A/N: Please read this note, would you kindly?
Here we go, over nine thousand words for you all. Looking forward to your feedback~!
As ever, reviews keep me writing. Without them, my inspiration dies like a candle in a hurricane. Your words matter! So by all means, speak up~!
Can...can we just pretend that finale didn't happen...? T_T
MOUNTAIN GLENN! HERE! WE! GO! This chapter gets emotional.
Now onto your questions.
Q: Wait, wait, wait! Is another war coming?! A war for Remnant? Oh lord, that'll end poorly.
A: IF -and that's a big if!- such a thing came to pass, it would indeed be a disaster...and not in the way one might think.
Vacuo would get flattened of course. Nobody likes Vacuo. There's a reason no one landed there. Maybe Volume 9 will give us some interesting characters to care about...?
Q: I've noticed some things have changed.
A: It has. Mountain Glenn took place a bit earlier than usual; Salem may have promised to let Naruto be until their duel, but she has no way of tracking him. Had she known he was headed there she wouldn't have bothered.
Q: How many questions remain?
A: Jinn's not a jerk. Sasuke's used only one question on her.
Q: Sooo...is Ozpin not going to be Headmaster of Beacon after all? That's quite a twist!
A: Its never been outright clarified how Ozma's reincarnation works. Hell, "a similar soul" is pretty vague. He could be reborn as a baby, an teenager, or just go on to possess an adult for all we know.
To make things clear, he's reincarnate in the body we know as Ozpin at this time. Though I'll not state his age. No spoilers there!
Well, alright, then! I think I've kept you long enough. Gonna take a long nap after this.
As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. Not a wit or one~!
Speaking of references!
"Belief is a powerful thing, I've found. Belief in oneself. Belief in a higher power. Belief in the gods.
When we believe in something, we begin to hope. And when we hope...
...why, hope is but the death of fear."
Reasons To Lead
Grimm in the city.
Those words were a death knell to any civilization outside the walls. Countless settlements had fallen to swarms such as these in the past; drawn by negativity, then asunder by overwhelming numbers. Many had perished before and many would yet. It was simply the way of the world. Life outside of the Four Cities was often dangerous and fraught with peril. It was always a risk.
Mountain Glenn was built to be different.
Her walls were thick and her defenders strong. She had vast tunnels connecting to the city of Vale itself, the better by which to ferry supplies and reinforcements to her with speed and fury in equal measure. The greatest minds of this generation had gone into her construction. She was protected. Steadfast. Secure...at least, she should have been.
But she as betrayed.
For these Grimm had not come from without but within the walls themselves. Someone had drawn them close to the perimeter of the city, then let them in. Even as the defenders realized the terrible truth of their betrayal it was already too late. There was no escape. In another era, another universe, that would have been the end of things. Mountain Glenn would fall, and serve as a harsh reminder of what lay beyond the walls. All because of a madman named Merlot.
But this time? They were not alone.
"Hold the line!"
A golden blur tore past fleeing civilians and flung itself into the streets. Those who saw it would say it resembled a man for the merest of moments; in the next a great golden creature crashed down upon the invaders and stood between them and certain doom. Clawed paws scythed down into the street like a guillotine, upturning the road to fling the enemy ranks back. Ursa and Beowolves flew through the air like straw dolls. Goliaths were trampled underfoot.
Luminous jaws parted as the creature spoke.
That lone word ripped through the city.
"Hold the line! Do you hear me?!" Its many tails swept out and scoured the Grimm from the earth. "We hold them here! No one else dies today! NOT ONE MORE! Push them back! Fight! FIGHT!" the beast brayed again in a voice like thunder! "For your families! For your children! For your lives! If you falter here everyone dies!" A towering paw annihilated an entire pack. More climbed atop him, he swatted them aside like gnats, yet more came. "Is that what you want?!"
Among the fleeing masses, an aging huntsman paused. His name was Dean Winchester. In time, he would have a grandson named Cardin.
But that wasn't important now.
You see, Winchester didn't consider himself a religious sort. He did his duty on the wall with the rest of his fellow huntsmen, said his prayers to the gods -dearly departed though they were- and tried to live life as his father before him. Through good words and good deeds, he hoped to make the world a better place, so that he might one day go and be with the gods themselves. But here, now, for the first time since he'd been but a boy...it felt as if his prayers were answered.
He was looking at an honest-to-goodness god. The God of Light himself, come down to save them.
"Fight, damn you!" Quick as a flash the beast became a man again, hands held high. Smoke burst from his fingertips and a horde of golden warriors answered his call. "Or everyone's going to die!"
Could he run now, after what he'd seen? Could he turn tail and flee, knowing countless innocents would perish?
No. Dean knew his answer. He pivoted and raised his two-handed mace with a roar. His fellows saw him.
"For Mountain Glenn!" He bellowed! "For Vale! For the God of Light!"
"That's more like it!" Their golden God caught a Grimm and crushed its skull before kicking its corpse away into its fellows. "Listen to him! Stand! Fight! This is your home! PROTECT IT!"
His words were fire in Winchester's veins. He surged forward, fire blazing in his soul.
Huntsman rallied at his cry. They began to fight back.
And so the defense began.
Kakashi whistled sharply; for his charges, it was the sound of mercy.
"Alright!" he laughed, breath fogging into the brisk winter air, "That was a good workout. You've earned yourself a breather. Be up in ten minutes."
Willow Schnee collapsed on the track with a cry torn somewhere between a sob and a snarl.
Cinder was only a heartbeat behind her; even then she somehow managed to get a good three paces ahead of her. Of course the little hellion took some petty pride in that, and sneered even as she ate dirt. Tiny though she was, Cinder Fall -or Cinder Hatake as she'd taken to calling herself, the little snit!- was a stubborn girl, one used to the rigors of running and fending for herself in the slums. Of course she'd last longer. Blast it! The girl was younger than her! Much younger! Someone so small shouldn't be that fit!
As much as it pained to admit her, Willow...was not that skilled.
She'd lived a pampered life and it had shown for the first few months of her training. She liked to think she was getting past that. That she'd gotten better. Faster. Stronger. Bit by bit, slowly but surely, she was closing the gap between the two of them. She wanted to believe that; no, she had needed to believe it; because if she didn't, her pride was going to absolutely shatter. Granted, she had her own semblance, and it was a fair counter to Cinder's explosive heat and glass, but beyond that she knew the younger girl could thrash her in a fight. She had already. On several occasions. Galling as it might be, the girl had become something of a rival for her.
But if there was one thing they agreed on...
Kakashi sauntered towards them, hands in his pockets. The lone bell danging from his belt jingled all the way.
"Weeell~?" his visible eye creased in a smile as he leaned down to inspect each of them in turn. "How are we feeling?"
...it was vengeance. And right now? They were both very, very, very cross with him. Willow grinned into the frozen soil. More fool he for getting close!
The wily shinobi didn't notice the miniature gravity glyph beneath his feet until Willow triggered it with her aura. In the same instant, Cinder detonated the dirt, spraying Kakashi's masked visage with molten glass. His stance buckled a bit and he grunted in surprise as he warded it away with a kunai. Now! Another glyph -one of acceleration- sprang to life under her, enabling Willow to dive at him with what little strength he had left. Pale fingers brushed the miniature bells, and she closed her fist around it...!
Breath burst from her lungs as Kakashi's knee slammed into her gut, turning her charge into a stumble. Willow folded over it. Aura crackled sullenly, but she didn't go down and clung to his limb for dear life. A triumphant cry on her flank told her that Cinder had the same idea. Kakashi caught her strike and rammed her into Willow, sending both girls sprawling down in a tangle of arms and legs.
"Not a bad try," he laughed softly, "But you still fail-
His steps lacked the telltale jingle of before.
Kakashi glanced down with a frown.
Only then did he deign to notice that the chord to the bells had been cut. A tiny glass dagger lay wedged into his hip. You could almost see the cut there...if you squinted. His visible eye widened just a bit when little Cinder opened her fist, revealing her hard won prize.
"Not bad. Looks like Cinder passed-
"No." the girl's fist tightened around their prize, much to Willow's relief. "Its our bell. We won it together. We share it. You have to keep teaching us. Both of us."
Kakashi's gaze sought hers. "And how do you feel about this?, Willow"
How indeed? As much as part of her wanted nothing more to do with Cinder, there could be no denying they'd worked well together. Even if she couldn't stand her. But perhaps that could change. Azure orbs met gold and, well, it wasn't an agreement, but it was a truce. For now.
Their mentor clapped slowly. "Well done, girls. You finally worked together. Congratulations! You pass."
Willow flopped to the ground, nearly spent. "Must you be such a bastard about it?"
He really did. "Oh dear, did I say ten minutes? I meant five."
Cinder harrumphed. "I can be up in half that."
"One minute then."
Willow grit her teeth...and buried a small, secretive smile deep within her heart. Today's training had only served to further solidify her resolve. At the end of the day, she was still a Schnee. And Schnee women were nothing it not determined. She was just a girl now. But when she was older? One day, she was going to court this man. This was a battle not even Father could save him from. Cinder may have taken a place at his side, but she was younger. She didn't understand. She never would. By the time she did, it would be too late.
Cinder stood first. Kakashi beamed at her. "That's my girl."
Willow glowered at the younger girl in naked envy and climbed to her feet as well.
"That's the way." Their mentor clapped his hands. Now give me ten laps around the yard. Chop-chop! The winner gets a reward!"
The girls glowered at one another and bolted.
Kakashi kept his smile in place until he was certain they could no longer see him. Only then did he let the facade drop. Kids these days. Their aura really did recharge quickly. He could see them butting heads even as they rounded the corner of the manor and vanished from sight. That rivalry of theirs might be dangerous. Best to nip that in the bud before it became something it shouldn't.
He touched a finger to his chin as they completed their first lap. "I don't think Naruto and Sasuke were ever this bad...
"Kakashi!" a familiar voice called. "There you are. I've been looking for you."
The bemused shinobi turned to find Nicholas Schnee approaching him at speed, his face gone grim. The was a limp in his step this afternoon, a closed look to him that suggested he was laboring under great pain. No doubt he'd need a cane soon. Poor bastard. Kakashi's talents were many and varied, but healing wasn't one of them. That had ever been up Sakura's alley. Shame he had never found her. She would've liked the girls. They were full of spiri,t these two, just as she had been in her youth. But now was not the time to reminisce on such things.
"Oh, you needn't worry about me." the aging man waved his aid away when he moved to support him. "Just a bit of stress."
His brow furrowed. "Should you be out of bed?"
"Bah," the elder Schnee shook him off once more. "I'm fine."
"There was a bit of an incident with an Atlas battleship near Menagerie." there was something about those words, or perhaps the way he said them. "The generals are frothing at the bit over it. They've asked to see you."
Someone took out a battleship? Interesting. And the military wanted him to do something about it? Adorable. Also, not happening. "I don't work for them."
Nicholas boomed a laugh. "And I told them that, but they're being rather insistent."
...and the culprit?"
"The crew managed to fire off a final transmission before we lost contact with them. Here. Have a look." His benefactor presented him with a grainy photograph. "This appears to be the culprit. She lifted a battleship like it was nothing and beached the bloody thing. Her talents were...well." a grimace stole over his bearded visage as they gazed upon the faded picture. "Superhuman doesn't even begin to describe her deeds, to say the least. Even a huntress shouldn't be able to do what she did. Whoever she is, she's wickedly strong."
Kakashi felt his heart physically skip a beat as the organ lurched in his chest.
The face staring back at him within the image was eerily familiar. Green eyes. Pink hair. Superior strength. Longer hair perhaps, but that was undoubtedly Sakura Haruno. Was it possible? Did he dare hope? He'd feared himself alone in this strange new world; was it possible that his precious students survived their journey after all?
Some of his shock must've bled through his expression; because Nicholas squinted at him.
"Do you know her?"
...she's a student of mine." there was no point in lying here. Trembling fingers handed the photo back. "Tell the military to stay away. She'll destroy them."
"Oh." Nick's tan visage went pallid. "You trained her?"
"More or less." he tactically chose not to speak of what she'd endured under Tsunade. "She's one of a kind. Take my word for it. Just let her be."
"I...see." his ally wiped a bead of sweat from his brow. "I'll pass on your warning, but it might be too late. She's ruffled some feathers. They think she's riling up the Faunus, setting them up for a second war. My word only holds so much sway there."
Kakashi felt the color drain from his face like a broken sieve. Did Sakura just accidentally a war? No. Surely not. It couldn't be. Cooler heads would prevail in Atlas. They had to. They must. He'd make sure of it, even if he had to strong-arm the entire council by himself. By the sage. If she was in Menagerie that meant Naruto and Sasuke might be kicking around Remnant.
Naruto was willful on a normal day, but Sasuke...who knew what he might do?
...why did he have a bad feeling about this?
"In any case, I need you here." Nicholas clapped him on the back as he continued, jerking the shinobi out of his thoughts. "With the Vytal Festival fast approaching we're busier now than ever."
It took a physical effort to wrench his thoughts away from his students. "Atlas is hosting it this year, I believe?"
"Quite so! I dare say the next time it comes around here, Willow will be able to compete." a nostalgic smile flitted across the Schnee's craggy visage. "But enough about that. Since you've done such a wonderful job with the girls here, I was hoping you could take charge of security...
Kakashi grimaced. "And this has nothing to do with my new title, I trust?
Nicholas' whistled innocently. "I did my best to dispel the rumors...
He pinched the brow of his nose. "That blasted nickname...
Hound of the Schnee indeed! Hound of Atlas, more like!
"What can I say? I tried to stop it-
Across the way, Cinder staggered towards the two of them. Willow lagged behind her rival. She was panting harshly, pale face flushed with equal parts exhaustion and shame at her defeat. Kakashi granted her a firm nod and she preened. Crisis averted. Unfortunately that caused Cinder to sulk and it was a fearsome thing indeed. Poor girl. Was she so starved for attention?
And so the weary shinobi knelt, bending one knee.
"Well?" he crooked a grey brow at her. "What're you waiting for?"
Cinder's head barreled into his chest as she ran into his arms without hesitation. "Dad!"
Blast it, and didn't his heart just twitch hearing her say that? Eh, it was a good twitch. The sappy kind.
Naturally that set Willow to sputtering, which meant she got dragged into said hug as well. Her face got strangely red, too. Probably nothing. Kakashi smiled softly to himself and hugged his wards tighter. So tenacious, these two. At this rate were going to be arch rivals or fast friends. He wasn't sure which terrified him more.
Sakura would have to wait for now, it seemed. So would Naruto and Sasuke, wherever they were. He had duties here, to say nothing of his responsibilities. Cinder and Willow needed him and they were far too young to drag around on some cross country trip. No, he would have to trust in his students. If Sakura felt the need to kill, then surely she was justified. Some people needed to die. That was just the way of the world. Sakura wasn't the sort to attack without provocation.
Wherever she was, whatever she was doing, he hoped Sakura would survive.
Besides, what could she possibly get up to her by herself?
She'd always been the rational one, after all.
"Goddess? Are you awake?"
Sakura jolted back to wakefulness amid the cool sands of the beach as someone poked her in the back. Nope. She'd been meditating on the stars and her power. She'd not drifted off at all. Anyone who said otherwise was a filthy liar and a traitor and a heretic...great. Now she really was starting to sound like a deity. Naruto and Sasuke would never let her hear the end of this. Nevermind Kakashi!
Sakura opened her eyes as a small body pushed against with hers. She knew better than to ignore Kali by now. The girl would just keep poking her if she didn't. Leaving the girl to her own devices was a recipe for disaster. She'd learned that lesson the hard way. Rather than turn her away like any sane individual, she sighed, stifled a yawn and craned her neck. A burning green iris appeared over her shoulder, brimming with emerald flames. Inquisitive golden orbs gazed back without fear.
"Did you need something, Kali?"
"Maaaaybe?" the faunus girl squirmed under her gaze, knees twisting right then left as she realized she'd been caught out. "Just wanted to be near you."
"Oh?" A pink brow quirked in her direction but, her anger softened when she saw the poor girl's miserable expression. "And why is that?"
"Well, I'm your Priestess, an' all." Kali plonked down in her lap and sprawled there like a lazy cat. "I should be where you are."
Sakura hummed at the obvious lie, but didn't challenge her on. Kali couldn't keep a secret to save her life. It just wasn't in her nature. She would crack sooner or later. So she began to stroke her ears instead, eliciting a pleased purr from the child in question as she did so.
"You really do give the best ear scratches." Golden eyes gazed up at her. "Why is that?"
A tiny laugh tumbled from Sakura's lips.
"Call it a wealth of experience. Where's Ghira?" If he'd had a nightmare as well, best to comfort them both at once rather than separately, to say nothing of poor Tyrian. "Is he alright?"
"Sittin' with Callows." Kali drawled.
Sakura winced a little at the memory. Theoretically, the boy would make a full recovery but there could be no denying the scar on his chest. She'd all but torn the bullet out of him and she hadn't been...gentle, to say the least. There hadn't been time. He'd probably wear his scar with pride when he woke up, the silly boy. If he woke up. No. He had to wake up. He must. She couldn't bear the thought of an innocent dying on her watch.
"And the prisoners?"
Kali fidgeted but a little in her lap. "In the brig." she said. "Duncan's interrogating them tonight."
A pall of silence fell between master and apprentice, broken only by the faint sound of salt water lapping at their feet. Neither spoke. Sakura let it be and turned her gaze towards the stars. High above the shattered moon gazed down at them with his ruined visage, silent in its eternal vigil. Not for the first time, she wondered at the strength it must've taken for such a feat. Naruto and Sasuke might well manage it, but she didn't know if she was capable of punching a hole through the freaking moon...
Finally, she sighed. "You didn't come out here just to check on me, did you?"
Kali tucked her knees into her chest and sulked. "No...
Knew it. "Would you like to talk about it?"
The girl shook her head quickly.
Sakura frowned. "Kali."
"I had a nightmare." her ward confessed, for once sounding very much like the child she was. "It was bad. I keep seeing that bullet...except this time, I'm the one who gets shot. When Tyrian was hit, I got so scared." she quivered just a little, no doubt recalling the grisly scene. "You're a Goddess an' all, but we...we can die." Teary amber eyes sought hers. "If...if someone shoots me, you'll save me, right?" her voice warbled. "You won't let me die...yeah?"
Sakura's mothering instincts kicked into overdrive and she pulled the orphan into her arms.
"Never." she promised, tucking her chin over one shoulder. "I'll keep you safe."
Hysteric laughter bubbled back. "Th-Thanks, I'll hold you to that...
She'd really never thought about this before. What was she to them? Menagerie clearly saw her as its patron goddess, but there could be no denying that these children had gravitated towards her. A mentor? A mother? Would they remember her when she was gone? What legacy would she leave behind? She still had no way of knowing if Sasuke or the others had even made it to this world. What if it was just her? The people of Menagerie all but worshiped the ground she walked on now but would that worship last? Would it be remembered? Would she?
In the end, her mouth betrayed her first. "I'm adopting you."
Kali's jaw clicked open. Her eyes got really big. "Eh?"
"Well, if you don't want me to...
"Yes, yes, yeees!" Kali's head slammed into her chest, nearly bowling her over in a gleeful rush. "I don't mind at all! Nope! Not a bit!" she nuzzled closer, holding on for dear life. "I've never had a real mother before! Best goddess ever!" A damp sensation began to soak through the front of her robe near her chest. "D-Did you read my mind?" she hiccuped, voice hitching against her dress. "How did you know I wanted that...?"
"Are you crying?"
"Maybe!" red-rimmed eyes rose to meet hers. "You can't take this back! You're my mom, now! I'm naming my firstborn after you!"
Sakura cringed inwardly at such a notion. "Please, don't. Call her anything else."
Oddly enough, Kali fixated on those words. "Like what?"
"Aren't you a little young to worry about that?"
"Well, yeah!" the girl grinned. "But now I can't stop thinking about it!"
Such a silly little girl. "I'm sure you'll think of something sooner or later, Kali."
"Blake, then." she answered after a moment's pause. "Sounds like my favorite color. She'll be an absolute badass. But hey, enough about hypothetical children. Can you adopt Ghira too?" Shining golden eyes regarded her, brimming at the idea. "Maybe even Tyrian? They'd love you for it~!"
Meh. In for a penny, in for a pound.
...sure." she shrugged. "I'm sure there's some paperwork involved and all that...
"You're a goddess, silly." Kali dabbed at her face with the back of one, stubbornly scrubbing the tears away. "Your word is law. If you say we're your kids, then that's that."
Her words gave Sakura the strength to return to the task at hand; the very same goal she'd been dwelling upon before she'd dozed off -There! She admitted it!- only a few minutes before. This island was her home. That much was true. But it was the home of so many others. She'd forgotten that. How arrogant of her. There were families here. Husbands, wives, children, aunts, uncles, grandparents and so much more. They had gathered under her protection, filling the isle to its limits.
And it could be an island no longer.
Atlas had struck at them with impunity. Who was to say the rest of the world wouldn't do the same? These children deserved a peaceful life. As did their children. And their children's children after them. She could provide that for them. She had but to act. There was no one here to stop her.
Sakura shooed Kali out of her lap and stood slowly.
"Right, then. Lets try this again...
The ocean lay sprawled out before her, an endless expanse of clear blue as far as the eye could see. At the right angle -from here!- one could see right to the bottom. It helped her to visualized the task at hand. Sakura closed her blazing eyes and forced herself to focus herself to the task at hand. Slowly, tentatively, she reached out with her newfound power. Inhaled. Exhaled. In. Out. Innn. Ouuut. Flames flickered from her closed eyelids. Hers was the power of the seasons, but also the elements. She'd done her homework. She could do this. She would do this. If not for her, then for the poor people that had taken her in.
In hindsight, she had no idea if this would work at all. But she had to try. Power was only bound by imagination and limits were the crystallization of that. Shackles. This was her mind, her body, her power, and she would be bound by it no longer.
There. She could feel it. Melding her chakra and magic together, she pushed.
Kali tilted her head. "What're you doing?"
"Expanding the island. Quiet, please."
"Oh, that sounds great-WHAT?!"
Without warning the ocean erupted, causing the girl to yelp and fall on her hindquarters. Sakura felt much like yelping herself.
She hadn't expected to get it on her first try!
Land burst from the sea and shore, awkwardly at first as the new Maiden grappled with the strain, but with practice came perfection. She put her newfound powers to work like the useful tool they were, melding magic with precise chakra control to enforce her will upon the land. Nature fought her every step of the way and so she worked with it, rather than against it. Her power wanted to spread and grow, so she gave it the conduit it sought rather than beat it into submission.
Sand became soil and spread outward, shedding salt water as grass began to grow in its place. Flowers bloomed.
A frown stitched itself across Sakura's face. No, not enough! Too slow. More!
She spread her will deeper into the soil, taking hold of the island itself in her mind's eye. Something clicked deep inside of her and she felt her soul sing. Power rushed out of her in a heady wave, bringing tears to her eyes from sheer euphoria. This felt good. Right. Pure. Summer was the season of life and growth. Of heat and rain and wind. Creation. She was simply doing as her season dictated. Buoyed by her reserves, she repeated the process. It was a slow, painful procedure, one that exacted a heavy toll upon her and left her gasping for air, but she forged onward regardless until she was spent.
Finally, Sakura could do no more and fell to her knees, utterly spent.
How odd. She couldn't hear the sound of the ocean anymore. With a groan, she dared to look up. Oh. Ohhh that was a lot of land.
A silence fell over mother and daughter alike.
And then? Kali absolutely dove on her.
"Best mother ever~!"
He knew where they were.
Sasuke opened his eyes and once more found himself swimming in a sea of memories.
The four walls of his quarters offered no recompense for the knowledge Jinn had crammed into his skull, nor did the gentle crackle of the hearth to anything to ease his worries. A wise man once said ignorance was bliss. Had he heard those words only a few months before, Sasuke would've scoffed. Ignorance wasn't bliss. Knowledge was power. The more you knew, the stronger you became.
He was a fool. Because now he knew.
Not simply where they were, but what they were doing, whom they had allied themselves too...nearly everything. If it was possible to know too much, then Sasuke certainly did. Jinn had gone above and beyond the call to answer his question. The last few months had played out before his eyes like an old movie, their every moment, every deed made manifest in a matter of hours. He saw it all. Even the bits he'd rather not.
Naruto was even now defending the survivors of a place called Mountain Glenn, fighting the good fight, as he always did.
Kakashi had taken up an influential position as an adviser and bodyguard in Atlas.
Sakura had been attacked in Menagerie.
Sasuke wasn't sure how he felt about that. Anger that they would strike at her certainly, but also...something else. It took him a moment to quantify it. This was a strange feeling. He felt...pride. Pride in someone else for perhaps the first time in his life. She'd given the fools of Atlas a black eye. Good on her. Unfortunately it was overshadowed by worry and concern. Was she alright? Was she hurt? Why did she have those strange new powers? Where did they come from? only been privy to what he saw and heard. Jinn did not disclose their thoughts, only their actions and the ripples of them.
Still, there was one common denominator among each of them it seemed.
Each had children to look after.
Naruto had taken three under his wing. Blasted showoff. Sakura was doing much the same. Kakashi alone seemed to see the sense in guiding two, rather than three. Somehow he had the feeling they'd pick up more if left unsupervised.
He snapped his fingers, summoning his seneschal, and asked of them a question. "How far is Menagerie from here?"
"Close, my lord." The man bowed deeply beneath his gaze. "Closer than Atlas and Vale to be sure, to say nothing of Vacuo."
Sasuke blinked. "Vacuo?"
"A desert kingdom." Said attendant grimaced. "Begging your pardon my lord, but nobody likes Vacuo."
A slow smile spread across his pale visage. If Menagerie was truly that close...well. Why not?
"Good. Fetch me Raven and Qrow. Scathach as well. We're going on a trip."
The seneschal blinked. "Is this to be a crusade?"
Sasuke's smile grew another inch."
"Something like that...
So it began.
Naruto fought like a madman.
There was nothing else for it. This wasn't any enemy he could reason with. He couldn't hope to reason with the beasts even now trying to tear out his throat. These were mindless monsters, mad dogs to be put down in summary fashion. Nothing more. Nothing less. He became a whirling dervish of golden death, a yellow flash streaking from Grimm to Grimm in the dozens, then hundreds, now thousands. Never pausing, never resting, ever in motion, an angry molten blur that knew neither pause nor rest nor mercy.
None were spared.
Maria did her part as well; her twin scythes were a hurricane of death upon all who crossed her path. Her semblance actually allowed her to keep up with his kill count after a fashion...as did her other gifts. Time and time again her silver eyes flashed out, briefly blinding him with blazes of white light. The Grimm weren't so unlucky. Beneath her gaze, entire swathes of the horde turned to stone and crumbled to dust. And yet more came.
But they were not alone.
All around them, the guards rallied to their call and beat the Grimm back. The Hunters, few though they were, fought on. Those who could stand their ground did, while the rest herded noncombatants to safety. Swarms of clones herded them in turn, guarding innocents from Grimm and preventing what would have otherwise been a massacre.
With the children safely under the watchful eye of no less than than six shadow clones, they were free to engage the enemy as they saw fit. Here there was no quarter. No mercy. Only death.
An angry Nevermore screed furiously overhead, snapping him out of his battle trance. His heel crushed a Beringel's skull underfoot as he scowled at the avian. His hand cocked back, prepping a Rasenshuriken to blast the beast out of the sky.
Maria's shout pierced the din as she all but materialized near his right flank. Wild silver eyes met blue through her cracked mask and he realized her intent in a moment. She didn't even have to speak. Clever girl. Her arm yanked his down and quick as you please, the Grimm Reaper leaped at him. Naruto clasped his hands together, allowing her to alight effortlessly upon his interlocked fingers.
Kurama chuckled in the back of his had. "I think I'm falling in love."
The feeling was reciprocal. His arms tensed.
Chakra flared. Aura crackled.
"AWAY WE GO~!
Maria shot into the sky with a mad cackle, blue robes all but blurring as the wind lashed at her grinning face. She struck the Nevermore like a ballistic missile and burst through it, weapons whirling. She alighted atop the beast's falling form then leaped from its crumbling corpse to pounce upon an even larger specimen. Life and Death wedged against ebony wings and the beast shrieked in outrage as its flight path was viciously and violently cut short. A savage tug sent it wheeling out of hits flight path into a flock of aerial grimm, commandeering into its fellows.
Naruto whistled. Huh. So this was what love felt like.
Yet more Grimm poured through the breach. All the world dissolved into a blur of black on white and he soon lost track of her after that. There was only the numbness of battle. His claws caught an Ursa and slashed it in twine. A giant fist pulped a Beowolf, while a Rasenshuriken annihilated a pack of keening gryphon to the east.
Slowly but surely, they were making an impact.
His hands rose and more clones rose to reinforce the wave. He felt his reserves dip a bit -how long had been fighting?- but shook of the nausea when it came for him. There would be time for rest later. The Grimm wanted this place, and that was reason enough to deny them. Was this Salem's work? It didn't feel like it. These creatures were as mad as they were mindless; they fought without poise or purpose, smarts no strategy. Buoyed by his presence, the defenders beat them back time and again. Even if things were looking a little...grim.
Heh. He'd made a pun.
Keep fighting. That was all he could do.
Fight, and hope that his family was having a better time of things.
Summer Rose watched.
And as she watched, the little girl learned.
She didn't even have words for what she witnessed; indeed, how could she? She was but a child. And this? This was beyond her ken. Naruto and Maria -Papa and Mama!- ripped and tore through the Grimm like wet paper, sparing none in their wake. None could touch them. Every strike flowed like water. Every counter eviscerated their enemies. They were power and grace personified. They didn't simply fight. They danced. Wait. Maybe one word could describe them.
Secure atop a high rise with her sisters and surrounded by a squad of wary clones, she marveled at it all.
Silver eyes sparkled as she watched the massacre unfold below. Giant golden hands collided, creating a shockwave that flattened Grimm for miles in every direction. Huntsmen poured through the gap and hacked the fell beasts down before they could rise again. With a roar Naruto turned and repeated the motion, creating yet more breathing room for the defenders. His voice boomed, reaching even up here.
"Maria! Seal that damn breach!"
The Grimm Reaper danced past and her eyes flashed, turning yet more Grimm to stone before they could pour through the opening. Naruto seized a fallen boulder and flung it through, crushing them to fine powder. For a blessed moment, the tide of darkness ceased. A great big brute of a huntsman wielding a flanged mace saw what they were doing and capitalized on the opportunity they'd created. He barked a command and semblances flared to life in the melee. Fire and earth and metal flowed forth, coalescing around the giant stone to form a molten barrier no Grimm could touch.
A getIn no time at all, a crude barrier formed.
Just like that, the horde found itself cut off from its reinforcements. A ragged cry went up.
"Press them!" someone roared! "Press them now!"
Summer preened at the sight.
These were her parents; these were the guardians who had taken her in and swore to raise her as their own. As their eldest, would be studying at their feet. All their secrets would be hers in time. If she became even a half as powerful as these two...for a moment, she imagined it. Unstoppable. She would be unstoppable.
Maybe even invincible?
One day that would be her down there, cutting through Grimm in the dozens. With that kind of strength she could save so VERY many people from the fate she'd first suffered. She could prevent the same tragedy that had befallen her family. She could learn their ways and protect everyone. No more orphans. No more crying children. Never again. She would be a hero.
No matter how long it took her, it would be years well spent.
And one day, when she had children of her own, she would teach them as she had been taught. They would never be forgotten. So she swore. But boys were icky and she didn't want to think about that right now. Rather, she wanted to watch. By the brothers, she couldn't wait for her training to start.
...amazing." Young Glynda, silent for so long, finally found her voice. "I want that."
Summer preened all the more, a proud peacock in full bloom. Good. She understood the pecking order. There was Glynda, followed by dirt, the worms inside of the dirt, Tock, Summer herself, Mama, then Papa. So long as she understood her place they wouldn't have any problems.
Tock raised shining eyes to regard the one-sided slaughter unfolding before them. "Me too!"
And then, far below them, someone screamed.
Naruto heard the beast before he saw it. Couldn't miss it, really.
"Well," he looked up with a frown, "That's a big boy. Not having any of that nonsense."
High above them a mountain crumbled away with a sonorous roar and a monstrosity began to emerge from within. A frightful cry went up from the defenders below as the creature clawed its way free. He was under no obligation to allow that happen, of course. It had only just worked a single forelimb free when he raised his hands. Beady red eyes fixed upon him, or rather, the black light building at his fingertips. He smiled as its thick neck craned toward him, watched that massive maw part in a defiant roar-
Its cry was swallowed by a rush of light.
The wyvern didn't stand a chance; because it vanished. The mountain it was trapped in? That vanished, too. The shards of heavy debris even now tumbling toward the city below? Yup. Vanished. You get the picture. Heat and light and flame burst upward from Kurama's jaws, annihilating everything in its path as it swept up into the heavens. Clouds were swept aside, revealing the sullen stars and the mangled moon high above. In the end only a molten stump of the ridge remained. Black ash rained down upon the populace, the only sign of what could've been a mighty foe.
Kurama whistled softly. "You know, I never get tired of that sight."
Naruto lowered his arms and found he couldn't help but agree. The moon really was lovely in all its scarred beauty. Damnit, it really was night, wasn't it? Had they been fighting that long? He risked a reluctant glance over his shoulder, only to find dozens of people staring back at him. Must be the cloak. He burned like a Beacon in the dim light, his body a bright and shining sun to their eyes. Maybe he should drop it before anyone made an unpleasant assumption-oomph!
Breath burst from his lungs as Maria slammed into his side, the impact lifting him from his feet.
Naruto grunted in surprise and steadied himself, wrapping on arm around her waist as he desperately dug his feet in.
"That was amazing!" the silver-eyed warrior babbled happily into his neck. "No!" her gaze snapped up, shining silver meeting crimson. "You're amazing! You took out that Elder Grimm like it was nothing!" she gave him a shake for good measure, trying to make certain he was still there. "Since when can you fire off nukes?!"
...um," he cocked his head aside. "Since always...?"
It was the right thing to say.
Maria grabbed him by the face and leaned in with startling speed, angling her head just so. Something warm, soft, and infinitely yielding pressed against his lips. His mind rebooted. Once. Twice. Thrice. Error. Critical error in the brain! Script not found! Naruto has stopped functioning! His lips parted in confusion and she deepened the kiss -it couldn't be anything else- all but drilling him against a wall. One leg looped loosely against his, tying him up in her further still.
Perhaps it was the adrenaline. Maybe he was still drunk on chakra after slaying so many Grimm. It could've been a more tender emotion altogether. Who could say? Not he. He found he rather liked this feeling-after all the fighting he'd done, her lips were the sweetest ambrosia. Never had he wanted something so badly and never known until he received it.
Distantly, he thought he heart people cheer.
"Bwah?" he managed eloquently as she pulled back.
"There." Maria's forehead touched his, nose brushing his own, lips caressing his as she spoke. This close he could see her tan cheeks, gone dusky with embarrassment. "Consider that your reward-ah!"
She gasped in surprise as his arms tightened around her waist and lifted with his hands, cradling her hips just so. Though his mind had failed him, Naruto's body did not. Something hard pressed against her. Maria made a tiny noise of muted appreciation but didn't try to escape. On the contrary, she welded herself to him, locked her legs around his and clung on for dear life. Warm fingers threaded through his hair, tugging but a little before she found a better grip 'round his shoulders and she held tight. Her blood must've been up too, because oh dear, that was a rather glazed look in her eyes...
"Listen here, buster." She leaned in, lips brushing the outer lobe of his ear. "You're reeeaaal lucky we're not alone right now."
His tongue betrayed him. "Unlucky, more like."
She laughed and slapped his chest.
"I'm going to kiss you again, now." her eyes went hooded a moment later. "This is your one chance to back off."
He couldn't. The realization terrified and excited him more than he cared to admit. He'd never felt this before. Now that his battle high had begun to bleed dry, he wasn't even sure what he was meant to say, or do. Maria was a friend. A close friend, even. They'd fought and bled together twice before this. He was...admittedly fond of her, and enjoyed spending time with her. To just walk away? Here? Now? The thought stung.
...I don't think I can." he mumbled.
"Me neither." Silver orbs flashed, gone dark with lust. "I should warn you; I like to cuddle."
When her mouth found his for a second time, Naruto found himself yielding to it, though he had no idea what to do. There would be time for embarrassment and sputtering denials later. For now he wanted to explore this delicious sensation while he could. Just a little longer. Nothing overt. He simply wanted to hold the wonderful woman in his arms.
Someone whistled. Naruto ignored them.
Another individual coughed. Maria snarled and flailed a hand over her shoulder.
Finally, someone -he never knew who- dared to raise their voice. "If we could have a moment of your time...?"
Naruto opened his eyes and scowled them. "WHAT IS IT?!"
Wait. Naruto balked. Lord? Lord of what?
A man knelt before the two of them before the shinobi could muster his thoughts, let alone find the words to speak.
...thank you for saving us." he raised his gaze, revealing the wounds he'd sustained in battle. "We are forever in your debt."
Belatedly he recognized this huntsman, the same one he'd inspired to stand and fight at the beginning of the siege. Winchester, wasn't it? He'd heard someone shout the name. Poor bastard was missing an eye now, the left side of his face made a bloody ruin by Grimm claws. He couldn't very well ignore that now, could he? With a long suffering sigh he set Maria down and strode forward. It was the simplest thing to lay his marked hand upon this noble Hunter and focus. There. Eye restored, face fixed, good as new.
Mistakes were made.
Winchester's head all but kissed the street as he babbled his eternal thanks.
Well! If the people of Mountain Glenn hadn't honored him before, they revered him now.
Everyone went mad.
All at once the survivors rushed in and with them, all the world dissolved into a choir of noise. Men clapped his back. Women shook his hands. Children shouted and tugged his sleeves. Maria wasn't spared their gratitude either, with her mask gone her face was all too recognizable. She found herself blitzed beside him, all but crushed against his side. Everyone wanted to see them, to know them, touch them, thank them. They could hardly keep track of it all.
And then someone spoke the words that damned him. "LONG LIVE THE GOD OF LIGHT!
Naruto's neck snapped around with with an audible crack. "Who the heck said that?! I'm not a God-
"Love live the Lord of Light! Long live the Hero of Vale!" much to his chagrin, everyone took up this cry. "Long live the new Headmaster!"
"Damnit, so much for keeping a low profile-waitjustoneminutethere!" Naruto balked as his mind catching up. "Me?! Headmaster?! Of what?!"
"Before your timely intervention," Dean Winchester climbed to his feet, commanding his attention once more. "Beacon's headmaster was here." he paused, letting the weight of his words sink in. "As were the councilors of Vale. When the attack came, they quit the field. You saved us from certain doom, my lord. I can think of no one stronger."
"Wait...what?! Lord?!" his arms waved in frenzied denial. "Me?! Listen, I think you're making a mistake!"
"You're right!" someone cried! "Headmaster isn't honor enough! To our King! Long may he reign!"
It was all going wrong. "Listen, damnit! I'm trying to tell you I'm not a-
Their cries drowned his words out, denying him his very denial.
Maria sniggered softly, shoulders trembling with mirth.
"I think "King" has a nice ring to it."
Naruto absolutely twitched.
"Kurama! Not you, too!"
Aghast, his mind flailed for an answer, searching for a way out of this. For the life of him he couldn't find one. Maria was no help at all; she was all but beside herself, clutching her ribs with laughter. Traitor! A flicker of all too brief movement in his peripherals told him his clones were herding Summer and the other children their way; sure enough, their cries joined the rest as they crowded in around him. To them it was only natural that he take charge. Blast it. He was weak to that sort of thing!
No choice, then.
At a loss, he threw his hands up.
"I don't even know how to run a school, much less a kingdom!"
A/N: Not much to say this time. I think the story's done that for me.
It's aaaaall coming together. And yes, that was Cardin's grandfather you saw there.
As ever, reviews/feedback keep me writing them. Without them, I lose all hope.
So...in the Immortal Words of Atlas...
...Review...Would You Kindly!
SPOILER! SPOILER! SPOILER!
PLOT DETAILS AHOY!
YE BE WARNED!
(POTENTIAL PREVIEWS. Be sure and vote for what you want to see~!)
And would you look at that! Say hi so someone's grandmother~!
In the aftermath, it was soon discovered that Beacon's current headmaster and the Council of Vale -both present for an inspection at the time of the attack- had indeed fled and detonated the tunnels to cover their ignoble retreat, condemning everyone to die in their absence. The survivors were weren't much pleased. By the end, the loss of life proved relatively minimal. Only a dozen or so perished in the initial attack; the rest managed to survive.
No, they were not best pleased. Naruto least of all. He said as much. "If your leader would sacrifice innocents for the greater good then your leader is evil. Why'd you even elect them if they're just gonna abandon you?"
"Well said!" his new seneschal beamed. "That's precisely why you should be king."
"Vale hasn't had a king in centuries."
"Eh," the redhead shrugged. "First time for everything."
"Noelle Valkyrie, was it? I really don't think that's a good idea." judging by her smile, she hadn't heard him. "For the last time, lady! I don't want it!"
She quirked a brow at him. "Would you leave Vale and Beacon unprotected against the Grimm?"
Maria laughed. "She's got you there."
"Ugh." Naruto flung up his arms. "But I'm not doin' paperwork. I mean it! That's what shadow clones are for!" He glowered darkly. This is only a temporary thing. I ain't runnin' a school -let alone a city!- for the rest of my life. No way! I'm just not qualified!"
His words fell on deaf ears. So it was that the City of Vale found its first king in centuries.
Tock clapped her hands. "Again, again! I'll beat you this time."
Glynda smiled softly. The sight actually surprised Summer. "We'll see."
Maria clapped her face and shook her head.
"Nah, no way. I ain't fallin' in love. That's just silly...right?"
So what if he was strong, smart and good with kids and got her sense of humor? So what? It didn't matter. It was just a kiss. She didn't love him, she certainly hadn't been staring, or trying...to catch his eye...or have his children or...oh. Ohhh...they'd look rather nice, actually.
Silver eyes widened. Oh, no. This...this changed things.
Ghira wondered if their Goddess was cracked. Sometimes it certainly seemed so.
Fine by him. They were all mad here. Not as mad as Tyrian, of course...
Sakura grinned from ear to ear. Then she launched herself forward like a ballistic missile.
Her followers went mad. "The goddess has a husband?!"
"After that display, she probably will!"
"You don't seem to understand." Kakashi stomped down, grinding the man's skull beneath his boot. "Remnants isn't yours to conquer. And Cinder isn't yours. She's mine. My kid. My daughter."
His visible eye narrowed, with a dangerous gleam.
"Now, then...who do you work for?"
Salem opened her eyes.
A nevermore wheeled out the window and arrowed toward Vale with a message bound to its leg.
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