A/N: Sorry for the delay. Writer's block is a helluva thing...
I'll work on getting the mature/explicit version posted on A03, don't you worry.
Still, the people have spoken; we'll be picking up where we left off AND getting a timeskip of sorts.
If this chapter gets a ton of feedback -hopefully it will!- then I'll do my best to ensure an earlier update. Possibly even weekly!
In other news depression's starting to hit real hard these days. Sometimes I wonder why I do anything at all. I can't claim to understand what's going wrong with my head. I don't even know why! One moment I'm fine, then my mood craters for a few hours, then I'm back again for a bit, and the cycle repeats. Its rather annoying; as though I've become a prisoner in my own mind sometimes. Sure, what's one more mental problem on the pile. Not like I don't have enough, what with already being this old. Feels like every day is a battle sometimes. My doctor is of no help at all.
*siiiigh* Don't mind the rambling of this geezer...
With my fifteen year anniversary on this site finally here, I find myself reflecting on the little things in life. What was once a lazy pastime meant for me and a few friends really grew and evolved over time. There are days when I look back on the last fifteen years here and I wonder if anyone will remember me; if I made an impact, despite never making a single cent on any of these stories. Some days were happier than others, and some stories I enjoyed writing WAY too much; to the point where I'd stay up all night working on them.
And of course, there are times when I look to the future and wonder what will become of things when I'm gone.
Of course, I try not to dwell on the latter overmuch; I'm still alive and still writing. In an ideal world, I'd like to keep doing so for as long as I can. But old age is catching up to me and these days, the world is filled with so much madness and death. Feels like everyone's lost their minds sometimes. Even before that, so many friends and fellow writers I once knew are gone, now. Will I still be here in twenty years? Ten? Five? Its a chilling thought. But for now, I'm still here, still writing.
So here we go. The fate of this story depends on you, the reader. Your feedback determines the fate of this tale, and many others.
As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. They're tributes to legends far greater than I.
I'm just a humble author trying to make his way in this wild world, one word at a time.
Time and feedback will determine if this remains a story. Simple as that.
In other words...its up to YOU, the reader. Do let me know~!
"I bet you think you know what happened next, don'tcha, Neo? Well you'd be wrong!
I wasn't there, but people talk. Willow and Summer certainly did.
It was just one night, they said at the time.
What could go possibly wrong? Heh.
Ever heard of the domino effect?
In other words, partner...
Never. Tempt. Fate.
Just One Night
Their eyes met.
"So...what happens now?"
That was the question, wasn't it?
Naruto scratched the back of his head, momentarily at a loss. For perhaps the first time in his life, he genuinely did not know what to do. Summer's hesitation -and Willow smirk!- certainly didn't help any; he genuinely had no idea what to do with the young woman currently sitting in his lap. His face felt like it was on fire and he didn't dare move his hands for fear of spooking the poor Rose.
Willow smirked. "Well? Are you just going to sit there?"
Summer squeaked. "I'm working on it...
Willow's smile grew.
Naruto felt heat rush to his cheeks. This was a gift he'd never even thought to consider; something he hadn't even known he might want until it was presented to him. Did he want this? Did he want her? Huntresses were fighting fit and Summer was no exception. Her silver eyes shone in the low light, her pale cheeks dusted with the slightest hint of pink. Her eyes met his, darted down to his lips and lingered there. He felt his heart quicken and skip a beat.
She pressed her lips together in a pout. "I wasn't staring!"
"You really were." he looked back to Willow in vain. "You're sure about this?
"Quite." Her smile was nothing short of stunning. "There's nothing wrong with this. I approve. You're my best friend, and I wouldn't even consider this otherwise."
Summer squirmed like a naughty schoolgirl, hands in her lap, hips twisting side to side beneath his stare. "Willoooow! Why?!"
"Because you've been dancing around this for far too long and amusing as it is," she planted a palm against her back, "I'm tired of watching you suffer like this. You're bad at flirting, Sum. Very bad."
Summer made angry Summer noises. "Willow, no!"
"Willow, yes!" she shoved her. "Now kiss him before I make you!"
They both knew it was no idle threat; he wouldn't put it past her to lock them in a closet until they sorted this out. She might even tie her down to the bed.
Perhaps it was that which finally compelled Summer to act; whatever the case, she didn't rush in as he expected him, which surprised him more than he wished to admit. Instead she dipped her head, tucked a stray strand of hair behind one ear, and leaned in. Her lips touched his, soft as petal's brush, and lingered for what felt like an eternity before she finally pulled away.
Silver eyes met blue. ...how was that?"
"I don't know." Honest. He didn't dislike it, but...
She kissed him again, deeply this time, with passion.
Willow made a pleased noise and took a seat, content to watch. Such a voyeur she was...
For once, Summer ignored her friend; her hands roamed his body, eager to touch, happy to linger, and he let himself enjoy them. His palms sought her hips, gracing the curves there. He could feel the muscle beneath her body, coiled like a spring, quivering. With what? Tension? Relief? Lust? Her emotions were a tangled mess, difficult even for him to sense. Off went her cloak, pooling on the bed beneath them. Her fingers fumbled for the buttons of his shirt, popping them three at a time in her haste to get at him, even as he helped her shrug out of her blouse. Her lips tasted of cherries and apricots and-
"Wait, wait." she drew back with a little gasp, eyes glazed, one pale bosom exposed to the moonlight. "Maybe this isn't fair to Raven and Kali...
...and?" Willow tilted her head. "You're my best friend. They aren't. If they want a shot at my man, my betrothed, MY fiance-
Daaaw, he loved it when she used those words!
-then they shall have to earn it!" She finished, stamping a foot. "You have. Simple as that. Don't make me tie you to the bed with my glyphs, Summer."
Naruto tried to intervene the only way he knew how. "Well, maybe Ghira will finally notice Kali...?"
Willow arched an eyebrow, but he boldly barreled on.
"And Tai will settle down with Raven...?"
Summer's brow climbed higher. "You do realize who you're talking about, no?"
Now it was his turn to squirm, and he didn't like it one bit. "I don't wanna steal anybody out from under anyone...
Willow tilted her head. "Is it stealing if Ghira isn't aware of her feelings?"
He laughed ruefully. "Touche, but even so-
"No more stalling!"
Willow snapped her fingers, producing an audible crack. It was his only warning. A storm of glyphs assailed them not a moment later, catching on their clothes and tearing them away with brutal dispatch, leaving them clad in their undergarments. Summer tried to protest-tried to cover herself-to no avail. She knew no mercy. Naruto, having been in such a position before, took it in stride. What else could he do? This was hardly the first time his fiance had torn his clothes off...even if it was for another woman's sake.
He guided a fretful Summer back into his lap and her embarrassed complaints soon became little gasps of mewling pleasure once more.
From there, the night descended into a carnal haze; he barely remembered most of it. She pushed him down, climbed atop him, and kissed him with gusto. And that, as they say, was that. At some point Willow must've joined in, because when he finally came to, he found himself tangled up in a terribly compromising position with no desire to move.
"Oh gods," Summer gasped, head sprawled against his chest, breath coming in little gasps. "That felt...
"Good?" Willow was all smiles as ever. "You certainly enjoyed yourself."
The white rose groaned. "And you do this every night?
"Not every night, no," Willow hummed, "But whenever we get the chance."
"I'm not sure whether to be proud or appalled of you two. Maybe both. How does Winter not have a baby sister yet?!"
Willow's smile held a hint of whimsy to it. "You may say that now, but you didn't hesitate to jump on him."
Summer made startled Summer noises and flailed her hands. "We are not having this discussion!"
"Aren't we?" Willow smiled coyly, all teeth. "I seem to recall you having a rather loud orga-
Summer bolted to her feed and fled. Willow's laughter chase her from the room.
Said retreat became a full-fledged rout.
A single word was all Salem needed.
She savored simplicity. No need for complex commands here.
Her minions were quick to answer; of course they were. She'd selected them for their loyalty, if nothing else.
A shame about Arthur Watts and Tyrian Callows, though. There was a time when she'd thought to recruit them into her ranks-they would have been valuable allies-but it was abundantly clear now that their loyalty lay with the Schnee and the Schnee alone. Tyrian thought Naruto a god -how little he knew!- and Watts had found the validation he'd always craved. There would be no shaking either of them. The more she dwelt on it, the more a pity she thought it was. Such a pity indeed. She could have done such wonderful things with them at her side.
No matter. There were others. There were always others.
That Polendina fellow and his Penny Project had potential. Perhaps with the right nudge...?
There were still malcontent in Menagerie as well. With the proper application of pressure and promises...?
"They've fortified their position remarkably quickly." her chief "doctor" declared, bringing her back to reality. "Atlas is nigh-on-impregnable now. To attack the kingdom from the outside, even with all our Grimm, would be beyond foolish."
"My queen, an empire toppled by its enemies can rise again." a finger tapped the table, further emphasizing his point. "But one which crumbles from within? That's dead...forever."
Dark red eyes considered him for a long moment. "What do you propose, Merlot?
"That we destroy the Schnee from within."
Hazel rumbled his agreement, terse as ever. He'd never quite recovered from his defeat at the hands of Willow and Naruto. Good. It would make him all the more hungry for victory. She might have to deal with the former herself at this rate; the blond was becoming something of a nuisance. Really, he reminded her of a younger Ozma; so bold, so brash, so brave. If she didn't know better, she would've sworn
She looked to the remaining seats, and the silent figures within. "And what say you two...?
Soon enough the rest of the table descended into vigorous plots and schemes.
The game was, as the kids said nowadays, finally afoot.
Let Ozma play his little shadow games for now.
He knew not what awaited him.
"And where have you been?"
Raven looked her teammate up and down, frowning a little as the portal swished shut behind her. She noted three things at once; Summer's rosy cheeks, her decidedly wrinkled clothes, the way she favored her right leg. Any one of these things she could've ignored on a given day. But together...well. They painted a rather different picture.
A lazy smile bloomed across her pale face. "Oho? No way. You finally got some?!
"Who's the lucky guy?" she slung an arm around her shoulder. "Who deflowered our precious Roes?" It was just too much fun watching her squeak and squirm. "C'mon, spill the beans!"
Summer bit her lip and refused to look at her.
"Is it Tai?" Qrow looked over from his bunk. "Tell me its Tai. Bastards been mooning about someone for months now. Is it hm?"
"Is it who, now?" Their dorm door swung open, admitting the man himself, grinning from ear to ear. "I just came back from a date with Glynda. What did I miss...?
Qrow blinked. "Wait, you were out with Goodwitch? When did that happen?!"
"Awhile ago?" their resident blond brawler tilted his head. "I don't see why my dating life is any of your concern. You're taking a bullhead to visit Satin almost every other week."
"Hey, hey! Not cool man. Don't diss the bunny."
Summer still hadn't said a word.
Raven absolutely choked.
Summer's silent was a death knell to her optimism. She looked left, she looked right, but there wasn't so much as a scrap of hope in sight.
Qrow realized it first and fell out his bunk with a cackle. "No way. No freaking way! You did NOT get to whiskers before she did!"
Raven absolutely froze. It didn't take her long to put two and two together.
The resultant shout was heard all across beacon.
Ozpin looked up from his paperwork.
"My, my," he tutted softly. "Flirting was far less destructive in my day."
Still, he had every reason to encourage this. Their offpsring would be powerful if nothing else...
The future was looking bright indeed. As far as he concerned, the more children Naruto had, the merrier, and the safer Remnant woul be.
Kali sneezed loudly.
Huh. Someone must be talking about her. How quaint.
"Ghira," she sighed, "be a dear and help me with this banner, would you?"
Her lips pursed in a frown. "I know you don't like ladders, but I really do need some help with this."
Still no answer.
She looked over her shoulder, still struggling with the cloth.
"Ghira?" she tutted, seeing he was nowhere to be found. "Honestly, where did that silly boy get off too. Doesn't he know we have a rally in an hour? Could somebody help me with this?
A distant noise caught her right ear and caused it to twitch. Every faunus had exceptional hearing and eyesight. It was simply a fact of life. Kali was no exception. Her first inclination was to dismiss it. Menagerie was not a quiet place -even after that disaster with the dragon and the volcano- but this nagged at her all the same.
Setting the banner down, she hopped off the ladder, handed the cloth off to another volunteer, made her excuses and slipped away into the night.
She followed it, and slipped into an alley near the harbor. It almost sounded like someone was grunting, struggling with something heavy.
Honestly! Was he off moving those crates by himself again? She sighed. "I told Ghira to wait for Tuckson and Bane...
Kali crept in on the very tips of her toes and peeked around the corner.
Her eyes widened.
Ghira wasn't moving any crates or doing any such heavy lifting. No, he was too busy holding a redheaded Faunus woman she vaguely recognized, someone who looked to colorful to be anything but a huntress. Someone who had just shucked their her aside, baring their bosom to Ghira as they pushed him up against a wall. He made no attempt to resist her advances, even less so when she stepped to him and smashed her lips to his. He kissed her back just as fiercely, his hands running over the horns in her hair, while her palms fumbled at his trousers and oh, oh, no, no, no. Realization broke like the dawn and horror raced in hot on its heels.
No, no, not...not like this.
Kali stepped back slumped soundlessly against the wall.
They didn't hear her, of course. How could they? They were too caught up in one another, enjoy their reunion.
And all she could was watch, horrified.
Her heart shattered into a thousand pieces, cutting her every thought to ribbons. In hindsight, she wasn't sure when she returned home; she had no real memory of leaving that alley. She vaguely remembered walking for an indiscriminate amount of time, climbing the steps to her bedroom and opening her door. She stumbled to her bed, tripped, then gave up and flung herself down on the mattress.
It was here that her ironclad self control finally broke.
Kali buried her head in her pillow and wept.
She cried herself to sleep.
A/N: Ouch. Poor Kali. Aaaand scene.
Because I know someone will ask, yes, that's my Anna Taurus from "Popular Monster" in all her fiery glory.
Naruto's truly gone and changed the world of Remnant, for better and for worse.
The game is set, the pieces are arrayed...let us begin.
As ever the Embers rule persists, reviews are my fuel, my fire, my life. Without them, I lose all inspiration, all hope, all ability to write. That's no joke. I have so little time to write these days with two jobs, and silence hurts. So by all means, speak up! Make yourselves heard! Every bit of feedback, no matter how small or large, matters! Really, it helps a lot. Its a joy to talk with you all and bandy ideas back and forth; it really is. Sorry if this seems shorter than usual, working on a tight schedule here.
Reviews are the fuel that keeps me writing. That's no joke. I really am sorry that the chapters are shorter these days, and the updates slower, but I'm trying my best. Silence hurts more than any flame...without feedback, I can't write a single world. Seriously! So speak up! Every word -and every review!- really does matter!
So in the Immortal Words of Atlas... ...Review, Would You Kindly?
Here, have some previews. Lemme know what you think!
And as ever: Possible spoilers! Seriously!
Mostly the same previews here.
WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!
SPOILERS AWAIT AHEAD!
YOU WERE WARNED~!
"Hey, now!" Ever the gentlemen, Naruto took her by the shoulders and guided her down to a chair. "What's wrong?"
Kali told him her story, her tale of woe as he and Willow looked on.
Ghira would never look at her the way she wanted.
But someone else might.
Target in sight.
She'd been so careful these last few days, making sure no one saw her, that no one suspected. This was her time, this was her moment! Her day was now!
"Ruby Rose! You put that cookie down! No desert before dinner!"
Mommy was best mom, but she really did keep a close eye on her cookie jar...
Daddy was better. He let her have sweets all the time!
Winter climbed to her feet. Cinder waited her, golden eyes shining with flame. Roman knelt to retrieve his hat, dusted it off, and brandished his cane at her. Sienna cracked her knuckles.
"Pick up your sword. We're not done yet, little sister...
"What's gotten into you, Winter?"
She wouldn't look at him. She mustn't. She refused.
"I heard what you said to mother." Father arched an eyebrow at her, and in the absence of his words, child though she was, she found the strength to continue. "You think I'm weak because I'm not like you, like Cinder and Sienna, or even Roman." she stomped a foot and looked down, unwilling to meet his eyes. "I know I was never what you wanted, but I thought after all this time, maybe things were different.
His stoic gaze drilled into her. "When did you get the impression I didn't want you? You don't know everything kiddo...
"No, she sniffled, "but at least now I know the truth.
"The truth, eh?" he thumbed his chin. "Alright." a quick shove pushed his chair out from behind his desk. "You want the truth? C'mere." A metal hand patted his knee. "I'd wanted to wait another three years, but I suppose now's as good a time as any."
Her legs betrayed her and she found herself climbing into his lap. At the end of the day he was still her father and she was only five.
She tilted her head up to get a better look at him. As such she saw the moment his sapphire eyes snapped into scarlet.
Winter gasped despite her best efforts. "What did you do?! Is that a semblance or...?
"Nope. I'm a jinchuuriki, girl." she watched golden light dance across his face as he spoke, burning bright. "From another world, far from here. When I first met your mother I chose to be who I am now. To be more than a fight, but a leader as well. But the truth is, I'm far from perfect." he held up his false arm from her to see. "I killed my best friend. It wasn't something I wanted to do-that's how I got this arm. Even after that, I destroyed many who were deserving...and many who were not."
"That still doesn't explain why you think I'm weak-
"You think you're weak, Winter? No, no, no." he shook his head, setting his pale hair swaying. "You're strong; the only other person on this planet with chakra besides me. Hell, you're probably going to be even stronger than me, once you grow up. Which is why you must be BETTER. I didn't want to tell you any of this until you were ready."
"Why not tell me all this before?"
"Because it could go to your head. Because strength without experience can create a lifetime of tragedy if you're not careful. I also wanted you to have a normal childhood."
She scowled at him. "How is anything about my life even remotely normal?"
He granted her a small smile.
Winter wasn't cut out to be a big sister. Truly, she felt she wasn't. She'd been born broken. She only knew how to fight and kill. That was why she seldom spoke. Why she shunned others.
It was precisely why she was hesitating now, as the mewls of a newborn infant filled the hospital room.
"Oh, stop that. Come here and hold your baby sister. Weiss won't bite."
"Ah, sweet training! What fun, what fun!"
"Don't break them, Tyrian...
Qrow was really starting to hate Mistral.
Bad enough that they had their crime syndicates, but this drug...no one had paid attention to it for the longest time. They'd known about it, even seen hints down in Menagerie, but this...
A drug that boosted semblances. Sounded great on paper, right?
Using the damn thing killed you eventually. Semblances were meant to grow and evolve naturally. This...whatever it was, forced that evolution.
"Well, shit. Oz ain't gonna like this...
"We still haven't tracked down that semblance booster yet?
Evidently its cropped up in Mistral now.
...you have no idea what you've unleashed. There are things far worse than death.
"I do not take sass from insects.
Insect?! I'm the strongest Hunteress in a generation!
A beetle is still an insect, no matter how loud it might scream.
"Naruto, stop! This isn't you! This isn't who you want to be! They need to face justice!
Rationally, yes. But he wasn't feeling very rational right now.
"They came for my family. This is justice."
He squeezed their neck harder.