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Archangel

Chapter Seven: A Queen's Ransom


"You want my help?" The meeting between Naruto and Emma had a rocky start, but they smoothed out the rough edges. Now the pair were speaking like civilized beings with refreshments between them. Still... Naruto found himself carrying lingering frustrations. It appeared his desired vacation was being pushed further back by the second. Was a little time off too much to ask for?

Emma, on the other hand, couldn't be happier. A discussion leading to the eradication of her problems was ideal. Her radiant smile conveyed her answer beyond the capability of words. "That is correct. It is an issue of the utmost importance to me. I hope with your help, we can resolve this problem as soon as possible." The beautiful blonde's cultured cadence danced off her lips, sounding like a set of chimes singing in the breeze.

Honestly, the enchanting undertones of her words caught him off guard. Emma's voice was pleasing on the ears... dangerously so. It reminded Naruto of a Genjutsu's manipulative effects. However, he didn't detect any tricks. This is how Emma sounded all the time. This left Naruto torn between being weary and impressed. "Then may I suggest you take this problem to the proper authorities? They can help you with whatever you need, Ms. Frost."

Emma ensured she stared into Naruto's eyes as she spoke, hoping to drive home the sincerity of her beliefs."Are they more qualified to aid someone in distress? More than the angel who saved Earth? Because I do not believe that to be the case." Naruto was convinced a lesser man would've been turned into putty Emma's praise. Her honeyed words flowed forth as easily as breathing.

Flattery, seduction, blackmail, or threats... none of this stuff was new to Naruto. Yugao-sensei instilled in him an immunity to these things. And not even the considerable wiles of Emma Frost put a crack in the former shinobi's professional veneer. "Butter me up all you want. It's not going to help you here. If you have a problem, call the cops. Or reach out to one of the Avengers; I'm sure they'd be happy to help."

Though Naruto hadn't been overly welcoming when engaging her, Emma found a reason to keep smiling. There it was! That response is why she wanted Naruto Uzumaki over the expanding litany of so-called heroes. She needed someone who'd get the job done without compromising them both. "You speak your mind and aren't easily moved from your convictions. Others aren't comfortable doing what needs to be done. While noble, they could do more harm than good with such a mindset. That is why I need you, Uzumaki Naruto. My problem is too important to take any chances."

An eyebrow shifted on Naruto's face. Emma earned some of his respect by putting his name in the correct order. It showed Naruto that Emma was serious enough about this to do her homework. He supposed it'd be okay to hear her out. "Before this goes any further, how did you find my home?"

Emma brandished the perfect inviting smile. Something built by the countless trials of her young life. Even someone as discerning as Naruto had a tough time determining if it was genuine or a lie. "I am much more than a pretty face, darling. You made me work for it, but I eventually found what I needed. The information I had predated your sudden rise in fame, but the trail still brought me to your doorstep."

'Great, I figured as much. I need to start looking at new places. If Emma can find me, it won't be long before the media shows up with their cameras.' However, Naruto wasn't a well-trained shinobi for nothing. He didn't let any of his internal grievances show. There'd be plenty of time to be annoyed later. Business came first.

Death's chosen one released the negative energy stored within him through a measured exhale. Letting the irritation fall from his face left Naruto with a much calmer and kinder look on his handsome face. "Let me give you the same spiel all my potential partners hear. I want legitimate details and payment of some kind. This isn't a charity, Ms. Frost. Those are my terms; take it or leave it."

For the first time, Naruto compelled Emma away from her perfect posture. His demands resulted in his guest tilting forward with an intrigued expression. Emma also forced Naruto's blue eyes up. And definitely away from her chest, which was positioned... well yeah. "How perilously direct. I believe your fellow heroes could learn from your forcefulness. I shall concede for the sake of urgency, and please, call me Emma."

Naruto couldn't find a reasonable excuse to deny the woman with the pretty smile, so he agreed. "Emma, tell me what's going on here. The real story." He barely got his request out when Emma rose from her seat and elegantly sauntered around the coffee table. Once moved, she filled the couch beside Naruto, who questioned her with his stare. Too bad for him, Emma ignored the unspoken question.

She returned to maintaining proper etiquette, which included folding one thigh over the other. Then the blonde brushed her flawless hair back into place with a whisper-quiet sigh. "It is something I like keeping to myself. You see, I have a younger sister. Our family life is... complicated. When I left home, I thought it would free her. Free from my shadow and the expectations. It worked for a time. But her time ran out, sadly. She was kidnapped and turned into leverage against me." Emma placed her hand on his shoulder, hoping to draw from Naruto's empathy. But a rising tension beneath his skin caused her to abort her plans.

The emotions Naruto expected from Emma weren't anything like the ones he got. Sure, he found hints of anger here and there, but the refined beauty was remarkably in control, considering the stakes. And yet, he didn't detect any lies, which nailed down the paradox around Emma. "Clear something up for me, Emma. What makes you special enough to take these risks? Why would anyone want dirt on you?"

Her nimble danced their way off Naruto's shoulder, drifting away like snow swept off the roof of a house. If he wanted to know more about it all, Emma would fill in the blanks. She wasn't passing up a chance to praise herself. All of it entirely valid. Obviously. "A sensible question. It isn't incorrect to call myself an incredibly powerful mutant. A telepath, to be precise. That's reason enough for unsavory people to want me beneath their thumb. My sister was the quickest and easiest way to achieve that."

"Wait... you're a mutant?" Naruto heard other people whisper about mutants. Most of them didn't have a lot of nice things to say. The uninformed masses called them freaks unworthy of sharing the Earth with normal humans. Naruto couldn't disagree with them more. Without the specifics behind mutant-kind's origins, Naruto placed them in the same boat as a shinobi with a Kekkei Genkai.

They weren't lesser. They were special.

"That I am; you didn't think I was just a pretty face, did you?" Sensing the makings of a trap in the lovely mutant's question, Naruto took the smart option. He replied with a simple, one-word answer, which would stop him from damning himself with a poorly chosen word.

"Continue..."

Emma adopted a more subdued tone as her purpose was made known. It was crucial for a woman in her world to know the intricacies of talking business. Those who couldn't establish themselves as a viable option didn't last long, men and women alike. "Truthfully, I would do away with these pests if I had the chance. But the cowards will kill her if they see my face, thus tying my hands. Even my usual contacts are under strict supervision. Hence my need to get creative."

Naruto knew criminal elements when he saw it. Did the former Jinchuriki have a problem working for someone with questionable morals? Not necessarily, but that's what separated a shinobi from a superhero. His moral compass wasn't always pointing north. That's one reason why Naruto tried judging people on a case-by-case basis. "At least you have a good reason to be stubborn." A sigh put a break between Naruto's sentences. "There goes my vacation. Alright, tell me your sister's name and her last known location."

"It would be faster if you let me show you, darling. Your mental barriers are keeping me out. Let me in, and this will take less than a second." Her casual mentioning of his mental defenses caught Naruto flat-footed. Emma watched Naruto express his surprise with a smile. After letting the moment breathe, she continued the discussion. "Your defenses are quite formidable. When a telepath of my standing is barred from a mind, it's something I note."

"Fine! But if you stick your nose where it doesn't belong, it won't end well for you." His hesitance came with a half-threat. The promise of harm, while credible, acted more like a defense mechanism. Shinobi never enjoyed having their minds probed. Naruto was an exception because he spent a lot of time working alongside the Yamanaka. So that's why Emma got this offer of trust from him. However, if she insisted on abusing his kindness, Naruto would destroy her.

"Finally, a man with genuine mysteries. What a refreshing change of pace from what I'm forced to deal with. I give you my word. May I?" No matter how intrigued she was by the prospect of learning more about Naruto, Emma wouldn't dare cross any unwelcome boundaries. Doing that endangered both herself and her sister. Betraying Naruto in any fashion was a tactically unwise decision. End of story.

Naruto shut his eyes and nodded his consent. With a steady breath, he retreated into the secured recesses of his mind. From there, the former special operative carefully lowered his mental levies. Refusing to drop them totally, Naruto opened enough to let Emma access his surface thoughts. His groove was interrupted by a gentle brush against his psyche. Instead of forcefully expelling the invader, Naruto granted them entry. And with a light shiver going down his spine, he and Emma established a connection.

"Can you hear my voice, Naruto?"

'I can.'

"Excellent. I will begin transmitting everything you need to know. Please stand by." He was granted a grace period before the mind walker funneled all the necessary details straight into his brain. Most of the transfer went smoothly, but a few of the image flashes were more jarring than the others. But it wasn't anything Naruto couldn't handle.

The pain throbbing behind his forehead was made worse by a sudden case of nausea-inducing vertigo. An ever-shifting world helped remind Naruto of the troublesome consequences of melding minds with another sentient being. He couldn't say he missed it. Same for the headaches that accompany an information transfer like this. "Ugh, I forgot how annoying the vertigo can be."

"You've done this before?" Emma's curiosity sent her blackened eyelashes into a flutter. The chances Naruto would meet two different telepaths was beyond astronomical. Surely it wouldn't hurt if she could pick the mind of someone who shared her unique talents.

Naruto couldn't be bothered to do more than grumble as he tried fending off his mental discomfort. "Yeah. Something like that... I'll go over all this tonight and start looking in the morning. Hopefully, I can sort all this shit out before things get any messier."

"Delightful! I'm counting on you." Emma climbed onto her feet, clapping her hands exactly once. The sound of her palms meeting filled the quaint apartment, acting as a predecessor to her next thought. "Be a dear and direct me to your washroom."

The platinum-blonde diva spoke with such certainty that Naruto obliged her without thinking of the consequences. "Yeah. Sure. It's down the hall, first door on the left." When it finally clicked in his head, Naruto sent Emma a sideways glance. "Wait... why exactly?"

Her smile was the epitome of sweetness packed up in one response. It worked well with her smooth face and flawlessly kept exterior. "I will share this apartment with you until our business is concluded. Thank you; I will see you in the morning. Sleep well, darling. Tomorrow is an important day for us all."

Still stuck trying to wrap his brain around what just happened, Naruto watched Emma walk away with a sizable bag of luggage in hand. He idly noted Emma must have hidden it behind the couch while they talked. Left alone, Naruto slumped back into his couch with a sigh. He could only wonder, "What have I gotten myself into this time?"


Of the many possibilities, Emma wasn't woken by the worst thing. The smell of food cooking quickly roused the aristocratic woman's dormant appetite. With a fleeting yawn, she sat up and tried stretching some life into her stiff body. 'I usually eat after showering, but I will make an exception. He better have coffee ready, or there will be hell to pay.'

She made short work of fixing the bedspread. Then she donned a robe that covered her body and sleepwear. Ready to leave the privacy of the bedroom, Emma followed the smells and sounds of breakfast. And sure enough, there Naruto was working over a stove. He must've sensed her presence since he turned to face her immediately. 'I wonder how he does it?'

"The food will be done in a few minutes. Until then, grab yourself a drink. There's orange juice on the table, milk in the fridge, and coffee on the counter. Take whatever you want." Naruto hadn't planned on having an overnight guest. However, he had one, and that meant being a good host. In this case, it also meant cooking breakfast. Something Naruto was okay doing. He wasn't amazing, but he enjoyed cooking all the same.

Emma's vibrant blues visibly brightened at the mention of her favorite caffeine-rich beverage. She could practically taste it! Hit with a charge of energy, she sashayed to Naruto, nearly pressing against his back as she peeked over the top of his shoulder. "What do we have here?"

The sudden closeness let Naruto catch a hint of last night's perfume still clinging to Emma. Turning his head back to the food, he shimmied the pan and slid the french toast across a bed of light and fluffy cinnamon butter. The last thing he needed was for his breakfast bread to burn because Emma distracted him in the home stretch.

She only needed the promise of coffee on her tongue for encouragement. With free reign of Naruto's kitchen, Emma made her morning drink exactly how she liked it. Today's good start meant high spirits. Things kept going her way when Naruto slid a plate of french toast in front of her. 'Simple but delightful.'

Ever the dutiful host, Naruto slid three different fruit bowls between Emma and himself. He wanted them to have some options for their breakfast. Or a clone did when Naruto sent it to the 24/7 grocery store down the block. "Eat up while it's still hot. I haven't cooked for a guest in a while. I hope it's up to your standards."

Naruto wasn't surprised by Emma and her impeccable table manners. A woman like her didn't seem the type to partake in improper behavior. "Shall we find out?" The home chef took a seat across from Emma. He put off eating his share until Emma communicated her opinion on the food.

Refusing to rush her first bite, she savored the various tastes rushing her pallet. Once the food went down, Emma carefully dabbed her lips with a nearby napkin. That's when her light blue eyes filtered open, bringing a smile to her face. Being treated to good food was a welcomed surprise. "It's delightful. Thank you for cooking this for me, Naruto."

Naruto accepted the gracious compliment with a serene smile. With his worries banished, Naruto set up his own breakfast plate. Orange juice included. The former shinobi fell into a lighthearted conversation with Emma as he cut his toast into more manageable pieces. "I'm glad. It has been a hot minute since I needed to cook for someone other than myself."

Their meal passed along in a comfortable silence, a suitable backdrop for the two blondes. Eventually, the companionable quiet shifted toward casual business speak, courtesy of a curious Emma. "Are you going to start looking for my sister?"

He removed his mouth from his glass of orange juice, parting from his drink with a satisfied sigh. The cool, tangy beverage tasted great after standing over a hot stove for thirty minutes. "Yeah, I am. I'll snoop around and see what your informants know. Assuming I get anything, I plan on acting as soon as possible. Best I try something while I'm unexpected."

There was no hiding how the Frost sister sagged in a showing of earnest relief. Her noble aura fractured momentarily under the weight of Naruto's reassurances. At the end of it all, Emma was greatly concerned about her little sister's health and safety. More than the world could know. "Thank goodness."

"If I could offer you some advice, I'd say go out and treat this like any other day. Don't give your enemies a reason to think something is wrong." As a shinobi, there was no bigger red flag than the sudden disappearance of a target. If the people targeting Emma were half as vigilant, then up and vanishing would put the whole operation on high alert.

A frown flickered onto Emma's pristine visage. The stern lines of displeasure on her face lasted for a breath before Emma restored her composure and confidence. Hers was the disposition of a queen. "Your advice is sound. That is what I'll do. I wish you the best of luck. Good hunting, Naruto."

Naruto had a clone do the quick job of cleaning the dishes while he vanished from the confines of his kitchen with a small puff of smoke.


In the Elemental Countries, there wasn't a population center larger than Konohagakure no Sato. Naruto grew up in those streets, running amok for fun. It wasn't the august Hokage or the venerable ANBU who knew those streets like the back of their metaphorical hand. No, Uzumaki Naruto took that honor. And if it weren't for that trove of experience, the sheer size of New York City would've overwhelmed him.

That's why he had a plan to tackle the world-famous city. His knowledge was something Naruto built over months of exploring. Naruto did this by sending transformed clones into the sprawling megacity to keep him updated. Thanks to these Shadow Clones, the exceptional immigrant was an expert on New York and its surrounding boroughs.

Ironically his latest search led Naruto to a bar named The Twisted Borough. He guessed alcohol and information were a universal partnership. It wasn't healthy, but it got the job done. And that's all that truly mattered in a cutthroat world of results.

'But before that, I need a disguise.' A consequence of him boldly proclaiming himself as the man who killed Thanos was the popularity and infamy. If he walked into somewhere like a bar without the proper precautions, everything he looked to accomplish would go up in smoke. So, he needed someone unassuming. Luckily, Naruto had an identity in mind.

'Henge!'

Naruto respected and appreciated the man for everything he did for Naruto in ANBU, but Tenzo was the picture of average. Doubly so in the exotic world of shinobi. He made for a perfect cover. A tweak of the Mokuton man's wardrobe to fit Earth's current trends and 'Tenzo' was ready.

The masqueraded slayer of Thanos let himself into the closed bar. He moved across the dead establishment with the silence of an apex predator and took down a stool to sit on while he waited for the person working in the back to come out and find him.

He waited for seven minutes and fifteen seconds.

Naruto wasn't surprised to see the man's brow furrowed in annoyance. Technically he was breaking and entering, but who cared about all that? "We're closed. Come back later if you want a drink that bad."

Tapping his fingers off the bar counter, the frustrated bartender got a stoic look of seriousness that 'Tenzo' was known for. "What if I'm not here for a drink? But something I think you have and others don't?"

By now, the poor man's confusion was as plain as the nose on his face. He had no idea what was going on. None whatsoever, and he let Naruto know as much. "What the hell are you talking about?"

"Emma Frost sent me." Those four words are all Naruto needed to freeze the man like it was the dead of winter. The slight smirk wasn't in character for 'Tenzo.' However, Naruto was another story entirely. He had a reputation for causing chaos. Naruto blamed this bad habit on his mother.

First thing Naruto saw? A visible glimmer of jealousy in the man's eyes. The barkeep had an infatuation with Emma. Great... just what he needed. "Ms. Frost employed you? No offense, but you're so..." The choice to raise a hand stopped the bitter man from saying something offensive.

"Don't worry about it. I know I don't look like much, but Ms. Frost picked me for my skills, not my looks." Or that's what Naruto hoped. But truthfully, he wasn't sure what was going through her mind. "What's changed since your last report? Do you have any new, relevant information to share?"

"No, nothing at all. Those thugs have been much tighter-lipped about everything these days. Even that Toad is quiet lately. Never thought I'd live to see that happen." The displeasure on the man's face didn't come from disappointing Naruto. It was clear, to Naruto at least, that he was sad to fail Emma. Whatever the reason, Naruto could use that if need be.

While the bartender's words were bare in nature, there was something in them for Naruto to follow. "Oh? What can you tell me about this Toad? You know, insight from dealing with him daily. Anything you can think of will help." Coax him in. Make him seem pivotal to the operation. That was straight out of the metaphorical ANBU playbook.

"He's filth, both physical and moral. He has no manners and demands everything because his boss is some bigshot. I don't know if he's full of shit, but I can't risk my business on that chance." Genuine emotion often creates the best information for someone like Naruto. The less a source thought about what they said, the more value he put into it. Less time thinking meant less time to lie.

Naruto said nothing while mulling over things in his head. 'An all too familiar story. The man who has nothing gets a taste of power and abuses it. It's a sign of weak character and weaker discipline. I'd wager my life on this Toad having several exploitable character flaws.'

A nod is how Naruto signaled the man to continue. However, the masquerading shinobi threw in a few additional words for good measure. "Tell me what you know about him. Personal observations or vices. You must know the little details that the general dossier didn't include. It will help Frost in the end."

Totally oblivious to the manipulation, the hopeless man's eyes lit up at the prospect of being helpful to Emma. Love- even a twisted and one-sided love, could be used by the right set of hands. "Well, he's every bit the slimeball you've read about. A real greedy son of a bitch too."

"How so?"

"You see the red bottle on the top shelf? He always demands it despite not having any money. Like I'm giving a thug like him my best bottle. He couldn't afford it if he tried." The bartender almost scoffed in disgust. There's no way some two-bit thug could afford his best bottle. He found the idea laughable at best and insulting at worst.

"What about one of those bottles?" Pointing away from the top shelf selection, Naruto singled out one of the many bottles lining the bottom shelf. He already had a plan shaping up in the back of his head.

"Fifty for one whole bottle."

"I'll take it."

Money traded hands, followed by a bottle of liquor. The pleased bar worker put the cash away while his gums flapped to make idle conversation. "Sure. I don't know what you'll do with... that. Oh-kay..." When he looked up again, he didn't expect to see the bottle changing appearance in a cloud of smoke.

"As I said, I'm here for a reason," Naruto muttered, looking down at the bottle that now appeared identical to the one sitting up top. It still tasted like crap, but it looked fancy. And that's what mattered.


A Little Later On

Toad wasn't an impressive person to behold. He looked weak and incompetent. Naruto could only see this green dude as someone else's minion. A tool that would sadly be discarded when its use faded. And when the two finally interacted, every one of Naruto's suspicions were proven correct.

Fooling the measly mutant had been remarkably easy. All the transformed transplant shinobi needed to do was mention free alcohol. From then on, Naruto had the green-tinted one eating from his palm. It was almost sad to see Toad's complete obliviousness. But not as pathetic as watching him down cheap booze like it was drinking water.

"Hah! This ish some good shit, man! The boss never lets me drunk! BELCH! That old dude ish a real stiff!" His crude behavior was marked with a trashy burp. The guttural sound actually caused several nearby patrons to cringe against their skin. Naruto settled for rolling his eyes when Toad looked away to refill his cup.

When Toad got his clouded head back around, Naruto reapplied his fake expression of friendliness. Sweet Amaterasu, it physically hurt to smile at this man. "Ain't that the truth? Those big boss types don't understand what makes guys like us tick! Sometimes we need to blow off steam!"

Toad started nodding but was so hammered he almost fell off his stool. The only thing keeping him from landing on his neck was Naruto's steady hand. "R-Right! Yuh got it right, blondie! I like yuh!" So gone to his drunken haze, Toad didn't even realize he almost ended up on his head. Ignorance being bliss on this occasion.

As Naruto contemplated his wasted time, a clear thought struck the drunkard. What came of it was the smartest thing Toad said thus far. "Hic~! Hey, ain't you gonna drink too?"

Naruto brushed off the strangely poignant question in favor of ushering another cheap bottle in front of the verdant criminal. The bottle service persisted when Naruto opened and poured another drink for a woozy Toad. "Don't worry about me, buddy. I had three myself while you finished your share. You keep downing this stuff. You deserve it."

"I does 'erve it..." The words from Naruto roused Toad, acting as a primer that left him repeating the slurred phrase to himself. Every time Toad repeated himself, he saw a new face laughing at him in the sudsy drinking glass. They always made fun of him, but did they do half the shit he did? Fuck no, they didn't! "I deserve it!"

What he deserved was still up for debate. For now, a faux-friendly hand on the shoulder made Naruto's remarks sound like solid advice. It was more kindness than Toad got from anyone else, and that's why he clung to it. "Tell me about all the crap your boss is putting you through. It will help you out. Y'know, get it off your chest and all that."

Stiff reprimands from the past slowed Toad down, but not enough to shut him up. "Yeah... yeah, a little won't hurt no one." Any hesitation he felt about being transparent were done and dusted by the time Toad hit the bottom of his mug. The robust humming of his heavy blood alcohol levels loosened Toad's tongue and broke the floodgates on every frustration the abused mutant had.

Naruto lapsed in and out of focus as Toad babbled for twenty minutes straight. It was nothing substantial, but thankfully, the former shinobi's ears found something worthwhile. He was a few seconds from reaching his wit's end when Toad said, "What pisses me off is going three hours into the middle of nowhere. Why? Just for an in-person meeting? The shit the old dude tells us can be a message! It freakin' blows up north! Fuckin' dumb."

The skilled sage perked up like a dog as his encyclopedic brain rolled through its memory banks and put together a rough visual of where Toad was talking about. 'Three hours north of here sounds like Albany to me. It's not exactly nowhere, but it isn't as nuts as NYC. These people must be doing something important out there.'

With what he came for accomplished, Naruto saw no value in continuing the charade. The words he let loose were an ominous warning to an inevitable future for the sleazy, crime-partaking vermin. "Have a nice night's sleep in your cell. It's on me, buddy."

"Yeah, sure. Wait, wha-?" Realizing what Naruto said far too late, Toad barely had time to come to terms with what he heard. A well-struck chakra trap against the base of Toad's neck sent him spiraling into the dark realm of forced sleep. Naruto didn't feel guilty forcing Toad to hit the bar face first. But he bet the staff wouldn't be happy with all the drool from the mutant's agape mouth.

"Call this number and have him transported to jail. When they ask how you got this number, tell them you got it from an angel. See you probably never." He produced and handed a slip of paper to the stunned bartender in one deft movement. He'd let Steve handle this bozo. They'd keep Toad tied up long enough for him to take care of business. [1]


Albany, New York

Sitting alone in the hideout was a man with a Playboy from the 60s. Try as he might, he couldn't keep himself from comparing the women he knew to the ones in the magazine. It wasn't even close. He liked the American women in the publication better. They were more... filled out. The leisure viewing ended when the beeping from an oven stole his attention.

The piercing ding sent the hungry fella racing into the next room. When he returned, he did so with a four-cheese pizza. Fresh from the oven, the cheesy cuisine forced an impatient rumble out of his belly. "I can't wait any longer! I need food, and I need it now!"

He spent a few seconds trying to cool the pizza down before he wolfed down his first of many bites. The haste of gluttony came back and bit him in the ass because the scalding cheese gave way to an equally hot layer of sauce. Both of which burned at his sensitive taste buds. "FUH-! Hot! Hot! Hot!"

A set of grayish eyes clamped shut as part of a larger grimace. The slim man did his best to wave at his open mouth. Unfortunately, his futile attempt to spare himself the pain didn't get the impatient man far.

And when those eyes opened, they were confused by the black knife flying toward them. He was allowed a moment to be baffled because the bladed weapon moved in slow motion. Or that's how he perceived it. Speeding out of the way, he appeared behind the cloaked figure that threw the strange knife. "Weird clothes. You shouldn't be here." Somewhere in the background, the metal projectile just clattered off the ground.

The man threw a sloppy punch with the expectation he'd land it. But that didn't happen this time. Instead, the pizza eater's clenched fist was driven knuckle-first through the back of the plastic chair he left behind. He shook his hand until the chair wiggled free. 'What? How'd they dodge it? No one matches my speed!' Other people were just too slow to keep up! None of this made any sense!

"Hm? That ain't half bad." Even worse for the poor man, Naruto started eating the pizza he left sitting on the table. Growling through his teeth, the silver-haired man lowered his head and charged full speed. His idea was to use raw speed and tackle Naruto through the closest wall.

Imagine the surprise when Naruto caught him in a side headlock, bleeding away his momentum without taking one step back. Naruto hoisted the silver speedster vertically and slammed him back-first through the table. Pizza and all.

The impact of being put through a table left Naruto's target breathless. While he tried regaining his breath, the man looked up at Naruto's attire. It was little more than a dreary black robe, but seeing it blackout Naruto's face put an instinctive dread in the man's heart.

It was the same gear Naruto sported when he fought Kirigi of the Hand Clan. He dubbed it his Reaper Mode. Thankfully for the wheezing man, Naruto hadn't deemed it necessary to use his soul-damaging weaponry.

"Who the hell are you?" His strong accent was the first thing Naruto noted. But this observation didn't keep the top spot for long. "Wait, I read about this online somewhere. I should introduce myself and then ask for a name... that's how it works. I'm Pietro, Pietro Maximoff. Who are you?"

In the direct aftermath of Pietro's introduction, there was a lull. One born by Naruto's attempts to understand what he was being told. As far as he was concerned, Pietro Maximoff died in Sokovia. But at the same time, Naruto couldn't discount his eyes and ears. This guy in front of him bore a striking resemblance to the pictures Naruto had seen of Pietro online. So what was he missing?

Because the cloak blocked out his face, the narrowed suspicion in Naruto's eyes went unseen. Still skeptical, the former shinobi wasn't ready to buy what Pietro was trying to sell him. "No. That is impossible. Pietro Maximoff died in Sokovia during the battle against Ultron. Who are you really?"

"I'm Pietro! Me, not someone else! This is who Pietro Maximoff was meant to be! What would you know about me anyway, you freak?" Naruto didn't need his empathetic abilities to feel the anger rolling off Pietro. The seething man's raw emotion was too real to be an act. Unfortunately, this left Naruto with more questions than answers.

Even when toned down to its lowest potency, the deathly aura around Naruto wasn't something to be underestimated. That's why the supposedly dead man stepped away from the danger in the room. "Impossible. Pietro Maximoff is dead. That means you're either an impostor or a clone." A shift in Pietro's heartbeat at the latter's mention told Naruto what he needed to know.

"Shut up!" Resentment overpowered reason, and Pietro threw another punch. Lashing out like this was a sadly familiar sight. When people in the know mentioned the C-Word, Pietro always responded like this. Too bad for him, Naruto caught his fist with frightening ease.

Any warrior with pride in themselves would say that admitting defeat in the middle of battle was traitorous. However, every fiber of Pietro's being screamed run away. His pride included. The only way he survived to see another day was by running away. 'I have to get out of here!'

Pietro became a silver blur of light, and still, the robed form of Naruto ended up in front of him. With his escape route gone, a cold sweat trickled down the back of the speedster's neck. "Why is someone like you fighting for a madman?"

"I don't fight for anyone but my father!" The stubborn shout from Pietro came out before the quick man in silver thought to stop it. Like a genie being released from its bottle, there was no going back now. That didn't stop the swift mutant from looking incredibly pale as he stared into the darkness of Naruto's hood. He hadn't meant to say that, but his anger just got the better of him.

Naruto blinked once before the pieces clicked. The realization would stick with him for quite some time. "You're the son of Magneto?" Hold on, that meant Wanda was the daughter of the notorious mutant hardliner. Things just got ten times more complicated. However, Naruto had enough training to keep a lid on his emotions until a more appropriate time to release them emerged. "Listen, I will give you one chance to surrender. Do it peacefully, and I won't need to rough you up."

Before the Maximoff scion could try talking himself out of a corner, the wall behind the two men got blasted down. The wave of debris and dust clouded the pair in a cloud of grime. Despite the ferocity of their combined coughing, both men heard the call of action as it was shouted through the breach.

"X-Men, move in!"

END


[1]: Yes, Steve is still alive. Captain America hasn't gone into his twilight years yet.


Writer's Note: Hello again, everyone! Here is the latest installment of Naruto's life in the world of heroes and villains. I planned on releasing this last week, but then I went, and re-wrote the whole thing. I apologize for the delay.

Hopefully, you will treat me to some reviews. See you later.