A/N: EDIT: Flames are flames, I suppose. I'm just laughing at this point. Also, added some more content, not that anyone seems to have noticed.
Sorry for the delay, got held up by things.
As ever, the "Embers" rule remains in effect for now.
If folks don't like this, POOF! Away it goes. Deleted! Reviews are the fire that keeps me writing. Without them, I cannot put pen to paper. Simple as that. Every bit of feedback matters, large or small~! Your voice matters! Speak up! I repeat, every bit of feedback matters...even if people think it doesn't.
That's no joke; Feedback gives me strength. Looking forward to charring with you all~!
In other news, I've just started playing Genshin Impact and I'm hopelessly lost. Send halp. I'm a rookie...
Now then, onto your questions! I'll keep it brief this time; I'm sure you'd rather read the chapter.
Q: Wait, did he father EVERYONE?! And what about Yang?! How does she fit into this?!
A: To clarify, Summer basically adopted Yang when Raven ran off like a coward shortly after giving birth.
Naruto might have something to say about that when he finally puts two and two together.
As to whether he fathered her, or Tai...well...there lie spoilers. Not revealing that yet.
Q: Aaaaand this is why you don't mess with a shinobi.
A: Indeed. Naruto's been around for awhile; as such, he's not all that inclined to deal with bullshit. And he's become a bit snarky for it.
Q: Naruto's a happy boy, ain't he? Why didn't he freak out about Ruby, though?
A: I feel the need to repeat that Naruto knew NOTHING about Ruby until she blundered into his shop. Furthermore, as stated, he and Summer weren't on speaking terms until recently. Likewise, he didn't know Cinder taking Mercury or Emerald, either. That's a daughter and TWO grandchildren he wasn't even aware of. All in a day! He's over the moon!
Q: Yes! Rip Jacques a new one! If anyone deserves to be cucked, its him!
A: *bows* I live to serve.
Q: HOW MANY KIDS DID NARUTO HAVE?!
A: Yes. That is all.
Q: Soooo...why hasn't he killed Torchwick yet?
A: That's coming, though not in this chapter. You see, Roman was the first domino. Merely the first of many; the one who started all this madness. No, his punishment must be more...severe. As for Neo? Well. That would be telling.
Alright, I've kept you long enough.
As ever, I own no references, quotes, themes or memes. Not a wit or a one.
They're tribute, nothing more. That said, I Really had a blast writing this chapter. Ready? Set! Go!
"You told everyone, didn't you."
Give and Take
Emerald had a Grandfather.
She must tell everyone!
She slammed the brakes on that train and bashed her head into a fluffy pillow before her mind could run away from her again; as it had so many times in the last hour. Warm fabric enfolded her face and she kept it there as her cheeks burned, determined not to let anyone see, only pulling back once the inexplicable urge passed. Bad Emerald. No shouting! Grandpa had done enough of that for the both of them. If one were to listen closely she could've sworn still heard him running around Vale hollering his head off, long after they'd gone back to the hideout.
"OZPIN! I HAVE A GRANDDAUGHTER!"
Nope. Not her imagination, then. That was a thing.
"SUMMER! DID YOU HEAR?! I HAVE A GRANDSON, TOO! ISN'T THIS WONDERFUL?!"
Mercury grumbled into an arm to hide his flush. "Damnit? Its been hours...is he ever going to stop?"
"QROW! I HAVE GRANDCHILDREN! THAT'S RIGHT! YOU HEARD ME! THEY'RE ADORABLE! I LOVE THEM SO MUCH!"
"Unlikely." Cinder groaned, rolling over where she lay. "There's no stopping him when he's like this. He'll be at it all night."
Emerald felt an unfamiliar heat crawl up her neck as she craned her head toward the window. They could hear him all the way out here? Seemed grandpa had a healthy set of lungs. He sounded...proud. Not that she blamed him. If she had any...well...friends, she'd be shouting too. A faint pang of regret tugged at her. Friends would be nice. Maybe someday.
The one-time urchin gave her head a mighty shake, trying to dispel such thoughts, but it was no use. Family. The word -the very concept!- had already taken root deep inside of her heart. It refused to let go. Something had awakened in her; never in her life had she wanted something so badly and never known until she received it. Any attempts on her part to dislodge such sentiment only made it dig in. She had a family. Just thinking of it drew a tiny smirk to her face. Before long it became a smile, followed by a giddy grin, the sort she'd not worn since she was a little girl.
You see, Emerald's reasoning was simple. Naruto had adopted Cinder. She was his in all but blood. He'd said as much.
In turn, Cinder had taken her off the streets.
From there it only took one tiny leap of logic to make sense of things.
For if Naruto claimed to be her Grandfather...well, what did that make Cinder unto her? The answer was deceptively simple.
That made Cinder...her mother.
Emerald kicked her legs and muffled a giggle into her pillow. Happy day!
I always wanted a Mother...
A little girl in her head absolutely squealed with glee.
And Cinder didn't deny it! Oh, sure, she had huffed and rolled her eyes at first, but she'd made no attempt to refuse his words. Even now, safely out of earshot, she'd not yet said anything to that effect. There was a part of her that feared she would; yet with each passing minute her fears shriveled away. It wasn't long before she felt bold enough to speak.
Nor was she the only one affected.
She poked her head up to see Cinder still sprawled in her own cot, staring blankly into a handheld mirror. Frustration was writ across every aspect of her face, from her golden eyes to her pursed lips. She tilted her head to the right, then the left now, scowling at her reflection as she failed to find any blemish within.
"Am I losing my touch?" she muttered to herself. "No, surely not...
"So, um...?" Emerald smacked her lips. "Mom?"
Mercury gagged just out of sight. Prick. Screw him.
Cinder made a noise of discontent. "Do not call me that in public."
...but we're not in public right now. So...I can call you that now, right?" Emerald hedged her next words. "J-Just so we're clear?"
Cinder made angry Cinder noises. "You're not going to let this go, are you? He's infected you."
Pleading red eyes met unamused gold. Eventually one of them yielded. They had to.
Cinder set her mirror down and picked up a hairbrush. "Come here."
Emerald blinked. "Ma'am?"
"I am trying to be...nice." Cinder seemed to physically struggled with the word before she spat it out. "Do you wish to brush my hair or not?"
Emerald didn't need to be told thrice. She all but blurred into Cinder's bed.
"Such a child." Cinder huffed, yet nevertheless remained motionless. "If I find a single a hair out of place...!"
Emerald ran the brush through that ebony mane in slow, vertical strokes, careful not to tug. Cinder took great pride in her long tresses; she'd never let alone touch them before. That she was letting her do so now was a sure sign of her stress. Something had gotten to her. Two guesses as to whom. First two didn't count. Gramps must've said something to her.
Still, there was a part of Emerald that envied her longer hair. Maybe she should consider growing hers out...
"Once you've finished with mine, I'll start on yours." Cinder's shattered her reverie like so much glass. "Its time we tamed that rat's nest you call hair."
...thanks." Emerald was only too happy to comply with the command. "I'd like that..."
Cinder...didn't really know how to be nice, but she was making an effort now. That mattered. It meant something.
As she worked, Emerald cast about for Mercury. She needn't look far; he hadn't budged from where she'd left him. Even now he was staring into space as he lay on the floor, expression decidedly vacant...until he raised a lone finger in salute. Yeah, he was fine. Bastard.
Well, at least she wasn't the odd one out.
She knew he wouldn't be quiet for long; wasn't his style, that.
"So," Mercury drawled the word, speaking with great care. "Is the plan still on, or what...?"
A pillow smacked him in the face muffling the rest of his words.
"Why would you say such a thing?" Cinder lowered her arm. "He knows everything! If I make even a single move, he'll tan my hide!"
"What about Adam?"
Cinder scoffed. "What about Adam? Fool can get himself killed for all I care."
"But you already have half the maiden power." Emerald pointed out. "Why stop now? Surely he wouldn't mind if you finished what you started...?"
Golden eyes regarded her over a shoulder. "Yes, he would. He already knows."
Emerald nearly missed a stroke. "You told him?!"
"What choice did I have?!" their mistress flung up her arms, an almost girlish flush in her face. "It was that or...
"What," Mercury scoffed, "Did dear 'ol daddy threaten to spank you or something?"
Cinder didn't say a word. She didn't have to; her expression was telling.
Mercury topped back, howling with laughter.
Emerald bit her lip to stifle a giggle.
"Best. Grandpa. Ever."
Naruto's exultation was heard halfway round the world.
"I HAVE GRANDCHILDREN!"
Ruby considered herself a good girl.
She did good things, fought bad people, and definitely didn't eat cookies before bedtime.
Alright, she maybe she'd fudged that last bit.
Two out of three wasn't bad, right?
One little screw-up, a single good deed gone wrong, and her life was thrown out of whack. Life had been good. Life had been simple. Now she found that life torn three different ways; trapped between her coursework, the responsibility of being a team leader, and now her first job! She was only fifteen, for crying out loud! Too much!
"Jeez," she grumbled to her herself, "You break one window and they throw the book at ya...
It wasn't that she disliked working for Naruto; she just didn't know the first thing about running a dust shop.
Emphasis on running.
Her body flitted to and fro, a whirl of red cloth and petals as she went about her work.
Naruto had forbid her from running the till, claiming she was much too young. Ruby was grateful for that. Really, she was! She'd only just patched things up with Weiss a few days ago; anyone outside that close-knit circle of friends and family would've proved far too difficult to inteact with. No sir, she wasn't ready to deal with customers yet! Nope, nope, NOPE!
Unfortunately, that meant most of her tasks were menial ones by default.
Sweep the floors, stock the shelves, sort the Dust. That kind of thing.
Was it wrong that she enjoyed the latter? Just a little?
Sparks and 'Splosions was larger on the inside than it seemed from without; most of its backroom consisted of towering shelves, each level labeled with an appropriate sealed container It was here that Ruby spent most of her time, flitting too and fro like a hummingbird. A few cases had been knocked askew by the last battle, scattering their contents across the floor. Really, it was a miracle none of if had exploded. She supposed that had something to do with the mixture. Naruto had mentioning something about his Dust being tamper proof...
There was so many different kinds here; even combinations she'd never seen before!
She discovered one such stray crystal on the floor, a fist-sized jewel red as her namesake. Pale fingers picked it held it between her fingers. She tilted it a little, grinning as it caught the light.
Even she could see there was something special about this bled; it was there in way it shimmered, pulsing in her grasp like a tiny heartbeat, almost as it were happy to see her. Like it recognized her. She shook her head, dispelling such thoughts. Don't be silly. Dust was just Dust and nothing more. It wasn't alive. It didn't have feeling. It certainly wasn't conscious! Right?
So why did Naruto call it Chakra Dust? Did the name mean something...?
"Now where the heck do you go...?" silver eyes flitted left, then right, searching for its matching case. Red meant fire dust, so that meant it was probably on one of the upper shelves...
"Be careful back there." Naruto called from the front of the shop. "Let me know if you can't reach anything."
Ruby fumbled with the crystal for a moment, narrowly catching it.
Her eyes caught an empty case on an upper level.
She hopped in place, straining for it. Her fingers brushed the ridge outline of a case, unable to get a good grip. Ladder? Who needed a ladder?! She didn't need a ladder. She was a big girl; she'd do this herself. No help for her! No sirree!
"Hrrngh!" her brow furrowed. "Jut a little...more...! Can't...reach!"
"I've got ya."
Her heart sipped a beat as strong hands settled under her shoulders and scooped her up into the air. They lifted her as father might his daughter, hoisting her with ease.
She flailed for a moment, startled at having been caught out, but only a moment. Determined to see her task through, she reached the rest of the way and thumped the crystal into its padded case. It slotted in with a soft click; then those strong arms reeled her back in, setting her down on the floor once more.
...thanks."she muttered, unwilling to meet his eyes.
"Don't woyrr about it." Naruto sauntered back the way he'd come with a merry whistle, leaving Ruby with her thoughts. "Holler if you need me!"
Ruby stared after him, gone red in the face. She wasn't stupid. She'd seen the old photos back at the house; noticed the way Mom looked at them. Those whiskered cheeks, so much like her own, yet with three marks instead of two. And the way he acted around her, well, that was a dead giveaway.
Could he be...? Was he...?
Ruby wanted to believe. Really, she did.
She knew so little about her Father. Mom had said he was something of a free spirit, but any other details were sparse.
Unbidden, her mind flitted back to their first meeting.
When they'd met that night during the robbery, he'd been surprised to see her. Shocked. As if he didn't even know she existed. What kinda of parent was that? Had things really been so bad between him and Mom that they hadn't talked for fifteen years? Neither had outright said anything to her about it, which left her uncertain. And in that uncertainty, a thorn of fear caught at her heart.
Just who was he, really?
The door chimed once, heralding another customer.
"Welcome, welcome!" Naruto's voice was warmth and friendliness personified. "What can I get you...oh." His words frosted over, going from sunny to glacial in an instant. "Look who the cat dragged in."
"I could say the same of you." a sharp, almost nasally voice intoned. "To think I'd find you here...
Ruby scuttled out of the back and peeked halfway around the corner.
There was someone there alright, but he didn't much look like a customer. If anything he reminded her of one those solicitors that used to pester them before the moved out to Patch; the kind that wouldn't take no for an answer. Clad in a crisp white suit with a bristle snow-white mustache and hair to match, he was every but a businessman through and through. His eyes were chips of wintry ice, Weiss at her worst.
'Wait, why am I thinking of Weiss?'
There he stood, flanked by no less than ten men, each wearing a pale blue suit of their own. They didn't look like good men.
"I understand you struck two of my employees." their leader's voice was crisp, almost nasally. "May I ask why?"
A faint smile creased Naruto's lips. "I wouldn't say struck, Jacques...
"You know what you did!"
"Do I?" the blond tilted his head just so. "I'm afraid I haven't the foggiest idea what you mean...
"You shoved a man's head up...!"
"Right, right." the whiskered warrior snapped his fingers. "I remember. Those two. They started it." his smile gained an edge. "Just as Roman started this mess. Seems everyone wants a piece of me these days...
Ruby perked up. "Roman...?"
Torchwick had tried to rob this place, but still...
"In any case, it doesn't matter." Naruto's resonant voice snapped her back to reality. "We both know you don't care about your lackeys. No," and here he shook his head, "You're here because I gave you an excuse. That's all you ever needed."
"I suppose you think you're clever." Jacques sneered. "Don't you?"
"Ain't hard when dealin' with ya." the shopkeeper hummed. "Weiss didn't get her brains from your sorry hide."
Jacques spat at his feet. "Filthy cur."
Naruto's rejoinder proved just as swift. "Arrogant little shit."
Ruby muffled a squeak behind her palms. This was Weiss's dad?! Oh gods. She'd thought the name sounded familiar. Jacques Schnee. Head of the SDC. Richest man in the world. What was he doing in Vale?! An awful pit opened in her stomach. She had a bad feeling about this. An awful, terrible feeling...
Jacques confirmed her fears a moment later when he pulled a piece of paper from his jacket.
Three rapid steps carried him to Naruto's desk, where he thumped it down.
"I'm here to shut you down." blue eyes traveled to the document in question. "As of today, the SDC owns this entire city block. Your shop included."
Well, she certainly had her answer now!
Naruto blinked once. "Oh, you think so, Jacques...?"
"Insolent cur!" A hand struck his face. "You think you're so big!"
A blond brow quirked, framing a devilish grin. "Your wife certainly thought so."
The world fell silent. And then:
Ruby's yelp was concealed by the man's roar.
"Oh, I dared plenty." Naruto's smile was nothing short of smug now, the sort Yang wore when she pulled off a particularly clever pun. "Up, down, sideways." When the stunned businessman didn't answer, he only laughed at him. "Still don't get it?" the smugness in his smile was so thick Crescent Rose would've snapped upon it. "We did the horizontal dance." his fingers wiggled in a lewd motion anyone with half a brain would recognize. "I bonked her brains out. She screamed my name."
Jacques reeled back on his heels. "When?! Where?! How?!"
"Now there's a proper question." Naruto tilted his head a fraction of a degree to the right. "How old is Winter again?"
Jacques turned an alarming shade of puce. Ruby would've giggled, if she weren't so terrified.
"Surely I would've noticed!"
"You would have," Naruto conceded with a nod, "If you were even a remotely decent father. But then again, you haven't realized you're sterile yet. Or," he snapped his fingers, "And stop me if you've heard this one before, but when was the last time you touched your wife?"
"That's absurd! Jacques brow shot into his hairline. "I...I...that is...?" He fumbled for words, and failed to find them. "What have you done to me?"
Genjutsu's a heady thing. Fortunately for you, I'm handy with disguises, and Willow adores her children." Naruto gave a half-hearted shrug. "Or should I say our children?"
Ruby heard Jacques' throat close from here.
"Winter's the only one aware of it, naturally." still the blond prattled on. "And the only one with whiskered cheeks, though that's nothing a little makeup couldn't fix. Weiss and Whitley won the genetic lottery there. They don't suspect a thing." he chuckled a little at some unspoken joke, then. "Did you know Weiss actually tried to buy me out? The gall."
"Why tell me this?!"
"Because." Naruto said calmly, "Turnabout is fair play. And no one will believe you."
"You...you...!" Jacques sputtered, reminding Ruby of a small white field mouse trying to puff itself up when faced with a fox. "You're lying! You're trying to rile me up!" he adjusted his coat and harrumphed. "That's all this is! You have no proof...why are you taking out your Scroll?" he flailed his arms! "Stop that! Stop it at once! I am TALKING!"
"Are you?" Naruto looked up from his phone. "I hadn't noticed. Excuse me a moment, would you? I need to take this...
As Ruby looked on aghast he pressed it to his ear.
Jacques howled! "Listen to me!"
Naruto held up a finger for silence. "Shhhh...
"Hello, Willow!" Uzumaki's face lit up like the sun. "You have perfect timing!"
Jacques died a little on the inside. Ruby saw it in his face.
"I hate to burst your bubble," Naruto cooed, ignoring the man utterly. "But I'm afraid we have a bit of a problem." A pause followed. "No, no, everything still works fine. Yes, we're still on for next weekend." he twirled a tan finger idly in the air. "Oh? White lace? That's nice. Might have to pay Atlas a visit." With each word, Jacques grew paler still. "Look, I've got your rat bastard of a "husband" here in my shop...although I suppose he's about to be your ex-husband...
Jacques foamed at the mouth.
"What's that? Sure! Naruto held out his Scroll. "She wants to talk to you. I've put her on speaker."
Trembling fingers accepted the Scroll. There was a silence. And then.
Ohhh, he looked angry. "You whore! How dare you?!"
"How dare I? How dare you! You married me for my last name. You used me. Abused me. Is it any wonder I'd cast you aside at the first opportunity?" the woman's voice was decidedly smug, waspish even. "My children were never yours. Telling you that after all these years gives me more pleasure than a thousand bottles of wine."
"I'll have you sued for this!"
"Dear Jacques, I'll be incredibly surprised if you survive the next five minutes...
Ruby couldn't hear the rest of what was said -their words dissolved into a shouting match after that- but whatever it was turned the already pale man positively pallid.
"How dare you!" Jacques ended the call and launched the scroll at him. "I'll see you on the streets for this!"
"No." Naruto caught it and stowed it effortlessly. "You won't do that."
"I could have you killed! Here and now! You think I won't?!"
"You could." he received a nod. "But you won't."
"And why is that?!"
"Because you remind me of someone. He had a stick up his arse, too." a hand swept out, clearing the counter. "This man thought all the world was his oyster; that people were his to do with as he pleased. He pillaged and plundered wherever and whenever he saw fit, never once feeling guilty for those he hurt." Blue eyes flickered a faint shade of gold as orange dusted his eyelids. "Would you like to know his name?"
Ruby certainly would. He sounded like a bad guy in need of a good thrashing!
Jacques gulped. "No, I think not-
Naruto's smile had entirely too many teeth.
Ruby whimpered a little at the light burning in his eyes.
"His name was Gatou." The man who-might-be-her-Father steeped his fingers and laid his chin atop them. "A seedy little worm of a businessman, just like you." Jacques shrank back, but Naruto made no move to engage in the least. "His life was most irrelevant in the grand scheme of things, but his end wasn't. Y'see, he thought he could take over a tiny little country called Wave...
"Does this story have a point? Are you dictating your obituary to me?!"
"Patience." Naruto temporized with a raised hand. "We're just getting to the good part."
Ruby wondered if she could call an ambulance. But not for him. Yet she couldn't bring herself to pull her Scroll.
"So!" Naruto clapped his hands, startling the lot of them. "Gatou. Real scum of the earth. He got away with it for awhile; because lets face it, money talks. But eventually the people he sought to oppress rose up against him. He died at the hands of a demon, screaming and squealing for his life like the little pig he was.
Jacques had begun to sweat now. "Demons don't exist...!"
"You have no idea. You live in a world of gods and monsters."
Ruby shrank back a little, not liking the sound of those words. Not one bit.
"I was just a boy back then, but Gatou's death really resonated wit me, y'know?" Naruto mimed a gun with his fingers and pressed it to his temple. "Men go to prison. Dogs get put down. But you're not even a dog, Jacques." Here at last he stood, towering over the little man. "You're a rat. Stil, you've caught me on a good day.
A hand snaked out, catching him by the face.
"You see," his fingers dug into the man's pasty visage, "I recently learned that I'm a father again, so for the sake of the very naughty daughter who's been watching us for the better part of five minutes now...
Ruby squeaked and ducked out of sight. Busted!
And wait, had he just called her his...?
...I'm going to give you one chance to undo your mistake." with her line of sight denied, she only had their voices to go by. "Leave Atlas. Leave Willow." she heard Naruto released Jacques, heard the spindly little man all but stumble back. "Renounce all claims to the Schnee name and go into hiding. Do that, and I'll let you walk out with your dignity intact."
Silence swelled in the room.
Jacques croaked into it.
Ruby's head snapped towards them. "What?!"
"Sir?" One of his guards saw her at last and bridled.
"Shoot! Him!" Jacques stabbed a finger at Naruto. "I want him dead!"
"But the noise!" Frantic eyes cut toward Ruby herself, and the weapon on her back. "There's a witness."
"Kill her, too. This is a bad neighborhood." his smile was nothing short of greasy. "We'll blame their deaths on the White Fang or somesuch. Such a shame."
For the first time since she'd met him, Naruto stopped smiling. "Very poor choice of words, there. I'll have to tell Kali."
"What the hell is a Kali?"
Naruto's smile returned tenfold. "A story for another time."
It was the straw that broke the camel's back. "SHOOT HIM! SHOOT HIM NOW!"
Ten pistols barked in seamless unison.
Tell bullets met empty air.
Ten men screamed as Naruto all but materialized beside the nearest gunman, swept the man's legs, caught him by the collar as he fell, and swung him around like a flail into his fellows. Bones cracked horribly, smashing several of them aside. One particularly unlucky grunt crashed through the recently repaired window, shattering it once more.
Ruby made a keening noise through her teeth. "Not again!"
Naruto's voice overrode it with a mighty bellow. "Damnit, I just had that thing fixed! Stop blowing holes in my shop!"
"YOU'RE THE ONE WHO HIT HIM!"
He whirled just as the others reloaded, effortlessly interposing his captive's body between him and harm's way. The poor thug bucked in his grasp as hot dust seared into his body, yet failed to penetrate. The blond grinned and bulled forward with his impromptu shield. Clawed fingers closed around another's weapon, yanked it from his grasp, and turned it on him.
"Remember that bit when I said that I considered guns uncivilized?" The harsh click of a round entering the chamber filled the room. "I lied."
The dust pistol barked twice, felling its former owner.
He wasn't alone.
Kurama crashed down from the second floor, flattening two more despite his slight size. The poor gunmen struck the floor with a dry wheeze, even as their compatriots drew a bead on him.
That was all Ruby needed to see. She dove in with a yell, scythe swinging. Crescent Rose became a hurricane of of crimson, mowing down them down; so much wheat from chaff. It was all downhill after that. Even as she caught them with the blunt end of their weapon -sending them crashing into the street!- she heard the harsh crack of a weapon and knew that the rest had fallen.
"Fools! You'll never work in Atlas again!" Jacques fumbled for a pistol in his coat, only for his faltering fingers to fail him. "Blast it! Just you wait! I'll show you...!"
"I'm tired of waiting; of seeing people be unhappy." Naruto caught him by the throat and wrenched him down, splintering the floor with the sheer impact. "You took that happiness from Willow. Now I'm going to take something from you. How's your dignity sound?
Jacques thrashed in his grasp as he looked on. "You'll rue the day you crossed me!"
An open palm cracked across the Schnee's face. "Say it."
Naruto slapped him again, denting his face. "Say it.
Another smack sent teeth flying through the air, punctuated by a squeal. Naruto struck him again. Followed by a fifth blow. Six. Seven now.
"I can do this all day, Jacques."
Ruby was tempted to let him; she stood by with arms crossed.
"I'm sowwy!" Jacques wailed as an eighth backhand rocked his rapidly swelling face, lisping through hideously bruised cheeks. "Fowgive me...! I'll cancel the contwact! Lemme go!"
Naruto's brow furrowed. "I think...not. I'm not done with you yet."
A ninth blow sent the wretch spiraling into unconsciousness.
Naruto released him then; to which Jacques struck the the ground with a dull thud. He didn't rise again. Just like that, silence pervaded the dust shop. Ruby dithered in, feeling every bit a naughty child, knees twisting to and fro with thinly veiled anxiety. Crescent Rose collapsed into its portable form on her back; even that noise seemed to echo in the quiet that followed.
"So, um...?" she swallowed once. "What you said...?"
Naruto perked up, more a reflexive twitch than anything else. It nearly undid her.
And yet Ruby couldn't bring herself to say it. The word lodged in her throat, choking her. No! She pushed through the doubt, the pain, the fear and it burst out of her.
"D-Daddy?" it was the whimper of a little girl who'd gone without one for far too long.
...yeah. That's me." He looked away with an awkward chuckle and scratched at his cheek. "Guess I've got some explainin' to do, huh?" The blond stood slowly as Kurama dragged bodies away in the background. "Don't suppose a lifetime's worth of dust would make up for all those missed birthdays?"
Ruby giggled in a fit of hysterics. She wasn't sure if she wanted to laugh or cry.
"How about this, then?" He opened his arms wide. "Wanna hug it out?"
Silver eyes fluttered in a rapid blink. "Just like that?"
He grinned. "Hugs make everything better."
It was such a dad thing to say; so much so that it broke down the last of her defenses. Ruby lost control. She dove forward with a sob, crashing into him in a flurry of crimson petals. Rather than endure it Naruto caught her under the arms and swept her into a crushing hug. She buried her head into his chest, stifling a sniffle. Fifteen years. Fifteen years of not knowing, of guessing and wondering, and suspecting, but never having. And now she did. Like she'd found a missing piece of herself.
He was right. Hugs really did make everything better.
"That was amazing!" words flew from her mouth as she babbled unrestrained. "You took them apart like it was nothing! You're the best!" Realization dawned a heartbeat later. "Wait, does this mean Weiss is my sister?!"
Naruto sighed. "Ruby, no."
She grinned up at him. "Ruby, yes!"
The door crashed open before he could get a word in edgewise.
From her sprawled position in Naruto's arms, Ruby had a perfect view of it all as her mother came barreling in, weapon in hand.
Oh, right. It was about time for her to pick her up, wasn't it?
"I heard gunshots!" Summer cried! "What on earth...
She took look at the bodies.
"Did I miss something?" she planted a hand on her hip, just now noticing Ruby in his arms. "Wait, you told her, didn't you?"
Naruto's grin was utterly unapologetic. "...pretty much."
Ruby dared a tentative little wave at her mother.
A slow smile spread across Summer's face.
"Well. That simplifies things, doesn't it?"
Ruby wasn't sure she liked the look in her mama's eyes just then. It was an expression she'd never seen before; really it almost looked like...hunger. But that couldn't be right. Why would Mom be hungry? There wasn't any food around here, just dust and ohhhhhhsheunderstoodnow.
Summer surged forward and tackled Dad. She kissed him fiercely, slamming him down to the floor.
"No more beating around the bush." the words were a growl. "Mine!"
"Hey-ow!" Naruto barked a laugh. "Not in front of Ruby!"
Ruby reared back, eyes bulging in her head.
There could be only one response.
A/N: Parents will be parents, I suppose.
READ THIS NOTE, PLEASE. It clarifies some important points.
As ever, the "Embers" rule remains in effect for now.
If folks don't like this, POOF! Away it goes. Deleted! Reviews are the fire that keeps me writing. Without them, I cannot put pen to paper. Simple as that. Every bit of feedback matters, large or small~! Your voice matters! Speak up! I repeat, every bit of feedback matters...even if people think it doesn't. And there we have it.
And yes, I might write a story with Naruto as the author for "Ninja's of Love" one of these days, if only for the sheer hilarity of it.
Bit of a gentle chapter...though the next one won't be. Now, then:
So in the immortal words of Atlas...
...Review, Would you Kindly?
Here, have a preview!
Weiss scowled. "Why are you grinning? You've been like this all morning."
Rubby giggled. "No reason. Nope. No reason at all."
Blake's bow twitched.
She recognized that fighting style...
"Hmm? Of course Dust is alive. What did you think it was?"
"There will always be another monster. That's what people fail to realize." Naruto sighed as he pushed a glass of warm milk her way. "Sometimes, you need a monster to keep other monsters away.
Ruby took it, letting the mug warm her cold hands. "And that's what you are?"
"Good girl." he patted her head, tousling her hair. "You're learning."
"Soooo...how many siblings do I have?"
"More than you'd think, less than you'd expect."
"Daaaaaad! That's not an answer!"
"Alright. Let's have a look at you."
Emerald squeaked as Summer pinched her cheeks.
Mercury sniggered at her express discomfort. "Heh. Busted."
Silver eyes swiveled toward him. "I'm sorry, did I say something that you found funny? Come here! Are you eating enough?"
Cinder tried to slink away. Summer's arm looped around her neck.
"And where do you think you're going?!"
"Mercy!" The sole survivor flung down his weapon and raised his hands. "I give! Please! I have a son!"
"Do you, now? Picture, or the next round goes in your crotch.
The man fumbled for his wallet and found it. "H-Here!"
Naruto caught it with ease
"Good boy." he patted his head. "Now run along, and tell everyone what you saw here today."
"Well?" Naruto scowled. "Why are you still here? Get!"
The man got.
Ruby's mother lifted her chin. "Willow. You look well. For a drunk."
"Oh, we're going to do this, are we?"
Qrow made a choking sound. "Waitaminute. Winter? The ice queen's your kid?! But we-
Naruto sat up. "Something you'd like to share with the class, Qrow?"
"Flynt, m'boy! How's your old man?"
"He's great!" The musical huntsman-in-training laughed. "Heard you beat the pants off Jacques Schnee. Had to come down and see for myself...
Tyrian tittered. "Don't worry. I'll give them...a push."
A message? Really? Roman must be getting desperate. Or stupid."
"They never learn, do they?"
EDIT: Well, you made it! Hope you enjoyed the previews! By all means, tell me what you think! Looking forward to chatting with you~!