It's time to gather around as Uncle .FLy tells you a story!
*camp fire crackles* Once upon a time, I received a letter telling me there was a problem with my student visa. I didn't have time to type. The end.
Back to the story. Once again, this is occurring during the Loke's Arc.
Reminder: Still looking for interested beta readers.
So sorry for not posting. Might not be able to post for the rest of this month but I'll try my best.
EDIT: Forgot to mention. Absence of fighting in this chapter will be compensated in the next few chapters. I'm thinking of crafting Naruto into a demented character, like I do with all my AU characters. Demented characters are much more interesting to read. He's not going to be with Erza for more than 3 chapters at a time. Iunno. Dancing Monkeys.
Disclaimer: Not my characters...
The loud horn sounded, signalling the ferry's arrival to the port of Magnolia. It was the second time Naruto sat aboard a ferry, the second time he heard the ferry's horn.
The second time he set foot into the city of Magnolia.
Naruto knew he was supposed to be excited, but the excitement drained away at the thought of Erza's reaction, only to be replaced with anxiety. There was a good chance that Erza might not even remember him, considering that the only communication with her was through letters. If Fairy Tail was what the rumors suggested about it, Erza was sure to make friends in no time. Considering that he only knew Erza for less than few months, he might have been a thing of the past to Erza.
But Naruto would never forget Erza. She was all he had.
As he stepped foot onto the port of Magnolia, Naruto could feel the restlessness that had brewed in him. Anxiety or excitement, Naruto needed to find his way to Fairy Tail. Even if Erza forgot about him, he needed to be there for her anyways.
He fished around his sack of belongings, pulling out an envelope which contained five thousand jewels. Apparently, he did not have to join the guild and will be supplied with money to follow and stay close to Erza, who was the target, but Naruto would join the guild nevertheless. Five thousand jewels a month would be sufficient to pay the rent of an apartment, so all money earned should be able to pay for his food.
Now all he need to do was find his way to Fairy Tail.
Unlike last time, Naruto had not thought of bringing a map. As he stepped into the shopping district, he was immediately distracted by the foods that was available. Only after eating his fill, Naruto found himself a thousand jewels poorer and lost.
He checked his envelope again, frowning at how much money he lost within hours. Now, it seems that five thousand jewels a month might not suffice for Naruto. This called for more planning.
Looking for a place to think, Naruto walked around with his hands in his pockets, eyes shifting left and right. But it was not his eyes that found him a place, but his nose. A piece of heaven is how he would describe the incredible smell. Just by taking one big whiff, he was intoxicated.
As he continued to take in the fragrance, Naruto's stomach rumbled. There was always room for ramen, he realized. His legs carried him to the source of the smell, weaving through the crowds, and Naruto found himself in front of restaurant. A restaurant named Ichiraku.
That old stall he had eaten at seven years ago was no more. A large building took its place, but the fragrance of their broth remained as heavenly as before. As he entered the restaurant, Naruto was taken aback by the crowd, but at the same time, it was to be expected. Sooner or later, someone would have recognized the brilliance of a bowl of Ichiraku ramen.
Naruto sat on a bar seat, trying not to drool on the counter. After attending another customer, the waitress came over to take his order, and Naruto recognized her as the waitress that served him seven years ago. Judging from the surprised look on the waitress' face, she must have remembered him too. "It's you!"
"It is. I'm surprised you remembered me after all these years."
"Why wouldn't I remember such a lovely woman, who brought me my first bowl of ramen?" Naruto gave an ear-to-ear smile, and the waitress laughed in response. "Could you bring me a bowl of ramen, miso broth and sliced pork?"
"Coming right up!" The waitress turned to get busy with the new orders, giving Naruto a good amount of time. He took out his envelope of money, recounting the notes just make sure. Only four thousand left. A sigh escaped his mouth, wondering whether life after prison was merely a repeat of life before prison. Damn...I should get to Fairy Tail soon...
"Here's your bowl of ramen." The heavenly cuisine was placed in front of him in a matter of seconds, shocking and delighting Naruto. Before Naruto feasted on the bowl, he looked at the bowl, remembering his financial state.
"It's on the house. Let this be my gift to welcome you back." It was odd that the waitress knew he left Magnolia, but Naruto thought nothing of it. As the waitress was about to resume her duties, an idea clicked in his head.
"Waitress!" Naruto waved his hand to get her attention successfully. "Do you know where Fairy Tail is?"
The waitress stifled a laugh. "I know a customer that does."
After the waitress gave her reply, she left him to his bowl of ramen, and Naruto was left to wonder what she meant. Was there someone in the restaurant from Fairy Tail? Guild members all had a tattoo of their guild's symbol, but none had of a fairy with a stinger. As he wolfed down the ramen, he surveyed the crowd once more.
That was when the entrance door opened. "Geez, I'm starving!"
A boy with pink hair stepped into the restaurant, and at the sight of him, people started to murmur. A blonde girl and a boy with raven hair walked in as well, acting as a rowdy bunch. Despite being a fun-seeker, Naruto envied these people. These people lived the way they wanted; eating with friends, hanging out with each other, taking jobs from Fairy Tail...
Taking jobs from Fairy Tail? As soon as Naruto noticed their glaring tattoos, he almost choked on his broth. Deciding not to let it go to waste, he chugged down the rest of his ramen. As the group sat down in a booth, Naruto stood up from his bar stool, pulling his hood up, tugging his hands in his coat. Weaving pass the queue line, he discreetly made his way to the booth. He did not want to scare off his potential guildmates after all.
Just when he was about to get their attention, he was knocked by someone..or something. Cold, hard steel clashed into him, knocking him slightly off his balance, but he managed to regain it. The "metal" that knocked into him, however, was less lucky. He looked down to see a girl...a woman, wearing a breastplate tarnished by ramen and a skirt.
More importantly, her hair was a beautiful, shining, crimson red. A red he recognized.
The woman brushed aside her hair, revealing her angry face to him. He'd seen that face before. When he left her years ago, she had that face. "Erza...It's me, Naruto-"
All he got in reply was a steel gauntlet to the face.
As soon as Naruto regained consciousness, he jolted up. He was pretty sure he had a nightmare, one that included Erza in armor punching him in the face, and hurting him a lot. But since when did he sleep? Despite not recalling actually finding an inn, Naruto was in a bed. The room he was in was huge, in fact. Definitely not an inn's room.
Upon looking by his bedside, he saw Erza sitting the by the right of his bed, her head resting by him. Erza in the flesh.
As he tried to lift his hand to make sure it was not his eyes playing tricks, he realized that it was chained to the side of the bed. The clank of the chains was enough to jolt Erza awake. It only took a thought from her to materialize a sword out of nowhere, pointing it straight at him apprehensively.
"Whoa, Erza! What are you doing? That's dangerous!"
"Y-You're supposed to serving time in prison. I don't need to concern myself criminals like you!" Erza looked away, her rosy cheeks displaying her petty anger.
"I was released early upon...good conduct." Erza did not even grace him with a reply, looking away with puffed cheeks of displeasure. This was when Naruto understood what this was about. "Are you still angry that I left without saying anything?"
No reply was given, although her anger melted into melancholy. "I'm sorry, Erza. I swear that I'll make it up to you. Even if you don't want to see me ever again, I...I..."
Who was Naruto kidding; he could not leave Erza even if he tried.
A click alerted him the entrance of someone else. Makarov, the man he had been dying to see appeared. "Jii-san!"
The petite man gave him his biggest grin, and Naruto replied with a grin just as wide. Naruto opened his free arm wide to invite Makarov for a hug, which he accepted. The mere intimacy between someone he knew made his eyes watery. "It's been way too long, Jii-san..."
Before he said anything, Makarov freed his hand with a key. "Sorry about that, Naruto. We had to make sure you were officially discharged."
"I understand." Naruto gave a side glance towards Erza and her floating sword, Makarov tracing the gaze as well.
"Is there a misunderstanding between you two?"
Makarov gave the two of them a look of suspicious glance, jumping off Naruto's bed. "The two of you are free to spent the evening however you like. I don't like it when my children fight, and I wish the two of you can work out your differences by morning."
Just before Makarov exited the room, he glanced back and gave Naruto a look of encouragement. "Try to talk nicely, kids."
As Makarov left, the tension returned. Naruto got of his bed and took steps towards Erza, who backed away each step he took. "So...is this the guild?"
"This is my room in the female dormitories. The guild hall is...under renovation." Erza shifted her gaze further from his, her anger not appeased the slightest. The mood had gotten really awkward, and Naruto did not know how to lift the awkwardness, nor how to appease her. Erza was not affected by his honey-coated wards, nor did she talk very much. As a desperate solution, Naruto mustered his words.
"How about we grab a bite, Erza?"
"Welcome!" The same waitress greeted us from behind her counter. The crowd was significantly reduced during this time of day, making business slow enough for the waitress to greet them. "I see you two have reconciled?"
Erza merely crossed her arms, staring somewhere in the distance away from him. Rubbing his head meekly, Naruto replied, "Sort of."
After ordering two bowls of ramen, Naruto led Erza to a table for two, where they sat. From his old cellmate Shikamaru, he had learnt that appeasing a women was the most "troublesome" chore in the world, and it proved true. Erza would not even look him in the face, much less talk to him.
"You must have yet to take dinner! Sorry for keeping you hungry!" Naruto chuckled nervously, trying to lighten the mood.
"I-I wasn't hungry." A timely growl came from Erza's stomach, and it took much of Naruto's self-control not to laugh. "G-Gastric pains."
The sole waitress of the restaurant brought them their bowls of ramen in almost no time, along with a ceramic flask. "We didn't order that, Waitress-san."
"This sa-ke is on the house." The waitress smiled towards Ezra, who nodded back just as wordlessly. "Enjoy your meal."
When the waitress left, Naruto felt the tension return. He felt like he was about to fumble on his words anytime. He didn't speak the same way towards her, choosing his words carefully. He kept thinking that Erza was someone he could be at ease with, but why was he so nervous?
"D-Do you come here often? You seemed to be friendly with the waitress."
One-word responses will not getting him anywhere. "So...how has it been? I heard a lot about you from in prison. Some of the people there were even apprehended by you!" Once again, Naruto attempted to chuckle lightheartedly, but the way his voice shook gave away his anxiety. As a desperate attempt to retain composure, he took the flask of sa-ke and downed it in one go. The immense burn in his throat was followed by a soothing aftertaste, miraculously reducing his heart rate.
Erza watched in slight worry, but kept her arms folded. "You drank the sa-ke that was meant for the both of us."
"I'm...uh...sorry." Naruto shook his head in an attempt to clear his spinning headache. Maybe Naruto should have inquired about the alcohol content of sa-ke before drinking it. "Woah...this is strong...So, Erza...Let's talk...about..."
The room started to spin, or rather Naruto's head started to spin. It became a struggle to even sit up straight, much less continue talking. "Damn...I didn't get to savour my ramen again."
Losing his balance, he landed on the floor limply, not bothering with even attempting to get back up. The weight of his eyelids set in, and all he saw was a blur of red before the black curtained his vision.
After a long battle with unconsciousness for the second time, he found himself moving as he awoke. An effort was required to push open his eyelids. Only then did he realize that he was on Erza's back. It was warm, probably because Erza had no armor on. He preferred it that way. "Erza..."
The sound of his own voice made his head hurt and wince in pain. "You...woke up."
Just as he was about to continue speaking, he noticed that the nape of Erza's neck was almost as red as her hair. Her hair too had the smell of alcohol. "You drank sa-ke too, didn't you? Who'd thought you'd be a drinker?"
Naruto's laugh came out wiry, and made his head feel like a boulder. "You're an idiot, Naruto."
"Yeah, I know, right? I don't even know that was alco-"
"I'm not talking about that." The tone of Erza's voice made Naruto's heart fall. "You left without saying a word...You left me to fend for myself...Why did you even bother coming back?"
"I thought I could wait for you...ten years didn't seem very long at first. But everyday of that ten years I have been crying. Everyday of that ten years I came back to the same ramen restaurant...You never came back."
"Do you hate me, Erza?"
Erza paused, tears flowing down her cheeks. "I wish I could. You're the biggest idiot I know, even if I'm in Fairy Tail..."
"I know. I hate me too..."
"But somehow I love you even more."
The words pounded on Naruto's chest. He did not know what t feel. To know that Erza had thought of him all this time, he had no idea whether to be glad or guilty.
"How can I make it up to you?"
She stopped walking. "Never leave me again. Please, Naruto."
As much as his head hurt, Naruto got off Erza, trying to balance himself on his own two feet. With a bit of an effort, he walked in front of Erza, kneeling down with his back facing her. "Get on, Erza."
"You don't have to do this. I can still-"
"Don't be stubborn, Erza." Reluctantly, Erza saddled up onto his back. With legs like jello, he stood up, walking down the street one wobbly step at a time. "You could have told me how you felt earlier. You're just as stubborn as when you were young. Maybe one day you'll be able to tell me you love me while sober."
As he smiled to himself, Naruto felt Erza's silky smooth hair rest on his shoulder. "Most likely not."
This time, Naruto laughed, as he was truly and genuinely happy.
Ultear sat on her reclining chair, twirling a glass of wine in her hand as she read her documents. She was enthralled by this subject of hers. Out of the countless that had died while trying to contain the demon, the one that was able to subdue it was a cheerful boy. She always thought that it was the most ruthless of people who could have subdued this demon. Furthermore, this boy could control it to his advantage.
As she grinned mindlessly to herself, she was pulled out of thought by tug on her gown. "Ultear."
At the sight of that cute face, she lifted her surrogate daughter to sit on her lap, putting the document on the side table. "Can't sleep, Meredy."
The girl nodded her head, and her adorable motions beckoned Ultear's motherly instincts. She pulled Meredy into a cradle, along Meredy to use her bust as a pillow. "Me neither. I'm thinking about a very puzzling man."
"Was it the whiskered man?"
"Yes. Did you see his picture?" She nodded. "What did you think of him?"
"He looks cute. Like a cat." Ultear could only chuckle at her daughter's adorable antics.
"Other than his whiskers?"
"He looks happy. His smile makes me feel happy too."
Ultear smiled for several seconds before an idea popped in her head. A very good one. "Meredy, why don't you go get some cookies from the kitchen? You can have anything you want in there."
Her daughter scurried to the kitchen, and when she was out of sight, Ultear signaled for one of her attendants. Picking up her documents, she felt a devilish grin creep up onto her face. "Get me the body bags."
"Which ones do you require, Ma'am?"
"Subjects double-zero five, six and seven. Hatake Kakashi, Sakura Haruno and Sasuke Uchiha."