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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Fur

Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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To save his brother from dying and help his family and allies escape that disgusting place, Marco used everything in his power to save Ace, the boy his beloved captain slash father figure took a liking into, the rest of his brothers, sisters and every ally that is currently fighting for their survival away from that place. Somewhere safe, somewhere where these bastards won't be able to reach them. Albeit temporarily.

It took every last of his abilities and almost left him for dead. Well, not technically as he kind of immortal. Sort of.

The downside, well… He turned into a freaking hatchling. Not even a human child, which was the usual setup every time he uses the said technique.

Like his devil fruit's true nature, he is a mythical creature that has the ability to be reborn. No one exactly knew how old he is. Well, except for the old man and the former Pirate King.

It turns out that it isn't that bad depending on one's point of view granted that the one who will nurture him till he regain his full strength doesn't freak out once he turns back to his normal self in a few days or months depending how fast his regenerative abilities have improved since the last time.

Well, Uzumaki Naruto isn't typically your girl next door.

She is a ninja, a warrior of her own right.

Someone who continues to experience the hatred of her own world and is trying albeit futilely to live a meaningful life following her own ideal and choices.

For all his efforts not to get deeply and emotionally involved, Marco could not stop himself but to be drawn towards her.

He can be a friend. Or a lover (Ugh! Waiting for her to grow up shouldn't be that hard. After all, patience is an abundant trait he owns like a cloak according to his brothers and sisters.). He is even willing to be her pet for an unforeseeable future and annoy those who makes fun of her.

Never did Marco imagine that she is the one thing he's been looking for all his life.

His very own One Piece.

And he will do whatever it takes to give her the freedom and the acknowledgement she truly deserves.

From pirate to ninja? What the hell was he even thinking!

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 1 – The Phoenix and his flames

Ever since the war started, Marco kept a really close eye on oyaji. As much as he doesn't want him to fight, the old man could not be reasoned with and charges head on to fight their enemies.

Kizaru is starting to annoy him and he feels that the said admiral is starting to gain the upper hand since he lets himself be distracted. But then things started to turn against them when Squard attack the old man with lies sprouting from his mouth.

Knowing that he was tricked and could not easily put the blame on him, Marco rushes towards his captain.

Blaming himself would go nowhere and at that time, he wanted to curse his ability for being useless. Why can he heal himself but not the others?

Damn it.

But then a distraction came and there he finally met Monkey D. Luffy.

The boy Ace couldn't shut his mouth off ever since he acquired his little brother's first wanted poster.

It was a miracle, somewhat. Being here in a league way out of his own.

The boy manages to save Ace despite all the obstacles that faced him. Of course, with a little help from him and the others. Now, all they need to do is leave that place and never came back. However, fate still has something in store for them.

Akainu started to badmouth their captain and knowing the devotion the fire user has for their father figure, Ace remains rooted on his spot. Marco had the urge to face palm himself and curse Ace out loud.

But then, things started to change when the said Admiral faced the young boy who risked everything to save the same brother he and the rest of his nakama are trying to rescue. The boy's adrenaline started to wane out. Who know the obstacles the straw hat wearing pirate encountered when he infiltrated Impel Down earlier? Thinking about it, Marco knew it was plain impossible yet the boy did prove he was wrong all along.

At that exact moment, Marco knew what he has to do. With one last look towards oyaji, his other siblings and Ace's frozen form, he removed the shackles preventing his devil fruit ability and flew towards the D brothers at a very alarming speed.

With a deep breath, he let his flames to spread out. Of course, he got centuries of practice to perfect this one special move.

And the only person he could talk to was the boy himself. The rookie who happens to be the center of that particular moment, Ace's beloved brother and oyaji's chosen.

"It might take a while, but please tell my brothers that I will be back, yoi…" Marco said with a wide smile on his face, ignoring the blood trickling from the corner of his lips. He can feel the bastard's hand making a hole on his chest. Damn. His mark will need to be replaced.

Luffy started to cry and the Phoenix does not know what to tell him next. Falling to his knees after the Admiral almost tossed him away; he grinned morbidly and stood his ground. Akainu took a step back alarmingly. Raising one bloodied hand, he placed it in front of the young boy's heart and let his other hand wipes the teen's tears. "Don't cry yoi. Everything… is going to be alright…"

Letting his flames do their task, Marco dissolve into flares of blue and let it engulfed everyone he holds dear.

With a smirk, Marco felt the satisfaction in his bleeding heart as he turned and saw Akainu's murderous reaction as well as the surprised gazes of every marine when all of the pirates they are fighting with, even the gatecrashers, disappear with flames of blue and white.

And then, Marco felt nothing as he dissolved into nothingness.

It was an empty void.

Despite it all, the mighty phoenix welcomed it with open arms.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

Disclaimer:
Copyright belongs to their respective creators - Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto and One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 2

When he woke up, he never expected to find himself in a very comfortable situation.

His previous rebirths oftentimes brought him to unpleasant accommodations that brought a bitter taste in his mouth when thinking about it.

This time though, it feels different.

As the door opens, he saw a young woman with red markings on her face. She was followed by three dogs - who upon opening the door rushes directly towards his cage and sniffs at him.

Marco remembers Stefan who does the same whenever he saw him in his phoenix form.

Just great, yoi.

"Oh, you're awake. That's good." The woman noted happily as she took the medical apparatus handed by one of her canine companions. Opening the door to his cage, the woman held him gently and was placed on top of a table near the window.

"You should be okay in a few days. But I suggest that you avoid using your wings until I say so," With an angry look, the woman stares at him pensively. "I don't understand how someone can do this to a defenseless animal." Lips curling in distaste, the woman growled menacingly as her 'pets' imitate her reaction.

Oh.

'Our Hana believes in equality for all living creatures and despite your current condition, she doesn't tolerate cruelty among animals.' The biggest of the three mentally stated towards him.

'Even if we don't know why you look like an animal even if the smell is all wrong.' The light colored one added with a frown.

Without showing his surprise, Marco doesn't knew if this method of 'communication' is a new ability he acquired after his current rebirth.

Before, he does not understand any animal languages.

The three dogs are helpful enough in providing important information about his current predicament even to the caution of the third one.

"Heyya Hana-nee-sama, hope you're doing well today."

And this person who found him.

Staring towards a pair of cerulean blue (much lighter than his own eyes), Marco could not help this feeling that his life is about to change.

Her name is Uzumaki Naruto.

"I'm glad that you're doing better now." Grinning cheerfully as she pets him softly, Marco can see the uncertainty behind those eyes.

She is afraid.

Of what?

A puzzle he needed to solve.

Someone as young as her who is wearing a mask for whatever reason.

Just like Ace.

Perhaps he can stay for a while knowing that his family is safe. Hopefully, Vista and the other commanders will be able to corral the hothead and regroup to fix the damage caused by that stupid war.

Consider it a well deserved vacation.

Or a wishful thinking.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

Disclaimer:
Naruto © Masashi Kishimoto and One Piece © Eiichiro Oda

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 3

Observing the blonde and giving her privacy when needed (he is not a peeper, thank you very much), Marco found out that she is similar to Ace in many ways than one.

One can think that she's a D with all those ramen cups discarded in one corner of her kitchen.

Thankfully, she doesn't feed him bird seeds. Day old breads are more than welcomed. And fresh water.

This Ayame-nee-chan comes to visit the girl once every two weeks bringing in a few grocery items and to check if she cleans up her room as needed since she is still a young lady despite the profession she chooses.

A ninja huh.

So is he in Wano or one of its hidden villages?

Unlikely.

Another source of information for the Phoenix as the older woman talks fondly about his caretaker.

"She doesn't have anybody. Well I can probably consider otou-sama and that man as one of the very few that truly likes and cares for her."

Smiling in nostalgia, the woman chuckled and places a trash bag of empty ramen cups near the door.

"He may not told me the truth but I think he knew her parents." Petting him gently, the woman noted idly and rearranges Naruto's books.

"And despite everything, she always has this reason to smile. To be better than all these people," With a shrug, she looked at Marco gave him a fair warning.

"She may get too attached because she rarely has someone or something that she can call her own. And if you need to leave, make sure to do so without telling her," With a firm set of her jaws, the woman stated seriously. "She may cry for a few days once you are gone. But it's nothing she can't handle. She is a brave girl." With a sigh Ayame stood and left Marco on his own musings.

Scoffing internally, the pirate may understand the woman's concern about the girl. But since when did he listened to other people's advise?

He is a godforsaken pirate for crying out loud.

Watching the girl herself struggle in her studies may be a bit amusing.

Hearing her mantra as she puts on a brave front does keeps him wondering.

And from what he gathered from the woman, the young girl isn't liked by everyone except for a select few.

And to satisfy his curiosity, Marco followed and watches the blonde from a distance.

He can hear the whispers behind the girl's back. Something that Naruto is also aware of judging from the slight flinching of her shoulders as she passes through.

Hatred.

Condemnation.

Knowing that there is more to these emotions, Marco decided to be petty and show these people his displeasure.

Finally letting the girl hear his voice, he urges her to fight back.

Despite his current form, he retained all his abilities (talking in his phoenix form is another surprise). And attacked the bully that tried to hurt her.

Giving him a hopeful look, he lets the blonde to pet him and allowed her tears to fall.

"Don't you ever let these people step on you, yoi," With a glare directed at the bastard, Marco added in a serious tone and raises his wing to wipe her tears away. "You are not what they think you are. So never believe whatever stupid words they say or throw at you…," With a sigh, the phoenix snuggled with the girl not minding the tightening of her embrace. "Think of those people that matters, they who really looks at you and not what the whole world want to see…"

"Thanks." Her voice croaked shakily with snot running down her nose. Rolling his eyes at her, Marco jumps to her shoulders and urges the blonde to leave that alley behind.

Encouraging the girl to raise her head up high and not the downcast way she often uses.

It didn't last though as she tripped on her feet. The girl giggled in response to his squawking reaction after she fell with mud covering their entire body.

Ugh.

Definitely a new beginning.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

Disclaimer:
Nothing is earned in posting this story online. Just wanted to share it for everyone's enjoyment who likes to read something new or whatnot.

Copyright belongs to their respective creators.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 4

Iruka may look like he doesn't care, but he does know the hardships one of his students encounter every single day of her entire existence.

But as of late, he did notice some changes.

She is far more serious in her studies, something his fellow instructors are suspicious of.

Her spars with the rest of her peers are also improving. She even managed to land a solid hit towards Uchiha Sasuke (that year's rookie) who is also surprised by her attack much to the fangirls raging reaction calling out a foul against the blonde for hurting their precious Sasuke-kun.

Ignoring their nagging, he did complimented her that day and Naruto returned it with a bright smile that reminded him of a familiar face (without the whisker marks).

She is then swarmed by Kiba and the others (mostly the clan heirs including the shy Hinata) who cheered for her win.

.

.

Just like always, she haven't stopped her pranking activities regardless of her academic improvements and catching up to reprimand her has always been a piece of cake.

He did meet the pet she is blubbering about the other day.

The bird who looked at him like he is some kind of a prey and patted the girl on her head with a wing as it flew off the distance.

"Why you… Come back here, you traitor!" The blonde shrieks out towards the avian and he immediately took hold of her escaping form. "Oh, hi Iruka-sensei. Fancy seeing you… here?"

Giving the girl the look, he did feel a bit of satisfaction after she whimpered pitifully looking at the direction her pet flew into.

After making her clean the mess she made for that day's prank, he treated her for a bowl of ramen much to Ayame's teasing look.

"Hopefully you'll be able to graduate this time, hmm?"

Cackling madly, the blonde boasts out loud that she definitely must or her new friend 'Marco' (apparently the name of the weird bird that acts like a human) will peck both of her eyeballs. The father and daughter duo both shook their heads in amusement hearing the aforementioned animal.

They parted that night in good spirits.

.

.

And pass she really did.

Even the dreaded bunshin that she loathes so much, Naruto did overcome that part with much gusto. She did beat the record of another familiar face (a redhead who happen to possess the same name) for creating too many clones that filled the room (they only required three). Now that he thinks about it, could they be related?

Proudly giving her hitai-ate, she beams happily at him not noticing the scowl Mizuki gave the girl's retreating back.

.

.

A bit later that day and wondering as to why she never showed up after the last examinee left. She did made him promise in front of the Ichirakus to treat her once she passes.

Thinking that the girl already went ahead, he finishes his report so that it can be submitted for documentation when he heard a commotion outside. The bird er Naruto's pet, is screeching at Sasuke for whatever reason. Noticing his arrival, Marco turns and flew right at him. Raising his arm defensively, Iruka gaped when he notice a Konoha headband held by the bird's talon.

"Naruto's in danger, hurry!"

What? The bird can-

"Tch! Now isn't the time damn it, yoi!"

Talk?

Dread filling his veins, he orders Sasuke to ask for help and rushes to find his troublesome student.

Knowing that the bird is following closely behind, Iruka darted towards the forest in the hopes of locating Naruto.

And when he found her in the middle of the woods with the Scroll of Seals wide open for her viewing, Iruka's heart stopped when he heard the why's.

A technique from the scroll to guarantee her passing? What on earth…

"You do not deserve anything, bitch!" A familiar voice blurted out filled with hate and loathing that he should have expected from everyone else.

Dragging Naruto safely behind his back, Iruka glares at his friend. Or so he thought Mizuki was.

Unable to stop the truth from Muzuki's mouth, he pleaded Naruto to escape and bring the scroll with her and fought him.

Perhaps this mistake will serve as his retribution for being negligent.

Frozen with tears running down her face, Iruka tried to protect her as best as he could and waited for the worst that is yet to come.

However…

"A monster?"

A voice he isn't familiar with. Who?

"From what I can see, all I saw is a girl with big dreams and an even bigger heart…"

Turning around, Iruka saw a stranger.

A tall man. Lean and mascular with blonde hair and a rather sleepy look on his face. But despite the easygoing appearance, the intent he is releasing scares him even if it is directed towards the other chūnin.

"You want to know what a real monster looks like?" Smiling sinisterly at Mizuki, the stranger's eyes lit like blue fire and approaches the man who tried to hurt Naruto. "You are looking at one. Here, right in front of you."

Ignoring the chill in his spine, Mizuki rushes to finish a set of hand seals and tries to attack. But a leg appeared out of nowhere angled towards him and he almost failed to block it with an arm. The force of the impact did shatter his bones. Eyes widening in horror, Mizuki could not even scream when another foot descended upon him. The stranger did not even blink and stares dispassionately at his fallen form.

"Why are you protecting that demon? She's-"

The man's smirk grew dangerously wider and Mizuki felt his world closing in. This time, he felt a rib break making it harder to breathe especially when the stranger added more pressure and-

"STOP!"

The mysterious man turned slightly and saw the girl clutching at his arm. Interested to hear what she is about to say, he allowed a bit of reprieve to his prey who then drags his pitiful self away from them.

Her eyes red from crying while the academy instructor watches silently in the background. Wounded in an attempt to protect his precious student.

Both hands shook from emotions as she held unto him tighter. "Someone told me that I should not let others held me back." Sniffling slightly, she raises her gaze from the bastard who tried to kill her and the last statement she added despite its origins puts a smile on his face. "That anything insignificant must be ignored as long as I have those that matters…"

Patting her head gently, the man drops on one knee and wiped her tears away. Gently he cradled her face affectionately and smiled.

Good. She's finally learning.

It is a fresh start.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

Disclaimer:
Standard disclaimer applies. So yeah.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 5

Last night's event was so surreal.

Naruto wondered if it really happened. The unknown man who came to save them disappeared without a trace.

Then Marco flew towards her and she hugs him real tight (the bird even allowed it). She's relieved to know that it was him who called for Iruka-sensei's attention.

And despite their assurances, she worries.

Clutching her pillow ignoring the not so familiar scent, the blonde burrows further into it. But a displeased noise (and slight pecking) woke her up. Like always, she fell flat on her face after realizing that it was Marco she is trying to squeeze to his death. Oops?

Giving her an unimpressed stare, the bird started preening his feathers and she responded grumpily at him.

"You're going to be late, yoi."

Sticking her tongue out in response, Naruto prepared their breakfast.

"I wonder who my teammates are…"

Glancing at her from the corner of his eyes, Marco shrug his shoulders dismissively (it puzzles her how the said animal can do that) and ate his noodles.

The said bird demanded a change of variety and requested a few noodles of her instant ramen (and some broth) instead of bread. Hana even looked at him incredulously after she mentioned his request.

"If your team gave you hard time, let me know. I'll handle them, yoi."

Rolling her eyes at him, Naruto finishes her meal and took to the roof via her window to travel faster after giving him a pat as she walked past him. Hoping to avoid Iruka-sensei's scolding for the last time, the blonde smiled after remembering her newly learned skills (she did manage to learn something new from that blasted scroll).

Despite being a bird (she and Kiba's older sister still doesn't know what breed he is), Marco also taught her a few things after observing the entirety of the village and its inhabitants (mostly the shinobi ones) for a few days. His lips er beaks are sealed when she repeatedly asks him how he passes his free time.

One could say that he is one nosy 'pet'.

And a very good friend.

She no longer considers him as the animal who knows how to talk (that is really a surprise mind you since he denies being anyone's summon) which she had found accidentally and trying to nurture until he can fly freely again. And despite the fear that he'll need to leave eventually, Naruto will treasure every minute of their time together.

Ignoring Sakura and Ino's bantering at the door, she greeted Hinata with a cheery wave (she may ask Marco later on how they can help the kind Hyūga build her confidence) and sat on her usual seat, ignoring her seat mate's glare. Taking the journal Marco forced her to carry everywhere, she reread the tips and tricks he noted thru her barely acceptable penmanship (even if he can talk, those wings can't hold a pen) very carefully in case of-

"That's my seat, so go away!"

"NO! That's mine!"

Aha! She need to make a few changes here and-

A hand grabs her pen away and the entire class finally noticing the commotion in front of them have stopped their chattering to watch what her reaction is going to be.

Taking one deep breath, Naruto gathered her thoughts and looks at Sakura as she held her hand, "May I have my pen back, please?"

As she cannot imitate Marco's eyes, she settled for something 'Naruto-ish'. Calmly, she waited and felt the pinkette waver a bit. But…

"Stop hogging Sasuke-kun all to yourself!" Wait, what?

Returning Ino's determined gaze after the other blonde blurted out those words, Naruto started laughing out loud and stood to her full height. Sakura may have drop her pen in surprise but she hastily catches it.

Leaning callously at the table, Naruto turns to look at the topic of this ridiculous conversation, tapping the pen on her chin trying to understand how worthless their discussion is.

"Hey teme!" Stopping herself from chuckling, her expression is a bit lighter and she could not stop her amusement from showing through.

Her appearance from another's perspective, entirely different.

One did taught of it as, pleasant.

Appealing even.

"Since when are you owned by someone other than your own 'magnificent' self, hmm?"

Uchiha Sasuke grunted annoyingly in response and looks away. Hoping that the slight blush he felt when watching the blonde's expression and how she interacted with his rabid fangirls else entirely.

But some did see it and one of the said observer decided that he does not like it at all.

Then a flustered Iruka just came into the room and the boy sitting in front of Naruto bolted up in surprise hitting the table behind him jostling the blonde's unsteady lean. Failing to hold her ground (she is not clumsy damn it), Naruto yelps and topples over. Eyes widening alarmingly, she saw twin black orbs returning her gaze with a dash of his own panic.

Seconds later and time stopped.

Then there was a flurry of blue feathers blocking Naruto's view.

"Oomph! M-marco?! What the heck?!"

Before the Uchiha can grab and throw her bird away while the said animal aimed his sharp talons towards the boy, Naruto snatches Marco back and holds his beak as he attempted to peck Sasuke's face.

"Not again, you two!"

Huh? Marco and teme knew each other?

.
.

Rubbing the bridge of his nose to ease the ongoing headache of dealing with Mizuki's mess (and the bird's crazy antics), the scarred chūnin glared wordlessly at everyone (including the avian himself) to sort themselves out forcing Ino to sit two rows up as Sakura already took the vacant seat next to Naruto.

Petting to calm the murderous bird and removing the feathers she accidentally took into her mouth, Naruto did taste a bit of ash with the smell of the salty sea.

Interesting combination. So that's what Marco smells like, wow.

"Alright everyone, listen up," Iruka explained that the selection for that years graduates will comprise of three genin for each squad and are going to be assigned under the tutelage of a jōnin who will then oversee their training.

After giving the children a few parting words, he dismissed them for lunch and to return later on the same room after an hour to wait for their assigned jōnin-sensei.

Taking the stuff he brought in earlier, he waited until his former students piled out. Thankfully, the bird already calmed down but Marco continues to glare daggers towards Sasuke with the latter returning it with a look of his own. Iruka chuckled and gave a parting wave at Naruto wishing the girl lots of good luck.

.
.

Lunch did went well despite Sakura's rejection. Marco's eye squinted dangerously at the girl but Naruto dismissed her actions like it was nothing unusual.

Sasuke (perhaps to taunt him even more), accepted his Naruto's invitation. Despite the tension between them, his blonde is oblivious and continues to chat with her new teammate and including him in the conversation like always.

Ugh.

And in the span of three hours after returning back to the classroom with the others being picked up by their own jōnin-sensei's one after the other until they are the only group left, the Phoenix already devised 32 ways to kill this 'Hatake Kakashi'.

The man wasted his (or rather their) time by observing the children (and perhaps him as well) while reading a stupid book completely hidden from the three genins.

An illusion perhaps?

Naruto who had grown familiar with his haki (despite not explaining what it is yet) slept while petting him. She knew that if she releases her hold, he might probably attack someone. Which is quite true.

Somehow, he learned to ignore the Uchiha who continues to brood on his own while the pinkette stares forlornly at them after their arrival especially when the boy decided to sit beside Naruto again. Spiteful brat.

"Is he here yet?" His blonde asks sleepily raising her head to look at the clock.

"Hn." The boy doesn't seem to care but he did frown irritatingly at the door.

"Maybe something came up?" Sakura added and blushes when three eyes (two humans - three if we'll include the jōnin in hiding and one animal who is technically a human in disguise) stared at her as if she'd grown a second head or whatever.

Preparing kill # 33, Marco finally sensed the man's movement. Nudging Naruto, the girl quickly glances at the other two and back at him. With a slight nod, she grins mischievously and took a chalkboard eraser to prepare a welcoming surprise for their tardy jōnin-sensei.

.
.

Now that he got a good look at the man, Marco scoffed internally and transferred to Naruto's shoulders. They went up the roof to briefly introduce one another with their dreams and plans for the future. That is after he gave an assessing bored look towards the children.

Listening to the dreams of the other two puts some perspective in his ever observant eyes. The pink haired banshee can still be worked out. But the Uchiha brat is slightly alarming.

While his blonde… "My dream to be a better person for my precious people…" Pausing slightly, Naruto smiled upon remembering something. It was her real one and not the mask she often shows to all these people. "To live my life with purpose and-"

"I thought your dream is to become Hokage?" Sakura interrupted and Marco could not stop himself but snaps at her but Naruto patted him absentmindedly and glances at the other girl.

"Well, if I am strong enough to be recognized as one, why not?" Placing both hands behind her head as Marco transfers to another perch, she added with humor. "Being Hokage means I can protect them better which is soo cool. Oh and my other dream is to help Marco find his family again…"

Seriously, his Naruto is making things more difficult.

But all the Phoenix felt at that moment is… happiness.

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Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

Disclaimer:
Copyright belongs to their respective creators - Naruto by Masashi Kishimoto and One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

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Part 6

Marco does remind Naruto to eat breakfast purposely ignoring the Hatake’s suggestion.

He did remember one of Thatch’s grumblings about a good meal before every battle (knowing that the said man will probably test the children for whatever reason).

The thought of his old friend and Teach’s participation from almost ruining their family put him in a bit of foul mood that he hid perfectly from his human’s eyes.

Naruto does look suspicious after sensing the change in his demeanor since she is somewhat attuned to his emotions.

He is yet to understand their bond and perhaps he did imprinted on her.

If that’s the case, he doesn’t really mind though.

After watching her leave, he settled comfortably in his nest and waited for his uninvited guests to show themselves.

An old man in fancy white robes walked out from the shadows followed by Hatake Kakashi himself. The respectable looking man (with the same presence as oyaji’s) wears a hat that cover most of his face and the kanji of fire written in red.

“I admit, when Iruka mentioned about a blue bird that took a liking to our favorite prankster, I never expected it to be someone like you…” Sarutobi Hiruzen noted and took a seat near Naruto’s dining table.

The girl’s apartment is tidy unlike the first few times he visited after Naruto started living on her own. He know of the Ichiraku’s assistance regarding the matter and for that he is grateful for their presence. Despite how chaotic she is outside her home, her ‘new’ companion probably did something as well.

Marco did not voice out any response and decided to listen since he knew they came here specifically for him (they did wait for the girl to leave him on his own). The pirate did glance towards Kakashi who frowned at his bland reaction.

“Leave us.” The older man ordered as if he isn’t just talking to the jōnin himself.

“But Hokage-sama…” Kakashi protested (and probably the others as well) but the village leader is unyielding.

Once everyone (even the ones hiding in the shadows) left, Marco chuckled and looks back to the man in front of him who removes the hat finally showing his face.

Ah.

“You look older, kid. Has it been that long?”

“Indeed,” Hiruzen admitted and took his pipe out. After dragging a few whiff, he also procure a bottle of saki and two cups out of his robes and places it on top the table. “Isn’t Konohagakure too far from Paradise?”

Finally allowing his flames to reveal his real form, Marco curses out loud upon seeing a different set of hands.

And body.

A younger one.

Is it a side effect for transforming too soon?

“This is going to be a problem, yoi,” Grunting annoyingly, he stood to his full height testing his limbs and sat callously opposite the boy (now a grown man who may look older than him because of his current dilemma).

“I do not think so.” The man stated in a good-natured manner and fills their drink. “I strongly believe that this is some sort of opportunity for all of us, Marco-san.”

“Oh? Enlighten me, yoi.”

He does not know whether to laugh or scoff derisively at the suggestion provided but the boy, ah old man Hiruzen did made a point. Now that he can fully control his transformation again, he would be able to interact with his Naruto more physically and-

“Let me think about it, yoi…” Marco frowned but ignores the knowing look the man gave him.

“I think you already made a decision, old friend.”

Tch.

With a tired sigh, Marco buries his face in his hand and waves at him politely.

Giving the pirate some space, Hiruzen smiled understandingly and took a small scroll from his pocket leaving it beside the man that now looked like a young teen close to Naruto’s age (give or take fourteen to fifteen years old) which will work out real well with his ‘plans’.

Seeing the Phoenix that night did surprise him especially when he came to Naruto’s aid.

The same man his team and Tobirama-sensei met on one of their recon missions to explore the world outside the seas surrounding the elemental nations. That was before the said Senju took the hat left by the Shodaime, his older brother.

He is also amazed when he saw him that night, as if he never aged for a single day. But looking at him now-

Ah, such possibilities.

Iruka did mention that it was the bird that called his attention (after he forced the Uchiha boy to show him where the kind chūnin’s office was).

Perhaps his presence here is fated.

How he ended up with Naruto among all the people in the village means that the two are destined to meet one way or another.

How these two will change each other’s lives remains to be seen.

But the Third Hokage is hopeful.

Naruto needed someone to make her feel she belongs and that she’s not just a ‘human sacrifice’.

While Marco needed someone to remind him that he is still a human. Not that being a pirate changes ones perception on life or the value of it.

That is all there is to it. That simple.

And add to the fact that the said man turned boy is probably the most dangerous individual in the village at present. Not because he is a pirate. And unpredictable.

Naruto herself may be another since she contains the strongest bijuu in existence but knowing that she is yet to understand and control the Kyuubi’s powers brings a false sense of security in his mind.

Alarmingly scary but true.

.
.

Putting the man’s offer for a later consideration, Marco went to look for his blonde kunoichi.

Arriving at the training grounds she mentioned earlier, he never expected for the lazy jōnin to attack his Naruto from behind and if wasn’t for the Uchiha’s warning, the girl wouldn’t notice.

With a feral cry and allowing his transformation halfway, he blocked the Hatake’s hands with a leg and angled his body strategically while protecting Naruto’s back with a wing and reverts back to his full human form after setting a foot down.

The girl herself fell flat on her face - possibly from the collision (they really needed to work on her balance).

“Maa, you are not supposed to interfere…” Marco isn’t even surprised if the man knew who or what he is.

No matter.

Eyes glinting angrily, he cocked his head to one side and carefully set Naruto upright and carried her within his arms effortlessly. “Perhaps I shouldn’t. But what you are about to do earlier doesn’t sit right with me at all, yoi.”

“M-marco?” Eyes bulging in surprise as the girl recognizes his voice (and verbal tick), he glances at Naruto from the corner of his eyes and gave the jōnin a dismissive shrug.

“Don’t worry, yoi. This will be the last time I’ll interfere unless…” Eyes flashing dangerously and his intent flares out that was felt by everyone in the said vicinity despite being directed to the man himself. “If you do something unacceptable that will endanger her life…,” Marco gave the one-eyed jōnin a serious nod and disappears with a threat. “I will kill you.”

Scratching his cheek, Kakashi did rethink his earlier actions. Unless he really overstepped his boundaries, he’ll need to change things a little bit.

Come to think of it, if his sensei is here and knows what he is about to do - he may not be able to survive another day. Don’t forget the redhead’s reaction as well.

Ah Kakashi, you are an idiot. Really.

.
.

Flailing both her arms, Naruto tried to remove herself from Marco’s grip and yet… looking at their surroundings, they relocated farther away from the clearing where she tried to take on the jōnin all by herself.

Wow. She never even noticed how fast they move.

“I should apologize, yoi.” Turning at him, the girl stops fidgeting and saw his expression.

Unlike his laidback expression as a bird, his human features is far more pronounced.

Setting the girl on her feet, Marco took a step back and observes her reaction. She’s…

“It was you, right?”

Never expecting her question, the girl approaches him quietly and raises her right hand to touch his face.

Marco thought that Naruto would remember his deception. But seems like all she can think about is…

“You are that man, right? The one who… saved me and Iruka-sensei that night?”

Shaking his head in disbelief, Marco took her hand and held it firmly as he gave her a contemplative stare, “Of all the things you can ask or say, that is all you remember, yoi?”

Grinning sheepishly, the girl laughs at his reaction. “Well, I do have a lot of questions, like how you look younger or transform into a bird. But I don’t think that now is the right time to ask them or whatnot.”

True. So he gave her a pat in the head like he always did even as a bird/phoenix and she returned it with a glower.

He will definitely tell her everything. It is the least he can do.

“Go teach that man a lesson, yoi.”

“You bet, dattebayo!”

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Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 7

If it wasn't for Naruto's quick thinking, the newly dubbed Team 7 would barely pass the bell test. Kakashi congratulated everyone and explained the ideals he's been following diligently and hoping to pass it on to this particular squad. After giving everyone a few key reminders for tomorrow's tasks, Kakashi left with a wave. But not before giving Marco a dirty look.

The Phoenix also saw the others leave ignoring the Uchiha's questioning look and Sakura's intrigued stare.

After sensing the last of their audiences set off on their own especially these 'shadow lurkers' (shinobis that hides from people and wear porcelain like masks covering their entire face unlike Kakashi's face mask whose been following him since he first transformed back to his real form after his unexpected arrival to Konoha), Marco turned to face his Naruto.

The breeze surrounding the clearing near the stone obelisk is quite refreshing. Calming even.

"Well?"

Playing with her fingers, Naruto slightly bowed her head in shame. "Now that I've think about it, the family you are referring to are also humans, right?" Covering her face, his blonde babbled on and apologizes for mistaking everyone from the crew as birds.

Chuckling, Marco stopped her tirade. "Seriously though, aren't you going to ask me why I didn't tell you that I'm a human, yoi?" As they aren't in a rush to go back, their pace are slow and steady.

"Well, you don't really need to. And knowing what your condition was when I found you, I kind of guessed that you were in a fight or something. And that alone isn't pretty at all or even worth mentioning, yeah?"

Nodding, he tugs her hand just before they pass the edge of the training grounds.

"It was a stupid war that almost took apart… everyone," With a tired sigh, he leaned back towards the bridge and stares at the darkening sky. "They used a brother's existence as an excuse for their hatred and so called 'justice'."

Its almost twilight.

With an understanding look, Naruto leans besides him and held his hand tighter. "And you took the blunt end of that stupidity and sacrificed yourself, didn't you?"

"Yes. Yes, I did, yoi."

They continue their trek back home in companionable silence.

It felt really nice, Marco thought idly.

.
.

"He did WHAT?!"

Giving Naruto a droll stare, Marco took another bite from their breakfast. He prepared a few slices of bread with the girl's abundant supply of instant ramen (seems like he needed to do something about their meal for the upcoming days). Now that he don't need to hide, he can use his real form inside her apartment.

He might have shown it to the others (particularly Team 7 or the academy instructor), but whatever. Not that he cares about what they think.

"I'm technically a stranger in your village with no papers to support my stay, yoi…"

Giving him a stink eye, Naruto carefully reread the scroll left by the old man.

"So you still need to transform into you bird form-"

"Phoenix, yoi."

"Yeah that…," Face scrunching incredulously, Naruto's eyes widen in annoyance. "And you will only revert back to your human form in the presence of any genin or the jōnin sensei of Team 7, a few selected people (possibly Iruka-sensei or the Hokage himself) and cannot show your true self unless you are inside our hou…? What the heck you sly old man!"

He is wearing one of Naruto's over sized button up shirts which he left half opened as his usual getup despite oyaji's mark disappearing which is expected in every rebirth. His belt, light blue sash and pants are the only possession he had left which is more than okay (a bit bigger though). He was able to procure (stolen) a pair of shinobi sandals and pants that fits his size (with a few mending here and there ever thankful for Ayame-san's involvement in Naruto's life).

And regardless of being confident with his physical appearance, he prefers not to walk around half-naked since he is still in the presence of a young lady. A peculiar sensibility that made his brothers laugh when they learned of his weird habit towards the opposite sex.

His hair though, it grew longer again. How very annoying!

Slightly poking the girl on her forehead, he did explain the pros and cons of the said arrangement. Besides, despite what happened yesterday, he still doesn't trust anyone especially the silver haired jōnin (except for the academy instructor). So he will not show his real form unless absolutely necessary.

"Buut Marco…" Naruto continues to whine until they pass by the red bridge and arrives in Team 7's meeting place. It was a bit early as the others are yet to arrive so he urges the girl to start warming up.

The aforementioned jōnin is nowhere in sight and probably busy with whatever stuff he is doing that he won't possibly break despite his new responsibilities.

Come to think of it, from one of his numerous strolls across the village, he did remember the said man spending most of his mornings in front of a stone monolith.

The very same memorial stone he mentioned yesterday to the children.

Avoiding a rock thrown at him (despite the downtime from pirating, he still has to sharpen and improve his haki), Marco gave the Uchiha an unimpressed glance and transferred to another branch.

"What now, yoi?"

"Why didn't you tell me that you're a human in a disguise?"

"I'm not obligated to tell anyone anything, brat."

Glare intensifying, Sasuke crosses his arms and continues to wait for an explanation. "You came at me that day asking for help. So you owe me one, Marco-san." The boy is trying to be polite. Heh.

Knowing that Sasuke won't stop, the Phoenix sighed and looked at him pointedly.

"I didn't know that I can already transform back to my real form… it just happened, alright, yoi?"

Disbelief clear on Sasuke's face and was about to ask another question when Sakura appeared through the foliage. With a huff, the boy turned his back away from him and brooded on his own tree. The pinkette greeted the Uchiha but was ignored as usual.

As expected, stupid Hatake arrived 3 hours later.

While the genins of Team 7?

They were convinced (by the Phoenix himself) to train with Naruto somewhere else. He did bribe them with some Haki training. Not that he explained to these two what it is except that it will help them in their chosen career.

Their location?

A place that Kakashi (or his summons) had a hard time locating. It did took 5 hours and that was after Naruto accidentally looses her concentration much to the dismay of the other two. Marco is trying to teach the trio to contain it (something they can use to hide from anyone that can sense chakra - like that stupid jōnin-sensei of theirs).

The one-eyed jōnin did complain how a 'bird' is stealing his cute little genins much to the bewilderment of Kakashi's peers.

Hiruzen did find the entire situation highly amusing.

 

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Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 8

Ever since Team 7 was established, it is always divided in two.

Well, we have Marco’s and Kakashi’s.

Surprisingly, Haruno Sakura grew comfortable enough with Marco that she can now joke with him. A new perch for the phoenix if we need to be more specific.

And after getting to know her blonde teammate, the pinkette knew that the rumors surrounding Naruto are just hearsay’s and disregards the warning her mother reminded every single day she left their house. So she decided to follow her heart and befriended the other female member of their squad much to Marco’s approval.

While Uchiha Sasuke is…

Well, the said boy got this growing animosity towards the Phoenix (for whatever reason only known to him) and sometimes prefers to wait for their tardy jōnin-sensei than join the girls on their impromptu warm up sessions (it’s called training damn it). Watching the two train always put teme er Sasuke in a foul mood especially when he noticed Sakura’s improvement.

Thankfully, Marco did not provoke him any further and gave the boy a few tips surreptitiously.

And perhaps the Phoenix does need to make peace with the silver haired jōnin as he is more than qualified to train the children with their shinobi ways.

But that doesn’t mean he’s okay with Kakashi’s sluggish behavior.

So he kept himself busy with other things (whenever the children are on a mission - village chores that freaked out his human) as Hiruzen provided some maps that he can use to track his way back home.

He did avoid letting Naruto see him work on these maps despite the cheery disposition she showed after the old man gave it to him while she was ‘busy’ eating dinner.

The ‘mask’ she previously wore before she met him rarely shows itself which is quite a relief.

“Alright team, for today’s mission-…”

“Try to give us the Tora mission again or I will end you…”

Naruto’s own ‘haki’ or what shinobis calls as ‘killing intent’ may be similar to a Conquerors but is entirely different to an extent. Compare to what she can do before, the said ability also improves drastically much to his astonishment.

Their morning exercises (while waiting for the tardy jōnin) did help despite Sakura’s initial horror.

Sweat dropping at Naruto’s reaction seconded by the pinkette’s glare and Sasuke’s annoyed stance, Kakashi reluctantly gave in and requested for a different set of mission.

“Ah, can someone bring in Tazuna-san please…” The kind village leader called out as he introduces their new client. Looks like Naruto’s next job is an escort mission to the bridge builder’s hometown.

“Seems like this guy is also from the sea just like you, Marco…” Naruto whispered conspicuously upon smelling the man’s scent the moment he entered the room. Kakashi sighed dejectedly hearing her side comment.

“Is that so, yoi?” Marco muses interestingly ignoring the stupid sensei. All he did smell is nervousness that was overshadowed by the alcohol the said man drank prior to that meeting.

Highly suspicious indeed. So he went along (chaperoned) Naruto’s first ‘trip’ outside the village.

.
.

The way to the old man’s village, located in Nami no Kuni, did went acceptably well despite Kakashi’s assurances and the interference of some rogue ninjas. Marco did roll his eyes at that though.

Naruto may have frozen at first and the one-eyed jōnin being a prat that he is - cast an illusion making everyone believes that the two of them are ‘attacked and killed’. His blonde kunoichi did blank out (after seeing his feathers coated in blood) and Marco finally saw how she is as a shinobi when her eyes turn feral in anger.

As promised, he did not interfere even if Kakashi was caught by another weird looking ninja.

Fighting on top of the lake looks promising but he will not even attempt to do so. Not with his Devil Fruit and all its weakness.

Marco carefully observes how the children (specifically his Naruto) reacted with the said threat and may have added a few (non-existent) grays on his hair when she attacked one Momochi Zabuza.

To be exposed to the life she has chosen and how she dealt with it did impress the Phoenix especially how well she worked with the other brat.

It doesn’t change anything what he felt though and he still has this urge to wrap her in a blanket and take her away from this place.

He is certain that his brothers and sisters (especially Izo, the nurses and their ally Whitey Bay) will like her.

Seems like being a pirate is a much better choice than being a ninja. Not that it is a safer occupation.

If only he can convince her.

The bridge builder may have fabricated some information about their mission but knowing his blonde kunoichi…

“I’m going to help you, Tazuna-jiji, whether you like it or not. Believe it!” The girl declared with conviction as her team watches by cautiously (mostly Sakura). Sasuke even nodded in affirmation with Kakashi’s slight reluctance and a hint of pride.

Ah. His Naruto is growing up too fast. Damn it.

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Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Part 9

Arriving at the bridge builder's house comforted Marco as they are welcomed by Tazuna's family. That way, baka-Kakashi can recuperate.

Despite his idiocy for being trapped (even allowing the children especially his Naruto) to interfere their fight, the Phoenix almost assisted the jōnin against the missing Kiri-nin.

But his human held him back thru their bond.

And she fought so well that it terrified him to an extent. Sasuke helped so it did make matters a bit more acceptable. And Sakura guarded the bridge builder while he watches real close - ready to interfere if needed (Kakashi just have to deal with it but he will never allow the children especially his blonde to get hurt if he can still prevent it).

After the interference of another suspicious looking ninja, the bastard fainted after exhausting his chakra.

Probably because of those flashy ninja techniques he used and that red swirly eyes of his (Marco does admit that the bastard's eyes reminded him more of Mihawk's eyes). While Sasuke is already quite livid on how his sensei got their clan's dōjutsu. He did reprimand the boy to stay calm and…

"M-marco?!"

His heart stopped upon hearing that voice.

It can't be…

"Oh my god! Why are you in that form? Smaller? And why are you sitting on that girl's shoulders?!" The voice exclaimed outrageously who tried to grab him away from Naruto.

But her reflexes and worry after sensing the phoenix's confusion led her to raise her arm defensively preventing anyone from coming near. She took a few steps back away from the group - ready to bolt out if needed.

"Hold it right there, mister!" Tugging Marco close to her chest, Naruto glares at the man who made her friend uncomfortable. For whatever reason, she could feel his confusion, pain and… happiness?

The said man is taller than Marco (remembering the first time she saw his real adult form) and very well built. He also has a scar under his left eye. His features are softer (hmm, kinder) against the Phoenix's aristocratic ones (nope, her Marco may look snobbish at first glance but one would say that he is one elegant creature - he's a freaking phoenix for crying out loud).

But no matter.

Until she can determine this 'threat', she will not let him approach her friend. "It's alright, yoi…" The blonde can see the tears in his eyes. It made her fluster more. "I know him."

With a shaky breath, Marco turned and looked at the man who came to welcome them. Seems like Tazuna does have a lot to answer for alright. "He is Thatch, my closest friend and fellow commander…"

Oh.

.
.

After they settled in with Kakashi-sensei using one of the extra futons to rest in Tazuna-jiji's spare room, she urges Marco to go and talk to his friend. Hesitantly, he flew towards Thatch's shoulders after the said man placed a full tray of meal that they can share with everyone. He did gave her a warm smile.

"Nothing to worry about, missy. I'm just borrowing this bird-brain bloke for a little while…" Sasuke chokes on his drink after hearing the name-calling. But Marco glared though. It did lift her spirits for a bit. "And return him after… ouch! Oh alright! Will you stop pecking on me you feathered mongrel, jeez!"

Sakura and Tazuna did laugh at their antics.

After the two left, Naruto heard how the bridge builder found a half-dead man floating near the foundation of the very structure he is trying to build.

A wound that should have ended his life but miraculously survives anyway.

It was the very same bridge that will help his country from Gatō's tyrannical rule.

It does made her happy knowing that Marco is no longer alone.

And yet it scares her. That their time together is…

"Maybe you should give him a little more credit than what is needed, dobe." Glancing at her sideways, the Uchiha commented as he finishes his tea and places it down beside his empty plate (almost everyone are finished with their own servings). "He is an annoying bastard that does care for you regardless of what shape or form he uses."

Smiling gratefully at him, Naruto started eating. The meal Marco's friend prepared are really delicious. Hopefully this little act of hers wasn't noticed by the bird er phoenix ah teen in question. It really is confusing how to label Marco. Argh.

Hoping may be a strong word.

.
.

"Alright." Thatch started as he held him in arm's length just in case he chooses to bail out. "No one is here and I did ask Inari-kun to watch over them. By the way, that's the boy from the docks and Tazuna-san's grandson. Now can you transform back so that we can talk? I have so many things to say and…" Giving his friend the usual glare, whacked him in the head with a wing and settled comfortably in one of the boulders littered in that clearing.

"Yes, we do need to talk… especially now, yoi."

Eyes wide with his mouth gaping like a fish, Thatch does mimic the said animal perfectly.

"W-what?! You can talk? In your phoenix form?! Since when? What on earth…"

Shrugging dismissively, Marco decided to show him another surprise. Allowing his flames to surround his person, he presented his 'current' form.

"What the fuck! You turned into an infant! H-how?"

Throwing a piece of rock at him, Marco crosses his arms frustratingly and waited for his friend to calm down. A baby? As in seriously?

30 minutes has passed as he lets the man walked out his shock from seeing the changes. Hilarious really.

"All good, yoi?"

"Yeah." Breathing heavily and taking another large gulp of air, Thatch suddenly approaches him and hugged him to death. The idiot.

"All better."

With a small smile of his own, he returned his embrace finally letting his panicking heart to calm down especially when he heard Thatch's own heartbeat. That his friend is alive and well.

Yeah, everything is going to be alright.

Now, he need to make sure that his human won't think of herself as someone insignificant.

Even from here, he can feel his Naruto's worry thru their bond.

Damn it.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Part 10

"Just wow!" Thatch uttered in amazement as he properly met the girl who saved his friend's life. Ignoring her yelped cry, he cuddled the blonde kunoichi to himself while silently observing Marco's reaction from his peripheral vision. The blonde pirate didn't disappoint judging from the irritated stare the Phoenix gave him. "Thank you so much for saving this bastard from bleeding to death. Aaw! You really are sooo cuutee! I think I'm keeping you…" It's like the adult turned boy is about to skin him alive.

Hah! Very interesting.

He did notice it earlier and wanted to reconfirm it.

But for now, thanking the girl, her team including the jōnin-sensei himself and probably the village leader is his foremost priority.

He knew how nonchalant and apathetic Marco is when it comes authority.

Tazuna-san was also surprised to know that the bird is a real human masquerading as a 'pet' that can talk. Funny, that one. Although that seems to be the case at the moment as part of Marco's agreement with their Hokage.

And when he learned the predicament these Konoha ninjas Tazuna have requested to escort him back home made things a bit more complicated. He should have finished the midget when he had the chance.

"So why didn't you, yoi?" Marco asks while watching the other brats and his Naruto 'climb' trees without using hands (controlling whatever energy that is or so he heard). Fascinating, the chakra thingy. And Marco's newfound hobby called 'Naruto stalking'.

"I kind of promised Tazuna-san not to interfere since I am technically a visitor and to avoid further scrutiny on my stay especially for the family that found and helped me," Sighing ruefully, Thatch fixes his hair. "Inari's trauma aside, I don't want to be the final reason for him to really lose his faith on people…" As he cannot do his normal pompadour hairstyle, he opted for a brush up look. Made him look dashing though (which is nice on most days). "Despite my wound healing, I haven't fully recovered yet physically so I need to be more careful."

Marco's flames started to come out from the tip of his fingers as he growled angrily remembering Teach's betrayal. The air, suffocating even to a seasoned veteran of haki user like him. Hmm. So Marco really knows how to use Haoshoku.

"Mark my words, I'm going to kill that bastard, yoi."

Throwing a haki-imbued rock at the teen earned him a more menacing look.

If he were a lesser man, his life should already been forfeit. But this is Marco and regardless of his youthful appearance (life is sooo unfair) - is the same man he sailed along with, bled with and continues to treat as a nakama. A brother in all but blood.

But no excuses though.

"Careful there, you're making her twitchy…" Instantly, the heavy feeling in the air dissipates and Marco's gaze zoomed immediately towards the other blonde. Strangely enough Naruto-chan somehow felt Marco's anger (despite the distance) and falls on her hind as she curses the damn stupid tree ignoring Sakura's teasing laughter and the Uchiha's resigned sigh.

The connection between these two is something he never expected to see.

Knowing how his friend will react, the Phoenix (he still cannot believe that he looked so much younger than Haruta) transforms as he stands and approaches the three while perching on the aforementioned girl's shoulders.

Ah.

"I'm assuming you learned something very important, Thatch-san?"

He almost forgot about this one although he did remember the said jōnin sitting in the opposite side of the clearing near the children. Keeping his distance far away from the temperamental 'mother hen'.

Sneaky ninja bastard.

Laughing good naturedly in response, he picked the satchel beside him and took a few slices of bread he baked earlier for today's training snacks. He handed some to the masked shinobi (not even wondering how the man will eat with that mask of his).

Despite the poverty this country is encountering, he was able to teach Ms. Tsunami and a few others to be innovative since they do have a vast array of land for harvesting various produces. It helps make living under Gatō's tyrannical rule bearable.

"Of all the years I've known Marco, this side of him is something I never thought to see or experience firsthand. And this is my second life, can you imagine that?"

It does put a smile on his face knowing that Marco found someone to care for aside from the crew.

He cannot really wait to tell everyone about this. Ace is definitely going to freak out.

He is also certain that oyaji will like the girl as well. With all her quirks and the crazies. She'll definitely belong.

"So, a pirate huh?"

"He never really told you anything?"

From what he observes between these two and the blonde's reaction towards the said ninja, Marco hated the jōnin for whatever reason. Kakashi's lips is sealed as well. Hmm. Very suspicious.

Although the First Division Commander did tried his best to get along for Naruto's sake.

"Well, he is trying to steal my cute little genins, you know."

Responding with another boisterous laughter, Thatch invites the other man to sit down with him for a chat. Getting the juicy details from the pirate in question is futile so he decided to get it from another source in a very inconspicuous manner.

He can deal with Marco's threats later on.

And the blackmail materials he can gather against his brother… yes, totally worth it.

The question remains - Marco won't probably kill him again. Right?

.
.

Interlude: Inari

Eyeing their visitors especially the blue bird sitting on the girl's shoulders in an assessing manner, Inari later learned that the avian disguised pet (whose name is Marco) happens to be Thatch's friend from the same crew, the Whitebeard Pirates.

At first he cannot believe that he is the very same man from the stories Thatch told him.

The said Phoenix always accompany the blonde ninja wherever and it makes him curious.

So he decided to spy on them and observe what the fuss is all about.

Thatch did teach him a few things. Things no ordinary civilian can.

He also knew that his presence in their lives is temporary. Just like that man.

It is a fact that he already accepted.

That when the time comes, Thatch will leave one day to be with his family. His nakama.

And he will not hold it against him. So he made a request from the said pirate to teach him how he can be someone that can protect what is important to him.

Thatch obliges indulgently.

So right now, he is watching the three young ninjas from afar especially the girl who boisterously called herself Naruto.

Marco did notice him a while back. And the pirate observes him in return. Looking at him with a curious tilt of his gaze as he absentmindedly corrected one of the stances the girl made on their warm up exercises. As expected, the visiting ninjas are training at the backyard of their house.

"Aw come on!"

"Do it again, yoi."

"Buut Marco…"

"You really are a dobe." The other boy, Sasuke, commented despairingly.

"Shut the hell up you bastard!"

Tch. Inari cannot see anything special about her, so what gives?

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Part 11

Knowing that Naruto trained all night and slept outside didn't feel right with him. At all.

Especially now that they confirmed the rogue nin's condition isn't what everyone thought at first and that Zabuza may still be alive with his accomplice running around somewhere.

Thatch did give him a frustrated look and pushed him outside the kitchen so that he can personally look for her.

Following their bond, he did find her in the clearing a few meters away from the bridge builder's house. Naruto is sleeping soundly with scrapes on her skin particularly the fingers.

Face palming as Marco attempts to compose himself, he woke her up after deliberating for a few minutes.

Rubbing her sleepiness away, Naruto did notice something different especially when he remained silent. Even without the words, the female jinchūriki can sense his displeasure and that her face slowly lost its color upon seeing his expression.

"Let's go back, yoi." With a sigh, Marco ran one hand over his tresses and turned his back without noticing Naruto's stupefied reaction.

Shuffling behind him, the girl walked quietly as she gritted her teeth in annoyance. Marco still doesn't say anything but because of their so-called 'connection', she can feel his irritation. She stopped after a few strides but the older teen went ahead. Crossing both arms, she tapped her foot and waited for the Phoenix to notice her absence behind his back.

It didn't take long as he slightly turned his head back and looks at her in his usual lackadaisical expression.

That was the last straw and Naruto saw red.

"I don't know what I did wrong for you to be mad at me, Marco." Fist clenching, the blonde raises her chin in defiance. "So unless I suddenly learned how to interpret your wordless mannerisms, I will not understand anything unless you tell me." She isn't as smart as Sakura. Or a genius like the teme. But she can be quick-witted if given the opportunity and proper guidance (except for the genius part - she does admit that she isn't one no matter how hard she tries).

"It's nothing, yoi…"

Staring at him incredulously, Naruto set her mouth firmly and tried a guess knowing how idiotic that may sound. Perhaps if what she thinks is the reason for his actions are at the moment, better to get over with it and save herself from heartbreak later on.

Taking a deep breath, she puts on her old 'mask' (unknowingly) despite the frown he gave her.

"Well if you are going to worry about me, you don't really have to, ya know." Crossing both arms behind her head (just to hide the shaking she felt in her limbs), she added confidently (even if it sounded so different from her ears), "I'm a ninja. So I can perfectly take care of myself. Just like before you came into my life." She cheerfully smiled at him.

An act.

"So yeah," Rubbing her nose (damn it, don't fall now tears), Naruto quickly gave his face a cheeky look and turns around. "Gosh, I'm starving. Did Thatch-san prepare something delicious again? Ah, can't wait…"

"Naruto…"

Steeling herself, the blonde glances at him from the corner of her eyes and started walking away. If he decided to stop her now, she'll ignore him anyway. Her tears are…

"I'm really glad to have met you, Marco."

Her tears started falling as she waves a hand in farewell without looking back.

.
.

Marco knew that something went wrong. Remembering their conversation makes him wonder what he missed or should have done.

And that smile.

It was the same smile Naruto uses when she pretends to be okay, which means…

"Alright bird-brain, tell me… what did you do?"

Even they noticed it.

"I'm not sure, yoi…"

Earlier, Kakashi looked at them quizzically as Naruto sat in between Sakura and Ms. Tsunami ignoring her designated seat beside him. She's not even looking at his face or general direction.

"Okay, bastard. Spill."

"I said I don't know!" Startled, Thatch looks at him disbelievingly as his temper snaps.

It was a first. As the eldest (and possibly the oldest member of the Whitebeard Pirates aside from oyaji), Marco rarely show any emotions.

Marco gave a weary breath and avoided his friend's piercing look. Thatch did find him at the highest roof of the bridge builder's house overlooking the lake. The ocean breeze (almost similar to the winds in Paradise) are gentle yet it didn't help soothe his worries at all.

"I know that you rarely talk especially when you are brooding - just like now. But this is different, man," Thatch noted as he sat beside him.

"For some unknown reasons, the girl can sense your emotions. And from what I have gathered these past few days after observing the two of you, she is dependent to you and you to her…"

Covering half of his face, Marco gave him a noncommittal shrug. "I don't know what you're talking about, yoi."

"Fine! Deny all you want." Crossing both arms, Thatch stares at him seriously. "But I don't think you can settle this just like how you normally does with the crew, Marco."

Waving one hand in front of him just to make his point, "You did told me earlier that she never had anyone in her life. That the people from her village used to ignore her like she never existed." As if he doesn't know that.

Giving him a pat, the Fourth Division Commander of the Whitebeard Pirates added informatively, "People like her needs to be reassured especially if she never had someone in the first place. So…"

"She's scared, yoi."

"Exactly… Wait, what?"

With a sigh, Marco turned and finally looked at his friend. "Now that you are here, she thinks that we're going back with the others…"

Shaking his head, Thatch looks at him disbelievingly. "Nah. I don't think so…"

"Alright. Humor me, yoi."

"Nope." With a popping sound, Thatch tugs his face and then squeezes it to satisfy his annoyance. "I'll let you figure this out yourself. Ah, I can't call you pineapple-head anymore. How did you outgrow your hair. Sooo freakin' weird…" He is so used to the Phoenix's shaved hairstyle. But right now, seems like the 'rebirth' process regrown everything (he's not going to think about the hole in Marco's chest courtesy of that magma bastard). How peculiar this devil fruit really is.

Slapping his hands away, Marco glares annoyingly at him and stood. Since he is physically 'younger' and haven't gotten his growth spurt yet, he barely reaches Thatch's shoulders. Being a child sucks since he's always been a late bloomer (which is the only thing he can remember from his past, ugh).

"Fine. I'll do this myself, yoi."

Eyeing him suspiciously, Thatch shrugged his shoulders and blew him a raspberry.

Rolling his eyes at him, Marco walks towards the edge of the roof and jumps while transforming into his phoenix form midway (for whatever reason, he can now control his flames - when to call them out or vice versa). He did have a fleeting glimpse of Sasuke and the boy Inari, both looks at him in surprise seeing his transformation up close. Ignoring what their reactions will be, Marco lets his flames surround his form as he flew away.

A temporary escape.

Just like before, he lets the wind help him collect his thoughts. He cannot leave it like this.

Naruto is…

Thatch is right.

She's already a part of this 'new' life. They have this bond he failed to understand at first. And he will not allow a single disagreement to ruin what they share together. Goddamn it.

.
.

Naruto did knew that her response that day is somewhat childish.

But.

"How would I know what he's feeling if he is not being vocal about it?" With a flick of her fingers, she threw a kunai at her target. Setting up various marks on that clearing will help improve her aim according to her journal.

Sasuke is even impressed after accidentally looking at her notes. And when he learned that it was Marco who forced her to write the entries in it (since she doesn't know he's a human at the time), he eyed the Phoenix speculatively (boys and their obsession to get stronger, crazy really).

After blowing up some steam, she collected her bearings and decided to call it a day. Her tree-walking exercise seems futile as Sakura did suggest to calm her thoughts before trying again.

But how can she do that if Marco is being an ass about what he needs or wants. She doesn't even know if she really did something stupid that day which made him angry. Or irritated.

Was it the training? Ah whatever.

Unlike the teme were she can draw a diagram about what his expression means or how that smirk of his made him an utter bastard. Ugh! Marco is a complete mystery.

Knowing that she needs to focus made it difficult to do any other training.

The said teen even failed to include tips about calming one's self when faced with unknown feelings and emotions. Shrieking wordlessly, she drops to her knees face down letting the ground to receive her frustration.

Maybe the ground will eat her whole or make her anger disappear.

"I don't think sleeping on the ground is sanitary, miss?"

Regardless of her internal struggle, Naruto knew that whoever owns this voice means no harm. Her threat senses didn't raise any alarms so she replied conversationally but the grass muffled her words.

She didn't turn but felt the owner of the voice chuckle as he or she sat in a respectable distance after placing something down.

If he's here, Marco will probably look at her disappointingly for her lack of self-preservation. Well, it's a good thing he isn't because she doesn't care what the fuck he is thinking.

Sighing dejectedly, the blonde raises her gaze, "Sorry about that…," and saw the most prettiest face (even more attractive than her Hinata-chan).

Whoa.

Blushing slighty, she scratches her cheek and smiled at the girl shyly as she sat properly and waves at her in greeting.

The pretty girl returned her smile genially. "Nothing to worry about, miss…"

The girl's name is Haku and they talked about anything random and all that. But then…

"I see that something is still bothering you, Naruto-chan?"

She tried to divert her inquiry away. Naruto opens her mouth but freezes when Haku showed her a familiar blue feather.

"I did see a bird watching over you from that direction." Pointing towards the forest along the tallest trees, Naruto huffs at the said knowledge but avoided it all the same. "I may have unintentionally heard you earlier about someone who doesn't know how to express themselves in words. Assuming that it is the reason why you are freaking out?"

"I'm not freaking out!" Yes, she is emotional. And perhaps irrational but… She. Isn't. Freaking. Out. Period.

"We do tend to overlook the simplest things and it often causes misunderstandings that sometimes leads to pride taking care of everything else." The other girl noted with a hum and slips a loose strand of hair behind her ears. Taking her hand, Haku places the feather and gently closes her fingers around it.

"It doesn't make us less of a human to admit our mistakes." With a pat on her head, the other girl smiled at her. "It helps nurture a bond and makes it stronger than the rarest stone in the world."

"What if time is limited…," Playing with her hair, Naruto noticed that her tresses are getting longer. Should she cut it? "Will it still be worth it to hold on no matter the distance? What if I'm doing this to save myself from… from losing him?" Her eyes focused on Marco's feather. She don't know if she will still get the chance to see his full phoenix form with all the flames associated to its mythical name.

Understanding lighting Haku's features as she stood up after picking her basket. "Getting hurt has always been a part of loving someone. To do whatever we can for the people we care about. To make a sacrifice…"

"Even if it hurts? Makes us foolish?"

"Even if it hurts. And makes us a fool."

Huh? Love? What does she mean? That she-

"For our precious people, I am willing to do everything… even at the cost of my life." Haku gave her shoulder a firm squeeze and a sad smile as she turned to return to her master's side.

That's… still very confusing.

.
.

Interlude: Inari 2

After hearing the commotion inside their dining room, Inari yelled angrily towards their guests.

"You are all going to die if you stay here."

Thatch watches in alarm while his mother and grandfather gave him a sad look.

Marco did glance at him briefly as he returned his gaze to the girl who stood abruptly in response to his outburst.

"I'm not afraid to die… But if you want to sit down and cry until nothing's left, no one's stopping you. But I won't let Tazuna-jiji shoulder the fate of this entire country all by himself especially if I can do something about it." Naruto glares at him sharply and Inari felt the weight of her words crushing down on him. The Phoenix places a hand on her shoulder as if to calm the girl.

The heavy feeling did ease slightly.

But the tension is still there. The others (especially the teammates) are surprisingly quiet and watches their interaction.

"I had enough of people assuming whatever fuck they think of me. Not that I care but…" She turned to look at Marco and gave him a small nod. "I do what is right. And I don't care what you or everyone else thinks. Not that I have to prove something…" With a small grin, Naruto bowed her head and thanks his mother and Thatch for the meal. "I just wanted to help someone who decided to make a change even if it is this small." She glances at his grandpa fondly and then back to the Phoenix. "Just like the chance that was given to me." With a huff, the blonde walks past him and went outside. "Well whatever. Loser."

Surprisingly, the orange book her sensei always carry is nowhere in sight and that he's currently observing everyone's reaction especially him. Inari held his ground and gave him a defiant stare. Marco sighed and followed the girl. But before stepping out the door, he did stop in front of him and-

"Marco…" Thatch called out warningly but the teen waves him away.

"Looks like I should not compare everyone to my Naruto…"

"Your Naruto?"

Ignoring Kakashi's snarky comment, Marco shrugged as his eyes become steely when he looks down on him. "I suppose we are lucky enough - that I have oyaji, my brothers and sisters, while you have your mother and grandfather." With a small smile as he remembers everyone from their crew, the blonde added in a flat tone. "While she has no one. But it didn't stop her to start making bonds." Marco looked at her team and gave the jōnin a frown that Kakashi returned with a peace sign. "I won't let anyone, not even you, to get in the way…"

"I said that's enough!" Thatch blocked the teen from his view. Slowly, he was able to release his breath.

It is still suffocating but the older man was able to shield him from Marco's penetrating gaze.

"He's just a kid, Marco."

A brow raises in question, the Phoenix looks at his friend. His demeanor never changes and Inari worries. Would he fight Thatch because of him?

Guilt started to gnaw its way into his heart as he clutches Thatch's shirt from behind.

"From where we're from, kids his age have already spilled blood. Do not baby him…" Inari paled after hearing that.

"I'm not…"

With a sigh, Marco rolls his eyes at his friend. Bile rises in Inari's throat and tried to tug Thatch away from the Phoenix. A smirk appeared from the teen's face as he noticed his action.

"Right. Later then, yoi."

As he left, the heavy feeling went with the Phoenix much to the relief of everyone else.

 

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Part 12

Now that the one-week wait is over, Team 7 accompanied Tazuna-san to his work in full ninja gears.

Naruto should be coming as well. But Kakashi lets her sleep as she trained again last night until the wee hours of the morning.

Her endless supply of shadow clones also helped with the building much to the fascination of the villagers.

While Marco?

Well… he is keeping his distance which makes everything too awkward despite Thatch's frustration. The two older men know that the Phoenix is watching from afar whenever the children are training (especially Naruto).

While the blonde kunoichi is still not talking to the teen although she stole glances at Marco when the said pirate isn't looking. The Uchiha is starting to get irritated though.

Thatch did promise Kakashi to guard Tsunami and Inari in case of a possible attempt against their lives.

"Alright everyone," Kakashi started as he gathered his team outside while waiting for Tazuna. "If our calculations are correct, Zabuza and his accomplice will probably attack anytime today, so…"

Huffing in acknowledgment, Sasuke gave a nondescript smirk. Thankfully, Sakura no longer squeals like a fan girl (the only thing he can appreciate from the Phoenix's interference for stealing his genins that one time). The pinkette did set her jaw firm and nodded confidently.

"Alright, let's move out."

"Hai."

.

.

When Naruto woke up, she thought that they're back in Konoha with Marco sleeping soundly beside her in his phoenix form.

But she's all alone.

Then she remembers that she is in Tazuna-jiji's house.

And that she is currently ignoring Marco. Not that she is mad at him. But… yeah, right.

Ah. She did hear some shuffling outside.

Palming her face knowing that she overslept with all her leftover gears in her person, she threw away her blanket and silently approaches the window to assess the situation. Thatch and the bridge builder's daughter are being held by some goons while Inari is trying to do something.

Knowing that it won't end well, she prepared a replacement to save the boy and attacks prompting Thatch to move as well.

It was over real quick.

"That was awesome, Thatch-san!" Eyes wide with wonder, Naruto could not believe how fast the man moved. It was like, swoosh! And then the bad guys holding him down fell one after the other.

Beaming proudly, the pirate laughs in response and glances at the mother and son duo who wrapped each other with a comforting embrace.

"Go on. I can take it from here…," Thatch said as he gave a gentle pat on her head.

Nodding, Naruto turned towards the direction of the bridge and was about to rush onward and help the others.

"Oh and Naruto-chan…"

Naruto held her breath, and she might have already anticipated what he is about to say.

"Marco may be an idiot when it comes to words since he lived far much longer than both of our ages combined. And that he could have forgotten what it was like…"

Huh?

"The thing is…," Giving the blonde kunoichi a kind smile, Thatch knelt and looks at her. She squirmed slightly but Naruto held her ground. "Marco really does care for you…"

With a nod, the girl gave him a skeptical look.

"He may not remember how to react like a normal human being but with your special bond, I'm certain that the two of you will be able to figure it out… eventually." The latter added as an afterthought and the girl scowls at him in response.

Right.

.

.

Just as Naruto arrives at the bridge, she saw an ice made dome shatter with teme's katon jutsu imbued with Marco's bluish like flames. However…

As the smoke slightly cleared out, she saw Marco turn to look at her briefly (for whatever reason, he can always sense and find her). The Phoenix smiled affectionately at her.

And then he fell.

At that exact second, Uzumaki Naruto's whole world stopped spinning.

At the dark corners of her mind, slitted blood red eyes opens.

'Finally.'

.

.

Interlude: Inari 3

"I'm sorry…"

"Hmm?"

Inari clutches his own fingers as he apologizes to the pirate.

He found Marco sitting by the docks as the teen watches the sunset with both feet dangling closely above the waters. Hesitantly the boy approaches the pirate after Thatch's urging.

"I-i…"

"You don't really need to apologize, yoi." The blonde patted the empty spot beside him, urging the boy to sit. "Although I'm not the one you need to talk to or ask forgiveness from…"

"Well, I…"

"She's not going to bite…"

"Hell yeah! I'm not a dog ya know!"

Inari went rigid but looks at the other blonde fearfully who suddenly appeared out of nowhere from his right.

For whatever reason, she's looking at him curiously. Sweat started trickling from the side of his face.

Minutes pass by, and they started to hear the crickets sang their song. After Marco chuckles in amusement, he bolted out. He did turn back and saw Naruto scratching her head in confusion.

"I didn't scare him right?"

"Perhaps you did, yoi."

"Waaah?! No I didn't! And stop laughing at me you overgrown chicken!"

"Seriously, yoi. Thatch is a very bad influence. I suggest you avoid him… at all costs."

"Huh? Why?"

The teen ruffled the girl's already wild tresses in response.

"Trust me on this one, yoi."

"Buut Marcooo… you are not making any sense."

Inari really thought that she's not taking everything seriously. Girls. Ugh.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

 

Chapter Text

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Part 13

Eyes widening in horror, Naruto also saw Sasuke's hunched form beside Marco. Numerous needles sticking out of their bodies.

The two are not moving. At. All.

Nononono!

"Is this the first time you saw a comrade die, kunoichi-san?"

The fake hunter-nin's voice is distant. Its like all noise faded when she saw her friend fall.

Friend? Don't be ridiculous.

"This is the way of the shinobi. We are…"

Marco is…

"Shut the fuck up!"

He is someone precious to her.

Startled, the masked shinobi steps back and raises both hands defensively when the newcomer suddenly releases pure malevolent chakra that is starting to be suffocating even from this distance.

As an attempt to trap the girl and contain her, she constructed another ice barrier. But in the wake of the blonde's leaking chakra which is clearly visible from the naked eyes, the dome melted even before it can form.

And then she attacked.

.

.

Feeling the Kyuubi's chakra leaking, Kakashi felt dread in his veins. Not even wondering why Naruto is here.

But as one of the very few who knows the purpose of Naruto's seal, he can never fault the Yondaime for creating it in the first place. As to why his student will need the powers of the tailed bijuu remains to be a question that still has no answer, he do need to finish this battle as soon as possible. Regardless of the seal being infallible, using it without proper training may endanger her life.

"I don't understand how you tree huggers was able to keep this brat a secret for far too long. But if someone gets a hold of her and use this power, we're all going to die." Zabuza's voice rang out with his jutsu still in effect.

'Not on my watch,' The famed jōnin thought as he prepares to counter the nuke-nin's technique. "Regardless of what you now know, I won't let you live for another day," With a grim expression, he added with a whisper. "Forgive me though, for I'll end this right now…" After summoning his faithful ninkens, Kakashi quickly activated his signature jutsu. 'Chidori!'

.

.

It was so sudden.

Haku failed to dodge the girl's punch. With her mask breaking apart (and blood trickling from the corner of her lips), she pushes herself up wondering why the Konoha shinobi stopped attacking.

Her porcelain mask fell until she can feel the wind touching her skin.

Ah.

Steeling her resolve, she turned to look at Naruto's surprised gaze.

It was heartbroken.

"H-haku?" Her tears started to fall and the blonde drops her kunai in shock. "Why? Why would you do this?"

Her own eyes soften towards the girl as she recounted the words she told her that day, "Remember what we talked about?"

Naruto wipes away her tears even if it continues to fall and nodded minutely. "For your precious person, you are willing to do everything…," Hands clenching tightly, the blonde added in a whisper. "Even at the cost of your own life."

Head tilting slightly, Haku approaches the other girl and kisses her forehead as she wipes her tears away. Taking the kunai she dropped, she held Naruto's hand and closes her fingers around it, "After this is all over, I will let you have your vengeance Naruto-chan…" With a tap of her feet, a mirror shoots up from the puddle and Haku passes by it. "But I have one more duty to fulfill."

"W-wait!"

After the mirror melted, Naruto heard some birds chirping and tried to sense the others. She did notice Sakura-chan guarding Tazuna-jiji.

That means…

Oh no.

.

.

Knowing that his death is inevitable, Momochi Zabuza awaited his fate hoping that the girl will finally allow him to die.

Not that she's trying to prevent it anyway.

Kakashi's attack sounded fearsome enough that he could not stop himself from grinning.

But…

He did sense her presence when the puddle beside him signals her arrival as she rushes protectively in front of him. Damn it.

But another body came barreling into them. It was the blonde girl, one of Hatake's brats. And the very same face he saw in Haku's sketchbook.

Ah.

Despite being on opposite sides, he felt sorry for the other jōnin as Kakashi's eyes widen in horror seeing the said girl in that place. Too bad his sharingan is activated for he'll remember the death of his own student by his very hands. Forever.

But then it was already too late to stop.

Tch.

.

.

'What is she doing here? Move, damn it!'

Their collision, inevitable.

Nononono!

He'll never forgive himself if anything happens to her.

Her eyes stared at him gratefully as she held the arm that pierces her chest.

Not again.

He promised to protect her and yet…

Anyone.

His hands covered by her blood…

Stop him.

Why? Why is he still alive?

Please.

Naruto's eyes widen upon seeing his impending approach. And for whatever reason, she isn't moving at all. She's blocking his path.

Fuck!

Out of nowhere, Kakashi felt a firm tug on the hand that held his jutsu. Immediately it was surrounded by bluish colored flames (as if it negates his lightning). Fire that is different from the flames made by a katon jutsu. Kakashi was then thrown separating him from his 'target' and fell on his back a few feet away, his body sprawled like a rag and the jōnin felt the hard concrete of Tazuna-san's bridge.

With a tired sigh, he dispelled his technique. It didn't felt as exhausting whenever he uses it to end his battles.

He is relieved though.

But just to give anything for the sake of their ongoing argument, he gave the newcomer a not-so-annoyed stare.

"And you said you wouldn't interfere, hmm?"

A glare with a stiff grunt responded and the said intruder placed a hand on his waist with the other pinching the bridge of his nose just to ease his growing annoyance for the situation they were forced to face.

"Yes. Yes I did promise, you stupid jōnin!"

Grinning, he took Marco's offered hand ignoring the 'stupid' part. "Did I ever told you that I hate your very presence in her life? But not how you manages protect her better than I do?"

With a smirk, the Phoenix nodded condescendingly.

When Naruto rushes past him and leaps toward the older boy (as the exact numbers are unknown, he will definitely settle with the current one even if it still isn't acceptable to him at all), Marco catches her automatically.

"Marco!" And Naruto is already bawling her eyes out. "IwassoscaredIcouldnotbreathe… I thought you're dead!"

Ah. So the leak from earlier is because of… wait, "What?!"

"The girl created needles made from the sea's moisture. It does felt like seastone, yoi." The what now?

"Oh." But Naruto seems to understand as she wipes her snot away. She did gave him a side look promising to explain everything later.

They better.

"Tch. I can't believe you let this brat became a ninja." The fake hunter-nin did gave Zabuza a reprimanding look with Marco calming the aforementioned kunoichi who's about to bite the demon's head off.

But they were interrupted when Gatō came along with his hired mercenaries. Judging from the quantity, it will definitely put him in a tight spot. Again.

But he did felt colder when the ugly midget threatened to take the girls and include them in his personal collection. The nerve.

While Marco is…

His bluish colored flames started to lick from his feet up to his arms until the tip of his fingers. And his eyes?

"Kakashi."

His eyes glows with blue fire. Literally.

No honorifics? How rude. "Maaa, what is it?"

"You won't need this one alive, correct, yoi?"

"No worries. I know where his important documents are kept." The girl, Haku, smiled sinisterly in response. "And all his material possessions."

Scary. These two.

"I can help too!" Oh dear. Naruto is really her mother's daughter. Seriously, Kushina-nee-sama is going to be so proud.

But Marco, Kami bless his soul, did gave her a look and the blonde pouted in defiance. "Then how can you see me fight if you're alongside with me, hmm?"

Huh?

Realization caught up in his student's eyes as she took out her journal and its pen begrudgingly. Finally, she stays put.

So it was really Marco's idea, this scribble of hers.

"Fine. You'll do it slow?"

"I'll try my best. I can repeat the ones you missed, yoi. Promise."

And then he went all out.

No hesitations.

Now he knew why he was called that epithet.

Not even noticing when the others joined them. He's busy watching the man turned teenager obliterating every single men in front of them.

Sakura even gasps in shock seeing the Phoenix fight everyone on his own while Sasuke is following Marco's every move (Kakashi did notice the eyes though) as they watch how he fought like a real pirate - someone that knows no mercy. Entirely different from your run-in-the-mill pirates they know in this particular sea.

The one-eyed jōnin have this feeling that the Third knew and was trying to teach him a lesson.

But seriously though. Why do they even bother?

.

.

Interlude: Haku

When she met him, her life started to have meaning.

From being unwanted, she became something more.

She may be a tool that he can use and dispose if no longer needed - but Haku promised to stand by his side no matter what.

But then she came.

Uzumaki Naruto may be an enemy that opposes her master especially his self-appointed mission.

However, the Hyōton user saw a heart so untainted by this world they lived in.

A heart that is troubled by something so simple and yet… it gave her a reason to smile. Despite the circumstances.

Yet she could not stop herself. A simple wish for the other girl to see how the person she cared for values her more than life itself.

Ah. The wonders of love.

But seems like the other girl does not understand the said emotion at all. Hmmm.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Part 14

Whatever happens in Nami no Kuni stays in Nami no Kuni. Or so Hatake Kakashi thought.

Gatō's wealth was divided equally among the people and to those he oppressed during his tyrannical rule, even the neighboring villages themselves.

The thugs surrounding the businessman's mansion was 'apprehended' accordingly.

And his former hired shinobis?

Well, Momochi Zabuza still died. And he did so with his pride and honor as a shinobi of the Hidden Mist.

The said man does plan on doing so while fighting him for some reason the Kiri-nin didn't elaborated further (his ninken may have detected something during their fight but they won't talk about it). But then their battle was interrupted, so yeah.

It was Momochi himself who took care of the men Gatō hired to protect his possessions. Aside from the documents the girl mentioned, the greedy businessman has been keeping all his money and acquired belongings in the basement.

So we all knew what happened next.

The ones Zabuza missed was dealt appropriately by Haku freezing them like popsicle sticks.

The said rogue-nin even demanded to acquire his own bounty and hand it to the girl so that she can start over once he is gone.

Admirable.

And the said act made Naruto cry all over again much Marco's fond expression and Zabuza's irritation avoiding the hug his student tried to give upon him.

After they burn his body and took Momochi's head for identification, the four Konoha nins and the Phoenix went their way back home.

With two extra companions.

The famed jōnin should have anticipated everything beforehand. Well Thatch-san is. But the girl, the fake hunter-nin, may be another matter.

"Haku's my friend and I promised Zabuza-san to help her start a new life in Konoha." He is not even going to think about the respect the girl suddenly had for the said Kiri-nin.

But the implications of bringing a rare bloodline may comfort the council and…

"She will not be used as a weapon, yoi." The Phoenix stated firmly as if the teen read his mind. "If she wishes to fight for your village - that is entirely up to her. But until then, she is Naruto's friend. First and foremost, understand?"

Right.

.
.

"I see…" Sarutobi Hiruzen nodded as he looked at his shinobis and three guests.

With a small smile, he looked at his surrogate granddaughter who clutches the new girl's sleeves as if she is worried for her friend's fate.

Marco himself is looking at him in defiance, with a silent challenge in his eyes. Just like the first time he saw him many years ago.

And the older man who is another lost soul from the same sea looks at him apologetically on behalf of his friend's behavior.

Thatch, another commander of the Whitebeard Pirates - was presumed to be dead by his nakama after the betrayal of one of their own because of one fruit.

Intriguing yet highly disturbing for these fruits to be coveted for its mysterious abilities.

"Both are more than welcome to stay," He said with a firm set of his jaw (to hell with his council, they always nag anyway). "And until she decides what to do, she can stay with you, Naru-chan…" And when he saw the girl's face brightens and hugs the girl happily with Sakura cheering by their side, it was totally worth it. This was the least he can do for his predecessor's child (he knew his shortcomings and that cannot be forgotten). Especially now that he's here. There is nothing he needs to worry about.

"Uh…"

"Same goes for you, Thatch-san."

"You won't require me to transform into an animal, right? Because I honestly cann-… oomph!" Marco may be smaller physically but he is strong. The taller man glared at him while rubbing his stomach.

"Rude."

Laughing amusedly, the Third looked at Kakashi. Like always, the silver haired jōnin took his cue and urges his genin team out to fill up some needed paperworks.

"Whaaat! Is that supposed to be your job?!" Naruto exclaims in surprise eyeing her sensei suspiciously. Sasuke sighed and tugs Naruto out of the room while Sakura and Haku follows shortly behind.

Nodding in acquiescence, the last surviving member of her clan, added some input of her own that they all heard which made Thatch laugh. "You also promised to show me around, remember?" Haku spoke with affection towards the blonde. Ah. Hiruzen definitely approves her presence.

"Maaa. I do need your help guys, come on. Besides, Haku-chan still need to fill up some residency forms as well…" The two pirates watch Team 7 and Haku leave. Thatch chuckled when Naruto has been forcibly drag out of the room by the teme er Uchiha brat. Kakashi's voice rang indulgently as he led the children out and gently closes the door behind.

He did get a glimpse of Naruto's worried expression as she steals a glance towards the Phoenix. Marco's own eyes are unreadable though. Hmmm.

"Perhaps being honest with her could be more than alright?" Thatch commented as he felt a slight change in the room as if something was 'activated' or whatnot. Humming softly to himself, the fourth division commander looks around curiously.

Hiruzen did notice his reaction and smiled impressedly. These people are really interesting.

Haki. That's what they call these abilities. Like chakra, it is something that can be learned but not everyone can use it like these pirates can do. Team 7 has already been introduced with Naruto being the first and the most knowledgeable of them all.

He does understand Tobirama-sensei's concerns about these people.

But having them as allies are highly benificial. Not that he plans to use them or anything. Really. His intentions are quite clear on that front.

Besides, he thinks that Naruto would not allow it. And the girl will make sure that her friends remain as such.

Tapping his fingers rhythmically to finish the silencing seal surrounding the room (one can never be too careful), he stood and approaches the two. The taller pirate (seems like he is now the wielder of Momochi Zabuza's sword) took a stance and places himself beside the younger looking teen who is still looking at the door.

"No need to worry, I won't take much of your time…," With a quick glance from his window, Hiruzen notices Naruto with her new friend waiting outside. "My former student, Jiraiya, will be arriving in a few days with the information I requested."

"And that concerns us, yoi?"

The taller man shakes his head as he tried to pull Marco's shirt to reprimand him.

"He is someone I trust and one of the very few that can help the two of you find your way back home…"

The expression the Phoenix made is something Hiruzen already anticipated. But it still surprises him to an extent.

.
.

Marco stills upon hearing the said word.

Home.

It was concept that he doesn't understand at first especially in consideration of his very long life. It took his first few rebirths to comprehend its real meaning. It did started to become more than just a word after accepting oyaji's invitation. Especially after the crew of two started to grow.

"I see…" The two did notice something in him change. But thankfully, they didn't point it out. "Thanks kid. I'll owe you one." With a smile that didn't reach his eyes, he went straight by the window and flew. He did saw Naruto (with Haku beside her) outside the building, possibly waiting for them. Cursing internally, he went past the girls promising to explain everything later.

For now, he needed to be alone.

.
.

"Wow," Thatch muttered in surprise as he watches his friend leave without any warning or farewell.

And the said 'teenager' left him behind. On his own. In a very foreign place. With a man he knew nothing of (except that the said man already met Marco way before he joined the crew).

Fantastic.

Not that he cannot get around the village or something. He did hear Naruto trying to call Marco's attention minutes after the Phoenix jumps out of the building. And the teen did ignore her which is gotta be trouble on itself. "I really didn't expect that…"

Hiruzen sighed and glances back at him questioningly. "I am to assume that this behavior is unprecedented?"

"Among all of us, Marco has complete control over his emotions just as how he mastered his Devil Fruit ability."

Which begs to differ the matter at hand. What could possibly be the reason?

"I suppose the rest can be settled at a later time…"

"You mean there's more?" Mumbling under his breath, Thatch finally looks worryingly towards the old man.

"Well, it is about your accommodations." The village leader stated in a reassuring manner. Not that it calms Thatch for one bit.

.
.

Naruto ran after the Phoenix. The direction he flew into could be anywhere.

Haku promised to wait for Thatch so she don't need to worry about them.

After she arrives at the edge of the training grounds towards the forest, she bit her lips thinking of her next action.

For whatever reason, Marco closed off their bond (she never know that it can be done, ugh).

And it scares her.

It is like one of those times (the before) when she's still living on her own.

Ignored.

Treated like trash.

So she tried to think (even if it isn't her strongest trait ever). What could the old man possibly told him to react this way?

Disappointment lighting her features when she came back empty.

Argh.

Naruto glares at nothing and crosses her arms as she walks in a circular manner.

If she cannot find Marco, what's the use of all the knowledge he imparted upon her?

Fine.

She'll do it the old fashioned Naruto way. Kiba did told her that her tracking ability is not like an Inuzuka. But of something else.

And add the fact that her 'bond' with the said pirate is not just any connection.

Alright then.

After retying her hitai-ate and black scrunchies (she can now braid her hair despite being unruly), Naruto bended one knee and places her right hand with the palm touching the ground. She closes her eyes and directed her awareness towards her center. After a few calming breaths, she counted a second up to a minute before expanding her chakra and releases small increments of web like threads to track her 'target'.

Marco may not be aware of it but he does have a considerable amount of chakra for a non-shinobi. And he cannot be considered a regular civilian either. Same goes for Thatch-san. Perhaps it is a pirate thing.

And like many others, his chakra is distinct. Easily identifiable. Possibly to her since she tried comparing it with the others. Even to his friend.

The very first time she attempted this 'sensing' business, her range is about 5 kilometers that impresses Kakashi-sensei when he learned what she is trying to do. He even promised to gave her a few scrolls about being a sensor (not that she plans to be one).

This time though, she was able to double her range.

It still wasn't enough. So she need to make it bigger.

Wider.

Her perception traveled through the village up until she reaches the farther edge of the forest in the opposite direction. And a very familiar one at that.

It was very faint. But-

Opening her eyes as she wipes a bead of sweat trickling down her face. Naruto frowned upon remembering that part of the woods.

It was the place where she found him.

Silently she hoped.

And regardless of all that is happening right now, she still wishes for him to stay.

'Please don't leave me…'

.
.

Sitting atop the highest branch of the tallest tree he found in Konoha's surrounding forests, Marco sighed as he covered his face with both hands. Ignoring the scent of the woods and leaves he started to grow fond of these past few days.

For whatever reason, the thought of going back with the others isn't as tempting as before (even if he has Thatch with him and will be considered a surprise for the rest of the crew especially Ace once they returned).

Not that he didn't want to go back.

He do have responsibilities as oyaji's first mate. Don't forget about the old man's dwindling health.

The entire crew.

Their allies.

The territories they vowed to protect.

Everyone's dreams…

And then there's Naruto.

Clenching one fist as he drag the other over his tresses - due to limited shaving gears except for a sharp kunai, Thatch was able to trim his hair in mohawk style.

What does he really want anyway?

As he ponder on these things, he did notice her arrival.

She looks winded even.

Seems like her 'technique' used up majority of her chakra. A deviation of observation haki that surprises him after he read her notes on the said topic. Her sensing abilities does surpass a normal tracker as per Kakashi's own words. Even him.

At first, he thought of her presence in his life as inconsequential.

Like his previous rebirths, the one who took him in, help him heal and then in some way or another, return their kindness after he regain his full strength.

Just like how he met a dreamer named Edward Newgate. He doesn't even remember what he did for that earlier life to end abruptly. But it was oyaji who found him at the time.

And instead of letting him go, he invited him to join his 'crew'. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now.

Now it is her very presence in his life that brings confusion to his very being.

His priorities.

And yet… he don't want to let her go.

It seems that he already made a decision. Unknowingly.

It did soothe his earlier crazed thoughts. A resolve that he have chosen following what his heart truly desires. It may change his-

That this decision might change both of their lives forever.

.
.

Catching her breath, Naruto leans at the tree she knew where Marco is perched at. Since she already used up her remaining chakra, the drain of using her sensing technique (and the exhaustion of their last mission) is finally taking its toll. And she does need to find a name for this awesome jutsu of hers.

Anyway, climbing up will require her remaining physical strength but even that is about to go empty. So she'll just wait for him to go down knowing that he already sensed her arrival.

And as much as she needed refueling (the smell of Ichiraku's ramen has never been more pronounced), Naruto decided to postpone her reunion with her beloved meal. One could say that her priorities had changed ever since she met him.

Marco seemed to have calmed down a bit and finally reopened their bond.

Taking a seat, the blonde kunoichi took out her journal and started writing, basking in Marco's comfort thru their connection.

Trying to sketch what his phoenix form looks like.

Er, it looks like a chicken. Hmm. Maybe she'll ask Haku to draw it for her.

He was…

Marco's full Phoenix form is really majestic.

And the way he fights.

Ah.

It made her undeserving. Like she needs to be- she needs to be something more than just a girl who knows her value.

She needs to be worthy of his presence.

Like her old dream. Yes. She used to want the old man's hat. To become a Hokage. For the village to finally acknowledge her.

Perhaps once she is this village's protector and strongest, he will look at her like she's his equal.

That she deserves him.

Her hands tightening on her pen, she scribbled furiously adding a few more things to do with her life and plans for the future.

She did felt him dropping down from above as the flames of his wings produces a bit of light. It was almost dark.

"Naruto."

Finishing the last of her entry, the blonde looks up beneath her lashes as she capped her pen.

"Ready to go home?" She knew that the pirate looks far more collected than what she saw earlier after he jumps out of the old man's office. Calming the beat of her heart, she held his gaze steadily. Even both of his eyes are unreadable, shadowed by the darkening sky. Clenching her right fist, she waited for him to speak up.

The matter from their previous disagreement, forgotten. Not knowing that what she is about to hear may be far more troublesome than her need to train and his obsessive want to protect her.

.
.

Marco knew that he needed to say something to his Naruto.

He does remember what happened in Nami no Kuni. And that the 'incident' with Haku's needles may have temporarily set their prior issue aside. Something he needed to address as he did promise to be truthful with her.

"The old man told us about someone who can help us find our way back, yoi."

Her eyes widened momentarily. He felt her pulse quicken so he kneeled in front of her and places a hand over her head.

"So, y-you and Thatch-san are g-going to…" Naruto stuttered as her journal fell from her grasp.

Ah, that news isn't what she expected. Her heart thrums faster and her eyes started to blur obscuring her vision.

His gaze soften as he took her within his arms. Marco lets Naruto calm herself for a few seconds and added gently, "It will still take some time since we don't really remember how we got here in the first place. And I doubt the man Hiruzen mentioned knows more, yoi."

Releasing herself from his grasp, Naruto glances timidly at him and picked her journal up as she avoided his gaze.

With a sigh, Marco took her hand and waited for the girl to look at him. A tear fell but she wipes it furiously away.

"S-sorry. I just…"

"You don't need to apologize, yoi," Marco wipes the rest of her tears with his fingers. Her dependency towards him may seem unhealthy enough from another's perspective (even Thatch pointed it out).

And he does know that this 'vulnerability' will improve overtime as her self-reliance grows.

But Marco knew that it was him who depended towards her at first.

So he will take whatever she can offer him. He's a pirate after all. Being greedy is part of the job description anyway.

And he won't let anyone take that away from them.

"I believe everything will work out, yoi." Holding her hand, he didn't let go.

.
.

Interlude: Kakashi

When he found out about an unknown creature that Naruto found as her new pet, he eyed the said animal suspiciously.

When it looked at his 'hiding spot' (and all ANBUs that are assigned to protect her from the shadows) as if the bird knew where to find him (especially the others), he knew that the 'thing' needed extra surveillance.

The Third obligingly agrees knowing that he will still do the said task not out of duty or responsibility - but because he wanted to protect the last remaining memory they had left.

So when he learned that the 'pet' isn't just a bird, he was furious.

But the Third made him see how the said animal can protect her on his own way.

Totally unacceptable.

He's a pirate for Kami-sama's sake.

And old.

Ancient even. The Third even mentioned that he met the man when he was still a genin under Tobirama-sama's own squad.

So that was like eons ago.

Not that he looked the part of a barbaric old buccaneer.

But still.

Naruto is too young for someone like him. Ah. He'll need to make sure that this marauder won't corrupt his sensei's daughter.

Or he won't hear the end of it once he joins them someday. Yeah.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 15

A shadowed figure came out from an undisclosed building revealing a young man wearing standard ANBU gears.

Eyeing his surroundings carefully (making sure that he is not being watched), the man took out a scroll from his weapons pouch and prepared a summoning hand sign after pricking a bit of blood from his finger.

The creature that was summoned gave an acknowledging nod and opened its mouth to receive the missive held towards its maw.

With a smile, the shadow added in confident tone. "Tell him that I was able to find a more suitable replacement… someone far more worthy than his chosen 'host'."

If it can shrug its shoulders, it would probably do so judging from its gaze. It left with a puff of smoke signaling the creature's departure and the unknown laughs softly to himself. Removing the porcelain mask covering his face, the man stood to his full height.

Ah. It is only a matter of time before their plan sets in motion.

Brushing imaginary dirt from his clothes after passing through the foliage, the man greeted a passing vendor with a cheery wave and went on to his designated task as if nothing happened minutes earlier while whistling a jaunty tune to himself.

.

.

Meanwhile…

Team 7 went back to their normal routine doing random missions inside the village.

With Naruto's new housemates, the wall beside her unit was demolished to accommodate two new rooms (the pirates decided to share a room with Haku and Naruto taking the other one).

Surprisingly, the pirates knew how to do some house remodeling much to the Hokage's amusement.

Teme himself (uhm Sasuke) even offered to provide some building materials and old furnitures from the Uchiha compound in exchange for a few spars that the three (Haku-chan included) agreed on.

The matter with the Third's informant was set aside despite Marco's assurances but Naruto remains uncertain. The older teen didn't push any further but decided to watch her closely from the background.

He didn't like it especially when Naruto started wearing her old 'mask' again.

So when Kakashi decided to nominate the three to participate in the upcoming Chūnin Selection Exams (Konoha will be hosting the said event that year), there are a lot of spoken argument and tension between the two unknown to the genins in question.

"They're my soldiers, Marco-kun. So if I decide to throw them into a pack of wolves to fight on my behalf, I will do so…" The one-eyed jōnin stated firmly while his eyes never left his book. Marco's overwhelming killer intent is a bit muted and directed towards him alone, perhaps to hid it from his cute little genins who are currently with Haku learning about elemental affinities in Team 7's designated training grounds (mayhaps just to hide his anger from Naruto herself) but he ignored it all the same. He wanted to laugh out loud (but stopped himself just in case) when he used his book as a shield and Marco's left eye started twitching.

"As her 'friend', your duty is to support her…" Raising his gaze, Kakashi saw the teen's back, both fists clenched tightly. With a sigh, the older man closes his book and puts it inside his weapons pouch to observe the Phoenix better. Marco remains silent but he did redirect his attention towards another direction, seemingly to avoid his comment. "You do remember what her dream is, correct?"

Marco's glare intensifies as the pirate looks back at him. He growls angrily as Kakashi raises both hands in surrender letting the teen stalk away from him. Thatch sighed beside them who kept himself busy (and as incognito as possible) by polishing his new sword

Haku did promise to teach him how to seal Kubikiribōchō if not in use. He admits that carrying the sword on his back isn't his style.

"Regardless of what you intend to do for the children's development in their careers, isn't this 'exam' a bit too soon?" Thatch did heard Haku mention how dangerous these exams are thus he understand Marco's reaction.

Smiling mysteriously in response, Kakashi gave him a victory sign.

Or that the said jōnin just wanted to rile his friend up. And possibly kill himself in the process.

Eyeing him strangely, the Fourth Division Commander shrugged his shoulders with a careless grunt and gently wrap his new sword with its bindings. "Well it is your funeral I guess."

.

.

The three genins eyed the chakra paper Haku is holding in wonder. Well, Sakura and Naruto are while Sasuke is hesitant. Apprehensive even.

"I already know what my elemental affinity is…" The last Uchiha muttered.

Surprisingly, Sasuke's main affinity is lightning but he was trained to master fire as part of their clan upbringing.

Sakura do have water while Naruto has wind.

"For your affinity, it is a big help if you decided to pursue being a medic…" Sakura nodded in understanding as she wrote furiously on her own journal.

"Wind is good for long range attacks and can be used to provide additional support to your teammates own elemental affinities (fire and water)." Eyes sparkling in amazement as the blonde nudges the two smugly.

"Hear that, my element is soo awesome…" Naruto boasts out cheerfully while Sakura shakes her head in amusement as teme er Sasuke-kun grunted in response. But his expression lightened up a bit after the girl teasingly poked his cheek.

For whatever reason, Kakashi-san and Marco-sama are arguing quietly near the memorial stone. The jōnin-sensei did entrusted his genins to her care and avert their attention away which is surprisingly working to an extent.

"Kakashi-san will probably explain more so I suggest that you guys talk to him later about the results and what training he can recommend…" Thankfully the two older men finally stopped arguing with Marco-sama leaving the premises and possibly to cool off before facing them later (she's still in the process of understanding the Phoenix's real form and age as per Thatch-san's mysterious remark).

"You bet ya!" Her new friend exclaimed happily as she drags the two towards the masked jōnin.

Haku did notice two remaining chakra papers beside her basket. Thinking of two particular people, she wonders what elemental affinities they may have. Hmmm…

.

.

Marco knew that he has no claim whatsoever.

And despite everything, he wants to assume (especially to himself) that Naruto will favor him among everything else.

But Kakashi's right.

As her friend, he should be supporting her knowing that her dreams remains the same regardless of his arrival in her life.

Yes.

Uzumaki Naruto still aims to be a Hokage of this village. To be acknowledged by these people who thought of her as the nine-tailed fox reincarnate.

A monster.

The mask she wears is what these people sees. He will not even wonder if Kakashi or the other brats doesn't knew the real her.

How she cried in her sleep whenever she thought he's asleep (that was before he started talking to her).

How she repeatedly voice out her mantra every morning before going outside the safe confines of her home with everyone mocking everything she do thus her endless pranks throughout the entirety of the village especially to the people who is mean to her.

She no longer cry or do her pranks but… she dreamed of them. How he saw her attempt to protect herself from unknown assailants - he was livid knowing what that action entails.

"Marco?"

With a sigh, the Phoenix looked at his blonde whose worried eyes never left him after they rejoined them that afternoon to share the snacks Thatch prepared with Haku's assistance.

"Is everything okay?"

His eyes blink slowly as he returned her gaze before offering a small apologetic smile.

"Not really, yoi."

Stuffing her mouth with Thatch's homemade cookies, the girl studied his features (Marco did sense her nudging through their 'bond') and subconsciously turned the next page of her training material provided by the stupid jōnin. The other two already went home after taking a few pieces of baked goodies from Haku's basket.

Thatch may have also dragged the Yuki away so that he can settle this 'issue' of his with the girl in front of him.

Seriously, his friend knows more about him than his own self.

Placing both hands behind his head, he laid beside her and watches the clouds above.

"If I told you to stop being a ninja, would you heed- I mean, will you follow my request?"

Gauging her reaction would be the best. But ever since he met her, he continues to second guess what action he needs to take.

Ah.

The price of caring for someone. Not an unwelcome thought but totally annoying to some extent despite all his experiences. What a drag, yoi.

.

.

Naruto stilled upon understanding Marco's question. Not that she didn't anticipated it. But hearing him ask it now makes her wonder. Did something came up? He is kind of tense after talking with Kakashi-sensei earlier.

"You are not asking me this because of what happened in Nami no Kuni, right?"

"Partly because of that, yoi. And some other things that might happen in the future, I guess?"

Squinting both of her eyes, Naruto places her stuff inside her pouch and crosses both arms in front of her chest as she looks at the teen laying beside her. Remembering what Thatch mentioned before, Marco's behavior is possibly caused by his continued existence. Or what others called 'immortality'. A very interesting concept if you think about it. Coveted by some but…

With a small humorless grin, Marco turned and held Naruto's hitai-ate that she placed in front of her as he thumbs the leaf insignia on the metal band.

"I just worry. That's all, yoi…"

Eyeing her softly, the older teen set the headband in her hand covering it with his own fingers.

"I first thought that there is nothing more dangerous than being a pirate. Seems like I am mistaken."

With a shrug, Naruto places her hand above Marco's, patting it gently. Giving the older teen a fond look and a slight tug urging him to sit properly, she took his hand and held it near her heart, clasping it tight. "Thanks…," An expression she rarely shows to anyone and yet eversince she met him, Uzumaki Naruto learns to smile from the heart. "For being here for me…" Even if the future is uncertain, she decided to take one day at a time.

Carpe diem.

And then the jinchūriki tackles Marco in a hug and burrows herself within his embrace. As expected, the pirate welcomed her in his arms. "For caring…" Hugging him tighter, Naruto added in a small voice hoping that he won't think less of her, "Even though I am scared for that day to come - that you will need to go and be with your crew, I promise to be the person you can be proud of. That you won't need to worry anymore because…" Grinning widely, she declares with conviction. An assurance of some sort to her most precious person. "Because I will become a strong kunoichi. And that I'll also stay true to my dreams and my own worth. I won't let anyone step on me and mock my dreams since I am doing this for the people that matters."

Naruto decided to seize the day and think little of the future. She knew… she knew that everything will work out. She believes it!

Marco nodded in approval and smiled at her. Patting her head affectionately.

The blonde pouts in response especially when he messed up her wild tresses that seems to stick up everywhere.

Ah. How did his human grew up so fast in such a short time?

.

.

Interlude: Kakashi 2

Finally seeing the real human form of the 'pet', Kakashi could not fault himself but be awed (technically he is surprised mind you).

He did see his adult form the night Naruto was tricked by that traitor.

But then, he is totally different the day after - especially when he intervened against him during the bell test.

Ah. He definitely won't think of that 'stupidity'. Not at all.

Minato-sensei is possibly mad (aggressively furious) about his life choices.

And Kushina-nee-sama's probably going to castrate him.

So yeah.

For whatever reason, he does appreciate the pirate's presence in her life.

Ever since he came, Naruto started to come out of her shell. She started to trust other people.

She started trusting herself.

Now she knew her worth.

But regardless of her changes, he still won't trust the man turned 'teen'.

Pirates. In gritted teeth, he acknowledges Guy's worried look with a noncommittal shrug as he turned a page from his favorite book. Trying to ignore life's surprises and whatnot.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 16

Staring at the chūnin application form in her hands, Naruto had this feeling that yesterday's conversation is probably caused by the said paper. The reason why Marco is glaring daggers towards her sensei. Perhaps plotting a thousand ways to kill the tardy jōnin. Bury his body where no one can find him. And possibly dance on top of his grave with Thatch-san cheering in the background.

Hmm.

She also knew how worried Sakura-chan is judging from her pale complexion after examining the paper in her hands. And teme…? Well Sasu-teme is excited.

Ugh, boys.

"Will you be signing up?" The pinkette asks curiously with her teeth working in between her lower lip. Sasuke himself crosses his arms trying to act cool or whatever. Not that Sakura will ever notice it.

Ever since Marco sorted out Sakura's priorities and dreams, the other female member of Team 7 seriously took the challenge to improve her training as a kunoichi of the Hidden Leaf Village. She even adapted the journal she always carries in her person to take notes and create new jutsus. Sasuke may have done the same but until she sees teme's own journal - it is just speculation, so yeah.

With her jaw set, she looks at her teammates and gave her answer. Something she knew that Marco may not approve of at first but will still support her decision regardless.

"I'm going to try," With a deep breathe, the blonde held the paper tightly. "And participate… even if we fail now, there are still chances in the future," Naruto may have not noticed it but the two did look at one another in silent approval. Acknowledgement pouring out like waves in their gaze as they waited for her to speak up more. "That we can be something more… that we can prove ourselves and become better."

"So, tomorrow at 7?" Sakura confirmed as she smiled in response and held her hand.

Scoffing silently, Sasuke gave his usual nonverbal grunt and waves his hand in farewell. "Yeah, see you tomorrow."

Pointedly ignoring the box with two holes that suddenly appeared behind her, Naruto bids her goodbye. "Hell yeah! See ya, dattebayo!"

.
.

A while later…

Naruto's left arm hurts.

After she played earlier with Konohamaru, the boy attempted to overrun her but he accidentally collided with someone.

Someone very nasty.

The teen he slammed into reacted badly and Naruto was 'pushed' away when she tried to secure Konohamaru injuring the arm.

She did held her ground as the blonde reinforces her dominant arm with haki and retaliates. The catsuit wearing teen (with those purple colored face paint) curses out loud and releases his hold on Konohamaru who rushes behind her as he clutches her jacket worriedly.

"You brat!" The older teen's female companion sighed in response but advises him to finish faster or they'll be in so much trouble. Yeah right.

"Yes," Eyes glinting playfully, Naruto added with a purr showing sharp canines. "Attacking the Hokage's grandson is indeed troublesome…" Satisfaction lighting her features when cat-boy blanches after hearing her words. Immediately the teen changes tactic and took something from behind. The thing is wrapped in bandages and almost life size.

"Kankurō, stop! He might…"

It happened in an instant the moment the other girl said those words.

Naruto felt it before anyone else.

Immediately dragging Konohamaru behind her back with a half drawn kunai (hidden beneath her good arm), she ignores the sputtering idiot in front of her and faces a more deadlier threat.

"Why you… Do not ignore me…"

"Kankurō."

The voice came from the tree overlooking the street they are currently at as the newcomer appears in swirls of sand. Like Hinata, the boy has pupiless eyes and a kanji written on his right forehead. Standing upside down the tree branch, his killing intent overflows the area making it harder to breathe.

Her own will that is starting to get awfully familiar burns within and she lets it surround herself and Konohamaru to negate the other boy's negative emotion. Thankfully it worked easing her friend's breathing.

"G-gaara. They're the ones who… W-well I…"

Cat-boy receives a venomous glare in response while the other girl stands like a statue beside him - trying to be inconspicuous.

Interesting. The two foreign ninjas are scared. She wonders who this redhead is for them to act this way.

The other foreign ninja reappeared in between them and cat-boy immediately gave the newcomer some space.

"Apologies. This will not happen again." The redhead nodded in her direction and despite his penetrating gaze, Naruto responded cheerfully much to the horror of the other two.

"No worries. But as long as they don't do it again, we're good." Smiling politely, she held her hand towards him and the boy whose startled expression turns blank as he took her hand.

From the back of her mind, she heard a very loud growl. Deciding to tackle her 'other' issue at a later time, Naruto gave the boy's (Gaara) hand a gentle squeeze feeling the trickle of sand starting to play at the back of her skin.

Fascination lighting her features especially when the sand surrounded her fingers.

But then she sense his arrival and the redhead's sand raises in defense as it stopped an incoming rock thrown directly at him.

The others and Konohamaru shouted in alarm as the sand begins to surround the two of them. Gaara's hand tightened around hers and a third one (surrounded by bluish colored flames) held the other boy's arm in a not so threatening manner unhindered by the sand barrier.

His presence over looming with the blonde's eyes that literally glows with his bluish colored flames.

Scary.

But weirdly enough, she can't stop herself from being drawn towards it (Marco's eyes looks way better than her own cerulean blue).

Naruto can even taste his 'haki' at the tip of her tongue.

It felt intoxicating. Ah. Wait, what the…?

"Hands off, boy." Marco stated menacingly. With a firmer squeeze on her hand, Naruto stopped herself from wincing (it was the injured arm, damn it) while the pirate's presence gave the other boy another push (the older teen's right foot stepped closer despite the barrier's ominous reaction) as Gaara releases her hand.

Ow, that's definitely going to leave a mark.

Throwing his arms over her shoulders, Marco held her in a protective manner as he glares fumingly towards the foreign ninja.

"I'll be seeing you around…" Gaara said as he looks at her, ignoring Marco.

"Name's Uzumaki Naruto," Covering the darkening bruise the boy made, her eyes glances quickly at Marco observing his almost violent expression. "And yeah, see ya later."

"Not on my watch…" She elbowed into Marco's side as the three left with the other two giving the redhead a wider berth.

"Seriously?" Naruto hissed towards Marco who shrugged his shoulders indifferently. Taking her left arm, the other blonde carefully scrutinized her bruises with a worried yet proud expression in his eyes.

"Seems like you forgot to use armament, hmmm?"

"You were watching all along?" Marco did use his flames to ease the throbbing. Strangely enough, it isn't as hot as the other kind of fire.

It felt real nice. Warm even… wait, he is distracting her. Oh for crying out loud!

Sasuke jumps down from the same tree the redhead uses earlier as his perch. Possibly covering himself with an illusion as the teme gave her his signature eye roll. Is he freakin' serious?

"Perhaps using either one that suits your needs might help…" The Uchiha did eye her injury speculatively with Naruto baring her canines in retaliation.

"Bite me!"

Marco sighed and patted his blonde's wild tresses as the boy, Konohamaru, looks at them in wonder. Admiration clearly visible in his eyes. Chuckling, he returned his look with farewell nod as he drags his kunoichi along leaving Sasuke to accompany the other boy back home. He needs to make sure nothing is broken and will let Haku check on her arm as the Yuki is currently working part time at the hospital.

Ah. Thatch is going to insufferable again. Just great, yoi.

.
.

Naruto did kept her surprise to a minimum after seeing the rest of Team 7 at their designated meeting place the next day.

With a cheery wave, Sakura greeted her and teme, as expected, gave his usual one word response. 'Hn' is not even considered a word. He needed to expand his vocabulary.

Marco, currently in his phoenix form, flies from his perch (his favorite human's shoulders) and transformed back to his real human guise midway. Perhaps he'll leave a word or two… and to remind them how dangerous this day is going to be. As Naruto already anticipated it, she rushes towards her most precious friend and give him a big warm hug.

"Ah, nothing to worry about, Marco. We'll definitely do our best…"

With a grin, she gave her Phoenix a confident smile.

With a sigh, Sasuke interjected ruefully, "I'll make sure to keep an eye on her knowing how she attracts trouble even when standing still…" Eyes glinting in a playful manner that reminded Marco how the commanders of their crew treat one another. Like siblings in all but blood. It made the Phoenix smile in nostalgia.

"I'm not asking for your opinion, you bastard!" His Naruto (as expected from every argument she has with the Uchiha) screeches in response while Sakura face palms and looks at him and then turned towards the other two who continues to bicker with one another while giving the older teen an exasperated smile.

"And I'll keep an eye on these two." Sakura led the others inside the facility. Even giving the two a tug on their ears. His smile dropped after the door closes on them. With a frown, he crosses his arms and tried to sense the other participants inside the vicinity. Assessing the danger his kunoichi is about to face.

But then, he did felt something the moment the three genins left. Similar to Kakashi's illusion on that first day, Marco grunted internally and started walking away from the premises.

Damn it.

These people are starting to get annoying.

"Marco the Phoenix." The pirate eyed the speaker threateningly. The corner of his lips raise a fraction and he could not stop himself but feel a bit of satisfaction when the other man (or child) took a step back. "We require your presence…"

.
.

Interlude: Konohamaru

Ever since he met her, Sarutobi Konohamaru found someone to look up to.

Someone who can see him as he is and not just the 'Honorable Grandson'.

She gave him a reason to become a better shinobi. To become something more.

The jutsu she taught him puts some additional perspective in his eyes.

And when he heard her dream… ah, he could not stop himself but aim for something similar.

It will make them rivals in the future though.

But hey. Who better than to challenge for the position of Konoha's strongest than his boss-nee-sama, right?

 

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 17

The ANBU that appeared out of nowhere brought him to a very secluded place.

There he noticed several others hiding in plain sight.

Marco's lips thinned into a line when he saw another familiar face.

The newcomer does have the same presence as the gentle village leader. Albeit darker.

The other boy from Hiruzen's former squad. Just like the kind Hokage, he is older. Half of his face (and possibly his entire body) are covered in bandages - not that he can see those.

"Hmm. I am assuming that Hiruzen doesn't know about this. Correct, yoi?"

Shimura Danzō scoffs derisively in response and tapped his cane twice, "The said fool may be kind enough to allow your stay. But the council says otherwise…"

"Oh?" Marco places both hands inside his pocket and walks toward the once-boy. "Whose council?"

Another masked shinobi came forward and blocks his way. Others have shown themselves (from their hiding places) and raises their hands in preparation of a jutsu while the rest took out various weapons in their person.

Unbothered, the Phoenix decided to gave u a scare as he flares his very own 'killing intent'. Danzō grunts and raise a hand to prevent everyone from attacking one another as Marco raises one brow questioningly.

Oh, right.

Thatch probably felt it. And Haku as well since she grew accustomed to his 'chakra signature'.

And let us not forget about his blonde kunoichi.

So he temporarily closed off their bond after giving her a calming nudge.

"What are you going to do about it, yoi?"

With a huff, the man walks past him. But not before Marco heard a warning. One by one, they disappear until all his spectators are gone.

What was left are leaves and clouds of smoke.

"…" Rolling his eyes internally, the Phoenix sighed tiredly.

And then he felt his friend rushing towards him with Haku in toll.

"What the hell happened?" The taller pirate blurted out dramatically as Haku glances at their surroundings with a suspicious look.

Rubbing his jaw speculatively, Marco shakes his head and gave them a comforting nod. He started walking towards the direction of the village despite Thatch's indignant reaction (he's being a drama queen as usual).

And the location these other ninjas led him into is farther away from where he had liked.

Far from Naruto.

So very irritating.

"Just some nuisances. Nothing to worry about, yoi."

"Are you sure?" Haku asks anxiously. Knowing that her question pertains to something prompted Marco to pat her head gently.

"Yeah. I'm sure. Let's go back? The first stage must be over by now."

He did notice the two look worryingly with one another. He did felt dread especially when he notice Naruto's panic thru their bond after reopening it.

Blue flames started to surround his arms as he transforms halfway. But Thatch was faster (ah, his reaction time is slower if the man was able to stop him during transformation) and held him in a tight grip reinforcing his hands with haki.

"Hold it right there, young man…" Is he fucking serious?

"Get your hands off me, Thatch!" With a growl, Marco is about to kick the other man away (to hell with friends, Naruto is in danger).

Thankfully, Haku's job in the hospital allowed her to treat Thatch's prior injuries. So the man was able to recover physically and can now be beaten up again (ah he means sparring or something like close to it, yoi).

"Kakashi-san did advise us to watch over you and make sure that you won't interfere."

"But what we don't want to disappoint more is Naruto-chan so…" Haku added in a soft voice as she awaited Thatch's signal.

Marco glares murderously at them. Already preparing a string of curses with a dash of Haoshoku (knowing that he had the will of a conqueror did surprise him greatly especially when his friend mentioned it after his 'little' exhibition on the bridge) to direct towards the two but then-

He did saw Haku's apologetic look as she did something before he lost consciousness.

God damn it!

.

.

After the crazy snake lady scared the bejeezus out of her, Naruto tried to calm her nerves. Knowing that Marco might have felt it because of their bond (she's still in the process of closing off their connection like how he did it that other time).

Hopefully, Thatch-san and Haku can stop the Phoenix from his mother-henning tendencies.

She appreciates it though. Marco's concern about her well-being.

Because for the first time, someone cared for her openly without regard for anyone's opinion. Like he cares about her more than anything else's.

That she matters.

Oh she knew Iruka-sensei, the Ichirakus, or even the old man does care for her. But then the village thinks differently and oftentimes made things harder for those people so she kept her distance.

Team 7 may be another matter but yeah. She can sort them later. She called it compartmentalization.

After she rejoined the others (she did glare at that Anko woman and the weird kunoichi from Kusagakure), she opened her senses to familiarize herself with everyone in the surrounding area especially after that gut feeling she felt earlier.

She's… they are being watched.

"Are you alright?"

The pinkette asks worriedly while Sasuke hovers closely beside them.

Nodding, she gave them a small smile and tugs them farther away from the closest group of other Konoha-nins.

"Got a weird feeling about this forest…" The female jinchūriki proceeds to tell the two her suspicions and who to watch out for.

"Then we'll be careful," Sasuke interjected as he scrutinizes everyone. Even their peers.

Hinata-chan and the others are watching them closely. Like they are about to go and defend her if needed after the fiasco from earlier.

And then there's the weirdo in green spandex. He's still looking at her even after Sakura gave him a glare that he returned with a thumbs up accompanied by a flashy genjutsu. The girl from his team sighed in exasperation in response to his actions while shooting them an apologetic look.

That unknown feeling came back especially when Shino gave her an acknowledging nod. Are they-

Shaking her head to clear her thoughts, Naruto returned Team 8's gesture with a shy smile and stuck her tongue out towards the other genin who chuckled amusedly in response.

After a few minutes, the remaining participants gathered at the front to take their designated scrolls and went to the gate where they are assigned to enter the dreaded forest.

It was the very same forest where Naruto experienced the cruelty of her childhood before meeting her precious person.

With a firm set of her jaw, Naruto held Sasuke and Sakura's hands. Both look surprised at her actions but returns it with a reassuring squeeze of their own. Without looking at their reactions, the blonde is certain that they looked at her questioningly wondering her need for physical contact.

The chūnin who's manning their gate watches silently in the background.

Naruto kind of knew that he is familiar (ever since she started learning this sensing stuff more thoroughly, she was able to identify which chakra is owned or used by whom).

He is possibly one of her hidden guards. Not that she knew why she is being protected from the shadows.

Was it because she is housing the nine tailed demon fox inside her gut?

"We did promise Marco to do our best. So…" Sakura smiled and gave her a light pat on her head (she is not small, damn it). "…lets."

As the gate opens signaling the start of second stage of the Chūnin Selection Exams, Team 7 gave each other a bright grin (mostly the girls) while Sasuke gave an exasperated one of his own albeit his Uchiha-ish kind of smile (he really is a bastard).

"Right." Mirth crosses his features as he stated challengingly towards the other two, "Last one to set their foot at our destination will treat the rest for a celebratory meal."

"Hah! Prepare your wallet, losers. I'm going to win this!"

"Seriously you two. Now's not the time…" Sakura gulps nervously when the other two looks at her assessingly.

"She may have improved but…" Sasuke noted as Naruto finishes the thought. "…speed is something she still lacks."

An imaginary vein ticked and the pinkette gave the two a bop in the head accompanied by a deadly glare as each nurse their bumps. Their watcher chuckled at their interaction but covered his mouth with a cough.

"Time is running, you three. Better hurry up."

"Watch me, Rat-san. I've gotten better… they're no match for me, dattebayo!"

The unknown shinobi have this startled look on his face as he watches Kakashi's brats enter the forest wondering how the said girl knew his ANBU codename.

Ah.

He really needed to talk with the others.

Seems like they need to reassess the 'pet' and his influence to their favorite prankster.

A possible threat?

Or something more?

.

.

Interlude: Rock Lee

He knew of Gai-sensei's friendly competition with one Hatake Kakashi.

Following his example, he wishes to do the same with the other jōnin's prized student. And possibly Neji's if he decided to take note of everyone else aside from his own 'self-imposed' mission.

Staging a brief entertainment for the other participants (and possibly to weed out unnecessary competition), he's having a youthful time of his life much to Tenten's resigned exasperation and the Hyūga's amusement.

But then they came.

As interesting as it is to finally meet the last Uchiha, he was drawn to the other female member of their squad.

The pink haired kunoichi is very pretty. But…

The other girl, whose eyes spoke of self-doubt and wears a mask of indifference with a brave front (a mask) - is the one he's automatically drawn into.

As if sensing his undivided attention (oh he is curious alright), the blonde turned towards him, gave her own assessing look (it felt a bit weird though as if she is seeing something only she can especially when he thought she nudged at him mentally) and then after a few minutes, returned his look with a polite smile and a small wave.

Afterwards, she dragged the Uchiha and the other girl upstairs ignoring everyone else.

"Oh, did they notice the genjutsu already? That was fast." Tenten commented while picking up some stray dirt under her fingernails with the sharp tip of her kunai.

"No, they didn't…" With a frown, Neji noted as they watch the three left to join the other examinees on the correct room.

"Looks like this day is going to be full of surprises and excitement, hmm." Unperturbed, Lee smiled widely. He's most delighted that Gai-sensei decided to nominate them for this year's Chūnin exams. The springtime of youth sure looks promising now that they're here.

Ah. He cannot wait to fight her (ignoring the 'chill' he suddenly felt upon the said thought - an eagle sized chill).

And the Uchiha of course. Let us not forgot the boy who was assumed to be the strongest in their generation

If he failed to do so, he'll make sure to run around the village by his hands in 500 laps. Or double it in the event that he fails.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 18

Naruto isn't new to fighting for her life.

Her right to live.

Especially now that she knew why majority of the villagers hated her.

It was because of the kyuubi.

Disregarding the said thought, she focuses on her surroundings. And their current dilemma.

She was separated from the others when a gigantic snake appeared out of nowhere and attempted to eat her - that blasted serpent swallowed her whole, damn it.

So she took care of that real quick.

Hah! She already knew that overeating is bad for one's health.

But the slime that she had gotten from staying inside the creature's stomach… ugh! Totally disgusting.

Anyhow, seems like the 'threat' finally made their move.

Keeping her agitation to a minimum, hence to avoid Marco's possible intervention, she rushes towards Sasuke.

Whoever attacked her is after the teme. Was it because of his swirly red eyes?

She does admit it looks okay but no one can really compare to Marco's eyes especially when it is on fire (figuratively).

Or there could be another reason that made the bastard so obsessed in getting stronger.

Either way, she'll stop them. She won't let anyone harm her precious people.

Despite the animosity during their academy days, Sasuke is…

Reinforcing her hands with haki, Naruto attacks surprising the fool that tried to kill her.

…Sasuke's a friend.

"Get down!"

A brother.

Using her newly learned wind jutsu (and applying the concept of her sensing stuff thingy), Naruto releases her wind chakra with variants of wild gushes in every direction. Ah, she really need to think of an awesome name.

Thankfully, Sasuke was able to drag Sakura down and protected themselves by hiding in one of the fallen trunks to avoid the onslaught of her super wind jutsu.

Their attacker (surprised by her sudden arrival) wasn't able to dodge thus he was sliced into pieces. Or so they thought.

"Kukuku. So very interesting…"

Sasuke who was able to recover from the killing intent their opponent releases earlier, drags both of them behind his back much to Naruto's indignant reaction.

"No one told me how good the village 'pet' has become…" The tattered remains of their enemy revealed an androgynous looking man (or woman) with long hair and snake like features who commented cheerfully. His (or her) disguise paving way for a more intimidating individual.

"Shut it you- hmmprh…"

Sakura finally recovered her bearings and places her hand over Naruto's mouth shutting her off. Giving Sasuke a short glance, the pinkette watches their attacker cautiously. "Why would Orochimaru of the Sannin be interested in lowly genins like us?"

Laughing boisterously, the now named 'Orochimaru' removes the skin that peels off his face from Naruto's wind attack showing his real face. The three reacted methodically (Naruto rolls her eyes in frustration by the absurdity of their current situation) and positioned one another in a strategic way to protect each other backs that was noticed as soon as they started moving by their attacker who shakes his head in amusement.

"That is for me to know…" With a wide grin, the man releases another wave of killing intent -more potent than the first one, "…and for you three to find out."

Unlike his earlier attempt, Team 7 was able to counter his sakki that earns a slight frown on his features.

And then, the blonde created hundreds of clones which she transformed into copies of themselves and swarmed at him - a poorly disguised attempt to fool him.

Ah. Solid clones. Caused by Mizuki's idiocy if he is not mistaken.

Perhaps the girl needs to be put down to stop herself from interfering with his plans especially after he saw the boy's dependence towards her.

No. No. That won't do.

He needs Uchiha Sasuke to be what he was before.

An avenger.

With that said, Orochimaru laughs out maniacally and destroyed all the clones who attacked him leaving his prey on their own with no escape.

'You are mine, Uchiha Sasuke!'

.

.

Damn it!

The bastard summoned another fucking snake who is way bigger than the first one.

Thankfully, she has teme and Sakura this time and they were able to devise a plan to lure the creature away.

But then the maniac appeared out of nowhere (popping like a stupid mushroom) trapping her and Sasuke with a gravity something jutsu as he took hold of Sakura threateningly with a kunai close to the pinkette's jugular.

"As much as it amuses me to see the three of you fight me and somewhat succeeding, I have better things to do than waste my time on…"

"Fuck you, you damn bastard!"

Raising one brow for the profanities that came after, the Sannin pushes Sakura on her knees and pulled her hair back as he kneeled behind her preventing any movements from the girl.

The two paled especially when the man draw his kunai up despite the pinkette's whimper, Orochimaru's eyes sparkled happily upon seeing his victim's blood.

"Stop it!"

"Let her go!"

And because of that chance, the Snake Sannin decided to make his move especially when he felt a very powerful chakra signature coming their way.

Hmm. It wasn't Hiruzen-sensei or Jiraiya… who could it be?

Better get it over quickly or he'll never have another chance.

.

.

An hour or so after the first stage of the Chūnin Exams…

Thatch was preparing something special for the children to enjoy with everyone once they finish the second stage of the exam. Perhaps he needed to add Marco's favorite dessert as an apology for their attempt to contain him.

Haku is kinda tense especially since she is the perpetrator of their current shenanigans but he assured the kind girl not to worry about their actions. That in case Marco needed to blame someone, he'll take full responsibility.

But then… he sensed that something is so very wrong.

At that exact moment, Marco's haki or what these people called 'chakra' spiked to epic proportions especially when they felt him wake up judging from the shudder their apartment felt - possibly the entire building itself.

Well, ever since he started hanging out with the children, he grew awfully familiar with their own haki. Ah aura er chakras. Damn it.

Haku stands in surprise seeing his murderous reaction and that the door to their room slammed open showing Marco's partial Phoenix form.

He is really really furious.

"If you do that again, I swear to god you'll regret it…"

Taking the arm band where Kubikiribōchō is sealed, Thatch rushes towards the window opening it wide for the other pirate to pass through.

"You can definitely scold me later for that, Marco," The taller man motioned Haku towards him to clear the way. "…even if I regret nothing about it. But for now you need to go, quickly!" He did wince slightly after hearing Marco's colorful profanities directed towards his person.

After the Phoenix left with trails of feathers and flames, the two jumps outside and was greeted by Kakashi and one of the ANBU assigned to watch over them who probably felt the commotion inside their home.

"Thatch-san, what's wrong?" Kakashi asks anxiously. As the only shinobi who accompanies the younger looking pirate more often than the others, the said man is one of the very few who knows Marco's temperament and homicidal rages.

"I'm surprised you haven't felt it but-"

"Naruto and the others are in danger." Haku hastily answers on his behalf. The girl tied her long hair in a bun as per her usual getup whenever she's training or preparing for battle.

Looking at the other masked shinobi questioningly, Kakashi followed as they rush towards the Hokage building where the Third is already waiting for them with Nara Shikaku, the Jōnin Commander and another set of ANBUs at the topmost floor overlooking the entire village.

"We already know that the exams itself is dangerous." Thatch muttered disbelievingly at Kakashi's indignant reaction. "But why would a high level ninja fight with three genins in the first place?" The jōnin did pale at that declaration especially when the Third frowned in response to the pirate's statement.

"I received a report from the borders that three participants from Kusa are found dead with their faces 'stolen'." Sarutobi added with dread filling his veins. It can't be. He knew one person capable of such horror.

"What?!"

With an unperturbed look, the Third gestured for the Nara to give an update of the situation. "Shikaku?"

"Anko is enroute. But we all know that she is no match for 'him'…" The Nara stopped and may have sensed something significant especially after Kakashi, the pirate and the girl turned their gaze towards the direction of the Forbidden Forest. "I am assuming that your attention is caused by the other 'one' who is supposed to be here?"

"Well now that you mentioned it," Thatch scratches his goatee apprehensively and looked at everyone who are all looking at him in turn, waiting for his response. Haku-chan included. She did took pity on him and explained everything up until Marco's murderous outrage minutes ago.

"I am not certain if I should worry about anyone who crosses his path…" Shikaku muttered, disbelief clearly heard from his voice.

He did heard rumors about the teen that can transform into a blue flaming bird who took a liking to his son's former classmate and the current jailer of the kyuubi.

It could also be his imagination but he might have seen the Hokage relax albeit a little.

Huh?

With a sigh, he ordered his ANBUs to mobilize for a possible attack.

Tch.

How very troublesome this day is.

.

.

Back in Training Ground 44…

Sakura can feel their worry.

But she knew she has to do something.

She cannot depend on anyone forever.

"Someone told us," Wiping the blood that seeps from the wound the sannin gave her, Sakura tried to stand to her full height and directed her own will towards the sannin. "Power isn't given… it is earned."

"Oho?" Placing a hand on his hip, Orochimaru cocked his head curiously with an amused expression as he pushes her down further. "Is that so…"

Remembering Marco and Haku's teachings, Sakura reinforces chakra into her fists and coated her back with haki (not noticing the disbelieving look the man suddenly gave her). With a deep breath, she raises her left arm while twisting her body backwards. Grabbing a handful of her hair the sannin uses to hold her, she quickly procured a kunai from her pouch with her right hand and sliced it separating her from him.

Surprised at her actions, she took advantage of that opportunity and draw her fist back.

"Shannaro!"

Shattering the ground, she smirked triumphantly as the sannin jumps out of the way of the crumbling land before them. Sasuke and Naruto rushes beside her as they watch how Orochimaru's features turned a little more vicious.

"That's awesome Sakura!" The blonde gushes in excitement as she tried to cheer at her actions. Her smile did fell when she saw her hair.

Shrugging her shoulders dismissively, she returned her worry with a bright smile. "I guess a new haircut is needed and that the length is starting to get in the way…"

While Sasuke is looking at her like it was the first time he saw her.

Weird.

Controlling her freak out (insert: inner fangirling), the pinkette shook her head to clear her thoughts and motioned for the enemy that is still in front of them.

"Focus, guys. He's still eyeing us…"

The Sannin gave them a bloodthirsty grin and attacked.

Sakura could not stop herself but froze in horror when the man summoned another of those slimy creatures overwhelming the three of them with their numbers.

Naruto tried to use her wind chakra with Sasuke using his fire. But the snakes paid no mind for their slaughtered kin and continues to swarm them at the same time. All Sakura can do at the moment is pray for a miracle as her body started to feel the effects of their current situation. The two did turn towards her worriedly when she fell on one knee breathing harder than before.

Hoping… Oh Kami-sama she hopes that he's on his way.

'Help us, Marco!'

.

.

Interlude: Gaara

When he saw her, he could not stop himself but shiver with anticipation. 'Mother' is ecstatic.

He- they could not wait to taste her blood.

But then he saw him.

Someone he needed to dispose of real quick.

Someone who will make sure to keep him away from his prey.

Nonono!

No. He- they won't let him. He will eliminate him first.

Make him suffer.

And then- then he will allow him to watch how he destroys her.

How he will let mother drink her blood.

Giggling in excitement as he continues to ignore his pathetic siblings who watches him cautiously across the room, Gaara made a perfect replica of Uzumaki Naruto using his sand. Ignoring Baki's warning look, he uses his chakra to purify it.

In its wake, after the last sand particle fell off - a miniature crystal statue of Konohagakure's jinchūriki with nine tails and ears of a fox stands regally at the palm of his hands.

A truly frightening sight if you ask someone especially when the statue's eyes glow red.

 

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 19

.

.

Marco's eyes saw red.

He may have felt something like this before.

Edward is being cocky and attacked a promising captain by the name of Sengoku. As expected, the rascal bites more than he can chew and was overwhelmed by the marine's desire to uphold justice.

Something similar.

A finishing blow that should have taken the pirate's life and yet…

After he arrives on the scene, he saw the children and his Naruto surrounded by hundreds of snakes.

As expected for any Conqueror, animals tried to avoid him (especially in his current condition) and these damn pests scattered away after they sensed his arrival. Those unfortunate enough died by his sharp talons.

But the bastard who targeted the children - for whatever reason - escaped. With his favorite kunoichi missing.

Fuck it!

Growling murderously, he tried to follow their bond knowing that the surrounding forest interferes with his senses, and possibly Naruto's… so he tried real hard to reign in his temper lest he frighten the children.

But the fact remains, he is furiously mad. He is-

"Marco-san!"

Giving the caller a baleful stare, the female ANBU (Haku did advise him to call them by their code names judging by the design of their masks) who faithfully followed him through the forest - stands firm beside Sasuke and Sakura who awaits their next move.

"I know you are worried. But until we can locate her, you need to calm yourself…"

"I am calm!" He is perfectly composed. His voice betrays no emotion and thankfully controlled his haki just so. The rest of Team 7 did look at one another worriedly.

Pinching the bridge of his nose, he breathes deeply and turned to look at the two genins ignoring the other shinobi standing beside them.

"The two of you looks like shit, yoi," Eyeing Sakura's new hairstyle and the scrapes surrounding their bodies especially the wound on Sasuke's leg, Marco noted drily with mild interest thinking what kind of injuries his human received for this particular debacle.

The pinkette did gave him a tired smile as the teme, ah Sasuke muttered something incomprehensible. Crossing his arms, he looked at the boy and urges him to speak up.

.

Biting his lips, almost drawing blood, Sasuke clenched his fists in anger. Berating himself.

Why? Why is he so weak?

Remembering that day, he couldn't imagine why the universe hated him.

Why did he let him live…

"Sasuke!"

Startled, the Uchiha looks at Marco in surprise. The Phoenix sighed and places his hand over raven locks.

"You cannot blame yourself. It's…"

"He's after me!" Sasuke blurted out as he turned his back after removing Marco's hands away. He noticed Sakura being gestured by the female ANBU with her gloved hands glowing with healing chakra. Adding in a tone full of self hatred which is clearly noticeable by the ever observant eyes of the blonde before him, Sasuke avoided Marco's gaze. "That man took her because of me. Because he wanted to remind me my mission…"

"Your mission, yoi?"

The last Uchiha gritted his teeth but never gave his answer. Sasuke sends the pirate one regretful look and activated his sharingan. "I will try to track her chakra signature. Follow me…"

.

Sakura worriedly turns and looked at Marco for guidance. The Phoenix did frown in response to the younger boy's reaction and motioned for the girl to follow the Uchiha into the foliage.

Scrutinizing Sasuke's retreating back, Marco taps the inside of his crossed arms in a thoughtful manner.

"Tell me, Neko-san…" The female ANBU stills upon being addressed. He kind of knew what their protocol entails - any shinobi from their ranks and on duty must not interact with their charges. Haku did gave them a rundown of how a hidden shinobi village runs itself, even their ninjas and their responsibilities. But- "…was it really that bad, yoi?"

.

These pirates, particularly this one, just couldn't stop himself for caring, Uzuki Yūgao noted bemusedly. "It is…" With a sigh, she prepares a hand sign and disappears in smoke and leaves after giving the information the Phoenix needed. "It was Uchiha-san's older brother."

He looks after the people who is precious to his Naruto.

But what she heard from the pirate did gave her something to think about.

'Seems like Konoha does keep skeletons in her closet, hmm?'

What does he mean by that?

.

.

As Naruto felt the Phoenix's overwhelming presence (oh dear, he is fumingly mad), she couldn't stop herself from grinning widely.

But then a few of these stupid snakes surrounded her arms and legs.

Not before she saw Marco's terrified reaction when she felt herself being dragged somewhere away from her team.

Far away from her Phoenix.

And then darkness surrounded her vision.

.

As Naruto reopened her eyes, she found herself tied to a tree with the traitorous bastard sending off one of his snakes with a scroll being swallowed by its mouth.

"Ah good, your awake…"

"Let me go, you bastard!"

Clucking his tongue in a reprimanding manner, Orochimaru turns and gave her a condescending look.

"Where are your manners, child…"

Growling in response, Naruto struggles within her bindings trying to free herself especially when she felt Marco's worry thru their bond. "I'm an orphan, asshole!"

With a smile that is more malicious than anyone she knew, she stills when he responded to her statement.

"Oho? And what about that pirate, hmm? Did he ever teach you to respect your elders?" With a sigh, he added with a knowing look as he observes her darkening reaction, "I suppose expecting something good from those kind of people is a letdown…"

.

Two blood red eyes opened from the shadows as it felt the turmoil Uzumaki Naruto suddenly felt.

Fear.

Anger.

Hatred.

Huffing in annoyance, nine enormous tails surround its form ignoring the trail of chakra pouring out in between the bars of its prison towards the center.

Wondering what the brat will do with all this negative emotions.

Hmmm.

.

"What did you just said?"

Fascinated, he saw the girl losing her composure as red chakra started to surround her body. Her eyes turned slitted with her whisker marks a bit thicker.

"Don't talk as if you know HIM!"

The girl is starting to fuse with the kyuubi's chakra as her bindings started to melt.

Something that can pose as a threat to his plans. Or something he can use to his advantage.

The Sharingan's evolution, the Mangekyo.

With that in mind, he prepares a Five Element Seal and applies it to counter the girl's own Four Symbols Seal and disrupts the flow of her chakra.

The girl cried in pain as her own and the fox's chakra stops abruptly.

Like a pond of water blocked by a large boulder.

Cackling madly, Orochimaru releases his bindings and the girl fell like a rag. Strangely enough, she still has the strength (albeit a little) to move away from him and tried to get up.

An evidence of her Uzumaki lineage. He got this feeling that he probably knew who her mother is.

Regardless, he will make sure that her suffering will push the boy to his limits. Grabbing a handful of her hair, the Sannin whispered something to her ear and then kicks the jinchūriki towards the river. The stream will take her to his chosen rendezvous point.

The rest of his minions knows what to do next.

With that in mind, he allows the shadows to swallow him. His anticipation bubbling in the surface like second skin.

And because of his presence in this forest, his former student is on her way to 'greet' him. Perhaps reminding her ownership will satisfy his annoyance from failing to mark his prey.

Ah.

It is only a matter of time.

.

.

Marco stills when he felt something so terribly wrong.

It was like…

"Marco, what's the matter?" The pinkette asks worriedly.

Even Sasuke stops and pales considerably after seeing his reaction.

Their bond closed off unexpectedly.

It was like she died.

Denial bubbles within his very being for the said thought.

Nonono!

Ignoring the children's attempt to call his attention, he transformed into his full Phoenix form and flew upwards.

Zooming into the sky, Marco spread his wings and followed his senses.

Disregarding the breathtaking scenery this particular forest offers, its beauty lies within a cacophony of discord and a pitiful attempt to mask the dangers one could ever imagine.

Just like the dangers the New World has to offer with her islands and the ever changing weather.

But-

No matter what it takes, he will find her. Even if he needs to turn the entire forest upside down. Or burn everything to ashes.

'Stay strong for me, Naruto. I'm coming.'

.

.

When Naruto woke up the second time that day, she did felt like flying. Er floating.

Like someone is carrying her.

Did Marco and the others found her already? Trying to identify the scent of the person carrying her… ah.

The smell is all wrong.

She did remember the sensation. Of sand and teal colored eyes. Wait! What the-

Abruptly, she attempted to move surprising the one who is carrying her which is no other than Gaara himself.

Accidentally hitting him in the face, the blonde pales after seeing the bruise on the redhead's chin.

"Ah, I'm so very sorry… G-gaara-san, I d-didn't…"

Remembering that days event and the worry she felt for Marco, the blonde jinchūriki could not stop her tears from falling.

The Sand genin frowned upon seeing her cry wondering why he felt troubled for her unexpected reaction.

Strange.

Wiping her tears away, the girl continues to snuffle a little ignoring the pain in her gut. Looking behind him, Naruto couldn't find his teammates.

"They're already in the tower." Gaara answered as if predicting her question. What?!

Her mouth agape, the girl observes the boy standing before her.

"Oh."

Gaara did notice their onlookers that continues to shadow them. Earlier, they were about to take her away, but his arrival stopped whatever plans they may have. Perhaps he needed to-

"Don't…"

Giving the girl an unreadable look, she returned it with a thankful smile and a gentle pat on his hands.

"I've already imposed on you - for helping me back there. I can't…," Taking a deep breath, Naruto bowed her head in gratitude and gave him a warm smile. "I can't drag you further into my mess. And thanks for saving me earlier." Stepping away from the boy, the blonde was about to leave when Gaara took her hand.

It wasn't painful. Entirely different from his previous attempt to touch her the day they first met. And what he said didn't even surprise her. Chuckling in response, she nodded in acquiesce and gave the redhead a quick kiss on the cheeks ignoring his surprised gaze.

Naruto left the boy behind to face the the threat hanging on her head with his words ringing in her ears.

'I will be the one to kill you… so do not die.'

Right. What is it with her 'existence' that attract so many weirdos.

Uh, Marco isn't one. So yeah. He is an exemption.

.

.

Lee is running a far ahead of his team when he noticed a streak of yellow rushing in great speed and was followed closely behind by three unknown assailants.

Could it be?

"What's the matter, Lee?" Tenten asks curiously after she nimbly avoided a branch he accidentally broken from his jump.

Politely waving off her concern, he decided to investigate and requested a few minutes of his own to his team. Neji did look at him suspiciously but huffs in agreement as he took a seat from his own branch.

"Make it quick. And don't let us bail you out, understand?"

With a grin, he gave his friend (despite the continued denial the Hyūga feels for their so-called relationship) a thumbs up and disappears to follow his new acquaintance deeper into the forest.

Lee got this feeling that she is in trouble and she's facing them on her own (wondering where the rest of her team are). Despite it all, he wanted to see what she can do.

After he carefully approaches the location where they are gathered, he watches how she valiantly fought her opponents all by herself. Despite being outnumbered, she outsmarted them with various traps.

But… it wasn't enough.

The shinobis from Otogakure played with her like she was nothing.

Lee was about to interfere especially when he saw one of the genins took out a kunai. And then he heard her resolve.

"You can beat me all you want… but I'm not going down without a fight!"

Because of that declaration, Lee came to her aid with vigor and style.

He almost did saved her.

However, their attackers are so focused on hurting her.

Making her bleed.

And since they use long range ninjutsu, his counterattacks are very limited.

"Don't drag him into this, you bastards!" Ignoring the cuts and bruises she sustained, the blonde tried to protect him.

Ah. Such strength.

And when he was about to meet his end, another group of genins came.

He remembers them from Tenten's musings, the Ino-Shika-Chō trio of the current generation.

Thanking their lucky stars, Lee took the Akamichi's offered hand as they walked towards the others giving the opposing team a united front.

But despite the three's arrival, the one called Zaku attacks fearlessly.

.

Naruto grits her teeth in anger.

Why?

Why did they came here?

This is her fight. They shouldn't involved themselves in the first place.

But the idiot tried to use his airwaves technique again. Knowing that the bowler-head guy and Team 10 won't be able to dodge in time, she uses her body after pushing Ino out of the way and blocks his attack with one of her own.

Damn it hurts.

Bracing for impact, the blonde tried to cover her head to avoid further damage to her person (ignoring the wounds she have gotten earlier and the constant pain in her gut) . She could not even stop the ringing in her ears courtesy of the other girl's bells from their earlier skirmish.

It was already too late to notice Shikamaru's worried call when a hand grabs her neck in a chokehold.

His eyes mocking as he looked down at her (just like that snake bastard), the older boy tightens his grip and Naruto felt her lungs started to burn in pain.

Her vision darkening.

And yet.

She isn't scared. At. All.

All she ever wanted was to see him again.

'Marco…'

.

.

Interlude: Neji

When Lee left, he motioned for Tenten with a practiced hand sign so that they can follow their bothersome teammate from afar.

He still cannot understand the interest the other boy show towards the village's pariah.

Oh he knew about her. That Uzumaki Naruto.

There is nothing really special about her.

Especially during the first stage. He was able to glimpse at her answers and they do not make any sense at all.

Then the way she expand her senses during the second stage to familiarize herself with everyone's chakra - something that he never knew she can do.

But due to some damnable luck, she was targeted by these people. And regardless of how she fought back (and Lee's intervention), it wasn't enough.

Headstrong and persistent as she is, he can respect how she faced her enemies with a determined look in her eyes.

Tenten did gasp in shock knowing that a fellow Konoha kunoichi is in danger. She'll probably curse him if he decided not to interfere at all. Well, he is about to. But then another batch of rookies came.

Despite their best efforts, the ninjas from Oto is far more experienced than a regular genin. Which is something to worry about for later. Overwhelmed, they still fail to make a stand.

However, she still won't give up and protected the Yamanaka heiress when the other blonde was attacked.

Tch. This girl.

He really wonders if she is someone to watch out for.

How very annoying.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 20

In Team 7's designated training grounds, one hour before the start of the Chūnin Selection Exams…

"Alright…" Both hands on her hips, Naruto positioned herself firmly on top of the wooden posts. "Listen up, both of you…"

"Is this really necessary?" Sasuke interjected but he was silenced with a glare by their other teammate. He does not know if he will feel relieved for Sakura's change of heart (or her so-called admiration towards him) and her newfound determination to train harder and become a better shinobi.

The pinkette did pull out her own notepad and pen, ready to jot down whatever nonsense the dobe wanted to say before the start of the exams.

"Yes, it is absolutely necessary." Sakura commented without looking at him. With a sigh, he turned his attention in front to observe the bimbo standing before them. He might have squawk in surprise (he didn't shriek, mind you) as he found Naruto staring right at him, downright serious with a determined tilt of her mouth.

Thankfully, Marco is nowhere in sight. Pushing the blonde farther away from his face with a finger, Sasuke was about to comment something nasty (he will apologize later) and-

"As the strongest, we expect you to lead of our team, understand?"

What? Is that-

"And I will provide additional insight and guidance. Finding another way if the option available isn't beneficial to everyone." Writing furiously on her notebook, Sakura added in a lighter tone, "My knowledge with medical ninjutsu is mediocre at best so I will work on that as soon as possible…" With a nod, she noted firmly as she almost crushed her pen, "…after the exams."

Are they implying that… he is-?

"I'm not smart or strong, but I can be your extra muscle and support." Tapping a finger on her chin, the blonde grins suspiciously and added in a whisper. "I'm an expert when it comes to traps, so you can count on me to snare those fools away." Cackling like a demented witch, Sasuke tried to lean farther away from the girl who grabs him in a hug with Sakura on the other side of her arms.

He did saw the other girl smiling in response to the dobe's craziness and Marco who came unannounced - was observing them amusingly from a perch above the trees overlooking the training grounds.

As if caught red-handed, the Uchiha blushed and the older teen laughs in response to his reaction.

His dignity - long forgotten.

How annoying.

And yet, he feels light. Confident even.

Is this what it feels like? To have people you care about. To protect?

But then, his words kept him at bay. As his smile disappears, Marco frowns and crosses his arms questioningly.

Sasuke may have failed to notice his reaction but the boy shakes his head as if to clear his thoughts. His interaction with the girls may seem indifferent as it was his usual behavior but Naruto (as clueless as ever) didn't even find anything amiss.

"…"

Ignoring Kakashi's arrival, Marco stood and transformed halfway. Leaving the stupid jōnin's inquiry with a pointed look, the Phoenix flew to his human's side not before giving the cyclops a snide remark, "I'm not interested in what you are about to say, yoi. So back off!" He did hear the man mumble how rude he is behind his back.

He does not care about the complexities of this village and their own issues.

What he cares about is his blonde kunoichi.

Nothing else's.

And yet, he knew that Naruto will never abandon the people she cares about. Her friends. Even if Sasuke didn't knew he was one.

.

.

Present day…

The remaining members of Team 7 rushes towards the forest where they knew Marco flew into.

Ignoring the exhaustion her body felt, Sakura set her jaw and called Sasuke's attention with a whistle.

Thankfully, his awareness is sharp as ever (especially now).

"Marco's been compromised," The raven noted gloomily. "If we need to fight him, we don't stand a chance…"

Sakura nodded in concession but her determination never left her face, "You're right.…" Turning sideways as they continue their trek, the pinkette added carefully ensuring that their goal is set, "Until we secure Naruto, we have to try. And be very careful."

Knowing that they don't have much time left and remembering the things they've learned in the past, the two reinforced their limbs with chakra and ran faster.

.

.

Shikamaru knew that coming here to save the other blonde in his life is so troublesome.

But Chōji is worried about her. And Ino just wanted to make sure that her precious Sasuke-kun is unharmed.

So after trying their clan formation that failed epically (something they needed to work on after this annoying exams are over), the Nara never felt so helpless after seeing Naruto being beaten by the Oto nins for whatever reason.

She even had the audacity to save them even if she couldn't move well (injuries he didn't want to think about on how the said girl acquired those wounds).

But then, they came.

Sasuke's eyes (looks like he already activated his Sharingan) burns fiercely in anger with Sakura shattering the ground like it was nothing (excellent chakra control as expected from the pinkette) to separate Naruto from her attacker. Ino's eyes did bulge at that though.

The two immediately went to their teammate's side and hovered protectively beside her. The Uchiha placing himself between the blonde and the three foreign ninjas as Sakura started assessing Naruto's injuries.

And yet, their attention aren't entirely focus on them. Perhaps their wary glance towards the direction of the forest they came from every now and then earned a few warning bells in his mind.

"Someone else is coming…"

"W-what?!" Ino asks nervously and the other genin in spandex tried to get up. "Who?"

The presence he felt is familiar but entirely different.

An unknown voice rang out surprising every one even the other genins watching from the shadows (oh he knew they are there alright).

"How is she, yoi?"

Huh?

Sakura responded worriedly and the air started to get real heavy with every word that came out of her mouth. Shikamaru did notice Sasuke's darkening look as the tomoe in his eyes started spinning.

The newcomer sighed and pinches the bridge of his nose as he finally noticed their presence.

He looks like a civilian alright. With blonde hair closer to Naruto's shade (a relative perhaps?). Unbuttoned short sleeves showing a very toned physique with pants that reaches his calf tied by a light blue sash serving as a belt. But-

"And these guys, yoi?" He did felt dread when the older teen looks at them with a perceptive gaze (similar to his father's when he turns serious in their game of shogi).

The pinkette's eyes sharpened in response reprimanding the teen. "Shikamaru and Chōji are Naruto's closest friends back in the Academy. I don't know why the other one is here but-"

"Oh, they're our audiences alright…," The one called Zaku answers cheekily and wipes the blood from his hands. "We are supposed to wait for her team. But we aren't that picky so they'll do." Chuckling amusedly, the boy took out a kunai and pointed it at her. "I'm about to hear that bitch scream. I just need to-"

It was over in an instant.

The stranger whose eyes turned feral in anger kicks the boy and buried him deeper into the ground as he steps on his body with a sandaled feet. The remaining Oto (even himself) didn't even notice the teen's movement.

It was too fast.

"Marco."

The Nara winces when he (well, everyone did) heard a bone crack. Sasuke's voice is grave as he called the teen's attention.

Marco? Isn't that the name of Naruto's pet?

"I can smell her blood." Blue flames started to surround his arms as the teen took the younger one by his neck, tightening his hold unmindful of the hand that clawed against his grip as the other arm is angled strangely (looks like it broke from the fall). The very same hands that was used against Naruto earlier. "This one…"

For whatever reason, Shikamaru felt satisfaction seeing the other boy struggle.

"STOP!"

Ah. How very troublesome.

.

.

Naruto's everything hurts.

It was like Marco's haki introduction training all over again.

And yet, she could not stop herself from worrying.

Her Phoenix's anger is palpable the moment she was snatched away by the snake bastard.

The feeling stayed despite the distance.

And after sensing Sakura and teme's arrival, she tried real hard to open her eyes. But it was soo heavy.

Then she heard his voice.

"I can smell her blood."

It was a voice she never heard him speak before.

Foreign… even to her ears.

Without them noticing - even Shikamaru's group and spandex wearing genin looks surprised - she ran towards her Phoenix and hugged his middle. Burrowing herself into his body.

Strangely enough, she can feel his heartbeat. It was beating real fast. Tightening her hold, she didn't let go.

Strangely enough, despite the anger pouring out of him, Marco releases his hold on the boy and took her into his arms.

Relief washing over her system as Marco kisses the top of her head and effortlessly carried her. Disregarding their personal space knowing that her Phoenix wouldn't mind, she wrap her legs around him and places her face at the crook of his neck. She might have sensed Ino dropping her jaws in shock.

"These are the consequences of the actions I made. Decisions I will never regret doing…" Naruto whispered as she leaned away slightly and touches his face giving her pirate a soft look. "I made a promise to do my best, remember?"

"What am I going to do with you, yoi?" Her smile turned into a grin as he turned away from his prey and walks towards Sasuke and the others.

Marco did felt the idiot trying to pick himself up with a kunai at hand.

And the said kunai was thrown at them and exploded after it struck him at the back.

"Marco! Naruto!"

Sakura's alarming shout rang across the clearing accompanied by the idiot's mocking laughter.

.

.

Forest of Death, main tower…

It is a very worrisome day.

Well, he already expected Marco's foul mood after they (Haku) rendered him unconscious.

Thus he made sure to keep tabs on the children's aura - bird-brain wasn't the only one who improved their haki - just to satisfy the other pirate's incessant need to protect Naruto-chan.

But then an unknown signature came and approaches the three. An intent malicious enough that allowed him to feel it even from this distance.

Dark and dangerous.

Of course, Marco is another matter knowing how attuned he is to Naruto with their unmistakable bond.

With Marco being secretive about the said 'connection', he decided to figure it out on his own.

Haku-chan probably knew more as she is as observant as someone can be. But the girl is loyal and may possibly confer with the other pirate more since it was his friend who gave her another purpose in life.

Team 7's jōnin-sensei may be another matter. And despite the animosity the man felt towards Marco and vice versa, the silver haired ninja is keeping a mum on things. Especially to the pirate's relationship with his student.

With a weary sigh, he did notice the Jōnin Commander observing him from a far. Securing his armband, he gave the other man an acknowledging wave and took the bottle of water Haku provided with a quiet thanks as they await patiently for the second stage of exams to end.

"Feeling better?"

With a grunt, he drank to divert his attention from the unease he continuously felt from Marco's chaotic emotions.

"That overgrown chicken is all over the place. I think I'm gonna have a migraine with the size of an ostrich… ugh!"

"Strangely enough, I don't sense anything from him," With a frown, Haku commented as she looks outside the window preventing a smile to grace her lips from the pirate's favored pet name to his friend. "Perhaps I need to sharpen my 'haki' a bit more…" Turning to face the man so that she can offer some ointments for his headache, the former hunter-nin saw Kakashi-san walking towards them with a grim expression on his eyes.

"The first team that arrived is from Sunagakure. But the boy Sasuke mentioned went back to the forest on his own…"

"And you worry because of him? How so?" Avoiding their scrutinizing gaze, Kakashi scratches his mask covered cheek. Haku did wonder the same exact thought. "Unless the said boy took a sudden interest to our ramen loving kunoichi…" The jōnin did choke on that so she decided to leave the men and their discussion. Leaning by the windowsill, the Yuki watches the view from outside. Silently hoping that Team 7 especially Naruto-chan is alright.

'Please be safe…'

.

.

Rushing towards the explosion, Shikamaru stops when Sasuke prevents him from passing through.

"Are you blind or something?" Hissing angrily, the Nara was about to slap the raven's hand away when Sakura hastily places herself between the two of them with a serious expression in her eyes.

"Watch very closely…"

"Shikamaru, look." Chōji sounds astounded for whatever reason. Ino's mouth is yet to clamp itself shut and continues to watch the scene unfolding before their eyes. And yes, he did falter after seeing the flames of the explosion succumbs to flares of embers and blue - the exact point on what is suppose to be the remains of Naruto and the older teen.

"Tch! How very irritating, yoi."

H-he's… they're alive? H-how?

.

Seeing the tag accompanying the weapon, he transformed partly and made sure that Naruto is protected with a wing.

The kunai did embed itself on his back (he just mended the damn shirt) and felt the explosion surrounds his body. Just the same, he kept his full attention to the kunoichi in his arms and tugs her closer. Keeping her safe.

Allowing his flames to do their task, he dispelled it after ensuring that the fire wouldn't reach Naruto.

And despite the blast, her exhaustion had gotten into her and he could feel shallow breaths coming out of her lips. She's tired with all these wounds. He can't even sense their bond despite having close contact - like something is blocking them, damn it!

With a growl, he releases a concentrated wave of Haoshoku directed at the foreigners and glared murderously at them with a warning.

"5 seconds is all I have for you. Stay or DIE!"

.

Dosu knew the threat this newcomer presents is real. The teen didn't even had a scratch on him from the explosion despite the kunai pinned on his back

And the heavy feeling he releases is starting to get suffocating especially as it was directed towards them.

Signaling Kin, they left while tugging Zaku who continues to struggle and prefers to finish the mission.

"We won't be able to complete our task if you kill yourself now, idiot!" Thankfully the other boy understood and finally settled down allowing Kin to treat his injuries. Ensuring that they are in a distance far away from the Leaf brats and the stranger himself. "You will have your chance. For now we wait."

Zaku spits annoyingly to the ground as he rolled his eyes internally in response.

Seems like 'he' failed to mention something very important about this mission.

The 'target' has a protector of her own.

Tch.

.

.

Opening his last bag of chips, Chōji watches the proceedings before him. The other Konoha genin left a while ago when his team came to pick him up. Not before he was thanked by Sakura for coming to Naruto's rescue.

Ino surprises him yet again as she gets ahold of herself and bombarded the pinkette with so many questions while looking randomly at the other 'elephant in the room' or rather forest.

The 'unknown' sat dutifully by Naruto-chan's side after Sakura healed her most obvious injuries.

He decided to sit beside his bestfriend as the Nara is patiently waiting for Sasuke to start explaining that day's event. Perhaps they'll get a brief understanding as to why the ninjas from Oto attacked Naruto.

Offering his snack, Shikamaru rolled his eyes at him and took a few pieces knowing that his presence will remind him to be calm and for the Uchiha to avoid any deflection. Aside from Kiba and the Hyūga heiress, he is one of the closest people to Naruto (and by extension, Shikamaru).

With a sigh, Sasuke looked at them seriously and started. "We were attacked and someone targeted Naruto because of…"

Turning to look at one another, the Akimichi may have dropped his junk food with a bewildered look. Frowning in response, Shikamaru did pick it up and handed the packaging back to his friend.

"You don't really need to give the specifics, Sasuke," Glancing sideways, he saw the older teen giving the blonde a gentle look (entirely different from his murderous reaction earlier). "We already anticipated weird stuff happening on these exams…"

Chōji noted absentmindedly. "What Shikamaru really means is that…"

"Who the hell is he?" Ino blurted out with Sakura following behind her. The pinkette did gave the Uchiha an apologetic look as she sat beside her teammate. Huffing inwardly, he tugs the other girl to sit as they waited Sasuke's further explanation.

"We know that he isn't a participant but an outsider. Unless his presence here is expected - how will that even work at all?" They are telling the truth except from one thing. Not that it matters. But someone he knew was almost mutilated right in front of him.

"And is 'Marco' the name of Naruto's pet bird?" Chōji added curiosly.

"Seriously, yoi…" Team 10 may have jump in surprise as the teen in question spoke behind them. Not that Team 7 will point it out.

How did he…?

.

Marco chuckled in response to their hilarious expressions. Picking up the bag of chips the Akimichi drops the second time that night, he took a few pieces for his own and gave the junk food (if Thatch is here, he'll probably lecture the boy to stop eating these kind of snacks) to its owners hands.

Sitting in between the children and his brats (idly wondering when he started calling Team 7 a part of his own), he still got a clear view of Naruto's slumbering form. Not that he'll have a hard time coming to her defense if the worst is yet to come (which he highly doubts).

"You don't need to keep my presence a secret at all, Sasuke, Sakura."

"B-but…" Sakura mumbled and the pirate grinned at her as he turned to face the others.

Shikamaru did swallowed nervously feeling the gaze he received. It was like he is being assessed by the older boy. 'Marco' did shake his head and gave the Nara a comforting nod.

He did remember his observation for the said boy. And to avoid unfounded assumptions, he gave them a brief information of the world he came from. And why he is here.

"You see, I came from a far away place," Pausing slightly, he showed the children a nostalgic look and glances towards his human. "A place that is entirely different from the Elemental Nations…" With a smile, he added softly.

"And it was Naruto who found me. The rest, as the saying goes, is history…"

.

.

Interlude: Shikamaru

Arriving at the tower, he looked at his surroundings making sure that they aren't followed.

He did see a few other participants coming from the trees.

"They'll be fine…" Chōji assures his friend knowing what thought passes through his gaze.

"Hell yeah! They got Sasuke-kun in their team." Ino added confidently. "He'll be able to bring those harpies with him and get here without trouble."

"And yet Naruto was taken despite your Uchiha's presence, no?" He didn't mean to be sarcastic, but that day's events is a clear reminder that something is trying to break the cycle. Something far larger than what they can take.

And seems like Team 7 is right in the middle of it.

Unknown to the three, they are being observed closely by a floating eyeball. If it has the usual skin covering, it might have blink in confusion.

Before it was noticed, it dissolves into grains of sand as it returned to its 'maker'.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 21

.

.

It was an uneventful night.

But Marco stood guard to ensure that the children especially his Naruto will have enough rest.

Sleepyhead's team already went ahead much to the other girl's mournful expression (perhaps she wants to wait for Sasuke to wake up).

After he prepared breakfast (some beastie he took down earlier), he woke Team 7 up. Color finally returned to his human after some sleep which is quite a relief.

There is one thing he is worried about, something he needed to talk with Thatch and the others.

He did heard the three strategize their next move as they ate.

After giving them a blank look (Naruto may have understand it as she pouted in response), Marco left the children promising to watch from afar and make sure that there are no 'snakes' littering their immediate vicinity.

They were able to reuse the traps Naruto set for the Oto nins and found a scroll they needed to complete their current task.

Rushing towards the tower and avoided any other groups that might snatch their scrolls away. They used her sensing abilities to find a better and less traveled route.

For whatever reason, with the seal added to her existing one - allowed her to use her own chakra quite effectively. Even if it tires her more. She was able to hide the pain whenever Sakura looks at her inquisitively.

She even requested the other girl to copy both seals on her notebook. The blonde does admit that her calligraphy sucks. And if she plans to understand how these stuff works, she need to start from her own seal.

Sasuke did saw her glaring at her gut. He did gave her a noncommittal grunt and tousled her hair invading her personal space.

"We'll figure something out. Don't worry about it…"

They didn't even care about the 'demon' inside her.

"We are shinobis. We know the difference of a scroll and a kunai. I'm- I mean, we are not afraid of you…" The teme nodded in agreement to Sakura's statement with that weird look in his eyes.

Bastard.

Marco did tug her aside to calm and pet her hair especially when the pirate saw her confusion.

.

.

After a few minutes of running around, Sakura noticed that they are going in circles and Sasuke immediately used his Sharingan to dispel the illusion.

Then another batch of weirdos (genins from Amegakure) attacked.

They knew that expecting help from the others (Marco specifically) isn't something they should always rely on. So they used the maneuver they practiced in the past.

Her shadow clones aren't as many as before (possibly because her connection with the damn fox has been severed). But it was more than enough.

Sakura may have created new rock formations with Sasuke burning a few trees (they can definitely blame their attackers for that).

All in all, they did real good as a team.

So when they unrolled the scroll with Iruka-sensei welcoming them, Naruto couldn't stop her emotions and rushes towards him with a big hug.

.

.

Iruka adamantly requested to the Hokage to be assigned to a specific team. Thankfully their jōnin-sensei never made a fuss and allowed him to welcome the children.

He still won't forget how the man pushes his students (former) up to this stage.

And when Naruto rushes towards him, he felt dread in his veins especially when the blonde buried herself into his arms.

Worriedly, he looks at the other two who avoided his gaze.

With a sigh, he petted her wild tresses.

"I'm not going to ask the why's… but can you- all of you, tell me that you- are everyone okay?"

With a sniffle, Naruto releases her hold as she rubs her nose.

She's doing it again.

"We're good."

With her usual grin (he do knew about the 'mask' she's wearing), the girl answered in a cheeky voice.

"I just missed you, that's all!"

.

After directing the children towards the main hall where the other participants are waiting, he waited for the other's full human transformation.

"Not that I'm expecting the worst things to happen, but I'm surprised to see Hatake-san still alive and standing…," Placing both hands into his pockets, Iruka glances to the blonde standing beside him.

"Believe me, I almost skinned him alive, yoi," Marco commented in gritted teeth. "But Naruto is fond of that bastard. Something about watching over her when she started living on her own…"

"Is that so?" With a frown, the scarred chūnin wonder what that meant. Could it be?

"She can now identify the chakra signature of an individual. Especially to the people she met before, yoi."

Oh. That's…

"Yeah, she is very special." With a farewell wave, he transformed back into his Phoenix form. Planning to watch over her from the rafters he saw from the outside. "I just hope that your village knows her worth… and not because of unfounded speculations and heresy." The pirate did gave him a knowing look as he left him on his own.

Yes.

Iruka know how important Uzumaki Naruto is. To him most especially. And a select group of people.

And this particular pirate.

Ah.

He don't really need to worry about her anymore, right? Even Hokage-sama agrees when he asks about it.

.

.

"Listen up!" Anko started as she walked in front of everyone. Seems like in all 26 teams, only 7 survived. "I congratulate everyone from passing the second stage. Good job!"

After giving last minute remarks, she handed over the stage.

Standing beside the jōnin-sensei of each team, she eyed one particular group that already caught her attention the first time she saw them.

Not because the bastard's chosen vessel is a part of the team. Or the unremarkable girl who was able to answer all of Ibiki-ojisan's questions. But because of the other one who wears too much orange and has a target on her back.

Uzumaki Naruto.

Heh.

She wonders what this brat can do. Especially the overprotective 'pet' she heard about the other day.

Ah. Their reactions after hearing Hokage-sama's explanation - priceless.

Oh. Looks like Hayate Gekkō just arrived to oversee the preliminaries.

Time to place her wager then. She did overheard Gai assessing Kakashi's brats but was pointedly ignored by the other man. Just brilliant.

.

.

Naruto clenches her eyes and tried to control herself from looking back. Yakushi Kabuto just withdrew himself from the exam stating his reasons.

He's…

She knew that Marco is observing somewhere and will not hesitate to attack anyone that he deem is a threat to her.

He is a…

Silently, she hopes that she'll never have to face the other teen again.

traitor.

But she knew that the teenager will continue to be a threat to her precious people and she must warn jiji about him.

She must…

Lightly bopping her head with a fist, Sasuke rolled his eyes at her. Sakura giggled in response and started braiding her hair.

"I don't want to explain to Marco how that 'look' got stuck. So clear up your face, dobe!"

"W-why you!"

The pinkette did tried her best to stifle her laughter and grabs the blonde's jacket away from the Uchiha.

Despite their babbling, she was able hear the Hokage's message and the main reason why these exams are still being held.

"Looks like we're going to fight everyone from here onwards." Sakura said as she tied the blonde's hair with an elastic band.

"WHAT?!"

Covering Naruto's mouth, she gave the blonde a pointed look and quickly scanned everyone. "It is expected especially with so many participants…"

With a smirk, Sasuke gave them his signature grunt and regarded the others with a careful expression on his face.

It was a look they started to grew familiar with unlike his previous one that is full of superiority and ego. Marco's teachings really rubbed off. And yeah, the teme also adopted the Phoenix's impassive look successfully much to Naruto's envy. Ugh.

"Still, the reason why we joined these exams is to show them that we can be better not because of what we they taught us. That we grew up because we want to prove ourselves."

"Hhlle yaaeh!" Despite Sakura's hand covering her mouth, she was able to share her conviction. With a brief glimpse of the electronic board showing the names of the first group of genins that will be fighting, Naruto removed the pinkette's hand and tugged Sasuke's armband. "If you lose to another except to my own magnificent self, I'll make you run around the village naked with your hair dyed in neon orange. Understand?"

Huffing, Sasuke smiled (one of the very few smiles he learned to share with their team) and raised his fist towards them. Naruto responded with a fist of her own and Sakura added hers cementing their vow to one another. "Let's do this!"

And so the match begins…

.

.

Interlude: Gaara 2

The owner of the eye spying on the newcomers growled angrily. Gaze hardening as he carefully analyzed the events that happened earlier. Sitting atop the highest roof of the tower, he expects his 'prey' to fulfill her promise.

'You are mine to kill… so do not die on me, Uzumaki Naruto.'

If needed, he'll make sure to remove these 'threats' to ensure that no one touches her but him.

With a manic grin, he planned and contemplated several options to ensure that she is his and his alone.

First things first - the blonde teen that interrupted him that day. An unknown that poses a threat to his claim.

He will-

"Gaara."

Glaring murderously towards the caller, his sand rippled in anticipation.

Sighing in defeat, Baki told him to come inside once the alarm blares up signaling the end of the second stage of the Chūnin Selection Exams.

With a nod, he returned to his scheming… and plotting.

The redhead giggled happily sensing his prey coming towards the tower.

Ah. It is only a matter of time.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 22

One wouldn't even think of the preliminaries as something significant.

It wasn't even that bloody. Almost.

And the only match that interest him is his favorite human.

The battle of every genin under his 'care' did went well despite the commotion between the Hyūga's match and that the spandex wearing genin took a beating and if wasn't for Naruto's intervention, the boy would have lost a leg.

Too bad Sakura didn't pass as she and the other Konoha kunoichi both fell. And Sasuke's fight did show his adaptability when it comes to using chakra and haki alternatively. And yes, he does have a potential of being a 'Conqueror'.

His Naruto may have freaked out a little during her fight (something about the chakra chains she accidentally procured during her fight with the Inuzuka) so he came over to her side and calmed her (in his Phoenix form of course).

Thus the current debate the so-called 'Konoha Go-Ikenban' are having right now. They are accompanied by the civilian ones - the very same people making his human's life difficult.

They are starting to be the bane of his existence (aside from those annoying marines and his rowdy siblings).

Ugh.

Kakashi already stayed in a considerable distance away but still enough to grab him in case he decided to peck someone's eyeballs.

Inuzuka Tsume, Kiba's mother is eyeing these people in a similar manner with her canine companion Kuromaru (another dog similar to Stefan's gigantuan size) looking at him curiously.

"She must be put down-"

His temper, might have flared a little.

"That's ENOUGH!"

Strangely enough, it wasn't him that voiced out their annoyance.

"I don't understand why you people are making a fuss about this," Tsume growled while her companion looked at these people irritatingly and yawned widely showing sharp teeth. "My son was defeated because the girl is that strong," Eyes glinting interestingly, she turned towards Marco and assessed him. "She got good people beside her, which are more than enough despite the lack of blood relations." With an acknowledging nod she directed at Kakashi, she walks past these people and left with a warning. "She fought fair and square. Now if you dare to contest the match, I am more than happy to fight you on her behalf. Anyone?"

Her intent dangerous enough that scares the civilians. The old coots (particularly Hiruzen's old buddy) did frown in response to the woman's challenge.

The Third Hokage (god bless his kind heart) chuckled and dismissed everyone when they failed to oppose Tsume's challenge. Staying behind with Kakashi standing beside him (Marco ignored Danzō's suspicious look), as the door closes off before he allowed his full transformation.

"I do appreciate your restraint, Marco-kun…" With a tired sigh, the man removed the ashes on his pipe to divert his attention from his scrutinizing gaze. A clear reminder that the boy he once knew now carries a very heavy burden on his shoulders.

The pirate's eye gleamed sinisterly as he admits in a clipped tone, "Believe me, I almost did, yoi." Kakashi did place himself farther away from him just to be safe. Rolling his eyes towards the jōnin, he crosses his arms with a frown. "What's so worrying about Naruto's improvement as a ninja? Are they expecting her to fail?"

It was Kakashi who answered. Something he already guessed from his observation during the entirety of his stay. Marco did control his anger though.

Just a little bit.

"They think of her as someone insignificant. Someone who doesn't deserve anything. Even her existence." The masked shinobi avoided his darkening look but Marco did saw the man clenched his fists.

Trying may be a lesser term.

"Regardless of what they think or do, I won't allow them jeopardize her career." Hiruzen assures them. "So both of you keep your calm and let me handle these people."

With a firm nod, Marco vowed to himself to shield her from them (and perhaps to prepare her from any possible threat) - something the kind village leader already took notice from his condescending look. "Just don't push yourself too hard, kid." The Third laughed quietly as Kakashi sweat dropped from the said notion.

He almost forgot how old the pirate really is.

"Now, about those chains…" Ah, he should have left minutes ago.

"An ability that can only be used by members of the Uzumaki clan…" Hokage-sama replied absentmindedly but didn't elaborated further. Raising one questioning brow towards them and receives no other response, Marco grunted his displeasure.

Lucky small favors indeed, the Hatake noted internally as he took his book out to block Marco-kun's annoyed look.

.

.

Uchiha Sasuke may be a lot of things with his constant need to train.

To get stronger.

His singlemindedness.

Defeating that man and avenge his family.

He also knew that there are others who are far more stronger than him.

Just like Marco…

Despite the said fact, he isn't jealous by nature. But then it makes him wonder if the path he previously chosen was the right one.

"Penny for your thoughts?"

Haku asks as she walks alongside him.

Blushing slightly (he isn't supposed to be oblivious to his surroundings, damn it), he shook his head and offered to carry the Yuki's basket.

"Just some things I needed to work out."

Humming with slight interest, the girl places a few strands of hair behind her ear and took a flower from the basket the Uchiha holds in his arms and gave it to him with a small smile on her lips.

"Peony," The girl murmured softly. "It will bring you good luck and fortune." Taking the basket back with quiet thanks, Haku added after a moments thought. "The path you are about to take… is that what you really wanted all along?"

Hesitantly, Sasuke took the flower. His face marred by fear that he immediately hid behind an emotionless facade. She didn't point it out but gave his hand a gentle squeeze.

Of understanding.

"Do not let other people dictate your fate, Sasuke-kun. You are the one walking this path… this road of your own choosing."

"That person took everything from me. And if I-," His Sharingan (that he unknowingly activated) showed anguish upon uttering those words. "Anyone will be a target if I got too close."

With a sigh, the girl gave the Uchiha an unreadable look and walks past him. She does stop a few yards away and faces him slightly.

"I think…" The Yuki noted as she shifted her basket. The hospital where she works part time is currently busy with their usual patients - be they civilian or shinobis alike. "…you'll be surprised to know how many people cares for you, Sasuke." With a polite bow, she bids farewell and reminded him of tonight's affair. Thatch-san organized a celebratory meal for Team 7's success in the exams. Even if Sakura didn't reach the finals, she's still included as the said pirate prepared something for the pinkette as well (for doing an awesome job in keeping everyone united).

Left to his thoughts while staring at the flower in his hands, the Uchiha smiled and shook his head.

He is- he is surrounded by people who just won't leave him alone. Not the worst he can ever imagine per se. And possibly not the most annoying ones… although there are some who are just so persistent.

Perhaps he'll train a little bit now and change his clothes before going there. Or the dobe will nag at him about punctuality and whatnot. If she already woke up, that is.

Right.

.

.

When Naruto opened her eyes, she expected to see the room she shared with Haku.

A place that started to be more than just a house.

It now became a home.

Where she found her waking self - a sewer?

Eew!

And the water itself - it's not smelly or anything which is a relief. It doesn't even felt wet whenever she stepped on it.

The hallway is dark and dingy. She can hear the echoes of her feet as it splashes through everything.

What the hell is this place? And where's everybody?

"Marco?"

"It is only a matter of time…"

That voice. It can't be…

"Once he leaves… you will never see him again…" The unknown continued just like how it taunts her ever since she started hearing its 'voice'.

It was that very first day when the matron of the orphanage closed their doors and never lets her in. Forced to live in the streets and took refuge in the forest which is far more safer than the village itself… She endured for a long time. And then she met him.

"NO!" Clasping both hands on her ears, Naruto clenched her eyes and tried to block everything. "That's not true and you know it!" Gritting her teeth, the blonde breaths shallowly and controls the beating of her heart just like Marco's instructions. "He promised to tell me when it is time to go… and it's not like I'm going to stop him…" Wiping her tears that escaped her eyes, Naruto added in a firm voice. "So if you got nothing else to say, shut the hell off!"

The heavy feeling (the voice's killing intent) started to be bearable and the blonde heard an annoyed huff from the darkest corner of the tunnel. "Hrmph! For someone so incompetent, you sure talk big, human…"

Bristling in frustration, Naruto was about to comment something nasty when she understood its reference. "Wait! Are you-"

Wind started to blow from the darkest part of the tunnel dragging her whole body back.

"Wait! I think I know you…" Pushing forwards, Naruto veered and ignored the burst of current blocking her path. "I need to talk to you. Please…"

As the gust grew stronger, the blonde jinchūriki's body almost lifted from the ground.

"I have nothing to say to you. So begone…"

This is supposed to be her mind (despite its unruly appearance). Why is she being thrown out?

Damn it.

.

As Naruto opened her eyes, she saw herself in the safe confines of her room (finally) - surrounded by her fluffy blanket and Marco's pillow made by his very own feathers. Thatch-san can be heard from the kitchen who is arguing with the Phoenix's unmistakable voice. They aren't really fighting. But judging from the commotion (and what she can guess from the teen's irate tone), the other blonde is about to kick his best friend (again).

As she cannot prod through their 'connection' to let her pirate know that she's awake, she removed her blanket and tried to stand. She heard a bit of movement as Marco rushes towards into her room. Pushing herself in a more comfortable sitting position, she gave her Phoenix a small smile as he took her within his arms.

"You're awake…" He breathes in relief. His worry clearly palpable within his eyes.

Giving him a gentle pat on his back, Naruto disregarded the 'dream' she had and enjoys the comfort of being within Marco's arms.

If she continues to ignore the creature inside, it only delays the inevitable. Knowing that she need to face it sooner than expected- ah.

Well, nobody can really blame her if she got cold feet. She never wished for the said demon to be sealed inside of her.

Blaming the Yondaime for his life choices will be in her next agenda. Something to do once she hits the bucket. And met him.

"Are you hurting, yoi?" Concern lighting her friend's features as he called out for Haku as the pirate continue to fuss over her.

Right. Marco first and then priorities later. She can definitely do that.

.

.

Interlude: Hiruzen

After he received Iruka's report, he closely kept an eye on his adopted granddaughter wondering why Orochimaru took a sudden interest on her.

Perhaps he wants to use her bond against his chosen vessel?

Anko's words rang clear knowing how obsessed he is with the Uchiha's fabled eyes. But something tells him it is more than that.

The girl became Sasuke's anchor against the hatred he forced upon him.

He does hope that Naruto and the pirate's presence will help.

Perhaps it is time to come clean. Something that he should have done years ago.

He shouldn't have allowed the younger generation to shoulder the responsibility, the mistakes the older ones made…

"Hokage-sama?"

Iruka worriedly called as he responded with a warm smile.

The kind chūnin stands dutifully behind him as he waits to be addressed.

"There are some things that I needed to accomplish." With a sigh, Hiruzen removes his hat and eyed the symbol etched into it. "But it seems like my time is about to run out…"

"Sir?"

Laughing amusedly to himself, Sandaime Hokage nodded as if he finally understand what he needs to do.

Things to take care of.

"If the time comes, I want you to do what is right. Just like what the ones before us had done." With a firm set of his eyes, he left Iruka with those words and approaches the participants to give them a few congratulatory remarks before explaining the real purpose of the Chūnin Exams.

He just hope that what he is about to do is more than enough.

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 23

"WHAT!"

Sasuke leans away as he avoided the dobe's spluttering reaction. Kakashi-sensei should be here explaining everything. But knowing how the jōnin avoids the Phoenix, he can understand his reasons (perhaps self-preservation is a factor he need to consider).

Huffing irritatingly, the blonde took the plate Haku offered with a cheerful thank you. "I do understand why he's the one who needs to train you Sharingan and all… but why didn't he tell me himself?" The blonde did pout after taking a mouthful of pasta.

Oblivious to Marco's darkening expression beside her, Sasuke chuckled internally as he places his chin above his palm and studied the blondes in front of him. They almost look-alike, despite the difference in shades of the eyes and the hair - dobe's eyes are lighter were Marco's are dark as the ocean; while his hair is lighter and hers are bright like the rays of the sun.

And their bond.

Ah.

It is something he wished to obtain for himself.

As if reading his thoughts, Marco turn his glare from the wall beside the balcony (Kakashi-sensei's location outside) back at him.

Oh right.

The Phoenix is sensitive to emotions due to his 'haki'.

Waving him off dismissively with a hand, he took a bread stick and nibbled on it while silently observing the two.

Their tardy sensei is sulking outside from the unfairness of life itself. Even if he isn't restricted from visiting Naruto's apartment, he tends to avoid Marco's 'territory' whenever the said Phoenix is inside the said premises.

Haku did promise to separate treats for the silver-haired jōnin that he'll bring out later after finishing his supposed task.

A task that the said man should have handled himself but couldn't do so for his own 'nefarious' reasons. Sasuke really does believe that it got something to do with Naruto herself despite the dobe's obliviousness.

Marco sighed audibly and Naruto turned her attention towards him.

"What's wrong, Marco?"

"I'll be at the rooftop if you need me, yoi." Ruffling his blonde's wild tresses, Marco took his plate and gave Sasuke a parting look. "Good luck on your training, kid," Pausing slightly to take a bottle of water from the refrigerator and walk towards the door. "Make sure to practice your meditation at night."

Naruto huffs and redirected her irritation somewhere else - like the meatballs in Thatch's special spaghetti (surprisingly, it tastes real good with all those tomatoes). "I swear that these two bicker like a married couple…"

Nodding in response with his smile hidden behind his fingers, the Uchiha pushes the plate of cookies on Marco's vacant spot, "Indeed they do…"

"No we don't!"

Startled, the blonde threw her fork towards the newcomer which their sensei avoided as expected for a shinobi of his caliber. The projectile embedded itself on the opposite wall. Whistling appreciatively, he approaches the 'weapon' and tried to pry the fork out. It took a few tugs though. Interesting. It was coated with haki. Nice.

Mentally he added it to his (no, he doesn't own a journal like the other two, he got eidetic memory after all) list of things he'll be working on during his spare time while purposely ignoring Naruto's screeching as Kakashi-sensei pouts in response to her nagging.

Hilarious.

.

.

"I can't believe I'm doing this…"

Naruto grumbled as she looked petulantly at the address Kakashi-sensei gave her. And the person she will be meeting.

The place is a familiar one.

Well, she just brought Haku and Sakura here the other day for some needed girls day out. A way to relieve the stress of becoming a bad ass kunoichi. She also invited Hinata-chan while the pinkette drags Ino.

The boys with Thatch-san and Kakashi-sensei included, went to men's portion of the bathhouse. She won't even ask how Marco did it with his devil fruit's weakness (he did explain the pros and cons). Afterwards, everyone shared a meal that she enjoyed greatly (maybe because she ate it with people she cares about).

Giving the place a once over, the blonde sighed and crumpled the paper. She was about to throw it away when she heard a slight disturbance from the trees overlooking the women's bath.

A very perverted giggle.

Closing her eyes and letting her senses expand, Naruto frowned when she recognized the chakra signature.

Another one of her old ANBU guards?

No. He is-

"There you are…"

Ignoring the voice after he entered her range, the blonde huffs in response and glances at the newcomer from the corner of her eyes.

The closet pervert crosses his arms and looked at her curiously.

"What are you doing?"

Focusing her attention at him and ignoring his question, Naruto eyed him skeptically. "I know that you are an elite jōnin, or so you say," Crossing her own arms in response, the blonde studied the man Konohamaru is so fond of. "But you are a pervert. What kind of stuff can you teach me that will help me win my match?" That one-eyed cyclops must be out of his mind to entrust her to him. Perhaps Marco is a better choice.

Chuckling, Ebisu motioned for the girl to follow him inside the bathhouse.

"W-wait! That's-"

Leisurely walking on top of the water, he observes the girl's reaction and smiled. "Control is every ninja's prerogative. Something that they need to continuously improve regardless of experience…"

"Whoa! That's like the tree walking exercise Kakashi-sensei taught us, dattebayo!" Naruto exclaimed excitedly.

Explaining the concept further, Ebisu got the sinking feeling that the girl doesn't understand everything he said especially when she looks dumbly at him when he used complex words.

Perhaps the treatment she received may have contributed to how she learn the 'hard way'. And if it wasn't for the 'friend', Uzumaki Naruto wouldn't become the shinobi that inspired the young master.

Perhaps she still will… given the circumstances.

"Yes, that is correct," With a hum, he walked farther away and stood in the middle of the man-made hot spring. "Just like the said exercise, we also use our chakra thru the soles of our feet and continuously regulate it while attaching to a different surface."

Her first attempt didn't go so well that it drenched her jumpsuit. Thankfully, the girl wore training clothes underneath that allowed her to remove (and dry) those ridiculous neon colored monstrosity while trying again.

And failing.

He did wince when he heard her curses. And a few colorful words not fit for children.

He did notice something peculiar on her navel specifically her 'seal'.

But before he can point it out, they both heard another weird noise coming from the trees just outside the women's section.

Another perverted giggle distracts them especially the girl judging from the annoyed frown she's been giving out.

Ebisu backtracked and places himself a bit farther away as the girl looses her control for the nth time.

Surprisingly, she was still able to stand shakily for a few seconds before she took another dip.

After wiping his glasses, he saw the blonde glared murderously towards the said noise.

"Alright. Let's rest up for a bit…"

At that exact moment, Ebisu thought of something very interesting and turned to ask the girl. "I would like to use your expertise for a well deserved prank… interested?"

The grin she gave him is priceless.

.

.

"Can you repeat that again, please?"

Marco thinks he overheard their tale. But Hiruzen tried to clarify the situation before he jumps ahead.

Surprisingly enough, his kunoichi is feeling accomplished with the task she and her new personal trainer took to apprehend the maniac that disturbs the peace particularly in the women's bathhouse. Her smile, full of pride.

Clones that she transformed into voluptuous and (almost) naked young women to lure the said pervert out.

The temperature in the Hokage's office drop drastically and the chair he is perching on (for appearance sake, damn it!) cracks with little to no effort. Naruto hastily explains her actions as she looks at him worriedly but the tokubetsu jōnin took the initiative ensuring that the girl didn't use her oiroke form. He did blush slightly meaning Naruto may have shown that blasted jutsu to him in the past.

He is not even going to understand the slight cough he heard the village leader made.

"I swear it is not deliberate, Marco…" He did looked at her pensively but decided to give her the benefit of the doubt. She felt relieved when the heavy feeling in the air started to ease up.

"I assume that you no longer need our presence here, yoi?"

With a chuckle, the kid (ah, he really should stop calling him that since he is physically older than him) nodded and Naruto immediately took him within her arms carefully. Because he started 'growing up' (again), he is bigger than an average eagle and standing (perching) on his human's shoulders would be stressful on her end. So they decided to carry him when possible (since he's still going incognito). Unless Thatch is available as the said pirate is taller and can effortlessly carry his weight.

.

After a few last-minute instructions for the girl, he left them on their own laughing amusedly to himself hearing her feeble attempt to explain their 'prank'.

Ebisu went back inside to give his report to the Hokage. Jiraiya-sama already removed his bindings but you can see the markings Naruto made because of the ropes. She did wrap the older man enthusiastically with lots of knots.

"She really is her mother's daughter…"

He looked at the other man questioningly. Hokage-sama had this sad look. Which means-

"Were you able to find anything, Ebisu?"

They knew her parents?

Remembering his task, he provided the information about the other seal that is disrupting the natural flow of her chakra. It was brief, but he did remember the design itself which he showed to the two.

The last remaining Sannin of Konoha curses out loud upon gazing on the said seal and promises to remove it as soon as possible.

"I don't think that is wise, Jiraiya-sama…"

"Oho? How so?"

"The pet wouldn't want you in the same vicinity where Naruto-chan is," He commented after removing his sunglasses and wipes it. A mannerism he acquired to avoid further inquiries. And it works real well.

The Sandaime agrees wholeheartedly with a small smile as he wrote something on a piece of parchment and handed it over to Jiraiya-sama. "If you want to try, I will not stop you…" They both smiled silently as the man accepted the challenge. Perhaps Hokage-sama will allow him to watch in a respectable distance?

Or a front row view is more worth it? Ah, decisions.

.

.

When he heard about the pet his god-daughter found, he confronted Kakashi after arriving back to Konoha a few days before the Chūnin Selection Exams. He might have freaked out a little especially when he learned that the said pet can transform into a human.

A Kami-forsaken pirate. Pleasing to the eyes and strong. And yet-

Did he already mentioned the good-looking one? Ugh!

If Minato knew, he will probably send his little girl somewhere far away where no one from the said opposite sex can get near her.

Surprisingly enough, the said pirate happens to be a young teen who is way too close for his liking - especially when Naruto took 'him' within her arms very carefully.

His mental warning bells started ringing.

Despite the avian's current form, he can feel the danger emanating from the said 'animal' after he looked at him in the eyes.

So he went to her apartment discreetly.

Unknown to everyone in the village especially the council - the said property is owned by her mother thus she doesn't need to pay for the rent except the basic necessities like food and clothing which is already covered by the stipend she receives as an orphan.

Still it wasn't enough so he made sure that her allowance is covered with Gama-chan mysteriously filling itself with ryō.

What he didn't expect is to see someone else in her apartment.

Seems like Hiruzen-sensei forgot to mention about her 'housemates'.

"Who are you and what are doing here?" Recognizing Momochi Zabuza's Kubikiribōchō gleaming dangerously near his neck, Jiraiya studied the man before him.

Tall and well-built, the man has a scar under his left eye that looks at him cautiously. He wore loose pants and white buttoned shirt with a bandanna tied around his neck.

"Thatch."

When did the other one showed up? He didn't even hear his arrival. Damn it.

Jiraiya kept his cool and ignored the sword (thankfully the man from earlier backs away keeping his head intact) and faces the most dangerous individual at the moment that suddenly appeared behind him (he does admit that his presence is far more ominous than Hanzō), the Toad Sannin carefully observes the teen.

"You are being noisy. Don't interrupt Naruto's training, yoi."

Uh, what?

The man called Thatch reacted indignantly while spitting curses (in a not so noticeable tone) and argued with the teen who continues to eye him speculatively.

.

Returning the other man's assessing look, Marco remembers what his Naruto thought about this man.

He was one of the people from her childhood, just like that stupid sensei of hers. He got this feeling that they knew her parents (perhaps Hiruzen as well). But they (the silver-haired jōnin especially) never mentioned anything. And Kakashi has all the time in the world to talk to her about it. Damn them.

With an annoyed sigh, he jumps over from their current building and landed soundlessly on their own rooftop. Naruto is probably in their living area doing the leaf concentration exercise that bandanna guy assigned so that she can focus on her chakra.

His irritation did spike up a bit when he thinks about their 'bond'. Whatever that snake bastard did severed their connection thus he won't be able to know her emotions especially the pain she hides from him because of that blasted seal which makes him cranky to an extent much to Kakashi and Thatch's caution.

He did gave his friend a pointed look conveying his message.

"Fine. I'll keep her occupied," Sealing his sword, the Fourth Division Commander took the herbs he picked for that day's meal he left beside the door. "Don't even think of fighting near my plants, got that? They're very sensitive…"

Rolling his eyes at his friend, the Phoenix nodded and waited until he's with his human who's asking about him and where he is.

"I think this is a bit of an overreaction, don't you think?" The ninja stated without letting his guard down.

Good. He shouldn't.

But just the same, he took a deep breath and calmed himself. Hiruzen did mention about this student of his and if he is not mistaken, this man might be able to help them find their way home.

"Where you able to find anything, yoi?"

The other man sighed and took a scroll inside his jacket and threw it at him. Despite that, the man continues to frown.

"I won't be able to answer your question if you don't ask, yoi…," He decided to look at the scroll later. Or perhaps Thatch will.

Crossing his arms, Jiraiya decided to confront the 'teen' and be done with it. He won't know the pirate's intentions towards his god-daughter and he does need to make sure that he doesn't have any malicious intent towards Minato's daughter.

Marco raises a brow and waited. He had a feeling that he already knew what the other man is about to say.

Just like Kakashi.

"Naruto is too kind," Pausing slightly, his eyes darken as he returned the pirate's defiant stare. "She is someone important to me… to all of us. And I will make sure that no one will take advantage of that innocence. Do you understand?"

Scoffing, he did sat on one of the benches he pilfered somewhere before that they customized it to fit the theme surrounding their home.

"Oh?" He noted indulgently. But his emotions did graze his eyes evident of his anger towards the village that took her for granted. The people that hurt her. "So you knew how she was treated before I came into her life? How this pathetic fools almost destroyed that 'innocence' you were talking about?" He felt a bit of satisfaction when he saw the man pale from each words that came out of his mouth. But his response did put a damper on his vindictiveness.

Jiraiya never felt so tired. But- "Once you leave… what will become of her?"

He knew that the teen before him is the reason why Naruto became the kunoichi that she is today. And he is afraid to know what will happen if these pirates go back to their lives… leaving her alone again. Not that he can bring her with him.

Everyone from the Elemental Nations knew his association to the Yondaime. All they need is to look at the right places to know who the girl really is.

The blonde is silent. But his eyes are unreadable. It did make him wary.

"Regardless of what will happen in the future, I will make sure that she's ready…" Covering his mouth with a hand (an attempt to prevent a growl), Marco gave him a warning. "Anyone - even this village - will suffer my wrath if they hurt her." Thinking of one particular prey that escaped him, the Phoenix vows to hunt him down.

And end him.

Before Jiraiya can respond, he heard Haku's frantic call as she rushes towards him. Without even thinking, he sprinted into their apartment and saw Thatch cradling Naruto in his arms.

Pale with tears trickling down her face, the girl clutches her stomach writhing in pain.

"M-marco… I-it hurts…"

Taking her into his arms, he swore to himself. He's going to kill that snake bastard.

Believe it!

.

.

Interlude: Ebisu

He knew the changes in the young master's perception about the Hokage is because of one particular person.

So he took it upon himself to study the girl.

It is not about that ridiculous moment when he was swarmed by multiple copies of her adult self.

Ah.

The 'pet' may have noticed him on that first day but made no attempt to stop his observation especially when he is just plain curious.

Her everyday activities is nothing special.

Breakfast.

Train.

Meet with the young master to play ninjas (that was so hilarious when he learned about it).

Lunch with the said 'pet' at Ichiraku's.

Train again.

And then there's haki training in between. Uh, the what?

"Oh, that's what they call their chakra…" Konohamaru-sama mentioned. The young master knows a bit and demonstrated how to use the said 'haki' for combat.

Strangely enough, it is almost the same as a chakra enhanced punch. Utilizing it however depends on one's will.

An interesting concept.

So when he heard what happened in the preliminaries, he's not even surprised.

He does believe that the girl can do anything if she puts her mind into it. Especially if she has the support of her 'pet' er friend(s).

Oh dear. The avian is now glaring at him. And why is Kakashi giggling like a demented pervert. Tch.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 24

"What are we doing here again?"

Naruto asks for the nth time that morning.

Thankfully the incident that occurred yesterday is long forgotten by the said blonde (perhaps she's ignoring that other 'elephant in the room' or rather the seal in her gut and the accompanying pain whenever she overuse her chakra) as she denies what happened earlier that day to Sakura when the pinkette worriedly came to their house that night.

And so they are here today upon the request of the perverted sannin. He states that he can remove the seal (with a wordless glint in his demeanor to fix the 'other' one too).

A considerable distance away from the village in case the creature's potent chakra leaks. A clearing surrounded by tall trees, a river connecting to a certain valley and a deep ravine littered with portruding rock formations.

Internally, he scoffed in response to the other man's 'reasoning'.

Just the same, he humored his human and responded absentmindedly. "The pervert said last night that he can fix that seal, yoi." Marco did smile when Naruto made faces and grumbled incoherently to herself as she took her journal from their bag (Thatch adamantly insisted to pack their meal that day in preparation for Naruto's training with the legendary Sannin) to study the stupid seal placed on her by that snake bastard. She leans beside the rock he is sitting at.

If it wasn't for Haku's information, he wouldn't let anyone near his blonde kunoichi.

A few minutes later, the exuberant man arrives on top of a giant toad with a matching kabuki pose. Naruto who is unmistakably fond of these amphibians squeal in delight and hugged the said animal as the man clucked despairingly as he was ignored in favor of his summon.

"Alright kid, show me what you can do," Jiraiya began and crosses his arms to observe the blondes before him. He can easily ignore the pirate despite his intimidating presence.

Instructing the girl on top of the shallowest part of the river but still enough to soak her (ignoring the other teen's glare), he made her practice the water walking exercise while creating multiple shadow clones.

And yes, he did saw Orochimaru's poor attempt at sealing and it made him want to stab his old teammate with a kunai.

Ignoring the other set of eyes that follows his every move, he walked towards the girl and prepares a counter seal.

Surprising the blonde as she toppled over with a pained cry, he narrowly avoided a kick directed at his middle when the teen stands in between him and Naruto while growling murderously.

"What the fuck did you do!"

Before Jiraiya can explain himself, Naruto held his arms and worriedly steadied her and looks at the seal that's been hurting his human.

His senses suddenly took a full rush when he felt their bond again. Naruto is already crying and pushes him away from the water as they both fell on the riverbank with her in his arms. His gaze softened knowing how considerate she is with his devil fruit weakness.

He already promised, no… he swore to himself.

He will never let her go.

.

.

"So… how long has it been?" Jiraiya commented as they share the dinner the bulky pirate prepared for that day. Marco who is sitting beside Naruto's slumbering form raises his gaze from the bonfire as he continues to pet her hair.

"What are you talking about, yoi?"

The Sannin gestured everything especially how the girl clutches to his side while asleep. He decided to humor himself and angled his head confusingly at him. Huffing in irritation, the older man rolled his eyes and drank from his canister (smells like alcohol).

"If you are referring to my Naruto…," Giving the girl on his lap a fond look, he added in a cheerful tone. "Well… I do plan to make her mine." The Phoenix chuckled internally when the man chokes on his drink and his face turns a shade darker as if he's having an aneurysm or whatnot.

"What the heck! Are you fuckin' kidding me?!"

Hmm. Thinking about that, it does seem like a pretty good idea. He's sure Haku or Thatch wouldn't mind.

Heh.

.

.

Practicing her leaf exercise is now easier compared to when she still have that blasted seal.

Same goes with standing on top of the river. Despite his weakness, Marco assisted in an acceptable depth not enough to drain his strength. The perverted sannin did look at them weirdly. Naruto did notice a few glares directed to her Phoenix and Marco himself shrugs his shoulders dismissively when she asks about it.

Overall her training went incredibly well. An added bonus when the pervert allowed her to sign his toad summoning contract. Despite the trepidation knowing who the previous summoner is, Naruto feels elated as she got the chance to cuddle these cute creatures.

When they took a break that day, Thatch came by and talked to his friend. With Marco distracted, Jiraiya took the said opportunity and drags her farther away (almost at the edge of the cliff). The Phoenix did eye the sannin suspiciously.

"Alright! I need you to summon a high level toad…"

Staring at him incredulously, the blonde frowns and crosses her arms with a pout. "You do realize that I'm almost out of chakra with all those clones, capeesh?"

"Seriously kid, where are you learning all these weird languages," Ruffling her hair, he did urge her to prepare the necessary hand signs. But before she can bit her finger for the summon to take effect, he added in a neutral tone as he places a hand on her shoulder.

"We will be using your 'other' chakra. But to do that, you must be in great distress and feels like…" Jiraiya added seriously. "Like you'll never see him again."

"Eh, what?!"

Giving her a knowing look, Jiraiya pushes her into the cliff and she accidentally turns towards her Phoenix with that horrified look in her eyes.

And then there was darkness.

.

.

When Naruto opened her eyes, she's back in that disgusting tunnel.

Ugh.

Perhaps changing the scenery is in order.

Taking a deep breath, she willed to destroy the walls of her mindscape and lets it crumble into pieces. Remembering the place Marco is so fond of, she uses it as an inspiration.

Then there's the original seal placed by the Yondaime Hokage. As she is yet to understand its purpose and how it really works with her own chakra coil… ah. She settled for a very large cave with tall bars and the main seal at its center. Spacious and has a 180 degree view of the ocean from Marco's memories. The said cave is inside a rocky mountain surrounded by sand and an endless sea.

"I supposed that pirate really changed everything, hmm…"

"Yes. Yes he did." With a deep breath, Uzumaki Naruto faces the creature that made her life miserable. And yet… she felt no hatred for it.

Blood red eyes stares down at her but she held her own. "We need to talk…"

.

.

"What the fuck did you do?! Answer me, damn it!" Despite his size, the teen was able to manhandle him. The friend did his best to stop the blonde and he do know that anger can do a lot of damage. Just to be safe, he shunshined away from the pirate. Thankfully, Thatch was able to apprehend his friend who's glaring murderously at him.

"Despite my absence in her life, she grew up to be a fine girl," He started calmly ignoring the suffocating killer intent the teen releases towards him. "I am extremely grateful for your presence…"

"So you mean to say that you should be the one shielding her from all this HATRED!" At that Jiraiya winces. "How this pathetic village treat her like a trash - someone worthless, ignoring the sacrifices of her very own father who sealed the creature inside of her. Is that it?!" Alarmingly he looks at the pirate while Thatch blanches in response. "Tell me!"

"H-how did…"

"Do not mock me, boy!" With his friend's surprised reaction, Marco was able to release himself from Thatch's grip. He did held his temper and was about to jump into the ravine to save his kunoichi when he felt something.

He felt her more clearly than before.

Closing his eyes, he finally allowed his worry to ease up. Assuringly, she responded and the pirate took a relieve breath as a gigantic shadow jumps out from the gorge. Thatch did yelp in surprise as the other man paled considerably when he recognizes Naruto's summon.

"Heyya Marco! Missed me?" Grinning widely, his blonde waves on top of the toad's enormous head. The amphibian did frown upon seeing him and turn his glare towards the sannin.

He did catch her automatically when she jumps into his arms. Naruto did not waste their time and started to narrate enthusiastically how she convinced Boss Gamabunta, the current leader of the Toad clan, to help her escape the gorge and allowed her to become their new summoner because she really loves toads (evident of her colored printed pyjamas and her 'Gama-chan').

"Are you hurt, yoi?" She did look at him exasperatingly. Closing her eyes briefly, she patted his cheek fondly as Marco felt her chakra slowly enveloping the two of them and gave a playful nudge through their bond.

Opening her eyes, Naruto did gave him a warm look and a bright smile.

"You worry too much, Marco!" Chuckling, she leaned on his shoulder and heard her mumble softly. "But yeah, I'm all good…"

"…especially now that you're here with me."

The Phoenix laughs heartily at her with Thatch rolling his eyes at them as he approaches in a sedate pace while Jiraiya pacifies the angry toad behind.

.

.

Interlude: Gamabunta

He never expected to be summoned inside a very cramped location. Preparing a litany of curses, he fell a bit short when he saw a pair of cerulean blue staring right back at him.

The same blue the other brat has.

Recognizing the hair color and the whisker marks, he already guessed who she is, but ask he still does.

"Are you the one who summoned me, little one?"

"I did." The girl started to tell him everything even if he attempted to stop her especially when she talks something about perverts, a flaming blue Phoenix, the seas outside the borders and whatnot. How she was pushed to her 'death' just so she can use the kyuubi's chakra.

"Alright," Sighing, he places her back on top of his head. "That is something that man can definitely do. I just cannot believe he will do the same to you…"

"You mean he also tried to kill the Yondaime by throwing him over a mountain or a cliff?"

"The brat is just a genin at the time," He added with a chuckle. "But yeah, Jiraiya did the same 'push him over to his death' thing."

Crossing her arms, she sat with a frown on her face. "A tried and tested method. Unconventional yet highly disturbing." Exclaiming in shock, the little girl requested to be brought back up immediately or her friend might kill the perverted sannin accidentally. But the blonde Uzumaki did confirm repeatedly if she can now summon the members of his clan since she already signed the contract and all. He was about to mention about his test but she showed him her 'Gama-chan' (who unmistakably looks like a miniature version of himself) and how she really love toads accompanied by that puppy eyed gaze.

"Fine! I'll just have to test you in a different way. But I expect you to be ready, understand?" With a cheer, the girl did hugged him happily as if she didn't hear what he just said.

Ah. Looks like she knows how to use her eyes to get what she wants. Or did she have selective hearing?

Oh well.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 25

Ever since the brat came, the scenery (or his prison), became… more bearable.

Huffing amusedly to himself, the Nine Tailed Fox also known as Kurama to his siblings, settled comfortably in his so-called 'cage'.

Soft green grass now littered the inside of the cave with the ocean breeze coming in between the bars.

Despite the seal separating him from the outside world (and the girl herself), he allows a tail or two to pass through the rivulet that appears on one side of the cavern that continuously flows through the outside. He can faintly hear the water cascading from the side of the mountain into the ocean. Perhaps the source of this stream.

The girl really has very good imagination. Hmm.

Remembering their discussion, he could not stop himself but laugh. Oh the irony of their situation.

If his previous hosts are here, they will probably prevent the girl from making that promise.

He did mention that to her for the sake of formality.

And yet she insisted that 'this' wasn't what she wanted in the first place. So they'll just to deal with it.

Heh.

.

.

The day of the finals came.

It was a very busy day. Lots of buzz happening around the village especially when representatives from neighboring villages came one by one. There are people of importance with their own set of guards, some reporters and those who are enthusiastic enough to take a breather from their own busy schedule just to witness the spectacle that is the Chūnin Selection Exams.

Meanwhile, in a random apartment located in the Village Hidden among the Leaves, a certain pirate is freaking out when the breakfast he prepared was ignored (kind of).

Haku gently consoles the man as Sakura watches beside them with a frown wondering the same thing.

Where is Naruto?

Marco is kind of expected and he is probably accompanying the said blonde. Wherever Naruto is, he goes with her (almost always).

Meanwhile, Kakashi-sensei sent a summon earlier (a cute little dog named Pakkun) that they will be late and won't be able to join the opening ceremony. Hopefully the Uchiha won't adapt the cyclops' mannerisms or it will be the end of everything. Or so she thought.

After she arrives in the arena, she saw Ino and Chōji who both waves at her in greeting. Supporting Shikamaru who was the only member of Team 10 that passed along with the other rookies Shino, Sasuke and Naruto.

Ah. She'll save a seat for Haku then. Hopefully, the former Kiri-nin will be able to drag Thatch-san away from his gloomy corner.

When the fireworks started, a bandanna wearing jōnin with a senbon on his mouth walked towards the middle of the field below the stadium and motions for the genin participants to stand behind him.

Surprisingly enough, Team 7 remains missing. Ino did eye her curiously as she facepalms and sighed dejectedly in response.

Haku answers on her behalf who suddenly appeared beside her (minus their friendly pirate who's still probably sulking somewhere). "Seems like Sasuke-kun is following Kakashi-san's example…" Oh no. "Although Naruto-chan should be coming in any second now."

Huh? Did the Yuki sensed her?

Out of nowhere, an ANBU drops from the sky with the aforementioned kunoichi in his arms. The said blonde was cursing colorfully at something or someone (making the two of them wince hearing those words - three if we include Ino while Chōji is busy consuming his chips) as the masked shinobi patted her head consolingly and disappears in clouds of smoke and leaves.

Hyūga Neji sneered at her in response and if it wasn't for the proctor, the same chūnin that manned their gate in the Forest of Death (Sakura faintly heard his name, Shiranui Genma), Naruto would have attacked him.

The pinkette can almost hear Shikamaru mumble his favorite word as Shino approaches to help calm the girl.

Seriously though, looks like she is surrounded by crazies (Haku may not look one… but who knows) .

Oh dear Kami.

.

.

"Your people sure looks lively…," Rasa, Yondaime Kazegake of the Village Hidden in the Sands, commented as he looks down from the balcony overlooking the entire arena where the finals are going to be held that day. Hiruzen chuckled in response and took a seat. The same ANBU who brought Naruto in kneeled beside him after discreetly handing a piece of paper into his palm.

"If I am not mistaken, all of your children made it to the finals, correct?" Quickly looking at the papers content, his eyes widen slightly but kept his composure as he turned to face the only Kage that accepted their invitation. Iwa and Kumo's hatred still ran deep despite the truce.

The other man smiled mysteriously as he took his own seat. Hiruzen's ANBU tilted his head slightly after observing the other man and faces the arena ignoring the other Suna shinobi assigned to guard their leader (who is currently eyeing the said ANBU suspiciously).

Hmm. Looks like the girl's match is about to start.

.

.

"Would I be called a hypocrite if I decided to support her rather than my own teammate, Gai-sensei?" Lee asks curiously as they settled on their seat next to Tenten who heard his question. The girl rolled her eyes at him as she decided to pinch his cheek in rebuff.

"She did save your life, Lee. And I will not hold it against you especially if you cheered for her today." The twin bunned kunoichi stated with that sparkle in her eyes that made the other gulp nervously. "You just need to endure Neji's ever-present scowl for the rest of our careers in the event that your blue-eyed kunoichi wins."

Gai laughs in response (and may have felt a bit of dread for the upcoming days if Tenten's prediction do came true).

Carefully, he did observe the girl his rival is so protective of.

The blonde does look different now unlike the first time he saw her. There is determination and confidence in her gait especially the eyes.

He also knows that Kakashi trained the Uchiha. So who could-

"There you are, Gai. It's been a while…"

Oh. So that's how it is.

"Jiraiya-sama, it is good to see you again."

The other man laughs heartily and glances towards the arena. "I see. So that's the Hyūga she's been talking about." Rubbing speculatively on his chin, the man leaned on the baluster behind them. Crossing his arms, the famed Sannin asks if his student is from the branch family. Tenten and Lee both looks at him cautiously but he waves away their concerns (he'll make sure to explain everything later).

"Neji is Hizashi-dono's son."

Recognition lit the other man's eyes as he winces slightly. "Let me guess, he blames everything on the main family, correct?"

With a sigh, Gai took a sit and observes his student who seems to be mocking the blonde jinchūriki. He could not hear his student's words quite clearly but seems like it was his usual tirade about 'fate' and whatnot.

With a hum, Jiraiya scratches his cheek and stands to his full height. "It is just too bad he was paired with her. She's…"

"Neji is all prepared. I am certain he will be able to defeat her." Tenten's faith did ease up his worry and yet the Toad Sannin's response says otherwise.

"Perhaps." The older man admitted in a serious tone. "A genius of his own right, yeah?" With a chuckle, Jiraiya added, "Unless your teammate knows how to improvise for any contingencies, he may not stand a chance against my girl's unpredictability ."

An ANBU drops behind them and the Sannin nodded in acquiescence to the other's arrival. "Well then, I would say good luck to your student. But yeah… we'll see."

A very ominous response indeed.

.

.

Hyūga Neji studied the girl before him.

She may have reacted as expected earlier but what he sees now is entirely different. If one looks closely enough, you can sense how she disperses her chakra from the soles of her feet in weblike strings traveling the entirety of the arena itself. A thicker one races up towards the balcony where the two Kage are seated.

"I'll never forget what you did to Hinata-chan." The blonde stated seriously. She did frown after she saw the Hyūga clan head from the audience with the youngest, Hanabi. "But I supposed it can't be helped." He saw her place a hand on her stomach and bows her head slightly. "Whoever thought of dividing your family and placing a seal on the other is an idiot…" With a determined look on her eyes, she glances at everyone in the stadium especially the balcony where the village leaders watching the finals sat.

"I will be fixing that once I become Hokage, dattebayo!"

He felt nothing upon hearing those words yet the noise he heard from their audiences after the girl declared her intent put a smile on his face.

He started laughing.

"You? Become a Hokage?" Wiping a tear that escaped his eyes, he activated his byakugan and prepares for battle. "Such big words…" Neji added conversationally, "Only those who are fated to be one will become one. Not because you just wanted the said position."

Huffing, the blonde rolled her eyes at him and crosses her fingers to prepare her first attack. "Yeah, yeah! Don't have to rub it to my face, ya know. Not that your and anyone's opinion matters." With a grin, she created multiple clones who took out a few kunais of their own. "His opinion is all I need to hear. And he believes that I can do it." With a mirthful expression, she smiled sinisterly and attacks. "So I will be one… believe it!"

And then it started.

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.

Earlier that morning…

"Are you sure about this place, yoi?" Marco asks while walking alongside her.

It was still dark and the rest of the village are still asleep except for a select few (masked shinobis that she grew awfully familiar with after starting on that sensing business).

She never really expected the Phoenix to come with her. Really. Although she should have expected it.

Ever since the events in the Forest of Death, Marco has been more protective than ever (perhaps until the threat of the snake bastard is dealt with).

Her plan is real simple.

She woke up early and carefully (silently) wore the clothes she will be wearing that day (its the finals so she needs to be presentable, damn it). The same orange and blue jacket with white collar. And then there's her orange pants.

Perhaps grabbing a bite or two of Haku-chan's banana bread. Go to that place and maybe leave some flowers as a sign of respect. From what Boss Gamabunta said the day before, the forest where no one can come into (the last known physical location of the Kyuubi no Kitsune before it was sealed into her) contains negative energy. Thus it is very dangerous to civilians and ninjas alike.

It was the same place where her parents' died.

She did worry about Marco's presence here but her pirate waves it off and ruffled her hair affectionately.

"I'm mostly resistant due to my devil fruit's regenerative ability. So you don't need worry about it, yoi."

Since he is here, she did ask him a favor to buy some flowers. Better took the opportunity while she's at it. The villagers are yet to accept her presence so-

Chuckling in response, Marco nodded amusedly and walks back to the town proper.

Now that she's alone, Naruto took a deep breath and kneeled so that she can pick some stones. The middle of the said clearing does show an empty spot where nothing grows, even weeds.

She did place a few shiny rocks she found from the bushes in the middle of the clearing (Marco selected a few of them himself). Those that looks nice enough to be used as a temporary headstone.

"Hey mom… hey dad…," Sniffling slightly, she wipes a few tears that escaped her eyes. "In case you don't recognize me, I- I'm… I'm your daughter…" Smiling, she talks how well she is doing right now because of Marco and her team. How good her training is to become a ninja that they can be proud of. Promising to be very careful with this life they have given. Especially now that she have someone important to protect.

Pausing slightly, she raise her eyes after sensing him. She did feel her blood came rushing through her face when she saw Marco's expression.

The Phoenix didn't mutter a word but smiles at her gently and handed a bouquet of flowers.

"Sunflower and daffodils. From what Haku said, they mean 'adoration' and 'respect'."

He did gave her a few minutes of her own to continue giving her respect to her parents as he waited in a considerable distance. Not too far (in case someone is brave enough to attack her) that he can still reach her immediately if needed.

Sitting on top of a fallen tree, Marco did heard his blonde introduce him to her parents. Trying real hard, he tunes out her voice (yet he can sense her happiness as she talks about him that made him smile).

Ah.

So he looks ahead and observes the first rays of the sun. And the ANBU that suddenly appeared to greet him.

"Hokage-sama wants you to wear this for today's event."

After taking the scroll, the masked shinobi disappears as Naruto approaches.

"Eh? What's that?"

"Looks like I no longer need to hide, yoi." With a frown, he unseals the scroll showing a change of clothes and a white porcelain mask with familiar markings.

"Oh."

With a few turns inspecting the mask, Marco handed it over to her as he started to change. Giving her pirate some privacy, Naruto traces the design of the ANBU mask.

The markings which is similar to a certain devil fruit user she knows so well.

Glancing sidewards, she picks up the scroll noticing jiji's handwriting.

Suddenly flustered, Naruto rereads the message a few more times.

"WHAT THE FUCKIN' HELL! Is he kidding ME?!"

.

.

Present time…

Using her clones to swarm the Hyūga prodigy, Naruto immediately substitutes a clone in her place and stands in a distance far from his reach. She knew how dangerous his hands are judging from his fight with Hinata-chan.

Knowing that she cannot evade his attacks, she enforces her limbs with haki and closes in.

Coming into his 'range', she saw a hand get past one her clones dispelling it and then taps her middle.

There's a slight sting but it wasn't enough to stop her. Returning his blow with one of her own, she did saw his eyes widen in surprise.

The same 'force' she used to incapacitate Thatch during one of their practice sessions, Naruto grinned widely in response and followed it with another hit. This time, she uses the same move Marco taught her.

Jumping backwards into a somersault, Neji avoided her kick but the aftermath was enough to take his breath away (her hit earlier is starting to bother him). He also knew that he avoided her assault but-

"What's the matter?" Eyes glinting playfully, the blonde looses her stance and studies him curiously after crossing her arms. "I thought you're going to teach me that a genius cannot be pushed back by a dead last?"

Carefully controlling his reaction, Neji took a deep breath to calmed himself. "Perhaps I was mistaken. I should not have underestimated you…" Finally admitting that the girl is dangerous, he gave her the attention she deserves. "For that, I will fight you more seriously now, Uzumaki Naruto."

As a leaf fell and touches the ground of the arena, the first match of the Chūnin Selection Exams started once more much to the agitation of a certain blonde haired pirate silently watching from the shadows. His previous plan to take (kidnap) her away is starting to be more appealing than ever before.

.

.

Interlude: Kurama

"We need to talk…"

As he stares down at the child, he could (almost) commend the bravery the girl acquired to face him without fear in those familiar blue eyes.

The same color of her blasted father's that sealed him into this particular child.

Strangely enough, he isn't sensing any hatred.

"I don't know why that man sealed you into me. But I… I really don't care…" Huffing, the blonde frown and carefully approaches the gates.

"I admit that I am still weak. That I still depend on others… Marco most especially, to pull me out of all my messes." Clenching both fists, the girl raises her head in defiance. The fox remains silent though. Observing. "When I am strong enough not to rely on anyone's help… especially your chakra… I will set you free from this seal." The blonde added with finality in her tone. "As long as you don't harm anyone I care about…"

Ears twitching, Kurama stands to his full height and allowed his tails to trail behind him. His stolen yin chakra is slowly trickling back into him due to continued exposure to her Phoenix's flames. Not that he will mention that to the girl before him.

"Those accursed women that contained me before you will definitely disagree. Do you really think they will allow this 'blasphemy' of yours?"

Bristling angrily, the child pouted in response. 

"This is my life. I never really wanted 'this' in the first place. So whatever I decide to do with you or this fuckin' seal, they'll just to deal with it… whether they like it or not."

He laughs out loud shaking the ground before them as the blonde demanded that he pays out his rent since she just upgraded the 'place' to a more presentable one.

Regally he sat and allowed his tails to surround feet as the girl continues her monologue not even minding the difference in size. How easily he can crush her with one clawed hand. But the seal itself prevents it.

Moreover.

As if he didn't know about the pirate that changed her life.

He won't be surprised if that 'abomination' will be able to reach this place because of that bond.

Ugh! So troublesome. How annoying these human are.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

XoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoXoX

Part 26

Naruto never felt so exhausted. She wanted to-

All she wanted is…

Sensing one of the medic-nin (Haku's acquaintance from the hospital that may have treated her in the past when she was still small and scrawny) who approaches her worriedly. She gave the medic a polite nod back, waves her off and walked towards the waiting area where the other genin participants are staying.

After their match, the other medics carted off the Hyūga in a makeshift gurney in one of the med bays prepared for that day.

The arena and possibly everyone from the spectators themselves couldn't believe what just happened. The noise was deafening alright but she isn't sure if they are cheering for her win or the opposite.

She stumbled after turning from the corner when she failed to notice a stupid rock. Ah, he is probably sighing in exasperation as she is still trying to control her limbs whenever she feels being clumsy. Preparing herself from impact (looks like she has very good relationship with the ground os of late), Naruto's eyes widen when she fell on someone's arms.

And a very familiar one at that.

She can feel his gaze on her as she gently raises her eyes and smiled thankfully in greeting (he always catches her whenever). Gingerly, she touches the mask covering his face.

Finally allowing a few tears fall, she burrowed her face within his embrace as she cried her sadness for Neji's fate.

"They're supposed to be a family. But why… why would they do that? I… I don't understand…"

Moving his mask to a side, Marco kneels and wipes her tears away.

"You are just too kind for these kind of shit, Naruto…"

The blonde uses her sleeves to clean her face as she snuffle a bit noisily knowing that her Phoenix wouldn't mind. "You're the only one who believes that, ya know…"

With a chuckle, the pirate tugs her arms away and uses a hanky to clean her face and wipes her tears.

"You know that is not true, yoi. And as much as I believe that this village does not deserve you… I know there are some people whose life will never be the same if you aren't in it." Marco did heard the lazy Nara coming down from the stairs (possibly to look for his blonde kunoichi). Ruffling Naruto's hair, the girl sticks her tongue out in response after placing his mask back in place. "Better head back, yoi. The others might be wondering why you are taking so long."

Rolling her eyes at him, Naruto approaches the Nara after she waves at him in farewell. Marco did frown a little when she wore her usual 'smile' after greeting the boy.

Thankfully enough, she rarely uses it whenever they are together.

Securing his mask (ugh, he really hated covering his face), he went back to his 'post' and stands behind the kid. He did see Thatch handing the two village leaders some refreshments.

He also overheard their conversation about the other Suna brat that forfeited his match and the eldest child (another blonde named Temari) facing the Nara heir.

It does sound suspicious enough since the delay should have disqualified Sasuke. A tactic just so the youngest can still fight the Uchiha? Hmm.

Turning around to observe the match, Marco admits that the boy does have potential. He remembers what his Naruto thinks of the kid. Loves to watch the clouds. Possibly smarter than the teme (or Sakura herself).

And very very lazy.

He's not even surprised when the boy surrendered after he incapacitated his opponent using their clan's special technique. He laughs internally after hearing his kunoichi's indignant response from the background.

But before the winner for that match is announced, they finally arrived appearing in the middle of the arena with clouds of smoke and leaves.

Then there was it again.

An emotion malicious enough that he can taste it from the tip of his tongue. And for whatever reason, the 'source' of the said feeling knows how to mask himself as he hides from his watchful gaze.

But he does know that the bastard is here somewhere.

So when the red-haired brat loses his mind from Sasuke's attack (a baka-Kakashi taught jutsu), he knew that something is about to happen. Then the balcony explodes forcing him away from Hiruzen's side as a barrier suddenly erupted separating the kid from everyone else trapping him with the other Kage.

And then there's chaos everywhere.

Marco knew that he need to made a decision as Naruto might also be in danger. But what she told him earlier that day made him think twice.

"Jiji is planning something stupid. I don't… I don't want him to get hurt." Looking at him apprehensively, Naruto drop to her knees and bowed her head. He was about to reprimand her when she added in a pleading voice. "Please help him. The enemy… is someone he knew. Someone he used to care about. He… he might hesitate and-…"

"Stand up. You don't really need to beg about something like this ever, yoi." Raising her chin, he smiled at her fondly, "The people you care about. They are under my protection too. So I will look after them knowing how important they are to you…" Relieved, his blonde smiled and tackled him in a tight hug returning it with one of his own. Perhaps he shouldn't made that promise in the first place. But just the same…

Goddamn it!

Four unknown shinobis suddenly appeared - who might have created the said barrier and caused the explosion.

He did saw Hiruzen talking to the other Kage who removes his disguise revealing himself as the snake bastard who hurt his Naruto.

"Suzaku, we have to regroup. Hokage-sama wanted us to-"

"Do whatever you have to, yoi," Eyes glinting dangerously, he walks towards the closest enemy he can reach that gave them a condescending look. "Make sure to secure the others. I got this one." Coating his legs with haki, he turns slightly to address Neko as he kicks the barrier. What he didn't expect is for it to crack on his first hit. The child did pale and he can see the look of surprise especially when he uses his bare hands to force the barrier open. With one swift move, he grabs the enemy's throat in a chokehold as the rest of the barrier fell apart.

Handing the terrified child over to the ANBU behind him, he darted towards Hiruzen. Thankfully they didn't stopped him.

His anger, uncontrollable.

It burns like embers - from the tip of his fingers surrounding his entire skin. Marco knew that he is on fire. Figuratively.

Ignoring the caskets that shot up to 'block' his attack, he may have broken the third one much to their astounded expressions.

His prey may never expected his arrival but was still able to evade him. Tch!

"What are you doing here, pirate?"

One of the caskets revealed the jōnin-sensei from the kid's old team and an unknown shinobi with a very overwhelming presence (just like oyaji in his prime). Ignoring them, he follows his prey.

"Tobirama-sensei…," Hiruzen breathes reverently as he stares cautiously towards the other. "Hashirama-sama…"

"Ah, looks like someone got a hold of your jutsu, Tobi-kun. I told you not to document it…" The Shodai noted glumly as he looks around the village. He did cheer up a bit after seeing him. "Oh, Hiruzen-kun. What a surprise. Not that I am sad to see you old and wrinkly but I'm just so happy to see you again…"

"I for one am happy to see you both," Preparing for battle, Third Hokage Sarutobi Hiruzen never expected to win this match without sacrificing something. Facing two Kage level fighters with his current condition (he is far too old for this kind of disorder) is a suicide.

But… he will try. "I just never expected it to be this way." For Konoha.

"The final seal to control our will isn't given, so there's no need to do much, Hiruzen." Tobirama remarks in a bland tone and crosses his arms, observing his older brother fussing over his former student. "As the summoner's attention occupied, this jutsu will expire until the sacrificial body dies. Although for how long, that remains to be seen depending on their physical condition and will to live…"

"Can we dispel it on our own?" Hashirama asks as he tried to make sense of the commotion happening around the village. "Or rather after we secure the village? I do not want this borrowed time of ours to watch the home we built invaded by outsiders! If you know what I mean…"

"We literally cannot do anything, brother. As it is, we are just puppets…" Hashirama may have facepalmed in frustration but instead rakes his hand through his hair with a sullen pout.

"Seriously Tobi-kun, this jutsu of yours is really annoying…"

Ignoring his older brother's ramblings, he faces his former student who still eyes them carefully. "Care to explain why a Kami-forsaken pirate is in our village?" He is not freaking out, thank you very much. But people like him with their kind of ability may pose a more serious threat than a drunk Uchiha Madara.

A catastrophe waiting to happen.

.

Orochimaru curses internally when the masked ANBU tries to overrun him. All his attacks are either ignored (despite hitting him point on blank) or shaken off.

The same ninja from earlier whose presence is noticeable even if he tried to suppress it. Could it be?

"Tell me, boy…" With another shunshin, he took a farther distance from his persistent attacker. The barrier that is supposed to prevent anyone from interfering is nowhere in sight. What the hell had happened? "What grievances do I owe you to target me this way, hmm?"

As the face is covered, he couldn't see the expression yet Orochimaru knew that the said shinobi's - for what its worth, the killing intent is quite disturbing - focus is solely on him purposely ignoring two 'reincarnated' Kages that he should be using to further his plans. But because he couldn't apply the final component to control them fully, they alongside his former sensei, serves as their spectators for this match that is starting to be very irritating.

Finally reaching the end of his patience, he uses his snakes to bind this fool.

Head tilting slightly cataloguing the snakes that surrounded his body, Marco observes the pitiful shinobi before him.

A man similar to Teach.

Power hungry. Traitor. Willing to trample on the innocent. Someone else's Naruto…

Gaze sharpening, he releases a concentrated wave of Haoshoku. His 'bindings' fell one after the other to the surprise expression of his target.

The silver haired one (the same man he also met before with the kid) whose attention is directed at him with the other man curiously observing their fight while Hiruzen stands dutifully beside them. Ignoring their audiences, he stalks towards the bastard.

"You touched someone precious to me. For that, you must DIE!"

Not anticipating the move the bastard prepared for him, he ignored the sword that pierces his middle as he swatted the other's arm and grabs the tongue holding the weapon. Coating his right hand with haki, punches the snake using the flames he rarely uses.

The effect is instantaneous.

Flames that he first thought was useless as it only heals him. But after reading Haku's notes from the hospital and some experimentations they performed with Thatch as their guinea pig… with some observations here and there especially his favorite kunoichi… Marco finally realized that he can use his devil fruit ability to heal others.

And a thought that just appeared during this fight - that he can also use his flames to hurt (deciding to choose those who deserves it).

"What have you done!" Hissing angrily, Orochimaru grabs the mask as if to crush his face within. Smirking, he allows him just for the sake of amusement and partly transforms into his Phoenix form. With a swipe of his sharp talons, scratches the bastard's face revealing a feminine looking visage.

Eyes darkening, he clawed the arm that raises to protect himself and growled angrily.

With a shriek, the bastard quickly uses his spilt blood to summon an enormous snake that crushes the building, destroying everything beneath.

The man who he remembers was the First Hokage, uses his rare ability or kekkei genkai to reinforce the building with a large tree.

Sensing an incoming projectile thrown at his face, he disperses his flames and returned his attention to his 'prey'. Pulling out the sword the bastard used to pierce him, he noticed a few intricate designs etched on the handle particularly the guard.

A fine looking sword.

Looking up, Marco saw a creature with the size of a sea king who stares down at him.

"What are you waiting for, destroy HIM!" Orochimaru ordered in a rush as he tries to nurse his wounds. Where the hell is Kabuto, damn it!

.

Meiyo looks at her surroundings and listened to the Orochimaru-san's commands. Head tilted lightly, she lets her tongue to taste the air. Frowning, she looks down and came face to face with a sea dweller.

And a very dangerous one at that.

"What are you waiting for, destroy HIM!"

"Watch your tongue, boy…" Stretching her limbs, the great lilac colored snake lowers her head slightly as she reprimanded her summoner. The unknown sea dweller looks at her curiously in return. "If I am not mistaken, you were told to avoid any skirmishes with a 'Conqueror'… especially from those that came from the four seas."

"What?"

With a sigh, the snake gave Marco a knowing look. "I will not be an instrument to your petty quarrels…"

"Petty?" The Phoenix's temper may have flared a little. "Hurting someone I care about doesn't sound petty at all, yoi!" Unknowingly releasing a wave of Haoshoku, he growled as he glares at the sannin.

Huffing, Meiyo mentally rolled her eyes in response. How very bothersome. "Still, I or any of my brethren will not interfere this particular fight… Summon us when you decided to destroy something else."

Ignoring Orochimaru's scandalous reaction, she bowed slightly towards the sea dweller and reverse summoned herself back to Ryūchi Cave. Slithering her way into the White Snake's cavern, she saw her older brother, Manda, talking to the elderly sage.

"I see that you are disturbed, tell me child, what did the brat commanded you to do now?" The White Snake asks so Meiyo narrated everything.

Her brother is silent upon hearing her tale. Not necessarily angry but speculative enough with that cautious glint in his eyes.

Oh right.

Her brother have met a Conqueror once, when he was still a youngling.

"Those people are despicable enough that leaves a bitter taste in our mouth and stomach…" Manda harrumphed grumpily reminiscing the events he encountered in the past with their father. "I prefer not to face one again… if it can be avoided."

Meiyo agreed amiably. The one she faced earlier has a peculiar ability that allows him to transform into a mythical creature that she knew from the stories heard in these caves by the oldest among them. He does not seem aggressive though.

Still it was not an unwelcome thought. Perhaps she'll got another chance to meet that human again.

Maybe.

.

This should not be happening. His plans… he- they should be unstoppable. And yet this lowly 'ANBU' wannabe continues to be a hindrance to everything.

A lowly Kami-forsaken pirate.

"Curse you!"

Clucking his tongue in annoyance, the blonde cocked his head slightly to one side as he leaned Kusanagi over his shoulders. "Don't be like that, yoi. We're just getting started…"

He did sense Kabuto dropping beside him. Ignoring the bruises his spy currently has, he glares at him angrily when he heard his plea to retreat.

Him? The great Snake Sannin retreating because of one man? Preposterous.

Ignoring the searing pain in his left arm, he grabs the teen by his shirt.

"We are outmatched. We need to-"

"Silence!"

Backhanding the boy, he pushes him forward to receive the attack meant to pierce his heart.

The sword itself would be a great loss in his arsenal but Kabuto is right. His survival is foremost important and if Suna knows what he had done to their leader, ah. Better not risk it.

Abandoning his people (they are all expendable anyway especially the medic-nin), he rushes towards the forest to leave the village he loathed with every fiber of his very being ignoring Jiraiya's stricken expression as he uses one of his contracted summons (the other man is currently fighting the Three Giant Snake) as his makeshift springboard to escape.

Even if he lost Kabuto now, he still have some aces hidden up his sleeves.

This isn't over.

.

.

Retracting the sword (the weapon does look real handy so he'll definitely keep it), Marco stares down at the boy. His expression pitiful enough that he waves off an ANBU who tried to put him in chains.

"Are you sure about this, Marco?" Hiruzen asks as he walks towards him while eyeing the said traitor very carefully. He can also see the two 'somewhat reincarnated' Kages approaching them with the silver haired one looking quite disapprovingly.

"I will take full responsibility for him. No need to worry yourself, kid."

The unspoken word is clear in the Third Hokage's eyes. Lips quirking a little, he gave him a small smile purposely ignoring the Nidaime who is glaring daggers behind his back.

Laughing boisterously, the Shodai claps him by the shoulder as he tried to assess him physically. Not entirely unpleasant but somewhat similar to the bond he and Naruto shared.

Realization hits him like a punch in a gut.

Naruto!

Transforming into his full Phoenix form, he calls out for Haku and asks to wait for Thatch until they can sort out their new 'guest'.

Ignoring Senju Hashirama's amazed reaction, he flew towards his favorite human without looking back.

Hiruzen can explain everything to them (the bodies used for the said jutsu may or may not last long though).

For now, he needed to make sure that his kunoichi is safe and unharmed. Nothing else matters.

Konoha may burn for all he care.

.

.

Interlude: Kabuto

Perhaps he should have already expected him to throw him into the wolves when the time comes.

It was always in their nature.

And yet he still hopes that Orochimaru-sama will never betray him.

Yet he still did.

The pirate's eyes is unreadable though. For whatever reason, he avoided fatal injury from Kusanagi's blades as if the teen knew how to use it.

As his former mentor left him for 'dead', the Phoenix waves off an ANBU that tried to put him in chains and uses his blue flames to heal his injury.

What?

"Are you sure about this, Marco?" The Sandaime asks as he approaches them while eyeing him carefully. The Second Hokage is glaring daggers towards the other teen's back as the First is silently observing everyone's reaction.

So they knew what he is?

"I will take full responsibility for him. No need to worry yourself, kid."

What?

Why?

Is he insane? A fool?

Clenching his fists tightly, Yakushi Kabuto tried to voice out his objections. He's-

The girl who he knew was an immigrant from Kiri stands by his side dutifully, waiting for the other pirate to come along. He never even saw her arrival. His mind, in turmoil. While his emotions… chaotic.

She did notice his reaction but answers his unspoken question just the same.

"Marco-sama have seen something in you." The girl, Haku, mused softly. "Thus he will be helping you from hereon. Allow you to choose or make your own path… somewhere you belong…"

That's…

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 27

Naruto's everything hurts.

Again.

Well this time, it is the good kind of hurting.

It's like when she trains all day and the results are what she expected all along (hard work is the key, dattebayo!). It's like when she trains using haki with her awesome ninja skills with Marco and the others (Sasuke is given knowing how obsessed he is in learning new things to get stronger while Sakura just don't want to be left behind). And if she sees her Phoenix's proud look when she lands an unexpected hit, ah. Priceless.

Lifting her head from having another brief interaction with dirt, she eyed Gaara carefully. His expression seems lost.

Naruto does feel sorry for the bruise (oh my Kami, is that blood?) forming on the other boy's forehead after she head butted him to break the control the one tailed bijuu has over him.

After sensing the teme and the others (ensuring that they are safe and free of Gaara's sands), she forced her limbs to move and approaches the redhead cautiously. Her muscles might be protesting with all their might, but ignore them she did.

"H-how? How did you do that?" Gaara added hastily when he saw the confusion in her eyes. "Why are you so strong?" Huffing exasperatingly, she sat in front of him in a respectable distance. She may have winced slightly and he felt a bit sorry knowing that he was the reason for all her injuries.

"Those are my friends that you tried to kill. Even if you didn't mean it, I made promise to myself that I will protect them with my life. That is my ninja way…"

"Your ninja way?"

Nodding, she gave Gaara a little bit of everything. How she thrives to work real hard for the village to accept her existence.

To protect her most precious people.

Understanding lit his eyes when she told him that.

That they're the same.

When his older siblings came, Naruto did notice that cat boy is glaring and took a threatening step towards her. He did stop after two strides (and paled considerably) when he saw something (or someone) behind her.

Oh.

She won't admit it to herself but… she felt so relieve after sensing her pirate up close. And nope, she is not distracted… just tired, alright?

That Marco is… that he's okay.

Taking her into his arms, the blonde pirate's eye sharpened dangerously preventing the boy from taking another step. Ready to attack if this ninja tries to harm his blonde kunoichi.

"Kankurō."

Redhead calls out as the sister took one of his arm over her shoulders. Catsuit wearing boy did help his sister as they took the youngest away. Not before redhead eyed his Naruto strangely with myriads of emotions in those teal colored eyes.

Marco knew that he have to stop them. To answer for the mess they participated with even if they are just tools. But Naruto firmly taps his arm with a shake of her head. Of course, who will dare question his priorities.

"Are you sure, yoi?"

Nodding, his blonde gave him a reassuring smile and leaned towards his shoulders while angling her head tiredly.

Kami-sama, Naruto still felt so tired. So sleepy. Ugh.

Perhaps summoning Boss Gamabunta when she has enough chakra to spare in the aftermath can be added to her to-do list especially for her future battles. The epic ones. Right.

She did jolted back up when she smelled blood on his ANBU uniform. A long tear showing unblemished skin that his devil fruit ability might have already healed. The same size of a blade… a s-sword?! W-what the-?

Chuckling at her reaction, Marco carried her effortlessly placing an arm under her back and the other under her knees.

And then she asks about his mask.

Oh right, Naruto like that mask. He wonders what happened to it after the bastard clawed it out from his face.

Pouting… and trying real hard to fight her exhaustion, Naruto continues to question what happened to his fight (he's not even going to wonder how she knew that he fought the snake bastard).

From the distance, he can see the remaining members of Team 7.

Looks shaken (mostly Sakura) but still alive and well which is a win on his books. Sasuke looks grumpy though.

Ah.

Just your regular day in the Village Hidden among the Leaves.

Fantastic.

.

.

The repairs did went remarkably quick. Everyone helped one another.

And then they buried and mourned for their dead.

And those who are supposed to stay dead was regarded cautiously by the living. But knowing that they are the previous leaders of their village, it was taken as a sign that change is about to happen.

Senju Tobirama agrees much to his older brother's enthusiastic exasperation.

Hashirama's smile did falter when he saw the last remaining Uzumaki in Konoha, current jailer of the Kyuubi. What happened to his wife's village is tragic and he continues to berate himself for not doing enough.

The girl (despite not having the Uzumaki's trademark hair color) looks at him curiously and tried to approach him. Her chakra signature reminds him so much of his beloved wife.

The pirate, Marco, returns his look with a warning and led the girl to his previous office (now used by Hiruzen-kun) with a few hush whispers to the girl.

The matter with the traitor was dealt accordingly. Not that it matters. The boy is indeed a citizen of Konoha although the reasons why he betrayed the village is still unknown. He will entrust his fate to the teen Hiruzen talks fondly of.

"The sacrificial bodies are dying. And our 'visit' may come to an end anytime soon." He did request for the bodies to be returned to their village in case they have family waiting for them. He may have heard the boy (the traitor) who commented that ninjas from Oto are mostly orphans that Orochimaru have taken under his care. Some against their own will. Others volunteered to escape the hardships of a village that isn't protected by a shinobi organization.

His metaphorical heart did quench painfully knowing that his efforts to stop the hatred among the villages and its people haven't stopped at all. Tobirama did sigh behind him.

"You already did more than enough, brother. Let the children of this generation continue what you've started…"

"Hell yeah! We'll definitely do our best and stop this hatred, jiji-sama!" Marco tried to hide his smile while Kakashi and the others who know the girl fluster at her blatant disrespect (or lack there of) after she addressed the Shodai. Hiruzen chuckled in response while Tobirama did frown at her. The blonde turns her attention cheekily towards his younger brother. "You too, oji-san. We got this, so no need to worry yourselves. We're ormph-…!" Jiraiya covered her mouth and laughs nervously at them. She may have bitten his hand (judging from the slight wince he made) but slightly drags the girl away from them.

"Quiet you…"

He may not know it, but her words did put him in a cheery mood. Kneeling in front of her, she gave the girl a seed he took from his leftover possessions.

"When the day comes, you will know what to do with this…" Clasping her hand with both of his palms, Senju Hashirama entrusted the fate of the village (or perhaps the Elemental Nations) in her hands. "Stay strong for me, little one… everything's going to be alright." The reaction she gave in return made him laugh out loud much to everyone's incredulous reactions.

As their body started to scatter, he looked at everyone in the room. His gaze proud, he smiled at them and allowed his soul to be pulled back into the impure world. "When the time comes, each of you will face hardships that will define you… test your limits… gives you choices to make… and roads to walk upon," He turned to take one last look of his beloved village. With a sigh, touches the kanji etched on Hiruzen-kun's hat. "The philosophy behind the will of fire… is to protect. To move forward… and be better."

Tobirama gave him a regardful look but didn't add any further comments. For that he is grateful knowing how sceptical his brother is when it comes to his ideals.

"Until then…"

Hashirama does hope that he'll never be called again to fight someone else's battle.

Hoping might be a strong word.

.

.

As life moves on, everyone from the Hidden Leaf Village went on with their everyday life.

But there are some that still holds on to the past. Some who continues to berate himself for not doing enough.

So Marco did what he can especially when he felt Naruto's worry for the last Uchiha.

"I'll talk to him, yoi."

Gratefully, his kunoichi nodded as Sakura and Haku led her to the hospital for a much needed checkup. Her prior injuries may have healed on its own (courtesy of the fox) but it was requested by the Hokage himself.

Marco internally rolled his eyes hearing the pinkette's explanation but urges his human just the same (better to be safe than sorry). Upon hearing that, Thatch did stare at him exasperatingly. Their new 'guest' is minding his own business and tends to stay in his own room (another expansion of Naruto's apartment with Thatch and the Yuki enjoying the renovations and extra work). The blonde pirate did eye the seals preventing access to the teen's chakra distastefully.

"Come along, kid. We got places to be, yoi."

Kabuto may have wanted to protest out loud but remembering his current situation, held his tongue. Seems like his participation in the invasion wasn't mentioned at all throughout the village and only a selection of shinobis knew. Huh? Looks like they are bigger fools than what he first thought.

The pirate chuckled as if reading his mind.

Huffing irritably, he avoided Marco's gaze and followed the other teen outside.

"Sasuke is being difficult. Something may have happened during their fight with the Suna brat and he's closing himself from the rest of the team, yoi." Marco stated conversationally. His demeanor remains unchanged.

Knowing who the teen is and how dangerous he is, Kabuto hesitated to comment any further.

With a sigh, the blonde turns his head slightly and looked at him. "You do not need to restrict yourself from anything just because you did something wrong, yoi."

His gaze are unreadable and yet Kabuto couldn't help himself but saw pity in the pirate's eyes. Rage bubbles within his chest and he returned his look with a defiant tilt of his chin. Both fist clenches tightly and he can feel the seal triggering as his chakra tried to fight off the foreign addition to his person.

Scratching his chin as the blonde observes his reaction, Marco turned and walks away as they headed towards the Uchiha compound.

This boy has issues, that's for certain. Perhaps, he'll let things work out on their own. Eventually. A new mantra he learned from his favorite kunoichi.

As they walked by the busiest part of the village, they were interrupted in between by various greetings from everyone, be they civilians or shinobis.

People who may have seen him during the invasion can easily identify the 'ANBU' that defeated the traitorous Sannin who can use blue flames and transform into a 'Phoenix'.

Those who remembers his connection to a certain blonde kunoichi avoided his gaze in shame.

"You're bringing me along just to keep an eye on me, yeah?" He asks conversationally in a bland tone. They did reach the Uchiha's private training grounds after evading the next well wishers with a few turns in between (a street the medic-nin isn't familiar with).

"A change of scenery perhaps, yoi." They both see the Uchiha running himself ragged. Pieces of charcoal littered across the clearing with a few that still has dying embers. Marco can faintly sense Sasuke's diminishing chakra reserves.

Huh? That's something new.

"What is 'he' doing here?" Eyeing Kabuto suspiciously, Sasuke's hold on his kunai tightens, his knuckle white with strain.

"An observer who wants to see how far the 'last' Uchiha has fallen…" Kabuto retorted disdainfully as he studied his surroundings.

Sasuke responded angrily as he attacks Kabuto in a blink of an eye that surprises the silver-haired genin. Marco may have anticipated it and went in between the two. Outmaneuvering the Uchiha, the Phoenix drags and pushes the boy face down as he held his arms in a tight grip while giving the other teen an unimpressed look.

"Don't forget that anger often causes unexpected consequences, Sasuke. You are way better than this, yoi."

The boy grunted and knowing that Sasuke calmed down a little, he releases his hold and held his hand towards the boy. Raising one brow towards the other genin, Kabuto rolls his eyes in response and went to the farther end of the clearing, away from the unstable Uchiha.

As Marco further observes the younger boy, he can immediately notice the darkness that is starting to surround him.

Something that he needs to rectify as soon as possible.

"Say, what would you do for a good 'ol pirate-y kind of a spar, yoi?"

.

.

Haku can understand Marco-sama's concerns especially when they accompanied Naru-chan in the hospital for the mandatory checkup of all shinobis that participated (fought) in the invasion. It was subtle, but the looks the staff gave to Naruto held contempt in them (even some of the older patients who saw her friend upon entering the premises glared angrily at her).

Some even ignored her like she was never there.

And ever since she started learning haki, her perception to one's emotions and not just their outside appearances made her realize that something is so definitely wrong.

It was very similar to what happened to her in the past. Before Zabuza-sama found her.

On the other side of the waiting area, Sakura's already gritting her teeth in annoyance and the Yuki wouldn't even wonder if the pinkette will burst out angrily with that temper of hers.

Her own eyes glinted dangerously with her lips setting into a thin line as she stood abruptly surprising everyone. Perhaps talking to these despicable people one more time will put them in their place. But then Naru-chan holds her arm and looked at her pleadingly and shook her head.

"B-but…" Sakura asks confusingly.

"It's alright, really." The blonde smiled (she can hear the sadness in voice) and shows them her 'mask' (her acceptance for the said situation). The same face she always showed the world when she's hurting. Realization hit Haku and covers her mouth to hide the downward turn of her lips from her friend's gaze. That this wasn't the first time it happened. Deciding to settle the issue with her colleagues at a later time, she took Naruto's hand and gestured for Sakura to follow.

The girls found themselves at the rooftop on the next building. With a few calming breaths, Haku decided not to push Naru-chan any further especially when she saw her reaction earlier. Giving her a comforting smile to ease her trepidation.

Sakura sighed beside them and places her arms over the blonde's shoulders with that determined look in her eyes.

"When you become a Hokage, give us free reign over the hospital…" Her expression turns a bit darker and gave Haku a knowing look. "We'll make sure to give it a thorough makeover and 'train' everyone. Alright?"

Sweat dropping, the blonde winces slightly as the pinkette firmly grasp her shoulders in excitement. "We'll also work on your confidence. Ino has some ideas and Haku wanted to help too…"

"W-wait… I d-don't…"

"We promise not to let anyone hurt you anymore, Naru-chan… so leave the rest to us, okay?" The former hunter-nin promised. With conviction in her voice, she can see Sakura nodding affirmatively.

Naruto's eyes started to blur but kept her emotions in check and gave her friends (yes, the said word started to be more than just people who knows her) a wide smile and tackled the two in a big hug (these people who are precious to her). The pinkette giggles beside Haku who patted her head adoringly.

Now she understands why Marco-sama acts that way around her especially against these people.

Naruto is too selfless for her own good.

Too kind.

And if she needs to lend a helping hand for the village to see her worth… she'll do it. She will make them see.

How Naruto deserves the best especially from the village she vowed to protect. Believe it!

.

.

On the other side of the village, particularly the bathhouse, there are those who wanted to have time for themselves. To relax and feel better after the events that transpired the day before.

A respectable 'somewhat' looking shinobi, stands guard.

Well, not necessarily - but if you look closely enough, anyone in the half mile radius can hear a perverted giggle. Suspicious enough that if a certain blonde haired kunoichi heard and saw him, she'll probably tie him up and feed him to the wolves… er women.

Utatane Koharu and Mitokado Homura sighed in unison as they waited for the man to notice them.

Hiruzen should be here but because of what happened… ah. It does pain them to know that they could almost do anything except fight death itself.

Without looking away from his 'research', Jiraiya asks curiously. "What business does the Go-Ikenban have for me, hmm?"

.

.

Interlude: Thatch

Watching his friend struggle with dealing this new 'relationship' of his is something he never expected to see.

At all.

Perhaps the reason why he was given a second chance in life is to witness Marco and his crazy antics especially when it comes to Naruto-chan.

Ah. It was hilarious really since birdbrain doesn't know (or remember) how to deal with girls (specifically the opposite sex)… those who he really like.

Oh.

Come to think of it, this was the first time he saw Marco liking someone (inspite of the women they slept with in the past… because yeah). As in really really like someone. Even the pirate himself is clueless about this certain development. That he cares for one specific girl more than life itself. Perhaps more than the crew.

Hmm. Naruto herself is another complicated matter. But he'll let Haku and that pretty ANBU chick to deal with the blonde.

For now, he continues to observe Marco's poor attempt of this so-called 'relationship'. Not that the two recognized the said relationship to begin with. Perhaps place a wager or two against Kakashi and Jiraiya. These other two who's still in denial about something.

Heh.

Totally outrageous if you ask him.

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Fem!NaruXMarco

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 28

Even if he didn't fight the two former Hokages, his health suddenly took a turn for the worst.

Ah. He's finally feeling his age.

He can understand Koharu and Homura's concerns. Knowing Jiraiya, he'd rather face the wrath of all the women he peeked upon than take the position left behind by his very own student. Thus there is one more person he can think of to entrust the village with.

The question is, will she accept?

"I'll talk to her. Even if I have to tie her by foot, I'll make her listen…"

Giving his student a bland look, he took his pipe out and cleaned it methodically. "I don't want her to feel obligated just because she'll learn about my condition…"

The Sannin may have added a few derogatory remarks about the other member of their former squad. Not that Senju Tsunade will ever know of this conversation. Just the same, he requested the other man to find her and hopefully she'll have a change of heart and come back home.

He did pause upon hearing Jiraiya's request about bringing someone along. "Are you sure about that?"

He doesn't know if the pirate will agree to the said arrangement even if their upcoming departure is in the horizon. But from what he heard, Sasuke wanted to come with them and train in paradise.

Especially now.

Hopefully what he told the boy didn't change his perception about the village.

"What about the Uchiha. Did you really told him everything?" Jiraiya asked as he tilts his head and silently studied the various machinery connected to his body.

With a sigh, he explained his reasoning. Not that he is justifying his actions. Knowing that his time is limited, he hopes and pray that the brothers will forgive him. For all his shortcomings. All their mistakes.

A very wistful thinking.

.

.

When she woke up that day, Naruto felt that something is very different.

Aside from the fact that teme still hasn't shown himself ever since the invasion. But her Phoenix assured her that he's fine and have some personal things he needed to take care of. Marco also has that faraway look in his eyes. Like something is bothering him.

And surprisingly enough, the traitor (uhm former?) Kabuto, noted absentmindedly that her 'pet' learned something interesting and he'll probably tell her once everything are about to sort itself out. Huh?

Last night, pervy sage talked to her as well and made her prepare for a very important mission - there is someone they need to find and talk to who can help jiji's worsening condition.

He also mentioned about her guests and a certain gateway opening in a few weeks. Marco may have reacted badly and thrown the man out their house. It was the first time she saw him like that. Thatch gapes distressingly beside Haku who ignores the commotion while drinking her tea (ooh, she gotta learn how to do that). Quietly, she left the table (after quickly finishing her meal) and prepared the things she needed to bring on her trip. She did heard Marco coming into the room and stands silently behind her. Thru their bond, she can feel his apology for his earlier behavior. But no words came out of his mouth.

Still it scares her.

And knowing that he really need to leave… leaving her alone in this village… makes everything so complicated since she doesn't want him to go. Even if they previously talked about it.

Just so, the Phoenix took her in his arms. Holding her close.

As the quietness of the room is starting to bother her, she places her hand over his and added softly, "You can always visit, right?"

Humming in response, Marco turned her around and held her face affectionately. "You are never going to get rid of me that easily, yoi. Because you're mine now… and I'm not letting you go."

Surprise lighting her features (with her pirate silently observing her reaction), Naruto knew she should say something.

Marco's declaration did made her feel….

She must say anything.

…makes her feel wanted.

Closing her mouth, she tried again but came out empty.

So she decided to let their bond do the talking. Leaning her face closer to his touch, her gaze softened and smiled at him.

Yes.

Marco chuckled and tugs her closer as he places a kiss on top of her head.

She mustn't let this fear control her.

They both won't let each other go knowing how selfish they are. That's… that's more than enough.

.

.

The next day in a less than travelled road, north of Konohagakure…

Two shadowed figures appeared out of nowhere and walked down the path towards a certain village. Both are wearing straw hats with tassels covering their faces to shield against the harsh winds of travel (or possibly to keep their identity hidden) and dark-colored cloaks with red clouds.

A random merchant (who happened to be fixing their broken cart) accidentally took a glimpse at the larger man who returned his look with a feral grin showing sharp teeth.

"What's wrong?" The merchant's companion asks as she places a cover on top of their wares that they will be selling in the next village. "Honey?" Calling her husband, the female places her hand on his shoulder and tries to look for anything that might have caught his attention. The road was empty but despite that, she feels secure knowing that the roads surrounding Konohagakure is protected by their shinobis.

Shaking his head to clear his thoughts (what is he looking at again?), the merchant continues his task knowing how his wife will nag him for being too slow. The men he saw seems to disappear from his memories.

Unknown to him, the men he did saw are perched at the top of the highest branch overlooking that very same road.

The smaller man crosses his arms annoyingly towards the other who laughs out in response. "I could have just kill him, you know."

"Hn." Turning away, he can almost see the village from this distance. The very same village he never expected to visit again.

And yet… he came back.

Rumors started to spread about Konoha's Third Hokage. So he decided to visit and remind him. Good thing that their mission involves a certain 'fox'.

He just hope that the Sandaime kept his word.

Sasuke mustn't know the truth.

"So… shall we go and find the Nine Tailed brat?" Hoshigaki Kisame asks with that bloodthirsty look in his eyes.

Twin red orbs glances back at him and nodded.

And so, Uchiha Itachi finally came home.

.

.

Some undisclosed cemetery, west of Konoha…

"I knew I'd see you here…"

Sasuke grunted in response and eyed the speaker sullenly. "What are you doing here?"

A vein popped from her forehead and Sasuke temporarily saw stars after the older teen hits him in the head. Nursing his bump, he glared at her murderously.

Chuckling amusedly, the newcomer sits beside him and handed him a bucket of water.

"The children saw you leave the compound with dark clouds surrounding your head. And he did ask me to follow and talk to you. Make sure you didn't do anything stupid…"

"I'm not brooding…" Sasuke grumbled and took the cleaning materials she brought and started cleaning the graves of his parents.

He knows that their bodies (everyone that died that day) were cremated to protect their bloodline. But from what he learned, there are some of his clansmen whose eyes was pilfered just after their deaths.

Marco was forced to hold him down because his emotions are chaotic. Uncontrollable.

One of the possible reasons for the Third's unexpected health issues. He felt guilty afterwards but Hokage-sama waves it off dismissively.

"As expected, you really are a Conqueror…"

He doesn't understand what the Phoenix means (the dobe may know more) but he'll think and talk to her about it later.

"Konoha to Sasuke? Hello? Are you still with me?"

Pushing her waving hands away, Sasuke grunted annoyingly. "Is going outside too dangerous for you?" Focusing on his task, he avoided the scrutinizing gaze of the person he tought was dead.

The only other person he cares about.

Uchiha Izumi's eyes twinkle in amusement. Knowing that the boy before her is ignoring the question, she could not stop herself from observing his every reaction. The changes of the once prissy boy who hated everyone aside from his beloved older brother had changed. Tremendously.

Humming a song she learned in her childhood, she gave the boy some privacy and allowed him time to pay his respects.

From what she remembered, Sasuke received the blunt end of Itachi's so-called 'betrayal'… that he failed to function normally for a month or so.

"Well?" The boy crosses his arms and stared at her. Perhaps he is trying to remember the face she used to have.

"The seal protects us from any unwanted scrutiny. Even the Uchiha's famed Sharingan will fail to break this fūin based genjutsu…" Giving Sasuke a pat in the head, she turned and started walking back towards the village tagging him along. "To everyone else's, I am Harada Umi, an orphan who was taken in by the monks of the Fire Temple with a few others who survived the kyuubi attack twelve years ago… and a medic who is a good acquaintance of the former Kiri-nin named Haku who happens to be close friends with Team 7 under Hatake Kakashi's guidance.

It also took her time to heal. Like the others. And that she may have lost the sight in her right eye, but that didn't matter.

There are some who are far more affected of the tragedy that befallen their entire clan.

Just like Itachi.

Just like Sasuke.

But it didn't stop her to hope (a trait she inherited from her parents)… that someday everything will work out.

"So, I heard from a certain 'dog' that you found good friends. Can you tell me more about them?"

"Hn."

Ugh. These blasted Uchihas are still so annoying as Umi thought to herself while eyeing the boy irritatingly. Even if she is a Uchiha herself, she doesn't act like these two.

Perhaps that will never ever change.

.

.

Meanwhile…

Ever since he became a ninja, Jiraiya knew that his life is going to be in constant danger especially with the task he took upon himself. Being a spymaster means that one of his foot is already buried underground.

So there is no surprise when he felt like this.

Like someone is trying to kill him. Literally.

Figuratively.

And that 'someone' is glaring daggers behind his back. And no matter how interesting it is to observe the reaction of his would-be killer, Jiraiya prefers to live another day and avoid any further skirmish with the murderous pirate.

As they walked along the road away from Konoha's southern gates, the Toad Sannin couldn't stop his curiosity and turned back. If looks can kill, he should've dropped dead by now with the intent the teen (he will not even think of the actual age, damn it) is releasing towards him. Just the same, he looks at his companion and muttered lowly (in case the other blonde has super hearing in his arsenal), "Your 'pet' is trying to kill me… can you ask him to back off or something?"

Huffing, Naruto rolls her eyes at him and waves back to her Phoenix promising loudly to be back as soon as possible (or at least a few days before they leave for their own journey). Thankfully enough, the killing intent vanishes like there was nothing at all and the older man breathes a sigh of relief as the pirate focuses his attention to his god-daughter.

Another denial came through his mind and he'd rather not think of 'their' so-called relationship just as Kakashi stated the night before (just after he was thrown out of Naruto's house).

Perhaps ignorance is something he can live with until Naruto decides what to do with her 'connection' to the pirate in question.

"Don't antagonize Marco, okay? He may not look like one, but he really is strong. Even the snake-bastard can't defeat him…"

Sputtering comically, the silver-haired self-proclaimed pervert tried to correct her misconception about last night's discussion. But Naruto expertly misdirected the sannin and asks about their destination. Raising both hands in surrender, Jiraiya muttered something incomprehensible.

"So…" Taking her ever reliable notebook out, Naruto reviews the data Haku and Sakura gathered for her about their target er mission. "The woman we're looking for is jiji-sama's granddaughter, correct?" Surprised, the pervy sage looked at her questioningly. Mentally rolling her eyes at him, she explained the preparations made by Haku (who still has the mindset of a hunter) and Sakura (who wanted to prep her for any possibilities that may arise in their mission). Approvingly, he tried to grab her journal as if wanting to look at its content. Deftly avoiding his hands, Naruto stuck her tongue out. "Rule number 2 - or was it 3?" Pausing slightly, she smacks his hands and hid her notebook away from the pervert's grabby fingers, "No one - aside from me or Marco can see the contents of this journal… well except for that one time when teme accidentally saw my notes and mocked my handwriting. The nerve of that bastard!"

Crossing his arms thoughtfully, Jiraiya studied the fuming girl before him. Maybe…

"If I teach you a new jutsu, something you can include in your ever-growing skillset… will you let me look at your mysterious journal since I am contributing a very special technique that only two people can use - three if ever you learn it?"

And yes… he did saw that dangerous glint in her eyes when she heard and understood his silent challenge. Someone did attempt to recreate the jutsu - Kakashi is already expected as he was Minato's former student. Even if the unexpected outcome gave birth to another terrifying technique.

Carefully, he showed her all three stages of the Rasengan. As expected, her eyes sparkled in wonder. And after jotting down her observation in a new page, she handed over the journal and immediately started on the jutsu.

"Bring it! I'll master this awesome jutsu in no time at all!"

Ah. If they're here, they'll probably cheer for her enthusiasm (Kushina most especially) and confidence (Minato will definitely cry buckets of joy).

Yeah. He does feels the same way.

He is so proud of her.

.

.

Interlude: Jiraiya

He couldn't believe what he saw in his god-daughter's journal.

It's like…

"Your pirate is a… How did he came up with all these training regimen and strategies?" It's like he's reading the journal of a genius shinobi tactician with a few inserts of pirate-y stuff. The Nara would definitely want to pick out Marco's brain.

"Huh?"

Her water balloon popped because of the distraction and she curses him out loud. Like a Kami-forsaken pirate. Wincing slightly, he avoided the balloon scraps thrown at him as he clucked his tongue in a reprimanding manner.

"Seriously kid, where are you learning all these words…"

Perhaps the pirate is a very good influence especially to Naruto and to everyone who got to know the guy (he admits that the Phoenix in person is very charismatic - when he isn't trying to maim him).

And at some point, makes him want to keep his girl away. Mannerisms of a pirate with an attitude of a shinobi… argh! A very bad combination if you ask him.

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Chapter Text

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Summary:
To save everyone, Marco used his current existence. Never did he imagine that he will be reborn to a new world different from his own. It is a world filled with ninjas and creatures as large as Sea Kings that are made of pure living chakra. What can a pirate like him do to survive especially if he is a freaking bird? Thatch is right; he does look like a chicken. And a certain blue-eyed blonde is thinking of him as her new pet.

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Of Flaming Feathers and Bloodstained Furs
By: Zelga Lim Li

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Part 29

Earlier that day, 7:40…

"This is a surprise… We never expected to see you here, Kakashi?"

Glancing towards the newcomers, the famed Sharingan no Kakashi smiled at them and gave the pair a cheery wave.

Yūhi Kurenai and Sarutobi Asuma looks perplexed as they approach him wondering why someone like him bothers himself in a place like this. It's true that the dango shop and its surrounding establishments are more of Anko's territory. And perhaps Thatch-san too (the man loves to explore Konoha and all her delicacies).

"Together again, I see…" Musing softly but still loud enough to be heard, the two frowned in response.

Ah. Did they notice already?

Before Asuma can respond, Sasuke arrived with Harada-san. The boy had this questioning look in his face for the assembled jōnins in the area. The medic gave a polite bow towards them and left reminding the Uchiha to visit the hospital for the mandatory checkup.

Sensing the change in the air, Kakashi looked at the two who nodded in response as they disappear in a shunshin.

"What's going on?" Sasuke asks suspiciously when he saw Umi stopping a few yards away from the dango shop, seemingly frozen. What could-

With a firm grip on his shoulders, Kakashi looked at him seriously. "Keep her company. No matter what happens, don't leave her side, got it?"

Even before he can ask anything further, his sensei left without a backward glance. Tch.

Carefully approaching Umi, Sasuke saw her pale complexion. Thru his haki, he can feel her frantic emotions in contrast to the determined expression of her face. The same expression Naruto uses when she wanted to do something stupid that will probably freak Marco out. Realization dawned knowing 'who' could've caused this particular guise. "He was here, is he?"

Glancing at him sideways, he saw a brief flash of her Sharingan. "They're after Naruto-chan…"

Huffing dismissively, he took her by the elbow (mother's teachings remained despite everything) and urges Umi to seat in a vacant table. Crouching down and studying her reaction, Sasuke ignored the leftovers (looks like his preferences in sweets remained the same) and responded quietly. "The dobe can take care of herself. What I am worried about is the woman sitting right in front of me who's about to faint or something after sensing her idiotic boyfriend after so many years of- oomph!"

"Don't be ridiculous… I'm not going to faint." Umi may have winced internally seeing his incredulous expression. "I'm just surprised…" Giving him an apologetic look, she flagged a server and requested two cups of tea. "…I'm just surprised, that's all."

Yeah, right.

.

.

11:38…

In the outskirts of a small village outside of Konoha, an elderly man accompanied by a frazzled young girl checked in at one of the numerous inns littering the area to spend the night and prepare for a very long journey in search of the legendary Sannin.

Giving a few additional rubber balloons for her current task, the man left promising to return by noon wincing as he goes upon hearing the girl's litany of curses directed at his person (and future generations).

Turning in an alleyway, his smile returned as he was greeted by a very voluptuous woman who responded seductively with a flutter of her eyelashes.

"Sorry to keep you waiting, beautiful… Shall we?"

.

.

8:00…

"Well, well… what do we have here?"

Asuma's eyes squinted dangerously as he observes the two missing nins in front of them ignoring the taller man's greetings.

The smaller one sighed and removes his straw hat showing colored fingernails. Opening his cloak midway to rest his left arm as he stares back and acknowledges the two of them.

"It's good to see you again, Kurenai-san, Asuma-san…"

"Oho! You know these two?" The other muttered amusingly as he removes his own straw hat.

Knowing that a fight is inevitable, he took his blade out and attacks.

Hopefully, the two of them would be able to hold these guys off until help arrives.

.

.

In a two bedroom suite of a small inn, 13:35…

Throwing the rubber balloon away, Naruto avoided the rebound as she drops her face down the pillow. Her scream muffled with her feet flapping carelessly (like a fish out of the water) over the edge of the bed.

Its only been a few hours and she's missing him already. Damn it!

She won't even think of their upcoming departure. Knowing that teme will come with them makes her want to dye all his clothes in orange. Argh!

Deciding to study her new jutsu, she reviewed all three forms. It sounds (and looks) easy enough. Hmm.

Her control is good thus she was able to direct her chakra (and a bit of haki) in multiple locations all at once even in a much smaller form. Just as Marco says, concentration is the key. The water balloon did allow her to refocus her chakra's natural flow (begrudgingly giving the creator a pat on the shoulders).

The second stage is giving her a hard time knowing that she has too much chakra and focusing it into a single point while increasing the volume and density is next to impossible.

No matter.

While the third stage, combining the two will need an extra hand. She already has a backup plan for that.

So she'll definitely focus on the second step for now.

And as she already knew her element, she can incorporate it to the jutsu's final form. That's for later.

Alright!

All these thinking makes her hungry. She did saw a ramen stand on the opposite building. Grabbing a few bowls will help her training. Yosh!

Taking Gama-chan into her pouch, the blonde cheerfully took the key and unlocks the door. She did drop it in shock after seeing the person waiting from the other side of their suite.

"?!"

.

.

8:15…

Despite her ability, Kurenai knew that she's no match especially against Uchiha Itachi's Sharingan. Preparing for the inevitable (hopefully he won't mourn that much for her death), she closes her eyes and awaited the younger shinobi's finishing blow. But then, a mirrored ice sprouts from the lake that is thick enough to shield her.

Haku's reflection appeared and observes the scene before her. "Uchiha Itachi, missing-nin from Konohagakure. Wanted for the massacre of his entire clan…," With a frown, she added softly. "Sasuke-kun's older brother."

The older nin's expression remains indifferent. But as someone who is starting to understand the intricacies of haki (and its close relation to chakra), the Yuki knew that the man before her is…

"What is a bloodline of Kiri doing in the village of leaves?" …that the other man is in pain ignoring Hoshigaki Kisame incredulous question. Despite his amused expression, Haku didn't let her guard down.

The other man is a daimyo killer and another missing-nin wanted for attacking neighboring villages despite the ceasefire. Both are listed as S-class in her Bingo book (Kakashi-san gave her the latest printout the other day).

"She's invited. Or rather adopted as the surrogate sister of a certain blonde haired kunoichi that loves ramen… and a certain 'bird'." Hatake Kakashi answered on her behalf (with a bit of an undertone for the last part) as he blocks Kisame's attack with a suiton jutsu of his own. He appeared beside the Sarutobi (using a jutsu he may have copied when he fought Zabuza-sama back in Nami no Kuni).

The original came out via her mirrored reflection as she signaled Kurenai-san to fall back by taking her inside her mirror and exited in a safe distance near the other Konoha nin.

Asuma whistled appreciatively as he tried to nurse his wound caused by Samehada. "That jutsu sure is handy, kid…"

Giving him a polite smile, she immediately heals his wound as the older woman stood guard along with Kakashi's shadow clone.

Perhaps it is convenient (this jutsu of hers). However it only works for people who has the same elemental affinities she has. And that these two jōnins has water and wind respectively. Kakashi-san has several affinities which allowed him to copy those jutsus effortlessly (a terrifying ability an enemy can have… and it is a good thing he isn't one anymore).

"Ah. What an interesting assembly we got here, Itachi," Grinning widely, Kisame noted and allowed Samehada to release its bindings. "I suppose you'll allow me to play for a bit, yeah?"

"Reinforcements are on their way. And I don't think the one we're looking for is in the village…" Itachi remarked as he turned away fully dismissing the interruptions. "Let's go."

The former Kiri-nin harrumphed and grunted irritatingly towards the others. "Seems like you lot won't get to see me play. Pity."

"Wait!"

As Itachi disperses in flocks of crows, he places a special genjutsu to the first person who attempted to reach him. Even Sasuke's eyes won't be enough to break his hold.

Kakashi's eyes widen and Itachi responded with a patronizing smirk.

However…

The words the silver-haired jōnin mouthed surprises him. Ignoring Kisame's questioning look after they left the others, he deactivated his Sharingan and expanded his senses (they are still in Konoha but far enough to avoid any other confrontation). He isn't a sensor but what (or who) he found shocked him.

"If the jinchūriki isn't here, how can we find the brat?"

Knowing that he needs to act quickly, he decided to distract Kisame. Hopefully, the girl has someone who can protect her. Someone who can hold the former Kiri-nin off.

"If what I heard is true, they are trying to find the Slug Princess. And from what I gathered, she is currently in the gambling district."

Smile widening, his partner approves and went on to tackle their mission. "Remember, we need the girl alive…" He reminded carefully. Nodding, Kisame disappears after promising to follow shortly.

He needs to make sure… that what he sensed is that person. That his mind isn't playing tricks on him.

That his lover… no… that his heart (the other half of his soul) is still alive.

.

.

Meanwhile… present time at exactly 14:04…

She doesn't know what to say, damn it!

Thankfully the color of her face returned after a comforting hello from his end. And knowing her pirate, Marco knows how to cheer her up (well truth be told, seeing him already did made her happy… but she won't say that out loud) and invited her out for lunch.

After three bowls of ramen (it wasn't as good as Teuchi-ojisan's, but acceptable enough for her tastes), she drags the Phoenix for a walk and to show the scenery.

"I'm really glad that you're here…" Pausing slightly, she took something inside her pouch and handed it over. "I was hoping to give you this earlier but you woke up ahead of me," She saw Marco turning the mirror over and saw the seals she meticulously etched at the back. Excitingly, she explained the concept of their very own communication device activated by chakra or a drop of their blood (visually inspired by their den den mushi with a ninja twist). "I haven't determined the exact limits or distance. So hopefully this is our best chance to test it. Whaddaya say?"

Marco chuckled and ruffles her hair affectionately ignoring her pout. "You really do amaze me, Naruto…"

Giggling in response, she scratches her nose while wrestling with his hand and his mirror so that she can show him where he needs to apply chakra (or his blood). She sampled some steps by using a duplicate mirror similar to the one she gave him.

"So you see-… omph! Oi!"

His eyes sharpened as he took her in his arms and jumps away from the crater that suddenly erupted from the spot where she was standing seconds earlier.

Kisame came out of the hole as he whistled appreciatively with Itachi appearing at the other side of the street.

"Eh? What the… hell?!"

"Hang on!" Marco shouted as he partially transformed and flew off. The two gave him bad vibes and knowing that she's unprotected while fighting them makes him want to curse the pervert till the end of his existence.

But then, a large ball of fire was aimed at them. Darn it!

He could have taken the hit and shakes it off. However, he got a very precious cargo who is hanging for her life as dodging that attack made her lose her grip (after this are all over, he'll figure out how to use both hands while still has his wings to fly, damn it).

Knowing that any fall from this height is fatal, he transformed back and took the impact.

"Marco!" Naruto cried out. He… he sacrificed himself. Again. Darn it!

Trying to reach him, someone grabs her jacket and raises her like a sack as she tried to fight the offending hand off. Sharingan stared down haughtily on her.

Eyes widening, she suddenly remembers Sasuke's goal. And yet… the man (or older teen, oh Kami, he's older by 3-4 years and yet his emotions are all over the place, perhaps only to her).

Ah.

He's one of those masked ANBUs that used to babysit her in the past. Faintly remembering a blurry memory that happened on one particular day, Naruto knew that she also met him before (the other kind-hearted guardian that kept her safe from all those 'monsters').

Knowing that Marco will need a few minutes to regenerate or heal his injuries, she tried to buy him some time.

"Y-you're teme's older brother, right? Are you here to k-kill me?"

Tilting his head to one side (as if guessing what she's up to), Itachi raises his right hand and places it on top of the girl's head. For whatever reason, she didn't flinch.

"I remember you, Weasel-san…"

Releasing his hold as if burned after hearing her whisper, the Uchiha looks at her frustratingly and was about to say something. Naruto never had the chance as she ducks her head with Marco giving the teen a dangerous looking kick. Immediately scooting her behind him, his bluish colored flames still licks up the gashes on his arms. The other missing-nin thoughtfully appraises her Phoenix's impressive talons that shifts back into its humanoid form.

"W-wait!" Feeling his anger, Naruto knew she needs to think of a way to divert Marco's attention. Any close encounter with an Uchiha (despite the intentions she felt from the former Konoha nin) may prove dangerous. Sasuke did gave them a warning about his older brother in the event of an unfortunate scenario (accidentally meeting the guy or whatever) and to make sure not to look directly into his eyes.

Marco may have failed to get the memo because he's having another heated argument with their sensei about something that day (possibly related to her wellbeing as usual). Despite his abilities, she don't know what a high level genjutsu will do to an (almost) immortal Devil Fruit user's mind.

"I don't have time for this…" The Uchiha muttered and the tomoe of his eyes started spinning.

Fuckers, dattebayo!

.

Marco stills and the world suddenly took a wild turn when he suddenly found himself back in Marineford.

The rest of his nakama and allies are continuously fighting the marines. Thankfully enough, Ace and his younger brother almost reaches the docks (or it once was after Oars Jr. tried to block it with his body).

Feeling that something is amiss, he raises his hands and saw that it was covered by blood?

"Marco…?"

That voice.

Fear gripped his insides as he turned and saw a pair of cerulean blue.

"Are you hurt? All good?"

Nonono!

"It's nothing to worry… everything is going to be… okay…" Blood trickled from the corner of her lips as one hand raises to wipe the tears that started to fall uncontrollably from his eyes.

"N-naruto?" Apprehensively breathing out her name as he catches her fall. Knowing that it is futile, he tried to cover the hole in her chest that continues to bleed out.

Ignoring the commotion that surrounds him, he didn't notice Akainu's towering form who looks down on him as his right hand held something (her heart?).

As he looks up to glare at him, Marco notices the admiral's eyes. It was blood-red with the Uchiha's famous dōjutsu while the tomoe of his eyes spins ruthlessly towards him. As he started monologuing his incompetence to save the people he cares about, he…

Marco just lost it.

.

.

Interlude: Itachi

He cannot be mistaken. It is her.

The face may be different, her hair lighter (although he does remember her father's coloring of the same shade) with a different hairstyle and some bangs covering her right eye.

He had his suspicions.

But he'll accept them regardless knowing that she's… that…

"Hmm…" A familiar voice suddenly spoke beside him (even if he just met the girl earlier). "Regret. Longing. Just to name a few…" A distraction that may prove fatal and yet he felt no ill intent from the other shinobi. He did eye the girl sceptically but returned his gaze to his 'former' lover.

"Hn."

Laughing quietly, the younger girl covered her mouth with a hand as she tried to hide a smile and the other hand took a small mirror from her pocket.

"An invention created by my favorite kunoichi. We haven't tested it yet but I'm certain it will work." Carefully taking the mirror, Itachi eyes the girl cautiously wondering why she haven't done anything to capture him.

As if reading his unspoken question, the girl gave him a kind smile. "I may be a citizen of Konoha, but I am not her weapon…" Pausing slightly, she added with a serious look. "I protect the people I care about, even from the village itself."

As she melted (a bunshin?), the original appeared in front of the person he's spying upon and talks to her. Similar to the mirror she gave him, she handed a duplicate one telling the same thing she told him.

"Wow. Naruto-chan really amazes me." She amusingly noted as she traces the intricate seals written at the back.

Her voice sounded the same and yet… older. Closing his eyes, Itachi tried to remember her face unknowingly activating the mirror with his chakra.

In turn, the mirror Uchiha Izumi holds showed an image of his tired and weary face. Patting her shoulders gently, Haku gave her an understanding look but didn't comment any further.

If only Itachi opened his eyes, he will see the tears that started falling from her face.

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