Lost Uzumaki – Part 4: Integration

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Sake Shenanigans

Shanks stared at the rows of sake bottles and frowned. He reached up and scratched his chin as he counted and stared. Did I drink more then I remember? He wondered idly. It wouldn’t be the first time it had happened, after all, but somehow he didn’t feel that was the right answer. Benn never raids my stash…. He prefers the wine anyways. Yasopp knows better and always complains that he’d rather have rum. He considered the bottles and then sighed. Well, they would simply have to call in an order and make their way to the pickup sooner than anticipated. Then he paused as his eyes drifted back over the bottles again and he reconsidered.  Could it be…? He wouldn’t, would he? Why would he? He hummed in thought. The blonde teenager had gone back home that morning, something about visiting a woman he called Baa-chan again. Maybe the teen had raided his sake stash after all…

He smirked. Well, if the teen wanted to raid the spoils he would have to help retrieve them. He turned and exited the store room, heading up to the navigation room. His smirk only grew as the crew glanced at him warily while he passed, a few edging carefully sideways out of his way as he approached the door. He pushed it open with a bang. “Benn! Call in a Sake order!”

Benn frowned, “Didn’t we just restock before the run-in with Kaido?”

Shanks pouted. “Someone raided my stock… or had a party without telling me.”

Benn blinked and then sighed. “I’ll call it in. It will be out of our way to restock there again so soon, though. Are you sure we can make the detour?”

Shanks smirk twisted into a grin, “Oh we won’t need to detour; I have the perfect delivery boy in mind.”

Benn arched an eyebrow and then chuckled. “As you wish, Captain.”


Blonde hair peeked out from a hatch followed shortly by the largely orange clad teenager. He looked around himself before his attention was drawn to the sound of his name from down the corridor.

“Ah Naruto, welcome back!” A crewman called out warmly. “The Captain wanted to see you as soon as you arrived. He should be up on deck or in Navigation with Beckman.”

“Thanks, I’ll go find him.” Naruto answered and winced slightly as he rolled his arm carefully.

Others called out greetings, some stopping part way through as they got a look at the blonde as he passed, casually waving at them, but offering no explanation to the staring crewmen as worried whispers spread.

Not spotting his Uncle on the deck, he headed up toward the Navigation room and opened the door before entering. “Shanks-oji, I’m back.” He called as he entered.

“Naruto, come have a seat!” The familiar voice from within answered, then silence filled the room.

Shanks stared at his nephew and slowly rose to his feet as he approached the teen studying him carefully from head to toe and taking note of every visible bruise, cut, tear, and scrape. “Naruto…” he whispered, “what the hell happened?”

The teen grunted and winced as another bruise made itself known. “Sakura,” He finally answered.

“Your girl—”

A dark stony blue stare cut off his words.

“I mean— teammate?”

The blonde teen nodded.

Shanks frowned and then hummed in thought. “Does this have anything to do with you raiding my sake?” He asked.

Blue eyes looked up in surprise. “Uhhh….”

Shanks chuckled. “I’ll take that as a yes. Well, have a seat and at least tell me it was worth it?”

The teen seemed to deflate as he sat down carefully. “It wasn’t for me, but for Baa-chan.”

“Which equals you getting beat up how?” Shanks asked as he sat, resting his elbow on the table and leaned his head on his hand, watching his nephew.

The teen’s mood dropped further. “Baa-chan… she….” He sighed. “I told you about her gambling and drinking habits before, but I never really explained who she is. Senju Tsunade, one of the Legendary Sanin and wielder of the Slug Clan Summoning Contract, granddaughter of the Shodaime Hokage. She is known as a master med-nin, and Sakura’s sensei. She made a bet with me when I was twelve years old, and lost, which then led to her becoming the Godaime Hokage though she’s passed the Hokage title on to the Rokudaime. She’s like the Grandmother I never had and even though she hates it when I call her Baa-chan… she’s family.”

Shanks had straightened and paid closer attention as the story started, sensing that there was something more to this than just a story about people he was close to.

“She led the surgery team that worked on Ace.” The blonde said slowly, his gaze going distant. “It lasted hours and hours…Ace’s Devil Fruit ability added complications every time they thought they might have him stabilized. Then… well it was over… and… she… she just… collapsed.” He said nothing more for several long moments then opened his mouth to speak again. “Sakura barely caught her, and she and Shizune went straight back into surgery, except Baa-chan was the patient this time.”

“She is okay?” Shanks asked cautiously when the teen said nothing more for several long moments,

Naruto blinked, but then nodded. “Sakura explained to me afterwards that she completely drained her chakra reserves and had started to draw on her very life force.  The surgery to save Ace… nearly killed her.” The blonde sniffled suddenly and quickly scrubbed the back of his hand across his face. “She woke up before I came back to deliver the body, and she promised she’d be okay, but… she won’t be able to ever heal like that again.”

Shanks reached out to clasp his nephew’s hand and smiled sadly. “Thank you, Naruto, for trying to save Ace, and I’m sorry it put your Grandmother at risk.”

The blonde nodded but then smiled, “She’s stubborn; even if Sakura-chan and Shizune-nee try to stop her, I’m sure she’ll still find a way to help at the hospital.”

Shanks chuckled then. “Sounds like family all right.”

Naruto smirked, “Yeah.”

Shanks raised an eyebrow, “So, what did this have to do with my sake?”

Naruto blinked and then laughed lightly, “Shizune-nee and Sakura-chan cut her off. She asked me to bring her some so I thought she might like to try some of your stash.”

Shanks began chuckling then, “and your Sakura-chan found out you gave it to her.”

Naruto shrugged but grinned before wincing as this stretched the bruised skin around his left eye.

“Some ninja you are, not even able to slip your old Baa-chan sake without getting caught.” Shanks teased.

Naruto glared. “You don’t know Baa-chan, or Sakura-chan. Just wait until you meet them Mister Badass Pirate Captain, then tell me that again.”

Shanks chuckled: his nephew was so prickly when it came to these topics.

At that moment Yasopp entered the room and ruffled Naruto’s hair as he plopped down on the bench beside the teen. “Just got off the Den Den with old Daniels, he says he has your order ready.”

Shanks perked up and grinned, “Jack always was good for filling our needs on short notice.”

Yasopp chuckled, “He also said the Island would gladly accept your offer, but he was a bit concerned about other crews making raids before you could finalize the deal.”

Shanks eyed his nephew speculatively. “Hmm; how long do you think it will take you to heal up a bit, Naruto?”

Naruto looked between the two and frowned, “Is there going to be a fight?”

Yasopp chuckled again, and Shanks grinned before answering, “Maybe, maybe not, but I can’t send you out to represent me looking like you just got spit out by a Sea King.”

Naruto blinked in surprise, “You want me to represent you?”

“Well, and pick up a rather large order of sake to help restock what you pilfered.” The redhead answered, grinning shrewdly.

Naruto flushed and mumbled an apology as Yasopp guffawed at his side. The teen shot the older blonde a dirty look before meeting his Uncle’s gaze once more. “What does representing you have to do with running errands?”

“You remember that island we picked up that big load of sake at?” Yasopp asked, still amused.

Naruto frowned but then exclaimed, “Ah! Where we met that lion-faced guy who was with some Big Mom?”

Shanks chuckled, “That’s right. They were under Whitebeards protection; now they are fair game to any pirate crew that lands there. I’ve offered to make that island one of my territories.” He explained.

“The catch,” Yasopp cut in, “is that the island needs the Captain’s Jolly Roger to put on display as proof, and we are weeks away.”

Naruto glanced between the two, “Well that’s easy enough: you know I left a marker at that island, Yasopp…” he drifted off as the dots connected and he stared hard at his Uncle. “So I’ve been demoted from nephew to errand boy?”

Shanks snickered, “I don’t see why they have to be separate things.”

Naruto glared.

After a few more chuckles, Shanks sighed, “The sooner the Red-Haired Jolly Roger is on display on the island, the safer the people living there are. Consider it a mission, if you must.”

Naruto brightened at that. “Well in that case…” He closed his eyes as his focus seemed to shift inward.

Shanks and Yasopp stared as golden energy flicked out around the blonde teen causing bruises and cuts to fade from sight.  Yasopp let out a low whistle, “Kid, you have more tricks then any trickster I’ve ever met.”

Naruto grinned and shrugged nonchalantly.

Shanks smiled, “Good. Go see Benn for the order payment and the flags to deliver to Jack – that’s the bar owner. If you run into any other pirate crews, feel free to make it clear just who the island now belongs to.”

Yasopp and Shanks watched as the blonde rose to his feet and quickly exited the room.

Yasopp leaned closer to his captain, “Are you sure that was a good idea? He could pick a fight with someone that’s not what we’d necessarily call a pushover.”

Shanks stared at his sniper and frowned. “Yasopp, I’m disappointed! You think a kid who can block a direct punch from Akainu without giving an inch can’t handle himself on such a trip?”

Yasopp blinked, “Marco really did say he did that, didn’t he?”

“And he kept up with Mihawk.” Shanks added.

“All right, all right, so unleashing the kid on unsuspecting foolish pirates might be overkill.” Yasopp said with a tone of sudden revelation.

Shanks grinned mischievously.  “Now you get the idea.”

A Pirate’s Pride

So, you’ve been reduced to errand-boy now?

Naruto stumbled and then quickly caught himself before apologizing to the woman he had practically collided with. He quickly slipped down a side alley and then grinned. The sleeping fuzz-ball is awake so soon? A snort and growl followed his comment causing his grin to spread further. I didn’t think you’d be awake again for at least a day.

With all your jumping between worlds, I’ve had no choice but to adjust to the ripping and deluge of sensations that occur every time you cross back into this world of seas. The Fox responded.

Naruto nodded. Yeah, the natural energy of this world is something else. I’m glad to hear you are adjusting though.

Yes, you would rather not have me spewing acidic chakra all over in your system again.

Naruto flinched at the mental imagery. The first time he had checked on Kurama after making a jump… the chamber that usually represented the seal had been in a very sorry state. Thankfully, this had only happened once, and Kurama had preferred to just sleep off the effects of ‘world-jumping’ as he called it. This was the fastest he had come awake after a jump, though. Then he recalled his partner’s words. Hey, I’m not just an errand-boy! Benn was very specific about how important it was that the brewery and ports of this island all get Shanks-oji’s Jolly Roger on display.

If an eye-roll could be translated into a sound or simple feeling; that was the only further response Naruto got from his fur-covered friend.


Jack had been running his bar in the port town of Kome Shion Kome Izumi no Shima for many years: since before Gol D. Roger had been declared Pirate King. He intended to keep running his bar for a good many more, or at least until a new Pirate King was crowned. He suspected things would either get boring, or down right unbearable after that. What this really meant, however, was that he had met a lot of pirates in his years serving sake, wine, and other forms of alcohol. He even liked to supply for those pirates he judged of good character. This did not extend to the current gathering of unwashed, stupid, and ugly pirate posers that were now sprawled over benches, tables, and the bar after drinking his lowest grade (practically piss water) booze all afternoon.

The rabble had even had the gall to talk about taking over the island and claiming it as their own territory now that Whitebeard was gone. He had nearly laughed aloud at the audacity of it. If this lot tried to take the brewery, the Island Militia itself would pull them apart in seconds. After all, it was largely made up of former Whitebeard Pirates looking to settle down, or families of the crew. He was glad the Island Militia and Council had come to the decision they had regarding Red-Hair’s proposal. Otherwise, it was only a matter of time before the Marines found out about the former pirates and their families who sheltered here. He hoped the representative that Beckman had promised would arrive sooner rather than later.

“O-san! I came to pick up Oji-chan’s sake order!” A bright voice called out, shortly followed by equally bright blue eyes and blonde hair.

Jack grinned. “Ah, Naruto-kun, he has you running his errands again?”

The teen strolled through the bar with a casual shrug and an easy smile. “Saves time this way; oh, and I had some questions I wanted to ask.”

Jack raised an eyebrow and gestured for the teen to take a seat.

At that moment, one of the unsavory lot currently occupying the bar took notice and snarled. “Since when do you take orders, Daniels?! You told us you can’t keep the stock on hand for supply orders!”

Jack frowned and straightened. “Your Captain can’t afford the supply costs.” He finally answered, and it was true. The prices he would charge this lot were designed in just such a way as to dissuade them from making this a regular supply post.

“And this kid’s uncle can?” The drunken man snapped waspishly.

“Oi!” Naruto said in complaint, but was ignored.

“You’ve been holding out on us, Daniels, that’s going to cost you.” By this time the rest of the crew had taken note and all rose to their feet in one lumbering wave with snickering grins spreading their lips.

The Captain of the crew stepped forward, “Not a good idea to piss off those you look to for protection, Daniels.”

Naruto scratched his head in confusion and then turned to the old bar keeper. “Hey, O-san, aren’t you guys declaring this island as one of Oji-san’s?”

The bar keeper chuckled. “That’s right, Naruto, we have only been waiting on your uncle’s representative to make it official.”

“Oh, I see.” Naruto said with a bright grin. “Guess that’s me, huh?”

The older bar keeper returned the grin. “That’s right.”

“Quit joking around! No self-respecting pirate would send this kid!” The Captain snarled.

“What, did you… just… say?” Naruto asked slowly, a sharp edge clear in his voice.

The complete change in tone caught the disgruntled pirates’ attention as they turned to look at the blonde teen once more. His head was tilted forward causing his blonde hair to fall over the metal plate on his forehead and cast his eyes in shadow. Blue orbs gleamed from within the shadow and stared intently at the pirates.

The Captain sneered, “I said, your so-called uncle is a pathetic excuse for a pirate.”

The blonde raised his head once more, revealing slightly-slitted pupils and a snarl across his lips. “You can call me names all you like, but no one insults my family.”  A roll of fabric was tossed to the bar keeper. “O-san, make sure that gets put properly on display. Mind if I make use of the back yard?”

Jack smirked as he caught the rolled flag, “I’ll see to it right away, and the yard is yours.”

“Thanks, O-san.”

The gathered pirates, by this point, were gripping weapons and flexing in anticipation of the coming beating.

“You guys want to head out back, or do I have to toss you out there myself?” Naruto asked his voice still steady and unwavering.

The Captain sneered, “Lead the way, brat, we are going to enjoy this.”

The bar keeper watched with a small upturned corner of his lips as the teen led the group out the door behind his bar but choose not to follow them. Instead, he turned to pull an object out from underneath the counter. He glanced up at the sound of shuffling paper and noticed one of the pirate group remained at the bar shuffling through papers.

“Not going to join your crew?” Jack asked, curious.

The man glanced up briefly, scowling. “Unlike those lazy bastards, I have work to do.” He continued to shuffle through his stack of papers, “and there is something bothering me about that kid…”

Jack chuckled. “He has that effect on people. They can’t seem to help but notice him.”

The man snorted then glanced toward the doorway as the sudden sounds of a fight in full melee filtered in. He turned his attention back to the strange bar keeper who was now carefully taking down an old-looking plaque bearing the Whitebeard Pirates’ Jolly Roger. “Taking down your old patron’s mark so easily? I had thought you’d put up more resistance. The Captain will be pleased to see you have changed your mind.”

Jack smiled as he glanced back, “Oh I’m not giving in to your Captain’s request. Another old patron left me a plaque to replace this one with years ago. At the time I had to apologize that I would not be able to put it up, but the time has finally come that I can.”

The pirate rolled his eyes and flipped back to his papers before looking towards the back doorway once more at the sound of several thuds hitting the back of the building. “Not even a little worried about your blonde friend?”

Jack only carefully fitted the new plaque up without turning and answered, “Aren’t you even a little worried for your Captain and crew?”

The pirate chuckled and looked towards his papers once more, “Why should I worry about… Shit.”

Jack turned around with a grin, the new plaque with its Jolly Roger of a skull over two crossed swords and three reds slashes across the left eye socket now hung in place. “Ah, found the kid’s bounty poster finally? The new one is something.”

The pirate looked up at the bar keeper, his eyes wide as his gaze traveled to the plaque and then back down to the poster now clutched in his hands. He scrambled to his feet, bar stool clattering to the ground in his haste. He rushed toward the door only to skid to a stop as he nearly crashed into the blonde teen as he came back in.

“Careful there, almost ran into you.” Naruto said cheerfully before his attention was then caught by the paper clutched in the man’s hands. “Whoa! Is that—!? Can I see?!”

The man gulped, handed the piece of paper over slowly, and quickly took several steps backwards until he was against the wall.

Naruto ignored him, though, as he bounced over to the bar-counter, a huge grin on his face. “This is awesome! I wonder if Shanks-oji has seen it yet. Hey O-san, have you seen the new poster?”

Jack smiled, “Ah they just came out with this morning’s news. Just what sort of mischief have you been up to?”

The teen scratched the back of his head and chuckled. “Oh, a bit of this and that; nothing special, really.”

The bar keeper raised a brow and shook his head. “Between you and that Straw-hat kid, the Marines must be pulling their hair out.”

Naruto leaned forward excitedly. “There’s been news about Luffy!?”

The bar keeper shook his head and pulled a paper out from below the counter to lay out for the teen to see. “New posters were in today’s newspaper, the kid made another visit to the battle site and made a spectacle of himself. The company he had with him is rather intriguing as well.”

Naruto stared down at the paper and grinned, “We saw the news about his reappearance at Marineford, but Shanks-oji will be happy to hear about the bounty poster.”

The bar keeper smiled at that; he had thought the straw-hat the kid wore was familiar.

“Can I keep this and the posters?” Naruto asked.


A whimper from the doorway drew their attention as the man who had been left forgotten looked out the door into the backyard.

“Oh yeah, you’ll want your militia to pick them up to collect the bounties.” Naruto suggested with a snicker. “They are all gift-wrapped and ready.”

“Very kind of you.” Jack replied as he chuckled at the other man’s stricken expression.  “If you choose to make trouble, you will join your friends out back.”

The man gulped and then, while glancing nervously at the blond teen he quickly edged his way out of the bar and disappeared from sight.

“He’s not going to be a problem for you later?” Naruto asked, frowning slightly.

Jack scoffed, “He’s a small fry. We can handle it here on the island.”

Naruto grinned then bounced a bit on his feet in building excitement. “O-san, do you have any ramen places on the island?”

Jack raised an eyebrow but mentally shrugged, “There is a good place down in the port. It’s right near the port side market.”

“Great!” The teen cheered. “One other question, are there any publishers on this island?”

The bar keeper blinked in surprise. “Publishers?”

The teen grinned widely, his eyes sparkling. “I want to get a popular series from back home published here.”


There was a bright gold flash and then the familiar voice of the Captain’s nephew rang out across the ship. “Shanks-oji! Benn!”

Both of the older man stepped out from the navigation room, “Naruto, what is it? Did something happen?”

The blonde teen rushed across the deck, papers clutched tightly in a waving hand. “I’ve got a new bounty!”

Shanks mouth spread wide in a grin as he laughed and Benn smirked at his side. “It’s about time!” The Red-Haired Pirate stated with a grin while waiting for his nephew to deliver the papers. “What’s it say?!”

Benn plucked the papers from the eager teen and turned his back to his Captain to keep the Red-haired man from snatching them away as he began to read aloud. “Wanted, Dead or Alive, Uzumaki Naruto, the Orange Ninja; Four hundred and sixty-five million Berries.”

There was a chorus of loud whistles and cheers as soon as the value was read aloud.

Shanks smirked and reached out to ruffle Naruto’s hair. “Not bad, kid. Not bad at all.”

Shadow and Memory

Small fists pumped as short legs carried him as fast as they could through the never-ending dark alleyways and streets. Shadowed figures stood in windows, doorways, and along the rooftops. Everywhere, he could hear the all too familiar hissing whisper of voices.

Demon child.

That child shouldn’t be allowed to live.

He ducked into a shadowed doorway and froze in place as he stared inside at all the people sitting at the various tables and countertop.

“If the Pirate King had a son?” the words fell from his own lips though he could have sworn he never heard them before in his life.

The people in the bar roared.

Such a creature should never be allowed to exist!

The child must pay for the crimes of his father!

The child of a Demon is a Demon!

Naruto bolted upright, his hammock swinging wildly with the sudden motion; blue eyes staring out wide-eyed in the darkness of the cabin, sweat quickly cooling on his skin.

He quickly swung his legs over and hopped out of the hammock, pausing to make sure none of the other sleepers were disturbed as he slipped out of the cabin and moved toward the bow. He glanced around briefly before making the quick jumps to land on the figurehead and then settled himself.

It had been a long time since he had been bothered by dreams of his childhood; it was usually the war that haunted him and the memories of those friends that had been lost.

It wasn’t just your memories. The rumbling voice of the fox stated.

Naruto blinked but then took a deep breath as he anchored himself and let his consciousness drift inwards. When he opened his eyes once more he smiled at the sharp vulpine grin that greeted him.

“Sorry if I woke you.” Naruto apologized before approaching the fox and settling himself against the large fox’s chest between his paws.

The fox huffed.

“You said it wasn’t just my memories, but how could I get someone else’s….wait… Ace?”

My thoughts are of that nature as well. I believe it is a side effect from flooding his body with our chakra and feeding his devil fruit core – that flame deep in his center – that has led to this.

“Does this mean he would have my memories…”

I do not know. It is likely that he would be affected in a similar fashion.

Naruto sighed. “He didn’t even have an actual demon in him and they called him that….”

The large fox shifted and dropped a paw heavily onto the blonde. A muffled “Hey!” and muttered curses could be heard before the orange clad figure struggled out from under the furry appendage.

“All right, I get the idea. No need to be so touchy about it.”

If you continue whining I will bite off your head and put us both out of your misery.

Naruto opened his mouth to reply but then froze and turned toward the shadowed opening that served as a door into the seal chamber of his psyche.

Someone is coming. The large fox hissed.

Naruto nodded and began to fidget as a familiar figure appeared in the chamber opening and then entered.

Brown eyes framed by vibrant red hair glanced at the teen where he lay against the large paws and then looked upward.

“Shanks-oji…” Naruto whispered, eyes wide as he stared at his uncle.

So this is the little brother of my second host. The fox drawled and gave a vulpine sneer. It is fortunate they selected her and not you as my would-be jailer. I would have destroyed you.

The Red-Haired pirate arched an eyebrow and then chuckled. “It is a pleasure to meet you, Kurama-san.” Then the older man bowed. “Thank you for looking after my family.”

Silence filled the room and then the fox rose to its feet and snarled, tails lashing. You are more the fool than I suspected. Did the Gaki not tell you that your sister is dead because of me? I am the sole reason for her death!

The Red-Haired pirate did not flinch as the angry breath of the fox washed over him and set his hair into motion.

“Would Naruto still be alive if you had not been with him during the War that was so recently finished back in the Elemental Nations?”

The fox snorted but then seemed to consider the words and glared.

“Kurama…” Naruto breathed out quietly, his hand resting on the leg of the large red fox, but the blonde teen was ignored.

Several long moments passed as the large fox and pirate stared at each other, neither flinching nor giving ground.

No, he would not. Nor would I or any of my brothers and sisters still live. The entirety of the Elemental Nations would be in ruin if Naruto had not been my host. The fox finally responded as he settled down once more, acting as if nothing at all had bothered him moments before.

Shanks smiled. “So I thank you, Kurama-san, for looking after my family and in turn, allowing us the chance to meet once more.”

The fox snorted. Whatever doubts I had that you were in fact a relation to either Naruto or his late mother and my second-host, are dismissed. There is no doubt Yonko Red-Haired Shanks, you are in fact Uzumaki.

Shanks laughed.

Naruto glanced from the fox to his uncle and breathed out slowly. “Not that I’m not happy you two got to meet… but Shanks-oji, how did you get here?” the blonde asked.

Shanks blinked. “I followed your haki.”

“Huh?” the blonde muttered his face blank.

Shanks chuckled. “Observation Haki, I can sense your spirit or will. When I found you meditating on the figurehead and sensed all your spirit focused near your center, I decided to try and reach out to you with haki. I found myself here.”

Kurama chuckled. Typical. The Uzumaki have never been predictable.

Naruto grinned while Shanks also chuckled.

“So, how do we leave?” The Red-Haired Captain asked.

Kurama grinned. Like this.

Naruto groaned as he reached up to rub his forehead and slowly blinked his eyes open, adjusting to the early dawn light. “Stupid fox: knows I hate it when he does that.”

Another groan behind him quickly drew his attention.

Blue eyes snapped open wide in panic. “Shanks-oji! Are you all right!?”

“What a dirty trick.” The Red-Haired man groaned. “Feels like a hangover and I didn’t even get to drink anything to get it!”

Naruto’s shoulders slumped in relief. 

The Red haired captain leaned back so the two sat resting back to back. “Is he always so testy?”

Naruto smiled, “Yeah… but it’s mostly for show.”

I heard that. The fox muttered in a grumble. Naruto ignored the response and kept his attention on his uncle.

“So he blames himself for Kushina-neesan’s death.”

Naruto turned his head to look back over his shoulder but then nodded. “He tries to hide it, but he does; even though it really wasn’t his fault. It’s true my mother would not have been attacked that night if she had not been his jinchuuriki, but someone else would have all the same. His extraction would have led to her death and I can’t really blame him for not wanting to be imprisoned again. He lashed out, my parents got in his way while protecting me.”

Shanks nodded, as if he had expected as much. “And what he said about you being his host during the last shinobi war?”

Naruto fidgeted. “If my parents had been alive… there’s no real way of knowing how much that would have changed things. I… I just did what I felt I had to do. I never went into the war trying to be a hero… they tried to keep me out of it, actually. Tried to protect me and Killer Bee, the Gyouki’s jinchurriki, and keep us safe. I wouldn’t let them die for me while I hid in some cave.”

Shanks smiled at that. “And that is probably a big part of why your fur-covered partner said what he did.”

The teen smiled lightly and leaned back further resting against his uncle’s back. Silence held between them for several long moments as they just sat, back to back, watching the sun rise and spill its light across the ocean, reaching its fingers slowly up onto the deck of the Red Force.

“So,” Shanks said after several long moments, turning to stare at his nephew with his scar marked eye. “What do you say to a bit of a field trip today?”

Naruto turned so he could face his uncle. “Field trip?”

Shanks grinned, his expression taking on a feral glint. “Ah, I need to have words with a certain acquaintance about trying to kill Luffy, let alone the death threats made against my nephew.”

Naruto blinked and then his eyes widened. “Hawkeye?”

Shanks grin twisted into a smirk. “You still have him tagged?”

Naruto’s expression shifted into a matching smirk. “You bet.”

From across the deck Benn breathed out slowly, smoke wafting up on the morning breeze as he watched the uncle and nephew pair. Beside him, Yasopp cringed before muttering, “I really don’t like it when the Captain gets that look on his face… and now Naruto has it too… this is going to mean trouble.”

Benn chuckled. “Not ours to deal with for once. Captain wants to drop in and visit Mihawk.”

Yasopp blinked. “But it would take us weeks to get there.”

Benn exhaled a long trail of smoke once more. “Not if he gets Naruto to take him.”

Yasopp blinked again, then his eyes widened. “Oh to see Hawkeye’s face!”

Benn chuckled as he finished off his smoke, “Like I said, the trouble they are planning won’t be ours to deal with and I’m sure Mihawk will manage to survive the visit.”

Yasopp snorted at that.

Suddenly, there was a startled yelp followed by a shriek and splash from the bow of the ship.

Benn and Yasopp stared.

Overhead the lookout called out, “Captain and Naruto overboard!”

Uninvited Visitors

As the seconds turned into minutes, and the minutes piled up like sand reached an hour, Mihawk found himself feeling the ease of the tension that was his constant companion. The constant tension was, in fact, why he had chosen this island as his harbor and home. The island of Kurigana and the fallen kingdom of Shikkearu was quiet, gloomy, and no longer inhabited by any human besides himself. It took the very determined to travel to this place before they could disturb his tranquility. The entire atmosphere of the island and its isolation made it ideal for his purposes. The human drills, who were the only natives left living on the island, had recognized his strength long ago and generally left him in peace, despite his frequent traveling. These facts all together gave him the solitude he so often preferred.  Unfortunately, this peace was now shattered daily, if not hourly, much to his annoyance and displeasure.  If Bartholomew Kuma was not a fellow Shichibukai, and now more machine than human, Mihawk would consider killing the man. When the large man had cryptically informed him that he had sent him some packages, he had never guessed at the meaning behind that statement.  He should have known better.

Now, his island was host to two others besides himself, and neither was tranquil, nor quiet. Roronoa may have been pleasant enough company, he was a fellow swordsman and he had a spirit that showed promise, but the younger man constantly made noise. Smashing that and then breaking this, cutting left, right, and more with his Santouryuu style. Then there was the snoring when he was not conscious. The teen snored loud enough to wake the dead and that led to his other houseguest, the girl. She was whiney, she cried, she wailed, and worse, she nagged. The only saving grace was that she had self-appointed herself Roronoa’s caretaker and so she nagged the younger man more than she even considered nagging the Warlord himself. So, because of his uninvited house guests, he had been missing the peace and de-stress time that he normally enjoyed while at his home.

Today, however, that had changed once more. Roronoa had finally had some sort of breakthrough and the sound of his dueling with the human drills had moved out of his acute hearing range in the manor. The younger swordsman’s complete lack of restraint and care for his own well-being continued to bother the girl, and so she had gone after the green-haired teen. They had left Mihawk alone in his home at last. The tension faded like a shed cloak as he settled into his favorite chair with a fresh bottle of wine and a book he had been meaning to read for some time. He should have known better.

It started with a faint tickle against his senses that had his eyes snapping up, and over to where his hat rested on a nearby table. There was a faint surge of building energy followed by a brilliant yellow flash of light and a faint swish of displaced air. Before the burst of light had fully faded, noise filled the room.

“I can’t believe you dunked me!”  Mihawk’s gaze narrowed sharply. He knew that voice, he knew it well.

“You tried to dunk me first!” the edges of his lips turned down in a frown. The owner of the second voice would be one of the newest members of his list of ‘People who vex me that I cannot out-right kill.’ He twitched as he noticed the damp puddle forming on his rug below the red-haired pirate.

“That’s not the point! You dunked me and you aren’t even wet!” The older of the pair whined.

The blonde snorted then paused and blinked at the dark sword blade that appeared at his throat. His gaze traveled up the blade to the owner of the sword and the intense gold eyes staring at him. He laughed nervously, “Nice to see you again, Hawky.”

The blade kissed the skin at his neck creating the faintest line of red.


It was only his name spoken by the Red-Haired Yonko, but the tone and intent behind it said so much more.  He let his golden eyes travel the small space from nephew to uncle and inwardly sighed at the piercing brown gaze that met his own. He casually removed his sword from its place against the teen’s neck and sheathed it once more. “Your nephew is a pest.”

The brown gaze didn’t shift. “Such a sour face; you had plenty of time to suspect such a thing after you tested him.” Then the eyes sparked with mirth. “Unless you are trying to tell me that your skills of observation are fading? Are you getting old, Hawkeye?”

Mihawk snorted. The redhead always liked to rub it in that he was the older between them, despite their shared birthdate. “It will not happen again.”

Shanks chuckled wryly at that, and then paused, his eyes narrowing. “You have guests, Hawkeye?”

At the question the Shichibukai all but groaned. Damn the redhead’s skill in Observation Haki. “Not marines.” He answered.

Shanks eyebrows arched at this and then he turned to his nephew. “Naruto, why don’t you go find out just who Mihawk has here playing with his monkeys.”

Mihawk frowned but did not take his gaze away from the Red-Haired pirate who met his gaze in order to comment further. The blonde teen looked from one pirate to the other before shrugging. “Yeah, sure I guess. Umm, you two aren’t going to kill each other… right?” He asked a little nervously as he glanced between the two again.

Shanks chuckled with a sinister twist, “Oh, we won’t kill each other. Mihawk just has some things to explain.”

The Warlord rolled his eyes at his long time acquaintance’s theatrics. “Don’t kill all the ‘monkeys’ as your uncle put it, the main door is down the hall and to the left.”

The teen glanced between the two once more before turning to head down the hallway and out of sight.

“Oh, and try to not break any swords, it would be rather rude.” The Warlord added.

The teen turned to look back over his shoulder and stuck his tongue out at the two older men before vanishing from sight.

“He cares for you.” Mihawk stated after several moments.

Shanks smiled and finally let his gaze drift from the Warlord to glance back down the passageway his nephew had just disappeared down. “Yeah, he’s a good kid.”

“He’s a pest.”

Shanks chuckled.

“I will not be so forgiving if he tries that piggy-back trick a second time.” With those words, a small knife was thrown toward the hallway where the blonde teen had disappeared. There was a startled yelp followed by the now familiar sound of a destroyed clone.

Shanks snickered, “If only I could have seen your face when he revealed himself.” The redhead shook his head in amusement before his eyes met the amber gold of the master swordsman. His expression turned serious, “Hawkeye… you went after Luffy.”

Mihawk tensed briefly, so this was the heart of it then. “He showed up in the middle of a war.”

Shanks sighed loudly at that and settled down into the waiting open armchair. “I’m aware. We heard the reports coming out of Impel Down.”

Mihawk arched a single eyebrow in surprise.

Shanks smirked wryly, “Oh, so I do know something you don’t?”

Mihawk stared steadily at the Yonko before taking a long sip from his wine glass and waited. Akagami was never the most patient when it came to these things.

The Red-Haired pirate seemed to be in a rare mood however, as he said nothing more, just gazed at the Warlord who sat across from him.

Mihawk huffed before speaking. “He was not alone when he arrived at Marineford, Akagami, but neither did he have his crew with him.”

Shanks nodded, “I am aware, though how he recruited both Jimbei and Ivankov to his side is likely quite the tale.”

Mihawk snorted, “More than that. That kid had Whitebeard supporting him despite declaring his intent to be Pirate King within moments of arriving. His luck is uncanny and his ability to make allies is unsettling.”

At that, Shanks smirked. “He got to you too, didn’t he?”

Mihawk scoffed, “Don’t be ridiculous.”

“That’s why you tested him.”

Mihawk narrowed his gaze at the red-haired man. “A man who may yet one day be a worthy opponent has sworn to follow him; do you really think I would do any less?”

Shanks chuckled. “No, I suppose not… but I still think he got to you.”

Mihawk rolled his eyes and took a long drink. “If you aren’t here to nag at me for my encounter with Straw-hat, why are you really here, Akagami?”

Shanks leaned back in his chair, sliding a sake bottle out from a pocket in his cloak. He opened the bottle and took a long drink before resting his elbow on the armrest, the bottle hanging lightly from his fingertips. His eyes remained focused on the bottle in his hand as he considered his answer. “I wanted your impressions on Luffy.”

The Warlord frowned, “And?”

Shanks smirked and took another long drink. “What do the Marines know of Naruto?”

Mihawk settled back and stared at his longtime rival for some time before speaking again. So Straw-hat wasn’t the only thing on his old rival’s mind, he was somewhat surprised that the Yonko had admitted to it so easily. “This is unlike you, to be so direct.”

The redhead smiled and shrugged, but then turned more serious once more. “I’ve been hearing some odd bits of news, and I was hoping you might be able to shed some light on them. Perhaps I should rephrase my question, why do the Marines seem to know the name Uzumaki?”

Mihawk stilled at that, so he wasn’t wrong in his own suspicions. “A good question, but one I do not know the answer to. I had thought they seemed a bit too interested in that name and the symbol he wears when they questioned me about him.”

Shanks blinked in surprised at that. “They questioned you directly?”

The Shichibukai nodded, “After I arrived at Marineford in answer to their summons. They weren’t pleased that I was found in your company, so I had thought it may just be the upper management trying to yank on their leash, but… perhaps not.”

The redhead frowned and took another drink as he considered things.

“What do you plan to do?” Mihawk asked.

Shanks took another drink before smirking. “I plan to get drunk while you tell me what you think of Luffy.”

Mihawk let out a long sigh.


Naruto’s lips turned down in a pout as he felt the memories of his clone wash over him. Oh, he’d give Mihawk a reason to call him pest before they left this island, there would be no doubt of that, but for now he let the irritation slide as he settled into a comfortable crouch on top of the tallest tower of Mihawk’s rather gloomy home. His uncle wanted him to discover who else was here, so he had a job to complete. He breathed in and out steadily and within a few moments he opened his eyes once more, amber replacing blue and orange pigmentation shadowing the area between brow and eyelid. He turned his head slowly and smirked. There was something of interest going on to the east and he could feel one distinctly human chakra source, if civilian in amount, and one other, with slightly more in terms of chakra but something else mixed in tainting it. Well he’d find out when he got there.

With that decided, he leapt to the nearest tree branch and began traveling as only the shinobi of Fire Country truly could. He felt himself start to relax as he traveled through the trees the way he was used to doing in the forests of Fire Country. He liked sailing with his Uncle: it was new, interesting, and a complete change of pace from what he had been used to, but this— traveling through the uppermost branches like they were a path designed for his personal use— was the way he would always find most natural to travel.

The blonde slowed as the sound of clashing blades reached his ears and quickly ascended to the very top of a tall conifer. His amber hued eyes widened at the sight that lay in the clearing below. Arcs of nature energy in various hues flew through the air, originating from the blades of a swordsman as he battled the various monkey-like creatures that swarmed around him. He continued to watch in growing awe, realizing after a few moments that the nature energy that he was seeing wasn’t actively being controlled in any recognizable way. It flowed and flared as if in response to some secret commands from the swordsman at its heart, but it looked like nothing he’d ever seen done with nature energy before. His gaze narrowed, in fact, the man’s chakra network was that of a civilian… he wasn’t even using it at all.

“That’s…just wow…” he breathed out, stunned by what he was seeing.

It was then that something bounced off his side and he turned, surprised. A small white translucent floating blob grinned at him and spun in a small circle with a high pitched laugh.

The blonde blinked, and then blinked again. “G..gh.. GHOST!!!”  he yelped, as the small form flew at his face. He leaned backwards and then yelled again as he lost his footing and fell from his perch atop the tree, the ghost chasing after him.

There was a loud crash as dust and debris rose into the air.

The teen groaned as the last of his gathered nature energy filtered away and he then felt cool metal against his throat for the second time since arriving on this island.

“Who are you?” a gruff voice demanded.

Naruto blinked as his blue gaze locked onto the blade and traveled up to the hand and arm holding it. He blinked again. “Green hair…” The man frowned and the bladed pressed slightly closer to the blonde’s throat. Blue eyes blinked again as they studied the man holding a sword at his throat, “One…Two…Three… three swords…”

“I won’t ask again!” The man snarled a second blade moving in to hover over his chest.

“Well that’s not a very nice way to say hello.” The blonde laying in the bottom of his self-made crater replied. “Figures Hawky would have grumpy guests.”

The green-haired swordsman snarled and moved, then froze as the body he had been hovering over just a moment before dissolved into wisps of dusty air. He whirled as he heard a voice behind him.

“Green hair and three swords, green hair and three swords, why is this familiar…” the blonde muttered from where he now perched on the lowest branch of the tree he had fallen from just moments before.

“Uzumaki Naruto, the Orange Ninja.” A girl’s voice spoke quietly, but tensly.

The blonde turned with a grin, “Ah, you heard about…” he trailed off as he spotted the voices owner and blinked. “Pink Hair…” he blinked again and then squinted. She didn’t have the eyebrows… but, he hoped from his tree branch perch and landed before the one he was now studying. The pink-haired young woman took several steps back nervously.

“What are you doing!?!” She screeched as she tried to keep her distance.

The blonde suddenly leapt backwards, “AHHHH, someone cloned Sakura and Lee!!”

The green-haired swordsman frowned and turned to the pink-haired woman. “Oi, you know this guy?”

The pink-haired woman turned with a snarl. “Of course not!!! This is not cute at all! If you paid any attention you would have seen the bounty poster!”

The green-haired man frowned.

Naruto blinked as he glanced between the two, still bothered by the woman’s appearance that was a strange combination of two of his friends, then his expression brightened as he remembered where he had heard about a man with green hair carrying three swords. “AH! You are Luffy’s Swordsman!”

The other two turned to the blonde once more, both seeming to relax slightly.

“You know Luffy?” The green-haired man asked as he sheathed his swords.

The teen shook his head, “Not really. I met him briefly at Marineford, but didn’t get a chance to really say hello. Shanks-oji has told me lots of stories though, and Hawky shared a few from when he met him as well.”

The green-haired man frowned. “Shanks-oji? Hawky?”

The teen nodded. “They’re drinking buddies and rivals… I think.”

The pink-haired woman narrowed her gaze, “So it’s true then, you are the nephew of the Yonko, Red-Haired Shanks?”

Naruto grinned brightly at this. “Yep.”

Zoro looked from the pink-haired woman to the blonde in shock. “This guy is related to a Yonko!?”

“I’m telling you to pay attention to the papers! Idiot!” The pink-haired woman shouted back at the swordsman.

Naruto watched the two with amusement. “So you two are Hawky’s guests then?” He asked finally when the arguing came to a pause.

The swordsman snorted while the pink-haired woman rambled off about the cute gloominess of the island, but how un-cute those she was stuck here with were.

The blonde grinned, “Well then, pleased to meet you. I’m Uzumaki Naruto, shinobi and Sage of Mount Myoubukai.”

The swordsman smirked, “Roronoa Zoro.”

The pink-haired woman hesitated as she glanced between the two, “Perona.”

The blonde grinned at her, “You have a devil fruit, right?”

The pink-haired girl edged closer to the swordsman as she eyed Naruto cautiously.  “How do you know that!?” She finally demanded while using the swordsman as a shield.

“Your energy, it feels different.”

The girl sniffed haughtily. “I ate the Hollow Hollow no mi, I’m a ghost woman.”

The blonde tensed, “Did you say g… gh…ghost?!”

Perona eyed him careful and then leaned back with glee, laughing. “Oh, you don’t like ghosts?” As she spoke several floating figures appeared swirling around her and echoing her laughter.

Naruto stared wide-eyed and paled. “That…. That’s just…”

Zoro moved away from the cackling woman, “Creepy.” He offered and then ignored the woman as she began to screech at him. “You were at the War with Luffy.”

Naruto glanced warily at the pink haired woman who was still muttering and now floating, before turning his attention more fully to the swordsman.

“I was there, but I wasn’t really with Luffy except for a few minutes near the end.”

Zoro met his gaze steadily. “Tell me.”

Naruto raised an eyebrow. “You are his crewmate? First mate if what I’ve heard is true… why weren’t you with him?”

Zoro’s frown deepened into a scowl. “It won’t happen again.”

Naruto blinked in surprise, whatever answer he had been expecting, this wasn’t it. No excuses, no flinching, just an unwavering… promise, that his Captain would not be alone in such a situation ever again. Naruto smiled then, “All right.”

Perona watched the two young men settle down amidst the rubble as the blonde began to speak. She, however, kept her distance and had no intention of getting so comfortable around the blonde. She had been uneasy since she had recognized who the blue-eyed blonde was. She hadn’t really known what to think of the blonde Uzumaki when she had first learned of his existence from the bounty poster she had just berated the swordsman for not noticing. She didn’t know what to think of the whisker faced blonde now that she had met him in person either. As such, she had been quickly relieved and also surprised that Zoro had stepped forward, taking the blonde’s attention off of her.

The pink haired girl listened quietly as she thought about what to do and was somewhat stunned as Zoro asked, or rather demanded, the blonde tell him about the War and his Captain. She had been present when the papers had arrived with all their news about the War at Marineford. She had seen the quiet and tense reactions of the green-haired swordsman as he learned that his Captain had been at the war, alone, without his crew. She had wondered at his silence while she had read aloud about Monkey D. Luffy’s father, connections to Portagas D. Ace, and the death of that brother. The swordsman had said nothing, but had thrown himself into training that his body could barely handle. She had already lost count of the number of times she had dragged him back to the manor unconscious to bandage up, just so he could do it all over again when he next awoke. Perona had expected him to demand answers from Mihawk, but he had only begged for transport and then, later, two years of time to train. Yet, here, now, he asked for those details from a stranger.

She studied the blonde as he spoke of Straw-hat’s arrival at the battle and all those he had brought with him. The details didn’t matter to her, though; she had other things to worry about. Her hollow had been unable to touch the blonde when he was first found in the tree. The ghost had bounced off the blonde, literally, and she had not tried to hit him with one again. There were only two causes that she thought likely: Armament Haki, or Nature Chakra. The first was most likely, especially with someone from the New World, but he claimed the name Uzumaki. More so, he claimed the titles of Shinobi and Sage, those three things combined left a sinking feeling in her gut. And finally, the detail that her eyes kept straying to: the black concentric spiral on a red circle emblazoned on his jacket. It belonged with the name, like a ship belonged on the sea.

Her focus was brought back to the current conversation when the swordsman stiffened. She listened as the blonde quietly described how Portagas had fallen and went on to apologize for not having exact details about what happened to Straw-hat after that, as he himself had been trying to yet save Ace.

The green-haired swordsman remained silent as the blonde finished speaking. Perona fidgeted, not sure what she should do, and the swordsman had not once reacted in a way she expected when it came to the subject of his Captain. She was about to step forward when she heard his voice, quite, but steady.

“Thank you.”

The blonde smiled and nodded before speaking again. “So, why are you here beating up monkeys instead of looking for your Captain?”

The swordsman shrugged. “Captain said wait. Need to get stronger and this is as good a place as any.”

Naruto blinked and then suddenly burst into laughter. “I knew there was something about that photo! He sent out a message to his crew!”

Zoro smirked, bur then frowned, “Oi, keep that to yourself.”

The blonde waved a hand dismissively. “Yeah, yeah, Shanks-oji probably figured it out anyways. I would like to meet your Captain sometime, though.

Zoro chuckled, “In the New World.”

Naruto nodded, accepting the statement for what it was. “Ah! Let me give you this!” the blonde exclaimed as he pulled out a short dagger like blade with one long central point and two shorter points on each side.

“What’s this?” Zoro asked accepting the strange blade and studying it.

“Tri-pronged Kunai, a special one, actually.” The blonde’s voice turned more serious, “If you ever need help, or need to get a message to Shanks-oji, or even Mihawk; throw that into the air and I’ll come.”

Zoro frowned, puzzled. “How—”

“Throw it.” The blonde interrupted with a wry smirk.

The swordsman hesitated; studying the blade for moment longer then did as told. A golden flash filled the air as the blonde vanished. “Like this.” The blonde’s voice called from his new location yards away, the tri-bladed kunai spinning around a raised finger.

The swordsman grunted and accepted the blade as the blonde reappeared beside him. “Distance isn’t an issue?” he asked,

“Not really,” the blonde answered, “but it may not be so instant.” He finished with a shrug, and then suddenly stiffened, his eyes glazing out of focus. “I have to go.” And with no further warning there was a golden surge of energy and the blonde vanished.

“Flashy bastard,” Zoro grumbled after a few moments and no sight of the blonde returning. He glanced over at the pink-haired woman who stood staring at where the blonde had stood. “What’s your problem with him anyways?”

Perona snapped out of her daze with a sputter. “I don’t have a problem! He’s just not cute! Not cute at all!” She shrieked at the swordsman who was already turning away. She followed after him scolding him for his carelessness and lack of direction as he kept trying to head away from the manor. Her mind raced however. When she had been a young girl, still, her parents had sent her to spend a year with family. She had needed that year amidst those distant cousins, aunts, and uncles. For while she herself could not use it, she sensed it everywhere around her; and they had been able to help her train that ability. And now, they needed to know about Uzumaki Naruto and what she had sensed flowing through every pore of his being.


“Second shelf from the top, behind the shitty wine.” A voice spoke interrupting Zoro as he peered through the various bottles of booze. He looked up frowning. “Hawkeye doesn’t know that I know where he keeps the good stuff.” The red-haired man said with a wry grin.

Zoro paused, but then looked where directed and grinned. “Thanks.” He muttered as he popped the cork off his prize. He eyed the other man carefully as the redhead entered the room and pilfered a separate shelf before stepping back with a bottle of what he recognized as fine sake.

“You know Hawkeye has come to visit me more and more since Luffy set sail. Thought it was about time I returned the favor and visit him. I wasn’t expecting to find Luffy’s First Mate as his houseguest though.” The red-haired man said casually as he settled down on a nearby crate.

Zoro stilled then sat down on another crate with a nearby barrel serving as a table. “I didn’t know Yonko were in the habit of visiting Shichibukai.”

The red-haired man chuckled. “Some do, though the Government’s leashed dogs do tend to get around more easily…Hawkeye would probably shave my beard for that.” He added in amusement, but then his expression turned more serious. “I’m glad to have proof that Luffy’s crew is not all lost. I worried after Marineford, you know, but Rayleigh-san seems to have Luffy in hand now.”

Zoro grunted but watched the other man carefully.

“What do you plan to do about your Captain’s request?” The redhead then asked.

Zoro frowned. “The blonde told you.”

Red eyebrows arched and the man chuckled, “No, haven’t seen my nephew since I sent him off to find you.”

Zoro smirked, “He was right then, he said you probably had it figured out.”

The Red-Haired man smiled. “And your answer then?”

Zoro grinned widely, a slightly feral spark in his eyes. “Get stronger.”

The redhead laughed. “Good answer. “ The man then rose to his feet, “Well time for me to be getting back to my own crew, where is Naruto anyways?”

Zoro blinked. “The blonde? Flashy bastard disappeared hours ago.”

The redhead stilled and closed his eyes for several heartbeats. Zoro took another long drink from his pilfered prize and nearly choked as the redhead suddenly yelled.

Eyes wide and an expression of complete shock on his face, he wailed “HE LEFT ME BEHIND!”

Will of Fire

Eyes closed, Naruto reached out with his senses to find his teammate’s chakra as soon as the energy of his transport from the world of seas to the Land of Fire had dissipated. She had activated the kunai he left specifically with her to summon him. It required her blood. That she had needed to use it worried him. He found her energy and paused, then blinked. “Sakura-chan?” he asked surprised.

“Hello, Naruto.” The pink haired young woman answered from where she sat on a chair nearby, her arms folded across her chest and one leg crossed over the other. It was very obvious she had been waiting.

“You activated the blood seal.” He said, confused.

“I did.” She answered.

“But you aren’t in a fight… or at the hospital.” He added.

“Very observant,” she stated flatly. “Do you remember all that fancy sealing work you did in the Critical Care wing of the hospital?” She asked.

Naruto nodded slowly, not really sure where this was going, but all his instincts told him she was about to punch him in the face.

“That wing is on fire. I cannot put it out. Shizune-sempai cannot put it out. Kakashi-sensei cannot put it out.” She continued, her tone clipped and more agitated the longer she spoke. She rose to her feet, her fists clenching at her sides. “The only reason my fist isn’t in your face, is that nothing is actually burning.” She finished, and took a slow deep breath.

“It’s on fire… but not burning?” Naruto asked, now thoroughly confused.

Sakura narrowed emerald green eyes at him. “Fix it, Naruto. Fix it now.” With that order given she began to stalk toward the door, but then paused, turned on her heel and extended a hand, palm up expectantly. “The sake.”

Naruto flinched. “Umm I didn’t…”

“Don’t pull that on me, Naruto, I’ve known you too long.” She replied, eyes sparking. “Or do you want a repeat of our last discussion about you giving sake to Tsunade-shishou?”

Naruto blanched and quickly pulled a small scroll out of one of his pockets and handed it over.

Sakura eyed him critically and then nodded once. “I expect to have full access to the Critical Care Ward by tomorrow.”

Naruto muttered an agreement and wilted slightly as she exited his apartment with a slamming door. Silence filled the room as Naruto remained tense for several long moments.

Fire that does not burn, how interesting.

Naruto groaned, of course his resident pyro would take note of that.  Well, we better go check it out. He mentally answered the fire-loving fox.


Naruto stared at the sight before him with wide eyes, amazed.

Scarlet, gold, amber, and brilliant white all intertwined in tongues of flame that flickered across the floor, walls and ceiling in intricate lines and swirls; the colors constantly shifting and in motion, dancing and crackling in the air as they moved over the invisible patterns they followed. The floor, walls, and ceiling were covered with the crisscrossing lines of living fire, but as Sakura had said, nothing was left behind in their passing. No soot, no scorch marks, just heat, light and sound.

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” Shizune asked from where she had come to stand beside the blonde. Naruto nodded, still too stunned to vocalize a response. “It’s a shame we can’t leave it, but it blocks off a huge part of this wing and though it doesn’t burn the building, anyone who tries to cross those lines gets an immediate trip to the burn treatment ward.”

Naruto winced slightly at that, but there was nothing he could do about what had already happened.

“I’ll do what I can.” He finally said quietly.

At his side, Shizune smiled softly. “You always do Naruto-kun. Good luck.” she said, before she turned back down the hallway to continue her duties.

It’s feeding off the seals and not even touching anything else. Kurama commented as he studied the beautiful lines of fire that surrounded the corridor and doorway.

Naruto frowned, No, it’s not just the seals… He stilled and breathed deeply and refocused his gaze on the seals themselves. It’s the chakra in the seals… your… Our chakra.

Well you better figure out how to stop it if you don’t want your teammate to turn you into a pulp. The fox responded wryly. I wonder if we could make your bijju form appear covered in fire like that.

Vain fox. Naruto admonished, though he had to admit, it would look pretty awesome; all nine tails with lines of fire trailing behind them in the air…Kurama, can you channel chakra through your fur?

Can you? Was the fox’s snarky reply.

Naruto remembered sparring with Ero-senin and getting spikes made from the old man’s hair through his foot. The Toad Sennin had bitched the rest of the day about the blood in his hair, but had taught him the basics of the technique. Right… so fur essentially made of fire is a distinct possibility.

I like the way your imagination works, brat. The fox almost purred.

Naruto rolled his eyes and stepped closer to the nearest lines, crouching down to study the patterns that crossed both floor and wall closer. I don’t think just draining the chakra out of the seals will work…the fire might just start to consume everything else around it instead. Naruto mused.

And earn you a severe beating from Pinky. The fox chimed.

Naruto groaned inwardly, I swear, if she ever hears that…

You will pay for it, I know. The fox answered with a snicker.

Useless fox.

Ignorant human.

Naruto decided to ignore the fox. They could go on for hours, and had, but if he wanted to fix the current problem and avoid Sakura’s ire, he’d have to save it for after.

He reached out carefully with a finger and rested it on the edge of where he knew the seal work to be, the flames ignored him. He frowned, Shizune had said it burned people, so why wasn’t it burning him? He carefully extended his hand into the fire and his eyes widened. The fire danced over his hand and around his fingers but did not burn. He focused on the feeling, but didn’t sense any loss of chakra to the fire where it touched him.

We powered this seal with our merged chakra… what if I replace it with nature chakra?

Well, you might become a human torch, or the entire wing may blow up… let’s do that. The fox’s tone picking up an excited flair. We haven’t blown anything up in ages.

Yeah, not today, Fox. Naruto responded, but the furball was right. He had already figured out draining the seal would be a bad idea, even if he tried to do it in controlled segments, the chances of it literally exploding in his face were pretty much absolute.

What if… He summoned three clones. With a quick nod, the one stepped across the lines of fire and then turned, shrugging.

“No damage Boss.” The clone said.

Naruto nodded. “You three know what to do then.”

There was a chorus of affirmatives as the other two followed the first and vanished down the hallway.

Ready, fox? Naruto then asked.

If you insist on blowing us up.

Don’t you ever trust me to not blow something up? Naruto responded as golden energy covered his form and immediately began to intertwine with the nearby flames.

Things are less interesting then. The fox replied.

Naruto snorted but stepped across the line of fire. Immediately the fire coursed up his feet, legs, and swirled around his body, playing with the golden aura that surrounded him. He waited several heartbeats, but when nothing more happened he continued about halfway down the corridor before settling down onto the floor comfortably. He waited, and then sensed first one pulse, then two others.

He breathed deeply and slowly as he began to draw the familiar chakra flowing in the intricate seal work towards himself through the anchor point he now sat upon. As he pulled it out, he could feel equal amounts of Nature chakra being fed into the seals from the three other anchors that kept the whole matrix in place and stable.

Slowly, and steadily, guided by the rhythm of his heart, he continued; feeling the warm flames dance around him as the Nature chakra replaced the energies Naruto and Kurama had combined within the seals. It was slow and tedious, and something he would not have thought himself capable of doing at one point in his life. But he had learned to master the energy of Nature, and to be still. He had tamed his rage, and in turn, that of his partner. It helped that this was a place of healing, of hope, and not the desolation of a battlefield. Here he could take joy in what he felt and sensed and not have to fear the hatred and cost in blood.

He blinked slowly as the last of his shared chakra with Kurama pulled free of the seal as Nature chakra replaced it. He studied the hallway and smiled at the absence of fire chasing across the floor, walls and ceiling. He glanced down at himself and smirked at the site of the flames dancing all over him.

Now that you have it, what do you plan to do with it? The fox asked quietly, almost subdued.

Naruto blinked somewhat surprised at the foxes tone, then grimaced. Uh…

Well it’s good to know at least some things have not changed.

It was at that moment, he noticed a familiar presence behind him as a page in a book was turned.

Naruto turned and then chuckled, “Hiding from your office already, Hokage-sama?”

“You don’t have to call me that, Naruto.” The man replied but closed his book and tucked it away.

Naruto smiled, “Whatever you say, Kakashi-sensei.”

The older man frowned. “I thought I told you, you didn’t have to call me ‘sensei’ anymore either.”

Naruto just grinned.

Kakashi sighed and then stood upright from where he had been leaning against the nearby hall and moved forward cautiously to study the flames dancing around his student.

“I have an idea… if you don’t have anywhere else to put that.” He said with a shift in the fabric of his mask that Naruto had long ago learned to recognize as a smirk.

The blonde shrugged, “Well I figured out how to get it out of the hospital… but not quite how to put it out yet, so sure.”

Kakashi chuckled. “Still our most surprising ninja.” The older man turned and opened a nearby window before disappearing out of it. Naruto glanced back down the corridor once more to make sure no one else was waiting before he followed.

Naruto should have guessed his old teacher would lead him out towards their old training grounds and to the memorial that waited there, but said nothing as he came up to stand beside his sensei.

“You can guide it into a seal again?” Kakashi asked quietly.

Naruto considered, “Yeah I think so. It is my and Kurama’s chakra that it is following.”

“Activate this then.” Kakashi said as he unsealed a large round rough-cut piece of polished flat black stone covered in carved lines and patterns. The stone fell into place on the ground beside the memorial and a feeling of anticipation filled the air.

Naruto’s eyes widened as he took in the carved markings. As far as seal work, it was minimal, but the words that surrounded the seal work struck a chord deep within;

“To those who possess the Will of Fire, everyone is family. The desire to protect one’s family builds thicker and stronger bonds between each and everyone in the village. If the Will of Fire is embraced by everyone, the village will be alright no matter what happens.” Words spoken by the Sandaime, that when had first heard him hadn’t really made any sense, but now… they were a part of him.

Naruto took a step forward and leaned to rest his palm on the seal work. He then drew back a moment, and turned to his sensei, now Hokage. “Can I add something?”

At Kakashi’s nod, Naruto reached up to slice his fingertip on a sharp tooth and made quick strokes over the seal work, his blood sinking in and vanishing as fire and chakra coursed after it. The flame raced across the swirling lines before settling at the center of the stone in a faint depression meant to hold it. Considering the amount of time it had taken him to pull all the flame covered energy from the seal at the hospital, it took surprisingly little to guide it into the new patterns. As daylight crested into the sky the blonde teen stepped back, the golden fire and energy that had coated him only moments before now gone.

Kakashi patted his former pupil on the back. “Well done, Naruto. I had been looking for a way to keep it from being put out. Would have been a bit embarrassing if anyone could put out a flame burning on the stone here… if I am correct, you are the only one who could now.”

Naruto nodded and smiled as he looked at the new stone sitting next to the old familiar memorial stone. “Konoha will stand, for as long as the Will of Fire burns in the hearts and minds of its People.” Naruto said quietly.

Necessary Evils

It had happened again. The dreams he had not had in years mixed with memories that he now recognized were not his own. He sighed quietly as he slid open his apartment window and then slipped up the wall and onto the roof. He glanced up, his gaze falling on the old familiar stone faces, briefly noting that construction had started on the sixth. He turned away, a twist in his heart and a wrench deep in his center at the sudden reminder. He turned away from the place that he had so often sought comfort from and instead headed toward the edges of the village.

He landed softly, eyes focused on the flames of the monument as they circled round and chased through the scrolling seals across the stonework. He paused and turned, blinking in surprise. “Baa-chan?”

The older woman smirked as she raised the familiar looking sake bottle to her lips, swallowing once before lowering it once more. “Hey, Gaki, take a seat.”

The blonde fidgeted for a moment, but as the older woman narrowed her eyes at him he slouched and then moved to sit beside her, facing both stone memorials that rested in the clearing.

“Nightmares?” She asked quietly.

The blonde tensed, but then nodded and slouched once more, “Not of the War though.”

The older woman raised an eyebrow in question, but did not press.

Naruto fidgeted, but kept his gaze on the ever-moving flames. “They called him the ‘Son of a Demon’.”

Tsunade snorted. “You know better.”

Naruto smiled gently, “Yeah… it just… old memories.”

Tsunade nodded.  “That fire is something else, you know. They wouldn’t let me see it in the hospital, but Kakashi came and told me about it today after you finished this.”

“You snuck out, didn’t you?” Naruto asked.

She swung a fist, hitting his shoulder and huffed as he grunted at the impact. “I can look after myself.”

Naruto smirked, “Of course, Baa-chan. I see you managed to get the sake I brought from Sakura-chan.”

The older woman scoffed. “The day my apprentices can keep sake away from me is the day I give up gambling.”

Naruto’s eyes widened at her statement but decided to not question it; she could still flatten him with a single punch, of that he had no doubt.

“It feeds and renews itself constantly.” Tsunade then stated, her gaze focused once more on the flickering tongues of fire. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Naruto frowned. “I couldn’t control it, not really anyways. I could only sort of guide it, and well, it seemed to really like sticking to me.”

Tsunade hummed in thought. “I don’t like it. You were feeding that boy’s ability with your chakra during the surgery. I saw it.”

Naruto nodded. “Kurama said I had to if I wanted to try and keep him alive.”

“Do you think it could be a sentient living piece of that boy?” Tsunade asked after a few moments.

Naruto frowned and focused his attention on the flame, instinctively stilling to gather nature chakra to enhance his senses. After several long moments he shook his head. “No. I saw his fire when he fought before he took that hit; this is different.”

“So it’s likely from the surgery then, when your chakra was so melded with that man’s ability.” She stated, obviously not really pleased about it. “And you said there are people who have these abilities all over their world?”

Naruto scratched the back of his head as he considered what he knew personally, and what Shanks and his crew had told him. “They are kind of like a bloodline… everyone knows they exist… but that doesn’t mean you’ll ever meet someone with one, at least for the average person. Just like living in a shinobi village pretty much means you’ll run into someone with a bloodline ability, living in the area of the world known as the Grand Line makes it much more likely. From what I’ve been told, each one is unique and there are no duplicates.”

Tsunade frowned. “Naruto, has there been anything different about the chakra in that world? Or that you have noticed with your own?”

Naruto shrugged, “Not really… well except the Nature chakra, that stuff is intense there. I think there might be something special about the Grand Line itself as well, but I haven’t traveled outside of it while there yet.”

Tsunade’s eyes opened wide as she turned to look at the blonde teen fully. “Naruto… how much have you used Sage Mode there?”

The blonde shrugged. “Not a lot, but often enough, I guess. Shanks-oji is crazy strong and we were testing out my different forms of chakra manipulation against the different forms of energy manipulation that they call Haki.”

Tsunade’s hand reached for his and clenched tightly as she met the teen’s gaze, her focus intense.


“See Sakura before you leave. I want her to run a full diagnostic on you.” The older woman said firmly.

Naruto frowned, “But I’m fine. Why—”

“We don’t know what kind of side effects this world jumping could have on you!” Tsunade said quickly, the concern and worry now evident. “This fire only proves that something has had an effect! I won’t have you dying because we weren’t careful. “

Naruto fidgeted.

“Promise me you’ll see Sakura at the hospital for this before you leave.”

Naruto looked down at where his hand was clutched in hers. “I don’t think…”

“But you don’t know. Please, Naruto.”

The teen sighed, but raised his gaze to the woman who was as close to a mother and grandmother as he had ever had. “Fine, if it will make you feel better.” he conceded begrudgingly.

He yelped as her hand connected with the back of his head.

“What was that for?” he muttered while rubbing the back of his head.

“Do it for your own good too, idiot.” The older woman admonished. “I’ll make sure Sakura knows to expect you.”

The teen slumped.

Tsunade’s expression softened. “I’m sure it’s nothing… but things happen around you, Gaki. I don’t want to gamble with your life.”

Naruto raised his gaze to focus on the flickering flames once more, the weight of her last statement settling over them both. “I understand, Baa-chan.”

“Good.” The woman admonished then smiled once more. “It feels a bit like you, you know.”

Naruto turned to her, confused. “Feels like me?”

She hummed an affirmative. “Reminds me a little bit of your chakra, particularly when blended with Kurama’s chakra.”

Naruto looked back at the flame. “Is that good or bad?”

The older woman smiled sadly and then ruffled his hair before leaning back on one hand while she took another long drink from the waiting bottle. “I don’t know, Naruto, but… it’s comforting.”

Naruto relaxed at that and smiled. “I’m glad.”


Naruto frowned as he studied the open window amidst the hundreds that covered the hospital’s exterior walls. Her office window was open, that meant she had talked to Tsunade, and that she was expecting him. He sighed and leapt from his tree branch perch to land on the vertical building wall before strolling across the wall and closer to the open window. He peeked inside cautiously and breathed out a quite sigh of relief when he didn’t see any sign of red or pink, his teammate’s signature colors. He slipped inside the open window and quietly stepped down onto the room floor before glancing around at the office itself. It had been a while since had been in here.

Blue eyes brightened as he spotted familiar photos hanging on the walls. He pulled his gaze away before being too engrossed in the memories to take note of the rest of the room: a few plants, scroll shelves and other knick-knacks. He glanced to the clock on the wall and grimaced. He supposed it was a good thing she hadn’t been here waiting for him, or he’d be in for an earful about wasting her time and how busy she was.

The window clicked shut and he whirled, eyes opening wide.

“Sa—Sakura-chan! When did you get here? I didn’t see you come in—”

“You still suck at genjutsu, Naruto.”

“Ah well, if you are busy I can always come back later—” He began.

“Don’t even think about it.” She cut him off and then pointed to one of the two doors in the adjacent walls.

“Why the genjutsu, then?” He asked sulking.

“Because I knew you would find an excuse to leave, or not show up if you thought I was too busy.” She snapped. “Exam room, now.”

Naruto gulped and headed in the pointed direction.

“And would it kill you to use a door? Just because Kakashi-sensei doesn’t and Jiraiya-sama didn’t does not mean you can pick up that habit.” She chastised.

“But I like using the window…” Naruto muttered. He’d taken an aversion to doorways as soon as he could get away with it. There were always nosey secretaries trying to keep him from the people he was trying to see; the window bypassed them very nicely.

Sakura poked him hard in the middle of the back causing him to stumble forward.

Naruto sighed and eyed the waiting exam bed warily.

“Oh sit down, it’s not going to bite you.” Sakura admonished as she moved toward the nearby sink to wash her hands.

“But I feel fine.” Naruto stated, though he sat down on the waiting bed anyways.

“Jacket and shirt off, now.” Sakura ordered without turning around.

Naruto pouted.

“Don’t make me remove them for you if you want them in one piece.”

Naruto grumbled but began to unzip his jacket. He had just pulled off his shirt when he stilled, turning to face his teammate. He noted her sad green eyes, and was she about to cry? “Sakura-chan, what—”

“You promised to let me take care of you.” She said quietly. “Naruto, how could you not tell me! What if something had gone seriously wrong! What if the nature energy there changes you and you suddenly can’t ever come back!”

Naruto smiled softly. “Sakura,” She glanced away and then finished drying her hands.

“Tsunade-shishou is right you know.” She stated after a moment, her voice regaining her usual strength and personality. “I studied that fire quite a bit while it had the Critical Care Ward blocked off. It did, well does, remind me of your chakra. Now hold still.” She ordered as she laid a faintly green glowing hand on his chest over his heart.

“You take so many unnecessary risks with yourself and make everyone else worry about you.” She continued, her eyes closed in concentration.

Naruto sighed, they had had this conversation before… several times actually.

“Don’t sigh and roll your eyes at me.” The pink haired young woman stated flatly. “This may feel odd, try to not let Kurama’s energy interfere.”

Naruto muttered but did as she asked. Closing his own eyes, he focused on the feeling of chakra not his own, yet so very familiar, pass through him and let himself fall into a meditative trance, relaxing into the feeling.

It wasn’t until he felt her chakra withdraw that he realized he had unconsciously began collecting nature chakra.

“That wasn’t on purpose, was it?” Sakura asked quietly.

Naruto considered his answer, before finally just nodding.

“Something has changed.” She said after several moments of silence. “I can’t tell what, and I want to do full bloodwork, but Naruto—“

The blonde met her gaze steadily.

“I’m not so sure you should use Sage Mode while in that world. Tsunade-shishou told me you said the chakra there was different somehow. If it is, it could be the cause behind this.”

“But I wasn’t using it when…”

“Changes may have already started.” Sakura interrupted him.

Naruto frowned. “But I don’t feel any different.”

“And that both worries and reassures me.” Sakura answered. “Just… can you get Shima-san and Fuka-saku-san’s advice on it? They know more about Nature Chakra and Sage Mode than anyone else, if they say it’s okay, then fine, but…”

Naruto frowned. “There are incredibly strong people there, Sakura.”

“That doesn’t make me feel any better about it!!” She yelled at him, whirling from where she had begun to gather several vials and the needles and tubing necessary for taking blood samples.

“Just… please,” She met his blue gaze steadily, her own emerald orbs pleading. “Don’t take unnecessary risks.”

Naruto sighed. “All right, I’ll not use Sage Mode except for an emergency until I talk about it with Shima-baa-san and Fukasaku–ojisan.”

“Good, now can you let me draw blood before letting go of Sage Mode, and then again afterward?” She asked.

Naruto blanched.  “So how long is this going to take?” He asked, resigning himself to being his teammates lab subject for a while.

“As long as I deem necessary.” Sakura answered flatly, “Now, hold still and try to not heal this before I finish. I swear, I don’t know how you even manage enough blood for a summoning, let alone some of your seal work, without a cut that would cause a normal person to need stiches.”

Naruto sighed again as he did as asked, then frowned, suddenly feeling like he was forgetting something very important.

While the Captain’s Away

Yasopp hummed in satisfaction as he exited the Navigation room and stepped out onto the quarter deck of the Red Force. He had spent the morning updating the ship’s log of islands with a new notation to indicate which islands Naruto had ‘tagged’.  He shook his head in amusement as he considered just what Naruto could really do with that ability if he had the ambition. It was a wonder that such skill was bundled into a young man so much like his uncle in character. Sometimes he really wondered just how it was that Shanks had ever become one of the Four Emperors,  and he had been along for the journey… but then… there were those moments that he had no doubts at all.

He shook his head at his thoughts and glanced over the deck, pausing as he spotted a large cluster of the crew all gathered around several barrels on the main deck. He frowned, just what was that lot up to? It was way too quiet for a group of that size. Quiet usually meant trouble. He headed toward the gathering while stretching and then yawned as he came up behind those around the outside edge of the group. He studied the cluster of crewmen and frowned: the kegs weren’t even opened.

“Oi, what’s with you lot? Didn’t Beckmann authorize a party after we anchored?”

There was a muttering of agreement from several of the group.

“So why aren’t ya drinking?” Yasopp asked, starting to worry.

“Cap’n’s been gone for two days.” One of the crew sitting beside Yasopp muttered looking miserable.

Yasopp blinked. “We knew he was leaving, idiot.”

“But it’s been days, Yasopp!” Another crewman moaned.

“What if Hawkeye killed ‘Ruto!?” Another called out his voice bordering on hysteria.

Yasopp scoffed, “You lot saw them fighting on the beach that day. It would take more than a pissy Hawkeye to kill Naruto.”

“But if Hawkeye killed Naruto than the Captain would have to fight him!” a fourth voice spoke up.

“And then Captain would have to kill his favorite Shichibukai!” Someone else added.

“Captain would be in a foul mood for months! “

“There would be no more parties!”

“Yasopp! We can’t let the Captain kill Mihawk!”

Yasopp slumped onto the deck with the group in growing horror as he considered life aboard the Red Force with a moping Captain.  “How could we let them go…” He moaned.


Benn exhaled slowly, watching the smoke as it lazily spiraled upward and away into blue sky. “So you want me to start arranging a rendezvous?” He asked as his gaze drifted back down to the dark red Den Den Mushi sitting on the aft railing beside him.

The Den Den chuckled with the familiar voice of his Captain. “No need for that just yet. I’m sure Naruto will return soon.”

“And in the mean time you will drink Mihawk dry.” Benn responded sardonically. “You drinking all his booze might even be enough to persuade him to fight seriously with you again.”

The Den Den’s expression shifted into a pout that really did resemble the Captain’s face a bit too well. “If only it were that simple. We did actually drink him dry the last time I brought the crew for a party; the Bastard sulked for months and wouldn’t visit until I sent him that crate of wine you had stashed—oops.”

Benn sighed. “Captain, I am well aware of what you did with my rare wine. We will discuss how you can replace it when you are back aboard the Force.”

The Den Den stared silently for several moments.

“I’ll keep the crew out of trouble in the meantime, the spring island we are currently anchored offshore from will do nicely for some restocking and it’s about time the Force got a thorough cleaning.” Benn stated. It would be easier to keep the crew on task without Shanks interrupting for random parties.

“Sounds good, don’t work them too hard, Benn.”

Benn snorted, the Captain was probably relieved to be away for the mentioned spring cleaning. “Of course not, Captain.”

There was a familiar snarl followed quickly sound of a blade meeting another from the Den Den. Before Ben could inquire, the Den Den slumped with the typical “ker-check” that signaled a closed connection.

Benn remained where he was, slowly finishing his current cigarette, a slow smile spreading across his lips. Seemed the Captain and Hawkeye were enjoying the visit. He glanced forward toward the main deck and sighed. It also seemed it was time for him to get the crew to work before they started arranging funeral services for the non-deceased. He would never understand just why it was that the crew always seemed to turn so melodramatic when the Captain was gone for any length of time. He rolled his eyes as he spotted the familiar back of Yasopp now amidst the moping crowd. He stubbed out the butt of his smoke and headed for the main deck.


Paradise, The Grand Line, Deserts of Alabasta, Spider’s Cafe

“Goldie, honey, there is a strange little ghost here with something for you.” Paula, formerly known as Miss Doublefinger of Barque works called out from the front of the little store both women worked at.

Miss Goldenweek carefully set down her paint pallet, glancing at the canvas currently resting on her easel before she headed toward the doorway that would bring her to the front of the shop. It had been several months since she and the other former number agents had escaped the Marines and taken refuge in the renovated Cactus Saloon, now the Spider’s Cafe. It was rarely visited by pirates, being so far inland in the desert country, and was remote enough to not draw attention from any Marines. It suited Miss Goldenweek and her friends very well in that venue and they had made themselves at home. Yet, to receive a letter here? Even the news coos were not always reliable with deliveries to their little shop.

She spotted the strange little ghost holding a sealed letter with the name of “Goldie” clearly written on its front. Without a word, she held out her hand and the little ghost giggled as it dropped its burden in her palm before doing several spins and disappearing off through a wall.

“Is it something we need to worry about, Goldie, hun?” Paula asked, leaning on the empty counter. It had been a quiet afternoon in their shop after all.

“No.” Goldie answered, “It’s from my cousin.” She added as she turned the envelope over and broke the seal before sliding out the card and second envelope inside.

                Dear Cute Goldie,

Yes, this was most definitely from her cousin.

I’ve met the orange spiral in person and knew I’d have to let you and that crazy not cute aunt of yours know what I learned. He’s the real thing, so much so it gave me chills and completely ruined his cute factor. His uncle does seem to share something of a family resemblance even though the orange spiral is blonde and I do not think his bounty is un-warranted, even if the Marines really don’t get it. You need to tell the others Goldie, the feeling of it was unbelievable. I don’t think I’ve ever felt anything like it, not even when we were just girls together running away from your crazy aunts and grandma.

You know how to contact me if you need,

                                Your super cute cousin,


The single letter followed by doodles of little zombie bears and more ghosts that resembled the one who had delivered the letter confirmed the identity of the sender.

Goldie frowned as she re-read the letter. It was a good thing her cousin had sent the message with her own carrier, she never had been very good about being subtle and this was definitely something she’d have to pass on to her great aunt. She frowned then sighed quietly. There was no helping it: she’d have to deliver it in person.

“Serious news, then?” Paula asked.                                                                                                                      

Goldie looked up at the taller woman and nodded. “I’ll have to leave the shop and visit some family.” She explained.

Paula nodded. “Val will be happy to help cover for you, I’m sure. Will you be gone long?”

Goldie considered, “I’m not sure. It depends on what my family decides after they get this.”

The older woman smiled, “I understand, honey, come back when you can.”

With a warm smile she nodded brightly and then headed toward her room to start packing. Now if she remembered correctly, Great Aunt Kureha was living on Drum Island.

In the Library with the Cheese Knife

“Aww, come on, Naruto-nii, it’s not that bad.” Konohamaru said to the older teen as they sat perched on a pair of stools waiting for their orders of ramen to be served. “And you should have seen us! Moegi, Udon, and me owned those tests! And the matches after the second round, I couldn’t believe Moegi beat that Iwa-nin and then agreed to a date with a Cloud-nin after! Udon’s fight was kind of boring in comparison.  I sort of demolished the arena for my first match. Ebisu-sensei was a bit pissed I think… but the Iwa-jounin who was there told me I reminded him of Asuma-osan and Sarutobi-jiji afterwards.” Naruto smiled and ruffled the newly promoted chunnin’s hair.

“I’m happy for you, Konohomaru. Jiji would be too.” Naruto told him honestly.

Konohamaru grinned widely. “Besides, this just means I’m already one step closer to being Hokage!”

The heavy mood practically hanging over the blonde shinobi darkened as he slouched and turned to stare at the countertop before him.

“Uhh.. I mean…” Konohamaru muttered trying to come up with something he could say to cheer up the blonde once more. Before he could say anything further, however, a jumbo-sized bowl filled with miso ramen and all the extras slid into the space between the blonde’s nose and the countertop. The dark mood evaporated almost immediately as he took a slow deep breath and sighed in contentment.

“O-san, if there was a way I could take your ramen with me always—” He stopped speaking as the first mouthful of noodles filled his mouth.

The man behind the counter chuckled. “Next, you’ll ask me or Ayame-chan to go sailing with you. That is what this Uncle of yours does, right?” Teuchi asked.

Naruto nodded, but didn’t add further details as he focused on the food before him. Two mouthfuls later he suddenly froze, eyes going wide. He slurped his current mouthful slowly and then gulped loudly. “Shanks-oji is going to kill me…” he breathed out, a tinge of panic in his voice.

Konohamaru frowned as he slurped from his own bowl, pausing before taking another bite. “I thought you liked your uncle, why would he kill you?”

Naruto fidgeted before addressing Teuchi. “Umm… O-san, can I get the rest to go?” He asked, refraining from answering the younger teen’s question.

Teuchi shrugged and simply set to work transferring the rest of Naruto’s ramen order into a neat stack of to-go cartons without question. He had grown used to his customers having to leave suddenly years ago. Naruto’s own parents had been rather notorious for it.

“Naruto-nii…” Konohamaru pouted. “..Why?” he asked again.

The blonde fidgeted for another few moments before letting out a long sigh and turning to face his younger friend. “I kind of left him stranded on an island.”

“But isn’t he the Captain of a ship?” Konohamaru asked, confused.

“He is.” Naruto said, “We were visiting a sort of rival-friend of his and I had used Hiraishin to get us there. His ship and crew were nowhere near his friend’s home at the time. Then I got Sakura-chan’s summon and just left…” He explained and then groaned. “They’re both going to kill me.”

“Who are both going to kill you?” a familiar voice asked from behind him.

Naruto yelped and stumbled back, tripping over a stool and landing on his back with a loud crash. “S-Sakura-chan!” He exclaimed in surprise, and a small amount of fear.

The pink-haired young woman frowned, her hands now resting on her hips. “Naruto, who?”

The teen laughed nervously.

“He apparently left his uncle stranded on some island with a friend.” Konohamaru chimed in quickly, not really wanting to see the pink-haired shinobi angry. He remembered what had happened before.

The pink-haired woman snorted as she glanced at the chunnin and smiled. “Congratulations on your promotion, Konohamaru.”

“Uhh, thanks.” The chunnin answered, eyes wide and still a little wary of the med-nin.

The young woman nodded at him before moving forward to sit down. “One miso ramen please, Teuchi-san.”

“Of course, Sakura-san.” The older man replied and set to work.

Sakura glanced down at her teammate and rolled her eyes. “Sit down, Naruto, and at least eat a bowl with me before you go disappearing. I came to talk to you and I doubt another hour or so will make a difference to your uncle now.”

The blonde pulled himself up from where he’d fallen and cautiously slipped onto the seat he had so recently occupied. He smiled in thanks at Teuchi as a new bowl of fresh ramen, pork this time, appeared before him at the same time Sakura received hers. There was a content, if slightly awkward, silence as they both focused on eating, though Naruto kept glancing at the pink-haired shinobi at his side, obviously nervous.

“I didn’t find anything.” She finally stated. “Not that I can be certain of.”

Naruto blinked, surprised. He hadn’t really thought there was anything wrong, but with how Tsunade and then Sakura had acted… he had begun to wonder himself.

“Unfortunately, we never did a full bloodwork analysis while you were in Sage mode before, so I can’t really be certain there isn’t anything either.”

“But that means…” Naruto began trying to understand the medic-nin’s concerns.

“Yes, there is a significant difference in your blood between when you are in sage mode and not. I’m sure the same is also true for when you are using Kurama-san’s chakra as well. You always seemed perfectly fine after battles and didn’t have any strange after effects, though… so it really may be nothing.”

“That’s good then, right?” Naruto asked as he paused before taking another mouthful of noodles.

“It is, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be careful.” Sakura admonished turning her gaze on him. “I still want you to get the elder toads to evaluate the nature chakra there before you try anything more with Sage mode.”

“Not sure how they are going to like it—“

“They will want to make sure you aren’t killing yourself.” Sakura replied but seemed to relax now that he had more or less agreed.

Naruto pouted, but watched his teammate as she finished her ramen. “Do you want to go with me?” He asked.

Sakura looked up suddenly, eyes wide. “You would take me?”

Naruto raised his bowl to finish off the last drops and then shrugged as he set it down. “You’d probably end up trying to kill at least half of Shanks-oji’s crew, but yeah, if you wanted to.”

Sakura smiled, “Thank you, but I have too much work to do here. You,” She then poked him hard in the chest, “just need to take better care of yourself and don’t assume you can heal from everything.”

Naruto winced but muttered an affirmative before turning to the counter and the waiting stack of to go cartons. He quickly pulled out a scroll to seal them into. “Until next time, O-san. See you later, Konohamaru, Sakura-chan!”

“We should spar next time, Boss!” Konohamaru called out while Sakura and Teuchi waved as the blonde disappeared.


Naruto paused for only a moment after the initial energy of his teleport faded away before reaching out for the marker he had placed on Mihawk’s hat, and frowned. It was faint, almost distorted and hard to get a fix on. Had Mihawk done something to break the seal? He let out a mutter of relief as he found the one on the kunai he had given to Zoro near and not faded. If he had not been able to make the jump back to retrieve his uncle, he was pretty sure Ben would have made his life hell. Perhaps he should talk to his uncle about placing a permanent marker on him… one that could not be taken away or easily damaged.

He locked on to his marker and let the energy build before vanishing from the storage room just moments before the hatch was opened.

“Guess he already went to get the Captain.” Rockstar muttered, still not quite sure Ben and Yasopp hadn’t just been messing with him when they said they had detected the blonde.


Naruto appeared in a ready crouch, kunai drawn and ready to defend should a sword or three suddenly come his way. He blinked and then glanced around the vacant room, noticing the bed, table, and ready first aid kit. He spotted the familiar kunai blade resting on the table and frowned, wondering why the green-haired man had not kept it with him… but then, well, he supposed it didn’t matter as long as he was training here under Mihawk.

He crouched down and began to reach for nature chakra, and then froze as he remembered Sakura’s warnings. He sighed, seems he’d have to find his uncle the old fashioned way and then wondered just how hard it would be to find Hawkeye’s alcohol stash as that was probably a good place to start, knowing his uncle would show up there sooner or later.

He slipped out into the hallway and glanced around, but spotting nothing to really indicate a direction he should take, he simply picked one and began walking.

He passed various closed doors, which he opened and peered inside. If they were locked, he unlocked them in quick fashion; apparently no one here had ever had to keep a shinobi locked out of anything before, and opened those too.

Then he came across a slightly larger room.  He let out a low whistle as he studied the shelves upon shelves upon shelves of books. He wondered idly if Hawkeye even read them, hadn’t Hawkeye been holding a book when Naruto first arrived with Shanks-oji? He shrugged and wandered into the room, glancing across the titles as he went. Then he paused, and backed up a step, his eyes going wide.

“No way…” he whispered as he raised a finger to trace across a familiar title, Icha Icha Paradise. A wide grin spread across his face as he began to chuckle.  He hadn’t even realized the first volume was printed and being circulated.  It would certainly be months before the publisher he had found would be releasing the next in the set; he suppose he could offer an advance copy, maybe even autograph it and see how the stoic swordsman reacted. Shanks-oji had suggested he try to not enrage the Warlord, but he had probably been enjoying his extended visit, right?

He took a last look around the library and then headed back out into the hallway to continue his search through the large building that could really only be described as a castle.

He supposed he really should consider putting a marker on his uncle; it would make the older man so much easier to find. He would always know where he was on the ship too. Naruto still wasn’t quite sure how the Red-Haired Pirate Captain had ended up snoring in the lowest bulkhead behind a pile of cannonballs that one time he had been unable to find his uncle. The fact that Benn and Yasopp had both acted like it was completely normal had only added to the very distinct impression that the entire crew was crazy, which if he was honest with himself, only made him feel more at home with them. Perhaps he should add whatever this place had as an armory to his search list.

He paused at the bottom of a staircase as he took in the sight of the large kitchen space laid out before him. He glanced around, noticing the pile of dishes by the sinks, but little other signs of use. He peeked through a few doors, finding a cold room with a lot of cheese, and a pantry of dry goods, but no sign of alcohol, Hawkeye, or his uncle. 

He’d almost gone out the same way he had come in, when another doorway, almost hidden behind a large refrigerator unit caught his attention. There was no door and as he peered in through it, he spotted a staircase heading down with several bottles piled along the edges of the stairs. “Bingo.”

Naruto stepped carefully down the well-worn staircase, watching his footing amidst the various discarded bottles and occasional small barrels. Reaching the bottom, he looked around him and blinked in surprise. If he had thought the stairs were covered in discarded bottles… well the space that could only be what they called a wine cellar was worse. Bottles and barrels emptied of their contents had been left scattered everywhere. Open spaces gaped where the now scattered bottles had been stored, particularly the shelves that appeared to have held sake and beer. The wine cabinets seemed to have fared better, but even they had been raided heavily.

He picked his way through the darkened space, noting that several torches had been burned out and replaced in the room based off the pile of burnt up stubs lying against one wall. He peeked around barrels and even a few piles of empty bottles, but still found no sign of his uncle or the original owner of the now absent booze.

Naruto sighed. So his uncle wasn’t making himself at home amidst Mihawk’s booze stash. Just where could they be? Maybe beating up the monkeys outside?

“Time to cover more ground.” He muttered, raising his hands in a well-practiced gesture. In moments the room was filled with Kage Bunshin.  Naruto grinned, “All right, everyone, if you find them, don’t piss them off any further than they probably already are.”

Several of the clones snickered.

“I mean it!” Naruto grumbled.

“Sure, Boss.” One smart ass clone replied, only to be immediately dispelled by his neighbor.

Naruto narrowed his eyes at the offender who shrugged. “He was going to get us all in trouble.”

“Right—get to it!” Naruto ordered and they all charged up the stairs and walls with shouts of agreement, a few more getting dispelled along the way for further smart ass commentary.

Naruto watched them all go and really wondered if his own clones would be the death of him someday.

It didn’t take very long after that for the familiar feeling of new memories to reveal where his uncle was located. “I really wonder if he got up to this sort of thing before I showed up….” Naruto muttered as he followed the path the dispelled clone had remembered and soon found himself in the same room he and Shanks had first arrived in. He paused in the doorway, taking note of everything before entering. On a sofa to one side of the room the pink-haired girl who had been with Zoro was curled up and cuddling with some weird stitched up pillow or creature. On the floor a little ways away and closer to the center of the room was the green-haired teen himself, sprawled on his back and snoring. Scrawled across his chest in black ink were several phrases. Haweye’s Boy Toy and Red-Hair was here, to name a few.

Naruto’s eyes shifted further along to find the Warlord himself unconscious in his armchair, empty wine bottles all around. The shirt he had been wearing had been split down the front, and his uncle was in the process of decorating this chest as he had that of the younger swordsman.  Red-Hair was here already prominent across the man’s pectorals.

“He’s going to try to kill you for that, you know.” Naruto stated.

The red-haired man turned quickly, eyes wide, before quickly made a shushing motion. “Let me finish!” The older Uzumaki admonished in a sort of hushed yell.

Naruto chuckled but said nothing more; who was he to interrupt a prank after all? His eyes scanned the room further and spotted a familiar black hat. He glanced to his uncle, still busy doodling on Mihawk, before striding over to the hat and studying what was left of the seal marker he had placed on it. He supposed he had been lucky it had lasted as long as it had, since it had never been placed with a carrier medium other than his chakra. Well he’d just have to fix that. In moments ink and brush were in hand and he quickly set to work leaving a more permanent marker imbedded in the hat.

His uncle soon appeared at his shoulder. “Problem?” he asked.

“The seal was fading. Luckily I had given Zoro one of my kunai before I left.” Naruto explained as he finished with his brush and laid his palm to the hat to finalize the seal with a brief burst of chakra, refreshing the marker and camouflaging the ink work. “There, he’d have to destroy the hat itself to get rid of it now.”

Shanks snickered, glancing back over his shoulder at the still unconscious swordsmen. “Well we better get going then before the sleeping beauties awake.”

Naruto snorted. “This one is all on you.”

Shanks grinned. “Ah, but you left me here with them.”

Naruto blanched, “About that…”

Shanks only chuckled, “You can explain later, we better go rescue the crew from Benn.”

“Rescue?” Naruto asked.

“He was planning to set them to cleaning when I talked to him last.” Shanks explained.

Naruto’s eyes widened. “Right.” And, with that said, he rested his hand on his uncle’s shoulder before both disappeared in a flash of light.

In the Calm

Sakura knocked on the wood paneled doorway before pushing the door open and stepping inside. “Good morning, Shishou.” She called out as she slipped out of her sandals and into the pair of house slippers waiting just inside the door.

“I told you I don’t need you to check on me every morning.” The older woman replied from further inside the set of rooms.

“Now, Tsunade-shishou, you know what Shizune-san told you.”

“She worries too much.” The older woman replied tersely as Sakura stepped into the kitchen where the Tsunade sat with a teapot and kettle. “So do you.” She added as she glanced toward the pink haired girl.

“That better be just tea in your cup.” Sakura admonished without giving response to the older woman’s grumbling.

“I’ve told you, I don’t…”

The pink-haired woman glared at her teacher who turned away with a muttered snort.

“You two are going to give yourselves gray hairs with all your fretting.”

Sakura smiled at that, “Not likely; you’ve taught us too well, Shishou.”

Tsunade sighed wearily. “Well, what is it then? You’ve got something on your mind besides my health: I could tell the moment you stepped in the door.”

Sakura smiled as she pulled out the chair across from her teacher before settling herself. “Naruto’s blood is changing.”

Tsunade’s eyes snapped up from where they had drifted to her tea cup. “What do you mean?”

Sakura shrugged. “I’m not really certain, and it really only became evident after several days. The samples I drew while he was in Sage Mode… I thought they would eventually loose whatever nature chakra had been infused in them and would then be like the normal samples. But they’re not. Shizune-san found some old medical records in the Hokage personal files from when he was younger. Even the samples when he wasn’t channeling any chakra have changed.”

Tsunade frowned. “But with the fox—“

“That’s what we thought, too,” Sakura began before Tsunade could finish her statement. “But we also found records from Naruto’s mother and even your grandmother. Neither of them showed any such changes over the course of their lives.”

Tsunade’s fingers tightened around her cup before she slowly relaxed them and then moved to pick up the teapot, filling a waiting mug for Sakura before refilling her own. “Do you think it’s a health risk?” She asked quietly after several long moments.

“No. We ran every possible simulation we could think of that could come from this; if anything, he is healthier.” Sakura said quietly.

Tsunade smiled softly then.  “Good.”

Sakura stiffened in surprise, “But, Shishou…”

“He’s happy, Sakura. Happier than he has been since we all came home from the War.”


“If we have to let him go, we will do so.”

Sakura slumped in her seat, eyes downcast. She sniffled once, but then nodded, slowly raising her cup to take a sip of her tea. She paused after a swallow narrowing her gaze at her teacher, but chose to say nothing.


Shanks watched in amusement as his nephew helped with manning the sails. The blonde teen could be seen scurrying across rigging, yards, and line as he followed the directions shouted up to him by Yasopp and a few other crewmembers. Lookouts perched in the crow’s nest called out jeers and taunts at the blonde, laughing when the blonde would trip and almost tumble from the heights; only to turn and shout back at those who were taunting him while perched upside down from the very place he had slipped.

“Are you sure you don’t want him on punishment detail for leaving you stranded on Kuraigana?” Benn asked as he came to lean against the railing of the quarterdeck beside the red-haired Captain.

“Nah, Mihawk has it covered.” Shanks said, laughter in his voice.

Benn arched an eyebrow in query as he pulled out a cigarette and proceeded to light it.

“I told Mihawk he could bill Naruto for the cost of restock. We opened up his special reserves after that. Had no idea ol’ Hawkeye had been holding out on me with his best stuff.” Shanks said and then sighed. “Shame it’s all gone now.”

Benn chuckled, “I imagine the crew will have to pay their bar tabs themselves for a while, at least until Naruto pays that off, rather than pinning them on the boy. Although, if he’s anything like you, he never will pay the bill anyways. As I recall, Mihawk gave up sending you the bill for your drinking indulgences after you gave him that folder full of them for his birthday a few years back.”

Shanks smirked at the memory, and then pouted, “Mihawk didn’t let me raid his liquor stash that year when we visited. Stingy old bird.”

Benn chuckled, “The fact that the bills went unpaid probably didn’t help.” He then took another draw of his smoke before speaking further. “Two years… are you sure of Mihawk’s source?”

Shanks snorted. “Can’t get much more legitimate than Luffy’s own first mate. The news is just not going to be exciting without Luffy’s name popping in out of the blue anymore. But just think of it, Benn, Luffy’s getting training under Rayleigh-san; just think of what he’ll be doing when he takes to the Sea again.”

Benn smiled. “We best be prepared, then.”

Shanks chuckled but then turned more somber. “We’ll have to keep a close eye on Blackbeard.”

Benn grunted. “The Marines are also going to be more trouble in the future. Word is that both Sengoku and Garp are retiring.”

Shanks eyes widened at that. Those two names had been at the forefront of the Marines since he had sailed under Rodger. “It really is a new era.” He said quietly.

“There’s more.” Benn said quietly, “Aokigi challenged Akainu for Fleet Admiral.”

Shanks eyes widened and he turned to face his first mate fully. “When?”

“It hasn’t been confirmed officially yet, but I suspect we’ll see it in the news any day now. Word is ‘Absolute Justice’ and the ‘End of the Age of Pirates’ is the reigning pursuit of the Marines. ” Benn answered.

Shanks sighed and turned forward once more, then smiled as he spotted his nephew in multiples now all but covering sails and rigging in a near sea of orange. “They must be nervous at HQ; some unknown blonde pirate being able to block a direct hit of their newly appointed Commander.”

Benn snorted, but did not relax, “Captain…”

“We’ll have to warn those who answer to us.” Shanks stated, answering the unspoken question. “We chose the risks that came with this life, and that hasn’t changed. But we will protect our own.”

Benn nodded, having expected as much from his Captain.

“Akainu won’t be able to end this Golden Pirate Age quite so easily as that.” The redhead said quietly then smiled, “Whitebeard knew what he was doing at Marineford.”

Benn exhaled. “New waves of pirates have been reaching both Paradise and the New World steadily ever since that day. If the Mad Dog isn’t careful they will lose Paradise trying to bring down the Yonko.”

Shanks smirked. “Two years. Luffy will be ready then, I’m sure of it.”

Benn chuckled once more at that. “And Naruto?”

Shanks’ eyes continued to follow his nephew’s actions with the crew for several minutes before he spoke. “Naruto is Family. Whatever he chooses, be it in the Elemental Nations where he has lived all his life, or here on the open sea, nothing will change that.”

Benn turned his gaze from his Captain to the teen high up in the rigging. “Well, we best see to it he is prepared for whichever choice he makes.”

Shanks chuckled. “You just want to use him for target practice.”

Benn shrugged. “I thought the crew might like a new piñata to liven things up.”

Shanks blinked and then turned his gaze to his first mate one more. “You are a terrible man.”

Benn smiled slowly. “Of course, Captain.”

Before the Storm

“You want to start teaching me Haki?” Naruto asked, surprised.

“Well, mostly Benn and the crew want to use you as a target dummy, but essentially yes.” Shanks replied with a wry grin.

Naruto narrowed his eyes. “Target dummy?”

“Remember the demonstration we gave you of Observation Haki?” Shanks asked back.

Naruto considered for a moment before nodding, “The blindfold thing, right?”

“That’s right. Anyone with enough will and strength of character can learn either Armament or Observation Haki, though most will go their entire lives without unlocking either. I believe it’s highly likely you already have unlocked them, and even used them occasionally without being aware of it. The simplest and most direct way to expand on those abilities is being forced into situations where you have to depend on them.”

“Thus the target dummy.” Naruto stated, getting where this was going.

In some ways, it reminded him of training he had gone through often enough before. At that moment, he slumped and let out a long sigh. “It will have to wait a bit longer before we can start, Shanks-oji.”

Shanks looked at his nephew, puzzled. “Is something wrong?”

Naruto fidgeted for a few moments. “Sakura made me promise to consult the toads before I did anything more with Sage Mode in this world. This has enough elements like it, that if I don’t… well let’s just say she’ll probably make my last beating look like a friendly hug.”

“What is wrong with your Sage Mode?” Shanks asked. “You didn’t seem to have any problems with it.”

Naruto shrugged. “There was some weird side effects to some seal work I had done at the hospital. That was why I had to go suddenly: they needed me to deal with it. Sakura and Baa-chan are worried that the Nature Chakra of this world may have some negative effect on me.”

Shanks frowned, this did not sound good. “And where do the toads come into this?”

Naruto blinked blankly at his uncle for several moments.  “Ah! You don’t know! The toads are the ones who taught me how to use Nature Chakra and Sage Mode. The elders are masters of it and their entire mountain valley is heavily saturated with Nature Chakra, unlike most of the Elemental Nations.” Naruto explained.

“So, they should be able to tell if there is something harmful with the Nature Chakra of this world?” Shanks asked.

Naruto nodded.

“Well, then, what do you need to do to bring them here?”

Naruto grinned. “Watch.”

No sooner had he spoken then his hands flickered into movement and his palm was slapped onto the deck planks between them.

Shanks yelped as he was suddenly shoved from where he had been standing in the middle of the main deck to up against the railing at the very edge of the ship, the wood creaking behind him.

“Naruto! Took you long enough! Shima-baa-san is really upset you haven’t visited recently. And what’s with all this rope and cloth.”

“Kichi! What are you– I thought I only used enough chakra for one of the messengers!” The blonde’s voice called out in surprise.

“Captain! We’ve got a problem! We are dangerously low in the water with the sudden extra weight!”

“We need to get rid of this Sea-king fast!”

“Hey watch it with those! Naruto, are you in a fight?!” The rumbling voice of the large toad grumbled as he shifted and the main mast creaked where his back was pressed against it. “I can’t move in all this.”

Atop the large orange toad’s head the blonde teen glanced around and winced as ropes snapped and bits of wood that had likely been part of the rigging began to fall toward the sea and deck. “Uhh, Gamakichi, I’ll have to call you back later, this isn’t a good time.”

There was a sudden whoosh and the large toad vanished, leaving only the damage his sudden appearance had caused in his wake.

The Red Force creaked and groaned as it bobbed upward suddenly and more lines snapped at the sudden release of tension.

Shanks rubbed his back as he moved forward, scanning the damage to his ship. Naruto landed where he had stood before and looked at him nervously, a guilty expression covering his face.

“Perhaps you should refrain from summoning any more of them while we are at open sea.” Shanks offered lightly, frowning as several crewmen rushed across the deck to the main mast, inspecting it for any serious damage.

Naruto flinched. “Yeah, that would probably be a good idea… that didn’t quite go the way I expected it.”

“Well, that’s a relief. We’d have quite an issue if the Captain’s favorite nephew was intentionally trying to drown us all at sea.” Benn’s voice said as he stepped up behind the blonde teen.

“I’m his only nephew.” The blonde muttered, but refrained from adding further comment as the ship’s First Mate placed a hand on his shoulder.

 “Captain, if you don’t mind, we could use Naruto’s multi-tasking talents in repairing all the damaged rigging. If we don’t get the sails back in working order quickly, we will be at the mercy of the weather.”

Shanks nodded and then watched as Benn guided his nephew toward a small cluster of the crew who were already pulling out spare line and rope to begin repairs. He sighed and leaned back, trying to stretch out the abused muscles of his back.

“Summoning toads the size of sea kings…” The red haired pirate shook his head.

“Good news, Captain, the main mast is undamaged.” Yasopp stated as he came to stand beside the red-haired man. “We took on some water down in the bilge, but we’ve already got a work detail on the pumps taking care of it.”

Shanks chuckled at that. “Another normal day on this crazy sea we call home?”

“She likes to keep us on our toes, that’s for certain. Don’t think we’ve ever had a sea king show up like that before, let alone one that could talk.”

Shanks snorted. “It wasn’t a sea king.”

Yasopp blinked.

“Naruto summoned it. Apparently he wasn’t expecting one of that size to appear.”

Yasopp let out a low whistle. “No wonder Benn’s got him running the new yard lines already. Still, no worse than some of the damage caused when we have a day of sea king fishing.”

Shanks chuckled. “Don’t tell Naruto that.”

The other man grinned.


Doctarine chuckled as she relaxed in the lawn chair on the small outcropping of land that rested a short distance away from the rushing cascade that was the official entrance to the Grand Line. She had found the small house that was behind her empty and had proceeded to make herself at home; she knew the home’s owner would return soon. The large whale that swam lazily just a short distance away was proof enough of that.

“Still waiting, Laboon?” The older woman asked, but didn’t really expect an answer. She had already taken note of the large healing scars across the whale’s crown and the sloppy mark that was painted there. She was surprised it had not washed off, after all, she was sure the crew that had left it there had passed through here quite some time ago now. Before she could consider the topic further, a metal port hole in the whale’s side rolled open and a small boat glided out before pausing long enough to make sure the door was secured again behind it. The whale let out a squee that echoed off the nearby cliffs and began to submerge.

Doctraine snorted as the small boat rocked wildly for a few moments before it began heading towards the small dock she herself had arrived at only earlier that same day.

She watched amused as an older man exited the boat and then strolled up the dock toward her. “This house has an occupant, so you can just— Kureha-sensei!” The man exclaimed in surprise as he identified his visitor.

“It’s been a while, Crocus-kun.” Doctarine said as she chuckled and took a long drink from the bottle of sake she had found in the man’s home.

The man chuckled, “I really am far too old for you to be calling me that, but you are looking well, Sensei.”

“Of course, and no I will not teach you the secret of my youth!” She answered him and laughed again as he simply frowned.

“Why are you here, Kureha-sensei, I thought you had chosen to remain on Drum?”

Kureha sighed, “Ah, well my cute little apprentice went off to find adventure, and then my cute little grand-niece brought me some interesting information.”

The older man blinked as he settled into another lawn chair across from his old teacher. “Information?”

The older woman nodded, “Tell me, Crocus-kun, what do you know of Red Hair Shanks, or should I say Uzumaki Shanks?”

Back to Basics

Shanks eyes narrowed as he stared at the slips of square paper resting on the deck between him and his nephew where they sat across from one another. The occasional murmuring and snickering of his crew could be heard drifting down from the rigging above; the bunch of gulls that they were, all acting like they didn’t have anything better to do. “You want me to ‘stick’ these to my forehead with chakra?” Shanks asked, glancing up from the slips of paper to his nephew’s grinning face.

“Yeah, we used leaves back in the academy, but the concept should pretty much be the same. It gets you used to channeling chakra to specific points of your body… I think.” The blonde replied, his tone losing its confidence right at the end.

“You think?” Shanks asked eyebrow twitching. If this was some elaborate prank that Yasopp and the others had put him up to…

Naruto nodded quickly, and then looked a bit apologetic. “Sorry, I never really have been good explaining this type of stuff.”

Shanks sighed but reached down to pick up one of the slips of paper. “Does it have to be my forehead?”

Naruto shrugged. “Maybe not… but there was probably a reason for it.”

“Didn’t you listen to your teachers, Naruto?” Rockstar called out from where he leaned against the main mast, several other crewmen chuckling at the question.

Naruto glanced upward, “Careful there, Rockstar, would hate for you to hurt yourself when you fall.”

The pirate laughed. “What do you mean ‘when,’ brat?!”

Naruto vanished from where he had been seated as the sounds of a scuffle broke out overhead.

Shanks shook his head in amusement but didn’t interfere, choosing instead to look at the slip of paper skeptically once more. He sighed again, and resigned himself to it. The crew was going to use this against him for months.

Shanks glanced upward as a yelp and curse filled the air, quickly followed by Rockstar falling only to be caught by the ankle by his nephew. Shanks chuckled; he remembered doing that to Buggy.

Benn blew out a stream of smoke as he came to stand near the Red-Haired pirate and then glanced down at the bits of paper starting to blow away. “You are losing your mock-leaves.” He stated dryly, and smirked as Shanks cursed and quickly made to grab the slips.

Shanks muttered darkly about nosey First Mates after catching the slips, but settled to the task of trying to make the paper stick to his skin once more.


It was several days later, with Shanks still not managing to make the paper slips stick to his forehead or any other body part, except in his hair, that the topic of Naruto’s own ability with the exercise was brought up.

“Show it to me again.” Shanks demanded, his eyes focused intensely on his nephew as the blonde sighed and picked up several slips of the paper before making them not only stick, but move in spiraling circles around each other across his palm.

The red-haired Captain frowned, but picked up his own slip and focused on it once more.

“You must have been a pro at this with all the chakra stuff you use all the time, Naruto.” Lucky Roo stated from where he sat a short distance away caring for his weapons.

Naruto blinked then grinned, laughing loudly. “Of course! I had Hokage-jiji teaching me himself!” He exclaimed, his voice carrying across the deck.

Those nearby all paused and turned to look at the blonde.

Shanks raised his eyes from his slips of paper to his nephew. “You sucked, didn’t you?”

Naruto deflated and grumbled about know-it-all uncles while nearby crew all chuckled.

“So what allowed you to master it?” Yasopp asked from his own place near Lucky Roo, his pistols lay out before him as he dismantled, cleaned, oiled, and reassembled his weapon of choice.

Naruto shrugged, “I never really did get it back in the Academy. I’ve always had really high amounts of chakra, even as a kid, and it made my chakra control complete shit. Caused me all sorts of trouble trying to learn the Bunshin no jutsu.”

“Bunshin, don’t you use that one all the time now?” Yasopp asked.

Naruto chuckled. “Kage Bunshin.” His lips spread wide in a grin and his eyes sparked. “No one can match my skill with Kage Bunshin. Not even the Kages themselves.”

The crew chuckled, some of them suggesting he was exaggerating again, but Naruto only smiled.

“So, if you never mastered this exercise, what do you call that?” Benn asked as he gestured toward the two slips of paper still dancing in circles on the teen’s palm.

Naruto chuckled. “A lot of chakra manipulation training. This exercise is really pretty simple after mastering the tree-climbing, water-walking, and Rasengan. All three of them use some of the same concepts, but they all took a lot more chakra, so were easier for me.”

“Aha!” Shanks cheered as he focused on the pieces of paper now sticking to his palm as he turned it left, right and upside down. At that moment a strong gust breezed by taking the slips of paper with it. “Come back here!” Shanks called out trying to grasp the slips of paper as the wind took them.

All around chuckles and laughter broke out.

Shanks sighed.

Naruto patted his uncle on the back, an amused smile on his face. “Don’t worry Shanks-oji, I’m sure you’ll get it soon.” And then offered his own still spiraling slips of paper to his uncle.

“You are enjoying this.” Shanks said as he plucked one of the slips off his nephew’s palm, noticing the tug of resistance as he did so.

“Of course.” Naruto answered, still smiling.

“Could you teach more of us, Naruto?” One of the crew who had been watching from where he perched in the rigging above asked.

Naruto frowned, “Umm, I don’t think so. I’ve never seen adults start using chakra that hadn’t trained for it as kids. Something about the chakra system never developing if not used… I think.”

“Isn’t it a bit risky for the Captain to learn, then?” Yasopp asked approaching the group from behind with two escaped pieces of papers caught between his fingers.

“Umm, maybe? Kurama thinks it should be all right, and I could sense his chakra when in Sage Mode. Was more than what most chuunin have, but not anywhere near what he would have had if he had trained all his life.” Naruto explained.

“You couldn’t sense the rest of the crew then?” Benn asked as he exited the Navigation cabin and walked up to lean on the railing behind Naruto, letting a long trail of smoke escape his lips.

“I could, but it was like a bunch of civilians.” Naruto explained.

Shanks chuckled, his gaze focused on the small piece of paper slowly moving in loops around his palm. “Seems you lot will just have to do things the old fashioned way.”

“I wonder if there is a Chakra Chakra no Mi?” someone asked.

“How would that even work?” another chimed in.

“Bet you’d just go poof like Naruto’s clones!” another added, the rest laughing.

“We should arrive at D?kutsu no Takishima in two days, weather allowing, Captain.” Benn then said calmly.

Shanks looked up with spark in his eye. “Good to hear, Naruto can summon his toad friends and we can finally get started on his Haki training.”

Naruto glanced around himself nervously, sensing that the entire crew’s attention was now on him. “Why do I suddenly feel like I’m being thrown to a pack of wolves?”

All around him members of the crew chuckled.

“That’s because you are, and that you can sense it means it shouldn’t be too difficult to fully awaken your Observation Haki.” Shanks stated.

Naruto blinked and his expression turned into one of shocked disbelief, “You really do want to treat me like a target dummy!”

“Ah, that would be Benn and Yasopp actually.” Shanks said with amusement.

“Well, he definitely has it awakened.” Yasopp said cheerfully.

“You are all terrible people.” Naruto said sullenly as he glanced back and forth between Yasopp and Benn.

Benn chuckled darkly. “Of course, we are pirates.”

“Perhaps we should test him, see if he uses it subconsciously or not. Can’t be that tied to his Sage Mode if he does.” Yasopp suggested, smirking.

“You just want to shoot at me.” Naruto stated flatly.

“Your point?” Yasopp asked.

Shanks chuckled. “Well, Yasopp does have a point. If you are already using it, there is no reason not to train it.”

“If you are using it, it must be trained. It can become a liability if not.” Benn added.

Naruto eyed the three older men warily. “I take it back; you aren’t wolves, you three are demons.”

Shanks grinned, his eyes sparking with mischief. “You say the sweetest things. Now, I would recommend dodging, oh and no chakra.”

Naruto blanched. “None?”

Shanks smirk turned more sinister. “None.”

A shot rang out and Naruto yelped, eyes going wide as a few blonde strands wafted away on the wind.

Yasopp chuckled. “That was a warning shot.”

“Better start running, kid.” Benn stated as he lit a new cigarette and grinned.

“You’ll regret this!” Naruto called out as shots began to fill the air followed by his yelps and further cursing.

Shanks sighed in pleasure. “We haven’t had the chance to do this in a while.”

Benn snorted. “We haven’t had to build up the crew’s tolerance to your haki since we recruited Rockstar.”

“Perhaps it’s time for a refresher course.” Shanks suggested.

“Your slips of paper are blowing away again, Captain.” Benn stated, eyeing the slips of paper that fluttered in the wind, and then chuckling as his Captain let out a string of curses once more. It really was good to be a pirate.

Tickling Distractions

It was only a short time after the target dummy discussion when several of the crew volunteered to help out getting the blonde ninja-pirate’s Observation Haki training underway. Amused, Benn had let Yasopp take the lead in organizing it and the blonde was now jumping around on the main deck while the crew treated him like a fish in the bottom of a barrel.

The teen was doing surprisingly well for his first day of training with the ability, proving his and Shanks’ suspicions that he had awakened it some time ago, but never formally trained or mastered it. The kid was good at dodging, that was certain, but…

“Quit wasting so much movement!” Yasopp’s voice called out, scolding. “What’s the point of being able to dodge in advance if you give up all the advantage of it with wasted movement?!”

Benn chuckled from his point of observation on the quarter deck.

The exercise continued for several more moments uninterrupted until the teen suddenly lost focus and yelped as he barely dodged a bullet aimed at his head. Benn frowned; that had been close. “Oi, Naruto. You can’t lose focus so easily in a fight. That’s the third time in the last hour.” The first mate spoke up, drawing the attention of all those around him.

Yasopp sighed and leaned back against the main mast where he was perched on the main topsail platform. “Benn’s right, ya know. You keep losing it.”

The blond teen fidgeted and hung his head; he couldn’t deny the fact.

“What is it?” Shanks asked as he came to stand beside Benn, eyebrow arched in inquiry.

Naruto deflated further at his uncle’s question, shuffling in embarrassment, before muttering something that caused those nearest him to perk up in surprise.

“Naruto, Hawkeye isn’t even anywhere near us on the Grand Line right now, how could…” Rockstar began but trailed off as the blonde summoned a clone to his side.

The crew all stared and then several began to snicker as they put two and two together.

Shanks considered his nephew and the clone and hummed. “You left clones on Hawkeye’s island.”

Naruto nodded and let his clone disperse. “He’s apparently started hunting them in the last hour, and well… he’s being rather brutal about it.”

Benn lit a cigarette, took a long drag, and exhaled before adding, “This shouldn’t cause you such distraction. You’ve fought without the destruction of your clones causing you issues before. We’ve all seen it.”

Naruto sighed. “They’ve been playing hide and seek… and painting things in his mansion orange among other things. Every time Mihawk catches one, I get memories of new pranks they set up.”

The crew burst into full laughter at that and Naruto shrugged. “I could dispel them all now…”

“But that would spoil the fun.” Shanks finished for him with a grin. “You know, I may not be able to keep him from killing you the next time we meet up.”

Naruto shrugged and then smirked. “The look on his face when he found the first tower painted completely orange…”

“Did you say ‘tower painted orange’?” Yasopp asked as several crew let out snickers and low whistles.

“Yeah, that island is super gloomy.” Naruto stated as if it was the most obvious solution.

“Kid, Shanks is right; Mihawk is going to kill you.” Yasopp stated.

“Does that mean Shanks is going to have to kill Mihawk?” a crewman not far from Yasopp asked as a few whispers started to spread from those around.

Naruto blinked as he watched the crew around him suddenly begin muttering darkly about Shanks being in a foul mood and not having parties for months. “What…”

Shanks glanced from his crew to Benn. “Please tell me this isn’t what happened while I was gone.”

Benn raised an eyebrow, “Captain, you know better than to ask that.”

Naruto walked through the now distracted and muttering crew to stand beside his uncle. “I don’t get it, what happened?”

Shanks sighed and Benn chuckled before answering. “The crew speculated what would happen if Mihawk killed you while you two were both gone. They came to the conclusion this would lead to Shanks having to killing Mihawk and then being in an eternally foul mood and the end of all parties.”

Naruto’s face twisted into one of annoyance, “As if I would get killed so easily as that!”

The crew all seemed to pause; turning to stare at the blonde. Silence held for several long moments before new whispers broke out.

“Hey if Naruto is strong enough to defend himself, then we have nothing to worry about.”

“Yeah, the kid has faced him before!”

“He faced Akainu and lived!”

“But what if that was surprise and luck!”

“Then like Captain, Yasopp, and Benn said, we make sure the kids got what it takes!”

Almost as one, the crew pounced, and the blonde teen quickly found himself dragged back down on the main deck as additional crew joined in and started the ‘fish in a barrel’ scenario all over.

Naruto yelped as he barely dodged the first flurry. He glared at several of the crew opening his mouth to voice a complaint when another bombardment started and he was forced to dodge again.

Shanks and Benn watched while Yasopp began calling out critiques and tips once more, leaning on the railing and enjoying the show.

“No more distractions, Naruto! We won’t hold back if you freeze up because another one of your clones pops!”

Curses and promises of bodily harm began to fly back and forth between crew and the Captain’s nephew as the practice continued and the teen began to show signs of when his attention wasn’t right on track.

“Nothing quite like trial by fire,” Shanks said before taking a drink from his nearly forgotten bottle.

“Should we have navigation plan a course for some more dangerous territory?” Benn asked, amused but still keeping a careful eye on the whole affair.

“Hmm, maybe after we get this Sage Mode and business with his toads sorted out.” Shanks answered. “We have our own affairs to see to yet as well.”

Benn nodded.

“We aren’t likely to run into Mihawk again for quite some time, anyways. He has his own protégé to deal with.”

Benn raised an eyebrow at that. “Mihawk has a student?”

Shanks grinned largely and studied his first mate from the corner of his gaze. “Luffy’s first mate is currently staying on his island.”

Benn blinked. “Roronoa?”

“Ah. He’s not just Mihawks’ source of information on Luffy, he’s apparently training under Hawkeye now for two years, just as Luffy is with Rayleigh. No word on the rest of the crew yet, but I’m sure they all got Luffy’s message. Even Yasopp’s son.”

Benn turned to look at Shanks quickly then. “So it is…”

“Ah, Zoro confirmed it. Yasopp’s son, Usopp, is part of Luffy’s crew.”

Benn chuckled and glanced up at the crew’s sniper, amused that the man had missed the information as he focused on the blonde teen darting around on the deck below. “Will you tell him?”

Shanks chuckled. “Oh I’m sure it will come up at some point.”

“He’s going to be melodramatic about it if you keep it from him for too long.” Benn responded.

“Yeah, it’ll be great.” Shanks said in answer with a sigh of contentment as his eyes focused on his crewmate and then his nephew once more.

“You really can be a cruel man, Captain.”

Shanks only chuckled before shouting down at the group below. “You call that dodging! I’ve seen rabbits do better!”

The teen whirled to face his uncle, but before he could shout a reply, was forced to focus on quickly dodging again.

Shanks chuckled and settled back once more. “I’d forgotten how entertaining it was to heckle the rookies.”

Benn snorted. “Most rookies don’t meet your entertainment standards.”

Shanks sighed, “True. Ah well, at least we have Naruto.”

It was at that moment the teen seemed to trip and a knife slashed through his hair before sinking into the wood of deck beyond the teen and all seemed to freeze in place to watch the handful of golden strands flutter to the ground.

Shanks frowned. “Naruto…”

The teen straightened his back to his uncle but his head raised as he reached up to tighten the cloth that secured his Hiate. “Yeah, I got it.” Several moments passed without any further movement from crew or teen. “Well, what are you waiting for?!”

The crew didn’t vocalize a response, but weaponry began to fly once more, the occasional crew member darting in with club and staff to swing strikes amidst the flurry of projectiles.

The mood of everyone shifted.

Benn hummed in amusement. “Took him long enough.”

Shanks smirked, “You are just waiting for him to get good enough for you to join in.” Benn grinned darkly at the comment. “Of course, Captain.”

Meet the Toads

“You sure you aren’t going to nearly kills us with this one?” Yasopp asked from where he stood beside Benn and Shanks. They had reached Dokutsu no Takishima and were ready to start investigating the  Nature Chakra issue that had been raised. It was decided, after the near mishap with summoning before, that it would be done on shore in a space large enough to easily accommodate the large toads. Once the crew had landed, most had been put to work setting up a camp, since the Red Hair Pirates planned to remain at the current island for several days while Naruto, Shanks, Benn, and Yasopp decided to get down to business.

“You bet! I’ve been summoning the toads since I was eleven; haven’t accidently summoned Gamabunta since back then either.” Naruto responded with a cheeky grin, his posture relaxed.

“Gamabunta?” Benn asked.

“Toad Boss; he’s really big. Good thing I didn’t get him last time or the Red Force probably wouldn’t’ve come out of it so well.” Naruto explained speculatively.

Shanks stilled at that statement. “Remind me to ask you to verify your abilities won’t destroy my ship, before— ” Shanks paused, making sure he met Naruto’s gaze fully, “you use them.”

Naruto flinched back a bit, “Right… not a problem.”

Shanks relaxed and grinned, “Well let’s meet some more of these toads from Mt. Meeobooku.”

“Mt. Myouboku.” Naruto corrected.

“That’s what I said.” Shanks said back.

Naruto shook his head, but decided not to worry about it for now. He quickly bit his thumb before his hand flew into motion, ending with his palms on the ground before him. “Kuchiyose no Jutsu!”

Hazy air filled the space quickly and then there was motion.

“Suiton: Teppodama!” a familiar voice shouted. A large orb of water shot out over the ocean within feet of the anchored Red Force, sending the ship rocking wildly in the shockwave of its passing.

“Kichi, Stop! You’ll destroy the ship!” Naruto called out frantically.

Shanks glared, eyebrow twitching.

Benn sighed and pulled out a new cigarette.

Yasopp groaned and hung his head while reaching up to rest a hand on Shanks shoulder. “He is your nephew, Captain.”

“Naruto!” The voice of the toad answered. “We’ve been worried! You summoned me days ago into hostile territory and then we heard nothing! Ma and Pa were about ready to Reverse Summon you to Mt. Myouboku!”

“So, that means you start throwing water bullets as soon as I summon you?!” Naruto shouted back.

“We were surrounded by swords last time! I wasn’t going to just get stabbed!” The toad growled back.

“That wasn’t a hostile situation! You just surprised them; I was trying to summon a messenger! You showing up caused quite a bit of damage to the ship!”

“What do you mean you were trying to summon a messenger? You wouldn’t have gotten me unless you overloaded it with chakra!”

“I used the same amount I would have used back home!” The blonde shouted back.

“Oh, like you haven’t overloaded it before.” The toad shot back.

“That’s beside the point!”

The three Red Hair Pirates stood watching as the blonde teenager perched atop the massive toads head and crouched down while glaring and shouting. The toad had his eyes almost cross-eyed as he in turn glared at the teen atop his head.

“How long do you think they’ll keep shouting at each other?” Yasopp asked quietly.

Before Benn could answer, Shanks began striding forward.

“Oi! What’s the big idea trying to crush and blow up my ship?!” The Red-Haired Captain called out, hand resting on the hilt of his sword.

Both toad and teen turned to look at the man striding toward them across the sand.

“Shit.” The blonde muttered.

“Oi, Naruto we need to fight this guy?” The large toad asked drawing his blade.

“You want to go a round, Froggy?” Shanks challenged.

“Bring it, old man!” the toad shouted back. Before blades could meet, the toad yelped and reached up to rub his head. “Naruto, what the hell?”

“Kichi, meet my uncle. Shanks-oji, meet Gamakichi. He’s been my partner since we were both kids.” Naruto called out before jumping down from where had been crouched atop the toad’s head.

“And you’ve always had a habit for causing mayhem and destruction?” Shanks inquired.

Both teenager and large toad suddenly looked a little sheepish.

“Ummm, maybe?” Naruto said carefully, not quite sure of how his uncle was going to react.

The redhead grinned, “Good to hear,” but then his expression turned more serious as he rested his hand on the still sheathed sword. “But let’s keep it away from my ship.”

Both nodded and mumbled a quick “Yes, Sir.” in reply.

“Good. Now, Gamakichi, was it?” Shanks asked as he moved to rest a hand on Naruto’s shoulder and look up at the large toad.

“Yeah, that’s me.” The toad asked, not quite sure how to respond at this point.

“Can you tell me any stories about Naruto when he was even more of a kid?”

“HEY!” the blonde shouted and pulled back from his uncle in annoyance.

Gamakichi glanced between the two slowly, and then chuckled, the sound reverberating in his chest before drifting out along the shore. “Oh, I have stories all right.”

“Kichi!” Naruto squawked out indignantly.

“Oh, this I’ve got to hear.” Yasopp said with a chuckle.

“Perhaps some other time; there is another issue we are here to address.” Benn stated before anyone could comment further.

Naruto stood straighter at the reminder of why he needed to summon the toad in the first place. “Right. Hey Kichi, I need you to ask Fukasaku-ojiisan and Shima-obaasan if I can summon them for a bit. Non-combat; need them to evaluate this place’s Nature chakra.”

The large orange toad narrowed his gaze and then stuck out his tongue into the air and held it there for several minutes. His eyes quickly widened as his eyes focused on Naruto. “Just where are we? This place is more saturated than our mountain valley. Have you tried using Sage Mode yet?”

Naruto nodded. “It’s why I need to talk to Fukasaku-ojiisan and Shima-obaasan. Tsunade and Sakura are both worried about side effects.”

“On it. Nice to meet you, Shanks-san!” and then the large toad vanished.

“Do they always come and go like that?”  Yasopp asked.

“Yeah, pretty much.” Naruto replied with a shrug.

“Will you have to summon the other two, or can they come to you on their own?” Shanks asked, idly wondering just how big these elders would be after learning Gamakichi was around Naruto’s age.

“Well, they have their own ways of getting to Konoha, but I’ll need to summon them here. I’ll give Kichi some time to explain before bringing him back to find out if they’re ready.” Naruto explained, his attitude about the whole event making it apparent that summoning such creatures was normal.

“Is this creature summoning a ‘ninja thing,’ or an ‘everyone thing’ in your home world?” Benn asked, curious.

“Hmmm, well there’s me, Dad, and Ero-Sennin who summoned the toads. Kakashi-sensei has this awesome pack of nin-dogs. Tsunade-baachan and Sakura-chan have the contract with the slugs. Orochimaru, Anko-san, and Teme summon snakes. Hmmmmm, Gaara’s sister summoned some sort of weasel… I think, so yeah, a ninja thing.” The teen said, nodding to himself.

The three Red Hair Pirates stared blankly.

“And they all get big like that? That’s like being able to summon a sea-king whenever you fancy!” Yasopp exclaimed, and then turned to his captain. “Can you imagine? Summoning sea-kings to take out enemy ships and bases!”

“What’s a sea-king?” Naruto asked.

The three turned attention to the teen.

“Haven’t we had any run-ins since Naruto started sailing with us?” Shanks asked, blinking in surprise.

“No, I don’t believe we have, Captain.” Benn replied.

“Well, that’s weird.” Yasopp stated.

“We can worry about missing sea-kings another time. Naruto, how’s the range of your Observation Haki?” Benn asked.

“Range?” Naruto asked.

“Pretty sure he could read the entire ship when we were training him.” Yasopp offered.

“Not bad for someone just starting out.” Shanks said with a grin.

“You mean like how far can I sense things?” Naruto asked catching on.

“That’s right.” Benn stated, “The Captain has one of the longest ranges of anyone I’ve met. Most can only manage a few miles on average. Those who push their mastery of it can reach a hundred or more; it’s how Shanks could get a good read on what was actually happening on Marineford before we arrived there. You seemed to have shown some signs of being able to reach a range like that yourself.”

Naruto’s eyes widened and then turned more somber. “When I’m using Kurama’s chakra, I can sense negative emotions. The stronger the emotion, the easier it is to read. I probably could have sensed the emotions of Marineford from as far away as where we had that run in with Kaido.”

“Only negative emotions?” Shanks asked; Naruto had told him something about this before, but it seemed important to be clear now.

“Yeah, it’s kind of a shitty deal, really. Explains why Kurama is cranky so much of the time.” Naruto offered.

Benn hummed in thought. “I wonder if that range will actually carry over to your Haki. Will make training it all the more important or you will have migraines every day of your life.”

Yasopp groaned at that thought.

“That bad?” Naruto asked.

Yasopp snorted. “Some awaken their Observation Haki gradually, with their skill and range with it increasing over time. Others have it come alive full-blown and pick up everything with no idea how to turn it off. I was drunk for three months solid, I think, until I managed to learn how to filter most of it out as background noise.”

Shanks smiled wryly, “He was pretty pathetic for that while.”

Yasopp glared at his captain. “It didn’t help that this bastard here kept leaking his Conqueror’s Haki at the same time.”

Shanks grinned and shrugged. “We were young.”

Benn snorted. “So how is your range of this island with just Observation Haki?”

The blonde tapped his index finger on his chin for a moment in consideration before giving a decisive nod. “All of it.”

“All of it?” Shanks asked.

Naruto nodded. “I wasn’t sure if I was sensing something that lived in the water or on the island for a bit, but yeah that’s really deep down, and well, it feels like its focused on fishy-type things so yeah, all of it.”

Benn chuckled.

Yasopp shook his head in wry amusement. “Why am I not surprised?”

“Well then, we’ll have to make sure we cover full range in training then. No point in leaving all that skill to waste if a sniper decides to take a shot at you.” Shanks said, and then paused. “Naruto, can your Kage Bunshin use Observation Haki?”

The blonde blinked, “Haven’t tried it; don’t see why not.”

Shanks smirked. “Oh this will definitely be interesting. Hey Benn, any bets on how long it will take the marines to think he’s eaten some clone-type Devil Fruit?”

Benn smirked, “Only a fool’s bet.”

Naruto blinked in surprise. “Already?”

The three older men turned to him.

“What is it?” Shanks asked.

“They are ready, I think, well either way, here goes.” Naruto stated as his hands flew into motion and a familiar phrase filled the air. “Kuchiyose no Jutsu!”

“Would you look at this place! Naruto-kun always brings us to such nice places. Now, where is that boy?” An elderly woman’s voice drifted out of the haze of displaced air. “Kichi-chan you don’t go wandering off now.”

“Fukasaku-jiji, Shima-obaasan, it’s good to see you, and thanks for coming.” Naruto said, an almost gentle smile crossing his face.

“Naruto, Bouya, why haven’t you come to see us lately! You haven’t summoned any of the toads as of late, we were beginning to worry.” An older man’s voice called out.

“Sorry Fukasaku-jiji, I’ve been kind of busy— Yeow! What did you do that for?”

“Don’t be an idiot. Being busy is no excuse.” The older voice admonished after landing back on the ground, the staff he had just used to hit the blonde on the head at his side.

“Have you been eating well, Naruto-chan? I’ve had a new set of that jerky you like set aside for you.” A small elderly-looking female toad stated before hopping up to land on Naruto’s shoulder and patting him on the cheek.

Naruto stiffened and winced. “Uhhhh… Thanks, Shima-obaasan.”

Shanks stared. These toads weren’t huge, they were short! Although they did look rather old… “So, these are the Toad Clan elders?”

Both of the elderly toads turned to face the group of pirates. “Who are these scruffy looking boys? You in some trouble here, Naruto-chan?” the male of the pair asked.

Shanks frowned, first the big one was trying to shipwreck him, and now this little one was trying to pick a fight?

“They are friends!” Naruto called out quickly and then motioned for his uncle to come forward. “I’d like to introduce you to Uzumaki Shanks, my uncle and Captain of the Red Hair Pirates.

“Uncle? He looks nothing like Minato-kun.” Fukasaku grumbled.

“Don’t be daft!” Shima chided. “He’s got the same blood hair as the girl Minato-kun was sweet on.”

Shanks perked up at this bit of information. “You knew Kushina-nee?”

“Oh, you remember Konoha’s Red Hot-Blooded Habanero then?” Fukasaku asked.

Shanks blinked. “Red Hot-Blooded Habanero?”

“Ah, that was the nickname given to Minato-kun’s girl. She had a temper, did the boy good. She kept him from getting into too much mischief.” The elderly toad explained.

“More like got him into more mischief,” Shima corrected. “He did care for her a great deal though.”

Naruto chuckled and continued. “Shima-baachan, Fukasaku-jiji, this is Benn Beckman, Shanks-oji’s first mate, and Yasopp, ship sniper, also members of the Red Hair Pirates. They’ve been helping train me while I’ve been here.”

Shima hopped down from Naruto’s shoulder and came to stand beside her husband with a smile. “It’s a pleasure to meet you boys. I hope our Naruto-chan hasn’t been too much trouble.”

“Shima-obaachan!” Naruto exclaimed with a bit of a whine.

Fukasaku snorted before muttering. “More like dragging him into even more.”

Shanks chuckled. “Well, life on the Grand Line, particularly this sea known as the New World, never gets dull. Naruto has been trying to help me learn to use my chakra as well.”

Both of the elder toads turned to face the blonde who crossed his arms and met their stare. “What, I can teach!”

“So, how would you like a few pointers while Pa takes care of business with Naruto-chan?” Shima offered taking a few steps forward just as her husband turned and then jumped up to Naruto’s shoulder and gestured for him to head back toward Gamakichi.

Shanks blinked, and then glanced between his nephew and Shima. “Uh, if you think that’s best…”

“I do.”

Shanks let the petite toad-lady lead him back closer to his men and then to a place a bit further up away from the shoreline before following her guidance to get comfortable.

Naruto looked back over his shoulder to glance at where the three Red Hair Pirates had settled into a loose circle around Shima on the sandy beach. “Fukasaku-jiji, are you sure this is a good idea….”

“Silly boy, it will be fine. Ma just wants to get to know this new-found family of yours.” The old toad perched on his shoulder explained. “We really have been worried about you.”

Naruto sighed and nodded, “Yeah, I’m sorry for making you worry, this was just something I felt I had to do. And well Konoha…”

“It’s all right, Naruto-kun, we understand. Now, Gamakichi said something about the Nature Chakra here has Lady Tsunade and Sakura worried?”

“Yeah…” Naruto gave one last look toward his uncle and the others before focusing and settling down next to Gamakichi as he began to explain.

Nature of the Sage

“Now, Shanks-chan, let’s get a look at you.” The lavender-haired toad said with fondness as she began to study the red-haired pirate captain.

Shanks winced slightly but stood patiently as the elderly toad woman looked him up and down. “Obaa-san, you really shouldn’t give a man such hope.”

The elderly toad huffed. “Oh don’t get too hopeful, boy. You aren’t my type.”

Shanks gaped.

Yasopp snickered and Benn chuckled.

“Now take a seat, you look tired standing up like that. You boys too.” She said turning to the other two members of the Red-Hair Pirates. “Especially you,” She stated, eyes focused on the First Mate, “I can’t admire you from way up there.”

Benn froze as he settled down on the sand. “Lady…”

“You can call me Shima, Cutie.”

Benn hesitated, “Forgive me, Shima-san, but I’m afraid to disappoint you…”

“Oh, let an old lady have her fun.” Shima cut him off, hopping to his knee and reaching up to give his cheek a squeeze. “I always did fancy longer hair on older men.”

Shanks and Yasopp both snickered to either side of the somewhat uncomfortable first mate.

The toad cackled as she hopped off the tense first mate of the Red-Hair Pirates. “Now then, Shanks-chan, Naru-chan has been trying to teaching you chakra basics?”

Shanks slumped, defeated. “Yes, Shima-san.”

“Well, don’t just sit there! Show me what you’ve learned.”

Yasopp snickered, and Benn smiled amused.

Shanks tossed a glare at his crew but pulled out the slips of paper he had taken to carrying around and started spinning them on the palm of his hand.

Shima chuckled, “Well, look at that. Looks like Naru-chan might make a teacher after all.”

Shanks blinked in surprise, but didn’t stop moving the slips of paper. “You didn’t think he could teach?”

Shima smiled, “According to his various sensei, Naru-chan has never been an easy student, and he always excelled best at practical application. It is nice to see that he is able to pass what he learned on. Now, you do have a problem.”

Shanks frowned. “Problem?”

“This,” Shima said, hopping up on his left kneed to poke at the cloak that covered his missing arm. “This damaged arm of yours, while physically healed, leaves your body and chakra network off balance. You seem to have adapted very well to it missing, but your chakra network has not. You will need to focus on channeling chakra into what’s left of your arm to rebuild the pathways there and help the overall flow become more balanced. This will improve your control immensely.”

Shanks blinked, Naruto had not even mentioned that his injury could affect his ability with chakra.

“Naruto never mentioned the Captain’s injury possibly being a problem.” Benn stated with curiosity in his tone.

Shima chuckled, “No, I don’t suppose it would be something he’d really pay attention to. The boy is lucky he still has all his own limbs intact, a benefit to his burden.”

“You mean Kurama?” Shanks asked.

The older toad eyed him. “Just what do you know of it?”

Shanks smiled wryly, “We’ve met.”

The older toad met his gaze for several long moments, and then smiled. “You really do care for our Naru-chan, don’t you?”

The three Red Hair Pirates stilled, all ease leaving them.

“I’m slightly offended you would think otherwise, Shima-obaasan. Nakama, and in this case, family, is not something I, or my crew, take lightly.” Shanks said, his tone and expression deadly serious.

Shima met his gaze steadily, then she began to teeter slightly and Benn reached out a steading hand. “Captain, I don’t think Naruto would like it if you caused her to pass out. I believe your point is made.”

Shima roused and then began to chuckle. “Oh you are definitely an Uzumaki. Now, let’s see you start doing your spinning paper trick with that stump of yours.”


 “This place…” Fukasaku breathed, “And you say all this world is like this?” Fukasaku asked, as he looked out over the sea, his eyes edged with orange and glowing with the natural energy he had collected.

“Everywhere I’ve been, at least.” Naruto answered, resisting the urge to gather Nature Chakra himself. It was almost coming to him all on its own now. At his back, he felt Gamakichi giggle almost drunkenly.

“This is the good stuff.” The toad intoned his voice almost a sleepy haze, despite the giggles.

“Careful, Kichi, don’t want you becoming a permanent part of the scenery here in stone.” Naruto cautioned, a little worried for his friend.

Fukasaku glanced toward the younger toad and snorted. “He’ll be fine. Nature chakra has become a bit more sparse ever since the fourth Shinobi war. It will do him some good to get a good soaking of it.” The elder toad explained.

Naruto’s attention focused to the elder toad, “Jiji, you never said anything about that before!?” Naruto exclaimed, an edge of panic in his voice.

“Oh settle down.” Fukasaku admonished. “It’s not all that bad, and we are fairly certain after a few centuries it will return to normal. There was nothing you could do about it, and it wasn’t your fault, so we didn’t see a need to bring it up.”

“But Jiji…”

“Besides, you haven’t been visiting lately to find out for yourself.”

Naruto slumped fully against Gamakichi’s chest once more, Fukasaku was right, after all. Suddenly a warm tongue covered his head and down his chest into his lap.

“Kichi!” Naruto exclaimed in exasperation and disgust.

“You hould tabte thib air, Narubo.” The toad mumbled as he let out another contented sigh.

Naruto pushed the toad’s tongue to the side. “I’ll pass, thanks. Don’t feel like eating bugs and sand.”

Fukasaku hummed as he turned his attention fully on the pair and away from the horizon of sea and sky. “Naruto, you’ve been using Sage Mode here?” He asked, bringing the conversation back on topic.

“Yeah, a few times, like I told you earlier. Didn’t seem to cause any problems that I noticed.” The teen answered, a bit distracted by the large toad’s tongue that kept trying to drape itself over his face.

“What about your bijuu mode?” the elder toad then asked.

“Only once; seemed normal. Well, almost normal.” Naruto answered.

“Almost?” Fukasaku inquired.

“Those Devil Fruit abilities I told you about; it reacted kind of weird with them. This guy who’s a phoenix gets covered in blue flames, and his flames intertwined with my bijuu chakra. Was just weird. Then this Marine Admiral, who’s Devil Fruit ability is magma, had his arm turned to stone when I blocked his punch.”

Fukasaku blinked surprised. “Stone? Like those who turned to stone while trying to manipulate Nature Chakra?”

Naruto blinked, “No, it was different. Think Benn mentioned it being like volcanic rock.”

“Interesting,” Fukasaku said as he settled into thought. “Well, I don’t think using this world’s Nature Chakra in Sage Mode will do you any harm, despite its high potency. It might have more side effects if you use it while in bijuu mode, however. Even in our own world the blending of nature and bijuu chakra has a unique affect, I imagine it would be even more so here.”

Naruto hummed in thought and smirked. “Kurama wants to be made of fire.”

Gamakichi snickered.

Fukasaku blinked. “Of course he does. Now, let’s see this Nature Chakra in action, shall we?”

Naruto grinned and then settled himself as Fukasaku looked on and even Gamakichi seemed to take interest.

“Well then, that is interesting.” Fukasaku muttered as his gaze stayed on the blonde teen.

“What is it?” Gamakichi asked, eyeing his partner with renewed interest.

“The Nature Chakra of this world is trying to balance with his own with almost no guidance.” Fukasaku explained. “If he let it, it might mix naturally on its own—he might not even have to focus on gathering it.” The last bit was whispered in almost shocked awe.

Naruto opened his orange-shadowed eyes to reveal the familiar blue irises turned gold with horizontal black bar-shaped pupils. “That almost happened in Konoha when I was sitting for Sakura to take a blood sample.” He said quietly, slightly nervous now that full attention had been drawn to how Nature Chakra was reacting to him.

Fukasaku hummed in thought for several moments. “Well it’s unusual, and normally I’d say impossible, but you do have a knack for making the impossible possible. Regardless, I don’t believe there is any health risk beyond the normal balance requirement and you certainly aren’t going to turn into a stone toad anytime soon.”

Naruto let out a breath and grinned, relieved. He reached over to poke the large orange toad at his side. “Hey Kichi, let’s spar.”

“You’re on!” The toad responded and in moments had collected enough Nature chakra to begin the match.

Fukasaku chuckled: kids these days. He turned to head up the beach to where Shima and Naruto’s recently found family sat.


“Looks like Naruto-chan and Kichi are up to their usual antics.” Shima stated in amusement after a sudden thunderous clap of displaced air and several palm trees flew over the group sitting on the beach.

Shanks grinned widely as he watched the two orange figures flash from place to place, the terrain giving evidence to their movement seconds afterward.

“Sage Mode, right?” Shanks asked, his eyes following the pair as they vanished into the forest. He yelped though as a stick connected with the side of his head.

“Pay attention to what you are doing, boy. Your slips of paper are about to get away.” Fukasaku admonished as he landed lightly on the ground after his staff had connected with the side of Shanks head.

Yasopp snickered.

“So, you have determined that Naruto is not at risk using this ability of his?” Benn asked, eyeing his Captain who quickly snatched the bits of paper out of the air before reaching up to rub the side of his head and glare at the old toad.

“That’s right. The Nature Chakra is potent here in this world, but nothing that will really do him any harm.” Fukasaku replied.

Yasopp suddenly let out a low whistle. “For his size, that toad can really move.”

Shima perked up in interest, “You can sense their movements?”

Shanks grinned, “Ouch, that had to hurt. Naruto’s going to pay him back for that hit.”

The two elderly frogs looked at the three pirates in speculation as they all sat there, unmoving, though Shanks continued to move the slips of paper across what remained of his left arm.

“How can you sense what they are doing?” Fukasaku asked, curious.

“Naruto hasn’t explained Haki to you?” Benn asked.

“Haki?” Shima queried.

“It’s the use of ones will to sense the intent of those around you, both in and out of combat.” Shanks explained.

“Anyone can develop the ability with enough training, although some are more naturally prone to it.” Benn added.

“Interesting; that might help you overcome your handicap when it comes to using actual jutsu, Shanks-chan.” Shima stated.

Shanks perked up, “Help with my network being out of balance?”

“No, that will take time and a lot of work. She means using hand signs to help form the chakra for actual ninjutsu. You’ve seen Naruto using a series of hand signs before casting a jutsu?” Fukasaku asked.

“Those things have a purpose?” Yasopp asked, surprised. “Thought it was some sort of distraction from whatever it was he was really doing.”

Both toads stared at the blonde pirate blankly. “What, are you daft, boy?” Fukasaku asked.

Shanks snickered before he had to dodge another swipe of the old toad’s staff.

“So, the Captain will not be able to use the hand forms correctly as he is?” Benn asked, trying to prevent both the Captain and Yasopp from turning the conversation into a childish scuffle. It wouldn’t be the first time after all.

“That’s right. As I’m sure Ma has told you, the use of chakra requires a balanced flow of the energy. The purpose of the hand signals is to guide chakra into the correct forms; incomplete hand signals would not allow for the correct guidance and form.”

“No hand signals, no jutsu?” Shanks asked, a bit of disappointment in his voice.

“Not necessarily.” Fukasaku corrected. “It’s just much more difficult. True mastery of a jutsu for a shinobi usually leads to only needing a single hand signal or even none at all. You’ve probably seen Naruto do this with his shadow clones. There are some shinobi who have managed to use one-handed signals in place of the two-handed ones as well, but this is very rare.”

“So Captain will have a harder time of it.” Yasopp stated.

“Normally, I would say yes, but with this ability that you call Haki, well perhaps not as much as I would normally expect someone just starting out.” Fukasaku mused.

“So when do I start learning jutsu?” Shanks asked, grinning.

Both toads looked at him and then chuckled. “You need to build up your control and reserves first. You barely have enough to even try walking on water to start with, now.” Shima explained with a smirk. “Stick to your slips of paper for a while longer, Shanks-chan.”

The red-head wilted with a pout.

“Don’t worry Captain, I’m sure Naruto will have you running across the ocean surface with him soon enough.”

“A word of caution on that…”Fukasaku began.

“What is it?” Shanks asked, his attention focused on the older toad.

Fukasaku met his stare and then nodded, as if deciding something. “Do not try to match Naruto in power when it comes to chakra. You will die.”

Shanks frowned.

“Hey now! The Captain is no weakling!” Yasopp said, rising to his Captain’s defense.

“It has nothing to do with his strength or ability, Boy.” Fukasaku hissed back at the blonde pirate.

“Naruto-chan is a very special case. There is not one who could match him in terms of raw chakra strength in all the Elemental Nations.” Shima explained.

“Chakra is part of one’s very life. If you drain yourself to nothing, you burn away your very life force.” Fukasaku then added.

Shanks eyes had remained steadily on the two elderly toads throughout the discussion, not moving as they spoke. He spoke after a long moment, “I understand.”

Fukasaku met his gaze once more and then hmphed. “Good.”

At that moment all three pirates suddenly looked out at the ship.

Shanks sighed and rubbed his head. “There he goes again.”

Fukasaku and Shima glanced at each other: they had sensed the sudden flare of chakra coming from the ship anchored off shore. “Naruto-kun has a seal-work on your ship he uses to come and go from this world, correct?” Fukasaku asked.

“Ah, seems he has been called back home as he left just now. It has happened several times.” Benn offered by way of explanation. “Will you and Naruto’s large friend be able to stay without him here?”

“Oh, Cutie, you say such nice things.” Shima said with a chortle.

“Now Ma, we shouldn’t impose—” Fukasaku began, but was cut off.

“Don’t you ‘Now Ma’ me, when was the last time we went someplace nice.” Shima asked, cutting off her husband.

Fukasaku shrugged. “Well that’s that. Normally we would only stay as long as our summoner’s chakra and our own could sustain us; however with this world’s nature chakra and Naruto being the summoner… well, time shouldn’t be an issue.”

“So, Shanks-chan can keep practicing, and you nice boys can tell us some stories about your adventures.” Shima added, winking at Benn once more.

Benn rose to his feet, “I should check on the crew. Yasopp is good at telling stories, Lady Shima, Fukasaku-san.” And with that said, the first mate quickly vanished into the forest.

Shima sighed in disappointment.


“You want passage to West Blue?” The Captain of the merchant ship The Spiral Wind asked surprised.

Kureha eyed the man, slightly annoyed. “Is it really so surprising?”

The man blanched, fidgeting slightly. “No, of course not, but I thought you hated to leave the Grand Line.”

Kureha frowned and glared. “What are you implying?”

The man took a step back quickly, “Nothing at all, Kureha-sensei, I’m just surprised.”

Kureha rolled her eyes; the younger ones were always like this.

“My cabin is yours for the journey, of course.” The Captain said quickly.

Kureha’s frown shifted to a smirk at that, “How thoughtful.” She headed towards the quarter deck of the galleon style ship, eyeing the not so subtle spiral markings worked in everywhere in the woodwork. The only thing missing was the red background to truly make them stand out. She paused a moment and called back, “Send a message to Goldie-chan to wait for my return in Drum.”

She chuckled to herself as she heard a quick reply, and some nervous muttering from the crew. It was not fully staffed by family; few of the ships were these days. But those who sailed on a ship of theirs learned to not ask questions or they would be finding a new crew.

She sighed as she entered the Captain’s cabin, nodding at the tidy space before moving to peer at the stack of charts neatly rolled or held flat against the table.

“Kureha-sensei…” A voice spoke in the open doorway.

She glanced back to spy the ship’s first mate. “Captain said you would probably want to see the journals.”

Kureha sighed: more work. She accepted the leather bound book; its cover was embossed with the same markings that she had seen in the woodwork. 

“We’ll be leaving port as soon as the cargo has been settled.” The man then offered before giving her a brief bow and backing out of the room.

This was why she never traveled anymore, it always annoyed her. Sailing on a ship unaffiliated was always a bigger pain than it was worth, yet sailing with the clan… Just because she was one of the oldest living did not mean she wanted to be treated like an elder. She was only 140 years old; her mother had lived far longer than that.

Ah well, perhaps she was getting too predictable. She settled herself in a comfortable chair and began the process of opening the seal embedded in the cover of the journal. She best get caught up on recent events, there would be time to harass her younger clansmen later.

Let’s Share a Drink

(Tea Time With the Toads)

“So, Kichi, tell us about how you met Naruto!” Shanks called out after downing another cup of sake.

All around the Red-Haired Captain the crew was at leisure; drinking, eating, playing card games and generally having a good time. In the Captain’s immediate area, however, there was also a cluster of one very large orange toad and the two smaller toad forms of Shima and Fukasaku.

“Hmm, wasn’t that when he first faced Shukaku?” Fukasaku asked. “I seem to remember Gamabunta grumbling about getting sand everywhere for a few weeks.”

“That’s right.” Gamakichi said with a wide grin. “Naruto was a genin then and there was an invasion happening in Konoha. The kid got himself matched up against the jinchuuriki of the one-tailed beast, Shukaku.” Gamakichi chuckled. “When I arrived and met him for the first time, I thought he was just some brat who wanted to play.”

“How old was he?” Benn asked from where he leaned against a nearby tree, a bottle of wine at his side.

“Eleven? Maybe twelve, I’m not quite sure.” Gamakichi answered. “First thing I did, though, was try to blackmail him for treats. It wasn’t until a few minutes later that I began to see just what a mess he was in.”

“Fighting one of the jinchuuriki is not a small thing, then?” Benn asked again, always one to ask for the details.

“Oh, yeah. Facing a jinchuuriki for the average person is like entering a suicide match. They are a force of nature and the only ones who usually pose any threat to them are extremely talented jounin and S-class shinobi. The fact that Naruto faced Shukaku and came out of it alive, as well as saving his teammate, was impressive.”

“But Naruto is…” Shanks began but then stopped as all three toads turned their gazes on him.

“Naruto had only just begun to learn to use his tenant’s power then.” Fukasaku said quietly. “The seal used to bind the Kyuubi within Naruto is one of a kind and kept Naruto from drawing on the fox’s power subconsciously, with few exceptions.”

“He used it soon after; things got really bad; managed to summon Pops. Have to say I was impressed.” Gamakichi added, smiling at the memory.

“Who is ‘Pops’?” Shanks asked, from where he sat, relaxed, but attentive.

“Gamabunta, the boss of our clan, and a very large fellow.” Fukasaku explained. “I imagine Gamakichi will grow to match his size one day.”

“You mean this guy isn’t full grown?” Yasopp asked in shock, gesturing at Gamakichi.

Shima scoffed. “Boy needs to eat more.”

“So just how large is Gamabunta?” Shanks asked.

“Would you like to meet him?” Fukasaku asked, a gleam in his eye.

“Pops does love a good party.” Gamakichi said.

“You can summon him?” Benn asked, surprised.

“Easily; the potency of the nature chakra of this world is something special. That is for certain.” Fukasaku told them before his hands began blurring in a flurry of movement. However, before he could finish, he let out a sudden yelp. “Darn it, Ma, what was that for?” He asked rubbing his head.

“You summon Bunta-kun here without any warning and you’ll squish this entire crew like a grub under a rock.” The elderly female toad chided.

Gamakichi laughed. “She has a point, Ji-san.”

“Hmmm, well then.” Fukasaku muttered and then disappeared into the nearby tree line.

The pirates stared at where he’d gone, confused.

“Umm, is he coming back?” Yasopp asked.

Before Shima or Gamakichi could answer there was a rush of displaced air and debris.

“Jiji, what’s going on? Is the Gaki in trouble?” A deep voice rumbled from far overhead.

“Hey, Pops.” Gamakichi greeted the huge toad.

“Gamakichi… what have you done now?” The large toad rumbled, sounding annoyed.

Gamakichi squawked.

Shanks and all the Red-Hair Pirates stared at the pair of large toads.

Fukasaku chuckled from where he stood atop the larger toad’s brow. “You can relax, Gamabunta. Your son has not gotten himself into trouble; for now, anyways. We brought you to meet Naruto’s recently found family.”

The large toad rumbled and leaned forward to eye the humans all clustered below him. “Uzumaki Shanks, is it?”

“Ah, that would be me.” Shank’s said with a large grin. “The rest of these clowns are my crew.”

“Is that so?” The large toad rumbled in reply, his eyes shifting to take in the various humans scatted around the cleared space. “Where is the Gaki?”

Shanks grinned widely. “He seems to have been called away, but you are welcome to join our little party.”

“The boy has some decent stuff.” Fukasaku stated before he began hopping down to the ground once more.

Gamabunta chuckled. “Meeting new family over drinks is how it should be done.”

“Gamakichi-san was just telling us of when he first met Naruto.” Shanks said as several crew quickly ran up with large bottles and a jumbo-sized sake cup.

The large toad hummed in thought. “I believe that was just before he first summoned me to a battle.”

“That is what we were just telling them, Pops.” Gamakichi chimed in.

“What a mess: first fight with the Gaki and he brings me to a bijuu fight; reminded me of his father. But contract or not, I wasn’t going to get into that fight. It had taken me months to recover from that scrape with Kyubbi when the Gaki was just a tadpole.”

Shanks eyes narrowed. “You had a contract to come to his aid when called, but were going to refuse to help him?”

Gamabunta met the sudden glare. “We don’t fight with just anyone, contract or no.”

“Relax, I convinced Pops to help Naruto out. After all, the kid had saved me, and that Shukaku was a bully.” Gamakichi chimed in before the conversation could escalate.

“Damn brat always gets himself in the middle of a mess.” Gamabunta rumbled after that and took a long drink from the sake cup that had been poured for him. “Not bad. Reminds me that the brat still needs to share a drink with me; told him that the first time he summoned me.”

“So Naruto had summoned you before he got into that fight with the one-tailed person?” Shanks asked, intrigued.

Gamabunta eyed the redhead and took another long drink before answering. “Saved the kid from becoming a pile of goo at the bottom of a nasty gorge; thought for sure it had been Jiraiya’s doing. Couldn’t believe a little pipsqueak like him could summon me. Kid had guts, even then.”

“He surprised you.” Shanks stated in observation.

Gamabunta laughed at that. “Kid surprises everyone.”

“That, I would believe.” Shanks answered and then refilled the large toad’s cup.

Gamabunta hummed in appreciation. “Not bad at all.”

“A favorite from an island in the West Blue; it’s the first Island I can remember living on in this world.” Shanks explained, relaxing. The crew around them settled back into drinking and relaxing now that the shock of the large toad’s arrival had worn off.

Benn wondered, not for the first time, what it was about drinking with Shanks that seemed to put others at ease. The man hardly had to do anything and those he invited to drink with him were frequently spilling old stories and secrets.  He had often wondered if it was a side-characteristic of those with the ability to wield Conqueror’s Haki, but no other known users seemed to share it.

His attention was drawn once more to the group of various toads and their conversation as stories continued to be exchanged and with each story that was revealed, there were more and more similarities he found between his Captain and Naruto. Was the ability to attract such trouble a genetic trait? Or, perhaps, it was just a certain personality type.

It was early dawn when Benn began to suspect that Naruto had set the crew up for a practical joke. The group of toads, who had spent the entire night sharing stories and partying with the crew, as well as drinking enough alcohol to make even Shanks himself black out, did not suffer from the symptoms of a hangover.

Gamabunta chuckled, his deep voice reverberating through the small clearing and causing cries of protest. “Sorry lot, if you can’t hold your liquor and be ready to fight come first light.” The large toad stated, obviously amused.

Gamakichi snorted, “They can’t use chakra, Pops.”

Gamabunta eyed his son. “Nonsense, I could sense the redhead all night.”

“Naruto has been teaching him.” Fukasaku commented. “And Ma gave him some pointers as well. He’s no Sage though.”

Gamabunta grumbled. “Well I better head back. Gamakichi, keep an eye on them.” And with that, and a whoosh of displaced air, the largest of the toads was gone.

Shanks blinked blearily and pouted. “He drank my entire West Blue stock.” He stared at the space where the large toad had been sitting only moments before. “And what’s being a Sage got to do with being hung over?”

Fukasaku smirked, “The use of nature chakra harmonizes one’s own body and spirit with the world.”

“Meaning, Shanks-chan, it purges any remaining toxins from the body.” Shima added.

Shanks eyed the two elderly toads carefully. “How long?”

“How long?” Fukasaku asked, a bit confused.

“The Captain wants to know when he might learn to use nature chakra?” Benn interceded; knowing if he didn’t Shanks would likely draw it out.

Fukasaku frowned. “It’s not something that is taught lightly to those outside the clan. Even within the clan it takes great skill. You will have to have incredible control and mastery of your own chakra first. Without the proper control, you will die if you try.”

Shanks straightened and his lips curved up in a small smile. “I accept your challenge.”


It was several days, and many bottles and jars of sake later, when the Red Force sailed away from the island shore as it cut through the waves and out into endless blue.

Fukasaku and Shima watched the ship slowly shrink as it gained speed and distance.

“I like those boys.” Shima said, warmth her voice.

“Ah, they are good for Naruto.” Fukasaku agreed.

Shima let out another long sigh. “I haven’t felt this at peace in years. It’s no wonder Naru-chan has been improving so much. The nature chakra here would have that effect on anyone trained in the Sage Arts.”

“Nevertheless, it’s good he was cautious.” Fukasaku mused, then added, “Although it would do the clan good to spend time here.”

Shima hummed in agreement, “The young ones especially.”

The two elders stood together for a while longer, continuing to watch the Red-Hair Pirate’s ship fade from sight.

“That cutie Benn did mention this island was in Shanks-chan’s territory. Perhaps…”

Fukasaku eyed his wife warily. “Just what are you thinking about, Ma?”

Shima let her lips turn up in a small smile. “Oh, just planning for the future, Pa.”

Fukasaku harrumphed. “I’m going to go check on Gamakichi and that new training he started working on.”

“Of course, Pa,” Shima answered. “Come find me when you are ready to head home.”

Fukasaku watched as she turned and leaped off into the tree line and sighed. Well, there was no helping it now, he only hope Naruto and his uncle wouldn’t object.

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Silver Dragonfly

reading ~ writing ~ doodling ~ that's me Working day by day to bring creativity back into my day-to-day life when it's been lost to the monotony of work and bills.

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