And here is chapter twenty!

I know I told some people there would a lemon in this chapter, but it went on longer than I had originally planned. I'll be putting one in chapter twenty-one for sure. The set-up for the lemon was just too long to put into this chapter, so I decided to move it back a bit.

And sorry about the delay people, I was away from my computer for a while, and my jump drive was acting up, so I couldn't update from where I was at the time, but I could still get on to reply to reviews and such. I tried to update yesterday, but I had severe food poisoning from about 2:00pm on Saturday to 5:30am on Sunday, so I couldn't risk even getting near the computer without blowing chunks on it.

Anyway, enjoy the new chapter!

XXXX

Naruto stumbled into the new chamber and growled over his shoulder. Something wasn't right about that Pondera, besides the fact that he was probably hundreds of years old.

"Where the hell am I now?" Naruto mumbled to himself.

He was in yet another hallway, but this one actually seemed to lead somewhere, so he followed it. It twisted left, he turned left. It twisted right, he turned right. Naruto repeated this process multiple times until he came to...a dead-end.

Naruto smashed his head against the wall, cracking the stone. He then looked up to see the ceiling was covered in huge metal spikes. He also noticed the winding and twisting patterns they were arranged in and smashed his head against the wall a second time as he realized where he was.

"This is a maze...figures." he looked up again and used the arrangement of the spikes to get a feel for the general direction of the exit.

He saw that the spikes were in perfect alignment with the halls, meaning that they probably came down at some point and impaled whatever was in the maze at the time. So, all that was left was to get out before the spikes fell and he was turned into Swiss cheese.

"...Screw this." he made two Rasengan in his hands and absorbed them, then began walking towards the supposed exit, blasting down every wall he came into contact with.

As soon as he made it to the end, the spikes came down, but Naruto was in the clear.

"Hmph, that was a bit too easy."

"For a true Namikaze, yes." Pondera's voice rang out. "That is the key to the Trial of Impulse. As its name suggests, you must trust your impulses. The Namikaze were NOT known for their patience. You're first impulse was to blast every wall and basically cheat to get through, which is just what a Namikaze would do."

Naruto snorted. "If you know that I'm a Namikaze, why did you call me 'Uzumaki'?"

This time Pondera snorted as he walked down another flight of stairs. "Blood does not make a Namikaze. Just like an Uchiha or a Hyūga is not considered a clansman/woman unless he/she has that clan's respective bloodline, Namikazes are not accepted into the clan by blood relation alone. Your personality and your actions decide whether or not you are a true Namikaze. So, until you prove that to me, I will not call you a Namikaze. Now, follow me to the next trial."

Naruto growled and followed Pondera up the stairs.

Once at the top, Pondera stepped aside again to reveal another door.

"This is the Trial of the Beast. The Beast is the name the Namikaze gave to their dark sides. As you may have guessed, these trials make up all that a Namikaze is. All Namikaze have something of a sixth sense that allows them to act on impulse and still make the right decisions ninety percent of the time. Here is your clue for the next trial: The Beast dwells within us all, clawing at our very souls, howling for release. Control yourself and silence the Beast once a for all."

Naruto cocked his head to the side, then shook it and walked through the door. He didn't have time for riddles.

The door closed and Naruto found himself inside of a large circular room. He had read something about these in a book once. They were called "Coliseums". They were used by ancient civilizations to host different battles. Warriors called "Gladiators" waged small-scale wars within the walls of the coliseums. Whether it was just a two man duel, or a fifty man, "last man breathing" brawl, it all happened in areas like the one Naruto was now in.

"So...What now?"

"Hello...son." a masculine voice called out from behind Naruto.

The masked boy tensed and his fists shook violently as his claws dug into his skin and drew blood. He slowly turned to face the other blonde-haired man, unadulterated fury burning in his eyes.

"You..." Naruto hissed.

"Hm? What's the matter, son? You look angry with me." there, standing before Naruto, was the man who was single-handedly responsible for his pain and suffering: the Yondaime Hokage.

Something within Naruto snapped as soon as the words left the man's mouth and he lunged. Wrapping his hands around the man's neck, Naruto began to squeeze the life from Minato Namikaze.

Naruto didn't even register the fact that the Fourth wasn't reacting to being strangled at all.

"What's wrong, son? Why are you so upset with me?"

Naruto's eyes widened and he raised a fist while keeping his left hand around the man's neck. The raised fist came crashing down onto the Yondaime's skull with multiple tons of force, causing it to cave in slightly. But that wasn't enough for Naruto, no, not enough at all. Naruto raised his fist and brought it down hundreds, maybe even thousands of times in the space of only a few minutes, turning the older male's head into little more than a crimson smear on the ground.

Naruto panted harshly, staring down at the remains of the man that dared call himself his father, only to see the man's still intact eye staring back at him, not showing any sign of pain at all, only genuine confusion. This only enraged Naruto more and he pulled back his fist one more time, and, with a demonic roar, brought it down on the eye, sending his fist into the ground and creating a large crater.

The masked boy pulled his arm from the ground, feeling the broken bones within shifting back into place and mending. He stood from the Yondaime's body and snorted at it, then walked over to a wall and leaned against it before sliding down to sit on the ground.

"Tsk, tsk, tsk, such fury from such a young one...truly intriguing." Pondera's voice sounded.

Naruto looked up to see the white clad being looking over the former Hokage's body.

"I...couldn't control my Beast...I guess I failed this trial..." Naruto said.

To the boy's surprise Pondera shook his head. "Quite the contrary, my boy, you passed with flying colors! The point of this test was not to control and contain your Beast, it was to control and embrace your Beast. Harness your rage, and use it to accomplish your dreams! In your case, your dream is to kill a dead man...which isn't as impossible as it sounds, but that's a conversation for another time. The only way to eternally silence the Beast is to sate its appetite."

Naruto merely nodded and rose to his feet, dusting off his dormant cloak and pants.

"So, what's next?"

Pondera nodded and walked towards another flight of stairs, Naruto following closely.

After reaching the next door Pondera stepped aside again. "You have completed half of the trials so far, and it is now time for the Trial of the Guardians. None have survived this trial, and I don't expect you to either...But, you've been defying fate and surpassing expectations your entire life. Your next clue is this: What you view as your greatest weakness will be your greatest strength."

Naruto just sighed and shook his head once again before walking through the door. 'More riddles...' he thought.

As the door closed Naruto instantly knew that he wasn't alone in this room. The Soul Edge gave him the ability to sense souls and he could sense nine besides himself and his tenants.

The room was another coliseum, identical to the first. Naruto would have thought it was the same if not for one important detail...make that nine important details. At the far end of the chamber, nine statues stood. Naruto walked over to them and inspected the written symbols on the bases.

The first on the left looked to be a humanoid female wearing a white kabuki mask with black markings running down the cheeks from the eyes, like black tears. She wore formal looking robes and had long hair that went down to the backs of her knees. The demonic symbols at the bottom, apparently her name, read, "Clementia"(Latin for "Humanity").

The next was a large crouching figure that looked like a cross between a human and a crocodile. It had a long muzzle filled with sharp teeth, if its overbite was anything to go by. Its eyes were apparently closed, but Naruto was almost expecting them to snap open at any second. The ridges and bumps on the creature's scaly hide covered its body like natural armor. It had a long tail that was currently curled around its feet like a cat, and its clawed hands were in full view, one balancing it on the ground and the other on its knee. The symbols at the statue's base read, "Morium"(Latin for "Morals").

The next wore samurai-like armor and had a katana strapped to its waist. Its face was covered by a mask depicting a grinning demon. The armor it wore was cracked and chipped to such a degree that one would think the wearer had fought an entire army. The symbols at the base read, "Veneratio"(Latin for "Honor").

The next figure looked like a human child, but its eyes and mouth were sewn shut and its ears seemed to have small spikes jammed into them. Its hands were replaced with wickedly curved blades, almost like hooks. It wore a simple vest over a full bodysuit, which featured sleeves that stopped at the biceps. The symbols on this statue read, "Insontis"(Latin for "Innocence").

The next statue could only be described as a humanoid shark. Its massive, but hunched, figure towered above every other statue at over nine feet. Its head was completely shark-like, other than the fact that it could apparently close its eyes. Its mouth was set in the eternal, fanged grin, showing off the teeth that sharks were known for. It had five slits going down both sides of its neck that Naruto, correctly, guessed were gills. The shark-like fins were turned into blades for the beast, not that it needed them with the huge claws that adorned the tips of four webbed fingers on each hand. It stood on two legs with webbed and clawed feet, and seemed to have a tail, but Naruto didn't want to get close enough to check. The symbols at the base read, "Reformo"(Latin for "Remorse").(1)

The next statue was, literally, a skeleton. It looked to be a carving a mere bones, but it was wearing some kind of upper body armor. Two strange, cylindrical objects adorned its shoulders, and seemed to be hollow, most likely some kind of projectile weapons, like cannons. The symbols read, "Vereor"(Latin for "Fear").(2)

Naruto moved to the next platform, but found no statue and no symbols, so he skipped it and moved on to the next.

This statue seemed normal enough, like a regular, human shinobi. It was dressed in a full bodysuit that even covered its entire head. A strange device was strapped to its head by multiple belts in the form of an eyepatch over where the being's right eye would have been. The device had three small orbs, arranged in the points of a triangle, embedded in it. Naruto guessed that the device was how it saw, as it didn't seem to have a left eye. It was holding three kunai between the fingers of its left hand, while its right gripped the hilt of the katana strapped to its back. The symbols at the base read, "Affectus"(Latin for "Emotion").

The next statue also seemed like a normal human. It was a very short old man, just under four feet tall, holding a staff that was nearly twice his height. He had a long beard that fell to the ground and curled before his feet. The old man was bald, but only on the top of his head. His eyebrows were so large that they completely hid his eyes from view. Deep wrinkles in his forehead told the story of his age better than anything. The symbols read, "Ignotus"(One of three Latin words for "Ignorance").

Naruto looked further down, scanning the last statue, and found that these three all looked human. They weren't the twisted monstrosities that the made up the previous figures, excepting the one called "Clementia".

The last statue next to the old man was an odd one. It was a man dressed in a buttoned trenchcoat, pants and boots. His hands were held behind his back, and he seemed to be holding something, but that wasn't the odd thing. That was the fact that the being was wearing a full-faced gasmask. The breathing vents seemed to disconnect from the rest of the mask, being held to it by two gear-like hinges at the back of the jaw. This could have been a feature built into the mask to allow the wearer to eat and drink without removing it. Naruto thought is made the man look like a fish, the large, round lenses over the eyeholes only enforced the image. The name at the bottom read, "Fragilitas"(Latin for "Weakness").(3)

Naruto stepped back from the statues. "Are these the Guardians?" he asked himself.

"Yes...they are." Pondera's voice called from behind Naruto.

The boy didn't even flinch. "You know...somehow, I knew you were going to be here...And that I was probably going to fight you."

Pondera chuckled. "Well then, I congratulate you for your paranoia."

Naruto snorted. "So, are these guys supposed to represent something?" he gestured to the statues.

Pondera nodded and walked up to the statues.

"Yes, they represent everything the Namikaze clan threw away in order to gain power. You can read and translate the symbols yourself, but I'm sure you are confused by their appearance. The Guardians are demons that were created by the Namikaze clan...well, one Namikaze clan member. They had no real shape to begin with, but when the Namikaze gained their power, these demons took the form of all that they threw away. They were made to be a constant reminder of what they had lost. If a Namikaze ever wanted something back, like their morals, then they would have to fight Morium. If they won, they were exiled from the clan until they agreed to relinquish their morals once again."

"But why do they look the way they do? A mutated shark is hardly the poster boy of Remorse." Naruto said, backing up a bit to put some distance between himself and the hybrid.

"That's the whole point. These creatures are made to appear as the antithesis of what they represent." Pondera replied.

Naruto took another look at the surrounding statues. "So, what do I do now?"

"Now you must choose."

"Choose what?"

"Choose what you want back. There are only a few choices for you."

"What do you mean?" Naruto was getting tired of the damned riddles.

"You still have most of these. You have your humanity, you moral fiber is still intact, and you are an honorable fighter. Despite what you think, you still have some of your innocence left; you are merciless most of the time, but you know when to be remorseful. Even though you won't admit it, I know that there are things that you fear. Do you want your emotions back? Your ignorance of the world around you? What? You have plenty of weaknesses, and unless you're tired of being a shinobi, that's also out of the question." Pondera tried to hide the twitching of his hands by hiding them in the sleeves of his robe.

Naruto rubbed his chin thoughtfully, then cast a short glance at the empty podium.

"You know what? I think I'm too specialized...I want a bit of Balance." he unsheathed the Black Soul and leapt away from Pondera, who laughed.

"So, when did you figure it out?" he asked, taking his hands out of his sleeves.

"That you were the tenth Guardian? Honestly, I have no idea. Call it paranoia if you want, I just knew that there was something...odd about you. Something that I shouldn't ignore."

Pondera laughed again. "You are truly a remarkable boy, Naruto! Though, I suppose our inevitable conflict is a product of destiny."

"I don't believe in destiny or fate. I make my own decisions. I am not a slave to an invisible force; I control my own life!"

"Really now? I've heard those words before. Before, when I said none had survived this trial...I lied. One man did: Namikaze Minato, your father." Pondera ignored Naruto's violent twitch. "He fought the Guardians to regain that which made him human. But I was the only one he couldn't defeat. Over the course of three years, he came down here every week to battle one of us. Then, in the final months before his demise, it was down to him and I. He challenged me countless times, but he never succeeded. And do you know why? It was because challenging me was pointless, as he already had balance in his life." Pondera parted his robe, revealing a black, armored bodysuit.

"Then why did you fight him?" Naruto questioned, anxious to begin the battle.

"I suppose...things were getting stagnant down here. The other Guardians do not release their forms unless they are chosen for combat by a Namikaze..."

"I thought you were one?"

"I never said I was. I was just a...friend of the clan founder...Or, at least I thought I was his friend. When he contacted the Dark God, he wished for me to gain that infernal power as well, without asking me what I wanted. When I displayed my discontent, he thought me a traitor. I begged him to not let his judgment be clouded by his newfound power, but he wouldn't listen. The only way to prove my loyalty to him was...to kill my own wife and children...To sever all ties I had to humanity...All ties to anyone but him and the clan." Pondera took off his hood, revealing a handsome made with platinum-blonde, almost white, hair and bright green eyes.

"So, you disobeyed him, and that's why you're here?" Naruto asked, trying to get things to move along.

Pondera shook his head. "No, I did it...I murdered my own family...just to keep my only friend...But, as you can see, it didn't work. After I realized what I had done...what I was made to do, I turned on my friend and attacked him. But, in my weakened and emotional state, I was no match for him at all. I was defeated and cursed to live down here, with no way to redeem myself for my sins. But now, I just might have a chance." Pondera smirked and looked at Naruto.

"Finally. Let's get this party started!" Naruto grinned behind his mask.

Pondera nodded and threw off his robe, revealing the two large chains wrapped around his arms, each with a deadly spike at the end.

"We can begin, but first..." before Naruto could react, a beam of red light shot out of Pondera's hand and struck him in the chest.

Naruto was lifted off of his feet and slammed into the wall behind him. Rising to his feet, he felt the wound on his chest, only to find nothing.

"What did you do to me?!" Naruto growled.

"Simple, I took away all of your demonic abilities. Your strength, your healing factor, even your sword has gone completely dormant. As of now, you are, for all intents and purposes, human." Pondera smirked, than launched one of his spiked chains at Naruto.

'Shit!' Naruto rolled to the side, narrowly avoiding the deadly weapon.

The chain struck the ground behind Naruto, shattering the stone floor and digging deeply into it. Pondera snorted and tugged on the chain, which was ripped from the floor, sending chunks of granite everywhere. He then whipped the chain to the left, smacking an incoming Naruto out of the air and into another wall.

Naruto flipped at the last second and landed feet-first on the wall and sticking to it.

'Dammit, I can't defeat him if I'm this weak!' the masked boy thought.

Pondera seemed to sense Naruto's frustration. "What's wrong? Can't you fight as a human?" he taunted.

Naruto growled, then released the entirety of the literal ton of extra weight on his person and blurred out of sight. He knew his now-human body probably couldn't handle the strain, but he needed every advantage he could get, temporary or otherwise.

Pondera rose an eyebrow at the boy's speed. "Impressive, for a human as young as you." he suddenly shot one chain into a wall and pulled it taut. "But, I think it's going to do more harm than help."

Naruto saw the chain, but was going too fast to change direction, so he ran into it at full speed. The spike ripped from the wall and the chain wrapped around Naruto's torso, binding his arms to his sides.

Pondera used the other chain to smash Naruto across the face a couple of times, causing his mask to crack from the impact. He then jerked the chain upwards, taking Naruto with it, and spun it above his head.

Naruto was sent on the merry-go-round from hell as Pondera spun the chain faster and faster, until Naruto was little more than a black blur. Pondera then unwrapped the chain and flung Naruto through a wall, causing a section of the room to collapse and fall on the boy.

Pondera waited for Naruto to get up and come at him again, but when five minutes passed without so much as a shudder from the pile of rubble, Pondera sighed heavily.

"I guess I put too much faith in the boy...Damn, I really thought he would be my chance to free myself from this hellhole." he scowled and turned to pick up his robe.

As soon as he turned his back, a huge torrent of fire, in the shape of a dragon, erupted from the rubble and struck him dead-on. Pondera was thrown across the room and into the opposite wall by the blast.

The next thing to explode from the pile was Naruto himself, looking ragged and angry. Part of his mask, over his forehead and left eye, had broken away, exposing one glacier-like eye. (5)

"Don't you...ever...count me out...unless I...no longer have...a pulse...And even then...watch your back..." Naruto panted. In his desperation, he had pumped a bit too much chakra into his attack. Yet it was still only a bit more powerful than his normal, demon-enhanced version.

Pondera turned to Naruto with an appreciative nod. "I see, well then, please forgive me for my mistake. Next time I'll make sure you're down!" he blurred out of sight.

Naruto barely had time to inhale before the breath was knocked out of him, courtesy of Pondera's fist. The boy was, once again, flung into a wall.

'Dammit!' Naruto mentally cursed as he felt two ribs break and one more crack. He was also fairly certain that his back muscles were spasming out of his control. At the odd angle in which he had landed, his muscles were strong enough to contract and break his spine. He tried to get into a different position, but he couldn't move.

Pondera saw Naruto's predicament, and decided to help him out. Afterall, he couldn't let a worthy opponent die in such a way. He walked over to the downed boy and stomped on the small of his back, causing him to grunt in pain.

"That better?" Pondera smirked as he felt Naruto stir under his boot.

The Guardian's smirk was quickly wiped off of his face when the Naruto he was stepping on poofed out of existence.

"A replica?" was all Pondera said before his face was smashed into the floor by a vicious axe kick from Naruto, who had replaced himself with a Shadow Clone he had hiding on the ceiling.

Naruto bounded away and landed near the statues of the other Guardians. If he had looked behind himself, he would have seen every Guardian's head was in a different position, and they were all staring at him with their now opened eyes.

The masked Genin narrowed his eyes when he saw Pondera making no effort to get up from the crater he was now in. He edged closer to the fallen warrior to see what was happening, and noticed that both of the man's arms were also stuck in the ground along with his head.

"Oh hell." Naruto back flipped just in time to avoid the deadly chains as they erupted from the ground beneath where he once stood.

The chains writhed as if they had minds of their own, then launched themselves at Naruto.

Said ninja knocked both chains aside, then jumped over them as they tried to wrap around him. With a fierce slash, the speared ends of the chains fell to the ground, while the remainders still flailed about.

Naruto suddenly found himself being constricted by two more chains, both with spears still attached.

"What the hell?" he gasped out as the chains tightened their hold on him, cracking another rib.

The chains that Naruto had cut then disappeared in a puff of smoke, as did the Pondera in the crater.

"Did you honestly think I didn't know about your clone on the ceiling?" Pondera whispered in Naruto's ear.

"Did you honestly think I didn't know about your clone on the ground?" Naruto replied.

"That just makes it all the more pitiful that I still caught you with your own trick."

"Heh, I've just got one thing to say to that..." Naruto smirked behind what was left of his mask.

"Oh, and what's that? Last request, perhaps?" Pondera taunted.

"Boom." the captured Naruto exploded, sending Pondera flying and severing one of his chains.

The real Naruto was waiting in the shadows, hidden by a Genjutsu that made him appear as part of the wall. When Pondera went flying, Naruto put himself directly in his flight path, Black Soul ready to bisect the man.

Pondera's eyes widened as he felt his legs and his torso go their separate ways. Blood flew through the air, oozing from Pondera's flying corpse like rain. The body landed on the ground with a meaty thunk, a sound that Naruto loved to hear. The sound of yet another enemy that met his end by Naruto's blade.

He then heard chuckling from behind him and turned around. Pondera's "corpse" was laughing!

"How in the hell are you still alive?" Naruto hissed.

"Ask yourself that same question in about five seconds. And 'Boom' to you, too." Pondera exploded, flinging Naruto away.

Naruto lost his grip on the Black Soul as he was blasted away. He landed on his feet, but barely. Dazed and partially deaf from the blast, Naruto tried to walk, but ended up almost tripping over Pondera's severed chain.

Naruto got his bearings back just in time to duck under a sword slash meant for his neck. Rolling away from his attacker, he grabbed the first weapon he could find: Pondera's chain. Turning back, he saw Pondera holding the Black Soul in a standard samurai Kenjutsu stance.

"I take it you aren't very skilled with a sword?" Naruto asked his opponent.

"I take it you aren't very skilled with a battle chain?" Pondera replied with a question of his own.

Both warriors looked at their respective weapons, then at the ones they were currently wielding. They both shrugged, then charged.

Pondera went to stab Naruto in the chest, but Naruto countered by using the chain to block and capturing the blade in one of the links. Twisting the chain, Naruto loosened Pondera's hold on the sword, hit the man with five rapid-fire punches to the face, then a skull-cracking, back-fisted blow to the temple.

Before hitting the ground, Pondera flung his second chain at Naruto, hoping to skewer the boy's head.

Naruto grabbed the incoming object, then flung his own chain at Pondera. The chain hit dead-center in Pondera's chest, but the man only grunted in pain and wrenched his chain from Naruto's grasp, before smacking him with it.

"What the hell? How do you keep it up? I know you're not human, but dammit, you have to have a limit!" Naruto growled.

"How many people...have asked you...that same question?" Pondera ripped the chain from his chest and tossed it at Naruto, who just caught it. "No matter how much damage you do to me...you'll never be able to defeat me the way you are fighting now. Remember, what you think is your greatest weakness is your greatest strength here." Pondera disappeared.

Naruto could only see afterimages of the man, then he felt the cold, metal chain wrap around his entire body. Within the span of only twenty milliseconds, Naruto fell to the floor, completely cocooned within the chain.

Pondera reappeared in front of the fallen Naruto. "You cannot defeat me, for you fight like a devil. There's one thing that always amazed me about humans. They are able to overcome any challenge, as long as they have the means to do it, and the conviction."

Naruto snorted. "Humans are weak, pathetic creatures."

"Are they now?" Pondera smirked, he could almost see the gears turning in the boy's head.

'Humans...weakness...That's it!' Naruto looked up at Pondera, who was watching him with an amused smirk.

'I guess he finally gets it.' the Guardian of Balance thought.

Naruto had figured out that Pondera controlled his chains via chakra, so he did the same. When he was forced to drop the weapon, he had the wherewithal to keep a single chakra string attached to the chain.

Using the technique perfecting by Sunagakure puppeteers, Naruto twitched his finger, bringing the chain to life. The spiked tip shot from the ground, into its original owner's back, and through his heart.

Pondera fell to his knees, releasing control of his chain and allowing Naruto to escape.

"Defeated...with my own weapon...How ironic...this is exactly how I was defeated the first time." Pondera chuckled, blood spilling from his mouth.

Naruto stood in front of the defeated Guardian. "Well, I guess I win." a bright blue ball of chaotic chakra formed in his right hand, then sank into it.

Pondera nodded. "That you do, Namikaze Naruto, that you do." Pondera smiled before his entire torso was nearly blown away by Naruto's Rasen Shottogan.

Naruto suddenly stood ridged and grunted in pain as his demonic chakra returned.

"Ahh." Naruto sighed, it was good to be a Halfling again.

Pondera, who, somehow, was still alive, chuckled. "Remember to train your human side regularly. I am not the only opponent you will face that has the ability to suppress your demon side."

Naruto snarled at Pondera. "What now?!"

"Nothing like that. I am finished, defeated for the first time in nearly five millennia. You have regained your balance, and I deem you worthy to wield the power of the Guardians, as well as the Key of Fire."

Naruto nodded, calling the Black Soul to him, then picking up Pondera's lost chain and wrapping it around his torso from shoulder to hip. "You don't mind if I keep this, right?" he asked.

Pondera laughed again. "Not at all. Not many people in this world use battle chains anymore. It will be interesting to see what you do with it. The souls of the Nine Guardians are now yours to command. Call for us, and we will aid you in any and every way we can."

"So, do I sign a contract, or something?" Naruto asked.

"No, you already have our power at your command. Remember when I shot you with that beam? I did more than just suppress your demon side, I gave you our summoning contract."

Naruto's eyes widened behind his now repaired mask. "You let me win?" he hissed.

"No, I just knew you were going to. In defeating me, you have also released my soul from this horrid pit. And, in return, I am yours to command until the end of days. Now then, it is time for your next, and final, trial; the Trial of Will."

Naruto shook his head. "What, testing my will to survive, or some crap like that?"

Pondera laughed. "Half correct. This trial will not only test your own will to survive, but your will to ensure the survival of others..."

Naruto's eyes widened. 'Oh no...' "What have you done?!"

"Things were already set into motion the moment you defeated me. A demon was released from a special seal right after my heart was pierced. It is one of the most powerful demons the Namikaze clan ever created, second only to the last demon they made before they met their doom. You must hurry if you wish to save the ones you care about. You get two clues for this one, but the first was within the inscription on the door when you first came in. Here is your final clue: Even the darkest night will yield to the brightest light. Control and conquer, and all will survive." with that, Pondera's body turned to stone, then crumbled into dust. The dust was then picked up by an invisible force and carried to the tenth podium, where it took the shape of a robed Pondera with one spiked chain dangling from his sleeve.

Naruto smirked, then turned to the entrance door and bolted out, desperately hoping to get to his newfound friends before the demon did.

(Topside: Namikaze Compound Gate)

Mitara, Inaro, Isaro, Anko, and Hinata stood in front of the gates to the massive compound that was, apparently, all Naruto's.

"What in Kami-sama's name?" Mitara gasped.

Inaro and Isaro just stood before the towering gate, slack-jawed, and staring at the huge structure in awe.

"Naruto...lives here?!" Inaro said incredulously.

"According to the official documents Hokage-sama showed us, he does." Mitara said, his voice still holding to tone of awe and admiration.

"I can see how he would be pissed, I'd be mad too if I didn't get my mansion." Anko said.

Hinata just stared, her eyes the size of saucers. "This place...is bigger than both houses of my clan combined!"

After a few more minutes of staring, the group walked forward cautiously. The Sandaime had told them of the seal the Yondaime put around the compound, and what it did if it was touched.

But, to their surprise, they were able to pass through the gate without incident. Once on the other side, they stared in wonderment again. The place was bigger than any of them had imagined! How something as large as this had remained hidden from everyone for so long, since the founding of Konoha apparently, was a mystery to them. The Namikaze were once the most powerful clan in Konoha, and yet very few people knew about them. Everyone thought the Uchiha and the Hyūga ran things in that respect, but they didn't know that the Namikaze were the ones in the shadows, secretly controlling whatever they wanted.

Since the founding of Konoha, almost ninety years ago, the Namikaze remained hidden and secretive. You would be lucky to even catch a brief glimpse of one of their number during the day. They conducted most of their activities at night, which was deemed suspicious by most, but deemed the signs of good shinobi by others. Many just chalked it up to the Namikaze being overly paranoid, and let the subject drop.

"So, where are we supposed to go?" Anko asked.

"I think we should check out the tower first." Mitara said. He didn't know why, but he had a feeling that Naruto was in there.

"Fine with me." Inaro said, unsheathing his standard ANBU katana. The Hokage had told them of the creatures that lurked within the walls of the compound.

Isaro followed his brother's example and unsheathed his sword as well. Something about this place just wasn't right. Even if he hadn't talked to Sarutobi, he still would have known this place wasn't normal, by any means.

Anko took out two of her special, elongated kunai and held them at the ready. The Third had told them that the creatures that lurked here loved to attack from the shadows, so they only came out at night. It was three o' clock in the morning, and the sky was pitch black, with the full moon hidden behind dense clouds.

Hinata took out two daggers that Anko had talked her into buying, insisting that she learned to use a weapon other than kunai and shuriken. She was still learning the basics of dual-blade Kenjutsu, but she was learning fast.

As they walked towards the tower, they saw the destruction that Naruto's Blackfire Dragon had caused.

"Yep, Naruto's been here." Mitara muttered. He had trained with Naruto before, and knew just what kind of damage he could do to both his opponent and the surrounding area.

When the reached the entrance to the tower, they instinctively knew something was wrong. Their suspicions were confirmed when the huge door swung open by itself, as if they were being invited in.

"I guess someone's been expecting us." Anko grinned.

"It would seem so." Mitara narrowed his eyes behind his mask.

"Let's get going! The sooner we find 'Ruto, the sooner we can leave!" Isaro said, looking over his shoulder.

Mitara nodded to Anko and they walked in. Only Hinata jumped when the door slammed shut behind them, trapping them in the pitch black room.

"Hinata, use your Byakugan to see what's going on! You too, Mitara!" Anko barked out orders, despite the fact that Mitara was the designated leader of the mission.

"Yeah, yeah, don't get your panties in a bunch." Mitara mumbled, then thought, 'Though, I'll bet they'd look nice on my bedroom floor...or the ceiling fan...' he blushed and giggled perversely, earning him a smack from Anko.

"...You know I wear a thong, Mitara-kun." Anko grinned. "Yeah, that's right, I saw you watching me that day."

Mitara just distanced himself from the snake woman and activated his Eagle Eye. It enabled him to see in the dark, but everything was black, white, or grey in color.

"I-I don't see a-anything, Anko-sensei." Hinata stuttered, scared out of her mind at the moment. From the story the Hokage had told them, she was fairly certain she didn't really want to see what was going to eat her before she died. 'Naruto-kun...where are you?'

"My, my, more intruders? What do you want?" the same disembodied voice that Naruto and his group talked to called out.

"Who's there?! Show yourself!" Mitara whirled around, trying to find the owner of the voice.

"I couldn't show myself to you, even if I wanted to, so tough shit there. Why are you here?" the voice went from bored to annoyed in a matter of seconds.

"We're here for Namikaze Naruto and the group that came here with him!" Anko shouted.

The voice took on an angry tone. "Stop calling that...that...monster a Namikaze! The last member of that clan died almost thirteen years ago! And don't you dare say that the monster I sent to the pit was related to him!"

The group didn't like the sound of that at all.

"What did you do to Naruto-kun?!" Hinata, surprisingly, screamed.

The voice chuckled maliciously. "What, are you fond of him? Then don't worry, you'll be joining him soon enough!"

The floor dropped out from beneath them and they fell into the same pit Naruto and his group had before.

(Meanwhile, With Zabuza And The Others)

Zabuza was bored out of his skull. He and the others had been waiting for Naruto for nearly three hours!

'Damn, I wish I had've brought that ribcage with me...or at least the skulls.' the swordsman thought, then kicked a pebble absentmindedly.

The rock flew through the air, hitting Kurohane in the head and causing her to fall off of the rock she was precariously balancing on. With her meditation rudely interrupted, the summon was furious. The whole "inner peace" thing wasn't her forte, so when she finally found hers, she absolutely hated to be awakened from her trance.

Kurohane picked up the rock and swung her scythe, hitting the stone with the blade and sending it on a crash course with Zabuza's forehead.

Zabuza had no idea what had happened. One second everything was fine, then he blinked, then he was on his ass with a bleeding forehead.

"What...happened...?" Zabuza moaned.

Kurohane just smirked and tried to resume her meditation.

Haku giggled, but kept her mouth shut. She had seen what Zabuza had done, and thought he deserved what he got for being so inconsiderate with his rock-kicking.

The Orasu twins laughed openly at their former leader's pain, also believing that he deserved it.

Seizonsha was asleep, having tired herself out while trying to find something to entertain herself in her brother's absence.

Zabuza grumbled about conspiracies against him, then leaned against the far wall, giving himself a perfect range of sight to avoid any more flying objects.

As soon as the man's back touched the wall, he was blasted away as something broke through the wall from the other side.

Everyone got into their battle positions, even the now awakened Seizonsha, and waited for the dust to clear so they could see their attacker.

"Is everyone alright?" Naruto's voice called out from within the dust cloud.

They all gave a sigh of relief. "Naruto-kun, don't scare us like that!" Haku yelled.

Naruto stepped out of the cloud and scanned the area for anything out of the ordinary. He saw nothing, other than the fact that Zabuza was bleeding, that was cause for alarm.

"What happened to you?" he pointed at the older swordsman.

Zabuza glared at Kurohane. "I'm not sure, but I have a good idea..."

"That isn't important right now, what is, however, is what happened to you." Kurohane quickly changed the subject.

Everyone looked at the boy, as they too wanted to know what had happened after the first door had shut.

"I passed the trials, I fought a Guardian, and now I'm here to save you from the demon...which doesn't seem to be here...yet."

Everyone sweatdropped at the rushed answer. "What's wrong with you? And what's this demon you're talking about?" Zabuza scratched his head.

"After I defeated the Guardian, he told me of the final trial, the Trial of Will. He said it was to test my will to ensure the survival of others, as well as myself. He told me that a powerful demon was released from a seal after I beat him, and I assumed that it was going to come after you all. But it apparently hasn't shown up yet...so I suggest we get moving, instead of waiting for it." Naruto walked to the entrance and opened the door to the hallway, prompting the others to follow.

Naruto may have looked calm and collected on the outside, but inside, his mind was racing.

'I don't get it! If the demon is as powerful as Pondera said it is, then shouldn't it have been here by now? And what was the first clue?' Naruto racked his brain for answers.

"Say, Naruto-kun, do you think the Hokage will send someone to look for us if we don't come back?" Haku asked. "I mean, we aren't official ninjas of this village until morning, so I assume he'd have someone monitoring us."

Then it hit Naruto like a train. '"Death will slay, with blades from below, those of false heritage."' he remembered the inscription of the door. 'If the demon isn't going for us, then it must be going for someone else on the surface...Haku's probably right, the Old Man probably did send someone...But I doubt he told anyone that he knows he can't trust, so...ANBU Squad Eighteen!'

Naruto suddenly whirled on his heel and took off down the hallway in the direction of the zombie chamber.

"Naruto-kun, what's wrong?!" Kurohane asked, trying to keep up with Naruto's frantic speed.

"We're going back up!" was all Naruto yelled back.

As they reached the chamber, Naruto could feel his control over Darkness returning to him. Speeding across the chamber and into the spike pit, Naruto heard screaming and looked up, only to see five people on a collision course with the deadly metal spears.

Forming another platform from solidified shadows, Naruto caught the would-be impalement victims. When he saw who they were, he rose an eyebrow in curiosity.

"Why are all of you here? I expected Mitara-san, Inaro-san, and Isaro-san. But you two, Anko-san, Hinata-san, should have no reason to be here."

Anko looked down and saw Naruto's hunter mask. "Hi, Naru-chan! Old Man Hokage sent us here to look for ya'! And shame on you for not telling us you had a house this big!" Anko shook her fist at Naruto.

"Great." Naruto mumbled. "Still doesn't explain why Hinata-san's here."

Said Hyūga heiress poked her head over the side of the platform and looked down at Naruto, poking her fingers together in her classic style.

"Um...H-hi Naruto-k-kun...A-Anko-sensei brought m-me along..." she blushed.

Naruto just nodded, then looked behind himself to his group, then back up to Anko's group.

"Naruto-kun, who are they?" Kurohane asked.

Hinata stiffened. Someone had just called her Naruto-kun "Naruto-kun"! She could feel the underlying emotions in the girl's voice as she spoke, and knew that she also had a thing for the masked boy. 'No...He's MINE!' she thought.

Naruto's cloak suddenly went insane, tendrils whipping about in random directions. One grabbed on to a spike and bent it into a slight curve, making it look like a giant claw.

Naruto saw this and his eyes widened. "Shit! Climb, NOW!" he jumped over the platform and ran up the wall, followed by the others.

Normally, Hinata would have gaped at someone being able to defy gravity like everyone around her was doing, but Anko had taught her how to cling to surfaces as her very first lesson. So she followed her crush and his group upwards as well.

"Naruto, why are we running?" Mitara asked.

"You'll find out in a few seconds, until then, FUCKING SHIFT IT!" Naruto picked up speed.

The others could keep up, but Hinata was fast getting left behind. This didn't go unnoticed by Naruto, who slowed down until he was beside her, allowing the others to pass him.

"You really need to work on your speed." the boy said before picking the girl up bridal style and running ahead again.

Hinata just "Eep"ed, but didn't protest. She was too busy trying to get the perverted thoughts out of her head.

"Mmm, Naruto-kun smells so good..." Inner Hinata whispered huskily.

'Yes...he does...No, bad Hinata!' the girl mentally slapped herself.

"Go on, girl, take a nice, long whiff of him. Memorize that scent, 'cause once we bag him, we're gonna be waking up to it every morning!"

Was it possible for voices in your head to masturbate? If so, Hinata was sure that's what hers was doing.

'Whatever you're doing in there, stop it! Judging by Naruto-kun's actions, I'd say this is a pretty serious situation. So stop distracting me already!' Hinata mentally shouted to her inner self.

Inner Hinata went silent, causing Outer Hinata to give a sigh of relief.

While running up the wall, Naruto saw that the trapdoor to the spike pit was closed again.

"Zabuza, take her, I'm going to make an exit." Naruto handed Hinata to Zabuza, then charged a Rasengan in his right hand.

Naruto rocketed up the wall and smashed the spinning sphere of condensed chakra into the concrete and steel that made up the trapdoor. The ball chewed through the material like it was wet tissue, drilling a large hole for about two feet before breaking through the floor at the surface.

Naruto and the others jumped through said hole and landed on the floor, most panting from exertion. Only Naruto and Hinata felt no need to catch their breaths, as Naruto that wasn't even a light workout for Naruto, and Hinata had been carried most of the way up.

Looking around, they saw the room was now well lit with lights from the overhead crystal chandelier and the fluorescent light bulbs that hung from the large marble pillars that lined the long black carpet that led to the main stairway. Two more hallways branched off next to the large stairway, leading to two doors at the end, presumably to the dining hall, if it was anything like other mansions. At the top of the stairway was another small hallway with doors at both ends, most likely leading to the bedrooms.

"Dammit, how are you still alive?!" the disembodied voice that had caused the entire mess snarled.

Naruto just shrugged. "You didn't think a spike pit, some zombie lizards, and a demon could stop me, did you?"

"...You lost me after the spike pit..." the voice said.

The ANBU, Anko, and Hinata nodded. "Same here."

"I'll tell you later, but right now..." Naruto didn't even finish his sentence before the walls and floor started to shake.

"An earthquake?" Mitara asked.

Naruto shook his head. "No. I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say that it's something big, mean, and not very happy about being awakened."

As if to confirm Naruto's statement, the shaking intensified. Whatever the hell was coming was getting closer to the surface.

Naruto's cloak went crazy again and he shouted, "On the ceiling, now!" he grabbed Hinata, assuming that she couldn't jump that high, and propelled them both onto the ceiling with on powerful leap.

The others just took to dashing up nearby walls and waiting for whatever was coming.

"What the hell are you idiots doing?!" the voice shouted.

Just at the words left it, a gigantic, black claw shot out of the floor, followed by four more. The floor exploded in a huge cloud of pulverized stone. Chunks of concrete and metal flew everywhere, nearly impaling more than a few of the shinobi present.

A monstrous roar sounded as the dust settled, revealing the mammoth creature that had crawled out of the pit.

It looked like a huge, armored spider. Eight massive, clawed legs sprouting from its back instead of its sides, and a long, armored tail that appeared to have a large stinger attached at the end. This giant spider/scorpion had a head that almost resembled a human's, if it didn't have about twenty glowing eyes and a huge mouth full of enormous, dagger-like teeth. It also seemed to be wearing some kind of helmet, but it seemed to serve no real purpose other than protection.

(6)

The beast's tail thrashed about, reflecting its owner's anger.

"Who has dared to disturb my slumber?!" the monster rumbled, surprising all present with its ability to speak in human tongue.

"You...You've awakened the Corpser?! You fools, it'll destroy the entire compound!" the voice shrieked, once again losing the masculine tone it held earlier.

The demon, apparently called a Corpser, scanned the area for the voice. "I can hear the prey...but I cannot see the prey...Where is the prey?" the creature muttered to itself.

The others nearly sighed in relief when it couldn't find them, but they didn't dare make a single sound. Naruto, however, wasn't fooled. Something told him that the beast knew where they were, and was just trying to lull them into a false sense of security. He saw the demon give a slight incline of its head in their direction, then saw its barbed tail twitch.

"SCATTER!" Naruto suddenly shouted.

The group did exactly that, and not a second too soon, as the Corpser's tail shot up and impaled the ceiling.

The demon roared and ripped its tail from the ceiling before doing a three-hundred and sixty degree turn, knocking down the marble pillars that lined the great room. Spying a potential victim with one of its eyes, the demon lashed out with one of its great claws, but missed, as the human was too quick for the lumbering giant.

The Corpser howled in frustration, then anger when it was hit in the back by a large fireball.

"Fire?! I have dwelled within the center of this planet for thousands of years! That little torch of yours felt quite pleasant compared to the frigid air up here." the beast laughed at Naruto's attempts to harm it.

Naruto simply growled and tried something else.

"Kaze no Yaiba!" spontaneous winds began to blow around the great hall, causing the humanoids to take cover.

Sparks flew from random places along the Corpser's body as the wind blades tried to do their job, but ultimately had no effect.

The demon laughed again, seemingly enjoying Naruto's efforts. "Your mastery of the elements is impressive, youngling, but you will have to do much better than that to even scratch my natural armor! I've lived under unimaginable amounts of pressure underneath the Earth's crust, causing my body to harden to the point where only a diamond could take more punishment!"

Naruto snorted as he landed on the floor before the great monster, which eyed him in amusement.

"So, cutting it won't work...But, what about blunt-force damage? Wind Release: Great Breakthrough!" Naruto breathed out a large ball of compressed air and launched it into the Corpser's face, causing it to rear back and roar in pain.

The others saw this and smirked, it seemed that the demon had a weak spot after all. But their smirks were wiped off of their faces when Naruto was smacked into, and nearly through, a wall.

The Corpser laughed again. "Clever little insect. My armor is impenetrable! But, seeing as how you obviously don't want to take my word for it, I'm going to give you three attacks. If you cause no damage to me, then I will devour everyone here, and force you to watch as I chew their mangled corpses into a fine mush." the demon cackled madly.

Naruto growled and ran through a sequence of demon seals. "Demon Skill: Blackfire Dragon!" he instantly broke out his strongest attack at full power.

The obsidian dragon roared and lurched forward, crashing into the Corpser and causing a massive explosion. The concussive force of the attack demolished the entranceway and the wall around it, blowing a huge hole in the side of the tower.

The explosion also destroyed the rest of the pillars, leaving the other combatants nowhere to go but out to avoid the blast. After taking cover from the flying and falling debris, Zabuza and the others peeked out from their hiding places, some believing that Naruto had killed, or at least injured, the demon, but the rest knew it would take more than that. If anything, Naruto got in a surprise shot.

Deep, rumbling laughter confirmed the fears of the senior shinobi.

"Once again, I commend you for your skills, youngling. That packed a lot more power than I expected, but I felt little more than a slight pinch. Try again, boy!" the Corpser chuckled.

Naruto growled as the creature mocked him. 'Shit, that was my strongest technique! What now?...Hmm, the Rasengan has had success against armored enemies before, so why not now?' Naruto smirked, then formed two Rasengan in his hands. 'Let's see how you like this, you ugly bastard!'

The Corpser looked at the twin spheres of chakra and growled.

'So, this is the spawn of the human that sealed me, eh? Well, I guess I could perform one good deed in my existence. I'll reunite father and son!' the demonic arachnid cackled mentally.

The Corpser was expecting a head-on rush from the boy, not knowing that he was a highly trained killer that never rushed into anything without thinking. So imagine the demon's surprise when the boy suddenly disappeared from view.

"What the...?" the giant spider mumbled, every one of its eyes swerving in different directions, like a chameleon. "Where did he GAAAHHH!" the behemoth was suddenly lifted from the ground and thrown through the wall beside it.

Naruto landed near the wall opposite of the one he had just destroyed, panting from exertion. Having not completely recovered from his battle with Pondera, he had to admit that he wasn't up to fighting something like this demon by himself. Even at full power, the Corpser could potentially wipe the floor with him...that is, if it could catch him.

'Maybe that got h-!' Naruto's thoughts were cut short as ten laser beams, about the same width as a human arm, shot out of the cloud of dust that had been kicked up from the Corpser's fall. The laser seemed to converge as one before striking Naruto dead-center in the chest, sending him through the wall behind him.

"You little rat, that actually hurt me! But, it also counted as two attacks, so it's my turn now!" the demon stalked through the hole in the wall, smoke rising from its eyes, indicating where the lasers had come from.

Before it could continue after its prey, the crystal chandelier hanging above fell on its head, causing it to growl and look up, only to get a Water Dragon to the neck, courtesy of Zabuza.

"Hey, Legs, you fight him, you fight all of us!" Anko shouted from her position on the ceiling, where she had broken the chain holding the chandelier up.

The Corpser hissed, it absolutely despised that name. "Don't...call me that...human."

"What's the matter, Legs, the big bad demon spider can't take a little joke?" Anko mocked.

The Corpser's tail spasmed, flailing about and hitting anything too slow to avoid it, which would have been Hinata if Mitara hadn't rushed in at the last second and saved her.

The demon's eyes began to glow as a green foam gathered at the corners of the creature's mouth.

"VILE HUMAN FILTH, I WILL SHOW YOU YOUR PLACE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE FOOD CHAIN!" the demon raged, firing off lasers in every direction, not caring what it hit, as long as it was human.

The ones that were actually fighting the monster; Zabuza, Anko, Mitara, Inaro, Isaro, and Kurohane, had nothing to really worry about from the lasers. But the ones providing supporting fire; Haku, Seizonsha, Hinata, Kiriko, and Chigusa, had to move faster than they ever had in their lives. For Haku, it wasn't much of a problem, but for others, i.e. Hinata, it was one of the most difficult things they'd ever had to do.

The Corpser became more and more enraged with the humans' futile attempts at harming it.

After nearly twenty minutes of combat, the mortals were becoming tired. Even the stamina freaks of the group were at their limits, and close to collapsing.

The demon, on the other hand, seemed to be completely unharmed. Roaring and screeching more out of anger than pain. It seemed to just be annoyed and somewhat amused by the humans' attacks.

The tower was in shambles, having been all but leveled by errant techniques, some areas having even been set ablaze by the Corpser's lasers. Even the upper levels hadn't been safe from the damage caused by the small-scale war.

"So, the humans were all talk, just as I thought." it looked around and saw an unconscious Hinata laying on her back near him. "She's the weakest out of you all, even the canine outranks her! I think I'll eat her first, just to put her out of her misery." the Corpser chuckled evilly and it slowly stalked forward.

Naruto, who had been knocked out from the Corpser's initial laser attack, was now inside of his mindscape, looking for a certain demon.

"I know you're here, I can feel your presence." Naruto growled, he was not in the mood for the dark knight's games.

"So, you've finally come crawling back to me to finish yet another fight that you can't win. What a surprise!" Neo-Nightmare walked out of the shadows in the smug stride, his black eyes gleaming with amusement. "I told you I was gonna get to come out and play again!" he went to walk passed Naruto to take over his body, but was stopped by Naruto's hand.

"Yes, I'm going to need your power to defeat this demon, but things are going to go my way this time. The others are in danger, and I'm their only hope."

Neo-Nightmare scoffed. "So? I'm gonna kill them anyway, so why does them being in danger matter? And what did I tell you about ordering me around? Do I have to remind you who's the boss here?"

Naruto growled. "No, I know who I am...But I don't really know who you are. I don't really know what you are either, but it is, at this time, irrelevant. I just want to know who you are."

"Oh, please forgive my rudeness, Naruto-sama. You may call me Noctis: The Obsidian Knight." Noctis mock bowed.(7)

Naruto snorted. "Well, now I know what to yell when I want you to shut up. I'll be taking your power, and my friend here..." Nightmare came up behind Noctis and held him in a bearhug, "will be restraining you while I do so."

Nightmare chuckled as Noctis began to struggle uselessly. "That's right, and then I'm gonna lock you away, somewhere nice and isolated. I'll let you out when you become more cooperative...At least, I'll think about letting you out."

Noctis roared in outrage. "You bastards, you can't do this!"

Naruto rammed his hand through Noctis' chest. "Oh, but we can, and we are. This is my mind, Noctis, and I decide what happens here!" black fluid leaked from the wound in the knight's chest, slowly crawling up Naruto's arm and solidifying into armor identical to Noctis'.

Eventually Naruto pulled his now armored hand free, having taken everything from Noctis, who fell limp in Nightmare's arms. He had somehow managed to keep his armor, but it looked like its weight was now just a burden on him.

Looking Noctis in the eyes, Naruto smirked. "Well, now that I've taken your power, I think I'm gonna take your name, too. 'Noctis', it has a nice ring to it, don't you agree?"

Noctis hissed weakly. "I'll...get you...for this...Naruto..."

Naruto shook his head. "No, you won't." he looked at Nightmare and nodded.

Nightmare nodded back and dragged Noctis away, ignoring his weak protests and pathetic attempts at resistance.

Naruto chuckled darkly as he felt the power of the Soul Edge course through his body.

'Is this what it felt like for Nightmare for all those centuries? How did he get tired of this?!'

A phantom whisper echoed through Naruto's mind.

"Believe me, kid, after that long, you realize that it's not all that great. Don't let it overwhelm you, as it did all the others."

Naruto, not being one to ignore the advise and teachings of his elders, took Nightmare's words to heart, keeping his power trip in check. Closing his eyes and sighing deeply, Naruto calmed himself.

He didn't think he'd be able to pull this off, even with Nightmare's help. How he had overcome something so much more powerful than himself was beyond him. What he didn't know was that one of the most powerful human emotions drove him to do what he did and allowed him to overcome Noctis' influence, thus conquering the Soul Edge.

It was an emotion that had long since left Naruto, and that he had forgotten about. It was also something that was awakened by Noctis' presence in his mind. A remnant of Naruto's childhood that still remained somewhere in the deepest reaches of his heart.

Reaching out with his senses, Naruto detected the vital signs of his precious people, finding that most of them were weak. But one was weaker than the rest, and it was being approached by the largest vital sign.

Naruto instantly knew who it was. "Hinata..."

Back in the outside world, the Corpser dropped its head low, preparing to snap Hinata up in its massive jaws.

It suddenly roared in pain and thrashed about, trying to rid itself of what was causing such terrible agony.

Though it couldn't see it, the cause of the pain was a huge, serrated zanbatō that was lodged in the first joint that connected one of the legs to the thorax. The acidic poison seeping into its system was making the Corpser weaker by the minute, and making the leg all but useless.

The demon was then knocked aside by a black blur crashing into its head.

"Leave them alone, your fight is with me now." Naruto, as Noctis now, landed beside Hinata's prone form, Soul Edge in hand, and battle chain wrapped around his left arm.

All of the commotion, and her sense of self-preservation, had awoken Hinata, who was now staring at the looming form of her demonic savior.

"N-N-Naruto-kun?" she ventured tentatively.

Naruto looked down at the girl. "...Not at the moment. For now, I am Noctis." was all the knight said, before bringing his sword up to block another laser blast from the Corpser.

Said demon snarled in anger. "You...You have the same energy as the boy...But yours is much more...sinister than his. You are a true demon, no?"

Naruto nodded, hoisting his huge blade upon his shoulder. "You've toyed with the humans long enough. Let's see how you deal with something on your own level."

The Corpser laughed. "Point me in his direction, and I'll take him on."

Naruto snorted. "A giant bug with a sense of humor, great. Come on, Legs, let's dance!"

The Corpser instantly stopped laughing and roared. "DON'T CALL ME THAT!"

The demon spider swiped one of its claws at Naruto, only for him to catch the claw and flip the titan over his head and smash it into the ground.

The Corpser glared at the demon knight as he righted itself, tail lashing like a bladed whip in the air.

Naruto narrowed his eyes at the creature, what was it up to?

The beast turned its head, ever so slightly, towards Hinata.

Naruto saw this and his eyes widened. 'No...'

This momentary distraction gave the Corpser just enough time to smack Naruto aside and send its tail speeding towards the girl, who had just gotten to her feet.

Hinata's eyes widened as she saw the blade coming at her, but she couldn't avoid it, and there was no one to save her this time. The blade pierced her belly and lifted her into the air. The girl coughed up copious amounts of blood, desperately clawing at the spear-like barb in her stomach, doing nothing but causing herself more pain.

Naruto could only look on in horror as the Hyūga heiress was skewered. He jumped to his feet and tried to reach her, but then he himself was impaled by one of the Corpser's claws and staked to a wall.

Naruto seemed to ignore the claw and tried to struggle against it to reach Hinata.

The Corpser saw this and laughed maniacally. "You fight so hard to save these worthless humans, and see where it has gotten you? You are almost as weak as they are. Charging in with reckless abandon just to save one of them from death? HA! The very notion is laughable for any self-respecting demon! I can see the hidden power within you, the untapped potential...but your weakness keeps that power at bay. I will now do you a favor, and rid you of that weakness!" the arachnid flicked its tail, sending Hinata into a wall...at least it would have if not for Mitara catching the girl.

"ISARO! You're the medic, get your ass over here!" the eagle ANBU shouted.

Naruto stopped struggling and just stared, almost blankly, at the scene before him.

"Shit, she's going into shock!" Isaro cursed as Hinata went into violent convulsions, spitting up more blood.

He didn't know why, but the scene was familiar to Naruto. It was like he had seen it before, just with different people. His heart clenched as the pain from both experiences hit him full-on, and he screamed.

The Corpser looked at the knight. "What? Don't tell me you actually care for that thing? Even to something as low as the human species, she is a disgrace! I doubt I've ever laid eyes on a human as pitiful has her, and that's saying a lot. Though, as a disgrace to demons, I suppose you would be attached to her."

Noctis then went silent and let his head drop as he went limp. He had failed. He didn't know how, but he felt as if he had just broken a vow that he had made, like he had betrayed Hinata's trust.

"Don't worry, Hinata-chan, I'll protect you." words that Naruto didn't remember speaking echoed in his mind.

He could tell it was his voice, probably from when he was six. When it still had the monotonous tone, but it still carried a bit of emotion. It was from before the time when Kyuubi started to truly train him.

"That's a promise!" the voice finished.

Naruto's eyes widened as realization hit him.

'That promise...I made it just after I saved her from those Kumo-nin six years ago...I broke it...I failed to protect her...How could I have forgotten about that? Have I..really sunk that low?' black and purple chakra began to bubble out from Naruto's body. 'No...I haven't failed yet...I refuse to fail!' he glared at the Corpser.

The demon cocked its massive head to the side. "Oh? Have I made you angry? Have I slain the one you loved? Hmph, you are weaker than I thought. It seems the only way to rid you of your weakness is to kill them all. I will have to break you, mind, body, and soul!" it turned its head towards the others, eyes glowing bright orange as it charged them for another volley of laser fire.

"...I won't fail...I can't fail...You won't stop me, no one will..." Naruto's eyes glowed with unholy fury. "You have harmed someone that I care for, and have caused me break a promise...For that, you must be...ANNIHILATED!" Naruto raised his right fist, then brought it crashing down on the claw that impaled him, shattering it like glass.

The Corpser shrieked in pain and stumbled back. "WHAT?! You can't have broken by claw, it isn't possible! I've fought opponents stronger than you that couldn't even scratch me! WHAT ARE YOU!"

The Soul Edge appeared in Naruto's outstretched hand, and even it seemed to be enraged. The sword's eye leveled a glare on the Corpser carrying an ungodly malice.

Naruto spoke, his already altered voice distorted even more by his rage.

"I...am the one who is going to tear you apart...I am the one who will devour your soul...I am the one who will bathe in your blood...I am your executioner."

XXXX

And it is done!

Once again, sorry about the lack of citrus(lemons/limes). But nothing will stop me from putting it in the next chapter. And, to make up from the delay on it, I'm going to make it a bit longer than I had originally planned.

Well, now that the benchmark has been reached, I'll be focusing on character interaction and relationships more. There will still be action, but I'll try to balance it out with the romance.

But, I remind you all, this is NOT a romantic fic, this is action/adventure with a side order of humor and romance.

And I have introduced my version of the Corpser from Gears of War. Congratulations to Geararm for guessing that I was going to put the Corpser in my story!

The Guardians were something I thought up on a whim. I'm not even sure how I got the idea, but I think they're a nice addition to the fic. The Latin names were something I just thought was cool.

As you can tell, I'll be using a lot of things from my favorite games and movies, even lines from my favorite songs, but this will never be a crossover fic.

(1): It's the human/shark hybrid from Peter Benchley's Creature, or White Shark if you're looking for the book. Google it to see a proper image, but mines is about three feet taller and has the blades in place of fins.

(2): It's the Revenant from Doom 3, Google it if you don't know. The cannons shoot fireballs, not rockets, in this fic.

(3): This is Karl Ruprecht Kroenen from the Hellboy movie. He's probably known better as the "Clockwork Ninja", due to the fact that he has a mechanical heart and left hand that operates with gears. Again, Google him if you haven't seen the movie.

(4): This is for the sake of the story only. By no means do I see sharks as nothing but mindless killing machines.

(5): To get a good visual, think of the eyes of the vampires in the Underworld movies, but slitted like a cat's.

(6): It's the Gears of War Corpser with a few of my personal modifications. No mechanical backpack thing, and I added the tail barb of a scorpion. thought it's really more like the spear on the Xenomorphs' tails in the Alien series. I got rid of the weird, caterpillar-like underbody, as it took away from the awesomeness of the monster. I also gave it the head of a Brumak, and took away the two arms that made it look a little too human for my tastes. I wanted to make it look more like a spider than a human/arachnid hybrid from a cheap horror movie. I don't own Gears of War either.

(7): You didn't think I was going to call him "Neo-Nightmare" throughout the entire story, did you?

Well, until next time...

Jason Out!