My Fanfics :
Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: Follows coma theory: Ash wakes up from a ten year coma to realize that all of his adventures were only a figment of his imagination; but he questions if they were more than that. Everything has changed in ten years, and he must put back all the shattered pieces while he embarks on a new journey to save the world and himself. Pokeshipping
Path of the King 44 – 46
A FSN Fanfic
Summary: “With swords that aren’t yours, with skills that aren’t yours, for dreams that aren’t yours. Your entire existence is a lie!” – “Then I’ll show you that even fake dreams can become reality.” A different choice, a different path, a different FATE. Shirou/Multi.
A Young Justice Fanfic
Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.
Chapter 13: The Hunt Resumes
“Nonononono!” Bell stood up, spinning on his boots and stirring the dirt underfoot as he searched for the headstone that had led him home before. It was nowhere to be found on the hill of flowering moonlight, where Bell and the Doll stood alone. He was trapped in the Hunter’s Dream again. The moment he realized that, he collapsed onto his knees. “Not again.”
The Plain Doll regarded his misery with a passive expression as she crouched down, joining him there. “Why do you despair, Good Hunter? Was your respite not pleasant?”
“Why am I back here?” Bell asked. He knew that died for a second time in his world. Killed by the Silverback after he chased a cloaked thief. It was an inelegant death, brought about by his blade breaking under the weight of the metal-backed fist and finished by crushing for a second time. But why did he have to be here again?
“This night, this dream will not end unless you hunt, as the countless hunters who came before you have, Good Hunter,” she told him. It could have been reproaching, but her tone made it seem as though she were trying to gently encourage him to pursue the task.
Bell still shook head at the thought of having to go through the Hunt again and again, until he heard the Little Ones clamoring. Arriving in a group, they bore his weapons that had been left behind upon his death. His broken Saw Cleaver still stained with his own blood and the Hunter’s Pistol that had been lost. They were it. They were his ticket out of this nightmare.
“Take me back!” he begged them, falling over to the point of bowing. “Please!”
The Messengers, in contrast to their usual behavior, only seemed to be able to regretfully shake their heads and make noises that were indecipherable to Bell.
“The Dream holds firmly to you with shackles they cannot break,” the Doll told him. “Should it not will your return, they cannot contest it. For they draw nourishment from the Dream itself, of the echoes that ripple throughout it and the wisdom that becomes a part of it with each hunter’s passing. They are bound to its will as well.”
She spoke as though this place had a will of its own. Bell couldn’t find it in him to doubt it, because he didn’t know anything about it. He didn’t know how he originally got here, or why he constantly returned when he died, tethered to it. He didn’t know anything, except that it was expecting him to continue to search for a way to end the scourge of the beasts.
But he’d tried that. He’d followed those words of advice from Eileen, using them as a guideline as he slew the beasts he crossed, seeking it to bring an end to the night. He tried learning from the Healing Church, who hosted prior hunts according to Gilbert, only for the gates to Cathedral Ward to remain closed and silent to his pleas. He’d suffered three additional deaths in the process of doing so, the memory still engrained within his mind.
“I can’t go through all of that again.” His voice came out hoarse as he admitted his weakness. His last hunt, the pain and suffering, had been for nothing. Now she was telling him to do it again. The very thought drove his fingers planted in the dirt to dig in as they clenched into fists. “I just can’t do all of that again.”
“But you must, Good Hunter.” Her serene voice was backed by cool, artificial fingers that brushed the tears that began streaming down his cheeks. “For only once the night has come to an end, will you truly awaken in the waking world. And then this dream will be nothing more than a distant memory that will fade one day.”
The choice was ultimately out of his hands. Either he hunted and found his way back to Hestia, or he stayed here in this moonlit haven meant for hunters. It was the same thing he’d been told time and time again: A hunter must hunt.
“Come now,” she said, rising to her feet. Her hand extended outwards to the workshop resting at the top of the hill. “Gehrman has awakened. I am sure he will be able to guide you.”
Reluctantly gazing up at the Doll, with the moon hanging high behind him and casting its celestial light down on the hillside of flowers, Bell grasped his broken Saw Cleaver and Hunter’s Pistol in hand. Crying about how unfair it was wouldn’t get him any closer to returning to his world and leaving this nightmare behind. So, he rose up and made his way up the flowered slope to the workshop.
It was there he found the wheelchair-bound old hunter, awake. “You’ve returned.”
“I went home,” Bell said. “I went home after killing a large Beast unlike any other I’d seen, and I tried to leave it all behind. But I died again and ended up here again.”
Gehrman only chuckled softly. “I cannot fault you for doing so. Many would have liked to do the same. But there is no escape, and even a reprieve is but for a fleeting moment, unless you finish the Hunt.”
“…I need to know how to get into Cathedral Ward then,” he said. “I tried going through the main gates, but it was locked.”
“That gate remains locked during the time of the Hunt, I’m afraid…” Aged eyes looked up to the map that Bell copied it into the notebook he’d left behind. “Your best bet is to try and reach it through Oedon Chapel, if the main gate is blocked. There’s a lock, but hunters come and go through it enough that it may be opened, or they’ll at least have a key.”
It was as close to a plan as he had, so Bell would see if the Messengers could retrieve his notebook and the other things he’d left behind that were suited for this world. Like the lighter, the blood vial injector, and the hand lantern. Maybe even his armor that had been newly bought.
“Your weapon seems to have broken,” the older man said, wheeling closer to take a look at it. “It was an older piece, and those can only last so long during the hunt, I’ll admit. But rarely have I seen the metal break so badly.”
“The monsters I fought back in my world have pretty tough hides,” Bell said. Minotaurs and Silverbacks were both Level 2 category monsters. He’d mostly relied on brute strength to force the teeth in, so he probably had been pushing his luck all things considered. “The fact that it had held up as long as had was more of a miracle than anything.”
“Ah, I suppose so considering you never repaired it, did you?” White-hair shifted as he shook his head at the question. “Well, fortunately for you, in this Dream one’s weapons are never truly broken if you have the echoes to repair it. Though I suspect if these beasts of your homeland are hardy enough to wear it down to this extent, you’ll need better armaments or to fortify them into being stronger. You’ll have to make use of materials taken from beasts to do so.”
“What kind?” Bell asked. If it was anything like the drops he normally got, then he could grasp the concept well enough.
“The blood of beasts and those taken by the scourge is an interesting thing,” Gehrman explained as he gestured for him to place the broken weapon on the workshop table. “Echoes sometime course through droplets that have yet to dry, but sometimes you’ll find when they die their blood solidifies into a shard called a Bloodstone, or a crystal called a Blood Gem. Hunters use these to make their weapons stronger to slay greater beasts.”
“Why do they form in the blood?” The monsters in his world at least had the excuse of the magic from the magic stones concentrated into the body parts left behind, which was why they remained upon the removal of the magic stone.
The veteran of the Hunt only shrugged. “I was only a mere hunter, not one who deals with blood ministration or a scholar, so I cannot answer why. I can say that they’ll look like either white bits of bone with a weaving pattern, or oddly shaped crystals. Just bring whatever you find to me and I’ll identify which ones we can use to fortify your weapons, so that they can handle the strain of whatever beast you face. Also, keep an eye out for a tool that’s used to embed the gems into an imprint that forms on the weapon as well.”
Bell grimaced. If they formed on the bodies of the beasts he slew and the dead, that meant he’d have to go back and scavenge the corpses that he’d left behind. If they were still there. More than likely, he would have to kill them again unless time had decided to progress, rather than rewind…
He really didn’t want to have to kill the Cleric Beast he’d killed before again. Not when he was lacking a weapon meant to fight something that size. He looked to see his Saw Spear on the storage box. It had a longer reach than the Saw Cleaver, but he got the feeling it wasn’t meant for something that size either, whether a beast or monsters like the Silverback.
“What about a weapon meant to kill something larger?” Bell asked, picking up the elongated serrated weapon. Heavy, solid steel meant for thrusting would be better, a sword or something more like it that could pierce through to the magic stone or heart to kill it.
“Those who came before you took what was left when they did,” Gehrman said. “If you need something else, scavenge any ones that can still be used off dead hunters or through the Messengers. Being the odd things that they are, metal badges seem to stir up memories within them that they can then seek out for echoes. However, you don’t look like you have much experience in wielding such a thing.”
“I don’t,” he admitted. He’d always considered it before becoming an adventurer, on the path to be a hero. But he’d never held a sword before, let alone used one.
“Worry not, young hunter, for that is what the Doll is for,” he said. “The echoes of the fallen can grant you finesse of the hands and deftness in foot, making you more skillful for the sake of the Hunt. Likewise, they can increase the tinge of your blood so that the bullets they dye can do further harm. And, if you ever run out, you can also make more by solidifying your own fresh blood in an act of will once it leaves your body.”
“They can improve dexterity too, huh?” That was his lowest status next to Magic, last he checked. And that one he couldn’t improve until he got an actual spell, if Bell remembered right. “Is there anything else I need to know?”
“I’m sure the rest will come with the night, as you hunt the beasts and their ilk. If you find something that has to do with the Hunt but do not know what it is, you can also bring it to me. But, aside from that…” The veteran rubbed his chin in thought a bit more before he continued. “There’s also the runes, but that tool has been lost for some time and I doubt you’ll easily come by the strange symbols. Few do.”
“Okay.” Bell looked down to the teeth of his Saw Spear. He’d worked on cleaning it, but it still had the faint scent blood it. Soon it’d be rich in the color to match, a thought that left him more bothered than anything since it would be covered with squalid blood once again through his hands.
That in mind, he bid Gehrman farewell for the moment and then stepped outside to see the Doll standing at the base of the stairs. Left of her, the Little Ones had taken to a birdbath that was filled with a shaded liquid of some kind. He approached them to ask if they could bring him his backpack and armor from his world, so he could hunt the beasts.
They did so, and soon he was clad in the purchased armor that seemed like solidified moonlight. It wouldn’t hamper him during the hunt, being light. And if it withstood even a single swipe of a claw then it had done its job.
His belt and pouch were next, containing the blood vials and quicksilver bullets. He attached the hand lantern attached to the left side of the belt, and syringe injector holster to the right. The latter hadn’t seen use, as he wasn’t a fan of jabbing it into his thigh when he could drink the blood straight, but if the need came up the option was there.
After a moment of deciding between whether to use Iosefka’s vial or a standard one, he loaded a standard vial into it. Hers was special, considering that she was a doctor, and not easily replaced. It would be best to save it for a real emergency, like one would a High Potion.
His backpack for collecting the materials was last, from which he pulled out the badge he’d gotten on the Great Bridge. He didn’t know if it fell off the Cleric Beast at some point, or if it had been left behind. But what he’d taken on a whim would now serve to stir up the memories of the Little Ones, whatever that meant.
He presented it to the ones in the bath. “You can use this, right?”
They clamored over it, thin and emaciated fingers embracing it tight. The shiny bobble held more meaning to them than one would think possible as they dunked it into the bottom of the bath. Then the waters rippled, a light haze steaming up, and Bell could make out items within it.
There were two weapons beneath of the surface—one that looked to a massive hammer with the hilt of a sword, and the other a different kind of firearm. But when he reached down to take them and disturbed the water, the images vanished. His fingers only brushed the badge at the bottom of the fountain.
“I don’t suppose I have enough of these echoes within me to claim them either?” Bell asked as he pulled back his hand, whereupon the memories of two weapons housed within it returned. It had to be due to how they could just move between worlds somehow, even if he didn’t know why.
They shook their heads and hands. A regretful ‘No’ again. There was only one solution for all his problems, it seemed. He sighed through flared nostrils before turning to the headstone that would lead him back to Yharnam.
Back to the Hunt.
The moment he finished praying at the headstone, Bell resurfaced at the Central Yharnam lamp. He could have went to the one where the Cleric Beast had been, admittedly. But since he had to find materials to upgrade his weapon, along finding a potential new one, he figured it would be easier to retrace his footsteps from here.
Find the weird things that could useful first. Then find his way to Cathedral Ward. That was the plan.
Along the way he met with Gilbert again. The sickly man told Bell that he should go through the aqueducts to reach the place where Gehrman had directed him. Bell knew of the place, as it was where he had gotten his Saw Spear. However, Gilbert gave Bell a warning that there were two entrances, so he would have to check them both.
He went to the aqueducts through the alley entrance first, climbing down the ladder until wood creaked beneath his feet. It was aged. Some of the boards were broken, and there was nothing that would prevent a straight drop off the ledge to the bottom of the canal below. He spotted some men who had already begun their transformation into beasts that walked on two legs, wielding torches and weapons as they patrolled the stone walkways next to it.
Bell killed them the moment he dropped down onto the walkways. Not because he was eager, or because he needed the Blood Echoes. But because there was no other choice. The moment they spotted him, their weapons tried to find his way into their flesh with the same ease as the Saw Spear found theirs.
Blood painted his shirt and armor as the corpse of the last one dropped down to feed the giant rats that festered in the water. The sound of flesh being torn into, the squelches of their bodies being devoured with a ravenous zeal, was more than he could stand. He let them clamor around the corpse before he did a plunging attack that impaled one through the head for a clean kill and then focused on the rest.
The last one put up more of a fight, lunging for Bell with chipped teeth that forced him to back off to near the edge of a deeper drop to the canals below. Water splashed as his boots kicked the grimy fluid around until he saw an opening as it lunged for him again. He brought the serrated teeth around in a wide arc and caught its underbelly, tearing it open and adding visceral fluid into the slurry they were wading in.
The fact that the water was being audibly displaced behind him was what saved Bell from getting killed by another beastman that was sneaking up on him with a spear raised. The spearhead clanged as it hit his chest-plate, backed by inhuman strength that left Bell staggering. It had been going for his heart, which would have been a killing blow had he not been wearing the armor. Reflex then kicked in as the head of the spear shot out again for his forehead, leaving him to pivot on his foot and twist his body as he whipped his Saw Spear around in a diagonal stroke.
Dark blood was left behind to mix with the tainted fluids below as the beastman was opened up with a thin gash from hip to shoulder. It was shallow though, leaving it capable of maneuvering around. It now warily made a half-circle with the spear facing him, waiting for an opening as it splashed the water around noisily—
—then came the pain, a searing, jagged thing that dug into his tendon and nearly brought him to his knees as he lashed out at the source of pain with the Saw Spear in hand. The sharpened tip and bloodied teeth tore through the spine of the last rat that had yet to die, despite its belly being opened up, truly killing it.
That was when the beastman went for the kill with his spear again, a thrust for the head once more. Unable to pull his leg free without tearing through the tendon entirely, it forced Bell to bring the serrated teeth around again in defense. The moment the iron shaft of the spear met the serrated teeth, the beastman parried away the Saw Spear and brought its other claw around.
“AGGHH!!” There was a flash of searing, hot pain as crimson eclipsed the left side of Bell’s face. It forced a wet shout out of his mouth as blood clogged his nose and throat. He would have doubled over in agony and fell down rolling if not for spotting the beastman pouncing forward with his remaining eye, invigorated by the scent of fresh blood—
—and letting out a single shot that barked from the wide mouth of his Hunter’s Pistol, quicksilver bullet mixed with blood giving it enough stopping power to drop the beastman to its knees. The riposte that followed had Bell thrusting his hand out, bones breaking open as it was buried in wet heat, forced through the rib cage and wedged inside just above the heart.
A normal man would have gone into shock, but the beastman was still functional. Beasthood made it resilient and vicious enough to still try to fight back. It brought its bloodied claws for his throat, trying to tear it out before its heart could be taken.
But Bell was ready for it this time. The protector on his left forearm met the claws, backed by adrenaline to hold it off as his embedded hand wrapped around its heart in a crushing grip. Then he pulled and tore it right out with all the strength he could muster.
The beastman wailed a final death throe as it was thrown back. Blood flowed as the thick arteries around the heart were severed, pouring out of the deep furrow while bone stuck out past the hide and hair. It fell over the edge of the drop into the canals, landing among a group of drowned and rotting corpse with their elongated bodies covered in glistening, gangrenous flesh. They promptly woke and clamored over the fresh beast corpse that had just been delivered, proving that his intuition the last time had been wise.
Injured, panting, and hand wrapped around what felt like pulped fruit until it dropped from his grasp, Bell limped over to where a corpse was strewn out. Then he collapsed with his back against the wall next to it, whimpering as stinging agony encompassed his leg and sticky blood flowed down the side of his face to soak his shirt beneath it. His head was going light, vision swimming. Ne…ed…vial…
Fumbling fingers reached for the blood vial injector to be safe. The needle plunged into the thigh of his wounded leg, and a press of the thumb forced sweet relief into the limb. Tainted fluid was expelled before the severed muscles and blood vessels knitted shut. A second vial hastily followed, taken through the lips and ingested to restore his face and bring vision back into his left eye.
Coughing as the healing blood finished going down his throat, Bell set the empty vials on the ground and tried to start wiping the rest off his face, only for him to notice that the sleeve he intended to use was already covered in beast’s blood. He let his head fall back, venting the frustration with a deep exhale as he undid his forearm protector on the other arm so that he could use the clean fabric beneath it. When he was done, he looked over to the corpse next to him to see if it had any more vials to replace the two he’d used.
There were none to be found on the dead hunter, only broken glass nearby that was suspiciously empty. His weapon was nowhere to be found either, likely knocked over the edge and into the waters below. As for his death, it seemed to be from a single puncture wound to the head, likely from the spear-using beastman Bell just killed.
If I hadn’t turned around then, would I have been killed the same way? Bell couldn’t help but wonder as his fingers ran over the material of the dead hunter’s garb. They didn’t retain blood like his current clothes. And they were largely intact, likely due to the fact that the kill had been done efficiently. They were salvageable.
…It took him a while to convince himself. He added facts in, like walking around while soaked in blood, in a city that had countless things that seemed to be out for him because of it, bode ill for his chances of survival otherwise. That if he was going to be a hunter he should look the part.
But, in the end, it still didn’t sit well with him about stealing the clothes off a dead man’s body before retrieving his weapons.
“Oh, are you a hunter?” The four words stalled Bell before he could pass through a set of iron gates that were now opened.
He had changed his clothes, putting on the dead man’s coat and boots and gloves and hat. They were worn and in need of a wash, but they were warm and did well in repelling the yellowish-fluid that made up the rotted corpses’ blood as he continued his journey through the waters and to the ladder leading out of that side of the canal. He didn’t dare go through the other side of the canals again, near where he’d found the Saw Spear, until he had more Molotovs considering how much of a pain to kill the ones on this side had been.
Bell thought he was hallucinating again. Like when he’d ran into another corpse below, just past the bridge. It had been guarded by Carrion Crows, slouching against an iron fence next to a row of coffins.
After killing the loud, vicious birds, a near-silent cracking sound came from the head of the corpse and a silvery mist leaked out of it. The gas seemed almost alive as it writhed outwards, practically crawling out in the form of… well, he wanted to call it a slug, but it was more of a wisp or an outline, ethereal in presence and form.
Allured and intrigued by the sight of it, he moved to pick it up. But the moment he touched it, the misty phantasm vanished. Disappeared in the blink of an eye as a gentle wiggling sensation in his skull left him scratching his head until it settled down, and Bell went along his way.
“You’re a hunter, aren’t you?” asked the young, feminine voice again from the nearby window, where a lit lamp burned incense. He could make out a small outline from behind the iron bars that covered the windows, tinted to hide the person behind it. “I know that smell from auntie Eileen.”
“You know Eileen?” Bell asked, his voice was half-muffled by the bandana covering his mouth.
The silhouette shifted. “Yes. I-I see her every now and again when she comes to talk to daddy and granddad. It doesn’t smell nearly as strong on her, but she said it was the scent of a hunter.”
Bell figured he shouldn’t be surprised that people who lived here had met others who smelled the scent that only Hestia and a few others could smell in his own world. Eileen said that she had been like him at some point in the past. Likewise, the Doll said countless hunters passed through as well. He lowered the bandana covering his face and removed the cap so that he could properly addressed the young-sounding girl. “Yeah, I’m a hunter.”
“Then, will you look for my mum?” she asked. “Daddy’s a hunter, like you, but he didn’t come home when he was supposed to. Mum went to find him before he met with granddad, but she hasn’t come back either. Now I’m alone and scared, and the incense are running low…”
Bell felt a heavy weight fall into his stomach. He’d seen so many corpses scattered already. What if they’d been among the dead? For all he knew, he was wearing her father’s clothes as of now.
He was horrified to even entertain the thought. But, at the same time, he knew what it was to be alone, waiting in an empty home for someone who wouldn’t come back. So, he had to at least check to see so that he could tell her.
“I’ll look for her,” Bell said. “What does she look like? And what’s her name?”
“Thank you!” Her silhouette jumped up. “My mum’s name is Viola. She’s wearing a pretty black dress and has blonde hair. Oh, and a big and beautiful brooch with a red gem inside of it that Daddy got for her. They’re the same shade as your eyes, actually.”
A small, fleeting sense of relief came over him. He hadn’t seen any corpses like that. There was a chance that she was still safe. “What about your father? If she went looking for him, I’m guessing there was somewhere she’d check?”
“Yes. Daddy’s name is Gascoigne, and he would meet up with granddad in a place called the Tomb of Oedon. It’s near an old chapel, a different one than the church daddy used to work with until I was born. She may have gone there in search of him.”
“I’m heading that way now, so I’ll go look for them both,” he told her, again feeling some relief as he recalled the shade who’d helped him slay the Cleric Beast. Even if it had been a dead-end, he wouldn’t have beaten it without the help. The least he could do is help reunite their family. “Just stay here until I get back.”
“Wait,” the young girl called out as he moved to leave. She raised the window halfway, giving Bell a view of her white nightdress as she then managed to slip a tiny box through the gap in the bars for him to take. “If you find my mum, give her this music box. It plays one of daddy’s favorite songs, to help him remember when he forgets us.”
Bell removed the glove on his right hand, so he didn’t get any grime on it. The metal box fit in it, but it had a bit of weight to it. Flipping open the lid revealed there was aged paper fixed to the underside, but he couldn’t make out any of the words in the native script. So, he closed it and then slipped it into his backpack. “I’ll be sure to get it to her, so sit tight and keep your window shut and locked to be safe.”
“I will,” she told him. “You be careful out there too, mister hunter.”
Chapter 12: Return to the Dream
And the Hunt awaits your presence once more…
Bell found himself staring up at the moon as those words whispered in his ears on the wind, unable to move. Unable to think.
A scent that he couldn’t comprehend permeated the air. Celestial in nature. Thickening to the point of suffocating as the luminous white orb hanging in the night sky seemed so close that the glimmering moonlight reflected in his unwavering gaze.
The alluring face of the moon eclipsed his vision until he couldn’t see where it began and ended, and he was unable to look away even if he wanted to. The ivory rays themselves were like countless, tender hands grasping his head. Refusing to let him turn away, refusing to let him ignore the orb of night that seemed to swallow up the distance between Heaven and Earth just for him—
—only to vanish as the night sky was replaced with solid stone. The moonlight that had been radiating down, leaving him awash in its silvery rays, turned to artificial magic-stone lights. The irrefutable presence that loomed over him now took the form of a round face, sapphire eyes gazing into his own with a concerned frown.
Hestia. His Goddess. Entrancing in a different way than… what exactly?
Bell sat up, rising on the couch and turning so that his feet touched the ground. Blinking. His head felt misty and tired. Adrift somehow. “Was I sleeping?”
Hestia took a seat next to him on the couch. “I thought you were, but your eyes were open and distant.” Fingers soft as silk reached up to brush his forehead. “Were you having a nightmare?”
“I…” He tried to find words. But the memory had already slipped from his mind. Gone like mist that evaporated in the morning light. He brought his hands to his eyes and rubbed them. “I’m not sure. I don’t even remember when I fell asleep.”
The way her frown deepened showed that answer didn’t please her at all. “Just in case, we’ll see Miach about getting you some sleeping medicine. I know he makes some that can bring about a dreamless sleep.”
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I just need to get up and move around today. That’s all.”
Hestia’s expression softened upon hearing that. “Just wait a little longer for my sake, Bell. Hephaestus told me that she would have one of her children available soon to form a party with you. Then you can go back in the Dungeon without worrying me so much.”
It had been a few days now since the Banquet of the Gods. Her proposal wasn’t exactly rejected by the two. But there were complications involved.
In the case of Take’s children, they operated as a group and had tactics, so introducing Bell into their cohesion might complicate things. And his children had to work hard given that they were also poor, on top of supporting an orphanage back in their home country. So, while he stated he could see if he could arrange something, Hestia had to admit that it would likely interfere with his own Familia’s survival unless Bell took up a role like a Supporter.
Hestia didn’t think Bell would settle for that. He wanted to be an Adventurer after all. And, while she could beg him to do so, she would be trampling on his dream more than she already had. Besides, having him be a Supporter meant that Bell would receive less valis than he would earn on his own and hamstring Take’s income as well.
It was different in the case of Hephaestus. She had several children who wanted to travel further down in the Dungeon, in order to reach Level 2. That way they could gain the Blacksmithing Developmental Ability.
But Bell had only been doing this for around two weeks, so naturally most people wouldn’t think he had that kind of ability. Hephaestus wouldn’t just order one of them to put up with Bell for Hestia’s sake, so she had to find children willing to work with someone who didn’t have nearly as much time or experience as them. That was easier said than done without exerting more pressure than she was comfortable with.
In both cases, it was a matter of Bell not appearing experienced enough. Hestia’s words that he could pull his own weight weren’t enough. While Bell could prove that he was more than capable enough, it would take time to reach that point. So, in a worst-case scenario, Hestia really might have to let him go back into the Dungeon on his own.
Still, I should find something for him to do… Oh, right! Her pigtails shot up in excitement as an idea came to mind when she remembered what today was. “You know, I have today off work and there’s a festival going on, meaning there’s a lot of food vendors and game booths out.”
Bell was naturally surprised, since he hadn’t been in the city long. “There are?”
“Yep!” Hestia hopped up onto her feet and extended her hand for him to take. “Since you need to get out, how about you and I spend the entire day together?”
A festival with just the two of us, huh? Between both of their jobs, they rarely spent time together outside of this homely little room. So how could he refuse the offer to spend time together as a Familia? “Of course.”
“Then let’s go have a lot of fun,” Hestia said before her expression bloomed into a radiant smile while their fingers intertwined. It carried a warm affection within it.
It was almost enough to make the lethargy in his mind melt away until Bell abruptly felt like he was being watched again, leaving him snap his head around for the source. Then he remembered it was just the two of them there and was left wondering if the lack of sleep really was getting to him. He shook his head in an attempt to clear it before getting dressed for their adventure outside.
In order to get to the Monster Feria, also known as the Monsterphilia, they needed to head down the road so that they got back onto the Main Street. From there, they could head straight to the far east side of the city. That was where the festival was being held, at the colosseum, but since it was going to be busy they would likely have to forgo a Tax cart and instead go on foot.
“White-hair! Over here, meow!”
It just so happened that, while on the West Main, Hestia stopped them when she heard someone calling for him. “Bell, I think that girl is calling you.”
“Huh?” He looked over to see that there was a catgirl in one of the waitress uniforms for the Hostess of Fertility, waving for him to come over with her ears pointed up. Since it would have been rude to ignore her, he hurried over. “Sorry, I didn’t hear you!”
“Mya, it’s no good if kids don’t go to bed on time,” she told him after looking him over. Then she turned to Hestia and gave her a polite bow, as was etiquette Bell suspected. “Oh, you must be his Goddess. It’s nice to meet you, meow.”
“Good morning,” Hestia said, approaching her. “How do you know Bell?”
“This is the place I told you about,” Bell answered in her place. “The place with the really good food.”
“Myama will be glad to hear it.” She then produced a coin purse and handed it over to Bell. “Syr needs this. Can you give it to her, meow?”
Bell eyed it for a moment. It was a purse that definitely suited a girl, and he could picture her holding it. But he wasn’t exactly sure where to find her in the first place. “Uh…”
“Arnya, if you’re going to make a request you should at least make it as clear as possible,” said a new waitress as she appeared from behind the catgirl. It was the elfess who had chased Bell down that night to return his belongings. “Good morning, Mister Cranel and Miss Goddess. My apologies for her calling you out so early.”
“It’s not a problem, but what’s this about Syr?” he asked. “Is she not here?”
“She has the day off and went to the Monster Feria for the opening event, but she left her purse here. The rest of us are preparing to open up for the day so, if it isn’t too much trouble, could you return it to her if you see her?”
“We were heading in that direction, but the festival itself is pretty active from what I’ve heard,” Hestia said. “Will we be able to find her?”
“She just left, so I’m sure white-hair can find her.” Arnya flashed Bell a smile. “Right, meow?”
If they have that much faith in me then I’ll try. Besides, Bell knew what it was like to be walking around in a big city like this with practically no money to your name. It had been like that when he had first arrived, and there was no point in making her walk back to get it if necessary.
He turned back to Hestia and said, “Sorry, but I really should give this back to her.”
Black twin-tails swayed as Hestia shook her head. She liked the fact that he was a good boy. “I don’t mind since we have the entire day. Besides, if this Syr person is a friend of yours, we should help if we can.”
Eina was one of several other members of the Guild currently outside of the colosseum for the sake of the festival, acting as informants to the citizens as well as assisting the Ganesha Familia in whatever way possible to make it a success.
By far, the biggest and most important event was the monster taming that was already underway beyond the massive stone walls that rose to towering heights. As things stood, it was a unique experience that came once a year for the citizens of Orario, who likely had scant few encounters with monsters in their lives. Because, even though the Dungeon was located within the labyrinth, the average person would never set foot into it and thus had far less exposure to monsters than those who made a living out of it.
Eina was not a fan of the idea that monsters were brought out of the Dungeon for taming during the festival. Monsters, especially Dungeon-born ones, were terrifying beings who existed to kill without regard for anything but their baser instincts. She’d filed enough reports on dead adventurers to know that having even one aboveground and unchecked would spell a huge problem.
But it was not her call to make. Instead, it was that of her superiors. They were the ones who decided the Monsterphilia was necessary for the citizens, because it gave them a chance to view adventurers in a more romanticized light.
Not all adventurers were friendly. Not all people were friendly. It was the way things were in general, that the experiences and personalities of the individual determined how they acted with others. The problem was that supermortals with strength above that of the norm naturally went by their own rules, so long as it didn’t fringe on the rules of their Familia.
Maybe they decide they don’t want to pay a tab, or maybe tempers flare and a fight breaks out. The difference in strength between an ordinary citizen and an adventurer meant they couldn’t raise a hand to them and needed someone to complain to. They needed someone to deal with problems that arose, which was what the Guild existed for. So they had to manage both the frustrations of the citizens and the adventurers, trying to placate both.
That was what the festival was for. Citizens would see these highly publicized adventurers putting on a show for their amusement and think to themselves that maybe these were the norm and the ones that caused them problems were the outliers. At least until enough time passed and the next year came around, where they would do it again.
Even now, a skilled Tamer was elegantly in the process of taming one of the monsters in a show of charisma and skill. It painted the scene as a mortal dominating a monster, making it submit without seriously raising a hand or slaughtering it for its magic stone, as was ordinary. An extravagant way of undercutting the actual dangers of the profession, setting a standard for the unaware that adventurers had class and dignity.
Eina didn’t exactly blame the Ganesha Familia for giving people the wrong impression of just how dangerous both monsters and the job were. They were merely doing it at the request of the Guild in the first place, who approved and managed it. But it would have consequences later on, when those who saw them tried to replicate their feats and have their dreams, and possibly their lives, dashed.
She took a deep breath, not at all satisfied that the reservations she had about the festival, until she spotted a familiar bed of white hair and ruby eyes scouring the crowd. She hadn’t seen him in days, so a part of her had been worried that something happened to him. Seeing him in the distance, still alive, was enough for now to put on a smile on her face as she called out on him. “Bell!”
His name being called attracted the eyes of not him but the smaller girl at his side. The divine aura that was leaking out, naturally present to all the Gods and Goddesses, made it clear what she was. The relatively smaller goddess tugged on his sleeve to grab his attention and pointed to her.
Bell then spotted her, his mouth moving in a familiar enough way that Eina could make out that he was referring to her as his Advisor, and then walked over. “Miss Eina, I didn’t know you’d be out here.”
“The Guild has set aside a good deal of staff for the festival, so I’m currently acting as someone who helps guest find their way inside of the stadium,” she explained, taking in his appearance. He looked tired. Slight bags around his eyes that wouldn’t be out of place for someone four times his age. “Are you not sleeping well, Bell?”
“I’ll be fine,” he said. “I’m sorry I haven’t been by lately. My goddess wants me to start working with others and forming a party before I start going deeper into the Dungeon.”
That bit of news actually made her somewhat happy. Rather than risking himself, if he worked with others his chances of survival increased drastically. “That’s excellent. Would you like for me to a make a posting for it through the Guild? I can’t guarantee when you’ll meet someone, but I’m sure eventually someone will apply.”
“I’ve already gone out of my way to arrange for that,” Hestia said, approaching them. “But, if you’re acting as an usher, then can we ask if you’ve seen a specific person?”
“There have been a lot of people who have come and gone, so I’ll need you to be specific.”
Bell recalled Syr’s appearance. “She’s a human girl with hair and matching eyes that are sort of ash-colored. She left her wallet behind at her workplace, but we were told she came this way not too long ago.”
Eina placed a hand on her chin in thought. There had been a lot of people, but the hair and eye color on a human were rare enough that if she had seen her then she would have remembered. Not to mention that if she had lost her wallet then she either would have doubled back and ran into them or she would have went elsewhere, since there was an admission fee to the main event.
“I can’t say that I have seen her, I’m afraid—” She was cut off when someone violently pushed past Bell, splitting him and his Goddess apart while knocking them onto the ground. She crouched down to help the two up while turning back to the figure. “Hey, apologize to them this instance!”
The figure, wearing a black cloak of all things at this time of day, turned around and smirked. Then he held up what looked to be a woman’s pouch. He tossed it up and down in his hand twice before running off to the southwest.
Bell’s eyes widened with realization before he rose to his feet. “That’s Syr’s!”
“Bell, wait!” His Goddess tried to grab him before he could give chase, but he moved faster than Eina thought would be possible for an adventurer who only started out a short time ago. Despite that, the thief moved just as quickly, and both cleared the plaza of the stadium in short order.
“Are you alright ma’am?” Eina asked, helping Hestia to her feet. She couldn’t believe that someone would so blatantly steal in front of her, wearing something so conspicuous. “I’ll have someone go after them right away.”
She didn’t have the chance before shouts of monsters being on the loose reached her ears less than a minute later.
Bell may have been tired, but the spike of adrenaline that coursed through his system as he gave chase after the cloaked thief helped offset that. It was enough to keep his mind focused on the present. That was the only reason he didn’t lose track of the thief, as whoever it was had to at least have been a high-end Level 1 as he ditched the Main Street for the alleyways. It was an intricate network full of twists and turns, where it would be so easy for Bell to lose track of them if he didn’t stay on top of them.
He didn’t know why the thief had chosen to take Syr’s wallet, but he knew he had to get it back. He would have probably left it to someone else if it had just been his money that was taken. But that had been entrusted to him by the others at the Hostess of Fertility, who put their faith in him to get it to her.
So he continued giving chase after the thief until they eventually left the web of alleyways and came into a plaza that was surrounded by rising buildings that seemed to be piled on top of one another. Bell hadn’t been in the city for long, but even he knew of this place. A maze within the city in itself, a manmade labyrinth that touched the city wall—Daedalus Street.
If he lost them here, he’d never find the thief again. But the thief didn’t seem to have any interest in continuing their chase at this point. They instead opted to drop the wallet onto the ground in the center of the district’s plaza and then, with a flourish of their cloak, disappear in the blink of an eye, leaving Bell there alone and confused until he felt that sensation again, like he was being watched.
Bell looked around once again for the source but didn’t find a single person in the plaza. It was starting to make him feel paranoid. So, he picked up Syr’s belongings, intent on getting out of there right away—
—only for something massive to come leaping down from over the perimeter of the buildings. It landed onto the ground in front of Bell with a thunderous crash that cratered the stone beneath them. The force alone had been enough to blow him off his feet, and Bell bounced backwards while slamming his head into the ground before coming to a stop several feet away.
“Ngh…” Bell’s head was pounding now as he forced himself to look up, whereupon he spotted pure muscle wrapped up in a cloak of white fur and a silver mane of hair falling down its back that glinted in the light. Thick arms and legs tensed with rage as they pounded at a steel plate that was fixed over its chest. Metal knuckles and manacles with chains clanked and rattled as it glared down at him with red eyes hidden behind a visor.
Miss Eina had told Bell of some of the monsters on the lower floors, as a warning for him not to venture deeper. This was one from the deeper floors, around the Eleventh Floor. A Silverback that had somehow gotten all the way to the surface was in front of him, murderous and animalistic intention fixed on him.
How had no one noticed this thing running around? That question loitered in his mind until he saw the massive primate rushing for him with a primal gait that was faster than it had any right to be. He barely had time to roll out of the way as it closed the distance with upraised arms and then brought both its massive fists down with the intention of crushing him.
The ground shook. Stone was upturned. Jagged bits of displaced rock were sent flying outwards to pelt Bell as he got back to his feet and considered his options.
The first was that he could run. He didn’t know where the monster came from, but he was unarmed and unarmored. In the city filled with more adventurers than any other in the world, chances were he’d run into someone capable of dealing with it.
But if he fled while it was attacking him then someone innocent could be hurt. More so if it chased him while the festival was going on. He could possibly get away, but only if he were willing to sacrifice people he didn’t know. And, while he may have had his dreams of being a hero tested, battered by the time he spent in that nightmare, that was something he just couldn’t do.
I have to kill it. Bell envisioned the Hunter’s Mark in the back of his mind and called forth the Little Ones across the boundaries of this world and the Hunter’s Dream. “Please, bring me my weapons!”
“GYRAAH!” His declaration carried the intention to fight, and so the Silverback responded with a roar in acceptance of his challenge. What drove it was unknown to the young adventurer, but whatever it was that keyed him onto Bell now took firm root. It would not stop until he was crushed, and with another quick gait it moved to do so.
This time, on his feet, Bell sidestepped the initial slam of the monster’s fist as it brought the right one down. But there was no time to remain stationary as it then swung the arm outwards to knock him back. Bell leapt back while bringing his own arms up to shield his chest and head, whereupon the chains that were still attached to its manacles caught him in glancing.
The thick steel that was meant to keep it bound was dense enough that he could feel the lashing it gave his forearms and felt its sting. But fortunately, his arms didn’t break from such a passing strike, even if they throbbed and he could tell it was likely to bruise. He could still fight then.
Bell’s ears then caught the unintelligible voices of the Little Ones answering his plea as a ripple in space formed just behind him. They emerged from the nearest building, sticking out of it horizontally with the Saw Cleaver and Hunter’s Pistol in hand. In a conjoined effort, the grouping of Messengers tossed them towards Bell with as much strength as their emaciated arms could muster.
Well-worn wood wrapped in fresh bandages for a grip met one hand while the curved grip shaped to fit comfortably filled the other. Both set of fingers wrapped around them tight before Bell rolled once more out of the way as the Silverback attacked with another punch that blew open the wall with a spray of stone dust.
Screams bellowed out from within. Someone’s home had just been broken into. Collateral damage in its attempt to kill Bell.
I have to lure it the center! He turned his back to the monster, presenting an opening despite his fear. Then he ran towards the center of the plaza and lure it that way, bringing the fight into safer territory.
The Silverback took the bait. Corded muscles in its lower legs released like a coiled spring and sent it forward. It lunged for Bell with its hand outstretched, intent on wrapping those stout fingers around his body to crush him like ripe fruit.
The young adventurer threw himself to the side, getting away with only his leg being clipped in escaping the fingers as they closed into a fist. The Silverback’s momentum carried it forward a little further, into the center of the plaza. It’s back was to Bell, so he rushed in with the Saw Cleaver to hack away at it.
The last he checked his Strength had just made it to E-rank after the War Shadows, even higher than before he fought the Minotaur with the Doll’s update. It had been just enough for his saw’s teeth to tear rents into its flesh deep enough for him to get its magic stone free somehow. Yet, now he couldn’t even manage to dig it past the hide beneath the silver fur before he gripped it with both hands and tensed his own muscles that seemed heavy with exhaustion to rip the metal out through the side.
The Silverback snarled as crimson ran free from a tear in its flesh, blood vessels above its thick muscles torn open so that they could start dotting that white fur with its blood. Retaliation followed. It began to move forward, pounding its strong fists down over and over again.
Bell raised the pistol loaded with a Quicksilver Bullet and fired, hoping the stopping power would be enough to halt it. The sound of caged thunder was drowned by the shattering of earth, the faint pinging of the bullet hitting metal that either guarded its eyes or chest barely reaching his ears. Then Silverback finished its rampage with a double-hammer strike that hit the ground hard enough that it blew Bell off his feet before he could get out of range.
“Ah…ahh…” Bell struggled for breath as haze of pain permeated his body, blood pounding beneath his skull as he got back onto his feet. Then he made out the glint of metal from the knuckles on the Silverback’s fist as it readied to strike. He moved to dodge, but he couldn’t.
His legs felt like they had gone to liquid. His insides felt like they were shaking from the previous hit without it even touching him directly. He couldn’t dodge like this, so he brought the Saw Cleaver’s flat around to act as a shield and braced it with his other hand to withstand the impact—
CRUNCH!! KRIK!! The sound of splintering wood and fracturing iron followed. Then came pain, a sharp and jagged thing that dug into his flesh along with a heavy weight that carried him further until Bell hit the ground a final time. Agony took on a tangible form as he struggled to breathe, only to feel something sharp tearing him apart.
With his vision blurred he looked down to see that the Saw Cleaver had been broken. The butcher’s weapon was embedded within his chest diagonally with the broken handle a little distance away. His pistol was nowhere to be found, lost on impact as something hot and wet bubbled up in his throat while crimson seeped out of his flesh around the wound and soaked his shirt.
The blood, with its scent thick, glossed over his mind as the Silverback approached slowly, as if giving him time to realize that he’d been won over before it came to deliver the killing blow. His weapons hadn’t been enough. They had broken, and his body had followed suit.
He struggled to move but couldn’t as the strength had left his body. He couldn’t even speak as blood bubbling up in his throat drowned any words that could have slipped from the orifice. With tears stinging his eyes while his vision dimmed on the sight of the Silverback raising up its fist once again, Bell realized he was going to die again and could only apologize to Hestia silently. Goddess… I’m sorry…
Then, for a second time, a fist descended. For a second time, there was a moment of pain amidst the spreading numbness, followed by the absence of every other sensation. For a second time, he woke to find himself laying amidst the moonlit flowers in bloom that were strewn over the hillside.
There, he was greeted by a sincere and serene voice that said, “Welcome Home, Good Hunter.”
“Why my place specifically?”
I ask the obvious question for clarity. After all, if I’m going to tell them I don’t want them there, I need a plausible reason for it. So, it’d be better to get all the facts first.
“Well, your place is also as big as Tohsaka’s—”
“Bigger,” I say, correcting her.
Ayako goes along with it, if only to appease me. “—bigger than Tohsaka’s, it’s closer, and we don’t have to worry about being overseen or overheard if it’s done while your sister is heading the Archery Club’s practice. It’s the best place to both train them up and discuss things while the Temple is off-limits with the brothers gone, and without heading all the way out to Neko’s place.”
Well, she’s not wrong. The manor can easily fit all of us inside and, with the Old Worm long dead, we can practice in private for the most part. The additional time may prove beneficial, given we don’t know when we’ll be pulled back into the future either.
That and I’m sure it’d be thrown back in my face that I was acting hypocritical after telling them to make sacrifices for their training. Besides, I can use the opportunity to try and steer the training in a different direction since I’m calling the shots. An experimental approach to go along with the established ones.
“Okay,” I say, sitting forward. If there’s no getting out of it then I might as well dictate the rules. Resting my elbows on my desk and folding my hands in front of my mouth, I continue. “If you can agree to my terms, I’ll go along with it.”
Her brows rise in curiosity. “Name them.”
“First, we need to run it by Sakura. We don’t know how long it’ll take, and I don’t want her walking in while we have them tied to a chair and gagged like you had us.”
Makidera nearly chokes on her snack with a look of pure shock on her face. In contrast, Saegusa’s eyes are cast down at the table while there’s a red blush painting her face. Between them, Himuro is staring with a half-puzzled gaze. It’s clearly not something they expected to hear this morning.
“It makes more sense in context for their training, and it won’t apply for you three,” Ayako assures them. She follows with a slight glare towards me. ‘You worded it that way on purpose, didn’t you?’
I only shrug and continue on. “Anyway, you and I will tell her that we’re doing a study session at my home. Since the newcomers and I missed yesterday due to being incapacitated, she’ll buy it if we tell her that you want to try and catch us all up.”
It honestly didn’t matter as far as getting her permission went. In terms of authority in the household, I call the shots. However, we have enough issues and Ayako has some level of trust from Sakura when it comes to keeping me in check. So if she’s vouching that it’s her idea, then Sakura won’t be needlessly worried now or in the future when we use this… study club as an alibi for psychicer business.
Ayako nods in approval. It’s a completely rational course of action, so there’s no reason to lobby against it. “Okay. What else?”
“Second, no one is allowed to wander around besides the areas I tell them to. I am a private person by nature and there are some things that need to stay private. If anyone violates that, no matter who they are, then whatever goodwill I’ve shown will disappear and everyone leaves. Understood?”
The rule is for obvious reasons. The Library and Basement are locked up when not in use, but psychic powers make opening them up a breeze. Since there’s no oversight and I can’t watch them all, I need to stress that the consequences will be dire.
Consent is given to varying degrees from all of them. Not surprising, considering my goodwill is why these five are still alive and not something they’d easily to throw away for curiosity. That’s good enough for now.
I move onto the final condition. “Last is that we divide up the training into rotations between the three of us. I think we’ll cover more ground that way and neither of them will feel pressured about the progress of the others.”
I really hated that Gotou managed to get ahead of me during Burst training. That frustration did not help the situation and, if I hadn’t managed to get Telepathy out of it while he couldn’t, there might’ve been some issues working with him so well in the future. Or at least to the extent that we had.
These three have known each other since their First Year so the chance is minimal that there will be long-term issues. But better safe than sorry. Not to mention it I’ll only have to deal with one of them at a time, meaning that I can test different approaches when it comes to Trance training to expand my options.
Ayako closes her eyes and tilts her head in thought as she sips her drink. Considering it. Then she nods. “Okay, no harm in that either.”
Excellent. “Then I’ll handle the basics of Trance, while you handle Rise, and Gotou handles Burst.”
“Why me?” Gotou asks. He sounds surprised by his role, no doubt expecting to handle Rise instead.
I count off my reasons with my fingers. “Rise is the field where they’ll get the most use in terms of immediate survivability, so we need the most experienced teacher. Mitsuzuri has more control than either of us, so she can minimize the chance of accidentally injuring one of them while the Student President isn’t available. And, while I’m the best Trance user so I have to be the one to teach it, you caught onto Burst faster than I did.”
He still seems reluctant but nods his head slowly in agreement. “Fine.”
Ayako follows suit. “Fair enough. We’ll go with your approach and see where it leads.”
That settled, I address the Track Trio. “I’ll need an hour or so to make sure everything is in order after we discuss things with Sakura, so you three use that time to handle the matter of your club attendance. Mitsuzuri knows how to get to my place after that. Oh, and bring your own Lunch.”
I need the hour to go through every room of the manor and make sure that there’s nothing that could give away the fact that we were more than a wealthy family that had been around for a few centuries.
The Makiri came to Fuyuki and established themselves as one of the families that reside in the Foreigner’s District after it had been built in the late 1800s, after the country’s isolation policy was forcibly made to change. It’s possible that the Old Worm managed to sneak into the country before then. But he wouldn’t have been able to have the manor built to his specifications until the influx of foreign blood allowed him to buy the land and have the construction done.
Even so, he had the manor built so that sunlight couldn’t enter inside easily despite the number of windows. Only lanterns and later artificial lights provide illumination. Things that wouldn’t degrade his form quicker and leave him constantly hiding down in the worm pit below.
The building itself is large enough that there are entire rooms that haven’t been used since I was a child. Those rooms may have once been used to house guests or the like, but now their opulence was left to be buried beneath dust and time since we got rid of the housekeepers as an unnecessary expense. No sense in cleaning them if they weren’t going to be used.
I don’t bother checking Sakura’s room before I shut the door to it. No one should go into her room under any circumstances, but she does have a right to privacy. And it wasn’t as though she had something to hide. After all, she has no interest in magecraft.
Besides, of the guests coming over, only Gotou would be tempted by the mundane secrets of a woman’s room. And if he had the guts to do that then he would have braved asking Himuro out already instead of trying to get on her good side and winding up involved in all of this. Not that it hasn’t proven helpful for my long-term survival, so I guess I’ll call it a fair trade-off.
My room, on the other hand, requires a little work to be presentable. It’s not as clean as it could be, given my frequent night terrors and the latest bout of health issues I’ve been going through. But, just in case one of them is stupid enough to tempt fate, I won’t have to gouge out their eyes to hide the shame now.
I make sure to place a particular book inside the nightstand drawer, a bookmark between the pages to mark my progress. It’s the Old Worm’s journal from over a century back. Given he’s been involved with the Einzbern for some time now, I’m hoping it has the location of where their main castle is. It’s probably unnecessary, since it’s in German and I doubt any them could read a letter of it even if they trespassed into my room, but better safe than sorry.
I lock up the Library next. A good number of the books are in languages other than Japanese, so it probably isn’t necessary either in hindsight. The others are pretty ignorant of the world outside of Fuyuki, after all, and even I can’t read the Church Slavonic text that trace back to our family roots in Russia. But again, better than them discovering something they shouldn’t.
The Basement… is a nonfactor. Since Zouken’s death, it hasn’t been unlocked at all. Neither I, the manor’s owner, nor Sakura have any business with it anymore as neither of us has the desire or ability to continue the Art. It died when he died.
Once I finish the rest of the preparations, I change my clothes to more casual wear and head outside to wait for the others. The autumn wind blows and scatters brightly-colored leaves as I lean against the left column. It doesn’t take them too long to arrive after that.
Ayako leads the front and Gotou follows next to her, a bag from the bakery in Miyama in his hand. Makidera is behind them, looking upset as she rants to Himuro about something I don’t care about while flailing a plastic bag with what I presume to be take-out. Saegusa follows behind them last while holding a handmade lunch box.
Ayako approaches the gate and greets me. “Sorry we kept you waiting, Shinji.”
“I’ll let it slide since we managed to convince Sakura without any problems and will have plenty of time.” Though, to be honest Sakura didn’t argue against going to Emiya’s place, and he was apparently entertaining Fujimura tonight as well. So that works for us.
Gotou whistles as he looks up at the manor. “You could probably fit our entire class in here.”
I scoff at the suggestion. “I suppose it wouldn’t be a problem in the context of having too little space or need of supervision, but I’m not fond of guests. Emiya’s place would probably be better suited for that sort of thing.”
“Oh yeah, it’s a traditional manor, isn’t it?” Ayako muses. “The kind that has a wide-open courtyard and tatami with sliding doors. The type of place where you’d stay to feel like you took a step back in time.”
Saegusa tilts her head slightly at the description. “That sounds sort of like Maki-chan’s home.”
Makidera tenses up as we all look at her, bringing her hand to her face and covering it to an extent. It almost seems like something she’s not proud of. “My family just so happens to have a place that they got a long time ago and transformed into a store that sells traditional kimonos and stuff. It’s not that great.”
Saegusa didn’t see it that way though. “But I think you look really elegant while dressed in traditional clothes. It really suits you.”
“…I can’t see it,” Gotou says. “I mean, the Black Panther of Homurahara in a kimono is just difficult to process.”
I agree with him. Not for a lack of effort on my part. But the thought of the energetic monkey dressing regally in a high-class kimono is just… beyond my ability to rationalize. And that’s saying something considering all I’ve seen.
“It surprisingly works on her,” Himuro vouches. “I had her model for me once for a portrait that turned out well.”
“Is that so?” Ayako puts on a cheeky smile as she faces Makidera. “Then I think I might stop by and check out the selection. Maybe you can help me pick something out?”
“…It’s not like I dress like that because I want to,” she states, fist clenched as she looks away embarrassed. There’s some actual resentment in her voice. “I have to dress like that at home because my family is strict. The only time I get to wear the clothes I want is when I’m heading out for track or casual stuff, and that’s because it’s impractical to wear one during then.”
Surprisingly, Ayako’s expression changes from teasing to sympathetic. “My family has a long history when it comes to martial arts, so I don’t think that we’re different in that aspect. They’re pretty strict when it comes to things other than that for me and my brother, so if not for the fact that Issei’s brother vouches for me I wouldn’t have nearly as much free time as I do. Though, I’m pretty sure that my place is smaller than yours from the sound of it.”
“You guys have it tougher than me,” Gotou admits. He’s rubbing the back of his neck as if ashamed of that fact. “I mean, I just live in a 2LDK place closer to the residential area and my folks have ordinary jobs, so I don’t really have anything I can or can’t do as far as rules go.”
“A three-bedroom in my case, but it’s the same for me,” Saegusa adds with a nervous chuckle. “I guess we’re just typical then.”
…Huh, she’s right. Myself, a wealthy bourgeois. Himuro, the daughter of the mayor. Ayako, the daughter of a line of martial artists. Makidera, the daughter of famous merchants. Whereas these two are just… normal.
Well, as normal as a group of time-travelers with psychic powers can get. I stand up straight and push open the iron gate. “As riveting as this conversation is, we should get inside since we’ll need about six hours to feel everyone out. Follow me.”
I lead them through the front door and through the corridors to avoid one of them getting lost. If you aren’t used to the place it can get pretty confusing. Or so Emiya told me before our estrangement. I’ve lived here my entire life, so I know the place like the back of my hand and lead them all to the Dining Room first.
“This’ll be where you can eat when you get a break in the training, or before you start with Burst or Trance training with Gotou or myself.”
“What about before Rise training?” Ayako asks. Not surprising given she’s handling that lesson.
“You won’t have an issue, since you won’t be the one straining yourself. But its best if whoever you’ll be teaching don’t since Rise is the most strenuous physically and you don’t want to try that on a full stomach. By the way, Makidera will be the first one there.”
She gives me an incredulous look, remembering this morning no doubt. It pleases me. “Why do I have to do Rise first?”
“You would be working out with the Track Club around now under normal circumstances, right?”
“…Yeah,” she mutters under her breath.
“Then, since you’ve been doing that for the last three years, it’s likely a habit. I don’t think that you’d be able to sit still long enough to handle getting down Burst or Trance while so restless. So it’d be better to have you burn off all that excess energy, eat, and then focus on one of the other two while you’re digesting. I mean, don’t you do the same thing during your practice while pushing the other members of the club hard enough to leave them in tears?”
“Nnn…” I can tell from the look on her face she wants to come up with an excuse, but it’d be unfair to not push the expectations she places on others on herself. So she follows the group in silence until we enter the Parlor next.
I open the thick curtains, giving them view of the backyard. The tree and bushes are dense since the Old Worm had cultivated them to house his insects. It’d serve to give them some privacy. “You can take that door by the clock to get to the backyard. Our property extends for some distance and there’s an opening in the greenery behind the tree-line. It’ll be a good training ground for one-on-one practicing.”
I take the time to float a message to Ayako as well. ‘Mitsuzuri, you’ll be able to push her the furthest because of how competitive she is and her own work ethic. Use that to your advantage, because the other two probably won’t have that same level of stamina.’
She nods. “Okay.”
That established, I lean over to a table that’s in the middle of the room, wood with curved legs, and pick up a group of fifteen cards set out from the deck. “The parlor itself will be used for Burst training. From what we’ve seen so far, Telekinesis manifests in either the creation of constructs or manipulating the physical object directly. But given the trouble I had with the former, I thought I’d present the chance to explore both with playing cards since they’re light and malleable.”
Since I managed to pull that chain trick in the future, and was stuck unable to move for a day, I had the time to better grasp how to use Telekinesis. Rather than attempting to make a construct like Ayako, it was simpler for me to saturate the object. Then I could visual how I want it to react—programming it, for lack of a better term.
Holding them between my hand, I breathe slowly and concentrate my own Burst ability into them. The process of construction and rules are established in my mind and then impregnate that energy saturating the cards. Finished, I extend my hand out to put on a show.
The cards flew off to the table. Six formed a group of three triangles to create the foundation. Two formed shelves. Four more formed the second floor. One formed the second shelf. Two formed the roof. A house of cards standing in the middle of the table, still saturated with some of the energy I dumped into them.
“Gotou. Knock it down with yours.”
He blinks before realizing where I’m going with this. Then he pulls the same trick he did when we were tied up, forming a simple construct ball that hit the house of cards. They naturally topple over before flying back up into a neat pile in the center of the table as the rest of the energy is expended.
Satisfied, I turn to Himuro and address her next. “Start small with just getting a card to move from a distance and expand from that when you get comfortable with it. If you feel you’re getting a headache then stop and just wait for it to settle. Likewise, Gotou has a trip on you, so he can put any theories you might want to test into practice better than your current ability if you explain it to him.”
Himuro briefly adjusts her glasses as she observes the cards, her mind no doubt working out the basics of what I’ve done. She’s smart enough to probably work things out on her own, so I don’t think she’ll need nearly as much handholding as the other two. A student who’ll be quicker on the uptake will help warm Gotou up for the others in his role as a first-time instructor.
And, well, he likes her for some reason. So if I reward him for saving me by allowing him to spend time with her, it might help him get over his issues quicker. If not, I still tried.
Last, I face the third member of the group. “Saegusa, you’re with me first. We’ll be heading to a study on the other side of the manor, further away from here since you’ll need silence to be able to concentrate. During that time, I’ll mostly communicate with you through telepathy, so you can get used to it. It’s not as physically strenuous as Rise or as taxing as Burst, but it’s essential to survival so you’ll have to focus. Understand?”
She consents with a nod and as determined of a face she can make. “Yes, Matou-san. I’ll do my best.”
“That’s all I ask.” Realistically speaking, regardless of what ability she gains, Saegusa’s a liability in direct combat due to how meek she is. I get the feeling she’d break if she had to kill anything during the next trip, so I’ll work her into a supporting role for the time being.
Looking at the grandfather clock, I take into account the time. If they have Lunch now, then we can begin around to 1:30 PM. “Okay, everyone who’s going to eat now feel free to do so. In thirty-minutes we get to training.”
“Naruto… was here?” The words that came out of Karin’s mouth were heavy. Distressed. If there had been anything that would undercut the joy in learning that Sasuke and Sarada had been there earlier, it was the fact that Naruto had come with them while she was away.
That he saw Hanami.
“Did you know he was coming?” she asked Orochimaru while the two were in the monitor room, alone.
“Not when you left,” he answered from his seat at the monitor desk, tapping on the keyboard. “The child sensed the arrival of others from quite a distance away, but with no reference she couldn’t identify them. Had I known that he would have been coming, then I would have respected your wish and sent her off to her room.”
Karin had a moment of doubt, but it passed. After all, he had been honest with her in every aspect since Hanami was conceived. Respecting her own wishes and requests where it was within his ability. To think that he arranged for it to happen was… ludicrous.
She changed her question. “Does he know?”
“He does.” He brought up the camera footage from her office. It showed Naruto using the DNA analysis machine and then the results. “I did try to deflect any answers and went ahead and erased the analysis from memory banks so that Hanami didn’t discover it by accident once they departed. But he left a number in my possession and asked that you contact him as soon as possible. If not, he would be visiting again.”
Of course he would. A gnawing itch prickled her chest. He knew about Hanami now, so she shouldn’t be surprised that he would try to get in contact with her. But exposing her to him now would mean…
Orochimaru observed her indecisiveness for a moment in silence before rising from his seat. “Viewing it through the lens of an experiment, there can’t be a change in the dependent variable if there is only a constant.”
She stiffened at his words because she understood the underlying meaning.
“My part in this experiment has long since been fulfilled,” he continued. “I had the chance to improve upon the modifications that you yourself underwent to a genetic level, and that data proved useful. Since I have no interest in projects that stagnate, you can proceed as you wish.”
Standing in front of her, he then held up the number for her to take. “However, if you’re going to properly test if everything you’ve done has had any merit, you must observe how the dependent variable changes in response to multiple independent ones. Ideally while they are still things you can control.”
Karin accepted it reluctantly. “I… understand.”
As Orochimaru left out, Karin found herself staring down at the direct line to Naruto’s personal cellphone. As a scientist, she understood his point perfectly. To experiment meant to expose something to different stimuli and processes to see the effects they had on it.
If Hanami was the dependent variable, she and the others in the base had been the constants. As long as nothing changed, then she would remain as she was. And that was fine as far as Karin was concerned. Let the world around them remain frozen for all she cared.
But… life wasn’t a constant. Karin knew that as well. It hadn’t been for her. It hadn’t been for her mother. That was why she put Hanami through everything she had the moment she learned she was pregnant and well after she was born.
There’s no getting around it. It was better to get it out of the way sooner than later, so Karin picked up the phone and dialed the number. Her feet paced the room while she did so, until it rang thrice.
Then Naruto’s voice came through at the end. “Hello?”
Her feet stilled her. Legs locking into place and her throat tightening, she was frozen where she stood by fear. She couldn’t answer.
“Hello?” he asked again.
This is pathetic, she told herself as she leaned against the wall. Letting another man stir up these feelings inside of her was something she just couldn’t help but feel ashamed at. They couldn’t be more different, yet the thought of either one of them and what they could do to her left Karin afraid enough to nearly make her legs give out.
As the silence dragged on, there was a pause. Thinking, no doubt. Then he asked, “Karin, is that you?”
She forced herself to swallow the lump in her throat and answered. “It’s me.”
He sighed over the line in relief. “How have you been?”
Karin didn’t want to drag this out longer than she needed to. “Is this line secure?”
She took his word for it, paranoid as she may have been. If anyone had a secured line, it would be the Hokage. “You know Hanami is—”
“My daughter.” He sounded somewhere between hurt and angry. “I’ve had a few hours to think on it now that Sakura is safe. I know that Orochimaru agreed not to cause any sort of commotion, but to hold leverage like that and not use it now that I’ve succeeded Kakashi-sensei means that there had to be another reason besides his own interests.”
While Orochimaru had been pardoned, that did not mean his sins were forgiven. He was constantly under watch for a reason since Kakashi had been made the Sixth Hokage officially. Now that Naruto had succeeded him…
Well, Naruto wouldn’t even consider a request that would endanger the village. But he wouldn’t endanger his daughter either. It would still be leverage that he could have used in some way or other.
“Karin, why didn’t you tell me?”
“You weren’t ready for it at the time,” she told him. “There was nothing between us but that night. Knowledge of a child born between you and a subordinate of Orochimaru could have cost you your reputation. You found someone else. I can give you a number of reasons why I didn’t tell you about her, and all of them would be valid.”
Which was true enough. The last thing he needed then was for it to come out that he had a dalliance and then a child with her. Even now, if this had gone public, he could only think of the trouble it would have caused Hinata, Boruto, and Himawari. Not to mention the sort of pressure it would put on Hanami herself and that it wasn’t just him would who harbor the blame.
The last thing a child should have to suffer from is being blamed for simply existing.
Or for being an outsider.
Even Naruto, as he was now, could admit that. “I won’t say you’re wrong. But it wasn’t just for my sake, was it?”
Karin didn’t answer him.
And the silence dragged on again until Naruto was sure he wasn’t getting an answer. So he changed the question. “…Karin, do you still think that things would have been better if you never came out of it at the end?”
Burning anger welled up inside of her chest at being reminded. “I never thought going right for the jugular was a thing you would do.”
“You know I didn’t mean it that way.”
“The answer is no.”
“Karin, if you still think you would be better off—”
“I SAID NO!” Her answer came out louder and more forceful than even she expected. Her Mind’s Eye of Kagura snapped awake as she checked to make sure no one was within hearing. Then she exhaled, letting the frustration and tension leave her body as she slid down the wall until she was sitting on the ground.
“…Sorry,” he said over the line. It was even sincere.
“I never should have told you in the first place.” She pushed up her glasses to rub her eyes at an abrupt, stinging itch. Tears had formed. Sucking in a sharp breath, she held it and then let it out slowly before she spoke again. “I just thought… that if anyone could have helped me, it would have been you.”
The Fourth War had consequences for her. Specifically, the Infinite Tsukuyomi. It was supposed to show everyone who fell under the illusion their happiest dream. But for her it was different.
She relived her past. Remembered how she and her mother were used as tools for the right to stay in a village constantly at war. They weren’t people, they were assets. Given the bare minimum to stay alive and then used up when needed. Never appreciated, never treated as one of their own.
Karin had been a tool to be used. To exhaust herself to death for the sake of letting their soldiers keep fighting. And she was supposed to do it with a smile on her face.
She only really felt elation at the end. When she finally had the chance to kill the man responsible and then died after seeing Sasuke smile, having helped him with his goal. Revenge and death afterwards. That was the only path of happiness that she could grasp in a dream where anything could happen.
The very thought haunted her afterwards when she returned to the waking world. That no matter what she did, only those two things would make her happy. If that was the case, then what was there any worth in living aside from a fear of death itself?
So many times, she had tried to change that. She couldn’t on her own. And who else could she go to?
Sasuke was either traveling or… not emotionally available. Anything he would have suggested was probably something she would have tried anyway. Juugo was nice, but not really someone she wanted to talk to about this. Suigetsu… not if the world was ending.
Orochimaru knew her past. He knew her pain. He had offered a balm to it in the past when he took her in. He made her feel as though she belonged and gave her power and knowledge. But he couldn’t offer her what she needed.
So that left Naruto. At the time he was the man who could do anything, having fought against overwhelming odds during the Fourth War and then made Sasuke change for the better. Despite Sasuke suffering so much, Naruto could relate to his pain and bring him back from the self-imposed misery he was going to put himself through to maintain peace through fear.
So, if anyone could have helped her, she was sure it was him.
She desperately wanted it to be him.
That was why she…
“…Karin, the world has changed since those times,” Naruto told her. “A lot of people our ages suffered from the war in the same way, so Sakura and Ino have established a system to help them. You don’t have to go through this alone. Let us help you.”
“I don’t need it,” Karin told him. “I have been since then. I’ll handle it myself.”
“Then what about Hanami?” he asked. “You can’t believe that raising her in isolation with those people is a good thing. She doesn’t even see a family as anything more than their genetic code. You can’t tell me that’s normal for a girl her age.”
“So you want to take her from me?”
“That is the last thing I want to do,” he said. “I just want her to have a chance to experience the world as it is, rather than seeing it in such an inhuman way. She needs to have a chance to make friends, otherwise she might end up worse off than both of us. You can’t keep her sheltered from the world forever.”
That. That was why she didn’t tell him. She didn’t tell him because Naruto would have wanted to take her out into the world. There was no way he would keep her a secret and let her be raised in private. Not after how he had grown up.
“I can try,” Karin told him. Even if the chance was next to nothing so long as Naruto was alive and as powerful as he had been back then, she wouldn’t risk it. Hanami wouldn’t end up like Karin did. Not like her mother did.
“Karin, at least—” Click!
She hung up and turned the phone off. Nothing he could say would make her change her mind. Then, rising to her feet, she walked the long corridors of the base towards her daughter’s room.
She was sure he wouldn’t try coming for them so soon. He’d try to convince her again before he made any overt move. But most likely she’d have to move away with Hanami soon. Orochimaru had limited influence compared to when he was free, but it wasn’t as though she hadn’t made contingencies in the event it was necessary. She already knew someplace nice where no one knew who they were, and they could start over.
Karin was partway down the corridor to Hanami’s door before it opened. Suigetsu came flying out, his body in a semi-fluid state as something rummaged around inside of him, pressing against the outline of his body enough to stretch without breaking. It was almost comical as he fell to the ground, rolling down the hallway while laughs came from her daughter’s room.
Then Suigetsu spotted Karin and clung to her ankle as he demanded, “Get it out of me!”
Karin sighed as she crouched down. “Vilu, what have I told you about swimming in filthy water? You might catch something.”
The rummaging stopped as out popped a slender, foot-and-a-half serpentine figure from inside of his shirt. Crimson, glistening scales that reflected the corridor light gave way to a black dorsal fin that ran along its spine until it came to a stop with a black tuft of fur on its tail. Short legs with webbed feet and black claws flexed as it set foot on the ground next to him. Then turning around, its pointed ears unfastened from its head, and its black eyes looked towards her.
Vilu, as he was named was an artificial creation turned pet. A chimera of sorts that combined the aspects of aquatic animals, serpents, and foxes. A gift for Hanami’s birthday years ago based off some of Orochimaru’s old work. “Good boy. Now go back to her room.”
“I can’t stand that thing,” Suigetsu groaned as he rose back to his feet while the creature scurried back from whence it came. “Science goes too far sometimes.”
“Quit whining,” she told him. “I can tell from his size and chakra he didn’t absorb any of your body this time. You should be fine.”
Suigetsu looked her up and down without saying anything as he rubbed the back of his neck. Silently appraising her. Then he smiled mischievously with a shark-like grin. “So, you and Naru—”
The pointed tip of a chakra chain at the base of his throat shut him up.
“One word,” she warned him. “One word and you will never recover from what I do to you.”
The lump in his throat shifted as he swallowed. A single nod showed the message carried. Then he, quickly and quietly, walked around her and went elsewhere.
Dismissing her chakra chain, Karin exhaled slowly and then forced herself to smile as she walked back down the corridor to her daughter’s room. Hanami was sitting at her desk, though her swivel chair was turned facing the doorway, allowing for the young girl to jump up. Mother and daughter embraced.
“Sorry I was gone for so long,” Karin said softly while they hugged before pulling back somewhat. “Still, what did I tell you about Vilu and Suigetsu?”
“He did that on his own,” her daughter told her. “I think he wanted to cheer me up, so when Uncle Sui came in he jumped inside of him. It was funny though.”
“Even so, he’s your pet so you should take responsibility for him,” Karin said, releasing her to just listen about her day. “And what upset you enough that he needed to cheer you up while I was gone?”
“We had guest today!” She sat back in the chair and looked up to her mother with an excited smile. She guessed Vilu’s antics did the trick after all. “There was an Uzumaki like us with really warm chakra. Then there was that man from your picture, Sasuke Uchiha. His was kind of dark, but it was calm too. And two girls around my age, with one of them being his daughter.”
“Sarada,” Karin said fondly. “Did you get along with her?”
Hanami’s smile faltered. “I… tried to. But she didn’t seem to like me.”
“Why do you say that?” Karin asked. She had something of a soft spot for Sarada after helping deliver her after all. It was probably the only time she saw Sasuke smile at her in thanks. One of the happiest notes in her miserable dream.
“Because she got upset when I suggested trying to transplant her Sharingan into my eyes, even though I was going to give one of them back when I was done evolving it.” she said, turning to face her desk and then laying her head down in her arms. “She even got mad when I was going to suggest using the eyes of that person they were chasing instead, telling me it wasn’t right.”
Karin brushed her hair. “Not everyone is comfortable about the thought of transplanting sensory organs. Especially people who have abilities related to the part in question. Losing them is terrifying, more so since they can’t be easily replaced.”
“I still don’t understand why she was so reluctant though,” Hanami said. “I mean, if she had the Rinnegan, wouldn’t that make her parents love her more?”
Karin’s brows folded in. As far as she knew, Sarada’s relationship with her parents was very well. To imply that either could love her more was to say that they didn’t love her with every fiber of their being, which Karin very much doubted from what she knew of those two. “Why do you think that?”
“Because she won’t be able to get the Rinnegan on her own like her father,” her daughter explained. “She won’t be the perfect hybrid of her parents’ genes and pass that on in the future to her children. So they won’t love her as much as they could, and she won’t love her kids as much as she could.”
Hanami looked downcast at the very thought of a parent not loving their child. “That’s so sad, I think.”
…The phone in her pocket abruptly felt heavier as Karin found herself afraid to ask how she came to that line of thought. The hesitation ensnared her throat and wrapped its cold, clammy fingers tight. Choking her to avoid the words leading to a worse experience.
But she had to ask. “Do you really believe that a mother won’t love a child if they’re not perfect on a genetic-level?”
Hanami didn’t hesitate for a second to nod, sitting back up. “I mean, that’s why I went through all of those tests, right? So I could be perfect for you.”
Karin’s mind froze as she remembered those tests of her genetic modifications. Hanami couldn’t meet the same end as her mother had. The moment Karin found out she was pregnant, she knew she had to do everything she could to protect her.
The secrecy was one part of it. If no one else knew she existed, then no one else could take her. But that wasn’t enough. Just in case something did happen, she needed to be able to survive no matter what. That was when Karin turned to Orochimaru.
‘I know it hurts, but I’m doing this to make sure you’re perfect,’ Karin had told her to justify it while she cried on her lap from how painful that particular series of tests were. She explained how genetics worked and how she had the potential to be greater than both her Karin and her mother ever were. And her children would have that same potential as well.
That way Hanami didn’t end up experiencing the pain that Karin had. So she that she never needed to fear it happening to her own children either. She wouldn’t end up like her own mother had before she passed away, used up and then tossed away.
Karin didn’t love Hanami because she was perfect. Because no self-respecting mother would want her child to think that they had to be perfect to be loved. She wanted her to be perfect because she loved her.
And somewhere along the way she hadn’t passed that message along to her daughter, whereas her own mother had been able to do the same for her. Did I make a mistake after all?
“Are you okay?” Hanami asked, her head tilting as her violet eyes stared into Karin’s crimson pair. “You’re crying.”
“I just remembered something a little painful,” Karin said as she pushed up her glasses and rubbed away her newly-formed tears. Like father, like daughter it seemed. They knew just the thing to say to hurt her in ways others couldn’t anymore.
“I’m going to need to step out for a little bit. But when I come back, you can show me that theory you were working on before I left. Okay?”
Hanami seemed enthused at the prospect. “Sure!”
Karin gave her daughter a kiss on the cheek.
Then she headed out to redial Naruto’s number. Apologizing was never something she was fond of. And she still didn’t think that she did the wrong thing in raising Hanami as she had to keep her safe.
But that didn’t mean she hadn’t hurt her daughter in other ways without realizing it.
Hopefully it wasn’t too late.
Summary: While searching for Shin Uchiha, Naruto paid a visit to Orochimaru to find answers. He got more than he expected when he found a child named Hanami Uzumaki there alongside of him. Long red hair set into a bun, violet eyes that mixed red and blue, and a single whisker mark on each cheek. Had it really been around thirteen years since that night? Why hadn’t Karin told him anything?
“Lead me to Orochimaru.” A single demand made by Sasuke as they confronted two members of his old team. They needed answers about the person who’d taken Sakura, implanted with Sharingan.
Naruto entered Sage Mode immediately to avoid others having the drop on them again. His senses expanding as he caught the presence of two other people within the base. One was further out, but the other was nearing. “It doesn’t look like that’s gonna be necessary.”
Their eyes were drawn down the corridor, whereupon Naruto laid eyes on Orochimaru with a face that looked much younger than it had any right to. That, in itself, was a surprise for Naruto given that fifteen years had passed since the Fourth Shinobi War and the pardon had been issued—albeit with a guard stationed to watch him at all time.
However, a bigger surprise awaited them as he brought them into another room. The room itself was a laboratory. Monitors lining the wall, a solid steel table to the right, and three cultivation tanks with developing bodies within the center. Nothing out of the ordinary for the man who eluded death so easily.
But, in front of the tank with the most developed body, stood a young woman with her back to them. Long red hair set into a bun and decorated with a hair accessory. Dressed in a long sleeveless shirt that was plum in color and dark pants, she held her arms folded behind her back.
“It seems you were right, child,” Orochimaru said casually as the entered the room. “We have visitors.”
“One of their chakra feels warm. Radiant, as though I’m standing beneath the sun itself.” A slight turn of the head revealed her eye was a rich shade of violet, a blend of red and blue that had a single thin line beneath it. A shock ran through Naruto the moment their eyes met. “Are they guests?”
“I doubt they’ll here for long,” Orochimaru said simply as he came to a stop next to her in front of the tank.
“That’s too bad.” A bead of sweat rolled down from Naruto’s brow as the girl turned around to face them, the hair framing her face swaying to reveal the marking under her other eye to be a mirror image as she regarded them with curiosity. “We rarely have visitors.”
She’s a little taller than Sarada, maybe a little older. Naruto swallowed, but his throat remained dry. It can’t be…
Her curiosity drove her to approach the group. Tension threaded Naruto’s body as she passed him by. But either she didn’t notice, or she didn’t care as she came to a stop in front of Sasuke, her head tilted as she regarded him with a hand on her cheek.
“…You’re Mother’s old teammate, aren’t you?” she asked him. “Sasuke Uchiha… I’ve seen you in the picture, and Mother talked a lot about you.”
Sasuke regarded the child with a glance before shifting his gaze to Orochimaru. “Karin had a daughter?”
“Indeed,” Orochimaru said, holding his hand out towards her. “Introduce yourself, child.”
She did so. “My name’s Hanami Uzumaki. It’s a pleasure to meet you all.”
“Isn’t that Lord Seventh’s family name?” An uncomfortable number of eyes fell onto him at Chocho’s obvious question. Including that of the girl herself.
Naruto even heard Suigetsu mumble, “You know, Karin was always cagey on who the father was.”
But Orochimaru brushed it off with a dismissive, “One of my subordinates comes from the same clan as Naruto-kun.”
“Is that so?” Hanami mused as she took a step closer to him. “It doesn’t look like the dominant genes are present within his facial features or hair pigment. But I suppose some genetic variations should be expected given the different variables.”
Sasuke… couldn’t care less. Or rather, any curiosity he possibly had was buried beneath the mission. “We didn’t come here for that. We came here to find out about that man and child who had Sharingan they shouldn’t.”
“He’s an old experiment of mine named Shin,” Orochimaru explained. “You recall the arm that Danzo Shimura possessed, correct? That originally belonged to him. Since that child possessed a rare genetic trait that prevented rejection of tissue transplants, he was the ideal subject for experimentation with cloning.”
Naruto looked away from the girl at the familiar word. “Cloning?”
“Think of it as a Shadow Clone that won’t disappear,” he clarified. “A perfect replica of an individual down to their very genetics. Only it persists indefinitely.”
“If it’s like a clone that won’t disappear, then what do you do with them when you’re done?” Naruto asked.
“Your only option is to kill them, obvious.”
He naturally took offense to that. Life was sacred after all. To just dispose of them when they weren’t useful anymore disregarded the feelings and connections they formed. “Humans aren’t simple things to be discarded like that.”
“Humans are much simpler than you think.” Orochimaru turned to the cultivation tank with the largest body grown within. “Hanami has taken an interest in this particular field of study, so I suspect she can explain it.”
The girl nodded and then did so. “A person is basically determined by their genetic material. Skin color, abilities, everything can be traced to the genes that compose them. I look more like my mother and possess many of the same abilities as her because her genes were passed onto me, after all. So, for a clone who is made of the same genetic composition, there would be virtually no difference between them.”
“Exactly,” Orochimaru said. “The same applies to your daughter, Sasuke-kun. She looks like you because half of her genes were passed on from you. It’s all simply data recorded in an organic material, rather than an electronic one.”
…That’s not right, Naruto thought to himself while looking at the girl who bore his clan’s name. Those words weren’t something he ever wanted to hear coming from a child.
However, Sasuke took control of the conversation before he could voice it. “Why does that person call himself an Uchiha?”
“That’s his own doing,” Orochimaru said. “Though he is not an authentic Uchiha, he possesses the Sharingan and he ended up becoming obsessed with the Uchiha name. In particular with your late brother, Itachi Uchiha.”
“I see…” Sasuke closed his eyes for only a moment. Silently considering it. “Where can I find him?”
“Hmm… I suppose it would benefit me if your village were to capture him,” Orochimaru mused, before turning to Naruto. “Besides, I do owe you, Naruto-kun. How is that child doing, by the way?”
“…He’s doing well,” Naruto answered, albeit with more hesitation than he should have. “Though, if you’d told me that there was another child in your care, we would have accepted her as well.”
Orochimaru lightly chuckled. “That wasn’t my call to make. I only helped deliver Hanami, after all. Her mother was the one who decided to raise her as she has. All the questions related to that can be answered by her.”
Naruto breathed slowly through his nose as he caught the underlying message. “I understand.”
“Good.” Then he started to walk. “As for Shin, I’ll explain more in a room with a monitor. Follow me.”
Naruto did so, occasionally glancing subtly to Hanami as she walked behind them with Sarada. He knew he should ask the question, but he couldn’t find the words. Not right now, with Sakura’s life potentially at stake. But it gnawed at the back of his skull until he heard Sarada broached a question that drew the child’s interest.
“Your mother was the person in this picture, right?”
“Yes, when she was younger,” Hanami answered just as quietly. “I’ve seen that same picture in her office.”
“Is she here now?”
“No, she’s at a different place at the moment.”
“Oh… then, can I ask you something?”
Naruto watched out of the corner of his eye as the two girls went off. He knew that Sarada was doubting her connection to her mother from how she was behaving, but he had no doubts about it. Even if, by some chance, that Karin had given birth to Sasuke’s child and then passed her over to Sakura, the bonds between family through connections should be stronger.
But what about Hanami? Taking into account the nine months and Hanami’s appearance, there was very little doubt in his mind of her parentage, But, he didn’t want to think it was true, because Naruto didn’t want to believe that she lied to him thirteen years ago. Why didn’t she tell me?
He had to know that much at least. So he followed the girls to the office in secret and listened from next to the door, peeking through carefully.
“First we need a sample of your DNA,” Hanami explained, handing Sarada a buccal swab. “Simply rub the inside of your mouth with it and it’ll collect DNA samples. I’ll do the same with mine and then we’ll use this machine to analyze the data. If there’s enough of a match, then this will show that we’re related through the same mother.”
Once Sarada did as told and the analysis began, Hanami then added. “If I have to be honest, I hope that there is a connection.”
“Why?” Sarada asked.
“Because, if we are then we’ll be compatible enough for an eye transplant.”
Sarada tensed. “Huh?”
“If I gain the Sharingan while being a descendant of the Uzumaki Clan, then I’ll be able to test a theory on awakening the Rinnegan like your father has,” Hanami explained with a smile. “It’s exciting to think about, isn’t it?”
‘…Kurama, is that true?’ he asked. Until now the fox had been silent, observing without commenting. That in itself was worrisome.
‘Not likely. She’s not a direct transmigration of Father’s children as you and Sasuke Uchiha are,’ Kurama answered. ‘However, given who she has been studying under, the fact that chakra does transmit through genetics to some extent, and the fact that he hasn’t dismissed the theory itself, there’s a very faint possibility. More so if he managed to procure some of Father’s chakra during the War fourteen years ago.’
The implications of what he just heard made his stomach drop. Not because of the fact that those eyes even possibly returning in the hands of a child being raised under Orochimaru possibly spelled very bad things. But because he didn’t want to think that night, thirteen years ago, had been contrived for the sole purpose of making that outcome possible.
Sarada was naturally wary at the prospect, albeit for different reasons. “You want to take my eyes!?”
“Oh, not for good!” Hanami quickly added. “I’d give you mine until I awoke them and then I’d transplant one back. That way we’ll both have one, and there’s the potential for that to pass on as well through two different family lines with a little genetic modification. Though, if the Seventh Hokage has a male child then you could have a child with him as well and they could possibly inherit it.”
“I’m not having a child with Boruto!”
“Well, if you have a brother then I suppose that I could—”
“Are you seriously offering to have a child just because of the potential of their genetics!?”
“I mean, isn’t that better than letting them die out if something happened to us?” Hanami asked. Worse, from her tone she was being sincere. “Our clans are endangered after all, but as long as our genes pass on through our reproductive cells then they can live on. That’s how life works in the end.”
“But having a child means starting a family,” Sarada argued. “It’s not just a matter of genes. There’s something more there. Something precious.”
“Families just people linked by genetic material,” Hanami counterargued. Chakra chains began emerging from arms as she held them out in proof. “It’s an assembly of DNA where strong one’s merge to become even stronger and weak ones die out. You’re a prime example of that, just like I am.”
Naruto… couldn’t listen to this any longer. It was like listening to Kabuto for a second time. He emerged from behind his cover and said otherwise, “That’s not what a family is.”
“Lord Seventh?” Sarada was taken aback. Likely because of her reasoning for coming here in the first place, despite the fact that her mother had been taken. “I…”
Before she could say anything to justify the feelings that had driven her, the computer beeped. The results were in.
“It looks like they aren’t a match after all.” Hanami sounded disappointed as her chains disappeared. Then she perked up. “Then again, if this Shin person has a Sharingan and their tissue won’t reject me, then it should be possible to transplant it that way.”
“H-Hey—” Naruto tried to stop her and explain his point, but she ran past him in the direction they’d came. Towards Orochimaru and the others. “Sarada, go with her. This is a sensitive matter, and I don’t think Sasuke would like the notion of someone transplanting those eyes at all.”
She ran off after her, leaving Naruto alone. He watched her leave before turning back to the machine. He had to know for sure.
So, he went through the motions with the buccal swab, taking out the one that Sarada had used and replaced it with his own. Then he set the analysis to begin. The results…
They were exactly as he expected.
He looked to the photo on the desk and a weight that pressed down on his shoulders. The memory of that night felt like a vice clamping around his heart when he considered everything he’d heard. He needed time to process it all.
But Sakura came first. Reuniting mother and daughter came first. Then, when that was done, he would have words with Karin.
About how she had lied. About how she hid his daughter. About how she let Orochimaru’s thoughts on genetics dictate what her definition of a family was.
He told his own son that to the Hokage, everyone in the village is family. Because a family was the bond between people, not just history or blood. It was the love between them that dictated who your family was.
Even if she hadn’t been his daughter, the fact that a child wasn’t able to understand that…
It meant that something was very wrong.
Author’s Note: The premise of this… random thing is that sometime before Naruto paired off with Hinata after the whole moon thing (2 years after the war if I remember right), he had a one-time tryst with Karin Uzumaki. However, she never told him that she was pregnant or that she gave birth afterwards. Then, over a decade later, the Sarada Uchiha story arc happens and Naruto runs into Karin’s child.
My Fanfics :
Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.
Chaos Theory 43 – 44 (Complete)
A FSN Fanfic
Summary: Sometimes, the tiniest of changes can have the greatest impact on the world. One chance encounter goes in a new direction, and the course of the Holy Grail War is irrevocably changed…
A Young Justice Fanfic
Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.
Chapter 15: More Bark Than Bite
A soft inhalation gave way to a broad sweeping gust that stirred the wind, laced with sparkling grains of ice that left the surface of one side of the pond covered in a thin veil of rime. Bringing his exhale to an end with a huff and then sitting on the bridge that split the water in two, Glacian turned to the Alolan Vulpix sitting next to him and extended a sweeping paw towards the frozen surface. “Gla?”
Koko reached down at the prompt with one paw, teetering on the edge of the bridge. She poked at the layer of ice and then bobbed her head before turning around to the other side of the pond, where the ice hadn’t spread. The Alolan Vulpix inhaled deeply until her little chest was puffed out and then let out as strong of an exhale as she could.
Unlike the Bill’s Glaceon, Koko’s attempt remained confined to a relatively narrowed stream of chilled air, glimmering particles of ice threading it as it went straight down the middle of the pond. The layer of ice that it was forming, paper-thin and transparent, ended up sinking beneath the surface as her breath petered out and left her crystalline eyes to fall.
“It was a good try, Koko,” Lillie assured her Starter, crouching down next to her as the Glaceon gave her a small pat on the back. Unaware of the events happening in Alola at present, she instead focused on training with Koko and Shuckle to help them learn their new moves for the impending Doubles match. In Koko’s case, she was attempting to learn how to use Icy Wind.
Rotom, who was currently floating around Shuckle as he tried to get the hang of Protect, explained that the technique was a natural expansion of Koko’s Powder Snow technique. Rather than breathing out a steady stream of cold air, she would be able to exhale it out over a wider area while maintaining the same level of power. Because it wasn’t as concentrated in a narrowed area, the technique would never really be able to freeze an actively moving Pokémon like Powder Snow could, but the accumulating cold slowed them down and made them more lethargic.
Koko would learn how to do it naturally as she continued to battle, since Pokémon grew stronger due how fast their bodies adapted to match the amount of trials and experience they went through until they reached a limit. That was what AJ meant by training his Pokémon through exposing them to their weakness. But Professor Kukui had once told her that Pokémon had the potential to use a lot of different techniques to surpass those limitations if they met the requirements and pushed themselves hard enough—whether through Technical Machines or guidance in the form of training with Move Tutors.
Even so, while it was possible to teach her how to use Icy Wind prematurely by using Glacian as a Move Tutor, Glaceon as a species were naturally capable of using Icy Wind from the moment they evolved. While he could try to show Koko firsthand, there were still gaps to fill in. The best they could hope for was, with enough practice, her body would adapt to using it since it was a natural extension of her present abilities.
The problem was the fact that, among her many lovely traits, Koko was naturally energetic and eager—hasty, in other words. She didn’t have the patience to sit still for long periods of time and she wanted to grasp it quickly. So, with every failure, she became more disheartened and upset, which was something Lillie hated to see.
Lillie gently brushed Koko’s head to try and alleviate some of that sadness. “I’m sure you’ll get it soon if you keep practicing.”
It was then an audible shattering sound caught their ears and drew their attention further away. At the base of the slope leading to the Berry Trees, Shuckle sat with a slight frown as he shook his head while Lusamine’s Clefable stood next to him with a hand extended, the protective shield woven from Protect covering her frontside. Surrounding them were Razor Leaf that Viri had launched, slowly breaking apart on the ground.
The time length sustained was 1.4 seconds under fire from the Razor Leaf, zzrt! Rotom stated as Clefable dropped the Protect, pointing his appendage to his screen where an hourglass was shifting digital sand from top to bottom inside of a progress ring. Prepare for the next attempt in thirty seconds, zzt.
Clefable nodded before she turned to Shuckle and made a circular motion while speaking. “Clefa. Clefable. Fable?”
Shuckle bobbed his head before bracing himself in front of Viri. His beady eyes narrowed, and his mouth pursed in concentration as he moved his head in a small circle while he gathered the energy needed for Protect. It crystalized slowly, forming a half-dome over the front of his body with ragged, uneven edges.
Clefable then held out her hand and the glass-like shield formed in front of her as the last grains of sand in Rotom’s display hit the bottom and a ‘ding’ sounded, signaling the Leafeon to unleash another barrage of Razor Leaf by whipping her tail around. The leaves smashed against the pair of protective shields, the difference in their strength being evident in how Shuckle’s began cracking like glasswork under pressure, leaving him to turtle within his shell to avoid any real damage when it broke, while Clefable’s remained unblemished until the attack ceased once more.
The time length zzzzustained this time was 2.7 seconds! Rotom commented. The next attempt will be in thirty seco—
Shuckle popped his head out of his shell to shake it. “Kle. Shuckle.”
Oh, you’ve run out of energy to do so? Shuckle bobbed his head. Too bad, zzt. You’ve made excellent progress since this morning by my records!
Lillie watched as Clefable gave the Mold Pokémon a warmhearted pat on the head with a slight smile. She presumed that because Shuckle as a species were naturally defensive he could make strides on learning the technique. Then she heard Koko’s whimpering and turned back to see the Alolan Vulpix looking downcast in comparison at her own lack of progress, due to her lack of strength more than her nature.
“Why don’t we take a break?” Lillie suggested. “You must be tired too after trying so hard.”
Glacian watched for a moment as Koko began to trod off the bridge towards the house, a disappointing frown on her face. Then he put on a mischievous smile and then darted after her, cutting her off. “Gla-gla!”
Koko tilted her head. “Vul?”
“Ceon!” He pointed over to towards the woodlands and then made a jumping motion. “Glaceon!”
Koko perked up at that and then turned to Lillie. “Pix?”
“I’m not really sure what’s going on,” Lillie said before turning to Rotom, who was floating over from where Shuckle and Clefable were. “Rotom, can you translate?”
Rotom did so. She wants to go to a flower field within the forest that Glacian knows about, zzt.
It must be to cheer her up, Lillie figured before giving Koko a bright smile and nod. “Sure. We’ll go for a walk.”
She then turned to her mother’s Clefable and Shuckle. “Clefable, Shuckle, will you come with us for a walk?”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded to the offer, whereas Shuckle shook his head and then withdrew into his shell to take a nap.
So, the four of them went off to find the field, led by the Fresh Snow Pokémon. Glacian darted through the forest with a practiced stride, quickly getting ahead of Koko and then turning around to sit in place, baiting her to catch up with him. Koko tried her best, racing towards him only to lunge when he was within range. She would then end up missing as the Glaceon dodged at the last moment and then continued running ahead.
Lillie, Rotom, and Clefable followed, with the young trainer observing how the frustration that Koko had been suffering from seemed to melt away as she gave chase after the Fresh Snow Pokémon. She made another lunge when they neared a tree that had a Pineco above, observing them playing rather passively as she missed and landed by a bush.
“Koko looks like she’s having fun now,” Lillie said. “I’m glad.”
The Fairy Pokémon nodded in response. “Cleffa. Clef, Clefable.”
He makes a good playmate for her, zzzt. Rotom translated until the shuffling of the nearby bush drew Koko’s attention, leaving her to freeze in place.
“Vul?” Her nose twitched, and she tilted her head as she took slow steps towards the bush even as Glacian looked on in confusion. Then a pink figure burst out of the bush with a bark, leaving her to jump back with her hackles raised in defense.
It was a Snubbull. The second Fairy Pokémon eyed them warily for a moment before sneezing hard enough that it fell backwards and onto its rear, leaving it to try to brush its nose with its forepaws. “Snnnn…”
“That’s strange. Snubbull aren’t native to the north of Cerulean…” It clicked as she noticed all of the scratches that spoke of battle on it, contradictory to their usually passive nature. “Oh, are you the Snubbull from Miss Melanie’s place?”
He didn’t answer her, instead pressing his nose to the ground and rubbing it against the grass and dirt to the confusion of Koko and the others. Lillie recalled that Snubbull as a whole had quite keen noses, so chances were that something was bothering his sense of smell. She made to go over to him when she noticed the Pineco above now looking somewhat wary of having a trainer and so many non-native species around it, and then decided otherwise. “Snubbull, come here and I’ll look at your nose. There’s something in it bothering you, isn’t there?”
“Snubb…” He lightly grumbled as he waddled over and away from the Pineco hanging overhead.
Lillie gently patted his head as she crouched down and took a look at his black, short nose. She noticed there was some kind of glimmering orange powder, a small amount but still present. Given the local Pokémon, she could hazard a guess. “Did you breathe in some Stun Spore earlier?”
“Bull,” he answered with a nod.
“A Cheri Berry would help you clear it out due to the spiciness, but I don’t have one on me. But I do have my Refresh Kit.” She pulled him onto her lap and reached for her waist pack that was the travel-standard Pokémon Refresh Kit, which she had in case her Pokémon got messy or wet during training, pulling out the medicinal sprayer and towel. She also pulled out a bottle of Fresh Water she’d placed inside of it as well. “This is going to be a little unpleasant, but you’ll feel better when I’m done.”
“Snn?” The warning was followed by a light spritz of the medicine that got into his nose, causing him to flail around. “Snubbull!!”
“Just let me flush it out and then your nose will be good as new.” Lillie stroked his head to soothe him until he settled down, only to then lightly pour a cap full of water into his nostrils. He ended up sneezing a lot more onto the ground next to her until she rubbed the towel over his nose gently. “How does that feel?”
Snubbull rubbed his face with his forepaws, cutely shifting the excess skin around before he sniffed the air and barked. He then wriggled in her grasp to get free, immediately sniffing the ground and barely paying Lillie any mind when she let go. The moment he caught whatever scent it was that he was looking for, he took off to go chasing after it. “Snubb!!”
“And there he goes,” Lillie said with a sigh as she put the kit away and cleaned up. “Miss Melanie mentioned that he picked fights with others, but I hope he won’t get into anything serious before he gets healed up—”
Her words were cut short as a small explosion went off overhead and she noticed two figures drop down. The Pineco proceeded to bounce away on the ground, its body singed as it left charred pieces of bark it had glued to itself behind. The Living Pokédex, on the other hand, was lying face down and smoldering with thin wisps of acrid smoke.
“Rotom, did you take its picture up-close without permission?” Lillie asked as Glacian prodded the casing until the red appendage made to brush him away.
I just wanted to add its data, zzztt… Fortunately, Rotom’s Pokédex was made to be rather tough. It managed to fly back up under its own power and took shelter within her hood once more.
At least Rotom will learn to keep its distance now, Lillie thought to herself before turning back in the direction that Snubbull ran off towards for a moment. Try not to get into trouble either, Snubbull.
Then she proceeded to follow after the two Ice-types once more.
A good walk later, Glacian finally led them past a break in the trees around the north of the forest. It placed them in a meadow that had thick trees to the east and south. Combined with the mountainside to the north, it formed an isolated the field where flowers stretched out a good distance to the west beneath the azure sky above.
“Oh wow.” Lillie was amazed as she took in the sight of everything. Because of the flowers and their aroma the meadow naturally attracted a variety of Pokémon, not unlike the meadows on Melemele Island. She could see fully-evolved Butterfree circling low to the ground to feed off the nectar of the flowers, one even passing by an Abra that laid slumbering amidst them. There was even a Slakoth that was perched in the tree next to them and slowly munching on a leaf.
It took Koko pressing against her leg to snap her out of the sight. “Vull?”
“Sure, you can go play for about an hour. Just don’t bother any Wild Pokémon since we didn’t come to battle,” Lillie told Koko as she felt Rotom stir in her hood. She grabbed it before it could fly off, leaving the Alolan Vulpix to run into the flowers with Glacian. “The same goes for you, Rotom. Keep your distance this time.”
She released it with the promise and it flew off to collect data, starting with the Slakoth that didn’t pay it mind while continuing to nibble on the leaf in its mouth with the speed of a glacier, when her Pokégear rang. Lillie expected it to be her mother, calling to check up on her. But, to her surprise, the ID registered the call coming from Astra.
When she answered the call, the screen popped up to show Astra on it, “Hi Astra. How have you been?”
“Jet and Blysen and me challenged Miss Karen’s Gym!” she answered with an excited smile.
“Already?” Lillie watched as Clefable bounced over into the flower field and towards a Butterfree. Unlike Rotom or Koko, she wasn’t the type to cause problems, so Lillie was sure she’d be fine. “Did you win?”
“Nope!” Astra said with a far more cheerful tone than one would expect. “It turns out Dark-types are immune to Jet’s Torment because of his Ability and Blysen got really scared, so I’m going to catch some new friends before I try again. What about you?”
“I’m taking a break from training with Koko.” Said Alolan Vulpix was playing tag with Glacian again, the two rolling around over one another in the bed of flowers. “She and Shuckle have been working on learning some new techniques, so we can beat the Nugget Bridge challenge.”
“That sounds fun—oh, that reminds me! Auntie Ann sent me a video of the Alola Championship match since she’s gone there for business, and near the end the guy with the open shirt called out this really pretty Ninetails. Will Koko evolve into that too?”
“Yes. Once she’s grown out all of her tails, I’ll let her evolve if she wants to.” It would be something that she couldn’t take back afterwards, so it was ultimately Koko’s decision. But it was better if Koko had the chance to finish growing as a Vulpix first, rather than prematurely evolving for the sake of power.
“Hey, don’t eat that, Jet! That’s Grandpa’s Ghost Gem!” Astra abruptly said over the line, suddenly shaking the phone as she reached off-screen for something. It was followed by some disgruntled Sableye noises when she pulled back and had a jewel in her hand. “Geez, I’ll pick you up a snack in along the way, so just wait a little bit.”
Lillie couldn’t help but chuckle a bit. “Are you heading out now?”
“Yeah. We’re going to head down Route 10 now. Wish us luck.”
She did. “Good luck. I hope you make a new friend.”
“And I hope you can beat your challenge soon, cause when we meet again we’ll have our first badge. Bye, bye!” Click.
“Sounds like she’s been keeping busy too,” Lillie said as the line went dead and the screen went black, leaving her to close her Pokégear as her mother’s Clefable returned with a crown of flowers.
The Fairy Pokémon set the ring around her head and smiled. “Faaable.”
“Thank you.” Lillie reached up to feel the crown, brushing her fingers against the stamens to see if she would have to wash her hair later to get rid of the pollen. There was none to be found. “Oh, did you have the Butterfree clean them first?”
Clefable nodded before making a compressed motion with her hands and then pointing to herself.
“You have an egg…no, I think Mother would have mentioned that.” Lillie took a moment to try and grasp the meaning since Rotom was still elsewhere. She had known her since she was a Cleffa, so she could vaguely understand the gestures…oh, right. “When you were a Cleffa, I made one for you, didn’t I?”
The Fairy Pokémon clapped her hands at that. It was indeed the correct answer. “Clefable!”
“That’s back when we were both little, just before we found Nebby.” She brought her hands together horizontally until she had what she felt was about the right height. “You were so tiny that you’d fit right between my hands. Now you’re as big as I am.”
Clefable rubbed the back of her head with a small smile, as if proud and embarrassed at the same time. “Clef, clef.”
“How did Mother find you again?” Lille placed a finger in her chin as she looked to the sky and thought. “She said that she found you on the mountain one night, didn’t she?”
The Fairy Pokémon brought her finger tips together and then broke them apart to make a half-circle before reconnecting them. Then she pointed to the sky and then made downwards motion to the ground.
“Right, she said you fell down from the moon and into her arms.” It sounded a bit silly now that she was older, but there was a lot of things that they didn’t know about her species at that point. Like being able to store moonlight to float, or their attraction to star-shaped things. Most likely she clung to a Minior and ended up falling as it flew up. “You haven’t seen too many others like yourself aside from Mister Bill’s Clefairy, have you?”
She shook her head. “Faa.”
“Well, from what I’ve heard, Mt. Moon has a Clefairy colony somewhere inside of it,” Lillie said. “Of course, we’d still have to find them. But I think it’d be lovely if you got to meet them at some point. Don’t you?”
Clefable seemed delighted at the prospect, which made Lillie glad. She had been working so hard in looking after Lusamine in her time of need, so anything that would brighten her up was worth doing. But there was the question of if her Mother could even make the trip before whatever Mister Bill did to help her was done.
When she’d talked to him after getting back to his home yesterday, he mentioned he’d need some kind of device from Saffron City. He tried to explain how it would help him get a better read on her body, but the explanation went a bit over her head. She knew a lot of things about Pokémon, but hard science was still something of a mystery to her.
Lillie then stretched her arms out and turned back to watch Koko playing around and Rotom flying about. She’d let them enjoy themselves until the hour was up before heading back.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Separated from the rest of its horde, a Bellsprout had found a spot that seemed appropriate and buried its roots into the ground to drink the moisture while waiting for a Combee to pass by. It didn’t know Sweet Scent to lure one in, but the scent it naturally gave off was still capable of allowing it to pass as a flower if it stood still. And, if one didn’t come by, the sun was out so photosynthesis could fuel it for the day if it didn’t move so much.
Then it heard the shaking of leaves. The rustle of the green as something went through the bushes. Too loud to be one Tiny Bee Pokémon, but not one of the other pollinators. It remained motionless with one beady eye fixed on the shaking bush to see what it was that would emerge.
“Snubbull!” barked the Fairy Pokémon as he popped out. Aggressive and hostile. He growled on all fours, excess skin quivering as he stalked forward.
The Bellsprout waved its leaves to express non-hostility as it began to pull its roots up. It didn’t want trouble. But the Snubbull lunged forward and the Flower Pokémon panicked and attacked. “Be-Bellell!”
The sinuous vines that sprouted from tiny buds between its leaves and leathery stalk of a body lashed out, only to miss as Snubbull jumped to the side. The vines cracked down where he had been and were then caught as he darted back in to snap down on the vines with his teeth.
“Sprout!!” cried the Flower Pokémon as the pain transmitted and it tried to retract the vines back to end the pain. They took time to heal and even longer to regrow if cut, which was a problem since they were the primary way it gathered food among other things. Snubbull waited until they were taut, making it a tug of war between them until he suddenly darted forward with the vines in his mouth and then went past the Bellsprout, dragging it along the ground as he ran in circles. “Sprout! Sprout!”
“Snnn—” Snubbull kept running despite its pleas until he neared a tree, whereupon he spun around hard and fast, allowing the momentum to slam the Bellsprout into the hardy bark. He then spat out the vines before lunging forward and Tackling its supple body while it was pinned against the tree. “—bull!”
“Spr…out…” Its body buckled under the hit, leaving it to collapse on the ground and twitch in pain as Snubbull hopped back for some distance. Rising up slightly, until the curves of its split stalk touched the ground and its leaves were supporting its weight, it shot out an Acid Spray from its bell in an act of desperation.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped back to escape from the small ball of sludge before it could touch him. His nose then scrunched up as the acid began to froth where it hit the ground, the scent of it breaking down the grass rankling him. He cursed his excellent sense of smell and then he looked up to see that the Bellsprout had started running away and gave chase. “Snubbull!!”
“Bellsprout! Bellsprout!” The panicked cries of the Flower Pokémon could be heard as its fibrous feet darted across the woodlands, leaves shaking in terror as it fled from the terror that stalked it as it tried to get back to its horde. Surely they would protect it.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
The beeping of Lillie’s Pokégear’s Alarm App signaled the passing of an hour. It was time for them to head back to Mister Bill’s house for Lunch. Lillie rose to her seat on the grass next to Clefable and stretched out before brushing away any stray blades of grass.
“Koko, Rotom, Glacian! It’s time to head back!” The Alolan Vulpix and Glaceon both came running at her beckoning. Lillie crouched down and brushed Koko’s head affectionately as Rotom slipped back into her hood. “Did you have fun?”
“Good then let’s head back so we can all have Lunch.”
“Glae! Glae!” Glacian hopped forward and turned once, his tail flicking before he started running ahead of them. Koko yipped and then gave chase, wanting to continue their game until they got back.
Lillie and Clefable followed them on their way back until both Koko and Glacian abruptly stopped at a turn that would have taken them back towards Bill’s home, instead turning their heads off to the side in a southwest direction. “What’s wrong?”
“Vul…vul…” Koko took a few cautious steps with her head raised before pointing in that direction. “Vulpix! Vulpix!”
Koko said she heard Snubbull’s cry in that direction, zzt. Rotom translated.
“His cry?” Lillie tried to listen for him, but it was no good. Her sense of hearing wasn’t nearly as good as Koko’s or Glacian’s. In the end, she was only human. “Is he in trouble again?”
Glacian sniffed the ground as he walked further ahead and then gestured for Rotom to look at it. The Living Pokédex hovered over a spot. Tracks identified, zzt. These tracks indicate many Bellsprouts have traveled recently in this direction, zzrt.
“Hmm…” Lillie brought a hand up to her chin in thought. “You don’t think he would have picked a fight with an entire group of Bellsprouts, do you?”
Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive and he had Stun Spore in his nose before. That was a technique stronger Bellsprouts learned, along with a few other Pokémon. But, short of Butterfree, most of those Pokémon were nocturnal.
“Now I’m getting worried about him,” Lillie admitted. It was probably nothing, but if he got himself into trouble because she had helped him clear his nose then that would be her fault. “Let’s see if we can find him to make sure he isn’t getting in over his head.”
She followed Koko and Glacian as they guided her, feeling some anxiety at the situation. That feeling only doubled when she got close enough to see a Bellsprout pushing its way out of a bush that was nestled between two thick trees, tripping over its own feet and then using its leafy appendages to cover its head in fear. Lillie came to a stop at the bush and crouched down to check on it. “Are you okay?”
“Sp-Sprout. Sprout.” It said, leaving Rotom to translate it as apologizing for bringing it there.
“Snubbull!!” they heard past the trees and bushes. It was followed by the sound of fire popping and a pained cry from another Bellsprout that got swallowed up by an explosion, leaving the scent of smoke to reach their noses.
Lillie stood again and pushed her way through the bush, leading into what amounted to a small clearing with several Bellsprouts. Some of them were already unconscious on the ground, some that had burns on them. There were still seven left standing though.
Snubbull snarled before making a terrifying face that seemed almost like something out of a nightmare, darkness seemingly warping it and his eyes folded like he was rabid. Fear struck the instinctive part of several of the Bellsprouts, leaving them frozen in place. Then he darted towards one that was apart from the group, bearing his fangs with the intention of attacking them.
The targeted Flower Pokémon swallowed its fear to let out an Acid Spray, coughing out a ball of corrosive sludge. But he dodged it with a hop to the side and then hit it with a Tackle, the momentum bowling the lithe Pokémon down and leaving it open for the fangs that had a dark tint that followed as he then used Bite to clamp down onto it.
“Sppprroouutttttt!” The pained cry that slipped out was stretched and grew tighter as he then spun it around and tossed the poor thing into the semi-frozen group. Six left.
The Fairy Pokémon then charged for another one that tried to use a Vine Whip, only for fire to sudden flare from Snubbull’s mouth and then wreathed it. The Fire Fang burned the vines, causing the sinuous appendages to retreat and the Flower Pokémon to try fleeing instead. Turning its back on Snubbull left it open as he lunged and then clamped down, causing the separate flames that wreathed the top and bottom of his mouth to smash together and then rupture in an explosion of smoke and embers.
This is horrible, Lillie thought to herself as she watched Fairy Pokémon toss the beaten and burned Flower Pokémon that dangled from his mouth away and then fell on all fours to bark at the remaining five. No matter how she looked at it, Snubbull was the aggressor here. Miss Melanie had said he was aggressive, and that he’d pick fight with trainers before running away, but I didn’t think he was this aggressive to wild Pokémon. Not with how playful he had been yesterday.
“Bell! Bell!” the Flower Pokémon in the center shouted, pointing his leaves in the opposite directions. The others began to spread out, their dark eyes never leaving Snubbull even as they split apart and forced him to look between them. Then one on the right stepped forward and released a Vine Whip, sending it right for Snubbull.
The Fairy Pokémon jumped out of the way of that one, only to get caught in the back by one that lashed out and wrapped around his waist, pulling him back even as he braced himself. He then turned around and lunged in that direction as flames shrouded his mouth for a Fire Fang again. That’s when the one he’d been targeting before released its vines to wrap around his torso, pulling him in the opposite direction to hold him still in the air and unable to bite down.
“Sprout!” ordered the leader Bellsprout, pointing to the ground in front of them. They promptly slammed Snubbull into the grass headfirst, snuffing the flames around his mouth, and the other two then proceeded to fire Acid Spray directly onto him while he couldn’t fight back.
“BUUUUUULLLLLL!!!” Snubbull screamed out in a cry that sent a chill up Lillie’s spine as she watched his skin began to smolder. He struggled to get free to no avail as the leader Bellsprout raised his arm and they fired a second volley. “SNUUUBBBUULLLL!!!”
“Stop it!” Lillie said, drawing their attention to her as she walked closer before they could fire a third time. Koko and Glacian were immediately in front of her, while Clefable was right behind her. In the face of the additional threats, they stopped to assess the situation and so Lillie tried to reason with them. “That’s enough. He’s beaten!”
“Sprout! Bellsprout!” the leader said in response, pointing to the fallen Bellsprouts that were injured and unconsciousness. “Bellell!”
Rotom translated. Snubbull apparently attacked them when they had done nothing, zzt.
“Bu…bulll…” Snubbull muttered weakly, trembling as the acid continued nipping at his flesh. Poison hurt more than anything for a Fairy-type, and that was a corrosive acid that softened the flesh. Pokémon could handle a lot of damage, but too much of it was still harmful enough to be lethal.
Knowing that, even if he was the aggressor, she couldn’t let that keep up. “Then I’ll take him and make sure he won’t come back. Just don’t hurt him anymore.”
Pushing past the bushes, the cowering Bellsprout from before came in. It walked to them, gesturing to Snubbull and then her. “Sp-sprout. Bellsprout. Bell?”
Yes. That would work best for everyone. Right, zzrt? Rotom translated.
“Sprout!” The leader sent a vine out that wrapped around the Bellsprout and then tossed it out of the way. “Bellsprout! Bellell!”
Lillie didn’t need the translation to know it was telling the other Flower Pokémon to be silent, but learning that, apparently, he led Snubbull here did explain why the Bellsprout was apologizing afterwards. Unfortunately, she didn’t have the time to figure out the chain of events before the leader of the Bellsprout Horde turned back to Snubbull and drew his head back.
He was going to attack again and, given that wild Pokémon tended to be a lot more brutal when dealing with a threat than trained Pokémon, Snubbull wouldn’t get out of it without serious injuries… or worse. She had to act. So she pointed to the leader and gave the command, “Koko! Powder Snow!”
The Alolan Vulpix obeyed. A chilling gust that flowed forward hit the leader Bellsprout head-on, leaving it to writhe as the ice particles left the leathery texture of his stem covered in frost. It bowled over, shivering, and the other Flower Pokémon looked onto them with hostility.
“Th-That was a warning,” Lillie said, feeling both guilt and nervousness as they fixed their eyes onto her. “I don’t want anyone else to get hurt, and you’ve already got wounded Pokémon within your care. So please, let us take Snubbull or… or else!”
“S-S-Spr-Sprout,” the leader murmured, glaring at her as only a Bellsprout could. The ones holding Snubbull down then released their hold and instead went to grab their fallen kin. Then they began to leave, eyes fixed onto Lillie’s group in fear and anger alike. Once they were safely behind the leader and the two flanking it, the leader then pointed a final time to the cowardly Bellsprout and said, “Bellsprout! Sprout!”
She didn’t need Rotom to translate that either as the remaining Flower Pokémon was left behind. She could tell by the way he collapsed in place and then began to cry that he’d been kicked out of his horde, either for bringing the trouble to them or trying to interfere. Lillie couldn’t help but feel pity for the poor thing, even as she looked down at Snubbull.
He was still breathing, but he’d lost consciousness. This… was partly her fault for helping Snubbull earlier. He wouldn’t have run off if she hadn’t cleaned his nose, and then this wouldn’t have happened. It honestly felt like she was bullying them for defending themselves, but she couldn’t visit Miss Melanie again and say that she let it happen either.
She pulled out her towel and gently picked him up, since the acid had lost most of its caustic properties now. But he still needed to have it washed out and him healed. She then turned to the exiled Bellsprout. “Will you come with us? You’re hurt too, and I want to know what happened here.”
His dark eyes glistened as he brought one leafy appendage up to wipe the tears away. Then he nodded. “Sprout.”
The six then headed back to Mister Bill’s home.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Snubbull shifted as his consciousness surfaced from the depths of unconsciousness. The scents that reached his nose were mostly artificial, human-made surroundings with a spattering of other scents that belonged to more Pokémon. The shelter? He sat up and looked around to find that wasn’t the case.
He was in a bedroom, laying on a pillow on top of a bed. The scent of the foreign Fox Pokémon, with the nice-smelling female trainer’s scent, were all over the bed’s sheets. But he also noticed that their scents were woven with another one and brought his tiny arms to his nose to find that it clung to his own skin—soap, like the one the female caretaker covered him with before the… unpleasantness.
Snubbull huffed. He hated baths.
His ear flaps twitched as he caught the sounds coming from the window and he waddled over to the windowsill to watch the scene below. The female trainer was having the fox practice with breathing out cold air over the water. The sun was on the verge of going down too, meaning he had slept for more than six hours.
The Fairy Pokémon turned and leapt down from the windowsill to the floor, making his way to the door. It was cracked so he could open it wide with enough effort, allowing him to walk out of the room and into the hallway. More Pokémon scents could be smelled coming from above, but he ignored them to head down the stairs to get outside, where two more humans were talking.
“Still no luck in finding a breeder with the Pokémon you were looking for?” asked the human male as Snubbull peered around the corner and into the kitchen. He looked scrawny with brown hair and held some kind of tablet.
“Not in the Kanto region, at least,” answered a human female that looked like an older version of the nice-smelling trainer, sitting at a table with a mug. From the scent Snubbull presumed it to be hot leaf juice—the kind that the human child once tried to make him drink. “I had hoped one of them at least had an Egg, but it seems like that wasn’t the case.”
“Well, once the Global Trade Network is back online you may be able to find one from a breeder in a different region. Sinnoh has colder weather naturally due to being higher north, but Hoenn has more tropical weather due to being closer to the equator. I know a few reputable ones in each region that I can ask.”
“If you wouldn’t mind, thank you.”
“Still, I have to say I’m impressed by the strides your organization has made in exploring Ultra Space. Being able to travel the space between a network of dimensions is one avenue I haven’t explored before.”
“My husband was the one who pioneered the study of it. We were simply the ones who followed in his footsteps along with the conservation—”
Once it was clear the humans weren’t going to say anything interesting to him, Snubbull decided to continue onwards. He quickly darted for the door and then went through the hole at the bottom that had a flap, allowing him to get outside at last, where he noticed the scent of the poisonous flowers that had attacked him. One was close, but before he could sniff it out for revenge the ice fox gave away his presence to the female trainer.
She turned and came over, crouching down. He noticed she smelled of the Flower Pokémon as well. “Snubbull, are you feeling better now?”
He nodded. “Bull.”
“Thank goodness. I was worried when you wouldn’t wake up even after we used Mister Bill’s healing machine, but he said that you must’ve been tired on top of hurt. You didn’t get any sleep since I left Miss Melanie’s place, did you?”
He huffed. Sleep was for the weak. He was strong, not tired. He could stay up all night, no matter what his pack-mother said.
Of course, that didn’t stop his blasted instincts from leaving him relishing when she gently caressed his head. A pleased grumble bubbled up in this throat before he realized it and he was leaning into the touch. Once he caught himself, he broke away and turned towards the woods again. The sun was going down, meaning there were others to hunt and do battle with to become even stronger. He fell on all fours to begin—
—when he was promptly picked up as the female trainer stood, leaving him an uncomfortable distance off the ground. He demanded his release, flailing his arms and legs. “Snubbull!”
“If I let you down, will you go back to picking fights with wild Pokémon again?” she asked.
“Bull,” he admitted without shame. That was how one became stronger. The weak will become prey to be beaten up so that he could become big and powerful, with mighty fangs that could crush boulders.
“Miss Melanie told me you picked fights with other Trainers and then run away,” she said. “And you were previously owned before, yet you’re running around north of Cerulean when your pack should be south. Is there a reason you’re going around fighting so much?”
It izzz peculiar to see a Snubbull with such an aggressive demeanor, the flying machine said. Normally, they are playful, if not somewhat timid, zzzrt.
“Snubbull!” Snubbull barked vehemently at that, snapping his jaws at the flying machine. How dare it compare him to those weaklings, content to be pampered and lay around! Not him. He was a warrior, he needed challenge, not the luxury of a pack.
That was why he departed on his journey to become a mighty Pokémon… only to get caught by a human child, who then tried to make him a house pet that was dressed up like a toy and made to wear accessories. The shame of it still burned him to this day.
That was why, once he had his freedom, he vowed to become stronger on his own. No matter the costs or risks. For he was the mightiest of all Snubbull, and all would know of it!
“Oh, I see,” the female trainer said after the flying machine translated his tirade. “Most Snubbull are passive, so they make for good companions for non-trainers. Same with the Meowths that can be found there too. And, since they’re being taken care of, they don’t have to worry about things like gathering food or defending their territory. But you don’t want that kind of life, do you?”
He nodded enthusiastically. Finally, someone who understood.
“But, you know, you probably won’t be able to become known as the mightiest since most wild Pokémon don’t fight for sport,” she added. “Not to mention, trained Pokémon are taught to work within rules of engagement, whereas wild Pokémon fight to drive off a threat. I’m sure your parents probably told you not to go to certain places as well once you hatched, so that you didn’t enter their territory, right?”
Admittedly, his pack-mother had. Hence why he stayed away after attaining his freedom from the human child who’d trapped him in that boring life before. Totally not because he ran away stating he would become great and didn’t want them to see him before he managed to prove his point.
“Well, since you told me about you, can I tell you a bit about me now?” she asked.
He nodded. It was only fair that he gave the nice-smelling trainer some of his time since she did help him. Not that he wouldn’t have been fine on his own once he got free.
“In the past, I watched someone I love dearly try their hardest to get something precious to them. But the way they were doing it was dangerous and reckless, among other things. I knew that, but I was too scared to say or do anything to stop them. And because of that, I nearly lost them forever if not for a dear friend. I don’t want to do nothing as I watch that happen again, which is why I have to say that you can’t keep doing this, Snubbull.”
A low rumble bubbled up in his throat. “Snnn…”
“That said, I actually admire you, Snubbull,” she continued, causing his ears to perk. “Seeing a Pokémon like you doing your best and being brave is really inspiring, so it would make both me and Miss Melanie sad too if something bad happened to you. That’s why I want to take responsibility for you and make it so that you can reach your dream safely. So, I’m challenging you to a battle.”
He blinked, tilting his head. “Bull?”
She nodded, her ponytail bobbing. “That’s right, a battle. One-on-one. And, if I win, I’ll become your trainer and bring you along with me on my Gym Challenge.”
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
Lillie watched as the Fairy Pokémon considered her offer. From what she could tell due to their little talk, Snubbull was a bit on the younger side—probably a few seasons older than Koko. He didn’t seem to consider the consequences of his actions and seemed to go headfirst into whatever challenged him, so she didn’t think he would reject her offer outright since it involved a battle. That meant she had to decide which Pokémon to use.
Koko was a little tired from training, not to mention Fire Fang would hurt her a lot if it connected. Like AJ had said, Vulpix were fragile on the defensive side of the things. And, while Koko could probably outpace Snubbull, he was even more aggressive than her judging by that battle earlier so if he caught her it’d end badly.
Better not to risk it, she decided as Snubbull began wiggling his arms around and made cute, inquiring noises.
He’s asking what’s in it for him? Rotom translated.
Lillie counted off the benefits. “Well, you’ll get to travel. You’ll get to face off against a bunch of different Pokémon to improve yourself in a relatively safer manner. Not to mention Gyms have stronger opponents for you to face, and if we beat all eight then we can challenge the Elite Four, who have the strongest Pokémon in the region. If you beat them, then that means you’re one the strongest Pokémon in the entire region and everyone around the world will know it.”
A low rumble slipped out of his throat and his eyes grew distant as he pondered it over, the visions likely playing out in his head as a fantasy. Then he shook his head and made more Snubbull sounds that Rotom translated. He wanted to know what he’d get when he won instead.
He’s like a child who believes he’s invincible, Lillie figured. It did much to explain his personality though, and it was good to be enthusiastic. Even so, it only solidified her resolve that he needed someone who could help him direct that enthusiasm in a more positive direction.
“What about all the Pokéblocks you can eat?” she offered. “I’ll be visiting Cerulean tomorrow to make some, so I can make whatever kind you want to take with you then, while tonight you can have dinner with us.”
He made a huffing noise, as if that was nearly enough for his compliance. But then his stomach grumbled loudly enough that even Lillie could hear it, leaving him to stiffen up and then look away in embarrassment. “Sn.”
Lillie couldn’t help but giggle a bit. “So, can I take that as an okay?”
He awkwardly nodded, so she let him down. Snubbull then ran to the path opposite the bridge, fell onto all fours and barked. “Snub!!”
“Koko, this is Shuckle’s battle,” Lillie said when she noticed Koko getting ready to fight. The Alolan Vulpix seemed reluctant but sat down as Lillie pulled out a Pokéball and tossed it out. Light took the form of the Mold Pokémon as he landed opposite of Snubbull. “Shuckle, do your best!”
Shuckle turned and nodded his head before turning back to face the Fairy Pokémon and see that he was already rushing for him.
Snubbull used Tackle!
“Hey, we didn’t say to start yet!!” Lillie shouted as Snubbull lunged, only for Shuckle to Withdraw into his shell reflexively, leaving him to only roll back a bit without being seriously hurt. “Shuckle, use Constrict!”
The Mold Pokémon stuck his head out, frowning, and then thrust out two of his appendages to grab the Fairy Pokémon. Snubbull jumped to the side to avoid one and then exposed his teeth that had a dark-tint to Bite down into the other, causing Shuckle to flinch. “Kle!?”
“Snnn—” Snubbull snarled as he tried to pull Shuckle along like he had the Bellsprouts, only for Shuckle to anchor himself to the ground with his other gooey limbs. Between that and the weight of his shell, he tugged to no avail until Shuckle went for him with the other appendage and forced him to let go or be caught.
“Shuckle, are you okay?” Lillie asked. The Mold Pokémon’s waved his bitten appendage slightly to see if it was severely harmed before nodding his head, keeping his beady eyes on Snubbull. No more ambushes this time. “Okay, then let’s try pinning him down from a distance!”
Shuckle used Sticky Web!
Shuckle’s mouth shifted as it bundled its saliva, turned it into bug adhesive, and then spat it out towards the Fairy Pokémon. The glob expanded only to miss as Snubbull darted to the side, leaving it to cling to the ground as a net that would ensnare whatever was caught on it until it dissolved organically or was removed. He got ready to spit again when—
Snubbull used Scary Face!
—a terrifying face was put onto display, draped in shadows and glowing eyes that seemed to stare into the dark pit that were Shuckle’s. It caused him to tense, involuntarily swallowing his bug glue in order to Withdraw back into his shell. That allowed Snubbull to run in with embers licking at the sides of his mouth.
“Shuckle, use Bide!” Lillie ordered. A red hue began to shroud his shell as the embers around Snubbull’s mouth blossomed into flames that wreathed his mouth. Then she could only watch as he lunged for the Mold Pokémon and brought the flaming fangs down!
Snubbull used Fire Fang!
The resulting explosion when the two halves of the flames met each other didn’t do much. His shell was among the strongest natural one a Pokémon could have after all. But the wave of heat still left Shuckle to cry out in discomfort from within his shell as the red energy thickened.
Shuckle is storing energy!
Snubbull jumped back, exhaling embers before more began to wreath his mouth for another attack. Then he lunged again, allowing the second Fire Fang to be let loose ruthlessly. “Bull!!”
A Critical Hit!
The flaming jaws slammed down with the glowing shell in between. The explosion was head-on and at its strongest, allowing the force and heat transferring through the shell to hurt. “K-Kle…!”
Then the Fairy Pokémon to leapt back to form a third Fire Fang, the flames smoldering beneath his eyes as he was intent on breaking through Shuckle’s defenses with overwhelming force. He lunged for Shuckle once more—
Shuckle unleashed the stored energy!
—when all that pent-up pain and fury was converted to power and then released in the form of a single mighty blow. Shuckle struck out with his right appendage that was launched once more from his shell like a cannon. And, when the collective power met that of the flames, the Fire Fang lost its cohesion and ruptured directly in Snubbull’s face.
Detonation. From the smoke flew the Fairy Pokémon, a thin plume flowing from his mouth until he hit the ground and tumbled back into the Sticky Web net on the ground. “Bu…bull…”
“Good job, Shuckle,” Lillie said as she crouched down to check on the Mold Pokémon. She gently stroked where he had been bitten as Shuckle held it up. Then, picking him up, she went over to the downed Fairy Pokémon. “It’s over, Snubbull.”
“SNUBBULL!!” Snubbull said in defiance, trying to rise again. He struggled for a tense minute, pulling hard enough that it almost seemed like he would rip himself free… only for his strength to give out and the elasticity to snap him back into place.
Hungry, stuck, and helpless for the second time that day, Snubbull exhaled and finally submitted. “Snub.”
He surrenders, zzt. Rotom translated.
Lillie took that as cue to pull out a second ball that she set into its active state. “Sorry about this in advance.”
Snubbull tensed up, as if preparing for the impact of the ball. But instead she held the ball out and triggered its Return function. In an instant, Snubbull was pulled into it in an energy form and the ball snapped shut without a struggle.
[-A Lily Blossoms in Kanto-]
An hour later and one empty bowl of food, Snubbull was sitting apart from the rest of Lillie’s Pokémon in her room with his arms crossed. Miffed. He hadn’t taken it well that she had already caught him while he was unconscious as a matter of pride.
In order for him to be properly healed as quickly as possible, they needed to use Mister Bill’s portable healing machine. Given the amount of Pokémon he had under his care, it was only natural that he had one. But they all required the Pokémon to be in balls to use, so she put him in a ball to do so.
“Don’t be that way, Snubbull. I would have released you if you had won,” Lillie told him as she crouched next to him. Mind you, it would have been to Miss Melanie’s place or to Route 5, since she promised those Bellsprouts he wouldn’t bother them again. “I wanted it to at least be fair, and to show you that you can’t keep fighting like you would in the wild. After all, Shuckle isn’t nearly as aggressive and he managed to beat you.”
Snubbull let out a dismissive snort. He still didn’t see how he lost to the Mold Pokémon that was currently eating an Oran Berry Purée for dessert.
Shuckle’s species are among the strongest Pokémon in termzzz of defensive strength because of their shells, Rotom explained to clarify that. To make use of this and fend off predators, they have instinctual understanding of the move Bide, which compounds all the damage they receive for a short time period and allows them to return it two-fold, zzt.
“Snub. Snubbull,” mumbled Snubbull as he nodded sagely in understanding. “Snubbull. Snubbull.”
I don’t think you should try rationalizing it as it being only natural that your own attack would do so much damage, zzt.
“What you should take from it is that you’ll have to learn not to be so aggressive, Snubbull,” Lillie told the Fairy Pokémon as she picked him up and looked him in the eyes, her own somewhat disapproving. “Blindly attacking fast and hard might work out in the wild, but that won’t get you too far from now on. We’re going to try working on that, so you can make it all the way to being a Champion Pokémon, okay?”
Snubbull huffed in reluctant acceptance and then pointed to the other side of the room with a questioning noise. “Bull?”
In response to his inquiry about a certain other Pokémon here, the Bellsprout in question raised his head up nerviously. “B-Bell?”
“Bellsprout is coming with us, since he was exiled from his horde only because he pleaded for me to be allowed to take you to end the fighting,” Lillie explained. That and, like Bewear had left Shuckle without his home, Snubbull had left Bellsprout without his horde. The moment she decided to save Snubbull, she was willing to accept the consequences and responsibilities of that. “You two are going to be working together, so let’s all get along from now on.”
Snubbull only snorted and turned away, leaving Lillie to sigh again she set him back down. She didn’t expect them to get along right away given what happened earlier, and the fact that Snubbull wasn’t trying to attack him was better than if he was. But she still wanted them to be friends with one another.
Fortunately, Koko came over to her side after she’d finished eating and then distracted her by pointing a paw to the monitor. “Pix. Pix?”
“You want to watch the battle video again?” Lillie guessed before Rotom chimed in. She got a nod in response. “Sure.”
Snubbull’s ears perked up at that. “Snub?”
“One of my friends is the current Champion of Alola, the region I’m from,” Lillie explained. “The other became strong enough to challenge him, meaning he defeated the Elite Four as well. Their match was a little while ago and showed how they both became the strongest trainers in all of Alola.”
“Vulpix!” Koko bobbed her head and yipped, going on about the match that she’d seen according to Rotom. Snubbull seemed wide-eyed at how vividly she was apparently describing it. When she was done, he jumped up and pointed to the monitor as well.
Lillie set up the video to play on the monitor and occupy the two of them before she went back to Shuckle and Bellsprout. The Mold Pokémon was finishing up his dessert now, running one of his little appendages over his mouth to scoop up anything he missed and then sticking it into his mouth. She gently stroked the length of his head. “You did very well today, Shuckle. I’m proud of you.”
Shuckle accepted it without complaint but compared to Snubbull and Koko he wasn’t as receptive to it. Likely because his interactions with humans was far more limited and he was just naturally relaxed by nature. He would probably prefer to just lounge around and ferment the berries in his shell rather than fight, but he was at least keeping to his part of the deal they made, and Lillie was sure he would warm up more to her in time. The same went for Snubbull as well.
As for Bellsprout, she noticed that a good portion of the food she’d set aside for him was untouched. Like Shuckle, he didn’t exactly have teeth, so soft foods or those he could break down quickly with his acid was best for him. But he didn’t seem to have done so. “Are you not hungry?”
He waved his verdant appendages back and forth to state otherwise, moving the tips to his stem-like body. “Bell. Bellsprout.”
He’s full at the moment, zzt. Rotom chimed in. Bellsprouts don’t have a central stomach, but instead a very long digestive track that connects to their mouthzzz. To make up for the lack of prey at times, they also draw in nutrients from the ground and create energy through their leaves. Since the sun has gone down, he isn’t as active and so he won’t digest it as quickly, zrt.
“Sp-sprout,” the Flower Pokémon nodded in agreement. Then he began tapping the tips of his leaves together. “Be…Bellell, Bellsprout?”
Rotom translated. He’s asking if you’re going to name him now, zzt.
“Do you want me too?” Lillie asked him. She didn’t name Shuckle yet because she was waiting for him to be more comfortable with them, given the circumstances they met under. Though, truth be told, her family rarely nicknamed their Pokémon to begin with—Nebby was an exception, and Koko was her Starter from Professor Burnet.
He brought his leaf to the rim of his bell before nodding slowly. “Bell.”
“Hmm…” Lillie’s brows folded in concentration as she tried to figure out a name for him. For Koko, her species has a legend behind them to use as a basis. And Nebby looked like a small nebula for her to go off of as a small child. So maybe something with a part of his name in it? “How does Bellamy sound?”
“Bellsprout… Bellsprout…” He tilted his drum-like head, one leaf placed on the side as if he was tapping his cheek in thought. Then he bobbed his head. “Bell.”
“I’m glad you like it.” Lillie smiled and then offered him her hand. “I hope we can get along together from now on, Bellamy.”
He extended a leaf in agreement and they shook on it, bringing the long day to a close.
Tiger & Might – Chapter 6: Divergence
“NNNRRRRAAAHH!!” A roar that shook the nearby windows was how Izuku’s day started.
He’d been walking the path he’d taken nearly every day to school when it reached his ears. Something that grabbed his attention and left him taking notice of the full situation far ahead. The direction of the roar was the same as the build-up of traffic and the cacophony honking, cause and effect bundled into one. The roads must’ve been closed further ahead, forcing the cars to be diverted, yet there were piles of people on the sidewalks heading in that direction.
“Excuse me! Sorry! Coming through!” Those words flowed out of Izuku’s mouth like a river as he wove through the swelling crowd. There were few things Izuku could think of that would get this many people to assemble. But the primary reason he suspected was more than enough to draw him in too.
Eyes fixed ahead, he maneuvered around the eel-like tail of one person while reaching into his pocket for his phone. He pulled it out and then squeezed his lean frame past a couple to reach the barrier had been put into place to keep them from going any further. It was there he could see what was happening clearly.
There was someone under the effects of a gigantification quirk smashing the side of overhead train passage, tearing out chunks of concrete and glass and steel in the process of trying to apprehend a smaller figure that flipped agilely out of his reach. The wanton level of destruction left Izuku to assume that he was a villain… well, that and the fact that he recognized the hero facing him.
Dressed in a minimalistic design that was deep shade of blui, reminiscent of shinobi of the past, and a mask, helmet, belt, and near-shoulder length gloves made of wood, Kamui Woods deftly landed on roof of the train station. His movements were quite polished from what Izuku noticed, someone skilled at navigating the air through the use of his quirk in a manner similar to grappling lines. Izuku had been studying to do the same, so he was a great reference point.
And he’d done all that while keeping the villain’s attention on him. He’d constantly placed himself to where, even if the villain lashed out, it would likely be focused in a direction where the debris wouldn’t be hurdled towards the civilians nearby. However, before the damage escalated further, he needed to finish this up soon.
Before that happened, Izuku began recording to with his phone. “Morning, 7:55 AM. A battle between an unknown villain and hero Kamui Woods is underway. His acrobatic motions without signs of nausea or disorientation are in line with previous video clips. It’s likely he has some level of zero-g training to compensate for his fighting style. Also of note, he has used his Quirk to latch onto surfaces even after they’ve left his field of view, likely indicating that he’s able to perceive his surroundings intuitively even if his position changes—”
“What are you, some kind of hero fanboy?” asked a man standing next to him, cutting off his ramble.
“Ah, sorry,” Izuku told the man. “I’m an aspiring hero, so I’m taking notes.”
“Well then, aspiring hero, what do you think’ll happen next?” he asked as Kamui Woods began to announce the villain’s crimes and then ask him to stand down.
“He’ll used his Lacquered Chains Prison technique to stop his movements and bind him.” Izuku pointed to Kamui Wood’s arm that had begun to swell to the point of rattling as the sylvian bindings began to form. “For people with quirks that enlarge their sizes to that extent, they usually need to maintain their focus since it’s not their natural form and the strength of his wood can easily support several thousand pounds, so he’ll be forced to return to his normal size and then be restrained—”
“CANYON CANNON!!” His words died when a large figure came crashing in to deliver a drop kick that caught the unaware villain in the face with an impact hard enough Izuku could feel it. His flew off the train platform, through the wall behind him, and fell down to the other side of the street.
“—or that,” Izuku finished, unable to keep the surprised look off his face at the appearance of new heroine clad in a tight bodysuit that managed to account for her larger size. Then he found himself being crushed by several other men who produced cameras of their own and began snapping photos of the heroine as she introduced herself as Mt. Lady.
He squeezed himself out of the crowd and then he stuck around for a bit longer to see the police arriving and getting restraints onto the villain. Then he noticed the time and realized he would be late if he didn’t hurry. That was unacceptable as things stood. It was his final year in Junior High after all.
So he raced all the way to Aldera to get Homeroom in time, coming to a sliding stop through the doorway and fixing his gaze up at the clock to see that he made it just in time. Good. Breathing a sigh of relief as he took his seat near the back, he then pulled out one his notebooks to add the new entry to it as the teacher spoke.
“…You’re all at the point where you should be thinking about what you want to do with your lives…”
Mt. Lady—Gigantification Quirk. A New Heroine. Quirk strong but useless in narrow spaces if no intermediate stage or forced into confrontation on surface that can’t support her weight. A bit reckless…
He erased that last part over the cheering of his classmates as the teacher brought up how everyone wanted to be a hero when he considered how she had kicked the villain through the side of the train passage and onto the road below that had been kept evacuated. It was true that it was a bit excessive in terms of property damage, especially when Kamui Woods was able to capture him without it. And, if that hit hadn’t been enough to knock him out, two people with Gigantification Quirks fighting could cause some real damage to their surroundings.
But, if she had gone through hero training and had an agency employing her, then she had to know that specific kind of quirk was difficult to use as a hero. She was stronger and larger in that state, but her weight and size increase meant that she absolutely couldn’t operate in closed spaces without damaging the buildings and the people within it. That was way it was among the flashiest when used by a villain in combat.
“…I’m the real deal. These losers will be lucky enough to end up as a side-kick to some busted D-Lister. Heh!”
D-Lister… of course. Bakugo’s words clicked with Izuku, a missing link in a chain he hadn’t considered as his former friend went on about being more popular than All Might. Most likely it was all calculated to ensure that she gained the most amount of attention for her debut. In fact, given her size, the fact that no one heard her footsteps meant she had likely been waiting for an opportunity while Kamui Woods was acting as a distraction.
He had thought that the age of heroes undercutting one another for the sake of getting ahead had died during Mister Kaburagi’s time, given the chaos that followed before the new age settled in. But, when he thought about it, that was exactly what she did. By undercutting Kamui Woods the moment that she was in the right position, she got around the difficulties of her quirk while getting the most benefits for the least amount of work. Not to mention her outfit and mannerisms could grab a lot of attention for the sake of merchandising.
Izuku wasn’t sure how he felt about that as he finished entering that into his journal. He wanted to be a hero like All Might, who brought comfort to people with a smile and saved them. The thought of doing so for money never really crossed his mind, but not everyone had that same mindset and heroes had to make a living as well. Then again, I may just be making assumptions—
“Midoriya.” His head snapped up at hearing his named being called. “You wanted to go to U.A. High School too, right?”
“That’s right,” he said, closing his notebook. He would get back to it after class. “The Hero Track, specifically. I figured there wasn’t any harm in applying for the chance to go and they repealed that rule against needing a quirk, so it’d establish a precedence.”
His admission was met with laughter by most of the class. The exception was Bakugo, who took offense to that instead. He leapt out of his seat to slam his hand on Izuku’s desk.
“You think you can get into the same school as me!” he said, insulted. “You’re even worse than the rest of these losers, you quirkless wannabe! You’d die during the exams like the helpless lamb you are!”
“I don’t think they’d actually let students die during the exams, but I still want to at least say that I tried so that I don’t have any regrets,” Izuku said in turn, meeting his gaze. “There’s no shame in that.”
“Now, now. Settle down,” the teacher said before anything could happen as the two began to leer at one another, neither backing down. “Midoriya, I would suggest applying for the General Education track. It’s more realistic given your circumstances and grades.”
“…I’ll consider it,” Izuku told the teacher as Bakugo gave him a final, dismissive glare before going back to his seat. If only to move things along before they escalated.
The rest of Izuku’s day at school was marred by that morning. The laughter gnawed at him on the inside even as the hours passed to some extent, even if he didn’t show it. No one liked having their dream laughed at, much less because he was born lacking something that they had.
For that reason, he wasn’t exactly eager to stick around when class was over. The only reason he didn’t run out the door was because his phone abruptly began to vibrate, indicating that he had a text. He pulled out his phone and checked to see that it was Mei.
[-I put the finishing touches on my new baby! I need you to try it on, so I’ll be coming over to your house today, Partner!-]
Oh, she’s already managed to finish. He shouldn’t be surprised. Since she was going to try for U.A. High School’s Support Department this year, it was natural that she would put in as much effort as possible. It was only fair that he’d help her with it, so he sent a message back stating he’d be on the way when Bakugo made himself known by plucking for his notebook right out from underneath him. “Give that back, Katsuki!”
“Hero Analysis Journal #13. Looks like you didn’t learn from the last time.” He looked at it, then out the window. Then he placed it between his palms and then let loose his quirk, a localized explosion tearing through it before he flicked over the balcony and into the koi pond with perfect accuracy. “You—”
Izuku didn’t bother listening to whatever he had to say, instead going for the door to get down to it. The longer he waited the more time the water had to soak into the notebook. Unfortunately, by the time he’d gotten there the water had soaked the pages enough that they sloughed in his hand as Izuku made for the school’s gate, where Bakugo stood with the other two he hung around with.
“Are you going to go crying to your Mommy this time too?” he asked, mockingly.
Izuku’s response was to meet his eyes and say, “You’ll never be a Hero with an attitude like this.”
Bakugo’s response was swift. He grabbed Izuku by the collar with one hand, and then brought their faces close enough that he could smell the nitroglycerin. “Say that again. I dare you.”
Izuku looked over Bakugo’s shoulder to the two hang-ons watching with grins. Then he sighed and said in a strained voice, “Let me go, Katsuki.”
“That’s what I thought.” He dropped Izuku like a garbage bag on the curve. “You talk big, but a coward like you freezes up the moment you get in over your head and all that bravado goes with it. Weaklings and cowards like you are the ones who will never be heroes.”
Izuku got to his feet and dusted himself off before turning and walking away. Because, whether he liked it or not, he knew Bakugo well enough to guess how he’d respond to overt resistance. His pride would end up costing not only him, but their mothers more than a notebook’s worth of damage.
“Listen here, you’d better not bother applying to U.A. at all!” Bakugo said as he kept walking away. “I don’t care if it’s the General Track or not. After this year is done, I don’t want to see your face ever again. And you’d better keep your mouth shut about today, or else!”
One of these days he’ll learn the world doesn’t revolve around him, Izuku thought to himself as he walked while looking down at the ruined notebook. More proof that the Kacchan he knew was long gone.
Bakugo was blessed with a Quirk that was great for offense and was enamored with All Might’s power and prowess, so he failed to see being a hero was more than that. Heroes had to be role models and save the weak. Not use them as the foundation for the pedestal he stood on.
Not that Izuku wasn’t to blame as well. If he’d said something earlier, then maybe things wouldn’t have gotten that far, and their parents wouldn’t have gotten involved. Maybe they both would have been able to salvage what friendship they’d had before, but…
No. Last year made it clear that wasn’t going to happen. Bakugo’s dream came first and anyone who opposed that was an enemy or an irritant. He’d just gone from the latter to the former since then and only the threat of losing his chances at U.A. High School stopped him from going further when Izuku didn’t directly challenge him.
Lost in thought, Izuku only came out of it when he heard a slippery, goopy sound coming from behind him and a rancid scent reached his nose. He turned to find there was now a wall of slime behind him, a stemming from the openings in a manhole cover. Then he met the eyes of the one who it belonged to, staring down at him.
“What luck,” it said, despite lacking a mouth. Sapient. A mutant-type quirk. “You’ll make a perfect skinsuit for me to hide in, kid!”
That last line Izuku’s mind caught and registered the underlying threat, but his body wouldn’t move. Fear had nailed down his feet to the asphalt as he tried to reason out why and how a villain was attacking him here and now, of all times. Unfortunately, fight or flight only kicked in when it lunged for him, and he made the biggest mistake he could by turning his back on the villain.
All at once he was buried in the sludge that was viscous enough that he couldn’t escape. He could only hold his breath as the villain then tried to force itself into his mouth and nose. Thee rancid and sewer-tainted mass squirmed to get inside of the orifices and smother him from the inside out.
I have to get out of here! Izuku wriggled to try and get himself free, grasping with his free hand to try and pull it off. But, being a mutant-type quirk able to control the viscosity of itself, Izuku’s fingers couldn’t pull it away from sticking to him and he couldn’t get leverage while he was hoisted off the ground. If I could reach my backpack, then maybe…
“Don’t make this harder than it needs to be,” the mass of sludge vibrated to imitate speech as the force bearing down on him grew tighter. It was compacted tighter, crushing the middle-schooler in its grasp to try. “Open wide and it’ll be over!”
Somebody… help… were Izuku’s final thoughts as the villain went on about someone being here before his mouth opened involuntarily when the squeeze became too much. The goop plunged its way into his throat while he flailed about, worming itself down his esophagus. “Khgnngghhh!?”
“There we go.” The sludge tainted his mouth with a nauseating, torrid goop that made its way into his lungs. “It’ll be a bit of a tight squeeze, but—”
The mass of sludge froze in place as the sound of metal hitting the ceiling of the underpass rang out. Even the sludge that had been squirming its way down his narrow windpipe stalled as a presence made itself known with familiar words that reverberated even as Izuku’s consciousness flittered on the edge of darkness. “Have no fear. You are safe, now that I am here!”
“H-Hey!” the slimy mass vibrated. “I’ve got a hostage, so—”
There was a great force of pressure and wind that followed. Ripping away the mass that kept him bound its in disgusting and torrid embrace. His tear-stained eyes strained against the great force to see the silhouette of a figure he recognized. Ah… is that…All Might…
Though his body was weak, and his consciousness was fleeting, the thought of the hero of his childhood being right in front of him was enough to move it involuntarily. His hand reached out as thought to grab that of his hero. Like he’d done for those people and with a smile on his face, All Might had had come to save him…
“You talk big, but a coward like you freezes up the moment you get in over your head and all that bravado goes with it. Weaklings and cowards like you are the ones who will never be heroes.”
Yet, he could only feel a sense of shame when his thoughts trailed to that. He’d been training to be a hero for almost two years now. And yet, he froze up in the end. How could he save others when he couldn’t even save himself?
He felt the hot streak of tears running down the side of his face as he then he lost consciousness…
Inko Midoriya had tears in her eyes as she hugged her son, sitting in a hospital bed. When Izuku woke up again, he was already in the hospital. There was mask was fixed over his face, an intravenous drop to his arm, and a heart monitor measuring his vitals.
They were all done out of precaution, according to what the doctor told her when she arrived. Apparently, the police had an ambulance bring him there after he was dropped off by All Might when he delivered the villain to the police. Given the nature of the villain’s quirk and the fact that he’d traveled through a sewer, they were taking precautions. So, on top of the medicine, they were set to do a bronchoalveolar lavage later on to detect any life-threatening bacteria that needed to be treated.
Izuku just stared at the ceiling while deep in thought, listening to his mother talk with monitor’s beeping as background noise. He felt tired, but he didn’t dare close his eyes since if he did he would recall the pressing, vicious hold and how he struggled to no avail. Waking up to his mother hugging him had nearly left him on the verge of tearing out the intravenous drip until he recognized her voice, so he was afraid to let that happen again.
A little while ago, a police detective named Tsukauchi came by and told them that the Sludge Villain who had attempted to… to kill him, in order to use his body, would be processed to the fullest extent of the law. He didn’t say it outright while his mother was there and already looking like she was on the verge of having a panic attack, but Izuku knew there had to have been others who that had happened to. There were some things you could only do if you had experience with, and the villain was too methodical and deliberate in his actions, immediately trying to smother him and confident he could use his body to escape.
Some mutant-type quirks provided malformations that made them difficult to deal with. By virtue of the composition of the villain’s body, there was no way Izuku would have be able to escape him under his own power. If he had his grappling watch on, then he could have pulled himself free, but it was in his backpack at the time and so there was nothing he could’ve done.
He could accept that he’d been caught off-guard and thus rendered helpless. But what he couldn’t accept was that he froze up right before the attack. That Bakugo had been right. That he froze up in fear and it left him helpless, unable to do anything, until All Might had arrived.
If the positions had been reversed, if he’d frozen up like that when he was the one who was supposed to be the hero, then someone would have died. That thought hurt more than anything else. Despite everything he’d been working towards, despite all the knowledge he’d gained, despite all the effort and time others had given him, he froze up and made everything they’d done meaningless in the end.
A shuddering breath left his mouth and he felt tears prickling the corners of his eyes when there was a light knock on the door. “Pardon me, but is this Izuku Midoriya’s room?”
“It is.” Inko stated.
“Ah, good…” The door opened to reveal a rather thin man with sunken eyes, blond hair, and angular features on his face. He wore a shirt that seemed to hang off his frame loosely and was carrying an arrangement of flowers. “These are for the young Midoriya.”
Inko accepted them on Izuku’s behalf since he was still in bed. “Thank you very much. But who sent them?”
“They’re part of our condolences and reparations for this incident.” He reached into his pocket and then pulled free a business card that he extended to her with both hands. “My name is Toshinori Yagi. I’m part of The Might’s Productions Second Secretarial Office in the Roppongi district of the Minato Ward, which handles All Might’s personal affairs.”
“Really?” She looked at the card incredulously, unable to fathom a hero like All Might would be involved.
Toshinori nodded. “Yes. Given the nature of the incident, he felt that he should extend his apology for the circumstances in which the young man here was targeted. To that end, we will cover any expenses related to the hospitalization and provide whatever is needed to ensure that he recovers.”
“Oh, that’s wonderful,” Inko said. “Izuku’s been a big fan of All Might since he was a little boy. He’s watched the video of his first appearance so many times he has it memorized, and he even decided to attend U.A. in hopes of being a hero like him. I’m sure knowing that he cares even now will help Izuku get right back on his feet.”
The man smiled slightly. “Well, he can’t be here personally due to other affairs right now. However, it might be possible to arrange a visit before his hospitalization—”
“…Please don’t,” Izuku said, looking down at his hands. He couldn’t bear the thought of his hero seeing him in this state, after failing to even keep to up with the dream he’d sought to fulfill. “I don’t have the right to face All Might right now. Or claim to try and be a hero after I froze up like that.”
“Izuku…” His mother’s lips pulled down into a sad frown before she tried to smile. “It’s okay. You didn’t have any way of knowing that you’d be in trouble. It was just bad luck.”
“But I always told myself I would be able to do something when the time came if I was going to be a hero,” Izuku said, curling his hands into fists. “Yet, I froze up the moment I was in danger. What kind of hero would do that?”
“…In this age of peace, people don’t expect to be attacked because of the security that the heroes provide,” Mister Yagi said, drawing their attention to him. “Every hero strives for that feeling of security, so that people can live without fear in their day-to-day lives. So they condition themselves and gain the mindset required to be able to act in a crisis through practical experience. The fact that you experienced such a thing today is a failure on our part, and for that you have my apology, young man.”
“Ah… that’s…” His mind froze and his eyes widened as a realization washed over him while those words resonated within him. “I see… I see now…”
“Izuku…” He looked to his mother, staring at him with those eyes of worry that weighed on his heart. “Are you okay? You got quiet.”
“I’m fine, Mom.” He put on a smile for her and then turned to Mister Yagi. “Thank you, Yagi-san. Those words, they put me at ease and helped me realize something I wouldn’t have before. Thank you.”
“Is that so…” He lightly coughed into his hand. “Ah, forgive me. I should be going, but if you need anything, feel free to call that number.”
“We will,” Inko said. “Thank you very much, Yagi-san.”
As he left, Izuku’s revelation was complete. Knowledge and training wasn’t enough without the mindset to put it to use. The mindset could only be obtained by practical experience. Practical experience could only be obtained by acting. It was like that time when he first jumped off a building with Mei’s equipment. The fear of death and terror that came with it lessened the moment after he’d taken that first jump.
This had been a lesson. He couldn’t truly understand the depths of helplessness that came from being the victim of a villain, or the abruptness at which one’s life could be so easily interrupted and cruelly shortened. He couldn’t even fathom the thought that he would be attacked before he obtained his Hero License or attended U.A.
He’d been fooling himself and thinking that he was getting closer to his goal, applauding himself when he was still only at the starting line. But it was now all clear on how naïve he’d been because of this cruel lesson that nearly cost him his life. It was the price he had to pay for that hubris, but now he had learned from it.
All of the things he was lacking could be gained through practical experience. But he couldn’t wait until he was going to enter into U.A. High School to get it. After all, villains could attack at any time and if it happened again when someone else was next to him, they would suffer for his weakness of heart and lack of preparation.
Toshinori Yagi left the mother and son to their business with a frown on his face. He had been too slow to catch that villain, allowing him to escape long enough to find a youngster to use as a hostage. His time had nearly run out in the process, meaning that if he had been a few seconds late that mother would be left to grieve the young life that had been snuffed out.
He had seen eyes like Midoriya’s before. Of people who became victims and were shaken because of it. As the Symbol of Peace that opposed Ouroboros and the one behind the organization, he wore a smile as he fought so that people would feel reassured and safe.
But the fact that the boy felt ashamed of his own weakness and dream of being a hero to where he didn’t want to meet someone he considered his idol weighed on Toshinori’s shoulders heavily. Because if he was in his prime it wouldn’t have happened. He would’ve caught that villain before he managed to get into the sewer to begin with if not for his injuries.
He couldn’t delay what he had come to this city to do any longer.
He had to find his successor.
My Fanfics :
Fanfics that I have found interesting and have recently been updated:
A Pokemon Fanfic
Summary: Time travel, based on the Anime. So, the world ended. That’s bad news. Who best to get to fix it? Well, there is this guy with a track record in world saving… Not entirely serious. T rating may be overdoing it.
A Certain Magical Index Fanfiction
Summary: AU, sequel to In Memoriam. “No more secrets.” The Level Plus incident has ended, but rumors abound of battles between Accelerator, the most powerful esper in Academy City, and a mysterious female opponent wearing military AR glasses. What is the black project known only as RADIO NOISE, and what does it have to do with Mikoto?
Path of the King 43
A FSN Fanfic
Summary: “With swords that aren’t yours, with skills that aren’t yours, for dreams that aren’t yours. Your entire existence is a lie!” – “Then I’ll show you that even fake dreams can become reality.” A different choice, a different path, a different FATE. Shirou/Multi.
A FSN/ Love Hina Fanfic
Summary: He promised to be a Hero capable of saving everyone. But before that he made other promises he can’t remember under a different name. How will Shirou react when he finds his lost past? – Shirou/Multi Mature Contents.
A Young Justice Fanfic
Summary: An SI with an Orange Ring ends up in the Young Justice Universe and seeks to advance humanity through advance technology and magic.