A/N: Father of Monsters and For Love of a Witch should be updated next. In other news...

I am alive~! I finally recovered from Covid enough to write again. Blasted thing laid me out for a whole week!

As a plus, I was able to watch several shows while recovering. Eminence in Shadow was one of them, and so this story was born...with a twist!

Cid can go off and do his own thing; I'm not robbing that crazy lad of his spotlight.

In other news, my health and mental state have been...better. Some days are good. Some are bad. The holiday madness is not helping. But I live! And with living comes writing, weary though I am. Updating six days out of seven really wears a man down...

Well, it makes people smile, so I suppose that's worth it.

With my fifteen year anniversary on this site finally here, I find myself reflecting on the little things in life. What was once a lazy pastime meant for me and a few friends really grew and evolved over time. There are days when I look back on the last fifteen years here and I wonder if anyone will remember me; if I made an impact, despite never making a single cent on any of these stories. Some days were happier than others, and some stories I enjoyed writing WAY too much; to the point where I'd stay up all night working on them.

And of course, there are times when I look to the future and wonder what will become of things when I'm gone.

Of course, I try not to dwell on the latter overmuch; I'm still alive and still writing. In an ideal world, I'd like to keep doing so for as long as I can. But old age is catching up to me and these days, the world is filled with so much madness and death. Feels like everyone's lost their minds sometimes. Even before that, so many friends and fellow writers I once knew are gone, now. Will I still be here in twenty years? Ten? Five? Its a chilling thought. But for now, I'm still here, still writing.

So here we go. The fate of this story depends on you, the reader. Your feedback determines the fate of this tale, and many others.

I'm just a humble author trying to make his way in this wild world, one word at a time.

Time and feedback will determine if this remains a story. Simple as that.

In other words...its up to YOU, the reader. Do let me know~!

"You know, they say no good deed goes unpunished. Maybe so...

...no, even so! I'll keep doing 'em all the same, anyway.

Why, you ask Because its the right thing to do.

And besides...THIS IS SO MUCH FUN~!

"Lets play, Shadow!"

~Lord of Light.

No Good Deed

Most people don't try to die.

We all do our best to live most of the time, don't we?

Its human nature; that inherent need to avoid danger and live.

Me? I deliberately took an attack I knew I had no business surviving. And for what? Wealth? Fame? Power? Nope. None of these things. I died for a girl who never loved me. Sheesh, I'm such a sucker, aren't I? A lovelorn fool who couldn't help himself. Hope you appreciated it Sakura. Now you get to be with your precious Sasuke in a barren post-Kaguya world. Congratulations. Have fun helping him pick up the pieces! A tyrant and a fool of a girl who couldn't stop loving him. Honestly, they deserve each other. Then again, I suppose I'm one to talk...

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

I did what I thought was right at the time, followed my heart...and this is where it brought me...



...ya know, I'm not really sure where "here" even is. Its colder than I thought it would be. Darker, too. Can't see a damn thing. Can't really move, either.

Guess this is the end.

That sucks.

If...if I get a chance to live again...if I'm reborn someway, somewhere, somehow...I'd like to be loved. Is that so much to ask?

I only had one person tell me they loved me and then they died before I could figure out what love is.

Thanks ever-so-damn-much for that, Kaguya.

So yeah, I'd like to experience true love. Lots of it. As much as I can get.

Let them laugh. Let them stare at me. Let them denounce me as greedy. I don't care. Just once, I'd like to live for me, ya know?

Hmm? What's that? Eminence in Shadow? Nah, I don't wanna skulk about in the shadows. That role's better suited for someone smarter; a mastermind who excels at acting behind the scenes, not a guy like me. I'd rather live in the light and reap the rewards. Of course, that's all hypothetical talk. There's no such thing as second chances.

Wait, hold on now. I see I light.

Its getting real close-



I see a light.

That was his first clue that something had gone wrong.

Terribly, horribly wrong...or right? He couldn't be entirely sure, only that something changed.

His vision cleared up a moment later to find a striking young woman gazing down at him. Her pale face was framed by long golden hair, her brow slick with sweat as she held him close. "My, my just look at his eyes!" she crooned at him, much to his disbelief. "How red they are! Surely its a blessing from above!"

'Red?' his brow furrowed in confusion. 'My eyes are blue. What's she talking about?'

She stroked his face with one hand and belatedly he realized just how large said hand was. No, not just that. Everything was...big, far bigger than it should be-hey?! Why was she pushing him against her breasts like that oi?! What the hell was going on?! He demanded answers!

"How strange, he's not making any noise...

Everything clicked then. Naruto dearly wished it hadn't.

He made an annoyed sound and the woman heaved a sigh of relief.

'Alright, calm down.' his thoughts tunneled inward as cooed over him. 'Lets take stock of things. I'm alive. Clearly, I'm a baby. Clearly this isn't my body. Clearly something went wrong when I died. So why do I feel so...? He could feel his heart beating rapidly, his chakra still within him-which would have been a pain to lose in the first place-and...something else. What was that? It felt crisp yet cool, like a spring breeze...

On a whim he reached out with his senses. The wind around him began to build-

"Zenon, my dear son," the woman who just might be his mother crooned, distracting him, "Come see your baby brother!"

A low, masculine voice answered. "Of course, mother...

It took more strength than he liked to turn his head and squint up at the newcomer.

Hmm. Tall and blond with one of those pretty boy faces you loved to hate; there was clearly a significant age gap between the two of them; he was just a baby, but this man was already well through to his teens, clad in a uniform of some sort, a sword in his belt. One look at that blatant false smile told him all he needed to know. His emotions shone through to him clear as day. Yeah, clearly this one's a stereotypical bad guy masquerading as a good guy...


Another thought struck him.

Does this mean I got reincarnated?

He heaved a sigh. "You gotta be kidding me...

Both the young man and the woman froze. "He talked?!"

Only then did Naruto realize his mistake.



From the moment I was reborn, I knew there was something wrong with me.

Setting aside the fact that I was able to talk almost immediately being reincarnated, I discovered several things about my body. I'd been reborn into a brave new world, not just with most of my chakra intact, but imbued with the fascinating power known as magic. Magic! Actual magic! Needless to say, I was delighted. The possibilities were endless!

And with those possibilities came power.

As the second son it was made clear that I wouldn't stand to inherit the household; I'd be given a duchy somewhere once I graduated school and came of age; shuffled aside to waste away and be forgotten.

I couldn't accept that. So Zenon had to go.

Ah, my dear older brother, the man who turned out to be a depraved cultist...such plans he had...such a shame he stuck his nose where it didn't belong. Truly, it was a tragic...accident. I refrained from killing him outright; after all, that would've upset our parents. They, at least, seemed blameless.

But onto greener pastures. No one cares about Zenon Griffey. He was ever a bit player, his purpose pointless.

Nobody wants to hear about him, or what I did to him, so we'll be skipping over him for the time being.

Y'see, this new life of mine doesn't get interesting until I met her. Or should I say them?

No, no, it definitely started with her.

On that strange snowy night...


Sara was the best at hide and seek.

Nobody could catch her if she didn't want to be caught.

She might be young, but she'd still gotten strong, stronger than any child her age had any right to be.



...fat load of good that did her when Dad decided to hunt her.

A fresh jolt of pain shot down the little therianthrope's leg, forcing her down to a knee.

It hurt.

It really hurt.

It really, really, REALLY hurt.

But she couldn't afford to stop here. Dad was still hunting her. Definitely. Maybe. Probably. She'd gotten pretty far away from the tribe by now, hadn't she? Better safe than sorry. So Sara growled, grit her teeth, dragged herself upright and walked on...painting the snow red in her wake.

She kept walking. It was all she could do. To stop was to die...and she didn't wanna die.

She was strong and fast, she could run and run and RUN faster than just about anyone in the tribe, but Dad had hurt her back there and now she couldn't run anymore. She'd been limping for the last hour now, shivering and shuddering in the cold, getting weaker and weaker with each passing minute. If she didn't do something soon, she'd freeze out here. She didn't even know where she was going, so long as the path led her away from Dad and the tribe, that was just fine. She didn't want to be Hunted. She was the Hunter, no the prey.

Because you see, Sara didn't understand.

Dad said she was possessed so he'd Hunted her. What did possessed even mean? Sure, she had this weird icky stuff on her chest and arms but...why? She'd wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed; she'd be the first one to admit that; she'd never been terribly smart.

But even so, she wanted to know why-ack?!

Her mangled leg buckled, and this time, she hadn't the strength to catch herself.

She flopped forward face first into the snow, her strength spent.

Blood pooled beneath her, staining he world scarlet.

A bitter breeze tugged at her tangled hair and with it, she watch her vision grow dim. Sara didn't wanna die. She wanted food. She wanted power. She wanted warmth. But she didn't have any of those things, which meant she was gonna die here, and there was nothing she could do about it-

Something crunched behind her in the snow.

And with it, a strange smoky scent reached her nose.

"Well, well," a low voice intoned. "And here I was wondering who was making such a ruckus.

Sara raised her head and blinked through bleary eyes, taking the newcomer in at a glance. Blond hair and piercing red eyes, whiskered cheeks dimpled in a slight smile, body wrapped in a dark blue winter coat. Didn't matter. He looked weak. Smelled weak, too. A weakling couldn't save her.

And yet this weakling crouched down before her, smiling, as if he could. "What's wrong with your arm and chest?"

Sara didn't know. The word Possessed came back to her once more. What did that even mean...?

"Here." he held out a hand, fingers coated in golden glow. "Let me have a look at you."

Panic bleated in her heart.

Humans were bad. Humans hurt her kind.

"No! Human!" She snarled at him, not trusting for a moment. "Go away!"

He did no such thing. "Now, now, lets be friends, eh? I can't just leave you out here to freeze...

When his hand inched closer, she bit it. Hard. Her teeth tore two finger clean off, just above the knuckle.

He didn't flinch.

"Ah, that's right." he frowned, regarding his mangled hand and the blood flowing from it. "You therianthropes don't respect anything other than strength." as she looked on quiet awe, the fingers grew back in a rush of steam. All her efforts had been for naught andohdearhedidnotlookhappy. "Suppose that means putting the stick before the carrot this time...

Quick as lightning, he bit her right back, just above one of her ears.

Sara recoiled with a pained squeal and ducked her head. "Ow! What was that for-

A hand closed around her hair and yanked her head upright. She looked at him and her heart damn near stopped. His face was inches from her own, teeth gone sharp and eyes blazing red; worse, he didn't look angry, or upset, or even amused. He looked bored. Like this was all just a game to him, some silly experiment he couldn't care less about.

Only the strong -the really, really, REALLY strong- looked at you like that.

Something quivered in her poor heart. Strong. Blondie was strong.

Stronger than her. Much stronger. Did that make him Boss?

Boss. She liked that word.


"Have you learned your lesson now?" those blood red orbs glared down at her. "Bite me like that again and I'll take you over my knee and spank you. Do you understand?"

Sara whimpered, not daring to speak for fear of inviting his wrath.

"Use your words." he tweaked her nose, drawing a whine from her. "Do you want to bleed out and die?" his voice was colder than the snow upon which she lay. "Because that's a valid option. I have no interest in saving someone who doesn't wish to be saved and will only try to hurt me. Not this time."

Not this time...? Sara blinked, yawned, then buried her head in the white, snowy fluffiness with a tired groan. "Sara wants to live...

"Sara, eh? That's a nice name." he crooned at her. "Make your choice, Sara. Will you let me heal you, or...

She nodded fitfully. "Sara will listen...boss."

Naruto blinked down at her.



Iris met Him when she was ten.

At a glance, one might think her encounter with Nathaniel Griffey, esteemed head of the Griffey household, was one of pure chance. That their parents simply happened to cross paths while their children were present. No more, no less. Surely it was coincidence and no ulterior motives involved.

In hindsight, she should've known better.

Adults could be terribly sneaky.

Very sneaky indeed.

No one saw much of Nathaniel's elder brother Zenon these days. Supposedly he was bedridden after suffering some horrible trauma, barely able to string together one sentence at a time. Such a tragedy. She would have been beside herself if something like that happened to Alexia.

But his brother was different.

Markedly so, almost worryingly so, really.

The first thing that struck her about Nathaniel, were his eyes. Not simply those striking scarlet slits, so like her own, but the confidence behind them. Complete and utter confidence bordering on benign arrogance. Second, his smile. He must have traveled a great way to her family's domain and yet despite that he never stopped smiling. Never once. Third...his sword. Not that one! Though he held but a practice blade, his stance was firm, and his grip strong.

When Father first introduced them it was not as one house seeking another, but to prove his worth, sword in hand. Only then did she understand what they the adults wanted.

They wanted a fight, or rather, a show. Her household expected her to crush this upstart as she had so many before him. She was ten not stupid.

"Its an honor to meet you, princess Iris." he paid her his courtesy with a simple bow, one hand over his heart. "I've heard great things."

Oh, dear. Why did her chest feel so funny? She'd been greeted like that before and never felt anything. So why now...?

"No, no, the honor his mine." she returned the courtesy. "I've heard great things about you, too."

Whiskered cheeks dimpled in a small smile. "You flatter me~!"

Not much, but what little Father told her proved promising, as had the rumors. He'd risen from a simple second son to the head of his household in only ten years. She'd heard he split a mountain in half once. Not with an artifact or any such thing, but an actual sword. It sounded absurd, yet it was possible. Magic could grant you power that seemed impossible. Was he truly that skilled? Was he STRONG? She liked strong people. They were fun to fight. Nathaniel looked like he knew how to handle himself but one could never be sure.

Her drill instructor stepped between them and barked out a warning. "Take your positions!"

Iris did so happily. She'd fought children her own age before.

But this...this promised to be different.

No, he was different.

I am strong.

She'd been told that -known that from the moment she learned to swing a blade. She was young, not yet tainted by the unrealistic expectations of a faltering kingdom, nor corrupted by the burden of leadership. Here in this moment, she felt only idle curiosity for her opponent.

What was that stance he'd adopted? It was like nothing she'd seen before. Not a fencer's stance, yet similar; he brandished his blade in loose one-handed grip, holding it far from his body and out to the side. Why? He couldn't possibly react in time with a form like that, so how did he mean to fight-

The Instructor's arm slashed down and she had no more time for such thoughts.


Iris absolutely blitzed Nathaniel, braving her blade in both hands, ready to sweep his legs and end things in an instant. No matter how strong he was, she was certain of her speed. She'd outpaced grown men twice his size after all, and he didn't seem any different.

Time slowed to a crawl as her sword swept in at his face.

She watched his eyes widen, then narrow now, glimpsed the faintest glint of a grin gracing those whiskered cheeks-

A single word caressed her ears, and only her ears alone, sharper than any blade


Nathaniel's sword flicked out lightning fast, slapped her blade aside, disarmed her, and touched her throat.

Wind blasted past, sending her long hair swaying.

A bead of blood ran down her neck.

Nathaniel smiled at her then, so simple, so pure, and she felt her heart hitch as he spoke. "I believe that's your loss, princess."

A suffocating silence followed.

And then came the voices.

So many voices.

"Princess Iris lost...?"

"Impossible! She could never...!"

"Just who does this brat think he is?"

Her retainers words washed over Iris, and yet she scarcely heard them. Absently she touched a hand to her throat. "I...lost?"

Overwhelming strength. Extreme speed. Unassailable willpower.

Disarmed in a single strike. She'd never stood a chance.

I want that.

She absolutely hated to lose. And yet this didn't feel like a loss. It wasn't even a proper fight.

For the first time in forever, a light laugh bubbled out of her.

Kneeling, she snatched up her sword with a grin.


"Ha?" Nathaniel blinked, his perfect facade cracking a little. "You wanna go again?!

She'd half-expected him to turn tail and run; to take his miracle win and run for the hills.

Instead he laughed. It was a rare, rich sound as saluted her with his sword, taking up his stance. "Sure. Why not?"

Her blade crashed into his once more, drawing an amused noise from him as the ground splintered underfoot. This time she blocked his sweep. Not so his hilt as it barreled into the back of her head. A decidedly unladylike yelp escaped her and she dropped her sword to clutch at the welt in her skull, stumbling away.

"That huuuurt!" she staggered past him, clutching at her head. "Again, again!"

Nathaniel didn't deny her. He simply shrugged, and assumed his stance.

Slash! Block! Counter! His victory. Her defeat.

"Again, again, again!"

Some might have called this an exercise in futility. But it wasn't! With each clash she forced him to use another move; or perhaps he was simply humoring her-no, it didn't feel like that. Their blades met and she connected with him as she hadn't anyone else. Not even Alexia. Time and time again he beat her back with ease, trouncing her soundly.

It was akin to receiving a master class in swordsmanship from the greatest warrior in the world.

Don't attack like this, his sword seemed to say. Move like this. Remember this feeling.

And so she did.

"Remarkable," she barely heard the word, whispered on a thread of breath as their blades barreled into one another. "You're learning as you fight. In that case!" He shunted her away, blade sparking with wind magic. "Lets see how you handle this!"

Hers roared a fiery red.

She had this! Victory would be hers!

Flame was stronger than wind! Everyone knew that!



...so why was she on the ground?

Dazed, she blinked once, baffled to find herself staring at the sky.

Nathaniel stood over her undaunted, without so much as a single scratch.

"That was close." he knelt and offered her his hand, still wearing that megawatt smile of his. "You almost got me back there. Good fight."

Liar. That wasn't his full might. She'd sensed it just now during their clash. He'd held back at the last second as not to kill her.

The act smacked of mercy. But she didn't care.

She seized his hand and hauled herself upright with a grin.

Nathaniel arched a bemused blond brow. "Lemme guess...again?"

Iris pounced on him with a happy cry. Nathaniel honored her resolve and trounced her just as soundly, but this time it took another strike on his part to do so. Truly, it was love at first loss. Or was it fourth? Looking back, she would find it terribly silly, a source of mild embarrassment as she regaled friends and family around the fireplace.

Perhaps, If she'd known what Nathaniel was really like...

...if she'd known exactly who she was falling for...

...the extent to which this boy was broken...

...things might've been different. But she didn't know. How could she? She was just a child, one who'd finally found someone stronger than her. An opportunity like this only came by once in a lifetime. Could she be blamed then, for facing said opportunity and leaping at it headfirst, sword in hand? No. No, she could not.

Irid Midgar faced the madness -her own weakness- without fear and charged right in.

And just like that, the world change a little more.

No Good Deed Goes Unpunished.

A/N: Aaaand scene.

To be clear! Naruto's snagged Sara-Delta!- and ONLY her from Shadow Garden. Cid's still going about his merry little adventures.

Eminence in Shadow, meet the Lord of Light. Gonna be fun having Cid and Naruto running around causing chaos~!

Only difference being, Naruto's actively looking to enjoy himself this time around...

Worry not, Cid will have all his Shadows for the most part.

Alexia, Rose, Iris and Sherry will be a delight to write here, to say nothing of Annerose and Yukime

Well? Are you not entertained? Should this remain a story? Yay or nay! Gotta let me know for the update schedule, ya know. As ever, the Embers Rule Persists; if folks don't like this tale, then... I'll not continue it. I can't bear to write something folks don't like, and working two jobs on a near back-to-back basis leaves my energy at an all time low. So by all means, speak up! Raise your voice! Make yourself heard!

Reviews are the fuel that sustain me and my team in these darkened times.

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas...Review, Would You Kindly?

No previews. I haven't the heart for them.

I'm so very tried these days...

...no, I'll still try.

I HAVE to try.


Aaaand there we go. As ever, reviews keep me alive. Without them, I cannot write. So...in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review...Would You Kindly? And have some previews.

Well, potential ones. And of course...





...you're like me, aren't you?"

You cheated!

Naruto quirked a blond brow. And how did I cheat?

A tiny foot kicked him in the shin and bounced right off. "Because you did!"

Little Alexia Midgar didn't look a thing like her dear sister at all; they had the same vivid red eyes to be sure, but that was where the resemblance ended; with her pale ashen hair and defiant demeanor she was the utter opposite of her talented older sister.

Hmm. They must have different mothers. I swear I'll never understand this world.

He hadn't asked to reincarnate here after all. Oh, but she was still glaring at him.

My big sister is the strongest, so you must have cheated!

Well, think of it like this. I'm not beating your sister for nothing, I'm teaching her, helping her grow stonger. Power's all well and good, but at the end of the day you need more than that. You need a goal.

Be seeing ya.

Years passed...

A sword tickled his throat, drawing a bead of blood. "...is there a reason you're doing this?"

Alexias smiled at him. It was not a nice smile. Yikes, she's pissed.

"Sorry, but I need you to be my boyfriend for a bit."


His right ear twitched. "Waitaminute-

That was his first mistake. She waited for no one.

"Gah, Sara!" he grunted as she landed on his back, all but sitting on his shoulders. "Why are you even here?!"

"Sara was hunting!" her tail wagged, betraying the excitement in her eager voice. "Wanna go hunting with me, boss?"

...what were you hunting?"

"Strong people!"

"Oh, Sara...

"Hello, dear Cultist-San. Would you mind dying for me?"


He looked up just in time to see a giant golden fox looming over him.

It bit down.


'I see, so that's how it is! He's like me! This feeling...for the first time in forever, I can actually...!'

Cid threw his head back and started to laugh.

"I have an adversary! An antagonist!"

EDIT: Hey, you made it!

As ever, the Embers rule remains: If people don't like this story? If they don't enjoy it? Well...I' won't be able to continue it. That's no joke, folks. I'm so busy these days with two jobs; holidays are HERE and 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...

Looking forward to chatting with you all when I get back from work~!

Warm regards,