blond entered the side shed that was her room/jail, wiping his hands with a rag, a thoughtful expression on his face.
"Did you get rid of him?" She asked neutrally. She was really proud of the way that she kept her expression neutral and completely apathetic as she pretended not to know anything.
"Sort of." The blond simply replied amiably, "But I'll be heading over to his place for a moment to finish some stuff."
"I see." Raynare pursed her lips, "What should I eat while I stay here?"
Naruto blinked, "Good point, I actually forgot for a moment that he destroyed everything in the house. Damn."
The fallen angel gave him a distasteful look, "That thing doesn't even remotely qualify as a house. It was so dirty that even the food was poisoned."
"I told you that was intentional!" Naruto protested with as much dignity as he could muster, "Besides, I stopped doing that when you came, if only because you refuse to eat anything in here."
"I refuse to eat anything in here because this place is even filthier than that one if that's even possible." Raynare noted dryly.
As much as she disliked the blond pouted at her, she had to admit that the blond was fair company.
He hadn't tried to torture or demand information from her like she had expected him to when he had kept her alive. In fact, all he seemed to want to do was talk about her, asking questions about Angels and Fallen Angels outside of the occasional lesson on weaponry. He would even politely change the subject himself if he sensed that she didn't want to talk about something and he actually actively encouraged her to go out and be more active rather than spend her time holed up in a dank, gloomy room.
All things considered, he was friendly, if somewhat neutral, provided he wasn't in one of his gloomy funks, he had a strange and rather twisted sense of humor even if he was utterly bonkers and he hadn't tried to rape her yet, so he was actually better company than most of her previous acquaintances.
"So clean the damn place, you have plenty of time don't you?"
"I am a Fallen Angel, I am Kokabiel's greatest lieutenant. Cleaning this place like some common maid is beneath me." The fallen angel sniffed disdainfully.
Naruto rolled his eyes at the arrogant, huffy woman.
"And you won't even go out to get your own food either even if I give you the money. It's a damned miracle how you haven't starved to death yet." He remarked sourly as he created a clone with a flick of the wrist, presumably to go out and get her some food while he was away, "I'm surprised you're even capable of bathing yourself."
Raynare smiled winningly, "Are you offering your assistance?"
On her part, Raynare simply shrugged. She had made the offer more times than she could remember, and his reply had been the same, exact, instant and blunt 'No.' it had always been. So much so that she couldn't bother to get offended about it anymore.
Play Two Steps from Hell – Gift of Life
"You're loss then." She paused and briefly bit on her lower lip before blurting out, "Will you take long to come back?"
Naruto scratched the back of his head pensively, "That's actually something I wanted to talk to you about. I'm actually thinking of rebuilding the whole place from scratch now that it's basically rubble. I just never bothered before." He said as he carefully cleaned some dust from what looked like a broken and cracked scabbard, although Raynare wasn't sure why that mattered. It was covered in enough grime and dirt to make her shudder from all the way across the room that a little dust made no difference whatsoever, "But we won't be able to stay here until I finish."
"Are you…. Asking me to leave?"
"Well not really." Naruto scrubbed at the scabbard even harder to remove a particular stubborn piece of rubble lodged in one of the cracks, "I'm probably going to shack up with Azazel for a while. I'm asking you if you would prefer to join me there, or would you prefer that I prepared another place for you temporarily?" he regarded her thoughtfully, "Though I doubt you would accept the first option anyway."
"No I wouldn't." Raynare said quietly.
"You're afraid of him."
"Not off him," She corrected the blond neutrally, "Of disappointing him."
"Which was why you hid from him even though Madara basically let him in with open arms." The blond concluded.
"Something like that." Raynare agreed.
The blond smiled thinly, "I don't think I've seen you afraid yet. Fear? Probably. But afraid? This is a first."
"There's a difference?" Raynare snarked.
"A small difference, but a difference nonetheless." Naruto replied calmly.
The dark haired beauty sitting on the side of a dirty looking cot simply grunted noncommittally, "You are not Fallen. You wouldn't understand even if I told you."
The blond paused before he slowly placed the scabbard to one side to focus solely on her.
"I might not be able to understand you, but how can I even start if you won't let me try?" He said softly.
Raynare frowned as she kept her dark violet eyes from meeting his gaze while she played with her fingers.
Seeing Azazel again… after so long, after everything she had endured.
"The thing about Angels is that we're really not that different from robots. Each one of us were created with a specific purpose in mind, and we all have a link to the Almighty. He was essentially in our minds, like a permanently reassuring presence and we adored Him, we praised Him, and we worshipped Him because that is literally the only thing we were made to do other outside of our specific tasks."
"It was beautiful." Raynare said simply with a pure and beautiful adoration on her face at the memory of a better time, "Things like doubt and fear, desire and hunger, pain and agony, all of those were incomprehensible to us, foreign concepts of an inferior race simply because He was there in us. Our faith in him was absolute and He was everything to us."
She closed her eyes as her words made her recall the sheer pain, complete loss and utter terror that had struck every Angel, from Michael to the lowest Angel, that day, "To lose Him…. It was like a part of us had been ripped out. The wall, the pillar that had sustained us had fallen. There was no more certainty in everything we did, and there was this gigantic empty hole where He used to be."
She spread from her hands with an absolutely apathetic expression despite the tears that were ready to fall from her eyes, "We lost something more than a leader that day. We lost a Father. Some of the younger and weaker ones instantly went mad from that emptiness that plagued all of us. Some resisted. Others overcame, usually by focusing on the purpose they had been given to the exclusion of everything else."
Raynare pursed her lips, "Most devils hate the purists because they never seem to stop fighting or trying to start a war. But the reality is they can't, simply because if they did, they'd literally Fall."
"The circumstances are different for all three of the categories, but the principle remains the same. To deviate from our purpose, is to Fall." Raynare shrugged with a stony face, "Most of us found solace in the flesh. Azazel was one of these, although he was corrupted long before the Almighty was lost. But unlike Kokabiel who seduced me into Falling while I was lost and alone, Azazel was nothing but a gentleman. He looked after all of us newly Fallen even though he himself was as stricken as the best of us."
Raynare smiled thinly, "In his own inimitable way, he tried to be the father we had all lost and I have nothing but the utmost respect for him for what he tried to do but it was not enough. The love and passion Kokabiel gave me far surpassed any sense of safety that Azazel and Shemhazai could provide. Others have repeatedly pointed out that he was simply using me. There is nothing you can say to me that has not been said already." She shrugged weakly, "Some part of me recognizes that. Unfortunately, love is blind, and I needed something…. Anything to hold on to."
"So you're afraid that he'd be disappointed that you ran off with Kokabiel to do stupid things for him, rather than stay with Azazel and the others where he can take care of you?" The blond questioned blandly.
Raynare glared at him, "What do you want me to say? Yes? Then I'll say it. Yes I regret it. Yes, I was stupid. Is that enough for you? Does it make you happy that you managed to make me say it? Does it make you happy that you managed to dig up my past and hurl it in my face?"
"Me? Not really." The Uzumaki replied conversationally, "Him? Well why don't you ask him yourself?"
"Him?" Raynare mouth silently.
Naruto pointed at a point behind her left shoulder with a thin smile.
Mechanically, she slowly turned around to see Azazel himself materialize out of thin air with a slyly grinning clone beside him. He was white faced, his body spasmed every now and then, but more importantly, his eyes were brimming with tears.
Belatedly, Raynare realized that the blond had hidden the fallen angel with the same thing he used to hide his coffins, but then she was engulfed in a tight hug, and suddenly she didn't really care anymore.
"Raynare. I thought I lost you."
Naruto curiously looked around the room of the small, nondescript bungalow located in the outskirts of the city, or as Azazel had called it, 'Casa Angelus'.
Naruto called it a train wreck.
The place didn't look like it had seen a mop in months and all kinds of fast food containers littered the insides.
It was so filthy that even his own former shack was a paradise in comparison. And that was saying something, coming from him.
"You alright in there?"
There was the sound of a toilet flushing before the familiar looking Fallen Angel stomped out his toilet with a stormy expression. Giving the blond the middle finger with every shred of dignity he could muster, he dared the blond to say something about the smell with his eyes.
The blond simply shrugged as he whirled a head around by its long ragged hair like a yoyo.
Madara's eyes had gone swirly but the poor thing couldn't even say a word because Naruto had stuffed a few worms into its mouth and duct taped it shut.
This was after he had sterilized the head with judicious use of fire and bleach of course.
"So? You mentioned you had some information on Angels and Fallen Angels for me?" The blond carefully kicked a mountain of pizza boxes of the cleanest chair so he could perch on it as he continued to torture the head.
"Most of everything I needed to say about them, Raynare already told you actually." Azazel sat himself down in a comfy looking armchair with a wince. His ass was going be sore for a very long time to come, "It really came down to the fact that any deviation from our stated purpose would cause us to Fall y'know."
The Fallen Angel smirked humorously, "Some have even compared us to your ancestor, Adam and Eve for that very reason."
"I'm not particularly familiar with the Bible. I know of them, mostly due to an incredibly stubborn devil of a nun who won't leave me alone, but outside of that…" Naruto shrugged carelessly, "Either way, I don't really understand the allusion."
"It's a long winded and terribly dusty theological discussion that I really don't give a damn about either," Azazel conceded casually, "but the point is that after they ate from the Tree of Life, they were cut off from direct contact with Him and Fell from the Garden of Eden as well. Exiled to a barren Earth, they were basically forced to improvise like many of us Fallen Angels have in order to survive. In fact, it was the Grigori, the first of the Fallen, chief among which was yours truly, who was sent down to make sure they and their descendants weren't completely wiped out immediately y'know. We taught them to farm, to survive and in return, they taught us that there were more things in life than single mindedly following a single purpose. To enjoy it, and to live for ourselves."
The General class Fallen Angel shrugged, "In a sense, they imparted to us a portion of the Spark they held, the Free will inherent in all living beings that Angels lacked."
"You make it sound like Angels are nothing but automatons." Naruto pointed out curiously.
"I wouldn't call it automatons exactly. Perhaps I was being a little harsh." Azazel fidgeted as he tried to find a more comfortable position for his sore bum, "Angels are still perfectly capable of reason and logic as long as it is within the constraints of their Purpose. For example, there's this one particular Angel I know off was given the purpose of watching over the spirits of those who died in bloodshed. Somewhere along the way, this idiot however somehow managed to translate it as 'kill as many infidels as possible' and somehow, he's still a legitimate Angel even though he's done things that would make most Devils cringe."
The dark haired man grimaced, "That's what happens when you don't have an all knowing voice in your ear telling you that that is an extremely stupid thing to do I guess."
"Sounds like a pleasant person." The blond observed dryly.
"He's one of the more extreme examples," Azazel conceded, "But an apt one nonetheless."
"So you can Fall and turn into Fallen Angels by deviating from your purpose, or you can twist your interpretation around to make it narrowly fit your own perceptions, but what about Lucifer?" The blond pointed out, "He obviously Fell as well, but he turned into a Devil rather than a Fallen. Why is that?"
"That particular result of Falling isn't really possible anymore," The spiky haired man hedged, "To Fall like Lucifer, you'd essentially have to directly oppose the Almighty for whatever reason y'know. There are a number of other Devil families that actually fall in this category. I believe you've already met one though, the Phenexs. It's still considered deviating from one's Purpose, just in a very extreme manner that you don't just Fall. You literally crash and burn in Hell. Ultimately, they're not really Devils per se, they just fall under the same umbrella term for convenience sake I guess."
"I got most of it I guess." Naruto placed the tips of his fingers under his chin thoughtfully, "I'm still curious about a few other things though. Obviously the Devils have been trying to modernize themselves to the point that they have a Parliament, even if most of the people I met so far think it's completely useless, but what about the Angels and the Fallen Angels?"
"The Fallen Angels are fairly easy going people," Azazel noted with some humor, "We just sort of bunk out around the Devils. Or at least some of us do. The only kind of governance we have are sort of community leaders and there's no official structure or anything though they usually default to the first few of the Fallen like myself, Shemhazai or Baraqiel if they need advice or something."
The Fallen Angel hummed to himself, "Unlike Devils and Fallen Angels who make do with this little ball of mud though, the Angels are exclusively limited to Heaven and rarely leave for anything unless it directly concerns them. The governance structure there is a little more complicated due to the fact that they didn't actually need one until recently, but right now all of them basically listen to the ten Seraphs."
Naruto's eyebrow rose slightly, "The ten Seraphs?"
"Yeah," Azazel nodded pensively with a nostalgic smile, "Michael, Gabriel, Uriel, Raphael, Sariel, Raguel, Remiel, Metatron and Sandalphon." The older man counted down with his fingers.
Azazel sighed a little sadly, "There used to be many more. Far too many for me to even remember. There were angels from every rank, as many as the stars in the sky, and as many as the grains of sands in the desert. The Seraphim, the Cherubims, the Thrones, the Dominions, the Virtues and the Powers. Each of us had our own tasks, but at the end of the day, all of us sang together in a chorus. Now however…."
The man shrugged tiredly, looking far more his age, "Either way, the ten Seraphs, led by my old friend Michael, are based around the Tree of Life, an administrative system that was used by the Almighty to well… administrate. The sad part is that the ten Seraphs aren't actually an official thing. Nine of them aren't even actual Seraphims y'know. They're just the remnants of the Angels who once guarded the Heavenly Throne, and took over simply because none of them were strong enough, or omniscient enough to handle the Tree of Life individually. That said, even with the ten of them occupying a part of the Tree of Life, they still can't control it to its full potential, which should tell you something about just how utterly beyond us the Almighty was considering that the ten of them are the most powerful Angels still alive."
Azazel heaved a quiet sigh of pity as he leaned back into his chair, "Y'know, of the three factions, it was undoubtedly the Angels that suffered the most. Without the Almighty, they aren't even capable of replenishing their numbers while their world literally falls apart around them because the ten Seraph are nowhere capable enough to handle that bitch of a system. Unlike the Angels, Devils and Fallen Angels, can survive provided we have the energy precisely because we've cut our link with Him, although like the Angels, we're unable to procreate as easily as we'd like without His grace."
"Is that why you're here in Japan instead of in the western countries where Christianity is more prevalent then?" Naruto questioned.
"Sort of, they do stay in Heaven, but like you said, the Western countries are their main territory." the Fallen Angel hedged a little, "If we tried to stay there, we would essentially be provoking them to come down personally, and then we'd spend all our time trying to wipe each other out, on top of fighting all the other gods that stay there. It would be a battle royale that neither of us would win y'know. So we made the decision to come here and stay with the Devils while we sort of clench our teeth at each other."
He shrugged cynically, "It's better than dying out y'know." The Yamato youkai that govern supernatural Japan, led by Nurarihyon of the South and Yasaka of the North, were kind enough to negotiate with us and allow us to stay at a few of their hotspots so long as we stay out of their personal territory and don't make more trouble for them. It helps that this town specifically has three ley lines meeting right in the middle which is why it feels like there's so many of us here in this little hick town, but like you've probably already guessed there are too many of us to live together on those hot spots, so the majority actually reside in the Underworld while the weaker and younger ones stay up here."
Naruto nodded slowly then looked around, "Where's Raynare anyway? I figured she'd be around for this conversation."
"I managed to persuade her to take one of the cleaner rooms upstairs." Azazel pointed at the ceiling, "She's resting after our emotional little discussion earlier." The much older man smiled fondly, "She was like one of my favorite nieces. So innocent and demure, so wide eyed at everything when she just Fell."
Naruto cocked one eyebrow at him, "Innocent and demure? Are you sure we're talking about the same person here?"
"Okay, so that might have been about 500 years ago. Give or take a few decades." Azazel replied sheepishly, "But despite what she apparently did to you and your friends, you still helped her. You saw the same thing in her that I still do."
"No. I didn't." The blond disagreed quietly, "I simply recognized that she was hurting. That she needed help. Help that I was not capable of giving. All I could do, alI I could really do was to simply help her hold on until I found someone who did. I would have done the same for the rest of the people in that church, but none of them had the same kind of regret she did before I killed them. All of them were fanatics down to the bone."
Aazel grunted sighed bitterly, "Kokabiel's preferred kind of companions."
"They're usually the best kind of companions if you're only trying to do something simple like kill everyone or take over the world if only because anyone with a smidge of logic between their ears would have simply told him to go fuck himself." Naruto replied with a mildly cynical smile, "I should know, I've killed enough of them by now."
The black and white haired man grunted noncommittally and decided not to press the issue.
The blond didn't seem like the kind of person who liked to be thanked, preferring instead to simply fade into the shadows.
Instead, he pressed a button on his armchair.
Behind him, a shelf slid back to reveal row upon row of glowing little orbs that hung in midair, "Our friend said you were different breed of Devil, but you're certainly not what I was expecting y'know."
"Possibly because I don't consider myself to be a Devil in the first place." Naruto pointed out clinically, "In fact I'm not even sure why he's trying to help me when I could turn on him as easily as I could turn on anyone else."
"I asked him that exact same question y'know," the fallen angel admitted, "You weren't exactly my first candidate. Even I know that giving something like an Artificial Sacred Gear to someone with an unknown allegiance is pretty stupid. Heck, I argued that even the cat girl in his sister's Peerage would have been a better and more stable choice but he insisted it had to be you. Still not quite sure why." Azazel added sourly as his tummy gurgled loudly again.
"Koneko?" Naruto murmured with some interest, "Why her? Why not Akeno or even Ise? Anyone of those three would probably benefit him more than giving it to me."
"Ise?" the man with two hair colors cocked his head as he tried to remember why that name was so familiar, "Oh, that Red Dragon kid? Sure he's strong, and he represents a fresh mindset for you Devils, but let's look at it honestly. People might think his sincerity and naivety might be an asset, that his honesty is like a breath of fresh air etc etc, but Sirzechs had it right on the money when he said that the dragon boy can't do what is necessary y'know. Besides, he already has a Sacred Gear. I'm not quite sure what would happen if I tried to put another one in him, an Artificial one no less, other than the fact that he's not going to come out of it in one piece until I've had the chance to stabilize things some more. You on the other hand are significantly more disposable I guess."
Naruto shot him a dry look, "Is that how you talk to your customers all the time? Tell them how there's a better than decent chance he's going to be splattered all of the walls if they buy your stuff?"
The fallen angel grinned, "I'm just joking. Ultimately, I think it's simply because he recognizes that while you might be pretty strong and skilled, you are what they call a crutch character in one of those popular RPGs right now. In the early game, you're powerful and a good opening to the head is all you need to do your job. A trick somewhere and everything's fine and dandy. But what happens when you come up against who's even stronger than me? Someone who will not only hit you hard and fast without giving you time to gather yourself but can tank your hits like the Final Boss himself? Someone who managed to catch you off guard but won't screw around like I did? Who won't lose even if you drop a mountain on him?"
"Even you admitted it yourself earlier, most of the tricks you've pulled so far wouldn't have worked under normal circumstances simply because you've managed to work the circumstances to turn in your favor. So what does that mean for you in the end? It means that you'll become redundant as everyone else keeps getting stronger while YOU can't catch up. Can you honestly tell me you'll play around and keep relying on your tricks in that situation?"
Azazel waved at the shelves full of lights, "That is why my goal today, was to help you stay competitive by giving you an Artificial Sacred Gear, what you do with it, is Sirzechs' problem. Not mine." He paled as his tummy rumbled again, "That being said, feel free to look through them and pick out what you want while I excuse myself."
The blond grinned as the Fallen Angel hurried to the toilet again and slammed it shut behind him.
Shoving his hands into his pockets, Naruto carefully inspected the labels he found underneath each container that held a floating light.
It was a few long minutes later when the toilet flushed again and a deathly pale Azazel limped out of the toilet, "You…. Urp… found anything you like yet? Pick carefully," The middle aged man said with a warning tone as Naruto opened his mouth to say something, "because once I've put it in you, I can't take it out, or add another one. At least not yet."
"I have a couple in mind," the blond replied candidly, "I just wanted to know a bit more first."
"Shoot away then."
Pointing at a pinkish blue orb near the top of the shelf, Naruto glanced at the older man questioningly, "What does this 'Burning Agony' do?"
"It's useless." The Fallen Angel sighed, "Or at least it should be. As it is, this Gear doesn't do anything but amplify the pain the holder receives to a point where even a single scratch will feel like a broken bone. On the plus side, the more pain you feel, the stronger you get, but there's a limit since your body is going to break down long before the strength bonus is worth it. Simply put, unless you are a raging masochist, or someone with extensive body modifications, this Artificial Gear is less than useless."
"I see." Naruto pursed his lips, "and this one?" He asked, pointing to a dark brown one near the middle of the shelf.
"Y'know… Is it me, or are you intentionally picking out the most useless ones so far?"
"Just answer the question, Azazel." Naruto replied placidly.
"It passively amplifies the strength of the user. How much it amplifies though, depends entirely on the user's emotions."
"Why would that be useless?"
"Because the user must lose one testicle before the thing activates." Azazel observed dryly, "Note that I said lose. Meaning it must be cut off, intentionally or otherwise."
The blond's head turned with a mechanical creak so that he could stare at the fallen angel.
"….. You make some seriously twisted shit."
"Oi. Don't blame me, I can make them, but I can't exactly control the result y'know."
"…. Why the fuck would a Sacred Gear like that even exist?"
"You'd be surprised," Azazel deadpanned, "A lot of existing Sacred Gears actually have some fairly stupid activation conditions like that one, which is why most of their users aren't aware that they're not even remotely normal."
The blond paused at that before nodding grudgingly, "Fair enough. And what does this one do?"
He pointed at a small dark orange orb, the label underneath it said; Super Luck.
"Oh that one. Luck is the domain of my old boss, so I was trying to see if I could replicate it. You can be as skillful or as powerful as you want, but when Lady Luck shits on you, she shits hard." The middle aged man grunted as his tummy growled painfully, "I should know."
"And? Did it work or does it need some stupidly idiotic activation conditions like that other one?" the blond asked calmly.
"Not really," Azazel admitted, "its passive is pretty much active from the get go. Problem is, the passive just lets you steal panties without getting killed."
"I want that." The blond instantly said.
"Didn't I say pick carefully?"
"I did. I want Super Luck." The blond chirped happily.
"Super Luck? Seriously?" Azazel spluttered incredulously, "My preferences aside, even if you don't want something cool, can't you pick something a little more... I don't know, useful?" the middle aged man yelled at the stupidly smiling boy.
"Stealing panties IS useful."
By the look on his face, Azazel could tell that the blond was being completely sincere.
The idiot really did think it was useful.
Then again, there were people around who actually got stronger the more idiotic they got, so who was he to judge?
The Fallen Angel shrugged wearily as he gave up, "It's up to you, if you want to waste a golden chance like this it's not my problem. I'm just going to do what I was paid to do and that's that. Though he better pay me double for the toilet duty." Waving at the blond, he gestured for him to enter a small dark chamber off to the side of the room.
"Is it safe?"
"Of course it's safe. If you don't believe that, at least believe that I'm going to do my best so I don't have to see your ugly mug again for the rest of my life."
"Yeah, that I can trust." The blond was about to happily step into the chamber with a grin when he paused again, "By the way, I wrote out a list of things I want to get from you earlier. Can you get them ready before I'm done with this one?"
Azazel took the piece of paper and glanced through it once before he paled drastically again.
"The blood and stuff I can get, they're pretty standard Magic ritual stuff, but why the heck would you need thirty barrels of erumpent fluid, and enough weaponry to fight a war on your own?"
"That's irrelevant." The blond replied placidly, "The question is can you get them? My usual contacts are finding it rather hard to get them into Japan because of their policies but then you're not affected by those are you?"
"No. I refuse to! This is way beyond anything I usually trade in. For Heaven's sake, the biggest thing I had to move this year was a goddamn 1/32 sized Gundam model for one of those fanatics in Hell and you're asking me to smuggle a FLAPPING TANK?!"
Naruto cocked his head, "So you can't do it? You're going back on your deal?"
Azazel swallowed as he watched the blond play with five tubes containing some rather viscous, thick and bubbling liquid that had suddenly appeared in his hands.
His tummy rumbled dangerously.
Naruto patted him on the shoulder in a friendly manner, "That's a good boy."
"But… the cost… I can't be moving all that for free."
"Don't worry," the Uzumaki assured the fallen angel, "All you have to do is find and bring them to me. I'll pay for the cost of everything else. Though, if you do it fast enough, I'll even throw in a decent bonus."
Azazel glanced at the blond's ratty clothes and dirty sneakers, "I highly doubt that."
Biting down on a finger, the blond swiped a trail of blood down the back of his left arm. Before Azazel could even ask what he was doing, there was a large puff of smoke, and a massive thunk as a pallet appeared right in the middle of his living room.
A pallet with bar upon bar of pure flapping gold stacked as high as an adult male on it.
"So. You think that's enough?"
The fallen Angel swallowed thickly.
"I can get the materials for whatever ritual you have in mind immediately. Everything else will take some time."
"Do it in two weeks and I'll double your bonus."
Azazel stared at him.
"How much fucking gold do you have on you?"
Naruto smiled thinly, "Enough."
The fallen angel began to sweat.
"Okay, I rephrase my question. Why the fuck do you even have that much gold on you?"
"I might have framed, blackmailed and then swindled the fuck out of several people before I met you."
He stared at the blond even harder.
"I'm going to kill him. I'm going shove my spear so far up his ass that Sirzechs will poke a hole Grayfia every time they try to kiss."
"You say that as if he doesn't do it all the time anyway." Naruto observed with a dry chuckle as he entered the chamber.
"I hope you die in there. I seriously hope you die in there." Azazel muttered as the doors shut tightly with a hydraulic hiss.
Then Fallen Angel who was still typing in orders in to the machine while still in a daze at the stack of gold sitting nice and pretty in the middle of the living room barely paid the muffled sound any attention.
Rising out of his daze to briefly glance up at the head that Naruto had dropped on the couch he blinked again before asking irritably, "What is it?"
Madara gave him a significant look and tried to mumble something.
Despite his better judgment, Azazel pulled off the tape with a roll of his eyes, "What now?"
"Any chance of getting me in there so I can bite his throat out?" The head asked with a hopeful glint in his eyes after it had spat out the worms in his mouth, thoroughly disgusting Azazel as he mentally made a note to sterilize the entire living room when the head was gone.
"Ask me again when I'm done shitting my guts out in a month or so." His stomach rumbled loudly and Madara wrinkled his nose as an offensive smell wafted around him.
"Ah… pity. It was such a good chance though." He stared at the boy in the chamber, "Keh. After all that, no matter how much of an asshole he tries to be to other people, he still draws people who can see the good in him like flies to honey. Despite everything he endured, he still believes like an idiot."
Azazel blinked and stared at the head, "Is it me or did I just hear you praise him? Thought you hated his guts."
"Oh I hate him," Madara agreed blandly, "I hate him so much that I want him to die now, but hate and respect are two different things entirely."
"You… respect him? Why?"
Play John Dreamer – True Strength
"Why not?" The head grunted, "The bastard managed to do so many things that my people consider flat out impossible that doing anything less than respecting him as a person would be an insult to my own pride. Take his damned Jiongu, or his coffins for example. While it's true that Sage Mode would typically give its user a serious short term upgrade, there are several limitations to that particular technique. Limitations that everyone, including myself, have considered impossible to overcome and have abused time and time again."
"Sure didn't seem like it had any problems though." Azazel noted with a wince as he remembered the punch he had received.
"And that's exactly my point." The head replied grudgingly, "in order to even start using Sage Mode, you need to have a huge amount of chakra just to even survive the kind of stress a power up like that would put on you before even thinking of attaining a balance with the massively potent energy you are drawing in to yourself. Balance it even the tiniest bit wrong, and the user risks turning into a statue. And that's not even considering the fact that suddenly receiving an influx of stored nature energy would at best enable you to use it longer and at worst turn you into a statue, let alone quadruple the effects. Even then, in order to activate Sage Mode, you still have to stand perfectly, absolutely still in order to gather and balance enough natural energy for it to work."
Madara glanced at the large gleaming silver coffins still hovering in a corner just out of touch and continued his rant, "His coffins do exactly that. As batteries, he siphons what little he can into them, bit by bit, and then does the balancing in the coffins themselves, insuring that there's no risk whatsoever to himself, and even if it does damage the artificial chakra systems in them, he's perfectly capable of simply making more. Then the coffins themselves, or at least one of them, somehow manages to compress or condense the energy they have stored, so that when he does access the energy it has, the effects of this particular Sage Mode are even more potent than the usual version, turning him from simply 'disturbingly-durable' to 'this-is-fucking-bullshit' for as long as it there's enough stored up, while the remaining ones either supply him with normal chakra or pre-balanced natural energy that don't harm him, allowing him to maintain Sage Mode indefinitely if he so wishes because the coffins automatically store and balance natural energy regardless of what he's doing at the moment."
The head grimaced.
The level of sealing and knowledge of chakra systems on top of human anatomy required to pull this off was, quite frankly, insane and so far beyond his own expertise that it wasn't even funny.
The idea that this was the kind of shit any child between Jiraiya and Tsunade could have pulled off on a daily basis actually made Madara rather thankful that the two of them were idiots with too much emotional baggage to realize that they wanted to fuck each other. The kid would have whipped everyone and then probably shat on his undead body for good measure.
"Put simply, trying to give him a Sacred Gear is like trying to get a martial arts master to use a blade of grass." The Uchiha patriarch noted sourly, "He is perfectly capable of fucking people up with it, but why waste his time when he can do it even better with his bare hands?"
"Don't you think you're overestimating him a little?" Azazel remarked, a little freaked out by the glowing intensity in the Uchiha's ringed eyes.
"Perhaps…." It paused to ponder something for a moment before it began again with a thoughtful frown, "But that's because you don't know him like I do. Imagine if you will a sword. But this sword is somewhat special in that it contained a titanic, almost endless source of power. With this sword, he was practically born to be a conqueror or a God even. However, because of the circumstances at his birth, one that I'm quite proud to admit I somewhat engineered, he grew up not knowing the value of this sword. He was basically walking around, holding it by the pointy end and hurting himself the entire time. Years passed, and still no one told him he was holding it the wrong way. Despite that, he fixed a goal for himself and made for it like rabbit."
The head paused for a moment to let it sink in, "With nothing but sheer balls and guts, he whacked away at the trees and stones in his path, and won't you believe it? He might not have gotten as far as he'd like, but he still chopped down half a forest with the wrong end of that sword. Two years before we arrived in this pisshole, someone finally had the decency to tell him he was holding the sword the wrong way, and you know what? The son of a bitch practically demolished the forest in one day. He finally knew how to use the power within him, albeit somewhat clumsily and almost nothing could stop him. At the end of the day, that person is not someone I would respect simply because he was born lucky. But I can respect him now simply because he has proven to me that he's just as bloody effective without the sword as he is with it, perhaps even more."
Madara sighed softly.
There was something else he wasn't saying though, and he was never going to admit this out loud no matter what happened.
Even though someone had finally told him how to use his chakra and his clones to his benefit, the blond was actually capable of going further but as ironic as it sounded, the unending fountain of chakra he had at his disposal was actually hindering him from achieving that peak.
At this point in time, he no longer had the typical Uzumaki reserves and resilience here, nor did he have Kurama's powerful chakra stores to fall back on, but rather than weaken him, it had only served to force the Uzumaki to rely on something else.
Something like the creativity, sheer determination and immense ability to adapt to damn near anything that his mother's blood had passed on to him and tempered by his father's mind boggling resourcefulness, charisma and ingeniousity.
Individually, Minato Namikaze and Kushina Uzumaki were already terrifyingly strong people.
United, they were perfectly capable of standing up to both him and Kurama at the same time.
Their son was a combination of all their best traits, some of their less than stellar habits, and everything that made them the people they were, even if said son never really materialized that crystallized potential until many years later, ironically, long after it was relevant.
After all, why bother with all that potential when juicing up on Kurama's energy and then bulldozing everything worked just fine?
There simply had never been a reason for him to go that far, and the entire Fourth Shinobi War had been one long, great, embarrassing example of that. To his unending shame and humiliation, he had been beaten by a brat who barely had three jutsu and nearly a hundred variations of those three same jutsu powered by near unlimited power in order to compensate for his lack of experience, allowing the Uzumaki to survive by the seat of his pants against far superior opponents again and again, even though he clearly didn't have a single friggin clue what he was doing.
Here the boy was forced to think on his feet because he lacked the massive amount of chakra to fall back on.
Here, his default method of spamming clones, or relying on the Rasengan or powering up to the next stage like the quintessential one trick pony wasn't going to cut it when he barely had enough chakra to form maybe five Raikiri and get away with it.
Here, he was forced to experience what life might have been like if he didn't have the Kyuubi sealed inside him.
Here, he was forced to fend for himself and endure life without the advantages he had been originally blessed with.
To be taken and thrown into this world in his position, it would have broken the normal shinobi several times over.
All that did to the person named Uzumaki Naruto on the other hand, was ensure that he overcame those same challenges by simply doing it in a different way, irrevocably proving to Madara that he was not defined by the power he used to wield or the heritage he had been born with. The steel in Naruto Uzumaki had been dipped into the flames, reforged and refined into what Madara could legitimately consider to be the perfect Shinobi.
Every jutsu, even the most insignificant ones, ones that the insane jutsu collector Orochimaru himself would have discarded as pointless were improved beyond belief, upgraded for maximum effectiveness and then employed with devastating timing and strategy.
Every advantage he had, he took and abused it with extreme prejudice.
Every obstacle he faced on the way to whatever his goal was at the time, he analyzed it, he overcame it, and then he assimilated it.
Everything he did had more than one angle, one facet, one perspective to it.
Madara momentarily sneered at the image he had of the black and orange jumpsuit wearing idiot before the sneer faded away into grudging respect.
He was honest enough with himself to admit in the silence of his mind that the Uzumaki had been impressively strong enough even five years ago, but if the present Naruto ever managed to get his chakra back…. Well, mentally speaking, the boy had a psyche so fractured and traumatized that it amazed him that the boy could still function with something that barely resembled normality, but it certainly didn't stop him from being insanely creative due to his lack of brute force.
If the two of them fought again at full strength, it wasn't going to be a fight that he could win easily.
"You have a fair point." The fallen angel agreed gloomily with his eyebrows twitching at the memory of the first punch he had received in the past few decades, "Particularly with those five stupid coffins of his."
Madara blinked blankly before he realized that the fallen angel wasn't capable of utilizing natural energy the way he and Naruto could. Then again, even his Rinnegan hadn't been able to pierce whatever the boy was using to cloak his variation of the Jiongu until he had drawn some natural energy in himself.
"He doesn't have five coffins." The decapitated head remarked flatly as Azazel's goggled at it.
"He has nine. You just didn't get to see the other four because five was all he needed to punt your ass across the sky."
Serafall hummed quietly to herself as she walked down a certain corridor in her home. It was huge, and more than a little dusty, owing to the fact that their home was probably a little too huge for just three people, one of which didn't even live here other than one weekends.
Though the extra rooms came in handy occasionally when they had people over, Serafall would probably the be the first one to admit that their house was a little too empty and echo-ey for her taste, as if the remnants of old memories were drafting about in the air together with the dust, particularly since her mother had passed away, but that was beside the point.
Still, things had changed a little lately. Her father was becoming a little more active and actually attending Parliament sessions now, something about not having to be bored out of his mind anymore, and the Parliament actually doing something worth contributing to, whatever it was.
Sirzechs hadn't even let her or the other two Satans in on it yet.
Ajuka was getting a little annoyed with the secrecy, while Falbium couldn't really care less as long as it meant less work for him, but going by the way he kept looking so utterly happy lately, she'd bet good money that the red haired man was extremely pleased with the rate his pet project had been developing.
Her sister and her were getting along better than ever, though she wasn't sure if that was because she actually finished her work now before going to the orphanage with Erza or something else.
Which reminded her about her manager who had been bugging her lately. Particularly about her lack of focus in doing commercials and spacing out while they were filming. That, Serafall would grudgingly admit, was her own fault. There was just so many things going on lately, that the singing and filming had sort of been pushed onto the back burner.
Mentally she wondered if she could bribe a certain blond into teaching her how to use clones.
It was so damn useful to be everywhere and anywhere.
Then again, the first thing she did upon learning how to use shadow clones would probably be to shove any and every monotonous, tedious job onto her poor, unfortunate clones first.
Serafall smiled to herself, either way it all came back to the Uzumaki who had been sort of a catalyst for nearly everything going on at the moment, the same Uzumaki who had apparently came to their house again the first time in a few weeks since his Rating Match, which was why she was walking down to this specific corridor.
Reaching the end, she peeked through the massive reinforced wooden doors of the Sitri Ritual chamber and grinned at the sight of the blond sprawled on the floor, snoring loudly under a couple of papers.
A tiiiny, adorable golden fairy was curled up on his chest, snoring in an equally adorable manner.
Biting down on her lower lip to stop herself from squealing and dashing over to cuddle the tiny fairy, Serafall tip toed over to the blond and knelt down beside his snoring form before gently brushing one finger along the fairy's back.
It was dressed in some sort of regal looking blue and gold robe with four holes behind it for her wings while an ornate looking gold helmet adorned her head. The gold and blue scheme made it look really dignified, in an adorable sort of way.
That said, she wondered where Naruto had picked this one up, because it didn't look like any fairy she knew about.
Not that she was even remotely surprised about that.
He had a tendency of collecting strange things/people.
Bright gold eyes, with pupils shaped like crosses flickered open sleepily before they sharpened with alarm. The tiny fairy promptly flittered from the comparatively massive finger and stared at its owner warily, a beautiful raven haired lady, with sharp aquiline features that were usually shared by nobility, though hers were softened by a warm smile, and dancing violet eyes
"Uhm…. Who are you?"
Serafall smiled at the small fairy who was hovering over Naruto's still snoring body protectively, "Sera. Sera Uzumaki." She replied with a mischievous grin.
The nonplussed fairy blinked slowly, her eyes shifting back and forth from her sleeping Master to the beautiful woman beside him, "You don't look like you're a sister or a relative, but he didn't tell me he was married either."
Serafall winked at the fairy as she offered a finger for the shy little fairy to hop on to, "He's still a little shy about it. What's your name?"
"Oh. I guess that would explain it…" The fairy agreed somewhat hesitantly as she landed on the large finger, "I'm Avalon."
Serafall's eyebrows rose, "Avalon? As in the Holy Sword?"
"The Holy Sword's scabbard to be precise." The tiny fairy corrected her testily.
"That's a rare name to give someone though."
"Not if you are the spiritual manifestation of the Scabbard itself." The golden little ball of cuteness puffed out her chest proudly.
Her eyebrows rose even further, "Naruto found you, or rather Avalon?"
"He did." Avalon affirmed with an equally proud look at her Master before her expression faltered a little, "Not that he was intending to in the first place…. He sort of stumbled onto me. Then he threw me into a corner….. because I was broken and dirty."
The little fairy began to tear up again as Serafall held the little thing as close to her as possible without squishing it, and made comforting noises, "I'll scold him for it alright?"
When the fairy stopped sniffling, Serafall kissed its cheek gently, "Why don't you go and freshen up a little? You're eyes are a little red and you don't want him to see you like this right?"
When the little hiccupping ball of golden light had tottered out of the room, she poked Naruto's prone body with one toe, "If you wanted to keep pretending you're still asleep, you shouldn't have stopped snoring."
One blue eye cracked open and the blond smiled wryly, "Sleep through that racket the two of you were making? Not very damned likely."
"Speaking of which, you're lucky my father likes you." Serafall observed dryly, "If you fell asleep in any other ritual chamber, you'd probably get executed."
The blond frowned as he looked around the massive room with giant stone walls, heavily reinforced with wooden pillars every few feet, "Really? Why?"
"Ritual chambers are a lot like family heirlooms." Serafall deadpanned, "Given how long and decorated each family is, a lot of magic is done and created in each chamber, increasing the ambient magic that is soaked up by the room and potentially enhancing each spell that is created or done within its boundary. You could even say that each Ritual Chamber is a reflection of a family's entire history. In fact, I was born in this chamber."
Naruto scratched the back of his head with a slightly apologetic smile, "I suppose that's why I felt so comfortable in here."
Serafall's lips twitched a little as she wondered if the half-awake blond realized what he had just said.
It was a pity she didn't carry a recorder around with her all the time.
"The energy is just so thick and comforting in here that I sort of just dozed off while I was working."
Serafall hummed quietly, "How long was it since you last slept anyway?"
The blond blinked blearily as he tried to recall, "What time is it now?"
The raven haired beauty glanced at her wrist watch, "About 8 pm?"
"Oh." Naruto said dumbly, "Bout a day ago then? No wait, that was yesterday." He ran one hand through his hair, "I've been in here since yesterday evening, and only just finished my calculations about one hour ago. So that makes it about… 53 hours give or take?"
"Then I think you probably would have fallen asleep, regardless of the density of energy in here," Serafall noted dryly as she glanced at the nearest paper and observed the walls and walls of neat handwriting on it, "You were trying to make her your familiar?"
Naruto glanced at the papers around him and began to gather them all up with a sigh, "Not really. I have something else in mind already, I just didn't want to leave her alone." Naruto gave her a pointed look, "She has a bit of a complex about herself at the moment. Every mistake or rejection affects her deeply because she attributes it to the physical condition of the Scabbard, so every time I try to do some work without her buzzing around she gets amazingly depressed."
"I wondered about that." Serafall admitted casually, "Was it damaged that badly?"
"I found her in a cave that apparently belonged to someone named Belphegor," The blond remarked conversationally, not noticing the way Serafall's eyes had gone wide, "His bone was still stuck in the Scabbard and had pierced all the way through, completely wrecking her entire frame and destroying the restoration magic that imbued in Avalon. It was bad enough that nothing I do can even seal the cracks much less restore her power." The blond paused then added mostly to himself, "Then again I haven't looked too deeply yet, I'm a little busy with other things at the moment."
"I know." Serafall shot a pointed look at him, "The children have started noticing as well. You've been a little distracted lately."
Play Audiomachine – Homecoming
Naruto pulled an empty bowl to him and slashed his forearm with a blade that disappeared as quickly as it had appeared. As his blood leaked in to the bowl, his lips quirked sarcastically, "Getting attacked by Azazel of all people can do that to someone."
"I was just telling you the situation, not accusing you." Serafall replied flatly, "We are all genuinely worried for you, so there was no need for you to be so snide about it."
Naruto's eyes shot up at the hurt that reverberated in the woman's voice and his eyes softened a little as he set the bowl down again, "I'm sorry. I know I'm being a sour asshole but I'll make it up to them. I promise. I just need to do something first."
Serafall's shoulders sagged a little and moved over so that she could fit onto his lap. She leaned against his chest, "I know you are. I thought meeting Misla would help, I didn't expect it to affect you that badly." She sighed quietly, "I'm sorry."
Naruto buried his face in the nape of neck, "It did help." He assured her gently, "I know what I have to do, but actually doing it is somewhat more complicated. And that's making me a little irritable and obsessed."
"A little?" Serafall laughed quietly as she teased the man behind her.
"Okay, maybe more than a little." Naruto conceded with a smile as he wrapped his arms around her waist.
Serafall chuckled along with him until something he had said earlier finally sunk in, "Wait. You were attacked? By Azazel!?"
"One of Sirzechs' bright ideas according to Azazel." Naruto noted sourly, "He was supposed to come over and test me so that he can prepare an Artificial Sacred Gear for me."
Her mouth dropped open a little, "Artificial Sacred Gears? I know that Ajuka's been trying to see if he can replicate or at least produce his own Sacred Gears, but I wasn't aware that the Fallen Angels were already at the application stage."
"Technically they aren't." the blond pointed out dryly, "Which is why I was selected. Azazel says that Sirzechs wanted me to get stronger, but I suspect it's just because he knows I'm pretty durable and expendable for a Devil."
Serafall turned a little so she could eye him critically, "So you have a Sacred Gear now? Or at least an Artificial one?" She asked him inquisitively, "What does it do?"
The blond waggled his eyebrows at her, "Do you want me to use it on you?"
The woman on his lap pursed her lips, "What does it do exactly? Give massages?"
"It lets me steal panties." Naruto announced proudly.
Serafall smiled sultrily as she reached up and pecked his cheek, "If you really wanted that, all you had to do was ask. Why bother to steal it?"
Naruto shivered at the purring in his left ear as he clamped his mouth shut and forced himself to ignore the very shapely body on his lap.
For some reason, it just felt so wrong for him to imagine Serafall in that manner.
Chuckling at his rapidly (cutely) flushing face, she squirmed a little on his lap, smiling as she heard the blond behind her mumble something that sounded suspiciously like 'so freaking unfair', to find a more comfortable position as she cut her own arm and added her blood to the bowl to the his surprise.
"Won't that screw up the ritual?" Naruto finally croaked after he was sure that he was not going to blurt out something stupid.
"You're performing some sort of modified familiar ritual aren't you?"
Naruto shot a quick glance at the papers again, he was a little surprised at how she had noticed what he was doing just by looking at one of them. But then again, Serafall had always been deceptively perceptive, "Yeah, I am."
"Then it won't hurt." The raven haired woman replied confidently, "My blood will just add more potency to the symbols, make it easier to summon and bind, but its allegiance will still be to you as long as you are the one that initiates the contract. Do you have the catalyst though?"
"I already prepared everything, but I was hoping its energy would suffice as a catalyst." Naruto replied as the door opened again and a golden floating light wobbled in, carrying a tray of tea and three cups.
Upon catching sight of Serafall sitting on Naruto's lap, the tray wobbled almost gleefully before it flitted towards them.
The fourth Great Satan merely smiled and helped Avalon pour some tea as the two of them watched the blond begin to meticulously draw a complex array. It took him close to several hours, but in all that time, she was simply content to sit by and watch with the occasional quiet conversation with Avalon and Naruto.
As the blond drew, he kept one ear on the conversation. Most of it was nonsensical as far as he was concerned, but the blond was already sort of used to it. Unlike most women he knew, in the month they had more or less spent together, Serafall seemed to absolutely enjoy it when someone didn't treat her like a child or alternately worship her. All she seemed to want was simply conversation and company.
By the time it was ready, the clock was just about to hit midnight.
"I hope you know what you're doing." Serafall muttered as she eyed the array critically, "I don't need to be a genius in runes to know that you're enhancing the standard summoning part of the ritual in order to circumvent a truck load of some sort of binding spell and bypassing some seriously heavy security with that modified array of yours just to bind something extremely huge, powerful and more than likely, dangerous as your familiar."
"Dangerous?" Naruto snorted, "More like extremely fluffy."
He clapped his hands together and began to invoke, imbuing his hand seals with his words.
"But he's also the one person I know who has never given up on me even when I gave up on myself."
Now, to Serafall's own knowledge, most familiar rituals generally involved some smoke, maybe even some fire and lightning, and that was usually it.
So when a gigantic, opaque electric blue circle materialized, revolving rapidly around him as more and more geometric symbols appeared in front of him.
The symbols spun rapidly until they suddenly stopped and then all of them literally sped towards a middle point, fitting with all the other symbols like a supremely complicated jigsaw puzzle until there was a brightly glowing blue orb before it cracked.
Just a quiet little crack, before the entire egg shattered completely, allowing a tiny, minuscule lump of red spike fur painstakingly materialized in mid air, curled up in to a weak, shivering ball as it slowly drifted onto the ground.
Naruto, clenching his teeth so hard that his cheeks were twitching, slowly ran one hand through the fox's fur before he gathered it up in his arms.
"Hello old friend."
The disorientated lump of fur blinked, its head weaving left and right as it tried to understand its surroundings.
"…Wha? 'Ruto? Why arrr you so beeg?"
Serafall blinked slowly as the fox slurred before revising her earlier conclusion that it was a fox. Or at least it didn't really look like one, in fact, it looked more like a deformed rabbit with a long, snuffling snout and mouth filled with very sharp fangs.
She really should know better by now. Then again, she supposed it was actually rather nice that the blond trusted her enough to show her most of his secrets.
Like the fact that he was apparently acquainted with tiny, cute, mutated, talking, killer rabbits.
"Technically I'm not big, you're just small." Naruto pointed out humorously as the furball twitched weakly in his arms.
It was kind of ugly, but really cute at the same time.
Especially when the blond took off his jacket and wrapped it up, leaving only its long fluffy ears and twitching snout visible as he rapidly, but gently rubbed the lump, trying to warm it up, and it seemed to be working as the long ears twitched a little more frequently.
"How?" The little thing muttered, "And why am I so small?"
"It was the most I could do." Naruto replied with a small smile, "I could get your essence out, but everything else, your actual body included, is still stuck. Which brings us to why you're so small. Since you're not really corporeal, your current size depends entirely on how much chakra you have."
"Huh? So am I here or am I there? Because I can still feel my body in there, and its giving me this REALLY weird double vision thing." The fox's long ears twitched rapidly as it tried to figure out what the hell the blond was saying, "And does that mean I'll get big again because I REALLY don't like being this chibi."
"The familiar bond that dragged you to me complicates things a little," Naruto conceded, "But as far as I can approximate it, thing you left in that cage is nothing but a brain dead body now because your mind is out here so I can't really say what will happen until I do some further checking. That said, I can give you some of my own energy to bolster it if I have to."
"Oh." The little red ball blinked slowly, "Fair enough. At least it's warm."
"Mmmhmm… I also have a present for you."
Kurama's snout shot up inquisitively, "A present? I've never gotten a present before."
Serafall watched the blond carry the small fox over to the side of the chamber where a small duffle bag was sitting. The blond, with great pleasure slowly unzipped it and removed a head from the inside before placing it right before the fox after unstuffing the sock from its mouth.
The head stared at the fox.
The fox stared at the head.
For a very long moment, neither of them said anything as the enormity of what the blond had just done slowly dawned on the both of them.
Madara said the only thing he could as he realized exactly what was about to happen to him.
End Chapter 9