Lost Uzumaki – Part 1: Discovery

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A Different Kind of Messenger

Shanks blinked.   The square-pupil eyes blinked back at him.

He blinked again. The orange frog-like creature continued to stare at him, blinking a moment later.

“Hey, Benn!” Shanks called out from where he lay on his side, his head propped up on his hand, a bottle of rum resting beside him. In the distance, the sounds of the rest of the crew getting into the full swing of an impromptu party on their current resident island could be heard.

“Yes, Captain?” the voice of his first mate answered back from across the small clearing.

“Am I drunk?”

“You are always drunk, Captain.” his first mate responded dryly.

Shanks frowned and continued to stare at the frog. It was a strange frog, really big for one. Its’ head would come up past his knees at least if he was standing.

“Am I awake?” he asked his first mate.

“You had better be. I do not wish to be who you dream about.” Benn replied, half his reply muttered lowly.

“Why is this frog thing staring at me, then?” Shanks mused.

“You are the one they call Red-haired Shanks?” a voice suddenly spoke.

“Hey, Benn?”

“Yes, Captain?” his first mate answered once more with years of practiced tolerance.

“We ever met a talking frog before?” Shanks asked.

“I am a messenger toad from the toad clan of Mount Myouboku, not a frog!” the voice responded.

“Oh, a messenger toad!” Shanks exclaimed his eyes lighting up as he shifted to a sitting position, “Never heard of them.”

His first mate walked up behind him, a cigarette perched between his lips, rifle in hand. “Messenger toad?”

The toad glared at them. He’d had no respect ever since he’d crossed over into this realm. It was as if no one in this world had ever seen a member of the summoning clans before. “If you could swipe a bit of blood on this mark here please, I will verify your identity.”

Shanks studied the scroll-like object the toad offered forward, and the ink-like markings surrounding the white band around its middle. He shrugged, then nicked his thumb on one of the various sharp surfaces and dabbed it on the inked marking. His brows arched as his blood was absorbed by the paper and the ink marks began to glow.

“Identity verified. Uzumaki Shanks found and message scroll delivered.” the toad stated, relief in his tone.

The scroll continued to glow and a poof of smoke filled the space above. “Yosh! You found him then, Gamatsukai!” A cheerful voice called out of the smoke.

Shanks blinked in surprise. “Oi Benn, you sure I’m not drunk?”

“You are drunk, Captain, but no you are not imagining this,” Benn replied a small frown on his lips.

A young blonde man appeared from the fading smoke, a huge grin on his face. Almost immediately Shanks was reminded of the boy he’d left back in East Blue but then focused on the new arrival. Beneath blonde hair, bright blue eyes stared out and two sets of whisker-like scars framed the nose and mouth.

“Pleasure to meet you!” The young man greeted, “Boss sent me to get the first meeting taken care of and set up a method of travel for him to come himself.”

Benn frowned.

Shanks’ lips twitched into a lazy smirk, was this some new rookie’s trick? “And just who is this Boss?” He asked.

“Uzumaki Naruto! You are Uzumaki Shanks, right?” Without waiting for an answer the blonde turned back to the toad, “Oi, Tsukai, you did get the blood sample right?”

Benn didn’t like the sound of that. He moved forward, the business end of his rifle at the blonde man’s temple in an instant. “Explain yourself, kid.”

“Watch where you are pointing that thing old man!” the blonde kid responded frowning and lifting a hand to push the weapon away from his head.

“Let the kid sit down and have a drink, Benn. I’m curious to hear what he has to say.” Shanks offered with a lazy wave of his hand.

The blonde boy grinned and moved forward to sit next to the redhead his face all a grin, and then his nose twitched. “Oi… you look like you could give Ero-sennin and Ba-chan a run for their money with all that.” He stated as he observed all the empty bottles.

Shanks laughed. “So what makes you think my name is Uzumaki Shanks kid?”

The blonde blinked at him in confusion. “It’s not?”

“Don’t tell me you have never heard of the Red-haired pirates?” Shanks scoffed.

The blonde boy’s eye sparkled, “You’re a pirate! That’s so cool!”

Shanks blinked and then guffawed. “You really do remind me of Luffy.”

The blonde blinked confused. “Who’s Luffy?”

Shanks waved a hand dismissively. “Another time, you haven’t answered my question yet, kid.”

“Your blood was absorbed by the scroll on the seal that Gamatsukai brought, right?” he asked.

Shanks shrugged and nodded.

“That seal was a blood seal. It would not have activated if your blood had not met necessary requirements, specifically a blood relation to the seal creator.”

“So you’re telling me because my blood was absorbed that makes me an Uzumaki?”

“That and the red hair,” The toad mumbled.

“Yeah. It’s the same color as Mom’s.” The blonde boy chimed in.

“The same color as Mom’s…” Shanks replied not sure he liked where this was going. “How old is your boss, kid?”

“We have a name you know.” The kid responded irritably and frowned.

“We?” Benn asked as he leaned up against a tree just behind Shanks where he could keep an eye on the blonde.

“Yeah. Boss and me.” The kid answered.

“You share the same name as your boss?”

At this the blonde looked puzzled, “You’ve never seen a Bunshin before? I mean I know that Kage Bunshin are kind of rare… but still!”

“Bunshin? You’re a clone?”

“Yeah! But a solid one!”

“So the boss you have been talking about?”

“Is the original me.”

“And your name then would be?”

“Uzumaki Naruto!”

At that moment there was a shout and holler from somewhere just outside of the clearing and an empty bottle came flying through the clearing to collide with the blonde boy’s face.  Everyone blinked and then there was a poof of smoke and the clone vanished.

“Why’d you have to go and do that!” The Toad moaned. “Naruto’s going to make me bring back another one now, I just know it.”

Shanks blinked at the now empty space where the blonde boy had sat and then turned to the toad. Before he could ask any further questions, the toad also vanished in a poof of smoke.

Shanks frowned. “Think there was some bad stuff in this batch, Benn.” He commented looking down at his bottle before lifting it to his lips to take a drink.

Benn snorted but made no further comment.

Forgotten Childhood

“Benn…” Shanks began, a far-off look in his eyes, as he stared out at the sea, “Have I ever told you about the time before I was recruited by Roger?” he asked his first mate.

Benn was about to reply that of course he had, but then the tone of his Captain’s voice made him pause. The normal boisterous and amused at life tone was not present for his usual story-telling mood. “No Captain, I don’t believe you have.”

Shanks gave an odd little smirk, one both natural and unusual on his face. “My oldest memories… or youngest depending on how you look at it, are of a large family… and lots of red hair. None of them are really clear… just vague impressions and bits of emotion, really.”

Benn found himself smiling at the tidbit of information. It gave a bit more meaning to their crew’s name after all. It wasn’t just after their Captain’s own vibrant shade, but of the Captain’s entire family. By calling his crew as such, Shanks had, in his own manner linked them to a family he had once had. His musings were interrupted however as the man in question continued to speak.

“I don’t know what happened, and I had nearly given up hope of ever learning the real truth of it … but I remember there was a night of fire. Everything was burning and so much fear filled the air.” He paused, his expression both contemplative and tense, “… and a promise to not give up. I’ve always suspected it may have been the result of a Buster Call, but no idea why, or where.”

He stopped speaking then, lifting the bottle his fingers cradled to his lips.

Benn remained silent not willing to interrupt whatever it was his Captain felt the need to say. The nights that his Captain let such moods overtake him were rare, but not once had it been about something that proved frivolous and unimportant. He leaned back against the railing of the ship and calmly lit a cigarette, waiting to see if his Captain would continue or if that would be the end of it tonight.

The ocean waves lapped against the wood of the ship’s hull, an ever-present song of the sea and as familiar as a heartbeat to those that lived upon the surface of her depths.

“The story isn’t even that special or unique. There are hundreds of kids out there with tales similar enough: families torn apart by the greed of pirates or the justice of the marines. I was just another no name orphan lost in the crowds, back alleys, and shadows.”

Benn made no comment but to take another pull from his smoke. It was true.  Childhoods of growing up on the streets were very common in the world. It was perhaps not the most common story among those who claimed the title pirate, since the sea called those from all walks of life, but it was common enough to not be surprising in the least.

A wry chuckle escaped the red haired man’s lips. “I had a knack for pissing people off you know. Loud mouthed, always getting into fights. I was a regular terror. Luffy really reminded me of myself back then, you know? Always managed to get caught up in the thick of things without a second thought; you’d have almost expected me to carry the initial D when I was that age, but I didn’t.” He paused here again.

Taking another drink, he began slowly rotating the bottle in his hand causing the remaining liquid to swirl around inside it. “Uzumaki… that name rings true. I didn’t even remember it until that weird toad said it.” The red-haired man took another drink, an abrasive laugh slipping from his lips afterward. “How crazy is that, reminded of your own family name by an overgrown toad?”

Benn raised an eyebrow, actually surprised by this revelation.

“Uzumaki… uzumaki… that island that I can barely remember… it was surrounded by whirlpools.” Shanks mused almost seeming to forget Benn was there as his gaze drifted from the bottle in his hand to the ocean below.

“Roger asked me if I had a dream once… I told him I wanted to find that island if it still existed. The island surrounded by whirlpools. Captain laughed and told me we would search for it together.”

“Captain…” Benn said almost silently, honestly surprised, which was saying something. He had sailed with this man for twenty years and his antics rarely surprised him anymore. This however, this was new and yet so very old.

“In all my years of sailing, there has not even been a rumor of such a place. Not with Roger then, and not since I started my own crew the day I found you.” Shanks then glanced at Benn and laughed loudly. The serious air suddenly banished.

“The look on your face!” Shanks guffawed nearly falling off his feet.

 Benn sighed and rolled his eyes. This behavior didn’t surprise him.

Shanks turned his back to the railing and slid down to sit on the deck his eyes turning skyward to the stars above. “I have no regrets. Sailing with Roger I gained another dream. To sail the seas and always be free, and I plan to continue on with that dream till the day I die.”

He went silent then for a while. He set the bottle he had been nursing down on the deck beside him. His hand reached into the folds of his cloak and pulled out the only proof they had from the strange encounter with the so-called messenger toad. The red-haired pirate’s fingers traced over the ink markings still covering the thick fabric-like paper that surrounded the scroll. He had not yet tried to unbind and open the scroll, but instead just studied the markings that covered it.

“Say Benn…”

“Captain.”  The stoic once raven-haired man answered.

“I think I would like to meet that blonde kid again sometime.”

“Of Course, Captain.” Benn replied, only surprised it had taken the man this long to say it.

Interrogation of a Toad

Blue eyes followed the path of the brush as it left a smooth line of ink in its wake; the hand guiding the brush steady and sure in its movements. The owner of both eyes and hand remained focused as he fed the necessary amounts of chakra through hand, brush, and into the ink as it was laid on the paper. Too much and it would blow up in his face, literally. Too little and all his work would be wasted.

The art of fujinjutsu in many ways was as delicate as the surgeries med-nin often performed, particularly when it came to sealing works that were used by med-nin. Naruto often surprised himself with the skill he seemed to have for fujinjutsu, considering his complete lack when it came to medical ninjutsu (and he had tried to learn at least some medical jutsu until both Sakura and Tsunade told him it was hopeless). So he had turned his focus toward fujinjutsu, a skill that was his by heritage four times over. Both his parents had been known for their sealing abilities, as well as two of his sensei. Regardless of this, the ease he seemed to pick up the art of it still amazed him (despite quite a few explosions in his face and more than one replaced kitchen table).

He smiled as he came to the final stroke on his current project before the familiar feeling of memory and returning chakra from a Kage Bunshin washed through him. Naruto’s eyes widened as the seal glowed blue, then white, and then exploded. Ignoring the now scorched tabletop, Naruto’s wide blue eyes became hazy as his mind focused on the new memories.

“He found him!” He cheered forgetting completely about the now destroyed seal and damaged table surface. He moved quickly to more open living room space with his fingers flying through the necessary hand signs and quick drop of blood required to activate the summoning.

There was a soft woosh of displaced air as the large orange toad appeared. The toad blinked and scanned his surroundings, recognizing it for Uzumaki Naruto’s apartment in Konoha.

“I’m glad you’re okay Gamatsukai. Sorry my clone didn’t treat you better after so long. I had Gamakichi check the roster for your name regularly to make sure you were okay.”

The toad blinked and studied the blonde man standing before him. He was his father’s son without a doubt, and it showed even more now than when he had last seen the newest toad-sage. He could see the boy’s mother there though as well, and the boy had really gained some height since the last time Gamatsukai had seen him in person. There was something in his gaze though, and Gamatsukai knew then that the last two years had not been easy for either of them.

“It’s only to be expected Naruto-san. Kage Bunshin have not been used in such a fashion before. I was just pleased it worked at all after how long it took to find the man.”

“Yeah, I was pretty surprised when I got the clone’s memories so suddenly. Idiot should have dodged that bottle.” The blonde teen shook his head exasperated at the clone’s behavior. “Do you need to head back to Mount Myouboku right away, or can I get your full report first?” the blonde then asked.

Gamatsukai blinked in surprise, the boy had grown indeed. Then he grinned. “Your Uncle is a hard man to track down, though his name in that realm is very well known.”

Naruto’s eyes sparkled at the information, “Tell me everything!”

“Of course, though it will be a somewhat long tale.” The toad answered and settled himself more comfortably and watched as the blonde moved into the kitchen space and dug through a cupboard.

“Here you go. Shima-Baa-chan gave these to me during my last visit to Mount Myouboku.” Naruto stated as he offered the toad some jerky-like strips.

“Shima-sama’s famous bug jerky. That is a treat, thank you.” Gamatsukai replied taking a few moments to eat as the blonde settled himself across from him on a cushion. He then began his tale. “I followed the tracking guide you created with Kakashi-san’s help to the island region where Uzushiogakure used to stand. That was when things got tricky. The whirlpools that fill the ocean of that region have shifted over the years and I had to make a lot of detours to get around them. Then the tracking seal led to the heart of one whirlpool in particular. I contacted the sea frogs of the area, our cousins, to find out what they knew. I learned that particular whirlpool surrounds a portal.”

“A portal?”

“That’s right, from what Kaerumaki told me, it seems to function much like the portals we use to travel from Mount Myouboku do, with one exception. Nothing that goes through has ever come back out. The sea frogs seem to think this is largely due to the portal being at the heart of the whirlpool, creating too much of a downward current for anything to come back up through it. Yet that is where the tracking seal was leading, so with the sea frogs’ help I went through. They will be pleased to learn of the success of my trip. I am also relieved, however, that you were able to summon me back home.”

“Where did it take you?” The teen asked, his expression focused on the story and yet his entire body seemed tense.

“They do not have a name for the realm like we call this one the Elemental Nations, but it was not the same world, of that I am certain.”

Naruto grinned, “You have had quite the adventure. Gamakichi is going to be jealous.”

At that statement, Gamatsukai frowned. “I would not advise him or any of my larger kin travel to that world as I did. It is a world dominated by the sea and there are many large creatures that live in it. Gamakichi and others of that size and larger would stand out far too easily and attract far too much attention. The people of that world are accustomed to dealing with large aggressive creatures and will not likely wait to determine if they are hostile or not. Also, there is very little in the way of large land masses and the people almost all live on islands or live constantly sailing upon the seas. There is one large continental mass that is very unique in that it surrounds the world in a great circle bisecting the ocean on a north to south axis. They call it the Red Line.”

“Is it red?” Naruto asked curious.

Gamatsukai laughed. “Not that I saw, though I did not visit it much. The oceans are also separated into five seas, four of which are normal as far as oceans go and are named North Blue, South Blue, East Blue, and West Blue. The Blues in turn are then bisected by the fifth ocean known as the Grand Line. The Grand Line, like the Red Line, surrounds the world in a great circle, bisecting the Blues into the four quadrants where the Red Line does not. This ocean however is wild in every sense of the word. Those who live and sail the Grand Line are always tempting danger and fate. Weather, navigation, and the creatures that live in the ocean itself, all are completely different from the Blues. It is the wildest section of the Grand Line that your Uncle sails.”

“So he really is a pirate, ship and all?” Naruto asked, the grin not leaving his face for a moment.

“He is. That world is in what they call The Great Pirate Age, and from what I learned, the term pirate really refers to anyone who sails the seas and refuses the rule of the World Government. Not all that do so are criminals. Your Uncle seems to be one of these, though he is not innocent.”

At that last comment Naruto scoffed. “You say that as if anyone living as a shinobi can claim to be different. I’ve lived through a Great Shinobi War, after that, nothing is simply good or evil.”

The toad’s expression softened, he had missed much indeed. “Will you send another scroll?” he asked.

Naruto blinked in surprise, “I want to! But… Gamatsukai it took you nearly two years…”

“It will not take so long a second time.” He said with a bit of a smirk. “I know who I am looking for now, and I learned a few tricks for traveling in that world. It will still take some time, but I can find him again.” the toad explained.

Naruto smiled. “I have a few things I need to finish mastering before I send another Kage scroll. We’ll want to be able to make it easier to send them in the future as well. Still can’t believe the stupid clone let himself get dispelled so easily. Thanks, Gamatsukai. I think Mom would have wanted to find her little brother if she was alive, and I want a chance to get to know him now that he has been found.”

The two sat in silence for several moments before Naruto spoke again. “And his hair! Is his pirate crew really named the Red-haired Pirates?”

The toad chuckled. “Oh it is, and they are known throughout that world as some of the best.”

Naruto grinned. “I can’t wait.”

Second Meetings

Dracule Mihawk blinked and then narrowed his gaze as he considered what sat in front of him. He glanced around the clearing, noting the various sprawled bodies that hadn’t moved in some time. To his immediate right was a mess of vibrant red hair that faint snores drifted out from. He glanced skyward and noted that it was still early in the morning. He then glanced at the various bottles and mugs and frowned. He would have to be more careful about letting the Red-Haired pirate drag him into his parties in the future. Though it had been something of a special occasion he supposed.

Telling the redhead in teasing bits and pieces about his run-in with the boy wearing a certain straw-hat and his first mate back in East Blue had been entertaining. Shanks had shoved a drink in his hand after every detail, laughing boisterously with each tidbit. Well, nearly every tidbit. Shanks had looked very dark for a few moments when he had told him about cutting down the swordsman until he had revealed that he had not actually killed the boy. Really, if Shanks was going to be a mother-hen about that crew he would do best to avoid them in the future.

None of that really mattered now, however, as his amber gaze traveled back to an equally amber gaze staring at him from the clearing edge. The creature did not seem hostile, but it was definitely not native. He wondered if it came from some island of sentient amphibians, dressed as it was and with a large scroll bound on its back. Deciding it was really none of his business; he adjusted his hat and pulled himself to his feet. The large creature glanced at him but its focus remained on the still comatose pirate.  Mihawk then kicked an empty bottle to roll up against the mop of red hair.

There was a snort, groan, and then a muttered curse asking if he wanted to die.

“I am leaving and there is a large amphibian staring at you.” Mihawk stated dryly.

There was an unintelligible grunt in reply. Mihawk stared at the unmoving redhead, then turned and vacated the clearing. It wasn’t his problem.

It was several minutes later that the redhead suddenly sat up straight, eyes wide. “Ehhhhh!”

The said amphibian chuckled in amusement. “You don’t handle the after-party well, do you?”

Shanks blinked several times and then groaned but a smirk crossed his lips as he settled back into a more comfortable position. “So he sent you back after all. I had wondered if you would really be able to find us again.”

The toad smirked, “You are one of the more challenging individuals to track down, but not impossible. It was actually much easier this time.”

Shanks chuckled lowly then groaned as the morning sun filtered into the clearing. It was at moments like this that he really missed the hat. “Oi Benn, you awake?” He then called out.

There was a shift of movement as the man in question looked up towards his captain. “Do you have to ask?”

Shanks grinned. “I think we’ll set sail with this afternoon’s tide.  We’ll have to restock our supplies sooner than anticipated.” which meant that their back-to-back parties had drained the alcohol supply much faster than the captain was now comfortable with.

Benn Beckman only chuckled and then rose to his feet, nudging several unmoving bodies around him in the process. There was a chorus of moans and groans as the crew was prodded into activity and before long there was no one left in the clearing save for the Red-haired Captain and the toad.

“Gamatsukai was it?” Shanks then asked as he began nursing the mug of coffee one of his crew had provided him before heading off to other duties.

“That’s correct. It is kind of you to remember when we were not properly introduced.” The toad replied.

Shanks smiled, “I have a question for you before you start pulling out those scrolls of yours.”

The toad was not really surprised by this turn of events, “I shall answer if I can.”

Shanks face then took a very serious tone and a shadow seemed to pass across his eyes. “That island surrounded by whirlpools, does it exist?”

Whatever questions the toad had been expecting from the eccentric red-haired man, this had not been one of them. However, it was a simple and easy question to answer. “The island of Uzu does in fact exist, though none now call it home.”

The serious air suddenly dissipated from around the red-haired man and he seemed to cheer up considerably. “It does exist. That is good to hear.” Shanks replied though it was obvious his mind had drifted.

Gamatsukai did not reply but instead watched the redheaded pirate captain. It seemed the redhead remembered something of his ancestry after all.


Gamatsukai found himself being a silent observer as the Red-Haired pirates set about their tasks and preparing the ship to sail. He watched as Shanks strolled among his men as they worked, offering comments here and there but as a whole letting the crew do their work without interference. He was a little surprised that the Red-haired man had not left his men to work and asked for the scroll he had known Gamatsukai carried for him.  In fact it wasn’t until later that evening that Gamatsukai, now a welcomed guest aboard the Red Force, found himself sitting at a low table with the Captain once more.

“Well then Gamatsukai-san, shall we see what’s in this scroll of yours?” Shanks asked with an easy smile. However, no sooner had the toad laid it on the table before them then another man’s hand covered it and kept Shanks from picking it up.

“A few questions first if you please. My Captain is a bit absent-minded after all.” Benn Beckman, the Red-haired’s first mate interrupted.

Gamatsukai chuckled. “It is good to see Shanks-san has such people with him. It has often taken several more level heads to try and keep Naruto out of mischief as well, with limited success.” Shanks broke into loud laughter at this and Benn arched an eyebrow and then grimaced at the thought of a second younger Shanks.

“If you could, Gamatsukai-san, explain more about this Kage Bunshin and why it was that both it and you disappeared so suddenly during our last meeting.” Benn then asked.

“Good questions, as we would like to avoid a sudden repeat of that event.” Gamatsukai replied. “From what I understand so far of this world, no one uses chakra so I will begin with that.”

Shanks sat up suddenly at the word. “That word!”

The toad smiled, “I had hoped you might recognize it. Chakra, in the world we call the Elemental Nations, is the combination of spiritual and physical energy which is then used in various ways. The ways it is used vary from enhancing physical ability, the senses, healing techniques, illusionary techniques, and lastly ninja techniques. The Kage Bunshin and the cause for my own disappearance both fall into this last grouping. In contrast there is no such thing as Devil Fruits in our world, or what I believe you call Haki, though a shinobi’s killing intent may be like it on some level as it is a force of will.”

Benn frowned at that final statement. “How common is this killing intent?”

“All shinobi have it to at least some degree,” Gamatsukai answered easily. “However, it is not likely to affect an experienced fighter unless you are facing someone of particular strength.  Even among the most skilled shinobi, there are few who can truly affect people by their presence alone.”

“Now, as for the Kage Bunshin” Gamatsukai continued, “As Naruto explained briefly, it is a solid copy of himself. The ability is unique in that unlike its much more common variation, the Bunshin, the Kage Bunshin splits the user’s chakra evenly between it and the created clone creating a solid copy instead of just an illusionary one. The Kage Bunshin can then carry out tasks just as the original would, with the only weakness being that it only takes one solid hit to dispel the clone. Once dispelled, any unused chakra and memories the clone has gained return to the original. I can tell you, Naruto was not impressed with his clone’s failure at dodging that bottle that dispelled it.”

Shanks laughed loudly and even Benn found himself smirking. Being mad at a copy of oneself for being hit in the head with a stray bottle was rather silly.

“You are not one of these Kage Bunshin, and yet you vanished in a similar manner?” Benn then asked once his captain had settled down once more.

“That is correct.” Gamatsukai responded. “The toad clan of Mount Myouboku is one of many that have developed a contract with individual Shinobi. This contract grants the shinobi the privilege to call on members of our clan to fight with them in their battles. Naruto is currently the only individual that has such a contract with the toad clan. When he received the clone’s memories, he summoned me, which caused me to vanish from this world as you put it. There is of course a lot more to it on a more detailed level, but that is the basics.”

The two men glanced at each other but seemed to come to some silent agreement before Benn spoke once more. “One more question, why seek Shanks out now?”

Gamatsukai sighed. This was the question he hadn’t wanted to be asked. “That would be best answered by Naruto.”

Been nodded, as if he had suspected as much and then slid the still waiting scroll over to Shanks.  The Red-haired Captain picked it up and then studied it, noticing several differences in the marks on this one from the previous.

“One other thing I should probably mention…” Gamatsukai began as Shanks studied the scroll. “The previous Kage Bunshin was in storage for nearly two years; this one is much more current. Naruto is seventeen; the previous clone was of his fifteen-year-old self.”

Shanks simply shrugged and then nicked his finger on a knife hidden under his cloak and then swiped the blood that welled across the ink markings. Just as before the blood seemed to be absorbed and the markings began to grow blue. There was a poof of smoke and then a muttered curse and impact of flesh on flesh.  In an instant Benn was on his feet his eyes staring intently at the place Shanks had been sitting waiting for the wisps of displaced and hazy air to fade.

“Ah sorry about that, Gamatsukai should have had you set the scroll down. Nice to meet you again!” a cheerful voice greeted and moments later the haze faded showing a blonde-haired young man in the progress of disentangling himself from Shanks who had been knocked on his back by the sudden weight.

Shanks suddenly laughed. “You have grown kid! Gamatsukai said you were a couple years older, seems you finally hit your growth spurt?”

The blonde chuckled with him, “Yeah, you could say that.” The blonde then looked around until he spotted the familiar form of Gamatsukai. “Gamatsukai, how long this time?”

The toad grinned. “Three months, Naruto-san. I did tell you it wouldn’t take nearly as long this time.”

“Good job, Tsukai. “ The blonde replied. “So this is your ship?” He asked in curiosity as his blue eyes scanned their surroundings his eyes widening as he spotted the endless blue ocean surrounding them. “Wow, I’ve never seen so much water…”

Shanks grinned widely, “Welcome to the Red Force, kid. You can’t tell me the sea is not so large back home?”

Naruto turned to face Shanks once more and chuckled while scratching the back of his head. “It is, I just haven’t seen much of it myself. The few times I’ve been on ships they remained in sight of the coast more or less.”

Shanks accepted the answer. “So tell us, Naruto, right? Just why did you decide to seek me out? After all, it’s been over twenty years since I’ve heard anyone use the name Uzumaki.”

Naruto sat down at the low table; his eyes still alight with excitement, but settling into the more serious discussion. “Family is important. Blood or adopted doesn’t matter. When I found the lineage scroll in Mom’s things and it showed that her younger brother could still be living, I had to at least try to find you. Wasn’t expecting you to be in a whole other world though! That is probably why Mom never found you herself.”

Shanks blinked. Then blinked again his mouth dropping open slightly as he tried to comprehend just what it was the boy was saying. “Mom’s younger brother…” he finally whispered his eyes wide.

Benn looked from the blonde to the red-haired man and back again as he sat down once more slowly. He could see similarities… but to imagine Shanks having an older sister…

Shanks frowned as he considered the revelation and the chords it struck within him. A flash of red hair and a teasing tone.  Kushina-neesan. She had been crying when she left that day. No one had been able to explain why. He had wanted to go with her.

“You would have been pretty young when she moved to Konoha from what I’ve been told.” Naruto said softly. “So… I can call you Shanks-oji, right?” he then chimed in with another grin.

Shanks blinked and looked dumbfounded at the boy.

Benn began chuckling as he pulled out a cigarette. “So, does this mean we can expect a visit from Shanks big sister in the future, then?”

At this Naruto slumped and didn’t answer immediately, the light hearted tone of their conversation immediately fading.

Shanks sighed then asked gently. “How long has she been gone?”

“She and Dad both died the day I was born. I never got to know them.” Naruto answered softly.

Nothing more was said for several minutes and then Shanks leaned back and looked skyward. He would never see Kushina again. In some ways this sudden recollection of long last family was incredibly cruel. To have such hope dangled and then pulled away again. But then he looked at the blonde-haired youth sitting before him again. The kid had seen hell. He hid it well, but Shanks could see it there: In the quiet tension in shoulders and back, the way he was almost too excited. “I’m sorry.” He said softly, studying the blonde who sat slumped looking downward. “You had living family…”

Naruto looked up surprised. “It’s not your fault! They died protecting me and the village… besides I wasn’t completely alone. The old man Hokage looked after me when he could and well… while no kid wishes to grow up alone, I wouldn’t have met all the people I care for if I hadn’t grown up as I did.”

Shanks nodded, accepting the response; glad the kid didn’t hold it against him. Even if there was no way he could have known about him.  Still, seemed the kid had grown up pretty well despite the fact it was obvious he had seen a lot of hardship.

Gamatsukai decided it was time for a subject change. “Naruto-san, do not forget to ask about the seal array.”

“Right! Shanks-oji, I need a secure space to set up a permanent seal marker. Then I can send scrolls without making Gamatsukai travel all over looking for you again. That and I hope to visit in person someday when I get a certain skill mastered.” Naruto had all but bounced as he spoke, but then he froze in place, “That is… if you will let me?”

Shanks glanced at his first mate and then chuckled at the stunned look on his First Mate’s face then spoke. “Of course I would like to have you visit, kid. Besides, my crew needs someone new to help keep them on their toes! Just look at old Benn here all stiff and in shock.”

Benn ignored the Red-haired man and simply continued to smoke his cigarette, flicking the ashes at his captain. “Captain, of course, refers to the extra work he expects me to do while he slacks off.”

 “See what I mean?” The Redhead whined.

Naruto glanced between the two and found himself grinning at their behavior. It reminded him of home.

“So how about we get the kid introduced to the crew, Benn, since he’s going to be a regular visitor and all?”

“Since Captain has neglected such pleasantries,” The older man ignored his Captain’s indignant squawk, “It is good to meet you Uzumaki Naruto. I am Benn Beckman, First Mate of the Red-Haired pirates. Your dear old Oji, is of course our Captain and one of the Yonko here on the sea we know as the New World. Has your friend Gamatsukai explained the seas here to you?” Benn then asked.

Naruto couldn’t help but feel his grin spread. “He has, it’s a pretty crazy place I hear.”

Shanks laughed at that.  “Stick around, kid, and I’m sure you’ll see soon enough.”

Naruto’s grin softened into a smile. “I hope to.”

Why a Pirate?

“So, kiddo, what do you think of the Red Force?” Shanks asked as he approached the blonde-haired teen sitting at the ship’s railing with his feet dangling over the edge of the ship.

“It’s awesome Shanks-oji! I’ve never seen a ship like it.” The youth replied turning to face him with a huge grin.

“Ah, she is one of a kind and she has seen us through quite a few adventures.” Shanks replied as he settled down to sit next to his blonde nephew.

“And what do you think of the crew?”

The blonde laughed at this, “They are a crazy bunch that’s for sure, but…”

“But?” Shanks inquired raising an eyebrow.

Naruto’s smile softened, “They would go through hell for you if you asked it of them. I can tell.”

Shanks found himself surprised by the statement, then chuckled. “Well to be fair, I’ve dragged them through a few places that might just be considered hell. Loyalty to your crewmates is important living on the sea, particularly this sea. There is no room for second guessing and doubts.” He trailed off for a few moments. “Besides, the crew also knows I would bring hell with me to anyone who dared to hurt a friend of mine.”

Naruto grinned an interesting twinkle in his blue gaze. “A long time ago, someone special once told me that true strength comes from protecting what is precious to you. I will never not fight to protect those precious to me. That’s a promise! And I never go back on my word! That is my nindo.”

Shanks met his grin with one of his own and then patted his nephew on the back. “A good rule to live by.”

Naruto turned back to study the sea around them and was quiet for several moments before speaking again. “Hey Shanks-oji, why become a pirate?”

Shanks considered the question for several minutes, “Are you asking in general why people choose to become pirates or why I personally did?” he asked, curious as to what exactly was on his nephew’s mind.

The blonde hummed in thought for a moment before speaking. “Both I guess.”

Shanks nodded. “Well, for some, it is because they are really no better than bandits that live on the sea rather than land. They prey on those weaker than them and live for their own pleasures. However, very few such pirate crews make it to the Grand Line. They don’t have the ambition for it.”

Naruto wrinkled his nose. “I’ve never understood why people choose to live like that.”

 “I agree. There are some however, that are forced into it by matter of circumstance. If the World Government declares you its enemy, piracy and the open sea is the only freedom that can be found. There are many such stories amongst pirates that have these origins.”

“You mean that if they didn’t chose piracy they’d either be in dead or in prison.” Naruto stated frowning.

“Or worse.” Shanks stated with a serious tone, “The Celestial Dragons endorse slavery and I do not know of any fate worse for those whose greatest desire is the freedom of the sea.”

“Slavery? How? I mean… even the worst of Elemental nations did not have outright slavery.”

“It is a symptom of the corruption of the World Government and it is that corruption that has in turn led to Great age of Pirates. Those that take up the pirate flag are all in their own way revolting against the World Government, whether that is their true intention or not. “

“World Government … do they really control this entire world?” Naruto asked.

Shanks chuckled. “They like to think they do. Some areas are more under their control than others. This sea, the one called the New World, is the largest region mostly free of their rule. The New World is really under pirate control, though the officials would like to deny that fact. Four Pirate Emperors, or Yonko, currently control the balance of power in the New World.”

Naruto chuckled at that. “Kind of sounds like the Five major Shinobi villages keeping balance before the Fourth War in the Elemental Nations.”

Shanks shrugged, not having had the chance to learn much of the Elemental Nations from the blonde as of yet. “Back to your original question though. For most who do not fall into either of the other groups it is the sea itself and the promise of adventure and the achievement of dreams that lead them to take up the title of pirate.  These types also usually don’t quite get along with the World Government. My late Captain was one of these.”

“Is that why you became a pirate?” Naruto asked excitedly.

Shanks laughed at his enthusiasm. “You could say that. Captain Roger found me living off the streets on the island I first washed up on. I was getting into all sorts of trouble back then, but more than anything, I wanted to prove that the island I remembered existed. Captain Roger gave me the chance to set sail to find it. Can you figure out what island I was looking for?”

Naruto frowned but then considered. “You were looking for home? For Uzu?”

Shanks nodded. “I found my home here on the sea in my search, but I had always hoped I might still find it. I know now why I never did thanks to you.”

Naruto grinned, and then turned to face Shanks, fully pulling his legs up and tucking them up on the deck cross-legged in front of him as he leaned forward.

“Would you still like to see it Shanks-oji!? I’ve never gone there, but if I can get you into the Elemental Nations we could go together.”

Shanks stared in shock. “Could that even be possible…” he whispered. From all that he had heard so far from both the toad Gamatsukai and his nephew’s clones the journey was one way. The use of summoning jutsu was the only reason why the toad had been able to return home at all. There would be no reliable way to summon Shanks back to this world if it was managed. He had no desire to risk a trip through the whirlpool and portal again as the messenger toad had.

Naruto grinned. “Boss has been working hard on perfecting a jutsu that should allow him to cross between the worlds as long as the proper anchors exist in both places. Once he’s got it mastered, he should be able to take you back and forth with him.”

Shanks shook his head in amusement. There was something about the next generation and making the impossible seem possible. First Luffy and now his own nephew dreaming and making the impossible happen. “I will not abandon my crew; this is now my home after all. Finding the freedom of the sea is a dream on its own, but I would like to visit that place if I could be sure of coming back.” Shanks finally answered after a few moments, a small smile on his lips.

Naruto nodded with enthusiasm. “Of course, Boss has a ways to go before he’s ready to try a jump across yet himself.  He can always have the toads summon him back if he has to as well.”

“The toads can summon the real you?” Shanks asked surprised.

“Yeah, though they don’t do it very often, and only Shima-Baa-chan and Fukusaku-jiji can do it. It’s usually just for training at their home mountain, or if the elder toad needs to see us. Shima-Baa-chan always tries to feed us her home cooking when we visit, bugs… yuck, so we try to keep such visits short.” 

Shanks couldn’t help but laugh at his statement and the ridiculousness of it.

“So you became a pirate to find a way home?” Naruto then asked, bringing their conversation back around again.

Shanks shook his head, still amused about the bug meals. “No, not really, I set out to sea in search of home and when I found it I dreamed of never losing the freedom I had found with it.”

Naruto smiled and turned to face the ocean once more “Sounds nice.”

Shanks grinned, “You’re unofficially part of the crew now, Naruto. As long as I sail the seas, you will have a home with me, if you need it.”

Wide blue eyes turned to him in surprise and Shanks suddenly worried he had said something wrong as he noticed water form along the boy’s lower lashes. “Oi, I didn’t mean to…”

The blonde boy shook his head quickly. “Thank you. I… no one has ever offered to share their home with me before.”

Shanks expression softened once more and he reached out and pulled Naruto against him. “No problem kid.”

Uzumaki Luck

There was a soft whoosh of displaced air and then a muffled cheer from behind a closed storage room hatch. Moments later the hatch opened and a blonde head and blue eyes peeked out, studying his surroundings. The test was a success. He could now send clones across to the other world without first sealing them into a scroll.  He soon exited the storage room and wandered through the quiet halls, noticing that the Ship didn’t seem to be moving that much.

“Huh, wonder if they are in a port or anchored at an island.” The blonde mumbled to himself before quickly heading up and onto the very empty deck. “Anyone on board?!” He called out.

“Ah, Naruto! Captain and the crew are in town.” A voice of one of the crew called out from the crow’s nest above.

“You got stuck with watch, Rockstar?” Naruto called back with a grin.

The pirate only shrugged with a grin and waved. “Find the nosiest place in town and you’ll probably find Captain.”

Naruto waved and then quickly slipped off the ship and onto the pier it had been moored against. The town seemed quiet and unconcerned with the pirate ship tied up at their docks. This must be one of the islands under the Red-haired pirate’s protection. He strolled into town, eyes bright as he took in his surroundings. He had visited a few islands and towns before with the crew as they resupplied or spent a few days of shore leave. However, this was the first time he’d gotten to visit without Shank’s knowing he was coming ahead of time. He couldn’t wait to surprise him and the others.

He waved and smiled at people as he traveled further into town keeping out an eye for any of the crew or sounds of the crew already in full party swing. It was at that moment he spotted a couple men in white uniforms with blue trim who were nervously peeking over a hedge at what appeared to be a bar across the lane. Naruto crept up beside them and remained quiet for several minutes as he listened to their nervous whispers.

“We should report this to the Commander.”

“Report what? They’re just drinking in a bar!”

“But they are off guard.”

“They aren’t attacking the town; this is part of Red-Haired’s territory.”

Naruto decided to interrupt before the conversation went in another circle. “What you guys watching? Is something happening at the bar?”

“Shhh. We don’t want to draw their attention!” One of the two responded without turning to glance his way.

“Whose attention?” Naruto asked, amused.

“The Red-haired pirates!” The other one hissed back finally glancing at the blonde crouched beside them.

Naruto gave a big grin. “So this is where they are! Thanks I’ve been looking for Shanks-oji. You guys have fun!” he stated before leaving them spluttering and heading into the bar and calling out a greeting. “Shanks-oji! You starting a party without me!?”

The two men in white and blue stared with wide eyes as the blonde teen vanished into the bar where sounds of cheering and called out greetings echoed.

“Did that guy say what I think he said?” he whispered.

“Yeah… he said uncle all right. Maybe we should make that report after all.”


Benn Beckman watched in amusement as yet another member of the crew cursed, tossed his cards down and then slunk away from the table with a growled statement about the kid being a card shark. There were only two or three crew members left at the poker table where the blonde nephew of his captain had set up and began playing cards with the crew. The crew at first had been thrilled, thinking him an easy target and that if they couldn’t beat the Captain, his nephew was the next best thing. Benn had suspected the game would end with the crew bemoaning the boy’s luck.

He had watched his Captain fleece many a man both in and out of the crew over the years. Had watched his Captain be accused of cheating (this usually ended in a rather large bar fight) and be cheated on, only to still fleece those trying to cheat him. No, when it came to gambling the Captain’s luck was uncanny. This had in turn led to a ship-wide ban for any gambling games with the Captain. Shanks hadn’t minded much, only laughed and demanded more booze in exchange. It seemed though, that the mysterious luck was genetic, and the crew had apparently not put two and two together. They’d probably figure it out once they realized the blue-eyed blonde had fleeced all of them with a grin.

It was at that moment that Yasopp settled on the stool next to him with a groan. “The kid is killing us, Benn.”

Benn chuckled around his cigarette. “He is the Captain’s nephew.” Was his only response and then waited for the reaction.

Yasopp glanced at him out of the corner of his eye then back to the blonde and frowned. Then his eyes widened and he let out a loud curse. “Why didn’t you warn me!” he then demanded of the First mate.

“It is not my duty to protect you from your own stupidity.” Benn replied dryly but his lips curved into a smirk.

Yasopp groaned again and then a speculative look crossed his face. “Which of the two would win against each other?” He then asked.

Benn arched an eyebrow and considered before answering slowly. “The kid, I think.”

“What about the kid?” Shanks asked in a drawl as he came up on Benn’s other side and threw his arm over his first mate’s shoulder.

“Your nephew has nearly finished fleecing the crew, Captain.” Benn replied.

Shanks blinked then guffawed loudly and started ribbing the fleeced crew members.

It was several hours later, with the majority of the crew passed out throughout the bar, that Shanks stared unbelievingly at the table before him.  Across from him, his blonde nephew grinned like a fox who had just caught a fat rabbit as he collected the pot and began tucking his winnings away into a scroll.

They had played poker. The kid had trumped him every hand by the slimmest of margins. A straight flush with one card higher than his own, two pairs with Queens and Tens beat by two pairs of Kings and Jacks. It was uncanny. They had switched to blackjack. The kid NEVER busted. They had tried dice. Even dice Shanks had known were rigged still fell in the kids favor. He had suspected some ninjutsu foolery but the kid hadn’t cheated… or at the very least could not be caught at it.

Benn was the only other one still awake and he only chuckled quietly. “Well Captain, seems we have a new good luck charm on the crew.”

Shanks groaned and his head dropped to the table as he seemed to whimper and moan.

Naruto looked from Shanks to Benn and back again. “Is he going to be all right?” He asked Benn, a bit worried.

“Don’t worry kid. Your uncle just has a flare for the dramatic.”

A fresh wail pierced the air and the crew around them all groaned in response but Benn only chuckled and Naruto, having seen such antics before with his old sensei, grinned. “Don’t worry Shanks-oji. I won’t steal all your money all the time; just every other visit or so.”

The red haired man sighed and sat up. “Well if that’s all, then there is nothing to worry about. You’ll have to pay the bar tab now though, Naruto; no one else has any money left.”


The Red-haired captain laughed loudly.

Bountiful, Red, Red-Haired Pirates

Naruto watched in amusement as one of the crew argued with the strange-looking bird before finally dropping some coins into the box the bird carried and accepting a bundle of paper in exchange.

“What was that all about?” Naruto asked as the crewmember approached.

“Blasted News Coos are always trying to up the cost of the paper, but Benn and Captain like to keep up-to-date on events.” The crew member explained. “You want to take them the paper, kid?”

Naruto shrugged, “Sure.” He accepted the bundle of papers and turned, heading to the navigation cabin. He paged through the bundle, curious, as he stepped through the door.

“What do you have there, Naruto?” Benn asked as he looked up from a log book at the blonde teen.

“Newspaper and… wanted flyers, it looks like.” He answered as he studied them.

“Ah yes, we like to keep an eye on the rookies coming up through Paradise. Sometimes you can spot a familiar face or someone we may want to consider recruiting. Also gives us an idea of what to expect when at least one rookie crew every season decides they want to challenge a Yonko.” Benn explained as he pulled out a file. “Here are all the ones we’ve had eyes on for the past year. Why don’t you compare the new ones and see what you can find?”

Naruto settled down on the bench and began paging through the stack of posters while comparing the names and faces to the new ones from that day’s paper.

“It’s kind of like a Bingo book.” He stated mostly to himself.

“Bingo book?” Benn asked.

“Ah, the different shinobi villages all have their own and list enemy shinobi that they want dead with a reward in them. They usually have some basic information about the targets like rank and aliases. For example, one of my sensei was known as Copy-Cat, because of how he could mimic and steal other shinobi’s techniques, and was said to have copied over a thousand jutsu.” Naruto explained. Looking back at the stack, a poster caught his eye. “Surgeon of Death, that’s not creepy at all…” Naruto muttered, studying the poster.

“One of the newer rising rookies; rumors give him some interesting contacts and some unique abilities, most likely from a devil fruit.” Benn noted. “So, do you have an alias and bounty in enemy bingo books?” He asked, curious. Benn blinked then, as the blonde boy’s shoulders slumped and he seemed to wilt. “Is it that bad?” He asked.

“No… it’s just… After the Fourth Shinobi War none of the villages would list me.” Naruto answered sullenly.

Benn frowned; surely he wasn’t that weak compared to his peers. He had been confident that he sensed a great strength in the kid and he had yet to meet the real version. “You were part of a war, and no one wanted you dead?” Benn asked, a bit skeptic.

“Yeah… I kind of helped end the war, which saved a lot of people.” Naruto offered feeling a bit embarrassed.

Benn raised an eyebrow. He’d have to tease Shanks about how his nephew ended wars rather than start them. He could tell the subject made the boy a bit uncomfortable though. He reached behind him and pulled out another file. “Here, this one is all the crew’s bounties.” Benn offered, smiling.

Naruto accepted the file and flipped through the first few. “Wow Benn, your hair used to be black!”

Benn grunted. “I blame your uncle.”

Naruto glanced up at the First Mate and smirked, a spark speaking of coming mischief in his blue eyes that went unnoticed by the older man.

Blue eyes gleamed with anticipation as he waited for a new Kage Bunshin to arrive. He’d summoned one himself earlier and dispelled it to get the request for supplies back to the Boss and was now waiting for the response. With a poof of displaced air, blue eyes met matching blue.

“Get the stuff?” Naruto One asked.

“Oh, Yeah.” Naruto Two answered. “Boss wants pictures if you can manage it.”

“No problem.” The first replied. Message passed, the second clone handed over a scroll and then saluted before dispelling.

With a small application of chakra to unseal the scroll’s contents; whisker-marked cheeks spread into a grin. It was time to get to work.


A horrified scream spread throughout the ship, stirring the still slumbering crew into wakefulness. The source of the scream was soon traced to the Captain’s quarters.

“Oi, Captain, you all right?” Lucky Roo asked through the door.

The door was suddenly thrown open and the gathered crew stared in shock at their captain. Gone was the vibrant red hair the Captain, and thus pirate crew, was known for, and it was replaced by an almost glimmering silver. Tears poured down Shanks face.

“It’s over!” The Captain wailed. “I’ll have to retire. No one will call me Red-Haired again!” Shanks blubbered.

“What is all this about?” Benn’s voice carried over the crowd.

Shanks shrieked once more as his first mate came into view. Deep red strands framed the first mate’s face and hung down his back in a slightly messy tail.

“Benn! How could you!” Shanks accused. It was at that moment that another crewmember exclaimed and they realized Benn was not the only new redhead on board.

Shanks sniffled as he took in the injustice of the situation. Then a hint of blonde in the crowd caught his eye. “Naruto!” Shanks cried out and, as one, the crew stepped away from the teen.

Shanks approached his nephew, eyes bright with unshed tears. “Why Naruto?” He sniffled. “Why would you ruin me like this?”

The blonde fidgeted. “Um…” He squirmed looking sideways, glanced at his uncle’s face again, and then sighed. “I’ve never felt guilty for a prank before…” the blonde grumbled. Naruto raised one hand, his fingers forming a specific shape, and then touched his uncle on the chest with the other. “Kai.” He muttered and the silvery strands were quickly overtaken by red once more.

Shanks blinked, his eyes crossing to stare at the once again familiar red strands hanging from his brow. He let out a huge sigh of relief. “Thank god, I’m too young to retire!”

“Hey! What about us?!” One of the crew exclaimed.

“Oh,” Naruto paused and then looked a bit sheepish, “I used hair dye on you guys.” He stated and then shrugged. “You are supposed to be the Red-Haired Pirates after all.”

There was the quick sound of a rifle being cocked and then fired, followed by the now familiar popping sound of Naruto’s clone.

Shanks blinked, frowned, and then turned to his first mate a dark glint in his gaze. “Benn, did you just shoot my nephew!?!”

The redheaded Benn glared and then lit a cigarette. “Your point?”

Shanks stared at his first mate and then grinned. “Aww, is Benn being an angry redhead?”

The older man exhaled and then turned away, closing his own cabin’s door with a thud. Shanks grinned widely, he would have fun with this for months.


Naruto frowned as he studied the tangle of line between his hands and looked again at the neat bowline knot he was trying to replicate. He sighed as he tried once more and somehow managed to get the line twisted around one of his ankles.

“Having trouble, Naruto?”  Yasopp asked as he strolled across the deck and then plopped down next to his fellow blonde.

Naruto grumbled incoherently as he struggled to get the line off his ankle.

Yasopp laughed as he reached over and with two quick tugs had the line falling loose to the deck. “You almost had it there. Keep at it and you’ll be able to work the sail lines with us in no time.”

Naruto looked at the rope skeptically. “I don’t know why, but ninja wire seems much less complicated.”

“Here, let me show you again; I always wanted to teach my son how to tie sailor’s knots.”

“You have a son?” Naruto asked surprised. Before Yasopp could respond there were several loud complaints from the various crew members within listening range.

“Ah, shut up! Naruto hasn’t heard about Usopp yet!” Yasopp shouted back at them an eyebrow twitching.

Naruto chuckled. “You must really care about him.”

Yasopp grinned. “You bet! I had to leave him behind in East Blue with his mom when he was little and the sea called me. I imagine he’s about your age now.”

Before anymore could be said there was a yell and commotion across the deck. In moments, one of the crew carrying a bundle of papers was rushing towards the quarterdeck and the navigation room. “Captain! Captain! Big News!” The crewman shouted as he vanished into the interior.

“Come on, Naruto, let’s go find out what all the fuss is about.” Yasopp suggested rolling to his feet and then offering the teen his hand to pull him up to his own feet.

There was an answering shout of shock in Shanks’ voice and then rounds of cheers and various shouts from the gathering crew as they moved forward.

“Oi, let us through!” Yasopp shouted and dealt a few well-placed elbow nudges as he pushed his way through the crowd toward the doorway. The crew seemed to get the idea and soon separated just as Shanks appeared in the doorway with a grin. He scanned the crowd his gaze finding Naruto and settling.

“Well Naruto, seems you are officially part of the crew now.” And with that statement he held up a single sheet of paper.

Naruto blinked and studied the paper, his eyes widening as he took in an image of his own grinning and whisker marked face. Below it in bold lettering clearly printed: “Naruto, nephew of Red-Hair; Wanted: Dead or Alive – 65,000 Berries.”

“What!” Naruto shrieked stunned. “I haven’t even done anything!”

Shanks looked a bit nervous at that as the crew around them began to scatter, many of them patting Naruto on the back, others stopped several before they could destroy the clone with their too-enthusiastic support. “Ah, sorry about that, it’s because you’ve been associated directly with me, I’m afraid.”

Naruto blinked and a pang of sadness crossed his face before he shook his head and grinned. “Well I do have a pretty bad-ass Uncle after all. I suppose it’s only natural.”

Shanks eyed his nephew for a moment then grinned. “You’ve got that right.” He then shifted his attention to the excited crew. “All right you gossip hens, we haven’t had a new bounty on the crew in some time so let’s celebrate!”

There were loud cheers in response and it didn’t take long for a party to be in full swing.

It wasn’t until much later, when the party had wound down to clustered groups and occasional drunken shout-outs that Shanks managed to find a mostly quiet space of the deck with just him and his nephew. He sat down next to the now quiet blonde and sighed as he looked up at the sky and stars above them.

“Sorry Naruto, I should have forewarned you that something like this was likely to happen.” Shanks stated and then waited to see what his nephew would say.

“It’s fine. I should have expected as much; it just caught me off guard. I figured I’d get one eventually after tagging along on some fights with you after all, but this… just because I’m related to you? Reminded me a bit too much of the hell I grew up with, I guess. At least the picture is good.” Naruto muttered, knowing that there was no point in trying to hide things from his Uncle. If there was anything he had learned about the older red-head, it was that even when he acted like an idiot, he saw way more than he let on.

“You want to talk about it?” Shanks asked gently.

Naruto shook his head quickly. “Maybe some other time, but there’s no point in spoiling tonight’s party with it.”

Shanks accepted his answer and sat in comfortable silence for several moments before speaking again. “The Absolute Justice policy of the Marines and World Government is a glorified excuse for genocide and bloodline purges. As soon as it became known you were my relation they would have put a bounty on your head or had you flat-out killed. I suppose it’s a relief that the real you is out of their reach… although I am going to have to retaliate against the next few marine ships and bases we come across. A bounty of 65,000 is a very respectable bounty to start out with, even in the Paradise part of the Grand Line, but here in the New World it’s an insult, and really a stab more at me than you.”

Naruto stared at his Uncle with wide eyes, his mouth hanging slightly open. “You…”

“Congratulations on officially becoming a pirate though.”

“How… I mean, why is it an insult?”

“It’s just high enough to make the bounty hunters and other pirate crews that sail these waters take note. If you were captured or killed by some other pirate crew or the Marines… it would mean I was unable to protect you. This would then be seen as a sign of weakness and I’d have all sorts of riff raff coming to give me hell. Would make things interesting for a while I suppose, but not worth the risk to you.” Shanks explained.

Naruto stared and then didn’t know if he should be yelling in anger or crying at the joy his uncle’s statements gave him. “You’d care that much…”

Shanks turned to him with a sharp gaze cutting off the boy’s words. “You are family, Naruto. No one hurts my friends, my crew or my family. No one.”

Naruto sat surprised for a few moments then grinned. “Well then… I guess I’ll have to show them that I’m not such a pushover.”

Shanks laughed loudly. “That’s the spirit.”

Apprenticeship Not Required

“Captain! Mihawk’s sail has been sighted.” A crewmember called out.

Shanks looked up from the maps he and Naruto had been going over and arched an eyebrow. “He must have seen Naruto’s poster. I thought we might be getting a visit soon.” He then turned to Naruto, “Hey kiddo, mind stepping out of sight for a little bit? Let’s see what Mihawk has to say before you reveal yourself.”

Naruto raised an eyebrow, but shrugged and did as asked. The island they were on was heavily covered in vegetation so it was simple enough to vanish into the surrounding forest.

Shanks, meanwhile, took some time and gathered up the maps before rolling them up and tucking them back into their carrying case. They had begun working out tentative plans for Naruto to up his bounty to something a bit more respectable for the New World and, as his nephew had put it, one he had actually earned.

Shanks patiently awaited Mihawk’s arrival, and the man soon appeared on the trail leading to the clearing the redhead had claimed for the day. “And what brings the Government’s Shichubukai, Dracule Mihawk, here to visit a well-known pirate, today?” Shanks asked, mirth in his tone.

The man in question stared at him without blinking and in one quick motion, a piece of paper appeared pinned by a dagger to the tree beside the Red-haired Pirate’s head.

Shanks glanced at the poster and then back to the man. “This is not new news, Mihawk, this was in the papers a week ago.”

“Explain,” Mihawk demanded his tone dark.

“Oh, you know how these things work, Hawkeye. One’s siblings have children, which mean one has nieces and/or nephews…”

The long black blade of Mihawk’s sword arched over the table resting its tip a scant distance from the redhead’s throat.

“Do not make me repeat myself, Akagami.” Mihawk demanded icily.

It was at that moment that there was a brief displacement of air, indicating movement, and Mihawk found his gaze filled, not with red hair and an insufferable smirk, but by blue eyes, blonde hair, and a teasing grin.

“I’ve seen some crazy eyes before, but never ones that looked like a bird’s. That’s where the alias Hawkeye is from, huh?” The teen asked as he crouched, perched atop the black blade, studying Mihawk closely.

Shanks chuckled. “Mihawk, meet my nephew, Uzumaki Naruto. Naruto, this is my longtime friend and rival, Dracule Mihawk. He currently works as a pirate for the government and, as you can see, has a fixation with long pointy objects.”

“Get off, Boy.” Mihawk snarled.

The blonde grinned and calmly leapt from the blade to the ground without any worry.

Mihawk studied the youth a moment, finally letting out a long sigh as he sheathed his sword. “I was unaware you had any siblings, Akagami.”

Shanks shrugged dismissively. “I’ve had no contact with any blood kin for over thirty years. I had not known I had a nephew until Naruto, here, found me. He does remind me of his mother, though.”

Mihawk raised an eyebrow at that. “You have a sister?”

“Had; she seems to have passed some time ago. Now: surely curiosity about my family isn’t the only thing that brought you out to see me. Itching for a fight?”

Mihawk scoffed. “Hardly; there is no challenge in facing a cripple.”

Shanks pouted.

Mihawk then produced another bit of parchment from his coat, and offered the other man what appeared to be another wanted poster, this one still rolled up.

Shanks accepted the tube of paper and unwound it.

“These two posters should be in the public papers this week.” Mihawk stated as Shanks’ eyes opened wide, a grin spreading across his face.

“That crazy kid! What did he do to triple his bounty!? And is this the swordsman you mentioned?” Shanks asked, his grin becoming wider each moment.

“Yes, that is Straw-hat’s first mate. As pictured, he has a unique three-sword style. The upper tiers of the Marines were all ruffled about Crocodile being up to mischief in Alabasta. Straw-hat got tangled up in it and took him down. Officially, the credit is being given to some marine captain who happened to be investigating in Alabasta at the time. The fact that a rookie out of East Blue has taken out a Shichibukai so soon after entering the Grand Line has gotten their attention.”

Naruto peered over Shanks’ shoulder at the two posters. “Who are they?”

Mihawk blinked, surprised. “He hasn’t told you about his apprentice?” Mihawk hadn’t been able to get the Red-haired Pirate to shut up about the straw-hat kid on his last visit.

Shanks just grinned, “Oi, Benn, Yasopp! Tell the Crew we are having a party! Luffy’s bounty went up!”

There were answering exclamations of surprise and excitement and it was clear that soon the entire crew would know of the news.

“Will you be staying to drink with us, Mihawk?” Shanks asked unable to stop grinning as he glanced up from the two posters.

“No.” Mihawk stated quickly. “I will leave you to your drunken foolishness.”

Shanks only laughed and then focused his attention back to his nephew. “Drink with me, Naruto, and I’ll tell you all about this loud-mouthed brat I met back in East Blue.”

Mihawk’s lips twitched in a smirk as he turned to head back the way he had come. His gaze slowly tracked over the other visible crew members, noticing now that there was much more ’red‘ present than he’d ever noted before. Mihawk paused in his steps and turned to face the Red-Haired Pirate’s first mate. “Beckman…”

The first mate remained silent, as he drew in a long breath through his cigarette, and exhaled slowly. “He’s the Captain’s nephew all right. Damn brat.”

 Mihawk snorted and grinned. “Good Luck,” was his final parting words as he left the clearing to the sounds of Shanks’ storytelling and laughter.

Beckman watched the Shichibukai until he was out of sight and then turned back to watch his Captain and much younger crewmate. His lips curved into a smile as he listened to the enthusiastic re-telling of how this loud-mouthed kid had stabbed himself below the eye in his attempt to convince Shanks to let him join the Red-Haired Pirates.

Other crewmembers wandered in and out of the group surrounding Captain and nephew as stories were told. Those who had been present, at the time, added bits to the story as they came near, while others completely side-tracked the conversation into various tales of adventure before it came back to their time spent on that particular island in East Blue.

Benn remained at his post, watching in amusement as the afternoon progressed into nightfall and the pile of empty bottles surrounding Captain and nephew continued to grow. He had been tempted to intervene when the impromptu drinking contest had started (after all the boy was still just a kid), but the blonde had assured everyone it was fine when questioned, as this would not be the first drinking contest he’d been dragged into. Naruto had at that point shared a few stories about his godfather and adoptive grandmother and their drinking habits and vices that nearly had the Captain choking on his own booze.

Really, with the surrogate family the kid had told stories about, it was no wonder he fit in so well with the crew. The kid was practically raised as a pirate, minus the sailing. Although, when this thought had been voiced, he had vehemently declared he was a shinobi. Benn suspected it was close enough to be a moot point, but humored the kid anyways.

Evening and night had blended into the darkest hours of morning before Benn’s attention was spiked once more by the drinking duo. A muttered groan from his captain that was answered by a very cheery tone caught his attention and he raised an eyebrow in surprise.

“Hey, Shanks-oji, you all right?” Naruto asked, amusement filling his voice.

Shanks groaned and glared at his nephew. Was there three of them now? “Kid, how are you still sitting upright? We’ve had more than enough alcohol to knock someone of your size out hours ago.”

The blonde shrugged. “Did we? I couldn’t tell.”

Shanks gave in and flopped on his back with another moan. Sleep sounded good about now.


“No blood.”

Shanks blinked at him blearily, what was the kid going on about now?

“Kage Bunshin. I’m a chakra construct. Means I have no bloodstream. No blood, no way to get drunk.” The blonde explained with a cheeky grin.

Shanks stared, uncomprehending, for several long silent moments and then let out a long string of curses which slowly morphed into cries about wasted alcohol.

Benn chuckled as the blonde poked his slightly twitching uncle with a toe to see if he’d be moving more than his mouth anytime soon. Yeah, the kid was a pirate all right.

Misbehaving Puppies

“Another Round!” Shanks called out gleefully as several of his crewman and a few locals cursed and groaned while the blonde-haired teen collected his winnings. The scene had become a familiar one in whatever port the Yonko and his crew made berth. They would find their choice tavern in the nearby village and settle in for a night or two of drinking, gambling, and a good time.

There had been a few minor incidents with locals who felt the pirates were cheating them, but when it was pointed out that the kid beat everyone, including their Captain, well, what more could they say? The kid was a good sport about it, and usually tipped the tavern staff well, which kept everyone happy. The Red-Haired pirates had always made it a habit to try to keep on friendly terms with their more favored ports and supply posts, after all.

No sooner had the round of drinks found their mates, and the well-used deck of cards been shuffled, than there was a bit of commotion at the doorway.

Several pairs of eyes watched casually as what appeared to be another pirate crew stumbled in through the doors and began shouting out orders for drink and food. The bartender glanced at those already present, and when they remained calm and unaffected, quickly set to serving the new patrons.

“So what’s all this?” One of the new arrivals demanded as he studied the poker table and the large pile of winnings next to the blonde teen.

“Poker, of course; would you like to join us?” Naruto offered brightly.

The pirate scoffed, “Aren’t you too young to be in here kid?”

Naruto only laughed, “My sensei always said if you were old enough to kill, you were old enough to drink. What do you say, Mister?”

The pirate snorted and pulled up a chair. As a few more of the new arrivals came over to see what was of interest, several of those already sitting offered up their places claiming they were done losing for the night.

Shanks watched, amused, from across the room. The kid had it down to an art; it was no surprise Naruto had managed to clean out his entire crew and himself that first night. He wondered idly if he’d get the chance to meet some of Naruto’s surrogate family if they ever did visit Naruto’s home and the island of Uzu. He would love to meet whoever it was that taught the kid to gamble, or learn if the kid had been uncannily lucky from the start. His musings were interrupted, however, when Yasopp slid into the seat next to him.

“They’re Puppies.” The currently strawberry-blondish-haired man stated with tones of both amusement and disappointment. “They somehow managed to work their way through Paradise under the Marine’s radar. Hell, they didn’t even go through Fishman island to get into the New World. They ‘legally’ crossed the red line. From what Rockstar got out of a few, and what we overheard, they have the “wolf in sheep’s clothing” act down to a science. Merchant ship on the surface; pirate cut straight through to the bones and down to the keel. As for strength, without knowing anything about who they may have faced or taken out, and with no bounties, it’s hard to say. No mention of devil-fruit abilities though.”

Shanks raised an eyebrow at the news, his eyes and senses passing over the newer arrivals a little more carefully this time than they had before, not that anyone outside of his crew would notice.

No further warning or orders would be needed. The Red-Haired crew knew what cues to watch for. They would keep an eye on these Puppies without seeming to, but they would not let the Puppies spoil their fun either. The bar served another round of drinks, and the friendly drinking atmosphere continued, unaffected by the darker undertones of the pirate patrons.

It was not until several hours later that the tension began to spark and snap.

“I don’t care what you or your buddies say!” One of the pirates at the poker table snarled. “You’re cheating, kid, and you’re gonna pay for it!”

The man rose to his feet in a rush, upsetting the table and sending cards, drinks, and coins flying. His buddies rose on either side of him, all of them looking ready for blood.

Naruto blinked, “Hey now, there’s no need for that. How about I buy you guys another round?” the blonde offered trying to prevent what he suspected would soon become a full-fledged bar fight.

“Oh, it’s much too late for that.” The man said darkly then lunged forward, bottle upraised and coming down at the teen’s face quickly. The blonde caught the man’s wrist and tried to untangle himself from chair and table. One of the others darted at his unguarded side forcing the blonde to twist and block the dagger with a kunai. The first man’s other arm came down with a knife aiming for the blonde’s shoulder and sliced into the orange fabric. Time seemed to freeze and then the blonde vanished in a whoosh of displaced air.

The three would-be brawlers stared in open-mouthed shock.

“Where did he go?!”

“What did you do to him?!

“A devil’s fruit?!”

“How the hell should I know?! I only hit him with my knife and then he was gone!”


“How does someone just vanish?!”



“What!?!” The first man snarled once more and then froze as he took in their surroundings. He spotted several of the bar’s other patrons pinning his crew against the walls and tables. The crewman who had called for his attention clutched a bounty poster displaying the blonde kid that had just vanished. The so-called Boss’s eyes opened wide and an uneasy feeling spread up his spine. A throat cleared behind him and he slowly turned, taking in the crowd now surrounding him and his men. Weapons were drawn and not one of the surrounding individuals had a smile on their face. His gaze stopped to rest on vibrant red hair and he whimpered.

“My nephew,” the red-haired man spoke slowly, “does not cheat at poker.”


“Oh, don’t even try. There is no excuse you can make that will make this any better.” A man that could only be the Red-Haired Pirate’s first mate stated flatly. “In fact, it will likely only make it worse.”

The cornered man whimpered and his crewmembers began to faint and crumple to the ground all around him.

“Ignorant, insolent, and foolish Puppies without anything to back it up do not belong in the New World. I think you should find your way back to Paradise, Puppy.” The Redhead spoke slowly, his voice filled with disdain and mockery.

The ‘puppy’ promptly fainted and fell to the floor a dark puddle spreading from around him.

Several of the Red-Haired Pirates snickered. “Oh you got him good, Captain.”

Shanks sighed and the tense air dissipated. “Raid their ship, boys, and give them a good sendoff back to Paradise.” He wrinkled his nose as he approached the bar and sat down; letting his men get to work. The tavern owner set a glass and bottle before the red-haired man who nodded in thanks. “Sorry about the mess.”

The tavern owner just nodded, then paused, “The blonde kid… he…”

Shanks smiled, “He’s fine. It’s a particular trick of his, is all.”

The tavern owner nodded and smiled in return, he had liked the kid.

Tickled Haki

“Captain!” The look-out called out, “Blue gulls on the horizon at 2 o’clock!”

Eyes shadowed by red-hair looked up and a large grin spread across the Captain’s face as it was revealed. A sense of anticipation filled the air as the crew all waited for the expected order.

“Well then, boys, it seems we’ve got some blue-gulls to catch up to.”

Bodies began to move quickly as orders were called out from the helm. The Red Force’s course altered and the ship began to pick up speed.

Shanks continued to grin. He had been itching for a fight ever since the… well; he wasn’t sure what to even call it… with the Rookie Puppies the night before. But it had left a sour taste in his mouth and he found himself, not for the first time, wishing he had a way to send a message to his nephew. Marine Sails on the horizon was just what he needed to hear; he wondered if there would be anyone of particular note aboard the unlucky ship.

“Ah, they’ve caught sight of us, Captain! They are turning to meet us.” The look-out called down.

Shanks grinned. “Good. Any distinguishing marks on the ship?”

“No, Captain, looks like a standard warship.”

Shanks nodded. No personal markings meant it was unlikely to carry any of the Vice-Admirals, and he had not heard any rumors of the Admirals themselves in this area. “All right, boys, let’s show them what we think of that bounty and alias they so kindly gave Naruto.”

There were shouts of agreement from across the ship and then the cannon fire began.

Shanks chuckled as his crew deflected enemy cannonballs and the two ships neared each other. “Grapple her and board!” He shouted out.  Angry shouts of challenge and cursing filled the air around him as lines and hooks were thrown. Projectiles began to fly through the air in both directions as the Red-haired Pirates began to board and bring down the Marine forces. Pointed barbs and dark laughter were thrown at the marines as they were defeated. Yelps and screams filled the air. 

“Shanks-oji!” a welcome and familiar voice called out. Shanks’ grin lost its dark edge and brightened at the sound as he turned. The red-haired Captain then let out a shocked yelp as he ducked under a barrage of kunai; startled marines let out yelps and curses behind him.

“What did you do with all my winnings?!” The blonde teen yelled at him as he ignored the fight and closed with his uncle aboard the marine vessel, kunai sparking against Shanks’ sword as he brought it up to block. “You better not have spent it all on booze!”

The surrounding deck stilled and went silent as nearby fighters turned to stare at the two. A flurry of shouted comments filled the air from various marines that had been facing the Red-haired Pirate only moments before.

“No way…” a marine muttered, “He really does have a nephew!”

“Red-hair stole his nephew’s money! What a Bastard!”

“The kid attacked Red-hair! He’s got balls!”

“Naruto, of course I didn’t spend it all on booze!” Shanks answered and blocked another strike from his nephew.

The blonde teen narrowed his blue eyes skeptically. “Oh? I suppose you just offered to buy drinks for those cheating bastards, after they tried to stab me?”

Shanks gasped and reeled back. “You would accuse your own uncle of such!”

Naruto grinned slyly, “Well, you aren’t denying it!”

“That’s it, brat!” Shanks replied and then lunged forward to strike. “I’ll have you doing deck chores for a month!”

The blow was blocked. “I’d like to see you try, old man!”

“Old!” Shanks shrieked.

The marines stared in open-mouthed shock as the pair continued exchanging blows in front of them.

“They’re completely ignoring us…” one of the marines muttered.

Across the marine ship deck, Yasopp chuckled from where he battled beside Benn, both of them taking ranged shots and casually bludgeoning marines that got too close. “Just what did Captain do with that money?”

Benn snorted. “Paid off the bar tab, tipped the bartender, and bought all the surplus booze they had in stock.”

Yasopp grinned, “So, he did spend it all on booze.”

It was at that moment that one of the marines decided it was a good time to take a swing at the uncle and nephew dueling each other across the main deck of the Marine vessel.  All action seemed to freeze as the Marine’s blade sliced between the two and clashed with both sword and kunai. Simultaneously, the blonde and redhead whirled to focus on the interloper, scowling, and snarled: “STAY OUT OF IT!”

A wave of force seemed to emanate out from the pair causing the Marine and several others behind him to teeter and collapse. Neither blonde nor redhead paid attention as the two had already quickly resumed their duel, their focus on each other, insults flying.

“Benn, did that haki come from the Captain?” Yasopp asked carefully.

Beckman narrowed his gaze and lit a new cigarette as he studied the passed out marines and then glanced to the dueling pair. “I’m not sure. Captain’s control is good, but he didn’t seem surprised.”

“Or he just didn’t bother to notice.” Yasopp offered. Shanks could be ridiculously oblivious sometimes.

Benn sighed and then cursed as he spotted a nearby marine taking aim at the dueling pair. “That idiot has a death wish!” He raised his own rifle, and as the marine’s shot was fired, Benn’s own shot knocked the Marine’s weapon from his hands.  Everything stilled as suddenly the blonde teen vanished in a faint haze of smoke. Shanks froze in place, his eyes shadowed as he slowly turned and began to stalk across the deck. The rest of the Red-haired Pirates had similarly stopped laughing. They were now all frowning as they watched their captain cross the deck. The marines blinked, stunned, and began glancing nervously at the Red-haired crew.

“Just what,” Shanks began, his voice cold, “did you think shooting my nephew would gain?”

The marine stammered, whined, and then seemed to almost collapse into himself.

Shanks made a noise of disgust and turned, his cloak billowing behind him. “I’m returning to the ship. Benn, I want this excuse for a tub sunk.”

“Of course, Captain,” Benn replied and then the crew set to work. Gone were the cheers, taunts and shouts. The Red-haired crew now moved in silence, the only noise that of their weapons and fists hitting flesh.  In moments, Benn spotted Yasopp scampering back up from below deck and heading back to the Red Force, the signal clear. Powder was set, it was time to leave. Already Marines were scurrying to lifeboats and collecting wounded, a gruff man with the insignia of a commodore ignoring the pirates themselves and focusing on his men. Benn scoffed: this was the New World and they should have never turned to meet the Red Force, not that it would have saved them. The Red-haired Pirates defended, and if necessary, avenged their own.

Benn was the last of the Red-haired crew to cross back to the Red Force, and he gave the order to cut loose and set sail as soon as his foot touched down on the deck. He paid little attention to the crew as they set to their work, and instead sought out his captain.  It took him only a few moments, stretching out his own awareness to determine the captain had taken refuge in the storage room that held Naruto’s strange seal. He moved silently through the corridors and slipped through the doorway of the storage room before closing the hatch behind him. He said nothing as he leaned against the wall and waited.

“The kid did good. We’re going to have to find some barren island and have a full-out duel, sometime.” Shanks stated, a smile tugging at his lips.

“You weren’t holding back much, then?” Benn asked somewhat surprised.

“Oh I was holding back, but so was the kid. He wasn’t hard-pressed at all. It was all just a game, for both of us, really. I had been considering popping him myself just to freak out the marines.”

Benn waited several moments before deciding he’d have to speak up; Shanks was probably trying to determine if he had detected it or not. “And the haki?”

Shanks sighed, proving to Benn that this was what Shanks had wanted to see if he had noticed.

“I’m not sure.” Shanks finally answered after a moment. “I don’t believe it was me, but the brat was pushing it with his taunts, and it’s so hard to get a clear read off him. You’ve noticed that, haven’t you? These clones feel strange in terms of haki: like they’re there, but not there constantly; it’s rather distracting and almost feels like I’m being tickled every time I try to read him.”

Benn snorted. Only Shanks would claim something tickled his haki. “Conqueror’s Haki… your family is full of monsters, Captain.” Shanks only shrugged and continued studying the seal inked into the wood flooring.

“Will you teach him?” Benn asked after a few moments.

“If he is ever able to come in person… leaving it untrained would be foolish.” Shanks answered, remembering his own first experiences with the ability; it had nearly cost innocent lives.  “It’s probably been mistaken as that “Killing Intent” that Gamatsukai told us about before from that world. He may have more control over it already then it seemed earlier, or perhaps the Kage Bunshin just can’t control it in the same way.”

Benn accepted this answer; he had expected as much.

It was at that moment there was a tickle of something across both pirates’ senses and the seal glowed blue. There was a whoosh of air and a glaring blonde suddenly stood before them. “I heard what Benn said to Yasopp, Shanks-oji. You did spend all my winnings on booze.”

Shanks chuckled and reached for the newest Kage Bunshin, ruffling his hair. “You’ll just have to win more, then.”

Pop! Goes the Bunshin

Naruto suddenly stiffened and hissed a muttered curse, lifting a hand and running it through his hair in frustration.

“Naruto-san? Is everything all right?” the young woman who had been guiding him toward the village of Hidden Mist asked in concern.

“Ah, it’s fine. Just remembered something I had forgotten is all.” He explained and gave her a reassuring grin.

She studied him for a moment before accepting his answer and then continued to lead him through the village.

Inwardly, Naruto sighed. That was the tenth Kage Bunshin that had been ‘killed’ by either bounty hunters, marines, or other pirates in the last two weeks. This last one had barely left Konoha before it had been popped. His uncle had to be getting a bit pissed by now. Hell, Naruto himself was getting fed up with it. This was one of those times he really wished he could overcharge the Kage Bunshin for more durability. He’d tried to do that, several times in fact. Unfortunately, they just didn’t work that way. Overpowering the jutsu simply meant volume instead of quality; a lot of volume in his case, but not what he’d been hoping for in practice.

Naruto had even tried some with nature energy, which were in fact far more durable, but they had their own risks. He wasn’t certain a Kage Bunshin formed with nature energy could make the jump across worlds and still be stable. He couldn’t seal a nature-formed Kage Bunshin in a scroll, either. Having Bunshin gather the nature energy in that world seemed favorable, but he wasn’t sure if nature energy flowed the same way it did in the Elemental Nations and the last thing he wanted was to start sinking The Red Force with stone toad statues when it went wrong, if it did. He also wasn’t certain that a clone turning into a toad wouldn’t also rebound back on him.

The worst part of the whole mess right now though wasn’t even the Kage Bunshin durability factor, but that he wouldn’t be able to send a replacement for a couple of weeks, at best. Most likely it would be a month or more. The anchor to the seal matrix that he used to send the Kage Bunshin was in Konoha, and that was where he would not be returning for some time.

Stupid diplomatic mission keeping him away from the village, but he couldn’t say no when he had been asked to take this mission. It meant too much for him to be helping to establish a lasting peace across the Elemental Nations to refuse.  It had been Ero-Sennin’s dream. A dream Naruto had inherited, and one which they were too close to achieving after the Fourth War to throw away just because Naruto didn’t want to play nice with dignitaries and travel all over the Elemental Nations. He’d have to explain it to Shanks… that and other things, he realized.

He wished this last Kage Bunshin had had time to tell Shanks he wouldn’t be around for a while, and he hoped his uncle would forgive his sudden absence.

Naruto briefly considered making a scroll and summoning Gamatsukai to deliver it, but no, that would take months and put Gamatsukai at unnecessary risk. He would just have to be patient. His nose wrinkled at the thought. He definitely needed to do something to make it clear to the different factions of that world that he was no pushover soon, and a Kage Bunshin was just not going to cut it.

He slipped his hand in a pocket and linked a finger through the handle on the specialized Kunai he had hidden there. In that, at least, this mission was serving a second purpose. He’d found several old markers his father had set up that he had been able to restore for his own use. After this tour of all the Elemental Nations, he’d have a network of the markers and would likely be able to travel from one end of the Elemental Nations to the other in minutes.  He only needed a few more long-distance tests with the Toads and he’d be ready for the biggest jump of them all.


Shanks, carefree, redhead, pirate, and one of the four emperors of the New World, was not happy, nor was his crew. The last Kage Bunshin had been killed over a week ago, and there had not been a new arrival since. Shanks had checked the strange seal daily, if not several times a day, to make sure a message hadn’t arrived in place of one of the clones, and he was beginning to worry when each day passed with nothing appearing. Had something happened to his nephew? Was the blonde mad that his clones kept getting killed? He had never seemed bothered by the accidents before, but the last few had not been accidents. He knew the kid was not exactly innocent as a shinobi, but he didn’t know if he had truly understood the danger the bounty poster had brought. Shanks himself was realizing he’d underestimated just how attractive a potential “weakling” family member of his would be to the leeches. This had led to his current brooding mood.

 It did not matter how many times he had accidentally popped the Kage Bunshin that was his nephew by mistake. It did not matter how many times the clones had been dispelled by his crewmates. The fact that ten… TEN, of his nephew’s clones, had been ‘killed’ by outside parties left both him and his crew in a very, very sour mood.

It did not matter that none of the hits had actually been fatal, just inconvenient. No, what mattered is that others had dared to attack him at all, and there would be payment made for that.

 “Captain,” Benn’s voice reached him from outside the shadowy corner Shanks had been brooding in. “We are making our approach to Hunter’s Cove now.”

Shanks’ eyes flashed and a dark smile crossed his lips. He had been too charitable to this cove of pirate hunters lurking on the edges of his territory. They had avoided confrontation with the Red-Haired Pirates, and so he had let them be. They had even made themselves mildly useful in clearing out all sorts of rookie riff-raff. They had crossed the line, however.

Seven of the recently deceased clones were at the fault of residents of Hunter’s Cove.

Shanks rose to his feet and stepped out of the shadows to survey his crew, eyes glinting in the moonlight.  He hardly raised his voice as he gave his orders. “No quarter, burn every rat-hole, hovel, and slum. This cesspit has hurt one of our own.”

There was a resulting roar of approval as The Red Force glided into the port. Alarms across the shoreline began to clang.

Shanks eyes glinted and his tone was dark. “Open Fire.”

No sooner had the words left his lips than cannon fire roared out from the sides of the ship to shower the piers and portside buildings. Hunter’s Cove had no hope. A great red dragon had come to visit and it would leave nothing in its wake.


Blue eyes stared in surprise at the oil lantern glowing softly in the darkroom. It had taken him far longer than he had wanted to make the trip. He had worried that Shanks would be angry, or not want him to come back, but as soon as the clone had taken form and opened his eyes, he had spotted the glowing lantern waiting. There was no other reason for a lantern to have been left burning in the nearly empty storage room. He blinked and then grinned; time to get to work. He stepped to the side and immediately began studying the seal matrix on the floor. In moments he had brush, and ink in hand and began making adjustments and additions; the brush moving in quick steady movements

There was a rush of footfalls outside the door and the blonde-haired clone looked up in surprise from where he crouched just inside the hatch before it was thrown open. The clone went tumbling as the hatch connected with his backside. There was a soft popping sound and the clone was gone, brush and inkpot falling to the floor.

Shanks’ wide eyes froze and then a wail escaped his lips as he sunk to the floor, collapsing against the hatch door casing. His nephew had returned… he had sensed it tickling the edges of his haki, just as it always had before, and then it was gone again.  His gaze traveled downward to the seal matrix and he immediately spotted the small changes and additions. He had spent quite a bit of time studying the intricate marks in the past two months since his nephew’s last clone had been killed. The lines, swirls, and marks told him stories, and yet kept their secrets just out of understanding.  He worried, suddenly, briefly, that his nephew had been working to seal the way shut, but that didn’t feel right.

There was a sudden yellow flash, and power exploded across Shanks’ senses. He heard distant shouts of shock from other areas of the ship, and his eyes opened wide as blonde hair framing a familiar face with blue eyes and whisker marks came into focus before him. There was power in those eyes; power, strength, knowledge, mischief, and so much more but most of all longing and hope.

“Sorry, it took me so long Shanks-oji. As my sensei would say, I got lost on the road of life.”

Shanks blinked, a grin slowly spreading across his face and then loud laughter filled the room and spilled into the corridor behind him. This was his nephew –no shadow— the real thing this time, and he wondered at how he ever could have doubted the potential the shadow clones had hinted at. The boy’s haki sang with power and strength and Shanks could only grin. He reached forward, and when the teen accepted his offered hand, he tugged the boy to him quickly, holding on tight.

“You had me worried, kid.” Shanks whispered despite his grin as he embraced the boy tightly, not having to worry about making this one vanish in a whoosh of displaced air.

Naruto could only return the embrace, a grin as large as his uncle’s stuck on his face.

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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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