A/N: Here's the next chapter of The Faeries' Lightning Dragon. Please, enjoy.

Disclaimer: I don't own Naruto or Fairy Tail.

Chapter 3

With Fangs Bared

It was with great haste that Naruto rushed through the forest. He didn't slow as he weaved around trees, leapt over boulders, and charged through brooks. His face was set in a determined scowl, his brows furrowed in fury. He would not be the one to let evil escape. He would bring down his wrath upon those that would bring harm unto others, and he would feel no remorse in delivering their punishment. His thoughts drifted to his friends and what could happen to them if he let them down. His body seemed to blur even more and static seemed to crackle behind him as he pushed himself faster and harder than before.

It was within only a few more minutes that Naruto broke into a clearing with a dilapidated building that looked like a church standing within. There was an overgrown and unattended graveyard nearby that confirmed the building's identity as a church. Most of the headstones and grave markers were old and worn down by the elements, some having crumbled from overgrowth or vandalism. From within he could feel many presences. Each of them contained magical power flowing through them, and all of them seemed to have a fair amount; less than that of the swordsman that he fought just a little bit ago, but still a good amount.

He cracked his knuckles in preparation for his assault and charged the front doors. With electricity crackling across his knuckles, he slammed his fist into the old, wooden doors. With an explosion of magical energy, the doors imploded into the church, flying off their hinges and colliding with a few unsuspecting mages as they continued on their path. Surprised cries and screams filled the air as the light burst through with the doors. Many people had to cover their eyes so that they could see into the light.

"Who the hell did that?!" a random member screamed, his rat skull guild stamp showing on his left cheek.

As if shrouded in a halo, Naruto strode through the doorway, the light giving him an almost ethereal glow. As he stepped into where the light wasn't shining so brightly, Demon's Tongue got their first look at the man who would bring the full weight of his wrath down upon them. Sparks jumped from him to random metal pieces around him as his power boiled within. He stopped his approach and leveled a finger at the entire guild. "I want answers, Demon's Tongue, and I'm going to get it."

In response to his declaration, a brave or stupid mage shouted from the back, "Fuck you!"

Naruto lowered his hand before smirking, "I knew you'd say that." With a burst of speed, he appeared, with his fist buried in some poor sap's face. After the realization of what had transpired set in, chaos broke loose.

Levy stood in the Rune Knight's tent, hers and Naruto's packs acting as a seat as she sat staring into a magical projection of Mirajane, who was listening as Levy recounted the events leading up to when Naruto had left.

"So what do I do now, Mira? I don't want to leave Naruto alone and without backup," Levy said with a worried expression across her cute face.

Mira didn't respond, letting her thoughts run. She looked like she was going to speak before she looked to her left, "Oh! Master, thank goodness you're back. We have a situation."

Levy heard Makarov's voice, "Did something happen with Levy's team?"

"No, Levy and Naruto went on a delivery mission, and it turns out a dark guild has intertwined themselves with it," Mirajane said, giving Makarov the short version. Suddenly, Mira's face vanished as Makarov's concerned visage occupied the hologram.

"What happened, Levy-chan? Are you alright? Where's Naruto?" Makarov asked, being the concerned parent-type that he was.

"We're fine, Master," Levy replied. "A dark guild attacked the person we delivered the package to. Evidently it was research on the whereabouts of a powerful magic artifact, a book I think it was."

Makarov's eyes looked grim. "Levy, I want you and Naruto to stay put. I'll have Erza head your way, and she'll take care of this dark guild."

Levy started to chuckle nervously before scratching the back of her head in embarrassment, "Well… Uh, there's a teeny, tiny little problem with that. You see, Naruto actually ran ahead. He said that he couldn't let them get away with what they had done."

It was silent in the tent for a few seconds as Levy watched Makarov process that bit of information. Slowly, red started to seep into his face as his eyebrows drew together. The entire image started to shake as Makarov cried out, "HE DID WHAT?!" and with a flash of light, the other end of the transmission went silent.

Levy stared at the communication lacrima for a few minutes more before stowing it in her satchel. She slumped back into the make-shift chair. Her shoulders slumped as she was ordered to just simply wait again. Wait for rescue to come and get her. It really annoyed her that she wasn't as strong as others, but at the same time, she didn't know what could be done to help her out. She thought to Naruto and how he just reacted. Not even giving a thought to his own personal safety, only that of others. He was a truly virtuous person. Maybe she would ask him to help her better herself. It was a good idea. They both would better themselves when they got home after Erza got there.

Levy suddenly froze up at the thought that Erza was going to be their backup. Suddenly, running off and getting mangled by a dark guild was sounding like a better option than facing Erza. With a groan of suffering to come, she reached into her pack that held the books she took from the cave and started reading it. Oh well, if she was going to get punished, she'd at least like to go out while doing her favorite hobby.

Naruto stood in the dark guild's hall; his eyes looked down at the mass of broken bodies down below. Some of them were unconscious, others simply unable to move. But they were all alive; this would leave them in perfect arresting condition. He had gleaned through his chaotic battle that their stronger members had left to go retrieve the artifact in their magic-driven cart. He scowled. Now he had no idea where these guys had left to. He had to find a clue, but first he needed new clothes.

He was missing his shirt; it had gotten torn off by a guy who thought that grappling him would be a good idea. Of course when his guild stamp on his shoulder had been revealed, even more hell had broken out. His pants below his knees had been scorched off, and his legs had slight burns on them from a massive fireball that he blocked with his Polarity Shield. He didn't have any idea where his sandals had disappeared off to. So, before he was heading out, he was stealing some clothes from the dark guild. He went to where he thought their bunks were in the basement of the church. Sure enough, there were bunk beds with wardrobes and footlockers by them. At random, he started rifling through them. He quickly found a pair of navy blue pants that fit, as well as some socks and brown boots. A gray long-sleeved t-shirt finished his ensemble, before he made his way out of the basement.

Stepping out of the old church and into the sunlight, Naruto started his looking for a trail to follow. He rushed around to the back of the church where he discovered a shoddy lean-to with wheel ruts in it. He looked down and followed the tracks out, but soon found that that was a foolish endeavor as there were many separate tracks leading multiple different directions. He sniffed, trying to let his enhanced sense of smell catch the scent of people, but it was futile. They hadn't lingered long enough to set a trail. He then immediately dropped to his knee and placed his hand on one wheel track. It was dry, so he moved on. He repeated this for five more tracks before coming to one that was slightly wetter than the others which meant that it was the most fresh. He looked up and followed the trail to the edge of the woods, where an arching opening made for a good wagon-sized pathway.

With haste, he followed the path for as long as he could, before the trail was lost in the over-growth. He cursed in frustration, and allowed his restless energy to pulse. This had an unintended result, as he was able to see a rough outline of a carriage that was green, heading away from his position, it didn't get too far before it disappeared altogether. He was intrigued by this development, and so tried it again. His experiment proved that it wasn't just coincidence as the same effect happened. With a wry smile, he moved before setting off. He hesitated though, as a thought crossed his mind.

"If back-up comes, there won't be any way for them to find the path," he mused, before being struck with an idea. "I'll leave them some breadcrumbs to follow."

With this thought, he rested his hand on the bark of a nearby tree, before pushing his magic into his hand, allowing his electricity to blast out. This act made some of the bark on the tree explode off, as well as leave a zigzag pattern that resembled a lightning bolt pointing in the direction he was going to head off towards. With a smile on his face, he raced onwards. About every fifty feet or so, he would reach out with his hand as he passed a tree, slapping it against the bark, and leaving another marker for anyone who would be following.

Levy sighed, as she tried to read one of the books that she had gotten from Naruto. She had been stuck on the same line for the last twenty minutes, not really reading it as her thoughts were elsewhere. She sighed again, and decided to call it quits. There was no way that she would be able to read in this state anyway. Her thoughts were a cacophony of desires, wishes, deprecation, and loathing. She cursed herself for the hundredth time for being as physically and magically weak as she was.

She stood up from her perch on her and Naruto's backpacks, stowing her book in hers before standing and stretching. The little hamlet had calmed down since the Rune Knights had left a half hour ago after their reinforcements had shown up. They had left only scant minutes after Naruto had rushed off. She was alone, and had been instructed to wait for Erza to arrive.

With a wistful smile, she raised her head to the sky and watched the passing clouds, feeling sorry for herself. If only she had been more up to the challenge of going after Naruto, maybe then she wouldn't be so sad for what's happened. It all came back to Naruto. He was a member for merely a week, and already she felt like she had found a life-long friend. The way that he was so sure of himself and his actions had made her feel awkward about herself. She wanted nothing more than to be able to act without thinking like he could. He was the very pinnacle of what it meant to be a Fairy Tail member and it-

Levy's thoughts were halted as the sound of wood grating on gravel and dirt drew her attention. The source of the noise was a magic-powered carriage. Sitting in the drivers' seat was none other than Erza Scarlet, the Titania. She was the most powerful female mage in the guild seeing how Mirajane no longer did missions, or even exercised her S-Rank power. Erza hopped off the carriage, her Heart Kreuz armor glinting in the sunlight, a golden semi-cross and Fairy Tail symbol both adorned her chest plate. Her hands and arms were covered in gauntlets, the same gleaming metal as her armor. Her legs were unadorned besides a pleated skirt and leather boots that came up to her knee. On her hip was a scabbard and sword, easily within reach should she need it. From the get-go, Levy could tell by her expression that she was not happy.

"Where's the Rune Knight Commander?" she barked out at a random person. Said man didn't have any time before he was hauled up off his feet by his collar by the irate red-head. She repeated her question, and when no answer was forthcoming, she started shaking the poor man. "Answer me!"

"Erza! Over here!" Levy called out to her guild-mate and friend, waving her arm for added effect. This served to gain the redhead's attention, who proceeded to promptly drop the man she was holding, and come storming over to her.

"Levy!" she started in her scolding voice. "Why are you alone, where is the new member and the Rune Knights?"

Levy was scared at the tone she was using, having flashbacks of her childhood. "W-Well, you see… Uhm… Naruto ran after the dark guild before the Rune Knights' reinforcements showed up. He said that he couldn't let Demon's Tongue get too far ahead. This is a really powerful artifact that we're dealing with."

Erza frowned before relenting her gaze a bit, yet it was still pretty harsh. "That's very noble," Levy smiled at her declaration, "but very stupid. He's an untested mage, going against who knows how many dark mages. It was very foolish. Plus there's the affiliation with Tartarus that needed to be considered. And furthermore…"

Levy felt that Erza was being too hard on Naruto, especially when he wasn't able to defend himself. With a sudden welling of courage, she snapped at Erza, "That's not fair! You don't even know the guy! He's nice, caring, and strong! You weren't even around when he joined! Master says that Naruto fought equally with Laxus, even beat him."

That caught Erza's attention. She hadn't heard this piece of information. To have fought Laxus as equals, or to have beaten him, that spoke volumes. Maybe there was no need to worry about the new guy. She stared at Levy, trying to see any sort of lying to protect the new guy. Only seeing slight fear in Levy's eyes from standing up to her, she saw no deception of any kind. She let her harsh gaze soften, knowing that even if she has a reputation for order and structure, she couldn't stay mad at the little bluenette.

"Okay, I apologize. It's obvious that this new member is a good friend of yours. But still, it wasn't in the guild's or his best interest to run off without help. Hurry, stash your packs in the carriage and we'll be on our way," Erza said turning to the carriage, but was stopped, mid stride.

"'We'?" Levy asked, her small frame struggling to pick up the pack of books. Her eyes were wide with surprise.

Erza rounded again, "Yes, 'we'. You're in this just as much as our new member. It is a duty of Fairy Tail mages to see out a mission to its end."

"B-b-but I'm… I'm…"

"You're what?"

"I'm weak," Levy looked despondent, having to admit her faults. "I won't be of any use with them. I can't fight!"

Erza walked up to Levy and placed her gauntleted hand on her shoulder, the weight of it almost too much for Levy's petite frame. "No one in Fairy Tail is weak. It doesn't matter whether or not you are physically strong, but the strength of your character. And to everyone back home, you have a very strong character."

Levy felt her face heat up at the praise, it had been a long time since Erza last praised her for anything other than being good and not causing trouble in the guild. It was with a determined nod, she and Erza loaded her and Naruto's packs into the magic-powered carriage and climbed in herself. It was only a few more minutes that they were off, charging in the direction of the Rune Knights and their wayward guild member.

It was supposed to be a simple job. First they had sacked that magic shop and got the information they needed from the owner. Then the team got back, and without wasting any time, their group, composed of the guild's top members had left, sixteen men strong. It was left to the three men who composed the defensive unit of the guild to guard their rear, and the entrance to the cave as well as their carriage. One of the three's members had been sitting on the carriage, catching flak for reading Sorcerer Weekly.

"Why do you read that crap anyway?" a large, tanned man asked from on the ground. His most defining feature was that he was missing the middle finger on his left hand, besides standing over six and a half feet tall.

"Hey, you gotta admit that these legal guilds have some pretty hot babes in them," the one sitting on the carriage replied. His defining feature was that he was the smallest of the group, and had no hair, but his head was completely covered in tattoos. He also looked a lot like a toad, with a large, wide mouth and squat face. "Oh the things I would do to that Fairy, Mirajane. She has got one delicious body," he said with a bit of drool dripping from the corner of his mouth.

The last member, standing with the really tall man was the last to speak. He was very large with long, muscled arms crossed, and resting on his overly sized gut. A handle for a very large broad-axe rested over his left shoulder, the blade sticking up behind him. "Pretty big talk coming from a VIRGIN," he taunted, putting way more emphasis on the last word than was necessary. He wasn't disappointed when the man on top of the carriage bristled at the barb.

"You're one to talk! You've never been with a woman either!" the toad-like man said.

"It's not like I haven't tried, there's just no women out there who could stand to be around a real man like me," the fat one responded.

"Oh that's rich!" the toad started laughing. Large guffaws in a nasally, high-pitched manner emanating from his wide mouth.

"You wanna go?" the other one responded, drawing his axe into his hands. "I'll make you-"

"Stop," the tallest of the bunch commanded, his eyes searching the tree line.

"Huh? What's happening?" he was questioned by the toad-like man.

The tallest kept scanning the trees, hoping to see something, "I could have sworn I heard something."

This statement made the other two start looking around as well, standing at the ready. Several seconds passed in this fashion, before the man with the axe perked up. "Did you hear that?"

"Hear wha-"

"…'s Thunder Drop!"

It was as if a bomb had exploded on the carriage. Before anyone really had a chance to react, a shining blue object fell out of the sky, completely obliterating the carriage and sending the man sitting on it flying through the air like a ragdoll, his entire body engulfed with crackling lightning. He was unconscious before he hit the ground. As the object hit the ground, a crater formed as the kinetic energy behind the blast moved outward. The man with the axe fell next, the gust of wind from the epicenter, picking the flat of his blade up, causing it to impact his head with extreme force, instantly rendering him unconscious. The tallest of the group had reacted just barely, throwing up a magical barrier, dampening the effect somewhat, but he was not spared the technique's power.

Groaning in pain, the tall man looked at his comrades, both were down for the count. It was such a powerful attack. He looked at the scattered wreckage that was his guild's carriage. There was no way they would be getting it back together again. He looked back to the crater, seeing a person walking out of it. Blue sparks crackled around his form, and his face was set in a frown. He didn't look very imposing, he was just above six foot, and didn't look too strong.

"A punk like you?" the tall man asked through clenched teeth. "You've got to be shitting me!"

"That's where they went? Your guild?" he asked nodding his head to the entrance to the cave a few feet away.

"Aye, but you'll have to get through me first."

Naruto glanced at the two fallen members before looking back to the tall man, "Doesn't sound like a problem to me."

"They are weak compared to me. Sure, we may be a team, but I am the leader of the group. Demon's Tongue's Bastion is what we were called, and I'm Higaar, the Bulwark. My defensive magic is second to none!" the man, now identified as Higaar proclaimed as two steel shields appeared on his forearms, magical barriers appearing on the shields. With speed belying his size, he moved in front of the cave entrance and took a firm stance. He raised his arms and banged his shields together, causing the two barriers to grow together, becoming one large one that was as big as the entrance to the cave. "Let's see you get through this!"

Naruto's eyes nodded, before charging his fists with lightning and shooting off at Higaar. Launching a straight punch that would have sent anyone flying, he was surprised when the barrier zapped the energy from his fist, and his bare hand crashed into the steel of the shield. Usually, this would have had an effect of still sending his opponent reeling, but instead, it was like he had punched solid steel and the numbness shooting up to his shoulder told him that doing it again was a bad idea. Kicking off, he landed a few yards away and shook his right arm out to get feeling back into it. "Why didn't you go flying? Anyone else would have!"

"Heh… Since you'll never get past me, I'll tell you a secret, when I'm defending anything, my body becomes like that of steel. I can hold the same stance and position for hours, without moving a muscle. You'll have a hard time getting me to move," Higaar smiled from behind his shields.

Without delay, Naruto gathered up magical energy in his lungs, "Lightning Dragon's Roar!" Unleashing his roar, he concentrated it, so that the energy didn't disperse over a larger area, making it more of a line than a cone. As the lightning barreled at Higaar, he didn't catch what the large man said.

Naruto watched as the attack impacted the barrier, yet the barrier did not give. He pumped some more power into it and held it for as long as he could before he was unable to any longer. Panting, to get air back in his lungs, he stared on, stunned as his attack seemed to be absorbed into the glowing runes hovering over the shield. Suddenly, the runes went from purple, to bright blue. In an instant, Naruto was facing his own attack head on, only it seemed to be stronger. He wasn't able to erect his own shield in time, and instead, took the full brunt of the attack, only managing to cross his arms across his midsection. Being a Dragon Slayer, he wasn't hurt by the element, but it didn't mean that he didn't suffer some damage just from the force of the hit alone. He was sent flying back, plowing a ditch along the way, kicking up dust in his wake.

"How'd you like that, boy?" Higaar questioned, still not having moved an inch. "How was that? Did you like a taste of your own medicine?"

From the dust, Naruto walked out, mostly unscathed. Sure he was covered in dirt and grass stains, but that stood to reason. His clothes had taken the biggest beating. He no longer had any sleeves on his shirt, and he was missing his left pant leg. Naruto looked down to take in his appearance and sighed, "Why do I even bother?"

Higaar just stood and watched the boy. His pose rigid, and unyielding. However, his mind was racing. The boy should have been on the ground, unconscious from that attack. He had nearly tripled the original power behind it! This kid was serious business.

"That was a good try, but with people like me, reflecting our own attacks back at us is a waste of time and energy. It just serves to piss us off," Naruto said as his body started to crackle with electricity again. "You know, it's said that a dragon's roar can pierce through anything. To have you still standing is a testament to your power. However, now I'm pulling out all the stops!"

With a war-cry, the lightning crackling around Naruto's body shot up straight into the air, at the direction of his arms. About three seconds later, a rumble from the sky was heard, as a large, dark cloud formed above the area, the electricity around his body having jumped into the clouds.

"Lightning Dragon's Secret Technique! Lightning Storm!" as he completed his call, his hands fled down from above his head and ended with his elbows pulled in tight to his sides. With a beckoning flare of energy, the accumulated lightning in the sky raced out of the clouds and blasted on top of Higaar's position. His face was contorted in panic as he looked up at his shielding. It seemed to be holding and for a brief moment, he had thought he won, until a crack appeared in the magic shell around him. After that, it was all it took for the lightning strike to break through and begin to electrocute Higaar. His screams were drowned out by the crash of thunder that accompanied the strike.

When the technique ended, Higaar was a crumpled, smoking, vaguely human-shaped figure lying on the ground. The grass around him was burned to a crisp, and his body was covered in burns that looked like electricity. Every now and then, his body would twitch, the residual charge causing his nervous system to spasm and short-circuit.

Naruto dropped to one knee, breathing heavily. That attack had drained more than he had thought it would. He gasped and held out his hand, recalling some of his energy with his Electric Drain technique. It only served to relieve him a little bit. "Man… I should probably start carrying around electrically charged lacrima. Maybe I can get that jerk Laxus to do it… Have him charge 'em but not tell him what they're for. He he he… That'll surprise him for sure the next time we fight."

Standing back up, Naruto looked to all the members that were lying unconscious. Higaar looked bad, and if he didn't get medical attention soon, he would probably die from bleeding out. At this thought, Naruto started to sway as images of him doing things played in his mind. In one, he stood over a man who was hurt, before clapping his hands together and charging his hands with electricity before placing them on the man who went rigid, before standing up just fine. 'Pulse Heal…' In the next, it showed him standing over a man who was definitely his foe, before he charged one fist and placed his foot on their stomach before tagging them with his hand and blue arcs appeared at his wrists and ankles, holding him in place. 'Arc Restraint…' The final scene showed him hunched over an opponent before bringing his hand towards his opponent's face, having to fight the man to make contact, but when he did, electricity seeped out of his opponent and into his arm. His opponent dropped to the ground, not moving, and detachedly, he knew the man was dead. 'Bio Leech…'

Naruto shook his head, regaining his senses. He looked back down to Higaar, before moving over and clapping his hands together. He placed them on his opponent's chest, causing his body to jerk violently, but his wounds were less severe for it. He then stood back up, before placing his foot on the man's body before slamming his charged hand on his chest. He was now no danger as the arcing, blue restraints held him in place. He repeated this move to the other two men before turning to the cave and running inside.

Erza and Levy rode up on the scene of an old, forgotten church. Outside, there was a group of people tied up, forced to sit as several men in armor walked around the clearing, analyzing the area for clues. Both young women were forced to stop in their advance when two soldiers drew their weapons and pointed them at the pair.

"Halt! State your names and business for being here," one of the armored men commanded.

"We are Erza Scarlet and Levy McGarden of Fairy Tail, we're on the tail of a man from our guild," the red-haired woman responded.

The two looked between themselves, noticing the guild crest on Erza's armor, before motioning them to follow, "The captain would like a word with you."

They were lead to a tent, emblazoned with the Rune Knights' symbol on either side of the entryway. As they stepped in, they were greeted by a man with a serious look on his face, as he spoke to a lacrima.

"We need another contingent as soon as possible. We have a large number of dark mages that need to be picked up," Captain Rex requested/informed the person on the other side.

"Just bring them in yourself, we can't send a detachment to your position, you're too far out," the other person said noticeable boredom in his voice.

"Lieutenant-Colonel, sir, with all due respect, we have members of the guild missing. All we have are the grunts. None of the heavy-hitters are here. There is also the matter of the young man from Fairy Tail who is in pursuit. He needs back up," Rex said his face stern.

"Oh? Fairy Tail is involved?" he asked in surprise, "That is none of my concern. You've been given your orders, bring back your prisoners and then you can return to pursue the remainder."

Rex's eyes widened in surprise, "But sir, that'll take four days round trip! We'll lose them, the situation is dire! There is probably a-"

"Captain," the Lieutenant-Colonel cut him off, his voice stern, "I gave you orders and I expect you to follow them. Anymore arguing will be considered insubordination. Now bring back the prisoners, that is an order."

Rex's face was stony and his eyes murderous, "Yes, sir. But know that I am filing a complaint with the higher-ups when I get back."

"Do that. See how far it will get you," and then the lacrima went dark. Rex's hands dented the table in frustration as he slammed them.

"Damn him…" It was then that he noticed his audience. "I remember you," he remarked to Levy, "so this must be your back up?" he asked, turning to the knight.

"Erza Scarlet, S-Class mage of Fairy Tail," she said as she held out her hand to the man.

"Hmm… I've heard of you," he said grasping the offered appendage in a firm shake. "I didn't expect you to be quite so young."

Erza just offered an assured smile, "It is impressive that your soldiers were able to take so many prisoners. I've seen dark guilds fight until the bitter end."

The captain just glanced out the tent to the rounded up mages. "We didn't. They were all unconscious when we arrived. We just tied them up."

Erza looked astounded. "Could it have been a dissention? Or a house cleaning? I heard you say that their heavy-hitters weren't here."

Rex just shook his head as he went back to his desk, looking for something, "No, usually that ends in the wholesale slaughter of the entire guild. No, we believe that this was done by your friend, that Naruto fellow," he said as he continued to search before finding what he was looking for, "Ah, here it is. There were some burnt spots in the wood, radiating from the door inward. Upon analysis, they seemed to be burns caused by lightning magic. He was a lightning mage, right?"

Levy nodded, "Yes, he's a type of lightning mage," she said, feeling it wasn't her right to tell them he was a Dragon Slayer.

"Then we can attribute the take down of those outside to him. It also corroborates the story of those that had remained conscious, saying things about "blue lightning"," Rex ended, putting his report back down.

Erza's respect for this man had gone up a few notches. Their brief pause was interrupted when another soldier appeared in the entryway of the tent. "Sir! We believe we have found the path that the remaining members took out of here."

Without words, the captain and the Fairy Tail mages followed the recruit. They were lead to the other side of the church where the lean-to was. They stopped and the recruit pointed out across the short plain to some other soldiers out by the forest's edge. "There are wheel ruts from a carriage leading into the woods there. They seem to be fresher than the rest. We also-"

"We've found something!" a call from the tree line caught their attention, causing everyone gathered to hurry on their way down to them. A few feet in the trees, the soldier who found the marking showed his finding. It was a lightning bolt pointing in towards the woods. Erza's eyes scanned the trees, before seeing another a number of yards ahead of their position.

"It seems that Naruto has left us a trail to follow," Erza responded pointing out the next marker. Seeing what she was pointing out, Rex turned to the one who alerted their attention.

"I need you to tell First-Sergeant Marcus that he is going to be taking the bulk of the unit and heading back to Era for processing. I need four volunteers to stay, preferably people who aren't afraid they might not make it back. There's no way that we can know what we'll find up ahead," Rex commanded. "Double time."

With a quick salute, the soldier ran off. Rex then motioned to Erza and Levy to follow him back to the church. "What are you planning, captain?" Erza asked as she fell into step with him.

"I don't like my orders, so I'm choosing to ignore them. I hope that it isn't much of an imposition, but, could I trouble you to give me and my four a lift with your carriage? We'll be coming with you," he asked, turning his face to her, so she could see the seriousness in his face.

"It would be an honor," Erza replied with a smile. Suddenly, all three of them came to a sudden halt, the hairs on their arms rising for no reason. It even caused the odd hair on Erza's head to stray from the curtain that cascaded down her back.

"Look!" Levy yelled, pointing behind them. There, in the distance was a massively forming dark thunder cloud. With no warning, a huge bolt of lightning crashed from the sky to the ground. However, this one lasted for a number of seconds that was inordinate to natural lightning, making the three automatically know that it was magical in origin. The crash of thunder that followed was nearly deafening, causing everyone to cover their ears, and sending thrums of sound passing through their bodies.

"What was that?" Rex asked, louder than intended.

"Naruto…" Levy whispered out, in awe of the power that was produced. She knew he had been powerful, yet his nature was gentle. It just showed how much of an inspiration one person could be.

"Captain, I think we had better hurry," Erza said, her voice more serious than it had been before. With a nod from the captain, they all ran back to the church, Rex barking out orders as they made preparations to leave.

Naruto was breathing a little heavier from running through the cavern. The lighting was dim, but his enhanced eyesight allowed him to easily use the near-nonexistent ambient light to see his way. He rushed ahead, yet his mind couldn't brush off that this felt weird, like he knew where he was. The tunnel was relatively small, only two men could walk abreast, but it would be tight, and it was just high enough for him to not scrape his head on as he ran. He came to a sudden stop as a faint blue light came from around the next bend, lighting up the tunnel somewhat. It then hit him like a ton of bricks. This was an aeration tunnel that refreshed the air in his cave! With fury boiling at the intrusion of his cave, he rushed forward at an even greater speed.

A few seconds later, he could hear voices, and all they did was serve to piss him off more. He came to the exit, and his blood boiled. There were five men in his cavern; three of them were stuffing their packs full of the gold that was in the hoard of the dragon that raised him. The other two were in the small antechamber where the library was, throwing books around with complete disregard of their importance. He roared, letting his power flare, and drew all of their attention to him.

"What the hell do you think you're doing?!" his eyes turning blue and sparking in fury. With insane speed, he launched himself at the nearest member, and before he could react, Naruto had covered the hundred or so feet between them, and nailed him straight in the face with his Gigawatt Blade encased fist, sending him careening into a stalactite. Upon seeing their member get hit like that, the other four reacted, one of the two left at the pile charged, drawing a weird-looking weapon, it was a pole, or pipe that came to a tee, then split with two other pipes running parallel to each other, their ends ringed in metal disks. The most impressive part, however, was the golden-yellow electricity that arced from the top of the tee to the ends of the two parallel arms. His opponent swung the weapon, causing Naruto to dodge out of the way, watching as the weapon impacted the ground, causing it to break off a couple chunks of rock, showing its sturdiness. He was forced to further dodge as a hail of needles rained down on his position. Instead of the needles embedding themselves in the ground, the lightning mage raised his weapon, causing them to redirect towards Naruto. He was forced to dodge, right into the path of a fireball. It exploded on him in a storm of fire.

"It was foolish of you to attack us so openly," the one who unleashed the hail of needles spoke. "How you got past Higaar and the others remains a mystery. I suppose you killed them?"

From inside the inferno, Naruto stood up, calmly walking out. The front of his shirt was completely burned off, leaving it to hang like a vest, showing angry, red skin. Completely ignoring his opponent's question, he drew back his hand and with a grunt, he threw a line of electricity at the mage with the weird weapon. His opponent raised it to block, only to gaze in shock as the end wrapped around one of the parallel bars. With a forceful yank, the weapon was released from his hands, and flew into the awaiting hands of Naruto. The blonde gripped the weapon in his hands, mildly surprised at its weight. The whole thing was solid.

"Bastard! Give me back my Amp!" the mage yelled at him.

Naruto just gazed at the weapon in his hands and smirked, "Amp, huh? I like it." With that declaration, he pumped his electricity through it, making it spark between the two parallels. Grabbing it in one hand, he disappeared in a flash only to reappear below the fire mage, kicking the man's feet from under his body, before standing back up in a split second and raising the Amp up and bringing it down on the mage's face. The resounding sound of electricity surging through his opponent's body as well as the breaking of cartilage and possibly bone made the fire mage cringe in horror. There was no time to dwell on the thought as Naruto was forced to dodge yet another hail of needles that came at him from behind. He was lucky to be extremely fast since the needles rained intensely, blanketing a large area.

"How dare you interfere with our work, you pest?" the needle mage spoke. He looked down upon Naruto in disdain. "Then you go and attack our men… What audacity!" he punctuated his statement with a punch that threw a line of needles at Naruto. He rolled out of the way, only to have to dodge as they were once again redirected by the Lightning mage, even though Naruto still had his Amp. Thinking quickly, Naruto channeled electricity through his new weapon, watching as he "caught" the incoming needles, before pivoting and sending them straight back at the one who cast them with a swing of the Amp.

The mage did nothing to dodge, just raised his arm and absorbed the Needles back into his body. He then dusted off his suit before signaling the other two mages to get down, which they did, before his body seemed to explode like a bomb throwing needles in a sphere around him. Naruto reacted as fast as he could, bringing his right hand to bear and raising a Polarity Shield between him and the oncoming attack. His only problem was that wasn't fully standing behind the shield, and as a consequence, his left arm received some modifications. Dropping the shield, he looked down at his arm in pain, seeing more than a dozen needles stuck in the appendage. It hung loosely with the Amp clattering at his feet.

"Oh you're still standing? No matter," the needle mage scoffed, his suit looking like Swiss cheese. He called to the lightning mage, since he was closest to the blond, "finish him."

The other mage stood up before charging up an attack. He brought his hands above his head, before bringing them down in arcs, then bringing them back together around waist height, his left hand resting on the bottom with his right hand on top. He then pulled them apart and an orb of electricity formed in between his hands. The needle mage turned and watched as the final guild mate rose from the ground, dusting himself off. So far he had been the only one to not fight. The two made eye contact, and unspoken conversation being sent through their eyes. They paid no heed when the lightning mage's power spiked, signifying his about the launch the attack, but their attention was drawn when after he cry of the attack's name, there was no explosion. The only sound was a startled gasp.

The two whirled around, seeing Naruto gripping the attack in his right hand. It was a sobering event. He was holding a ball of pure, magical electricity in his hand and was not feeling any ill effects of it. Deliberately, he raised the attack to his mouth before taking a bite of the orb. The three mages watched in morbid fascination as he ate the attack. Then, he flexed his left arm, forcing all of the needles from the appendage, the holes healing over, just leaving small trails of blood down his limb.

"Wh-What are you?" the Needle mage managed to ask. His only reply was a dramatic increase of power output from the blonde.

"Lightning Dragon's Roar!" he shouted, releasing a very powerful, wide stream of blue electricity from his mouth at the mages. When the light died down, it showed the lightning mage, and needle mage knocked out, and the last member standing with a giant axe between him and Naruto. The axe easily eclipsed the man in size; the hilt was longer than him by double his height.

"Let's dance, kid," the man said as he suddenly grew to three times his height, and the axe was now better suited for his use. Naruto just smirked before kicking off at the man.

Erza was sitting in the driver's seat of the carriage, her eyes following the markers left by the blonde as he had run through the undergrowth. In the passenger compartment, Levy was sandwiched between two knights in full plate armor and across from her was two more and Captain Rex. She felt smaller than usual surrounded by men in bulky suits of armor that were also very tall. She shyly looked around the compartment, fighting to keep a blush off her face.

"Levy-san," Rex called to gain her attention, "you seem to know the most of Naruto-san, do you think we have any chance of catching up to him? He couldn't have much more than ten minutes on us."

Levy shook her head in apology, "I'm really not sure. He's a really new member. He's only been with the guild for a week. I only know his speed from when we rushed to check out the fire. But I'm certain that even with ten minutes, he'll have covered at least double the ground that we will."

Rex frowned at this development. Their thoughts were disrupted as the carriage came to a shuddering, skidding halt. Those nearest the windows looked out before Rex gave the order to disembark. When they exited the vehicle, they were showed the scene that was the cause of their stop. Outside, there was what looked like the exploded remains of a magical carriage. There were also four bodies lying in the vicinity of an entrance to a cave. Erza had already disembarked and made her way over to the biggest of the group, and she was kneeling beside the man with a searching expression.

"What do you make of this?" came her voice to the group. They moved over and saw what she was looking at. The man was unconscious, yet it seemed like his limbs were shackled to the ground by blue rings of electricity.

"Naruto's electricity is blue!" Levy's happy cry told the story. So it had seemed that Naruto had been here and arrested the offending members of the guild.

Rex just looked on with a stoic face, "How do we break them so we can arrest them?"

Erza reached out a hand to the ring binding the big man's arm and without any prompting, it disappeared. Erza looked surprised as all rings disappeared at once. Signaling two of his men, Rex ordered them to tie up the other two and the last two of his men to tie up the big guy. "Well, looks like he went in there. I wonder where it leads."

The two ladies and the captain turned to the entrance and were about to enter when what sounded like footsteps echoed through the entrance, the steps were followed by what sounded like something dragging across the ground. The three prepared for battle, the captain and Erza drew swords while the little bookworm prepared to throw a spell. The steps grew louder and the scraping drew nearer and soon, into the light emerged a rather tall blonde dragging a large man, who was tied up with smaller men tied to him, all being dragged by a rope over Naruto's left shoulder. Over his right was the very large axe that the large man used against him, and across his back, glowing with blue electricity, was the Amp.

Naruto gazed at the impressed expressions of Erza and Rex who still had their weapons drawn, and then at the rapidly approaching Levy who jumped up and wrapped her arms around his neck with happy laughter, "I'm so glad you're okay!"

He let go of the rope and wrapped his left arm around her, giving her a firm hug, "Told you I'd be fine." Letting her go, she dropped back to the ground and gave him a beautiful smile. He then turned to the two people in armor and gave a left-handed two-fingered salute, "Yo."

Erza and Rex both re-sheathed their weapons. Rex was the first to talk. "Geeze, kid, you really are a machine. Nice work at the church by the way. And here for that matter," he said gesturing around to the surroundings. "Any chance that I could get you to come work for the Rune Knights?"

Naruto laughed and shook his head, "Sorry, but my heart is that of a Fairy Tail mage. I like being able to make my own decisions," he finished with a wink.

Rex just chuckled and walked up to the rope that Naruto had been using to pull the tied up mages, grabbed it, and with very little strain, started dragging them as well. Naruto then turned to the redhead who was walking over, calmly. He nodded his greeting to the woman, "Hi, Naruto Namikaze at your service. Didn't catch your name there," he smiled, while extending his left hand, his right still being occupied with the giant axe.

"Erza Scarlet, S-Class mage of Fairy Tail," she replied, taking his hand and giving it a firm handshake. "I'm impressed. Not many new members could boast of being able to take down so many mages single-handedly. I'm sure Master Makarov will have high praise to sing for you."

Naruto smiled sheepishly and set the axe down into the ground, the blade easily sinking in under its weight. "Nah, I only did what was right. I couldn't let Tartarus get their hands on the book that they wanted, who knows what they could do with it."

Erza nodded in understanding before turning her gaze to the weapon that Naruto had been carrying. "Impressive. I have heard of this axe before," she said letting her gaze drift over it. "It's one of a pair of axes, both brothers, known as the Giant's Execution. Only those with immense strength and size could ever hope to wield it properly," she then walked to the handle, before turning to Naruto. "May I?" And with a nod from Naruto, she picked it up out of the ground like it was nothing. She faced away from the other two mages and gave it a couple of swings.

"Why don't you keep it?" Naruto suggested. This in turn caused Erza to look at him with wide eyes.

"You can't be serious. This weapon would cost a fortune at any vendor. You just want to give it to me?" the expression on her face was priceless.

Naruto just nodded, a smile splitting his face. "Yeah, I don't really use weapons, and I recently got something that I find suits me better anyway," he said, pulling the Amp off his back. Erza nodded in understanding before concentrating and making the axe disappear into her Requip space. With a stretch, Naruto gave a loud sigh of pleasure. "Why don't we head home so I can get a change of clothes and a nice warm shower to get this grime off me?"

Erza nodded in affirmation, while Levy blushed thinking of Naruto's frame, water cascading down it. She really should stop reading those types of books. Before they could go to the captain and his men who were also getting their prisoners ready for transport by tying them to the top of the carriage, a voice caused them all to freeze in place.

"Well, well, well, I was wondering what was taking that useless guild so long to get to the meeting site, seems they ran into a little interference," came a silky smooth woman's voice. All three mages turned to see a petite woman, with long brown-blonde hair that came to her ankles. She was dressed in leather pants and a corset, though neither did anything to accentuate curves that were not there. Her feet were adorned by stiletto heels, making the woman who would normally be Levy's height be taller.

"Who are you, and what do you want?" Erza commanded as she unsheathed her sword and adopted a fighting stance, while Naruto was in a ready stance.

With a bow and giggle, the woman introduced herself, "My name is Cynthia, also known as The Reflection, of Tartarus. Erza's and Naruto's eyes widened at the name of the guild, while Levy started to quake in fear. Righting herself, the newly dubbed Cynthia smiled, "Now, if you'd be so kind as to hand over that book, I can be on my way."

"We don't have the book you're looking for," Naruto growled out, his arms crackling blue.

With a giggle, Cynthia shook her head, "You can't lie to me, I can sense it. It's over there," she then pointed to the magical carriage, confusing the three mages. "Now if you could be a doll and fetch it for me, this won't have to get ugly."

Naruto's face only reflected confusion but soon changed to dread upon hearing Levy's gasp. He turned his head to look at the small woman, whose eyes held a fear so potent, she was almost crying. Turning his gaze back to the leather-clad woman, he whispered out to her, "Get to the carriage and destroy that book."

Levy hesitantly nodded, before turning and running to the carriage. As soon as she ran, Naruto shot forward like a bolt of lightning, intending on taking this girl down. A look of mild surprise crossed her features before Naruto's leg impacted her face, causing an explosion of light to erupt as well as Naruto's scream of agony to pierce the air. When the light died down, they could only see Naruto kneeled down, holding onto his right leg that looked to be broken. Erza reacted as well, launching herself across the field, her sword held in a high, over-head strike. The woman casually lifted her arm to block as Erza's sword came down. The sound of screaming metal before a loud crack echoed across the field. Erza's sword had shattered, three quarters of the blade were now just shards of shrapnel that pierced her arms where her armor did not cover, as well as giving a few scratches to her face and neck. The force had reverberated down the blade, causing the handle and remaining quarter of the blade to fly out of her hands and into the small hand of the blonde woman. Levy stared in horror as a Solid Script: Fire spell rested a few feet away from the backpack of books.

"I wouldn't do that," the woman's voice called to her as she held the blade at Erza's neck. "Now, bring me the book," her voice no longer having a playful lilt to it.

Levy looked down at the pack, before opening it and starting to pull out different tomes, "I-I don't…"

"Leather-bound, vellum pages, gold-leaf trimming," the woman's voice called across the field.

Levy started searching, tears of fright in her eyes. Her hands shook uncontrollably as she searched for the book. She hoped with all of her might that nothing bad would happen. After tossing about ten books out of the way, she found the book that she was looking for. She pulled it out of the bag before she turned to the woman. She shivered a bit and unsteadily got to her feet.

"I-I fou-found it…" her voice trembled.

Cynthia just shook her head in exasperation, "Then bring it here, you useless girl."

Levy started walking uneasily, her steps mired in fear. After a few paces, she was stopped by the blonde man kneeling on the ground.

"Don't give it to her, Levy!" Naruto shouted.

Cynthia's only response was to press the blade into Erza's neck more, "I'm the one with the bargaining piece, now bring. It. Here."

Levy took another step before a bright flash of blue erupted from Naruto's hands onto his leg. With a lunge, he body tackled the dark mage, catching her off guard. Despite her ability to stop Naruto's attack, it didn't seem to apply to being able to grapple her. She was actually physically weak. She struggled as he pinned her arms to the ground with his knees.

"Get off of me, you pest!" she growled out.

Naruto chuckled at her command, "I don't think so. You don't seem so tough now."

Suddenly, her eyes glowed purple, "I said… Get. OFF!" From her body erupted a huge kinetic blast that hit Naruto full force, before pushing past and throwing Erza over fifteen feet back, through the air. She hit the ground hard, skidding across the ground. Cynthia's eyes widened in amazement that Naruto was still atop her. "How is that possible? That amount of force this close should have liquefied your organs!"

Naruto just smirked, though it was pained, like he had taken a titanic blow in his solar plexus. "We Dragon Slayers are made out of tougher stuff than your regular mages. That hurt, for sure, and I'll be sore in the morning, but you can't kill me that easily."

Cynthia's eyes widened before narrowing. "Then I'll have to try harder," she sneered as her eyes erupted in purple again.

"No you won't!" Naruto roared as he threw as many volts of electricity through her as he could. She cried out in pain as her concentration was broken. After ten seconds, Naruto stopped his assault. He took a deep breath at the draining feeling that came with it. He looked at her, her clothes were smoking and her breathing was a little labored. "Now settle down. The rune knights are taking you in."

She just breathed as Naruto was approached by Erza, Levy, Rex, and one of Rex's subordinates. Rex whistled in appreciation. "Damn glad you're on our side."

This remark earned a chuckle all around. Erza tucked an errant strand of hair behind her right ear, "Very impressive, Naruto. You took down a criminal that even I couldn't."

Naruto chuckled before wincing, "Yeah, but don't ask me to do it again," he felt his ribs, wincing at each touch. "Yeah, definitely going to feel it in the morning."

Their banter was cut short by Cynthia chuckling, this caused Rex to snarl, "What's so funny?"

"You -haha- you… You really think -hahaha- you have me beat?" the labor in her breathing was steadily lessening. This caused those opposite her to glance between themselves. "Let me educate you on my power. It's called Rebound, and it uses your force against you."

Naruto narrowed his eyes, raising a hand up, "What do you mean?"

"What happens when you charge a lacrima up only to release what's contained inside?" she smirked with an unstable glint in her eye.

"Then I'll just suck what's inside out!" Naruto roared as his hand sparked with red, menacing lightning. He swiftly brought it down to Cynthia's face, causing the girl's eyes to widen in horror. The feeling of him literally sucking the life out of her brought unbridled terror to her being. With the fear guiding her, she released all of the pent-up energy that she had absorbed during Naruto's assault. The resulting explosion threw everyone around her off and through the air. As the kicked up dust started to settle, it showed Rex upside down, leaning against the overturned carriage. Erza had tumbled across the ground, ending up thirty yards away, a noticeable dent marred her breastplate, and looked like it made breathing hard if it wasn't the pain of her impromptu trip that was doing it. Levy, who had been a little further back still took a big brunt of the force. Her tiny body was slumped against a tree, unconscious with blood dripping down her face from somewhere within her hair. And Naruto… Naruto landed on the ground with a meaty flop and slight bounce about three seconds after the dust had settled. He had taken the biggest amount of the force, causing him to fly high into the sky. It was amazing that he was still conscious after all the torment that his body had taken. With labored breathing, he squinted through the pain only to watch as Cynthia stooped down to pick up the book she had come for. She cast a baleful look at Naruto and raised a hand to unleash another kinetic force at Naruto, only to wince and lower her arm. She then turned and left Naruto's vision.

Sounds swam around him as others were recovering, the last thing he remembered was the feeling of hands grabbing him, pulling him, and then nothing.

Naruto found himself in darkness. He felt weightless. His attention was drawn to a figure standing in the darkness. It was a small boy, dressed in a baggy t-shirt with a red spiral on the front. His legs were adorned with shorts, and his feet were covered in sandals. The boy's face was buried into his left arm, his right clenched at his side. Naruto could hear the sobs that signified the boy's crying. He walked over to the kid.

"What's wrong?" Naruto asked, squatting down to the boy's level. The boy showed no reaction to having heard him. "Are you hurt?" still no answer. "Can you tell me your name?" sobs were his only response. He waved his hand in front of the boy's face, "Hello-o-o…"

Suddenly, the boy started running, only he wasn't moving. It was like watching a movie with all of the background cut out. Naruto's eyes widened when he could see his face. The three whisker-like marks on either side of his face gave it away as himself.

"What the?" Naruto asked, stumbling backward. Suddenly, he was facing himself, older now. Probably not even a teenager. He was wearing a hideous orange jumpsuit, and was wearing a strange metal headband.

"I'll get him back, Sakura-chan, dattebayo!" his younger self remarked, adopting a cock-sure smirk and giving a thumbs-up.

The scene changed again, this time, he was closer to his current age, he was still wearing orange, only now it was evened out with black. A long red coat with black flames across the bottom and a large scroll across his lower back completed the ensemble.

"So this is what Pein is capable of?" his effigy spoke, noticing his eyes looked weird and were surrounded by red pigment.

The next transition showed him, a little older, glaring up at something. He wasn't wearing the red coat, but was still wearing the orange jumpsuit.

"Having my friends with me makes me truly strong!"

Then, there was a bright flash of yellow, and a glowing figure appeared in the darkness, it had the head of a dragon, and the wings of a dragon, but had a long, snake-like body with no appendages. With a loud roar, Naruto found the world fading.

Naruto's eyes opened to a white ceiling and the smell of disinfectants. He sat up with a groan, his ribs still hurt. He took a moment to reflect on the dream he had had. 'I was standing talking and… No, there was a… Wait, I was there and… Someone had…' too late, he had forgotten already. Something about endless food or something. At that moment, his stomach released a titanic growl.

"Ugh… Where can a guy get a bite to eat around here?" he asked the room, his voice was scratchy and dry. He looked around and found a sink, walking to it, he bent over and took a drink from the spigot and sighed as his throat was rehydrated. With a groan, he stretched out, before tensing up in pain as his action strained very sore places. He gingerly relaxed, before groaning in relief. He looked down, seeing his chest wrapped in bandages, going all the way to his waist. His boxers covered up the bottom of the bandages. His right leg was bandaged below the knee as was his left arm below the elbow. In his distraction at his appearance, he didn't hear the door open. The startled gasp caused his attention to fly to the portal out of the room.

Mirajane stood, shocked at seeing Naruto awake and moving around stopped in her tracks and dropped the bag she had been holding before sprinting across the room and tackling Naruto in a hug of epic proportions. "You're awake! We've all been worried about you!" she squealed. She then tightened her hug, which elicited a response she had not been intending on.

In what could only be described as the most unmanly sound ever made, Naruto shrieked in pain. A shriek like a little girl makes when playing with her friends. The kind of shriek that makes you think that they're being murdered only to see them running around with a smile. "AH-HA-HA-HA-A-A-A-A-A!"

Not too long after, Naruto was to be found by the hospital staff on the floor with an embarrassed Mirajane standing over him, bowing and saying she's sorry repeatedly. Helping the poor man back onto the bed, and giving him a quick once over to make sure she hadn't made anything worse with her Titanic Hug of Doom (patent pending), the doctors left to get discharge papers as there was nothing else they could do to help along his healing process, his ribs would just be sore for about a week or two. The two now left alone in the room, were strangely muted and reclusive of each other. Mira was looking a little meek, whereas Naruto was just spacing, waiting for his permission to leave.

"Oh!" Mira exclaimed, disrupting the quiet. She took a few steps to a chair at the foot of the bed, before pulling up the bag she had carried into the room, "I brought you some new clothes! I figured if you woke up, you'd want to change into something more than a hospital gown," she added with a smile. She gently set it on the bed next to him, and stepped back, clasping her hands in front of her chest with a smile splitting her lips. Naruto just glanced from her, back to the bag, before reaching in, and pulling out the first article of clothing. His eyes widened in surprise, before a vicious smirk made its way to his face.

It was ten minutes later when Naruto and Mirajane exited the hospital. Mira's face was awash with red, she had no idea that her choice in clothing would have made such a difference. But it had certainly turned the heat up in the hospital. That was surely the reason that the nurse had fainted in the room, and a handful more as well as some patients had before they had gotten out of the doors where they were now.

Naruto had donned his new outfit, and he had to admit, it was cool. Mira had great taste. His torso was covered with a white tank top, which seemed a bit tight as it clung to his form, defining the hard lines of training that he had earned. Over that was a black leather vest that was trimmed all around the arm holes, the collar, and the hem with soft grey-white fur. Below that, his legs were covered in long, blue pants that were darker at the waist and lightened as it got closer to the ankles, going from near navy to a shade or two darker than sky. The pants were lined with pockets that ran along the sides of his legs, and were held up by a thick belt, with a secondary, thinner belt hanging loosely off his left hip. His feet were adorned with boots that ran up to his middle shin, and his pants easily tucked into. They were very comfortable, and seemed almost made to his feet. His new wardrobe didn't end there, his hands also got a pair of fingerless gloves, he was even able to slide the ring he got from his mission over the little bit of finger that was on the gloves. And to finish off the ensemble, Mira had decided to also equip him with a pair of forearm bracers.

"How much did this set you back, Mira?" Naruto asked as he gave himself a once-over in the light of the afternoon.

"Oh, it didn't set me back at all! I used the money that you and Levy brought back! I may have also picked up a couple of dresses as well," Mira blushed as she thought about just how many she actually bought.

Naruto nodded his approval. "You have very nice taste," he complimented with a smile. Mira giggled and blushed at the compliment before they both set off for the guild hall. The walk was companionable, and quiet, until Naruto had to break it again. "Say, Mira," he said getting her attention, "I didn't ask you in the hospital, but how many days was I out?"

"Two and a half," Mira replied. "It took Erza about half a day to get you and Levy back here. You were in a far worse condition, that's why you were still at the hospital. Levy just got bandaged up and some pain killers for her headache. She's really beating herself up about what happened."

Naruto looked sad at that revelation. "No, it's my fault that we lost to that Cynthia person. I was the one who attacked her without knowing the extent of her powers." He then punched his left fist into his right palm with a grim look on his face. "Next time I'll be ready, though. She won't stand a chance."

Mira just looked with a slightly open mouth before she closed it into a smile. She then moved closer to him and wrapped her arms around his right arm and leaned her head on his shoulder, "So, if those bad people ever come back, you'll protect me, right Naruto?"

Naruto's face lit up a bright crimson as he glanced down at her. "W-well of course, Mira-chan. I'll protect you, I'll protect Levy-chan, I'll protect your stupid brother, and I'll protect everyone in Fairy Tail. Because you're all my precious people, and I always protect my precious people."

Mira's eyes softened as she looked up at him. She then lowered her head back to his shoulder and sighed wistfully. They continued on as such until they reached the door of Fairy Tail, where the sounds of a rowdy party could be heard. Naruto turned to Mira with a smile on his face.

"Sounds like one hell of a party in there. Is there any reason not to have one?" he asked the beauty by his side. With a giggle, his only reply was a shake of the head before he pushed the door open. He noticed that everyone in the hall was now looking at who was coming through the doors. Upon seeing Naruto, a huge, explosive round of cheers resounded throughout the hall. It was nearly deafening. The clear surprise on Naruto's face was evident. He was broken from his stunned silence as Mira stepped through the door around him. He just followed her and let the door swing closed behind him. The cheering didn't stop, however, and a few cat-calls, and shouted greetings floated to him through the air.

"Yeah, Naruto!"

"Good job, kid!"

"Have a drink on me!"

"Come sit with us!"

Naruto just raised his hand, confusion still permeating his being. He waved to everyone, which only seemed to make them cheer harder. He made his way up to the bar, where Mira had taken her place behind and Makarov had taken his spot on the bar. The old man was clearly three sheets to the wind, and his face reflected that. The usual light dusting of red had instead encompassed his entire face. A bit of the head of the beer clung to his mustache, yet his eyes were lidded heavily and a slight sway was in his posture.

"Ah-hah!" Makarov called as he spied Naruto. He pointed at the young man unabashedly, "There he ish! Our newesht Eshh-Class Mage!" he then cackled manically before passing out on the bar top.

Naruto stared at him wide-eyed, and responded astutely, "What?"

A/N: This took entirely too long to get out, and I apologize. I must confess, I put it off in my quest to get my main geared after re-picking up WoW. Now that I've done end-game content, I have found another distraction vice in a 2nd play through of Fallout: New Vegas, and a new MMO, Defiance. So, I've been very bad. I'll get right on the next chapter after my anniversary and I am setting a due date for before the end of July. Let's see how that goes for me.

As always, please enjoy.