"normal speech"

'thoughts or flashback'

'kurama speech'

Chapter 11

"Don't blink." Naruto advised.

Chase tensed minutely where he stood and idly wondered what he meant by that. Until he made the mistake of blinking and had Naruto disappear right before his very eyes.

The blonde's speed was ridiculous as he reappeared instantly directly in front of him, fist already on a path to Chase's face. There was no time to express any sort of surprise as fist impacted with mask.

The thunderous blow echoed loudly within the forest.

Chase was rocketed away by the force of the punch, lifted off his feet easily. The mask he wore didn't crack but he wasn't sure if he was thankful for that or angry because it hurt his face nonetheless.

A huge crash and only the thickness of a tree twenty meters away prevented Chase from going any further due to the force of the blow. Slowly he got back to his feet and faced Naruto again as the powerful blonde hadn't bothered to follow up on the attack.

"Why are you after Wendy? Who hired you?" White haori flapping in the wind, eyes burning with intense resolve, posture loose and light but guarded, even if he was young this mage certainly had no trouble radiating power and intimidation.

"Catch." Chase ignored the question.

He quickly pulled out a throwing knife and launched it at Naruto. The flash of sunlight on the metal distracted Naruto's attention for a split second and allowed the mage from Carbuncle to vanish.

Years of dodging kunai allowed Naruto to effortlessly dodge the knife as well. He strained his ears for the faintest whistle of more knives cutting through the air in case Chase tried a sneak attack.

Blue and brown eyes swept side to side all around the clearing, watching for the faintest sign of him. Naruto stayed calm despite finding no trace of him and then hearing his disembodied voice speak.

"Fear the shadows for within them lurks the unknown. Not even the mighty Tempest can blow away that which he doesn't see and can't understand." Chase taunted his voice cutting through the air.

Naruto snorted. "You think this scares me? I've had to face people throwing their voices and hiding from me since I was a child. The first time was when my team had to fight a man known only as the Demon of the Mist. You're nowhere near as good as him and I'm nowhere near as weak as then."

Dark chuckles emanated from all around Naruto. "You aren't my objective Tempest, Wendy is. As soon as I defeat you though, I'll take my time convincing her to come with me. Or are you telling me that you don't know the value of the Sky Sorceress?"

A rain of knives fell upon the blonde who quickly jumped backwards and away from the attack. He evaded the knives with ease as he twisted and danced around the falling metal until he ended up with his back to a tree.

His instincts screamed for him to dodge and he did; only narrowly missing being impaled by a sword Chase tried to stab him with as he emerged from the shadow of one of the trees.

Blonde eyebrows furrowed together in concentration. 'This is Kage Mahō (Shadow Magic). I've never been up against it but if it's anything like the Shadow Jutsu of the Nara clan it'll be troublesome getting in close. Heh, troublesome…'

Chase stepped fully out of the shadows and faced the blonde teen. Warily the two fighters circled each other, looking for the slightest opportunity to attack.

"Ah I see you've figured out I'm using my Shadow Form." Naruto blinked in wonder at how this guy just kept telling him things that he hadn't figured out yet. "You might have gotten lucky on my first attempt but will your luck hold out the longer we fight?"

Laughing lowly, Naruto reacted by leaping backwards and into the shadows of the forest himself. It looked like he had just melted into the shadows, mimicking the actions of Chase.

"You seem pretty confident in your Shadow magic Chase. Let's see how you deal with someone raised and trained to fight in the shadows as part of his profession." Naruto's baritone echoed all around, letting Chase experience what others often felt.

"Kage Mau (Shadow Dance)." Chase intoned as Naruto made no moves to step back into sight.

A bright yellow magic circle shimmered into existence beneath Chase before his shadow multiplied around him. His single shadow split into various copies with him in the center and circled around him.

The mage of Carbuncle then melted into the shadows at his feet before each one of them darted into the tree line. He was looking for Naruto and sought him out with his magic.

Blonde eyebrows rose in interest at the unique magic displayed before him. The lone shinobi contemplated what to do next as he now had multiple shadows to watch out for and he didn't know if Chase could pop out of any one of them or if they were distractions.

Surprise was quickly tempered into wariness as Naruto felt Chase appear behind him and throw him out of the shadow of the tree he was hiding in.

The throw had caught him off guard and so he couldn't stop himself from being flung to the ground.

"Did you really think you could hide from me Tempest? The shadows are my domain not yours." Chase taunted in an attempt to anger Naruto.

It didn't work. "You talk too much. If you're feeling so chatty why not tell me why you're after Wendy?"

His white haori didn't get a smudge of dirt on in as Naruto turned in mid air and landed on his feet, ready and expecting an attack from the Shadow mage. His patience was rewarded as from the corner of his eye Naruto saw a shadow rush him from the forest.

As the shadow seemed to jump at him, Naruto spun and tried to connect with a spinning back kick. He was caught off guard for the second time in as many minutes as he didn't feel his foot connect with anything solid.

It passed through the shadow like it wasn't there even though he could clearly see its form. The shadow latched onto his leg right as it passed through it and didn't just avoid the hit.

Instead the shadow crawled up and around his body before wrapping around him. Naruto spun around to see if he could dislodge the shadow mage but found he couldn't even find him.

His movements were stopped when several swords and knives erupted outwards from his body. Naruto was frozen in shock as he stared at the metal digging its way out of his skin.

Chase smirked as he leapt away from his victim, "I expected more from the mighty S-Class wizard of Fairy Tail. Looks like I'll be completing my job a lot sooner than I thought."

Naruto's face, locked in pain twisted into a smirk before with a pop he vanished into a cloud of smoke. Where he stood earlier only the knives and swords lay on the ground.

Chase stared wide eyed at the spot the blonde had disappeared from. "Wha-"

He couldn't get to finish what he was going to say as his legs were swept out from under him by Naruto. Another Naruto then caught him in mid air with a kick that launched him vertically, where a third Naruto met him and kicked him even higher.

Chase's eyes widened in surprise as at the apex of his flight, he met another Naruto who was ready to deliver a devastating axe kick to the masked mage. "Uzumaki Barrage." Naruto said as he kicked him in the stomach.

Chase gasped while he felt the air leave his lungs; that kick hurt like hell. Fortunately for him, he had enough presence of mind to use his magic and disappear into the magic circle on the ground where his shadow was instead of crashing on to the hard unforgiving earth.

"Tell me who sent you after Wendy." Naruto commanded as Chase stumbled out of another shadow.

The cloaked wizard of Carbuncle was clearly hurt as he was holding a hand to his side, where he likely had a few cracked ribs. The man's labored breathing and slumped posture also showed how much damage he took.

When no reply came, Naruto feared Chase wouldn't know. If he didn't know why then it would make it harder to possibly stop future attacks on Wendy from happening.

All Naruto needed was a slight hint as to the problems and reasons for trying to get the little girl, anything to help protect her. She was a cute kid, and Naruto had a soft spot for children.

"Have it your way." Naruto said as he held his hand out to his side and concentrated. Within a few seconds the trademark jutsu that he was known for all over the Elemental Countries formed in his hand. "Rasengan (Spiraling Sphere)."

Invoking a wordless and seal-less Shunshin Naruto appeared directly behind Chase, catching him right as the wizard turned to try and dodge.

Behind his mask, Chase's eyes widened as Naruto shoved the spinning ball of chakra into his stomach, the injuries from the physical attack seconds ago not allowing the mage to avoid this follow up.

The force that the jutsu launched Chase away from Naruto was greater than even the kick and punch he received earlier. As a result, he could do nothing to stop his flight through several branches and ending up plowing a trench in the dirt as he came to a stop.

With a pained groan Chase tried to lift himself off the ground but nearly cried out in pain from that simple action. He started coughing and would have spit out the glob of blood in his mouth if he wasn't wearing a mask.

"Ah, I see you knew I would use my Kage Mau spell Tempest, and countered accordingly. But how are you alive after I speared you with all those knives and swords? I know that was you, you aren't known for illusions so it had to be your real body." Chase wheezed out painfully between short labored breaths.

Naruto sweatdropped at the guy's continuous and highly inaccurate praising of his skills. Yes, he was strong but he definitely didn't know half the stuff this Chase guy was saying he did.

Brown and blue eyes twinkled in amusement as he tapped his nose, "That's a secret. I can't go around telling everyone how I fight can I?"

Angry and feeling light headed and overwhelmed from the pain, the Carbuncle mage simply settled back down on the ground and with a last painful shuddering breath passed out.

Before Naruto could move forward to try and capture Chase, a blonde and busty girl dropped down next to the downed mage. "It seems like you win this round Tempest. Unfortunately we can't stick around for long. We'll have to continue this little spat another time. Next time I'll be your opponent."

Naruto scowled but could do nothing as a magic circle surrounded both the mages and made them disappear. It must have been some sort of last-resort transportation spell, since he doubted Chase had the magic nor was he awake to make them leave.

Only the girl's last words were left behind as her cruel and mocking smile was the last thing to vanish. "My name is Coordinator of Carbuncle. The next time we meet, I'll show you the true skills of a wizard of Carbuncle. Your sister Erza is far from being the best requip mage around."

Naruto let out a deep breath after making sure they really were gone for good. He straightened from his defensive posture and pinched his nose in irritation. 'Man what was up with those weirdoes? I didn't even get much out of them besides their target. I'll have to talk to Master Roubaul about this and see if he knows anything.'

"Woohoo! Yeah Naruto you showed them! See Wendy I told you he'd be alright." Natsu's loud cheering snapped Naruto out of his reflections and made him seek the young boy out. (1)

"Natsu?! What are you doing here?" Naruto asked incredulously as he looked for the boy.

At first he couldn't find the source of all the cheering, but then the air in front of a particularly sturdy bunch of trees seemed to crack and splinter before shattering like glass. The clear and empty spot that was there before the air shattered revealed Natsu, Wendy and Kurama-clone standing there.

"Yo." Kurama waved carelessly from his seat on top of a tree branch.

"Naruto-san are you alright?" Wendy asked worriedly as she ran to him and checked him over.

Naruto indulged the little girl before patting the top of her head, earning himself another small blush. 'Boy, Wendy-chan sure gets flustered real easily.' He then had to bop the top of Natsu's head to stop him from jumping around like an excited monkey.

"What are you guys doing here?" Naruto asked again, he then glared at the snickering whiskered version of himself in the tree, "And why the hell did you let them come?! I told you to watch over them not take them on a field trip."

"Naruto you're so awesome! How'd you do that spinning ball thingy? Huh?! Huh! And I bet that was your clone…" The rest of Natsu's rant, questions and excitable chatter was promptly ignored as Naruto continued glaring at his tenant.

Wendy started to fidget uncomfortably and she tried to stick up for what she assumed was another of Naruto's clones that decided to play a prank on the original again. Naruto had been by often enough to Cait Shelter that Wendy knew it wasn't exactly out of the question for his clones to be acting up again.

"A-ah don't be angry at your clone Naruto-san. It was really our fault." Naruto didn't believe her but chose to let her continue, "Natsu-san noticed how you left us alone and had a clone watch us and he said he smelled someone around us earlier. He thought that you were probably off fighting him and I… well I… offered to make sure you were alright and didn't get hurt so we followed you."

Naruto couldn't bring himself to glare or show any sort of anger after seeing how downcast Wendy's expression became. She really was a timid little girl and very fearful of disappointing him.

"It's alright Wendy-chan. I should've known Natsu would drag you into trouble," 'this actually might work out for the best, I did introduce them so Natsu could bring her out of her shell.' "Still doesn't explain why my clone let you come though." Naruto finished balefully glaring at Kurama.

"I don't like kids. I already told you that." Kurama shrugged unrepentantly, "But when this pink haired menace" he pointed at Natsu, "threatened to run off and save the day I had to follow to keep him out of trouble. That blue haired one did say she would heal you but I guess she doesn't know you don't need a healer."

"Your clone is so cool Naruto! He said he was going to create a barrier or something but with an illusion so we could hide and watch what you did. It was so awesome!" Natsu once again jumped up and down in excitement as he recounted what had happened.

Naruto looked over at his now part-time tenant to see if he could explain it better.

Kurama shrugged, "Just because you're pitiful at illusions doesn't mean I am too. I roamed the world for centuries before meeting you. I had plenty of time to master some useful talents. That was an illusion weaved together with a barrier to shield from any stray attacks."

"Whatever fuzz face. Time to go." Naruto brought his fingers into a ram seal and forcefully dispelled Kurama. Ignoring the threats of the bijuu in his gut Naruto turned to the tiny girl in their group. "Well looks like it's time to go now Wendy-chan. We aren't busy so how about we escort you back to your guild? You can get to know Natsu better along the way."

"Alright! Let's go Wendy. I'll tell you all about the time I almost beat Naruto in a fight but let him win of course. You see it started out…" Natsu's voice faded in the distance as he dragged Wendy along and he continued to regale her with stories where he always seemed to come out the hero.

'So what did the guy want brat? Those young Dragon Slayers may not have heard what you said there at the end but I did. Did you find anything useful out while fighting that I missed?' Kurama grumbled after he calmed down and no longer threatened to dismember his jailor.

Naruto shook his head. 'No. He didn't say much about Wendy and then that other girl showed up before I could capture him. All I can do now is try and dig up information on Carbuncle and those two wizards. I'll also ask Roubal if he might know why Wendy was targeted but there's not much else I can do.'

'At least you have something to go on. It'd be a lot worse if your attackers weren't as stupid as they are for giving you their names and guild.'Kurama pointed out.

A smirk found its way onto Naruto's face as he agreed with his tenant. His opponents had been unusually chatty but he couldn't bring himself to complain.

As he walked in the direction of Natsu's distinct yelling he couldn't help but wonder if there wasn't another reason for the attack. It seemed a bit too straightforward for a kidnapping attempt or theft of Wendy's belongings.

Even if he was a relatively new S-Rank mage, not many wizards went around attacking a powerful opponent if they weren't forced to, even for the fame. He shrugged those concerns off as mere paranoia as he neared the two children he was watching over.

"Oi Natsu, quit messing around and let's head to town. We have to catch the train from Freesia so we can head over and drop Wendy-chan off at Cait Shelter." Naruto called out to the pink haired Dragon Slayer.

The blonde grabbed the back of Natsu's scarf and began dragging him away in a completely different direction than he was going.

Several hours later, an annoyed Natsu looked at his guild mate and friend, eyes trying to convey the problem to the blonde. "Are you sure you know where we're going Naruto? We're not lost again are we?" Natsu asked, not for the first time in the last hour let alone the entire day.

"Of course we're not!" Naruto snapped irritably. They then passed the cliff that resembled a giant thumb for the fourth time.

"Really?" Natsu droned skeptically.

Naruto wouldn't admit it but he wasn't exactly paying attention to where he was going. He kept getting distracted by the most random things and just walked off in that direction.

Of course this meant he kept losing track of where they were but it didn't matter much to him. Irritating Natsu was pretty funny so he didn't see a reason to worry just yet.

"A-are you sure we're heading in the right direction Naruto-san?" Wendy asked nervously as she swore they passed this particular set of gnarled trees and distinct rocks for the sixth time.

Naruto ruffled her hair playfully, "Wendy-chan, I'll have you know, I have an excellent sense of direction." Inwardly he added, 'I also have a terribly short attention span but it's – oh look a curily!'

"Naruto the lake we were at was only like a half hours walk away from town!" Natsu complained.

The haori clad teen shrugged. "So?"

"We've been walking around for hours!" Natsu cried in frustration. He looked around, annoyed at finding that they'd somehow turned around yet again while they were talking.

Naruto patted the pink haired boy's head gently. "Just leave this sort of stuff to the grown-ups Natsu." He sent a discrete wink to the blue haired girl walking alongside him in hopes of calming her down.

The young healer of the group caught the wink and giggled lightly, correctly assuming that Naruto was now just messing with Natsu. She'd been getting worried that they weren't going to make it back to town but now she wasn't as nervous as before.

Naruto definitely knew where they were and was only messing with Natsu now to annoy him.

"Hey Natsu, you're in the forest a lot. What direction does moss grow on trees again? South right?"

They weren't really lost.

"Agh! Naruto just let me hold the map! Everyone knows moss grows on the West side, because if you flip the M in moss upside down it's the W in West. You're hopeless."

Well… probably not lost.

"Hey! That's no way for an apprentice to talk to his master you brat! Show some respect."


"I'll show you respect when you show me the way out! Why are you so hope-ow!"

"So, what did you find out?" A feminine figure, clad in an all white cloak asked the two mages in front of her, having just returned from the job she hired them for.

They decided to meet in a bar, a seedy establishment that had seen far better days.

The windows were cracked and caked with dirt, the tables were all full of scratches and wobbled worse than a penguin, and the atmosphere reeked of distrust and anger. Even the lighting was dim and did nothing to lift the mood.

In short, it suited their needs perfectly.

Anyone that didn't frequent a place like this would be spotted instantly. They had something delicate to discuss and it wouldn't do to have it overheard. All others that might have a chance of overhearing something knew better than to spread it around.

There is a certain honor among thieves, and it helped that they all feared the Carbuncle mages that were sitting at the table. It was they who chose where to meet knowing no one would dare eavesdrop or spread information on their meeting.

"Unfortunately we didn't find out much Ultear-sama. He didn't use many magic spells, only what I suspect is that clone technique you told us about and a new one in his hand." Coordinator informed their client as Chase was having difficulty breathing still.

Ultear, having grown tired of how little information she knew and how easily Naruto finished his jobs had hired two mages from a rival guild to fight him and get more info on his power. None of the accounts given or submitted on Naruto's jobs gave an accurate assessment of his skills.

Some swore he was the second coming of the dark wizard Zeref himself based on how powerful he was. While others merely stated he was just slightly above average strength-wise as he completed his jobs with the utmost efficiency.

There really was no accurate way to find out without experiencing or seeing his powers first hand.

Ultear didn't want to seem suspicious about asking Naruto to show how strong he was so she figured that if he was forced to use them in a fight then all the better for her. She still needed a way to overpower him or at least control him in the future to further her goals.

"He didn't use any lightning, water, or wind spells like the rumors say he's mastered?" Ultear pressed, leaning forward in her seat to catch every word of their report.

Chase gave in to a racking cough that he'd been trying to hold off. "N-no none of that Ultear-sama. Even the new spell that he hit me with at the end wasn't any of the elemental magics."

Ultear frowned and grew annoyed at how little information this had turned out. "Well what was this new spell? Is it a particularly powerful brand of magic?" She was surprised Naruto hadn't used even his fire magic, a brand of magic she knew he mastered and had seen him wield personally before.

"He called it Rasengan. We don't know what type of magic it is though sorry. All we could deduce is that it's a type of Caster Magic, perhaps even Molding Magic." Coordinator reported faithfully.

She hated failing a job but while she'd put up a brave front in front of Tempest, she knew when she was outclassed. A man that had used maybe only two spells in his entire fight with Chase, and still beaten him severely was extremely strong and not to be taken lightly.

Chase wasn't a pushover either. He was exceptional in his mastery of Shadow Magic.

Ultear leaned back into her chair and slipped into thought, pulling her drink closer to her. "I see. I suppose there's not much to do now. I can't exactly be upset at this turn out, not if you managed to successfully get away and throw him off the trail of the real reason he was attacked."

Yes, telling the Carbuncle mages to make a story up about pursuing Wendy was a brilliant idea. Naruto was the type to worry and obsess over the safety of his friends and so wouldn't even question if it was true or not. He was paranoid like that and wouldn't even consider that he was the true target.

'There are so many rumors about you Naruto. The first being unconfirmed reports of Water, Wind, and Lightning magic which won you your nickname. Now there's possibly Molding Magic at work. I know you've mastered Fire magic and are skilled in Teleportation magic but I need to know more.' Ultear mused silently.

She took a sip of her drink to process everything she'd been told so far. "How can I get you to help me in my ultimate dream if I don't know more about you. You're so infuriating and so interesting my dear Tempest." Ultear muttered too quiet for anyone else to hear.

"If I may, Ultear-sama?" Chase remarked, breaking the silence that had set in.

Ultear cocked a brow in silent question then tilted her head allowing Chase to ask what he wanted.

"If you need or would like another attempt to find out Tempest's skills, I'd be more than willing to give it another try." The masked man offered, trying to keep the frustration of his defeat out of his voice.

The raven haired mage wasn't fooled. She was skilled at manipulating people and so understood why he offered to attack Naruto again. "Why would I expect different results next time? Naruto Scarlet is an S-Ranked mage for a reason, he learns from every experience he has, unless you were holding back on him last time he'll be expecting and devising ways to counter you if you meet again."

Coordinator gripped Chase's shoulder tightly lest he say something he'd regret. "That may be so, but if you would at least consider Carbuncle again for a future job we would appreciate it. Perhaps all Chase needs is a little variety, something to throw Tempest off his game. I'm sure I can provide that."

Ultear smiled wickedly, she hadn't meant to start a rivalry or a grudge between these wizards and Naruto but she wouldn't turn away the potential it had. "Of course. I can't promise anything in the immediate future but if I need more information on Naruto Scarlet I'll be sure to think of Carbuncle first to obtain it."

Both wizards from Carbuncle nodded in satisfaction.

Each one silently swore to pay Naruto back with interest the humiliation they had suffered at his hands. The humiliation of being completely outclassed and not leaving a scratch on him.

Magnolia, Fairy Tail

"We're back!" Natsu shouted as he kicked the guilds doors in and ran inside.

It was a few days after their encounter with those two wizards after meeting Wendy. Naruto and Natsu had dropped her off at Cait Shelter and Naruto had taken the time to ask Roubaul about anything that might shed light on why Wendy was targeted.

In the mean time Natsu had bonded some more with the little girl that he considered his sibling disciple. Perhaps it wasn't too obvious but the seeds of a great friendship had already started to grow.

After they left Wendy at her guild –with an agreement to have Natsu and her meet up as often as possible- Naruto and Natsu took their time getting back to Magnolia. They didn't have any pressing issues to take care of so they just enjoyed the time they spent together.

The rowdy guild didn't even bat an eye at their entrance. All were used to different members and their eccentricities.

Gildarts would just as easily destroy a wall to get in as knock a door down.

The rest of the guild were used to violent outbursts and seemed to not only look forward to them but felt ill at ease if they went any amount of time without some. That was what gave Fairy Tail its charm though.

"Natsuuuu! Over here. Come and tell us how your mission went?" Lisanna cried out to him. She waved him over to her table where a few of the other young wizards were sitting.

Happy was happily eating a fish as he sat in her lap. Cana was eating some food, Levy was reading a book, Gray was playing around with his magic making miniature sculptures of ice and Elfman was talking to his sister Mirajane.

Natsu bounded over to the group eager to tell them of his job with Naruto.

Naruto made to go to the bar but was interrupted on his way there.

"Naruto, I need to speak to you in my office." Makarov yelled as he stuck his head out his office door before closing it again.

Wondering what it could possibly be about Naruto went straight to the Master's office. Upon reaching the second floor and entering he noticed that he wasn't alone.

Sitting in a chair in front of the Master's desk was a cloaked figure. He wore a dark blue bandana with a silver forehead protector, and a green mask that covered the lower half of his face much like Kakashi. His arms and legs were mostly wrapped in bandages and his only weapons were several staves by his side that could be hooked onto that dark green strap going across his chest.

Naruto eyed the unknown person warily before he too made to take the other seat in front of the desk. Before he sat down he offered the person a hand to shake. "Hello, I was taught that it's rude to ask a name without introducing yourself first so my name is Naruto Scarlet. Nice to meet you."

Though he couldn't see it, the stranger's eyes widened in slight surprise at meeting the famed Tempest of Fairy Tail so soon. He cautiously accepted the blondes hand and shook it. "My name is Mystogan. Nice to meet you too."

The blonde nodded and turned back to the Master. "So what's up Master?" He held up a hand before Makarov could respond, "Before you ask, no I couldn't get you that book you wanted. I'm pretty sure Natsu would've tattled on me to Erza-chan and I didn't want to risk a beating again."

Makarov's face flushed in embarrassment as Mystogan looked on between the two in amusement. "We can talk about that later Naruto. Mystogan has just decided to join Fairy Tail and he is from another country too," Mystogan stiffened slightly for fear of Makarov revealing he was from Edolas already, "so since he's new around here I was hoping you could show him around?"

"Another country you say? Yeah that's fine Master. Is there anything else you wanted?" Naruto asked, scratching at an itch on his cheek. It sounded like an innocent enough request from Makarov but he doubted he was called up to the office for something so simple.

Makarov folded his arms in front of him and his face lost all traces of amusement. "Yes. I got your message about those wizards who attacked you. Can you tell me exactly what happened? I need to know more information."

Mystogan waited patiently for the two to talk and listened attentively. He had joined Fairy Tail and embraced their philosophy. The guild was family, which was why he liked it and decided to join, so any harm to the family had to be avoided and watched out for.

While he would still try and remain as private as possible, it wouldn't do to allow danger to his comrades to go unchecked.

"So Natsu. How was your job with Naruto?" Lisanna asked as she finished wiping the mess Happy made with his fish.

"It was awesome!" Natsu started to wave his hands around enthusiastically. "Naruto had to fight this guy that disappeared almost as good as he does and he won!"

Naruto had told him to keep Wendy's involvement quiet on their way back to Magnolia. Natsu had heard Chase say something about Wendy but luckily Wendy either hadn't caught it or hadn't been paying attention so didn't know about it.

So to help keep the limelight off her until at least they knew why she was being targeted, Naruto made sure Natsu knew to keep her name quiet around the guild. The less people that knew about Wendy, the fewer questions were asked, the better overall for her safety.

He also took the time to tease Natsu about how jealous Lisanna would be at having a girl to compete with for Natsu's heart. The pink-haired teen's face sported a blush that far outstripped his hair color.

"But then we got lost for hours Lisanna! Naruto's terrible with directions. Next time I'll take the lead, I'm way better at finding my way than he is. He is so much more trouble than me." Natsu wailed miserably.

He glossed over the job details in favor of highlighting what to him was the most important part of his time with Naruto, the fight with Chase.

"Yeah right. You get into lots of trouble on your own, Naruto being with you probably kept you out of trouble even though you're so annoying. I pity the guy." Gray muttered.

Natsu instantly shot to his feet and butted heads with the ice mage. "What was that droopy eyes?"

"You got a hearing problem do you now, you birthday candle?" Gray growled back.

"Tough talk for a walking ice pack." Natsu shoved Gray's head away.


"Glorified ice cube."

"Wet charcoal."

"Fruit of the gloom."

Cana, sick of their childish taunts, said the only thing that would make them shut up. "Oh hey Erza. When did you get back?"

Instantly both boys paled and looked around wildly for the armored girl.

Mirajane of course also looked around for her self-proclaimed rival. "Oh? So that walking tin can is back? Where is she? We need to settle who's stronger once and for all."

Of course Cana had forgotten that Mirajane was around and would pick up the slack that Natsu and Gray left off.

"Hey, what's all the fuss about? Natsu probably did something dumb again didn't he?" Naruto announced his return by popping over to the table where all the younger mages were sitting.

He'd foregone his usual haori and only wore his vest but with a short sleeve black shirt. He still had dark pants on with the ends wrapped up but they were of a light material. Some days were hot in Magnolia and so he dressed for comfort as much as possible.

The blonde cut off Natsu's indignant protests with a wave of his hand before ushering Mystogan forward. The masked man grimaced slightly at possibly meeting and spending more time with the others but reluctantly obeyed. If worse came to worse, he'd just actively avoid his guild mates in the future instead of ignoring them like planned.

"Ok Natsu I have a job for you," the young Dragon Slayer straightened visibly, "I'm heading off for a while to help our newest member Mystogan get settled in Magnolia. Erza should be coming back soon so if you see her tell her I'm away but will be back in a few days alright?"

Everyone around them waved and said a polite "Hello," to the masked wizard.

"Hey I'm not just a message boy Naruto. If you want me to do that then fight me. I won't do things like this for free you know?" Natsu exclaimed smashing his fists together and lighting them on fire.

They were instantly put out as Mirajane smashed his head into the ground. "Grr. Shut up already Natsu. If Naruto wants you to deliver a message then just do it already and quit being so annoying."

Naruto withheld a snicker at the sight of the excitable teen once again getting beat up by a girl. Usually it was Erza but Mirajane was pretty constant too. "Now now Natsu. Good little minions don't complain when given orders. They just nod along and say yes master."

"Minion." Natsu groaned from his place on the floor. "I'm not a minion. What happened to being apprentice?"

The blonde was halfway to the door when he heard Natsu's question. Cheerfully he patted Mystogan's back as he called over his shoulder, "It's your own fault Natsu. I've found a new apprentice." Mystogan subtly took a step away from Naruto, "You refused the honor of being introduced as my apprentice, student and subordinate to everyone we met. So now you're stuck with minion. See ya."

Once they were clear of the guild Mystogan turned to Naruto to ask about their destination. "I was under the impression that this would only take the rest of the day at most Naruto. Master Makarov didn't say you had to show me around for a few days and go on my first job with me too."

Naruto was rifling through his vest pockets looking for a specific scroll. "Yeah I know. I have some personal errands to run though so I might as well get them out of the way now." He looked up to see the masked wizard staring at him curiously. "I have to give you the addresses for all the offices about your paperwork and stuff but after that we'll split ways. Don't worry, I can tell you like your privacy so I'll head off on my own afterwards."

Mystogan seemed content with that plan and followed the blonde silently.

He didn't see the satisfied smile Naruto wore as he finally found the scroll he was looking for. A scroll that contained a certain shinobi armor set that he'd never shown Erza, only told her about. A scroll that contained a very different mask than the owl one he usually wore if it was needed.

The very same mask he'd only put on a handful of times since he destroyed the Tower of Heaven. A mask that no living soul in Fiore should have ever seen him wear.

It'd taken a while but Naruto had eventually found the location of the old seven towers of the R-System in the Magic Council's locked down archives. He'd already checked through three of them to verify what Siegrain had said and now he finally had the chance to look into a fourth.

Grimoire Heart Airship, several days later

"Someone has taken to snooping around lately. Well we can't have that." A deep gravelly voice spoke out from his position seated at the table in Grimoire Heart's Airship.

Bluenote Stinger was a man that not many would know but all would fear if in his presence long enough. He was a tall muscular middle-aged man with long dark hair tied in a clothed ponytail, reaching down below his waist. His looks while not immediately aggressive were very intimidating, his large mildly hooked nose, and bags under his eyes only leant to that appearance.

He was one of those people that you automatically didn't want to mess with, knowing that while looks were often deceiving, picking a fight with this man would end badly. As the deputy commander of Grimoire Heart, a prominent Dark Guild, his power was not to be underestimated.

Hades, the guild master looked up from the surveillance lacrima they were both watching, having been activated once the proximity wards were tripped. Grimoire heart had a set interest in various secrets and locations that the Magic Council believed hidden, so they set up alarms in case anyone decided to check them out.

It was a good decision on their part as in the past few months three locations that their long term plans were linked with, were tripped and by the same person. It seemed that someone was very interested in the R-System that the Council had taken great pains to destroy. Whether it was for good or not remained to be seen.

"Yes, invite him back for a talk. I want to know what his reasons are for looking up such dangerous magics after all. Perhaps he can be persuaded to join us? One doesn't go looking for information on the R-System on a whim after all." Hades remarked blandly, giving the all clear for Bluenote to investigate.

The man with the ponytail got up with an excited grin on his face. "Perhaps this one can finally answer the question that no one else but you has so far Master. Maybe I'll find out if he can fly."

Hades grunted in acknowledgement as his powerful second in command left the shadowed room they were sitting in. He made sure to give one last order before Bluenote was out of earshot, "Take one of the seven with you. Ultear isn't around, she's doing something on her own right now but the others could benefit from some battle experience."

Bluenote faltered before heading in a different direction. He had just the person in mind to take with him to meet this mysterious person. He only hoped that it wouldn't be a waste of his time to go down personally and deal with whoever was snooping around.

'Well well, Bear-mask wizard. Let's see what you can do. If I remember right, you're the same person that took down Brain and the Tower of Heaven a few years ago. Let's hope you're as strong as Brain says. I'd hate to have to crush you before Master Hades gets a chance to talk to you.' With that thought running through his head, Bluenote arrived at the door of one of the Seven Kin of Purgatory.

When the door opened he grinned as the person he hoped to bring along was awake. "We have someone snooping around where they shouldn't. You're coming with me to ask this person some questions."

A nod was all that Bluenote got in response and they both made their way to the teleporter on the ship. It would be much faster to use that than to walk to their destination.

Naruto was running through yet another deserted and damaged hallway in the search for any clues to what this tower once held. He wasn't one to take the words of the Magic Council at face value.

Just because they said this was an R-System didn't mean it was. He wanted to make sure they destroyed all of them, and if they hadn't he would be more than happy to finish the job for them.

'Still nothing huh brat? Unlike at that island there are a lot of buildings in this place. Maybe one of them has answers?'Kurama offered as he watched his tenant run around the condemned work site.

'Yeah you're right. I'll check th-' All his internal dialogue was cut off as he jumped back to avoid an incoming attack right as he was exiting the building. He leapt further away as it caused a big explosion when it hit the ground he was at seconds earlier.

Crouched low, he waited for his attackers to reveal themselves. That last attack had caused a fairly large explosion and caused a lot of dust to kick out but seemed to serve as a warning or to get his attention as it wasn't moving very fast.

He looked around and tried to assess his surroundings, taking everything in that might possibly hinder or help him if a battle were to break out. His eyes looked over the landscape, the terrain, the space he had to maneuver.

It wasn't until he caught sight of the place the attack landed that his eyes widened.

'Is that-" Kurama wondered in confusion and slight anger as he watched everything Naruto could see through his eyes.

Black fire was burning the entrance to the building he was just in.

Naruto's fervent and slightly hopeful whisper completed what Kurama could not. "Amaterasu."

A/N So I'm seriously hoping to break 200 reviews this chapter. Don't know how realistic that is but a guy can hope right? I hope you enjoyed this chapter as always please leave all questions, concerns or comments on your way out.

Side note: Is anyone else really blown away by how awesome Tobirama Senju is in the manga? I mean we didn't really know all that much about him at first but lately he's been kicking ass all over the place. Secret techniques within the edo tensei, his own precursor to the Hiraishin, and all that on top of his legendary water skills and genjutsu. He's awesome! I mean Hashirama is pretty powerful but I think Tobirama is just way cooler.

(1) There is a pic of a teen Natsu in my profile. He's not as young as during the flashbacks in the anime and not as old as during canon so I figured a good pic to reference the in-between years would be helpful.