Fear the Walking Maelstrom
Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Fear the Walking Dead.
Author's Note: Howdy, y'all! It's yaboi, CarLost! So it's been a while since I updated. Now, while I do sincerely appreciate many of the reviews that were helpful in terms of making the story better, there are also a LOT of nameless readers who hide behind their "guest" accounts and needlessly say some pretty fucked up things. I mean, come on, you guys. I'm just another dude, tryna write stories for my own entertainment and yours. Be a bit nicer with your words, because they do affect the people around you. Furthermore, we are a COMMUNITY. So please, act like it, or drop the damn story! You know how to exit a website! Thank you!
As for the rest of you amazing people, like I have said, there is a reason as to why Naruto's mindset is the way it is. Just relax and let the plot progress. It would rather be a dull story if he just goes ahead at 9000% when the story begins. Gotta build up to something! So please, have a little faith! All will be fixed soon and your favorite Jinchuriki will get his full abilities eventually!
"Dialogue" - Normal speaking
Dialogue - Thoughts
"Dialogue" - Kurama
"Dialogue" - Over the phone/line
"Dialogue" - Jutsu
CHAPTER 4: CATRINA ISLAND
[Strand's Villa - Hours after escaping the compound…]
Los Angeles never felt so foreign.
In the short time he was here, Naruto seemingly couldn't get used to the fact that what was once a brightly lit and bustling city was now a dark shadow of what it once was as fires were seen in the distance.
"Naruto," Alicia's voice cut through the thoughts the blonde was having, snapping him out of his contemplation, as the brunette zipped up her jacket and heaved a duffle bag whilst she took in the blonde's pensive gaze, "Nick, Daniel, and Travis have the last of our stuff. They're heading down the cliff now. Are you okay?"
"Huh? Oh, I'm… alright," the blonde answered unsurely, prompting Alicia to come closer and rest her free hand on his wrist, "Really, I'm okay. I'm just now taking it all in, I guess. So much changed within the course of a few weeks. So much...death. Our home…"
"I know…," Alicia whispered back as the two of them gazed out the second floor terrace, where they could see the streets below and the city skyline in the horizon, "But you said so yourself, our home's with the people."
"Not the place. I remember," the blonde chuckled as he engulfed Alicia in a hug, surprising the brunette, though she willingly returned it, "Thank you for cheering me up. Per usual, that is."
"Anytime. I'm here all week," Alicia giggled as she spoke and nuzzled into Naruto's chest, not wanting their embrace to end just yet.
Blushing at the feeling of the beautiful brunette tightening her hold around him, Naruto stuttered about, "I'll b-be sure to take you up on that. Anyways, we should probably get going. Sun's setting and we're more than likely going to need to make more than a trip to the yacht and back since there's a couple of us."
With just a nod from Alicia, the two exited Strand's house through the backyard, both holding their own bags, as they caught up with Doctor Exner, who was doing a final check of her first aid kit and her med-bag.
"Find everything else you need here, doc?" Naruto asked as he put on his orange puffer vest that he wore only a few hours ago and zipped it up.
"It's not much, but I was able to pack whatever food and medicine Mr. Strand has," the good doctor admitted as she slung the straps of her bag on her shoulder, "We should be good for the time being."
Just as the trio made their way down the cliffside down to the shoreline, an audible explosion went off in the direction of the city, stopping Naruto and the two females.
"We should hurry," Bethany urged the two teens after she snapped out of her confusion, "Looks like the higher-ups are moving up the timetable."
"Mom…" Chris whispered solemnly as he let the tears in his eyes fall freely whilst he ever-so-softly caressed his mother's cheek, "Why…?"
A little bit away from the mourning teen, Madison, Travis, and the rest of their group were packing their belongings into the small speedboat that will bring them into Strand's yacht, the Abigail. Nothing was said, for nothing could be said. Although only a few of them were close to the deceased mother, there was no question that they would still be trapped inside the compound if it wasn't for Liza's timely intervention.
"Alright, this is the plan," Daniel broke the silence as they finished putting whatever supplies and belongings they could for the first trip to the yacht, "The speedboat can only take a few people at a time, along with our things. I shall go along with Victor to the boat to make sure it is secure. Nick, Andrew, Alicia and Ofelia should come with us first and help unload. Chris… seems to need more time. Naruto will be more than enough protection in the meantime, I presume."
While everyone was confused at the old man's almost blinding-trust towards the blonde, Naruto merely grinned and nodded cheekily, prompting a few amused chuckles. The rest nodded, seeing as it was a sound plan, and the ones chosen to go first to the yacht soon boarded the speedboat, just in time for Naruto, Alicia, and the doctor to arrive down the shore.
"'Licia, go with your brother to the yacht first and help set things up there," Madison said to her daughter just as her two children set their bags down onto the sand.
Slightly looking at Naruto, who nodded towards her, Alicia took a deep breath and did as she was told. Getting onto the speedboat, she then looked at the blonde once more, "Keep 'em safe."
Naruto merely smiled that confident smile and replied, "I will. See ya soon."
The boat then departed, leaving Madison and Naruto gazing out the rapidly darkening horizon as they both kept an eye on the speedboat.
"Naruto, help us bring our stuff closer to shore!" Travis yelled as he heaved the rest of their packs up.
Turning his attention to Travis, the blonde then went to work, now focusing more on Chris from his peripheral. With their stuff now just waiting as close to shore as they could get, Naruto heard Madison talk to Travis.
Looking at the broken-state Chris was in, Madison shouldered the last baggage and then turned her attention to Travis, "Go take care of him."
Travis could only nod in return, honestly not knowing what to say to his own son. He himself was at a loss as to what to feel… How to feel. It all just seemed so overwhelming.
"Go and help your friend, Mr. Hero," Bethany uttered as she grinned knowingly at the blonde while she stood by the shore and watched for the return of the speedboat, "I'll let you know when our ride's here."
Nodding gratefully at the good doctor, Naruto approached Travis. Seeing the different emotions go through the curly-haired man's face, Naruto decided to step in as he rested a hand on Travis's shoulder, "You can't help your son if you haven't even helped yourself yet, Travis. Get your shit together first. I'll handle Chris for the moment."
Sending a relieved, yet regretful smile towards the blonde, Travis tried to argue back to no avail. He knew Naruto was right. He's a total mess and that's not what his son needs right now.
Walking past his English teacher, Naruto then knelt beside Chris, though no words were said at first.
"I know what you're going through," Naruto whispered a minute later, breaking the silence, as he then opened his backpack and calmly looked inside as he shuffled through his things.
"Don't," Chris uttered curtly, keeping his gaze towards his mother the entire time.
"I'm just trying to tell you, you aren't alone in all of this," Naruto calmly continued as he pulled out a small vial of ink, a bruh, and a rolled-up scroll the size of a water bottle.
"WHAT WOULD YOU KNOW!?" Chris then blew up, his anger finally past its boiling point as all his pent up emotions collided all at the same time, as he glared at Naruto, "YOU'RE JUST ADOPTED!"
"I am adopted, but contrary to popular belief, I've met my godparents and my grandfather before," Naruto continued, unfazed by the teen's expected outburst as he unfurled the scroll beside Liza's deceased body and began to meticulously draw odd and foreign runes to Chris's confusion, "I grew up with my grandfather. He wasn't always there, but he tried to support me as best as he could, even though his responsibilities as our… community's leader always kept him busy. Some bad stuff happened when I was thirteen years old, and the old man died."
Chris could only stay quiet, evidently interested in the story. Unbeknownst to the two of them, Travis and Madison stood a bit to the side and listened, though Madison already knew of this. Naruto was an open book to her, after all.
"I couldn't believe it at first. My grandfather was one of the strongest people I knew, ya'know? He just seemed like he would live forever. Anyways, not long after that, My godfather came into the picture. He ended up taking me under his wings after the old man died. It just so happened that my godfather was actually a student of my grandfather back in the day! He was goofy as hell, my godfather. He was the biggest pervert too!" Naruto chuckled as he remembered Jiraiya, just as he finished drawing the symbols on the scroll, while Chris couldn't help but smile along with the blonde's infectious grin.
"He taught me everything I know. From fighting, to stuff like academics and…other things. If only his perversion didn't get passed onto me. Now, it's hard looking at women when you're literally trained to assess what their figure measurements are…," Naruto irritatedly quietly mumbled out the last bit, though it was still loud enough that Chris and even Travis were able to hear from the way they were lightly stifling a chuckle, "But yeah. Then some more bad stuff happened. The old perv was like a private investigator of sorts. He had connections everywhere. Some shit happened and he ended up getting killed-in-action."
The brown-haired teen could say nothing as he couldn't even imagine losing, not one, but two of the people he considered family. He then looked at Naruto once more, his eyes threatening to tear up again, "How are you still able to smile like that? Knowing that you've lost family?"
"By remembering that they sacrificed their lives hoping that Iget to fully live mine," Naruto answered resolutely as he reached across and properly gripped Chris's shoulder, "Don't let your mom's death be in vain. Her dying wish was for you to stay alive and live. To grow old and be surrounded by family. Don't dishonor her. Don't give up. Keep fighting and protect your family, Chris."
Just as Chris was about to bring himself to respond, the audible chorus of moaning and groaning echoed from the cliff above and the rest of the shoreline to their right.
"Shit!" Naruto stood up as he identified several of the infected shambling their way from the beachside, "They probably saw the bonfires Andrew and Daniel set up around us."
"It probably didn't help that… I got loud all of a sudden," Chris admitted, ashamed that he might have caused the dead to come to them.
"Travis!" Madison shouted just as a couple infected plummeted down to their level from above the cliff.
"Oh, Jesus, Maddy!" Travis blurted out as he took out his handgun and handed it to Madison. He then unslung the shotgun from his shoulder and made sure it was loaded, before he then held it at a ready position, "Naruto! Chris!"
"I know!" Naruto yelled back as he kneeled in front of his scroll once more.
"I don't wanna leave her here!" Chris slightly began to panic as he switched gazes between the infected that are slowly increasing in number and his beloved mother.
"I already knew that!" Naruto then began to weave signs, carefully so as to not forget which signs to form first, while Bethany took a defensive stance next to the kids.
"Whatever you're doing, you better make it fast, kid," the doctor stated as she gripped the combat knife in her hand tighter, in preparation for the first wave of oncoming infected.
"W-what are you doing?" the brown-haired teen asked fearfully, though there was a hint of confusion in his voice.
"Look, I owe everyone a proper explanation later. I know my mom's still waiting on that anyways," Naruto answered, prompting a sound of agreement from Madison in the process, as he finished weaving his signs and ended on the ram hand sign. Glancing up at Chris, Naruto continued, "Long-story-short, I can do some pretty cool things that no other person can do in this world, human or not. So far, at least."
He then bit into his thumb and drew enough blood to smear his. Then, he slammed it into the center of the rune-riddled scroll, "Fūnyū no Jutsu!"
Right before Chris's eyes, a plume of smoke erupted from nothing, followed with an audible pop. Then, his mother's deceased body was gone.
"Holy shit!" Travis exclaimed, wide-eyed, as just a second ago, he was looking at Liza's face.
"Where did my mom go!?" Chris panicked as he looked around in fear, anger, and confusion, "Naruto!"
"Relax, Chris! Jeez!" Naruto grabbed the scroll and stood up, furling said scroll and tying a knot on it, "I sealed your mom's body in this scroll. It'll be preserved, so you don't hafta worry about that. We'll bury her properly somewhere. For now, hold onto it, alright? Don't lose it!"
"Wha-what…?" confusion riddled in his face, the dumbfounded teen could only grab it and watch as Naruto then unsheathed the tantos strapped on his shins.
"Focus, brat!" Naruto bellowed as he then rushed the nearest reanimation a couple of yards away with blinding speed, while Bethany took that time to drag Chris back to where Madison and Travis stood.
Making eye contact with Madison for a second, the three adults stood in front of Chris and their belongings as Travis finally took the first kill and shot an infected through the head a couple feet away from him, "Did you know your son could do… whatever he just did? I'm not the only one who saw that, right?"
Realizing that Naruto was making quick work of the infected falling from the cliff, Madison aimed her sights towards the shoreline along with Travis, "I always felt as if he was hiding something. Trust me, I'm just trying to take it in stride. Naruto definitely has some explaining to do."
Meanwhile, the blonde jinchuriki was conflicted with himself. Should he really tell them about who he is? He should, right? They deserve to know the truth. Hell, it'll protect them, knowing and being able to depend on his abilities. But what if they end up treating him differently?
"BRAT, WATCH WHAT YOU'RE DOING, DAMMIT!" Kurama's bellowing voice cut through his thoughts, making him dodge in time, just as a falling infected from the cliff crashed merely seconds from where he was standing, "Getting close to the cliff like that, are you really having a debate in your mind right now, of all times?!"
My bad, Kurama…, the blonde apologized as he took his fighting stance once more, dashing to the right and swiping through a dead woman's chewed-off neck, You're right. I should focus.
"And yet, you cannot," the Biju said matter-of-factly, as he sighed deeply within the confines of his seal, "Is it even a question at this point, kit?"
What do you mean? Naruto asked as he somersaulted forwards into the air and finished with an axe kick that landed right at the center of a dead man missing an arm. Acting fast, Naruto regained his footing and quickly jabbed his chakra-infused tanto through the infected's cranium.
"We made a deal to keep your abilities under wraps under the assumption that there might be more of your kind here. In turn, we decided to conserve your chakra for a possible confrontation, yes?" Kurama pointed it out, whilst his container threw one of his tantos towards a reanimation that got past him and was heading towards the doctor.
Yeah, I remember. Please get to the point, the jinchuriki abruptly replied as he dropped to the ground and performed a sweep kick, sending a middle-aged infected with his guts out towards the ground. Stabbing his tanto through the reanimation's eyes, It's not easy conversing while I try to kill these things.
"So, if something as big as the dead of this world suddenly rising is happening, don't you think we'd have felt a surge in chakra somewhere? The people of this world only have enough chakra to live. Even the 'civilians' in our world had more chakra compared to them," The nine-tailed fox spelled it out, rather irked that for someone as powerful as Naruto, he's pretty slow on the uptake, "And your chakra reserves, while it hasn't recovered quite fully due to the damage from having eight of the nine bijus extracted, is still on par with that of a high Chunin or a low Jonin. It's unfortunate, but on the other hand, your chakra control has gotten better. Your Nature manipulation, even better. You definitely would have been able to sense another chakra user anywhere in this chakra-less world, no matter how faint."
"So… I don't have to… hold back anymore?" the blonde asked aloud, surprise evident in his face as he finally put on the pieces together, though he was mindful of the new wave of the infected falling from the cliff.
"Oh, Kami, he finally used his critical thinking. Heavens above!" Kurama's exaggeration rang out from the mindscape, earning a growl from the whiskered blonde. Clearing his throat after several seconds of guttural chuckles, the nine-tailed fox got serious once more, "Now, while you can't just mindlessly throw around Rasenshurikens like a madman or spam Shadow Clones like candy, you can use them. Sparingly."
Naruto stayed silent, choosing to retreat a couple yards from the cliffside, backing up towards Bethany as he retrieved his other tanto and flicked both his weapons free of blood.
"After all, you would do anything to protect your 'precious people' or whatever, wouldn't you?" Kurama finished almost nonchalantly, though unbeknownst to the blonde shinobi, the fox was grinning proudly and confidently.
"Damn right!" With renewed vigor, Naruto sheathed one of his tantos. Then, making his trademark hand sign, the whiskered blonde excitedly yelled out, "Shadow Clone Jutsu!"
Just like earlier, though different in amount, several huge plumes of smoke popped out of nowhere, engulfing Naruto and everyone behind him. Several seconds later, just as the smoke dissipated, a dozen identical copies of Naruto stood in a circular arc surrounding them in a protective stance.
"Okay, now I know I'm definitely just dreaming," Chris murmured aloud, the ridiculousness of the situation-a cloning step-brother(?) and the dead coming to life, for God's sake!-becoming too much for him to rationally wrap his mind around, "That, or I'm just reaching a new level of exhaustion to the point I'm getting high."
"I assure you, it isn't that. That's not possible to begin with," Bethany counter-argued as she, too, tried to wrap her own mind to what she was seeing in front of her.
"And making real-life copies of yourself from…nothing is?" Travis asked aloud, though he evidently is still doubting the situation.
Who really are you, Naruto? Madison silently thought as she continued looking at Naruto's back, the blonde silently assessing the situation while his Kage Bunshin, as she heard him say, fought in his stead.
Turning away from what would be an impossible sight, Bethany looked back to the ocean seeing as she only had a knife on her. Just in luck too, for she could barely make out a rapidly moving white blur from the dark waters towards them, "Hey! The boat's coming!"
"Finally!" Travis blurted out as he reloaded his shotgun for the upteenth time, "I'm running outta shells here!"
"I'm almost out!" Madison exclaimed as she shot one of the dead through the head, "Doctor, as soon as the boat gets here, you and Chris load the stuff up! We'll cover you! Naruto!"
"A bit…," Naruto growled out as he took on two of the dead, jumping and sending a flying side kick to the head of the one on his right and simultaneously thrusting his tanto through his left, "Busy here! What's up!?"
"Boat's coming! Be ready to leave!" Travis called out as he aimed and shot at one of the corpses that got past Naruto's clones.
Deciding to merely nod silently, Naruto focused his attention on the ever-growing amount of infected in the area, Why are they all gravitating towards this direction? There shouldn't be a reason for all of them going here…
"Hey, guys! Let's...go!" the sound of Nick's voice reached Naruto's ears, prompting him to turn around and look at his adoptive brother and the really loud motored raft they were using, as Nick then got the boat as close to the shore without leaving the water, "Am I still on drugs? 'Cause I'm seeing more than one Naruto right now!"
Huh…, the blonde mused to himself as he began walking back towards Madison and Travis, letting his clones do the rest, as he thought about the raft's engine, That loud engine would do that, yeah.
"Will your… clones be able to fight long enough for us to get outta here?" Chris asked curiously as he and the rest of the group began to carry their remaining bags onto the boat whilst Madison tried to explain things as rationally as possible to the stupefied Nick.
"For all intents and purposes, they're a physical copy of myself, so they should be able to defend themselves," Naruto answered matter-of-factly as he flicked his tanto to the side, making the blood on it splatter on the sand, and sheathed it, "Though one really solid hit could pop it. Or, in this case, a good ol' bite from the biters."
"Alright, that should be all of 'em! Everybody, get on! I'll push!" Naruto yelled out as he placed the last bag, his own, on the raft and helped Madison get onboard, prompting Chris, Bethany, and Travis to do so as well.
Without further ado, the blonde began pushing the boat, yet how he was going about it left his companions' jaws hanging even further.
"A-are you actually walking on...water?" Bethany murmured out, wide-eyed as she watched the whiskered blonde perform yet another unbelievable feat.
"Uhh… Yeah," Naruto strained out as he heaved the raft backwards as it was facing the beach still and wouldn't be able to maneuver until it's further away from the sandy shores, "Just one of the many skills I have."
He then caught his adoptive mother sending him a look that bordered between disbelief and surprise, "I promise, Mom, we will talk."
"Oh, I'm counting on it." Madison could only say those words, still disbelieving the fact that his own adopted son has these… abilities that no one could ever do.
"Nicky, once we get far enough, start steering towards the yacht. I'll be behind you, I promise," Naruto spoke as he then looked at his adoptive older brother, a confident grin plastered on his face, as he continued pushing.
"Uhm… Should I even ask what your plan is?" the older brother asked, his curiosity evidently piqued.
"I'm gonna let loose a 'lil bit and blow these munchers to hell!" With an almost palpable excitement about his grinning face, Naruto then gave one last push and yelled after, "Alright, go! The farther you are, the better!"
The order being given, Nick turned the engine on once more and steered the raft around in the direction of the yacht as all of its passengers kept their eyes on the blonde.
"Kurama, ya still awake?" the blonde jinchuriki asked out loud as he watched the undead grow in number, as his clones popped themselves by the shore.
"The scent of blood is literally mixing along with the ocean breeze, so yes, I'm very much awake," the fox deadpanned as he sat up from his previously lounging position in the seal and clapped his hands together, "And, yes, I can give you some juice, before you ask. Gathering Nature chakra now."
"Aww, you know me so well!" Naruto exclaimed sweetly, though it was obviously a little sarcastic, as he then felt the surge of Nature chakra coursing through his veins a couple seconds later, "I'm just glad that, even though I can't access your chakra, our connection still lets you transfer Nature chakra to me! Makes life so much easier!"
"What will you ever do without me, kit!?" a grin on his face, Kurama answered snobbishly, though there was no real arrogance in it.
"Hahaha, I know, right!?" Naruto chuckled as he then made two more shadow clones, "Alright, let's give 'em a show!"
Outstretching his palm forward so that the two clones from either of his side could reach it, his copies then began to work. While the other one was containing the chakra that he himself was supplying, the third clone began adding his wind manipulation. Pretty soon the wind around him started picking up.
"Wait… What's happening now?" Bethany asked out loud as the wind began to pick up from Naruto's direction along with a loud, screeching noise and a cerulean glow from what seemed to be an orb as big as a beach ball with four blades spinning with blinding speed around it, "What is that?"
Just as Travis was about to start guessing, they all watched as Naruto then leapt into the sky. Higher than what was possible. To their continued surprise, the whiskered blonde then threw the damn spinning orb, making contact with the sandy shores.
Then, it exploded.
"Oh, fuck." Chris muttered, bewilderment in his and everyone else's faces as what could only be called a hurricane-bomb decimated the entire face of the cliffside and buried the undead below in rubble, sending gales all around it and strong ripples through the water.
"Mom, did you know he could do that?" Nick asked as he turned to his mother, very much bewildered at what he just saw, "Naruto literally could make copies of himself. That, and he threw a glowy-bomb. A bomb!"
"He could also walk on water…" Chris shared his input as he saw Naruto under a new light, "Is he an alien? Or a science experiment gone wrong?"
Madison could only stare at the ruins by the shore as she slowly shook her head, "I don't know."
[The Abigail - Several minutes later…]
"Where is Naruto?" Alicia asked as she helped Nick and the others take their belongings off the raft and onto the yacht, looking around for that familiar head of blonde.
"Oh, he's coming," Nick replied mysteriously, at least to Alicia, as he shook his head with what appeared to be disbelief all over his face.
"See, there he is," Chris pointed out as he, Bethany, Travis, and Madison just stood in the direction of the shoreline, where Naruto was… running on water?
"What the hell?" Andrew asked out loud as he, Ofelia, and Daniel stood a little behind and caught sight of the whiskered blonde literally jogging on the surface of the water.
"Dios mío…," Daniel mumbled, while Ofelia, beside him, just had her mouth hanging open.
A satisfied smile on his face, Naruto hopped up from the water's surface onto the yacht's deck and greeted everyone, "Everyone get here alright? We're good, right?"
"Riiiiiiiiiiight…," Alicia nodded slowly, yet still had that dumbfounded expression on her face.
"Oh, right," the whiskered blonde snapped his fingers as if he realized something, which he did, "You guys… probably have questions, huh?"
"Several, actually," Madison cut in, her poker face at its strongest as she looked at Naruto without any emotions.
Taking a deep breath, Naruto cracked his neck and rubbed the back of it, "Alright then, let's talk."
The next few hours went by like a blur. What with everything that happened within the span of a few days, the passengers of the Abigail were tired, yet restless. Sleep didn't come easy for them tonight, especially for the Clarks. As promised, Naruto answered any and all questions that the members of his group had. Who he really was. What he really was. Where he really came from. How he has all these abilities. If there is anyone else like him. How he got here.
Being the honest person he is, the blonde jinchuriki told them everything. That he came from a place called the Elemental Nations, where more than half the population of, perhaps, the whole world had abilities like his, utilizing an inner, physical manifestation of energy called chakra. That he really was an orphan because his parents died protecting him from an evil madman who took control of one of the greatest beings in their world to spread chaos, the same day he was born. That the same demon that was controlled by said madman was now sealed inside him, due to his father using a forbidden technique that uses his own life force. That he was a shinobi. A ninja, trained from the young age of six, able to fight and take the enemy's lives if need be. That there was a full-scale world war that all came down to him, two of his best friends, and his sensei fighting the equivalent of a mythical goddess in the hopes of saving the world. That, in order to save him from dying, his brother-in-all-but-blood opened an interdimensional portal, without any knowhow of controlling it, and shoved him through.
Safe to say, it can't get any more ridiculous and far-fetched as this.
Just about every member of their group wanted to shoot these ideas down, that perhaps Naruto just lost all his marbles, if it weren't for the fact that the blonde Jinchuriki was currently casually standing on the ceiling of the indoor deck with his hands folded between his chest.
"So… Correct me if I'm wrong," Nick began to hesitantly speak up, unsure of himself and of the situation in its entirety, as he, Alicia, and Chris sat by the L-shaped couch, "But you're essentially… Jeez, it's even more difficult to believe now that I'm trying to say it out loud, but what you're saying is that you're a bomb-throwing, wall-walking, super-soldier-ninja from another world, where there was a world war and, due to circumstances, was thrown across time and space?"
"That… is a really short way of thinking about it…, but, yeah, I guess so?" Naruto shrugged as he cut off the chakra he was supplying to the soles of his feet and flipped to the ground.
"Well then, that settles it, Mr. SpaceMan," Strand said as he stood up from the stool he was sitting on by the mini-bar and stretched, drink in hand, "You've just become one of the most valuable commodities in this new development. A walking one-man army. Now, if you'll excuse me, I still have to go through the Abigail's system to make sure she's fully operational."
The businessman then sauntered up to the wheelhouse of the yacht, leaving everyone else in the living room.
"I - Man, this is all too overwhelming right now. I don't whether Strand's just so detached that he's acting like it's nothing or he really just went a bit crazy," Andrew blurted out as he combed through his short hair, earning a collective of chuckles from the rest of the group, "But what I do know for sure, is that you saved me and Doc over here. God knows what would've happened if you didn't step in and talked some sense into me."
"Or me, for that matter," the doctor raised her own glass of liquor as she sat beside the stool Strand was sitting on minutes ago.
"So, you have nothing to worry about with me. I owe you," Andrew continued as he smiled and took hold of Ofelia's hand, squeezing it in the process, "Possibly my life, if I'm being honest."
Naruto was at a loss for words, not expecting Andrew's and Bethany's open-mindedness. He was expecting something along the lines of…
"So, you live with us for almost two years," Madison interjected, a hint of betrayal and hurt in her tone, "But you still kept this from us? Why?"
Taking a hint, Daniel got off the counter of the minibar he was leaning on and cut in, sensing that Naruto and his family needed the room, "Ofelia, Andrew, come. We have to organize the cabins and make some space. Vámonos."
"I'll come along and check out the medbay," the doctor chimed in as she then stood up and subtly gave Naruto a mocking salute, "Victor said he has one, but rarely uses it."
With the majority of the group dispersing, Travis looked at Chris, silently gesturing towards the glass door leading to the rear of the yacht, and the two had a silent agreement to leave the family on the couch as they both headed out to the deck to watch the now-burning city miles away.
Taking a rather deep breath, Naruto took a seat across Madison, sitting where Chris was seated between Alicia and Nick, "I'm sorry, Mom… But would you even have believed if I told you?"
Neither Madison, nor the other two could answer that question, due to the fact that, had Naruto told them that, they probably would have inquired about a mental facility willing to take a patient in.
"I would have probably sounded like a crazy person, right?" Naruto solemnly asked, though he knew the answer well, as he leaned forward and rested his elbows on his knees, "Believe me, when I tell you, that there was nothing else I wanted to do more than to tell you about me."
"...Was any of it real?" Alicia spoke up this time, though she took care not to look at Naruto straight in the eye, opting to stare at the floor, "Or have you lied about everything else then? Like the stories you told us about your godparents and your grandfather? Was that true?"
"Ali…," the blonde murmured softly, smiling in that painful way, as the feeling of the people he cared about doubting him hurt more than he imagined, "The only thing I lied about was when I told you all that I came from Japan. Everything else was true. I did go to a military sort of school. The Shinobi Academy is what it's properly called. I did have a grandpa. His name was Hiruzen and he was the Hokage, the leader of my shinobi village. My godparents were his students, who became legends in their own right. Jiraiya, the pervy Toad Sage, who taught me everything I know, and Tsunade, the Slug Princess, the best goddamn healer in my world and strongest woman there is. They were all real."
"And what about your frenemy, Sasuke?" Nick chimed in, inwardly glad that Naruto was being as honest as he can. A bullshitter can spot bullshit after all, and he wasn't sensing any of that.
"Oh, he's very much real," Naruto chuckled as he subconsciously rubbed the spot on his chest where the Uchiha ran a lightning-covered hand straight through, "He's the very reason I'm here in another world."
"So is there anything else we should know?" Madison asked once more, though this time, it was slightly calmer, having accepted the whiskered blonde's reasons.
"That's about it, really," the blonde replied, rubbing the back of his neck in the process, as he averted his gaze to the side, "I've been honest with everything else, I promise."
Standing up and sighing, Madison smiled lightly and placed her hand on top of Naruto's head, "I'm gonna take your word for it then. Did you really think we would treat you differently?"
Naruto didn't know what to say to that, so he stayed silent instead, prompting Madison to continue, "Alien or not, you're still my son. Whether by blood or by choice. After seeing the dead rise, having a super-powered son isn't much of a surprise at this point. So don't start moping around, you hear me?"
Unable to control the sense of relief that was washing over him from his adoptive mother's words, the slightly embarrassed Naruto nodded lightly, "I won't."
"Good. Well then," Madison stretched a bit as she then faced in the direction of the outer deck where Travis and Chris were leaning on the rails by the side of the boat, "We still have a lot to do tomorrow, so get some rest."
Saying her piece, Madison then headed towards the stairs leading below deck, where all the cabins were located, leaving her three charges on the couch.
"I don't know 'bout the both of you," Nick strained out as he also stood up and stretched whilst he held back a yawn, "But it's been a crazy day. I'm gonna clean up and pass out in the crew quarters. I call dibs on top bunk!"
Merely laughing at their older brother's antics, Naruto and Alicia watched Nick follow Madison in the same direction.
"And then there were two…," Alicia spoke out loud, though she seemed dazed when Naruto looked at her and she was staring at nothing.
"So…," Straightening himself on the couch, the blonde looked ahead, a bit nervous about something he was wondering about this whole time, "You haven't said anything else since earlier…"
"What else is there to say?" Alicia asked, though there was no emotion behind her voice, as she spoke to Naruto without looking, "I mean, you think you know a guy, only to find out that you don't."
"So then… are you mad at me?" the Jinchuriki whispered out.
"I really don't know at this point…," the brunette answered just as softly as she clasped her fingers together, "No? I don't think I'm mad. I could never stay mad at you. I guess I'm just… a bit hurt? Like, it makes me feel like you couldn't trust me. I mean granted, I probably would have called you craz -"
"I swear, it wasn't like that!" Naruto interjected anxiously as he fully turned his head to face Alicia, "I trust you a hundred percent!"
"So, then, why didn't you tell me?" Alicia asked then, though this time, her tone had a hint of mischief to it, inwardly knowing that she could easily fluster the blonde but at the same time still genuinely wanting to know.
"Because…," Naruto tried to explain, yet he couldn't find the words, "Look, I grew up alone. I didn't always have people that I considered important. The ones I do have now, I want to keep. I guess… I was afraid."
Oh, her heartbeat just skipped across the ocean, right then and there.
"I d-didn't want you to think that I'm different," the blonde muttered nervously, not so used to being open on such a sensitive level, "Or think I'm just going crazy and start treating me differently."
"Y-You think I'm that shallow or something!?" the flustered brunette blurted out as she sat up and got into Naruto's space, partly out of her suddenly wild emotions, as well as irritation, "I already thought you were a few screws loose to begin with! I mean, who has a boatload of knives and weapons?"
"Like, is it too much to ask…?" the brunette asked softly once more, as she settled into her seat again, "Things are complicated enough as it is. We shouldn't be hiding things from each other. I understand if you still have things you aren't telling. I mean, this all still feels… so surreal, you know? Flesh-eating corpses and a super-soldier who just so happens to be you."
Taking a second to contemplate about his tenant and the fact that he hasn't mentioned any of it, the blonde then took a deep breath and turned his gaze to the brunette beside him, "There is… something else. But it's something that I believe, no one is ready yet to find out. Nor is it… something I want everyone to know."
"Will it put my life in danger if I find out….?" Alicia inquired, careful to pick her words right, as she locked eyes with the spikey-haired shinobi.
"No, but it might make you… start to fear me because of it," Naruto answered as best he can as memories of his childhood and the scornful and fearful looks of the villagers flashed in his head. To his surprise, Alicia gently rested her hand on his cheek, making the blood rush to his cheeks.
"I will never be afraid of you, Naruto. Or start treating you differently," the brunette stated in such a gentle yet unwavering tone that Naruto couldn't help but believe her, "I promise. And we don't break those."
Steeling himself once more, the whiskered blonde stood up, took a deep breath, and extended his hand towards Alicia, "Alright, come with me. Let's go out to the upper deck."
Without much hesitation, Alicia took Naruto's hands, being pulled up to her feet in the process, and the two headed outside. The blonde nodded to Travis and Chris as they saw the father and son sitting by the outdoor couch, telling them that the 'family meeting was over,' prompting the two to go back inside.
Sitting down on the center table of yet another set of outdoor couches, the whiskered blonde prompted Alicia to join him, "Here, sit down in front of me. Now, I've only done this once, when a friend of mine helped control my… other abilities. He was able to synchronize with my chakra, the energy inside me, and he was able to pull me along within his mind. Does that make sense?"
"Like a… mental connection or something?" Alicia inquired, the idea seeming so ridiculous, yet not at all impossible anymore, if the blonde in front of him had anything to say about it.
"Sorta," Naruto gestured in a so-so manner as he tried to explain the process as best as he can, "It's more of a… room, inside my head. And, with a bit of manipulation from the energy inside me, I can synchronize mine with yours. I can give your chakra a little jolt to let it run or something… ugh, I really suck at explaining, I'm sorry!"
"That's alright," the brunette chuckled lightly, seeing the blonde scratch his head in frustration.
"Here, why don't I just show you?" Naruto asked as he positioned his hands in front of him, his palms both facing Alicia, "Place your palms directly to mine. That way, I'll be able to start pushing my energy through your hands. You might feel a bit of a jolt, but I promise it won't hurt. Just… stay calm and breathe. Close your eyes if you have to. Do you trust me?"
Smiling ever-so-confidently, Alicia answered as she placed her hands on Naruto's and closed her eyes, "Yes."
"Alright, here goes," closing his eyes as well, the blonde then started to focus within himself, as he felt himself link to his tenant, Kurama, you there, buddy?
"Yes I am," the fox stated nonchalantly, an amused grin hidden from Naruto on his face, "Are you sure she's ready to know? She might not be able to handle it."
I think it'll be fine. She's been pretty accepting of the current situation as it is…, Naruto pointed out, Just… please, don't do anything stupid. Don't scare the living shit outta her.
"I make no such promises," Kurama answered with a sing-songy tone that promised only mischief and headaches for the future.
With a deep sigh, Naruto then began to channel his chakra to the palms of his hands. Then, once he was sure it wasn't too much or too little, he gently began to push it forward, straight through Alicia's.
She then felt it.
Like a newfound warmth, as if her whole body, her hands most of all, were on fire. Yet, it wasn't harmful at all. It felt like energy in the most literal way, as if it was recharging Alicia's body. Furthermore, it felt so… Right. So new, yet so familiar. As if something that was lost was just now coming back. As if this 'chakra' belonged there all along and her body knew it.
Was this how Naruto felt like all the time? If so, then she was sorely missing out.
Just as she began getting used to the feeling, something even more mind-boggling than this otherworldly experience happened. Her eyes still closed, Alicia somehow felt her surroundings changed. No longer was the breeze of the sea and the sound of the waves noticeable. In its place was what seemed to be the gentle rustling of a forest breeze.
"...Naruto?" Alicia asked out loud, as she tried to sense her surroundings. Then, she realized that her hands aren't touching the whiskered blonde's anymore. Slowly opening her eyes, the brunette could not believe her eyes.
"I don't think I'm in the yacht anymore," Alicia surmised with wide-eyes as she looked at the lay of the land. Land, as in, the deep-green of the trees in the distance, and the lighter shade of the prairie she was standing on, going for miles and miles away under the calm, midday sky. Not to mention that she was now alone, standing in the middle of it, with Naruto nowhere in sight.
"Oh, your physical body is still sitting on the boat," A low, throaty voice snapped Alicia out of her awe, just as a huge - reeeeally huge - shadow fell upon her person, "But your mind is inside Naruto's now."
Turning around, Alicia laid her eyes on what would seem to be a giant monster straight from the movies. Widened eyes in fear, Alicia slowly looked up and gazed into the crimson, slitted eyes of an orange, nine-tailed fox with bunny-ears and a feral smile on its face.
"Hello there, human," the fox greeted her almost menacingly, as his grin grew ever so wider, showcasing more of its razor-sharp teeth and pronounced canines. Taking yet another step forward, then slowly lowered itself down on the ground and was now laying on its stomach, its snout facing up in a regal manner, "Crazy night, huh?"
As if her brain crashed, the brunette could do nothing more than take a step back in fear, only to trip and fall on her butt. Still looking up at the gigantic, Godzilla-sized fox with its numerous tails swishing back and forth behind it, "Oh, my God…"
Just as the fox was going to continue its prank, another voice, a familiar one, cut through the air and interrupted the fox, "Stop scaring her, Kurama. I'm gonna punch you one of these days, I swear to Kami."
"Tch. You're no fun, kit," Kurama rolled his eyes as he rested his chin on his paw and lost the menacing grin, just as the blonde jinchuriki jumped on top of his head, " I wasn't gonna hurt your princess."
"Don't mind him, Ali!" Naruto yelled from atop Kurama's head, snapping the girl from her frightened state and prompting her to look up at him, "He's harmless, I promise!"
"I'll show you harmless…" the fox grumbled as he rested his head on his paws, making him closer to Alicia than ever, "I'm a Tailed Beast, for Kami's sake. I have a reputation to uphold, y'know."
"Reputation my ass. If you aren't letting that lust for destruction control you, you're literally sleeping the damn year off," the blonde snidely remarked as he hopped off Kurama and landed in front of the brunette, "Anyways, Alicia, this is my friend, Kurama. Kurama, this is Alicia."
"I know who you are," Kurama stated as he lazily glanced at Alicia, "You're a feisty one, being able to keep up with this knucklehead and his antics."
"Uh… Thanks?" Alicia reluctantly blurted out, unsure of how to react just as Naruto helped her up back to her feet, "So… you're Kurama… and what are you supposed to be? You said… we're in Naruto's mind… I'm so confused."
Noticing the rather tight grip the brunette had on his hands, Naruto gently gripped back, letting her know silently that there was nothing to be afraid of. Kurama for his part, decided to do the explaining, knowing fully that his container ability to do so can be… quite challenged, "Hmmm… In order for you to understand, you'll need to know more about Naruto's life."
Silently looking at his friend for confirmation, Naruto merely smiled and nodded his head, a sign that he's letting Kurama take the lead for this one. Nodding slightly in return, Kurama continued, "This will be quite a long story. Are you alright with that?"
"Wouldn't my mom notice if we were gone for too long, though?" Alicia asked silently as she looked at Naruto, "Of course, I wanna know…"
"Time moves differently in here," the blonde answered as he pulled Alicia and the both of them headed towards the front of Kurama's face, where broken logs big enough for them to sit on conveniently appeared like a campfire, "Hours in here could be just a few minutes outside."
Thinking slightly harder on it, Alicia then nodded her head and looked up at Kurama, "If that's so… then, yes."
"Very well. You better get comfortable because this will take a while," the fox pointed out while Naruto and Alicia did so, sitting themselves down by the logs, "For the record, I'm just glad this is happening now. You don't know how many times he's whined to me about the fact that he's kept things from you for so long."
"Kurama, you asshole!" Naruto exclaimed in embarrassment whilst Alicia giggled because of Naruto's reaction and the fox's admittance.
And so, Kurama told Alicia about that fateful day of Naruto's birthday. Leaving nothing out, Alicia knew just why Naruto was as clueless and anxious as he was about family. How adamant he was in protecting them.
She could not believe it herself. The madman, hellbent on spreading chaos in the world, turned out to be his father's old student who was presumed dead. He then proceeded to control the Kyuubi, just as it was being transferred out of his mother to be contained, whilst she was going through labor. In just a few hours, Kurama mentioned that he remembered bits and pieces, though the one that stood out the most was when he… took the lives of Naruto's parents.
Alicia cried for the first time that night.
Naruto's first day in the world started with a tragedy. Yet, it really didn't get better. Over the years, the villagers treated him as an outcast. The orphanage he was put in threw him out as soon as he was old enough to do so. The instructors in the academy didn't treat him like the other students, save for one person. Even kids his age at the time were taught by their parents to shun him.
All because he was the demon child. The container of the Nine-Tailed Demon Fox.
"But he isn't you!" Alicia blurted out, watery eyes angrily glaring at Kurama, though the anger wasn't pointed at him, "No offense, Kurama… but how can they treat a child like that?! You and Naruto are not one and the same! I can see that from a mile away!"
"To the villagers… who lost their loved ones that night… I was," Naruto sadly muttered in reply, a forlorn smile on his face at the memory of those lonely times, "But I'm glad that you feel this way."
"You lost your parents that night, Naruto. Just as much as they lost…" the brunette whispered back, having calmed down from her outburst, to which the blonde reached out once more and squeezed her hand in support. Composing herself once more, Alicia brought her attention to the nine-tailed fox, "I'm sorry about that. I couldn't help myself… So what about this war you guys were in? What happened in your world?"
"The Fourth Great Ninja War," Kurama, who decided to let the teen's outburst take its course, politely resumed his explanation as he looked at the blonde giving him a grateful smile, "I mentioned the madman from earlier, yes? Well, that same fool was the one who orchestrated the war. He lived through the years, hiding as one of the nations' most wanted and feared rogue organizations, the Akatsuki. Their goal was to collect jinchurikis. Special individuals who've had Tailed Beasts sealed within them."
Taking a second to let that sink in, Kurama watched Alicia intently as the brunette processed what she heard.
"They were after you…," realizing what that entailed, Alicia mumbled aloud as she looked at Naruto beside her with wide eyes.
"Yeah, they were after me. They were after Kurama to be specific," Naruto confirmed as he continued where Kurama left off, "By the time the war broke off, I was tricked into going on a 'super-secret mission' by my godmother, who was the Hokage. I only knew after the fact that, out of the nine jinchurikis, only me and my friend, the one who taught me how to synchronize with Kurama fully, were the only ones still alive."
"I swear, if I heard this before I saw what you can do, I'd have called bullshit," Alicia murmured as she attempted to wrap her head around Naruto's life.
"Believe me, child," Kurama added his own two cents in, feeling the same as Alicia, "Finding out that there's another world where chakra is nonexistent had the same effect on us. Imagine sensing a warmth and light since you were born, only to go somewhere where it barely exists."
Just like that, Alicia found out more about Naruto than in the past year and it wasn't until almost an hour later when Naruto decided that it's probably a good idea to turn in for the night, claiming that she wouldn't wanna see a grumpy Kurama, to which the fox merely growled and said that he was only grumpy with Naruto.
Coming out of the mindscape, Alicia slowly opened her eyes in the outside world and readjusted to the still-darkened sky, with the walkway lights of the upper deck as the only source of light, the city coastline a mere silhouette behind them.
"You feelin' alright, Ali?" Naruto's voice cut through her thoughts, bringing her eyes back from the coastline to Naruto.
"I'm good," the brunette answered as she rubbed her eye lightly, "How long were we in there?"
"I would tell you…," the blonde began as he scratched the back of his head in embarrassment, "But I don't have a watch and my phone's dead already. I mean, it probably wasn't that long. Maybe a few minutes. Half an hour at most."
"Figures… Mine's dead too," Alicia stood up, stretching as she did so, and looked at Naruto again, "C'mon, let's go back inside. Still gotta pick our rooms and stuff."
Smiling at Alicia as they both made their way downstairs and inside the yacht, Naruto replied, "All I wanna do is sleep!"
"Man, I couldn't sleep at all!" the blonde yelled in frustration as he sat on the upper deck's couch, where he and Alicia were at less than a few hours ago. It was now sunrise, though it was still a bit cloudy in the early morning.
"I know. You kept on tossing and turning," Andrew nonchalantly chimed in as he laid down on one of the two outdoor lounge chairs on the deck, Ofelia standing beside him leaning on the rails, "Next time, you take the bottom bunk, I get the top bunk. Let's see how you like the tossing and turning then."
"Look, it's not my fault the bed's squeaky," the blonde reasoned out as he recounted the amount of kunai he had resealed on the table. Talking to himself then, Naruto thought out loud, "Only two dozen extra. Then I have the ones currently on me… That makes it a total of two and a half dozen. Great."
"I don't think anyone slept, to be honest," Ofelia chimed in whilst she looked down at the swimming deck, where her father, Nick, and Strand were putting the raft back into the yacht's trunk and setting up the metal railings, "I know Strand didn't. Papa didn't either.. He just cleaned his gun and then just laid down on the bed. He didn't sleep though."
Sealing up the extra weaponry back into its scroll, Naruto spoke sincerely as he watched Andrew stand up from his chair and took hold of one of Ofelia's hands gently, "Can't blame you and your dad…"
"Yeah…" the older brunette nodded her head, smiling softly at Andrew as she did so, and cuddled into the crook of his neck, "C'mon let's find something to eat. I'm starving."
The two then made their way downstairs to the dining area, with the blonde deciding to head downstairs as well.
"How far can it take us?" Naruto heard Madison ask as he followed Andrew and Ofelia to the lower deck.
"Three thousand miles," Strand said as he made his way up, where Ofelia and Andrew were just at previously, leaning on the rails as well, "More if we don't stress the engines."
"That'll give us options…," Daniel thought aloud as he sipped on a mug of coffee, having finished putting the raft away safely with Nick's help.
"Sure, we can make it all the way to El Salvador," Strand replied without missing a beat as he looked towards the horizon, where nothing but water was in sight for miles and miles away, "We can survive on the Abigail for quite some time."
Deciding to take it easy for the rest of the morning whilst everyone tried to keep themselves busy, Naruto sat himself down on the lower deck's outdoor dining table, where a brooding Chris sat as he stared solemnly at the scroll that contained Liza.
"Hey, kid," the blonde greeted softly as he settled into his seat and crossed his legs on the couch, "You alright?"
Taking a second to glance at Naruto for a second, the teen smiled gratefully as he brought his gaze back onto the scroll, "I'm okay… I was just thinking, is all. I also wanted to thank you, I guess… If it wasn't for you, I'd probably still be kneeling down on that beach."
"Nah, you wouldn't be," the blonde shook his head as he leaned back and linked his fingers behind his head, "Your dad would've probably dragged your ass into the boat. I sure as hell was ready to."
The teen chuckled, and Naruto decided to continue, "But seriously, don't sweat it. I know we haven't had the best of times before… I honestly thought you were a brat. But I see that you're starting to mature. To grow up. And I honestly couldn't be more proud, Chris. You need this. For yourself… For your dad. Travis needs you, dude. Your dad doesn't know how to process it either. All he knows for sure is that you are his son. That Liza's dying wish is to protect you and let you live on. So stay alive and make that wish come true, you hear?"
With a light-hearted chuckle, Chris nodded his head, "Yes, sir. Man, I don't know how you do it, but thanks. Thank you for helping me through this. It's a really big deal and I'm glad for the support."
"Anytime, kid," Naruto nodded and smiled as Chris stood up from his spot.
"I better go talk to my dad… and grab some food, if there's any," the brown-haired teen stated as he stretched his limbs and placed the scroll back in his hoodie pocket, "You want something?"
"Just a bottle of water will do, thanks," Naruto nodded and Chris went back inside, leaving the blonde sitting by himself on the couch.
Not even a few minutes later and Madison came out of the yacht's interior along with Daniel, both of them holding a cup of coffee, while the blonde woman held two.
"Here you go, sweetie," Madison placed down the other mug of coffee on the table in front of the blonde as she sat down, "If I didn't give you anything to drink or eat, you wouldn't."
"Thanks, mom," the blonde gratefully expressed as he gingerly picked up the mug and sipped it slowly, "I'm alright though. I have snacks packed away if need be."
Satisfied with her adopted son's reasoning, the two fell into silence while Daniel went to talk with Victor on the upper deck. It wasn't until a bit later, when Madison went back inside to take inventory of their supplies with Dr. Exner, that Naruto started getting a bit drowsy.
"Just sleep if you need to," Alicia's voice snapped Naruto momentarily awake, prompting the blonde to focus on the brunette who held a book and sat down next to him on the table, "You've been up all night."
"So have you," Naruto reasoned back as he stretched his arms upwards.
"Except I'm not a one-man army who took down dozens of the infected last night and the night before," the brunette pointed out as she found a good spot and settled into the soft sofa, though she kept her gaze at the blonde, "You've been awake for almost forty-eight hours, Naruto. We're safe for the moment. I promise I will wake you up if something happens. Till then, stop fighting your sleep because I know you didn't sleep last night."
She only found out from Ofelia and Andrew whilst they recounted their conversation with Naruto to her when the two went looking for food to eat, but Naruto didn't need to know that.
"But - "
"Please?" the brunette pleaded as the two stared at each other, neither one backing off.
Sighing in acceptance of the fact that he just can't say no to this girl, Naruto then decided to lay down and use Alicia's lap as a pillow, "Fine, but I'm not going to my room. I'm napping here so you better stay."
Smirking in victory, Alicia let Naruto lay his head on her lap and opened the book where she left off previously, "Fair enough."
Within minutes, the unknowingly exhausted blonde was asleep.
It wasn't until a few hours later in the early afternoon when Naruto was awakened at the cacophony of shouting.
"Naruto, wake up," Alicia's soft voice roused the blonde from his slumber, prompting Naruto to slowly open his eyes and rubbed them, "We found survivors."
Realizing how potentially serious the situation was, the shinobi sat up from his position and looked over where the voices were coming from.
"Mayday!" a particular voice stood out over the sea of shouting was heard as Naruto saw Daniel and Nick stand by the swimming deck, with the latter cocking his shotgun on the ready, "Mayday!"
Standing up, Naruto stood by the railings of the lower deck as Alicia and Madison, who heard the shouting from inside, joined him, "What the hell… there's a whole lot of people over there."
"Oh, God…," Madison uttered softly as she looked at the amount of survivors cramped up in what seemed to be a decent-sized lifeboat.
"What are we gonna do?" Alicia asked as she looked at her mother beside her, "Mom?"
"Go get Travis," the older blonde finally answered back as she looked at her daughter. Without needing to be told twice, the brunette quickly went back inside to search for the curly-haired man. Turning towards her other child, Madison spoke to Naruto, "We gotta talk to Victor."
"Lead the way," the shinobi said and the two went inside themselves.
Making their way towards the helm of the yacht, Madison made her presence known to the black man lounging on the captain's seat, "Strand, stop the boat."
Not reacting in any way whatsoever, Victor didn't even turn Madison's way as he continued looking towards the horizon, "That's funny."
"There are people out there we could help," Madison reasoned, attempting to get through Strand, to no avail, "They'll drown."
"Then they should return to land." the owner of the yacht casually replied, his uncaring attitude slowly starting to grate on the younger blonde.
"We're too far out," at this point Madison pleaded and Naruto heard it in her voice, "There's nothing to go back to."
"I filled my mercy quota," Strand stated as he finally turned around and laid eyes on Madison and the glaring Naruto, "Ten people saved to date. Be thankful."
"...Are we seriously debating about this right now?" Naruto butted in, his irritation finally reaching its peak as he focused on Victor, "People - not dead, alive - are literally out there on a small ass raft, shouting for help, and you're gonna just keep on sailing like there's nothing wrong!?"
"For all your otherworldly abilities, you still are a child. So naive," Strand said with that same amount of calmness that only added onto the shinobi's fury, "You might be able to fend dangers off easily, but we can't. I can't. We have to stay away from the coast, stay away from other people, stay away from the other boats."
Just as Naruto was about to counter-argue, Travis entered the helm and, overhearing the conversation from outside, asked, "What then?"
"South," Victor answered, inwardly glad that someone interrupted what was gonna be a tirade from the whiskered blonde, "We circle down to San Diego - "
Turning around and looking at her lover, Madison tried to reason with Travis this time, "Trav, there's a boat - "
" - Marines at Pendleton. Navy at Coronado," Victor continued, not at all affected by Madison's pleas, "Border Patrol. If they held the line anywhere - "
"The military are not gonna help us," Travis reasoned back as he interrupted the black man and stood his ground, "You know that."
"You prefer the alternative?" Once again, Strand turned around and looked at the three of them behind him.
"Stop the goddamn boat!" Madison yelled, her temper rising as well for reasoning with Victor was becoming useless, "That's the alternative!"
"If I stop the boat, it'll be to drop folks off, not take them on."
"Then don't take them on the boat," Naruto once again interjected as he stepped forward, tired of listening to the back and forth, "They don't step foot on the yacht. We just pull them towards a shoreline. Somewhere safe enough for them to travel on land."
"No can do."
"We saved your ass, Strand," the anger coming off of the whiskered shinobi was palpable as Naruto gritted his teeth and barely contained fury, "We didn't need to, but we did. Have a bit of common decency!"
"I took you and your family on my boat, didn't I?" the black man retorted, a smug grin on his face, "I didn't need to, but I did."
"We are not abandoning innocent people out to die in the middle of the ocean!" Naruto bellowed as he got closer to Strand, with Madison trying to hold him back, though the younger blonde was a bit too strong. Taking a deep breath to calm his nerves, "Look, I'll make sure myself that they aren't a danger. They won't even get on the yacht. We'll just hook them up and pull them. Please. I know you're not a heartless son of a bitch like how you want everyone to think so."
Staring back at the whiskered teen, Strand and Naruto were in a bit of a stare-off, both unyielding and unwilling to compromise their beliefs. Finally, after what seemed to be an eternity of tense silence, Victor relented, "I trust you to keep your word. Ten passengers. No more."
Without another word, Strand brought his focus back out to sea, signaling that he had nothing else to say. Realizing this, Naruto turned to Madison and Travis, "Travis, help me find a rope strong enough to tie their boat with. Maybe to hook it on the yacht or something…"
"Got it," Travis said as Naruto made his way back out towards the swimming deck followed by him and Madison. Once there, Travis got Nick's assistance to open the yacht's 'trunk', where the emergency raft was stored, along with the boat's spare tools, equipment and such.
Finding a thick roll of rope stashed in the corner, most likely used for docking, Travis handed it to Naruto, who was in the process of gearing up as he zipped up his jacket and patted his shins, where a tanto was strapped on either side.
In the lower deck behind and a bit above them, Daniel made sure there were bullets in his shotgun as he and Andrew both geared up in preparation, whilst Bethany made sure she was properly equipped with the standard, military-issue Beretta and combat knife by her waist.
Turning towards her fellow soldier, Bethany got Andrew's attention as the two looked at the skiff full of people, "Are we really just gonna let the kid handle this?"
"That 'kid' could level the side of a cliff, like you saw," Andrew pointed out as he slung the strap of his rifle on his shoulder, "Besides, we aren't gonna get close to them. He is. He can handle himself. He's gonna use his ninja-voodoo magic or whatever he called it to walk on the water. If they turn out to be less than civilized, we bounce."
"Keep your weapons on the ready either way," Daniel chimed in as he watched Travis tie a rope on one of the yacht's dock cleats with Nick holding the rest of it, "They might be armed or infected. We will not take any chances."
"Copy that," Andrew smoothly replied whilst he watched the blonde teenager hold the other end of the rope, inwardly thinking how the old man of his girlfriend seemed more than just a simple barber.
"Are we good?" Naruto asked as he felt the yacht slow down considerably and come to somewhat of a stop.
"Yeah, we should be good. I tied it with a knot best as I can, though I'm used to doing stuff like that for camping, not for boats," the curly-haired man admitted as Naruto handed him the end of the rope, earning a confused look.
"They're too far away for the rope to reach. I'll go and push them closer and make sure they're not dangerous…," the blonde explained, noticing Travis' unasked question.
"I forgot you can actually walk on water. Jesus, just saying that makes me sound crazy," Travis stated, earning a chuckle from both Nick and Naruto.
"Crazy for you, maybe," Naruto said with a smirk as he hopped off the swimming deck onto the water's surface and landed perfectly without getting a splash of water on him, "But totally normal for me."
Years of training making it second-nature to him, Naruto jogged on the surface of the water at a steady pace and made his way towards the skiff full of people. Keeping his hands where everyone could see it, Naruto approached the person who seemed to be the leader of their group of survivors, a brown-haired, middle-aged man in a bloodied, tan jacket standing at the edge of the skiff, "I know this is weird, but I came here to help."
"H-how are you walking on…!?" the man asked incredulously as he and the rest of the people ogled at the blonde teen performing what would be a divine ability.
Choosing to ignore their questions, Naruto decided to ask a few questions amidst the murmurs of the people, "Are any of you bit?"
"W-what?" the man in the tan jacket asked in confusion.
"Are any of you bit? Scratched?" the blonde repeated himself, as he took a deep breath to remain calm, "Did the dead come back to life and hurt you or anyone else on this boat in any way? You know what's going on right?"
"Yeah… yeah," the middle-aged man answered whilst the rest of the skiff's occupants listened intently at his conversation with the teenage blonde walking on water, "We had one of them die in the plane… then he came back to life and scratched one of the stewardesses. Then, she died. She also came back, too."
"Was anyone else hurt by her?" Naruto asked.
"No…No, the rest of the people here are okay," the man answered truthfully as he glanced behind him to look at the other survivors, "I made sure of it. There was a girl in the plane that seemed to know what was going on and told me to tie Deirdre down… the stewardess, I mean. She's the one that got scratched."
"I see…," Naruto murmured as he cracked his neck this way and that as if to warm up. Stretching his hand out, the blonde introduced himself, "The name's Naruto. I'm sure you have questions right now, but know that I'm just trying to help, alright? I'm gonna bring you guys closer to the yacht and tether you to it, but I can't bring anyone on board. We don't wanna take any risks. My family's on that boat."
"O-okay…," the man stammered out as he shook the whiskered blonde's hand, "I'm Anthony."
"Nice to meetcha, Anthony," Naruto said with a smile as he let go of Anthony's hand and grabbed the side of the boat. Pretty soon, the skiff was steadily being pulled forwards, thanks to the blonde's effort, who decided to have small-talk as he did his work, "You seem like the government-suit type. You in the military or something?"
"I'm a-a U.S. Air Marshal," Anthony stuttered out, still pretty surprised at the blonde pulling the boat nonchalantly as if it was merely a workout, "What about you? How's a kid able to do the impossible? Walking on water and, what, super-strength?"
Chuckling at the brown-haired man's comment, Naruto bit back, "The dead are coming back to life and you're more curious about how a kid's walking on water?"
"That's fair I guess…, but you see how ridiculous it is, right?"
"I guess I do? I don't really know," the whiskered shinobi admitted as he changed the topic, "What happened to you guys anyways?"
"Emergency plane landing," Anthony explained, "Our plane got caught in the sky when they closed down all the airports and the lights went off. We lost fuel and had to land out at sea, just in time for the damn plane to hit empty. Half of the plane landed at sea. The front half didn't make it as far as we can tell. These people are what's left of the economy and business class passengers."
"I'm sorry to hear that." the blonde solemnly stated.
"What about you?" Anthony asked, not wanting to think about the demise of the other passengers, "Where were you when it happened?"
"El Sereno. Los Angeles," the shinobi answered, seeing nothing out of lying about it, as they approached the yacht closer, "We were smackdab in the middle of it when it all happened. Riots happened. The lights went off and it only got worse. The army quarantined a portion of the neighborhood and secretly killed everyone and everything outside of it, living and dead. Two of the people in my group defected from their squads. They told us how the government was gonna bomb the city. So I got my friends and family before it fell."
"Holy shit… they bombed L.A.?" one of the survivors asked out loud, starting a new round of murmurs, whispers, and questions about the other cities and states being thrown at him.
"Look, I don't know anything concrete, I'm sorry," Naruto spoke louder than usual in order to get everyone's attention, "But I do know, from my new friends who defected, that their higher-ups were planning on doing the same to all of the major cities that were overrun."
His words leaving Anthony and everyone else on the skiff silent as they murmured and thought to themselves, Naruto finally reached the yacht. Hopping up on the swimming deck, he nodded towards Travis, prompting the man to start tying the rope on one of the skiff's own cleats made for ropes.
Noticing the other people on the lower deck, Anthony murmured softly, though loud enough for the blonde to hear him, as he looked at Daniel, Bethany, and Andrew idly hold their respective weapons, "You guys are seriously armed."
"You would be too, if you saw your neighbors across the neighborhood flock together and try to take a bite at you. I told you, we aren't taking any chances," Naruto replied nonchalantly as he made sure Travis was safely able to tie the rope. Nodding to Anthony one last time, he made his way up to the lower deck and spoke to the ex-military personnel, "Is it okay if I ask you to check on their wounded, doc? I just wanna make sure there's no… infected."
"Of course," Bethany smiled slightly, nodding her head, as she then turned to Nick who also came up, "Hey, Nick? Wanna help check their people out? I need a hand."
"Yeah, sure," With a simple affirmative, the two went back inside to get the necessary supplies, as Naruto then turned to Andrew.
"Hey, Andy, keep an eye on 'em, will you?" the shinobi asked, earning a smirk from the ex-corporal that he promptly ignored, "I'm gonna let Strand know and do some stuff I forgot to do."
"Look at you leading and delegating, Mr. Hero," Andrew teased lightly, earning yet another smirk from Daniel on the side, to which Naruto noticed unfortunately, "Don't worry. I'll keep watch with Mr. Salazar. Go do your thing."
"Thanks a bunch, dude," Naruto smiled gratefully as he then looked at the bald man holding a shotgun on Andrew's other side, "You too, old man."
"Chris," Travis mumbled his son's name as he turned around and faced said son, the two standing rather tensely on the lower deck, "You okay?"
"Uh, yeah," the teen nodded weakly as he inwardly tried to form the words in his mind, "Could we, uh, talk for like a second?"
"Yeah, of course. Let's go up," the older Manawa said as he climbed the outdoor set of stairs leading to the upper deck. The two then sat down on the small couch and Travis asked, "Alright, what did you wanna talk about?"
"Look. I know I've been a pain in the ass… for probably the longest of times. I'm not stupid… I know that I was always pushing you away…," the younger Manawa sincerely said as he tried to speak out on his newfound understanding, "But that's not… that's not what Mom would have wanted. Her last words to me were to live. Not just survive. It also helped that a certain dumb blonde talked - and punched - some sense into me."
"Chris - "
"What I'm trying to say is," Chris continued, not wanting to be interrupted by his dad since he was on a roll now; Stopping would mean his courage to say these things would come to pass, "I'm sorry. I'm sorry for all the bullshit and the headache I caused you. You're the only blood I have left. I'm probably still gonna mess up in the future… But know that I'm trying my best to be better."
An indescribable silence fell between the two. Chris, because he'd said all he wanted to say, and Travis, because he was trying to form a 'fatherly' response. Finally, after maybe several minutes, the father spoke, "You have been a pain in the ass. A big one at times."
Chris could merely chuckle at the suddenly blunt admittance.
"But that will never stop me from caring about you, son," Travis sincerely and resolutely declared with a smile as he rested both his hands on Chris' shoulders, "I'm hurting too. Just like you. What I did for her? I know it was mercy… but it didn't make the decision that much easier. I hope you can forgive me…"
"There's nothing to forgive, Dad," Chris whispered back softly as the mere reminder of his mother brought tears to his eyes, "I wouldn't wanna see Mom turn into… into one of those things. So I understand your decision. But I also want you to know something."
"What is it?"
"I wanna learn how to defend myself," the teen stated, his voice resolute, as the hidden meaning of his words seemed to settle into Travis' mind: I want to learn how to kill them.
"I'm not sure…," Travis began to mumble, only for Naruto's words to echo once again in his mind.
Travis, like it or not, your son isn't a child anymore! He's one of us and he needs to hear this! You want him to start acting like an adult? Start treating him like one!
Before Travis could speak however, Chris spoke first, though it seemed that both father and son had the same train of thought, "I'll have Naruto teach me. He's literally the strongest person… Or is he considered alien? Either way, he's the most capable fighter I've seen. It's like he's straight out of the comic books."
"Only if you promise you'll follow his instructions to the letter," Travis said, his mind made up, as he remembered the blonde teen's sincerity and care for his loved ones, blood or no, "And if he says no, you don't pester him. Deal?"
Travis stretched his hand out in a shaking manner, making Chris look at it for a second. A moment later, he shook his dad's hand with a smile, "Deal."
The rest of the day went by like a blur. On their first day on sea, the crew of the Abigail went about trying to find a sense of calm in the trying times.
Dr. Exner and Nick tended to the plane crash survivors, checking on their health and sparing some food to them; Thank whatever form of divine being gave them Naruto and his otherworldly abilities of sealing valuables in scrolls. The blonde had, unbeknownst to them, been scavenging outside the Safe Zone for the past week, ranging from abandoned grocery stores to gas stations and liquor stores.
Soon, Andrew and Ofelia helped in the endeavor, making sure the people on the skiff were comfortable, if only barely, as they passed out the spare towels and blankets they could find in the yacht.
They were guarded by Daniel, the ever-silent old hawk, as he stood by the lower deck, shotgun on the ready in case he needed them.
Alicia was given the task of surfing through the countless broadcasts and chatter on the radio by Travis (probably in an attempt to keep the inquisitive brunette busy), and even found a survivor named Jack, though she begged the shinobi not to say anything to the adults yet. Naruto merely sighed and rubbed his temple, telling the brunette that he wouldn't, under the condition that she doesn't tell this Jack person anything about them, to which Alicia promised.
While the distant Strand stayed in his throne in the wheelhouse, Madison and Travis took over the kitchen. With the sudden surplus of food supplies gained from Naruto's stash, the duo went to cooking a decent enough meal, though it was mostly canned veggies and beans paired with canned stew, which were thankfully easy to make for a lot of people.
Just like with everyone else, Naruto was currently in the middle of his own set of tasks: training Chris to defend himself. About an hour or two ago, the younger Manawa, acting much more mature than he was a week ago, came to the blonde shinobi with determination in his eyes.
"Naruto, could I ask you for a favor? Can you teach me how to fight? Please. I don't wanna be a burden. If I can help like you do… What happened to my mom… I could stop that from happening to Alicia. Or Nick. Or Maddie. Or Dad."
At first, he wanted to say no. A kid like Chris that's only starting to mature doesn't have what it takes, in his opinion. But then, he looked into his eyes. He saw the beginnings of a fiery determination. And, as cheesy as it sounds, he saw his younger self in Chris. The snot-nosed brat that only wanted recognition, only wanted to be treated equally, only to wake up by reality's cruelty: Naruto and his occupation as the Nine-tailed Demon Fox's container, and Chris and the reality that his mother's gone.
After that realization, how could he say no to that?
So, with a silent curse towards himself and his bleeding heart, Naruto plastered on a rather confident smirk and walked past the brown-haired teen, saying, "Fine. I just hope you can handle my training."
So now, here they were, on the lower deck if the yacht, with Chris holding the same wooden knife Alicia uses when training with Naruto as he heaved, his face glistening with sweat whilst he glared at the blonde who was standing in front of him with his annoyingly confident smirk, "How… How can you move so fast?!"
The past half hour or so was what Nick called "the warm-ups". The rules were simple: Come at Naruto with the intent to kill and hit him at least once. One hit, and the little test would be over. Chris felt stupid now, having scoffed at Nick when the resident drug specialist walked by and asked what they were doing when he, Ofelia, Andrew, and the doc finished their tasks.
Of course, the blonde gets to hit back as well when he feels like it.
"You're just slow, kid," Naruto said nonchalantly as he kept on his obviously annoying expression, knowingly egging the younger Manawa on, "Is that all you've got?"
"Eugh…" the teen straightened up as he rubbed his sides, feeling the beginnings of a bruising, "Your practice taps don't feel like practice taps, asshole. What's the point of all this anyways? I said teach me how to fight, not how to be a punching bag."
"Look, Chris, Alicia and Nick went through this too. It's how I gauge what you can do, stupid," the blonde matter-of-factly said as he cracked his neck, "How else am I gonna know your fighting ability if I don't test you? Now, if you have time to whine, then you haven't tried your best to hit me. So let's go!"
"Fuck it, fine!" With renewed vigor, Chris held the wooden knife in reverse grip and took to his newly learned fighting stance, both of which Naruto taught him as the teen talked to himself silently, Keep the knees and arms fluid and loose so I can move at a moment's notice. Dominant hand kept closer to the body to protect the knife, the non-dominant hand slightly raised and ready to parry…
With his mantra repeated in his head, the brown-haired teen rushed towards the blonde and lashed out with upward reverse-grip slash towards Naruto's chin.
"You're telegraphing too much. You make it obvious where you're aiming…," Naruto whispered softly, though Chris heard it, as he side-stepped, harmlessly letting Chris's attack through. Not done with his assault just yet, Chris retracted his outstretched hand back to just below his chin and used his free hand to throw a side hook. Instead of evading however, Naruto caught the sluggish attack with one hand and used his other hand to quickly 'tap' Chris on his vital spots, which were the neck and his knee with Chris' groin, "You woulda been dead twice now."
Pulling back from the blonde, Chris tried to regroup and was just about to lunge for another attack when Naruto called it, "Alright, that's enough. I know everything I need to."
"Oh, thank God…," Chris blurted out as he took in big gulps of air and dropped on his butt on the ground. Looking up at the blonde, who was holding out a small towel at him, Chris took it as he spoke once more, "If that was only a test run as you say, I'm already worried what the normal routine is."
"It'll be a lot of pain, I'll give you that."
Turning towards the glass door leading to the inner parts of the yacht, Chris saw Nick once again, the older brunette leaning on the door frame as he held two water bottles and chucked it at the both of them.
Catching it deftly, Naruto grinned as he looked at Nick with a mischievous smirk, "I don't think you know what that means, anymore, big brother. You haven't properly sparred with me the last couple of months. What was it, again? You were 'busy with school projects' at the time, right?"
Nick looked to the side, obviously caught red-handed, as he averted Naruto's knowing - and quite intimidating - smile, "I said I was sorry, didn't I?"
Seeing Nick's reaction, Chris decided to poke fun as well as he got up from the ground, having caught his breath, "Well, if you really are sorry, why don't you spar with Naruto then?"
"I like your words, kid," Naruto nodded along as he and Chris sported the same shit-eating grin that promised only mischief, headaches, and quite possibly bodily harm.
"You know, I kinda liked it better when you two couldn't stand each other," Nick nervously admitted as he scratched the back of his head, "But thankfully for me, Mom actually wants your help in the kitchen."
"Tch. Saved by the bell, huh?" Naruto clicked his tongue as he opened his water bottle and drank from it. Finishing a third of the way down, he capped it off again and headed inside the yacht, "We'll work more on properly throwing punches later, Chris. Maybe teach ya how to kick or something. For now, just rest."
With that, the blonde disappeared inside, leaving the two brunettes as they both sat on the dining table. Deciding to poke fun at the younger one since his beloved adopted brother and bully wasn't in sight, Nick said, "You know what the worst part about it is?"
"What?" Chris asked.
"He teaches you through trial by fire."
Nick only chuckled as he remembered his own experience at the hands of the blonde shinobi, "He's literally gonna beat the lessons into you."
"…I'm starting to regret this."
Approaching the decent-sized (for a yacht) kitchen, Naruto was greeted by Madison and Ofelia who were working on the stove and Travis on the side counter, chopping up some vegetables. Getting his mother's attention, Naruto spoke, "Mom, you called?"
"Good, you're here," Madison said as she stirred a pot full of stew whilst Ofelia carefully put in the chopped ingredients that Travis had finished, "The food will be ready soon so we're gonna need help passing them out to the people on the other boat. We got your supplies thankfully."
"Yeah, of course," the younger blonde nodded, "Just lemme freshen up first and I'll get right on it."
A few minutes later and Naruto was once again in the kitchen, working alongside Ofelia, Nick, and Chris, having strung the two male teens along to help as well in preparing the food, and they all worked in comfortable silence whilst Bethany, Andrew, and Daniel stood guard outside.
Just as the group of teenagers were to start bringing the styro cups full of stew out to the plane crash survivors however, Alicia's rather desperate voice stopped them from their current actions, "Travis. Travis, someone needs help. They're sinking."
Rinsing the soap from his hands, having been washing dishes seconds earlier, and turning off the faucet, Travis turned around to face the pleading Alicia, "Who is?"
"Look," the brunette started off, working her brain a thousand miles a minute in the hopes of convincing Travis to side with her, "It's just him, his brother, and his sister-in-law. Just three. We can manage that."
"What's this?" Madison asked as she, too, turned off the stove and listened in on the conversation.
"Jack," the daughter blurted out as she looked at her mother, "His name's Jack."
"Who the hell is Jack?"
Everyone present within the kitchen/dining area of the yacht turned to face the owner of the voice; the one person Alicia didn't want hearing what she had to say.
Descending from the stair leading to the wheelhouse, Victor strolled through the room and headed straight for Alicia, "You gonna make me ask twice?"
"H-He's on a fishing boat near here," Alicia stuttered out, noticing Strand's slowly-but-surely growing ire by the way his gaze seemed to harden with each passing moment, "and he's sinking."
"You talked to him?"
"Y-Yes, I talked to him."
"Did you tell him anything about us?"
"I- no," Alicia once again stuttered out as she looked at Naruto, then Travis, then Madison, then back at Victor, "No, I didn't tell him anything important."
"What didn't you say, Alicia!?" by now, the black man's ire was growing palpable as he glared at the brunette, "What didn't you tell him about us!?"
"Calm down," Travis stepped up and interrupted before the teenage girl could answer the question, in an attempt to diffuse the tension.
Unaffected by the curly-haired man's words however, Strand continued, "This isn't a game. It's mob rule on land! You think it's any better out here!?"
"Back off, Strand," Travis cut in once more, this time a bit more firmly than his previous tone.
"What are you gonna do, Travis!?" Strand yelled out, directing his anger at the ex-English teacher and stepping forward seemingly in a challenging manner, "You feel strong?"
Using his newfound courage due to Naruto's words echoing in his head, Travis had no problems standing his ground and glaring right back at the furious owner of the Abigail, though he opted to wait and react instead of answering back at the obvious taunt.
Backing off a second later, Strand continued his tirade as he made eye contact with everyone in the room, minus Naruto who decided to keep pouring soup into the empty styro cups, "Please, let me explain the rules of the boat. Rule number one, it's my boat. Rule number two, it is my boat. And if there remains any confusion about rules one and two, I offer rule number three, it's my goddamn boat. If it weren't for me, you would all be burned. You're welcome."
Just as the black man was heading back towards the set of stairs leading to the wheelhouse, Naruto spoke up, "Since we're keeping count anyways, if it weren't for us, you would be dinner to a dozen of them."
"Excuse me?" Strand asked as he stopped walking, bringing his attention to the blonde who gingerly placed the ladle in his hand down on a plate on the counter, "Do you have something to say?"
"Correct me if I'm wrong, because I'm pretty sure we've had this talk already," Naruto said as his tone began taking on a sharp inflection as his temper also rose. Walking towards the black man, Naruto leveled his glare at Strand, "But we saved your ass. We didn't need to, but we did. You were a stranger to us, Victor. Yet we chose to save you. You get what I'm trying to say again here?"
"Are you saying that your sister was right and that we should risk our safety, the safety of your family, for even more strangers?" Strand scoffed as he smirked at the blonde, "You may be inhuman, but the rest of us aren't. Our supplies are finite, Mr. Hero. We can't be dilly-dallying every which way saving everyone when we can't even save ourselves. Or are you that naive?"
Naruto had nothing to answer to that.
Sensing the conversation was over and that he had won against the mystery teenager, Strand turned around, a victorious smirk on his face as he went back to his hole, having said his piece.
"I'll talk to him," Nick declared out loud after a few minutes of tense silence as everyone tried to go back to their self-appointed duties and headed upstairs to the wheelhouse.
"He may be an asshole, and trust me, I'm an asshole too so I know," Kurama's voice chimed in, having just woken up minutes earlier just in time to witness the little altercation, "But the man's got a point. We can't save everyone, kid."
I know that, Kurama… I just couldn't help it, you know? The blonde admitted silently as he went back to his task of preparing food for their other traveling companions, I hate arrogant shitheads like him.
"I know you do," Kurama said in return as he yawned shamelessly and quite audibly, "I woulda helped beat him up if you want though. It'd help pass the time. I'm so bored!"
…Go back to sleep, you furry mutt, Naruto drawled out, earning a growl from the tailed beast, though nothing else was said for Kurama did just that.
It wasn't long before all the cups were filled with soup and beans and, in order to lighten the load, Naruto made his famed clones and helped pass it onto the people on the skiff, with the original Naruto leading his little band of clones.
Safe to say, some of the survivors were flabbergasted at the sight of Naruto and his identical copies, though with Naruto's rather honest explanation, all of the plane survivors could only nod along as they were given their first real meal in the past week.
"You guys got everything you need?" Naruto asked as he and his clones finished passing out food and spare water, "Got food and water. Everyone got blankets?"
Looking around and making sure everyone of his group was taken care of, Anthony gratefully nodded, "Yeah, we're good here, chief. Thank you for the meal and the blankets. Really."
Nodding at Anthony, Naruto smiled back, "I'm sorry that this is all we could do. I'm just glad you guys are doing okay. If it's alright with you and your people, I'd like to leave my clones here just to keep watch through the night. It'll also be easier in case you guys need anything. We should be approaching land in the next day or so."
"That's alright for us. Thanks again, Naruto," Anthony spoke once more, sincerely grateful for the blonde's generosity.
"I'm happy to help!" With that, Naruto left Anthony's group and three of his clones.
Coming back on board, Naruto approached Bethany, Andrew, and Daniel who kept to their self-appointed guard duty. A smirk plastered on his face, Andrew hefted the rifle on his shoulder and slung it on his back as he spoke at the blonde, "Everything settled over there?"
"Yeah, they're fed and pampered for the rest of the afternoon," Naruto said in a joking manner as he and the three 'guards' went back inside.
Just in time too, for Madison just finished setting the table and was about to head out and call them in as the older blonde looked at the younger one, "Good, you're back. Dinner time!"
"A bit early for dinner, don't you think…?" Naruto pondered aloud as he looked at the slowly setting sunlight through the glass. A second later, the whiskered blonde then took a seat on the table, a grin plastered on his face, "Just kidding! Let's eat! I'm starving!"
Chuckles were spread all around as Andrew, Ofelia, Nick, and even Daniel couldn't help but smile at the blonde's antics, while Travis and Madison were just used to Naruto and his shenanigans. Pretty soon everyone was seated on the table, with Strand even taking the time to socialize and grab a bite to eat. Everyone except one person.
"Where's Ali?" Naruto asked Madison from across where he sat as he gulped down a spoonful of beans. It was no ramen, but food was better than no food.
Swallowing the mouthful of stew he just shoved into his mouth, Nick answered before anyone else could, teasing grin and all, "Probably talking to her new boyfriend over the radio."
"Don't listen to this jerk, Naruto," Chris mumbled aloud in-between his chewing as he playfully elbowed Nick beside him who merely chuckled, knowing full-well how Naruto looks lovingly at his younger sister, "I saw her take the radio out to the upper deck. She's probably still there if you want to see her."
Taking a second to think about it, Naruto weakly shook his head and decided not to interrupt the most-likely distraught brunette, "Nah, she's probably alright… Besides, she's a big girl. She doesn't need me always nagging at her."
Though Madison, Nick, and Travis knew better than the joking and smiling mask the blonde shinobi wore to hide his feelings, none said a word and the three of them opted for an all-knowing smile as they all made eye-contact with each other, all thinking along the same lines:
For an apparent superhuman, Naruto can be quite an innocent puppy when it comes to matters of the heart!
Then, all of a sudden, Naruto jerked his head upwards as he quickly set his spoon down and stood up, alerting Strand and the others who were eating and chatting on the table.
"What's wrong, boss?" Andrew asked aloud, using his teasing (but also genuine) nickname for the whiskered blonde.
"My clone," the jinchuriki explained as he made his way through the glass doors leading to the lower deck, "It popped and told me there's a big fog rolling in… and how it felt another… vessel headed straight for us. Not anytime soon, but it's making a steady pace, judging from how long my clone's been keeping track of it."
With nary a word, Strand stood up and went for the stairs leading up to the wheelhouse, with everyone else following Naruto outside. Barely a minute or two later, and the black man came down from the helm of the yacht with great haste.
"We should be leaving now," Strand announced as he joined up with the group whilst they all tried to look at every direction in search of anything following them, "Someone's joining us. I had planned to give the boat a bit of rest since we've been going nonstop after we left land."
"Ah, shit…," Andrew cursed out loud as he squinted his eyes towards the distance, to no avail, for the fog's rolling up, "That doesn't sound good at all. We have any idea who it could be?"
Just then, Chris yelled from the swimming deck below as he stood next to Travis, "Hey! Look over there! There's a boat all shot up!"
At first, the passengers of the Abigail couldn't make heads or tails at what Chris was pointing at to the side as the fog's thickness has slowly but surely concealing their view of the ocean waters, but soon enough they saw what it was: A medium-sized vessel capsized on the ocean's surface, its hull riddled with what seemed to be bullet holes all over.
Wasting no time, Naruto reached out to the natural energy all around him and breathed it in. Merely a few seconds later and the blonde was in Sage Mode, the orange hue around his eyes and his toad-like pupils signifying the transformation as he made his way downstairs to where Chris and Travis were standing by.
"What's happening!?" Anthony yelled so that he could be heard from the skiff as he witnessed Naruto and his group gaze around the area as if they were looking for something.
"We don't know yet!" Travis answered loudly in turn as Chris watched the blonde closely, who was standing still and had his eyes closed.
"No one survived," Naruto mumbled aloud a minute later as he opened his eyes once more and climbed up the lower deck where the rest of his group were, "They were all shot to death. Most of them turned."
"It could be no one joining us," Strand pondered as he then brought his gaze to Madison right before he turned around and climbed up the other set of stairs that led to the upper deck, right where Alicia stood with a pair of binoculars, "It could be your friend, Jack. It could be the ones who did that."
Without any more comments from anyone, the group filed inside the yacht once more, with Strand headed back to the wheelhouse, followed by Travis, Madison, and Naruto. Daniel opted out to stay below at the dining table to have Andrew and the doctor prepare and check over their weapons, just in case.
"This boat's gonna be on us," Strand said as he watched the radar system on helm and pointed at the object at the edge of the screen, "They're doing a good twenty-five knots. They're flying."
"How fast can we go?" Madison asked, echoing Naruto's question.
"Full out? Twenty." Strand answered as he got situated back into his chair and began touching the dials and buttons in front of him, possibly calibrating the boat, Naruto didn't know, "But that'll work the engines too hard. We need a head start."
"You think that's the boat that killed those people?" Travis asked out loud as he, too, pondered about that possibility.
"You want to wait and ask them?" Strand asked rhetorically, though everyone in the room could tell just how worried the black man was about the safety of their group.
"It's not that far-off," Naruto added in his two cents as he crossed his arms in front of his chest, "I don't know much about how these radar things work… but if they have us on their sights and they're headed straight for us… Well, I don't wanna stick around and find out if they're good guys or bad guys. Not out in the open like this. And definitely not with the amount of defenseless people we have with us."
"I agree with the Kryptonian," Strand said as he nodded at the whiskered blonde. Though the blonde enigma was definitely sentimental, Naruto has a good head on his shoulders. Something that Victor Strand, millionaire businessman, can respect.
"Krypto-, I didn't know you had a sense of humor, Strand," Naruto chuckled, somewhat toning down the tension as the three adults in the room couldn't help but laugh along with the shinobi.
After the moment passed, the blonde spoke aloud once more, "I'll send a clone to check out the wreckage. Maybe there's something there that could tell us just what happened to the crew. Is there anything important I should look out for?"
"Look for the ship's logbook."
Turning their heads at the voice of the newcomer who just entered the room, Madison was surprised to see Nick standing by the door frame, adorning a face full of determination.
"Nick, why are you here?" Madison asked her son as she walked towards him and stood in front of him, "Go downstairs and be with your sister."
"I'm not a kid anymore, Mom," the brown-haired teen said adamantly as he stood his ground, eyeing Naruto as he did so, "I wanna help, too."
A subtle smirk adorning his face, Naruto began walking toward Nick as he patted his adoptive brother's shoulder, then made his way towards the door, saying, "Fair enough, Nicky. I'll keep my eyes open for a logbook of some sort."
With that, the shinobi disappeared within the corridors and quickly made his way out to the decks.
[A few hours later…]
With the plan to be on the move in motion, the majority of the Abigail's passengers tried to bring back the semblance of calm as they resumed their early dinner, with Madison bringing Strand's unfinished meal to him for the black man refused to leave his seat on the helm, though it was ineffective for everyone was once again on-edge due to the possible danger.
The safety of his group and the survivors on the other boat in his mind, Naruto got to work. With the help of a few clones and Kurama's brain, the whiskered blonde created a few Weight Reduction Tags that Jiraiya invented. That's how he was able to lug around a huge scroll on his back like it was nothing.
"About six of them will do, no?" One of Naruto's clones asked as he and five of his clones sat around on the dining table, carefully drawing the runes on parchment paper.
"That's what the fox said," the original Naruto answered slowly as he finished the last rune, earning a couple knowing chuckles from his clones. Realizing just why they were laughing, the real Naruto couldn't help but smile at the stupidity, though he tried to feign annoyance, "Oh, grow up, you bunch of idiots."
"…But boss, we are you," another of his clones pointed out as a shit-eating grin adorned his face, "So wouldn't that mean you're also an idiot?"
"Are you all done?" the original asked as he looked at his creations, to which the clones nodded. A second later, multiple pops were heard as Naruto dispelled them all at once, collecting the pieces of paper on the table as he did so, "I can be annoying at times."
"You are right."
Looking at the owner of the voice, Naruto was glad to see Alicia as the brunette leaned on the wall by the hallway leading to the bedrooms, "Ali, how you doin'?"
"Oh, you know," the brunette began to answer as she straightened up and walked towards the table and sat beside Naruto, "Just survived the apocalypse. The dead coming back to life and all that. What about you?"
"Just chillin', making Weight Reduction seals," the whiskered blonde said with a confident grin as he gently waved the stacks of papers in his hands, though he saw Alicia's confused face, "Oh, they're sealing tags used to reduce the weight of an object. I haven't tested it yet on people but, according to my mentor, it's a bit complicated, so it's kinda untested on people. For the moment, at least."
Nodding her head as she got the gist of its purpose, Alicia mumbled, "So what are they for…?"
"We're gonna use it on the Abigail to make it lighter," Naruto explained further, speaking the words in a matter-of-factly tone as he adopted a thinking pose, "It would help us increase our speed. That's the goal, at least…"
It was nighttime now, Naruto realized, as the blonde looked out the glass windows of the yacht and took note of the dark skies. Seeing as they had to keep moving, it wouldn't be recommended to test out the seals just yet, under the evening sky, in the middle of the ocean, the blonde presumed.
Naruto was interrupted from his musings however when Alicia poked him on the arm, bringing the blonde's attention back to the brunette, who had a rather worried look on her face, "Hey, Naruto, are you there?"
"Yeah, I'm here, sorry about that," the whiskered blonde chuckled in embarrassment as he rubbed the back of his head. Taking a more serious tone after, as he noticed Alicia's troubled expression still there, "You look like you wanna talk about something. Talk to me."
"It's just that…," Alicia began to hesitantly speak, taking a deep sigh in the process, as she tried to form the words out loud, "I talked to Jack earlier. I apologized to him and told him that we couldn't risk it and save them."
"Go on…," Naruto prompted Alicia to continue, the blonde crossing his arms on his chest in the process as his brain's gears began whirring.
"The thing is…, I don't know what it means," Alicia continued, her voice becoming more and more frantic as she began making visible gestures with her hands whilst she explained her problem, "Jack said it was okay… that he'll 'see me soon!'"
Seeing the amount of distress the brunette was in, Naruto couldn't help it and quickly enveloped Alicia into a hug, his arms encompassing her form as the girl herself buried her face into the blonde's chest, weeping in frustration, "Shhh, shhh. Calm down, Alicia. You're okay."
"Is this… is this my fault?" the brunette mumbled out as she tried to get ahold of herself, subconsciously hugging Naruto in desperation, "D-Did I put us in danger?"
"Stop it," the jinchuriki chided the girl in his arms, "All you did was try to be a decent human being and reach out to someone in need. There's nothing wrong or sinful with that, you hear me? And I promise you, I will protect you. You, Nicky, and Madison, and Travis. So long as I'm here, no one will stop me from doing so. I promise."
Alicia could only silently thank the heavens above and whoever ruled the afterlife for the blonde knucklehead in her arms as she clutched onto Naruto's shirt like her life depended on it.
After a minute or so of the somewhat comfortable silence that surrounded the two, the brunette took one deep breath, steeled herself, and let go of Naruto, saying, "Thanks, Whiskers."
Gently cupping the brunette's cheek, to which Alicia leaned into the hand, closed her eyes subconsciously and sighed, Naruto wiped the tears on her cheek, "No more crying, alright? We'll get through this together."
Though the two of them would have secretly liked to stay in each other's touch like so, Naruto and Alicia were interrupted as Chris came barreling into the living room.
"Hey, Narutooooooo…?" the teen began to say the blonde's name only to awkwardly turn his tone into more of a questioning one as he glanced between the two with a subtle, teasing tone, "Am I interrupting something?"
"Wha-? Oh!" Alicia stumbled with her words as she then realized how close she was to the whiskered blonde, taking a step back doing so, "No! We were just… uhh -"
"We were just talking," Naruto stated as he averted the younger Manawa's eyes and awkwardly rubbed the back of his head.
His smile growing a bit more, Chris nodded along, seeing through the shinobi's poor lie, "Right, right. Anyways, the gang's all in the control room. Or whatever it's called. We're close to Catrina Island. At least that's what Strand said."
A few hours ago, Naruto's clones came back aboard the yacht with a logbook they fished out from the ship's wreckage. Not knowing what to do with it however, Naruto handed it to the adults who stayed in the wheelhouse awaiting the news.
Upon Travis' and Andrew's closer inspection, they found a critical piece of information: San Diego, their current destination, is gone, much like Los Angeles. The ship that was sunk, the Leigh Anne, came from the south. The same direction they were headed.
As if that alarming piece of information wasn't enough, Strand also made it public knowledge, that, after a whole hour of zigging and zagging along the ocean, he was unable to shake their mysterious tail, who he assumed were the same people who sunk the bullet-riddled ship sinking a ways behind them.
So, with the safe assumption that whoever did the Leigh Anne in had access to military-grade weapons - weapons that could only be mounted on a larger vessel to be exact - the passengers of the Abigail decided on their course of action: Hide.
As the three teens approached the wheelhouse, Naruto could hear their voices as Strand, Madison, and Travis surveyed the dark shoreline in the distance.
Feeling their approach, Travis turned his head around to see his son come in, followed by the whiskered blonde and Alicia, "Good, you're here. Maybe your eyes can see something we don't. The wildlife refuge in the distance… no lights whatsoever."
Squinting his eyes as he tried to see anything from within the yacht, Naruto stood beside Strand who was also doing the same as they all fell into silence and stared into the distance. After a minute or so, even enhancing his eyes with chakra, Naruto shook his head, "As much as I want to have visual abilities, I don't… I'm not a tracker. I knew people where I came from who had abilities that could let them see far into the distance, but I ain't one of them."
Walking to the side, Madison spoke slowly, almost unsurely, as she leaned over the control panel of the wheelhouse and pointed forwards, "Did you see that? Light came on that house."
"Yeah!" Alicia answered back, "I saw it too. I thought my eyes were playing me, but you saw it, too."
"We don't know what's over there," Strand spoke unsurely as they all saw the lights flicker once more.
"There's either the dead on that island…," Naruto mumbled as he looked at the distance with a thoughtful expression, the gears within his head turning, "Or someone's trying to keep the wildlife refuge hidden from everyone."
"That's honestly something I would do…," Chris surmised as he thought about the pros and cons of living on a small island away from the city, "Especially with this… end-of-the-world crap going on."
"Either way," Travis spoke aloud, a silent determination in his eyes, as he looked at Madison, "We need to get our bearings and keep our heads down. That island might have more supplies."
"If things work out, we could also drop off our new friends," Strand pointed out as he silently nodded along, "Alright, we'll dock. See if the place is safe. The plan stays its course."
With their minds made up, everyone, minus Victor, left the wheelhouse in order to gear up and plan how they will scout out the island. Soon enough, the remaining occupants of the Abigail were all huddled within the dining room, where Andrew, Bethany, and Daniel laid out all their current weapons on the table and made sure all were functional and loaded.
"We'll be docking on the island soon," Travis spoke up as he looked at the mix of teens and adults in the room, his eyes finally landing on Naruto, "Since we'll have to make sure the island is safe first, not everyone will be going."
"I'll take point," Naruto announced whilst he tightened his forearm guards from his vigilante ensemble, "It's dark outside. We don't have a clear visual on the island. I'd like to keep any more deaths from happening for the time being, if that's okay."
"No arguments there," Andrew chimed in as he reloaded a full clip into his rifle with a smirk.
"Andrew, take the rear," Naruto continued as he finished on his forearm guards and tightened his forehead protector, "You're the best choice for keeping our backs protected with your shooting. Madison and Travis… As much as I hate to risk it, you'll have to come with. If there are people here, they'll probably be more accepting with hearing out two people your age than listening to two teenagers wielding guns and blades. No offense, Andrew."
With a chuckle all around, Andrew shook his head, "None taken."
"I wanna come with," Alicia said out loud, prompting Naruto and Madison to look at her.
"We don't know if the island's safe yet, Alicia," Madison reasoned out, though deep down she knew that it was for naught, judging from her brunette's adamant expression.
"Naruto's been training me for the past year to defend myself," the younger Clark reasoned out as she stood her ground, looking once at Naruto, then back at Madison, "I want to help. Please."
As if one wasn't enough, another courageous voice spoke out as Nick joined in, "If my sister's going, I'm going."
"Nicky, not you too," Naruto pinched the bridge of his nose, much to Nick's amusement; the older brunette knew Naruto's protectiveness was constantly on the rise when it came to him and Alicia.
"Sorry, Whiskers," Nick shrugged with a satisfied smirk, "Where Alicia goes, I go. You taught me that. You beat it into me at one point, too."
"Oh, wipe that grin off your face," the blonde mumbled out as he sighed in defeat, "If I don't let you go, you're both gonna just sneak out and go anyways."
"Are you sure about this?" Travis asked as he looked at Madison, who was also slightly conflicted.
"Naruto's right," Madison answered as she rubbed her forehead in frustration, lightly glaring at her two children, "Licia and Nick are my kids, alright. That stubbornness came from me."
"At least you know for sure, right?" Bethany chimed in with a teasing smile, earning laughs all-around, the slightly tense atmosphere momentarily fading.
"I will stay here on the boat," Daniel spoke out loud as the laughter died down, "No doubt, Strand won't take a step off the boat. It would be best to stick around and make sure he doesn't leave."
"I'll stay back too, if that's alright," Bethany added her two cents as the doctor, now garbed in a more comfortable attire than her medical scrubs, slid her sidearm into its holster on her waist, "Someone needs to stay back in case you all need to come back quick. Knock on wood, but if the island's no-good, you'll need cover fire."
Turning to his son, Travis began to speak to the younger brunette, "Chris - "
"Dad," only for the teen to stop Travis from continuing, "I'm coming too. I'll stick close, I promise. But I'm not going anywhere without you. Not anymore."
Picking up on the reason why his son was adamant not to let his only remaining parent out of his sight, Travis could do nothing more than smile as he nodded his head, "I was going to tell you to stay close."
Chuckling at the two, the rest of the group, bar Ofelia and her father, geared up, with Naruto bringing out his duffel bag of supplies. Unfurling one of his weapon scrolls, he unsealed two identical tantos, its blade as long as their forearms.
"These are for the two of you," Naruto said as he set the sheathed blades on the table and returned his scroll into his bag, "Those wooden knives I had you both practicing was so that you knew how to use the real things. The weight might be a bit heavier than the wooden ones, obviously, but it isn't that bad."
"Wow…," Nick whispered in amazement as he slowly unsheathed his tanto, paying close attention to the feel and weight of it, "This isn't that bad. I mean, I haven't sparred with you in a while, but this doesn't feel any different than the wooden ones."
"Where'd you buy these?" Alicia asked as she mirrored her brother and took her blade out of its sheath.
"I made some… friends in the city a few months back," Naruto said cryptically as he remembered those nights he went into the city, practicing his shinobi skills on thugs, criminals, and drug dealers, one of which owned a forge, "In return for… helping him get rid of some of his problem customers, he offered me his blacksmithing services."
"So he made these from scratch then?" Alicia asked approvingly as she held the blade in a reverse-grip, just like how she usually wielded her weapon in their spars, "That's awfully kind of him."
"Well, it was either that or I bring him to the police," the whiskered blonde shrugged as he packed his belongings once more. Sensing the questioning looks his companions were giving him, Naruto explained further, "He was tied to some drug dealers who were using his factory as a base-of-command. He did get compensated for that, but he didn't want to be associated with them anymore. So… I took care of it. To keep me quiet, he asked if there was anything he could do. I answered."
Before any further questions could've been asked, the group felt the yacht slow down and eventually come to a stop a minute later. Coming down from the wheelhouse, the Abigail's owner spoke to them as he made his way down the stairs, "We're docked now."
With a nod towards Strand, Naruto turned around and headed out the lower deck, "Let's get moving."
As the group stepped off the yacht and onto the docks, Naruto made a clone, sending said clone to their new friends tied onto the back of the boat to let them know of the current situation. Turning back to his companions, the blonde shinobi spoke once more, his tone absent of his usual cheery self, "Remember the plan, everyone. Strand will keep the yacht's engine running in case the island's a no-go."
Strand merely nodded his head as he stood on the upper deck, leaning on the railing whilst he watched the group, "I agree. I'll make sure our radar friend moves past us. When he's gone, we're gone."
"Mr. Salazar and I will stay behind as well, in case you need cover fire on your way back," Bethany chimed in as she continued the repetition of said plan.
"Right," Naruto nodded in agreement as he unsheathed one of the tantos on his shin and held it in a reverse-grip, "Chris, you're with me. Nicky, stick with Mom. Ali, go with Travis. Both of you, please, remember your training. You'll be flanking either side of me. Everyone understands the formation?"
A silent nod from everyone around was the unspoken response.
"Good. Then let's go," the blonde spoke once more as he then turned around and looked at the island, "Stick close and for the love of all things living, stay quiet."
As quietly as they could, Naruto and his companions walked along the docks and onto the island. On the way there, Naruto quietly whispered to the rear, telling them to use their flashlights. Madison, Travis, and Chris held one each, with Naruto, Alicia, and Nick acting as the scouts with only their weapons drawn. Andrew had his rifle out, with its equipped flashlight shining brightly as he held the gun on the ready.
"Someone's home," Travis commented as their group made their way up a small set of stairs that led to the front yard of a decent-sized set of buildings; the biggest establishment was a two-story house with its lights dimly showing through the covered windows. Beside it was a smaller structure with a pick-up truck parked beside it, possibly a garage or a guest house.
"They're not throwing their doors open," Madison remarked as she pointed her flashlight on one of the windows, noticing that plywood covered the first-floor windows.
"They're probably scared," Travis surmised as he glanced at Madison beside him, "We'd be scared, too."
"Keep your eyes peeled," Naruto stated, just loud enough for the people behind him to hear as he made his cross-hand sign. Not a second later, the sound of two audible pops were heard and two identical copies of the blonde jinchuriki came into existence. Looking at his clones, Naruto whispered, "Scout the perimeter. Take down any infected if there are any. Dispel if there's too many."
With a nod, the two copies dashed away into the trees, leaving Naruto and his companions to continue on, much to the said companions' surprise. Chuckling softly behind Naruto, Chris shined his flashlight towards the general direction where the clones disappeared, only to find but a slight rustle within the leaves, "I gotta say, I've seen that a couple times today and it still seems unreal."
"I don't think I'll ever get used to it, personally," Travis said as he smiled at his son in agreement.
Turning quietly towards his companions, Naruto put up a finger on his lips, signifying for everyone to quiet down, "No sudden noises, you hear me? We don't know if these people are dangerous. Or if they're even still people."
"So how do we do this?" Madison asked as they all stood in the middle of the front lawn.
"If they wanted to shoot us down, they would have already," Andrew chimed in as he looked around and scanned their surroundings with his rifle, "I suggest knocking on the front door. Politely."
With a silent nod, Naruto turned around and eyed the front door of the biggest house. Looking back and nodding at Travis, a signal for the curly-haired man to do his diplomacy shtick per the plan, the two then walked forward and approached the door.
"My clones haven't popped yet so that probably means there's no trouble for the moment," the shinobi stated as he stood by the front porch of the house, with Travis beside him. Approaching the door, Naruto then knocked loudly on it a few times and then stood back to where Travis stood as he nodded once more at Travis.
"Hello?" Travis asked loudly, mindful that he didn't shout loud enough for any of the island's… possible inhabitants to hear, but loud enough that his voice carried through the house, "Hello? We know you're in there. We know you're scared. We are, too."
Just then, an audible sound of what seemed to be wood cluttering was heard, though it was soft. Turning his head towards Andrew, Naruto signaled the soldier to keep his eye and his rifle trained on the door. Madison and the others kept their attention split between waiting for the door to swing open and glancing around them for any possible surprises.
"We just need information," Travis continued amidst the subtle commotion from within the house, as he noticed Naruto tense up and slightly change his stance into a combative one, likely getting ready for a possible fight, "We're not a threat. We're not sick. We're just… We need help."
Just then, the door swung open.
Before Travis could react, Naruto hastily backed away and took his tanto away hiding it behind his back as a sandy, blonde-haired kid hopped excitedly out the door onto the front lawn, "Woah!"
A living, sandy, blonde-haired kid.
Looking at the kid with the slingshot in his hand and an inquisitive look on his face, Naruto could do nothing as he blurted out in surprise, "Damn, brat! You need to be careful! Running out of the door like that! You coulda been hurt!"
Just then, a middle-aged man, wearing glasses, came out of the house, "Harry! Harry! Get back here!"
The slingshot-holding kid named Harry looked back at the old man, presumably his father, in silence for a second, only to do as he was told, as he made his way back up the porch to stand beside a middle-aged woman who stood by the front door who held another child, a girl this time, under her arms. Taking a step down the really small set of stairs of his front porch, the old man cautiously looked at Naruto, Travis and the others, "Sorry. He's excited to see people. It's been a while."
"We just saw your light come on," Madison chimed in as she pointed towards the docks, "We were on the water."
Looking back at the woman behind him for a second, the glasses-wearing man brought his gaze back to Travis, "That was an accident."
Feeling the tense atmosphere in the air, Naruto nudged his English teacher subtly on the arm. Taking the hint, the curly-haired man stepped forwards slowly, his hands stretched out in a handshake, "Travis. Travis Manawa."
Taking a second to scan Naruto's group once more, the bald, glasses-wearing man shook Travis' hand, "George Geary. What can I do for you, Travis Manawa?"
"We had to drop anchor," Travis admitted truthfully as he slightly shook his head, "It's no safer on sea than on land."
Squinting his eyes at Travis skeptically, George asked, "What makes you think here is safe?"
"We just need to get our bearings and we'll be gone," Travis stated in an attempt to stay on Geary's good side, "You have nothing to fear from us."
Taking another glance at Travis' companions, George took note of Andrew's rifle, as well as the blades that Alicia, Nick, and Naruto held, "Hard to believe that when your friend over there's packing heat."
Realizing he was the one George was referring to, Andrew let go of his rifle, put the safety on, and pulled the strap around him so that the gun laid on his back. Raising his hands up in a placating manner, the former National Guardsman slowly made his way beside Travis, "Apologies, sir. The name's Andrew. I'm a corporal in the National Guard. At least I was. The rifle's part of my gear when we were deployed in L.A., sir."
The country has fallen.
At least that's what Naruto understood from what that Geary fellow said. How, instead of containing it and trying to save the people, the military has instead been dropping napalm up and down the coast, hitting key cities like Los Angeles, Vancouver, and Seattle to name a few. Other places reported to have confirmation of going dark was Arizona, Utah, and Colorado. More or less, half the country.
It's been two days since the passengers of the Abigail docked in Catrina he was reluctant at first, George Geary and his family agreed to accept the plane crash survivors, setting them up in the guest house beside the Geary's. So, after a decent time of deliberation, it was decided that Travis and his group stay for a night, if only to take a breather, much to Strand's displeasure.
Upon closer inspection, Catrina Island didn't just have a wildlife preserve. It was also turned into a tourist spot some years back, according to Travis, who got the information from George.
"So you're gonna take on all the walkers over there?" Chris asked as he stood beside Naruto.
The two, along with Andrew and Anthony from the plane crash survivors, currently stood beside the fence on the refuge's edge, with a clear sight of the tourist town-harbor.
"I get that you're, like, all-powerful and all," Andrew added his two cents in as he sent a questioning gaze at the whiskered blonde, "But are you sure you can handle all that?"
"We can back you up, kid," Anthony stated as he leaned on the fence whilst he rested his hand on the holstered handgun on his waist, "Andrew seems like a good shot and I'm pretty decent if I do say so myself."
"Look, guys," Naruto sighed as he turned to look back to his companions, "I appreciate the offer. Really, I do. But your guns are pretty loud. And I would rather you guys save the bullets. These days, the living seem to be just as dangerous as the dead."
"Well, whatever you're gonna do, you better do it fast," Chris said, prompting the blonde to tilt his head in curiosity, "I think we're gonna leave this afternoon. Strand's been itching to get back out there and I think it's time we let Seth and his mom decide for themselves what to do with George."
Thinking on his newfound friend's words, Naruto remembered the events that unfolded, the very next day after they arrived on the island.
Upon getting all chummy with the kids, Nick found out a very worrying piece of information: George Geary might have plans of poisoning his family through cyanide pills. The ex-addict came to Naruto, Travis, Alicia, and Madison whilst the three talked among themselves in the yacht's living room. He confessed to his mother that he was snooping around and had found a ziploc with pills in them.
Then, Madison also confessed that Melissa, George's wife, admitted to her that she was the one who turned the lights on purposefully. She also begged for Madison to take Harry and Willa, the middle and youngest children, respectively, off the island.
Safe to say, Naruto became furious at the idea that Willa and Harry, George's two innocent children, will die of poisoning, from their father's hand no less. The whiskered blonde, accompanied by Madison, Travis, and Nick, headed to the Geary family's house, where the situation even got more tense.
Melissa had the kids pack their stuff under the pretense of a vacation on a yacht whilst she went down and talked to Naruto and company, with Nick pointing to Melissa where the suicide pills were, to which Naruto took, swearing he'd burn it to ashes. Merely a few minutes later, George entered the house, only to be met with a haymaker on the nose. Seth came in soon after and was about to point his hunting rifle at Naruto upon coming into the front door and seeing his father tied up on a chair with a rapidly forming black-eye and a broken nose.
Unfortunately for him, Andrew and Ofelia were strolling the grounds and had just seen the teen come into the house, only to point it at someone inside. Pulling his rifle from his back, the soldier sprinted towards Seth and, having seen who the gun was pointed to upon nearing the teen, pointed his rifle at Seth's back.
George came clean hours later, as Naruto, Chris, Travis, and Andrew sat with them on the couch, whilst Melissa consoled the crying Willa and Harry upstairs, who were scared and confused as to why their big brother and dad were tied up. George admitted he was going to do it if and when the fences eventually failed. That it was only natural he and his family died on the grounds in which they grew up on and that it was useless to leave.
Seth's opinion of his father changed that night. He cried and told Naruto to take the monster away from his brother and sister.
"Alright then," Naruto said as he cracked his neck and tightened his forehead protector, "I'll clean up the island real quick. Then I'll signal you and your boys, Anthony. Stay on the water til then."
"Will do," the Air Marshal nodded at the blonde, "My people are standing by at the docks. The skiff's all gassed up too. We're just awaiting your signal."
"Good. See ya in a bit!" With a grin on his face, Naruto leapt off the edge of the coast and down the ocean's surface. Creating small ripples as he landed on the surface of the water, the shinobi made a mad dash towards the shores of the other side of the island, where a hundred or so of the infected gathered.
"Kurama, you ready?" Naruto asked out loud as he prepared his famous cross-hand sign, though he held off on making his copies.
"Just about," Kurama answered in return as the nine-tailed fox concentrated in gathering Nature energy, "Here ya go! Let loose, kit!"
Feeling the course of energy throughout his body, Naruto entered his vaunted Sage Mode once more as he then made half a dozen clones, "I'm so glad I can make more than two clones using Nature chakra! But you dumbasses better make it count! No rasenshurikens!"
With a grin mirroring their maker, Naruto and his clones unsheathed their own respective tantos and dispersed in every direction, with Naruto and two clones taking out the ones on the island while the other four went through the little town.
"OI, YOU FUGLY IDIOTS!" the original Naruto bellowed as loud as he could, whilst his clones did the same to bring just about every reanimation down the docks of the tourist harbor, "COME GET YOUR LUNCH!"
Safe to say, within the next forty-five minutes, the sounds of yelling and explosions echoed throughout Catrina Island. It wasn't until a full hour later, after the echoes of explosions stopped, that Naruto and his previous company came back to the Geary family house.
"We're back!" Naruto yelled excitedly as he, Andrew, and Chris entered the kitchen entrance, where Melissa, Travis, and Madison talked, "Where's Willa and Harry? I got some snacks I found, just for them!"
"Naruto!?" Madison blurted out as she took in the state of her adopted son, "Why are you all dirty? And wet?"
"I, uhh…," Naruto nervously smiled as he rubbed the back of his head whilst Chris and Andrew chuckled knowingly behind said blonde, "I cleaned up the island of all the infected…?"
The surprise on all three adults' faces were the most hilarious thing that's happened this whole week, at least to Chris and Andrew as the two couldn't hold it in anymore and laughed out loud.
"L-Look! We all needed supplies and if Anthony and his people were to stay here, the infected would have been a huge danger to them!" Naruto raised his hands in front of him to somehow calm his mother down, "I'm sorry I didn't tell you but you would've probably said no!"
Taking a second to sigh in exasperation and to pinch her nose, Madison spoke once more, "I knew those explosions were your doing… So? Where's your loot? Don't tell me all you got from pulling that stupid stunt was a bag full of candies."
"N-No, I swear, there's more!" Naruto spoke quickly as he kept his smile on his face, "My clones are still there looting the whole place, so Anthony's guys are gonna have to go back a few times, but the first haul is ours. They're loading it in the yacht as we speak."
"What exactly are we talking about?" Travis asked this time, having had enough time for him and Melissa to take in everything that Naruto said.
"Seeing as everyone over there was...gone," Andrew chimed in this time, having taken to leaning on the kitchen counter whilst he drank a bottle of orange juice, "Most of the stores were still stocked. We got a bunch of packs of water, half a dozen cases of booze, four trashbags full of canned goods, and some other stuff. That was just the grocery mart."
"Nice…," Travis nodded in amazement, the blonde's impossible feats becoming more and more of a godsend to him and his family, "Thank you, Naruto. Again."
"No problem!" the blonde merely sent a cheeky grin as he turned around and headed out the door, "Gonna go take a shower and then we'll go say bye to the kids. Is that okay, mom?"
Smiling proudly at his son, Madison nodded, "Yes. Now go! You smell funky."
"So…," Seth whispered softly as he, his mother, and his younger siblings stood in front of Naruto and his family, "This is goodbye, huh?"
"I guess so," Naruto answered back, though he tried to keep a positive expression as he watched Nick beside him kneel in front of Willa and Harry.
"I wanna thank you, again," Seth admitted as he readjusted his hold on his hunting rifle, "I learned everything from my dad. I just didn't know his head was...too far out. I think some time alone and away from my mom will do him good."
"You may be his son," Naruto spoke softly as he looked at the two little children in the midst of crying in front of Nick, "But it doesn't mean you're him. Seth is Seth, not George."
The eldest Geary merely chuckled at the blonde's comment, prompting Naruto to continue on, "Be the example your siblings deserve, man. You're strong. And you love your family. That's all the motivation you need. Besides, he's got Anthony and his people to keep him straight otherwise."
Naruto then outstretched his hands in front of Seth with a smile. With his own grin, Seth shook Naruto's hand.
"Be good to your big brother, you hear?" Nick said as placed a hand on Willa's and Henry's shoulders, the two kids on the verge of crying, but holding them in with a smile, "And don't be too hard on your mother."
"We...will," Henry sniffled out, trying to be strong in front of Willa, "I'll be strong, like Seth, and we'll protect Mama."
"Good to know," Nick smiled as he got up, gave both of the kids hugs, and patted their heads, to which Henry and Willa both hugged the older brunette.
"Keep 'em safe, will you?" Madison said to Anthony as she stood in front of the Marshal alongside Travis, "And please, keep an eye on George."
"You have my word," Anthony nodded as he, too, glanced at the little ones.
"Alright, let's go. We're burning daylight," Nick said jokingly as he hopped onto the yacht and turned around, a hand outstretched as his mother was next to stepping on-board.
"You guys be safe!" Naruto said as he let everyone else get on first, with him stepping on the yacht last, seeing Strand nod his head from the upper deck and turning around.
"You too, Naruto!" Anthony smiled and waved his hand, just as the yacht began moving forward, "Thank you! For saving us!"
Merely minutes later and the dock was but a decent-sized splotch of color in the distance, the people who stood there slowly filing back onto the land.
"You did something interesting this morning, I heard," a familiar, teasing voice was heard behind him, prompting Naruto to look around from his leaning position by the lower deck.
"Why I did do something, yes," Naruto said with a smirk as he eyed the beautiful brunette, all bundled up in a thick comforter, one hand holding said blanket in place, the other cup holding a cup of tea, "I see you found the gift."
"I did. Thank you for the tea," Alicia said with a smile as she beamed at Naruto.
"I'm glad you like it." the blonde merely smiled wilder, infected by the brunette's somehow-breathtaking expression.
"So, care to share on your little morning escapade?"
"Oh, where do I even start?"
END CHAPTER 4
Author's Note: SIGH… I KNOW. I know. I'm sorry. It's been so long since I updated. I also don't like this chapter. The biggest writer's block yet. This chapter was so HARD to get out. I just really hated season 2. UGH. Like, if it wasn't for Alicia, I would have lost hope for the show. It literally doesn't get better (in my opinion) until season 3.
Anyways, I hope this lowkey-filler chapter somehow makes up for it, even a little. I do have decent-sized plans for Naruto. If you haven't noticed, the floof between our knucklehead and Alicia are becoming more apparent, as well as Naruto's interactions with the members of the group. How Naruto and Strand seem to clash ideals. How he affects Chris compared to him in canon. And for you people who have major hard-ons for Naruto's "being nerfed", I hope that was at least satisfactory.
Also, MINOR CHANGE. But. I'm planning on writing the techniques in Japanese and having translations in the bottom. Either that, or having them translated next to the japanese terms. I tried in English but it's just… Cringe.
Okay then! Lemme know what you think! Please! CONSTRUCTIVE criticism is always welcomed! Stay safe, stay sanitized, and use dem toilet papers responsibly.
Fūnyū no Jutsu - Enclosing Technique
Kage Bunshin - Shadow Clones (duh)