The Sky Fox
Chapter 18: The Lowdown
"Hmmmm," Naruto leaned back on his seat as he gazed at the Holoscreen on his desk, it was after class and Naruto was doing a little research based on the most recent subject matter; the debut of the Knightmare from the Pendragon Company "I've checked in with Fabio-tousan and even he doesn't know as much as I do right now about the Knightmare,"
"We're facing an unknown this time, I find it a bit worrisome but confident that relevant information will be revealed," said Kurami.
"Naruto?" they turned to see Ling, Penny and Laura at the doorway before approaching "What are you up to?"
"Just trying to learn more about the Knightmares," Naruto replied to Ling.
"Quite admirable of my wife to show concern for these current matters," said Laura with a nod of approval, flabbergasting the others.
"He's a male so that makes him the husband!" said Ling in exasperation.
"So you acknowledge our future marriage then,"
"That's not it, quit assuming!"
Penny went to speak with Naruto "Is there something bothering you about it?"
"I know that that it's going to affect the world by a mile, first is that these Knightmares are capable of being piloted by both genders which is already a strong point, another is that the specs might match against that of the IS otherwise they wouldn't have put up that underlying message of challenge to us. Besides what we saw, there's nothing more we can go on about it," Naruto explained.
Laura nodded in agreement "I can see your reason for unease, an unknown enemy is a dangerous enemy,"
"So, you think they might come over here?" asked Ling.
"I'm guessing yes," said Penny thoughtfully.
"Then we just need to prepare for this so-called clash," said Laura.
"That's what I'm thinking as well, what say we meet up on Saturday to start?" Naruto put up a suggestion.
Ling nodded in agreement "Sure, let's do that,"
The group departed from the classroom and made their way back to the dormitory before splitting up to go into their separate rooms. Naruto went into his room and was in the bathroom taking shower, he got out and was putting on his clothes when his S-Touch began ringing to signal an incoming call.
"Answer call," Naruto spoke up, the S-Touch flipped open and a Holoscreen projected to display Fabio "Hi there Fabio-tousan,"
[Hello there son, I guess you've already heard of the news?] asked Fabio.
"Long since, no doubt it's raised a ruckus over there,"
[As if you knew, some of the Italians are skeptical while others are in support of the new technology. I have a hunch that you might be in their crosshairs if they want to prove something to the world]
[Let them try, Sochi-kun has us to show them what for!] said Kushina with determination.
[Calm down dear, is there something else you're calling us for Fabio?] asked Minato.
[Oh! I almost forgot about the main reason for calling. My team and I had just about finished constructing the next gen support gear for your Dot Phasor though it could also be accessed by your Odin as well] said Fabio.
"How soon would it be delivered here?" asked Naruto.
[In two to three days tops, we need to do a few calibrations before sending it over to you]
"I gotcha, guess we'll talk some other time then,"
[Of course, goodnight Naruto]
"You too, tou-san," Naruto plopped on the bed and stared at the ceiling with Kurami jumping onto the bed and shifting into her human form.
"Can't sleep?" asked Kurami.
Naruto let out a sigh before replying "Pretty much, feeling restless at the moment,"
"Maybe you try something to occupy your mind?"
"I guess so…maybe I should brush up on my Fuinjutsu," Naruto got off the bed and went to the closet to rummage through a bag before bringing out several scrolls, a bottle of ink and an ink brush "I think I should also create several seals for the house's security since the previous ones are getting worn out,"
[Well I have a few ideas for a new project] Minato suggested.
"Well, I'm up for it since I've yet to come up with ideas of my own right now,"
Eventually the weekend arrived and everyone had gathered over at the docking bay, Ichika, Cecelia, Houki and the others were brought up to speed about the previous discussion concerning the Knightmare and the likely challenge against the IS.
"Naruto, I can understand the reason for wanting to train but wouldn't the Admins simply choose the senpais above us to respond to the challenge?" Houki pointed out to them.
Cecelia scoffed in response "Surely you jest, we went up against the Silver Gospel and defeated it with Naruto-san and Ichika-san dealing the final blow. We're just as likely to be chosen as well,"
"Besides, the reason we're all here is mostly because we need to reflect ourselves," said Naruto.
"What do you mean?" asked Penny.
Naruto walked over to the console and typed in several commands then multiple videos appeared on the large monitor, displaying matches which they all had in the semester including the one against Gospel "It's something that's been on my mind nowadays and even more so with the debut of the new tech. we need to review on ourselves and our IS, the weapons we use, the battle strategies, combat styles etc. these need to be checked on seriously,"
"I see what you mean Naruto. We need to check for any weakpoints that we have but didn't notice so that we can improve ourselves," said Penny.
Naruto nodded in affirmation then turned to Cecelia "For example; Cece-chan can only use either her drones or sniper rifle one at a time plus lacks experience in close combat,"
Cecelia blushed in embarrassment and looked away when the some of the girls smirked "B-Be silent! Surely you all possess flaws as well!"
"I wonder about that," Ling looked away with a grin.
"You too Ling-chan, your Impact Cannons are meant for mid-range but using them closeup is self-destructive to yourself and the cannons plus your reaction time needs work too if you recall that Ichika almost took you out when he used the Ignition Boost," said Naruto, now it was her turn to feel embarrassed.
"And what does my bride have to say about me for I am open for criticism," said Laura, girls glared at her for that.
Naruto restrained himself from doing a facepalm "Well one of your weakness is your refusal to work together with others but you're growing out of that now, also your AIC requires you to focus on one target which could be a problem when facing multiple enemies. The list goes on for every one of us,"
"So how do we overcome and at least fix these flaws?" asked Ichika with his arms crossed.
"Well out of the eight of us, only three can use the Ignition Boost; namely myself, Ichika and Charlotte. So we need to teach you how to use it as well as the variations I came up with. This way you can evade critical strikes or set up for a counterattack,"
"Makes sense when you put it that way," said Penny thoughtfully.
"What about me, Naruto-san?" asked Cecelia.
"Hmmmm…supposing we create a system for your drones in which you could give mental commands for them to attack locked-on targets or provide support fire in various formations automatically while you use your sniper rifle could work," said Naruto with a thoughtful look on his face.
"Such a wondrous idea! Perhaps we could have a discussion about creating new formations later on!" said Cecelia giddily.
"Hmph, no doubt you want to use this as an opportunity to spend time with him alone," thought Charlotte with narrowed eyes before speaking up "Do you have any suggestions for me too Naruto?"
[Naruto-sama, you were formulating a software which enables auto reloading of live ammunition recently] LUNA spoke up from the S-Touch.
Naruto snapped his fingers at that "Oh yeah, I remember that one. I haven't perfected the algorithms for the transference into insertion of the magazines/clips,"
"That sounds helpful if it actually works,"
"I know, anyways we came here for sparring so I'll start off by going up against Ichika,"
Ichika blinked in response and pointed at himself "Me?"
"Of course I meant you, it's all too obvious that you need a lot of help considering the kind of IS which you have at the moment," Naruto explained, Laura stared at him from behind at the wording.
"Okay then, I'll get ready," Ichika walked off to do just that with Naruto going to do the same.
"Are you sure you want to do this?" asked Kurami with slight concern.
"Ichika's my buddy and I want to help him grow stronger. The fight against Gospel is a wakeup call on that there are people who I should watch out for, my first fight against Cecelia taught me as much. Ichika has got something within him and I want to help draw it out," thought Naruto.
Later on, the two males were out in the field with Ichika in his Byakushiki and Naruto using the Odin MK 2 as they hovered in midair. Ichika held out the Yukihira Niigata at the ready.
"Okay Naruto, ready when you are!" said Ichika.
"Ichika, I must warn you about something…do not treat this as a spar but as an actual battle,"
"What do you mean by that?"
"What I mean is…," Naruto called on the dual HF blades to his hands and stared at Ichika with a cold look in his eyes and spoke in a similar tone "…I'm about to come at you with every intention to kill you,"
Ichika felt his heart clinch with fear as he felt a sudden pressure coming from Naruto whose helmet closed up with the eyes glowing ominously before charging towards him at high-speed.
Music Start: Kingdom Hearts Birth by Sleep OST; Rage Awakened -The Origin-
Naruto was immediately upon Ichika swinging blades with fervor, the white IS pilot blocked with his blade but was being pushed back by the power in the incoming attacks much to his surprise since this really is different compared to past spars. Ichika responded with attacks of his own with Naruto evading and deflecting with his blades, the blonde suddenly tossed his HF Blade into the air and intercepted Ichika by grabbing his wrist before spinning around several times to throw him down to the ground crashing hard then catching his blade.
Naruto dove towards Ichika at high-speed "Substitute Zanbatou!" he swapped out the dual HF katanas for the giant sword "Attack Function: Guillotine Cutter!" he somersaulted forward in the air as the sword is swung in large rotations before performing a cleaving strike, resulting in an explosion of dust and debris. A blur shot out of the dust cloud, revealing to be Ichika who looked back to the dissipating dust cloud to see Naruto in the middle of a large crater with his zanbatou embedded to the ground.
"He's fighting like he really wants to kill me, but why?" Ichika blinked and Naruto was right in front of him again and already in the middle of swinging his blade, forcing the former to back away but the latter slammed the weapon to the ground and vaulted off it to land a kick, sending him flying before pulling the zanbatou out of the ground and throwing it after him only to miss and embed itself into the arena wall.
"What's Naruto doing?! Why is he attacking Ichika like he wants to kill him?!" asked Houki in a panic.
"This is certainly unlike him," Cecelia was in agreement.
"Now I understand what he meant," said Laura in realization.
Ling turned to her in curiosity "What do you mean by that?"
"Remember what Naruto said before, that Ichika needed a lot of help considering the IS he has at the moment. He intends to help Ichika achieve the Second Shift by making him realize something about himself,"
"But weren't there other options besides this one?" asked Ling, concerned for her childhood friend.
"Maybe so, but I feel that this method would work best on Ichika," said Laura.
Ichika was seriously on the defense from the barrage of attacks by Naruto and is being forced to remain that way as every counter was stopped cold before it even be halfway done, he wants to use the Reiraku Byakuya but would hesitant every time and Naruto kept up with the pressure and refused to let up.
"Are you really trying to kill me, Naruto?!" asked Ichika.
"Of course I am, I'm going to keep pushing you and pushing you until you find a way to make me stop trying to kill you," Naruto responded stoically before switching out the zanbatou for the Restraighter and Neo Beam Guarder then lunging at Ichika with a thrust from the twin-bladed beam lance which he dashed sideways to evade but Naruto stabbed the lance into the ground and spun around on it to redirect himself and slam right into his target with a shield bash for a knockback "Substitute Single Semi-Automatic!" he swapped out the Restraighter for a firearm "Attack Function: Rise Shot!" he swiftly closed in on Ichika and uppercut him into the air with the handgun and fired rapidly to juggle him in midair then leapt to send him flying with a roundhouse kick
Ichika groaned as he got up and was alarmed to see that his shield energy had been reduced to less than 50% percent in such a short length of time into this fight and looked up to Naruto hovering in the air and still emitting that pressure "He's so strong,"
Naruto slowly descended to the ground "I am so disappointed in you Ichika, I was expecting so much from you but I guess I was just fooling myself. I was looking for something but do you know what else I found?"
"I found nothing but fear," said Naruto as a matter-of-factly "When you counter my attacks, you fear being killed. When you attack, you're afraid of killing. And when you're protecting someone, you're afraid of letting them die,"
"…!" Ichika's eyes widened at the blonde's words, he couldn't deny those words for they were all true.
"All that is nothing more than senseless fear which has no place in a battlefield unlike me who soon learnt; When I counter, I don't let them cut me. When I protect someone, I don't let them die. And when I'm attacking, I aim to kill," Naruto switched to his assault rifle and aimed it at Ichika "That pressure which I'm sure you have been feeling this whole time is my sheer resolve, my unwavering determination to take you down with my IS fully supporting me. Despite flaws, you wield a power capable of defeating enemies with one strike, a power best suiting your desire to protect the ones close to you. So, let me ask you this…what are you so afraid of that you would deny your weapon its purpose?"
Again, Ichika was taken aback by the question. Exactly what reason does he have to be afraid of? Was it frustration? Guilt? Self-loathing? Or something else that would make him subconsciously limit himself?
"Do you desire power?" a feminine voice spoke within his mind, surprising him.
"That voice again?" Ichika found himself standing in the middle of an unusually calm ocean with a cloudy sky over his head as the sun gradually sets. He looked further into the horizon to set someone standing away from. It appears to be a woman with long black hair while wearing a white hi-tech armor with the helmet obscuring her face and a large sword was held next to her "Was it you?"
"Do you desire power?" the woman repeated her question once more, Ichika silently nodded in response "For what purpose do you desire it?"
Ichika was thoughtful for a few moments before speaking up "To protect my comrades,"
"…is that all?"
"Ever since I became an IS pilot, I've met many others and even reunited with old friends. Seeing Naruto go to great lengths for the sake of others is also what I wish to do as well, but that mission against Silver Gospel made me feel that I wasn't strong enough to fight alongside them and even now I realize that I still haven't reached that level yet. Which is why...I need to stop being afraid and move forward!"
The woman was silent "…I see,"
"Then let us help you," a young feminine voice, Ichika turned to see a young adolescent girl with long silver hair, wearing a white sundress and a sunhat which obscured her face hold out a hand to him "Can we?"
Ichika raised his hand and took hers gently "…you can,"
"Attack Function: Beam Shot!" energy gathered around the muzzle of the rifle before Naruto pulled the trigger to fire a blue beam, everything went in slow motion with the girls looking on in shock, the beam gradually approaching its target. Suddenly, Byakushiki glowed brightly to the point of forcing everyone to close their eyes.
Everyone turned to see a dust cloud and watched with trepidation as to what just happened, the dust finally settled to reveal something surprising to everyone watching. Ichika stood before them unscathed but Byakushiki has taken on a serious upgrade in terms of appearance, he is now equipped with four wing thrusters and a large blue claw gauntlet on his left arm.
"Could it be that Byakushiki has gone into its Second Shift?" asked Houki in shock.
Cecelia typed away on the console to stream in the new data on the IS "It has, it's now Byakushiki Setsura,"
"This was what he was aiming for," said Laura
The helmet opened up for Naruto to gain a clearer look at Ichika and smiled at what he was seeing "There it is, that's what I've been looking for…your resolve,"
"Is this what you were after, but was hiding it in the guise of killing me?" asked Ichika, a bit annoyed.
"Yes, but now I want to see how firm it is. Attack Function: Homing Shot!" he took aim and fired many homing energy bullets at Ichika.
Ichika suddenly called out "Setsura, switch to shield mode!" he raised the claw gauntlet before him to project a greenish translucent half dome of energy before him to practically erase the incoming energy projectiles then confidently activated the Reiraku Byakuya on his blade and flew towards Naruto who quickly switched to his dual HF katanas and they proceeded to engage each other in close combat as they repeatedly clashed blades back and forth, constantly switching between offense and defense "Cannon mode!" Naruto's eyes widened and kicked Ichika away to fly backwards right before the claw gauntlet began firing blasts of red energy in his direction, the blonde twirled the blades to hold them in reverse grip and proceeded to deflect the blasts away from himself.
"Not bad, Ichika! This is getting fun now! Attack Function: Sword Waves!" Naruto took to swinging his katanas, launching red and blue crescent waves of energy to cancel out the incoming blasts before they got anywhere close to him "Ignition Boost: Sonic Flicker" Naruto disappeared in a blur whilst leaving behind trails of afterimages, then Ichika heard Naruto's voice echo throughout the area "Attack Function: Shinsokuken!" multiple slashes began to strike him from all directions with increasing speed, reducing his already low shield energy until Naruto appeared before him and performed a cross slash to end the combo to erase what's left of the shield energy and ending the battle.
"I lost," Ichika muttered lowly.
"Maybe so, but you've realized several things about yourself," Naruto pointed out.
"You're right, thanks for that besides trying to kill me,"
The blonde shrugged his shoulders "I could have done worse, my perverted sensei pushed me off a cliff all in the name of training,"
[I'll beat him to an inch of his afterlife for that] said Kushina in anger.
[Sensei should have taken a better route] Minato shook his head in disappointment.
Ichika sweatdropped at that "Uh, thanks for not doing that to me,"
"Come on, let's head back. I just know that there's a scolding waiting for me," said Naruto.
Sure enough, the blonde got yelled at by the girls especially Houki for what he did but still were still surprised at the new capabilities of the Byakushiki Setsura in spite of its shield energy consumption rate. Minato long since suspected that Tabane created Akatsubaki with the purpose of aiding Byakushiki due to its One-Off ability Kenran Butō being capable of recharging shield energy, and this theory is becoming more of a fact. The training resumed with the girls sparring against each other via one-on-one matches while the others watched and took note of certain factors both in skills of the pilots and the performance of the IS themselves.
Soon, it started to get late so they stopped in the meantime and scheduled for next week for another training session. Naruto had gone to his room and gotten a change of clothes after a shower before deciding to take a stroll around the academy to while away the time with Kurami curled around him as always before returning to his room and headed for the kitchen.
"Any requests, Kurami-chan?" asked Naruto as he poured rice into the rice cooker and switched it on.
"Hayashi rice please," said Kurami lounging at the bed in her human form.
"Alright then," Naruto took out the required ingredients and got to work preparing them as he skillfully worked his way around the kitchen. In due time, the beef stew was soon bubbling over the stove and the rice was ready as the mouthwatering aroma drifted into the room, causing Kurami to wag her tails excitedly.
"Mmmm…it seems so good,"
"Just a little more and I'll be done," said Naruto.
There was someone knocking on the door, Naruto peeked out of the kitchen while Kurami reverted to her vixen form with a grumble. He walked over to open the door and was mildly surprised to see Maya standing behind it.
"Oh Maya-sensei, what brings you here?" asked Naruto curiously.
"Good evening Naruto-kun, I wanted to have a word with you. That is if you aren't too busy at the moment," said Maya.
"I'm not busy, just got done cooking Hayashi rice in the kitchen. You're welcome to eat with us if you'd like,"
"Well thanks very much, but I…," Maya was about to refuse when the aroma of the cooked food wafted through her nose and her stomach growled in response, causing the woman to blush beet red in embarrassment "I guess it would be rude to refuse a kind gesture,"
Naruto chuckled softly and opened the door wider for her to enter "Come on in and have a seat, I'll have a plate for you soon,"
Maya went to take a seat while Naruto headed back into the kitchen, she took the time to look around and couldn't help but feel rather self-conscious that she's technically alone with a male if Kurami were to be excluded. She was snapped out of her thoughts when Naruto returned carrying a platter of three plates of food to place on the table before going to bring a jug of fresh water along with some glasses. They all sat at the table and put their hands together and said 'Itadakimasu' before helping themselves to their meal, Maya took her first bite and her eyes widened in shock at the taste of the food.
"This is delicious, I've never eaten any Hayashi rice that tastes this good!" Maya exclaimed.
"Thanks for the compliment," Naruto restrained himself from rubbing the back of his head since he's eating at the moment.
They continued to enjoy themselves and Naruto even served ice cream sandwiches for dessert, then he washed the dishes albeit politely refusing Maya's offer to help, saying that it's the normal thing to do since she was a guest.
Naruto seated himself on the chair with Kurami hopping to his lap and curled up before facing Maya "So what is it that you wanted to talk to me about?"
"Well Chifuyu-san and I learnt that you somehow helped Ichika achieve Second Shift, she wanted to come along but the admin requested her presence for a certain matter," said Maya.
"Well I figured that the IS would resonate with its pilot's will and react accordingly, I pushed Ichika to make him truly desire to get stronger than he was at first. I sorta had the same experience when I got beaten by Gospel. I got the feeling that this Knightmare thing would get either of us involved in the long run so I wanted to help him get ready as soon as possible along with Charlotte and the others," Naruto explained thoughtfully.
"Your thoughtfulness has to proven true, the government has been contemplating over an exhibition match between the IS and the Knightmare, it's most likely to occur. There's a large chance that you as well as a few others might be chosen to represent us due to your accomplishment with the Silver Gospel along with your current record in the academy,"
"What about the others in the upper-class?" asked Naruto curiously.
"They are also being considered, but the final would occur in three weeks' time,"
"Plenty of time to train then, thanks for telling me this,"
"You're welcome, and also thank you for the meal, it was really delicious," said Maya gratefully.
Naruto smiled in response "No problem, hopefully the next time you visit; I could treat you to some Italian pasta,"
Maya blushed at the double meaning "O-Okay, I-I'll be sure to keep an open slot in m-m-my schedule," Naruto escorted her out of the room with a friendly wave, Maya was muttering to herself "I wonder what I should wear the next time I visit?"
This is Hussbek online with the latest chapter, ever since he heard of the debut of the Knightmare; Naruto was triggered into training harder compared to how he does previously whilst involving his fellow IS pilots. He pushed Ichika to beyond his limit to achieve Second Shift due to his partial ninja paranoia about any of them liable to being pulled into the world's spotlight. He was soon proven right as Maya came to inform him of a possible choice for an exhibition match in three weeks so he'll need to tune-up and be ready for something big. Just what will be the outcome; will the IS keep its crown or will the Knightmare seize the throne of being the world's most powerful? Be sure to read and review as always.
This is Hussbek from Ghana.