End Game: Ver R Chapter 8

What is a Hero

Disclaimer: I don't own anything. Don't own Highschool Dragons of Dragons or Naruto. I do own the concepts and plots that I introduced into the story. Also, because of the connection between Highschool Dxd and multiple Religions and Myths, I am sorry if I have accidentally written something wrong and offended someone's belief/faith etc. I just did some basic research and filled the holes in by myself so it is only natural if I get something wrong.

Tralalala~ tis the season to be jolly~ tralalala la la la.

Interesting note of the day from Kishi.

I had a private message from someone decrying my works as terrible Naruto-in-Name-only or something like that. That not only for my Naruto/DxD story, but every other fanfic I have made, I have never ever written a canon Naruto. That I as an author can't even seem to love the canon character for who they are, which is why I have to use a NINO, and that alone is enough to show how bad Naruto is written as a character.

Personally I don't really fault the guy, in fact, I have noticed several similar reviews pointing out just that. The thing is, everyone has their own interpretations of canon, because everyone has their own way of thinking. As a writer, I love what Naruto represents, his guts, his determination, and most importantly, his potential to be someone more than what canon was, but was never explored properly. I might dislike what he, and ultimately the manga, became, but then that's why I write fanfiction. The problem is that as a person, I am incapable of portraying Naruto the way he is in canon simply because I am not Kishimoto. When I write, it is only natural that my Naruto comes out with elements of my interpretation. When I write, it is only normal that the one you read about its not the same as the one you see in canon, if only because I'm NOT writing about canon. It's a problem almost every writer here has faced I think, that there will always be someone who gets butt hurt that our work does not reflect canon, or at least, not his interpretation of canon, something that I can even admit that I've been guilty of this more than few times. The trick here is to handle it in such a way that people's suspension of disbelief is stretched, but not shattered, so that they can pretend that they don't mind and keep on reading.

Ironic isn't it?

Either way, enough of my little discussion.

On with the story my friends, on with the story and the roiling waves.

Soundtrack List

HomeMade Kazoku – Thank You

Fired Earth Music – Maker of Men

Fairy Tail Main Theme (Slow)

Audiomachine – Into the Wild

Two Steps from Hell – Cassandra

Pacific Rim – Main Theme: Epic Rock Remix by Little V

****End Game****

Naruto leaned back onto his chair and sighed softly.

It had been a long day, and he had only just managed to come back to his little shed after an hour past 1 in the morning once he had managed to clean up everything the uninvited group had left behind, most of which had been the result of Stephan's boisterousness.

He had very little doubt that the deceptively smart gorilla had done it on purpose as payback.

Rubbing his temples a little, he cracked one eye open to glance at the shadows in the corner of his office, or more precisely, a patch slightly darker than the shadows embracing it, "Why haven't you or the others reported in yet?" He rumbled in a gravelly manner, "You were supposed to do so the moment you got clear."

Out of the shadows stepped a normal sized clone of himself with a rather amused smirk plastered on its lips, "I know, but I wanted to show you this myself. I even convinced the others not to dispel before I could give this to you first." The clone admitted.

His curiosity perked, the blond leaned forward a little.

One clone disobeying orders or mouthing off at him wasn't really a strange thing. In fact, Naruto would probably admit that it happened way too often for his comfort, particularly since he had truly mastered the Shadow Clone spell and took it to from one logical extreme to the other.

But for all ten of them to disobey his orders at the same time?

For something like that to happen, Naruto could already more or less guess that whatever his clone had found was either going to be really painful, or really really amusing.

Usually with him on the receiving end.

"This better be damned good or I'm putting you on pigeon duty for the rest of your very short life." Naruto threatened the clone halfheartedly before gesturing for the clone to show him whatever it is it had found.

"Oh it is." The clone replied with a cryptic smile as it reached for something still hidden within the shadows, "You didn't give us much time so it might be a bit burnt, but I can guarantee that you're going to love this."

Naruto's eyes went wide as the clone presented him with a crate full of tomes and books that was almost as tall as an adult male and as wide as himself before plopping it on to the original's desk, completely unmindful of all the paper and documents that were sent flying in the process.

"This…" Naruto gently picked up a tome and flipped it open curiously, "And all of them are like this?"

The clone standing beside the table grinned widely, "I assume they were researching dimensional rifts. There were some references I didn't get about some illusionary being and the never-ending dream but most of them deal with the nature of the rift itself. Figured it'd help."

The original hummed contemplatively, "I'm a bit worried about them researching the same thing as me, but are you sure you managed to get everything?"

"Everything we could decypt in what little time we had." The clone noted carelessly.

"We'll have to operate on the assumption that there were some others you didn't reach in time then." Naruto concluded softly.

"We've also managed to tag Katarea and Zekram with some of our seals though I'm not entirely sure why you wanted them alive." The clone observed dryly, "You didn't really have a problem with just offing problems before."

The original merely nodded slowly, thoughtfully thumbing along the thick and rough parchment of the book again. Already there were some interesting tidbits that he wanted to start adapting into his seals.

"This is good." Naruto waved the clone away, "You and the others can go and rest. You can do anything you like until you run out of chakra."

The clone quirked one eyebrow sarcastically, "Really? Good?" It echoed with a painfully dry tone, "Good is finally getting to bath in hot water after a long day's work. Pretty good is stuffing Madara down the drain every day for all the shit he keeps trying to feed us. Really good when you've had a bowl of Teuchi's divine ramen."

"But this?" The clone gestured at the huge crate that was just sitting on the table, "This isn't just good, Boss. This is the bloody jackpot."

Naruto's copy articulated with wild gestures to get his point across, "It's even better than that ten minutes you got with the Scroll of Secrets, right before Nagato came and shat all over Konoha. And even the 10% that you DO know is utterly wasted because you never took the time to understand them so that you could use them to their full potential."

"Oi," the last Uzumaki protested weakly, "I had at least one of you guys studying this thing at all times while we were at Mount Myobukuzan remember?"

"Oh I remember. I also remember that we are perfect copies of the original, and as much as I dislike self-depreciation, even I would admit that you were as dumb as a rock back then." The clone pointed out succinctly.

"Oi!" Naruto felt like an arrow had suddenly pierced his heart as the grinning clone rubbed it in with extreme prejudice.

"And in case it has conveniently slipped your mind, you had to stop and use a stinking dictionary every three words when you could be bothered to even pick up a book."

"Urk… I… was just distracted!" He could almost hear the loud thwack sound of his ego getting pierced again.

"Distracted?" Sarcasm literally dripped off the clone's tone, "By what exactly? The same thing that made you faint in front of the kami-be-damned Raikage?"

"Erk…" Naruto began to cry anime tears as another arrow pierced his ego. "The-there was the war afterwards! I was overwhelmed by everything!"

"Point to you." The clone seemed to concede reluctantly.

Naruto nodded eagerly until he heard the rest of the sentence.

Seeing the hope return to its creator's face at finally being able to win an argument with what was essentially himself, the clone smirked and quickly proceeded to deliver the final blow, "But then you weren't really fighting were you? You were busy helping to see if that stupid armadillo thing had balls. And you took two damned months to do it too."

"Gah…" the blond moaned piteously as he began to mope in a gloomy corner.

Naruto was suddenly reminded rather forcefully why he really didn't like to talk to his clones. Before, they usually didn't have much to add to a conversation, and given their limited ability to think, talking to one was about as fun as talking to a wall.

Now, it was because they usually knew his every thought and thus always had the perfect counter for all his arguments.

Suffice to say, they also possessed his unique brand of humor.

It was like the wall suddenly grew spikes and learnt how to punch people in the nuts.

Inside Naruto, a vaguely fox shaped creature sighed gustily and placed his snout in his paws. Just listening to the clone continue to rail away at his container made it obvious that it was not the first time Naruto had had this conversation with one of his clones, not that it made it any less humiliating now that it was being rolled out in bullet form and listed out one by one.

Why in the world was he stuck in such an embarrassing jail again?

Oh right. Madara.

Well technically Obito, the giant fox corrected himself mentally, but he would be more than happy to be the bigger fox and graciously let the issue slide. If only because he could no longer get his paws on the younger Uchiha that is.

Madara on the other hand was significantly more accessible provided Naruto was in the mood for something a little more sadistic than the usual toilet dunking, and he couldn't really die or fight back either, which made him the perfect punching bag as far as the Nine Tails was concerned.

Either way, it just wasn't worth waking up only to hear a couple of idiots bickering.

****End Game****

Play HomeMade Kazoku – Thank You

"Jackassss…." The head on the alcove groaned as the insistent knocking on their door woke the two of them up, "Go get the damn door. It's too early to be up"

The figure under the motorcycle where he had fallen asleep mid tinkering the night before grunted, "Go…" There was a massive yawn from under the vehicle, "Get it yourself nut bag."

"No hands remember?" Madara slurped the drool that had dribbled down his chin back up, "And since that's your fault. You get the door."

Muttering some obscenities under his breath, Naruto slid out from under the broken piece of junk. Uncaring of his somewhat disheveled and admittedly stinky state, the blond slipped one hand under his oil stained orange shirt and scratched his tummy with a sleepy look, "Who…. is it?"

He opened the door, took one look at the armored girl standing on the other side of the flimsy piece of wood before he promptly slammed it shut again.

"Fuck."

"Is there something wrong, Naruto-san?"

"It's me."

The bolt slammed shut.

"Did you just lock the door?"

"No?"

Erza rolled her eyes at the blatant lie, "Come out, Naruto-san. There's still a matter of my payment for your services that we have not talked about yet. Mostly because you ran away last night."

The silence was practically deafening.

"Naruto!"

Inside the shed, Madara sleepily glanced at the blond who was heading towards the small makeshift toilet partitioned from the rest of the shed by a worn piece of cloth, "Who was it?"

"Just a figment of my imagination," The blond's muffled reply came floating back as he began to brush his teeth, "I didn't see anyone standing there at all. Nope, not at all."

Madara pursed his lips before retorting, "So should I assume that I'm hallucinating as well? Because if I am, my hallucination seems to be doing her best to knock down our door."

Naruto glanced at Madara with white foam dripping from his mouth, "You think it'll go away if I chuck you at it?"

Madara glared at the blond who was moping in a corner and moping about his complete and utter inability to live a single day without getting interrupted by someone or something, "Probably, but if you try, I swear I'm going to bite your fingers off."

"Maybe if I go back to sleep it'll go away." The Uzumaki muttered conversationally to himself, perfectly dismissing the incessant banging as a figment of his imagination, "After the week I had, all I want to do is slack and loaf around as much as I can."

The purple eyed head with cracked and flaking skin blinked with surprise as the banging abruptly stopped, "I don't believe it, it think it actually worked."

Naruto grinned happily and stepped into the shower, "See. I told you, all I have to do I ignore the voices in my head and it'll be ok-"

Whatever the blond was going to say died in his lips as the wall right that constituted his toilet suddenly crumbled into fine cut slices of brick and plaster.

Coughing a little to clear the dust from his nose, the Uchiha patriarch did his best not to giggle as a auburn haired woman in serviceable looking armor stood outside their little shed sheathed her sword again and let it disappear with a burst of bright sparkles.

Erza stared at Naruto, doing an impressive job of keeping her eyes above his waist while the blond's own eyes shifted from his wall from her, and back again as his brain tried and failed to reboot.

"Naruto. I need to talk to you."

"GAAAAH!"

Madara quirked one eyebrow with great amusement as the blond screeched like a girl and began to run away, holding a towel to his crotch in order to preserve what was left of his dignity from the unstoppable juggernaut bent on talking to him one way or another.

"I guess it didn't work after all." It said with a smirk.

****End Game****

Akeno looked up as she heard the door to the class room opening even though it was already late into the first Math period.

Even before the person stepped through, she already knew who it was, if only because there was only one person currently absent at the moment. As expected, a tall shadow loomed in the door way momentarily before a crown of long and bright yellow spikes appeared.

Dim blue eyes that reflected his weariness scanned the room almost by habit and Akeno noticed him rolling his eyes a little at the whispers that instantly erupted in the classroom. Personally, Akeno couldn't really blame them. Even now, after knowing the simple and somewhat unassuming man for 3 years, the fact that he was significantly older than everyone else in his class combined with his 6 foot tall frame which was significantly taller and more scarred than the average Japanese male, clad in an untidy, messy uniform along with the three linear scars decorating each rugged cheek, still gave her the impression of that he was one of the typical rough and unscrupulous delinquents who had forfeited most of his formative school years in favor of a life on the streets fighting and made him seem like an easy target especially if he wanted to stay in school.

That he was technically a charity case from the Gremory family that was only enrolled in school as prestigious as Kuoh Academy didn't really help matters.

Throw in the fact that the blond was uncaring and somewhat irritable even on the best of days and it was easy to see why it was somewhat difficult for the person in question to fit it, much less make friends.

Most of them knew this, and were perfectly willing to take advantage of him because they thought he could not fight back physically due to his circumstances.

Safe to say, it didn't really work.

After all, that particular rule only applied if they managed to catch him red handed and if Akeno had learnt anything about the blond over the past few months, it was that Naruto was nothing if not careful and meticulous as he judiciously abused that loophole to wreak havoc on his would be bullies.

Of course, once the masses finally got that little tidbit through their thick heads, they tried to harm him emotionally instead.

Didn't really seem to work either given that he always seemed too preoccupied with something to even notice what they were doing. Not only that, his icy, cavalier attitude towards everyone and their grandmother usually didn't help and only reinforced their impression that he simply considered them unimportant trash in the grand scheme of things and didn't care one whit about what they did or did not do, unless it was amusing, in which case he would smile at them the way someone would smile at a foolish clown.

A teenager's ego was already extraordinarily fragile in the first place, so perhaps it was not so strange that this kind of ….treatment continued even after 3 years given that the blond simply treated all of them as if they did not, and would never matter.

If she were to be honest with herself, she already knew what was happening from the start even if she had not been aware of the extent, but she had never interfered with the situation simply because she believed that the aggravating blond was at least partially responsible for inflaming the whole mess as well. So rather than take a side, she had simply distanced herself from the childish bickering and maintained herself as a neutral authority in the class.

That line of thought did nothing whatsoever to soothe the slight stab of guilt in her chest, particularly now that she knew Naruto slightly better.

The person in the doorway looked around tiredly for a moment and proceeded to ignore everything in favor for dropping in to his chair all the way at the back of the room. Even the teacher's less than enthusiastic remonstrations simply slid of his back like water on wax.

"You're late."

One sky blue eyed glanced at her lazily before closing again, accompanied with a languid yawn, "I was busy with something."

One of her eye brows quirked up at that, "So you're a clone?"

"No, I'm the real one." The blond grunted, "What class is this anyway?"

"It's homeroom, Naruto." The Lightning Priestess replied dryly, not at all surprised that the blond didn't even know what class he had walked into, "Hashiba-sensei was just congratulating us on a job well done for the Sports Festival."

The blond perked up a little, "There was a Sports Festival? Why didn't I know about it?"

"It was yesterday actually. Though I doubt there was any point. Would you have even joined if we told you?"

"Nope." Naruto replied instantly without hesitation, "I did join one a long time ago though."

"Really?" One eyebrow rose delicately as she regarded the blond, "I was under the impression you didn't really go to school."

"It was more of a community thing." The blond pursed his lips and grimaced, "Didn't really end well."

"Do I want to know?"

"There was a relay race or something," The blond began blandly, "and then somehow someone shoved a stick up my ass."

"How did it go from a relay race to an ass shove competition?"

"And considering that I also really, REALLY, needed to go the toilet at the time, it's safe to say that the guy regretted it for the rest of his life."

"Never mind. I just decided that I really, REALLY, don't want to know."

The blond chuckled to himself, "Good times."

"The Sports Festival for the clubs are next week." Akeno noted blandly, "I'm going to do my level best not to be placed in the same team as you."

Naruto merely laughed again before he seemed to twitch a little, "Why is she so flapping persistent?"

Akeno blinked at the non sequitur, "Who?"

"I go to the toilet, and she's there. I hide in the forest, and for some flapping reason, she's there. I hide in my shop, and what do you know? She's sitting there, nice and happy, sipping some tea." Naruto began shaking a fist at the ceiling as he cursed someone up there, "Now, she's even here. What did I even do to make her hate me so much?"

"Like I said, who?!"

At Akeno's confused question, the blond merely jerked a resigned thumb at the window right behind him.

Looking up, her dark eyes widened as she realized that someone's face was currently squished against the glass, dark brown eyes implacably staring at the blond sitting beside her as if the spectre hovering outside the window was willing the blond to talk just by glaring.

"Erza?" Akeno mouthed silently to herself, having grown up along with Rias, she was more than familiar with her King's cousin, but to see the usually dignified woman standing outside their class, presumably on the thin hedge on the wall because their classroom was three stories off the ground, and her face squished against the glass, didn't really compute.

"Um….. Uzumaki-san…. Your… friend is bothering our class." The teacher began resignedly, having already gotten used to the weird things that seemed to occur to his yellow haired delinquent student almost every other minute.

Naruto on the other hand, simply did the most logical thing for someone in his position.

He began to cry.

****End Game****

"Are you willing to talk now?" Erza inquired blandly as she watched the blond mope around the rooftop of Kuoh Academy, and by mope around, she meant the blond was banging his head on the nearest wall.

Repeatedly.

Seeing that the Uzumaki wasn't about to reply, she continued conversationally, taking his frequent dull thuds on the wall as a 'yes', "I'm not sure if you've heard, but it seems that before my grandfather left that day, he managed to take everything in our family accounts."

The blond stopped banging his head for a moment as cold sweat began shooting down his back like bullets, "Actually…."

He paused.

How was he supposed to frame this up so he didn't look like a nut job?

"Actually what?"

"Um… nothing. Please proceed."

"As I was saying, my family is now dirt poor." Erza continued blandly as if she had not just said something extremely earth shaking, "As I have already promised you a payment of whatever you asked, I'm afraid that monetary consideration is now no longer possible. You, however, may still ask me to do anything." Erza paused and pursed her lips as she was sucking a lemon.

"Up to and including myself."

Naruto stared at her.

She stared back impassively as the blond wondered whether the woman had some sort of internal dampener.

The auburn haired woman was perfectly calm and collected, or at least she looked like it, and never spoke in anything more than a polite tone despite her circumstances.

It couldn't be normal, or healthy for that matter.

"I see that you're surprised that I am offering myself." Erza started speaking again, mistaking the blond's blank stare for something else, "But I assure you that I am a very capable person…."

Here, she looked away a little uncomfortably and somewhat red faced, Naruto was actually somewhat relieved to see something resembling emotion on her visage, "Both in and out of the bedroom."

Wait, what?

Naruto began banging his head on the wall again.

Shit. Shit. Shit.

This whole mess was his own fault. Of all the dumbest things…

Erza opened her mouth to say something again when the blond's finger shot up and waggled at her.

"You. Shut up."

The woman's mouth clicked shut on their own accord as the Uzumaki finished denting the wall with his skull.

"Okay, first things first." Naruto heaved in a sigh, "You're family is not dirt poor. In fact, the money will be coming back to you within the next day or so. I'll take my payment then, so the next time I hear anything even remotely resembling you offering yourself to me in any capacity, in or out of the bedroom, I will kick your ass myself." Her glared at her, "Are we absolutely clear?"

Erza nodded wordlessly as the blond snorted, "Seriously, what is wrong with you people?"

The swordswoman watched the blond continue to huff and puff as he grumpily stomped around the rooftop, muttering several unpleasant things under his breath about devils and their peculiar notion of dignity.

"In my defense, all you had to do was listen to me for a while so that we could… clear the air between us so to speak." Erza pointed out with a wan smile, "You however, were stubbornly refusing to stay within earshot of me, for more than 10 seconds."

Naruto opened his mouth to retort, but when nothing came out, he realized that the girl actually had a fairly good point.

He sighed, "Fair enough." The shinobi conceded, "So can I go now"?

"I was never stopping you." Erza replied mildly.

He immediately shot for the door.

He was so happy, and so relieved to go on with his life that he was already down the stairs and a few steps towards the canteen when he felt the back of his neck prickling again and he froze mid step.

"Erza?"

His head mechanically turned around to stare blankly at the auburn haired woman who was a few steps behind him.

"Yes?" came the polite reply.

"Why are you following me?"

"You were heading to the canteen. I was hungry."

"So…. Why does that involve you wearing a maid uniform?"

"I did not have any unarmored clothing that the people around me would consider normal other than this one." Her head tilted to the side innocently.

"Why are you strangling yourself?"

Naruto began to cry.

****End Game****

"Sensei!" Ise cheerfully ran into the class room with Asia demurely following before he promptly skidded to a stop at the sight before him.

His teacher, his respected senior and eccentric mentor was sobbing quietly in a corner about stupid women who wouldn't leave him alone, while a grinning brown haired woman dressed in a full blown maid outfit that he didn't recognize stood nearby.

"Er… am I bothering something?"

"A1ASFGH12!"

"Master, says its fine and asks that you ignore me." The maid replied succinctly, somehow translating the blond's half sob, half blubber perfectly, "What did you need?"

"Uh... Just some help I guess?" The nonplussed second year murmured quietly as if he was afraid of contracting whatever disease the blond was currently suffering.

"ASFGKJ1FG $?"

"Master is inquiring what kind of help you need at the moment." The cheery maid with the shit eating grin repeated for Ise's benefit.

"Ah…. Well…" His eyes rapidly shifted between the two of them curiously, "Do you mind if I tell him directly?"

"Of course." The maid bowed courteously before retreating to another corner where she was promptly ambushed by a bright eyed Asia.

"Are you a follower of Great Saint-sama?" the bright haired nun immediately inquired without hesitation.

"Yes." Erza replied just as confidently to Ise's mounting amusement as he approached the pale blond.

"I knew it. I knew Great Saint-sama would NOT fail!"

She knelt to the ground and began praying happily for more devils to convert.

Naruto began crying.

"There's two of those nutcases now. Two of them. Two of them. Two of them. Two of them." The defeated blond, who had apparently lost all color and gone completely white, muttered to himself repeatedly like some sort of demented mantra.

Ise smirked, "Actually, there's three of them, Great Saint-sama."

He knew that he was going to get kicked down a couple of stair cases in the near future for that, but as far as Ise was concerned, the glorious look of complete and abject horror on the blond's face as he gaped at Ise would forever stay with the Dragon Wielder until the day he died.

****End Game****

It actually took him a few more minutes after that to knock Naruto out his funk, but with liberal application of slaps and a few kicks, he finally got the blond functioning enough to talk for himself again.

He still lapsed into that paper white state every few minutes, but Ise figured it was good enough.

As long as the blond gave him what he wanted, he could have a mental breakdown whenever he liked.

"So what did you need again?" The listless blond muttered. Even his bright spiky hair looked wilted.

"Ah, yeah." Ise frowned, "I heard from Buchou that she has some sort of match lined up between Souna-sama's President Club and us after the Clubs Sports Festival next week. Something about the right to get a familiar first." The dark haired boy shrugged, "I'm not clear about the details, but basically I was wondering if you could give me some more training."

He grinned mischievously, "I'm gonna make sure I do better than Kiba this time."

Naruto squinted at the boy's idiotically grinning face, "You do realize that training doesn't work that way right? It's not an instant power boost like something the crap you read in manga. Doing it actually hurts and you ache all over."

The second year smiled resolutely, "Of course I do. I survived that one week with you didn't I?"

The Uzumaki shrugged, "If you're sure then why not."

"Wait. Really?"

Naruto frowned, "What? You don't want to?"

"I actually figured you wouldn't agree to it at first and I'd have to bribe you, or sell my first born son to you or something before you did." The boy replied blandly.

"….Who the hell do you even think I am?"

"One of the most eccentric bastards to ever live." Ise replied promptly.

"….Fair enough." Naruto conceded reluctantly before gesturing to the class room, "Go clear those tables, keep only two chairs in the middle."

The dark haired boy goggled at him, "Wait what? We can start right now?" He squeaked.

Naruto did his level best to suppress an evil cackle, call him an eccentric bastard huh?

The fact that every single bit was the complete and unvarnished truth mattered not one bit.

"Yes." He answered as neutrally as he could.

Warily, the younger boy began to clear out the tables and chairs with some help from Erza and Asia. By the time he was done, Naruto had already procured a set of ropes and some rather dark looking chains.

Ise took one look at the chains before he immediately began to doubt his sanity for asking Naruto for help. Unfortunately, he knew well enough by now that if he tried to run, the bastard would only make whatever he was planning to do even worse than it already was.

Therefore, it was with great fortitude that he let the blond with the massive grin chain him up to the wall opposite the room while a perfectly willing and composed Asia was tied up to a chair on the other side of the class room.

Once the blond was happy with his handiwork, he gestured to Asia, "Go ahead and touch her Ise."

"Eh?"

"You don't mind right, Asia?" Naruto asked the nun mildly.

"Isn't it A BIT too late to ask that AFTER you've tied her up already?!" Ise retorted from the other side of the room.

"It's okay, Ise-kun." Asia smiled angelically, "I know Great Saint-sama won't hurt me."

"So she says." Naruto remarked with an equally angelical smile, "She won't mind at all if you touch her. Assuming you can touch her from over there that is."

"How the heck am I supposed to do that?!"

"Didn't you learn from Rias that you're power is all about visualization?" Naruto pointed out reasonably, "So imagine your power as a hand…. Forced it to reach out. Force it to touch her wherever you like."

The shinobi grinned as he ruffled Asia's hair affectionately.

The idiot was already drooling.

"Uhm…. Not that I'm regretting this or anything…. BUT WHY AM I CHAINED TO THIS WALL?!"

"You asked for training didn't you?" Naruto replied mildly as he sat Asia down on the chair across the classroom, "So I'm giving it to you."

"I don't see how getting chained to a wall, WHILE I'M WEARING NOTHING BUT A PAIR OF BOXERS, is considered training!"

The blond gave Ise a lazy smirk that was filled with confidence, "Tell you what, I'll make you a deal. I guarantee you that you will learn a new skill within one hour, however if this fails to get you the result you wanted, I'll give you back your 10,000 yen. In fact, I'll even double it."

Ise stopped struggling and squinted at the Uzumaki suspiciously, "Are you serious?"

"Mmmhmm…" Naruto hummed lazily as he leaned on the wall beside Erza, "However, if you fail," His lips twisted into a demented smirk, "You have to pay me another 10,000 yen."

"NOOO, YOU BASTARD!" Ise began to wail in despair, "THAT'S ALL MY MONEY FOR NEXT MONTH'S GRAVURE BOOKS TOO!"

Erza pursed her lips, "Can I kill him?"

"Unfortunately not." The blond replied with a small grin, "Or at least not unless you want Rias to be upset with you."

Rather than reply, Erza wrinkled her nose and edged further away from Ise.

"Either way," Naruto started lazily, "The goal here is for you to manipulate your energy without the help of Ddraig and touch Asia."

Ise instantly went silent and he stared at the blond unblinkingly.

"To-touch Asia, you mean…"

"Mmhmm."

"An-Anywhere?" Ise stuttered as he swallowed nervously, his eyes fixed on the smiling Asia the same way a hungry man lost in the desert would look at food.

"Anywhere."

Naruto grinned as the nun in question flushed deeply and began to rub her legs together shyly, "From where are you are chained to the wall, as long as you can gather enough energy to touch her, ANY part of her, I'll consider it a pass."

"UWOOOH, I'LL ACCEEE THIS DAMN TEST AND LEARN THE BEST DAMN SKILL EVER!"

Erza face palmed as Ise automatically forgot about complaining and began to strain on the wall.

"Well, at least has the drive to do it." The blond beside her commented in a highly amused tone.

"I'LL TOUCH ASIA! I'LL TOUCH ASIA!" Ise began to chant as he strained against the chains, "TOUUUCHHHH!"

"His motivation is way too obvious though." Erza muttered flatly, her fingers itching for something sharp as the pervert's very existence offended her senses.

"At least he's honest about it." The blond replied evasively.

"Is he… always like that?" Erza asked with a weirded out expression as she made sure to stay as far away from Ise as possible.

"Not really. Once you get to know him, Ise's a nice guy."

The boy beside him lit up like a Christmas tree as his respect for Naruto flew up several notches.

"He just really likes boobs."

The aforementioned respect promptly came falling down.

"Really, REALLY, REALLY, likes boobs."

"THAT LAST PART WASN'T NECESSARY!"

Naruto continued with a perfectly straight face, "He also seems to have a few problems understanding that the goal of a relationship is tenure. Not drowning himself in as many cute girls as possible, but I'm sure his future wife will beat that out of him. Eventually." The blond paused for a beat, "Okay, maybe."

Erza shot a rather distrustful look at him.

"I'll lend her the biggest stick I can find." Naruto promised with a grin.

She glanced at the dark haired boy who was currently occupied in a corner of the room, muttering some rather dark things about the blond before shrugging, apparently considering the blond's promise to be sufficient enough to satisfy her more murderous inclinations.

"Does that mean I cannot acquaint his facial features with a fundamental item used in the building of walls? Repeatedly?"

Beside her, Naruto simply bit on his thumb. Lazily sketching a quick rune on the wall they were leaning on with his blood, their surroundings were suddenly muted as all sounds were blocked from entering the bubble he had erected, "That should help. Don't want you chopping off his tackle before he can use them after all." The blond explained with a smirk.

Erza's eyes widened slightly at the blond's near casual use of runes, "That's… really useful. My grandfather is not someone so easily bound, and yet you did it with just a few cards."

"What? I'm not Master anymore?" The blond retorted sarcastically.

"Not for the moment." Erza acquiesced with a grin, "They cannot hear us after all."

Naruto sighed, "I really don't like it." He said tightly, "No one should be beholden to another, only themselves."

Erza cocked one eyebrow at him, "Is that why my grandfather was apparently a target of yours? Because he was resisting the Newborn Devils Act?"

Naruto frowned, "You knew about that?"

"Serafall might have mentioned something along those lines." Erza conceded, "I believe his argument was something along the lines of 'Bad enough that we're taking humans as slaves, but now we're giving them the same right as us full blood Devils?'."

"Something like that." Naruto agreed amiably.

"Don't worry. You don't have to sugarcoat it for me. I'm fully aware that my grandfather was a fascist bastard." Erza assured him dryly, "In fact, if you had told me earlier what you planned to do with him, I'd probably have happily helped so long as you could grant me a measure of safety from his wrath."

Play Fired Earth Music – Maker of Men

The blond chuckled quietly at her confession and merely shrugged, "Happy to be of service I guess. Anyway, my seals are not as versatile or as powerful as you seem to think it is. It has its pros and cons like everything else. Although, in general the seals only take a drip of my energy to activate, regardless of what they are for which is exactly why I use them so often."

He waved vaguely with a thoughtful expression, "I tend to categorize seals into 3 distinct groups. Seals that affect the environment, like turning rock into sand or summoning flames, don't usually take much unless you try to do something like turning changing the base nature of something, such as turning rock to gold, while seals that affect the person would depend on the nature of the seal." Erza watched with some amusement as the blond seemed to almost unconsciously adapt a teaching pose, with one fist on his hip while another articulated smoothly, "For instance, a seal that binds my strength and movement wouldn't need much to activate. However it does depend on the person being bound and the type of binding I'm using. The one I used on your grandfather, the Seven Star Boundary, was actually one of the weaker ones."

"It bound my grandfather," Erza pointed out dryly, "Considering that the amount of people that can stop his movement for any amount of time can be counted on one hand, I wouldn't exactly call it weak."

"You misunderstand me," Naruto hummed contemplatively, The reason I call it weaker was because while it binds my target immediately, the Seven Star Boundary is one the more complex seals I have, which means I need more time to set it up. On top of that, pouring more and more of my strength into only lengthens the amount of time my target is bound rather than increase the effectiveness of the bind like most other seals do. It just happened to fit the situation because in most cases I'm not fighting someone who can turn me in a splatter on the ground in an instant."

The blond paused to glance at the impassive woman beside him, "Your grandfather was strong enough that I felt the seals themselves straining even a split second after they activated which was exactly why I chose that particular array. Anything less, and I would not be here talking to you. It was only luck a bit of calculation that they held long enough for his strength to be irrelevant."

The red head nodded slowly, "You mentioned seals that affect the environment and seals that affect the person, so that's two categories. What is the third one?"

"Seals that affect concepts." Naruto's lips thinned, "These are naturally the hardest to set up, and are more often than not, the most dangerous kind considering the fact that they tend to be rather unstable overall on top of needing exponentially more power."

The swordswoman furrowed her brow, "Concepts? I don't think I understand."

Naruto gestured at the bubble around them, "This seal, Silence. I took the concept of silence, meaning the lack of sound and placed it on a perimeter around us, blocking any noise from penetrating. It doesn't take much because it is a simple concept."

Erza watched as Naruto began to sketch the seal for Space onto the wall as he continued to explain with an uncharacteristically animated gleam in his blue eyes, "Now however, if we take a step further using a more complicated concept like Space, we'd need a more complicated array to define a parameter so to speak because a concept like Space can be rather ambiguous."

He clapped his hands and placed it on the seal he had worked out. Immediately, a large black hole appeared in the wall that the blond stuck his hand into, "The matrix I used is a basic one used to define what kind of space I need, where I want it and how large it can be, etc, etc."

Placing one finger on the wall, the blond traced the tinier writing that made up the beautifully symmetrical array that surrounded the main seal for Erza to see, "The power required to activate a seal generally depends on the number of lines in a matrix since they can define what the main seal does. This one only has 3 because the matrix isn't that complicated or impossible, so the power requirements are similarly small."

Wiping away the seal, Naruto caused the hole in the wall to close itself before he turned around again with a slightly satisfied gleam in his eyes, "Now let's say I wanted to do something more complex like cause this hole to bring me to another point in space entirely, such as the class room on the other side of this school. That would require proportionately more complex and larger arrays to specify my intention as well as a high degree of spatial awareness so I don't end up lost in vacuum or something." He grinned happily, "And that's a basic summary of my seals, do you understand it now?"

"Not a word." Erza replied bluntly. Then she smiled slightly as she saw the blond deflate a little, "What I did understand however is that you really love seals."

The blond tilted his head to the side and began to rub his left earlobe with some embarrassment, "I guess I do…. It wasn't always like that though." He added quietly, almost to himself.

"You used to hate it?" The red head queried gently.

"Not hate," Naruto corrected her mildly, "In fact, you could even say that I made the mistake of underestimating it like everyone else. I had someone I needed to reach at all costs, I needed the power to turn his back and I needed the strength to talk to him face to face. To me of that time, seals were something that took too long, took too much focus to feasibly use in active combat and took too much effort to learn compared to powerful spells." He smiled thinly, "I did not realize the value of what my mentor had given me until he had passed on."

Erza kept her eyes staring straight at the dragon wielder and refused to look the blond beside her.

"Do you regret it?"

"I'd be a massive bastard if it didn't." The blond chuckled self depreciatively, "Or at least even more massive than I currently am."

The atmosphere between the two of them almost immediately became rather awkward as the blond seemed to have accidentally revealed a little more than he had wanted to.

"What is the purpose of this test anyway?" Erza gestured at the straining boy, "Finesse?"

Naruto smiled thinly, "Sort off." Nodding towards Ise, he continued lazily, "I've noticed that his powers tend to rely on his emotions most of the time. While this isn't necessarily a bad thing since it allows him to reach power spikes far higher than most other people, it makes him a rather inconsistent asset in a fight."

The straight backed woman beside him nodded in understanding, "In other words, you are trying to force him to consciously invoke his power and then learn how to control it without depending solely on his emotions."

"In a sense." Naruto replied somewhat evasively.

Erza narrowed her eyes at his hedging, "You're just enjoying this aren't you?"

"SUFFER ISE, SUFFER! IF I HAVE TO SUFFER, YOU'RE GOING TO DO IT WITH ME! MWAHAHAHA!"

****End Game*****

As Naruto found himself carrying several large bags filled with food and other consumables as per his promise to Ami the day before, he wondered where Erza had gotten to. Figures that when he actually needed her for something, she wasn't around to help.

As he nudged his way around the gates of the orphanage, the blond instantly found himself beset by a large pack of kids, all of them yammering for his attention while he tried his best to navigate around them to the kitchen without stepping on any of the midgets.

"Now, now, why don't all of you help Naruto-san carry all those heavy looking bags instead of harassing him?" A voice chided them stridently.

Looking up, he smiled at the old lady glaring at the completely unrepentant bunch of little monsters as he set the bags of grocery down gently, "Don't worry about it, Ami. I can handle it."

"Nonsense." Ami immediately cut him off brusquely, "Everyone has to pull their own weight around here." Giving the grumbling children another pointed look, "She began to orchestrate them like a professional conductor. Within minutes, the mountain of groceries had already been opened and the contents methodically stored in the proper place to the blond's amusement.

Groaning, Naruto stretched a bit to get rid of some kinks on his back as Ami told him to rest a bit.

Settling down in a corner, the blond drew a sigh.

Finally, he had some peace and quiet.

Well, peace and quiet as long as he ignored the kids anyway.

Rummaging in his backpack, the blond quietly pulled out a note book and flipped it open to a new page.

With everything that had been going on lately, he hadn't had the time to just sit down and draw stuff, and as much as he didn't want to admit it, he was actually looking forward to some quiet time with pen and paper.

He smiled thinly as he tried to think of what Sai would say if the former Root ninja knew that he had taken a leaf from the emotionless man's book as a coping mechanism.

Probably insult his manhood and then teach him how to draw properly.

At least it beat reading perverted literature or wearing green spandex.

Keeping one eye out on the playing children, the blond let his pen wander on the paper, sketching out a round table. Once that was done, he began to draw five figures around the table, affectionately adding details to the large black and boisterous man whose mere presence commanded obedience.

As he began to detail the short stump of a man who was no less dangerous than the first figure, he felt someone approaching him.

Naruto signed resignedly, but continued to draw, refusing to give any sign that he had noticed her already.

Play Fairy Tail Main Theme (Slow)

"Good evening." A melodious voice rang out quietly, "Do you mind if I take a seat."

Naruto merely shrugged and silently gestured at the chair beside him.

The two of them sat in a long, but companionable silence as the beautiful woman waited for him to finish his sketch.

"May I?"

He glanced at the woman who was looking at his other journals with some interest.

Figuring it didn't matter, he passed them to her and continued focusing on his newest drawing.

"They are very nice."

"It passes the time." Naruto remarked bluntly.

"I suppose drawing has a tendency to do that," the woman agreed cheerfully, not put off by his bluntness at all, "Besides, your drawings may be crude, but they tell a wonderful story. Warm and filled with hope. Much like the person who made them."

The blond merely snorted. He could already see that his initial assessment of her when he had first met her was right on the mark.

Sweet, motherly, kind, gentle.

Annoying.

"What are you doing here, Misla?" Naruto asked pointedly, "Shouldn't you be at home resting and connecting with your family or something?"

"We've had plenty of time since then to connect. The thing about my family is that none of us are particularly emotional. Sure we can hug it out a bit, we can talk about everything we missed and we can cry together all night for the years we've missed, but eventually, that taciturn daughter of mine will get a little restless. Can't sit still that one, just like her brother." The auburn haired woman who resembled her daughter greatly laughed quietly, "Speaking of which. It's not often that my daughter comes home to me and complains about meeting someone who's even more stubborn than she is." Misla noted, her eyes glittering with mirth.

"So you were the one that put her up to it this morning?" The blond guessed.

"No, of course not." The older woman refuted gently, "She simply felt that she owed it to you."

"That's bullshit and you know it." Naruto pursed his lips, "Besides, all that talk about being poor is rubbish. The money is already on its way back to your family as we speak right now."

"And I'll send it back just as fast." Misla grinned, while the Uzumaki merely sighed with annoyance.

"What is it with you and your family? Idiots all of you." The blond muttered under his breath, "She already knew that I was simply using her for convenience sake to get to Zekram, and still she feels she owes something to me."

Naruto felt a slight frisson of killing intent that immediately told him that Lamka was somewhere nearby, and not all pleased by the way he was talking to Misla.

The matriarch of the Bael clan on the other hand merely smiled with amusement, "You only think it is so because you do not understand my daughter. Besides, as far as I'm concerned, Islaic could do with some manual labor so that he can find himself again."

"That's assuming I want to know her." Naruto replied sharply.

Misla smiled at the blond, she could see that Serafall's rather mischievous assessment of him had been on point.

Cynical, hard headed, eccentric and pricklier than a porcupine on steroids when he was talking to someone he didn't know.

The older woman brushed her long auburn hair back and leaned on the chair, "The thing is, from what I can tell, Erza has been chasing after me for so long, and she has been intimidated and oppressed by her whole family, by my family…." The woman corrected herself sadly, "for so long, that when you lifted that burden from her, regardless of whether it was an intentional act or simply an added bonus, she could give you all the money and treasures she would ever make, and it would still never make up for what you have done for her."

Misla noted gently as she thumbed through the journal with great interest, "The fact that she has basically spent all her waking moments since she was old enough to learn how to hold a sword, chasing jobs and assignments from her Guild for money in order to take care me while I was indisposed probably complicates matters a bit as well now that she doesn't have to force herself to keep working anymore. Without an aim, I guess that in her mind, she's has nothing better to do than devote herself to someone who has done more for her than her own family."

Naruto breathed out with some resignation, "So what do you want me to do? Close one eye and ignore her attempts to satisfy some peculiar, masochistic, submissive fetish of hers?"

Erza's mother merely quirked one eyebrow, "Not really. I don't want you to do anything. In fact, it would probably more accurate to say that I came here to ask what I can do for you, but considering our conversation, that would probably be the wrong thing to say." She concluded lightly, "So I just came here for some refreshing conversation. And well… some time away from the house."

Naruto looked up with mild curiosity, "Islaic?"

"And Sairaorg. And Erza." Misla chuckled softly, "All three of them are hovering over me non-stop. And when they aren't hovering nearby, they, or rather, Erza and Sai, glare at Islaic the entire time. It gets a little stifling and annoying." She smiled wistfully, "I love my family. But they can be so complicated some times."

"That's the way families work I guess."

"Just like the family in your stories?" Misla inquired lightly as she tapped on the journal.

To her surprise, the blond immediately clamped up tighter than a bank vault.

Any trace of emotion she had been able to discern from his limited expressions was now completely gone, leaving a stony façade.

"I'm sorry."

"What do you want from me, Misla? Why are you here? What do you want from an assassin?"

"From an assassin? Nothing." She met his gaze resolutely, "From you? I'd take anything."

Naruto eyed the determined woman for a long moment before he let the tension go with a gusty sigh.

"Stories huh? Appropriate I guess." The blond muttered pensively.

"You disagree with my term?"

"Not really. They are stories after all." Naruto replied blandly as he caressed his book gently, "Although propaganda would probably be a more suitable term." He added cynically.

"I'm not sure what the difference is." Misla admitted quietly.

Chuckling gently, Naruto closed the book he was working on.

He did not want to work on his painting lest his emotions taint the picture he was creating. For a second, he wished that there was some alcohol around, but with the children so nearby, he decided he didn't want to risk it.

"My entire village was, or were, ninja." The Uzumaki began quietly, "Stuff like that was all we did. Blackmail, espionage, assassination, the works. Even from young, I was one of the few that disagreed with it. No matter how much they told me that my behavior was not one that befitted a ninja."

He closed his eyes and he smiled bitterly at the images reflected in his mind's eye, "I did my job of course, but under protest. I got my first assassination mission when I was just fourteen, during a training journey in fact. My godfather and my mentor at the time knew how much I disliked it, so he at least showed me why my target absolutely had to die."

The blond's eye softened at the thought of the old white haired man who despite his gruffness and complete lack of anything even remotely resembling parenting skills was at least compassionate enough to try and soften the blow for him, "It wasn't enough." He whispered somewhat hoarsely, "It wasn't anywhere enough."

He couldn't seem to stop. From the moment he started speaking, it was like a damn burst and he just wanted to unload everything.

"Shortly after that, there was war. I went in blind. I went in without knowing a damn thing. I went in believing in a dream, focused on saving a friend that didn't to be saved to the exclusion of everything else. We were being sieged from every direction."

The smile playing on his lips were brittle, "You know, during one of the few moments of rest I got, I managed to get my hands on one of those storybooks they were calling records of our war." The blond chuckled humorlessly, "It was propaganda, straight and simple. It told about how our enemies were plant people who didn't know anything beyond killing, that didn't want anything beyond ending the world, that could use the face of anyone they touched." The blond snorted cynically, " While that part was actually true, it was also one way of dehumanizing our enemies I guess, especially to the new ninja that were graduating every other week so that they won't be plagued by the same nightmares I get whenever they stab someone, but reality wasn't that simple."

Naruto tapped the table top pensively, "Each country typically had one large Hidden Village and anywhere from four to six smaller ones. The smaller ones generally took more dangerous and significantly less scrupulous jobs in order to keep going. When war began, our enemy made a declaration. They either joined him, or they got crushed along with us. The fact that my own village, one of the Five Great Shinobi villages, had suffered a devastating attack just days before sealed the deal."

Naruto smiled thinly while his eyes were freezing.

"At any given time, we were under siege from three separate villages. Our leader was incapacitated while one of our own was trying to stage a coup d'état. The other four villages were under slightly better conditions, if only because they were more militant than us but certainly nowhere good enough for them to send reinforcements to us."

"The storybooks would have you believe that the war lasted less than a year against a superior enemy and were going to end with a happy ending." The blond laughed sardonically again while Misla listened attentively, her eyes shining with unshed tears at the raw pain in his voice, "I was sixteen when I ended my training journey. I was seventeen when the war started. The siege on our walls lasted two whole years and I was already nineteen by the time we finally killed enough people for it to make a difference and finally face my best friend."

"They called me a hero." Naruto whispered, "The next Hokage. The one who will protect them all. But whenever I slept, all I saw was the faces of the people I've killed and killed and killed just to keep my own friends safe while my best friend did his level best to work with the enemy and end us, and it all boiled down to the fact that I should have taken his head when I could, but didn't because I believed my friend was still in there somewhere." The tired shinobi shook his head, "I was twenty when I rectified that mistake."

"By the time I ended the war five years ago, it was already too late. Then I was sent here, or more precisely, somewhere across the sea from here. I was concussed. My entire skeletal frame was essentially trashed. My ears rang so badly from God knows what and I was half blind because I had just gouged out my own left eye on top of bleeding out because I had already lost one arm a few minutes prior. And as if that wasn't bad enough, the raging fever and delirium didn't really help matters." Naruto smiled, an empty look in his eyes that Misla found horribly disturbing, "I found out that day that the people in this world would happily stab a dying man en masse just so they can root through his corpse."

"Safe to say, to this day, I'm still not entirely sure how the hell I got to whatever that place is, much less Japan under those conditions. All I knew was that now, my people's ways are all I have to remember them by, it's the only thing I can do to honor their sacrifice."

His empty eyes met her compassionate gaze.

"It's why I call it propaganda."

Misla closed her eyes for a long moment as if she was pondering on what to say and leaned back, "I wasn't expecting that." She admitted softly.

"Sorry," Naruto murmured, "As you can probably tell, my history isn't exactly decent dinner topic."

"And yet you've carried it with you all this time." Misla paused and smiled wanly, "I really, REALLY, want to hug you right now but I doubt it will go over well."

"It was five years ago. Like I've told Sirzechs, I've had enough time to internalize it, although not as well as I'd have liked." The blond replied conversationally, "And no I wouldn't, I'm a little too tightly strung at the moment."

Misla smiled gently, a warm and motherly smile.

"Then do you think you would accept some advice from a busybody old woman?"

"Probably not. But from you?" Naruto smiled thinly, "I'd probably take anything I can get."

The auburn haired woman placed a box on the table between them, "If I were you, I'd probably take some time to calm down. And then, go and find Serafall so I can tell her everything you've just told me." She remarked as she calmly slid the box over to him, "Mostly so she can hug the stuffing out of you on my behalf."

Frowning as he accepted the box, he held it up curiously, "And what is this?"

"Something extra I suppose." Misla shrugged mischievously, "I don't use it, so you might as well have it."

He opened the box curiously and sweat dropped at the neat array of chess pieces lined in velvet.

The Uzumaki immediately opened his mouth to protest but Misla cut him off with a triumphant grin.

"No take backs!"

****End Game****

Souna watched the field for their unofficial little Rating Match get summoned as Rias stood beside her. Together, the two of them watched anxiously as Rias' Knight and Pawn were summoned to the field to fight against the entire Presidential club, minus the President and the Vice President.

For obvious reasons, Naruto had not been included, but the blond had attended anyway.

Though, for some reason, the blond was being unusually quiet.

In fact, he looked downright haggard as he watched Ise and Kiba intently discuss something with heavy bags under his eyes.

While this wasn't unusual in and of itself given the blond couldn't seem to do anything without driving himself to the very edge, he had never seemed quite so pensive, or obsessed, for that matter.

Even during the week he had been in their house, he always had time to talk to her sister who would constantly bug him, at first in her child form, before gradually, in her real form without actually realizing it. They would talk about the most nonsensical things and despite his tiredness, he looked like he was happy because he had a goal, he had something to achieve.

However, ever since last week, the Uzumaki had suddenly become a shut in.

No one could find him. Period.

Not even the nun that seemed to follow him around like a lost puppy whenever she had the chance.

Every moment he wasn't missing, he was studying some seriously old demonic texts that she couldn't even begin to fathom, and scratching out some horribly complex calculations with driven light burning in his eyes.

She wanted oh so much to straight up ask Serafall what the hell was going on because her older sister, as cheerful as she still seemed, appeared to know exactly what had happened. And Souna only knew this because she had told their father not to worry about the missing blond.

As the call was made for the participants to enter the field, Souna made a decision. Poking her childhood friend's side discreetly while everyone was distracted, she threw a pointed look at the blond who seemed utterly oblivious to anything other than Kiba and Ise, "What the hell is going on with Uzumaki?"

"Blunt and straight to the point as usual huh?" Rias chuckled wanly as she tried a halfhearted joke.

"It's not funny Rias. He's been getting worse and worse, and even the teachers have been noticing it." Souna replied flatly, "They've been making more and more remarks about getting him some counselling."

"Satan knows he needs it." Rias muttered under his breath, "But honestly, I have no idea what's going either. And it's killing me." The red haired girl admitted with a stricken look.

"You didn't ask him what's happening?" Souna queried quietly.

"Of course I have." Rias snapped back, "But he….."

"He what?" Souna prompted encouragingly.

"I… He just gives me tired look and says everything is fine. That he needs to finish something before he can tell me what's going on." The crimson haired girl sighed helplessly, "Not even Akeno can get a rise out of him nowadays, and that's saying something."

"And you just let the issue go?"

"You haven't seen that dead look in his eyes, So-chan." Rias murmured despairingly, "Whenever I try to press the issue, he just gives me this utterly hollow smile and I have absolutely no idea how to deal with it."

Souna sighed and let the issue slide.

While she wasn't particularly close with the blond, he was always good for a decent conversation. In fact, she'd even go as far as to say that she enjoyed their little back and forth banter.

It was almost like having an actual older brother. If said older brother had an unfortunate tendency of lacing his words with innuendo and liberal amounts of sarcasm. But even that sardonic, sharp tongued Uzumaki was still preferable to the wreck sitting in a corner of the room.

As the bell signaling the beginning of the match was rung, Souna made a decision.

She needed to talk to Serafall.

****End Game****

"What do you think?"

Kiba glanced at Ise before turning his attention back to the shopping mall that had been chosen to be their battlefield today, "Their starting point was closer to the entrance than ours, so I'm pretty sure they've already got people waiting to ambush us the moment we walk in." Kiba noted cheerily.

"Not to mention we're heavily outnumbered too. We're fighting 14 devils that are far more experienced than us after all."

"Actually there's only ten."

Ise blinked, "Oh yeah, Saji was with them wasn't he? So only ten then. I feel slightly better now."

"Doesn't really change the fact that we're outnumbered."

The dark haired boy shrugged, "It's a matter of perspective. When you realize that exploding cows that rain out of the sky are a perfectly possible thing with our teacher around, keeping a positive mindset is the only thing stopping us from going as bat shit crazy as him."

The two of them shared a comradely moment as they sobbed into each other's arms much to everyone's confusion.

"Either way, we're out of options."

"Conventional ones anyway," Kiba noted, "They only have ten people, and none of them are sensors according to my information. The amount of space they can cover by themselves has to be limited."

"So you propose to sneak through the gaps and then take them down one by one?" Ise inquired with some amusement.

"I'd still need a distraction though."

"I'll flip you for it?"

"My swords aren't exactly suited for tanking." Kiba pointed out dryly, "Besides, I'm helluva lot better than you at sneaking."

Ise winced, "I was hoping you wouldn't realize." He grumbled under his breath, "I'm going to need a new shirt after this then. I finally understand why Naruto-sensei always complains about his shirts. Every time I fight, I need to get a new one."

The two of them separated with a wave, having already gotten a rough idea of what the other was going to do. After their time in the forest, their team work had been surprisingly good, so good in fact, that Buchou had very little compunctions about sending just the two of them in to fight against 10 people.

Ise wasn't entirely sure if he felt about that.

On the one hand, he was being relied upon by Rias, but on the other hand, as Naruto-sensei generally put it, it was so much troublesome work.

Sighing to himself, he noted that Kiba was agilely leaping from ledge to ledge, using them to sneak up onto the roof where he would ambush their opponents from above. His job on the other hand, was significantly more troublesome considering he was, by default, the distraction needed by Kiba in order to do his job.

Oh well. Here went nothing.

Ise promptly kicked open the doors and strolled into the building where he was immediately surrounded.

A glance around the area allowed the second year to dismiss Saji and a girl on the front line, a Rook probably, while picking out two other girls hung back. Possibly Bishops to provide backup fire. A total of four.

Even further back, there was another group hiding in the shops as back up. About four if he counted right.

Which meant there were two more hiding somewhere or watching the other entrances.

Standard battle of attrition then.

Ise groaned as he mentally made a note to make Kiba pay for lunch for the next two weeks.

Tanking this many people was not going to be fun.

"Behold my newest skill," Ise threw up his palms and began to focus, "DRESS BREAK!"

Naruto smiled thinly as everyone mechanically turned as one, to stare at him as the clothes on six people exploded off their bodies, both girls and boys, leaving Ise's screeching victims to begin hurling abuse and spells at the comically sobbing Dragon Wielder while he scuttled around building.

"What?"

****End Game****

Ise shivered a little as he gazed around the clearing they were in.

Surrounding their little group on all sides was a dark and gloomy forest. Soggy grey mist hung in the air as a sluggish breeze caused the tall and twisted trees to shake and rustle at random intervals, making it look as if the plant life were actively trying to claw at them.

A small weight at his side told him that Asia was cowering by his side as she clung to his uniform, "I-Is this the place?"

"Fufufu, don't worry, Asia-chan. It just looks scary, but if we stay within limits, nothing in here will hurt us."

"Akeno is right," Rias explained calmly. The two of them were doing a very good job of ignoring the yellow lump in a corner with a cloud of gloom over its head, "We're waiting for Zatouji-san, the Familiar Master. He is the one who prepares a wide selection of familiars for new Devils and helps us choose but we can only find him here once a month on a full moon."

Issei hesitated and nervously looked around the clearing again, "Can't he do it, you know, somewhere nicer?"

"AHAHAHA! How little you know boy!" A voice blared over the forest so loudly that it startled even Naruto.

"Ah. Another suspicious idiot showed up. Is it a racial trait or are you Devils just inherently unable to do anything in a normal way?" Naruto commented blandly as a man who looked far too old to be climbing trees, or wearing baggy shorts that showed off his hairy legs for that matter, appeared at the top of the tree, ranting away about how this forest was filled with a suitable energy and atmosphere for creating familiars.

"Now, what kind of pets do you want?!" The strange old man puffed out his chest proudly, "With me here, you can get any familiar that you want!"

Issei's eyes gleamed with anticipation, "Is there any beautiful female ones?"

"Tsk, tsk, tsk," The old man who forgot to grow up waggled his finger at the boy, "Don't you know boy, a familiar is an important part of your life, its presence can halve or double your abilities so the most important thing is find one that's brave or strong!"

"But.…" Asia piped up with large disappointed eyes, "But I wanted something cute…"

"Ohoho, anything for someone as cute as you!" he suddenly declared with a flush in his cheeks.

"Weren't you just saying something about brave and strong?" Issei spluttered.

"Ah. Another pervert that cannot be saved."

"That's uh.. situational. Yes. situational. Hahaha!" Everybody sweat dropped at the laughing man as he led them to a clear and pure looking pool, "If you want something cute, the best kind are water sprites, and the best place to find Undines are in this lake here!"

"Undine? You mean those beautiful water nymphs? The type of women that Kings always want in their harem? Smooth flowing locks, gentle motherly touch and great boobs!?"

.Ohoho!" the old man giggled alongside the brown haired boy, "You sure know your familiars don't you boy? "

"…You two are drooling." Koneko pointed out with a look of distaste.

Wiping away the drool from his chin, Issei laughed nervously, "So-sorry."

Their conversation was silenced as an unearthly light began to emanate from deep inside the pool while something slowly rose out from its depths.

Issei gasped as the Undine emerged.

"Isn't she beautiful?" Zatouji mumbled proudly.

The dark haired boy retched as he felt bile rising in his throat, "Beautiful?! What part of that is beautiful?! That's 100% obviously a SUPER MUSCLY BODYBUILDER IN A PINK SWIMSUIT!"

"It's cute isn't it, Ojou-chan?" Zatouji winked at the pale nun, "And it's a water sprite too, you can never go wrong with those since they specialize in healing and defensive spells."

The Undine flexed its bulging muscles proudly.

"Eeep."

"Forget defensive spells, no matter how I look at it, one punch from those muscles and you're dead anyway!"

Beside Issei, Kiba smiled dreamily, "Ah Mil-tan, long time no see. What did you do to your hair? It looks nice in gold ringlets. Much better than black pigtails."

"Look at Kiba, he's suffered so much psychological damage he doesn't know what he's talking about anymore!" Issei began shaking blond and forced open his blue eyes, "Wake up Kiba and look properly, even if they look like each other, Mil-tan wears a sailor suit, not swimsuits!"

"That's not the problem here is it?" Rias muttered with a vaguely amused expression.

****End Game****

"That was dangerous…" Ise huffed and panted on all fours after they had run away, "I think I saw my parents on the other side of the river…. Was my dad always that muscled?" Ise went blue again and clamped his hands over his mouth, "Urp…. Super bulging muscles are bad, bad, bad."

"But... Ise-kun…" Asia, ever the nice and kindly girl who could find the good in any given situation, spoke up hesitantly, "she had pure eyes, I'm sure that she had a beautiful heart as well."

"Please don't call that thing a she." Ise shuddered, "We barely got away in time. Any later and Kiba would have died."

The blond was too tired to even kick him, "It was your damn fault, you were the one that made me see that thing! And why weren't you affected at all?!"

"I'm already used to super muscly women with strange taste in fashion, hahaha…." Mid laugh, Issei began sobbing into the ground as he realized how sad his life was.

"Uwah... he looks so pitiful I don't have the heart to do something to him."

Chuckling lowly to himself, Naruto who had been quietly following the group simply began to walk away in another direction completely unnoticed, as something green, viscous and pretty bad smelling began falling out of the sky onto the rather unfortunate ORC.

As he trudged along without pause, he intentionally went off the beaten path.

As far as he knew, this forest was a part of the Demon world, and yet, it wasn't. A forest that only became accessible once a month on the full moon, that very few people, devils or otherwise, actually explored because of how utterly unpredictable the place tended to be. Possibly because the vegetation had an odd habit of getting bored and wandering around rather than stay rooted in one place.

For Naruto on the other hand, the forest was an open book that greeted him like it greeted on of its own.

Placing one hand on rough bark, the blond grinned as he felt a passive yet welcoming presence echo through the forest, then smiled as fresh nature energy seeped into his very core.

"You can come out now, Koneko-chan." He called softly.

When the small lithe shadow flipped down from a tree and landed in front of him, the blond merely ruffled her hair affectionately while Koneko pouted at him for messing up her hair.

"Why aren't you with the rest?"

"You were alone." The small cat like girl murmured then narrowed her eyes at him, "…Didn't visit."

Naruto smiled thinly as he began to trudge along again, Koneko trotting beside him silently, "Sorry." He apologized, knowing that the first year girl was referring to his promise to visit her garden every day, "I've been a bit distracted lately."

Her big eyes merely stared up at him for a long moment before she nodded, accepting his apology for what it was.

"You're not curious?"

Koneko shrugged at his question, "If you were busy then you were busy. I do not need to know why."

Naruto let out a quiet chuckle, he abruptly swept Koneko's feet out from under her. Plopping the protesting girl on his shoulders, Naruto let out the first honest smile he had in the past week, "Thanks. I feel a little better now."

"Mmmhmm."

****End Game****

Play Audiomachine – Into the Wild

A figure silently sailed over the thick forest top, lightly touching down on a tree branch before he leapt again. His movements were almost beautiful in their simplicity as he literally skated through the night sky.

"Are you alright?"

"Mmmm." The small girl clinging to his back with an exhilarated smile rubbed her nose against his neck, "Faster?"

Naruto laughed freely, "As you wish."

The whooping blond surged faster and higher, feeling freer than he had in a long time. When he had first come to this place, the first thing that had struck him was the lack of trees. There was nowhere to jump and no high places to feel the breeze. At the apex of his greatest leap yet, the blond hung in midair with Koneko's arm around his neck and glanced around for the tallest tree in the whole forest.

Swiftly locating the tall black shadow that towered above every other tree, the blond whooped one more time as they fell to the earth. Behind him, Koneko made a small meowing sound.

Grabbing a piece of rotten bark mid fall, Naruto braced it against his feet and used it like a skateboard to skid all the way down the tree. Roaring happily, he leaned forward and let the skateboard take him to the roots of the tree where there was a natural bowl like formation that sent them into the air again with even more speed.

The two whooping devils yelled and screamed to their hearts content as they sped past the forest, Naruto pushing his agility and strength to his heart's content, until they came to a large sea like expanse of clear water.

Sharing one look, the blond winked once before he stepped onto the water.

Koneko closed her eyes, fully expecting the blond to sink, so she was understandably a little surprised when the blond actually began skating on top of water, throwing up white waves in his wake like an agile speedboat.

She sucked in a cold breath filled with misty spray, "….Chakra…"

The blond blinked and glanced over his shoulder, "You know what I'm using?" He asked with a mildly surprised expression.

"I have…. Seen it before." Koneko replied slowly, not meeting his eyes, "Then… the church…. That was Sage Mode?"

"Heh…. So there are people in this world who can use it too." Naruto smiled faintly, so he was right. It did somewhat explain why the older Gremory was so calm; unlike his sister who had demanded some answers. He already had some experience with it.

It also confirmed his suspicions that his weakness wasn't just because of the Shinigami alone, though whether the Chakra Koneko was referring to and the one he used was one and the same remained to be seen.

"… You didn't go insane while using it?" she asked with a hushed and uncertain whisper.

"What? Sage Mode? That happens here?"

"…. Users have to absorb natural energy from the world," Her voice cracked a little to the blond's curiosity, "but with that, comes the World's malice…. Most people go insane from it."

"Hmm… how interesting." Naruto murmured curiously, so it appeared that there were at least some marginal differences. Seeing her worried look, he reached back to pat her head soothingly, "In order to go insane, I kinda have to be sane in the first place. So you don't have to worry about me going anywhere alright?" He pointed out cheerfully.

The small girl didn't answer, choosing to bury her face in his shoulder instead and hug him tighter. When she had first felt him using Sage Mode in that church, becoming one with the world, no matter how much it repulsed her because of her past, she had felt a familiar all-encompassing warmth and solidarity radiating from the field. Even from so far away, she had felt it surrounding her, surging inside her.

Almost like how a father would have hugged her if she had one.

Coming to a stop, blond smoothed over the transition between water and land with a hop and skip, causing Koneko to giggle at his exaggeratedly proud expression. Clambering higher up his broad back, Koneko rested her chin on the top of his head, "Where are we going?"

Naruto shook his head a little, tickling her with his long spiky hair and smiled as she giggled, "Over there I guess. Didn't really have anywhere in mind," He pointed to the sky scraping tree, "I didn't want to just sit around and watch Issei and Asia get their familiar."

"…What about yours?"

Shrugging, the blond continued walking along a empty path lined with dead, twisted skeleton trees that looked like no one had ever set foot on it before. It looked like the untraveled path they were on led directly to the large tree, "I actually came here to see how getting a familiar worked." The blond confessed quietly, "But when I got here…. I guess I've been under a lot of strain lately. I just felt like I needed to get away from it all for a moment and this seemed like the perfect place to get lost in."

Koneko simply patted his cheeks with her tiny palms instead of requesting an explanation, her own way of giving him support he supposed.

"Either way, I've got along fine without one before; so it doesn't really matter to me." The blond began crying comically, "Plus I've got enough mouths to feed already."

"WOOF!"

Above him, Koneko began hissing while the blond sweat dropped, "Speaking off mouths…"

Three massive slobbering jaws snapped angrily as a three headed dog as large as their school began charging towards them.

"Okay…. Even being bored is better than this." Naruto turned around and promptly began running in the opposite direction while the sound of four paws shaking the earth thundered in his ears, getting closer and closer until he could smell the stink of rotting meat emanating from the three huge maws, "Holy crap, that thing can swallow us whole!"

"It's a Cerberus!"

"Thanks, I really wanted to know how I was going to die!"

There was a loud rush of wind and stink as the beast leapt clean over him. Throwing himself and Koneko to the ground not a moment too soon as one large jaw snapped shut with jarring force above them. Skidding to a stop, Naruto could feel the air rushing above them as the thing hurtled over them with a disappointed hiss at missing the two small fleshy things before landing right in front of them with a thunderous crash.

Throwing Koneko over one shoulder, the blonde hurriedly forming a few hand signs and jumped into the air.

His eyes bulged when he landed right where he started.

"Fuck." Whirling around, his legs began pumping as fast as possible before the massive canine could bite him in three pieces.

"What was that for?!" Koneko yelled as she hung on for dear life while the blond sprinted the length of the tree lined path.

"I'm uh… kinda low on chakra at the moment," Naruto replied through labored breathing. Ducking a massive paw, the blond skidded and leapt off the path, "Used most of what I have left at the Match, and the rest on that lake. I didn't really think I was going to need too much!"

Brushing aside branches, the blond exploded through the sparse undergrowth before he hurriedly dropped Koneko as gently as he could under the circumstances. Gathering some branches he quickly covered the protesting girl and threw some pungent powder over her, "Stay here," He whispered urgently, "Don't worry, I'll be back."

Before she could even get a word in edgewise, the blond was already gone, thrashing and making as much noise as possible to draw the Cerberus' attention.

Hissing like an offended cat, Koneko threw off the branches and began stomping after the blond.

She wasn't just some weak little girl, she was a proud and powerful Rook of the Gremory House and not someone to sit around while some simple Pawn thought he could save her by acting the Hero.

Following behind the rumbling sounds of a one dog stampede and the large paw prints in the ground, Koneko burst forth like a coiled spring, her huge leaps taking her a few dozens of meters at a time. Within no time at all, she arrived at the beginning of a narrow path in between two mountains. The sides were nothing sheer faces of rock without any hand holds whatsoever to help a climber.

A burst of energetic barking from inside the path drew her attention back to the task at hand and she ran into the path without any hesitation whatsoever.

No plan either come to think of it, but she still had to save him.

****End Game****

The huge canine barked as Naruto slowly backed up, edging away from the maw filled with sharp, stinking fangs, until his foot felt air. Glancing backwards, Naruto suppressed a quiet groan at the 30 foot sheer drop of a cliff behind him. The right and left heads snapped their jaws ferociously, stopping him from escaping. Not that there was any way to escape anyway, the two of them were in a narrow path formed by two sheer cliffs and another one behind him.

The gigantic dog's three heads huffed three gouts of flame, burning the blond's white shirt a little since he had nowhere to go. Careful not to make any threatening moves, Naruto lifted his hands into the air and addressed the overgrown dog politely, "You don't happen to mind just ignoring me and leaving do you?"

It roared at him and snapped its three jaws with a hungry glint in its eyes. Clearly it had no intent of letting him leave in one piece.

"Well… At least now I know what's for dinner."

Naruto punched the closest head with his bare fist.

It reared back with a pained whine and blinked rapidly, the one in the center gingerly licked its gums, feeling the hole where its incisor used to be before all three doggy heads shared a look of complete disbelief.

"You don't have to look like that," The Uzumaki deadpanned with a vaguely insulted expression, "Yes a tiny five foot tall flesh bag just broke your face. If you still can't believe it, why don't you come over here and let me show you again. I'll even be nice and give all three of you matching looks for free."

The Cerberus roared and charged.

Naruto calmly side stepped the truck sized dog and let it hurtle off the cliff.

"Or… I could just let you run off a cliff." He peered down at the lump of broken flesh and bones at the bottom, "I get dinner either way."

"Naruto, hold on! I'm going to save..." Koneko skidded to a stop and stared at the blond lounging away on the edge of the cliff.

He yawned lazily.

"You….? Where's the dog?"

Naruto gestured to the valley below them, "Ah good timing, Koneko-chan. You mind going down there and bringing my dinner back for me?"

"…Dinner?"

She probably looked as confused as she felt. Peering down the cliff as well, she felt her jaw drop, "Is that the Cerberus?"

"It's also dinner. Can you go get it now?"

She couldn't help it, she began giggling weakly. Walking towards the Uzumaki, she buried her face in his shirt.

The blond looked away, but a gentle smile touched his lips as he rubbed one hand up and down her shaking back.

"It's alright. I said it didn't I? I'm not going anywhere."

****End Game****

Play Two Steps from Hell – Cassandra

"You have reached the end of this road. Beyond this lies a treasure my Master has entrusted to me, a symbol of his greatness. If you want to violate this sacred ground, you shall not pass without my permission."

Naruto blinked and his head tilted curiously.

First a huge stinking dog and now some crazy guy guarding a door? He just wanted to visit a tree, was that really so hard?

"Who's your Master? And what exactly is this treasure?"

"Belphegor the Slothful! Son of the Original Sin himself." The black knight's deep voice boomed in the valley, "Beyond this gate lies the remains of the mighty Excalibur, broken by the hand of Belphegor himself! Belphegor himself placed me in this valley to guard this treasure so that it may be a reminder to future generations about his strength and power!"

"Okay…. So can I have it? Your permission that is."

"….. You're not going to fight me?"

"Do I have to?"

"Uh…. Well he didn't say anything about that, just that they needed my permission… huh?" The suit of armor shook its helmet with a loud rattle, "No, no, I must not let myself be confused, the substance of his order is the same. I must guard the treasure against anyone who wants to steal it!"

"But I don't WANT to steal it. I don't even KNOW what Excalibur is. I just want to visit that tree over there and going through this valley seems to be a shortcut."

"Huh? No… wait, that can't be. Belphegor's greatness…."

"That's the point, you were put here to make sure everyone knew about his greatness." Naruto replied reasonably, "But you've been standing here so long, stopping people from seeing that Treasure that no one even remembers who Belphegor is, or why he's so great since it's too troublesome. Doesn't that mean you've already broken his order by yourself? If this sloth dude wanted to be remembered, shouldn't you have put a sign or something and invite others in to see it? Look at me, I've been a Devil for a few months and I've never even heard of this Bellfy guy." He turned to the amused girl standing beside him, "Do you?"

Koneko shook her head slowly, "…..Never heard."

"…," The black armor began vibrating in place as if it was overloading, "Eh? Huh? Then what do I do now?!"

"Go and get laid or something?"

"But I'm an empty piece of armor! I've been here ever since I could think, what should I do!?"

"Uwah… forget getting laid, you need a life."

"How do I do that?!"

"Go find a nice piece of bikini armor or something and make baby chain mail I guess?" Naruto offered with an unhelpful grin.

"Gigigigigigi."

Naruto casually patted the armor's back with a sympathetic smile, he knew exactly what a mental breakdown felt like after all, and kept on walking.

The small girl trailed behind him after she gave the vibrating suit of armor a polite bow.

"By the way, what's Excalibur?" Naruto asked softly, filled a little reverent awe at the sudden beauty that lay before him the moment they entered the gate.

"The Original Holy Sword. Along with Durandal, Ascalon and Caliburn, the four of them were made by God himself, and almost nothing could match them in sheer power except the Seven Princes of Hell, the original Lucifer, Beelzebub, Satan, Asmodeus, Leviathan, Mammon and Belphegor." Koneko answered as the two of them quietly walked through a green and lust forest, it's vibrant beauty shone around them with an almost jewel like quality, "Excalibur was broken into seven pieces during the last War, but I thought the Angels gathered all the pieces up."

"So why did that guy say that Excalibur is here? Was there an eighth piece or something?"

Koneko shrugged, "I don't know…"

"Would be totally awesome if I found one though," The blond admitted, "That said, I know my luck is too shitty to be THAT good."

"Incidentally, don't say anything about Excalibur to Kiba. If he knew about this, he would do anything within his power to destroy this place." The small white haired walked a little closer to the tall blond, the beauty and purity of the forest made her feel strangely purified, "This place… I don't want to see it gone."

"For a Demon Prince or whatever, this guy has pretty good taste." Naruto agreed with a chuckle, "Why does Kiba hate them so much?" the blond put one arm around her small shoulders, "I would have thought he'd like this Excali-thingy, considering his power is making swords and all that."

Koneko shook her head mutely, "…Not my secret to tell."

"I'll ask Akeno then." The blond mumbled under his breath as they arrived at the roots of the great tree. "Hooo…"

Both of them craned their necks until it could go no further, but they still couldn't see the tops. The sheer size of the tree had an overwhelming aura to it that made the two of them feel rather inadequate.

"I think we better go in." Naruto finally said in a hushed whisper. Grasping her shoulder, Naruto steered the wide eyed girl into the safety of the gaping cave at the foot of the titanic tree trunk. Breathing a sigh of relief as he felt the tree's hypnotic aura leave him, the blond gazed around the little cubby hole when a blade of sunlight suddenly made it's way through the hole in the roof to illuminate the dark cave.

Sitting in the center of circle of light was a magnificent golden scabbard, lined with intricate royal blue decorations. The scabbard's aura of holiness and power would have been perfect had it not been for the fact that there was a black iron pole of some sort stabbed through its center, cracking the tough metallic scabbard pretty badly.

[Welcome!]

The voice didn't just vibrate in the air like normal sound, and as Koneko and Naruto shared a look; they felt it vibrating within their very minds as if something was communicating with them telepathically.

[You have passed all three tests and gained the right to lay our eyes on the Mighty Excalibur's scabbard, Avalon! Now stretch forth your hand and receive your destiny.]

Blinking, the blond almost seemed to mindlessly obey.

Stepping forward into the circle of light, he lifted the broken scabbard with shaking hands and turned it over carefully, gazing at its beauty as if to remember it for all time. With a trembling hand, he grasped the hideous black pole that had defeated the scabbard and wrenched it out.

Then he chucked the scabbard in to a corner.

"Okay, I'm done, let's go."

[HUH?!]

The blond yawned, "It's getting late, Koneko-chan, let's go before the rest leave us here."

Koneko boggled at him so hard it looked like her eyeballs were going to fall from her head.

[THE GREAT AVALON IS HERE YOU KNOW!? YOU'RE JUST GOING TO CHUCK IT IN A CORNER AND FORGET ABOUT IT?!]

"Hmmmm….." Naruto clapped his hand once as if it just dawned on him, "it's too heavy and I don't really need another voice in my head. One is bad enough."

"Wa-wait!" A small yellow thing flitted out of a dark crevice and flew straight into the blond's face, trying to stop him from leaving, "I'm here! I'm not actually in your head, so you can take me now right?!"

His eyes crossed trying to focus on the sobbing little fairy hugging his nose. It had long straight pale yellow hair that reached the back of her knees and it was clad in gold and blue robes though he couldn't see any wings on her, just two hard golden shield like accessories at the side like a beetle and an ornate cap, "Please don't leave me here!"

One yellow eyebrow twitched at the tiny little fairy as she sobbed and hiccupped, leaving snot all over his face.

"No. Too much trouble. Sayonara."

The fairy glared at him indignantly through reddish eyes, "Then what did you come here for?! Why did you defeat all those tests!?"

"What tests?" The blond asked blankly.

"The Lake of Lost Souls, no boat can pass it safely, so you can only fly over it. With how long it is, the Lake is at test of power!"

"Uh… I walked over it?"

"… that uh… counts? We-Well, what about the Great Cerberus, great guardian of this Lost Forest!"

The blond offered her a small piece of roasted meat, "Want some?"

"Uhm… okay." Naruto calmly waited for her to start nibbling on the roasted meat before he spoke, "Your Cerberus ran off a cliff. Then I cooked his ass. That's him by the way."

The fairy's creamy white skin turned blue as she spat out the piece of well-seasoned meat.

"What about the Black Knight?!" the small fairy demanded shrilly.

Naruto gestured out the cave's entrance.

"….Why is the Black Knight prancing around the Lost Valley like a five year girl on a sugar high?"

"I…. had absolutely nothing to do with that." Naruto said with a completely straight face, "I just wanted to visit this tree."

Koneko snorted.

The small thing outright began bawling her eyes out, "I knew it, I knew I was useless. Not even someone who defeated all those challenges wants me because I'm so useless! WAAAAAAAH!"

The Uzumaki's eyebrow began twitching violently at the hiccupping little thing as she wiped her snot off with her golden robe.

Slowly, he looked up at the hole in the ceiling, "Now I know for sure you're there and listening because there's no other way my life can be this screwed up," Koneko watched him mumble to somebody that she couldn't see.

She could hear the sound of dark clouds rumbling overhead.

Rubbing his eyes, the blond squatted down beside the little golden fairy and poked her tummy with one comparatively super-sized finger, "Alright, alright, stop crying. First tell me why you think you're useless."

The small glowing thing sniffed cutely and peered up at the gigantic blond. Her pupils, he noticed, were shaped like crosses, "I am or was Excalibur's scabbard. As long as I was in my owner's possession, I was the greatest shield, nothing could hurt him because he had my protection," Her strange amber eyes began watering up again, "But that huge, hairy monster was too powerful." The small little girl grinned viciously at the black pole in Naruto's hands, "He may have broken me but I took his whole damned hand in return. That's his finger right there. He never got it back."

The fire in her eyes dimmed again, "That said, he still cut right through me in the end and broke Excalibur-chan. Without her, I lost all my power as well. They managed to rescue Excalibur-chan's pieces, but I was taken by that stinky ape as a trophy."

She began crying cutely, "Wh-When you came, I-I-I was so happy. Someone finally managed to defeat those guards that the stupid monkey put outside. I-I thought that, even if I was useless, I could finally leave this dark hole again."

The little fairy shuffled around so her back was to him and blew her nose loudly, "its okay, you can go. I'll just sit here for another millennium or so. I can't leave without my real body anyway and it's just a shiny hunk of junk."

Naruto nearly began a screaming fit right then and there.

Scooping up the scabbard and the fairy, he stuffed her into his shirt pocket while the scabbard went into the back of his pants, "Waaa! What are you doing?!"

"Shut up." Naruto muttered resignedly as he stomped out of the cave, "Just shut up until I can think of something."

Avalon's eyes went wide as she peered up at him hopefully, "Really?"

"Yes, now be quiet." The blond grunted irritably.

Behind him, Koneko smiled gently as the blond yelped when Avalon threw herself at his face again, sobbing thank yous and wiping snot all over him, "That's disgusting! Stop that!"

****End Game****

Naruto sighed as he trekked through his jungle, feeling a little worn out. When they had regrouped with Rias and the rest, Naruto had found himself talking rather fast to persuade the Ruin Princess to let him keep the small fairy while her physical body was carefully hidden away in his backpack. The small exhausted fairy, her glow pulsing with every tiny snore, was fast asleep in his pocket after what had probably been a rather exciting day filled with new things for her.

Calmly tapping several runes hidden in the frame of his door, Naruto tiredly let it swing open and stepped inside. Letting his backpack filled with a golden hunk of junk drop on the floor with a loud thunk, the blond closed the door behind him and wearily made his way to the bed, determined to sleep until next week when he suddenly froze and whirled around.

"I thought it was weird that you were so quiet, Madara. By the way, is that my ramen?"

Deep purple eyes glowed with sadistic glee in his alcove as another shadow made his presence known.

The tall mid aged man glanced at the bowl he was slurping from and grinned stupidly, "Yeah… sorry about that. You're uh… friend here was nice enough to tell me about those runes, but I didn't know you'd be back so late and I kinda got hungry.

"It's okay." Naruto commented calmly as he gently set Avalon down in a safe spot, "You're still going to pay for those though."

"I'd heard about how you were a penny pincher," The middle aged man with grey streaked through his hair grinned, "Or was I supposed to take that as a threat?"

"Neither really." Naruto replied blandly as he stretched out a hand, "My name is Uzumaki Naruto, but I guess you already knew that or you wouldn't be here."

Trying to juggle the bowl and shake the blond's hand at the same time, the old man grinned, "That's a pretty good guess, kid, the name's Azazel."

"And a fallen angel." Naruto noted flatly as his eyes swiveled around looking for Raynare, finding her absence strange, "Haven't met too many of those who are nice."

The man named Azazel chuckled lowly, though Naruto noticed that he hadn't let go, "You've been looking in all the wrong places then, kid. The good ones like us are hiding all over the place."

"I see."

The man seemed to blur as Naruto suddenly threw the old man over his shoulder. However instead of being flung across the room, the old man clamped down on the blond's hand and refused to let go. Landing on his free arm, he braced himself despite the ground cracking and returned the favor. The blond tensed as he felt himself being hurled through the air, however he could play the game just as well. Hitting with the wall so hard that he felt his rib cage creaking, Naruto growled and pulled, slamming the man into the wall beside him.

One after another, the two of them seemed to play some sort of insane game, throwing each other one after another until the Fallen Angel jack knifed the blond so hard that he was blasted right out of the shed, iron grip be damned while the black and white haired man strolled out of what was left of the shed.

"You owe me a new house." The blond muttered and hoped that Avalon was safe. He had tucked her into her scabbard and hopefully, she wouldn't wake up until he had the time to dig her out.

"Technically it was already falling apart in the first place." Azazel noted blandly, "Don't think I didn't notice that massive hole on the side of the shed."

"I assume the head told you everything about me then?" Naruto bit out in pain as he slowly climbed out of the crater he was in.

"Some. Most of it we already knew. That being said, your friend was very sure to remind us not to give you time to gather your wits or you'd really be dangerous." Azazel commented with an accommodating grin as he blocked a punch and smoothly flowed into an upper cut that sent the tired blond rocketing away, "You have to understand though. All of us who have the power can feel it when someone crosses through the Dimensional Gap, especially when a certain grumpy dragon didn't give permission. So even if you didn't know it, a lot of people have been watching you the entire time."

The two of them exchanged a flurry of blows that shook the air around them, "You must have been pretty disappointed to see that your little intruder was completely normal, if a little confused, no?" Naruto remarked conversationally as he furiously tried to keep his ground from the onslaught.

"A little," Azazel admitted, "Even more so when Rias-chan suddenly up and saved your life, supposedly classifying you as a Devil. Then things got a little muddied up with your little show and tell with Stephan and Raival."

He's leg flashed, too fast for the blond to even react and caught him in the chest.

The blond sailed through the air in a perfect air before crashing with a massive bang. Coughing and hacking up blood, the blond struggled to even sit upright, "So you're here to ex… cough…terminate a potential threat?"

"Not exactly. I was just sent here to test you by a mutual acquaintan-"

He was cut off by the blond putting on a spurt of speed. Reflexively, Azazel flung a straight jab as he leaned back to avoid the blond's punch. The blond grunted as he took the blow on the shoulder but pressed on, his already outstretched arm suddenly opened into a palm that Naruto flicked across the man's eyes. Blocking out his eyesight, Naruto stomped on the man's foot, stopping him from backing away and simultaneously smashed an elbow into his sternum. The blow pushed him back but the blond's foot stopped him from going anyway where Naruto leapt up and gave him a full roundhouse kick to the forehead.

Stumbling back at the powerful blow, Azazel coughed a few times before he chuckled, "Yes, that's good. An experienced fighter, skilled with misdirection but not exactly strong enough. You fight by relying on your misdirection to buy you enough time to set up seals which seem to constitute the bulk of your damage potential." He straightened up and ran one hand through his hair suavely, the bruise on his forehead already melting away.

Naruto panted heavily, his arms hung limply. He barely had enough strength to lift them anymore, when the man's steel tipped boot crashed into his chin, sending him flying over backwards again.

"Although I must admit I'm disappointed." Azazel continued conversationally, "I've heard about the way you layer plans upon plans, so before I came here, I took every precaution I could. Up to and including antidotes for every kind of poison in existence. But here you are just charging me directly. No seals, no poison. Nothing. What's up with that?"

Before Azazel could continue his line of questioning, a head rolled out of the shed, cackling loudly.

"Hahahaha!" the head who was rolling around on the ground laughed loudly and happily as the battered blond hit the ground and skidded to a smoking stop, "Finally! You can talk a nice speech when you have the power, but you're pretty silent now aren't you?"

One blue eye opened tiredly and glanced at the head, as Azazel loomed above him.

"Where's your BELIEVE IN ME now? Where's that unshakable faith?" The head kept rolling around like a demented ball, "Not so unshakable without a purpose or power now are you?"

It stopped laughing and stared at the downed blond with something resembling pity, "You could talk because you didn't know how it truly felt, but now without a reason, you can't live can you? You can't help but just surviving, with the knowledge that everybody you left behind is partying happily over your grave and on their way to the next Shinobi World War, doubting that you made a difference, but the worst part is that you'll never know if they all just died."

The head spat at the kneeling boy viciously, "Take away a saint's belief and what do you get?. Nothing but a simple, broken, WEAK man who doesn't know how to deal with the world without his faith. You were strong then because they were there, you could see them, their faces. It's easy to believe in that, but now? You only have your doubts left."

Forcing his legs to stand again, the battered blond swayed in place with a bloody smile, "You…." He shuddered heavily as he felt a broken rib poke his lungs with each labored breath, "Talk too much, Madara."

Play Pacific Rim – Main Theme: Epic Rock Remix by Little V

The blond slowly rose again before Azazel tried to knock him down again.

Only this time, he caught it directly. The force from the punch alone cracked the ground beneath his knees, but the blond was completely unaffected.

"I've had a shitty day, and I'm really in no mood to talk."

Azazel twitched as he tried to pull his fist out of the blond's grip, but was surprised to realize that the blond was actually getting stronger by the second. In fact, he could actually see the blond's wounds steaming as they flat out regenerated in front of his very eyes.

"Whoever told you about me, was not entirely wrong, Azazel," Naruto noted gravely, "Unfortunately for you, just because I generally don't fight with my fists doesn't mean I can't fight with my fists."

The kick that landed on his chest would have actually hurt quite a bit if it had landed, but thanks to his generations of experience in combat, he managed to deflect the worst of it, although he was definitely going to feel it come morning.

Looking up, he saw the blond flashing through a series of hand signs before slamming his fists together.

[Uzumaki Style: Sage Mode Burst]

Like an illusion melting away, the air behind him shimmered before wings of steel flared open.

No. not wings of steel, Azazel corrected himself.

Coffins.

He stared blankly at the five coffins floating behind the bloody blond reminding him of some sort of demented wings as they glowed brightly, feeding power straight to the blond with a powerful hum.

Then he disappeared and Azazel was promptly reminded that he was still in battle.

Dodging the first strike, the Fallen Angel flowed around the blond and tried to strike him from the back when the blond responded, his moves concise and sharp to a finely honed point, completely unlike his earlier attempts.

Dodging under a sudden punch, a glowing spear formed itself in his hand and he promptly launched it at the boy's face at point blank distance.

Admittedly, it probably wasn't even at half power given the Fallen Angel's stated intention to test him, but Madara watched with sick fascination as the upgraded version of Sage Mode that the blond was using allowed him to completely shrug off the heat and explosion from the flames of a General class Fallen Angel.

Then the boy hit back.

And both of them were suddenly forced to re-evaluate their earlier opinion that the boy's Sage mode would not be able to dent his skin as the Fallen Angel coughed up blood, stumbling around as if he had just been rammed by a dump truck carrying several other dump trucks.

The impact alone had been enough to flatten every tree near them.

"That's going to sting." Azazel muttered to himself.

"Then you're going to love this one."

Azazel looked up and paled as a magnificent array the size of a house began to glow on the boy's back.

It didn't even take him a moment to identify the array as a low level earth type Devil spell, Quake.

The issue here was that the titanic array was made up of thousands of miniscule Quake arrays hovering and rotating in the air like a beautiful work of symmetrical art.

Each one amplifying the blond's punches multiplicatively.

"By itself, Quake was never meant to do anything more than destabilize the ground by amplifying the impact of the user's strength. Hitting someone with it doesn't actually do anything because it needs to hit the earth before it can do anything." Naruto said quietly as began to stalk towards the angel, "Out of curiosity, I tried to apply some of my jutsu creation skills to it and see if I could modify its attributes. Imagine my surprise when I managed to adapt the impact enhancing part so that it could activate even when you're punching something other than earth with it."

Azazel swallowed thickly.

Considering that the boy had already shown obscenely enhanced strength from his Sage Mode, combined with the fact that it was basically an open secret that he could use quick and precisely timed bursts of his energy to even further enhance the power of his punches, he was rapidly coming to the conclusion that he was not going to enjoy this one bit.

Especially if one took into account the several thousand Quake spells that formed the massive, rotating thing of beauty behind him, casting a bright golden hue on everything around them.

It was basically pure, stupid, overkill simply because nothing short of a General class Fallen Angel or an Ultimate Devil was going to walk away in one piece if that thing hit them.

"You do realize that I'm helping someone right? So we're technically on the same side." Azazel tried as he nervously eyed the massively floating spell array while subtly backing away, only to realize that the coffins on the boy's back were no longer there.

They had detached themselves and were hovering in the air around him, projecting an on the spot barrier that stopped him from going anywhere, anytime soon.

"I know." The blond admitted serenely, "I just want to punch something really hard."

"And well… your face happened to be nearby."

The resulting explosion was awesome enough that researchers from all over the world would be examining satellite records for the next month in order to find out what the heck was the sudden bright flash of light that could be seen all the way from China.

Sighing to himself the blond frowned at the strangely silent head, "We are going to have a very long talk about this, aren't we Madara?"

The head didn't reply.

Mostly because it was still blankly staring at the five coffin shaped containers floating behind the blond, tethered to him by glowing chains that heavily resembled the ones his mother favored using.

Like a long forgotten memory of a mercenary from Waterfall, the chakra patterns, the shape and their function stirred something nostalgic.

"Jiongu." Madara paused before smiling wryly despite his impending doom, "I actually kinda wish Kakuzu was alive right now just so I can see the brat flip out and go ape shit when he realizes someone stole his precious jutsu."

"Adapted actually." The blond smirked thinly, "You really didn't think I'd just sit around and mope about my tiny chakra reserves without actually doing anything about it did you?" He asked the floating head sardonically as he caressed the hovering coffins, "Semi live, independent batteries, constructed from reinforced seal cores of five of my clones that continuously gather and circulate chakra for me, unaffected by the restrictions on my own reserves, only without the whole ripping-hearts-out thing."

"All the functionality of Jiongu and then some." The blond concluded before he went silent for a long sheepish moment, "Well except the immortality part. As far as I know, with them active, I can actually survive a destroyed heart long enough for my regeneration to kick in but I'm not entirely sure if I can survive anything worse considering I'm not using actual hearts and I don't really feel like committing suicide just to test out a theory."

"Then… Sage Mode…" Enlightenment dawned on the Uchiha patriarch, "if they're always circulating…."

"That's my secret." Naruto smiled gently, "I'm always in Sage Mode."

"Fuck." Madara concluded.

****End Game****

End Chapter 8