A/N: EDIT: Really class with the flames, guys. Really? That's just mean...I'm so tired of this...

Please read this note, would you kindly?

Aaaaand so the daily updates continue.

This one his shorter than I'd like, but alas, work calls. Been busy, sorry for the delay~!

Also, I'll be updating A Most Unlikely Berserker tomorrow. Thought some of you might like to know.

My new boss has kept me busier than I like; moreover they've been a right and proper pain to deal with. Doesn't help that they're causing no small amount of strife in the workplace. Something's got to give and I'm pretty sure its going to be me at this rate. Thankfully I have two jobs; should worst come to worst...well. I'd rather not quit, but they're grinding my gears.

Thoughts for later, I suppose. I won't be hung out to dry at least.

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~!

Now onto your questions:

Q: Timeskip soon?

A: Yup. They're a coming. A lot of them.

Q: Does Kakashi still have his dual Sharingan that Obito gave him?

A: As I said in an earlier chapter, yes. He does. There's a major plot reason for that; and able to use them at will. Can't really explain it here for fear of spoiling things down the line.

It still drains him a lot, of course, so its not something he uses often.

Q: Wait, so who's the big bad in this story? You've given hints, but I just wanted to ask.

A: I won't speak of it here. For the web is dark and full of spoilers.

Q: Sooo...what kinda pairings we got here?

A: There are many pairings in this story; needless to say, Naruto's not the only one getting lucky. Its going to be interesting to say the last.

Q: Isn't Kakashi being a bit too laid back?

A: Kakashi is, as always, methodical in his approach to all things. But if you rile him up...well...

...just pray.

Q: You tease! When will Team Seven reeunite?!

A: They'll all meet again, make no mistake. I feel the need to remind everyone once again that Naruto and Sasuke never had their final battle in this story. After all, Team Seven was interrupted while they dealt with Kaguya. Now, Naruto and Sasuke don't hate each other by any means or measure, but our resident prankster hasn't had a chance to knock Sasuke out of his "Revolution" phase yet.

Should be an interesting meeting when it finally happens.

And with everyone getting a kingdom -except Vacuo, it seems...?- to rule, things promise to be interesting.

But think for a moment, dear reader. Why haven't I mentioned Vacuo? Could I be plotting something?

Dwell on that for a moment.

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...!

"Kakashi Hatake, this council has made its decision."

"I recognize the council has made a decision, but given that its a STUPID decision, I've elected to ignore it. You won't send anymore men to Menagerie. That's final."

"You will do as we say, Hatake!"

"No. YOU don't seem to understand, honorable councilwoman. This world isn't yours to conquer...and I'm not yours to command. Maybe its time you were reminded of that."

~An Ill Meeting.

Reasons To Love

They were calling it the Miracle of Mountain Glenn.

Much to Naruto's chagrin, word spread like wildfire and there wasn't a thing he could do to stop it; stories of a Great Golden God ran rampant through the streets, rallying the people and slaying Grimm by the dozens. To make matters worse Scroll footage only further damned him and Maria alike. He didn't much understand what the heck an "internet" was, but videos of him annihilating that giant grimm -and the mountain with it!- were all over the news now and commonplace besides.

There could be no suppressing what had been seen; nor could they simply slip back out of the city and fade away into anonymity. It just wasn't possible.

In the aftermath the loss of life was relatively minimal, almost surprisingly so. Only a dozen perished in the initial attack; the rest managed to survive thanks to hiss timely intervention. In the aftermath of that incident, he found Winchester had spoken truly. Beacon's current headmaster and the Council of Vale -present for an inspection during the breach- had fled the city and then detonated the tunnels behind them to cover their retreat. In essence, they'd condemned everyone to die in their absence. The survivors were weren't much pleased.

No, they were not best pleased; and the news that came next morning didn't help.

"Wait, wait, wait." Drink in hand, he leaned back in his chair, balking at the young man now standing before him. "We arrested the council of Vale?! And their Headmaster?!" Really, he knew you weren't supposed to shoot the messenger, but he was honestly thinking of it right now! "When?! How?! I didn't tell anyone to do that!"

"The people did it for of you, my lord." The poor man squirmed helplessly under his gaze. "After their deception, they all claimed Mountain Glenn was lost...

Which it clearly wasn't. But still, to kidnap them...!

"I gathered that much," he pinched the bridge of his nose, "But this...ugh. Why meee?! Tell me they're being treated comfortably!"

...was that a rhetorical question, or...?"

"No!"

He'd long since given up arguing his case. These people didn't listen! They thought him a god, and so he must be one. No alternative would be accepted. With another sigh, the wayward warrior groaned into his palms and took moment to bask in the sudden silence that fell over grassy knoll where he'd set up shop. The sweet sounds of nature proved a balm to his ragged edge nerves, if only for a moment. Relaxing in a park might seem a bit strange for a "God" but no one dared to question him on it. For that at least, he was grateful.

Composing himself, he took his head out of his hands and looked up to check on the girls.

Only a few yards away Tock raced by, chased by an indignant Summer. The latter wasn't looking where she was going and crashed into Glynda, sending the taller blond sprawling. A shriek went up and unlikely trio fell to the grass, writhing and grabbing at one another as an indulgent Maria looked on. A small smile plucked at Naruto's mouth. They at least, benefited from this. For if he was being treated like a god, then the girls were the "children" of a god. Warm and full and dressed in comfortable clothes, they wanted for nothing now. They didn't have a care in the world.

"Don't play rough!" he called over to them.

A merry chorus that vaguely resembled "yes" answered him. It would have to do.

With a long suffering sigh, he turned back to the messenger. "Get Winchester, would you? I need a word with him."

The man saluted and scarpered off. Naruto watched him round a corner. Only once they were firmly out of sight did he allow his shoulders to sag.

"Such a pain...

Thankfully, it wasn't merely a matter of seizing power; large though it might be, Mountain Glenn wasn't Vale. If it were he suspected these people would've had him sitting on a throne by nightfall. But it was connected to the city now that he'd cleared the tunnels. Through them, many had already begun to bring him their ailing and injured. He couldn't ignore the lot of them for something like petty pride...could he?

He cast a glance about for Maria, seeking advice. She saw his despair and with a word of warning to their wards, wandered his way.

"Trouble?" she laid a hand on his shoulder.

"You could say that." Naruto leaned against it with a sigh."I don't know what to do. his fingers curled around hers. "If the leaders of this city would sacrifice innocents to save their own hides, then that makes them evil...doesn't it?

"It does." her head bobbed in agreement as she gave his hand a quick squeeze. "If not for us, this place would be...gone. We did good. Never doubt that."

Blue eyes flashed.

"That's what I don't understand!" in a fit of pique snatched up a small stone from the ground and flung it away in disgust. "Why us?! Why didn't they stand and fight?! Why even elect them if they're just gonna abandon you when the chips are down?!" The tiny rock struck a ravaged building and caused it to crumble. He winced but drove on. "Its not right! So why did they run?! What's wrong with this world when it needs people like me and you to defend it?!"

Soulful blue orbs met deep silver, searching for an answer. Maria considered his words for a moment.

"Well," she began slowly, choosing her words with care, "Sometimes the world isn't right." he waved her on and she settled down beside him. "Sometimes you have to make it right." a small smile tugged at her lips. "My father said that to me, once upon a time. If something's broken, you should fix it."

"Tire of fixing things." he turned and buried his head in her shoulder with a sulk. "I'm tired...

"There, there." The Grimm Reaper stroked the back of his hair. "You don't have to do this alone. You have me, remember? And the girls, of course...

"..."

"You were meant for this world, Naruto." she crooned his name softly as a lover might, holding him close. "Just remember all you've done." With his head in her shoulder he couldn't see what she was doing, but he felt her arm gesture regardless. "You didn't just save Summer and those girls. You saved me." a pause as she swallowed. "You've done so much good here. Where would we be without you? Dead in a ditch somewhere. This world needs you. These people need you." he heard her swallow once, then, more softly, "I need you."

Funny how a few words can make or break a man. Naruto's ear twitched.

"What was that last bit?"

Her elbow sank into his ribs. "You heard me. Chin up, now. We've got company."

Reluctantly, her raised his gaze.

"You're a man of the people, my lord." his new seneschal, silently standing by until this moment, seconded her opinion. "You care for these people. When they bleed, you bleed. That's precisely why you should be king."

And now once more they came to the crux of the matter.

"Vale hasn't had a king in ages."

"Eh," the redhead shrugged. "Pretty sure we did at one point. Now seems as good a time for it again."

"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. Trust me, this is a bad idea. Hostile takeovers always are."

She quirked a brow at him. "Would you leave Vale and Beacon unprotected against the Grimm?"

Naruto frowned at her. "You're a huntress, aren't you? You've defend it before."

Her back straightened just a little.

"I am a huntress, sir." He took a moment to frown at the odd colors she wore. Pink and blue with a bit of black, armor in stranger places. Stranger still was the gleaming ax on her back. "But I saw what you did in the Glenn...

Maria smirked. "That's what they're calling it now?"

...and frankly, that shit was unnatural." as he looked on she clasped both hands behind her back and straightened a little under his gaze. "Only a god could do what you did." she held up a hand. Sparks glimmered in her hand. "My semblance lets me shoot lightning from my fingers and channel it through my weapon. But you?" those very fingers curled into a fist. "A semblance doesn't explain those gifts of yours, let alone that explosion you pulled. So ya gotta be a god."

Blue eyes rolled. "I am NOT a god-

"Then what are you?" Miss Valkyrie bulled into his personal face, aqua eyes intent. "I've seen some crazy shit in my day, "but Hunters can't do half of what you can." he looked away with a wince and her forehead pressed against his. "You created an army with a wave of your hands!" just as quickly she whirled away and flung up her hands. "Then you turned into a giant golden...thingy!"

"Fox, actually." Naruto sniffed mildly.

"Thatta boy You tell her!"

"I don't care what it was!" Noelle shook her head, ginger hair swaying from side to side. "Ya blew up a mountain for crying out loud! A! FREAKING! MOUNTAIN!" In an instant she rounded on them again, teeth bared in a snarl. "People don't do that! I can't do that! So explain!"

Maria raised a hand.

...would you believe him if he said he was from another world?"

"Nope." she shook her head. "There's only one world."

Naruto sighed. "There really isn't-

Noelle grinned. "Nope."

"Let me fi-

"Nope!"

Maria's shoulders shook with silent laughter as Noelle glared at him. Blast these people. They had an argument for everything it seemed. And he really did want to have a word with the leadership of Vale. Who left a settlement to burn like that?! It just wasn't done!

"I...

Maria laughed. "She's got you there."

Naruto pinched the brow of his nose once more. He couldn't believe he was even considering this. It was madness. Utter madness. He didn't know the first thing about ruling. Granted, he surely would have learned such if he ever became Hokage back in the village, but it seemed to like such a pipe dream now.

Maria touched a hand to his arm. "Maybe its time to settle down for a bit. Think of the kids, blondie."

His gaze strayed to the yard.

Tock clapped her hands a bounced in place as a bemused Summer looked on. "Again, again! I'll catch you this time!"

Glynda smiled softly. The sight actually surprised him. "We'll see."

Blue eyes swung back.

"Are you sure?"

...I've never been more certain about anything in my life."

A quick glance confirmed that it was indeed Maria who had spoken. Her face was oddly red and she couldn't quite meet his gaze.

"You really want me to do this, huh?" He regarded her with a rueful smile. "Be a king AND a headmaster? I wouldn't even know where to start."

"Now, now, just hear me out for a second." she raised a hand to soothe him. "This would be good for Vale. Especially after Mountain Glenn. The people need a leader." her hand strayed a little lower, stroking his arm. "You could be that leader, Naruto. I know you can. You're a good man."

He looked away. "But what about what I want?"

She cocked her head to one side, regarding him like a wary she-wolf. "Alright then, I'll bite. What do you want?"

Her hips shifted just a bit, brushing against him. One leg twined with his. It was enough. All at once he recalled their kiss. Her lips on his, her body warm and soft in his hands, the glazed look in her eyes-no! Focus! Naruto gave his head a vicious shake and snapped back to reality.

Maria looked to be of a similar mind; because she clapped her face in both hands shook her head.

Still, he found himself grinning despite that. So what if she was strong, smart and good with kids. So what if she had a wicked sense of humor? So what? It didn't matter. It was just a kiss. He didn't know her enough to truly love her, not yet. He certainly wasn't staring, or trying to catch her eye...or thinking of children together or ...oh. Ohhh...they'd look rather nice, actually. Summer and girls would make good sisters and he wouldn't say no to a little one.

Realization broke like the dawn.

Blue eyes widened with them. Oh, no. This...this changed things.

Naruto slapped himself again, steering his thoughts to safer waters.

Maybe...maybe Vale just needed someone to set it straight. For a bit.

"Ugh." He flung up his arms. "But I'm not doin' paperwork. I mean it! That's what shadow clones are for!" He glowered darkly when Noelle tried to object. 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!"

Maria beamed. "That's my man."

Noelle perked up. "Then you'll meet with the Council?"

"I will." he relented. Surely they'd see sense. Him? A king? Not a chance! "Wait." An awful thought occurred to him just then. "Do I have to give a speech?"

"Yes." Maria latched onto his left arm before he could get away. "You can, and you will, ya foxy bastard."

He scowled at her. "You do realize I can still run away-

"Girls, quick! Grab your father!"

A chorus of voices answered.

"Gotcha!"

"I've got his arm!"

"You're not going anywhere!"

They needed no further encouragement. Summer got ahold of his left leg before he could even hope to lift. Glynda grabbed his right arm as he reached down to pry her off. With a cry of "Geronimo!" Tock landed on his back and latched onto his shoulders for dear life. Naruto twitched. In theory he could still run, but he'd have to shake them off first, and truth be told, he didn't want to risk that. Some might have seen them as chains holding him down...

'I think I got something in my eyes...

Kurama chortled softly. "Never took you for a crybaby."

Naruto scrubbed at his eyes with the back of a his knuckles. Damnit, he really did love them.

"Traitors, the lot of you." he muttered, but the words lacked rancor. "Ganging up on me like this...fine! I'll talk to the old bastards!"

So it was that the City of Vale would find its first king in an age.

Long may he reign.


(.0.0.0.)


Children were hell.

Say what you would about their smiles and their laughter and their undying love, but the fact remained that they could be absolute demons when they wanted to be. For all their innate goodness, it only took a single bad day -or a temper tantrum!- to send them flying out of control. Case in point, Kakashi Hatake had literally no idea how to raise children...let alone reliably look after two girls.

Tonight was no exception.

"Well, that's another yard they ruined."

Weary eyes regarded the Schnee gardens with a put upon sigh as he scratched at the back of his head. Really, it was a credit to their skills that they'd managed to do this much damage at all while was away. Blasted council meeting. Those old fools were getting too big for their britches again.

He'd have to do something about them, sooner or later. If this continued...well. Someone might have an accident.

That said, Kakashi confessed a certain point of pride in the hellscape that lay before him. What was once a verdant green land teeming with flowers and roses bushes this morning had since become a barren wasteland in his absence; there could be no other word for it. Jagged spires of ice jutted haphazardly toward the night sky, all but aglitter with the light of stars. More numerous were the blackened patches of grass; nearly baked to a harsh clay in others. Fire and ice had gone to war here, and it seemed neither had emerged the victor.

Seemed their training was going well. Maybe they deserved a reward.

It would take no small amount of earth jutsu to make the garden look halfway decent again. He'd be up most of the night repairing this.

"Might as well get to work now." he cracked his knuckles and began to flow through a set of seals.

And as he worked, molding the land to his will, he allowed his mind to wander.

Ninja were different. You didn't have to raise a ninja. Team Seven had each been broken in their own way, and they'd been teenagers when they came to him. He had taught Naruto, Sasuke and Sakura to be sure, but he hadn't expected to look after them on a daily basis.

Not so here.

Cinder required his constant attention, else she would act out. He hadn't even adopted Willow, yet she clamored for his attention more and more these days. Which in turn set Cinder off. Nicholas tried to be there for her to be sure, yet he simply wasn't around often enough. He had a company to run, new dust veins to find, and meetings to attend. As such it fell more and more to Kakashi himself to look after them both. For all their faults and flaws, he loved those girls with all his heart and soul, even if he couldn't comprehend them at times.

Cinder was chaos incarnate, but he could understand her at least.

It helped to think of her as a flame.

Give her a bit of affection and she would love you with all her fiery little heart.

By contrast, Willow was...well, he wanted to say she was ice, but there were times when she could be just as fiery as her foster sister. She was a schemer. You had to be wary of the schemers. Tricks and traps were their forte, bread and butter was their way. And young Willow had taken his lessons a little too well. She'd be a true threat someday. Almost made him proud, that did.

A shadow shifted in the corner of his peripheral vision. Kakashi sighed and tugged at his headband.

"Going to try again, are you?" he tittered softly. "Isn't it a little past your bedtime..?"

The ground ruptured under his feet, spewing noxious black smoke.

His visible eye rolled in mild chagrin. Really, it was almost cute; they actually thought they had a chance. Blinding him made no difference. One hand flicked in a lazy seal, creating a spiral of wind. THe

"Alright, girls. That's enough for one ni-

A dagger stabbed at his eye through the haze as he found himself face to a masked man.

Not Cinder. Definitely not Willow!

Shock lasted only for an instant; not nearly long enough to save his assailant. Even as his would-be killer tried to strike a killing blow, Kakashi slammed a hand forward and broke his nose. Blood spurted into the cold winter night forward and he ripped the man's mask away. Startled brown eyes met black. Black became red as Sharingan flared.

"Don't move."

His genjutsu hit the intruder like a ton of bricks; the man's body obeyed the command quite literally and toppled over. Stiff and unmoving it lay upon the ruined grounds, spine rigid as a ruler. He didn't move. Not at all. Oops. Seemed he'd taken the command a little too literally. Wouldn't do to have him suffocate now, would he?

"You can breathe." he added it almost as an afterthought.

The man rattled out a weak breath. "What are you...?"

"Your worst nightmare." Kakashi's visible eye crinkled in a smile. "Now, be a good boy and tell me who sent you."

"We," the man gulped as the shinobi's hand twitched toward a knife, "We were sent to take the girl."

"We?" Kakashi's blood ran cold. "Which girl?"

High above him, glass shattered in the Schnee manor. Willow shrieked a moment later.

"Help!"

Everything blurred.

In hindsight, Kakashi wasn't sure when or how he moved, only that he did. He'd likely sprinted up the wall; because quite suddenly he was there; glass shattering as he crashed through the window and tumbled through in a whirl of steel. Sparks snarled from his fist, readying to strike at the slightest provocation-

"Don't move!" Another masked man awaited him just within, holding a knife to young Willow's throat. "I swear, if you move I'll gut her!"

His mind whirled, searching for an answer. Too close. The man was near the door, ready to drag her into the hall -and the knife across her throat!- at the slightest provocation. He had to do

Willow did it for him.

"You'd die first."

Even as his mind whirled a black glyph snarled into existence under her kidnappers feet, bowing him with the weight of gravity. Her arm snapped back and a hidden dagger fell from her long sleeve into her waiting palm. In the same instant she reversed her grip on it rammed the weapon a hidden dagger into the man's thigh. His grip slackened in surprise and too late, he realized his peril.

"No! Wait, wait-

Kakashi saw it and moved. Lightning Blade. It was as much thought as a word. His first blow punched clean through the man's shoulder, ripping his arm to red shreds. Still half-affected by Willow's glyph the man reacted slowly. Too slowly. His good arm dropped her. Gloved fingers twitched for a pistol, only to fly away in a bloody arc as they were hacked away at the knucklebones. His prey recoiled with a shriek of pain.

He never had time to say anything else.

His hand came around and down, drilling into the kidnapper's chest to fill the man's lungs with blood. Another stab tore a gaping hole just above his breastbone. He was dead before he even struck the floor, and Willow was moving before even that.

"Thank you!" she slammed into his arms and all but sobbed into his shirt. "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" her words warbled into a wail. "I thought I was going to...!"

There was no time for anymore words beyond that. Kakashi flicked a shadow clone into the manor, wrapped Willow up into his arms and carried her down the side of the building thrice as quickly. Another explosion rocked the manor grounds. His mind was already whirling, tying to understand what was happening. Who would be crazy enough to attack the Schnee manor in the dead of night? Where was Nicholas...?"

"Tally ho!" a familiar voice boomed above. "Look out below!"

Kakashi had just enough time to look up before Nicholas Schnee came crashing down to meet them, riding his sword -and the operative skewered upon it!- to the ground from a second story window. His victim's body made an awful crunching sound as he struck the dirt. It didn't move much after that.

"Caught this chap in Cinder's bedroom." he stood slowly, joints creaking but a little. "He was the third. I killed another one with an explosive just before I jumped."

"Where's Cinder?!"

"Here, dad!" Her head poked over Nick's shoulder and belatedly, he realized she was clinging to the older man's back. Good man, Nick. As he looked on his little ward clamored over and tucked her head into his side. He glimpsed a deep cut on her forehead. It would probably scar. His blood boiled at the sight.

Belatedly, Nicholas noticed the man trapped under Kakashi's boot. "Oh, you have a prisoner. Good. Do you mind if I...?"

"No, no, by all means." he tucked Willow and Cinder behind him, shielding their eyes.

Nicholas gave his greatsword a vicious twist and blood spattered the grounds. Their remaining captive whimpered like a frightened child.

"We were just following orders...!" His voice warbled and broke as the old soldiers scowled down at him. "We just did as we were told! Good soldiers follow orders...

"You don't seem to understand." Kakashi strode forward and stomped down, grinding the man's skull beneath his boot. "Remnants isn't yours to conquer, let alone do as you please. And these girls?" a thumb stabbed over his shoulder, heedless of the scene he made. They aren't yours to take. They were never yours. They're mine."

His visible eye narrowed, with a dangerous gleam.

"Now, then...who do you work for?"

The man sang like a canary.


(.0.0.0.)


"Is this the ocean?!

Sasuke resisted the urge to smile and failed miserably. How could he not?

Raven could be a stubborn little girl at times, and worse, but here and now she truly resembled the child she was at heart. Wide wondering red eyes regarded the great blue expanse before her with all the awe it was due and more. She didn't hop in place. She vibrated; her feet touching the wooden deck with such frequency that it seemed she would go tumbling over the rail and into the sea at any moment-oops!

He saw the moment she lost her balance and reacted accordingly.

A gloved hand snapped forward and grabbed the the girl by the scruff of the neck before she could pitch over the side. She scowled at him, little legs flailing in the air, to no avail.

"Be careful." he scolded her as he set her back down on deck. "You can't swim."

"You'd save me." she grinned fearlessly. "You can walk on water."

"Yes, and you can't. So. Be. Careful."

"Yes, papa." His ward subsided with a scowl, then surprised him with a grin. "Will I be able to do that, someday?"

He didn't have the heart to say no.

...maybe."

Sakura might be able to help in that accord. It wasn't something he wanted to ask of her. Chakra was a useful tool, but he likewise, he didn't quite trust the people of Remnant with it. Besides, forcefully growing chakra coils in the body of a little girl...even he wasn't that cruel. There were some lines you just didn't cross.

But oceans? That was a different story.

"Go check on Scathach." he said at last. "Make sure she's comfortable belowdecks."

Raven stomped a foot. "Do I have to?"

He cocked a brow.

"Fiiiiiine...

Sasuke let her scamper off then returned his attention to the bow. A salty sea breeze tickled at his brow and he closed his eyes against it.

He'd traveled by boat before, but for those who followed him, this was a whole new world.

A world in which they apparently hadn't yet found their sea legs.

Behind them, Qrow groaned anew. Poor boy wasn't good with boats. Who knew? He spared a glance for the other warriors of the Tribe he'd brought; merely a handful to be sure, but each looked as pallid as the last. His tribe got seasick easily. Who knew? With a quick glance to make sure no one was watching, he knelt and massaged the boy's back.

"There, there. You'll be alright...

The younger Branwen glowered at him. "Urp...feel like shit...

Sasuke smiled a bit at the reminder. "It'll pass. You get used to it after awhile."

"Where you ever like this?" a bleary red iris regarded him under an arm. "When you first got on a boat, I mean."

"Once."

His stomach hadn't fared too well on his journey to the Land of Snow. He'd been careful to conceal it and not let anyone see, but the fact remained that he'd been downright miserable at sea. It seemed like a lifetime ago; and in truth, it was. A simpler time. A happier time. There could be no going back to those halcyon days. No matter how much he might miss them. But he cared for these children. And he wouldn't see them go down the same path as he.

"Heh." the surly boy grunted and wiped a bit of vomit from his mouth. "Didn't know gods got seasick."

"I'm not a god."

Qrow laughed. "Yeah, yeah, keep telling yourself that old man.

Sasuke would've liked to help him, but his talents simply weren't geared towards healing; all the genjutsu in the world couldn't Qrow him from heaving. He should know. He'd tried. The little lad was beginning to build up a resistance to them. Sasuke wasn't sure if that was a good thing. In theory, someone able to resist chakra based techniques would be an able fighter for the future. Thoughts for later, he supposed.

Still, the gentle sway of the boat against the waves was...surprisingly relaxing. It soothed something in his soul.

When was the last time he'd just let go and relaxed? He couldn't remember. For the longest time he'd been after something or someone, always chasing a goal. Seldom did he rest. Now, quite suddenly, he found he didn't have to. He could just...sit back and enjoy the journey to Menagerie. Granted, it would be but a trifle to use Susanoo and simply fly there but he didn't have to-

The boat rocked beneath them.

It was his only warning before a giant Grimm burst from the water.

Long and serpentine it loomed large over them, bathing the ship in its shadow.

Qrow slammed back on his hear. "Oh, come on! What now?!"

Sasuke smiled. "Now the fun begins."

His world blazed violet.


(.0.0.0.)


"I liiiiiiiive!"

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, but at least he was awake now...


(.0.0.0.)


Tyrian was quite the noisy boy, it seemed.

Sakura smiled as she heard him in the distance. As expected, the young faunus bore his new scar with all the pride of a child; one who took to show it off whenever he could. He really shouldn't be up and about, but she wasn't about to enforce bed rest on him after all he'd been through. If he wanted to walk about and forget what he'd endured, that was fine. So long as Ghira or someone kept a weather eye on him, she was sure Tyrian would be fine. Speaking of keeping an eye on things...

"Kali, be a dear and pass me that bit of lumber, would you?"

Her daughter all but materialized at her side with a fresh bit of wood. "Here you go!"

"Good girl."

With a smile that didn't feel forced in the least she accepted them from her waiting hands and went about her task. With Menagerie's land mass steadily expanding, they could finally see their way to building more houses for her people. And there was no one stronger than she. Why shouldn't she get her hands dirty and lend her aid?

Propping the beam up, she hammered it into place, then gave it a good whack to be sure.

There. She might not be able to make shadow clones, but in terms of sheer physical strength she was unmatched. If she could move great bundles of lumber like this, it would save not only time, but resources. And if let her get out of that stuffy clinic, all the better.

"Here, hold this for me. me with this."

Kali chirruped happily. "Yes, mama."

Urk. Sakura felt her heart twitch a little. Too pure. Must protect. She didn't regret adopting her. Not for a second. Still, she needed to focus. Now was not the time for distractions...

A ways away, the bell began to toll.

...but it seemed fate had other plans for her.

"Mom?" Kali perked up, ears flat on on her head. "Is that...?"

Sakura shushed her with a raised finger.

They'd fashioned something of an alarm system since the Atlas incident; a simple one at that. One ring for a friendly ship. Two rings for refugees. Three rings for a possible hostile. She prayed it wouldn't be the latter. And so she listened intently, counting out the rings. One. Alright, not so bad. Two. Well, that still better than three-

The bell rang anew, dooming her hopes to a shallow grave.

"Ship approaching!" a watchman hallooed form the walls. "Its not one of ours!"

...three. Blast it. Just her luck.

A single leap carried her halfway; from there her eyes flared with flames and she all but glided down to alight him. The poor man jumped but a little at her sudden proximity, but otherwise conducted himself well. Good. A man who control his fear was someone Duncan could use...

"How many?"

"Just the one, goddess!" the man immediately offered her his spyglass as he brayed back. "Its a big one!"

A seed of fear sprouted in Sakura's heart. Atlas again?! Would they never learn?!

She set it to her eye...and blinked.

Those weren't Atlas colors. A civilian ship, then? It looked too ramshackle to be from any real military. All black and grey and brown. Nor was it alone. As she looked on aghast, a giant Grimm rose from the deep to encircle the ship. Within moments it had the poor vessel trapped in its coils. Oh, dear. That was a Sea Feilong. She should probably get out there before-

As he looked on a giant purple figure of flame and bone burst from the deck and cut it in twine, leaving it severed halves to crash into the sea.

The spyglass dropped from nerveless fingers.

"Goddess?"

Sakura swallowed once; because her throat had gone absolutely arid. No. It couldn't be. She'd seen that before; more times than she could count. It was impossible to forget.

Susanoo.

Only one man could use that.

She leaped down from the wall and ran -stumbled really- down to the docks, nudging aside any who crossed her path. More than a few bowed, but more still chose to follow her and see what all the fuss was about. Had she been in a better mind Sakura might have shooed them away; prevented them from seeing such an unseemly display. But she couldn't and she didn't, for her focus was firmly elsewhere.

It couldn't be...could it?

For so long she'd been afraid to hope, unable to believe. She'd thought herself alone in this wretched world, and

In short order, they arrived.

Although the ship crept into the harbor at a snail's pace, it nevertheless reached the pier...eventually.

Someone threw an anchor down.

And he disembarked.

She saw him at once. He was a bit older than she remembered, his eyes just a touch sharper. Two children limped in after him, a boy and a girl, each with startling red eyes and dark hair. Her heart lurched painfully. Kids? Why did he have kids?! It hadn't been that long! No! Not important! Focus!

Then he saw her.

Dark eyes met green and blinked once. Twice. Thrice, now. His left foot swept back a bit to steady himself. He seemed as startled to see her as she did him. As if he'd expected her, but hadn't truly believed it. At his side, the little girl tugged his sleeve, pointed her way, and said something. Sakura caught the tail end of it and immediately wished she hadn't.

...is that, papa?"

Jade orbs burst into flame. "PAPA?!"

Sasuke had the good grace to wince a little.

"Its been awhile, Sakura." he spoke her name in that brusque way of his. "You look good. I thought I might find you here."

"You knew where I was?!" Her lips trembled. "That's it? That's all you have to say?! Where the hell have you been all this time?!"

"You're right." remarkably, the last Uchiha subsided with a nod. "I'm sorry. That was rude of me." An apology? Who was this man and what had he done with Sasuke? "Let me try again." he closed his eyes, raised his right fist and coughed into it briefly. "There." His gaze rose to meet hers anew.

He spread his arms to the side, only a little awkward.

...would you like a hug?"

It was too much.

Sakura couldn't take it anymore. Just like that, the dam broke. She sniffled. Just a little. Just once. Then she launched herself forward like a ballistic missile.

She slammed into Sasuke headlong, grabbed him by the face and welded her lips to his.

Her followers went mad. "The goddess has a husband?!"

"After that display, she probably will!"

A/N: As ever, flames kill my inspiration.

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~!)

"Its time."

Salem opened her eyes, rising from her slumber.

In hindsight, perhaps it was foolish of her to simply spell herself to sleep and await her coming. But she'd been so impatient.

Pale fingers clicked in a sharp snap, summoning a Grimm unto her.

Five minutes later, a nevermore wheeled out the window and arrowed toward Vale with a message bound to its leg.

And the world? Well. The world changed just a little more...


"I'll bet this is the first time you took an attack head on like this. Hope you savor it!


With great power comes great responsibility.

And gods? Well? They have the greatest responsibility of all.

It falls to them to lead you see, not just by word and deed, but example.

"Let me put things in perspective. Some say these four are deities, the Brothers come back to Remnant to lead us into a golden age. Whatever they are, they're clearly more than common folk.

Then why are their four of them? One represents Light. The other, Darkness. Another Justice. And the fourth...well, here he is!

"Ladies and gentlemen, lets welcome Kakashi Hatake to our show!"

The audience applauded politely.

STAY TUNED! R&R! =D