And here we have some worldbuilding. I like worldbuilding.
DragonMoonWolf: The show "Naruto" and its sequels doesn't exist in this setting. The world is sort of an "Earth-but-not-quite" scenario; a lot of stuff is the same (references to Batman and video games and such) but a lot is different (people having naturally vibrant hair, fictional city, plastic surgery, etc.) I thought it'd be more interesting for me to write that way, and hopefully interesting to read as well, though I entirely understand if it's a turn-off.
My logic is, the tale of Naruto has ended, and the Akatsuki are aware of that for the most part (nobody but Madara knows the full extent). Most of the drama from fanfics in which they come to Earth comes from finding out that they're going to eventually fail and die, and honestly, I just don't feel like writing that for a second time. I also think writing without a 'bias' towards them on the part of my OCs will make the eventual friendship and romance feel a bit more natural.
That was probably more of an answer that was needed, but ah well, chapter time!
Chapter 3: Introducing Me
"…and that's pretty much what happened." Haruka finished, having repeated the story they were told by the strangers in their house to Shizuka while the others went to put on the clothes that she had retrieved.
Shizuka was pinching the bridge of her nose with her eyes closed, which she had been doing for most of the conversation, and slowly let out a sigh and looked up.
"So we have a bunch of cats that turned into people…and, what? What are we going to do with them? They're apparently from 'another world,' I doubt they know anything about ours, they're going to stand out even in the most intensive Surge crowds…what do we do?"
"We've got a guest room…" Yume spoke up tentatively. "It won't fit seven, but it'll fit some of them…stick the rest in the living room? Or we can bunk in one room together and then they have two more rooms to split between…we could make it work. Or even just, each of us have one of those guys share with us. We're adults, if they promise to behave it'll be fine."
"Space isn't the issue, Yume." Shizuka said with a slight roll of her eyes. "It's that nobody is going to buy their story. What do you think will happen if Enforcers come to call? They don't have papers, IDs, anything. We'll get in trouble for it."
That was a sobering thought, and they all fell silent.
"…we could always just…get them some forgeries." Haruka suggested slyly. "Not like we haven't done it before. Just, get some pictures and names, print out ID cards, sneak some documents into the system that weren't there before."
"That's risky." Shizuka said with a frown. "We've never done it for this many at a time before."
"So, we just take it slow!" Yume said, already perking up a bit at the thought that she'd get to put her computer skills to the test. "Just do one or two at a time, wait a week or so, do another few and so on. Just make sure only the ones with info in the system go out in public for a while, keep the others here."
"Will they agree to that, though?" Shizuka was still hesitant. She wasn't great with people as it was, and having a large group of strangers in the house seemed uncomfortable, not just dangerous.
Yume blinked, then smiled softly and put her hands on her taller friend's shoulders.
"I'm sure they will. You guys made it work for me, remember? I didn't have anywhere to go. These guys don't either. Maybe the circumstances are a little bit different, but the need is the same. We can make this work."
Well, that did it. Shizuka stared for a moment, then sighed and pulled Yume into a hug, startling the youngest of the friends and causing Haruka to smile warmly.
"Fine, damn it. We're already a family of misfits. What's…seven more to the collection?"
"That's the spirit!" Yume said cheerfully, pulling back. "Haruka can go get her camera for the pictures and I'll get to work on the rest. We can explain when they're done changing."
"Well, we're people again. So what now?" Kisame asked, finally managing to find a shirt in the pile that fit his massive frame and pulling it on. "Man, these clothes are weird."
"You can say that again, hm." Deidara said, looking at his reflection in the guest room's mirror quizzically. "Why does mine have a cat on it?"
"Probably cuz you're a pussy, Blondie!" Hidan said with a cackle, and Sasori had to grab Deidara before he could lunge for the immortal.
"Not that he doesn't deserve it, brat, but let's not get blood on the carpet just yet. We don't exactly know where we are or what to do, so staying here seems to be the best option. I'd rather have our oh-so-gracious hosts not kick us out blind." He said, exasperated, and the bomber grumbled in annoyance and nodded.
"Like I said: Pussy." Hidan repeated, only to get an immediate hard punch upside the head from Kakuzu. "OW! FUCK!"
"That isn't a free pass, moron." Kakuzu growled irritably. Deidara gave him a grin and a thumbs-up, which he ignored. "If they're letting us stay for free, we'll take advantage of it. If not, we'll figure something else out. Surely even without chakra we can deal with three little girls."
"I'd rather it not come to that if possible." Itachi remarked, frowning. It was, disorienting, to not have his sharingan active after so long. But it was also, peaceful. Quiet. It had been a long time since he'd been able to go without it.
"Itachi has a point." Kisame agreed, to no one's surprise. "Let's face it. We all died, we're all here now, we don't have chakra and may never get it back. These might be our best chance at figuring out where we are and what to do."
"Speaking of what to do…what IS our end goal, here?" Sasori asked, tugging lightly on the hem of the long-sleeved shirt he was now wearing. "I don't believe returning to our world is an option. There's nothing really for us there, after all. Do we just…live here?"
"I don't think we have any other choice, hm. Not like we have any way to go home again."
For a split second the room around them seemed to vanish, replaced instead by a different vision. A hooded figured with red strings spreading from the sleeves of their cloak, up to weave a tapestry behind them.
And then it was gone and they were all back in the guest room, eyes wide.
"…we…we all saw that, right? Tobi's not seeing things?" Tobi said, a slightly nervous tremor to his voice. For once Deidara didn't snap at him and just nodded numbly.
"…I guess that was the thing that sent us here, un."
"I'd…say that settles that, then." Kakuzu said a bit awkwardly, unsure what to make of the sudden mass hallucination.
"That was disturbing." Sasori said bluntly, but turned to the door, beginning to walk downstairs.
"Eh, where is Sasori-senpai going?" Tobi asked, tilting his head to the side innocently and earning a cold look from the puppeteer.
"To talk to our hosts. We need to learn everything we can about this world if we're going to be living here from now on. I'm not going to wander blindly."
With that being agreed upon as a decent plan of action, they went back downstairs to talk with the owners of the house.
"So, I think some official introductions are in order, first." Haruka said, clasping her hands together and smiling at them sweetly. It was an odd juxtaposition, the innocent baby-faced smile combined with black lipstick and strangely intense eyes. "We'll all say our names and a few interesting facts about ourselves. Sound fun?"
"Sounds stupid." Deidara grumbled. Tobi, however, lifted his hand and cheered.
"Tobi thinks it sounds fun!"
"Yeah, so it sounds stupid, hm."
"Well, we're doing it anyway." Haruka snapped, momentarily scowling, then returning to her cheerier façade.
"I'll start. My name is Haruka Shirayuri. I'm twenty-five years old, a lawyer, and I own this house. I like gothic Lolita fashion, crime dramas, and tending to my garden."
"Shit, you're twenty-five?! You look like a kid!" Hidan said loudly, and she rolled her eyes.
"Haven't heard that before. Okay, Yume, you go next."
"Oh, right!" The purple-haired girl set up, giving a cheery little wave that was wholly unnecessary but somewhat adorable.
"My name is Yume Hoshimoto. I'm twenty, and I'm a freelance programmer. I like alcohol, video games, and singing. Sometimes all at the same time. Also, driving my motorcycle, which I do not do at the same time." She paused for a moment. "I also like some stuff that I don't think I should mention in polite company." That earned a few snickers from some of the less mature members and Haruka swatted her on the arm.
"Yume you can't just SAY that kind of stuff to people you've just met!"
"Too late, I just did." She stuck her tongue out. "Okay, Shizuka, your turn.
"…do I have to?" It seemed that with the surprise worn off, the taller girl was a bit shy around strangers, having been standing a bit behind her friends and now speaking very quietly. Yume and Haruka both nodded, and she sighed softly.
"…my name is Shizuka Tamashii. I'm twenty-three and a tattoo artist. I like drawing and books." She fell silent again after quickly and quietly saying her introduction, and her ears had gone a bit red at being put on the spot.
"An artist, then?" Sasori and Deidara both looked interested at that and Kisame, Kakuzu, and Hidan all groaned in exasperation, knowing exactly where this was going. Thankfully it seemed Shizuka had no intention of getting into a debate yet, simply nodding quietly as Yume chimed in to rescue her.
"Okay, so we've introduced ourselves. Now it's your turn!"
To nobody's surprise, Tobi was the one who skipped forward with his own frantic, cheerful wave.
"Hi, I'm Tobi! I'm a good boy and it's very nice to meet you!"
There was a slight pause, interrupted only by Deidara's exasperated groan, and then Haruka spoke up again.
"Okay, Tobi…can you tell us something about yourself?" There was a very patient tone to her voice, like an elementary teacher talking to a student who doesn't quite understand the question being asked. Tobi smacked a hand to the front of his mask.
"Oh, duh! Tobi likes Deidara-senpai! And the nice girls for letting us stay here!"
"Suck-up." Yume coughed into her hand and Deidara's death glare to Tobi turned into a snort. Haruka's smile faded ever so slightly, now eyeing the masked man with something like suspicion. Fittingly, the blonde artist decided to speak up next.
"My name is Deidara, hm. I'm nineteen. I'm an S-class shinobi and an artist. I like making my sculptures and explosions. Art is a bang, un!" He grinned broadly at that. Shizuka tilted her head quizzically and Yume spoke up.
"Wait, hang on, you're nineteen? Hell yeah, I'm not the youngest in the house anymore!" She said brightly. "Also, what's a shinobi?"
"It's something from our world." Sasori said quickly, unsure that letting these girls know they were highly wanted missing-nin criminals was a good idea. "I doubt there's any similar job here…I am Sasori. I'm thirty-five and I make puppets."
"Thirty-five? Seriously?!" Haruka stared at that. "And you guys think that I have a baby face? He can't be older than eighteen, like at the most, no way!" The red-head glared at her at that.
"Art is eternal and so am I."
"So are you like, a vampire or something? I mean, you look good for your age. Most guys don't age quite so gracefully in my experience." Yume asked innocently.
"I…what's a vampire? No, no, I'm not a vampire. I'm…" He paused for a moment, suddenly remembering that he was, in fact, not a puppet anymore. "…you know, I'm not really sure how to explain it anymore."
"Not too important anyway." Kisame said with a chuckle. "I'm Kisame Hoshigaki, I'm thirty-three. I like cooked crab, long walks on the beach, and sword-fighting."
"Long walks on the beach? Really? That's a bit cliché." Shizuka murmured softly, her voice a bit hard to hear, and the shark-man just grinned.
"Maybe, but it's true."
"I've never seen you walk along a beach even once, Kisame." Itachi said, exasperated and shaking his head at his partner's teasing expression. "I mentioned my name earlier but I'll say it again. My name is Itachi Uchiha, I'm twenty-one, and I like…" He paused for a moment, thinking. "…traditional cafes. Onigiri. And…dango, I suppose." It had been a long time since he'd been able to enjoy himself with much of anything, after all, so it felt strange saying it.
"Alright, fuckers, my turn next!" Hidan said, swaggering forward and jutting out his chin. "I'm Hidan, I'm twenty-two, I'm an immortal servant to Lord Jashin, and I like ki—OW, fuck, Kakuzu!" The stitched man had punched him in the back of the head, hard. When he turned to glare at him, Kakuzu growled in a low voice, "You idiot, don't make them kick us out."
That gave Hidan pause for once, and as the girls watched them in confusion, he cleared his throat and tried again. "I like…kicking ass. There, that suffice, Kakuzu?" He glared at him and the other man rolled his eyes. Haruka spoke up this time.
"Wait, immortal? How does that…? I know Yume joked about vampires earlier but are YOU a vampire? And what the heck is 'Jashin?'"
Hidan's jaw dropped open and he was about to undoubtedly start on a religious rant while Kisame reached over and covered his mouth.
"Trust me, you don't want to get him started. We'll be listening to him rant for hours." He said with a shake of his head. Kakuzu sighed, and finally gave his piece.
"I'm Kakuzu. I'm ninety-one and—"
"Okay, I'm sorry, WHAT?!" Yume practically shrieked at that, her eyes going wide. "You're HOW old?! Holy hell, does everyone in your world just look insanely freaking young forever?! I was gonna guess forty, how do you all age so gracefully?!"
"—as I was SAYING," Kakuzu said with a glare, choosing not to answer the outburst, "I'm ninety-one years old. I'm a former bounty-hunter and I like old books and money. And not answering stupid intrusive questions."
"Fair enough." Shizuka said quickly, not wanting her younger friend to start a fight with their house guests. "Um…I think…you must have questions for us, right? And we could try to learn more about your world too…to better, translate, I suppose?"
"Seems like a smart idea." Sasori said approvingly. "I'll start this time. Where are we, exactly? Your news channel said it was 'Suba?'"
"Oh! Well, Suba is kind of a city-state more than a city." Yume said thoughtfully. "Basically it's this absolutely massive walled-in city, and then for a few hundred miles or so in every direction there's some smaller scatterings of farms, towns, and people that just don't wanna live here. So it's not quite a country, but it's more than just a city."
"Similar to a Hidden Village, then." Itachi mused, earning confused looks from the girls. "Very well then. What's your question for us?"
"So you guys are all from somewhere else…but you all know each other? Were you guys like, friends, coworkers…?" Haruka asked, and there was immediate laughter from most of the members, surprising them all.
"'Coworkers' is probably an apt way to put it. We worked for an organization called The Akatsuki together, but we didn't exactly 'hang out' a whole lot." Kisame said with a chuckle. "Honestly this is the first time we've all been in a room at the same time in YEARS."
"Huh. Must've been a big organization then." Haruka said, blinking.
"You could say that!" Tobi said cheerfully. "Oh, oh, can Tobi ask a question? What's Masquerade? You asked if Tobi was a part of it, so I want to know what it is!"
The girls exchanged hesitant glances at that, as though worried about speaking out loud. Haruka finally responded once again.
"Masquerade is technically a 'terrorist cell' that the government swears they're hunting down. They tend to make people 'disappear' without much warning, and they have eyes everywhere in public." She said, her eyes cold and her tone a bit darker. "Of course, everyone knows they actually work WITH the people in power, and most people who disappear are dissidents or otherwise considered a threat to our wonderful city's wealthy and powerful government and 'nobles' alike. It's kind of an open-kept secret locally, but other countries think it's a problem that's being dealt with and therefore not a threat."
"Oh…so why would you think Tobi is a part of it?" Tobi asked quizzically, and Haruka gave him a long look. It seemed like she was trying to get a read on him, but wasn't having the easiest time doing so.
"Every member of Masquerade wear masks. Specifically, the masks are surgically fused to their face so they can never be removed. They WANT people to know who the enemy is, because we can't really do anything about it. It's a power play, and if people see one lurking around the corner they're less likely to step out of the perfectly sketched lines laid out for us."
Her voice seemed to be growing louder and more intense with every word that she spoke, and Shizuka placed a hand on her shoulder.
"Haruka. Deep breaths." She cautioned gently, and the shorter woman slowly exhaled and nodded, rearranging her face back to its sweet smile.
"Right. Of course. Sorry for my behavior there, you guys wouldn't really know much about Masquerade so I shouldn't get so heated…but anyway, it's going to be hard for you to wear a mask out in public, so you'll either have to take it off or just stay home or covered all the time. People will get nervous."
"You'll also have to take it off so we can get a picture for the ID cards that I'm making." Yume agreed and Deidara frowned.
"Yeah! You can't go out in public without them or you get in trouble. They don't really like letting non-citizens into the city without a tourist pass, so we have to mess with a bunch of stuff so you guys can walk around without getting arrested." She said cheerfully.
Tobi seemed to fidget nervously. "Uh…that's great but Tobi doesn't want to take his mask off! Not even for a picture! Definitely not for a picture!"
"Well, why not?" Shizuka asked, frowning a bit warily at that. Most of the other Akatsuki members were looking at Tobi curiously as well. He never really had explained the mask, they'd just accepted it. Itachi and Kisame were the only ones who knew…or, well, thought they knew.
Thinking fast, Tobi spoke up again. "It's, uh…I have a phobia of people looking at me! So the mask helps!"
"Oh…Scopophobia?" That seemed to be a satisfactory answer to Shizuka and Yume at least, who both nodded, although Haruka didn't seem entirely convinced. The other Akatsuki members seemed uncertain as well, but there wasn't really anything they could do to refute it.
"Okay, so I guess we could put something about it being for a medical purpose…it's pretty different from the Masquerade's masks, so we can make it work." Yume said with a hum. "I can photoshop something together if we need a real face on the card as well…"
Tobi sighed with relief, and Madara had to admit to feeling relieved as well. It seemed no one had picked up on his deception yet, thankfully. He'd always just been watching through Obito's eyes. Putting himself in the role was harder than he had expected.
"Anyway, now we get a question." Shizuka said, growing a bit braver around them. "Yume asked earlier but it was never answered…what exactly are 'Shinobi?'"
There were a few sighs around the room. This was going to be a long conversation.
Things are still moving a bit slowly, but I was getting tired of the Questions Game after a little while through it. Ah, well. The girls get to better introduce themselves and explain some of the major points about the setting being used, so that's good.
Question of the Chapter: Geez I'm already having a hard time with these…what's your favorite fictional world? Mine is probably Thedas, the Dragon Age setting. I wouldn't want to LIVE there, but I absolutely love the lore and design of the world.
Also, do you guys think the story is moving too slowly? I'm anticipating this to be a pretty long fanfic; hell it's probably gonna be at least chapter 10 before any proper plot starts, let alone the actual romance. I'm a sucker for slow burn and casual character interactions, but I can try to speed things up if people are losing interest.