Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto, Dynasty Warriors, Orochi Warriors, Samurai Warriors, or the intellectual properties contained with either Koei's video game franchise or the Romance of Three Kingdoms books. I write this story not seeking profit, as well as without affiliation with any parties whom own trademark, copyright, or registered parts within this story.

With that said, enjoy the story. Please leave constructive criticism and let me know if you like it. A little recognition goes a long way.

Prologue: The Ghost of Hope

"Then, let me ask you both a question. What does strength mean, to you?"

Those were the words that had ended his life. Not what had followed, stating his own beliefs as casually as one could with a blade to your neck.

His anger had kept him manifest on the world, an incorporeal form serving penance while his children had died through war and changing ages. He had been there when Cao Cao had been taken by illness, when Liu Bei followed relatively soon after. He'd been there, watching the King of Jin flounder under the oppression of the Emperor. And things had progressed. Lu Bu's rage and ambition would not let him merely leave to Heaven, and yet his soul yearned for release from the torment of the Earth.

Countless centuries passed, with the once Strongest Man wandering in futile hope that one day he would be relieved of this burden. More wars occured, and so did more eras of peace. Lu Bu marveled at the things that Man was capable of, that they had not even theorized about when he was among the living.

And then, one day, things had changed. War broke out and did not end, but was silenced like the world around it. Fire filled the sky and few men survived what could have only been the judgement of the Heavens. And Lu Bu was not known to be a pious man, so this was to him a true deification of destruction.

But Man survived, and Lu Bu felt something besides misery of the soul permeate. He felt pride. Of all creatures, man had survived Hell of it's own making, and began to thrive slowly. The lands changed, becoming lush with nature once again. And people fell apart and changed, no longer being the difference between Kingdoms instead becoming the question of family and clans.

Lu Bu understood that somewhere, amidst all the children being born, his own bloodline still existed, and he searched through the Land for those who bore his mark, his great lineage.

It took him a great many years, long enough for the world to change around him again before he discovered them. A clan who lived on an island off the coast. They were all hearty and strong, and his eyes created an illusion for him.

A young girl, sharing Diaochan's face, even if her hair was not the softest of chestnuts nor her eyes glimmering almonds. He grew fascinated with her and lingered still on Earth to watch over her.

He was there when the island village fell to outside forces, railing at her, "Survive! Grow strong!" And she did, he watched over her as she showed her strength to those around her in the new village she'd fled to with her grandmother and parents.

Pride filled him on the day she beat a ninja, something he only belatedly realized was a memory from his own life. While they were not ninja then, he understood that their way of fighting was similar to those he knew in the days of the Three Kingdoms.

Worry when she was kidnapped, and then relief when she was rescued. Lu Bu's spirit felt that he saw her smile at him when the young man turned away, and he wondered if she could hear him.

Despite his attempts to speak to her over the next few years, nothing came of it. She would look at him, but would never seem to truly hear him. He had given up hope and contented himself with his vigil when things changed again.

She was pregnant, and the blonde who had become the greatest ninja in the village by title was the father. Lu Bu wasn't sure how to feel about this, since his pride in his lineage was met by his own feelings regarding the woman named Kushina who was his descendant.

His vigil continued until the day came when the Kyuubi broke free because of the machinations of a masked man. And the day Kushina was killed while protecting her child, his newest descendant.

The one who looked at him and gurgled happily when his ghost moved past the cooling corpse of his mother and gazed down at him. And Lu Bu was not easily surprised, having become jaded by untold millenia of purgatory.

So when he reached down for the blonde and the child reached back, Lu Bu felt something he had almost forgotten fill his wandering soul.

Hope.

-l-

Watching the child grow was a test of patience even for Lu Bu even despite the centuries he'd waited for something to change. Seeing the child cared for haphazardly by nursemaids assigned by the replacement for the child's father, Lu Bu wondered if his original children had ever suffered such foolishness. It wasn't that the child was neglected or abused, they just didn't... care. Lu Bu could hardly understand it, the child was sure to be the strongest thing anyone in his generation would ever see, and the young blonde was being treated like a leper.

He had to shadow the old man he'd come to understand was known as Hokage, the predecessor for his descendant's father to find out why. The people of this village feared and maligned the child for what had happened. He was the one left behind when people were grieving for their losses.

Lu Bu found himself annoyed, which wasn't anything new. While he'd tried to treat his comrades in arms well, he'd always been defined by his actions. Everyone had called him an animal, thought only of his betrayals (which were many) and not of what he saw. That those he had served ceased to be worthy. If that made him a wild beast that deserved putting down, then why did Cao Cao get to die during a pocket of peace? Why was his life stolen from him when his deeds were only what he saw as best?

This child would be his legacy, and would serve his act of atonement for Heaven. He would make this child a Legend, the Strongest Man in All of the Land. It would serve both as proof of his pride, and the fulfillment of his ambition. And when he met Cao Cao, his condemner, in Heaven he would laugh mightily and point at his deed as the man boggled at his entry to Heaven.

-Naruto, Five Years Later-

"Hee-hee, and what's this word, Grandpa?" Sarutobi regarded the young blonde in his lap, pointing at a kanji shaped like a slanted n with no point. The child was energetic, if not particularly easy to teach. Especially with the things he'd started hearing from the boy's watch detail about the orphanage. [i]Missing lessons... Or is someone neglecting him? I don't think it matters at this point, Naruto should know these kanji by now.[/i] It was a shame the old monkey couldn't give the child a tutor, the privileges of station came along with the drawbacks of responsibility, he supposed.

"That's 'Sword', Naruto. What made you point that particular one out?" Hiruzen asked, curious despite himself even though he doubted he'd get more of an answer than childish babbling. The blonde child's energy led to him having little in the way of social graces, or conversational skills. [i]But he's as sharp as one,[/i] The hokage thought to himself, watching Naruto compare the kanji for Sword to the kanji for Man. [i]He's definitely their son, all right.[/i]

Lu Bu watched quietly from the shadows, knowing from experience that the child would recognize him and speak out to him if he knew that his ancestor was there. Still, Naruto occasionally would glance up from his book and look into the corner of the room he'd taken to vigil when the blonde visited the elderly ninja. Sarutobi seemed to have, as far as the ancient warrior could tell, writen it off as the blonde being more perceptive than his age belied. Supposedly there were sentries posted in the office at most hours when the Hokage was present and he'd just happened to steal one of their own positions. Lu Bu glanced away from Naruto, settling his ephemereal eyes on the stylized mask of what he'd come to assume was a dog of some kind. No other features of the man were identifiable to him, save that his hair was prematurely gray. Lu Bu couldn't even see him until the boy (he assumed from the voice he'd heard that day) had been called out by Sarutobi as Naruto had departed.

[i]"He looked right at you, Kakashi. Are you slipping, or is this something I will need a report on?"[/i] He remembered those words even though Naruto could not have heard them. The ghostly echo leant from his own spiritual form making loud what would've been a whisper to the world. The ghostly warrior hadn't stayed long enough to hear the remainder of the conversation, knowing full well that the child didn't sense the ninja.

He sensed Lu Bu, the apparition.

The ghost had discovered over the centuries that he could manipulate things to a certain extent. If he bent enough of his will to something he could even manipulate a pen on paper, though the time he'd attempted to communicate with Kushina this way it'd frightened her and he'd given up on the prospect. Naruto, however, he'd learned how to do it. The warrior had managed to manipulate a long piece of paper unto the table that dominated Naruto's otherwise small room, and wrote on it. While he didn't otherwise favor subtlety, his own softness for children and his ambition to succeed had tempered his usual boisterous nature.

[b]Hello, would you like a friend?[/b]

The blonde child grinned to himself, walking into his newly furnished apartment with a steaming carry out bowl of Ichiraku courtesy of the Hokage's generous nature. "Hee! If I knew learning kanji would get Grandpa to buy me food, I would've started a long time ago!" With that, he made over to his simple little seiza pillow to sit at the table and discovered the message.

"Hel...o. Wud... you... lik... a friend?" Naruto spoke the words aloud, having to do so to recognize the writing for what it's message was. He still wasn't an expert at kanji, but that didn't stop his enthusiasm. "Yeah! Friends are awesome!" And then the pen near the scroll moved, and wrote more. "Woah! Who's doing that?" The child looked around, wondering if maybe someone was playing a prank or something on him as the calligraphy shakily came to life.

[b]I can be your friend.[/b] Lu Bu wrote, ghostly hand moving the pen with care even though it was taking most of his spiritual focus to -manipulate- the lifeless object. He wondered if a weaker ghost would be able to even do such a simple thing. [b]My name is Lu Bu.[/b]

"Roo... Boo?" Naruto wondered, recognizing the symbols but not understanding, though that faded from his mind as he contemplated the floating pen. "My pen's name is Lu Bu?" The blonde child wondered, before something seemed to click. And that was when Naruto's eyes planted on the face of Lu Bu, even beyond the veil.

[b]"Lu. Bu."[/b] The scratching of the pen didn't even distract the blonde child, because he was gazing into the face of a man who hadn't been there a minute ago. Hearing words that he hadn't heard moments in the past.

"You're the one. The one I see!" Naruto exclaimed excitedly, eyes glowing with curiousity while the ghost put away the pen, wondering if he'd learned something new today. If he focused hard enough, the child could truly see him instead of just -sense- him.

[b]"You can see me?"[/b] He asked, wondering at the possibilities. Naruto's eyes never left the ghost's face, so he continued. [b]"What is the color of my hair?[/b] The apparition asked, causing the blonde child to blink and squint at him.

"It looks dark. Is it black?" The child's lisp didn't even occur to the ancestral warrior. The child could -see- him. Was this the turn of fortune, was this why he'd been forced to suffer walking Earth for so long?

[b]"I am your ancestor."[/b] The ghost stated, trying to keep his wording simple because the child hardly could understand him. After all, the language was not his own and Naruto was still just that, a child. [b]"Once the strongest warrior in all the land. I am here to watch over you, as I watched over your mother."[/b] Naruto lit up at this, and before Lu Bu could continue, he was pounced upon verbally.

"You knew my mom? What was she like? Was she an awesome ninja, did she know a lot of jutsu, did she like ramen-" The ghostly warrior belatedly wished for the chance to clap a hand over the child's mouth, going through the motion and shocking the blonde in the midst of his babbling. [i]Effective enough.[/i] Lu Bu thought to himself, sadistically pleased at the sudden quiet.

[b]"I knew your mother, Kushina. Though I know little of her life. I held vigil over her without word because she cannot do as you do, see me and speak to me."[/b] The ancestor spoke, letting that old fierce tone into his voice to command the child's attention. The awe in his blue eyes left him feeling pride without an ounce of shame. [b]"She is gone towards Heaven, where we will both one day see her. For now, Lu Bu shall see to it that you become the greatest among all Man."[/b]

In Naruto's eyes, Lu Bu saw confusion, but that was fine. The ancestor had suffered millenia without hope. To do so now was a pittance in the face of his renewed will and spirit. They had time, and if Lu Bu could help it, they would have victory.

"Say, say, you said you were a warrior, right? Teach me!" The season had changed from that first meeting, summer's heat giving away to the mildness of Fall and the changing leaves. A scrape here or there had erupted because of Naruto's relative inexperience in keeping a secret, but Lu Bu had amused himself with the ability of grown ups to look over something as childlike fantasy. Naruto had made the mistake of talking to the Hokage about his mother and asked about his ancestry, recieving a very clipped questioning about where he'd learned such things. When Naruto had a flight of mistrust at his grandfatherly-figure's sudden coldness, the conversation had led deeply into Lu Bu's favor. Manipulating Naruto wasn't the way he wanted to fulfill his ambition, but he needed the blonde descendant's trust before anything else.

Sarutobi's refusal to offer information on the child's ancestry had put a wedge in their relationship. And Lu Bu was all too happy to exploit that. [b]"I will teach you all that I can."[/b] He spoke, mind filling with the vision of the gates of Heaven with those that he had loved and honored waiting for him to fulfill his duty. [b]"But first you must grow, and grow strong. You must fight, and train constantly. Never ceasing, because in that is the true path to Strength. The ability to reach out for what you wish for, and seize it!"[/b] Let it not be said that he was not a passionate man, and he felt the pride in his ideal to speak of it with all the bluster he could command with an ethereal form. And from Naruto's cowed form and his glowing eyes, he understood that the child did not yet understand, but he would follow the words of his ancestor with vigor.

And Lu Bu swelled with pride once again, unable to help the wry smile that laid open his lips and bent his brow. "I will!" Naruto's cry split the little apartment, fist raised towards the Heavens and mouth set in a fanged grin of determination.

And he did. No matter what Lu Bu said, or how other people questioned the child, Naruto spent nearly every waking moment doing something to improve himself. The child had made the effort to bridge the gap to his grandfather-figure by requesting instead a way to train and grow strong, seeking the man's position as Hokage. Lu Bu never hid a grin at the audaciousness of such a thing, demanding favors from one in order to take what was their's. Only a child could think to do such a thing and only his descendant could do so and -succeed.-

Sarutobi's willingness to let the subject of Naruto's parentage go was exchanged for falling straight into Lu Bu's clenched fist. It was something that reminded Lu Bu of a lesson he should have learned long ago when he was still alive. Strategy was the winner of war, and so when Sarutobi made the mistake of assisting Naruto in purchasing training tools and books, Lu Bu had nudged the blonde child to take a few books of history and military mentality.

The old monkey's expression of confusion had satisfied Lu Bu's ghost enough that he feared he would ascend to the Heavens before his task was done. But the roaring laughter that filled the veil when Naruto simply grinned and said, "A ninja's gotta have a head for strategeeereee!" had made him even forget that Heaven existed.

"So what's the point of these books?" Naruto asked, dragging his haul unto the same table this had all started on. He glanced around, noticing that Lu Bu hadn't manifested yet so he Naruto opened one titled [b]Fist to Fist: Basics of Taijutsu[/b] and waited for his ancestor to make his presence known again. He'd already read through half of the first chapter regarding the mind set of different types of combat (which had nearly put Naruto to sleep, to be honest. But the illustrations were very colorful and helped to keep him focused. There was even one showing a guy in armor hitting another in a way that knocked him flat! That was really cool!)

[b]"They are meant to teach you many things."[/b] Lu Bu appeared, arms crossed and regarding his blonde descendant, [b]"But, I think you mean the books I had you get specifically."[/b] The ancestral warrior pointed with his spectral hand to the furthest pile of books, those about strategy and history. [b]"Because even the mightiest of man needs a strong mind to be truly strong. A smart fighter is as dangerous as a strong one, lay your thoughts on the matter of one who is both wise and strong."[/b] Naruto seemed to accept this, even if he had trouble understanding the largest part of his ancestor's message, continuing to read while he talked distractedly.

"So, some books on Taiju-tsu, chak...oo..ra?" Naruto's face scrunched up at the word, moving on, "Swordplay, his-toe-ree, and mil-a-tare-ree op-ray-shuns." The blonde put a finger under a few difficult words, looking around for something to mark them down for later to get an explaination from Sarutobi. "Um, what's Chakra?" Naruto asked of his ancestor, who half-heartedly shrugged.

[b]"I do not know."[/b] The ghost floated idly behind the blonde as Naruto cracked open the book about chakra, titled [b]Heaven and Earth: The Basics of Chakra[/b] and while he understood things only marginally better than Naruto because of the language barrier, Lu Bu imagined he'd be able to explain some of the bits that seemed to immediately stump his descendant. [b]"Physical energy... and spiritual energy.[/b] Lu Bu pondered aloud, unnoticing of Naruto turning to look at him as his thumb rested on the page where a pie graph showed a circle with a few colors shaded into each side.

There were multiple versions of the same graph, but besides the size of the colors Naruto didn't understand the variance. Lu Bu pointed to one that was nearly all Red, labeled [b]Physical[/b] while the Blue side labeled [b]Spiritual[/b] was much more miniscule in comparison. [b]"This is talking about making this Chakra. Something about using... body energy and spiritual energy."[/b] Lu Bu frowned to himself, physical energy... Some had argued before that his abnormal strength was due to an abundance of Chi, something Lu Bu had never put much stock in despite the facts had stared him in the face.

He'd met only a few warriors who could compared to his ability to unleash devestating blows or cave in ranks of men simply with a Kiai. [i]So this Chakra is like Chi, but it isn't just releasing it from the body. It's warping Chi with mental energy to... do what?[/i] The ancestral warrior puzzled, not remotely able to understand something that had seemed reflexive to him in life. [i]To control it?[/i] It was the closest Lu Bu could come to an answer, so he decided it was the best thing he could offer until Naruto gave him the chance to study it more in depth. Lu Bu had never been one for book learning, but he couldn't deny his interest was swaying his judgement.

"Eugh, this is making my head hurt! I'm gonna go back to the book about punching!"

-Three Years Later-

"Hey! Hey! Look, Grandpa enrolled me in the ninja academy!" Naruto was so proud of the simple slip of paper that bore the seal of Sarutobi proclaiming his entry into the school, Lu Bu didn't have the heart to tell the child that he was probably already out of the league of the other children in the school. Three years of focus and careful (if shaky) study had made the blonde a child capable of feats that would have impressed Lu Bu if he hadn't been there every step of the way. Though the blonde was physically ready, which was the majority of Lu Bu's interest, Naruto was still overly energetic and only sly instead of truly wise. The ancestral warrior assumed the child would grow out of it, especially in an enviroment meant, it seemed, for scholastic pursuit and mental preperation instead of physical training. It was an approach Lu Bu could understand, even if he felt it somewhat pathetic. [i]Preparing children for war is different from my day.[/i] He mused as Naruto continued to gesticulate wildly with the paper in his hand.

[b]"Don't forget your training."[/b] Lu Bu intoned in his best Voice of Command, hoping to cut off the blonde's enthusiasm like he had done countless times before. When he was satisfied it had worked, he continued, [b]"None of these children will have ambition to rival your's, they will be companions. You may trust them, but you must remember that to be strong, one must first be strong as an individual!"[/b] Lu Bu tried not to reflect on how his own reliance on personal strength had led to his downfall. Secretly, he hoped Naruto would find a way to combine his own great power with those who would come to be his friends.

Naruto's first day of school was something else. Lu Bu had kept himself relatively scarce, but within the classroom to observe how things occurred in a place of learning. Most of the children seemed hesitant to endure Naruto's attempts to be friendly, though it seemed like a few of them looked past his manner to return his greetings and idle chit chat while they waited for their teacher.

Lu Bu marveled at the display of the children, as diverse as could be. Of the ones his blonde descendant spoke to more than a few sentences, he picked out some who met his interest. A girl with pink hair who seemed rather shy stood out simply because of her hair color, as well did another girl who had hair so dark black it seemed almost blue in the light while her eyes were milky and spoke to him as if she were blind. The boys, whom Naruto spoke to mostly, were filled with less strange appearances than the two of the girls whom Naruto had approached. One was a brown-haired child with small red marks upon his cheeks, another sleepy looking child with dark hair, and yet another whom had brunette hair but was rather hefty instead of carried the lean look most of his classmates did. The ancestor could appreciate a child who understood the value of a meal, one of his weaknesses had been good cooking (and it'd been one of many reasons he'd tried to seduce comrade's wives. He hoped idly that Diaochan didn't know what he thought of her cooking. His trip to Heaven would surely end in being pummeled back down into Hell.)

Nevertheless, the first day seemed to go without much incident, the female teacher that bore a bedraggled look and had a pair of thick glasses going over rules for both the classroom and school grounds and generally welcoming them into the academy. Some of the rules amused the ancestor greatly, specifically the ones regarding fighting on school grounds and etiquette for taijutsu sparring classes. By the end of the day, Lu Bu had grown to understand that school in his time must have been just as ridiculous.

After all, who would tie children to logs together to make them settle out their differences?

Belatedly, he decided that punishment wasn't nearly as ridiculous as it was pleasantly sadistic. Although he would still hand out the caveat that Naruto had been right to leave the dark haired boy, Sasuke if he remembered right, a black eye for his boasting after a sparring session, the ancestor felt it a valid punishment for the quick and talented youngster to get taken down a peg because he stood around long enough after talking down to the blonde to take his descendants decidedly good punch (if the fact the dark-haired child got laid out by it was anything to say of its strength) straight to the face.

It had nothing to do with the fact Sasuke reminded him of smug Cao Cao, whom he would give anything to smack him one good time like Naruto had the child. It didn't.

"You want me to get a weapon?" Naruto asked, scratching his fingers through his hair in curiosity at his ancestor's prodding. The blonde had grown more, still one of the shortest children in his class simply by curse of his genes. Lu Bu felt it was time to pass on perhaps his greatest talent, swordsmanship.

[b]"That's right. Specifically, a sword would be good practice until you are ready to advance. This is something I can teach you even with no body. All you will need is a way to get a training sword."[/b] Lu Bu expected his descendant would have no problem procuring such an item. After all, as long as Naruto put forth the effort, Sarutobi had already funded the blonde child's training equipment and the standard issue academy kit. While he'd understood the tremendous value of real weaponry, training equipment was often little more than a slab of wood created in an approximation of the weight and feel of its real steel alternative.

And Lu Bu wasn't disappointed, despite Naruto's attempts to find the largest and most ridiculous looking thing, between Sarutobi's prodding and Lu Bu's own silent condemning looks the blonde had settled on what could have in his age passed for a dadao. Though it had a name in their language he didn't comprehend. It was well made and simplistic in design, with the wood showing hardly a flaw. Naruto seemed able to swing it relatively easily due to its easy balance with the heavy thick blade and the long handle. Lu Bu felt his appreciation of Sarutobi grow simply because the old monkey agreed that it made a good choice for the young blonde and he'd likely grow into its use.

Lu Bu still looked away when Naruto hugged the man afterwards.

"So now what? Oh! When can I do that neat twirl thing? You know, with the-" Naruto was growing used to being stared into silence by his ancestor, the man had a particular way of grabbing your attention and keeping it with those blazing brown eyes even if they were a ghost's eyes.

[b]"First, you must get comfortable with the weight of the blade."[/b] Lu Bu spoke, uncrossing his arms and gesturing to a nearby tree in the small clearing the blonde had claimed as his personal training ground. [b]"Swing the sword one hundred times. Learn its weight and balance, and let it become nothing more than an extension of your body."[/b]

And time passed that way. With Lu Bu teaching Naruto how to wield the sword when the blonde was not in school or training in other areas, it became monotonous and almost peaceful; reminding Lu Bu of the life he had not gotten to live. One in a time of peace without fighting, something he would have suffered through if it meant being able to share in it with his children learning his ways.

He just happened to forget that he was doing this for his own reasons, and instead began to do it for Naruto. And that was partially why when the years ran by and it came to the day when Naruto would finally be allowed to graduate, Lu Bu wondered when the blonde had gone from being a toddler to becoming ten years old, and when ten years had become thirteen, and he was stood outside of the academy, the ghost of a parent looking to see if his child had succeeded.

And why he'd raged when he found out they hadn't.

Chapter 1: A Mystic and a Mystery

"Oh man, this was a bad idea." Naruto lamented to himself, clutching the Forbidden Scroll tightly to his chest. While he'd managed to learn the first jutsu within an hour or two, he'd long expected teacher Mizuki to show up before then. Instead, he could vaguely sense Iruka's presence barreling towards him. Iruka felt angry to him, which wasn't good news for his graduation. And to make it all worse, he hadn't seen nor felt Lu Bu's presence since he'd arrived at the school earlier. He felt cornered, and that had his hackles raised and his fingers itching to at least have the comfort of his practice sword or a weapon of some kind. But he'd decided they'd be too much of a liability with his disguise, even if his "disguise" was just him in civilian clothes, it had worked to get him in to see the Hokage so late. Immobilizing the old man had been as simple as using his famed Sexy Technique (which he'd hidden from his ancestor, whom he felt would've been rather… disappointed.)

The night had spiraled out of control at that point, shinobi chasing him, getting away to Mizuki's plotted "extraction point" and having enough time to study the scroll's first technique, a groan had raised from the fact it was yet another clone jutsu. But he'd still decided that it was better to work with something he had –some- knowledge of instead of waste time digging through the scroll for another technique. It hadn't taken near as long to figure out the trick behind the shadow clone, mostly because there –was- no visible trick to him. What made his clone so awful seemed to just be –missing- from the shadow clone variation.

After dispelling the three or four clones he'd managed to summon, he'd sensed an approaching aura, hoping it was Mizuki or at least his ancestor, he'd been surprised by Iruka jumping into the clearing demanding to know what he'd been thinking.

And that's when things got worse.

Awakening the next morning in the hospital with the old man Sarutobi and Lu Bu looking down over him was chastising enough, the fact that he was covered with scratches and bruises left him feeling utterly shamed. At Sarutobi's insistence (and Lu Bu's leveled glare), he'd begun to explain what had happened last night.

Between the fight with Mizuki and Iruka admitting he'd become proud of Naruto, the blonde had used the shadow clone technique to level the playing field between himself and Mizuki. The chuunin had been all too happy to supply Naruto with weapons by dispelling his clones with simple ninja stars and kunai. After that, Naruto had just had to battle Mizuki down to a point where the chuunin had made a mistake, assuming the last Naruto visible was the –real- Naruto. A stab in the back later had seen the silver haired traitor disabled (semi-permanently, Naruto was pleased to find out) and Naruto had only the strength to check on Iruka before the adrenaline and traces of demonic chakra had left him, taking his consciousness along for the ride.

"Well, Naruto, it sounds like you had quite an exciting night. Learning a kinjutsu and taking on a rank chuunin before you'd even graduated the academy. Some ninja would call that a Tuesday." Sarutobi chuckled, gaining a nervous smile from the blonde in the hospital bed.

"Yeah, but how many of them find out there's a demon in their body?"

Since he'd largely healed from the fight with Mizuki by the time he woke up, he'd managed to get discharged under Sarutobi's signature after explaining what had happened last night. After being told to report to the academy next week as a graduating ninja (Which he'd hooted and hollered about enough), he'd been stuck with Lu Bu giving him the most non-verbal verbal thrashing men's eyes would never see. It was afternoon when he left the hospital.

His ancestor had insisted he go straight home and prepare for training, which Naruto had acquiesced to under Lu Bu's angry eyes. Dressed in a simple black shirt and pants, he'd started swinging and not been told to stop yet, so there he was, in an out of the way training ground swinging his wooden dadao feverishly, the sun already setting.

[b]"Enough."[/b] Thankful for his ancestor's sudden bout of mercy, Naruto flopped backwards unto the ground, not even bothering to wince when his thighs screamed in agony from being in the same ready position for so many hours. The blonde was –that- tired. Still, when Lu Bu's amused visage floated into his line of sight, he couldn't help grinning cheekily at his ancestor's prideful face. [b]"It's not often a young child like you can defeat a career fighter, even a sneaky weakling. That was your punishment for failing to win without a scratch."[/b]

But Naruto understood, Lu Bu's praise was his reward for winning. His ancestor was pleased with him and every drop of blood and bruise he'd suffered was worth more than that a thousand times over.

Being a real ninja now helped, though. Still, he couldn't help but embellish and gush over his victory, both in becoming a ninja and in winning his first ever –real- fight. Lu Bu saw the spark in his eyes, the one he'd seen so many times before in his own. Naruto had enjoyed it, had left him utterly pleased to be –stronger-.

And Lu Bu felt his pride grow stronger. Even if he were to go to Heaven now, he would be satisfied with his work in making Naruto grow strong.

"Hehe, he's a funny one." Sarutobi looked up from the crystal ball showing Naruto grinning up at the sky as if he knew Sarutobi was watching him, gazing at the woman who now sat across from his desk. "Hello, I'm Sanzang." Brown hair, dressed rather eccentrically, he wondered idly how the woman could have snuck in without alerting either the barriers around the tower or his office, nor the ANBU. Still, playing into the hands of others was never Sarutobi's strong suits.

"Yes, yes he is, Sanzang." And so she spoke to him. Telling him of a great danger that humankind had forgotten about, had been –made- to forget about, and how the only ones standing in the way of that evil returning was the blonde child who had been born to the bloodline of both a great warrior and a Mystic.

Between Sarutobi's trepidation, and his thoughts the woman might well be mad, she assured him that she only wanted what was best. And because of that, she'd enlisted some help. With a secretive smile, she didn't feel it necessary to explain who or what that "help" was. After all, between Lu Bu's spirit lingering around the young demi-Mystic and her call for Taigong Wang to join her in watching over him, she felt as if the future of both Man and Mystic was firmly safe beneath Naruto's hands. By the time Sarutobi had looked to his ANBU, the woman had vanished with nary a trace.

In a dark place, red eyes opened, gazing quietly beyond the bars of her prison. Shrinking down from her large size, she moved towards the bars and reached out with crimson-clawed fingers, pulling the appendage back when she felt lightning lance through her arm, numbing it down to the bone.

"A prison; how quaint of them." She mused, letting her arm lay limp even as smoke wafted from it like it was cooking in a flash fryer. Her other hand came up to rake long crimson nails through her snow-white hair, passing by her fox-ears and slowly reclining in the air as her tails lazily swept up behind her. "What, then, have they imprisoned me within?" She thought aloud, waving a hand as a blurry image came into view. A blonde teen speaking with Lu Bu, looking exhausted and… -happy-; tapping her finger against her lips, she mused to herself, "A child sacrifice. Only humans could've come up with such a revolting idea, and only those from the Mystic realm could do it without care. To seal the great Kyuubi away and prevent Lord Orochi's return, they would sink so low. Well, then, I'll just have to remind them how flawed they truly are."

Reaching out as if to stroke the blonde teen's cheek with the hand that had been utterly charred, she cooed out in a maternal fashion, "Isn't that right, my lovely? You and I will bring this world crashing back down."