After a harsh night of revelations and upheavals, Naruto feels himself approaching the brink without anyone to fall back on. That is, however, until the newest disturbance to his life offers him a break in the form of "Multiplayer co-op." Misery, after all, loves company.

Inspired by a clever D&D game, where my DM ran three overlapping games at once.

My first foray into the cesspit that is Naruto. Holy fuck what am I doing? Note: This will not be a senseless powerwank. I do not own Naruto, nor would I want to. Fuck you Kishimoto.


Naruto lays in his darkened bedroom, staring silently at the ceiling as his mind whirls with all the revelations of the night.

First was the betrayal of his sensei, Mizuki. The man was nice, he was fair. Mizuki had been Iruka's right hand for years, and never once indicated he was a traitor. The man even spent some nights Iruka could not spare to tutor Naruto on things that confused the boy. Then Mizuki lied to Naruto and tricked him into stealing the Scroll of Seals, a treasure of Konoha. Naruto put his heart and all his hard-earned skills into sneaking into the Hokage Tower, then bypassing all the countless defenses of the Scroll. Locks, seals, patrols, dummy scrolls, he bested all of the defenses and came out on top.

Then Mizuki revealed his intentions and tried to kill him, but not before figuratively kicking Naruto while he was down. The second curveball nearly broke him like a kunai does a pane of common glass.

He, Uzumaki Naruto, is the Jinchuriki of the Kyuubi no Kitsune, the monster that ravaged Konoha nearly thirteen years ago. Naruto gulps and clutches his stomach with a hand.

It makes an ironic, terrible sort of sense, really. The scorn and the hate, yet no one dares to harm him or explain why they hate him. The special attention from the Hokage makes sense, too. Why else would Jiji, the Hokage, leader of the whole ninja village, take time out of his day to spend with an orphan?

Does Jiji even like him?

The thought makes Naruto's blood run cold, so he growls and forces it away. 'Of course he does. Why even ask myself that?!' He thinks to himself. The cold feeling only recedes slightly, so he moves on to the third sucker punch of the night.

With only a thought, the little blinking exclamation point in the corner of his vision fills out into a full, vision-encompassing window of translucent light.

THE GAME

Ver 1.91 (New!)

[See Patch Notes to continue]

Naruto squints at the window and slowly moves his head, the window following each movement dutifully. Whipping his head to the side in one quick movement, the window follows without any lag or hesitation. Again, Naruto thinks back to earlier in the night.

Physically exhausted and mentally weary, Naruto returned home after ANBU finally located his clearing. They took the broken and battered Mizuki, treated the wounded Iruka, then whisked him away to the Hokage, who, all things considered, took the theft of the Scroll in stride. Jiji even let him keep the field promotion that Iruka issued.

Favoritism, or a guilty concession for never telling him of the Kyuubi, Naruto can't say.

When he stepped into his home, the window popped up and refused to leave.

Naruto grunts and puts his hands into a ram seal. "Kai!"

The pulse of chakra ruffles his bedsheets and rattles his nightstand, making his alarm clock wobble, but the window remains in place, totally unchanged.

"Third time and still nothing," Naruto grumbles to himself. "What kind of wacky genjutsu is this? Is it even a genjutsu?"

Going for broke, Naruto sighs and reaches a hand out, but the window seems to be just outside of his reach. "Oh c'mon!" He barks in frustration. "Cut me a break and lemme see these note things already! Wha..?"

Then to his surprise, the window does just that and morphs into a long list.

Version 1.91 notes.

Bugfixes:

-Fixed negative HP/MP value looping to infinity glitch and other immortality exploits.

-Fixed craftstacking fortification exploit.

-Fixed bottomless natural dungeon glitch.

-Fixed runaway virus glitch

-Fixed E, D, and C tier world power creep explosion

-Other minor fixes (See full notes here)

"Erm, open full notes?" Naruto says, now sitting up and wide awake. As he commands, the list explodes into a nauseating amount of text, and at the bottom, he can see a label saying 'Page 1 of 298'

"Ok, not happening!" He shakes his head. "Next!"

The window obliges, and moves on to the next section, but it's yet again more jargon that he doesn't understand, things about balancing skills and removing others, and a list of penalized 'players' whatever that is.

"Next!"

This one catches Naruto's attention.

New Features! Co-op, friend system, and more!

The long awaited social update is here. With the friend system in place, Players can meet each other and engage in multiplayer cooperative play across their respective worlds! A Friend's List powered by our social hub and a drop-in, drop-out co-op multiplayer set-up ensure that help and fun are never far away. By default, a Player's world(s) are set to Friends Only access. You can edit this in [Options]. Please note that online interactions are not rated by The Game.

"A friend system?" Naruto wonders aloud, his interest piqued. "Huh...Other Players? Does that mean other people with this..." he tries to come up with an accurate descriptor of the phenomena before him, but fails. "...Thing?"

'Well, if this thing can help me make friends, then it can't be all bad I guess.' Mind made, Naruto moves on. "Next!"

THE GAME

Ver 1.91

NEW GAME: START

Every so often, people of significance are inducted into The Game, where they may see and manipulate the world at its most base, as numbers. This is not a great power for good or evil, but simply a great power. It is up to the Player to decide how to use such power. Be they saviors, destroyers, something between, or merely content to exist, it is all your choice.

Be sure your choice is a wise one, Uzumaki Naruto.

Naruto gulps at the ominous line and continues reading.

STATUS

Name: Uzumaki Naruto

Level 6 Genin of the Hidden Leaf (+10% to all Leaf Shinobi rep gains)

EXP: 900/2100

HP: 2550/2550

MP: 8500/8500

Money: 25,620 Ryo

STR: 18

DEX:15

VIT: 35

END: 55

INT: 9

CHA: 17

LUK: 40

Available stat points: 5


Traits

Gamer's Body: Translates bodily damage to HP. HP, MP, and most debuffs are fully restored after 4+ hours of sleep in a secure, comfortable area.

Gamer's Mind: Grants EX-tier mind control resistance, grants A-tier illusion resistance.

Uzumaki Heritage: +5 END, +5 VIT, and +200 MP per level. Regenerate 0.2% HP per minute. +200% [Fuinjutsu] skill gain. Grants [Adamantine Sealing Chains] skill.

Kyuubi Jinchuriki: +300 MP per level. Regenerate 0.1% MP per second. Regenerate 0.2% HP per minute until full when HP drops below 80% Grants A-tier disease resistance. Negates muscle atrophy. Grants skill-set [Biju]. -50% to all (Konoha Civilian) Rep gains unless (Friend) or higher.


COMMON TERMS TO KNOW.

Name:

Your moniker to other people. Names carry weight, and the more famous your name becomes, the more impact it will have upon others.

Title:

A secondary moniker. Titles can modify the impact of names and confer other effects. Titles can change based on employment, reputation, deeds, and other factors.

HP:

Health points. A character's health. If this becomes too low, then the affected character may fall unconscious or suffer other ill effects. If reduced to 0, then the character will die. Rest or seek medical treatment when HP is low to restore HP.

MP:

Magic/Mana points. A character's magic. This is used to perform supernatural feats and cast spells. When empty, the character may suffer ill effects and will not be able to perform magic feats. MP regenerates over time.

Skills:

Skills are active abilities acquired by learning and doing activities in real life. Skills can be learned via books as well. Skills might have requirements to learn, like holding a certain item or having a minimum number of stat points. They improve with use, and refining a skill to it's maximum might reveal something special.

Traits:

Traits are special abilities independent of skills. These are special abilities that cannot be commonly learned and are more inherent to one's own being. Players can add Traits using Trait points

EXP:

The source of power for Players. With enough EXP, a Player's level will rise to new heights. Unlike normal people, Players may choose where to allocate their new power and grow in a manner they find pleasing.

Inventory:

A pocket where Players may keep their belongings, ranging from common rubbish to legendary artifacts. An Inventory is only accessible to the owner Player unless access is given to friends.

Reputation:

You can form friendships and relationships with most characters. The higher the Rep, the closer they feel to you and the more they trust you. A high enough rep unlocks special dialog and actions pertaining to that character, and maybe with other characters they know.

STR:

Governs most melee weapons and some ranged weapons. Higher STR lessens physical burdens and makes feats requiring strength easier.

DEX:

Governs most ranged weapons and some melee weapons. Higher DEX increases coordination and makes feats requiring dexterity easier.

VIT:

Governs the body's condition. Higher VIT increases HP, allows faster recovery from injury, and adds resistance to de-buffs.

END:

Governs the body's stamina. Higher END increases MP, allows faster recovery from exhaustion, and adds length to buffs.

INT:

Governs the mind. Higher INT increases MP control, your ability to process and retain info, and makes feats requiring magic or critical thought easier.

CHA:

Governs the voice. Higher CHA allows more control over conversations, makes your outward appearance more attractive, and increases reputation gains. (Effect diminished when interacting with other Players)

LUK:

Governs the pull of fate over you. Does many things in subtle ways, but has supreme control over nothing.

This info can be reviewed anytime in [Options] - [Manual]

The Game begins now, Uzumaki Naruto.

The longer Naruto looks, the more his head spins from all the unfamiliar terms. The wall of text is nothing short of intimidation made form for him, so the boy closes the huge menu and silently stares at the new 'main menu' presented to him.

THE GAME

Ver 1.91

[Status]

[Party]

[Inventory]

[Quests]

[Map]

[Achievements]

[Options]

[Multiplayer]

Again, his eyes are drawn to 'multiplayer'. If there are others out there with this strange power, then they would know more, right? Maybe someone can help him. "Yeah... The Academy always said teams are cool and all that..." Naruto murmurs. "Open Multiplayer."

The menu opens, and more options are set before him.

MULTIPLAYER

[Friends List]

[Player Search]

[Guild]

[Social Hub]

[Party Finder]

With a thought, Friends List opens, only to reveal an empty list, striking a painful chord in Naruto's chest. 'That just means Player friends or something, right?' He hopes to himself. 'I've got plenty of friends in Konoha...'

No Friends here yet. Try [Social Hub] to meet other Players, [Player Search] if you know who you are looking for, or [Party Finder] for instant co-op. The empty menu provides a second later.

"Okay, that seems easy enough," Naruto nods along, glad to have some help. "Uh, Social Hub!"

SOCIAL HUB

[Player Nexus]

[Auction House]

[Saved Servers]

[Remote Chat]

[(Coming Soon)]

"Argh, more of these menus!" Naruto pulls at his hair in dramatic frustration. "Who designed this thing, anyway?!" He yells, standing and swiping a hand at the translucent screen before him. Unlike before, his hand makes contact with the window, hitting [Remote Chat], then a random icon that pops up afterward as his hand keeps traveling.

Ding ding!

"-Curse rotted. If Dakki didn't power through the pain and distract the fucker while I stood back and charged up Hateful Star, then we both would have been killed. Props to you, Dakki."

Naruto freezes.

The menu transformed again, this time displaying a list of names in the lower corner of his vision. Three of the names are strange and foreign-looking, Archie, Dakki, and Laura. The last one is very familiar, that name being his own: Naruto.

"Fuck off," a tiny speaker icon by 'Dakki's' name lights up, the voice of a disgruntled man coming from nowhere. "Why didn't you help me?"

"I did, though," 'Archie' retorts, the speaker icon by his name lighting up as a younger voice comes in, one closer to his age. "Hateful Star turned him and like two football fields worth of land behind him to ash. I'm still working on the charge time, and if I get hit..."

"Well, maybe you could stand to take a hit or two. It'll make you learn to not use VIT as a dump stat, you jackass," The sneer in Dakki's voice is almost audible.

"Listen here, if you want me to oneshot things, then I need to make sacrifices here and there, okay? I do this for your convenience," Archie argues back.

"Boys please," 'Laura' finally cuts in. "Everyone got away okay, so why fight?"

Dakki sniffs. "The loot wasn't worth it. I should have gone with you on the cryptid hunt. In fac-" He stops. "Hey, who the fuck is 'Naruto?'"

Naruto freezes in place. Even if he's alone in his dark bedroom, the feeling of eyes on him is undeniable. One of his hands shoots under his pillow and palms the kunai under it.

"He's not one of my friends," Laura says. "Archie?"

"No, Obbie must have left the room open again," Archie replies. "Hey, pal? You friends with someone in the guild?"

"Uh..." Naruto trips over his own tongue and stands from his bed, pacing nervously as he tries to overcome his sudden shyness. The feeling of eyes on him sharpens for a second and makes him stiffen in place.

"Level 6?" Dakki remarks, his tone openly disbelieving. "Who are you, kid? Did you come online just today?"

"I'm sorry!" Naruto bursts out. "I didn't mean to intrude on... on whatever this is! I just got really mad at all these menus and I swiped at them and then I started hearing you and and and..!"

"Whoa, take it easy, honey. We're not mad or anything," The woman, Laura is quick to gently interrupt him. "Did you get your Game today?"

Naruto takes a deep breath and nods, then feels foolish when he realizes these people probably can't see him. "Y-Yeah. I dunno what's going on. Things just started popping up in front of my eyes tonight, and I...I thought someone in this multiplayer thing could help."

"Huh. I'll be damned. A real noobie popped up," Archie chuckles. "Nearly a billion open chatrooms and you get this one by accident? What are the odds?" Naruto is subjected to the feeling of a piercing gaze yet again. "Genin of the Hidden Leaf? Fancy title. What's a genin?"

"It means low-ninja," Naruto reveals, blinking into the empty space of his apartment as the words become easier and easier. "I got a field promotion after I helped my sensei bust a traitor."

"A ninja!?" Archie sounds positively thrilled. "No shit? Thats awesome."

"Well of course!" Naruto feels a grin begin to grow on his face. "I'm going to be the best ninja in Konoha, then take my place as Hokage."

"...Which is?" Dakki prods.

"The best ninja in the entire village! Duh."

"Thats a lovely goal, Naruto," Laura expertly cuts off Dakki's snarl. "I'm sure you can do it."

Unexpected warmth blooms in Naruto's chest from the woman's sincere tone, and again his words get tangled in his mouth. "U-Uh, thanks..."

For a third time, the feeling of being watched intensifies. "Holy..! Forty luck at level 6? That's insanity." Archie cuts in again. "I don't think it was chance that you stumbled in here, kiddo. That has got to be a sign."

"Of what?" Dakki rudely says. "Usually everyone has one good stat when they start."

Archie openly laughs. "Look again. Explain his END and VIT to me, then. Those perks are crazy, too. Natural HP and MP regen? What a lucky roll."

"Hey!" All three of the voices go quiet when Naruto speaks up, his face falling into a frown. "How do you know my status numbers?"

"By using the most basic spell in The Game, kid," Dakki clicks his tongue. "Did you not read the tutorial at all?"

Naruto's brows furrow. "Tutorial? Nothing was explained to me besides the stat things."

"The tutorial doesn't explain shit since the last update, Dakki." Archie scoffs. "I had no idea [Observe] was a thing until I discovered it by accident. They fix one thing and break another every time. Hey, Naruto," he says, getting the blonde's attention. "Focus on my name intently, like you want to peer into my soul, then say [Observe]."

Naruto does as he's told, looking cockeyed at the name printed in the corner of his vision. "[Observe]!"

New skill learned.

[Observe] - Lvl 1 | 250MP

Take in all the details of an object before your eyes, divining it's true nature and history. Higher levels will glean more details and reduce the casting cost.

Name: Archie

Level ?

HP: ?

MP: ?

[Observe] Leveled up to Lvl 2!

Naruto blinks at the deluge of info spit out at him. "Huh? It's just question marks?"

"[Observe] needs a few levels in it to get anything useful, honey," Laura chimes in. "And your own level needs to be high up sometimes to get anything useful. Now, I hate to derail this conversation, but we do need to talk about something else. Have you told your family yet?"

"My family..?" Naruto blinks, confused by the sudden turn. "About what?"

"The Game, dear," Laura continues. "It's best to tell them about it now before it becomes such a huge secret that it can't be kept anymore. The Game is a powerful ability, so before you do anything else, you need to tell them and make contingencies for if the info gets leaked. People might try to hurt them to get to you. I hate putting this on a child, but it has to be done to avoid heartache later, please understand."

The genuine concern in the still faceless woman's voice stirs something both comforting yet unpleasantly alien in Naruto's core. "Uh, well I'm an orphan so I can skip that I think."

"Oh goodness, I'm so sorry, Naruto I didn't know!" Laura exclaims. Naruto is sure if he could see her, she'd have her hands held up.

"It's fine, really," the young genin insists, the alien feeling he has no name for swelling inside him. "I've made it this far alone, so more isn't going to bug me, 'tebayo."

For a long moment, the three faceless people are silent, and Naruto feels like he may have said something wrong. Once, twice, three times he feels [Observe] used on him again. Then; "Archie, Dakki, check your DMs now," Laura demands. "Naruto, we're going to do a little huddle and be right back. Hang tight, sweetie."

Again, all three go silent.

One minute passes, then two, and Naruto's anxiety begins to build. 'Was it something I said? Did I make her mad somehow? I couldn't have, unless..!' His stomach sinks. 'Unless they saw [Kyuubi Jinchuriki]...Kami above, that's going to follow me forever.' He clenches his fists until his knuckles turn white. "Damn that stupid fox!"

"What's this about a fox?"

Naruto yelps and jumps up, kunai held in a reverse grip before realizing he's alone.

"It's us, kiddo," Archie's voice says, his speaker icon lighting up in the corner of Naruto's eye again. "How would you like to join our guild?"

Dakki audibly grumbles at Archie's words.

"Join your guild?" Naruto parrots, scratching his head. "Uh..."

"Think of it as a clan, but membership-based instead of family," Dakki sighs. "You join, pay dues, participate, and the guild, in turn, supports you when you need it."

"Dues are waived until you're higher leveled and on your feet, though," Laura is quick to add.

That... Sounds almost too good to be true. A kinda-clan after so many years of being alone? What are the chances he just stumbles into something like this? Naruto's suspicion begins to rise. "Okay, what's the catch? And why offer that to me after you just met me? I just needed someone to point me in the right direction."

"The catch is the dues and whatnot. If you want help you gotta help others and all that," Archie starts. "And kiddo? We know you got a really shit deal so don't try to hide it. The rep loss with your natives? We've seen stuff like that before. If you listen to anything I say, make it this," the man's voice loses its playful lit. "There can only ever be one native Player per world at a time. We can stick together, or die alone. Being a Player means you're going to rise to the top, and it's not a matter of if, but when. It's lonely up there, and the trip up there is going to be painful alone because The Game rarely feels like explaining." He pauses. "This is all probably really abrupt, so sleep on it, okay?"

Naruto does not get much time to process that the three strangers know his secret before another speaks up

"Join or not, we'll still be happy to help you get started," Laura says. Naruto can practically hear her smile. "If I'm seeing right, then it's almost 1AM in your world. Go get some sleep and you can call us in the morning. Here, do you see the icon by our names? To save our chat room..."

Laura patiently guides Naruto through saving their chatroom as a favorite server, not at all becoming frustrated as Naruto expects her to when he stumbles several times along the way.

"There, now you can come back anytime you want!" Laura giggles. "I'm going to be leaving here soon, as I've got a mission I need to tend to. Dakki, Archie?"

Archie hums. "It's kinda late here as well, so I'm going to bed myself. I'll be up early-ish in the morning, so hit me up if you feel like it."

Ding ding!

Dakki says nothing and simply disconnects.

"He'll come around," Archie mutters. "Anyway, see you all around."

Ding ding!

"Goodnight, Naruto," Laura says tenderly. "Sleep well."

Ding ding!

And with that, Naruto is left alone. The boy lays back on his bed, once again staring at the peeling paint of the ceiling and his mind buzzes once more. "Am I crazy?" He wonders aloud. When no voices answer, he rolls to his side and puts his kunai back under his pillow. With but a thought, the menu pops open again.

STATUS

Name: Uzumaki Naruto

Level 6Genin of the Hidden Leaf (+10% to all Leaf Shinobi rep gains)

EXP: 900/2100

HP: 2550/2550

MP: 8500/8500

Money: 25,620 Ryo

STR: 18

DEX:15

VIT: 35

END: 55

INT: 9

CHA: 17

LUK: 40

Available stat points: 5


Traits

Gamer's Body: Translates bodily damage to HP. HP, MP, and most debuffs are fully restored after 4+ hours of sleep in a secure, comfortable area.

Gamer's Mind: Grants EX-tier mind control resistance, grants A-tier illusion resistance.

Uzumaki Heritage: +5 END, +5 VIT, and +200 MP per level. Regenerate 0.2% HP per minute. +200% [Fuinjutsu] skill gain. Grants [Adamantine Sealing Chains] skill.

Kyuubi Jinchuriki: +300 MP per level. Regenerate 0.1% MP per second. Regenerate 0.2% HP per minute until full when HP drops below 80% Grants A-tier disease resistance. Negates muscle atrophy. Grants skill-set [Biju]. -50% to all (Konoha Civilian) Rep gains unless (Friend) or higher.

He stares at the mess of words for what seems like hours until his eyes creep closed.


Naruto grunts and grumbles when a shaft of sunlight shines perfectly into his closed eyes. He turns, but Amaterasu's irritating beam seems to follow him. "Hrg, fine. I guess I'm awake."

He leans up out of bed, letting his blanket pool in his lap as blinks his bleary eyes. "Wha..?"

The same Status screen he fell asleep to the night prior is still in his vision, prompting the blonde boy to rub his eyes, but when he opens his eyes again, the screen is still there.

"That wasn't some nutty dream?" Naruto asks himself, his brows furrowing. He closes the Status screen and finds himself back at the man menu again.

THE GAME

Ver 1.91

[Status]

[Party]

[Inventory]

[Quests]

[Map]

[Achievements]

[Options]

[Multiplayer]

Opening [Party]showed it to be empty, and his [Inventory] is empty as well, except for a crude model of himself to the left wearing his pajamas. The model is divided up into a grid with his clothes taking up corresponding spots, and when he focuses on the Naruto model's cap, he gets a surprise.

Doggy Pajama Cap

E-tier Headwear

Defense Rating: 1

A silly yet comfortable cap that pairs well with warm pajamas. 0.1 hours less sleep is needed to be fully rested while equipped.

Naruto looks between the empty grid to the right, and the model on the left. "What happens when I do this..." he asks no one, reaching a hand out.

The cap follows his fingers when he drags it away from the model and into the unused grid, and when he pulls his hand away, he feels the cap vanish from his head. Naruto gasps and runs his fingers through his unruly hair, finding no cap. When he drags the cap back to the model of himself, the cap appears back on his head as if magic. No whoosh, no puff of smoke, just gone and returned instantly. Then finally, he drags the cap to the empty grid, drops it, then picks it up and dismisses the menu entirely, leaving the cap in his hands. Opening the inventory again, he puts the hat back from his hand to the grid without any issues whatsoever. It only takes Naruto a few seconds to realize how stupidly, diabolically broken this new power is.

"Sugoi!" Naruto jumps out of bed with a wide grin. "I could take a whole armory worth of stuff with me! All the gear I could never fit in my backpack can go in there, and no one would ever know!" He grins an evil grin thinking of the sheer scale his pranks could now take. "I wonder..."

He hops out of bed and runs to his closet, ripping one of his jumpsuits from its hanger and throwing the clothing into his inventory, where it takes up only a single slot. When he drags the jumpsuit and drops it overtop his pajamas, a prompt pops up.

Replace current outfit with selected outfit, or wear selected outfit overtop of the current outfit?

[Replace]

[Wear Overtop]

He taps [Replace], and his pajamas vanish, instantly replaced with his signature orange attire. The pajamas, meanwhile, appear safely in his inventory.

"Man, that's so awesome." Naruto grins. "Maybe this game thing isn't so bad."

"Good to know, because you can't get rid of it." A voice laughs.

For the second time in twenty-four hours, Naruto yells and jumps, falling into a sloppy stance with his head turning all around. "Come out, bastard! I'll kick your ass for breaking into my place!"

"Take it easy, Naruto. It's Archie."

Sure enough, Naruto looks down at the corner of his vision and spies the man's name with a speaker icon by it. "Don't scare me like that!" Naruto yells, inwardly glad no one was there to see his fright. "Why were you sitting there all silent and stuff?! Were you spying on me?!"

"Well, I was talking to someone about something private, and you're the one who stayed in the chatroom all night unmuted. Usually it's good practice to leave when no one is here so this kind of thing doesn't happen." Archie chuckles again. "And no need to yell. I can hear you fine."

Naruto crosses his arms with a grumble and walks to his dirty kitchen, clearing off his stove and setting a kettle for a cup of instant ramen. "So you guys weren't just a dream?" He asks, leaning back into his counter. "I thought I was just tired and was seeing stuff."

"I said those exact words, and Dakki called me a jagaloon who needs to get real. Get real about the floating words in my face? Fuck off."

Naruto snickers some before sobering up. "What was his problem last night? Did I make him mad?"

"Dakki is always mad," Archie flippantly replies. "He refuses to put any points into his LUK then wonders why he always gets the shit end of every deal he's in. Trust me, you were not bugging him any more than Laura or I were. Speaking of, Laura said she's getting her children ready for school, then she'll be in here."

"She's a mom?" Naruto wonders aloud, he turns when his kettle starts to whistle and fishes a cup of ramen out of his cupboard. "She sounded young, though."

"Yeah, it throws people off. She's been a Player for almost twenty years and only now that her oldest kids can help with the little ones can she really explore her powers. You really tugged at her heartstrings, you know?"

"How?" Naruto asks with a contemplating face, pouring hot water into his cup of noodles and mentally resigning himself to his three minute wait. Out of curiosity, he focuses on the styrofoam cup. "[Observe]!"

Generic Brand Instant Ramen: Chicken Flavor

E-tier Consumable.

Restores 10HP

Rebranded Instant Ramen that most grocers carry. Cheap, filling, and decent enough to taste, it has saved many an unfortunate from starvation, but the poor nutrition it offers makes it good for little else than a last resort. Causes [Malnutrition] with repeated consumption.

"Well, you know, the orphan thing..?" Archie awkwardly begins. "I know the instant you said that, she thought about her own son in your position and, eh... Also the rep deficit your jinchurookie thing causes kinda tipped all of us off that you've probably not been treated the way you deserve by your village."

The blonde genin frowns into his bite of ramen as he formulates an answer. Before he can, however...

Ding ding!

Ding ding!

Under Archie's name, Laura and Dakki's names appear.

"Good morning, everyone!" Laura's tone is as sunny as can be.

Dakki just grunts.

"Hey hey," Archie greets back. "I was just talking to Naruto. Looks like he got over the 'is this real' phase pretty quick."

The boy in questions slurps down the last of his breakfast and tosses the cup into his overfilled trash can before he answers. "Kinda hard not to when I can't dispel it and it stayed all the way into the morning," he says, walking back to his bedroom to his nightstand, where his Iruka's-his headband lays. He picks it up by it's metal plate and rubs a thumb over the scratched and dented surface. "[Observe]!"

Naruto's Veteran Hitai-ate

D-tier Headwear

Defense Rating: 75+10

Formerly Umino Iruka's headband. This headband was awarded to Uzumaki Naruto on a fateful night. It's weathered visage is filled with a sensei's hope and pride for a newer generation. Defense Rating has D-tier scaling with VIT when worn by Uzumaki Naruto.

Naruto can't help but grin widely at what he reads. "Sensei..."

"Scan something again?"

Dakki's gruff voice draws him from his introspection. "Yeah," Naruto says, tying his hitai-ate around his head, where it feels so right. "My headband. It says stuff like tiers and defense ratings and other things."

"Scan a weapon."

"Okay..." Naruto reaches under his pillow and withdraws his kunai again. "[Observe]!"

Dull Kunai

E-tier Knife

Scaling: E | E

Attack Rating: 15+4

The humble kunai is the workhorse of shinobi, functioning as both a tool and weapon. This Dull Kunai has seen better days and is as forgettable as it is disposable. -50% chance of landing a critical hit when used as a weapon.

[Observe] Leveled up to Lvl 3!

"What did you scan?" Dakki asks immediately afterward.

Naruto turns the kunai in his hand over a few times, seeing it in a new light before answering. "I scanned a kunai knife and [Observe] is level three now."

"Hmmph," Dakki is silent for a moment. "It should tell you the name, the rarity, the scaling, which goes STR then DEX, and the attack. The first number is the natural attack, and the second number is your stat bonus scaling the damage up. Same thing with armor if it has some kind of applicable scaling."

"Don't start expecting anything with good scaling until you're mid-30s in level or catch a lucky break," Archie comments airily. "Actually, with 40 LUK at your level you have a decent chance of actually getting a lucky break. If you come across any dungeons that give you a good feeling, summon your boy Archie, yeah? Oh, and if you get in trouble too."

Before Naruto can question Archie about what he said, just above the chat window, a little icon like a closed envelope blinks, drawing his attention to it. "Whats that envelope thing?"

"Have you never played an RPG before?" Dakki asks. "This is basic stuff!"

"Cool it, Dakki," Archie cuts him off. "The kid needs all the help he can get. His LUK, VIT, and END might be good, but 9 INT? Ha!"

It takes a second, but Naruto realizes the man just made fun of his intelligence. "Oi!"

"Don't get your panties in a knot. We can get you on track pretty quick. Open the envelope icon."

Naruto does as Archie says, bringing up four different messages.

MESSAGES

#1[Archibald Jones] wants to be your friend!

#2[Laura of Gloam] wants to be your friend!

#3[Dakki Makura] wants to be your friend!

#4 You've been invited to [Guild:Raldoth Magaza]!

"Did you get four messages?"

Archie's words are lost on Naruto as the young ninja fixates on the messages before him with wide eyes, or more accurately, a set of words the three first ones all share. Wants to be your friend! The same alien feeling that makes his insides warm boils within Naruto yet again.

"...Naruto?"

Laura's concerned voice pulls the blonde out of his reverie. He blinks and shakes his head. "Yeah," he breathes out. "Yeah, I got four."

"Nice!" Archie replies. "Open and accept them."

One by one, Naruto clicks open each message and hits [accept] in each one, going slowly as to savor the foreign experience.

"Done? Now head to [Achievements] and claim all the rewards it should have given you."

"Rewards?" Naruto asks as he dutifully opens the menu and taps [Achievements]

-New Achievements unlocked!-

-You've got a Friend in me-

Add your first friend.

Reward: 1000 EXP

98.8% of Players have this Achievement

-Three's a Crowd-

Add 3 friends

Reward: 3000 EXP

95.1% of Players have this Achievement

-Guilded-

Join a guild

Reward: 5000 EXP, Guild Seal

73.1% of Players have this Achievement

[Claim All?]

Slowly, Naruto reaches a hand out and taps [Claim all]. The instant he does, the sheer rush of power that floods his being is almost enough to knock the wind from his lungs. He drops to his knees as he feels the muscles under his skin writhe and chakra pour from his skin almost like a liquid.

Level up!

Level up!

Level up!

(For reaching 50 VIT, each point of VIT is now worth 100 HP!)

Name: Uzumaki Naruto

Level 9 Genin of the Hidden Leaf (+10% to all Leaf Shinobi rep gains)

EXP: 1400/4500

HP: 5000/5000

MP: 11500/11500

Money: 25,620 Ryo

STR: 18

DEX:15

VIT: 50

END: 70

INT: 9

CHA: 17

LUK: 40

Available stat points: 20

Naruto pants on his hands and knees as the rush passes, leaving his head light and body filled with jitters. All the extra chakra in his system pushes at this skin, making him feel as though he's in a suit two sizes too small. Sweat begins to roll down his brow and soak into his headband as the horrid feeling of constriction begins to become painful.

"Naruto! Kid, are you okay? The first time is rush and all, but that was-"

Archie isn't given the time to finish as Naruto puts his hands in a cross-shaped seal. "K-[Kage Bunshin no Jutsu]!"

-3000 MP!

MP: 8500/11500

In an instant, Naruto's apartment is filled with clones of himself, all groaning and slumping in relief as the roaring chakra under their collective skin is released. A number of them relax too much and slip to the floor, where the impact pops them with a puff of smoke.

"Arhg..." The real Naruto stands again and briefly removes his jacket to cool his sweaty body, making him shiver again. "Why did that suck so bad?" He sits on his bed as his legs wobble.

No one answers for a second, then Laura takes the reins. "That was a very dramatic amount of MP to gain suddenly. I imagine your body needs time to cope. By the time it all regenerates, you should be okay. If not, then summon me, Naruto, okay? That was a frightening experience."

The boy's face drops somewhat hearing that he distressed his newest friend. "O-Of course!"

"Uzumaki-san!"

Naruto whips around when a tora-masked ANBU with brown hair materializes from nowhere in his apartment, a hand on his tanto. "Are you okay, Uzumaki-san? We felt a large pulse of chakra and came to investigate."

The boy genin glances out of his window but sees no other ninja. Whether Tora misspoke or the other ANBU are just out of sight, it's impossible to tell. He turns back to Tora. "Uh, yeah. Haha, nothing going on here!" He smiles at the masked nin sheepishly. "I was just practicing my Kage Bunshin..."

Tora's head pans around in what has to be an exaggerated show, the blank eye-holes of the white mask taking in all the equally sheepish Naruto clones without missing a single detail. "Are you... certain, Uzumaki-san?"

'...Shoot, I bet he knows something is up...'

+1 INT!

'And that confirmed it...' Naruto feels his brow twitch. 'Do I tell him? No, I... need to tell Jiji. He may hide things from me, but I won't hide things from him. I'm not playing that game when I know I'll lose.'

"Ano, ANBU guy?" Naruto looks up at the black-ops agent. "Could I talk to the Hokage-jiji? I've got something he should probably [Observe]."

Name: Tora(?)

Level ?

HP: ?

MP: ?

'Shoot. It was worth a shot I guess.'

The ANBU nods slowly. "Certainly," he replies. "If you are well enough to travel, Hokage-sama is expecting you. Please, come with me," with that, Tora leaps through the narrow gap in Naruto's open window and to a neighboring building in one deft movement, where he waits.

'I knew it,'

As Naruto climbs out of his window to follow the ANBU, he can hear Dakki grumble.

"I hope you know what you're doing, kid. Have a little caveat most don't understand when they use co-op for the first time," Dakki's voice becomes grave. "Since there is a level-gap between you and us, you can't summon us at our full power. If you get in trouble, we can't save you. Good luck."

Inwardly, Naruto gulps and hopes the Hokage can take such a farfetched revelation as well as he did the Scroll theft.