A/N: EDIT: Wow that's a lot of flames...can't we all just get along? T_T

...I now know what Rise of the Shield Hero is.

A friend -not you, Quartermass- made me marathon it in one day and...wow. Just wow. Haven't seen something like that before. Truth be told, I almost wish I didn't, because once I got through it...well. I haven't felt anger like that in a long time.

What's that? Season two? Noooo don't tell me that, let me write in peace.

To clarify, I'm not shafting Naofumi in this story. If anything, I feel bad for him. Poor guy.

As ever, the Embers rule remains:

If people don't like this story? If they don't enjoy it? Well...I'll not continue it. That's no joke, folks. I'm so busy these days with two jobs; basically, I don't have time off. Not anymore. My free time is limited and as such, I can't afford to focus on something folks don't like. Reviews keep me writing in these times, and keep the daily updates flowing. Silence...silence only hurts. I hate having to beg for feedback, but without it...well, it feels like I'm not making an impact.

Alright, then. I think I've kept you waiting long enough.

Hope you're ready; because this chapter's got a bit of everything in it!

As ever, I own nooooo references, quotes, memes or themes. Not a wit or a one.

"He's not one of the Four...? Is he a demi-human?"

"I don't see a weapon on him. Who is he...?"

"Sh! He's waking up! Say the line!"


Rise of a Fox

"Oh, brave Hero! Please save our world!"

Blue eyes snapped open with a start, only to snap shut thrice as fast against the light. Three realizations dawned at once. First, this wasn't his room; or his bed, for that matter. Second, his head ached abominably in the worst of ways. Third the floor was damn cold-and someone was speaking to him. Hero? Him? What's all this, now?

...excuse me?" he rasped out, pulling himself upright. "What did you just call me...?"

The last thing he remembered was working his way through village library; he'd been there researching something for an up-and-coming mission. Hadn't he? There had been a book with a red cover. He remembered that much, recalled opening it and then...light? Everything went fuzzy after that. He couldn't recall.

And why was his right arm so damn itchy?

'..is this what I get for pickin' up that damn book? For crying out loud!'

Silence reigned supreme, and with it, came a moment of fleeting, peerless panic.

'Kurama...?! You there?!'

"Urk." a low groan reverberated through the back of his mind. "Wish I wasn't. What happened...?"


Daring to open his eyes at last, the wayward warrior squinted against the pain to make sense of his surroundings. He found himself in a vast sprawling room made of stone. A single open archway spilled sunlight into the room, against which group of five robed individuals stood tall, two flanking one man on each side.

That man -the leader?- saw him move and made to speak again. "Oh, brave hero-

Ouch! Too loud! Much too loud!

"I heard you the first time!" Naruto flung up a hand to stave off another assault on his senses. "Damnit, you're noisy! I've got a headache...

A murmur of confusion ran through them.

There is a long and complicated story behind this," their leader began in softer tones, "But we've summoned you here using an ancient ritual. There were meant to be four of you, but...

"Four?" He looked over his shoulder and saw naught but smoke. "Don't see anyone else...

...clearly something went wrong." the man finished with a grimace. "H-However!" when Naruto glared his way he faltered and quickly bowed his head. "Our world teeters on the brink of destruction. We beg you, O brave hero!"another bow now, all of them, low at the waist. "Please help us!"




A bead of sweat ran down his brow. "I'm sorry, could you start over...?"

"You heard them. They summoned you. Must be a jutsu of some sort."

"Hey!" he turned his attention inward with a scowl. "You're a part of this too, ya cranky bastard."

"Much to my dismay. Is it took late for me to get another Jinchuuriki?"

Naruto puffed out his cheeks. "Oi!"

"Sir Hero...?"

Ack. He didn't much like the look in their eyes. Four of the five were looking at him in awe, sure, but others...why did he sense negative intent from at least one of them? It didn't make a lick of sense. "N-Now wait just a second!" he whirled to face his expectant summoners. "You guys kinds brought me here outta the blue! How do I get back?!"

The silence was telling.

Naruto gulped into it. "...I can go back to my world, right?"

"F-First we'd like you to have an audience with the Queen of our country, lady Melromarc." the leader of the hooded summoners fidgeted yet further, either unable or unwilling to meet his question. "You can negotiate your return after that, so please...?"

"Huh." Kurama made a bemused noise. "Never met a queen before...

"Aren't you being a little easygoing about this?"

"Why shouldn't I be? Our world's peaceful these days with the war done; there are no threats for us to deal with back home." When he didn't challenge him, the old fox pressed on bullishly. "I don't know about you, but been craving a little excitement for ages. This could be an interesting diversion of nothing else. You could at least stand to hear them out."

A thorn of hesitation caught his heart.

The Elemental Nations really were safe. With Kaguya's defeat had come peace, and there wasn't any danger on the horizon. Sure, he'd much rather be back with his friends eating ramen, but if these people needed help...it wasn't something he could ignore.

...fine." he raised his hands. "Alright, alright. I give. Take me to your leader."

They were more than happy to do so; indeed, in no time at all they led him to a sprawling throne room filled with people.

More than a few turned their noses up at him, again, for reasons he couldn't comprehend. There it was again; that faint feeling of distaste. It didn't take long for the whispers to start. His keen ears twitched, taking it in despite his best efforts to ignore it:

"Look at him."

"Only one Hero...?"

"Doesn't have a Weapon."

"Is he a Demin-Human? Looks like one...

"Doomed! We're doomed! The waves will swallow us whole!"

One after the other, a blurring blend of words that assaulted both sense and confidence alike. A lifetime ago he would have snapped at them all; demanded they take back their whispers and apologize. Before the Fourth Shinobi War. Before...so many things. Now? Water off a duck's back, it was. Had these insults ever bothered him as a kid? Why? These people were strangers, and not terribly friend ones at that. Why should he give a flying fig what they thought of him? He didn't concern himself with whatever petty prejudices they were trying to offload onto him.

"Say the word and I'll teach them a lesson."

"Now, now," he hummed under his breath. "Didn't you want to hear the Queen out?"

In the long view, none of their words mattered; because he'd just found her a lovely fair-skinned woman awaited him at the end of the chamber, seated upon a single throne. This then, must be the Queen. Another throne beside her lay curiously empty. He couldn't help but wonder at it. She certainly didn't look like she needed a King to rule with...

"Well, you know what they say about queens and kings...

Striking violet eyes met his, framed by immaculately coiffed hair to match. A lovely crown decorated her flowing tresses, all red and gold with a single diadem at her forehead. Clad in an intricate royal gown he had no hope of describing, she was every bit what he thought a Queen would be. Her very presence held an air of...something he couldn't quite put his finger on. Stretching out his senses, he felt only boundless curiosity from her. She regarded him as one might a curious stranger from afar, which in a sense he was.

"I bid you welcome, honored Hero." her voice was smooth as honey, pitched to carry. "I hope the circumstances of your arrival were none too sudden."

He paused a stone's throw away, wondering how to respond to such kindness. In the end he gave up and settled for a shrug. "I was a bit startled, but yeah, guess I'm kinda hungry...

"We shall see food prepared for you shortly." She tilted her head, considering him further, then. At length she leaned back in her throne, curiosity satisfied. "You are not one of the Four, it seems."

"Lady, I have no idea what you're talking about." he frowned then, considering her further. A queen she may well be, but he didn't know her name. "Or who you are...?"

"I am Mirelia Q. Melromac, Queen of this kingdom." her smile was soft, indulgent even. "Might I have the pleasure of your name?"

Well, no point in being rude.

"Naruto Uzumaki." he crossed both arms behind his head and flashed her a winning smile. "Nice ta meetcha."

"Sir Naruto, then." her lively eyes sparked. "But you are a Hero, yes?"

Kurama scoffed. "That's putting it mildly."

That reminder stung a little; a life full of deeds freely given flashed before Naruto's eyes. Was it wrong that he took pride in them? Just a little? He'd come so far; in truth he'd been content with the end of his journey; to one day become Hokage and possibly even start a family of his own, once he found that special someone. And yet something in him still longed for more. Maybe that was why he warmed to her words so.

"A hero? Me?" He scratched the back of his head, flushing a little. "Sure. You could call me that."

"Excellent." the Queen preened, leaving him with the strangest feeling she'd been waiting for that very answer. "Now, then. I suppose I owe you an explanation...

Folding both arms before his chest, Naruto planted his feet and settled into listen.

What followed boggled the mind. An apocalyptic prophecy. Waves that would bring the world to ruin. A world that could and would end if someone didn't step forth to stop them. Hence the summoning, and likewise, his arrival here. This...was not how he'd thought to start his week.

"Well. That was a lot to take in!"

"That," He coughed once, then swallowed to clear his suddenly dry throat, "That's why you brought me here? You want me to save the world?"

Kurama offered the mental equivalent of a shrug. "We've already saved one. What's another."

"Yes," the Queen's voice cut through their thoughts as a knife might through butter. "I regret that my husband, the king, could not be here to greet you with me today, but he and my eldest daughter are...preoccupied with other matters." her tone suggested there was much more at work there-had they done something to displease her?- but it wasn't his business and thus he let it lay. "Our country, Melromarc, nay, the entire world is headed toward destruction."

"I get that," he thumbed his chin. "But why me?"

"Admittedly the process can be a bit...random." she confided in him. "We do not so much choose which world the Heroes hail from; that falls to the ritual. My husband would have us trust in the strength of our arms and face the first Wave alone." her fan flitted out, concealing the lower half of her face. "I am not so foolish; thus we attempted the ritual." keen eyes met his over that thin barrier. "One hero for each nation. I had hoped we would summon the Shield Hero, but...

Well, didn't he feel unwanted? "You got me instead."

"Quite." the fan folded back with a snap, revealing a mildly concerned expression. "I do not mean to speak ill of you, but it is too much to ask one Hero to face the waves alone. I'm sure in time, the other nations will also attempt a summoning ritual, but extensive preparations and resources are needed for such."

"Really?" his brow furrowed. "The guys who summoned me said they were trying to summon Four heroes; hell, they seemed kinda disappointed they only got me...

The silence that followed proved stifling.

"Is that so?" Mirelia all but crooned, setting off every alarm in the back of his head. "I'll be sure to have a nice, thorough...discussion with the Church." Her pinched expression said she'd be doing more than that. Or that said discussion would involve a great deal of shouting. Another entanglement he wanted no part of. "Pardon my rudeness, but what kind of Hero are you?" her question snapped him back to reality. "I don't see a weapon with you...

"Perhaps he doesn't have one." one of the nobles muttered blackly. "Look at him, wearing those ghastly colors...

'Hey!' A muscle jumped in Naruto's jaw. 'What's wrong with my outfit, ya know?!'

Outwardly he craned his neck back and opened his palm, wearing a smile that would've made Kakashi proud. "Nope. No weapon here."

"You see?!" the fat fop sneered in return. "Your majesty, this man is a fraud. We should throw him in the dungeons!"

"Idol Rabier," Mirelia interjected, "You will be respectful, or you will be removed from this chamber."

"But my Queen! He's just a Demi-Human! Look at his face!"

All eyes snapped to him.

The Queen's visage turned stormy.

"Not another word. This is your final warning."

Naruto took the moment of silence for what it was; if only because it gave him a chance to look at his naysayer. A greasy little fat fop of a fool clad in dark frilly clothes, with messy blond hair and a thinning mustache. He radiated negativity, and the whip in his belt didn't do much to endear him to. Naruto disliked him immediately. He could feel the mood in the room shifting, curiosity turning to scorn. What was a Demi-Human anyway? It didn't exactly sound like a term of endearment. But he wasn't about to give him the satisfaction he sought.

Shouting and screaming here would just make him look like an idiot.

He fought gods and monsters. Lost friends and family. Blown his arm off and had a new one grown for him. A singe squalling noble was hardly a threat compared to that lot. The people of this world probably weren't like a shinobi; if he punched Rabier, the idiot's head would probably pop right off. Satisfying though that might be, he couldn't murder a man for being a twat.

Of course, that didn't mean he was about let this prissy little ponce have his way, either.

"Well, I dunno what a Demi-human is," and so he continued to smile unabated. "But it wouldn't be much of a stretch to say I'm the weapon, ya know."

All the color drained from Rabier's face. There it was. That was the look, the expression of a man who realized his peril. "Eh?"

"Did I stutter?" Naruto pivoted to face him with a pleased hum. "What's wrong? You're lookin' kinda pale...

Kurama perked up. "Are...are you being passive aggressive right now?"

'Hmm. Guess I am. Didn't know I could do that...

"I'm so proud!"

"Oh?" The queen tilted her head, regarding him intently. "You yourself are a weapon, you say?"

A murmur of disquiet passed through the court, echoing endlessly.

"Did he just threaten Duke Rabier?"

"As expected of a savage."

"So uncivilized...

Naruto ignored it all. He didn't need to convince this pack of people masquerading as nobility. Only the Queen. He'd spoken the truth, from a certain point of view. After all, what was a Jinchuuriki but a human weapon? His tools were his fists, his skills, jutsu. He did know how to use a sword and staff-but only in passing. Weapons were not, and likely never would be, his forte. He'd much rather use his own body to battle. Weapons could break. Blades could be blunted. But your fists? Those never failed. Not when you regenerated as fast as he did.

'C'mon, take the bait...

"Interesting." There! Intrigue gleamed in Mirela's gaze. "Would you care to demonstrate your skills?"

Gotcha. "I'd be happy ta." Naruto lifted his chin, grinning from ear to ear. "...got anything you don't mind losing?"

There it was; the gauntlet flung down, the die cast, his will pitted against hers. Naruto half-wondered if she would pick it up. Depending on her reaction here and now, he'd either stay or walk right out that door. She didn't disappoint him. The queen hummed her approval and placed her chin upon one hand, warming to the challenge. That smoldering gaze swept to a pair of servants lingering near the dais, lidded and intent.

"Fetch our finest suit of armor." a hand swept out. "Quickly, now."

Two servants scarpered and returned quickly, bearing a figure seemingly carved from heavy plate. In short order, it was placed before him. Naruto stepped forth to regard it. His reflection gazed back at him within polished ebony. It certainly looked sturdy enough. He could shatter this with a single punch, but he somehow doubted that would satisfy them. Conversely, a tailed beast bomb would be a bit much for this and not something to use indoors. That left the Rasenshuriken out too, for that very reason. Which meant...

He turned to regard the queen. "Do you mind a bit of collateral damage?"

"Not at all." Mirelia waved a hand. "Act as you see fit."


Blue eyes snapped into slitted scarlet, his body blazing gold on black as called forth his cloak. Several nobles cried out. He paid them no heed; his right hand swung upright, fingers clenched into a claw. Chakra pulsed in his palm, a sphere swelling to incredible size, so large it nearly brushed the ceiling of the vaunted chamber. A shadow swelled over. He heard rather than saw the towering Rasengan loom, experiencing the low roar as a familiar hum in his ear. So too did he hear their gasps. The screams. Someone might have squealed in fear. He had a good idea who.

That arm crashed down, bringing the giant Rasengan with it.

His target wasn't destroyed; destruction implied that some piece of it yet remained. It ceased to exist.

Dust and debris erupted upward from the point of impact, eliciting shrieks of surprise from those assembled. The floor buckled; in truth it would've been worse if he hadn't held back at the last second. Even then the crater he made was all but impossible to ignore. Oops. Maybe he should've restrained himself more. Hopefully they had a good mason on call.

"Think that got their attention?"

In the smoke that followed, Naruto felt a slight smile could be forgiven. "Probably."

Eventually the dust settled as all things do and he found himself staring at a sea of astonished faces. Alright, maybe he did feel a little thrill of pride now, having silenced them.

"Sorry about the crater." he couldn't quite keep the cheeky smile from his face as his arms rose and fell in a shrug. "Guess I don't know my own strength."

"Ah." Mirelia blinked at him with wide eyes. Once. Twice. Thrice now. Finally she coughed into a fist and reclaimed her dignity. "Yes, clearly...

"I don't believe it!" a familiar, irritating voice squealed. "It must be a trick! No Demi-Human could possibly have this kind of power!"

Red eyes rolled. Governor Rabier hadn't learned his lesson, it seemed. Perhaps he simply didn't want to believe. He was sure he could talk the governor into it...if he wanted to. Therein lie the rub. He didn't. No, what he wanted to do right about now was something else entirely.

"Enough!" The Queen raised her hand. Was that frost glittering from her fingers? "Lord Rabier, you were warned-

Naruto held up a hand before she could act. "Lemme handle him."

She quirked a brow. "Another demonstration, then?"

He hummed. "Something like that."

"Oh? Is it my turn?"

'Sure. Go nuts.'

"Very well." she lowered her arm. "Though I would ask that you not hurt him too badly...until I can find a replacement."

Idol Rabier shrilled. "A replacement?! But your grace?!"

"No worries." he stepped forward, cracking his knuckles. "I won't be breaking anything but his spirit.

The portly noble bridled. "Don't you touch me you filthy-ack?!"

Ohhhh there would no touching here. Not on his part.

Still sheathed in the cloak, Naruto opened the floodgates. His partner responded in an instant. Golden light burst from his body as his old friend took shape around him. A full manifestation would have crushed everyone in an instant; not at all what he intended. As he was now, it scarcely took a thought to accomplish a partial transformation. He didn't even have to touch Rabier; there was no need.

"Belief is a funny thing, little man." a low, guttural voice pervaded the throne room. "They say seeing is believing...

The Queen gasped. Half of the nobles in attendance fainted dead away. Naruto didn't much blame them.

Kurama's snarling maw did more to ruin Rabier than any physical attack ever could. A bristling snout, teeth and all, snapped down less than an inch from the governor's face. Hot, fetid breath warmed his face, promising death at the slightest provocation. Chakra or no, a giant monster's face in your...well, face, was the last thing anyone wanted to see. Least of all this one.

...now do you believe?"

"Beast!" Rabier pitched back at the sight, eyes rolling in his head, frothing at the mouth. "He's...a beast!...

He slumped over to twitch on the floor, one leg kicking spasmodically.

"Bah, its no fun when they have a stroke...

"Hmm...a Beast Hero, then." the Queen hummed as her guards dragged Governor -what was left of him- from the chamber. "A fitting moniker. Not one of the Four, yet clearly a hero nevertheless." she eyed Kurama's chakra skull warily. "Might I implore you to put your...friend...?" she gulped a little when Naruto nodded, "Away, please? He's frightening the others."

"Sure thing~!"

"Do you have command of beasts, then?"

All she received was a selfsame shrug and a smile.

Kurama withdrew into his stomach with a muted grumble.

Only then did Naruto realize what he' been labeled as. Wait, wait, wait! Beast Hero?! He hadn't asked for that moniker!

'Kurama?! A little help?!'

"Hell if I know." came the bemused reply. "I've had my fun. All these terms are going way over my head. Right now, I'm trying to figure out what that icon in the corner of your eye is." a pause. "What the hell is a status? All I see is screens. So many screens...and level one?! Oi!"

Icon? What Icon? Something to deal with later. He had another, more pressing question. "So...how long do I have until the first of these "waves" hit? A month? A year?"

"Judging by the dragon hourglass?" Here at last, his host winced. "Roughly a week. I believe that was yesterday."

Oh. So he only had six days to prepare. Sure. Great. Plenty of time-ONLY SIX DAYS?!

Some of his distress must've shone through; because she stood.

"Rest assured, we will not leave you to face this peril alone." Much to his chagrin, Mirelia actually rose from her throne and descended the dais. "You have but to say the word and we will gladly fight alongside you."

Did she mean herself or the kingdom?

"And when the waves are quelled and our world safe," She didn't walk towards him; she stalked, hips swaying, sashaying despite her gown. "Once this madness finally ends," Long strides devoured the distance between them, carrying her forward until she stood no more than a hands-breadth away. "You will be able to return home, if that is still your wish at the time." Soulful violet eyes met baffled blue as she looked up at him. "What say you? It is a fair offer...

The faint smell of perfume rose to meet him and Naruto found himself gulping despite himself. Close! Way too close!

"Will you not help us, oh Beast Hero?" Mirelia reached up and snatched his right hand in both of hers, holding tight, threading pale fingers within his. They were surprisingly warm. "Think of the lives that will be lost," as he balked she laid their intertwined hands against her cheek, "the innocents that will perish if you refuse. I implore you," her eyes lifted, blinking up at him through long lashes, "lend us your strength!"

"She's got you there, kid."


Naruto knew she was manipulating him. Even a blind man could see that. Benevolently perhaps, but pulling his strings still. By appealing to his pride and dignity -among other things!- she sought to persuade him to stay. She wasn't even being cruel about it; simply pragmatic. She wanted to protect her people. Nothing more. Nothing less. He could respect that. She wanted to see her kingdom survive; needed to protect all those under her purview. It wasn't done for selfishness, nor was it done for greed. And if she thought this would work...



...she'd be right, damnit.

Surely it was alright. So long as she didn't try to make him do anything he did not want to do. If she thought he'd dance to her tune...well. He knew the steps. Sage knew he'd seen them often enough.

Two could play this game!

His hand squeezed hers. "You don't have to beg. Of course I'll help."

The Queen inhaled sharply, a pleased intake of breath that had those vibrant violet eyes going half-lidded. A tiny, almost imperceptible shiver raced through her; he only noticed it through their linked hands. Her emotions, once so clear and easy to read, suddenly became a tangled knot he couldn't comprehend. There was delight tinged with fear, a surge of pleasure, and above all a hint of...anticipation? Why that last one? No, those weren't important right now. So what if others turned their nose up at him? Mirelia was asking -begging!- for his aid. This country needed help. He was the only Hero they had.

What kind of Hero would he be if he didn't answer the call? Come hell or high water, he would do his best.

"Thank you." Mirelia tilted her head just so. "We are in your debt, my Hero."

"Oi, oi." A blond brow quirked at her turn of phrase. "Your hero?"

The Queen smiled. "A slip of the tongue. Nothing more."

Somehow, Naruto didn't think it was.

How little he knew.

A/N: Queen be makin' mooooves. Hey, if we can have a bloody Carriage Hero -yes, its a thing- then we can have a Beast Hero.

We'll still be getting the Four, don't you worry.

And yes, I'm reading the light novels. Aaaaand the web novels. Apparently they're separate...?

So here we are, a Naruto shortly before the events of the Last movie-albeit without that ridiculous haircut!- summoned when Mirelia's actually around, not by that twit of the king or that spoiled sow passing herself off as a daughter. Didn't really have time for Status stuff this chapter, but I'm open to suggestions~! No, seriously. Probably gonna need help there. A LOT of help. Status screens and skills aren't my thing, but I'm willing to take a stab at it if it makes folks happy.

Or I could just drop the concept. Either or. That depends on you, the reader.

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review...Would You Kindly?

And enjoy the previews!


Mind you, many are in the far flung future, but still.

Why don't you have a taste?


"Here, this is faster. Hop on!"

The Queen blinked up at Kurama's full, towering form.

"I...you...how?!" her eyes practically sparkled. "How did you turn into that thing?!"

"Lady, you ain't seen nothing yet.

She ran a hand over Kurama's leg. "So warm...fluffy, too...

"Great. You flipped her switch...

"They've started calling you the Beast Hero."

"Seriously?! Next thing I know, you'll be telling me I can actually tame beasts.

Silence followed.

...can I?"

"You're no king of mine. Screw off."

"There are no slaves here." He threw down a bag of gold coins. "You're all free now. Come to the palace and I'll find work for you."

"I'm...ah...afraid that's not how it works...

"It is now!"

"A party? Do I really need one of those? I can handle this myself."

"Of that, Mirelia smiled, "I've no doubt, but I would not see you come to harm. Humor me. Just this once."


"Melty, was it? Nice to meetcha!"

"Now that's some fine armor, kid!"

"You sure?" he turned, glancing himself over.

Malty gazed at a beast.

And the beast gazed back. It saw her.

Kurama smiled. "Go on. Give me an excuse."

A terrified whimper fled from her trembling lips. It would kill her. Devour her. Swallow her whole. If she stood against him in any way, shape or form, she would die. Maybe...maybe she shouldn't mess with this one after all. For all his laughter and smiles there was something inside him, something that would happily eat her alive if she dared raise a hand against it.

"Oops! Guess you fell down." Naruto smiled at her as he hoisted her back to her feet. In her eyes, it had far, far too many teeth. "Lets be friends, eh?"

She nodded rapidly.

"Good girl."

"Lousy demi-human! Go back where you came from!"

A rock bounced off Naruto's head. He didn't flinch. Not even a little.

"I'm sorry, are you tryin' ta make me angry?" he laughed. "I've heard worse."

If the Waves are raging all across this world, then that's where I'll go. If other worlds are in danger? Then I'll save them too."

A fan flicked out under his chin. "Bold words. But can you back them up?"

"Y'know, for a woman named Glass, you're awfully sharp...

And so came the Wave.


"Rifana, was it? That was very brave. But you need to stay put, alright?"

"Thank you for helping us..." The little girl blinked up at him, ears twitching atop her head. "Are you the Shield Hero?"

"Nope. No shield here. Just my fists!"

"But that's silly." She wrinkled her nose at him. "Everyone knows you can't be a Hero without a weapon."

He blinked back. Then laughed. "Who decided that?! Of course you can! Just you wait. And I'm sure you'll meet the Shield Hero someday." a large hand came down, tousling her hand. "He'll be amazing, I'm sure. Run to your parents, now. They'll keep you safe."

...but what about you?"

"Well, a Hero's gotta do what Hero's gotta do...

She would remember that smile for the rest of her days.

"Wait! Take me with you!"

"Well, I've only been here for a little while, but I guess that makes me your senpai or something." the rugged young man shrugged. "Anyway! Introductions! I'm Naruto! And you...?"


"A fine name!" the blond clapped him on the back, nearly driving the breath from his lungs. "Nice ta meetcha, Naofumi. Something tells me we're gonna be best buds."

"But I'm only the Shield Hero...

"None of that! Shields are important! After all, the best offense is a good defense!"

Jeez, this Naruto guy really was an upbeat one...

"I knew it! You're the Shield Hero, aren't you?!"

Naofumi swayed back on one foot, terribly startled. "Yes...?"

"Please!" the young woman bowed her head, tail swaying happily. "Let me join your party!"

"Well, sure, but who are you...?"


Naruto clapped his hands and walked away from the duo with a merry whistle. "My work here is done~!"

EDIT: As if I'd separate those two~!

"Within this virgin of cold ore, who shall swallow even your screams with her embrace, suffer in anguish as your entire body is stabbed and skewered!

A roar tore out of him.


Naruto pumped a fist in the background. "Yes! I raised that boy! Kick his ass, Naofumi!"