Naruto Collection Chapter

Carved From Stone

Emperor Naruto

Just Another Game

Phobia

Safety Blanket

Counter Guardian

A Hero and a God

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Story: [Carved From Stone]

Genre: Drama

Summary: Naruto searches the graveyard for his family name.

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Naruto stared at the stone that carried his name.

'Uzumaki', it said.

It'd taken him a long time to find it. He'd searched the entire graveyard , pebble by pebble. But he had found it in the end.

Orphans didn't have last names. Not really.

Some did, of course, remembered by relatives or others, but the true orphans, those who'd simply appeared one day, they didn't have last names.

Uzumaki Naruto. That was his name. He wasn't sure how he'd gotten it, why it'd mattered to someone that he knew that he was 'Uzumaki', but no matter who he'd asked, none had answered him.

Still, it mattered to him.

He didn't really have anyone. In fact, he often found himself envying the orphans who simply lacked names. The orphans who weren't ignored, not truly.

But he couldn't let go of his name, it was part of him, it was important to him, it proved that he hadn't simply appeared. He'd been born. He'd had parents. Once.

Naruto didn't know why they weren't there anymore. Perhaps they'd hated him too and left, perhaps they'd died, perhaps they just weren't there at the moment, like ninja on some awesome mission that would come home one day.

He sat down in front of the stone, looking at the carved name and numbers.

What year was it now? How long ago since this Uzumaki had died? Had they been related to him? Had they been related to his parents? Did they simply share a name?

So many questions that the stone would never answer.

He'd found an Uzumaki in the graveyard. He had a name.

It was odd, to find kinship to a rock.

"My name is Uzumaki Naruto." He paused, his voice trembling. "Are we family?"

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Story: [Emperor Naruto]

Genre: Adventure

Summary: Naruto doesn't dream of becoming Hokage. He wants to rule the world.

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An eight year old Naruto stared at the giant map of the Elemental Nations with awe.

How could the world be that big?

Konoha was really large, it took forever to run from one side of the Village to another, but it was just a tiny pinprick on a map that covered an entire wall.

Hell, it'd taken him a really, really long time just to find it amongst all the other pinpricks that covered the map.

Naruto had always wanted to be Hokage, to be acknowledged by everyone. But what use was Hokage, against the immensity of the world? Even if he became the greatest Hokage ever, why would the rest of the world acknowledge him?

Shivering involuntary at the thought of reaching his goal, only to realize that he was still hated by everyone, Naruto continued to let his eyes trace over the enormous countries that covered most of the map.

Fire was pretty big, he tried to explain to himself, and everyone knew that the best ninja ever in Fire was the Hokage, right?

For some reason though, he found most of his arguments on the awesomeness of the Hokage falling a bit flat as he watched the gigantic world. And as his arguments began to fail, his stomach was slowly winding itself into a heavy knot.

What if he was never going to be acknowledged? What if everyone would hate him always? What if there was nothing he could do?

Then, with a sudden spark of memory, he recalled Iruka once mentioning something about someone uniting several nations and declaring himself Emperor.

Naruto didn't really understand how you could unite nations, but he supposed that with a big enough eraser, and a lot of time, he could probably do that too – it shouldn't be that hard to simply erase the lines separating the nations on the map.

Naruto blinked. Emperor. He could be an Emperor.

Everyone would have to acknowledge him if he was an Emperor, because then he'd rule over everything.

Armed with this newfound realization, Naruto grinned happily and took off for Ichiraku's, he could tell everyone what an awesome idea he'd had!

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Naruto flinched a bit as the old man Hokage slowly and calmly berated him for his new ambition.

Though he'd clearly been amused by his 'eraser-idea' for a way to unite the world, the Hokage had quickly corrected him, and explained why an Emperor was not something that anyone should want to be.

Because to unite nations under one rule would mean war. And with war came suffering and death. And from that grew hatred, until the Emperor was dragged off his throne by his own people.

Naruto was horrified.

Not only was Emperor not a nice thing to be and had made the usually jovial old man uncomfortably stern, but it was apparently impossible to become since nobody would let anyone become Emperor.

Once the old man stopped his lecture, Naruto nodded sullenly when he was asked to give up on his dream, suppressing the tears that were burning at the corners of his eyes. Because he would never be acknowledged, and the one who'd told him that was the old man who he thought of as a grandfather of sorts.

Well, obviously, the old man hadn't used those words. But if Naruto couldn't become Emperor, it wouldn't matter what he did, he would never be acknowledged by the world.

As Naruto finally made his way home, staring at the ground as he walked, trying to ignore the glares of those surrounding him, he wondered if there wasn't some way of getting around what the Hokage had told him and become Emperor anyway.

Naruto would've most likely surrendered to the Hokage's words, had he not happened upon two people discussing something on his way home that day.

It wasn't an unusual discussion, though it was rarely spoken of since it was known by everyone.

The discussion was about the Hidden Villages scattered across the world, and most assuredly, of the greatest Hidden Village of them all, Konoha. Because surely Konoha could take over any other Village without problem, since it was the strongest one.

And just like that, Naruto learned of small steps.

It was an idea that was slowly coming into completion as it turned around inside his head.

The Hokage ruled over Konoha, and most importantly, over it's armies. Konoha was the strongest of all the other Villages, and ninjas were way stronger than any bunch of mercenaries that the rest of the world could produce.

So, if he became Hokage, he could take over other countries, through that war-thing that the old man had been going on about.

Naruto twitched. War. Right, that wasn't a good thing. War lead to people dying, and sad people, and angry people.

Naruto knew about angry people, he met lots of them all the time.

It would be bad to make more of those, there were too many around as it was.

But, without war, how could he become Emperor? An Emperor needed to – what had the old man called it? – 'conquer' other nations and force them to join him.

Naruto frowned. This was a dilemma.

Maybe he could just talk to them and they'd give him the countries? No, nobody ever gave him anything. He would have to use that war-thing to become Emperor.

He didn't want to make war, but being Emperor was his only chance of being acknowledged, and he couldn't just give up on that. Not without at least trying.

But to make war he needed an army. And Konoha had an army. So maybe he could become Hokage, and then use that army and conquer the world.

Yes, that sounded like a good plan. But he could never tell anyone, because nobody would let him become Hokage if they thought he'd try to become Emperor. It would be tough, he'd need to lie to everyone about his dream.

Naruto blinked at that last thought. No he didn't. He could say that he wanted to be Hokage. The greatest Hokage ever. Because that would be the starting point. From there, he could achieve his real dream, but being Hokage was still a goal.

And so Naruto learned of misdirection and deceit.

Naruto grinned. He was going to be Emperor!

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Story: [Just Another Game]

Genre: Adventure

Summary: Naruto has been trapped in the videogame that was his life for a long time now.

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Naruto glared at the monster in front of him.

He'd lost count of how many of its kind he'd annihilated over the last few hours. He spat out a bit of blood and sliced this one open too.

There could be no stopping. He wasn't allowed to stand still.

He dodged out of the way as another monster appeared, seemingly without regard for its own safety as it charged at him in the same manner that the last one he'd killed had. Gritting his teeth, he let loose a kunai to pierce the back of its head before it could turn around to follow him. It fell.

Kyuubi had shut up about the mindless massacre ages ago, either too confused or too busy healing his wounds to bother him.

He'd given up on things like thoughts. Thoughts were distractions. Distractions killed you. He couldn't afford to die. Not yet. He still had things to do. He wouldn't fall to some nameless monsters.

One got close enough to rake him across his arm, further shredding his jacket to the point where Naruto knew that he'd never be able to salvage it. He kicked the monster in the knee, and as it fell he grabbed its head, before smashing it down into the ground with a sickening thud.

He'd become one with the battle, and everything seemed to be covered in a haze of greyish red.

The red was probably all the blood that was by now covering virtually every surface, not to mention himself. He probably looked as if he'd taken a dip in a river of blood.

He sidestepped a sword, using the momentum to kick another one in the throat. Its gasps for breath was quickly silenced as one of its allies trampled it in its hurry to gut him. It failed, receiving a kunai through the eye for its efforts.

He wasn't sure why he was there, why he was fighting these monsters, he would probably have a hard time answering if someone asked him his name, and that wasn't only because it felt as if his throat was on fire. It was a state of mind, a way of being.

Naruto was death. He was destruction. He was king.

He slipped through a swipe that should've removed his head, and stabbed upwards into the monster's brain through its throat. Yanking the kunai free just in time to block a sword, Naruto spun and launched himself into the air, breaking a monster's neck with a roundhouse kick, using the leverage to twist himself away from another set of claws, he slit this one's throat.

Only killing blows. Any other blow would be too much effort. He'd been fighting for too long to play with prey. All his hits must kill. All his attacks must hit. All his motions must be just enough to leave them dead.

He'd never felt such heartfelt admiration for Uchiha Itachi. There was a man who fought like death. No wasted movements, just clinical precision and absolute defeat for all who opposed him. But he couldn't afford to simply admire the man. He had to surpass him. He had to spread death with every movement, because not even Naruto with his unrivaled stamina could continue this fight indefinitely.

Dodging out of the way of a splatter of blood that would've hindered his sight, Naruto stooped down low and grabbed hold of a previously thrown kunai, yanking it out of the monster's skull where it'd lodged, he spun and stabbed it into another's spine.

Naruto wasn't sure if they were getting stronger or if he was getting worn down, either way, it was becoming difficult to stay one step ahead.

Thankfully, it wouldn't be too much longer. Soon they would stop. Soon he would be finished. Soon.

He couldn't afford to think like that. Longing was a distraction. Relief was a distraction. Distraction was death.

Fangs stretched towards him, he stabbed his kunai into its face.

He wished he still had his sword, then he wouldn't have to smell the horrible smell that the monster called breath. He would've been able to keep his distance. But the blade had broken after the first hour, too many bones slowly wearing it down until it'd snapped in one of their necks.

Naruto deflected something akin to senbon that one of them spit out, before calmly returning fire and burying a kunai through the roof of its mouth.

Naruto paused as he readied himself for kicking the monster behind him, confused.

There wasn't any monster behind him.

How peculiar.

Naruto blinked, his eyes moving to the gigantic shape some distance away, the shape that his very blood screamed desperately for him to flee from.

Ah, it was that time.

He'd survived them. Now he had to deal with this. Lovely.

He suppressed the pride he felt for making it this far, he still couldn't afford to be distracted, lest he risk failing. And failure was death.

The thing growled menacingly.

Naruto felt his lips twitch upwards into a bloody smile. Intimidation wouldn't work on him. It didn't matter if the one standing in front of him was Neji, the Kyuubi, the old man Hokage, or even the legendary Juubi. He would kill it. Then he would move on.

Switching the grip on his kunai, Naruto charged.

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Naruto stared up at the ceiling of his bedroom.

He'd won.

He'd defeated the absolute enemy.

He paused.

What was he supposed to aim for now?

The Akatsuki was still out there. Madara was still running rampant in his vengeance. Orochimaru was still experimenting on the innocent.

But he wasn't allowed to defeat them.

If he tried, the council would demand his execution, stating him to be too powerful, too unpredictable, too uncontrollable.

He'd tried to reason with them, many times. It never changed anything. Even when he'd gotten them to agree, they tried to assassinate him, and when he survived they falsified evidence of his desertion and declared him a missing-nin.

They were actually quite good at making his life miserable, you almost had to admire the sheer tenacity that they showed.

Naruto sighed.

Perhaps he could just quit? Stop being a ninja, learn how to be a ramen chef. That didn't sound too bad, did it?

But then what of Konoha? What of Pein? What of Madara? What of Orochimaru? What of the Rookie Nine and the chunin exams?

He couldn't just leave. His responsibilities were too heavy.

A shame he could never convince himself that they would be able to handle it. He knew that they didn't stand a chance against the forces of their destruction. Damn it all.

"What have I ever done to deserve this?" He muttered to himself.

He didn't really want to fight, he didn't really want to be the hero, not since he'd grown up a bit, he just wanted everyone to be happy. So why did he have to watch everyone he cared for fall into despair, time and time again? Couldn't they at least have found something for him with which to distract himself?

Well, they had. Problem was that he was finished with it. He'd defeated the ultimate enemy. The secret monster hidden away in the depths of the world had been slain by his hand. And nobody would ever know of it. Just the way he wanted it to be.

Sighing softly to himself, Naruto looked at his prize once again.

A skull mask, and a red ring.

Well, actually, in all honesty, he'd gotten the ring because he'd won. He'd gotten the mask because of the way he'd won.

Apparently, the efficient style with which he'd fought for hours upon hours had earned him the Mask of Hassan Sabbah. It looked like a skull, and if he'd read the description correctly, it should hide his identity.

And if this game had taught him anything, it was that when it told him that it would do something it did it. So, it was fully possible that he might equip the mask in front of someone's eyes and they'd never question where 'Naruto' had gone, or where this masked stranger had come from. It wouldn't hide him though, and it was merely as if he was a completely different person to all those watching, meaning that he could still get himself into trouble.

The ring was called Heaven's Feel and was supposed to help dealing with weapons somehow. Naruto didn't really understand it, but he supposed that he'd have to experiment to figure it out anyways.

Grumbling to himself about items with crappy descriptions, Naruto sat up and saved the game. It never hurt to have a save close by whenever you decided to experiment with new equipment. He could still remember the time he'd finally located a cheat code.

It'd been a really useful cheat code, but unfortunately it also provided a negative score of around a million points. Basically, if you ever used the cheat, you'd finish the game with a negative score, no matter how far out of your way you went. Naruto had decided not to cheat after that. Useful though it was, it wasn't as if he couldn't do without it.

Equipping both the mask and the ring, Naruto walked out through the door.

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Naruto loved his Heaven's Feel. It was quite possibly the most wonderful thing anyone had ever given him. Even if he'd had to slaughter countless monsters before being fighting against a boss on Juubi's level before the game had 'given' it to him.

Regardless, the crimson ring always brought a big grin to Naruto's face.

He could summon weapons.

That didn't really sound especially cool unless you'd based your style around launching weaponry at your opponents – like Tenten had – until you actually realized what it meant. Firstly, he'd never run out of weapons, and he'd never have to buy any new ones, or sharpen any old ones. Secondly, he could never truly be disarmed. And thirdly, and most importantly, he could summon weapons. The kind of weapons that would've probably made Tenten drool.

Unfortunately, he had to buy the more unique ones first. He had saved enough points to buy quite a few of them, but it always made him wary.

Still, who could resist a lance that always pierced the heart, a chain that could bind the divine, a sword capable of granting three miracles? The list went on, each one more awe-inspiring than the last.

Some of them were obviously cursed, obviously evil, obviously thirsting for the blood of those living. Others were noble, and some were merely useful.

Personally though, there was one weapon that terrified Naruto beyond all others. It wasn't pointy thorns or wicked edges that caused his terror. No, it was simply the way it felt. Like it longed for nothing more than to beat him within an inch of his life and then leave him be, just so that it could do it again the moment he recovered from his injuries.

The wooden sword reminded him a lot of Sakura when someone really pissed her off. The ring called it the Torashinai, and the name sent shivers down Naruto's spine as he swore never to use it, no matter how close to victory. Nobody deserved having such a weapon turned against them. Not even Madara.

Still, it took a huge amount of chakra to actually call upon one of the more awe-inspiring weapons in his new arsenal, and it took even more in order to activate one, so he doubted that he'd be trying to learn how to wield a spear anytime soon. It just wasn't worth the effort.

Much easier to use regular weapons. Besides, it wasn't as if he really needed anything more special than a kunai. Though he had a certain love for the sword he'd lost when working his way through the monsters, he'd still managed to beat the Final Boss without it.

Speaking of his sword, he could actually summon it. Despite it having been very much broken, he could summon it in peak condition. Every time.

He really really really loved his Heaven's Feel.

The mask wasn't bad, but despite how useful and comfortable anonymity could be, Naruto just couldn't deny that he instinctively enjoyed the explosions of summon-able explosive tags more.

He grinned.

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Story: [Phobia]

Genre: Drama

Summary: A female Naruto that's developed a phobia for men, reflecting on her life.

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It doesn't take a lot for fear to be established.

The bravest of men can run away screaming in terror as he's faced with a spider. It depends on the man, on his experiences, on his will to overcome his fear.

But if fear can be overcome, why do we feel it at all? Simple, we feel fear because at some point it was needed for us to survive.

The man who doesn't fear the poisonous snake will end up bitten, same with the poisonous spider. The man who fears heights would avoid jumping from a cliff. Fear is a survival instinct, and even if it's corrupted by a man who trembles in terror at the sight of a spider, it was first realized as the spider posing a threat of some manner.

Phobias are the worst of the fears. They are what is born when fear is given free reign. The fear that taints your mind until you begin to justify it being there.

Naruto understood fears very well.

After all, the Hokage had hoped that logic would be enough to quell the phobia of a six year old girl.

It hadn't been.

Naruto didn't fear spiders, she didn't love them either, but she accepted that they shared space. She didn't fear snakes either, though she tried to keep a healthy distance since she was never sure which ones were poisonous. Naruto didn't fear heights, in fact, she quite enjoyed heights, even if she'd learned to be careful when climbing.

She didn't fear any of these things that made those around her shudder.

But the Hokage hadn't been able to get close enough to touch her without her flinching, trembling unmoving under his hand, since she'd been six.

Naruto had a phobia for men.

There were some she tried to get over it for, like the Hokage, or Teuchi, but she hadn't been able to get close to them for years now. Teuchi didn't mind, leaving Ayame to serve her ramen, whilst he stayed as far away as possible, to keep her comfortable. The Hokage, well, he certainly tried.

It was sad, seeing the face of the man who she considered as something of an honorary grandfather whenever she flinched away from his touch. That's why she tried to keep it hidden. Tried to keep it from being noticed.

She'd always been loud. Cheerful.

But when her phobia started, it suddenly became much harder to face the music. So much harder to stand up and fight the villagers' frequent glares.

She'd failed. Curling in on herself, she'd faded into the background, hoping that none would notice her fear.

Of course, she was nothing if not a great actress, and so far she was just thought of as unusually shy, a bit withdrawn, and still a firm believer that 'boys were icky'.

Some knew. Like the Hokage, Teuchi and Ayame. But most would never realize why, after that one time when she'd run into a couple of drunks in an alley, she wouldn't allow any male close.

There hadn't been anything more than harsh words, a bit of fist waving in her general direction from where they'd stood, and in the dark alley, faced with those men, her fear had started.

It'd taken her some time before she realized that the flinches whenever a man passed by wasn't letting up, wasn't stopping.

She supposed that a ninja with a phobia for men was really quite useless, but it was her goal. It was the only thing she'd ever had to hold on to, and even if she'd fail, she needed to at least try.

Thus, she tried.

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Story: [Safety Blanket]

Genre: Drama/Horror

Summary: We all have a breaking point, and once it's been reached things will never be the same.

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We all have our safety blankets. Things that make us feel that even when everything you touch turns to shit, that there will be a tomorrow.

These safety blankets are the things keeping you from finally snapping and doing whatever.

To some, they're actual blankets – items that they just can't leave behind – to others they're friends or family, to some they're that chocolate bar at the end of the day, and to others they're the ability to let out some steam.

It shouldn't have surprised them. It really shouldn't. But even if you know that we all have our own personal safety blankets, how in the world can you be certain of what they are?

In much the same way as people learn to appreciate something only once they realize they can't have it, so does also most people think of their safety blankets. They can tell their friends that it's that one chocolate bar a day keeping the madness at bay, when in reality it's the picture of that retarded-looking puppy that you've kept at your desk since you were five years old.

We don't analyze ourselves, it's a waste of time. We understand enough of how we work in order to keep on working, and that's really all that matters to most of us.

So, when that safety blanket that you never truly understood was there disappears... well, things might go a bit overboard.

Staring blankly ahead, Naruto realized something.

A line had been crossed.

He had not been the one to cross it, and he wasn't truly sure that those who had understood that that had been what they were doing. But nonetheless, a line had been crossed.

Naruto had never had a lot of things to cling to. There was the old man Hokage, Ichiraku's ramen, his really cool goggles, Gama-chan, his signature orange jumpsuit, and pranks. These were the things of importance in Uzumaki Naruto's life.

They weren't equally important, the old man Hokage and Ichirakus ramen was far over the top of the others, but the rest of what made him himself was precious to him as well.

Still, the thought that this had been his great safety blanket over all these years was quite a surprise. He still cared greatly for all the other things and would mourn losing them to varying degrees, but whilst they played a part in making him who he was, they were apparently not what had been keeping him sane, despite his own beliefs.

It had been such a silly thing. Once, when he'd first gotten his own apartment, he'd accidentally spilled some milk all over the small balcony. The next morning he'd stumbled upon a stray cat who'd apparently decided not to let it go to waste.

He didn't exactly like cats, and he didn't really want a pet. But for some reason, ever since that day he would leave out a plate of milk in the morning, and be visited by the cat that was making sure that it didn't go to waste.

It'd become so engrained in his routine that even now he was watching the plate of milk with a sort of hollow calm.

Some kids had decided that the cat that hung around the demon-brat was a perfectly viable target of their cruelty. He hadn't sure what he was supposed to do with the broken form that he'd scooped up with trembling hands, he hadn't been able to simply leave it and go ask. He couldn't bring himself to leave it alone. But he'd heard somewhere that you were supposed to bury the dead.

He wasn't sure if that was true, but it'd seemed like a good direction. So, he'd spent several hours digging a hole until he was satisfied. And then he'd gently lowered down the cold broken form of the stray cat who didn't want to let milk go to waste into the hole, before finally covering it with earth.

He'd found a rock to place over the grave. Again, he wasn't sure if that was how you did these things, but it'd seemed like the right thing to do. So he'd placed that rock on its grave, and then he'd stared blankly at it until the night swallowed its outline in darkness.

Then he'd gotten to his feet, and walked home.

He wasn't sure how long it'd been since he'd eaten. He wasn't sure how long he'd been able to sleep. But now, as a new day emerged, he sat there, watching a plate filled with milk.

And that's when it happened.

Uzumaki Naruto finally snapped.

A howl tore through Konoha, a howl of loneliness and sorrow, guilt and regret, frustration and anger, longing and horror.

It was the sound of a broken heart.

All around Konoha people looked up, startled at the heart-wrenching noise so early in the morning.

Some would simply shrug and return to what they were doing, continuing their days as planned, despite the unsettling feeling in their stomach that just wanted to flee and never look back.

Some would recognize the voice that carried that howl, and laugh at the heart-break of a demon, celebrating in the misery of a child, even as their own smiles felt oddly pasted on.

Some would startle awake in horrified panic and rush out to see what could possibly have caused such a noise.

Some would recognize the voice that carried that howl, and feel the color drain from their faces as they rushed towards its source.

None would make it.

By the time they made it to the source, there was only a small plate filled with milk on an empty balcony.

The Hokage sent out people to search.

They would find nobody.

But by the next morning, several children who'd sought out a stray cat learned of cruelty.

And the heart-broken cries of their mothers as they found their broken bodies would fill the air.

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Story: [Counter Guardian]

Genre: Adventure

Summary: EMIYA is called to deal with Madara, and ends up raising Naruto.

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The Shinigami watched the man who made a deal with Death in order to save his Village. A desperate attempt to stop a raging beast by sealing it into his own son.

He cared not for this man's purpose. He cared not for this man's hopes and dreams.

But he caught a glimpse of eyes that didn't belong. Eyes that he should've been able to claim so very long ago.

The Shinigami could not work outside of his contract, he couldn't reach out to grab that man and pull him back into his realm. His contract was to seal the Kyuubi into a newborn infant. That was all he was able to do.

But the Shinigami had long since learned how to bend the rules. And so, as he finished sealing the raging bijuu inside of his summoner's own son, the Shinigami took his payment of the man's soul and made his way back into his own realm.

And on his way, he asked the World if it knew of the man who desired its destruction, the man whom he couldn't claim.

And so it was, that as the man that went by the name Madara crawled to his feet and got ready to retreat, he was met with something that was Not Human.

"Counter Guardian Emiya." The Not Human dressed in red introduced himself in a cold voice. "Trace on."

Madara, exhausted after his fight against the Yondaime, and both surprised and disturbed by the Not Human's appearance lasted all of twenty-two seconds before his body finally surrendered and his soul was gleefully claimed by the Shinigami.

Counter Guardian Emiya stared out at the Village, frowning at the sight of so much destruction. He'd been betrayed by his ideal, but he still longed for it, still searched for it, and so continued to be betrayed by it.

But even so, as he remembered a fight in a destroyed castle and a boy still unrefined, he wondered if perhaps he could afford to try just one more time. To live up to his ideal, to save everyone.

He had erased what the World had sent him there to erase, but there was so much destruction, so many people needing to be saved. Perhaps... perhaps he could cling to his existence here for a little while longer, just to save as many people as possible.

And so, the man who'd made a deal with the World appeared at the scene of the Kyuubi's rampage, digging out people from rubble, and healing those who closed in on death with a sheath of golden light.

But this is not a story about how a Counter Guardian's attempt at kindness changed it all, this is a story about how a Counter Guardian stumbled upon an infant with golden hair, covered in ink, and heard the final bleary words of the infant's father, the man too close to Death's door that he proved unable to even recognize to whom he was talking.

"Let him be known as a hero."

And the Not Human who'd once taken up that very ideal from his own father, from his savior, from his idol, wondered if perhaps the World enjoyed flaunting the concept of irony at those contracted to it.

Emiya shook his head as the stubborn, soulless man finally drew his last breath, gingerly picking up the blond boy.

The ideal of a hero. The ideal to save everyone. To bestow such a heavy burden onto the shoulders of an infant...

Emiya gazed into the child's blue eyes, trying to find some manner of explanation for the faith placed in this fragile human.

A demon with nine tails roared in an eternal prison. The boy with golden hair and blue eyes met his eyes with a small smile.

And with a burning sensation that had nothing to do with fire, Counter Guardian Emiya gazed in horror as the pattern of three tattoos made its way onto the infant's bloodied hand.

His kindness had stolen him, however briefly, from the merciless World to which he'd pledged himself. And perhaps... just perhaps, this boy could become a hero.

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Story: [A Hero and a God]

Genre: Drama

Summary: What if Naruto didn't pull new techniques out of his ass? What if he was just too heroic to fail?

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He stood.

He'd been pinned to the ground, and yet he stood.

He was bleeding, he was torn, he might possibly be dying, and yet he stood.

Hinata lay behind him, that was why he stood. He couldn't fall. He couldn't be allowed to fall.

He didn't know what it truly meant to love, he wasn't sure if he could ever return her feelings, but she was precious to him.

An open palm that caught Pein's fist. The ground cratering beneath him, and yet he would not move. He would not fall.

"My name is Uzumaki Naruto, you're in my way, God." There was no sarcasm in his words. If anything, there was an acceptance of just how far out of his league Pein truly was. But his words didn't waver.

A punch. A simple punch. There was no hidden technique, no Sage Mode, no Kyuubi, Pein wasn't sure if it was even chakra-enhanced, it was just a simple punch.

Pein hit the ground with a sickening crunch.

And as he looked up, he found himself wondering, if perhaps, this was what a true hero looked like.

Naruto's eyes were blue, brilliantly blue. His blond hair was caked with dirt and blood, his clothes were torn, the blood splattered across them his own.

He met a God, he explained to it that it was in his way. When it didn't move, he went through it.

There was no hesitation, merely acceptance. Acceptance of his own weakness, acceptance of his own lack of knowledge. And yet neither of those mattered, because he would continue on his way, regardless of how many monsters, mountains, gods, devils, demons, that tried to stop him.

The punch shouldn't even have hurt him, he was called a God for more than his own ego, and yet it hurt. It felt as if his entire skeleton had turned to shards of glass, his organs into mush, and his very soul had been bruised.

Pein knew a lot about souls, and you couldn't actually bruise a soul. Rip it out, bring it back from the dead, possibly even crush it entirely. You could do many things with a soul. But bruising it shouldn't be possible.

Perhaps that was why he remembered that book. That book filled with dreams, with purpose, with stupid heroics and obnoxious ideals. The book that this man had been named after.

In a place far away, Nagato turned to the woman at his side, the angel to his godhood.

"In the stories, what happens when a God falls from the heavens?" He asked, his voice cracking, his voice confused, his voice so young and so old both at the same time.

Konan stared at him, not comprehending his sudden question, but with a frown she answered. "They meet a Hero, and he saves them all."

Nagato smiled then, a relieved smile, a peaceful smile. "Ah, that's good. I was worried." He paused. "Konan, I met a Hero. I want to hear about it, how he saved us all, when you join us. It's time for me to get out of his way."

And so he called upon the souls of Konoha, and they answered.

Pein looked up at the man standing above him. "That spirit... don't ever give it up. I'll be waiting once you're done." He smiled, peacefully. "Save them all."

Naruto stared down at the god that lay at his feet, his eyes showing an understanding that shouldn't have been possible. He nodded. "Don't worry. I will."

And so Nagato drew his final breath, happy, at peace.

XXX