Disclaimer: I do not own Naruto or Street Fighter. If I did own Street Fighter, I would have put out at least one side-scrolling beat em' up style game for it by now. If they did that and put it up for downloading on PSN or Xbox Live it would sell like hell. And I don't want to hear any crap about Final Fight. I want to be able to pick from any of the Street Fighter characters and go nuts on some commonfolk. If there was one thing I always dug about Tekken it was Tekken Force Mode.


I can't even think about the way things were going before I met you all.

I didn't have any money, I didn't have any clue, I didn't have any chance. I didn't have a place in the world.

I'd lost the one thing I could attach myself to, my place as a Konoha ninja and my goal to be acknowledged as Hokage. And I know in my heart that if I'd never met you I'd be dead right now. I would have done something stupid without knowing how things worked in this world and that would have been it.

It all started with you, you know? You were there first. You were the first one that saw me.

If it wasn't for you, there wouldn't have been anybody else. Nobody else would have ever looked my way. More people love me now than I could have ever imagined I'd have gotten, but it was because of you, because you loved me so hard, no matter how loud or dumb or cocky I was. They saw that, and they took a deeper look themselves I guess, and they found something of what you saw.

It kind of blows my mind though, heh. I can't imagine what you all found in me that makes me worth it… even though I am pretty awesome.

I always wanted to go home because I had people that accepted me there, but you were the first one that ever gave me a pure chance, even out of them. You didn't already have some colored mindset on me I had to fight against to have you see me as a regular person. I didn't have to scratch and claw to get your attention. You acknowledged me for nothing, and you believed in me no matter what.

Not because you wanted something from me; you never asked me for a thing. Not because you had to, because I was someone you had to believe in, because you needed someone, anyone, as a hero. Not because I had something powerful inside of me that you had to keep an eye on just in case I ever lost control. Not because you pitied me either, because if you did I don't think we ever would have even been friends.

You're going to ask me why.

You're going to cry, I already know you are, and I feel like such a bastard because I'm going to be the one that makes you cry, because I can't give you what you want. I can't be safe. Not if you're in that kind of danger.

You're going to ask me why.

'Why are you going to fight him? You don't have to fight him over me. I don't want you to get hurt again, not like before.'

You're going to beg me to tell you why I'm going to fight that monster, and I won't be able to. It's not just because I love you. It's not because I think you need to be protected. Heh, Kami knows I know better than that. It's not because I'm afraid of your dark side or what Akuma could make it become. I told you before; that doesn't matter to me.

But that's not going to stop the fact that you're still going to ask me why, and I won't be able to explain it. I'm not that good with words.

I'm going to try right now, even though you're not awake to hear it, and even though it won't make any sense. I'm going to tell you why I'm going to fight a battle for you that I'm not sure I can win.

Chapter 54: Because I Choose To


Sakura's eyes opened up after her face had taken enough of a beating from the glare of the sun for her tastes. Holding an arm over her tired orbs, she winced upon trying to roll onto her side. She swore, she'd heard the strangest muffled, garbled words in her sleep.

She could only remember making out bits and pieces, not nearly enough to put together whatever the speaker had been saying. They helped her sleep like a baby though, even though she felt like a mess.

Wait…

Everything on her body being sore and her head ringing like a bell: check.

Weird sterile smell: check.

Weird robe that was way too thin to be anything that she owned and would ever wear to bed: check.

And let's not forget the bed. Way more rigid and less roomier than her beloved, broken-in, and much more spacious mattress at home: check.

All of those things coupled together made it unanimously obvious where she was. The place that was the bane of her best friend's existence and the place that he made it a constant personal goal of his to never wind up in except in only the direst of circumstances.

The local hospital.

Sakura didn't share the yellow-headed young man's distaste for medical establishments, but she wasn't necessarily a fan of being a patient inside of them either. It usually meant that she'd screwed up and gotten hurt whenever she was. And she remembered just what she'd done to get herself so badly beaten up in the first place.

Her dark side with the hair-trigger temper when it came to he-who-she-adored picked a fight with the biggest baddest dog in the yard, that yard being the entire world, and paid a hefty physical price for it.

Dark Sakura cashed a check with her fists that her more docile side was paying off at the moment with her own pain and discomfort.

Turning her head to the side, a soft smile came to her face, seeing Naruto sitting in a chair right by her bed, elbow posted on the arm of it, chin posted on his fist as he slept. So he'd stuck around for her all night, and the doctors had let him stay.

Probably because he had been a patient of his own, if only for a little while. His face had a few bandages on it of his own. And where was his shirt? Sakura took a few seconds admiring quietly how hard Naruto had to work to get himself that defined before her brain finished turning on for the morning.

That was right. Last night he'd gotten into a fight with Ryu when Sakura had sensed him. Her attempt to find them and put a stop to a fight she felt was getting very serious wound up with her and Akuma tearing apart an entire neighborhood. So embarrassing…

Sakura reached out a hand and gently brushed it through Naruto's hair, blocking a giggle when she heard him softly snort in his sleep at the feeling of getting his spikes tousled, "You're so silly sometimes Naruto," She said quietly before her smile grew smaller, but no less heartfelt, "…I'm not afraid you know. Not of my Satsui no Hadou. If I still love you while I'm under it as much as I do right now, it can't be evil."

Just dark. Just intense. Misunderstood perhaps. But it wasn't pure evil power. Evil didn't love. Evil couldn't love.

No, the Satsui no Hadou wasn't necessarily evil. It was the motivation that spawned that power to manifest in people that determined if it was evil or not. It was simply the purest form of personal desire imaginable, and it drove one's body and mind to do anything it needed to in order to obtain that desire, whatever it may be.

Still asleep, Naruto leaned his head into her hand, and Sakura contented herself with lazily stroking Naruto's cheek closest to her. Honestly she could have spent the entire day in such a way. Only much closer to him, in his arms perhaps.

Yeah, that sounded good. And from experience, it was.

The door to the room flew open and through it, Ibuki rushed over to the bed, "Sakura-chan, are you alright!?" She cried out almost hysterically, jolting Naruto awake and causing him to slam the back of his head against the wall. Having recognized what Sakura had been doing before she entered, Ibuki just gave her a stern look in jest, "Moving in on my man are you?"

"He's yours like Bison is the envoy for world peace," Sakura said in rebuttal.

Ibuki smiled a worried smile and took Sakura's hands into hers, "Seriously, are you okay? I saw the place where it happened. Good God," Imagine rolling into town for school and seeing the neighborhood right by your high school where you knew your best friends lived torn to hell.

On the plus side, even though school had been canceled because of the incident they'd already taken their year-end exams so there was that.

"I'm fine," Sakura assured her, wincing as she tried and failed to sit up, "Well, not fine, but I'm as well off as I have any right to be. I could have ended up like Naruto did last year, or worse."

"No," Naruto said, suddenly attracting the full attention of the girls to him, "You wouldn't have ended up like that. Akuma wants you for… well, he just wants you."

Sakura set her hand on Naruto's arm, seeing how much he didn't want to even think about it, let alone say it to her, "Naruto, I know what he wants me for," Ibuki didn't though, so she explained it to her, "Akuma wants to turn me into someone like him, a fighter lost to the Satsui no Hadou, so he can fight a battle he can enjoy. He'll take me away, and train me just so I can try to kill him."

"That's sick!" Ibuki exclaimed, "Just… no!" Ibuki felt that Dark Sakura was scary enough as it was. For someone to want to turn Sakura into something worse than that, it was horrible to think about, "Sakura-chan, we've got to take you somewhere. You can hide in my village if you want."

The Glade of Ninjas was a secure place. Naruto was the only outsider who knew where it was, and technically he wasn't even an outsider because he was a ninja as well.

Sakura frowned and shook her head, "It's okay, I wouldn't ask you to break any traditions for me," And that wouldn't work anyway. He found her because he could scope out the Satsui no Hadou in her… at least she thought so, "If I hide he'll just go after Naruto, and then anyone else he has to just to find me,"

"He won't have to look very far to find me," Naruto said, glaring out into space, "If that dried-up red tampon wants a piece of me he can come and get it. I'll beat his teeth flat if he thinks he's gonna put another hand on Sakura-chan."

As a matter of fact he was wasting time sitting there and talking. He needed a game plan, he needed to train, and he needed to start now. Everything he did for the World Warrior Tournament was nothing compared to what he knew he'd have to do to himself now.

Sakura opened her mouth and reached out to grab him to stop him, but Ibuki just stopped her and shook her head until Naruto had left the room, "I know Naruto usually listens to the things you say, but there's no way he's going to back off."

"But why?" Sakura knew that Naruto knew that taking on Akuma was a horrible idea. She didn't want anyone to fight that monster, least of all him, "He'll just get hurt!"

Ibuki flicked Sakura right in the middle of the forehead, eliciting a yelp from her, "You know what's in Naruto's heart. You should be the first person to know why," Getting hurt or killed didn't matter to Naruto whatsoever. As far as deterrents went, it was the weakest one a person could use against him, "Even if we all tell him not to fight the freak that did this to you, he's still going to."

"I hate that about him," Sakura muttered, only to be met with a knowing smile and a shake of the head from her kunoichi friend.

"No you don't," Ibuki assured her with a pat on the thigh. She knew better. Sakura only sighed and set herself back on her hospital bed to stare grumpily up at the ceiling, "Come on. Let's get a doctor to check you out so we can get you home."

XxX

(Saikyou-Ryuu Dojo)

The sound of Dan's forehead palming was positively epic. He'd come home from a quick excursion to check on the interest of his dojos in other towns and he returned to this? After hearing the story he'd heard, for once he was actually 100% on Uzumaki's side in something. Hell had officially frozen over.

Honestly, he would have tried to slug Ryu himself if he thought the punch would have actually had a chance at landing.

"You're fucking remedial, you know that?" Dan said to Ryu who was wearing bandages covering the pretty rugged-looking injuries he'd gotten the previous night in his little spat with Naruto, "I don't blame the kid. If I were him and I thought I could have gotten away with it the way he can I would have put your head through a windshield."

"I think he might have tried that actually…" Ryu muttered, "But why doesn't he understand?"

Dan shook his head, "It's not that he doesn't understand, because he probably does. It's who you're talking about that makes it impossible to stomach. He's the kind of kid that'll reject whatever reality you're throwing at him if he thinks he's got what it takes to make things better."

In a way it was admirable. Never say die, and always keep your feet pushing forward to get to what you wanted or prove what you'd set out to prove. Really. It was a rugged way to live one's life. Unfortunately Ryu was the same way in a certain regard. Once he had his mind set on something it wasn't going to change.

It was like the unstoppable force of stubborn headbutting the immovable object right in the face. Which one would back down, and just how much pushing would it take to make it happen?

"You'd have been better off trying to tongue kiss a pit viper than take one of those girls from him," Dan insisted, "You think you're going to tell him to just cut bait and drop Sakura like a bad habit? Have you been paying attention to what that kid's willing to do for any single one of them?"

"I haven't been around much. Is it really that considerable?" Ryu said, wondering just what Dan was alluding to. From the jaw-dropped look on the purple gi-clad entrepreneur's face apparently he'd asked the wrong thing.

Dan didn't know where to start. Perhaps he'd start with Naruto deigning to take on Shadaloo out of revenge for Ibuki and smoothly transition into Naruto taking in amnesiac Cammy as a permanent roommate after she'd helped him prevent Bison from holding the world hostage with a satellite death laser?

Nah. Maybe he'd start smaller with explaining how Naruto started trying to become the best fighter in the world only because the Kanzuki girl wanted him to live up to the potential that she knew he had inside? That had certainly manifested itself in kind back during the damn tournament hadn't it?

Dan didn't even want to think about getting into the whole S.I.N. thing. Naruto literally ripped a creature's stomach out to get one of those girls back. He was glad that he'd never actually been present for any of these little episodes because they all sounded like horrible experiences.

"I don't know how much of this crap is exaggerated or not," Dan admitted, as he hadn't exactly tagged along on any of these damned suicide missions. He had seen the tournament though until the worldwide feed had cut out, and that was enough for him to believe in, "But if it's all legit, Uzumaki would move a mountain for those girls."

"That's a little exaggeratory isn't it?" Ryu asked. The spirit of the fight was all someone should have needed to reach new heights of strength. It was what had broken him out of Bison's control in Thailand after all. The fight with Sagat made him wake up.

Dan shook his head, "No, you don't get it. The kid literally moved a mountain for one of those girls," He said, pulling out his phone, "Ken Masters tweeted a picture of himself standing by the mountain that Uzumaki had his fight under and in front of. There's pictures of that same mountain from a distance before they went to Las Vegas. Now there's big chunks of it missing and it isn't in the same place anymore."

And indeed, Dan showed Ryu the picture of the Spring Mountains from before and then Ken's picture from after. Out of the entire range, one peak in particular was horribly warped and off-kilter from the original shot.

He couldn't believe it. That level of power was reached by a person that didn't see fighting to be the best as the end-all reason for doing it. That flew in the face of everything Ryu had lived his life for.

…Could Ryu have done the same without tapping into it?

He'd used a mountain face as a target for practice with his most destructive techniques, but no matter how many times he fired his most powerful Hadoken he never fully demolished or moved the mountain. Driving himself past what he felt his limits were in his bid to achieve true mastery hadn't netted him the same results as a seventeen year-old kid fighting for whatever it was he fought for.

Was it acceptance? Was it love? Those attachments would always keep a martial artist from fully dedicating themselves to the art itself. They were distractions that would take away from your development.

Without warning, Ryu just turned to leave the dojo altogether, much to Dan's confusion, "Oi, where are you going?"

"To train," Ryu said simply before leaving the building and walking the streets.

Dan just stared after him before shaking his head, "Is that the guy's answer to everything?" He said to himself. With the way Ryu was, no one would see hide nor hair of him for weeks due to him heading to some remote location for his isolated training. All in all it was probably for the best at the moment, "…At least he won't leave the country yet."

XxX

(Elsewhere in Aohura City – Naruto's Neighborhood)

Cammy was a smart girl. She knew full well that someone Naruto was wary of wasn't particularly someone she could hope to defeat. Still, that didn't make want to punch Akuma in the face any less than she did upon hearing seeing the disaster area that her quaint little neighborhood had become overnight.

She wasn't normally one to get angry, but she was quite attached to her little home now. She loved Aohura City, and seeing the view of all of the wrecked town blocks from the roof of the apartment building she shared with Naruto left her quite miffed. She couldn't even focus on training properly because of it.

Sakura was somewhat responsible as well, but Cammy couldn't hold her place in the destruction against her. It had been Sakura's dark side, but even if she hadn't turned it on and had fought Akuma she was certain that a comparable level of destruction would have come from a man like that anyway. He'd destroyed the arena in Tokyo after all.

"…Master didn't go to school today, and he left the hospital, so where is he?" Cammy complained to herself, idly musing that if Naruto heard her call him 'master' he would be rather cross with her. She couldn't help it though. The stronger he seemed to get and the more she seemed to recognize it, the stronger the call was for her to refer to him as such, "I have very little to do during the day,"

She needed a distraction at the moment to keep from dwelling on the situation at hand. Abel was out job hunting, so she couldn't go and visit her 'brother' to take her mind off of things.

Naruto called her from the hospital, but he hadn't called since early in the morning and she knew for damn certain that school was canceled. Aohura City usually didn't budge when freaky superpowered things happened within its limits, but those things hadn't outright wrecked several blocks of residential area right by the high school before.

As long as he wasn't out trolling for Ryu. She had an ill feeling about the thought of Naruto and Ryu having it out for real. The man couldn't accept losing to his own best friend who trained by his side for their entire lives, so how would he react in fighting Naruto and steadily finding himself on the short end of that stick?

She shook her head at the thought. There was no chance that Ryu could defeat Naruto now if things were deadly serious. He was just too strong. Naruto wasn't the same as he'd been even six months prior during the Second World Warrior Tournament. If Ryu was basing their respective abilities off of that, he'd be in for a rude awakening.

Speaking of one of the devils, Cammy caught sight of Naruto darting across the rooftops on the way to the apartment. And here he said he didn't traverse the neighborhood that way normally, "Welcome home ma-, Naruto."

Naruto heard her near slip of the tongue but didn't pay it any mind. She was cute and he was mentally occupied, so he'd let the master stuff slide that time around. Even so, he couldn't help but smile a bit when she seemed to be excited to see him, "Hey Cam."

He had to lean back out of the way when Cammy got up on her toes to check his face over. Finding that he'd mostly healed from what he told her had happened last night, she figured that she wouldn't have to try and bludgeon Ryu to a pulp the next time she saw him, "I'm happy that you're alright. But why do you seem so sad?"

Naruto frowned and reached out a hand to stroke Cammy's scarred cheek, "I'm not. I'm just thinking," He said, as Cammy shut her eyes and calmly leaned into his touch, "…Cam, the guy that took on Sakura-chan, I'm gonna fight him," Her blue eyes snapped open in alarm.

But, when he'd called her he'd told her that Akuma had been the one to hurt Sakura. Akuma, the person that had hurt Naruto worse than he'd ever been hurt in his life.

Naruto could see in Cammy's bright eyes that she was wary of such a course of action to say the least. He couldn't blame her. He wasn't all that excited about it either, but he had a month. He just had to figure out what exactly he could do within that timespan to ensure he had a better chance at victory than he had at the moment.

Cammy wanted to say something, but she already knew that words would be futile. She didn't possess the range of vocabulary or the range of emotion it would have taken to make a person like Naruto reconsider. She didn't even know enough to realize that she was scared at the thought of Naruto fighting Akuma again, but for some reason the need to hug Naruto was greater than anything else.

"I understand," Cammy said, sinking her face into Naruto's chest, "I'll help you," For some reason when she told him that, his arms wrapped around her tighter than they had been at first, "…Naruto?"

"I don't want you anywhere nearby when that fight starts," Naruto choked out to her, "I don't want anybody anywhere near him or me when it happens."

"You said that I was free, and that I could do anything I wanted," Cammy said, pulling back away from Naruto, "Well I want to help! I don't like seeing you or anyone else I care about getting hurt! Do you think that it's easy for me or anyone else to just watch you, even if we're aware that you're beyond us in strength?"

He didn't. The girls were empathetic in their own respective ways. It just never occurred to him that it hurt them to watch him fight and to see the things that he was willing to put his body through for whatever reason he fought for at any given time, even if it was for them. All he saw was that he won or lost, or that he saved or protected something.

"No one can match what you can do with raw power," Cammy continued to say, "…Maybe I was able to fight alongside you once, when I fought Bison with you, but I can't remember that time and it doesn't matter anyway," She'd long since considered her lost memory unimportant. If Naruto didn't care, if no one else cared, she didn't care, "I want to be with you, no matter what that means."

"Cammy…" Naruto said, feeling awful as he could see unshed tears gathering in her eyes. He'd never seen that happen to her before. She wasn't supposed to, "Please don't cry."

"I don't know how to cry," Cammy said, wiping at her eyes and examining the moisture on her finger, "I don't remember it ever happening before. Is this what that's supposed to feel like?"

"…Oh Cam," It was all Naruto could say as he pulled her back in. She simply melted into the hug, without hesitation. She deserved to be somewhere doing something safe, and she deserved the chance to have anything she wanted. People weren't supposed to be this pure, "You're so sweet. You're really too good to be stuck with me."

"Don't say silly things," Cammy said, resting against Naruto and letting him fully support her as he stroked the back of her hair, "I've been all over the world, done all sorts of things, and met all kinds of people because of you. I even met my brother. And I still wouldn't want to be anywhere else."

The thought of letting anyone else fight Akuma chilled Naruto to his core. Even all together, all of his friends, what would they be able to do? But in the same vein, what would he be able to do, especially by himself? A lot had changed from the first time they'd met, true enough, but he'd never even seen anything hurt Akuma, so how would he know if it was enough or if he was in reach of getting to what he needed?

"You could finish the technique we were working on for one," Naruto heard the Kyuubi say inside of him, "If you trust me enough to use the process that I told you about, it could be the greatest weapon you could have in a battle with that person."

'If you're still up for the training, I'm still up for doing it,' Naruto thought, 'I just have one question,' He asked, his face stony and grave to reflect his thoughts on the current issue.

It seemed like the most important question Naruto would ever ask from the sound of things, "What is it?"

'Can I stop Sasuke's Kirin with this jutsu?' Dead silence reigned throughout Naruto's head for almost a full minute before a gigantic sigh sounded out.

"…Seriously?" His own life and the future of his best friend were at stake, and that was a factor in his enthusiasm in learning a technique that had the potential to negate Akuma's most powerful technique. The thought of such a thing really answered Naruto's stupid question in of itself.

'You have no idea how important hearing you say yes is right now,' Naruto added seriously.

The Kyuubi wanted to run its head into the walls… if the inside of the seal cell it was imprisoned had them, "Theoretically… yes," It would have been literally catching a lightning bolt the size of a skyscraper out of the air, but if Naruto was swift enough to initiate the technique with perfect timing before it hit him... "You could redirect it and shoot him in the ass with it if you were actually good enough."

'That's seriously the best thing I've heard since I woke up,' Naruto grinned, honestly meaning that, which was just a reflection of how poorly his day had been going. A stray thought hit him out of left field however, 'But I thought you wanted this place to burn, or whatever.'

"It's by far the lesser of two evils. I've said it before, I would rather remain here than return to our world where humans constantly hunted me for my power," Kyuubi explained, "It's peaceful here… by comparison."

'Yeah,' Naruto agreed, calmly rocking with his little Doll in his arms, '…It is.'

XxX

(Hours Later)

The last person Sakura had expected to pick her up at the hospital that day was Karin.

Yes, they were no longer worst enemies, yes they no longer fought with each other like cats and dogs, and yes they were both openly friends, but even so, having Karin come all the way out from her mansion grounds simply to ferry Sakura home to her quaint neighborhood didn't seem like something that she would do.

It wasn't until they actually reached Sakura's neighborhood that she realized why Karin had done this.

She wanted to see just what had happened there for herself. She wanted to look at what Akuma (and Sakura as well) could do with that horrible power. Seeing the aftermath on the news wasn't the same thing as being there in-person to look upon it oneself.

Karin's brown eyes peered out of the tinted windows of her limousine at the ruined buildings and streets that Shibazaki skillfully navigated them past. They hadn't gotten close to clearing the streets yet.

As she stared, she looked to be so deep in thought, so utterly preoccupied. Sakura didn't say a word, as if disturbing the tranquil thought of the wealthy girl was a capital offense.

'What could she be thinking about?' Sakura wondered to herself, fidgeting in the change of new clothes that Ibuki ran out to get for her shortly before she'd been cleared to leave the hospital. Eventually deciding to go for it, Sakura cleared her throat, barely registering Karin's attention, "Kanzuki-san?"

"Naruto-san is going to fight him isn't he?" Karin bluntly asked, eyes still looking out the window at everything they were passing by, "That monster of a man that hurt him so badly. He's going to take him on again. Am I wrong?"

Sakura opened her mouth, but didn't know how to answer. She knew how Karin felt about Naruto, so how in the world could she explain to her that the man she loved was going to fight the closest example of an invincible fighter that she'd ever stood against? Akuma hadn't even been trying against her, and she'd allowed her darker side to show without remorse.

"No," Sakura quietly said, "He is."

Karin let out an airy laugh that had absolutely no sense of humor behind it, "I cannot say that this surprises me, nor would I consider stopping him. I know better than to try, and it would be hypocritical of me to long for him to fight for me and expect him cower in the face of another battle."

"It wouldn't be cowering to not fight Akuma," Sakura reasoned, but she knew Karin was right. To expect Naruto to fight in one situation and then run away in another wasn't fair. It wasn't who he was, "…It doesn't have to be him."

Karin simply gave her a small smile that seemed to exude nothing but knowledge, no humor whatsoever, "Who else would be able to stand against such a person? Present company excluded of course?" She asked, fully aware Sakura had surpassed her quite some time ago. She had skill and ability, but that would only carry you so far against the raw power that their worst enemies had, "I do not have the benefit of an aggressive dark side with ki dense enough to strangle a tyrannosaurus."

Sakura blushed self-consciously but once again could not dispute the point, "So you're willing to let him, without even trying to stop him."

"He wants to fight, and I will give him anything his heart desires," Karin said, closing her eyes in a serene smile, "He probably does not even recall, but he has achieved the parameters of our original agreement. He has gone beyond them in fact. I never would have dreamed that he was as strong as he is."

"Agreement?"

"You do not remember either? That is surprising, considering you referred to it as a 'deal with the devil' at the time," Karin teased, "Two years ago, I told Naruto-san that should he become the most powerful fighter in Japan I would fund whatever endeavor he had been working so hard to achieve. He has long since achieved that goal."

Naruto was amongst the very best in the world. The top of the heap if one were to look at the opposition he had overcome in the past. There was only one level beyond what he was, and that was the level of the man he endeavored to fight in only a short time.

"I do not believe that he requires my money, even if he did desire it. Thus my amendment to our initial agreement," Karin said with a great sigh. Sakura had never heard her speak so candidly to her before, and it had her full attention, "He has no more use for the original compensation for achieving the potential that I knew he possessed. Therefore, I will give him anything within my power," No matter what that entailed.

In Karin's mind, she owed Naruto more than she could possibly repay him, even with the nigh-infinite resources she had at her disposal. It wasn't anything physically tangible that she wished to give him.

Well… not entirely anyway.

"It's just scary," Sakura admitted, wrapping her arms around herself, "I know we've dealt with these kinds of things before, but-."

"Never without someone older than us to tell us what to do?" Karin finished for her, nodding, "I understand."

Everyone had to grow up eventually, and even though their childhoods were odd, they had still been teenagers through most of their escapades and situations. There had always been someone older and wiser to coordinate for them.

Most youngsters came into their own as people and became comfortable in their own skin in the big, wide world by getting part-time jobs or paying off small bills such as their own cell phone charges. Most teenagers didn't have saving the world as their method of garnering a sense of responsibility. They were just lucky that way.

They'd never had the thought that something was too big for them to handle before, because there had never been any time to stop and think about just what it was they were getting into. Things needed to be done fast, and they were the ones in position to do them. It wasn't a matter of if they could or couldn't. They had been the only ones that could even try, so they had to.

Akuma had done them an injustice crueler than he'd probably thought of intentionally, because for once they had the time to sit and think about just what awaited them nearby down the road.

"Does it make me seem like a little kid to say that I wish the adults could handle this?" Sakura joked with a slight laugh. After it had come out of her mouth it had sounded so childish to say, "Akuma went after Ryu and Master Gouken first didn't he? He's their enemy. Do they even know what's happening?"

"I know nothing of this Gouken person's strength, but Ryu is not greater than Naruto-san. I believe you know this," The thought was almost laughable to Karin. And another thing was as well. Something that she had to touch on, as she needed to get this out in the open and over with, "…Sakura-san, I think I know the reasoning behind your past infatuation with Ryu."

"What?"

Karin didn't answer directly, instead choosing to do so with another question, "Would it be too forward of me to ask the whereabouts of your father?" She knew of course. Back in her obsessive 'win at all costs' days she'd done background checks on every fighter she figured she'd interact with, including Sakura.

She still did actually.

Frowning, Sakura didn't see why not. It wasn't some big secret. It just never came up. It wasn't important, "My parents divorced years ago when I was little. Tsukushi was still a toddler," Naruto never asked about it, but he knew simply by passing through despite the fact that it had happened years before they'd met, "It was awful when it happened, but I got over it, you know."

Maybe that was where the fighting came from? Getting interested in that took her mind off of her dad that she never saw. It let her forget about it all, and Naruto had a big part in making that happen. It seemed to come back to him in some way.

"Which explains Ryu," Karin said with a leering grin, "You were not in love with him. You were a fan of one of the best in the world, and when you first met him and he then took you on as something of a junior. When he gave you that much attention in one meeting and then left, you imprinted. It is a classic case of desiring the attention of your senpai, only more extreme in your case," Sakura's eyes went wide at the deduction, "A replacement for a strong male figure that departed before you truly needed him in your life."

Sakura just stared at her silently for several seconds, eliciting a shrug out of the heiress, "How do you figure that? Do you have your own stuff with your dad?"

If any girl knew something about having a few daddy issues and admitting it, it would likely be Karin.

"Well… yes, but also no. I believe that my own issues have nothing to do with the nature of your turmoil," Karin said with a red-faced cough, "…It benefits you to have knowledge of basic human psychology when your aim in life is business. It also makes stark realizations about yourself that much more evident."

"I…" Sakura tried to speak before eventually giving up on trying to say anything to the contrary altogether, "…Since when did we become this good of friends?" Really, they used to dislike each other with great intensity. It was strange.

"I would say that falling in love with the same idiot gave us a fairly good base to build from oddly enough."

Speaking of whom, Sakura hadn't seen Naruto since that morning and Karin hadn't heard from him since the trouble of the previous evening. Where was he?

XxX

(Industrial District – Training Junkyard)

The trials and tribulations of being taught a technique by another person that had already mastered it was absolutely nothing compared to the bitter work that came with creating something from scratch. Naruto had done this several times in the past, but most of the time when he had come up with something it was usually just a creative method of brute-forcing chakra.

What the Kyuubi was insisting that he learn was the antithesis of everything that he'd ever tried before. The amount of power he could put behind something didn't matter. The strength of his chakra meant nothing. It was pure technique, timing, and quickness.

There was no forcing his way through this.

"You have to redirect it immediately," The Kyuubi instructed Naruto as he seemed to be practicing the perfect motion he'd need to do just that. It was almost like a kata, "If I reverse your chakra flow without resetting it instantly after you take in the energy of your opponent, you'll explode."

"Great," Naruto deadpanned, feeling completely weird at being coached through something by a gigantic fox, "What if you reset my chakra but I don't redirect it?"

"Then you'll wish you'd exploded. But it doesn't matter," The hell it didn't! But Naruto listened regardless as it was clear that the Kyuubi wasn't finished, "You have to save it anyway. It's only going to catch that man off-guard once," Akuma was a royal son of a bitch, but thinking that the man wasn't a genius of combat was the single dumbest mistake any breathing human being could ever make, "You need to push him to his limit. Force him to fire his absolute best attack at you, and don't use this jutsu before he does. It's the only way to ensure you kill him with it."

So it was an all-or-nothing sort of move. Well that was right up Naruto's alley, even if he wasn't excited about it.

"Can't I just kill him the old-fashioned way?" As in with a big, honking Rasengan right to the grill, or by beating the ever-loving daylights out of him until he stopped moving? That tended to solve the majority of Naruto's problems.

"To be frank? I don't think you can go head-to-head with him in a real battle of attrition, even if you split control with your dark side for six-tails," Kyuubi said, batting its tails around in Naruto's mind while thinking, "…You may be able to go up to eight using this method. Maybe. But you won't have the presence of mind in the slightest to fight with any sort of strategy, let alone remain aware enough to redirect any attack that comes your way."

Eight tails. That was… a lot. But it was just one step away from all nine. What if…

"Hey, I know it's an uneven number so I'd be unbalanced with my dark side, but could I use all nine?"

"Not without taking off the seal. And that's the honest truth. There is no other way that I'm privy to," The Kyuubi said, "Your blasted people didn't exactly share to me the secrets of their reality-altering sealing technique before they imprisoned me within them."

'Pssht. Point taken,' As time dragged on, Naruto felt a motion for the counterattack coming through smoother and smoother, bringing a smile to his face as he repeated the action for hours and hours. Every time he did he'd send Kyuubi a mental cue to switch the directional flow of his chakra.

Time slipped away from him. He normally hated doing something so monotonous in practice. He preferred when his training involved explosions and action. Today there was no room for that sort of short-minded thinking. He needed to focus. He needed to be able to do this when he had no energy left. When he could hardly stand. He wanted to catch himself sleepwalking and doing the technique.

In this instance, the juice would be well worth the squeeze.

So engrossed was Naruto, that he hardly noticed a feeling that he had only sensed in Brazil taking a place watching him atop the hood of one of the junkyard cars. Oro's red eyes watched with interest, as if he were viewing a show on TV.

This was the most interesting child he'd ever seen. Out of the group of students that had gone down to Brazil, he knew that Naruto was the strongest without even feeling his full power or seeing him fight, and he had seen him fight against Ryu.

'He's self-taught…' Oro realized with great intigue, 'It's obvious from everything about him. From how he moves in battle, to the way he's trying to teach himself whatever he's doing now. This is how someone that already knows the process of building something from scratch would practice.'

Naruto had gotten as far as had gotten by himself, and he hadn't hit the unbreakable ceiling yet. It was very intriguing.

"What are you doing boy?" The sight of Naruto almost jumping out of his skin was enough to drive Oro to senile-sounding laughter, "I didn't scare you did I?"

"Where the fuck did you come from!?" Naruto shouted at the top of his lungs.

"Brazil," Oro replied in a smart-aleck manner, "But if you want to get technical, I came from here first, then moved to Brazil, then I came back here because you kids amused me."

The first instinct that Naruto had whenever he was put in a situation akin to being snuck up on was to save face by running his mouth. It was the easiest way to let himself know that his screw-up hadn't gotten him killed, the fact that he could still hear the stupid things he chose to say.

But this time he just didn't have it in him. He didn't feel like it. There were more important things to worry about than goofing around. He could try and have fun after pending doom was no longer looming over his and his best friend's heads.

"Old man, I've got work to do," Naruto said, turning his attention back to his training. If the old fart still wanted to talk, Naruto could tune him out. Eventually he'd have to use that move on someone shooting energy blasts with enough power to wipe half of a city off of the map, so having some weird hermit yap at him wasn't much of a distraction by comparison, "What do you want? And why'd you even follow us here?"

Oro didn't answer, instead he continued observing Naruto, even as the sun eventually set behind them. The dark didn't stop Naruto at all. He didn't need to see to work through the motions. Oro couldn't help the small wry smile that came to his face, 'So he can choose whether he wants to play stand-up comedian or executioner.'

Naruto's eyes moved over to Oro every so often. What did he want with him? If he thought he was just going to show up and steal his technique Sasuke-style… well that would have actually been pretty impressive to do; reverse-engineer a move that he hadn't even mastered yet. That sounded like what Sakura did with Ryu's techniques.

The golden-skinned martial artist's reason for watching Naruto was simple. He was fascinating. He knew Naruto was preparing for something big, and there was something about the young man that just screamed out that he was a special sort.

His strength could have been heard through the words he'd spoken to that ninja girl when she'd tried to fight against him on his mountain. The conviction and care he had for her when she seemed to doubt herself, it was stronger than tempered steel.

Plus, he'd already handed that stick in mud Gouken's golden boy a punch to the face for setting him off, which put the blond as alright in his book to begin with. More importantly than anything else though, he could tell from watching him and seeing how he interacted with those girls, and even his friends around town.

Naruto got it. He got that fighting just for the sake of getting into a fight and being the best wasn't enough. You would never be the most powerful if that was your mindset. Your reason for improving and surviving harrowing battles had to go beyond the concept of just doing it because, otherwise your abilities would plateau.

You needed something beyond the desire to win for the sake of winning to truly be a powerful fighter. To have a reason to excel past simply being great, that was what separated the greats from the absolute best.

'And to think…' Oro thought to himself as Naruto trained into the night. He definitely wasn't bored any longer, '…I gave up on any fighter ever becoming anything special after my generation ended.'

XxX

(Meanwhile – Elsewhere – Genhanten)

As loathe as Sasuke was to have a new 'employee' at his restaurant and in Gen's assassin-for-hire work, he had to admit that having Abel around had its benefits. For one thing, he didn't have to spend as much time taking missions and could focus on his training, for another thing. That went hand-in-hand perfectly with Gen seemingly never leaving the restaurant, so Sasuke didn't even have to stick around to manage its day-to-day operations.

He had all the time to himself that he wanted, and with other people being busy these days for various reasons, he didn't have to deal with the idiocy of his 'friends'.

All he had to deal with was one crusty, old contract-killer, who seemed to know whenever he was home, because there was no other discernible reason that Gen would be walking the upstairs halls at the same time as him.

"How was your training?" Gen asked his unwilling pupil curiously.

"Fine," Sasuke grumbled, wanting to punch a hole in that old sack of crap's face more than he wanted to converse civilly with him. He simply walked past him on the way to his room for the night. There was no way he was going to hang around long enough for Gen to pull any info out of him on-.

"And your date with that motorcycle girl?"

Damn his dusty old bones to the ninth circle of hell.

"It wasn't a date," Sasuke said, hands coolly shoved into his pockets as he moved forward. He wasn't going to turn around. Wasn't willing to give him the satisfaction of blowing up at him. To hell with Naruto being the most annoying, being around Gen literally made Sasuke openly contemplate murder.

"An outing with a young woman who clearly fancies you and who you obviously don't detest from the amount of time you spend with her as opposed to every other human being on Earth," Gen said in a manner of speaking reserved for children and idiots, "Yes boy, it was what you kids so commonly refer to as a date."

"Just do the world a favor and die already you miserable bastard!" Sasuke shouted at him before continuing on to his room, "Jump off of the highest skyscraper you can find, cut your wrists, and bite a cyanide tablet on the way down!"

Gen brought out the bloodlust in Sasuke like no one else. It was simply too easy, as the man who tormented him into improving as a thirteen year-old boy, to make Sasuke react violently to anything that he did.

"The skyscraper and the slitting wrists wouldn't kill me by the way," Gen quipped one last time, getting a visible recoil of anger and hatred out of Sasuke before he slammed his door shut. Giving a chuckle at rousing his protégé, Gen headed up to the roof, his hands tucked into his long sleeves, "Sorry to keep you waiting. It's becoming a bit of a habit for your types to try and confront me on rooftops."

He joked, but the serious expression of Gouken showed that he was in no mood for any of it. He had a bone to pick and he wanted to get to the bottom of it.

"You sent him to her. Why would you do such a thing?" Gouken bluntly asked his fellow elder martial artist. Beating around the bush would do no one any good. Sure, Gen belief in killing flew directly in the face of Gouken's martial arts philosophy, but they were still equals in regards to their status, "You know Akuma will do, both to that Naruto boy and to Sakura."

"Maybe it's because I enjoy chaos? Maybe it's because I haven't been amused in quite some time? Maybe it's because I'm just a miserable old man, bitter that his time is over," His expression then changed and killing intent permeated the area, "Or maybe it's because the boy has the heart to do what you should have done over a decade ago when you were still able; put that creature out of its misery before he destroys the world!" Gen said with a sharp glare in his eyes before softening back up with a smirk, "…Or maybe it's none of the above. Either way, my reasons are my own and what's done is done."

"You're playing a dangerous game with the lives of children."

"If you're putting it that way, most games are a substitute for war anyway. I'm simply cutting out any pretenses here."

"And if he dies and she becomes Akuma's?"

At Gouken's query, Gen merely shrugged his shoulders. That was the best he was going to get out of the shifty old assassin.

A fight in a city between the two of them would be too dangerous for the surrounding populace, and aside from that Gouken was too old to have such a temper, "By the time you realize what you've done, I can only hope you're in a position to assist me on the matter. When the moment comes, you'll do the right thing."

"I love those moments," Gen said, lifting a hand and waving goodbye at Gouken, "I like to wave as they pass by."

The message was clear, 'We are not the same, and those children mean nothing to me.'

What they represented meant infinitely more than who they actually were as far as Gen was concerned. Gouken had no ally here, that much was starkly evident, 'Then it will fall to me to try my hand at this matter on my own.'

Gen didn't budge as Gouken wordlessly left his domain. Scoffing as he felt the void presence of the powerful grandmaster moving farther away, "Feh…"

As a stubborn old man, Gen was incorrigible. When this reared its ugly head he would present Gouken no help on the matter of solving the issue. Whether he was right or wrong meant nothing to Gen. The die had already been cast, and he would see it out until the end, even if it meant the end of one life and the ruin of several others.

That was how he was; entirely inflexible. He would follow his own actions to the bitter end, no matter what. Pleading words of the weak were worthless in coercing him, as were the conviction-filled words of the strong.

He took a single step away when he realized through nearly unbridled anger that he and Gouken had not been alone, 'He was able to hide his presence from someone even as sensitive as Gouken? And with that sort of killing intent as well?'

Impressive, but he didn't let Sasuke know that. The boy wouldn't have given a damn if he'd impressed Gen anyway. He never had before, and with what he knew now more than likely being the cause of his rage he probably wouldn't start anytime soon.

"You really did that?" Sasuke asked, flexing out his fingers as if he were a mere hair away from charging a Chidori. Sure, he didn't necessarily like Sakura, and Naruto could get into a fight with anyone he damn well pleased, but still-, "I'm the only one who gets to watch him die."

"Well look at it this way. No matter what you're in over your head," Gen said, knowingly taunting Sasuke subtly, "If the boy does die, you're too weak to kill Akuma for being the one to end him. If the boy lives, you'll know that he's too powerful for you to defeat, since Akuma would squash you like an insect," Gen said with a scoff as he walked away to his quarters, "You children never try to amount to anything unless someone else pushes you to."

"I'm going to kill you."

"Yes, I know. I hear it so often from you that I can mark calendars by it."

"No, I mean it," Sasuke said, stopping Gen in his tracks from the timbre in the young man's voice. It wasn't the normal jerk-knee petulant rage that he associated with Sasuke's reactions to him, "You do have a bit of a point. I was getting soft here. I like this town," After that admission he hesitated to admit something one step further that Gen would have never expected, "I… actually like being around Akira. But…"

"But what?"

"But I just remembered something," The misplaced Uchiha said, his voice eerily calm, "I just remembered more than anything else why you really, really piss me off," Sasuke spat distastefully, "Some decisions aren't yours to make, especially when they involve other people's lives. That's been a problem for as long as I've known you."

"Well I've told you the only time that people like you can make decisions over people like me," Gen said, baiting the hook one last time, "The new generation has to supplant the old if they ever want any say in how things work."

Sasuke didn't say anything until Gen reached the bottom of the stairs, "I don't care about that 'generations' crap. That's why I never listened to you when you said anything about it. I'm not killing you because you're a miserable, immoral fuck. I don't care about that. I'm not killing you because I want a say in the future of the underworld, or the future of martial arts. I don't have any overreaching agenda for it at all. I'm going to kill you because I always swore I would. Because I don't like you. Because I have a need to kill you, you old son of a bitch."

Gen advanced onward down the stairs, not letting Sasuke hear his final murmur as he retired to his room for the night, "Good."

XxX

(The Next Night – Naruto's Apartment)

With no school, and no requirement to any longer adhere to the strict limitations of the Glade of Ninjas on her activities, Ibuki was free to come and go and do as she pleased. Knowing that Naruto was going to fight Akuma only made her that much more determined to do something to help in some capacity, much like Cammy.

She couldn't help him defeat the self-proclaimed master of the fist. Massive breakthrough during her training to fight Oro aside, she'd be of no serious help and she knew it.

In the meantime, the company of the people she knew in Aohura City was nice, and if all else failed she'd have had time to come up with a contingency plan to help Sakura just in case things went south. Thus, she was a welcome guest at Naruto's apartment.

"-And that's what we've got going on in our hemisphere," Ibuki said, sitting with her back against a tub in summer civilian clothes, her toes tapping off of the tiles on the floor as she spoke to one of their adult friends on her phone. Her pet tanuki Don chirped in her lap, "So… what's new with you?"

"He's going to motherfucking WHAT!?"

Ibuki held her cell phone away from her ear at the extremely loud shout she'd gotten from their American friend on the other end of the line. Even Don winced painfully, "You heard me Ken. You can't change his mind, and he's already getting prepared for it so-."

"Is he around? Can you put him on for me?"

"Sure," Ibuki said. She had been in the bathroom right along with Naruto while he'd been in the tub. Normally she'd have been all for playing with him and trying to share a bath and/or shower with him, but not the one that he was taking, "I don't know why you wanted me to call him, but he wants to talk to you now."

Sitting in the tub behind her, Naruto shivered heavily as flows of ice stuck out of the water around him. His best efforts were spent trying to control his body's involuntary attempts to warm itself up while he tried to focus his mind. Aside from that, he heard something about ice baths being good to help muscles recover after extreme training.

He severely underestimated just how damnably miserable ice baths were, but since he'd made the decision to start

Ibuki held up the phone to Naruto's ear as he tried to get his teeth to stop chattering, "Y-Y-Y-Yeah? W-What's up Ken?"

"I'm thinking of catching a flight to Japan to break my foot off in your ass, but my wife is pregnant so I'm just going to stay here and bitch at you over the phone."

"So I'll get Ibuki to hang up and turn her phone off," Naruto reasoned, "I'm not even in the room with either my phones so I don't care if you call 'em."

"Then I'll do it over Twitter."

"I d-don't have one!"

"So? I'll make you one myself just to bitch at you on it!" Ken shouted ludicrously at Naruto, "What's the matter with you? You don't fight AKUMA! There's one rule to follow as a friend of mine; don't fight Akuma! I wouldn't even try fighting him now, and I was all for that a few years ago!"

Ken had a wife and a child on the way to worry about. He couldn't afford to feel the kind of hate necessary to go off and hunt for someone like Akuma, especially since the master he thought Akuma had killed had only been taking some kind of martial arts hibernation. But when he had seen Akuma 'kill' Gouken, he'd never felt anger like it in his life.

Thus he was entire able to understand why Naruto chose to fight Akuma mere moments after hearing why.

"He wants to take Sakura-chan because of the Satsui no Hadou," Naruto said, "If I can't beat him, he'll take her and make her just like him."

The blonde hotel tycoon promptly shut his mouth after hearing that. His tone changed considerably, "What can I do kid?" There was no way he was going to let a girl as sweet as Sakura get taken away to be corrupted by that monster, "Seriously. Say the word. Whatever you need."

Naruto and Ibuki looked at each other, coming to an agreement on what was to be said. He wasn't coming to Japan to fight him. They weren't going to let him. He had a child on the way, and as two orphans they weren't about to allow the chance of that to happen to the progeny of any of their friends.

"Naruto's probably going to need help training for a style close to yours, but that's it," Ibuki said in Naruto's stead, as it was her phone to begin with, "You being here for that would be the best thing we could ask for.

"Wait, what about Ryu? He's in Japan last I heard. He should be good for that."

Ibuki cringed before Naruto even answered.

"Fuck Ryu!"

A few seconds passed and Cammy poked her head into the bathroom, eyebrow raised at why Naruto suddenly cursed Ryu's name at such a volume that it distracted her from her favorite show on TV. Ibuki just shook her head, prompting her to go about her own business.

The shout easily reached Ibuki's phone. If they had been outdoors it probably could have reached for a few miles. It fell to Ibuki to elaborate though, "…Naruto and Ryu aren't really very friendly right now," A growl from Naruto painted that as the understatement of the year, "He kind of told Naruto to never see Sakura again. As in 'drop-out-of-her-life-completely' never see her again. Then he tried to beat him up and make it a fight stipulation when Naruto said no."

"…Wow, really? I knew he was-… I mean-… ugh, really?" It was too stupid for Ken to find words. He loved Ryu like a brother, honest to God he did, but sometimes he had to question not sticking with him for a bit after they'd left Gouken's tutelage. The man was as dumb as a bag of rocks when the subject went beyond fighting. He had a normally good sense of justice, but it was way too black and white to be effective in sensitive situations, "When was this?"

"Two days ago."

"Lovely!" Ken barked sarcastically, "So it's too soon for me to even swoop in and try to fix anything since they're both more than likely still monumentally pissed!" Naruto responded with a resounding, 'Yup!' "Well at least your dumbass boy-toy doesn't have to fight Akuma for…" The American champion miraculously kept himself from having a blond moment with a moment of thought, "When does he fight him?"

"A month from now," Ibuki deadpanned, wanting to grin at Naruto's pouting over being called a boy-toy instead of being called a dumbass, but now wasn't the time for it. By the time the desire to smile passed her by she realized that Ken had been sitting silent for quite some time, "Ken, are you still there?"

"I'm looking for the quickest flight to Tokyo," Ken said, "Why does the next flight out of LAX have a stop-over in Denver? I'm in California! Goddamn it Orbitz! I'll call you kids back. *click*"

Ibuki stared at her phone, blinking vapidly before turning to Naruto, "Wait, isn't Ken filthy rich? Doesn't he have his own plane?"

"It's a company jet, not his, and he won't use it for continent-hopping street fighting."

"Wow, that's so lame."

"I know. He's rich and doesn't even use it in fun ways like Rin-Rin does," Naruto said, shifting around in the icy water before wincing and inhaling sharply, "Well, I'm gonna get out now," He said, prompting Ibuki to merely move over so he had the space to get past her, "I'm not getting out in front of you."

"I've seen everything before already," The kunoichi said with a roll of her eyes. He was being silly, "We've both seen everything. On each other. A bunch of times."

They probably would later as well since the apartment only had two rooms. She would not be sleeping on the living room couch, and sleeping with Naruto in his bed would prove to be more fun than sleeping with Cammy in hers.

Also from what she'd picked up via her super-awesome kunoichi observation and deduction skills, there was a good chance that Cammy tended to crash in Naruto's bed every so often, and it wouldn't be that difficult to convince the adorably naïve little clone for fun that sleeping with her and Naruto was more comfortable than sleeping with just Naruto.

Elsewhere in the apartment, a muscle in Cammy's shoulder randomly twitched weakly, confusing her greatly.

Naruto frowned and shook his head, "Yeah, but I don't want you to see me like this," Ibuki didn't know what his problem was, but her runt of a tanuki apparently did from the snickering sound it made.

It was simple enough if Ibuki had taken the time to think about it. Freezing bath for over twenty minutes equaled shrinkage, which also equaled no fun for anyone in the current situation.

He was only two days into his month of preparation. In reality, it was going to be a long month, but as far as Naruto was concerned, it wouldn't nearly be long enough for his tastes. He knew for a fact that Akuma would hardly be able to wait.

Even then he could swear that he could sense the ill intent of the man aimed right at him, knowing that Akuma was in some isolated place just biding his time and waiting. IF nothing else, he would not return until the designated time.

Naruto could feel Akuma's thoughts just permeating his skull. He knew he was looking forward to this.

"Don't disappoint me boy."

When the time finally came he wouldn't.


The time for contemplation is over! Now is the time for training montage action and deep reflection, both inwardly and outwardly! Cue the inspirational high-energy music sequence with the emotional bridge!

Alright, that's enough of that. So there's the chapter.

Now it's my day off, and I'm going to use it playing some InFamous: Second Son and going off to get into some epic hand-to-hand combat later in the afternoon. After all, what fun is life if you don't risk your good health every now and then?

Also, per request of a partner of mine, I must shill the Fandom Flux Podcast, where I and other fanfiction writers talk about random shit on a weekly basis to try and amuse the masses. For those interested in hearing how dumb I actually sound in real life, the link is near the top of my profile page.

There Casey W. I did it you British s.o.b., I'm expecting my check in the mail. I will also accept a gift card to Dick's Sporting Goods, or a month's supply of beef jerky as recompense.

Now, Kenchi out.