Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Mass Effect.
Chapter 78: Knock heads and say hello
(Location: the Normandy)
Jiraiya, Anko, and Hashirama sat on their legs in the shuttle bay. It was not a position he was used to, outside of official clan meetings. Those were rare enough. So his legs ached, a lot. Try as he might, he knew that the pain was showing on his face. The only consolidation he had was that Hashirama and Anko had the same looks.
They didn't know what they were doing in the shuttle bay either. When they first came down, they thought it was for another training exercise. But their sensei just told them to sit down and wait. Then he walked off and left them alone. The first thought they had was they had to go look for him again. But Anko dismissed that, reminding the boys Naruto would've told them to come looking for them.
So they sat there, waiting. They didn't wait in silence. "Anyone got any idea on why we're waiting?" Jiraiya asked.
Hashirama shook his head. "No, not really."
"We'll find out when Naruto-sensei gets back," Anko told him.
"I know that, but we could figure out what we'll be doing."
"Why should we?"
"Its thinking outside the box, Anko. We're shinobi. That's what we do."
That might be true. But she also knew they were Genin shinobi. They didn't know enough about the box to think outside of it. Whatever the thing was they would be doing today, they didn't know enough about it to guess. "You figure it out, I'll wait."
Hashirama shook his head. "You've got no sense of imagination, Anko," he told her.
"I do too," she retorted. "I just don't use it when I know what is coming will be explained." Why waste the mental energy?
"Lazy," Jiraiya accused her.
"Whatever." He groaned as the pain in his legs shifted. "Gah, why did Naruto-sensei make us sit like this? It hurts."
"He's an old-fashioned guy," Hashirama told him. There were moments when he had seen their sensei just stop and stare at something. He always assumed it was because it reminded the man that he was from a different time. It must've been the first time he had seen these things interesting.
"I would've put it down to him being sadistic."
"Well, there was that," Naruto said as he came out of the elevator, having caught the last piece. "But I wanted you guys to get used to pain."
The students snapped to attention, as much as they could sitting on their legs. They saw their sensei wasn't alone. Both Maya and James were with them. "Why are they here?" Anko asked.
"I asked them to come down," her sensei told her. "Today is more of a visual demonstration than actual learning."
He grinned. "Wait and find out, my impatient student."
She frowned at him. "I am not impatient."
"You are, a little," Hashirama told her.
"Not a little," Jiraiya said, "Big time."
She glared at him. "Shut up, Jiraiya."
Naruto coughed just enough to get their attention. "Thank you," he said once their eyes were back on him. "Now, you've already know them. But let's have an introduction just be to sure." He looked to Maya. "This is Maya Clayton. She's a Swagman."
"G'day," she said with a grin. Both Jiraiya and Hashirama blushed. They knew very well that the woman in front of them was in a relationship with Liara. But that didn't mean she wasn't an attractive woman. Hell, she was damn beautiful."
Anko saw their looks and rolled her eyes. "Boys."
"And this," Naruto continued, gesturing at the Marine next to him, "is James Vega. He's a Marine."
"Hey there," James said, smiling too.
Anko looked at him and then looked away, trying to hide her own blush. The Marine was a handsome man. His smile also helped. The way those lips revealed his pearly whites, it just wasn't fair. And good Kami, his muscles. Why did they have to look like that? Seriously, they were so big and so perfect looking.
Jiraiya saw the look on her face and then looked at James. He figured it out and grinned evilly. He nudged Hashirama and glance at her. "Somebody's got a crush," he said silently. If it had been aloud, it would've been in a sing-song voice.
Hashirama looked at her, then at him. "So?" he replied, shrugging his shoulders.
"Boys," Naruto said to the both of them. "Can I have your attention, please?"
They swung their attention back to him. "Sorry, Sensei," Hashirama said quickly.
"Yeah, sorry," Jiraiya said too. He ignored the smug look on Anko's face. He knew how to get back at her.
"Thank you. Now, Maya and James are to talk to you three about summons." He stepped back and gestured to the both of them. "Take it away, guys."
"First thing you've got to know, kids," James said, completely serious. "Having a summons is not just another weapon in your arsenal."
Maya nodded. "You have to treat them with respect. Otherwise they are liable to cast you out and refuse to give you the right of summoning them for the rest of your life. They also have their own hierarchy and you must be mindful of that."
"She's right," he said. "Unless you are on very good terms with the Summoning Boss, you must give him, or her, the utmost respect and manners. However, once you've gotten to good terms with them, they'll treat you as friends and you'll be able to do the same."
"The same goes for the rest of the summons," she added. "Once you get in their good graces, they'll treat you like family and you'll be able to treat them the same way." She looked at Genin. She had their attention. "So, any questions?"
Hashirama raised his hand. "Are there multiple summoners for each group?" he asked. He knew about the Kangaroos and the Jaguars but he didn't know if multiple people could summon them.
"No, just the one for each."
"How does that work?"
"Does the clan pick the summoner?" Jiraiya asked, seeing where his friend was going with this.
"Yes and no."
"Yes and no?" Anko repeated, confused. "What does that mean?"
James explained it to her. "It's different for each. For my clan, the right to summon is handed down from the clan head to his eldest child, provided he passes the Jaguars' requirement."
"In my family, anyone can try to be a summoner," Maya told them, "but they have to pass the Kangaroo's test and most don't."
"Are the tests the same?" Jiraiya asked.
They both shook their heads. "No, it's different for each summons," she answered.
"What did you have to do?" Anko asked James. She tried to sound curious and she liked to think it worked.
"Sorry, chica," he said back. "But we can't go spilling what we had to do. We wouldn't anyone else thinking they can do it too."
"I wouldn't tell," she protested. She noticed her teammates were looking at her and she realized her mistake. "I mean we wouldn't tell."
"Either way, it's a clan secret. Best to keep it in the clan, hm?"
"I guess so," she agreed with resignedly.
He looked back at Naruto. "Hey, anything else you want us to do, Viejo?"
The Genin looked at one another. None of them ever took Hispanic classes at the Academy. That had been for the upper classmen. "What did he just call you, Sensei?" Hashirama asked.
Naruto looked at James's grinning face for another second before looking at his student. "He called me an old man."
"…Makes sense," Anko said after considering it.
Jiraiya swung his head and looked at her like she was crazy. "What?"
"He is technically over two thousand years old. It makes sense to call him an old man."
"But he doesn't look old."
"That's beside the point."
"No, it's not."
"Actually," Naruto chimed in, "it is. It's beside the point in that it has nothing to do with what we're discussing. So how about we get back to why we're here?" He looked at James and Maya. "Show them, please."
James turned to her. "Ladies first," he told her, gesturing her to go forward.
"Thank you," she replied. She strode off to the side and found the right amount of space. She bit her thumb and flashed through the handseals. "Kuchiyose no Jutsu!" she cried, slamming her hand down onto the ground.
Having never seen a summons before, the Genin were caught off-guard by the plume of smoke suddenly engulfing the Swagman. "Whoa!" Jiraiya cried, jumping up to his feet. "Ms. Maya!"
"Relax, Jiraiya," Naruto told him. "She's fine."
He looked at his sensei and the plume. "Are you sure?"
"Yes. Just wait." He could see that his student didn't want to wait. He wanted to run into that smoke and save Maya. "Wait, Jiraiya. She's fine."
It was a good thing his student did as he was told. When the plume dissipated, Maya was standing beside a red kangaroo that was easily twice her size. "Everyone, this is Big Mama," she introduced them to her.
Hashirama's jaw was dropped and just flapping in the air. He couldn't believe the sight he was seeing. He had seen kangaroos before on trips to the zoo and all, but this was bigger than any kangaroo he had ever seen before. He tried to say something but all that came out was "Yes. Big."
"Maya," the kangaroo said, looking down at them all. "Why am I here? I don't see anything that resembles a fight."
"There's isn't a fight, Big Mama," the Swagman told her.
She frowned. The Genin weren't quite sure how that was able to work on a kangaroo's face. But it did and it was scary on her. "If there is no fight, why am I here?"
"I was asked for a demonstration of the Summoning Jutsu."
Big Mama looked around, taking all of the people in the shuttle bay. "For who?"
"Uh, isn't it obvious?" Jiraiya asked, his mouth moving before he could stop it. "I mean, there are kids here."
Anko quickly elbowed him. "Shut it!" she hissed.
But the Kangaroo Boss wasn't paying attention to them. Her gaze found Naruto. "I know you," she said, staring hard at him.
"We met on Noveria," he told her. "You were more concerned about Maya and her having joeys than looking at me."
Maya looked at him with stricken look. "Naruto, please don't talk about that. That's a private matter."
Big Mama was still focused on Naruto. "No, it's more than that." She leaned in close to him, close enough to sniff if she wanted to. Her eyes widened in realization. "I know you."
"Didn't she say that already?" Jiraiya asked.
Anko nudged him again. "Shut it!"
"You're the one who turned his back."
Naruto's gaze fell flat at those words. While the others wondered what the kangaroo meant by that, all he said was "I am."
"I heard that you went back."
"How are you not dead?"
"How is that any of your business?" he asked back, daring her to say something else.
"Naruto!" Maya snapped at him. That wasn't someone said to Big Mama, not if they wanted to get through across the room like a ragdoll and get beaten too.
But the Kangaroo Boss looked at him for a moment longer. Then she nodded and said, "You're right. It is none of my business." She rose back to her full height and looked at Maya. "Now, about and your woman."
"Big Mama, please," she said pleadingly. "There are kids here, they don't need to hear this kind of stuff."
Naruto ignored them and looked towards James. "Your turn."
"Got it, Viejo," the Marine said back. He stepped away from Maya and the Kangaroo Boss, giving himself a little more room.
He took out a combat knife and it made Anko curious. "Why does he have that out? Shouldn't he just have to bite his thumb?" He slashed down both his forearms, letting the blood run out. "Whoa!" She shouted, jumping up to her feet.
He stopped after dropping the knife. "What?"
"Why did you do that?" she demanded. "You only had to bite your thumb!"
"Anko," Naruto said, getting her attention. "He knows what he's doing. Let him continue."
"You're just as surprised," Shukaku told his Jinchūriki.
"I have to look professional." Yeah, he was surprised by how James went about it but he couldn't let the kids see it. If they saw him surprised, they'd lose the feeling that he wasn't surprised by anything. It would be a prelude to them losing a sense of security.
Anko looked at him in disbelief. "Sensei," she started.
He held up a hand and she fell silent. "Let him continue." She wanted to protested but he kept his gaze on her. Eventually, she sat back down. He looked at James. "Go on."
The Marine slid his hands across the blood, making sure they were covered. He clapped them together in a praying gesture. He closed his eyes and began chanting in Hispanic. Naruto didn't know what he was saying but he let that irritation pass, for now. But he really needed to talk to the people who fitted the translator into the chakra crystal.
As James finished the incantation, he opened his hands and waved them at the ground. A fine mist appeared around his legs. It spread up around his body, engulfing him. They could see him but only just. Something moved in the mist, pushing off to his side. Aldo appeared out of the mist, behind his back.
The panther looked at them all. When he saw Big Mama, he bowed his head respectfully to her. "Señorita."
"Aldo," the Kangaroo Boss said back. "How are you?"
"I am well." He looked at James. "Niño, why am I here?"
"You're here for an example, Aldo," he said respectfully. "Viejo wanted to show an example."
"Niño, what has your father and I said about your nicknames?"
"That's beside the point."
Hashirama raised his hand. "Question," he said.
Both Marine and Jaguar looked at him. "Yes?" James asked him.
"He's a panther, right?" He gestured at Aldo.
"So how's he the Jaguar Boss?" Weren't they two separate creatures?
Aldo and James looked at each other. The Marine found it funny the question was asked. The panther didn't. "Well?" he asked James. "Answer him."
He looked at Hashirama. "He is a Jaguar, kid."
"Uh, no he's not."
"Really?" He folded his arms and waited for what came next. "Care to explain that to me?"
"Don't do it," Anko silently told her teammate. "It's a trap." Couldn't he see it was a trap? She looked at Jiraiya. He knew it was a trap.
But Hashirama ignored her. "A panther and a jaguar are two separate creatures," he told James with the conviction of knowing the truth. "They're not the same thing."
The Marine grinned. "You're both right and wrong."
"I am? How?"
"You're right in the fact that a panther and a jaguar are two separate creatures. But you're wrong because they are the same creature."
He frowned. "That doesn't make any kind of sense."
"Niño, give him a straight answer," Aldo told James. "You're confusing him with your answers."
"Come on, Aldo. Can't I have my fun?"
He looked at the man like he wanted to swat him across the bay. "No. Tell him straight, now."
"You know, he might sound like he's a stern disciplinary, but Aldo does care for James," Naruto thought to himself. He could see it in the way the panther talked to him. He sounded like a second father.
"He's still gets on my nerves," Matatabi muttered.
"You met him one time before this."
"Still gets on my nerves."
James did as he was told. "A panther is simply a big cat that has dark fur, Hashirama," he explained. "He can be a jaguar or a leopard."
Hashirama looked at Aldo with a puzzled expression. "Are you sure about that? I thought jaguars had spots."
The panther padded over to him. "Look for yourself," he said in a quiet rumble. "I have spots."
They all looked at his fur. The coat was as black as the night but the spots were there. They were faint, incredibly faint, but they were there. Jiraiya's hand started to inch. He wanted to reach up and touch the fur. It was there, just in front of him. But his senses kept his hand in place. They told him that touching the fur was a bad idea, a Really Bad Idea.
"Happy?" Aldo asked.
Hashirama nodded. "Yes, I am."
"Good." He padded back over to James's side. "Tell them what I can do."
James nodded and looked at the kids. "Aldo is a fast but strong hitter," he told them. "If I were to summon him into a fight, it would because I would want him first into the fight and cause the most damage in the shortest amount of time."
"What if the battle takes longer than expected?" Anko asked, eyeing the big cat.
"It would not matter," Aldo answered. "I am the first strike. My enemies see me first and that is all they see. If they are alive afterwards, they will not be for long."
"And besides," Big Mama said, "if the fight takes too long, I'm called in."
Maya nodded in agreement. "Big Mama is the bruiser of the two," she said to the Genin. "She's summoned if the fight isn't going anywhere and that needs to be fixed fast. I have yet to be in a battle where her appearing doesn't turn the tide." And was she glad for it.
Naruto waited until the summons were dismissed before he spoke again. "Thanks, guys," he told his teammates. They took that as their sign to leave. As they got back on the elevator, he looked at his students. "So, any questions?"
"Yeah, I've got one," Anko said. "Why are you showing us this?"
Jiraiya was wondering the same thing. Why were they being shown this? It wasn't like they were going to use this jutsu anytime soon…
His eyes widened. He looked at the people still in the shuttle bay.
The words came out of his mouth before he even thought about stopping them. "Holy shit!"
Hashirama looked at him. "What? What is it?"
He didn't say anything to his friend. He was too busy staring at their sensei and comprehending what he just figured out. He couldn't believe it. There was just no way.
Naruto watched the emotions run through his student's face. It was amusing to watch it happen. "Yes, Jiraiya?" he asked. "You want to share something with the class?"
His student obliged, raising a shaky finger to point at him. "You're doing what I think you're doing, aren't you?"
Anko was lost and it made her irritated. "What's he doing?" she demanded.
Jiraiya looked at her. How could she not see what was happening right in front of them? "He's training us to be the next Sannin!"
Both she and Hashirama went shock-still at those words. Their eyes found Naruto and tried to figure out the truth. But the blonde's face showed nothing. It was blank. They couldn't read anything off of him. "Is he lying?" Anko asked him.
For a paused second, he didn't do anything. He didn't say anything either. They waited for his answer with almost bated breathes. "How long are you going to torture them like this?" Son asked Naruto.
"Give me a couple of seconds," he said. "This is just too much fun."
"Well?" Anko demanded, standing up. Both her teammates did the same and together, they looked hard at their sensei. They wanted an answer.
The seconds were up. He nodded. "Yes, he's right."
Jiraiya fist-pumped the air. "Knew it, I knew it!"
Hashirama couldn't believe it himself. How didn't he see it before? It was right there, in front of their faces! They were the descendants of the original Sannin and they were being trained by the last member of the second generation! Kami, he should've figured it out when Naruto-sensei recommended he try helping out in the med bay! That was just like his ancestor!
Naruto let their jubilations go on for another minute or so. They could enjoy the moment. But then he said, "This doesn't mean you're getting those contracts right now."
That cut the celebrations short. "What? Why?" Anko asked him.
"You'll get them when I say you're ready to get them." And so he could get into contact with the Toads and pass on the information. But that was beside the point. "In spite of what you might think, you still need training."
"Didn't you get the Toads when you were our age?" she demanded.
"First off: I still had some training and a few missions under my belt before I wrote my name in the contract. Secondly: I was not in the middle of a war." He looked at them all. "I'm not doing this to be cruel or mean. I want to make sure that you are all still alive by the time the war ends. I don't you to get swelled heads because of what you've got and rush off into a fight thinking you'll be alright. You'll end up dead that way."
Their excitement stopped as they listened. No one object or protested. They knew their sensei was speaking from the heart and from experience. They were glad that someone was looking out for them, not letting them rush into danger. But it was mixed with annoyance. They wanted to prove themselves and they had just started too. But they all wanted it to happen faster.
He knew what they were thinking. He had been the same. He wasn't going to let it happen to them. They would get what they wanted when he thought they were ready to get it. "Any questions?" he asked them.
Anko and Hashirama shook their heads. Jiraiya, however, had a thoughtful expression on his face. "I've got one: you've signaled me out for the Toads, right, Naruto-sensei?"
He nodded. "Yes."
"Vain much?" Anko asked Jiraiya.
While not as rude, Hashirama was of the same mind. "Was that really your question, man?" he asked his friend.
"No, that was not my question," Jiraiya told them both, making sure to scowl at Anko.
"Then what is your question?" Naruto asked.
He looked at the blonde. He was completely serious. It made him look older than he was. What's more, he looked a lot like the Jiraiya Naruto had known. "What exactly happened between you and the Toads?"
The question hung in the air. Naruto knew why he would ask it and applauded him for thinking ahead. He was trying to make sure he didn't make the same mistake when he had the Toads. But even though he was proud of Jiraiya for asking the question, he didn't want to answer it. "Coward," Kurama told him.
That one word was the right kick in the pants. "You don't have to worry about doing the same thing, Jiraiya," he told him.
"Yes. What happened between me and the Toads was a conscious act on my part. It's only in hindsight that I realize it was a mistake."
If that was supposed to reassure him, it didn't help. "What did you do?" he asked the blonde.
"We had an argument and both sides said things we probably shouldn't have. In the end, they told me if I walked out of them, that was it. And I kept on walking."
"What was the argument about?"
He shrugged his shoulders. "They had some concerns about my work on the seal during the war."
That was enough information for Hashirama to get a clue. "You mean the seal that was used on you at the Last Lake?" he asked.
Naruto nodded. "They thought I was being suicidal. I thought I had all the details right and I knew what I was doing." Of course, if he had all the details right, he wouldn't be here in this millennium.
"Hey, Commander?" Joker asked over the intercom.
He looked up at the ceiling. "Yeah?"
"Your clone wants you up at the Den."
He frowned. "My clone?"
"Well, if you know another guy that has your voice and talks like you, I'd be glad to know who he is. But for now, I'm going to assume that it's your clone."
"What does he want?"
"He didn't say, except that it was urgent."
He sighed in exasperation. What was that clone up to? "Alright, I'm coming up." He looked up at his students. "Looks like lessons will have to be scrapped for now. Train for now amongst yourself. Free for all."
"You got it, Naruto-sensei," Jiraiya told him, giving him a thumbs-up. His other arm pulled out a kunai and swung it at Anko.
She ducked it easily. "Hey!" She scowled at Jiraiya. "How about some warning?"
"Why would I do that?" he asked her with a grin.
"He's right," Hashirama agreed, just before pouncing on Jiraiya's back and driving him to the ground.
Naruto left his student as they brawled with each other. It would turn into actual sparring quickly enough, they just needed to fight like kids for a couple of minutes. The elevator took him right up to the Den. He walked through the hatch and looked at his clone. It was sitting on the couch. "What's up?" he asked, coming down the steps.
"Sorry, boss," the clone said.
He stopped. "Sorry about what?"
"I'd love to say that I was forced to do this, but I happen to agree with them."
"Them?" The clone looked over to the bed. Naruto did the same thing. Both Tsunade and Shizune were standing there. They were here, in his cabin, and not in the med bay. He glared at the clone. "You son of—!"
"Watch it, that's your mother too."
"Naruto," Tsunade said, using her commanding voice. "We need to talk."
"Yeah, I figured when you're here and not in the med bay."
"Mordin doesn't need us all the time," Shizune told him. She stood behind Tsunade, letting her take the lead on what was happening here.
"First things first," the Hokage said, striding forward to Naruto.
He braced himself for the punch. He knew it would be coming. She would punch him clear across the cabin and across the ship if she punched really hard. Of course she would punch really hard. She was clearly pissed off.
The closer she got, the more he braced himself. As soon as she got close, he waited for the punch. "Here she comes."
He waited for a punch.
A second passed.
"What is taking her—?"
She pulled him in close and hugged him tightly. "It's good to see you again, Naruto," she said. "I'm sorry we left on bad terms."
He remembered that she hadn't been there when he was sealed. The last time they had seen each other was when he brought his plan to the Kages. They refused and it turned to into a shouting match. The last thing she said to him was "Go home, Naruto. We'll discuss a better plan when you've got a cooler head." Instead, he walked right out of the village and after Obito.
It made him realize something. He was a lousy person and a lousy friend too. What had it been like for her, to receive the news of him being sealed away? Did she hold out for hope that he would come back? Did she lose that hope? Did she ever think about their last words? He knew that he never had. That was why he felt lousy.
But the more he was being hugged, the more he realized that it didn't matter how she thought about their last talk. She showed through the hug that she cared for him and she was glad to see him again. He accepted the hug, hugging her back.
When the hug was broke, she buried her fist into his head and drove him into the floor. For a moment, he was stunned silent. When he could find his voice, he said the first thing that came to his mind. "That's the punch I was expecting."
"Stop lying there," she ordered. "Get up, now."
He did as he was told because experience taught him she would punch him again if he didn't. "I blame you for this," he told the clone.
"You'll end thanking me, boss," he replied.
Shizune came over to Tsunade's side. "Naruto," she said to him. "Why are you doing this?"
"Don't play games," Tsunade told him. "I will punch you again. Now, what are you doing avoiding us?"
There was an urge to give them a full amount of sarcasm, except he knew the punch that came afterwards would hurt like hell. "I summoned you because the krogan needed help to get chakra back. Mito's the best way right now to do that and Mordin needed all the help he can get."
It was all good reasoning, but she kept her gaze on him. "That's why you summoned us. I'm asking you why you're avoiding us."
He couldn't look her in the eyes. His kept falling to the ground. "You're dead, Tsunade. You too, Shizune."
"We know," Shizune said.
"You summoned us," Tsunade reminded him.
"I know. But you're still dead."
The clone chimed in. "I think they are aware of that fact, boss."
Tsunade folded her arms (which any other male would've noticed her bust getting that more impressive and quickly wipe the drool off their mouths). "Naruto, explain."
He sighed and scratched the back of his neck. Kami, how was he going to explain this? He just didn't know. Well, he had to start somewhere. "When they gave me the scroll for the Edo Tensei and I figured out what it was, I didn't want to use it. At first, it was because I would have to kill people to use it and I didn't want that. But the more I talked to people about it—"
She stopped him with a question. "You told people about the Edo Tensei? That's classified information, Naruto."
"Not anymore it isn't. It's in the history books, plus they figured it out themselves."
"What did they tell you when they figured it out?" Shizune asked him.
He was pained to say it. "They wanted me to use it. They kept telling me that in this war, we would need all the help we could get."
"But you didn't?"
"The bodies were already piling up, Shizune," he told her, looking her in her dead eyes. "What we're fighting now makes the war we fought two thousand years ago look like a couple of kids fighting in a sandbox. Think of the people who died back then, then think about that would look like to what we're facing now?" He waited as she figured it out. "You really think that I wanted to add to those bodies by sacrificing people?"
"You must've, if we're here."
"No, that's something else. I was given a loophole."
"And you took it shamelessly," Kurama said from within. He ignored the fox.
Tsunade kept her eyes on him. "You said at first. What changed?" she asked.
Funny, when he started talking, he didn't know how he was going to explain it. Now the words just kept coming out of his mouth. "I didn't want to use it because I wasn't sure if I wanted to see you all again," he told her.
Shizune frowned in confusion. "What does that mean?" she asked him.
"I don't know," the clone said. "And I'm him!"
Naruto glared at him. "I said shut it! You're not helping here!"
Tsunade reached out and took him by his chin. She brought his attention back to her. "Explain yourself, Naruto." She didn't order him like the Hokage seeking answers from her subordinates. She asked him like he was her little brother, something she had always seen him, even when he got stubborn and mule-headed.
"It's like I said, Tsunade: you're dead. Everyone I knew and loved is dead. They've been dead for over two millennia. That was my old life. This," he gestured to the cabin, to the deck, to the ship, and everything beyond, "all of this, it's my new life. I was content to be in it and live it differently. But then the Edo Tensei was given to me and suddenly, I could bring my old life into my new life. I could see everyone again, talk to them.
"But then I asked myself if that was something I actually wanted. Did I want to bring the dead back, just so I could have them around? Did I want my old life back that bad I would keep them here in this world so I could be happy?" He shrugged his shoulders. "I didn't know. I still don't know. And I didn't want to find out."
She understood, somewhat. She reached out and put her hand on his shoulder. "Naruto, you're not that weak."
"This is different from what I'm used to," he replied.
"If you want to talk to your friends again, you can and should. You're not weak enough to let them invade your new life."
"We figured that out when you stayed away," Shizune added. It might've seem odd and puzzling before, but now that he explained himself, it made a little more sense. It was still stupid and foolish, but it made sense.
"Sorry," he said sheepishly. "I was trying to stay away."
"Like she said, we figured," Tsunade said. Her hand became firm but gentle. "Naruto, you didn't have a chance to say goodbye to a lot of people before you were sealed away. Don't you want to have a chance to talk to them, one last time?"
He did. He really did. "That point had been brought up against me."
"You should listen to those people more. They are your friends, after all."
"Are they your friends?" Shizune asked. She wanted to be sure.
Both Tsunade and Naruto gave her the same look. "Of course they're my friends," he told her.
"Come on now, Shizune. You know that Naruto makes friends wherever he goes," Tsunade added.
"Yeah, that's how I got to be captain of this ship."
The cabin hatched opened. "Hey, Sensei?" Hashirama called out as he came in. "We had a question that we wanted an…an….an…" He stumbled to a stop when he saw just who his sensei was talking to.
As soon as he saw his student's reaction, Naruto knew what he was thinking. "Oh great," he thought to himself. This was why he didn't want him going into the med bay. Well, it was too late to about it now. "Yes, what is it?" he asked him.
"That…that…that…" he tried to speak but kept failing rather spectacularly. His eyes were glued on Tsunade.
"Waiting here," the blonde said, adding a hint of impatience to his voice.
He sighed in irritation. "Okay, now you're just losing the ability to speak. Can you say what you're trying to say already?"
"You're having too much fun here," Kurama told him.
"Nice to hear you speak, fox. And I know." There was a part of him that was glad the Kyūbi was talking to him willingly again. They had been together the longest and they were friends. Him being disappointingly quiet was not something the blonde like to have. "How about you, Gyūki? You still with us?"
"Just tell everyone what's going on already, Naruto," the Hachibi told him. It was a grudging voice but it still meant he was talking again.
Tsunade looked at the shellshock teenager staring at her. He looked familiar, she just wasn't sure how. But Naruto knew. "Who is he, Naruto?" she asked him.
"That's…that's her, isn't it?" Hashirama asked, finally able to get his voice out of his throat. He had seen the pictures, both in the textbooks and in the family. He knew who she was but he wanted to hear it from Naruto's mouth.
"Naruto?" Tsunade asked him.
He looked at her, and then at Hashirama. A knowing grin peeled across his lips. "Some introductions, then." He gestured at his student and then to the Hokage. "Hashirama, Tsunade Senju, your ancestor." He reversed the motion. "Tsunade, Hashirama Senju, your descendant."
As soon as he heard those words, Hashirama hit the floor and bowed his head. "Lady Tsunade," he said reverently.
She looked at her bowing descendent. "Oh, get up already," she told him.
"I'm not worthy."
"The Hokage said get up, Hashirama," Naruto said. "It's best to get up before she makes you get up." His student shot back to his feet fast. "That's it."
Now that he was back on his feet, Tsunade got a better look at him. Now she knew why he looked familiar. He had her grandfather's face. She was so used to seeing him as an adult, not as a teenager. She went to his side and reached out with her hand. She touched his face, wanting to be sure she was seeing it right. He didn't flinch at her touch but his eyes were wide.
That's when she noticed something else, something she didn't see before. "You have Nawaki's eyes."
She couldn't help but laugh. "No, my brother's."
"Oh." That made more sense. He was still coming to grips that she was here, in front of him. "You're really here, my lady."
"Kid, you're family. You don't call me lady."
"She's right," Naruto said. "She much prefers to be called Granny." Shizune stifled her giggles. The clone didn't bother. He did manage to keep himself on the couch while he laughed.
Tsunade looked back at him. She didn't glare at him but her look was steady. "I'll let that pass, Naruto, because he is my grandson." The distance might be two thousand years long but she was going to call him her grandson. She didn't care what people would think.
He surrendered without a fight. "Alright, fine."
Shizune came to Tsunade's side. "It's nice to meet you, Hashirama," she said. "I'm Shizune."
"I know who you are," he said back, still starstruck about what was happening.
She smiled. "I'm glad."
"So, Hashirama," Naruto said, "What were asking me about when you came into my cabin without knocking?"
"Oh right, that."
"Yes, that." He folded his arms as he leaned against the office wall. "So, what's on your mind?"
"Oh, the three of us had a question."
"I gathered that when you came in. What's the question?"
He felt embarrassed. He did mention the question when he came through the hatch. The sight of his ancestor did kind of stun him (he was still rather stunned by that). "Well, the question was how were we going to get the scrolls? Anko pointed out they were lost."
Shizune was a little confused. The only Anko she knew was a part of Ibiki's team of interrogators and Kurenai's friend. But the more important thing was he said first. "Scrolls?"
Tsunade studied her grandson for a couple of seconds, thinking about what he said. She made the connection and looked at Naruto. "You're giving them the Summoning contracts? Training them to be the next Sannin?"
"Right now, I'm just training them. They've got a lot to learn." He looked at Hashirama. "As for you guys, you let me worry about that. I'll get them to you when I feel like you're ready to have them." After that, it was up to the summons to test them.
Tsunade looked at Hashirama. "Which one have you been selected for?" she asked.
He shrugged. "I don't know."
"He's being trained as a medic and nurse," Naruto told her.
That was all she needed to hear. "Who are your teammates?" she asked Hashirama.
He was surprised but was able to answer her. "Oh, well, one of them is Anko."
"Orochimaru's descendent," Naruto added, just to let her know who she was.
"She's a bit headstrong and sometimes gets a high opinion. But she's dependable and she can hold her own in a fight. Heck, she often leads the fight."
Naruto smiled to himself. That was something he always took advantage of. Anko was learning, though. She didn't charge right at him like she had back at the Academy and this time, she had her teammates to help her.
"And if she gets a little arrogant, Jiraiya's the one who knocks her back down to our levels."
Tsunade heard the name. She and Shizune looked at Naruto. The question was clear on their faces. He nodded. "His namesake's descendent."
That was all she needed to hear. She looked at Hashirama with somber eyes. "What's he like?"
"He's…Jiraiya." There was really no other way he could describe him.
Naruto helped him out. "Think of me but more of a prude than Jiraiya."
"He's a prude." They weren't quite sure if she was looking at Naruto or Hashirama when she said.
Either way, the Genin was the one who answered. "He's not a prude, actually. He just doesn't use his clan's signature jutsu much, or at all." Now that he thought about it, the last time he had seen that jutsu was when Naruto visited the Academy.
"Signature jutsu?" Shizune asked, looking very much confused.
The blonde couldn't keep the grin off his face. "They borrowed one of mine. I'm sure you can guess which one."
Tsunade did. "You must be joking," she said to him.
He shook his head. "No, I'm not. I did the research myself. Hashirama here isn't kidding when he says it's their signature jutsu."
She sighed. "I know I should be surprised, but I'm not." Of course the children of her teammate would do something like that. A smile came to her lips the more she thought about it. At least she knew they had survived and made something of themselves.
Naruto pushed off the wall. "Tsunade, Shizune, as much as I am glad that we finally talked, you're still needed in the med bay," he told them both. "Can you please go back?"
"Are you going to keep avoiding us?" Shizune asked him. She looked worried as she waited for his answer.
It got the attention of his surly tenants. "Yeah, Naruto, are you going to avoid them?" Kurama asked him.
"Well?" Gyūki pressed.
It didn't take him long to answer. "No, I won't avoid you." Tsunade was right. He was strong enough to let the past go. He could summon the dead, talk to them if he wanted to, and could send them back when their task was done. And all it took was a hug, a punch, and a couple of words from someone he saw as family.
Tsunade smiled. "That's good to hear," she told him.
"So, you'll go back to the med bay?"
"Yes, we have patients that need attending to."
He looked at Hashirama. His face was stern as he said, "And you, get back to the shuttle bay and train with your teammates. They're probably waiting on you."
The kid nodded. "Yes, Naruto-sensei." He turned to the hatch and walked away. He stopped and looked back. "Goodbye, Granny Tsunade."
"Don't think this is the last time we'll be seeing each other, Hashirama," Tsunade told him. "If you're a nurse, I expect you to be in the med bay helping us."
"Don't worry, Tsunade," Naruto assured her, "He will be." He'll have to talk to Chakwas again. But at least they'll be able to work in the med bay again.
He let then leave the cabin first. That way, he could glare at the clone. "You do something like this again, I will make you regret it," he said in a growl.
The clone heard the threat and understood completely. He gulped in air that he didn't need and tried to stay calm. It worked, to an extent. "Sorry, boss," he apologized. "But let's face it. You needed this."
It was true. He did need it. It wasn't something he hadn't thought about until he talked with Tsunade. Now, he felt lighter on his feet and felt better too. It was like a weight he had placed on himself was gone. Still, he gave the clone one last look. "You've been warned."
"I got it, I got it."
"Good." He turned around and walked out of the Den.
He, Tsunade, and Shizune got off on the crew deck and went straight for the med bay. Mordin was talking to Mito when they came in. "Aware krogan females find scars attractive," he told her. "Garrus loyal, reasonably intelligent. Bit aggressive. Almost like krogan."
Mito just stared at him flatly. "For the third time, Doctor, I'm not interested." She sounded like she was about to clock him upside the head.
"Oh dear," Shizune said. "He's doing it again."
"He's tenacious, I'll give him that," Tsunade said.
Naruto went over to the salarian. "Mordin, what are you doing?"
"Ah, Naruto. We were just—"
The hatch opened and Wrex walked through. His eyes were on the female. "Are you okay?" he asked.
"I'm fine, Wrex," she told him. "You can relax."
"You can't be too careful…or put any faith in salarian doctors." He gave Mordin a heavy look. The doctor ignored him.
"This one is different."
"Is he?" He noticed Mordin grabbing something involving a needle. "What's that?"
"Simple blood test," he replied.
"Kind that ends the genophage and possibly give chakra. Far less than tissue sampling."
Wrex gave him a flat look. "Don't remind me." He stepped back, wincing from a memory. "I think you enjoyed doing that."
"Naruto, please," he said to the blonde. "Distractions counterproductive. Also affecting comfort of patient."
Naruto looked at Wrex. "You were the one who used him as a spy, Wrex. You know you can trust him."
That was true, but he still gave Mordin a suspicious look. "Salarians have minds like a maze. You never know when they're leading you into a trap."
That got the doctor's attention. "Trap?" he repeated, facing Wrex. "Mito's release my doing. Would have never known about her if not for me."
"That was then, but she's out now. And if she gets hurt, I'll feel it."
He wasn't threatened by the krogan's warning. If anything, he would've done the same thing if their positions were reversed. "Understand. But my patient. My responsibility. Her welfare a priority." He looked Wrex right in the eyes. "Will not let her to be compromised by anyone."
That was enough to make Wrex grin and chuckle. "You've got a quad, Doctor. Keep her safe. Our females have endured enough."
Shizune looked at the krogan and the salarian, listening to their exchange. When they were all done, she looked at Tsunade. "Chest-thumping?"
Tsunade nodded. "Chest-thumping." She couldn't believe it. Two thousand years had past and there were still men thumping their chests at one another. She couldn't help but roll her eyes at the idea.
Shizune chose to look at Naruto. "Don't blame me," he told her. "I had nothing to do with this."
"Have work to do," Mordin said to Wrex, turning back to the nearby equipment.
"Yeah, I hear ya," Wrex said. He started turning away but stopped and looked at Tsunade. "Who're you?"
"The woman who will drag you out of this med bay by your nose if you don't leave now," she told him.
He grinned and opened his mouth. Naruto got there first. "Wrex, she can and will do it. She's got the strength."
"Does she now?"
"You read the history books, right?"
He nodded. "You know I have." It's been an on-going joke amongst the crew and the team that anyone who served aboard the Normandy had better bring along history books on the Elemental Countries.
The krogan looked at him for a moment, digesting that information. When he looked at the former Hokage, it wasn't with fear. Instead, he looked excited. "I want to fight you at some point."
Naruto stifled a groan but did rub his forehead. "Just go, Wrex."
As soon as he had left, Mordin commented, "Prefer females of the species."
"Don't you have work to do?" the shinobi asked him.
"Indeed I do. Tsunade, Shizune, your assistance most helpful." He had said that to them plenty of times before. It showed in how they went to his side and they quickly began talking with one another. Soon, it was like the rest of the ship wasn't there for them.
Naruto knew he didn't belong there anymore. "I'll just be on the way out," he told them. Tsunade gave him a wave, more focused on what Mordin was saying.
"Commander, wait a moment, please," Mito said.
He stopped and looked back at her. "Yeah?"
"May we speak with each other?"
"Sure." He could always talk. He walked over to her. "What's up?"
"First, thank you for saving my life." She shifted her weight as she came down to the ground. When she rose up to her full height, she was taller than him. "I didn't think the krogan had any allies left in the galaxy." Her mouth was covered by her outfit but he could see her eyes. She was surprised by what he had done.
"Hey, think nothing about it. Just because people like to think one way about you guys, doesn't mean it's the only way."
"They can be forgiven. Our actions have hardly inspired friendship."
"There are plenty of ways to make a friendship. I personally like the one where we learn names. I'm a little bummed that I never learned yours."
She didn't look annoyed or upset by his remark. "I surrendered it the day I became a shaman of the female clan. I belong to my sisters now. But perhaps when this is over, you can know it."
"I hold you to it," he said. "By the way, about Maelon and his experiments, how did you get involved?"
"The other females and I volunteered. We heard Maelon was trying to cure the genophage for Clan Weyrloc."
"I thought they were a rival clan."
She snorted softly in derision. "Rivalries are the invention of the males. Under their rule, Tuchanka has laid in ruins for over a thousand years."
"Technically, they were sabotaged by the salarians." But even though he knew the truth, he wasn't going to get into an argument with her over it. It wouldn't do anything for them.
"It's time females took back their place in society," she said, "and resurrected our future. Maelon was our best hope."
"Would you go to him again?"
"Absolutely," she told him with complete conviction. "It only takes one candle to light a fire. And then the darkness is no more."
"The other died for that belief, didn't they?" he asked. She nodded. He could see the grief in her eyes. She still felt their deaths keenly. "I'm sorry."
"I know. I am too. The youngest one, Kurn, was the last to go. But she knew she would enter the Void free of this curse—and then smile when she looked down upon the children of Tuchanka. Her spirit will be the midwife to my firstborn," she declared.
"What Maelon did was brutal. I remember his lab. It didn't look like any lab I had seen." Except perhaps in his nightmares about what Orochimaru experimented on.
"We learned he was brutal too late. He meant well, but his methods grew more barbaric as he went. We finally escaped into the rubble. Eventually, a salarian team found us. They saved our lives. We were sick."
"And now, she's being cared for by a salarian," Son remarked. "She must trust him."
"She wouldn't be here if she wasn't," Matatabi remarked.
That was a good point. "Has Mordin been treating you okay?" he asked, looking back at the salarian. He was still busy with Tsunade and Shizune.
Mito did the same thing. "Better than krogan males do. He's not a typical salarian."
The blonde smiled. "He'd take that as a compliment."
"No, no, no," Mordin told Shizune. "Organ redundancy results in new period before metaphase. Can't alter that. Damage to tolemeres, premature aging."
She looked at his data. "Alright, but what about this?" she asked, reaching out and touching his screen.
Tsunade watched her. "She's right. You can't ignore how chakra would factor in."
"Hmm, hadn't seen that."
"I'd be surprised if you had."
His fingers worked quickly on the screen. "How about this?"
Naruto looked back at Mito. "He does that when he really gets into the work," he explained.
"And them?" she asked, looking at the humans.
He knew that was coming up. He was hoping she was talking about how they were acting now and not about the fact they were dead. "I don't know, I've never seen them when they were at work." Whenever he had been under their care for treatment, he had been unconscious, medically or from battle.
She didn't push on that. She kept her attention on Mordin. "I sense pain in him, too. He told me about his work on the genophage. I should consider him an enemy." It was tempting, really tempting, to think like that. "Yet I think seeing my sisters and I changed something in him."
Mordin started humming under his breath, or so he thought. His singing filled the med bay and drew the attention of everyone there. Tsunade and Shizune rolled their eyes and went back to work. Naruto just listened for a moment longer. "I don't think it was his singing," he remarked.
"Most likely not," she agreed.
Since the subject had come up, he was curious. "What was it like, living with the genophage?"
Her eyes shined with mourning. "I knew sisters who couldn't bear the shame of being infertile. They would wander off into the wastelands, hoping a thresher maw would kill and end their torment."
That was certainly a bad way to go. He had seen a thresher maw in action while on the run. He had even led an Akatsuki squadron into a thresher maw ambush, like what happened to Maya. He looked at the krogan and couldn't help but wonder. "Did you feel the same way?"
The sadness vanished from her eyes. It was replaced by a quiet anger. There was a warning in them too. "Yes. After my first stillborn."
"What stopped you?"
"When my child didn't draw breath, that's when my life truly began. The genophage forces us to live on hope alone. There is nothing else. There is no reason to exist other than the hope the next day will bring change. And if it doesn't, there is always the next."
"What do you think will happen when the genophage is cured?"
"Our species will find its balance again. Females will help shape the future, like n the ancient days, before we were just pawns of power-hungry males."
"They do tend to seem to like shooting things at first glance," he commented.
"What else is there for them to do?" she asked flatly. "Because of the genophage, they've become wandering killers, seeking targets to justify their existence, excuses to earn them 'honor.'"
"I think Wrex is different. What do you think?"
She considered the krogan for a moment. "When he's not trying to sire half of Tuchanka, he's the best thing that's happened to the krogan," she finally said. "But I won't tell him that. His head's big enough already. Literally."
He snorted, doing his best to keep the laughter in. "He's a krogan."
"His head is big for a krogan."
This time, he couldn't keep the laughter in. The salarian and the women barely glanced at him while he guffawed. Once he got his breath back, he told Mito, "I've got to remember that one. It's gotta help."
He wasn't sure if she was smiling beneath her hood but he could see the humor in her eyes. They were also certain. "I know in his heart Wrex wants what's best for us. Though not all the other clans see it that way."
"You'd think they would want a better future."
"It's not in their nature of our males to cooperate. They've evolved to be selfish. Their only concern is survival."
"Wrex used to be like that."
"He changed. He's different. A mutant. And that, you can tell him."
"Only if we have to go a round again."
"Again?" she repeated.
He nodded. "We brawled on Virmire. I ended up dunking his head repeatedly in water, asking him if he had cooled off. He ever tells you that story, he might try to change the ending. Just remember my version's the truth."
She would take that under advisement. But she was also curious. "Why were you fighting in the first place?" She shouldn't have to ask that question since she knew about krogan males. But this was one of the rare times she had heard of a krogan fighting someone other than a krogan and losing. She was curious.
"We had a disagreement about what we were doing there. It got heated. And after it cooled off, we had a talk. That's where I gave him the idea for the Will of Krogan."
"Will of Krogan?"
"You're going to have ask him about it. But it's why we're here, now. By the way, do you think Wrex will want revenge for the genophage." He didn't think the krogan will do it. If he did, the krogan would go right back to where they were before now. Wrex didn't want that for them.
She thought it over some. "Some clans will expect it. I hope Wrex resists. He understands the cycle of violence must end if krogan are ever to have a voice in galactic politics. Still, he's just one krogan. If enough clans demand it he may not be able to stop them."
"I'm sure he will."
"Hey, I've got a question," Shukaku said.
"How did she become a shaman?" The other Bijū looked at him like he had just appeared. "What?"
"You asked a question," Chōmei said, the wonder in his voice so obvious. "You never ask a question."
Isobu nodded in agreement. "Yeah, usually you just make a comment and laugh because you're the only one who finds it funny."
The tanuki felt insulted and he was sure to let it show on his face. "You know, I do have questions. Naruto, back me up here."
The blonde was more interested in asking his question to Mito. "So what's it like being a krogan shaman?"
She looked at him with a quiet gaze. She was seeing what he was thinking, or at least trying to. "Wisdom comes from pain," she told him. "And the genophage has made us very wise. Rather than surrender to despair, a few of us chose to preserve the ancient ways. We safeguard our culture, our knowledge, our secrets—so when our children live again, the krogan will flourish."
"That wasn't my question," Shukaku told the blonde. He didn't pout but it came close. The rest of Naruto's tenants were still rather amazed by how the tanuki was acting. Except for Kurama. He was waiting until he had to pounce on Shukaku to shut him up.
Naruto was still curious, so he indulged the Ichibi. "How does one become a shaman?" he asked Mito.
"You're locked in a cave for seven days with just enough food to last. On the eighth, you'll starve."
"Harsh," said Gyūki.
"She's not done," Naruto said. "And that proves what, exactly?"
"Your resolve," Mito answered. "Every acolyte is given a choice: you either claw your way out through the rock with your bare hands, or you die."
"How'd you do?"
"I started digging the wrong way."
He had to take a moment to make sure he heard that right. She sounded so serious, she had to be telling the truth. "Aright, continue please."
"I was in complete darkness. Nothing other than my own heartbeats to sustain me. And then I found this." She reached into her robe and pulled something out.
"It's a crystal." It was about a half a foot long and barely sharpened at one end, but it was a crystal. It's coloring was a dull yellow but there wasn't a speck of dirt on it. Clearly she had been treating the thing with care.
"Yes, a crystal. But it became my chisel." She held it out to him. "Here."
"Take it as a remainder, Commander. In the darkest hour, there is always a way out."
He reached out slowly with his hand but he didn't take the crystal. He closed her hand and pushed it back. "Keep it. It's your memento, not mine."
"Keep it," he insisted. "I have my own." He reached into his shirt and pulled out the crystal he wore.
It was smaller than hers, able to fit on a necklace. It was green that shined in the light. And it was clear to her that he treasured it. He was right. He had his own mementoe, perhaps more than her. "As you wish." The crystal disappeared back into the folds of her robe.
"Details, Naruto," Shukaku insisted. "I want details."
"Would you give me a moment?" the blonde asked. "I'm getting there."
"Not fast enough."
"Hush up already, Shukaku," Matatabi told the tanuki.
"It must've been brutal, your initiation," Naruto said to the female krogan.
"It was," she agreed with a nod. "But an illuminating one. You learn to appreciate the light by living in the dark."
"Naruto, if done with questions, please leave?" Mordin asked, taking the moment to look back at him. "Really must continue work."
"Alright, Mordin, I'll head out. It was nice talking to you, Mito," he told her.
"It's my pleasure, Commander," she said back, holding out her hand. He took it and they shook. She had a tight grip, but she didn't try to crush his hand. "I've only met a few humans in my time. I'm glad for the opportunity."
As he walked back to the hatch, he stopped and looked at the salarian. He had a question on his mind. "Mordin, can I ask you something?"
The doctor looked back at him. "Can this wait? Much too busy?"
"Not really. Best to get it over and done with now."
"Go talk to him," Tsunade said. "We can handle this." She and Shizune hadn't stopped working through the information.
He turned away and walked over to the other side. "Question?" he asked Naruto.
"Yeah," he said, joining the salarian. He lowered his voice somewhat so they could have some privacy. "You've never really changed your belief on the genophage, have you? Why help out Mito?"
"Correct in assuming belief never changed. Genophage proper decision at time. New circumstances necessitate course correction."
"And that would be…?"
"Reaper invasion. Turians doomed without krogan support. Krogan need unified threat, outlet for aggression. Cooperative symbiosis."
"And that's all there is to it?" the human asked the salarian. He had a little difficulty believing that was it for Mordin, not after everything he had seen and all they've talked about regarding the genophage.
Mordin looked over at Mito. She was sitting on the medical table again, waiting patiently. There was a tiredness in his eyes, something that had been hidden until now. "Getting old, Naruto. Not too many years left. But still best candidate for project. Few salarian scientists interested in genophage. None with my expertise. Had to be me."
"Someone else would've mucked it up, huh?"
"Possibly," he admitted freely. "Stakes too high for inexperience. But not about them."
"What's it about then?"
"My work," Mordin told him. "My job to put it right. To prove I can."
Naruto was glad to hear that. He glanced over at Tsunade and Shizune. They were still working, completely focused on the task. "So it's a good thing we saved Maelon's data, huh?"
"Indeed. Would be much harder to treat Mito without it. Maybe impossible."
"And what we saw in his lab on Tuchanka?" He had seen his clone's memories of that place. It was sickening, just like what he had seen during his last war. There were some places back then he wished he had never gone into.
Mordin had the same opinion, somewhat. "Menstruous. Repulsive. But now with purpose. Victims didn't die for nothing."
"And so the means justify the ends?"
"Not my means."
"What do you think about other scientists? Do you think they'll see what you're doing and taking it as encouragement to do the same?"
The salarian scoffed at that idea. "Encouragement irrelevant. Will always be scientists willing to preform unethical tests. Can't change that. But can help Mito. Can cure genophage. Can give her chakra. Won't ignore data vital to her survival because of unethical origins."
So he would stand by what he believed in. Naruto was glad to hear that. But it did give him another question. One that involved Mito. "Is she okay?" he asked, looking at her.
Mordin glanced at her briefly. "No current fever. Heart rate elevated, likely stress. Eating appropriately. Could use another blanket. Something soft. Prefer to let her recover fully before fully synthesizing cure. My medical recommendation."
If Naruto hadn't known the salarian, he probably would've been surprised by what he heard. "You care about her," he said. It wasn't an accusation, just a statement of fact.
"My patient. My responsibility. Found her at STG base. Three doctors injured trying to restrain her. Undid arm restraints. Didn't resist when she grabbed me. Promised to help her." He stopped for a moment, thinking about something. "She said 'Please.'" The way he said that last word just proved how much of a friend she had become to him.
"Have you figured out why she was immune?"
"Genophage target hormone production during pregnancy. Modification project used same modality. Her 'immunity,'" he said, using air quotes, "totally different. Targeted glands now obsolete, like human appendix. Other glands mutated to produce proper hormones, enable viable birth. Also explains her weakness. Gland substitution imperfect. Health trouble."
"And you can use that to help all the krogan."
He nodded, excitedly so. "Yes. Will use Mito's tissue to produce mutagen, alter gland function across species. Must improve mutagen as well, tune hormone production. Long-term illness for all krogan otherwise."
"What happened to Maelon himself? Did you find out?"
"No. Ordered teams to search for him when trying to help Eve. Nothing so far. Large galaxy. Lots of places to hide. Could already be dead for all we know." He scowled slightly. "Would kill him now if possible. Unless he could help."
"Harsh but pragmatic," Saiken said approvingly.
Gyūki agreed. "He would do something like that. I'd bet money he'd shoot Maelon once the work was done."
"You don't have any money," Naruto reminded the Hachibi.
"That's beside the point."
That, they agreed on. "How are we going to get the cure to everyone on Tuchanka again?" he asked Mordin.
"Uh-huh, the Shroud." They both waited a moment before he asked the next and necessary question. "What is the Shroud?"
"Climate regulator. Counteracts radiation damage to Tuchanka's atmosphere from nuclear war. Particles emitted from main tower. Form layer that mitigates ultraviolent bombardment, prevents atmospheric escape of necessary elements."
"And the salarians built it?"
"Yes, when uplift process began. Demonstration of goodwill to krogan. Stabilized climate, impressed population. Combined with technological gifts, easy to gain krogan support against rachni."
"Of course it did." Bribery always worked, especially when the bribes were good and the people didn't have them. "So, what happens after we're done, Mordin?"
"Unsure of what you mean, Naruto."
He gestured at the ship, meaning everything in it and about it. "You going to stay aboard once we give the krogan the cure?"
Mordin thought it over. It didn't take him long to come to a conclusion. "Until Reapers dealt with, at least. Then…not sure. Have made impact on galaxy. Genophage modification, genophage cure, breaking chakra inhibitors, working against Collectors…decisions, mistakes." An idea came to him. "Might go somewhere sunny. Sit on beach, look at ocean, collect seashells."
"You? Retiring to a beach?" Naruto asked with a grin. "C'mon, Mordin, we both know you would lost your mind from the boredom"
That was true. "Might run test on the seashells."
"That, I'd believe."
Mordin smiled good-naturally at him. He looked at Mito, then at Tsunade and Shizune. "Greatest wish already fulfilled, thanks to you."
"Being able to study chakra?"
He nodded. "Wish to study more. But know won't be possible. Alliance stance on chakra study firm." He had done the best with what he could but until Naruto had come seeking his help, that didn't account for much.
Naruto felt for the salarian. Treating his inhibitors, trying to figure out how to make his chakra accessible again, he had seen the salarian truly happy about it. He wished there was something he could about it. As soon as he thought that, an idea popped into his mind. "Hey, Mordin. That Alliance stance, is that only on humans having chakra?"
"Yes. Would make sense since only humans have chakra." There was only the barest hint of sarcasm in his voice but to those who knew him, he might've as well be spilling it out in a flood.
The blonde grinned, knowing the sally for what it was. "Yeah, but you and I know that something different. Maybe the krogan will need help with their chakra."
He saw what he was saying. But he also saw a problem with that idea. "Alliance will be quick to help krogan with chakra control. After all, they are best authorities on it." As soon as they came in, they would brush him aside and not give him a second notice. It's what they did to every nonhuman scientist wanting to study chakra.
Naruto saw that and saw a way around it. "We're in the middle of a war. They probably won't get to Tuchanka fast. And I'm sure that we can talk something out when they do get there. After all, you helped cure the genophage. I'm sure concessions can be made."
"Possibly. But must return to work. Cannot cure genophage if not working on it. Also, must remember to thank Grunt for coming by. Blood most helpful." He walked back over to Tsunade and Shizune. Naruto left the med bay then.
It took him another two weeks, but Mordin was finally able to make enough headway on the cure to head back to Tuchanka. While he had been busy, the Normandy was doing the best it could to fight the war. Hackett was able to give them a few missions, mostly rescue or evacuation. No one complained, especially since they were helping people get away from the Reapers and to safety. Each time the Normandy took them to a safe location, the team and the crew felt good when they saw the looks of relief on the peoples' faces.
More than once the safest port they could take refuges was the Citadel. Each time they had landed there, Naruto had the crew help any way they could. They could have leave if they wanted to, but he had asked them to help too. The fact he didn't issue it as a command for them to follow and instead asked them made the crew do as he asked. They did have leave, but not after helping in the refugee camp. To make sure everyone worked and not overcrowd the place, they took it in shifts.
Naruto had always taken the time to visit Ashley in the hospital whenever they came to the Citadel. Each time he came by, she looked better than before. On his last visit, she was finally able to get out of the bed. She also told him that she had accepted Udina's offer. She would be the next human Spectre. She had also heard that her mother and her family were able to get off Earth when the Reapers struck, along with a good portion of the Uchiha clan. Those who stayed behind were either dead or fighting alongside Anderson. But she had also learned her sister's husband was killed in the fighting. It put a damper on the rest of the news, even the news that the Academy in Konoha had been evacuated and all the kids were safe, including Hanabi.
But now, the entire ship felt good now that Mordin had enough. As soon as he had passed the news onto Naruto, the shinobi immediately told Joker to fly to Tuchanka. An air of anticipation started to grow in the crew. The team too. Something was going to happen when they reached Tuchanka. They didn't know what. It was a like tingling sensation down their backs they couldn't get rid of. They just knew it would affect the war and the galaxy. They just hoped it be for the best.
As they reached the system, Naruto was already heading up to the cockpit when Joker came on the intercom. "All hands, full stop! Hostiles detected at the landing coordinates."
He quickened his pace and reached the cockpit shortly after the intercom went silent. "Joker, what's happening?" he asked the second he was through the hatch. The sight of Tuchanka filled the window but that wasn't important now.
His pilot looked back at him. "Sensors show a Reaper parked at the Shroud facility. No way you're going to be able to land a shuttle there."
"Great, a problem," he thought to himself.
"There had to be one, right?" Kurama asked rhetorically. They were back on speaking terms after that trip to the med bay.
He turned on his heel and walked out. "Have everyone in the War Room ASAP. And get me eyes on that Shroud!"
"Aye, aye, sir," Joker replied, his hands already working their magic on the screens.
Naruto walked into the War Room. The viewing map already had a scan of the planet and the Reaper. Everyone was there too, looking at the map from the railings or up close. Mordin looked at him as he came down the steps. "New type of Reaper, Naruto," he said. "Using Shroud to poison Tuchanka's atmosphere. Promblematic." The image of the Reaper didn't float in the air. It was on the ground with legs, big legs that made it look like some abnormal spider creature.
Wrex saw the Reaper and a different feeling about it. "They want a fight, they just got one!" he declared.
While that was good and all, they weren't going to be able to do it alone. "Victus, we're going to need your help," Naruto told the primarch.
Victus looked at him and then at the map. "That could be difficult," he said. "Our losses on Palaven have been catastrophic."
"We do this, Palaven gets the support it needs. This wasn't going to be easy. You know that."
He did know that. He knew it all too well. He had lost his son because he knew it. The shinobi was right. "What do you have in mind?"
"We all attack together." It was a good thing he was given a run through of how the map worked, otherwise he would've been completely lost and would've looked like a fool. "Your guys hit the Reaper from above with an airstrike. Wrex, your guys will hit it from the ground. With both forces, you'll be able to keep it distracted from the tower."
Mordin nodded in agreement. "Yes, distraction. Small team can reach Shroud facility, finish synthesizing cure. Will need Mito to come with us."
Naruto looked at everyone in the room, making sure that they were all paying attention. "This is going to be the first time for a lot of us to be facing a Reaper this close. Are we all good?"
Wrex snorted in derision. "There's even a doubt?" he asked. He walked around the table to the door. "Let's move, pyjak. It's time to cure the genophage." That was pretty much the mood of the room.
"Alright, everyone, grab your gear and get ready for the fight." They didn't say anything. They just nodded as they left the room.
"Commander, incoming message marked urgent," Samantha said over the intercom. "I'll put it in the comm room for you."
"Thanks, Sam." He walked around the map into the comm room. The hologram wasn't someone he was expecting. "Dalatrass?" His arms went behind his back. With a quick flick, his omni-tool came on. He quickly worked to turn on the recorder. He was glad to have learned how his fingers without looking at them.
She wasted no time. "Commander Uzumaki, we know you've reached Tuchanka. And, by now, I imagine Mordin Solus has proposed using the Shroud."
He nodded. "He has. Have you been spying on us?"
She scoffed. "Hardly. The Shroud is the only viable course of action open to you. Commander, you can't allow your misguided sympathy for the krogan to cloud your judgement. Do you honestly believe curing the genophage will end in lasting peace?"
"Yes. I believe that it can happen."
"What will happen is the krogan will reproduce out of control. We uplifted them specifically for their violent nature, not for their diplomatic skills. Another war is inevitable."
His blue eyes went flat. "Do I have to remind you that you robbed them of the chance to be more?"
She waved it off. "That's beside the point."
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Years ago, our operatives sabotaged the Shroud facility to ensure what you're planning couldn't be done. Mordin will likely detect this malfunction and repair it. But if you ensure that he doesn't, then the cure's viability will be altered just enough so that it fails. No one will notice the change."
"You want me to con the krogan." It wasn't a question. They both know that's what she wanted.
"They need not be any the wiser. Let Urdnot Wrex believe you fulfilled your promise."
"Mordin isn't going to like that."
She waved it off like it was nothing. "How you deal with him is up to you, Commander. We can provide you our very best scientists to build the Crucible…and the full support of our fleets."
"And all I would have to do is stop the cure from actually working."
"Think about it, Commander," she told him. "The choice is yours."
And that was all he needed to hear. "You're right, it is my choice," he told her, turning off his omni-tool. "And I'll have to say no."
She didn't look disappointed. "I thought you would say that. I had thought you would make the right decision. If you continue with this, you will not see a single salarian for your war effort."
He smiled. "Actually, I think I will. I'm sure they will be help greatly in fighting the war."
The dalatrass's eyes showed her doubt. She tried to hide it. "You cannot touch me, Commander, therefore you cannot threaten me. The might of the Salarian Union rests with me and only me."
"So you think."
Her eyes narrowed. "It does rest with me."
"Actually, it rests with the office of the dalatrass, not you."
"You would dare threaten me? After everything I've told you, you would threaten me?"
"Oh please, like you're actually shocked that I would do something like that." She should've been expected. Hell, he was willing to bet that she had expected it and was playing it up for whoever was with her. But he kept his smile on his face. "I didn't say anything about a threat. But I will say one thing: did you ever learn the most important thing about dealing with my people?"
It was clear she hadn't just by the look on her face. "What's that?"
"Fuck with a shinobi, expect payback." He gave her a cheerful little wave. "Goodbye, dalatrass. I expect this will be the last time we talk where you're in a position of power. I'll expect the might of the Salarian Union to join the fight soon." With one push of the button, the hologram vanished from sight.
He turned around and walked out the door. "You enjoyed that," Saiken said.
"Damn right I did." He had enough of that dalatrass long before this meeting.
"Good on you."
He smiled to himself. "Hey, Sam?" he called out as he walked around the War Room.
"Commander?" she said back through the intercom.
"Have Liara meet me in the conference room. I've got something to discuss with her."
Liara hadn't gone that far so it was easy for her to turn around and walk back. They met at the conference room door and went inside together. "What is it you need, Naruto?" she asked, curious.
He activated his omni-tool and sent over the recording. "Could you get that to our friends?" he asked. "I'm sure that's what they need to change things the right way."
She didn't look at the recording. She trusted him. "Of course. Will they be bringing their friends once everything is finalized?"
"That's the idea."
"Oh, something Samantha told me. It seems like the Akatsuki are trying to take advantage of the situation on Tuchanka."
He stifled a growl. For an organization that was supposed to be gutted and bleeding, it was sure taking them a long time to die. "What are they doing?"
"Trying to take over a military instillation."
"I believe it has to do with the massive artillery guns the instillation has."
"Enough to shoot down a ship in orbit."
"So, massive," Isobu said.
Naruto agreed with that. It also gave him an idea. "What about a Reaper?"
Liara saw where he was going with that question. "I'm sure that it could be of some benefit for us to have the artillery."
"You up for taking the mission?"
She nodded. "Of course."
"Pick your team, I'll have the rest help me with the krogan." She nodded again and they left the conference room.
Two shuttles left the Normandy. One headed for the military instillation while the other headed elsewhere. Naruto had kept EDI, Maya, and Javik for his team while Liara had James, Garrus, and Arerax. Wrex, Mordin, and Mito shared the shuttle with them.
"I've ordered the clans to assemble at the Hollows," Wrex explained to everyone. "It's our sacred meeting ground. We'll land there and take an armored convoy against the Reaper." There was an anticipating tone to his voice. They all heard it. He did too. "This will be the defining moment of krogan history."
Mordin had a different opinion on that. "Krogan history filled with defining moments. Most bloody. Hope this one better."
"Same here," Naruto agreed. "By the way, you guys should know something."
Both Wrex and Mito looked at him. "What is it, Commander?" she asked.
He opened his mouth and the shuttle shook. No one stumbled. They were all used to stuff like this. Naruto looked at Cortez. "What was that?" he demanded.
Wrex's com came to life with an angry-sounding voice. "Wrex, it's Wreav! The Reapers are already at the Hollows. Come out with guns blazing!"
"Guess that answers that question," the shinobi thought to himself, his hand going for the gun strapped to his flak jacket. He didn't pull it out just yet. The hand was there and it waited.
Cortez primed the shuttle's control. "Hang on tight!" he told everyone behind him. "We're heading in!"
That was Naruto's cue to look at everyone else and utter a single command. "Weapons free!" He pulled out the Beasts and had them at the ready. "It's time to play the game."
As the shuttle settled into a hovering position, they all turned to the hatch. It opened, revealing a husk standing just outside. It saw them and began screeching. Wrex blasted its head off with his shotgun. He jumped out and looked back. "Naruto, keep them away from the female!" he ordered. "I'll sort out what's happening with the other clans!"
"Oh, so you got the easy job?" Naruto asked sarcastically.
"Just get to it!" He ran around the building, to where the sounds of battle where the heaviest. He was out of sight fast.
"He does that quite often, doesn't?" Javik asked from behind Naruto.
"What gave it away?"
"He's a male," Mito said simply. "A krogan male."
He nodded in agreement. "Yeah, that'll do it."
"Perhaps we should get inside the Hollows?" EDI suggested. There would've been a sarcastic tone to her voice if she was human. "That will be where the most fighting will be."
"Must agree. Location critical," Mordin said. He looked at Naruto. "In retrospect, keeping Tsunade and Shizune around good idea."
"The work was done, they weren't needed," he replied. Both Tsunade and Shizune had been successful in giving Mito chakra, but they warned her not to use it until she got some proper training in. Their work was added to Mordin's cure in the hopes of making chakra accessible but his main focus was on curing the genophage. Naruto had said goodbye to them both and stopped the jutsu. They vanished in ashes and all that was left were dead bodies.
"Aware, but still…"
Mito rolled her eyes from her seat. "Can we get a move on?" she asked them. "We have places to be, after all."
Naruto agreed with that. "Come on," he told the others. "We've got a fight to get to." They all came off the shuttle. "Stay close, stay safe," he said to Mito.
"I'll be fine," she told him. Considering how she handled herself on Sur'Kesh, he was willing to believe her.
It was a short move from the shuttle to the door, one that was unhindered by Reaper forces. Once they were inside, they saw the scope of the battle. The krogan were scattered through the arena-like room. The husks were swarming them, forcing them away from one another. They were putting up a fight but it wasn't enough.
"Time to get to work," Maya said, bring her rifle to bear.
Javik wasn't so inclined to move his gun. "There are too many of them. It would be better if we cut our losses and move on," he told them all.
"No," both Mito and Naruto said at the same time.
He gave them both a look of exasperation. "We would save more lives if we did." Why they couldn't see that?
"We're here to save these lives," Mito told him sternly. "My people." Despite her instructions, she was severely tempted to use her chakra to kill him.
"You should know by now that we're not leaving, Javik," Naruto told him before he could finish.
He frowned. It was quite the look with all four of his eyes. "It is not the right move."
"I don't care." Quite frankly, he was annoyed the Prothean would try and do this. It wasn't his call.
"So, should we get in there?" Maya asked.
"Wait." He pulled out the scroll. One quick flourish and it was opened. The last two White Zetsus appeared in front of them.
"What are you doing?"
"Wait." He released the right vials of blood, pouring a little into each hand.
Mordin recognized the motions. "Bringing them back?" he asked.
"Nope. Different people." He flashed through the seals and clapped his hands together. "Kuchiyose: Edo Tensei!"
Javik was surprised as he watched the two creatures get covered in ash and paper. But mostly he was curious as to why it was happening. When the transformation was done, two humans stood in front of him. They looked remarkably similar, wearing the same kind of green outfit and having the same kind of hairstyle. He did wonder why any human would shape their hair into a bowl though.
The elder of the two found their summoner first but it was the younger who spoke. "Naruto, is that you?"
"Hey, Lee, Guy," Naruto said to them both. "No time to explain." He put his thumb to their foreheads, giving them the information they needed. When he was done, he pulled the thumbs away and pointed at the fight. "See the zombies?"
"We do see them," Might Guy said, assessing the battlefield. "They looked to be a fearsome enemy."
"Especially in numbers. Help us take them out, would ya?"
"Of course. Come, Lee. We must show them the power of our youth!"
"Yes, Guy-sensei!" Rock Lee said with a salute. Together they charged right into the fray.
In spite of the situation, Naruto took a moment to watch them charge. "Damn, I missed them," he thought to himself.
"Now's not the time to be reminiscing," Son rebuked him. "Battle, remember?"
"I know. I know."
"Wow," Maya said, staring at the two undead shinobi tearing through the Reaper creatures. She looked over at Naruto. "They were really like that?" she couldn't help but ask him.
"You mean how they fight or how they act?"
"Nah, that's just them warming up. You should see them when they really get going." When he saw the stricken look on her face, he added in one more part. "And when they're fighting too."
"Battle!" the Yonbi practically shouted into his ear.
"I'm going." He brought the Beasts up to bear. "Alright people, pick your targets, watch your backs, and make sure that Mito stays alive."
Maya noticed that the krogan in question already had a weapon in hand. "She's got a shotgun," she told Naruto. "I think she's good."
"Even so, she's important. Let's keep her alive." He strode forward, opening fire on a husk attacking a krogan at the steps' base. The Raiton bullets paralyzed its circuitry, locking it up in place, and the Fūton bullets tore through its body like it was made of wet paper. It fell to the ground dead easily. The krogan didn't bother to thank him for the support. It was too busy running back into the fight with a challenging roar.
But it got the attention of the Reaper forces in the room. As soon as their eyes found him, a unified shriek erupted from their mouths, all directed at him. "I don't think they like you," Shukaku said.
"I don't think like the two undead shinobi kicking their asses off either," Chōmei remarked, watching Guy and Lee fight. Their momentum had slowed a little since the husks were trying to swarm with numbers, but they still kept fighting.
"I believe it would be safe to say you have their attention, Commander," EDI told him.
"Man, she's getting good with the sarcasm," Saiken remarked.
"Uh, I don't think she was being sarcastic," Matatabi said.
"I can see that, EDI," he replied, shooting down a husk that tried to rush him. It collapsed against the ground in a rather pathetic way. "Perhaps we should do something about it?"
Maya was tracking a marauder with her rifle. "Already on it," she said. She fired once and the husk went down.
"Naruto," Wrex shouted into the comm, "it's a ugly over here! Whatever you do, keep them away from the female!"
"You know, she has a name, Wrex," he commented in spite of the situation at hand. Javik flared his green biotics and blasted a group of husks back to the wall. Most of them were kill but a few got back to their feet and came running again.
"Yeah, but I don't know what it is!"
"Hmm, good point." He glanced back at Mito. "You know, you might want to tell him at some point, just saying."
"Commander, please focus on the fight," she told him. "There's a husk about to jump you."
He looked back forward and a face full of husk. He headbutted the creature on instinct. It stumbled back and allowed him to kick it hard in the face. This time, it went to the ground and stayed there. He found another husk chasing a krogan and made it dance with a round of bullets. When it finally looked to see who was shooting, he put a bullet through its forehead.
"Naruto, more of them are coming in!" Guy shouted from the far left. He and Lee had split up to cover more ground.
"Keep them back!"
"We will do what we can!"
Maya alternated between using her scope and not. It all depended on how far away the target was. Their group had moved away from the stairs and more towards the center. It was chaos all around them. "Does this remind anyone of Palaven?" she asked.
"The fighting is more controlled," EDI replied. She and Mordin had taken on the job of protecting Mito. They were doing good. No husk ever got within a foot of them.
"And we're not moving," Naruto added while he broke a husk's neck with one strike from the Beast's handle.
"It's still rough," Maya said. A husk got too close to her. She pushed it back with her rifle and opened fire, killing it quickly.
Javik scoffed at her words. "If fighting was gentle, what would be the point of them?" he asked her. She didn't have an answer for that one. They both knew he had a point.
"Commander, more are coming from the doorways," EDI told Naruto.
He saw it. But it looked like it was more on one side than the other. Gunfire erupted from the side where the less enemies were coming out. They died out when krogan came rushing out of the entrance. Grunt was in the lead. "Look at this, a party!" he shouted.
Mito rolled her eyes. She wasn't surprised by that. "Typical."
Naruto went with a different approach. "Grunt!" he shouted.
It got the krogan's attention. "Hey, Sensei! Good to see you in the fight!"
"Nice to see you too. That Arelakh Company with you?"
"New and improved!"
"Circle them around the edges and cut off the husks!" He pointed at the entrances where the husks were still flowing in through.
Grunt showed off his leadership skills. He didn't go right into the charge. Instead, he directed his men down different sides of the edges and then led one group himself. He led around to Lee. "Hey, human, out of the way!" he shouted
Lee barely had time to get out of the way before the krogan commandoes started shooting. He watched them tear through the husks for a moment. "Such wonderful displays of youth!" he cried with burning eyes of passion. "How youthful you are all! I must display my own youthfulness!" He ran back into the fray with redoubled efforts.
It worked, very much so. Even the commandoes stopped and watched him tear through the husks. Guy paused and looked at the fight. If he wasn't in battle himself, he would've given a thumb's up. "That's my student! Go, Lee! Show them your youth!"
Grunt shook himself out of that stunned stupor. "Don't just stand there, you pyaks!" he shouted at his commandoes. "We're not going to let some human upstart us!" They all roared in agreement and charged right back, catching up to the undead shinobi.
"That's not just any human," Naruto thought as he kicked the legs out from under a husk and shot it.
"They don't know that," Kurama reminded him.
"They're going to." They were going to just by watching him in action.
Javik killed his targets with expert precision, wasting no bullets when he didn't have to. He also noticed something about the battle. It was beginning to slow down. That meant only one thing: they were winning. Now wasn't the time to lose their edge. "Commander, on your right," he warned the human.
"I see him," Naruto replied. "You've got one coming on your left."
"I have him." He was lining up the shot.
The blonde noticed that both husks were running at full speed. Each second they got closer, they were getting ready to pounce. "Hey, Javik. Duck on three, would ya?"
That was surprising to hear. "Why?" he asked.
"Just do it. 1…2…"
"Commander, please, just explain—"
"3!" He hit the ground. The Prothean followed his example on pure instinct. The husks were already in the air and crashed into each other. They fell to the ground in a jumbled mess.
Naruto stood back up and shot them full of holes. "That was fun," he silently declared.
Javik looked at the bodies and then at him. His gaze was rather disapproving. "Commander, a battle should not be the place for playing around."
"I'm aware of that."
"Then why did you let this happen?" he asked, waving at the dead bodies.
"It was just too good an opportunity to pass up." A grin came onto his face as he spoke. He couldn't help it.
Javik had no words for that, only a more disapproving expression. He turned back to the fight and ignore the blonde. Naruto went back to work as well, ducking under a husk's wild swing and kicking its leg in. The snap echoed in his ears, as did the bullet that followed.
"Marauder on the high ground," Shukaku informed him. "Directly ahead."
"I see him." He brought the Beasts to bear but the creature was taken care of by one strong kick from Guy. "No need to worry about that then."
"I think Grunt and Lee are competing with each other," Isobu announced.
"Take a look."
He did and so did the rest of the Bijū. Grunt and Lee were actually competing as they fought. He could see it in how they were smiling and kept an eye on the other. Each time one got a little further ahead, the other did his best to catch up. Naruto watched for another second just to make sure that he was seeing it right. Finally, his thoughts came back into working function. "For the love of Kami."
"And you're surprised, why?" Kurama asked. "You know Lee and we're talking about Grunt here. You had to have figured that this was going to happen."
Maybe he should've but it hadn't been a pressing issue at the time. He had been concerned about the battle they were in. "Grunt! Lee! End the fight, don't use it to compete!" he shouted at the both of them.
Lee looked back at him quickly, looking apologetic. "I apologize, Naruto! But this krogan is a skilled fighter. I only wish to test myself against him!"
Grunt was less apologetic. "I wanted to see where this went, Naruto!"
"Just finish the fight!" He swung his head to the other side of the room. "Guy, how are you doing?"
"I am doing well, Naruto!" he said. "Your krogan friends are most ferocious in a fight!" He roundhouse-kicked a husk into the arms of a krogan. It was torn apart all too easily.
The tide of the battle had definitely turned by now. The flow of husks and other creatures made by the Reapers coming inside had vanished and the few that remained inside were outnumbered by a large amount. By the time the last one died, it was alone and surrounded by a lot of angry krogan.
"Now that," Grunt declared when the fighting was done, "was a good battle!" Arelakh Company and the rest of the krogan roared their agreement.
Lee and Guy made their way over to Naruto and his team. Lee reached him first. "It is so good to see you again, Naruto!" he exclaimed, looking like it was two seconds away from outright hugging him. "I could not believe it when Lady Tsunade told us you had the Edo Tensei, but it's clear you do."
Naruto was surprised. "You talked with Tsunade?"
"Of course we did, and Shibi too," Guy told him. "You should know, Naruto, that Shino is not happy with you at the moment." Those words made the blonde's spine shiver.
One of the doors opened and Wrex strode in with a few krogan at his back. His armor was splattered with blood but he was grinning manically. "They'll sing battle-songs about this someday," he declared.
"Had a good fight?" Naruto called out to him.
"Just like you!" He started down the stairs, putting a little swagger in his steps. All the eyes in the Hollows were on him and he knew it. "Reaper blood has finally soaked our soil!" They roared in their agreement.
"Should get moving," Mordin said quietly. "Time of essence."
He was right. Naruto went over to Wrex as he came off the stairs. "We should get moving," he said. Grunt joined them. "That airstrike is coming in."
Wrex nodded. He opened his mouth but another krogan spoke. "What's a salarian doing here?" the krogan demanded, marching up to them with a group of his own. "Nobody said anything about this!"
"Multiple krogan," Mordin remarked, taking them all in. "Problematic."
That was a good understatement. Naruto eyed the lead krogan. "And you would be who?" he asked, keeping the Beasts in his hands.
He sneered at the human. "Urdnot Wreav, brood brother to our illustrious leader," he said, making it clear how he felt about Wrex.
Wrex felt the same way about him. "Wreav and I share the same mother. And nothing else."
"For which I'm thankful for. I remember what it means to be a true krogan. We flay our enemies alive and drown them in a geyser of their own blood."
"That's an image I didn't need," Naruto thought to himself.
He glared at Mordin. "We don't invite them into our home."
The shinobi stepped in at that. "He's here to help, not hurt you. He can cure the genophage."
Wreav stepped in close, getting in his face. "His kind gave us the genophage! Why should we trust him?" he demanded.
Grunt pulled away from Naruto, right into Wrex's path. He headbutted his brother down into the ground. The krogan all around them growled at the action. He ignored them. "Because I do," he said. "And so will you, Wreav." Wreav started to growl at him and his party growled with him. Grunt stood by Wrex's side and growled back, making the rest of the krogan growl too. The tensions in the air threatened to boil over.
"ENOUGH!" Mito thundered. All growling and movement stopped at her voice. All the krogan looked at her, standing in the center of the Hollows. She strode forward, getting between the two groups. She looked at them both with disapproving eyes. "You can stay here and let old wounds fester as krogan have always done," she told them all, "or you can fight the enemy you were born to destroy—and win a new future for our children. I choose to fight." She looked at them all. They stared with rapt attention. "Who will join me?"
Naruto stepped forward. "I'm in," he said with a voice that echoed through the Hollows.
"I'm will follow," Grunt declared.
"And so will I," Wrex said. He pushed past all the krogan to stand with Mito. "Now hold your heads high like true krogan!" He pointed out the nearest door. "There's a Reaper that needs killing!" The silent challenged laid over their heads, the challenge of being able to kill a Reaper.
But it was more than that. It was also the challenge of proving themselves to the galaxy. They found themselves eager for it. Grunt was the one who summed up what they were feeling. "What the fuck are we standing around here for!?"
All the krogan roared in agreement. As one, they came rushing out of the Hollows, ready for the fight. Naruto's team were carried out by the flow. "Things seem to be looking up," Maya said, trying to ensure she didn't run over by the surrounding krogan.
"I hope Liara's team is doing the same," Naruto said back. Hopefully, they wouldn't have too much trouble at that installation.
Codex Entry (Humanity and the Systems Alliance): VEÐR CLAN
The Veðr clan claimed they came into possession of the Goat Contract because the founding ancestor was the servant of Thor. The clan had always been native to what is now known as Gotaland. They initially sided with Sigurd Snake-Eye in the campaign against Ivar the Halfman. After the death of Sigurd, they would serve Ivar and all his successors with the utmost in loyalty, until the Midgardian Unification Wars cemented their loyalty to the High Jarl above all else.
The clan fell on hard times after the Unraikyō Massacre and would continue to be shamed for generations over the incident. The clan head at the time, forever known afterwards by his title "Bloodhand," chose to hide the fact that the force he led had slain children who weren't even old enough to become full warriors yet. Although initially hailed as heroes for what they did, the truth was revealed during Sakura's Rampage. Instead of going out to face her, Bloodhand and his clan would flee Midgard instead, further sullying their name as they refused to face her.
As they took the Goat Contract with them, High Jarl Albrecht was never able to fully punish the clan for the consequences of their actions, especially considering how his son was almost killed for their refusal to accept responsibility for the fallout. Due to their apparent cowardice throughout Sakura's Rampage, he exiled them from Midgard. He went a step further and exiled every family who had a member on the force at Unraikyō. They became the Disgraced.
After the Alliance took to the stars, the Disgraced followed in their own ships. Their colonies are unknown to the Citadel and the Alliance. What is known however, is that the first colony they established is where the capital and where the Veðr established itself. Many Veðr clansmen will say that they are ashamed for their ancestors' cowardice, that they've been cursed the day Bloodhand became clan head, and that redemption is impossible.
Author's note: Thank you for all the reviews you've sent me.
It was about time Naruto had that talk with Tsunade, don't you think? It wasn't like he could avoid it for the rest of the war. That would've been tiresome and would've dried up quick too.
Some readers had suggested that Mito's chisel be a chakra crystal. While an interesting idea, I didn't go with it for a simple reason: right now, there's no chakra on Tuchanka. How can there be chakra crystals where there's no chakra?
Might Guy and Rock Lee on Tuchanka. That's going to be something the krogan are going to remember for the rest of their lives. And that's why Naruto summoned them, out of all the people he could summon. With the krogan the way they are now, brute strength gets the point across the best. And none have like the two Green Beasts of Konoha.
I'll see you all next chapter!