A/N: EDIT: Had a good laugh reading the flames in the comments.

As ever, the "Embers" rule remains in effect for now.

If folks don't like this, POOF! Away it goes. Deleted! Reviews are the fire that keeps me writing.

Without them, I cannot put pen to paper. Simple as that. Every bit of feedback matters, large or small~! Your voice matters! Speak up! I repeat, every bit of feedback matters...even if people think it doesn't. That's no joke. Feedback gives me strength. Sometimes it feels like writing.. is the one thing I'm good at the one thing in this rotten world that makes me feel alive, sometimes. Kinda sad, eh?

Now then, onto your questions, comments, and concerns!

Q: Finishing your stories, eh? Kudos! What's next to be finished?

A: Killing Monsters has two chapters left. As does All Things Must Die. Best Served Cold COULD end with the next chapter, but I don't want it to feel rushed. To say nothing of Lies Are Entertainment and this story, both of which are nearing their conclusion as well.

Q: Salem therapy when?!

A: Salem therapy now! Don't think winning her over will be easy!


A: Hold your horses, I'm getting to it.

Q: Oh, dear...a pregnant Raven...and Naruto bolted. Ha!

A: Naruto's a responsible fellow; well, once the panic fades.

As for baby names, I'm open to suggestions. It needs to be something with a real sense of flare, though!

Huh. Flare. That's a decent name-GAH! Resist! I'll be waiting to hear from you all on baby names. Ought to be interesting.

Q: How is everyone going to take this?!

A: Read and see for yourself.

Q: Why do I get the feeling everything's about to explode spectacularly?

A: *whistles innocently* Whatever do you mean? Its not as if Cinder's up to no good. No, no, no. Certainly not. Nevermind the fact that she still has Emerald and Mercury with her. And Watts. And the White Fang if she can manage to find and bully Adam into obedience. Yeah, despite the death of Hazel and the detainment of Tyrian, the bad guys are far from down and out.

Alright then, I think I've kept you all long enough. Forgive an old man and his rambling.

As ever, I own no quotes, no references, no themes, and certainly no memes.

They're used for entertainment purposes and laughter alone!

"I am your ruin! I am your doom!"

"Would you care for a drink?"

"Yes, please. I'm parched."


Bad to the Bone

One does not simply give therapy to the Queen of the Grimm.

Well, really, one shouldn't. It would be most unwise.

Such evil cannot be counseled.

Any sane person would say Salem was set in her ways. That it was impossible for her to change. An eldritch being cursed by the Gods to live forever for a single mistake; a woman who subsequently corrupted herself in an ill-advised attempt to end said life, a mother who lost her children, her husband, even her very humanity. What little goodness she had left in her was long since snuffed out by time and cruelty alike. She had lived for nigh-on-millennia since, her heart hardened by the passage of time. There was nothing left in her worth saving. Any trained psychiatrist would've taken one look at her and run away screaming.

Naruto -and by definition the shadow clones sent to Salem's tower- had never been one would call sane.

...and really, it all started with my fool of a Father." Salem sprawled on a couch, hands folded over her stomach as she stared up at the ceiling. "I never knew my mother." her lips pursed in a thoughtful frown. "I suspect he had her killed out of wedlock."

The shadow clone adjusted its glasses and nodded once.

"I see." really, he didn't, but he scribbled her response down on his notepad nonetheless. "So your old man was a prick. Got it."

"He was an absolute tyrant!" Pale legs kicked in the air causing her long robe to flare-ack! Don't look! Ignore the view!-as she threw a tantrum that rattled the room. "Did you know he kept me in a tower until I was a grown woman?!"

The clone frowned. "Really?"

"Yes, really!" She would've thrashed upright, were it not for another clone massaging her shoulders. As it was, she merely sulked. "I wasn't even allowed to venture outside! Also, lower." blood red eyes flitted away to the doppelganger in question. "Yes. There. I've a knot in my neck." she rolled her shoulders with a pleased hum. "That's better. I think I'll keep you. Now where was I?"

"I believe we were talking about your childhood." Naruto's clone flailed for the first topic he could think of. "Were you at least allowed to keep pets?"

"I had a cardinal, once. When I was a little girl." Salem considered her tented fingers for a moment, lost in a distant memory. "He was a lovely little bird. He would perch on my window every morning, drawn by my voice. It made the most beautiful music...

"I didn't know you could sing." Finally! A happy memory! He could work with this. "You must've been fond of that bird."

"I was." her pale brow turned stormy. "Until the guards discovered. Father crushed the poor thing in his fist."

"Ouch." Dangerous topic! Moving on! "Alright, lets talk about something else."

She leaned back in the couch and closed her eyes. "Such as?"

He adjusted his spectacles. "Tell me about your children."

Salem's head snapped toward him, gaze ablaze.

"Careful, clone." when she spoke her voice was a low contralto, vibrating with silken menace. "You tread dangerous ground."

"Lady," he snarled right back. "In case you haven't noticed, we live on dangerous ground. Dangerous is what we do."

Salem absolutely hissed as she reared back, cradling a sphere of dark light in her dominant hand. Naruto's clone looked on without fear. wondered if she would attack again. It would be an inconvenience, but not crippling. The Mission would continue in the form of others waiting in the wings. Surely she remembered that.

Apparently she did, for her shoulders slumped. "Why speak of the dead? They're gone."

Best not mention Edo Tensei to her, then. Nevermind the fact that he had no idea how to use that jutsu -nor did the Original!- but offering her false hope here and now promised to blow up in his face. False hope was the most dangerous kind there was. Maybe in time, maybe if he researched it, maybe if was willing to cross that line...no. Such tasks were best left for the Boss.

"Why not?" He laughed instead. "The dead have the best stories."

"Its been so long." she chewed her lip and looked away. "I scarcely remember their faces."

Her resolve was weakening. He could see it. This was what he wanted to give her; the chance to talk about the good times, to remember why she was here, to help her find meaning in her current existence. Yes, some memories carried pain. But there was light there too, joy that made bitterness merely bittersweet.

"Try." he prodded. "I'm not going anywhere.

"I suspect not." she scowled. "You're not going to let this go, are you?"

"Nope. C'mon, you know you want to. The lamp showed us a lot of things, but there were bits it missed." Naruto's double crossed one leg over the other. "Tell me about them. What were their names? What were they like?" he clicked his tongue at her. "You loved them dearly, didn't you? Don't skimp out on the details."

"How persistent you are." she scowled at him. "Its a shame I'll have to kill you someday."

A blond brow quirked. "Lady, you can try. Ain't gonna work."

...what do you wish to know?"

"Whatever you want to tell me." came the rejoinder. "Take your time."

"We named them for the seasons." Salem's brow furrowed and she touched her chin as she tried to recall. "Yes, I remember that. The eldest...her name was Winter."

An alarm bell went off in the back of the clone's head and he nearly fell out of his chair.

"She, ah, she didn't have white hair, did she?"

"No?" A pallid brow quirked. "Her tresses were a pale blond, much like my own once were. Why?"

...no reason. And the others," he barreled on before she could pry, "I'm guessing they were Spring, Autumn, and Summer?"

"Why, yes." Salem sat a little straighter. "How did you know?"

"Just a hunch."

Autumn was Amber's last name. He'd heard her mention it once. One might be a coincidence, but two out of four? Even the name Summer sounded familiar. As if he'd heard it somewhere before. It wasn't a pattern, but it was still suspicious. He jotted down a hasty note on his pad. Was reincarnation a thing in this world? Probably best not to dwell on it...or think on it.

...the eldest was

Her face closed down as she tried to summon up another memory.

As she did, he exchanged a dour look with the clone stroking Salem's shoulders.

"Help." the Masseuse mouthed the words. "I've been at this for a day. She won't let me stop."

The Counselor bowed shook his head, ignoring his comrade in arms. 'Your sacrifice will be remembered, brother. Stay strong!'

He received a single-finger salute for his thoughts and prayers. "Screw you!"

Salem scowled at him. "Why have you stopped? I'm still sore."

With a grumble, the Masseuse renewed his ministrations.

Yeah, he wasn't switching with him. Not a chance in hell. That one was on his own. He had his hands full just talking with Salem. Keeping her calm was an ongoing struggle. It should've been easy; they were copies of the Original after all, and really, the Boss talked down monsters all the time. That was the problem. Salem was a different breed of monster altogether.

It would've been better to call her a Demon.

She might not be the most powerful foe they'd faced -Kaguya took that cake and ate it!- but she was certainly the oldest. She'd lived for eons, and with the exception of a few happy years, much of her existence had been pain. Pain, pain, and more pain. Nagato could've taken notes from this one! Her entire past was the world's longest suicide note! From start to finish, this woman had been screwed in every conceivable way. If he didn't know better, if he hadn't seen her past firsthand, he would've sworn her curse was bad luck, not immortality. Almost like a certain bird he knew.

Hmm. There's an idea...

Note to self, he scribbled another down. Throw Qrow at her? Semblance might help? Bad luck cancels out?

Still, better a distracted Salem than a Salem who wanted to destroy the world. Perhaps she was bat-shit crazy. Perhaps she wasn't. He had no right to judge her sanity, strained though it was. This was a temporary solution at best; because really, he had no idea what they were going to do once her minions returned to the tower. They'd probably have to bug out. Dispel themselves at the very least. And the moment they did, the original would get their memories. But for now?

The clone settled into listen as Salem slowly, haltingly began to speak.

"They loved to play outdoors." her voice was soft, almost a whisper. "They...they were good girls...

For all her darkness, there was still light in Salem. And in that light, hope. Now if only he could find a way to bring it to the surface...


If there was a hell on earth, then that hell was Vacuo.

Scorching temperatures by the day, freezing by night, with no end in sight. The sands were ever moving, ever shifting, the Grimm beneath always eager to snatch up unwary travelers. If they didn't get you, dehydration or starvation would. Such was the way of the desert. The strong survived. The weak perished.

It was into this hell that Cinder Fall found herself thrust.

Go into the desert, they said. You'll find what you seek out in the wastes, they said.

She'd wrung the information from her sources at great expense, then killed them afterward to ensure their silence.

Sand stung at her eyes beneath her cowl as she lurched forward, the relentless heat beating down against her back. It made her wounds itch and her scars twitch. Yet she forged on, dragging herself forward as she leaned upon her staff. It was a crude thing, little more than a blackened tree branch, but it served its purpose and provided her balance here in the dunes. Without it, the going would be that much more difficult.

She blinked a bead of sweat from her vision and kept walking.

To stop was to succumb to the heat, to succumb was to die. She refused to die; just as she refused to turn back, let alone look at her companions lurching along behind her. Mercury and Emerald had fallen silent long ago, their banter stripped away by the heat.

She didn't blame them for their silence.

Each step felt like a thousand; every breath burned her lungs worse than any flame. Her lone eye ached, rimmed with red veins as she squinted across the endless expanse of sand. Gods above, she hated sand. She hated this, all of it, every bit of it. Because you see, she was lost.


She was lost.

Terribly, horribly lost.

And yet she could could feel her presence. So close. So. Close! She could see the Maiden in her mind's eye; a mirage visible, yet just out of reach. Twisted fingers reached for it. Would she find her just over the next rise? Or perhaps the one after that? It seemed impossible that anything -or anyone!- would live out here, and yet...

The Summer Maiden was here somewhere. She just knew it.


A shadow moved in her peripherals. Cinder rounded on it. Blue eyes stared back at her, framed by whiskered cheeks alongside blond hair. Panic bleated to life in her heart and she flailed back with a yelp, warding her staff before her. No! He couldn't be here! Not now! It wasn't possible!

"You're going to die out here." he spread his arms and smiled at her. "How does it feel?"

Her staff passed through empty air.

"Go away." She hissed. "You're not real."

"Aren't I?" the mirage tilted its head. "I feel real."

She blinked and the image vanished. It was the heat. Yes, it must be. She was seeing things. Heatstroke. That's all it was. She fumbled for her canteen with her good arm and drank deeply. The brackish water didn't quite quench her thirst, but it took the edge off. Mercury muttered something less than pleasant at her back. Cinder ignored him and stormed ahead. They had their own water. They didn't need hers.

When she turned back, Naruto was there again, judging her with his stare, all her fears made manifest.

"You know, its funny." the mirage laughed at her.

Cinder grit her teeth. "What is?!

"Your scars." he sneered at her in a way the real Naruto never would. "Now you're as ugly on the outside are you are on the inside."

A muscle jumped in her jaw.

"Struck a nerve, have I? Poor, poor Cinder." he cooed as she stalked away. "Throwing a tantrum, are we? What happened to all that control? Rhodes would be so disappointed in you...

Fire flickered at her fingertips.

"You were born as nothing, and now you're going to die as NOTHING-

Her world blazed with sparks.


A wave of molten glass burst form her palm and passed harmlessly through his chest. Her mirage only tittered softly.

"How can I? I'm a part of you."

"Cinder!" Emerald grabbed her by the shoulder. "Stop! There's no one there!"

"Are you blind?!" she spat. "He's right there!"

"No, he isn't!"

A furious blink confirmed her minion's words. He wasn't there. All that remained was scorched sand. But she'd seen him! Heard him...hadn't she?

Emerald saw the hate in her eyes and retreated half a step. "Maybe we should turn back...

"Never!" Cinder whirled away with a muffled snarl. "I'd sooner die!"

Damn him. She hated him. She wanted to break him. Crush him. Maim him as he and his little witch had maimed her. If not for him everything would have gone to plan. She would've been the Fall Maiden. She was meant to be more than this. So much more. Would it end here? Like this? No. No! There would be a reckoning for all she'd suffered. She swore it.

Her foot caught in the sand and her legs buckled. She crashed down onto one knee. Pain burned through her thigh.

With that, the fraying threads of her temper finally snapped. She saw red.

"Naruto...!" Her hands dug into the sand, burning into into "NARUTO...!"

His fault. All his fault. She'd never hated someone so much before.

Cinder Fall threw her head back and screamed at the sun.



Amber took the news about as well as once might expect.

"A baby?!" she recoiled with an startled yelp. "When?! Where? How?!"

"Y'see," Naruto scratched the back of his head as he laughed, "There's this thing called-

"I know how it works!" She swatted his shoulder. "I was being rhetorical! And you!" A finger stabbed at his cheek, pushing it inward. "You're being too blase about this!"

Naruto found himself suddenly and inordinately grateful that he'd taken her out of Vale for this. If they'd had this discussion in public, half of Beacon would've heard Amber. Even from here he could see the city proper; no doubt more than a few people were wondering if they'd just heard something from the Emerald Forest. Yes, he decided as he turned to face her stormy visage, this was for the best. Probably.

Really, what did they have to fear out? Grimm? Ha!

"You're rambling." Kurama put in. "Don't get distracted, now."

Of course he was rambling! He was scared out of his wits, and not by her!"

In hindsight he knew it might seem that way, but really, he wasn't, and not for the reasons one might expect. Denial availed him naught. He'd sensed the life growing in Raven's belly. Hell, she'd made him touch her just to drive her point home. There was a little one on the way. It...it was going to be a boy. A brief moment of passion had brought new life into this world and while that was undoubtedly a good thing, he knew jack all about being a father. Hence his current facade; a crumbling one at that.

"Well, the way I see it, I screwed up." he looked down and kicked at the grass, scuffing his shoe against it. "So its either laugh or cry at this point. I chose laughter." he felt his voice warble a little. "Help?"

Amber must've seen the desperation in his face; because she surged forward. Her head kissed his chest as her arms flung themselves round his waist. She held tight, not even to harm or hurt, but just enough to make her intentions quite clearly.

"It's alright." she muttered into his jacket. "Really. I don't hate you for this."

Naruto quirked a brow. "Honest?"

"Yup." she leaned back and smacked her lips with an audible pop. "I'm not about to let that bitch one up me." when the other brow rose, those dark cheeks darkened further still. "Even if I'm not ready to be a parent, I'm gonna be the absolute best godsdamn aunt ever!"

He feigned a smile, hoping it looked genuine. "I guess that's a nice goal...?"

"I'll say." she huffed. "How did Winter handle it?"


"Yeah, you're on your own. Wake me when the storm's over."

"About that." Naruto winced anew. "I believe her exact words were, to hell with this, give me a baby too."

"Really?" Her eyes narrowed on him with elemental intensity. "You mean you and Winter haven't...?"

"What?!" Naruto recoiled. "No! We didn't! Why would you even think that?!"

"I don't know!" she stomped a foot, crating the soil beneath. "I leave you alone for a day and you basically wrapped Raven and her entire Tribe around your finger! You're impossible to predict!"

"She kidnapped me!"

"And you bonked her brains out!"

"I...!" His mouth opened. Closed. Opened again. "Alright, I'll admit that was as much stress as a a lapse of judgement." he steeled himself and barreled on. "But I'm not going to run away from this. I made a mistake, but damnit, I'm gonna own it. I'm not leaving that kid without a father; no one deserves a repeat of the life I lived."

Amber made angry Amber noises.

"Y'know, you're kinda cute when ya do that...

"Zip it!" She whirled and jabbed a hand against his chest. "Now you listen right here, hero!"

"Aw, you think I'm a hero? Thanks!"

She scowled. "Not the point!"

"Then what is?"

...that I saw you first!" she flung up her hand and the heavens above crackled with thunder. "I called dibs! And I will NOT let myself be upstaged by a milf with a mid-life crises or some silly Schnee! So!" her forehead was quick to kiss his, "Stay right there! We're going on a date! The best date ever! But first!"

She whirled away a heartbeat later and dialed something into her scroll.

A faint whine was his only warning before her locker rammed itself into the soil between then. She swung it open and retrieve her staff from within...and a curious parcel besides. Naruto squinted at the slender box, trying to make sense of it, to no avail. She struggled with the ungainly thing for a long moment, so much so that he nearly took pity on her.

Really, he felt bad. "Do you need help...?"

Amber hissed at him. "Stay!

"Yes, ma'am!"

He rooted his feet to the floor and stood his ground. Waited, as she got a better hold of it, whirled, and flung the box at him.


He did so, frowning a little at the weight. Not too heavy for him by any means, but neither could it be called light, either.

"And this is...?"

"Your gift!" She declared with resounding finality. "I'm terribly cross with you right now. So I'm going to give you your new weapon and you. Will! Love! It!"


"Well?" her eyes were half-lidded with anger, but there could be no denying the glimmer of excitement lurking within. "Aren't you going to open it?"

Naruto peeled the lid back with great care, keenly aware of Amber's expectant gaze upon him all the while. There was something within, wrapped in red velvet. The fabric was strangely soft to the tough; as though it had been suffused with living heat. Reverently, he peeled back the last of the cloth and beheld his new...weapon? Tool? He didn't rightly know what to call it, but he gazed upon it nevertheless.

Kurama whistled in the back of his head. "Girl knows her stuff."

Trembling fingers lifted the weapon from its case.

All black and gold, embossed with veins of beautiful blue crimson; it was a work of art in every sense of the word. Long and slender, powerful and stern, it was undoubtedly the finest staff he'd ever seen. She'd taken his words to heart, it seemed.

Naruto frowned at the Weapon with quiet reverence.

"Huh. This is certainly...something." He turned it end over end, admiring it sleek form. "You really thought of everything. And its not a shield..."

"It certainly isn't." Her staff whirled out, eyes agleam. "Care to give it a test? I promise you won't find it lacking.

"I can feel something." he frowned a little, turning his senses upon the weapon. "It feels like...you."

"Of course it does." his partner preened. "I used my Maiden powers more than once when I forged that baby. Makes senses that there'd still be some energy leftover."

Naruto perked up. "This thing can store energy?"

"And dish it back twice as hard." Amber's grin was all teeth. "Pretty neat, eh?"

He frowned. "Ain't that cheating?"


"Don't start that again!"

He gave the staff a twirl and tested the balance. One sweep. Two. Three now. His hand twirled it through complicated patterns a weapon had no business making, yet did all the same.

"Alright," he admitted. I'm sold. What else can it do?"

She sashayed forward, pressed herself into his side, and reached across the weapon. Warm fingers stroked his. In an instant he was keenly aware of the fullness of her form pressed against him; her cheek resting against his, her bosom pressing against his chest. His heart skipped a beat and he forced himself to focus.

"See that trigger near the base?" she guided his hand down the length of the shaft. "Give it a squeeze for three seconds and channel your chakra."

"Alright," he found a slight protrusion and did as he was bade, squeezing it with his thumb, "But I don't see whaaaaaaaow!"

His words piqued into a startled cry as the staff shifted in his grasp. Cylinders whirled and clicked, metal folded back onto his right hand, forming a shimmering gauntlet that encased his limb nearly to the elbow. He flexed his fingers within and the joints responded accordingly. Well, at least it wasn't a gun.

"Now make a fist and twist your wrist." her breath was warm on his ear. "Just like...this. There you go! You've got it!"

With a whirr and a soft pop the weapon elongated once more, forging itself into a staff once more.

A strange feeling pervaded his soul. Completeness. Wholeness. Purpose.

Amber hummed at it. "Wait till you see its third form."

...aren't you gonna tell me what it is?

"Nah," she patted his arm. "I'll let you figure that one out for yourself. That baby's one of a kind."

Naruto considered his gift with a hum. Strange as it might sound it felt right. Complete. As if it were searching for purpose all this time and had finally found it. It radiated satisfaction. No ordinary weapon, this. Surely a weapon couldn't be alive...right? He filed the thought away for later and spun it away, taking a stance.

"You're a bit of a weapons nerd, aint'cha?"

"Ha!" her laugh proved telling. "I'm no weapon master, if that's what your asking." She reached back over her shoulder and touched a hand to her own staff, fingers stroking the dust crystal within. "Medusa here is the only weapon for me." a quick twirl brought it to bear on him.

"Wait, Medusa?" his cheeks dimpled in a frown. "The hell does that mean?"

"I'm not quite sure. I found the name in a storybook, and it stuck with me." a quick whirl brought it down, rapping its slender base against the earth. "Forged her when I was seven, and I've kept making improvements to her ever since."

A blink passed between them. "You...named your weapon?"

"Of course I did." she held it to her chest a little defensively, "Everyone does. Its not weird, I swear."

A beat of sweat ran down Naruto's brow. "...right."

She made a keening noise through her teeth. "Yours needs a name, too!"

"A name, huh?" He hefted it with a frown. "I can't really think of one."

"Are you seriously going to name an overgrown stick?"

"Hey!" he frowned back at him, "You have a name."

"Yes, but I'm not a glorified beat-stick!"

Something rustled in the brush before he could find a comeback.

Naruto felt his senses flare and turned to face it with a frown. He was only mildly nonplussed to find a series of armed, masked men emerging from the undergrowth. One. Two...three...nearly a dozen of them. They looked just as startled to see him as he did them; well, as much as their white masks would allow. Amber scrambled back with a yelp, a look of fire already blazing in her eyes.

"Oh, you have got to be kidding me!"

"Well, well, well." their leader, a great burly brute with a chainsaw strapped to his shoulders, cocked his head at her. "Ain't this a surprise." his voice was a low rumble, a moving avalanche personified. "Didn't think we'd find humans this close to camp. And is that an old friend I see?"

Amber's head poked around Naruto's shoulder. "I'm no friend of yours, Banesaw!"

"And yet you were more than happy to help yourself to our supplies...

Naruto's brow shot into his hairline.

"They're White Fang." she muttered at him. "Its...a bit of a long story."

Something told him there was more to it than that. They didn't look much pleased to see her.

"Erm," Amber wilted a little under his gaze. "I may have raided one or two of their camps while I was traveling...among other things."


"What?!" She whined. "They were bad guys! And it was before I met you, alright?!"

"We're here to relieve you of your burden." The big brute grunted, interrupting her. "Whether that includes your own lives as well...is up to you." a lone finger rose, jabbing at Amber with intent. "Surrender the girl to us and we might let you go."

"Surrender?!" Amber's face darkened. "Did he...just tell me to surrender?"

"Uh-oh." Naruto winced. "You shouldn'ta did that."

The masked man tilted his head. "Did what...?"

Amber slipped out from behind him and sauntered forward. Baneswaw saw her expression and growled.

"Halt!" came the cry. "Come any closer and we will show no mercy!"

"I'm the one who'll be showing no mercy." The Fall Maiden cracked neck as her eyes began to glow. "Sorry," a wide grin tore across her face, "But I've had a reeeaaally bad day." Sparks flew from her fingers as she spread her arms wide. "I'm going to take out my rage on all of you. Blame yourselves for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

High above, the skies darkened. Naruto saw it and stepped backwards.

Amber's right hand snapped forward in a devastating arc.

And the heavens answered.

A/N: And the plot thickens! Tha said, PLEASE. READ. THIS. NOTE.

As ever, the "Embers" rule remains in effect for now.

If folks don't like this, POOF! Away it goes. Deleted! Reviews are the fire that keeps me writing. Without them, I cannot put pen to paper. Simple as that. Every bit of feedback matters, large or small~! Your voice matters! Speak up! I repeat, every bit of feedback matters...even if people think it doesn't.

Things are changing, and we're nearing a time skip~!

Well, that's all I have to say this time around.

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review, Would You Kindly?

And enjoy the previews~!

Speakin' a which...





"I'm sorry, did that hurt? It looked like it did-ack?!"

Clenched knuckles slammed into their face, obliterated their right eye, and sent them sprawling to the floor. Even as they fell a smoking fist found them, caught them by the collar and reeled them back in.

"Sorry." Naruto sang back. "Does it hurt? Looks like it does.

"Well, the best way to see Forever Fall is by train, so...

"See? Now you're using your brain. Naruto patted Vernal once on the head. "Good girl."

His student preened. "Heh. I like that. Praise me more."

Jinn rolled her eyes. "Such a child."

"Shut up! You're one, too!

...fair enough."

"Are you lost, child?"

"Don't move!" Cinder rounded on the voice and slammed her palm down to the sands. "Where are you hiding the Summer Maiden?! TELL ME!"

The hooded man merely lifted his chin "I will do no such thing, dear girl."

Her lone eyes gleamed with hatred. "Then you will die!"

"Better foes than you have tried, pup. But I know what it is you seek." he tilted his head and she caught a glimpse of wrinkled beneath his cowl. "You will not find it here. Come."

Without so much as a passing glance he turned and walked away.

She planted her staff in the ground and followed.

"Wait! Where are you taking us?"

He didn't look back at her.

"To your destiny."

Purify Salem? Could it be done? In theory.

There was a pool of Darkness. And a Pool of Light. He knew it. He'd seen it in that vision...though he had no idea where it was now, or if it even remained in this plane of existence anymore. If that didn't work, they could try splitting her soul...but that promised to be disastrous. So many ideas, so few viable...

...I think we might need to involve the original in this."

"You're cracked. If the boss hears what you're planning...