Nell grabbed a fistful of her shirt and twisted it to-and-fro restlessly, shifting her weight from one foot to the other as she deliberated over the thoughts roiling in her head. Her gaze, laden with anxiety, followed her brother as he laughed and swung the scabbard of his new sword over his shoulder, joking with Naruto and pantomiming the events of the battle with exaggerated swagger.

She watched as Eve was roused, her wound tended to, and then regaled with tales of how Pell fended off the bandits - straight from the horse's mouth. She watched Eve smiling along, clapping her hands, and even giving the boy a hug as he finished his story, causing him to blush and stammer.

It was only when Naruto beckoned her over after looking around and seeing her still standing at the edge of the clearing, did Nell force her body into motion and jogged over to join the rest of the group.

She forced a smile onto her face and did her best to move naturally, but couldn't help but feel like her body's movements were stiff and robotic, like she was a puppeteer pulling on strings to make each motion happen.

"You didn't get hurt, did you, Nell?" asked Eve kindly, and Nell did her best impression of her normal cheerful chirp in response.

"Not badly," she said, her sandy hair flicking as she shook her head, "Only a couple of light cuts and bruises… and I think I got hit in the side pretty hard."

She slightly parted the hem of her shirt and the waistband of her pants to show off a rapidly darkening bruise on her right hip. The other three immediately grimaced and made sympathetic noises.

"That looks like it hurts," said Naruto, shaking his head.

Eve reached out and lightly traced the edges of the bruise with a featherlight touch, but even that slight contact made Nell wince.

"N-N-Naruto," Eve said as she turned to him, "Do you have those salves we bought a couple of weeks ago at that village?"

As the blond produced the little jar of liquid from whichever magical pocket he kept it in, Eve stroked Nell's hand comfortingly.

"Don't worry, dear, I'll put some medicine on it tonight after your bath. It'll heal up in no time," she said with a tender smile.

Nell replied with what she hoped was an answering smile - and she was grateful, but at the moment her emotions and thoughts were on a completely different slant altogether.

She quickly changed the subject.

"How about you?" she asked Eve, "Head injuries are serious - and you were bleeding a lot!"

"Oh, I'm fine - I think it looks worse than it is. I've got a bit of ringing-"

As Eve talked, Nell felt Pell's hand creep in and grasp hers with a comforting squeeze. After a moment, she squeezed back in response.

"You okay?" her twin whispered out of the corner of his mouth.

Trust Pell to know when something was wrong with her.

"I'm fine," she replied back in the same fashion, "Don't worry about it."

"You don't seem fine," her brother shot back, "I know when you're upset about something."

"I'm not-" Nell started to say, only to see Naruto's head swivel over to focus on the two.

She'd forgotten how sharp his hearing was.

"Something wrong, Nell?" he asked, tilting his head.

Eve, having missed the byplay but being shrewd enough to pick up that something out-of-place was going on, also stopped talking and now focused her attention on Nell.

Nell felt tears start to well up in the corner of her eyes as the combined attention caused the pressure to mount in her tumultuous mind. She dropped her gaze to the ground, unable to bear the weight of everyone's questioning looks, and grasped the fabric of her shirt so tightly she could almost hear the fibres straining. Distantly, she realised her magic was subconsciously causing her hair to rise into the air, an electric whisper caressing her nape and crackling its displeasure to the world.

"Nell…" said Pell, gently.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Nell summoned up the courage to lift her head and meet his concerned gaze. She raised her hand, still holding his, and grasped it tightly with her other one.

"Pell," she said, her eyes shining with unshed tears, "How did you do it?"

A confused look overtook Pell's face, and he couldn't help but glance aside at Naruto for support, only to see a similar expression that showed his guardian was in the same boat as he.

"Do… what?" he asked slowly.

Nell sniffed, and tossed her head vaguely at the campsite at large.

"You killed someone, Pell… that man over there, you stabbed him in the head," she said, her voice tearful despite no tears yet falling from her eyes.

"" asked Pell, still confused, "He was a bandit - he was going to kill us first. So what if I killed him? The world's better off without him around to hurt people. I wasn't wrong to kill him, right? Should I be feeling bad?"

He directed the end of his words uncertainly towards the adults, who both shrugged and nodded supportively. Neither of them were strangers to killing, and indeed both had been intimately familiar with it from a very young age, even younger than he.

"It was your first kill, right?" asked Nell.

"Uh, yeah… you know that, we've been together for everything."

"How did you do it, so easily?"

"W-well, we've all got to start from somewhere, right? I'm going to be a knight, a soldier… I always knew I was going to be taking lives. Is there something wrong, Nell? What did I do? I'm sorry!"

"No!" Nell exclaimed as her brother started to panic, "It's nothing you did… it's me."

She gripped his hand hard with both of hers, and squeezed her eyes shut.

"I meant… how did you do it so easily, when I couldn't? I had that bandit in the right spot, I could see the chance to end the fight, and… and I couldn't do it! My mouth wouldn't form an incantation, I couldn't gather the mana! I had the perfect opportunity, and I froze up!"

Nell's eyes slowly opened and finally the tears were allowed to stream down her face, her expression contorted into a rictus of self-inflicted torture.

"Why couldn't I do it? I've always wanted to be a mage, I knew I would be killing people as well! I'm just as prepared as you! I'm not weaker than you! If you could do it, so can I! We-we're twins! We've done everything together! So how come… how come you did it so easily, but I can't even imagine myself doing it in my head?!"

Nell choked the words out with a sob, her emotions finally spilling out in an unstructured avalanche of insecurity. As the vulnerability tumbled out of her as unstoppably as the tide, her gaze slowly fell until she was once again looking at the ground as self-hatred and misery filled her heart anew.

She knew it didn't make logical sense and she knew she shouldn't be putting it all on her brother's shoulders, but the frustration and sinking feeling of inadequacy gnawing at her stomach wouldn't let her go. It ate at her, poisoning her mind with its insidious whispers, slowly eroding the safe pillars of the universe upon which she based her world.

There was a brief but pregnant pause before Nell felt strong, dependable arms wrap her up from behind in a familiar embrace.

"Oh Nell," said Naruto, his voice pitched comfortingly low, "It's okay, it's okay…"

Nell turned to bury her face into his shoulder, her hands moving to grab on tightly to his shirt instead.

"Naruto," she wept, "I don't want to be weak, I don't."

Naruto reassuringly patted the back of her head as he spoke to her in consoling tones.

"Hey, hey, you're not weak," he said, pressing the back of her head against him, "Look… you're not weak, you know you're not. Everyone here knows you're not weak, we've seen you train, we've sparred against you!"


"But nothing! Killing people isn't something everyone can do easily. Everyone reacts differently to it, and there's nothing wrong with that."

"...Pell could do it!"

"Pell's not you. And you're not Pell. And I know you're twins, and really similar in a lot of ways, but not every way! Look, you're really good with your studies, and he… well, he isn't. Sorry Pell."

Naruto directed an apologetic look at the male twin, who shrugged with an amenable expression.

"Ah well, it's true," agreed Pell matter-of-factly.

"The point is, Pell has his strengths, and Pell has his weaknesses," stressed Naruto gently, "And so do you. You're a smart girl, you're quick to learn new things, you're sweet and kind and you pack a mean punch when you're upset. You should be proud of all of these things! You guys are so special and I love you two so much - but in different ways. I love you both as Nell, and as Pell, not as 'the twins'. You have so many great qualities that make you unique and special. Be proud of them, don't go chasing after the ones that you don't have. Be yourself."

Nell choked back a sob and peeled her face off his chest to stare up at her guardian with tearful eyes, to which he responded by smiling sincerely and ruffling her hair with his hand, something which she pouted at half-heartedly.

"Thanks…" Nell said softly, "Sorry, I've made a scene."

"Don't be," grinned Naruto, some of his usual cheer making it back into his voice once it was clear Nell was starting to get out of her funk, "Gives me a chance to practise my 'good parenting' skills that I spent all that time reading up on. I should be thanking you for the chance to feel useful again. Sometimes you kids scare me with how well-behaved and easy to teach you are."

Nell gave a wan smile and playfully punched him in the side, which Naruto accordingly clutched at in mock-pain.

But as a thought hit her, her smile soon faded.

"Naruto?" she said, "I couldn't kill that bandit… I froze up. If you didn't come when you did…"

Nell shivered as the comforting hand around her back tensed suddenly and something sharp and cold seemed to snap through the air. The expression on her guardian's usually warm and open face froze and something ugly and unfamiliar seemed to inhabit his eyes.

"Yes," Naruto said, and Nell got the chilling impression that he was directing the words above her rather than at her, "That was… a mistake on my part. It won't happen again. I've gotten lax. I thought I would always be close enough, that I would always be fast enough…"

"No!" interrupted Nell, unnerved by the foreign sound of the cold resolve in his voice, "That's not what I was saying! It wasn't your fault, and what you taught us is what kept us alive! I'm just saying I need to… to overcome this, because if I don't…"

Naruto blinked down at her and his face softened again, although Nell could still see traces of hardness in his jaw and gaze.

"We'll work something out," said Naruto, "Leave it to me. Trust me."

He gave her a smile, and Nell looked away embarrassedly at the palpable sincerity in his voice.

"Okay," she whispered.

He conjured a scrap of a chakra-weave to wipe Nell's cheeks of any remaining tears, and then turned to Eve, who was watching nearby with an unreadable expression on her face.

"Can you please help get her cleaned up? And after all the… ah… excitement it seems like we've forgotten about lunch. Could you…?"

"I'm sure I can whip something up. Come on, dearie."

Nell took Eve's proffered hand and slowly, unsteadily, made her away across to the side of the clearing where the supplies were.

As the two began to gather various ingredients and items from their packs, Nell snuck a look at Eve, who seemed oddly focused on the task at hand.

"Miss Eve?" she asked tentatively.

"Mm? Yes, Nell, what is it?"

"W-what did you think about… about before?"

Eve's hands slowed as she sorted through little jars of spices with deliberate care, and Nell rather thought she seemed quite lost in thought.

"I…" she answered finally, "I think getting over your hesitation with killing is important. In this world, like you said, if you hesitate with the final blow, it may very well mean the end."

"Have you killed before?"

There was another pause, before Eve replied, still not looking at Nell.

"...yes," she said, not elaborating more.

Nell got the hint, and silently continued to assist the older woman, holding up a basket that Eve slowly filled with utensils, cookware, and ingredients.

The girl's thoughts swirled, adding the new morsel of information about the mysterious woman into the repository in her brain.

"Fancy seeing you two here," said Naruto, raising a hand in greeting.

Lamb, perched on a nearby boulder, silently inclined her masked face, one hand holding onto her bone-white bow. At the base of the rock, Wolf cavorted with undisguised glee, his chops stained red with glistening liquid.

"Human!" he growled happily, "What a fine hunt! The young pup has finally gotten his fangs wet!"

Naruto smirked and patted the excited Wolf.

"Yes, he did well. I'm glad you're happy."

"More hunts! More blood! More!" barked Wolf, before streaking away into the forest.

", he's full of beans today," remarked Naruto off-handedly to Lamb.

"Good hunts always make dear Wolf hungry for more," said Lamb sombrely, "Whips him into a blood frenzy. He's off to the icy north. There's some slaughter or some such going on there. As there often is, I suppose."

"You're not going with him?"

"We are Kindred. We are always together."

"Oh, okay. You alright, Lamb? You seem… kinda flat today," asked Naruto, looking concerned.

Lamb rose from her squatting position to her full height, her eyes glowing an ominous silver.

"I hunt," she said simply, "My duties demand a certain dignity."

"Ah," said Naruto in understanding, "Sometimes I forget that you're actually Death. You're just too cute most of the time."

Lamb said nothing, but Naruto swore he saw her head twitch as if she was holding back a retort.

Holding back a quick of his lips, he made a motion with his hand, causing five motionless bodies to be lifted up by a tendril of black chakra - the surviving bandits, all unconscious.

"Guess you would have known I was taking care of business here," he said, his tone casual but with a cast of joyless humour.

Grimly, he curled his fingers, and the tendrils accordingly extended to wrap tightly around the bandit's necks.

Out of the corner of his eye, he saw Lamb raise her bow, a single brightly shining arrow nocked.

"To those who do not, or cannot fight Death, I hunt you. Take my arrow and be released from this mortal coil," she intoned, her voice vibrating with deep brassy tones.

She drew her arrow back and the glow of her eyeholes intensified, shining with an eerie silver-grey not-light. The 'arrow', more of a shard of solid energy than a defined arrow with a head or fletching, seemed to glint dangerously, begging to be loosed and find its mark.

Lamb leaned forward, her mask tilting as she prepared to fulfil her calling.

Her arrow shivered in anticipation on the mystical bow, just waiting for the moment where the bandits' lives were snuffed out.

It would be swift and painless - a simple wave of the executioner's hand would snap their necks or decapitate them fully.

A single moment, an ignoble end to lives lived out - where choices made and circumstances handled led to five existences winking out like so many candle flames.

Any moment now…

Any moment…


"What are you waiting for?" snapped Lamb irritably, lowering her bow as she turned to stare at Naruto, the glow in her eyeholes extinguishing.

"Oh!" said Naruto, "Sorry, I was just watching you. It was fascinating."

"Yes, yes," said Lamb, "I know, I know. Get on with it."

"Yes, ma'am," said Naruto, saluting dutifully.

He raised his hand, and the tendrils once again tightened.

The silver not-light burst into existence once more from behind Lamb's mask, and the arrow - which had dimmed during the short exchange - similarly blazed into prominence.

"The hunt resumes!" declared Lamb, drawing the arrow back again, "Fate sought to stay my bow, but Kindred takes all! Your reprieve was brief, now your end has come!"

She readied the arrow, and when the moment did not immediately come, she turned her head to glare meaningfully at Naruto, who nodded emphatically repeatedly.

He gave a light twist of his wrist, and the tendrils tightened with a hiss.

With a whoop, Lamb loosed her arrow which immediately split into five shining streaks, each headed straight for the hearts of the five bandits.

"Huh," said Naruto suddenly, relaxing his hand.

The black tendrils instantly retreated, causing the heads of the bandits to loll bonelessly against their chests.

Lamb's arrows, already en route to their targets, exploded mid-air into motes of glimmering powder, bathing the forest clearing in a brilliant symphony of light.

"What," growled Lamb, stomping over to Naruto, "...was... that?"

She grabbed him by the collar and yanked his face close to her mask, her eyes still burning with not-light.

"Are you messing with me again, human? I'm in no mood."

Naruto held his hands up in surrender.

"Sorry!" he squeaked out, "I was just curious what would happen if I… like… half-killed them? Do you like… half-hunt them or something? Do your arrows just go in a bit, or…"

"Consider your curiosity sated," ground out Lamb, "Now, if you please… my hunt."

"Yes, yes, sorry!" said Naruto, raising his hand for the third time.

Lamb stared at him suspiciously, before once again raising her bow, another arrow summoned into readiness.

"No funny business," she said, "Just do the thing."

"I know, it's just that I've never seen you do your part of it. I've seen Wolf do his hunting, and it's cool and-"

"Get on with it!"

"Yep, getting on with it!"

Naruto made to close his fist, but just as his fingers were closing into a ball, he saw - a fraction of a second too late - that the bandits were now stirring into wakefulness, having been jostled from unconsciousness by his earlier botched execution attempt.





"Can't… breathe…"

"Oh shit," said Naruto, hearing the bandits' shocked exclamations upon discovering their predicament of having chakra tendrils around their necks and being mere moments from being throttled to death.

He… did not manage to stop himself in time.

With a sickening crack, the tendrils whipped to the side, cleaning snapping the necks of the five bandits and killing them instantly.

Naruto was already turning apologetically to Lamb as he saw the arrow, once again split into five, disappear mere millimetres from their targets.

"Blood! A feast for the ages!" roared Wolf as he suddenly appeared in a black cloud, ripped off the heads of all five dead bandits in one fell bite, and then promptly jetted off again.

"Ah…" said Naruto, his hands up once again in supplication, "Lamb. Lamb, now… don't be hasty."

Lamb stood there, frozen in disbelief, her bow hanging limply from her grasp.

"Look, Lamb. C'mon, that was just unlucky. You know I didn't mean it!"

Naruto's pleading fell on deaf ears as Lamb started shaking with apoplectic rage. The mask turned towards him, the eyeholes no longer emitting that dread not-light but somehow coming across even more menacing due their hollow emptiness.

"NARUTO!" shrieked Lamb.


"Another grape?" asked Naruto dutifully, a bowlful of the freshly washed fruit at the ready.

"Oh very well," said Lamb imperiously, tilting her mask to the side and opening her mouth expectantly.

Naruto gave a mock sigh, plucked a grape from the bunch, and popped it into her mouth.

"Are you still mad?" he asked conversationally.

"Maaaybe…" stretched out Lamb as she enjoyed the sweet treat, "Down a bit please."

The last comment was directed at one of Naruto's clones who was standing behind the reclining Lamb, diligently rubbing her shoulders. Another clone sat by her feet giving her a hoof massage, and yet another clone was nearby oiling her bow.

Lamb sighed in pleasure as the shoulder-rubbing clone worked on a knot at the base of her neck.

"I could get used to this, human," she remarked.

The Naruto holding the grapes - the original - smiled mirthlessly.

"I'm pretty sure normally people pay good money for this," he said, sneaking a grape for himself.

"It's your own fault," Lamb shot back, "If you weren't so hell bent on playing the fool you wouldn't have landed yourself in this situation."

"How was I supposed to know they would wake up at that moment?" retorted Naruto indignantly, "I just got unlucky."

"You should have thought of that before you caused me to lose my hunt," answered Lamb smugly, adjusting her mask to fit a little more comfortably on her face.

The shoulder rubbing clone had moved up her neck, and was now skillfully massaging her scalp, his fingers buried past locks of freshly washed and scented white hair. Lamb gave another relaxed sigh, and shot a longing look at the miniature hot spring just metres away.

She knew she had already spent much of the afternoon soaking and relaxing within the personal heated pool that the human had created, but she felt inclined to make the most of the opportunity while she had it.

She bit her lip, then decided that she was just too comfortable at the moment to be bothered getting up. She held back a veritable moan as the clone massaging her hooves reached a particularly sensitive part of her ankle, and waved off the offer of another grape.

She settled down and let herself drift off into a haze of unfamiliar, but undeniably pleasant sensations. She closed her eyes, allowing her keen senses to expand outwards and fully experience what was going on - encompassing the satisfying feeling of fingers pressing into her muscles, the chattering gurgle of the bubbling spring, the muted sweet aroma of the multitude of flowering plants the human had conjured…

Life was… good.

"Oh very well," Lamb said, her voice soft and content, "I forgive you, human."

"Thank you, mistress. You are too kind," said Naruto sarcastically, before he continued in a more genuine tone, "Honestly, though, I don't mind doing this kind of thing every now and then. If you like… I can - I mean, not the bow-oiling and the grape-feeding… and I'm kind of out of my depth with the whole uh… hoof… massage… thing…"

Lamb smiled under her mask.

"That sounds wonderful, Naruto," she said warmly, "Maybe I'll take you up on that. Occasionally."

Naruto smiled back, and just as he reached for another grape, his hand froze for a second as he processed what Lamb had said. Had she ever used his name before in such a manner? Normally she stuck with the almost-pejorative 'human', which had, as their relationship had grown, similarly evolved into something akin to a term of endearment.

Naruto pondered the thought for a moment, then decided to just chalk it up to Lamb being completely mellowed out due to the entire afternoon of pampering he had subjected her to. He tossed another grape into his mouth, then sealed the rest back into the wind.

"Alright then," he announced, standing up and wiping his hands.

"Oh, is it over?" asked Lamb sleepily.

She made to push herself off the comfortable seat she had been reclining on (seriously, how did he make wood and moss so damn soft and springy?), but was surprised when the clone behind her put his hand on her shoulder, pushing her back down.

"Oh no, we've got one last thing on the menu," said the original Naruto.

"Mmm," hummed Lamb, pleasantly surprised, "What is it?"

"A proper full body massage to end everything! You asked for the full treatment, you're going to get it!"

Lamb quirked an eyebrow but gave a vague affirmation.

"Sure, sounds good," she said.

Naruto idly scratched his cheek with one hand as his other hand directed the wood composing the recliner to grow and level out, forming a flat bench-like structure. With another wave of his hand, the natural covering of moss and heather shivered and then bloomed anew, redoubling into a soft pillowy surface.

His fingers darted back and forth like the conductor of an orchestra - never sitting still as they conjured floating spheres of gently burning flame here and there to illuminate the gloom of the early evening, encouraged the growth of a careful selection of fragrant-smelling wildflowers, and summoned a warm current of air to ward away the growing chill.

His preparations complete, Naruto spun his wrist in a circle, causing Lamb to yelp in surprise as the recliner-turned-bench abruptly lifted up and twisted to roll her onto her front.

"You could have warned me," she said reproachfully as she made herself comfortable, although it lacked any real heat.

"Sorry, sorry," said Naruto with a cheeky grin.

Black energy knit itself together into a soft cloth which he plucked out of the air, but as he went to lay it over Lamb's prone body, he paused.

Given that Lamb didn't really wear clothes, would the cloth really be doing much? It wouldn't really be protecting her modesty, given that she would be more covered up with it on than normal, and he doubted she needed it for warmth, with her thick fur looking like it had that avenue well in hand.

Shrugging to himself, he let the chakra weave dissipate into the air.

"Here we go," he said, his voice pitched softer and lower than usual for a reason he couldn't quite place.

A stream of lightly scented natural oil rose out of a jar on the ground and floated into his hands, already warmed through a gentle application of fire-natured chakra. He rubbed it in, hesitated for a moment, and then leaned in to press firmly onto Lamb's upper back.

Hearing Lamb let out a sigh of pure contentment and feeling her relax into the bench, Naruto let his hands fall back into practised motions. Kneading and pressing with slow, deliberate motions, he flawlessly worked in harmony with the shape and curve of Lamb's body - tracing the ridge of her shoulder blades, and pressing and rubbing around each vertebrae with care.

This is just like any other massage I've done, Naruto told himself, You've done this a million times. It's nothing new. Don't think about how it's Lamb. Don't think about all the… weird stuff that's happened with her.

Naruto had learned his massaging skills - along with a plethora of other unlikely competencies - during his long imprisonment inside the crystal. When you have eternity to spend inside an enclosed space with nothing but yourself and a few identical clones, you tend to experiment with a couple different things. There were only so many centuries you could play with chakra before you got bored and tried something, anything, new, after all.

Following the start of his new life upon Runeterra, he had put those hard-earned skills (which while on one hand had only been practised on a single person who had been physically incapable of being sore or developing knots; on the other, had been honed over literally centuries) to good use by helping with the recoveryof the twins after training. The relief was greatly welcomed as their untrained bodies were often sore and battered, though you'd never know it as they never complained, sweet as they are.

But be it as it may, despite the literal millions of times that Naruto had given (and received) a massage, this was the first time that there was a woman (Naruto decided to refer to Lamb as one in his head despite her being a weird spirit-avatar-personification thing)involved. While Evelynn had now been part of their group for a while now, as she was not training like the twins, Naruto never offered her a massage, and she never asked. Besides, their relationship was still not a little awkward, and despite their cordiality and increasing comfort in each other's company, their shared history along with their various incidents meant that it was a line neither felt it wise to cross.

But now with Lamb…

Naruto grit his teeth and shook his head.

What's wrong with me? Just do the damn massage!

Determinedly keeping his thoughts on nothing but single-mindedly giving the best damn massage of his entire millennial life, Naruto managed to methodically make his way around Lamb's body without any further incidents.

He moved from her back to her shoulders, then down each arm - giving gentle tugs here and there to stretch the joints and pressing into pressure points to relieve the muscles.

He did his best to ignore how soft and luxurious her fur was - and despite the seemingly thick coverage, how his fingers effortlessly passed through to press into warm and supple skin - as well as the minute sounds of contentment and pleasure that he was fairly certain Lamb was uttering completely inadvertently.

His zen state continued as he progressed from her hands to her feet - going from her deceptively soft hooves up over toned calves, and then finally up to her thighs.

Naruto pressed a thumb gently but firmly onto the back of Lamb's knee, and then made a pushing motion up the back of the thigh, marvelling at the soft yet strong muscle he could feel underneath his fingertips. He hadn't really seen her in combat, but he could just tell from the brief touch that her body was strong and lithe, built with impossible muscle that no human could hope to match naturally.

Her body was… strange.

It was so very human, but at the same time, not. Her hooves and fur being the most obvious signs, of course, but there were subtler things too. The proportions of her limbs were all slightly different to that of a normal human, and as he had just discovered, the muscles he could feel on her slight frame were lean and sinewy, without an ounce of excess fat.

Also, she had a tail.

Oh, he kind of always knew, but he had never really noticed it.

Well, now that it was literally staring him in the face, he had no choice but to acknowledge it.

It was a soft mound of white fur that stuck out cutely above her bottom, and he suddenly had no greater desire in the world than to touch it.

He had already reached the point where he normally would have ended the massage, never really having needed to go past the lower thigh, but…

Naruto let the intrusive thoughts win.

Reaching out, he gently caressed the tuft of fur, his hand wrapping around the protrusion slowly and tenderly.

"Ah," moaned Lamb.

That sound.

That sound was what broke through his steel-like defences. His carefully built walls of determination and willpower were completely shattered effortlessly by that singular moan.

Naruto dimly realised his heart was hammering in his chest as he continued to stroke the soft tail, now fully aware of the little shivers and wiggles that Lamb was making in response to his ministrations, and it was abundantly clear that the motions her rump was making was doing something absolutely wicked to him.

His gaze, which had until now been diligently focussed on only the proper areas that he had been massaging, was now fully locked onto the forbidden fruit in front of him. He drank in the sight, fully aware of the uncomfortable tightness in his pants.

As he discreetly adjusted his waistband, the motion jolted him out of his staring and Naruto hurriedly resumed his massage of Lamb's thigh with one hand, while his other continued to play with her tail.

His hand ventured up her expansive thigh, until it reached the soft curve where her thigh met her buttock. His fingers traced the fold line, starting from the outside of her hip, and then following it across the back of her leg. He stopped as he reached the start of her inner thigh, the area distinctly warmer than the rest, and instead reversed the motion, going back and forth gently but assertively.

On the third such journey, Lamb let out another throaty moan and made a slight bucking motion with her hips.

Entranced, Naruto abandoned the caressing of her tail, and instead began to use both of his hands on her legs. His confidence rising, his motions became more bold - his thumbs now did the heavy lifting where they both started at Lamb's inner thighs, and then trailed away simultaneously.

Lamb's laboured breathing was unmistakable now, and her hips were moving fully in sync with the motion of his thumbs - starting prone pressed against the bench at the beginning of the sweeping movement, and then pushing back against his hands and lifting up as he completed it.

His sharp hearing caught the barest whisper from behind her mask, and he did not hesitate in immediately using chakra to enhance the sense tenfold.

"Ah…" moaned Lamb under her breath, "Just… just like that."

His mouth dry, Naruto didn't even notice as his 'massage' gradually sped up. Compared to the jackhammer tempo of his heartbeat, it felt positively glacial.

Lamb, however, did very much notice.

"Yes! Yes! That feels… so good! Don't… don't stopppp…" her whispered feelings were tumbling out, her normally guarded emotions completely exposed by the unfamiliar but intoxicating pleasure.

Now completely swept up by the stimulation of the situation, Naruto allowed his fingers to inch further and further in with each pass. And if Lamb's increased rate and volume of moaning was any indication, it was a very welcomed initiative.

And then, finally, it happened - the tips of his thumbs, which had been tracing unmistakably damp fur for a while now, touched something. Folds. Folds caught by his fingers, and spread apart with the next sweeping motion.

Lamb's next verbalisation was very much not whispered.

"AH!" she cried out loud as her hips thrust powerfully into the bench and her entire body shuddered in clear ecstasy.

Naruto stepped away, and one hand went to his chest. His heart was beating so fast he was half-worried he'd have a heart attack. He was half-surprised he hadn't climaxed in his pants, but he could tell he definitely wasn't far off.

Lamb, her convulsions ebbing after a solid half minute of uncontrollable pleasure, finally turned around to face him, the eyeholes in her mask blazing with something, something that definitely wasn't the not-light of her powers.

"Human," she said, her voice thick with an emotion he had never heard from her before.

She was Lamb - sweet, lovely Lamb. So fun to tease, so easy to rile up. So old, and yet so amazingly naive. Burdened or blessed with a great duty, and someone he had truly come to regard as precious.

She was half turned, flushed and out of breath, and her usually perfect fur was matted with glistening sweat.

He had never seen something so sexy.

It was so wrong, yet also so right.

Lamb wasn't supposed to make him feel this way.

She was covered with fur! She had hooves! She had a goddamn tail! She wore a mask every single moment of the day! She wasn't even supposed to be real!

And yet, there she was, absolutely breath-taking.

"Lamb…" he breathed, "I… I… I gotta go."