The Legend of Gaia's Sennin

Phase 1: The City That Never Sleeps

Arch 1: Enter the Sennin

Chapter 2: Walk Before you can Run


It had been just a little under a month since Naruto had come to this new world, Gaia. Truth be told not much had happened in that time. Naruto kept up with his training, working out his body in the morning with the routine he had devised with A-sensei, Gai-sensei and Lee. It was a very arduous regime, one designed specifically for someone who had a Bijuu sealed inside of him. Meaning it had been made solely for Naruto. While he wouldn't be getting any stronger, physically – as his body had reached the peak of it's physical conditioning a long time ago – it kept his muscles from experiencing any atrophy.

Of course, given who he was he did not need to worry about his muscles degrading much. Thanks to his regeneration factor Naruto could theoretically stop exercising all together and his body would still stay in perfect shape for years before they actually started to atrophy. He just wasn't willing to take the risk that his body might deteriorate, plus the constant work out kept the instincts he had acquired from leaving.

His Kage Bunshin's new durability also helped him out with this. Because they could no longer be destroyed with one hit, Naruto's clone could fight with him on even ground.

There were some problems that had arisen at first, namely that fighting himself when the vision of him and his clone overlapped each other caused Naruto to suffer a massive headache. While he could control up to two clones and himself, for some reason when he and his clones fought each other that ability left him. Several times his kage bunshin had actually been forced to dispel due to a bad case of his mind being overloaded by what it was seeing.

To solve this Naruto had actually taken to fighting blind. Both he and his kage bunshin would tie their forehead protectors around their eyes to keep the overlapping fields of vision from messing with their mind. This worked out fairly well, and it even helped Naruto by forcing him to rely on senses other then sight, a skill which would have been useful for fighting Sasuke and Tobi.

Thoughts on the two who had earned his hatred made him wonder about that final battle. He still remembered very little on just what had happened before coming to Gaia, the last thing being his battle against Sasuke and getting trapped within a seal specifically designed for him. Tobi had then shown up and used his space-time ninjutsu technique, Kamui, on him. After that all he remembered was being in unfathomable pain and then, nothing. The next thing he had known was waking up in Aerith's bedroom.

He could only hope that after his disappearance from the Elemental Nations, someone else had taken up his quest and killed the two treacherous Uchiha survivors.

Sighing, Naruto shook his head and tried bring his attention back to the present. He didn't like thinking about the past right now, his mind still wasn't quite sure whether it had truly accepted that he was more then likely stuck in this new world for the rest of his life.

Not that there was anything bad about Gaia, well, aside from the conglomerate corporation that lorded it's wealth over those less fortunate then them. That was something that pissed him off to no end.

It was unfortunate that the company was so damn big, Shinra was nothing like Gato corporation. While Gato's shipping company had been large, it was nowhere near the world spanning scale that Shinra was. On top of that they had a large army of trained soldiers, where as Gato had only used hired thugs and missing ninja to do his dirty work. Naruto had no clue just how large Shinra's army was, but if they had the ability to subjugate the entire world of Gaia, then it was likely bigger then he could handle on his own.

Ok, so maybe this world was pretty messed up. At least there was one thing in this world that he had come to enjoy.

"Thank you!"

Naruto smiled as he watched Aerith selling flowers a few feet away from him. She was quite enthusiastic when it came to trying to convince people to buy her flowers, talking with anyone who would give her the time of day and attempting to convince them to buy one of her flowers. Some people did, some people didn't and some people outright ignored her. But no matter what happened Aerith was always carrying a smile on her face as she worked. Despite not too many people buying from her, and the price of the flowers she sold only being one gil it was something the brunette woman enjoyed and that was enough for him.

He was standing a few feet away, leaning against the wall of a building as he watched her. It was something he found himself doing more and more often, even when their was no need. Aerith hadn't noticed yet but the blond shinobi was sure her mother had, if the looks she had been giving him were anything to go by.

Thankfully Elmyra had yet to mention Naruto's lingering gaze on her daughter and even though she hadn't said anything, the blond wasn't sure if she would mind Naruto and Aerith becoming something other then friends. He had often asked himself how the older woman would feel if he and her daughter got together.

Would she be happy? Angry? Neutral? Would she try to separate them? Elmyra did not have anything against Naruto, indeed the blond was sure that the woman at the very least enjoyed his company and the happiness him being there brought her daughter. But that did not necessarily mean she would approve of him entering a relationship with Aerith. At least not one that would have him and her daughter becoming something more then just friends.

Oh well, if nothing else at least Elmyra loved his cooking.

Of course, Naruto wasn't sure if he should get involved in a relationship of that nature with the young brunette. None of the relationships he had been in back when he had lived in the Elemental Nations had ever really lasted, and the few that had were not what the blond would call a real relationship. At the very least they were not the kind that were conducive to forming any kind of lasting bond beyond what might be formed from physical pleasure. Most of the relationships he'd had were based more on sex then anything else, and had been created because neither he nor the women he had slept with wanted to die with regrets. They had been those 'we could die tomorrow so we should live every day as if it could very well be our last' kind of relationships.

Definitely not the kind that formed a lasting love.

This was not to say he didn't like Aerith, because he did. She was kind, thoughtful, compassionate, beautiful, a little odd with her cryptic words about the Planet, but to Naruto that just made her unique. Aerith was one of a kind, and that was most certainly not a bad thing.

Nor did it mean that he had never thought about what it would be like to enter a relationship with the young woman. Naruto had actually spent quite a few nights thinking about Aerith, how good of a friend she had become in such a short amount of time, and how nice it would be if he could settle down with her. Even though he had not known her long, she had become very important to him. Though Naruto often wondered if that had more to do with the fact that she was the only person besides Elmyra he had any true human interaction with since coming to this world.

He had even thought about what it might be like if he and she raised children of their own. Where he and Aerith moved out of Midgar to someplace far away, beyond the reach of Shinra where they would live a simple life filled with green-eyed, blond-haired little girls and brown-haired, blue-eyed little boys and visa versa. It was actually a pleasant thought, and Naruto had always wanted a big family, being an orphan would do that to you.

Though he was probably getting ahead of himself. Sure, Aerith was a great person, someone he got along with and could even see himself living with, but he hadn't even known her for a month. Just a little over three weeks to be exact. Could he even say he was in love with her? Or was his feelings merely a reflection of her being the only person his age that he knew? As well as being the one person who had helped him more then anyone else in this strange new world.

Lending credence to these thoughts was also the small fact that he had spent more time with Aerith in three weeks then he had any other human being since the start of the Fourth Great Shinobi War. The only only other creatures he had spent even half as much time with were Shima and Fukusaku, the husband and wife Toad Sages of Mount Myobokuzen. Even then, more then eighty percent of his time with them was spent training and honing his skills for the war. So he couldn't really count that as spending quality time. With Aerith, almost all of his attention was devoted to her. That they were living together only made him even more confused.

Of course, even if he could admit that he felt... something, for the pretty young woman, there was still another glaring problem that he faced.

Namely that he still wasn't sure what Aerith meant to him.

Having grown up an orphan who was hated for his burden, Naruto had never known the love of a mother and father, and thanks to the people of Konoha passing on their hatred of him to their children, his mind had been socially stunted. He had not formed bonds or friendships with others, and that had made it hard for him to tell the difference between liking someone and loving someone.

It was actually for that very reason that he had claimed to be in love with Sakura. Back when they were younger he had first met the pinkette being picked on by a group of bullies. Naruto being Naruto had stuck up for her, defending her even as he had gotten himself beaten up for his troubles. However, it had been well worth it in his mind, as that day had been the first, last, and only day he'd had a friend to play with when he was a child.

He could still remember how much fun it had been to finally have someone playing with him. He and Sakura had played almost all day that day, playing on the monkey bars, taking turns pushing each other on the swing, bouncing back and forth on the teeter totter. It had easily been the best day of his childhood, and one he would treasure for the rest of his life.

However, that day had also ended on a sour note. When Sakura's mom had come to pick up her daughter and saw her playing with Naruto the older pinkette had freaked, snatching the girl up quickly and leaving, all the while throwing curses at the young boy. At the time, Sakura had seemed more confused about why her mom had been cursing out her new friend, and as her mother had pulled her away she had promised to meet him there the next day.

Naruto had taken her words the heart, and the next day he had gone to the park to play with Sakura. He had waited there for hours, pushing himself on the swing set, hanging off the monkey bars. After nearly four hours of waiting he had realized that his newest and only friend would not be coming. He had been saddened at first. How could he not? However, he had put it out of his mind eventually. To him, it was just another possible friend he had lost thanks to said persons parents. He had done his best not to think about Sakura, and had eventually succeeded.

Until he saw her again. It had been after failing for the second time at the academy, he had been going into the academy for the third time when he had seen Sakrua again. Never in his life had Naruto been so happy when he saw that the girl he had befriended when he was five was in the same class as him.

However, when he had gone to speak with her he had been disappointed. Not only did she not remember him, she had even picked up an intense hatred for him. No doubt her hate for him was due to her mom telling her lies about him being a trouble maker and not someone she should associate with. Whatever Sakura's mother had told her, it had worked, and Sakura had refused to speak to him.

Despite his disappointment that she did not remember him, and had even seemed to hold a deep seated dislike of him for some reason, it had not stopped him from trying to get the pinkette's attention. Many times he had tried to rekindle the friendship he'd had with her, tried talking to her, asking her for help, asking what she thought about the classes. He had done everything he could think of to get Sakura to pay attention to him.

None of it had worked, and eventually, Naruto had decided that he'd needed to step up his game. In hindsight, he could see that this was where his crush on the girl had come from. It had not been that he thought she was pretty, though he would admit she was cute, nor had it been her intelligence, even if she had been the smartest girl in class. No, the whole reason he liked Sakura had been because he had simply wanted his first friend back, and in his efforts to reclaim it tried deluding himself into believing he was in love with her.

When he thought of it like that, Naruto could see that he had never truly loved the girl back then. At the time it had simply been puppy love. Though he would – and had – still considered her to be one of his most precious people after finding that out. It hadn't been until later, after Naruto began to become more socially aware, that he fell in love with her.

It was almost ironic that it had only been a few months after this revelation that Sakura would die. Ironic and painful.

The sound of slow, measured and feminine footsteps coming towards him caused Naruto to raise his head to see Aerith walking up to him with a smile on her face. In her left hand she held the small basket which she used to carry her flowers, and Naruto noticed that it was nearly half empty, meaning she had been fairly successful today. She stopped just a few feet in front of him, her smile never leaving.

"All done?" he asked, pushing himself away from the wall. He took a moment to let out a loud yawn as he stretched his arms above his head, before bringing them back down.

"Yup!" Aerith replied with her usual cheer. "I actually made a bit more then usual today. 50 gil!" Considering she only sold one gil per flower fifty gil was actually pretty good. He noticed that her basket was almost empty and smiled.

"I take it they really liked the flowers, then?"

"Yes," Aerith said, nodding her head as they began making their way back towards the entrance to the Slums. "I have to thank you for the new flowers, they're very beautiful and everyone seems to love them."

Naruto grinned, he had learned through experimentation that his Mokuton, or wood release ability no longer related to just Mokuton jutsu. He could also create plants of all kinds, from beautifully crafted roses of the kind he grew for Aerith to extremely deadly and venomous plants. It was a useful ability since even though Naruto hadn't really had to fight much anymore, he refused to let his skills as a ninja get rusty.

After all, one never knew what kind of trouble might be lurking around the corner in a place like Midgar.

"I glad," he said, "if we sell like that every day we might even be able to afford some more creature comforts."

Aerith rolled her eyes, "I don't sell these to make money, Naruto."

"I know, I know," Naruto replied, holding up his hands in defense. "I'm just saying..." he trailed off when someone stepped in front of him. The man in front of him was a tall dark-skinned man, he was bald and had a small goatee. He was wearing a rather well tailored dark blue suit, and despite it being dark had a pair of sunglasses on. Naruto would have assumed he was some kind of business man, were it not for the way he moved. The careful, measured steps when he walked and the way his body seemed to coil like a loaded spring ready to be unleashed.

This man had the walk of someone who was an experienced fighter.

Aerith quickly hid behind Naruto and he, sensing her fear of the man stood in front of her.

"I hope you have a good reason for bothering us on our way home," Naruto said, an underlying threat in his words. He didn't know who this person, but he could sense that Aerith was at least familiar with this. It was impossible for him not to smell the fear she possessed, even if she did very well to hide it.

Rude didn't say anything, however a voice behind the pair brought Naruto's attention around. "We have no reason to bother you," said a man with a lanky physique, unkempt red hair terminating in a long ponytail, and two symmetrical red marks on his cheek bones. He was wearing goggles, pushed up onto his forehead, an unbuttoned suit jacket, and an untucked dress shirt. He had a lazy appearance, but Naruto didn't let that fool him as he spied the Electro-Mag Rod tucked into his belt. "However, we were hoping the young lady would accompany us back to Shinra Headquarters."

Naruto saw Aerith flinch and try and hide further behind him, a futile effort considering they were barricaded in on two sides. However that small act was all the information Naruto needed to act.

"Sorry, but Aerith and I are kind of in a hurry," Naruto said, his tone conversational, as if he weren't talking to two people who were trying to kidnap his first and only friend on Gaia. Under the long sleeve shirt he wore the glow of his Materia went unnoticed. "Maybe some other time gentlemen."

"Well you see now that's just too bad," the red head said. "Because we were ordered to bring her in. President Shinra says he let her go long enough and wants her to come back home."

"That place isn't my home," Aerith said and Naruto was actually surprised by the venom in her voice. Though he also knew it was just masking how scared she was. Which was also a surprise since he had never seen Aerith get scared of anything before, even when facing the monsters in the slums she was quite fearless. "And I won't go back."

"Well there you have it gentlemen," Naruto slowly replaced his muscles, already preparing for a confrontation. "She apparently doesn't like it there. Now I suggest you leave before I decide to make you leave in a way that will not only be painful, but humiliating as well."

"Man, would you listen to this kid Rude?" said the red head as he pulled out his Electro-Mag rod. He flicked his wrist and the rod extended, sparking with blue streaks of electricity as it turned on. "Looks like someone needs to teach this punk a lesson."

"I think the only people who are going to get taught a lesson are you two," Naruto stated, his eyes narrowing. "A lesson of what happens when you threaten my precious people. Kage Bunshin No Jutsu!" phasing into existence right next to the blond ninja were two solid clones. Thanks to his training Naruto became capable of using more then one clone to fight with, though anymore then two and his brain would overload with information. The two clones charged the surprised Shinra agents, who had little time to react as the blond copies smashed a fist into their respective faces.

"What the Fuck!" The red head shouted as he scrambled back to his feet after the hit bowled him over. He moved his jaw around, trying to get feeling back into it. It felt like someone that punch had broken it. This kid had some strength, and what was with these copies? He looked at the blond to see he was just standing there, as if waiting for something. The man shook his head, scowled, and sent the copy of the blond man a glare. "Whatever, I'm gonna teach you a lesson punk!"

He could figure out just what the hell was going on after he taught this punk a lesson. Shoot first, ask questions later, as it were.

Rushing Naruto with astoundingly quick yet precise steps, the red head came in swinging. The rod in his hand a blur, angled down to strike Naruto across the head. He backpedaled, the strike passing him by with several inches to spare. In spite of this, the red head didn't let up for a second, coming in hard and launching several more strikes at the blond.

An upward swing from the left hip to the right shoulder was dodged when Naruto sidestepped the attack, moving to his left and using the open palm of his right hand to redirect the man's strike entirely. A thrust was dodged much the same way, only Naruto moved to the right and his left hand came down and struck the red head's forearm. With the combination of his forward momentum and Naruto's downward palm strike, the red haired man was sent stumbling forward.

He recovered admirably, turning his stumble into a forward shoulder roll, before he kipped back on his feet. Naruto stood there as the man spun about, eyes locking onto him with a shocked and incredulous expression. The man took a moments time to recover from his surprise at being dodged so easily, his wide eyes going back to their lazy expression as a grin crossed his face.

"You're better then I expected," He complimented. That was when he noticed the blond's eyes, glowing blue orbs of power that anyone working in Shinra should recognize.

They were the Mako enhanced eyes of SOLDIER.

Or so he thought.

"The fuck?"

The man seemed to be at a loss of words for a moment. His mouth hung open in a look of astonishment, eyes widening to go with the gaping jaw. Naruto tilted his head curiously, wondering why the person who had just been attacking him so zealously was just standing there.

"Something wrong?" he asked, raising an eyebrow.

The red-haired man in the business suit shook his head, recovering his wit and casting the man a piercing that glance that did not seem to affect Naruto in the slightest.

"Those eyes... You some kind of SOLDIER or something?"

"Hmmm..." Naruto hummed, closing his eyes for a moment as if he were contemplating the question. "Perhaps, perhaps." His eyes opened again, smile still in place. "Would it matter if I was?"

By the frown on the red heads face there was definitely some kind of problem. Not that he was going to let the blond know what. In the end, he shrugged. "I guess," he admitted, and then the battle was on once more.

Closing the distance in seconds, the red head let loose a barrage of swift attacks; thrust, horizontal swing at the torso, downward stroke to the head, diagonal slash across the chest, never letting up on his attacks during his attempt to take the whiskered male down. His footwork was light, constantly moving, shifting, all the while he continued his offensive, hoping to get in at least one good hit. That was all he would need to take the blond down.

His strikes were rather quick, it was obvious to the blond that this man didn't rely on brute strength to give out punishing damage, but speed to take down his opponents quickly. The Electro-Mag Rod was probably there to make up for the lack of damage he could do when attacking.

Naruto dodged the mans attempts to hit him, he may be fast but his speed was nothing compared to Maito Gai, Rock Lee or A, all of whom had a hand in creating and training Naruto's taijutsu. Next to those three this man was moving in slow motion.

As he continued to dodge the blond became curious about the Rod and it's capabilities. Wanting to see what kind of damage it did he didn't dodge the next attack and blocked it instead. He winced a bit as the shock hit him, but didn't react otherwise. The attack hurt that was for sure, and it would likely paralyze anyone else, but it wouldn't be enough to put him down.

Naruto smiled. During his time training with the clones he had learned some rather interesting things about them. The first was they were much more durable then the ones he had made previously. They worked in the exact same way, splitting up his chakra evenly amongst however many he made. However these clones were as solidly built as his own body, right down to his regenerative-healing factor. They could take just about any beating someone could dish out, Naruto knew this as he had put it to the test.

There was a downside however, whatever the clones felt so did the original Naruto. So if a clone got stabbed in the heart and died, Naruto would feel as if someone had stabbed him in the heart. It was a trade-off for the durability and since the blond had a ridiculously high threshold for pain thanks to numerous stab, burn and jutsu wounds he had taken through out the years, he could take most attacks, even fatal ones without flinching.

Another ability he had noticed with his clones was that he had some semblance of control over them. He couldn't control their every movement, given that he had to move himself and controlling one of his clones would force him to focus all of his attention on that clone. But he could give them mental commands and coordinate with them to an extreme degree. It wouldn't be idle boasting to say that the teamwork Konoha was so proud of had nothing on him and his replications teamwork abilities.

Having seen all he needed to about the red heads abilities Naruto proceeded to begin his own attack. The red head suddenly found himself on the defensive as Naruto came in with blinding fast attacks, using mainly his feet to strike, while his hands kept the man's weapon occupied.

It wasn't long before the red head found himself being overwhelmed. 'Shit!' he thought as he ended up getting hit solidly in the gut after having blocked a high kick to his face. 'This kid moves like lightning! Who the hell is he!'


LOGNS


Like his counter-part the other Naruto clone was testing out the capabilities of the man called Rude. 'This guys mother must have hated him to give him such a name,' the blond thought as he dodged another attack. Unlike the red head, who relied on speed to hit his enemies and his taser to do the rest, Rude used heavy hits that were much more powerful and actually capable of inflicting some pain if they hit. However, like the red head, who Naruto decided to call red for simplicities sake, Rude's attacks had there own weakness.

They may be powerful but they were very slow and easy to dodge. And so Naruto danced around the man's punches, smirking the whole while as the mans face became more and more frustrated. It was kind of interesting to see, as he could tell from the way Rudes facial muscles moved that the dark skinned man was not used to showing his emotions very often.

When the man began to get sloppy as well as slow, Naruto decided it was time to show him what real strength was.

Letting the next attack come at him he held up a hand, casually catching the fist as if the punch had been thrown by a child. The attack actually did manage to sting, the blond could even feel a tingle travel up his arms. Had he not reinforced his body with chakra, that punch may have actually broke his arm.

Naruto did not let any of this show on his face. Instead he smirked as he saw Rudes eyes widen beneath his sunglasses. "Let me show you how a real punch his thrown," the blond said. Acting to fast for Rude to even see much less follow, Naruto let of his hand and lashed out with quick yet powerful punch.

Never let it be said that Naruto Uzumaki hadn't learned from the best. With people like Lee, Gai and A teaching him taijutsu the blond had become a monster in hand-to-hand combat. When the war came to a head his speed was said to have rivaled his father, and the power behind his attacks was second only to A when using his Raiton No Yoroi or Lee and Gai when they opened up the eight inner gates.

However, they hadn't been his only teachers in taijutsu, and Naruto, who had wanted – needed – to be the most powerful shinobi he could, went to the one person who could help his already great natural strength increase phenomenally.

He had gone to Tsunade.

When Naruto had first gone up to the busty blond Hokage and asked her to teach him the secret to her super strength, Tsunade had laughed at him. Admittedly, while he had been much more powerful then before his chakra control had still sucked, and even though he was better at controlling his chaotic energy it had not been good enough for her to help teach him her secret strength technique.

But Naruto was stubborn, he had persisted and despite the fact that Tsunade couldn't teach him her super strength, she had been willing to help him come up with something just as good when he needed an extra bang without entering his Sennin-mode or his Jinchurikki state.

Working together the two had come up with a suitable substitute. It was not as strong as her strength technique – not by a long shot – but it worked better then any other strength enhancing jutsu besides his Sennin-mode. By encasing his entire fist in chakra and releasing it upon impact, Naruto got more or less the same effect as Tsunade technique. There were some differences, unlike Tsunade's strength it took around sixteen to twenty times more chakra than hers and because the chakra was equalized through out his entire hand the attack did not do as much damage. But to Naruto those weaknesses didn't really matter much. He had always had monstrous reserves of chakra, combine that with his ability to restore chakra thanks to the Kyuubi and the cost was negligible to him. That meant the only component Naruto needed to worry about was his timing, and Naruto had great hand-to-eye coordination.

Had Rude been capable of seeing the punch Naruto threw at him, he would have immediately spotted the blue shroud of energy covering the blonds hands. As it was he didn't see it, so when Naruto attacked, not only was Rude not expecting it and therefore incapable of preparing, it was likely he would not have been capable of lessening his injury even had he prepared for the hit.

The attack was launched into Rude's gut and the bald man could have sworn his entire stomach caved in and his rib-cage cracked as his body shook. Then he was sent flying backwards faster then a bullet being shot from a gun. He crashed into the wall, cracking it under the pressure. The wall seemed to cave in as if incapable of holding his weight. Spider web cracks formed out from the point of impact. Rude only had a moment to groan before the wall came lose, releasing him to gravity and burying him under a pile of bricks.

Naruto looked away from where the man was buried, he was still alive as the blond could feel his chakra. Even though it was fluctuating he would survive provided he received medical attention. He looked over to see the other clone had already finished Red, the man was slumped against the wall knocked out cold.

The two should be thankful he no longer wished to kill anymore or they would have been dead.

The two Naruto's looked at each other before nodding. A second later, both disappeared in a puff of smoke, leaving behind no evidence that they were there other then the two unconscious men and the ruined wall.


LOGNS


Naruto sighed in relief as his eyesight once again became a single field of vision. How Pain put up with seven Paths was beyond the blond, he could barely stand three!

With the danger gone Naruto looked down at his friend. During his clones attack he had scooped Aerith into his arms and ran up the wall, using his roof hopping ability to get to the Slums entrance. Currently, she was still in his arms, her arms wrapped tightly around his neck and her face buried in his shoulder. She looked scared and just the thought that those men were the cause angered him. He didn't know what was going on but he vowed to himself he would get to the bottom of this.

"Aerith," Naruto said softly. "We're safe now, those men aren't here anymore."

"Really?" asked Aerith. She looked up at Naruto and he smiled at her.

"Really." he grinned, "you didn't think they would be able to beat me did you?"

"Of course not," Aerith smiled at him. "Thank you."

"Hey isn't that what the hero is supposed to do?" asked Naruto. "You know, rescue the princess save the day and all that." Aerith giggled lightly and the blond smiled before sighing. "Aerith, I'll understand if you don't want to talk about it, but I was hoping you could shed some light on why those men were after you."

Aerith became silent and buried herself into his shoulder again. "I don't want to talk about it."

"I know, but it may help me protect you better," Naruto said.

"You'll think I'm different."

"You say that like being different is a bad thing," the blond joked. However that seemed to be the wrong thing to say to Aerith and he felt a little nervous when she glared at him.

Aerith never glared.

"I don't want to be different! I want to be normal!"

Naruto sighed, he didn't quite know what was wrong but he could tell it was – in some ways at least – similar to his situation with Kyuubi. He moved over to a large pile of rubble and sat down. Placing the brunette in his lap Naruto secured his arms around her waist and held her close. He didn't know what possessed him to do this, or perhaps he did and just wasn't willing to admit it, but he could not deny that he enjoyed having the young woman in his arms.

And she didn't seem to mind either, as her body relaxed into his, though he tell she was still bothered by his question from the way her muscles continued to remain stiff.

"I can understand how you feel," he started. "I know what it's like to be different."

"And what about being looked at like your some kind of science experiment?" asked Aerith a tad bitterly. It was a very different tone of voice then he was used to from her. The young brunette had never shown any form of negative emotions before, always remaining positive, chearful and slightly playful ever since they had met. But it was becoming clear that while her attitude was in no way an act, it was also used to hide something she found painful. What that was Naruto didn't know, but it likely had something to do with her past.

"I know how that is too," Naruto said, surprising the girl. What he said was true, both Orochimaru and Kabuto had gained a sick sort of fascination with him during their time in life. He was sure if given the chance they would have happily conducted all kinds of twisted experiments on him. He quickly shook off the disturbing thoughts and continued. "I know what it's like to be different. Where I come from, before I managed to gain any respect people always treated me like I had the plague, like I was some kind of monster that was to be avoided at all costs. Even when I was little it was like this. Parents wouldn't let their children play with me, always telling their kids that I was no good and they would be punished if they tried. I had entered the ninja academy in an effort to make people stop ignoring or glaring at me like I had done something wrong, and I had hoped that if the kids were away from their parents I would be able to make friends. I should have known better, but what can I say? I was naïve and stupid back then."

"By the time the academy started all of the adults had passed there hatred for me onto their children, and soon enough I was the laughing stock of class. Those who didn't outright ignore me made fun of me, and eventually, I was forced to play the role they had set. I figured, if they were going to just make fun of me anyways, I might as well do something worth being laughed at. So I played a fool, I played pranks, I did anything I could to get attention, because even negative attention was better then none at all."

He looked at Aerith and saw that she was crying, whether it was from his story or due to her thinking about his own Naruto didn't know. And in the end he didn't really care.

Offering the young woman a soft smile he gently wiped away her tears, brushing her cheeks right under her eyes with the back of his fingers. "So believe me, I know what it's like to be different. Now, why don't you tell me what's wrong?"

Aerith looked at Naruto, glowing blue eyes met emerald green. Those eyes, he really did have the most beautiful eyes she had ever seen, even better then...

She shook her head, banishing the thoughts before they could form. Looking at Naruto again she decided then and there that he was trustworthy, enough so she could tell him her deepest secret. The only thing that could cause her to crumble as she had. "I'm not exactly human, not like the other people on Gaia. I'm what's known as a Cetra, or an Ancient..."


LGNS


Naruto frowned as he leaned against the head of his bed. His hands were drawn up behind him, acting as a pillow for his head . It was rather late at night, or the equivilant of night within the slums, both Aerith and her mother had gone to sleep some time ago. However, Naruto was unable to sleep this night, his mind was too busy trying to process what he had learned today to get any rest.

Aeirth had told him what she could about her people, what little she knew anyways. The Ancients, more often refereed to as the Cetra by the few people who still knew of them, had been a nomadic race that may or may not have originated on Gaia. According to her they had settled on the planet after a long, arduous journey. Some Cetra, who would go on to later be called the ancients, continued their journey, whilst others settled down and eventually became the modern day humans.

At some point most of the Cetra died out, Aerith had been very unclear on this part, letting Naruto know through his observations of her that she did not know what happened to them other then that most of them died out.

It was also clear that some of them had survived, as Aerith had proclaimed herself to be the last known Cetra on Gaia. Naruto was not sure if that was true or not, but had chosen to believe her. If nothing else, the fact that Shinra was after her lent credence to her claims. Given how large the company was supposed to be, and how ruthless they clearly were, he knew that if another Cetra did exist, then they would have no doubt found him or her by now.

That they hadn't left no doubt in Naruto's mind that there were no other Cetra on Gaia. It also meant that Shinra would not stop in their pursuit of Aerith's. This left him with something of a problem, however.

Naruto had eventually planned on returning to his ninja roots, more or less. At some point he had planned on finding some way to advertise his services as a Mercenary, willing to take almost any job for the right price. Because he wasn't really interested in killing anymore, he planned on taking jobs more along the lines of protection details, monster hunting – he didn't consider killing monsters as wrong since they were not human, and any other little thing that needed to be done. Essentially meaning the equivalent of D-rank missions in this world.

It had been his hope that this would allow him to earn money so that Elmyra and her daughter wouldn't have to rely on Aerith's flowers for income. He was thankful for the two of them had letting him stay with them, however, he did not feel right by taking advantage of their hospitality when he had done nothing to pull his weight.

Now he had a problem. With those men after her, it meant he couldn't afford to sell himself out, and clones were not an option either. While they may have his strength, abilities and durability, they still split his chakra in half, which meant he would be at least half as weak as he was otherwise, and the more clones he made the weaker he would become. And while those men he had fought had been beaten by two of his clones, this was more of an attribute to surprise, rather then skill. Naruto was sure that, should they fight again, they would be better prepared for him and therefore not caught off guard.

Yes, Naruto decided that using clones was not an option.

"Naruto? Are you awake?"

Hearing the feminine and familiar voice whisper out his name caused Naruto to look over at the door. It was open a bit, just a small crack. He could see one of the soft, green eyes of Aerith peeking at him through the doorway.

"Aerith? What are you doing still up?" asked Naruto, a small frown marring his features. "You've had a pretty tough day, you should get some rest." When Aerith didn't respond he grew mildly concerned. "Is something wrong?"

"I can't sleep."

Naruto sat up straighter and beckoned for her to come in. seeing his hand gesture for her to enter, Aerith did so, shutting the door behind her as silently as possible.

She turned around and crept over to him, using soft, nearly silent steps. No doubt in an attempt to make the wooden tiling creek and wake up Elmyra, whose bedroom was directly underneath his.

Once Aerith reached Naruto, said blond moved his legs out from under the covers and slid them out of the bed until his feet were touching the floor, allowing the brunette to sit next to him.

For a moment there was nothing but silence. Naruto studied Aerith's expression, noting the way her face was slightly pale and the light sheen of sweat on her skin. It was clear from the way her eyes wandered up to his, only to look away, that she wanted to tell him what was on her mind, but was unsure how to go about it.

Which meant Naruto would have to be the one to start this conversation.

"Nightmares?" he asked. He did not think that was quite the case, but figured it was a good opening for her to let whatever she was worried about off of her chest.

Aerith shook her head. "I would need to go to sleep to have nightmares."

"Then it's about what happened today." It wasn't a question, and Aerith's knew that. Still, she nodded her head.

"This isn't the first time they've come after me," she said slowly.

Naruto perked his ears up at her admission, he had sort of figured that out already, but she had not confirmed it and, with all of the information she had given him on the Cetra, he had been to inundated to really ask about the people after her.

"It normally didn't bother me this much. While they always kind of frightened me, I was always able to slip past them. But this time..." she shivered a little and Naruto, not quite knowing what to do but wanting to comfort her slid his left arm around her shoulder.

Aerith didn't resist, instead of pulling away she scooted closer to him, relaxing into his half-embrace, her head resting on his shoulder as she drew in the slight muskiness of his scent. Despite the fact that Naruto smelled of metal, blood – because it still had yet to fully wash off – and the scent that was uniquely his, she found it oddly comforting.

"This time they had almost caught me," she started again. Her voice trembled a little, and Naruto was reminded that while this young woman may be very brave, she was still just that. A young woman who had never truly experienced the horrors that life had to offer, had never seen the atrocities people could commit in order to get what they wanted. Though it was clear from the way she had looked at those men, that she knew what would likely become of her if she went with them.

She looked up at him and Naruto felt his heart lurch slightly at the sight of her trembling eyes. Nobody should have such fearful eyes, especially not a woman as outgoing and friendly as Aerith.

"Had you not been there they would have caught me this time." She shivered.

"What do they want with you anyways exactly?" asked Naruto. "I mean, I know your a Cetra and all, but what reason would they need you for?"

That had been something that had bugged him when Aerith told him of the Cetra. While it was clear that her people held some kind of power, he still could not figure out just what Shinra wanted with her.

Though he could certainly create theories based on what he had seen of Rude and Red. The way those two had spoken, without a hint of remorse for what might befall her should Aerith agree to go with them. It was obvious that the people in Shinra were not... pleasant, at best Aerith would be subject to their every whim and forced to do what they want. At best...

Well, if these people were anything like Orochimaru then she would be in trouble if they caught her.

For a few seconds Aerith was silent, contemplating what to tell him. In the end she just decided to be out with it, he had protected her and more importantly, she trusted him. If anyone was worthy of knowing this information it was Naruto.

"There is a legend about the Cetra; The Cetra were a race who traveled the Planet, healing and cultivating it, and at the end of their journey they would find the Promised Land, a land of supreme happiness."

"And Shinra wants to find this land?"

"That would be my guess," Aerith shrugged her shoulders a bit. "When I was a little girl, one of those people in the black suits had come to our house. He said that they had been searching for me, he wanted mom to return me to them. I refused of course, and he went on this long speech about how my mother was an ancient and that I would be the one to lead everyone to a land of supreme happiness. After that my mom and I moved, I didn't want to go back with them just to be locked up in a research lab and studied. But mom couldn't protect me. We used to live in the Sector 2 slums before coming here."

"That's why you want to be normal, isn't it?" said Naruto, suddenly realizing why she didn't like the thought of being different. "Because Shinra wanted you for being different, for being a Cetra."

"...Yes," Aerith admitted, not really able to say anything else as Naruto hit the nail on the head. Sighing a little bit, she lifted her head off of Naruto's shoulder and looked at him. "I don't want to go with those people, I won't go back."

"And you won't have to," Naruto said. In his mind he had already decided what he was going to be doing in this world.

"When a person has something important to protect, that is when they become really strong."

Aerith looked up at him, her head tilting to the side in curiosity.

Naruto offered her a smile. "I won't let them take you away. From now on, I'll protect you."

For some reason, the moment she heard his words, Aerith felt an odd mixture of emotion. Her heart was racing, it's beating erratic and fast. Yet at the same time, she couldn't help but feel relaxed, at peace, secure. There was a warmth in her chest that spread through out her body. It also externalized itself in the loveliest of blushes.

Aerith buried her face into Naruto's shoulder in a futile attempt at hiding her blush.

"Thank you."

Naruto chuckled slightly as the hand on her shoulder absently traced an Uzumaki Swirl along the semi-translucent cloth covering her skin. "Your welcome."

On this night Naruto made a vow to never fail again. Come hell or high water, he would protect this girl, who had become his most precious and only friend in this new world.


LOGNS


"You say they were both defeated?"

"Yes sir. We sent Reno and Rude to apprehend the Ancient. However there was a man with her. They claim that he used strange new magic that could create copies of himself to fight and he was able to defeat them both with ease."

"If this man is as strong as you say, then he could very well put a damper on our plans to find the Promised Land."

"Should I send more Turks to capture her?"

"No Tseng, we shall leave her for now. It wouldn't be a good idea to try and capture her with such a powerful and unknown quantity protecting her. Was there anything else we know about this man?"

"Yes sir, he has spiky blond hair, and glowing blue eyes. Reno thinks he may be an ex-SOLDIER."

"An ex-SOLDIER you say?"

"Yes sir, however, since I only have a basic physical description I can't search the database for him."

"Find out what you can. I want to know as much as possible about this supposed 'SOLDIER'. Once we know who we're dealing with we can take action."

"Very well, President Shinra."


Told you this second chapter would be finished soon.