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The Everfree Forest. A dark, vast forest teeming with unknown fauna and wildlife; some harmless, most deadly. Naruto knew exactly what he was looking for in this unfamiliar but dangerous place. He stopped moving at the forest’s mouth, where the trail would deeper into its depths. A final check of his new tools was in order.
Belted onto Naruto’s front legs were a couple of brown sheathes, each containing two iron daggers. The grips of the daggers were colored a dull red while the outer rim was a dull gray. Each blade was sharpened to a razor-sharp edge. They even weighed as much as his old kunai. Naruto lifted one foreleg and unsheathed a dagger using his mouth, holding it firmly between his teeth. He grimaced as he tasted the iron in his mouth; it almost made him want to spit it out.
But he couldn’t. He needed to get used to it if was going to kill a Manticore… which come to think about it, had absolutely no clue as to what it looked like. Sure, he knew the general characteristics but that would only get him so far. Naruto sighed as he closed his eyes, thinking back to when he got his gear.
“So there’s no changin’ yer mind, eh? You’re really itchin’ to get yourself killed in the Everfree Forest?” Blackie said, as he used his magic to strap the belts with the two sheathes onto Naruto’s legs.
“For the last time, It’s not a death wish; it’s an opportunity I don’t want to ignore; especially with what the client said”, Naruto answered back.
“And that would be?”
“Saving a loved one…” Blackie blinked, apparently not expecting that answer. He finished strapping on the sheathes before levitating the 2 daggers into their respective slots.
“So let me get this straight… He wants a Manticore tail... so that he can save a loved one? C’mon filly, do you even know what a Manticore tail is?” Naruto shook his head. “It’s a bloody scorpion tail, which means it’s also poisonous. One stab, One cut, One prick and bam, yer dead; poison ain’t something to trifle with.”
Naruto’s face went from that of confidence to extreme doubt in a nanosecond. His last brush with poison was what led him to die for the first time. What was stopping the same thing from happening again?
A scorpion tail filled with poison, he thought. If it was poisonous, why did Gary even need it? To kill his daughter that much more quickly? Naruto furrowed his brow a bit as he closed his eyes momentarily before opening them to look at Blackie. Poison or no poison, he promised Gary he’d bring one back and he always kept his promises.
“I doubt he’ll do anything bad with it. He seems like a good pers- I mean pony, in my eyes.” Naruto then smirked. “Besides, it’s a good chance to stretch my legs.”
“What do you mean?”
“Let’s just say that I haven’t fought anything like this before... or anything else for that matter in a while”
“You’re nuts, filly… You really are.”
As Blackie finished the preparations for Naruto, a sigh escapes his mouth as he counts off the daggers that are strapped to Naruto. As he did that, Naruto took the time to survey the surrounding town. It was the brink of night. No one was around, and silence reigned supreme throughout the marketplace. Everyone was probably sound asleep he guessed. As he looked, he swore that he saw a small patch of pink in his peripheral before it mysteriously vanished into thin air. Naruto blinked a few times. It came from a nearby alleyway. What did he see, he thought; a list popped into his head, ranging from a stray cat to a ramen burglar. Oh how he hoped it wasn’t the last one. But then again, it was probably just his mind playing tricks on himself.
“You sure you don’t want a sword? I don’t think daggers are gonna’ help ya in there.” Blackie said. Not hearing a reply, he looked up at Naruto to see him looking over his shoulder at the market. “Filly, if you’re eyeing some hot flank, now is not the time. Do it when your not wasting somepony else’s.” It took a second before Naruto broke out of his stupor, registering what the blacksmith just said. Naruto shook his head, a slight blush invaded his face.
“Oh, um, no… It’s nothing. Come again?”
“I said are you sure you don’t want a sword? Daggers aren’t that powerful to begin with.”
“I probably couldn’t even afford it. Besides, I’m much more skilled with a dagger than a sword.”
“Suit yerself filly, but you’ll still be surprised at just how much these darn toothpicks are gonna’ cost ya.” Naruto raised a brow at Blackie’s comment. They couldn’t cost that much could they?
“They can’t be that expensive…”
“They’re 100 Bits for the whole set…”
As Naruto gathered his thoughts, he brought his eyes back to the dark forest ahead of him. The tension of the fight ahead is already starting to screw around with his nerves.
“So this is the Everfree Forest, huh… I can’t believe I’m finally going to be tackling a Manticore…”, Naruto said as he sheathed his dagger. “There’s just one thing I don’t get…”
“Why the HELL did you have to not only come with me, but also make me drag some wooden cart, while YOU rode on it!?”, Naruto shouted as he pointed an accusing hoof at Blackie. He only shrugged as he relaxed in the seat of the cart and tipped what seemed like a straw hat on his head up slightly to look back.
“Because that was the deal. We agreed that I would knock 75% off the set if you not only pulled my cart and me to the forest, but also gave me free reign over the rest of the Manticore. I can make some good quality gear from its body parts… Of course, if you die in there, I’m not helping ya, and you make my bartering risk null and void.” Blackie explained to Naruto. Naruto merely shook his head in disbelief.
Naruto didn’t really have a choice in the matter either. He didn’t have 100 bits so he got lucky when he tried to reason with Blackie for a compromise. 25 Bits is as far down as Naruto could get it. As long as he fulfilled Blackie’s conditions that is. What bothered him even more was that Blackie wasn’t coming into the forest with him.
“Let’s not forget that you’re not even coming into the forest with me, but just ‘standing guard’ or whatever next to the entrance.”
“Yup… That sounds about right.”
“That’s what I don’t understand. If you’re here, why not come help me?”
“Oh, it’s definitely ‘cause I want to fight a Manticore in the middle of the Everfree. C’mon kid, I’m the only blacksmith in this whole town. I’m not gonna go gallivanting off with some filly who has a death wish every day of the week. I prefer to stay in one piece, thank you very much. Besides…” Blackie leaned up from his cart seat and eyed Naruto for a brief moment. “How are you going to haul a Manticore tail all the way to your client? They’re pretty large, and one pony can’t do it alone.”
Blackie had a point, Naruto thought. Maybe this deal was a small blessing in disguise, since he wouldn’t have to drag anything that big around. He still didn’t understand why Blackie was being a bit of a coward though. Naruto turned towards the forest once more before beginning the trek.
“Whatever Blackie… You just better be here when I get back.” Naruto said.
“Don’t worry… I’m not going to turn tail and abandon ya. I’ll be here when you get back… unless you’re dead, of course.”
Naruto glared back at Blackie, but only shrugged as he looked back towards the forest. “I’m not going to die that easily, I’m afraid.” Naruto said, unknowing of the irony in his words. As he took another step forward, black flying creatures swarmed out of the trees, making several flapping sounds and squeaks, disappearing off into the night sky. Bats, Naruto thought. He was almost out of hearing range of Blackie before the blacksmith chimed in once more in a singsong voice.
“Have fun in there. Say hi to the wolves when you get a chance.”
What an asshole, Naruto thought.
Naruto walked on the forest path taking in everything around him at once from the surrounding trees to the random tufts of grass on the path. He thought that it wouldn’t be that intimidating when he first started out, but he was dead wrong; the entrance was only the tip of the iceberg. It only got darker as he pushed through the forest. Sounds from creatures of the night to moving shrubbery assailed his ears, not giving him a chance to relax. A couple of frogs hopped out a nearby shrub, startling him slightly before they hopped across the road into a murky pond. An owl, visible only by the light reflecting off his two eyes, hooted from a nearby tree branch, adding to the creepy factor.
“This place gives me the creeps…” Naruto said in an obvious manner. “I wonder how I’m gonna go about with this Manticore anyway… Part lion, part griffon, and part scorpion… poisonous too… It’s funny how I have to watch for the tail to begin with, since I need that tail in the first place…” He continued talking, trying to calm his nerves. None of his friends knew he was here, so he was alone this time. He looked up through an opening in the tree canopy, catching a glimpse of the night sky.
“It’s a shame I lied to Twilight about what I truly was in Canterlot for… But she already did so much for me. What was I gonna do, walk up to her and flat up tell her I was going to slay one of these beasts? She’d probably lecture on and on about how stupid it is and then force me to not do it… Or then again, maybe she would of actually helped… Oh well, what she doesn’t know can’t hurt her.”
“Or maybe it’s backwards… and I’m just being an idiot like always? What if I’ve finally gone and bitten off more than I can chew? That’s a laugh. Hah, I don’t think even a Manticore can kill me. I mean, I’m sure it’s not even that big to begin with. Yeah, that’s it… Hah hah! Nothing can take me—“While Naruto was giving himself confidence—or boosting his own ego—He was distracted by some low growls from his left. He immediately scuttled backwards, fear dripping off his face as he turned to face the growls.
Naruto immediately grabbed a dagger from his left leg, holding it in his teeth, combat ready. Sweat dropped from his brow as he remained steady, ready for whatever would attack.
A small frog, no bigger than his hoof, hopped out from the bushes, croaking before hopping away. He relaxed his stance, blinking in disbelief. Just a frog. A frog that could growl.
“That’s odd… Since when do frogs growl… Never heard of su—“ Naruto was immediately interrupted when he heard a loud snarl from above. He immediately looked up and saw a greyish blue wolf, trying to tackle him from above. Naruto leapt back to dodge the wolf’s tackle, narrowly dodging the surprise pounce . A rookie mistake. Any distraction, no matter how small, can get you killed.
The wolf was drooling, its’ razor sharp teeth clearly visible. The wolf growled constantly as it leaned backwards, preparing for a second pounce. Naruto clenched the dagger even harder as he waited for the wolf to pounce. Agonizing seconds ticked by. But instead, it slowly shifted to the left, as if trying to circle Naruto. Not one to let an enemy get the best of his a second time, he parroted the wolf’s movements. They continued circling each other, nothing changing save for their positions on the field. Naruto was the first to break the silence.
“Tell me Mr. Wolf, would you prefer me to kill you or turn you into a fur coat? Honestly, I don’t care. You’re in my way. Leave now while you have the chance.” Naruto taunted and tried to reason with the wolf. The wolf’s response was an increase in the intensity of the growling. Naruto merely shook his head.
“What’s wrong, you don’t speak our language? Then I guess there’s no reasoning with you.” Naruto said to the wolf. As if the wolf was tired of Naruto’s talking, it immediately rushed towards Naruto. Clenching the dagger even harder, Naruto dashed towards the wolf seeing that the negotiations were futile.
Naruto jerked his head to swing the dagger down on the Wolf’s head, but it ducked and tried to take a bite out of Naruto’s back leg. Naruto immediately brought his front hoof down hard and pivoted around, jerking his dagger down towards the wolf once more. The wolf wasn’t expecting such an acrobatic feat. The dagger lodged itself into the wolf’s back, piercing hide and drawing blood. The wolf yelped as it tried to get away from Naruto. However he was still holding onto the dagger, each movement dragging the sharp dagger further down the creatures back. Seeking this as an opportunity, Naruto brought both back hooves up as high as he could before sending them down onto its’ skull. Blood splattered everywhere from the wolf’s back, all the way up towards the wolf’s head.
It lay there, motionless, with an oozing knife wound and a crushed skull. Naruto wiped the sweat off his brow as he tried controlling his breathing, trying to calm down. He stood up straight and sheathed his dagger before stepping off the grey mass of fur and blood. He blinked softly at the wolf as he shook his head.
“It’s a shame it had to come to this, but you started it, Mr. Wolf.” Naruto could see that the wolf was still moving. Amazing. Even with a crushed skull it still had some fight left. The wolf slowly tried to get up, trying to bite Naruto’s leg again. In reaction, he curb-stomped the wolf’s head once more, making a loud crunching sound. The wolf coughed out more blood and possibly part of an internal organ. Naruto frowned down at the wolf.
“Dammit Mr. Wolf, you should have stayed down instead of just trying to bite me… You probably would have lived…” Looking at the wolf’s head again, he sighs. “Okay, maybe not… But you would’ve lived slightly longer.”
Twilight sighed as she read another one of her books downstairs in her house. Turning the page with her magic, she looks up at the window and out into the night, Luna’s moon still high and bright.
“What’s taking that pony so long… He said he was just going on a walk for some fresh air, but it’s been 30 minutes now… Maybe it’s a long walk?” She said to herself. She shrugged before settling back down and delving back into her book. However, a loud and annoying voice caught her attention.
“Twilight, where are you!? I need to see you! It’s also really dark in here.” Twilight jerked her head left and right, wondering where that voice came from. It sounded really familiar.
“Who and where are you?” Twilight said in a random direction.
“I’m here, silly! Where else could I be?”
The voice came from the nearby drawer in her desk. She paused momentarily , but opened the drawer anyway. A head immediately popped out in a cartoony manner and papers flew everywhere. Pinkie Pie. Of course. Twilight got a bit annoyed as she used her magic to sort out the flying pieces of paper.
“Pinkie, what are you doing in my desk!?” A quick glance at the desk and then back, “Or, better question, HOW did you even get in my desk!?”
Pinkie frowned at Twilight as she hopped out of the drawer and brought her forehead against Twilight’s, bringing her hoof toward Twilight’s chest. Twilight eyes went wide as she blushed, but immediately shook those thoughts out when the pink pony spoke.
“Trade secret but that’s not important right now Twilight! We have a super duper huge problem!”
“What kind of problem?” Twilight asked.
“Do you know where Naruto is right now?” Pinkie Pie asked in a rushed manner.
“Well, yeah, he said he was taking a walk… why?”
“I think he went into the Everfree Forest!”
Twilight looked confused. “Wait, what? He couldn’t have, there’s no way. I doubt he even knows where the forest is to begin with… Plus,” She said with an air of certainty, “He said he was only taking a walk.” Pinkie shook her head after hearing Twilight .
“No no no no! Okay, listen Twilight! I don’t know what kind of walk he told you about, but I know his walking is going towards the Everfree Forest! I was walking home when I saw Naruto talking to a black pony, the one that makes stuff with metal and fire, and that black pony was putting some cloths or blades or something on Naruto’s legs, and one of them mentioned of going to the Everfree Forest because of some tail! I was like ‘why wasn’t he high-tailing it out of there instead?’ but then he mentions something about an opportunity!” Pinkie Pie said in one breath, tears starting to form in his eyes. “Naruto’s going to get hurt if he goes in there!”
Twilight just stood there, mouth agape. Why would Naruto go into the forest, she thought. But when Pinkie mentioned the tail, she started to think back. She swore they had had a conversation about this not too long ago.
“Now where have… oh no… no, he couldn’t have…” It then occurred to her. The request board that had the Manticore request. Naruto couldn’t have been that desperate for money, she thought. But the more she thought about it, the more likely it seemed, and it matched Pinkie’s story too. Twilight immediately got up and turned towards Pinkie Pie.
“C’mon Pinkie, we need to stop him before he gets killed. He doesn’t understand what he’s getting into!”
“Oh yeah, I’ve still got the moves and nothing can stop me, hah hah…” Naruto kept walking down the path as he boast to no one in particular about how well he did in combat. As soon as that wolf started attacking, his combat instincts just took over. He just wished it didn’t have to involve the death of the wolf, but it left Naruto no choice. He frowned as his mouth pulsed with pain.
“Using that dagger in my mouth is going to take some getting used to, it’s like I’m using muscles I’ve never used before.” As he adjusted his jaw, he looked around the forest, trying to spot a Manticore, but so far, nothing fit the description.
“You would think that it being big would be easy to spot, but I guess it isn’t… Maybe they’re deeper in, or they’re all just asleep?”
“You’re telling me, they’re probably just asleep.”
“Hey, I agreed with you the first time, you don’t need to re…peat…it?” Naruto blinked a couple of times, before realizing he was replying to a couple of beastly growls from behind him. He stopped dead in his tracks,the look of fear clear on his face, just now noticing the drool on his left shoulder. Naruto immediately turned around to see the ever growing jaws of something about to swallow him whole. He jumped away from the mouth a mere millisecond before the mouth closed at where he was just standing. Naruto landed safely a few feet away and saw what had almost been his demise for the second time today.
The Manticore had the body and face of a growling lion, with red hair, brown fur, and his giant mane. However, upon closer inspection, Naruto could see a pair of small wings, a large black scorpion tail, and what looked like bat ears. The Manticore roared loudly at Naruto, spit flying off his teeth as it roared. Some of it even landed on Naruto’s face. He blanched, wiping it off with a hoof before fixing the Manticore with a hard stare. The foul creature paused, wondering just why this puny pony neither ran nor screamed in terror at his appearance. Maybe he was losing his touch?
Naruto began walking in circles around the Manticore, taking in each and every single detail. The beast only looked on in rampant curiosity. After Naruto took a lap around the fierce Manticore, he stopped and stared it right in the eyes, pointing at it.
“You must be the Manticore, I take it?” As if the Manticore understood Naruto’s language, he gave a firm nod. Naruto flinched slightly, slightly taken aback. It understood what he just said. Then suddenly, Naruto just smirked before it evolved into small giggles and on to full laughter as he collapsed on the ground, unable to control himself.
The Manticore leaned back in genuine surprise, eyes as wide as saucers, staring at the very, very strange pony in front of him..
“Ah hah hah hah, oh god… Look at you! You look like a funny pussy cat with bird wings… I can’t take it… Ahahahahah!” As Naruto kept on with his fits of laughter, the Manticore realized that the pony was laughing at him. It roared and swiped a massive paw at where Naruto was..
Naruto immediately stopped laughing as he rolled away from the attack, developing a smirk as he evaded. Naruto stood up and looked at him some more while giving one more chuckle.
“Heh… Sorry to have pissed you off, but I just couldn’t help it… But I guess you’re not in the mood for any joker business.” The Manticore nodded at Naruto, and Naruto merely shrugged.
“Very well then…” Naruto lifted his right leg, clenching a dagger in his mouth and unsheathes it. The blade emits a dull shine from the filtered moonlight coming through the thick overhead canopy. The Manticore eyed the dagger warily and immediately leaned his legs back, forming a battle stance, his scorpion tail pointing right at Naruto.
“Let’s see what you are: A cat, or a lion! Or maybe both! Um…” Naruto paused for a moment, trying to think of a good one liner, but then just shrugged. “Oh screw it, that tail is mine you pussycat!” Naruto charges at the Manticore who reples in kind.
“Hurry Pinkie, we can’t waste any time!” Twilight shouted.
“I’m trying Twilight, my legs aren’t made of rockets. Ooh, actually, maybe I should get rockets after this, and I’d be as fast as the speed of--!” Pinkie Pie shouted back, but Twilight interrupted her.
“This is no time for one of your jokes Pinkie! Hustle!”
It took them a good bit, but they managed to reach the entrance of the forest. Next to the entrance, a wooden cart with a black pony caught Twilight’s eye. Whoever it was happened to be sleeping. Twilight tilted her head in confusion and then looked at Pinkie.
“Are you sure Naruto went in there? I see a black pony there, but—“
“That’s him! That’s the pony Naruto was talking to! We need to talk to him. Maybe he knows where Naruto is!? Or… maybe the Manticore ate him already! Oh no no no, we’re too late!” Pinkie frowned as she started tearing up, her mane slowly deflating. Twilight just rolled her eyes at Pinkie’s behavior, knowing it was just her being over-dramatic.
“Let’s just talk to that black pony, maybe he knows where Naruto is.” Twilight proposed. She walked up towards the black pony that was sleeping, and shouted. “Hey! Wake up!”
Blackie’s eyes slowly opened, a rather obnoxious voice waking him from his slumber. He blinked a couple of times and lifted his straw hat, and looked to his right to see a purple unicorn. He smiled in response, albeit with an air of fatigue.
“Well well ladies, it’s not nice to be shouting at a sleeping stallion such as myself, it’s rather rude…” Blackie said with a snort. Twilight merely kicked the wooden cart, shaking it slightly as Blackie almost lost his balance. “Oy oy! Don’t ding up the cart! What do you want anyway? This isn’t the time of night to be wandering around here,” Blackie shouted out.
“We’re looking for a blonde pony in a black and orange jacket. You seen him around?”
“Ooh, ooh! That’s the black pony Naruto was talking to! I bet he knows where he is!”
“A blonde pony, eh… Why hang with a weirdo like him when you can hang with me?” Twilight growled at Blackie’s comment. In response to his lame pick-up comment, she did what she felt necessary. She picked him up. “Oy oy! Put me down! Assault I say!”
“Tell me where Naruto is, now!” Twilight shouted with an angry frown. A quick glance around and she developed an innocent smile. “...Or we’ll see just how far you can swim,” she said gesturing to the lake a few pony lengths away. Blackie gulped.
“Okay okay, put me down and I’ll tell you, sheesh! Confound mares these days…” Twilight unceremoniously released Blackie from her telekinetic grip a few feet off the ground, eliciting at startled grunt from the black pony. Blackie shook his head while righting himself, trying to get his thoughts in order on how crazy mares these days were. Pinkie immediately got up onto Blackie’s back, pinning him down, and turning his head so it faces hers.
“Tell us where Naruto is now bub, before I give you a party dose of Pinkie’s hoof!” Pinkie Pie said to Blackie in a threatening way. Blackie squinted through one eye, wincing.
“He’s in the forest, alright? Gosh darnit, stop with the tough mare routine alright? Now would you get off me? Geez…” Pinkie brought her eyes nearly an inch away from Blackie’s, but backed off, allowing Blackie to get off the ground and onto his feet.
“Are you two that filly’s marefriends or something? Because you two are awfully offensive… you both must be feisty in bed.” Both girls glared at Blackie, and he immediately took his comment back. “Er, nevermind… Forget I said anything… Anyway, that filly your looking for is in the forest, hunting for a Manticore. I’m just here because we struck a deal.”
“What sort of deal?” Twilight asked.
“In a nutshell? He kills a Manticore. I haul said Manticore out of the forest back into town. He gets the tail and a huge discount on the weapons I made for him while I keep the rest. Simple enough?”
“Not in the slightest.” Twilight said, deadpanning towards the forest.
“Ah well, I can’t expect ya to understand…”
As Twilight interrogated Blackie for information, an explosion-like sound assaulted their position. Several bats and other creatures appeared in the entrance of the forest and immediately scampered off into the dark, running away from the horrendous noise. Twilight, Pinkie, and Blackie immediately looked towards the direction it came from. Twilight looked at Blackie, then Pinkie, and then back at the forest.
“Oh no, Naruto didn’t find the Manticore already, did he!? He’s in danger! Pinkie, come on!”
Naruto climbed up a tree, infusing each hoof with chakra so he could keep running up and out of the beast’s reach. Naruto looked backed down towards the Manticore and stuck out his tongue.
“Nya nya, can’t catch me!” The Manticore didn’t take kindly to his taunting and immediately swiped at the base of the tree with both hands. With some slight effort and shaking involved, the Manticore broke the tree off at its’ base, now holding it in its massive front paws. Naruto went wide-eyed as he latched onto a branch, the Manticore having turned the tree into an improvised pinata stick while he was still on it. Failing this, it spun the tree around before letting go, sending it careening off towards more trees.
Naruto immediately ran down the tree as it flew into the air before jumping off at the last moment onto the branch of a passing tree. Naruto tree-hopped, heading back towards the Manticore. He landed on all four legs right in from of the Manticore. Naruto could feel his limbs shake slightly from fatigue. This was probably the first real strain that he’s put his body under since arriving in Equestria.
“You’re one tough, over-grown puss, aren’t you? I’m impressed.” The Manticore didn’t show any sign of acknowledgement as he swiped its tail towards Naruto. He hopped over it, and then once again when the Manticore took a second swipe. It employed a change of tactics. Feigning a swipe, the Manticore followed with a series of quick, stabbing motions with his tail. Naruto was hard pressed to avoid each jab.
“I can’t let that tail hit me or else I’m done for…” He said to himself. He momentarily took his mind off the fight, looking for something to turn the tide of battle. A gigantic tree caught his eye. That was it. Naruto ran to the tree and then turned back to face the enraged Manticore.
The Manticore walked up towards Naruto, thinking he finally had the slippery blonde devil cornered. His jaw dropped. Not only wasn’t the pony doubled over in fear, it was shaking its rear at him! He roared loudly, using his tail for the final blow, sending it careening towards the pony’s chest.
Right on cue, Naruto flipped up onto the tree, dodging the fatal attack. A loud ker-thunk rang through the forest and he grinned. The Manticore, seeing that his prey escaped unscathed yet again, brought his tail around to swat him off the tree. Nothing happened. The tail was stuck in the tree!
Naruto smiled, bracing the dagger in his mouth before jumping towards the Manticore. A direct hit, the dagger plunging into the base of the tail from the top to the bottom. It roared loudly in pain as its’ tail came clean off. Naruto didn’t stop there, however. After slicing off the tail in a firm swing, he immediately rebounded off the ground towards the 2 bat-like wings on its back. A quick duo of slashes and a pair of wings joined the massive tail on the ground.
The Manticore flew into a wild swing as a mix of poison and blood sprinkled around the area. The Manticore, now in a wild blood-rage, grabbed Naruto from his back and brought him to where he could see his stupid face for the last time. Naruto felt he might have over-done it... slightly.
“Uhh… Nice kitty? Good kitty? I’M TOO YOUNG TO DIE!” Naruto pleaded. The Manticore had enough of hearing the stallion’s wise-ass remarks. In response, he pounded Naruto into the ground repeatedly, sending out shock-waves that shook leaves off the nearby trees. Feeling content with the amount of damage he wrought with his improvised hammer, he threw the blonde haired pony into the thickets. Debris and wood chips flung up into a dazzling cloud of destruction as Naruto slammed through the trees before landing on the ground. He coughed up blood, the dagger falling out of his mouth, before collapsing onto the forest floor gasping for breath.
He overdid it. He shouldn’t have sliced off the Manticore’s wings. Overconfidence took the better part of his judgement and now it left him with a bloody and bruised body. And if the blood loss didn’t kill him first, the pissed off Manticore would. His jacket was torn in quite a few places, with deep gashes, each staining the insides of his jacket a crimson red. He had a bloody lip, and it felt like some of his ribs were broken, or whatever you call pony bones these days, he thought. He crawled over to a nearby tree, propping himself up to look over the surrounding wreckage.
If one good thing came out of this mission, it was that he succeded. The tail was no longer part of the Manticore. However, the other part of that tail didn’t take too kindly too losing it along with its’ wings. As Naruto breathed in, his broken ribs forced him to take small shallow breaths, each bigger breath sending a pulse of pain throughout his chest.
“D-Damn it… He’s… a tough kitty… isn’t he…” Naruto gasped out between breaths.
He couldn’t stay here much longer. Every second he stayed there was another chance the Manticore could come and finish the job. He checked his extremities, one leg at a time, before pushing himself off the cold forest floor. A quick glance behind the tree he was hidden behind revealed the beast, prowling through the wreckage, looking for his body. It still looked pissed off. But what could he do? He lost the rest of his daggers during the fight, had no access to any of his jutsu, and exhaustion was finally taking its toll. This was it...
“Wait… who’s that?” He whispered to himself. He could see a figure in the distance—two, in fact. And they both looked oddly familiar. He squinted his eyes, trying to make out the ponyish shapes converging on his location. He almost jumped for joy, realizing that he was found and would get out of this alive.
“No… They figured out where I was. Dammit, they’re walking into a trap…” He tried to signal them, without giving away his hiding place, but they didn’t notice. Twilight and Pinkie came within 10 feet of the Manticore before it roared in utter glee, having found new prey. Girlish screams wracked the surrounding area as they both tried to escape from the Manticore’s deadly paws and teeth. Naruto slammed his hoof into the trunk of the tree, leaving a small crater in the wood.
“Dammit! Dammit! DAMMIT!”, Each swear accompanied by a hoof slamming into the nearby tree. “Why am I do useless!?” He said to himself. He couldn’t just sit by and let them take on that blasted monstrosity by themselves. Each time he tried to pull himself over the fallen logs and bushes, he fell back down, adding even more injuries to the already long list.
“Dammit… dammit…” He said with tears in his eyes. He really was a useless ninja. Couldn’t even save a pair of colorful ponies from a damn fuzzball. As a tear hit the ground, something remarkable happened. Heat. He felt something unusually warm on his rear, slowly gaining intensity as time passed, pulsating in sync with his heart beat.
“God dammit, what's going on now! I need to—huh? Wait… that’s…” As he looked at his own butt, his entire rear end, from flank to tail, was encased in a red aura. Naruto’s eyes bulged. He simply stared in disbelief
“C’mon Pinkie, the hoof prints lead this way!”
“I’m coming Twilight, I’m coming!”
As Twilight and Pinkie followed the hoofprints, they could hear the crashing of trees and wood up ahead. Twilight immediately stopped, something in her peripherals catching her attention, before she witnessed a horrible event. She watched as Naruto was slammed repeatedly into the ground by a tail-less, wing-less manticore. She could feel the tremors from where she stood. She gasped, as Naruto was sent careening off towards the opposite treeline. He disappeared from sight, hidden amongst a cloud of destroyed vegetation and dust. She couldn’t look on anymore, her lips quivering in horror. Pinkie couldn’t believe her eyes and was immediately started shaking. Twilight was the first to recover before snapping Pinkie out of her fear induced panic attack.
“Do you think he’s alright Pinkie?!” Pinkie just stared back. Twilight closed her eyes, calming herself down.
“I’m an idiot for asking that, I’m sorry… C’mon, we need to see if Naruto’s alright!”
“But Twilight… The Manticore…”
“I’ll distract him; You grab Naruto.”
“But Twilight, that’s dangerous! You’ll get hurt!”
“Just trust me, Pinkie. I’ve got this.”
As they bickered, the Manticore took the chance to close the distance, letting out a terrifying howl of rage and pleasure. The two ponies jumped back in fear. They bickered so loudly the Manticore overheard them. They both ducked and wove through the Manticore’s attempts to smash them into a pulp. Moments later, they were cornered, their back up against a gigantic tree. The Manticore grabbed his prey, one in each hand. The creature smiled wickedly at his captured prey. Their struggles got them no where. It’s grip was just too strong. They thought that this was it.
A rock flew through the air and hit the Manticore square in the head. And then another. And then five more. He spun around, eyes searching for the creature that dared throw rocks at him. There, in the trees, he could see a familiar blonde pony, holding a small rock in its hoof. His eyes gained even more bloodshot veins before he roared in pure rage. Twilight and Pinkie looked up, both ecstatic at seeing their fox-tailed friend alive.
“Naruto! You’re alive!” Twilight shouted out in glee, but winced as the Manticore’s grip tightened around her. Naruto flinched. He couldn’t let the manticore get away with hurting his friends. Naruto disappeared in the blink of an eye. The Manticore went wide-eyed, wondering where the blonde pony just went. For his reply, Naruto reappeared in front of the manticore, smacking his face with both of his tails.
Twilight blinked. Another fox tail on Naruto! How Naruto got another fox tail, she didn’t know, but she wanted to. Thoughts of her having a purple fox tail sprung up in her mind, each one more embarrassing than the last. She shook her head, ridding herself of these thoughts... for now.
As the grip loosened around her, she renewed her attempts at squirming out from his grasp. Pinkie followed suit, albeit a little more erratically. Naruto brought his twin-tails down on the manticore in rapid succession, each blow more powerful then the last. Both ponies got out of his grasp before sprinting away, out of the Manticore’s reach. It got a lucky shot in, sending naruto flying away with a swipe of its paw.
However, he disappeared once again, only to reappear above it’s head, slamming both of his tails onto the Manticore’s head. It backed away slowly, clutching its head with both paws as it tried to regain its bearings.
“Grabbing my friends, huh? You’ve got a lot of nerve grabbing me, slamming me into a bunch of dirt and trees, and then leaving me to die, huh? Well look at me.” He said as he stretched his arms wide, showing his various battle wounds on his body he had earlier. His tails flicked wildly, still not in complete control over the extra tail yet. “You really think that that would stop me? Well then. I think my new friend here has something to say about that...”
The Manticore was furious. He swiped at Naruto, but Naruto merely hopped onto his paw as it swiped. The Manticore went wide-eyed once more. “Surprised? Good.” He used the arm as a springboard, propelling his hoof into the Manticore’s face, then using that momentum sped off in a random direction.. The creature roared in fury, finally fed up with the blonde’s nonsense and mockery, as it gave chase.
What Naruto didn’t know is that there was a cliff in his direction. He ran through a thick area of bushes, coming out the other side before slamming the brakes. He skidded to the very precipice of the cliff, rocks tumbling down into the almost pitch black floor below. It was a very long fall. He furrowed his brow, before looking back towards where he came from. Naruto smiled, another plan in the making.
“Guess it’s the end of the line…” Naruto said to himself, turning around to stare at the shaking bushes sitting down. “Well, it was a nice life while it lasted…”
Twilight and Pinkie was hard pressed to keep up with Naruto’s running speed, but managed to come out of the thick forest further down the cliff face. They turned to their left, seeing Naruto sitting down at the edge of the cliff, a smug grin on his face.
“Naruto! What are you doing!? That Manticore wi-!”
The Manticore charged through the bushes snarling. He turned his head towards Twilight, tears now streaming down her face..
“Twilight… thanks for taking care of me… It meant a lot…” The Manticore body slammed Naruto, and with the momentum, flew over the edge of the cliff. Gravity took effect, pulling them both down into the dark canyon.
Twilight and Pinkie immediately rushed towards the cliff, not bothering to hold back their tears.
“NARUTO, NO!” They both shouted. Twilight collapsed onto her hind legs, not wanting to believe this just happened. She stared down into the murky darkness, hoping that she might see that blundering fool’s blonde hair or fox tail. Nothing. Pinkie’s mane deflated to a fraction of its’ original size, while she cried a river. Twilight couldn’t take this.
She slammed her hoof into the ground. “Why Naruto…” She began. “Why did you sacrifice yourself just for a stupid tail…? Why would you do such a stupid thing like that? You had so much more life to live… I wanted to take care of you a lot longer…” She looked beyond the horizon of the cliff and shouted at the top of her lungs.
“I DON’T WANT YOU TO LEAVE US NARUTO!”
“What are you talking about?” said an unknown voice.
“Naruto’s dead… what do you think!?” She looked down at the ground, lost in her sorrow.
“He’s dead? I’m pretty sure he’s alive…”
“What do you know!? I just saw him fall off a cliff! How can he be a…live?” She turned around, ready to berate the living hell out of the thoughtless pony who asked that question before staring, flabbergasted. It was Naruto! Pinkie turned around, her hair poofing up instantly, as a gigantic smile graced her tear stained face.
Naruto pounded his chest, wincing slightly as he hit a broken rib, giggling slightly.
“Yo”, said Naruto with his trademark grin.
“God dammit, what's going on now! I need to—huh? Wait… that’s…” As he looked at his own butt, his entire rear end, from flank to tail, was encased in a red aura. Naruto’s eyes bulged. He simply stared in disbelief.
The red aura coalesced together, forming a very wavy copy of his tail next to the original. The light grew stronger, before it immediately vanished, as though it wasn’t even there in the first place. He now had two fox tails.
“I grew another tail!?” He thought. It was wagging along with the other. He felt slightly stronger and the fatigue he had accrued from the battle seemed to magically vanish. But how was he going to take on a beast like the Manticore without any tools!? Just then, his head started to ache. A voice… no, not just any voice, but a deep and evil voice that he hadn’t heard in a long time spoke to him . The Kyuubi’s voice! No, it couldn’t be. This voice was actually helping him. Most of the chatter was incomprehensible save for a few random tidbits here and there.
That’s when his tails went wild, darting here and there. He stared in awe and fright as the tails went about like they had a mind of their own. All of a sudden, they stopped mid wave, as though frozen in time. They then formed a simple cross and froze yet again. Naruto couldn’t believe his eyes, and gave a very dark smile when he realized what it meant. Then he yelled out as loud as he could.
If it hadn’t been for growing another tail, he wouldn’t have been able to re-access the Shadow Clone technique. But for some reason, he couldn’t summon more than one. Was he still limited in his abilities? Or was it because his chakra pool was no longer as big as it once was? All of these questions...
“Naruto… I can’t believe it…You’re alive… I just can’t believe it…” Twilight said, tears still flowing down her face, these filled with joy instead. Naruto limped towards Twilight as he gave a weak smile.
“Yep, I’m fi—“, was all that Naruto could say before the world turned sideways.
And he collapsed on the ground unconscious.
AN: This is probably the longest-ass chapter I’ve ever written, in like, ever. Over 7000 words; new record, hooray! Anyway, this may look slightly rushed, but when it comes to battle scenes, they tend to be my #1 priority. Think of it like tunnel-vision. But I think it still got the point across, in my opinion. With Naruto growing a new fox-tail, and re-learning the Shadow Clone jutsu in a limited way; what was that voice? What made him grow a new fox-tail? Stay tuned for Chapter 12 for those kinds of answers!