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In the shadows of the night

Chapter Text

Naruto's POV

A blond haired blue eyed boy stood in the academy with the other children six years old. Today was the day they were going to unlock their spirit essence. This would determine whether or not they had the potential to be martial artist or ninja.

Everyone in their world was born with a spirit essence. At the age of six is when ot was awakened for each person. There were two kinds of spirit essence.

Tool spirit essence was the first. In this classification it's broken into two parts. Useful and junk. They were the most common. They could be anything from a handkerchief to hammers. Plants were also classified as tool spirits. Most of them were junk essences because they couldn't do anything.

Beast spirit essence was the second kind of spirit essence. They were not as common as tool essence. Like tool spirits though they came in both common and junk spirits. The junk beast spirits were less common but they still happened.

He stood in the back of the classroom away from the other children. The parents were all standing by their children and he was all alone. The cold looks they gave him was what made him stand in the back. Why everyone hated him he didn't understand. All he knew was that they did and it was safer for him to be away from them.

A man in an unfamilIar uniform walked into the classroom. Even as young as he was he could see the tension the adults put off. They disliked this guy even more than they hated him. What a surprise that was.

The man had blond hair like his but his eyes were more of a grayish blue. He said," I am the examiner for today. I am a level 26 grandmaster. My profession is spirit master. For those of you who don't know. Instead of there being only the ranks of civilian, genin, chunin, and jounin. In the world of martial artist there are levels. After every ten levels you get a new rank. It takes years of hard work and practice to get to my level though. Most of you won't even reach level one with your spirit essence."

The killing intent in the room rose several notches. The weaker minded children began to cry. It was coming from the adults. Many of which saw it as an insult that someone would just assume that. Naruto on the other hand saw it as a fact.

Ninja and the villages focused on the chakra aspects instead of purely the spirit. That was what made them weaker than these people. They could use ninjutsu but they chose not to. If his village wouldn't accept him maybe they would.

Without batting an eye at the killing intent the man continued," I will be your guide to your spirits. Today you will awaken your essence spirits. You will also have your essence level tested. Those who are worthy will become spirit masters."

That caught some of the other kids attention. Mainly that of Kiba and a few of the class bullies. Naruto didn't like them. They always bullied him especially Kiba. It was like they hated him for simply being alive.

The man gave a smirk as he said," Now i will show you a spirit from a true spirit master. Pay attention!"

A few shouts rang out," Yes! Oh yes."

He could feel the sudden change in atmospere. It wasn't added killing intent. Instead it was pressure of the man's power. It caused even him to flinch back.

A red light entered the grey eyes as he said," Lone Wolf! Transform!"

Startled gasps rang out from student and parent alike. No one was expecting the man to become a human wolf hybrid. That must be the power of the beast essence. He hoped he got one similar. It would amazing to do something like that.

One of the kids started crying and was picked up by his shirt collar by the man. The man said without sympathy," There are two types of spirit essence. Beast and Tool. Obviously Lone Wolf is a beast. Alright now everyone line up."

He stood at the back of line waiting his turn. No doubt everyone expected him to get some junk spirit. They all thought he was a failure. If only they would see the real him. Just a boy who wanted to have a friend and to care about him.

Just a few people ahead of him was Sasuke Uchiha. He was probably the one everyone expected to get a beast spirit. Maybe even have a level.

A few people ahead of him was Kiba Inuzaka. There was no doubt in his mind that that boy would have a beast spirit. His family were connected to their ninja hounds. No doubt Kiba would get his in a few years.

Five minutes later there were only ten of them left. Everyone so far had been tool spirits. Everything from there had been two hammers, A river grass plant, handkerchief, two knives, a comb, and a soup bowl. Not a single one was able to make the crystal react. Essence level zero for all of them.

It was Shikamaru Nara's turn. The dark haired boy lazily stepped forward as the man awakened his spirit. It too was a tool but this time it was something different. The tool spirit was a kunai. For someone like the Naras it would definitely come in handy.

Now it was Kiba's turn. When the man unlocked his spirit there was a deafening howl. In front of the boy was a grey wolf.

"Grey Wolf beast spirit. Now test your spirit essence."

Kiba put his hand what appeared to be a crystal ball. At first it did nothing then it began to glow.

The man said seemingly unimpressed," Level 2 resonance. It seems we will have at least one student this year. Stand off to the side I will speak with you and your parents in private."

The next three were also beast spirits but they weren't very useful. They also didn't even make it to level one essence. They were rabbit, rat, and pigeon. Fairly useless.

The next up was Sasuke Uchiha. He sauntered over like the arrogant ass he was. It made his teeth grind that it could be this guy getting to learn about these techniques. He honestly hoped the other would get some useless tool spirit. That would teach the bastard.

When the man unlocked Sasuke's spirit it was uneventful. There was no loud howl or anything of that nature. In front of the other was a bird. From the markings it was a hawk. Definitely a beast spirit.

The man said holding out the orb," Hawk. Beast spirit. He will serve you well. Now let's see if you have a essence level."

Sasuke put his hands on the orb and focused. One had to put everything they had to get the orb to react to their essence. If one didn't then it wouldn't work and they would fail.

The orb barely lit up. It was even less than Kiba's. The man sneered at the boy and said," Half a level. That means you will never get over the level thirty threshold. Still we will take you and train you."

Before anyone could say anything Sasuke's father pulled him aside. The next four children were tool spirits. Two hammers, a large knife, and another handkerchief.

Finally it was his turn. The adults turned had hatered in their eyes. Only the grey eyes did he find solace. They were tired and bored. He had used a lot of energy to unlock so many students spirits and only had one left.

He stepped forward and the man said tiredly," Last one. Concentrate. Make out an image inside your heart. Materialise it in your hand."

He focused on the image that resided inside him. Having tried this a few times before it wasn't hard to find. What surprised him was when it moved. As if his spirit essence wanted free and was alive.

Angry feelings filled him as his thoughts darkened. He heard a voice say," Well well well. I never expected you to find me so young child. What do you want with me brat?"

He said in a whisper," Your my spirit essence. Aren't you? If you aren't my my spirit essence then what are you?"

A grumbling noise and a growled out," No I am not your spirit essence brat. Look elsewhere. If you want to know what I am ask you Hokage."

Witth that whatever it was went silent. So he began to focus in his heart again. He would ask the old man when this was over. First he had to get his spirit essence.

A dark grey almost smokey like light filled his hands. In it was a grey fox. A name entered his mind. Línghún. His name was Línghún. While he was small now there was no doubt he would grow with Naruto.

The man held out the orb obviously ready for this to be over. He put his hands on the orb and focused all of his energy into it. The man was already turning away expecting another level zero. Whatever Naruto was expecting to happen what did wasn't it.

The orb didn't just glow faintly. It shone ocean blue almost the exact color of his eyes. The man spun around to face him. Shock was written all over his face. The surprises weren't over as he couldn't control the power he was putting into the orb.

The man went to take it from his but before he could touch it, it shattered. He asked fearfully," What just happened?"

The man said staring at the shards," You had a full harmonization. It is very rare for even people from our villages to get that. You are a special child. What is your name?"

"Naruto Uzumaki, sir." He said stiffly. Special was just another word for freak.

The man dismissed everyone after that. To his surprise the blond boy was alone. There weren't any parents for him in the room. The man looked towards the other adults who he noticed were glaring at the child. Something more was going on here. It was more than just petty jealously that the boy had done better than both of others.

Ignoring it for the moment the man said," Tomorrow all three children will return with me to one of the primary schools. This will teach them the basics of using their essence. They will also be learning techniques that go with their essence. They will be allowed to return during the summer for a month. Should they choose to they can return to the village at the age of ten to finish their ninja training. Or..."

That pause caught his attention and he asked excitedly," Or what, sir?"

The glares he received made him flinch back. Such cold and hatred radiated off the adults. All except for the the grey eyed blond.

He replied with a gentle smile," If you wish to continue you can go to one of the advanced schools. The most popular is Shrek. The minimum essence level is 15 and you can't be older than twelve. Know this though Shrek only accepts the best. The classes were built to create monsters."

This time it was the adults turn to flinch. That would be his goal then. He would become one of the best and join Shrek's academy.

Hayate's POV

He had just returned from a mission. It was that time of year again. Children were being tested for their spirit essence. Most of the time he was away on a mission. It was unusual for him to be back. Then again the mission did end early. He had to wonder if any passed the essence test this year.

When he had taken the test he was the only one in his year that passed. His spirit was that of the wind wolf. It enhanced his speed. This allowed him to master the Dance of the Crescent moon when he returned to the village. He didn't actually return to the village until he was thirteen. Almost ten years ago to the day.

Hayate shook himself from the thoughts of the past as he entered the Hokage's office. A young man with blond hair and grey eyes stood talking to the older man.

When the Hokage saw him he was waved forward. Sarutobi said kindly," Welcome back, Hayate."

He bowed slightly as he said," Thank you Lord Hokage. If you need me to come back later I can go."

Behind his mask of indifference he hoped the man would grant him it. It had been a long mission and he would love for a hot shower. Some clean clothes wouldn't hurt either. Sadly it wasn't in his cards.

"No Hayate you should be here for this. Now finish telling me about the examinations this morning." The Hokage said in a commanding tone.

The man may have been old but frail he was not. Many ninja underestimated him. If they were to face him in combat though they would not live to regret it.

The exact opposite was true for him. He contracted the disease his clan was notorious for. Any hope for a cure had been destroyed when the Nine tailed fox attacked the village. Now he was the last of his clan and was slowly dying.

Startling him from his thoughts the blond said," We have three passes this year. One Kiba Inuzaka. He shows promise with his grey wolf. Whether he chooses to stay with us or return to the ninja side remains to be seen. Sasuke Uchiha was the next to pass. Out of the three I have to say he was the most disappointing. I have heard many good things about the Uchiha and expected better than half a level."

Hayate had to force himself not to react. Half levels were fairly common occurrence in the villages. It meant the users would never reach past break level 30. That was fine 29 was respectable. That begged the question of who the last one was.

"The final one is ready to get his first spirit ring. As you know when ones essence is first tested it will come out between levels 1 and 10. The boy came out a very high ten. He is the most promising student outside the martial artist clans I have seen in a long time." He said excitedly.

Now even the Hokage looked intruiged. Who was this protege? Normally his thoughts would have gone to the Nara clan. Something told him that wasn't right though. So who could it be?

His unspoken question was answered a second later," Naruto Uzumaki was the final pass."

The child who held the demon inside him? That did make sense though. He would have more chakra and spirit than anyone else his age.

The Hokage must have been thinking along the same lines. His face went several shades paler.

He asked trying to stay calm," Was there anything off when you tested the boy?"

When the man shook his head Hayate let out the breath he was holding. That was good at least. The danger now was of the other villages finding out their jinchuriki was gone. That could invite an attack on their village. The treaty stated though any child with an essence level must go to school for at least 4 years. Unless they were expelled. So Naruto had to go with this blond.

Chapter Text

Hayate's POV

After the examiner left Sarutobi said looking exhausted," I had hoped Naruto would pass the tests. Even with my order in place many of the villagers hate and fear him. It has made for a hard life."

Hayate could somewhat understand the sentiment. Many times people gave him fearful looks thinking he was contagious. Especially those who did not know of his clans curse. As Naruto no doubt would be found happiness in his spirit essence and the work he did. He had trained hard to become a retainer.

A retainer was a person who freely worked with both martial artist and ninja. They were held at the highest of standards and respect. The road to become one was difficult and filled with hardships. Many who tried to follow it's path failed.

He was drawn from his thoughts when Sarutobi said," I'm assigning you to the convoy. As a retainer it is your duty to safely see them to the border. I also wish you to consider taking one as your student. Who you choose is up to you."

Hayate could feel the muscle under his eye want to twitch. A student? Out of a bunch of six year olds? Not a chance in hell. Yet something bothered him about the conversation.

Naruto's POV

The next morning he was waiting at the gates bright and early. Today was the day he would leave the village. He was waiting for ten minutes before the others arrived.

The first was a jounin he didn't recognize. The man wore his head band as a bandanna and carried a sword on his back. His hair was a dark brown and and had brown eyes.

The man glanced at him and gave him a soft," Good morning."

A harsh cough came directly after that making the boy wince. There were only two swordsman in the village. One was female so that meant.

"Hayate Gekko. You're Naruto Uzumaki correct?" The man held out his hand.

There was no hatred in his eyes just curiosity. So he took the man's hand and said giving his best smile," Yep that's me. I've heard that you're the best swordsman in our village. Is that true?"

Hayate blinked at him in surprise before a faint barely there smile appeared. He said," It could be argued that Yugao is but, then again I beat her in our last ten spars."

A look of wonderment appeared on his face. He had always found swords fascinating. Most ninja tended to focus on the chakra aspect of fighting. Many forgotten like ninjutsu and taijutsu the weapons they kept should be unique to them. They should be an extension of one's self. Every weapon should be chosen carefully with ones fighting style in mind.

While he had been lost in his thoughts the others arrived. The adults from the village gave him hateful looks. He didn't notice until a gentle hand touched his shoulder.

Looking up it was the examiner from the day before. That brought up the memories of the night before.

Flashback

His spirit essence mark was on his left arm just below the shoulder. It was a silver fox. Luckily for him it was easily hidden. Fox spirit essences weren't very common. Yet the burning on his right hand was driving him crazy.

Looking at it he could see a mark beginning to form. Rumors had been spread that there once had been a man who had duel spirit essences. Could it be possible that he was one such person? It didnt seem likely. It had been a thousand years since that man lived. If it was possible another would have certainly appeared before now.

Yet something had been bothering him since the ceremony. It was like an itch he couldn't scratch. Or like something he should know but couldn't remember.

He called forth Línghún. The smokey grey fox stared at him with open curiosity. Línghún couldn't talk but he was intelligent. They could share memories and experiences. What Línghún showed him was unexpected. It was a forest far from the village. Something in the forest was calling to him. An image of a giant wolf filled his mind. Then an image of his right hand appeared.

Was Línghún trying to tell him to find this forest? What was that giant wolf? He knew his answers lay outside of the village.

End of flashback

When he shook himself from the flashback he noticed everyone had gathered. The Inuzaka and Uchiha clans were saying goodbye to their youngest. As always he had no one to say goodbye to. He was all alone in the world.

As they were preparing to leave an unexpected arrival shocked them. It was the old man Hokage himself. Out of everyone that he talked to only the old man treated him like he was human. Everyone else saw him as a monster.

They all turned to face him and the old man stopped just in front of him. He said smiling at each of them," Today you embark on a journey that will change your lives. Some of you will find new hardship in adjusting to this new world. While others will find new friends. Remember you will be welcome to come home when your ready. Good luck and make your village proud."

With a small gentle smile to Naruto the old man walked off. With that they left the village. Hayate took the front while the examiner took up the rear. He, Kiba, and Sasuke were in between them.

Kiba and Sasuke were completely ignoring him. They had never shown any interest in being friends before but now they were acting friendly. Taking after the adults they ignored him.

Looking ahead he could see Hayate and decided to try and talk to the man. The jounin would be the one to look after them until they got settled at the new school. It wouldn't hurt to make an alley. It would might actually help him.

He jogged forward to catch up to the man. When Hayate heard his approach he turned his head. After half a second of considering him the man slowed his strides. This allowed Naruto to fall into step beside him.

The man asked," Not wanting to talk with the Inuzaka or Uchiha kid?"

He shook his head and said," No, sir. They treat me just like everyone else does," after a moments thought he said almost to quiet to hear," everyone but you."

So far the only adult that treated him like a human was Hayate. The Hokage did as well but he never saw the old man. He barely spoke to this man but he treated the blond like a human. While Naruto didn't trust him. He did respect him.

"That's a shame, kid. Well you can walk with me if that makes you feel better. I don't mind the company," Hayate said.

The blond glanced at the man gaging his truthfulness. Liking what he saw he continued to walk alongside the man. His right hand continued to itch as they walked in silence. Instead of dissipating with time it only seemed to grow.

Finally he asked what was on his mind," Sir?" The man hummed and he continued," Is it true that one can only have one spirit essence?"

Hayate stopped suddenly and rounded on him. It was so sudden Naruto had to jump back on instinct. His hand was already palming smoke bombs. It wouldn't do much against a jounin but it would give him the chance to make a run for it.

Sensing his fear Hayate took a deep breath as he asked," Why do you ask?"

Knowing he was on thin ice he said," I was just curious, sir. We aren't taught a lot about spirit essence since most people can't resonate and achieve a level. Or a half level."

The others who were now watching curious listened in. Sasuke gave him a hateful look. They all knew the ebony haired boy would never achieve a rank higher than grandmaster.

Right now they were all spirit trainees. Naruto would be the first to reach the rank of Spirit master. He would get a little bit of money every month. First he had to get a spirit ring.

Hayate said drawing him from his thoughts," It was said that Tang had two spirit essences. It has not been seen since then."

Nodding he rubbed his right hand. It was becoming less of an itch and more of a burn. He had a strange feeling that it would only get worse the more they went on . Still he couldn't keep pondering on these strange cicircumstances. If he did he would never get anywhere.

Nothing more was said after that. They silently continued on and Naruto took note of everything the other did. There was more to being a retainer than just being a ninja and a martial artist. One had be to be in touch with everything around them. Their job was to protect both worlds. So he would watch and learn.

Chapter Text

Naruto's POV

Three days later they reached the border of the land of fire. The whole way there he spent close to Hayate. Even when they camped out for the night. With how much time he spent close to the man it wasn't surprising that he got to watch swordsplay.

Every morning Hayate would practice his katas. The movements were fluid and well practiced. Even from a distance he could see the concentration on the others face.

Every morning he watched carefully until that morning. He had woken up before even Hayate and was already in his usual position to watch. What he didn't expect was to be grabbed by the collar of his jacket and hauled to his feet.

It was Hayate who looked the farthest thing from amused. The man asked," Why are you watching me practice every morning?"

Slowly he said," I find swordsmanship interesting. Everyone else sees weapons as just tools. All they want is to learn flashy ninjutsu."

Now the man looked intruiged as he asked," And you don't?"

"No! Sure ninjutsu is cool. Weapons should be an extension of one's self. Apart of the user," he vigorously shook his head during the first part.

Every bit of what he said was true. Weapons were more than just tools. Just like spirit essences. They were apart of the ninja and should be treated with respect. So many didn't understand it yet he did.

Hayate chose that moment to drop him. Bending his knees he cushioned the slight fall to the ground. He dared a glance up at the man, half expecting anger. Instead there was curiosity in his gaze.

"So you chose a sword? You know it's a lot of work and dedication? Most pupils start learning at the age of seven."

He would be seven in a few months. It was only August after all. As excited as he was he kept his mask firmly in place. If he showed how excited he was no doubt it would be taken from him.

The swordsman may seem different but that could change. It was likely a trick to hurt him more than ever. He wouldn't fall for it. Not this time.

He chose his next words carefully," I will learn how to use a sword. I was just interested in seeing your style."

Hayate hummed for a moment and they stood their in silence. The silence was defeaning for him. He could take anger and yelling but silence. Silence was the worst. You couldn't tell what someone was feeling by silence.

Hayate broke the silence after several moments," Lord Hokage requested that I consider taking a student. Since you seem sincere I'll give you the rest of the trip to the academy to think it over. If you wish to study under me tell me before we reach it. If you don't I'll assume that you don't wish to learn from me and wish to look elsewhere. Either way it is your decision. And yours alone."

With that the man left him to his thoughts and began his usual practice. Naruto was both interested and frightened at the thought. In an effort to be rational about his decision he moved away from the area.

Student and teacher was a big commitment on both of their parts. If he accepted the swordsman as his teacher it would mean he trusted the man. So far Naruto didn't trust anyone.

Still it would be nice to learn how to use a sword. It would be nice to have someone to believe in. Hope that he thought had long since faded flared in his chest.

The rest of the day was spent lost in his own thoughts. Even when they were walking he stayed in the middle with the others. His thoughts were erratic and mistrustful. All the while a part of him wanted it to be true. That Hayate Gekko wanted him as a student. He was only six he should have someone that cares about him. But he doesn't and it's something he had grown accustomed to.

His days went like this in a never ending cycle. It was just over a week after they left that the spirit grand master spoke up.

They were just finishing their breakfast when he said," Children today is our last day together. By lunch time today we will reach the school Nuoding academy. That is where you will spend the next four years as students. After which you can choose to go to a higher academy or return home."

He had already decided he was going to work harder than anyone. With a goal of becoming a retainer he would be going to the higher academies. Glancing slightly to the side he saw a certain amount of stiffness in Hayate's shoulders. If he wasn't so good at reading people he would have missed it.

It almost seemed like the man was worried about something. Probably worried about him taking him up on teaching him. Naruto was still unsure of it himself but he had made his decision. He would learn from the man but that didn't mean he trusted him.

When they began the treck he jogged to catch up with Hayate. The man noticing him slowed his pace slightly to allow him to walk alongside him. For a moment neither said anything.

He was the first to break the silence saying," I made my decision."

The man hummed but didn't look at him. He took it as a sign to continue," I accept you as my teacher. That is if you will still have me."

Part of him still felt like this was some sort of sick joke. That Hayate didn't really want him as his student. Those fears were put to rest when the man answered him.

"I still would like you as my student. I was wondering if you would accept. Part of me thought you didn't want me to teach you. That was why you were avoiding me. I didn't want to pressure you into it though."

A gentle smile appeared on the man's face. It was the kind of smile that would put someone at ease. If Naruto hadn't grown up the way he did it might have worked. Instead it made him tense instantly wary of the man.

The man's hand came up and he was prepared to dodge a blow. To his surprise the man just gave him a pat on the head and ruffled his hair. For a moment he stood there stunned. No one had ever touched him like that. That was the first time someone ever gave him a kind touch.

"Thank you, sensei," he replied with a little less suspicion.

For the rest of the trip he stayed practically glued to the man's side. His eyes constantly scanned the trees mimicking the movements of the man. Learning by watching was his specialty.

As expected they reached a large school by lunchtime. Hayate had a look of nostalgia on his face. He must have gone here too. The examiner meanwhile looked bored. The difference between them was astounding. Hayate looked ready to fight. The examiner looked more like a noble.

Naruto should have realized it before. Then again he wasn't looking for such differences. To him adults were all the same. They treated him like a monster for reasons he couldn't understand. Still this was a new place and a chance for a new life.

They brought them to a building and the examiner said," This is where you three will be staying along with several other students. This is a dormitory. You will respect each other's belongings. Do i make myself clear?"

The three of them nodded solemnly and the man left. Hayate said to him," I will be back later. I have to get permission from the headmaster to stay. Then I have to send word to Lord Hokage. I would suggest getting acquainted with your new roommates."

"Yes, sensei." Came his quick reply.

The man clapped him on the shoulder and he had to force himself not to flinch. So far Hayate had not shown him any inclination to hurt him. Then again people had waited to hurt him until they got his trust. He was not going to be so easy to fool again.

The man only nodded in reply before leaving. When they opened the doors to the dorm the three boys were forced to duck as a large boy was thrown at them. The large boy had dark brown hair and blue eyes.

A girl with brown hair stood in a ready fighting stance. She glared at them with a challenging look in her eyes.

She said pointing at them," Alright let's fight. I'm going to prove to everyone I'm top dog here."

Naruto said stepping back," You can be top dog or boss or whatever. I don't wish to fight you."

Sasuke glared at her completely ignoring him. He said with an angry growl," I am Sasuke Uchiha. I will be boss here."

He had to force himself not to wince when without warning she attacked. They had barely started the academy so far all they learned was theory. Taking on someone who probably already learned family techniques was not the smartest idea. People said the Uchiha were supposed to be smart. Obviously this guy was the exception.

Like the brown haired boy Sasuke was sent flying. Kiba was next up to fight her. Unlike Sasuke he was able to somewhat keep up with her. He had more training than Naruto or Sasuke when it came to taijutsu. His family was highly skilled in it. More so than the Uchiha. It wasn't enough though.

She grabbed his arm and landed a powerful kick to Kiba's abdomen. Her eyes turned to him but he chose at the back of the room. She followed him with a curious look in her eyes.

"My name is Xiao Wu. Nice to meet you all." Xiao Wu said with a smile.

He replied with his idiot smile in place," I am Naruto Uzumaki from the Hidden Leaf Village."

Kiba said wincing as he sat up rubbing his ribs," Kiba Inuzaka of the Hidden Leaf Village."

Sasuke only growled from where he was nursing his wounded pride. Xiao Wu said smiling at him," Nice to meet you all. I'm guessing you don't know any proper techniques yet? Martial arts techniques not ninja."

They all shook their heads. Everything they knew came from their village. All ninja techniques.

"Then later we can go to the library. You will have to learn the basics like training your spirit. This will allow you to raise it levels. What are your levels?"

"I'm a level two with spirit essence Grey Wolf," Kiba was the first to reply.

"Half level Hawk," was Sasuke's short reply.

He said rubbing his left shoulder," Grey Fox level 10."

For a moment she blinked at him surprised. Out of the three of them he looked the worst off. His jacket hung from his thin frame. He looked like he could use a decent meal. Not that at home he could afford one. It was mainly instant meals. Villagers made his life hard from a young age. He learned to adapt.

She said sounding surprised," You are ready to get your first spirit ring. Have you thought about what kind of monster you will kill?"

He shook his head and replied," No I didn't even know until they awakened my spirit essence a week ago."

"You have only had your spirit essence a week? No wonder you don't know any techniques! Come we can go to the cafeteria and get lunch then head to the library."

Xiao Wu practically dragged him from the room to everyone's surprise. The others followed at a slightly slower pace. He was struggling to keep up with her long stride. It was times like this he wished he wasn't so short.

The cafeteria was on the far side of the campus. It was huge in his eyes. He was used to small buildings except for the Hokage tower and the library. Inside it was a buffet style and he rushed over grabbing a plate. This was real food not instant food or the occasional meal from Ichiraku's ramen.

Hayate's POV

He stood in the Headmaster's office feeling like he was seven again. Once upon a time he had been one of the biggest pranksters the academy had ever seen. His grades had been low in the beginning. He wanted nothing to do with the strange world. Then the headmaster had taken an interest in him.

Yu Xiaogang the silver haired man that was the Academy's headmaster. To everyone he seemed like a solemn person. Never letting any of the students or teachers get close to him. He was strict but fair to everyone no matter their rank or where they were from. Whether they were born from the elemental countries or from one of the main martial arts countries. That was what made Hayate as a young child respect him.

The silver haired man gave him a knowing smile as he said calmly," Hayate Gekko. Its been a long time. How are you?"

Hayate gave a harsh cough as he replied," My illness is slowly getting worse but other than that I've been good. I have come to ask for permission to take a student."

Amber eyes widened in surprise. He knew the feeling. He wasn't one to take students just like Yu. In the almost fifteen years he had known the man he never once took a student. Many of the other teacher had taken special interest in students. Yet he never did. Yu was mysterious but honest.

Still when one of his pranks went to far it had been Yu Xiaogang who insisted he be allowed to stay. Instead of punishing him Yu gave him a purpose and showed him another path. The path of a retainer. He would be forever grateful for it.

Yu asked calmly," May I ask who caught your eye?"

A gentle smile touched the ninjas face as he said," Naruto Uzumaki. He reminds me a lot of myself at that age. From what I heard he is as big of a prankster as i was."

The man gave him a glare that if looks could kill he would be a corpse. He read that look perfectly. If he taught Naruto pranks he was a dead man. Luckily for him that boy was a natural at it.

He raised his hands defensively as he said," Don't worry i won't teach him anything. That boy is a natural."

That didn't seem go put the man at ease. If anything he was even more tense than before. Before Hayate could say anything though a teacher came in.

The man said out of breath," Headmaster come quickly. There is a fight between students in the cafeteria."

Chapter Text

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In the shadows of the night by Willofhounds
Anime » Naruto Rated: M, English, Supernatural & Adventure, Naruto U., Hayate G., Words: 16k+, Favs: 27, Follows: 52, Published: Nov 5, 2017 Updated: Jul 6
21 Chapter 4: First spirit ring part 1
A/N Thank you for your support and the reviews.

Guest: I'm glad you like my story and i hope you continue to review.

Tigrezz: I have to agree with you. That chapter was satisfying.

DarkRevie: As always thanks for the reviews.

Naruto's POV

He glared at a blond haired boy. Like Sasuke he had an arrogant smirk on his face. Obviously the boy was looking down on them. Especially he and Xiao Wu.

Unlike most of the students they were on scholarships. They couldn't afford a whole lot and the school looked after them.

The older blond asked loudly from the stairs of the second floor," Isn't that the scholarship students? Lunch is my treat."

While the others were excited about it Naruto was instantly suspicious. People like that never did anything nice without an ulterior motive.

"Today is leftovers."

Just like he thought. The boy was making fun of them. Dangling their lack of money in front of them like it was something to be ashamed of. It wasn't it was something to work to improve until.

The boy said cruely," Oh I almost didn't notice the loli by the losers. To bad she is also a loser."

Xiao Wu asked rushing forward," Wanna die?"

Right before she would have hit the boy he said," Shield spirit defense."

A circle of essence appeared creating a shield to protect him. A boy that had been asleep attacked using a staff spirit essence. An attack that would have hurt the girl had he not stepped in. Using his arm he blocked the first strike.

He felt the mark on his left shoulder glow as called to Línghún. The smokey grey fox dodged around the staff and headbutted the boy. Using the distraction he kicked the boy in the chest.

His taijutsu wasn't on par with the other kids his age for ninja villages but it was enough for this boy. The kick sent him flying to the side. It wasn't far but it was enough to keep him from ganging up on Xiao Wu.

He now stood back to back with her. They glared at their opponents anger flashing in their eyes. Their were no junk spirits or weak spirits. It was just weak and junk people.

The older blond seethed holding his cheek," You would dare hit me?! I think the school these poor losers."

Naruto and the brown haired boy yelled," Do you still want to die?!"

"Stop!"

They both stopped on a dime. A white haired man and Hayate were making their way to them.

The white haired man said," No personal fighting allowed on the campus."

Xiao Wu said angrily," Those people started it!"

The man gave her a cold look but didn't say anything. It was a look he was well familiar with. The same one he received back in the village hidden in the leaves.

The man pointed at him and saod," You follow me. Hayate i wish to speak with him alone."

That last part was added when Hayate moved to follow them. The young man glared at the older but didn't protest. So Naruto followed the headmaster.

They went to the otherside of the campus. When they reached a large room he opened the door. Naruto followed him inside closing the door behind him. The headmaster went to stand by the window. His back was turned to the blond haired boy.

Wary of the man he went to stand by the desk. Mistrust was clear in his blue eyes.

The man coughed much like Hayate as he asked," Besides your fox spirit what other spirit do you have?"

He stiffened. Mistrust turned to suspicion immediately. This person knew about his second mark. The mark that he couldn't call out its spirit. Was this man a friend or an enemy?

"How do you know?" Something on the desk caught his eye. It was a knife. Not much protection but if the man came at him he would defend himself.

The man said not turning from the window," According to my research people with essence harmonization are extremely rare. Those coming from the elemental countries are unheard of. Most are lucky that they reach level 1. Occasionally there is a rare level 2 like your friend."

He growled," Kiba is not my friend. He is a tormentor. No better than the ones I fought with earlier."

While they had been talking he snatched up the knife. Keeping it behind his back he watched the man for any sign of an attack. If there was one thing the villagers taught him it was to read body language. Especially in how to tell if they were going to attack him.

The man continued oblivious to his dark thoughts," From the quality of your spirit essence and the level of your spirit essence, there is no way that your fox spirit has that power upon awakening. It is not possible for one such as a shadow fox to support essence harmonization. So you must have two natural spirits. Which means the other one must be very strong!"

During the man's explanation his mind wandered to the dreams he had. They had been of a forest with a dark grey or black wolf in them. It was like something was calling for him. Maybe it was his second spirit essence.

He asked preparing to dodge an attack and retaliate," What are you saying?"

The man gave another harsh cough as he replied," I want you to be my apprentice."

Jiraiya's POV

Standing in the old man's office was as disconcerting as ever. He hated having to come back for reports. His talents were better used out searching for information. Then again it had been a year since he had seen his godson. It was about time for him to secretly check on the kid.

Before he could say anything the old man said," Jiraiya, you should know that Naruto left about a week ago. He is currently attending a spirit essence academy."

The Sanin felt his jaw unhinge. Minato's son had tested high enough to warrant going to one of those schools? It was surprising. Well maybe not.

It was possible that Kushina had a powerful essence. Hers was never recorded due to her not being from the village. They couldn't find any record of her going to an academy either. It was a controversy for years. No one could do anything about it.

The old man asked," Do you have anything new to report, Jiraiya? If you don't I do have paper work to do. I have to fill out forms for Hayate to stay out of the village."

"He's doing a job in the martial arts world?"

The old man shook his head as he said," No. He took a student."

Jiraiya grimaced. You could not pay him enough to take one of those brats as his student. They were too young to do any proper jutsu. On top of that they all thought that they were the best. No he wanted ones that had actually seen what the world was like. Not these spoiled brats.

He asked contempt clear in his tone," Which one was it? My money us on Uchiha."

That entire family had something wrong with them. He started when the man replied," No. In fact it was Naruto. Apparently the boy had earned a chance to learn. It's surprising. Hayate had sworn to never take a student."

Now that was interesting. Too bad he couldn't see them. The martial arts world tended to hate him. One too many of his books had made it over there. Still he wished the best for his godson. No doubt he would be safer there than in the village.

Naruto's POV

He was shocked into silence as they stared at each other. The man's face was blank. It was like staring at a wall. Yet he could tell the other was speaking the truth.

The man continued on," This school values the physical over the theoretical. I am of the latter. But, I believe that my life's research is actually useful. Do you believe me?"

He asked cautiously," People say that junk spirits can't be trained. What do you think?"

A flash of anger crossed the man's eyes but was quickly gone. It set him on edge. Anger wasn't so easily gone. No matter how well someone hid it. If he made one wrong move it would be unleashed upon him.

"I have always believed that there are no junk spirits. Just junk people."

This was said with such open honesty in the man's face that he believed him. It was the first time he had seen such an honest expression that wasn't anger.

He said with a faint smile," Nice answer."

Subtly he threw the knife he held at the desk. His thoughts trialed to his decision,: Using small details that most had missed he figured out that I had two spirit essence. Something i was unsure of myself. This man was what he needed.:

He went to his knees and said," Naruto Uzumaki greets his master."

The man said with a soft look," Kneeling is for parents and kings. There is no need for that."

He flushed to his roots as he replied," I don't have parents. I have been an orphan all my life. The orphanage threw me out last year. Since then I have had no one to care for me."

A shocked look crossed the other's face. Then it hardened in anger before quickly becoming a mask again. It made him fearful at how quickly the man went through emotions.

"You can only have one master in your life. Think carefully. Many students do not take a master until their second school. That's even if they take one at all."

The blond took a deep breath and thought through it. He was much farther behind than his other two classmates. They had teachings from their clan. All he had was a few weeks of theoretical at the academy.

Determined he said," As long as I can do my swordsman studies with Hayate I agree. Please accept me."

He gulped. For the first time in a long time he was putting himself in a vulnerable position. On top of that he had not asked anyone for anything in a long time. Most of the time he was refused. So he had learned that if he wanted something that he had to get it himself.

The man coughed before he said," I accept you as my student."

For a moment he rummaged through his desk while Naruto got off the floor. After a moment he pulled out a black belt with grey stones in it.

He brought it over to the boy and said," Here is a gift for you becoming my student. This is an essence tool belt. Take it."

He did as he was told but asked," Essence tool?"

A small knowing smile appeared on the man's face as he softly replied," Essence tools are tools that are used to with essence," a purple essence appeared in the hand holding the tool before he continued," as for its purpose. Storage. If essence is channeled into the stones you can store up to one cubic meter of stuff. The art of making these was lost long ago so you could call it an antique. Use it well."

Naruto bowed deeply as he said," Thank you sensei."

"Be sure to give it a name so that it will always be yours."

He thought for a long moment before he said," The wandering wolf."

For some reason it seemed to fit him and the belt. A quirk of the man's lips told him that the other was amused. Still he was cautious. He maybe the others student but that wouldn't stop him from hurting him.

He said showing his teacher his right hand," This is where my second spirit essence should be. There is a faint mark but no matter how much i try I cannot summon my other spirit."

The man's eyes widened in surprise as he said coughing hard again. It made Naruto wince and pull away from him. If the man decided to lash out he wanted to have room to move.

His teacher asked harshly," Who else has seen this? Hayate? Your Hokage?"

Fearfully he shook his head. Now he wished he hadn't thrown the knife away. It had been a foolish move. Faster than he could track his teacher was suddenly right in front of him.

He was grabbed by his shoulders as the man said," You must never show anyone this mark. It will bring much hardship and danger down upon you. I will teach you how to hide your spirit essence mark. Though we will have to go to the forest within the next day or so. Normally we would wait at least a week but that isn't possible in this case."

"Why?"

"Because if someone were to get ahold of it they could kill him. Without a human host that Spirit is vulnerable. That's why he had hidden in the deepest part of the forest. You are vulnerable without him as well."

His teacher went to the shelves that contained books on various subjects. He grabbed several before returning. He instructed Naruto on how to put them in and retrieve them from the belt. Next he was shown how to hide his essence marks.

Instead of choosing to hide only one he hid both. It would do well for people to underestimate him. This would be the first step in that process. After that his teacher dismissed him asking him to review the books and come to him with any questions.

Chapter Text

Naruto's POV

He spent most of the day in the library reading the books his teacher has given him. They were mainly basics on training ones spirit essence and ki. Ki was essential to using any martial arts. It worked much like chakra did but with one key difference. Ki had to be trained in order to rise to new levels. If one didn't train their ki they would never become stronger.

A person also had to train their body as they trained their ki. If ones body was too weak for the amount of ki they had it could destroy the person's body. It was better to start training with a teacher to supervise. That was why the academies were created.

The most interesting information he found out was the one's spirit essence could evolve. It was based on the spirit rings one put on their essence. If they were compatible then there was a chance of evolution. No matter what though it would give the essence a boost. Many people overlooked this part of their training.

He decided when it came time to kill his first beast he would have to choose carefully. He wanted one that was compatible with Línghún. That way his spirit essence would grow stronger with him.

Xaio Wu said interrupting his readings," Come on little brother let's go practice. Big sister is going to teach you basic techniques."

Shocked the only thing he could ask as he was dragged by his ark down the hall," Big sister?"

He had barely been able to keep ahold of his book as she continued to drag him. Her long legs made it hard for him to keep up. Soon they found themselves in the courtyard.

It was a nice day so some students were outside practicing. Others were working on summer homework. Even still some were just enjoying the day.

Once they found a good spot not taken Xaio Wu said," Yes I'm going to be your big sister. You look like you could use someone to look after you. By the looks on the other two kids faces they won't do it. They don't like you do they?"

A fierce blush bloomed across his face. She hit the nail on the head with her assessment. It hurt but it was true nonetheless.

He replied not meeting her eyes," No they don't. They take after everyone else in the village. All the adults in my village hate me. The worst part is I don't know why."

When he glanced at her he expected pity in her eyes. Instead there was understanding. Not an ounce of pity was in her eyes.

She said quietly," I wasn't well liked either. That's why I try work to prove myself. So that i won't be abandoned."

His blue eyes widened with surprise. She was just like him. Their biggest fears were to abandoned and to have no one. An odd kinship seemed to form between them.

He said solemnly," Then we stick together. Friends no matter what."

Her brown eyes lit up with happiness and he felt a small real smile tug at his lips. His first friend.

They stood there for a few moments before Xaio said," I think you would do well with a formless style. I use the way of the rabbit. It allows me to be flexible in my fighting style but it's not formless. If you go formless it's a mixture of all different styles suited to you and you alone."

Naruto nodded. Contemplating this he decided that she was likely right. He always had a more active style. It was rarely in exactly form as the academy wanted. If he could make up his own style it would be easier for him to learn.

He said," You're right. Even if it doesn't work for me I can switch to another style if I wanted to."

Many fighters spend their entire lives learning only one or two forms. This way he would be combining different techniques into an entirely new form and style. It would be slow going finding forms and katas that best fit him. Then finding a way to use them in rapid concession would be the next step. That was only for hand to hand combat. He also started with Hayate sensei after he got his first spirit ring.

Xaio widened her stance slightly. She was turned to the side. If someone were to attack her she could easily step in the opposite direction. It also allowed her to attack easily.

She said calmly," This is the beginning kata. Mimic my posture."

He turned himself slightly to the side so that his right leg was back. It gave him easy access to his kunai holder but prevented her from grabbing at it or the pouch on his back. Widening his stance some he almost threw himself off balance. It definitely did not feel natural to him to stand like this.

Xaio looked him over critically. Carefully she kicked his front foot half an inch back. This gave him more balance while not sacrificing his new position.

They went through several other basic katas. Xaio was a paitent teacher for him. She didn't berate him for his bad form. Instead she gently corrected the form. After an hour they stopped to drink water.

Xaio said after a moment," I think we should do light sparring. Katas are all and good but only sparring will give you the reflexes for real fighting."

He nodded his assent placing his bottle on the ground. Without being told to he entered the first kata she had shown him. Her katas were difficult. They were meant for someone with extreme flexibility. He just didn't have her flexibility.

Xaio entered the same kata he could see her muscles loosening in preparation for her form. For the moment they were keeping it to just hand to hand. Since he didn't know how to use any of the arts yet. Eventually they would move to arts and spirit essence.

It didn't take long for them to begin. As expected Xaio came at him first. He stumbled away from her attack barely ducking under a kick meant for his head. Barely recovering from the attack he was forced to dodge a flurry of kicks. Unable to keep to any form or kata he was ducking and dodging everywhere. It was a miracle he hadn't been hit.

Xaio seemed to content to kick at him rather than go full out on him. For that he was grateful. There was no doubt in his mind if she went full out against him he would be plastered to the ground.

As he ducked another one of her kicks her other foot came to kick him in the face. On instinct he grabbed it and swung out so that his foot caught her behind the knee. That sent her sprawling to the ground.

For a moment they just stared at each other before bursting out laughing. Naruto fell back so that he was sitting on the ground and Xaio sat up.

She said sounding happy," That was good for your first try. Not many could have done it. You must have good instincts."

He said frowning slightly," I did that to a villager once. He..."

He had to bite his lip to keep from continuing on. It had been only the year before. The man was taking his anger out on him. It had only been luck that saved him from a kick to his head. Not only that but he had landed the exact same kick to the man's knee giving him the chance to run.

His entire village hated him. Why he didn't know. All he knew was that villager and ninja alike had the same cold look in their eyes. He hated it more than anything else. If he could have one wish it would be to have someone that cared about him.

Looking over at his new friend he realized that Xaio may just be the answer to his unspoken wish. Only time would tell though.

Xaio broke through his thoughts with a simple statement of," It's getting late. You are going with the Headmaster tomorrow. You will need your rest. Let's head back to the dorm."

The next morning came all to soon for the young blond. He was shaken awake by his teacher. The white haired man stared down at him with a gentle smile on his face.

It was still early and the sun wasn't even up yet. When he opened his mouth to ask the man a question he shook his head. A glance around told him all the others were still asleep. A sharp nod to teacher told him that he understood.

Naruto quickly got dressed in a white undershirt with a blue jacket over it and black pants. It had the academy's crest on the front while his teacher's crest on the shoulder. It had arrived while he was training with Xaio the day before with a note from his teacher. The note was short but told him that it was his uniform and the crest on the shoulder marked him as his student.

It made him feel warm on the inside looking at it. Like he was accepted fully by the man. Though he didn't trust him much yet. It would take time for the trust to build.

Once he was dressed the man led him into the grounds where s carriage was waiting for them. His teacher went in it first and after a brief moment of hesitation he followed. The inside had a comfortable set of seats. It reminded him of the Hokage's carriage that he once redecorated.

Leaning back he examined his teacher closely. The man seemed more relaxed the further they got from the school. Like a weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He noticed that the man had a sheathed knife sitting across his lap. It was different from the one he saw in the office the day before. It was longer and thick. Definitely not made for throwing. Instead it looked like one used for close quarter combat.

"Here I got this for you. It will serve you well today," his teacher's voice startled him from his thoughts.

The man held out the knife he had been examining. When he took it he was surprised. It tooled heavier than it felt. It felt no heavier than a kunai.

As if sensing the direction his thoughts went his teacher said," It's made of a special alloy only found here. It's lighter than most knives but it will never chip or dull. My master gave it to me when I went on my first spirit beast hunt. Now i give it to you."

A warm feeling filled his chest. No one had ever given him such a valuable gift before. He would cherish it forever.

He asked hesitantly," Sensei?"

Receiving a questioning hum in return he continued with a little more confidence," What is the difference between spirit beasts? What kind will I get?"

His sensei shifted ever so slightly before he answered," To get a spirit ring you must kill a spirit beast. I will be able to help you in the fight but what you must be the one to deal the final blow. Most children kill a ten year beast for their first ring. While there is little chance for rejection with such a young beast it won't do much to help you. 100 year beasts have a higher chance to help you in a battle and possibly evolve your spirit. When you see someone activate their spirit essence to fight you will see rings. The rings can be white, yellow, purple, black and red. That is from least powerful to most powerful."

Naruto sat back thinking on it. It made sense that younger fighters would go for the ten year. No doubt the older the beast the harder it was to kill.

"What would happen if i were to go after 1000 year beast?"

"You would die. Even if you were to kill it you would not be able to absorb the ring successfully," came the blunt answer.

Neither one of them said anything the rest of the trip. They were both lost in their thoughts.

Chapter Text

Naruto's POV

It took most of the morning to reach a village. It was far into a forest that Naruto had never heard of. Groups of people were around different shops.

Curious he asked," Teacher what are they doing?"

The man hummed before looking to what he indicated to. After a moment he answered absent mindedly," It's a party hunt. They are typically done for spirit beasts that can't be killed alone. If you become a retainer many parties will look to you to join them. Be sure to choose wisely if that is your wish. For today though we will be hunting alone."

Anything else his teacher may have said was ignored by the blond. The pull he had been feeling ever since his essence had been awakened was strong. Stronger than it has ever been before. Something was calling him to the forest.

Noticing where his attention was drawn to the man said," You are to stay close to me, Naruto. This forest is dangerous. Far more dangerous than it seems at first."

Considering his teacher for a moment he nodded. The Headmaster had far more experience than he did. If he said the forest was dangerous than it was. Still he wanted to know what called to him in the forest.

When they reached the gate that protected the forest the guards stopped them. Yu Xiaogang pulled out an unfamiliar crest. It was interesting to see the guards stiffen in surprise. Immediately they let them pass. Questiongly he glanced at the older man. Xiaogang ignored them until they were well away from the gates.

Once out of earshot he said," This was given to me by an old friend. I can hunt and study different beasts as much or as long as I like. We will be staying in the first part of the forest. It will be less likely that we will be attacked here by something we can't handle."

As much as he didn't want to argue the pull was drawing him to the deeper parts. Xaiogang noticed. His eyes never left Naruto's.

Finally he said," I feel like I am being drawn into the forest. It's a feeling that I need to go to the deeper into the forest."

"Your second spirit essence?"

He nodded. Part of him was still unsure about his decision to tell the man this. He wanted to trust Xaiogang. Honestly he did. Trust did not come easy to him. Especially with new people.

Carefully he said," I think so. Teacher..."

The man held up his hand to stop him. Naruto's jaw shut with an audible click.

Xaiogang said," If it gets too dangerous we will retreat."

A grateful smile appeared on his face and they began the treck. Xaiogang stayed close to his side as they were following the pull he had. The farther they went the more he noticed that they were being followed.

His teacher said with a sigh," Dark wolves. This will be a good experience for you to see. From the level of danger I sense they are likely only a ten year spirit."

The wolves were surrounding them. Naruto could catch brief glimpses of them in the shadows. His teacher focused and the pressure in the air changed. Gold rings formed around his teacher. Then a dog spirit came out. It wasn't very big. In fact it was the size of a house cat back in the village.

His teacher said," This is Lou San Pao. He is an individual mutation beast tool. Because of this I'll never get past level 30. The mutations are weakening ones though. To be able to summon spirits like this means you are level ten or higher. One thing is certain about you. You will need different training than normal. Only if you can get your first ring can you make it to level 11. To get it you must kill spirits. Only the one who kills them can take the ring. When you get your first ring you also will get a special skill. One that's unique to you and whatever spirit you killed. Observe."

The dog turned its backside to the monsters. Naruto and the wolves were equally confused. Then a horrible stench filled the air. It sent the wolves fleeing. It seemed his teacher's skill was fart. Well whatever worked he guessed.

Xaiogang said turning towards him," That's how it works. If I had killed them I would have an hour to collect the rings. Know this you can only have one person ten levels."

With that said they continued their treck. The deeper they got into the forest the darker it became. The pull was almost irresistible after an hour. Naruto's entire focus had become the pull. No longer listening to his teacher.

It was nearing evening before they came to a barrier. Xaiogang almost walked into it. It was only Naruto's that kept him from walking into it.

He said his head cocked to the side," I think I have to go on alone teacher."

"Absolutely not. You don't have anything to defend yourself."

As much as they wanted to argue about this. Both of them knew that the barrier wouldn't let his teacher pass.

Naruto whispered unsurely," I... I have to do this alone. Sensei you have brought me this far. Please give me the same trust I placed in you."

For a moment he hesitated. Naruto was almost completely sure that Xaiogang was going to deny his request. Trust was a two way street. If his teacher wanted his continued trust then he would have to show some.

To his utter surprise the man finally nodded. Not before he pulled a knife out of his pack. Xaiogang flipped it so that it was handle first to him.

When he took it the man said," Use it if you have to. I don't want you leaving without a weapon."

The seriousness in the amber eyes kept him from arguing. As much as he wanted to his teacher was right. His spirit didn't even have a ring yet. It wouldn't do him much good if whatever lay in wait attacked.

With a last look over his he passed through the barrier. The effect was immediate. Where it had been dark the area was lighter. The barrier kept out the darkness of the forest it seemed.

The pull he had been feeling disippiated. Instead it left a feeling of contentment. It was unlike anything he ever felt before.

A rumble reached his ears. Turning he saw a wolf larger than he ever thought possible coming out of a cave. It was all black with eyes just like his own.

Naruto's right hand began to throb the closer it came. He stood frozen as it came closer. Fear coursed through him.

If this spirit wanted to kill him it could without difficulty. Not even the knife that his teacher had given him would help. So he stood stock still so not to give it a reason to attack him.

Blue eyes watched him in curiosity. It's black form stood finally just a few feet in front of him.

It rumbled out," You are the first human to visit me in over two hundred years. I did not think any could get past the barrier. Who are you human?"

With as much bravery as he could muster he replied," Naruto Uzumaki of the Village Hidden in the Leaves. I have felt a pull to this place ever since my spirit essence was awakened."

Nothing more could be said. It lunged at him angrily. The wolf's fangs were shone in the light. Naruto jumped to the right narrowly avoiding certain death.

It whirled back around to face him. It said," You're here to kill me. I won't let a puny child like yourself kill me."

:It thinks I want to kill it? Well no wonder it wants to kill me!: came his thoughts as he tried to avoid dying.

He shouted," Stop! I'm not here to kill you! Something has been pulling me here. Ever since this mark on my hand appeared!"

It ignored his words and lunged at him again. He was unable to back away. Naruto brought his hands up to protect himself. His eyes InstinctIvely closing.

When he didn't feel pain he opened his eyes tentatively. The wolf was staring at his right hand. When he looked at it he noticed the change. Instead of a scar looking mark it had become a wolf like mark.

When had that happened? Was it on the journey? No Xaiogang would have said something. It must have happened when he crossed the barrier.

The wolf said leaning back on its hunches," That mark. It was the mark of my last master. The human who made the barrier. Why do you have it?"

"I was hoping you would be able to tell me. It appeared just over a week ago."

The wolf cocked its head to the side. While it didn't act murderous Naruto knew he was on thin ice. Anything could set it off into trying to kill him again.

It said sitting," I am Lupus. Human what are your goals? You are small even by human standards."

A fierce blush crept up his face. Damn it he knew he was small. It wasn't like it was his fault. The orphanage didn't feed him very well. Sometimes they didn't even feed him at all. He was just given his own apartment by the old man.

This didn't ease the pain or his lonilness. All it did was make him in charge of his own meals. At least at the academy he was fed three times a day and had a friend. Wu the rabbit girl. She was his first friend and so far his only one.

He growled defensively," I'm only six. Of course I'm small. As for my goals I want to become strong. Strong enough to protect the people I care about. Then one day I'm going to be Hokage leader of my village. Another goal is I'm going to become a retainer like Hayate sensei."

"Noble goals for one so young. Yet I sense a deep hurt in you child. It makes me wonder what has happened to give you such a hurt."

Bowing his head Naruto whispered," My village hates me. I don't know or understand why. All I know is that they hate me."

Lupus cocked its head to the side. It freaked the blond out when it did that. The wolf was scary enough without adding intelligence to it.

Finally it sighed," Human you have beem chosen to be my vessel. Prove your worth to me. First I do believe you need a spirit ring."

Lupus growled. Instantly his hand was on his knife. His blue eyes searched for a threat. To his right the shadows moved. A wolf much smaller than Lupus came forward.

It's fur was as white as snow. The eyes were like ice. They seemed unnatural. What really got him was the sadness in the gaze. Some people thought spirits didn't have feelings. Yet if they didn't have feelings how could this one show such feelings in its eyes?

Lupus said nodding to it," This is a 423 year old frost wolf. He will increase the strength and durability of your body and primary spirit. Your first skill will have to do with ice. He had lost the will to live and has been staying with me for some time. He will allow you to kill him and become your first ring."

The challenge wouldn't be fighting the other wolf. It would be finding the courage and strength to kill for the first time.

He asked never taking his eyes off the wolf," Is there no other way?"

"You know there's not. Deep down you know that you must kill him to obtain the ring."

A stab through the heart would be the quickest. Then again Naruto wasn't sure he would be able to put enough force behind the strike to kill the wolf. The next fastest way would be to cut open its throat.

When he looked at it he noticed the wolf had moved. It now stood in front of him its throat bared. A lump formed in his throat. Could he really do this? Could he really take a life?

Thats when he noticed how skinny and sickly it looked. It looked like it would die anyways. This could be it's way of dying and giving itself to a better cause.

He steeled himself for what he had to do. Then as quick as lightning he lashed out cutting deep into the wolf's throat. Before the light went out behind its eyes the wolf gave him a grateful look. Then it collapsed a gold ring appearing above it.

Lupus said in a strangely comforting way," It was his time. If you had not killed him he would have continued to waste away. At least with you killing him his death will mean something. In a way he will live on in you. As your spirit ring."

He paused for a moment before approaching the blond. He placed his nose on Naruto's hand. Just on the mark.

Lupus said as he began to disappear," When I enter your body the barrier will disappear. After you get your ring you will have to leave. Other spirits will try to claim this as their territory."

With that he was gone. The mark was dark. Much more so than he had ever seen it. With that he turned his attention to the ring. He had to collect that before doing anything else.

Chapter Text

Naruto's POV

The barrier that kept his teacher out fell. This allowed the man inside what was a sacred temple. Xaiogang ran in his eyes taking the dead spirit beast. The gold ring that rose over its body.

The man noted the dagger in its body. Then said," This is a frost wolf. I didn't think we would see one this far away from the northern mountains. It will be good for you however."

Naruto's blue eyes met his teacher's golden ones. His teacher believed that he could use this spirit ring. It would mean he had to trust the man. Trust him more than anyone else. If he was not compatible with the spirit his body would reject it. Rejection would kill him.

He said with determination that was rare," I believe in you sensei."

The man said calm and true," Use your spirit essence to bring the soul ring towards us."

He called to Línghún the shadow fox now lay on his shoulder. It rubbed its head against his own. Then he called to the spirit ring. Then it circled around Lìnghún. Without warning the golden ring latched onto the fox.

The pressure was immense. He never felt anything like that before. It pushed on him trying to gain control.

Xaiogang instructed," Don't resist the energy. Let it flow into you."

Naruto could barely his teacher. It felt like his body was on fire. Hell fire coursed through his veins. His inner soul felt like it was freezing with the power over the frost wolf.

His teacher continued to instruct," Hang on, Naruto. Think about the force cultivation methods. Take the explosive energy and channel it through your veins."

Slowly he was able to do as he was told. Pushing the power through his veins was difficult. It didn't want to go evenly. It took all of his control to keep it from overwhelming him.

His teacher's gentle instruction came through the fog," The longer you can hold it the more comfortable you will be using later. Good now stay awake."

He kept pushing it through his veins. The fire had turned to ice. His breath came out in a white fog. Like when you spent time outside during the winter. Fire and ice were conflicting through him.

Something told him that if he didn't do this quickly. Then the power would explode and kill both him and his teacher. Grabbing at his strength one final push forced it to calm.

Ice cold power settled in his abdomen. His body felt light, stronger than it had just moments before. His eyes opened to look at his sensei. His eyes were still azure blue but they had a more icy blue than before. The perfect mix of his power.

Línghún had grown. He was the size of a small cat before. Now he was the size of a medium sized dog. For a moment Naruto thought it was the only change. Then the air changed. It too was colder. They both had the power of ice.

Xaiogang said with a small smile," Well done. Let's head back to the city."

The trail back was easier than there trail in. They didn't pass any of the other hunters that had come in. The town was mostly empty when they exited.

They slept in the town for the night. Línghún slept of his chest. His master slept while he really didn't. His mind kept going back to the frost wolf he killed.

It's eyes was filled with pain. Pain that he understood. He had lost someone close to him and it made him lose his will to live.

For Naruto he couldn't miss what he never had. The closest thing he had to a father was Xaiogang. He didn't know what he would do if he lost his mentor.

Turning his head he looked at the silver haired man. He was asleep. His chest rose slowly up and down. No sound came from him. He was a good man.

Part of him wanted to talk to Xaiogang about what happened. Then he might feel better. He heard once that talking about things made one feel better. Another part of him couldn't trust his teacher completely.

Eventually he fell into an uneasy sleep. The next morning he woke to his teacher shaking his shoulders. Blinking his blue eyes at the man he tried to remember where he was.

Then it came back to him. Línghún still lay on his chest. He looked up at his teacher. When he recognized the man he closed his eyes.

Grabbing Línghún in his arms he stood. Then he let the spirit return to his mark. Xaiogang smiled gently and they let.

It took most of the day for them return to the school. Instead of going straight to the school they went to the Spirit Master Hall. His teacher pushed him gently into the hall.

There an old master with grey hair and many lines on his face greeted them," Xaiogang it has been many years since you visited. What brings you back?"

Then he saw Naruto partially hidden behind his teacher. The blond met his gaze evenly. Part of him expected anger. What he didn't expect was a soft gentle look to enter his eyes.

The old man asked," Is he yours?"

His teacher choked before snapping," You old fool! No he isn't mine. He's my disciple!"

Naruto had to bite back a snicker. It seemed this old man and his teacher were old friends.

He said mustering all his confidence," I wish to test my spirit essence level."

This was where he would register every time he obtained a new ring. He would also receive money every month for being a spirit master. One gold coin. It would be enough to feed him decently every month. Being in school meant he could save it.

This would continue even when he went back to the Hidden Leaf. A gold coin was three months of money he was given there. It would last a long time. For now he would save the money he made.

The old man said looking him up and down," Your a little small to be registering. But I know Xaiogang wouldn't try anything. Come let's test your spirit essence level."

They went into a room. It was circular and if one looked up they could see the sky through a large painted window. In the center of the room was a crystal. One not unlike when they tested him at the Leaf. This one was larger and seemed more sturdy than the last one.

The old man nodded at the crystal and Naruto walked up to it. After eyeing it cautiously he placed his right hand on it and focused. Línghún appeared as did his first spirit ring. The howl of a frost was soon heard giving them all the information needed on what he had killed. If only by accident.

The old spirit master said," Well well. You certainly got yourself a decent apprentice there Xaiogang. To kill a hundred year old spirit beast at his age. Especially a frost wolf that it quite a feat. Well done on reaching level 11 lad. We can expect great things from you."

Naruto grinned at the praise. It wasn't often that he got praise. While it had been happening more often he still wasn't used to it. Xaiogang's hand found his shoulder and squeezed gently. Looking up he saw pride in his teacher's gaze.

The man left for a moment then when he came back he held out a coin purse. In it held his single gold coin.

The man said," You look like you could use some new clothes lad. Maybe that should be first on your list."

Naruto blushed in embarrassment. It wasn't his fault that they were his only clothes. Looking down he saw the orange jacket and pants. They were torn in several places from their adventures.

Xaiogang said his hand touching Naruto's shoulder kindly," I was planing on it. Given that the color is horrid. This just an excuse to. If you will excuse us."

The elder man waved him off and they left. As promised they made their way to the merchant district. From there they went to one of the clothes shops.

The shop keeper gave them a smile before frowning at his clothes. He said," Let's find you something better than those rags."

Without even waiting for his reply the shop keeper pulled him towards the clothes. At first they went through some of the lighter colored clothes then onto the darker. Finally the keeper held out a black, grey and navy blue shirt.

Naruto touched the black one. It was made out of something far softer than he ever felt before. Not only was it soft but it was sturdy. Would hold up to what had to be done.

Once the size was checked they moved towards the pants. This time the shop keeper allowed him to choose. He choose two pairs of black pants, one grey pair, and one pair of blue shorts. They were equally as soft as the shirt and just as sturdy.

Before they went to pay he saw the jacket section. While he liked just the shirt but he preferred jackets. Even if it was just one. He liked the extra protection they gave.

He choose two grey jackets, and three black ones. Each were sturdy. They would do.

Once they were chosen Xaiogang asked," How much, Leon?"

The man called Leon said," Two silver coins, Xaiogang."

Naruto went to pull his gold coin out but his mentor stopped him. Instead his teacher pulled out two silver coins and handed them over.

When he gave the man a confused look the man said with a knowing smile," You are my student. I'm going to look after you. So save your money this won't hurt me."

Bowing his head he mumbled," Thank you."

A gentle smile crossed his face and they began to head to the school. Once in his teacher's room he had to change his clothes. He chose grey pants, a black undershirt, and a grey jacket.

Once he was changed his teacher said," There you look better now that you are out of that orange."

He bowed his head in acceptance. When he moved to his teacher's side the man held out a book. On it side it read basics of spirit skills.

Xaiogang said," Read this and I'll help you practice tomorrow. Otherwise get some rest. You have had a long couple of days."

For a moment Naruto hesitated. If he wanted to tell his mentor what was bothering him this was it. Then he turned away. Not yet. Xaiogang didn't need to be bothered by his insecurities.

Half way to his rooms he was interrupted by a warm voice," Naruto welcome back. How did your trip go?"

Turning he saw the brown haired swordsman. Warm brown eyes watching him. It was Hayate Gekko retainer.

He smiled as he replied," Hayate sensei. I'm good we just got back from registering me as a spirit master."

Hayate nodded as he came closer. This allowed Naruto to see that he was carrying a bundle in his arms. Curious he too moved forward to see what it was.

Hayate held in his hand a sword. It was sheathed in simple black leather. It was almost as tall as he was given how short he was for his age.

Hayate said," Put it in your tool belt. We will practice with it when your a little older. For now we will practice with wooden swords."

Naruto took the gift. Something in his chest twinged. He never felt something like this before. He pushed in away activating his ki over the jewels in the belt. The sword disappeared into it.

Now Hayate held out a wooden practice sword. It had its own belt as if to get him used to the weight. Then it hit him. Not just to the weight but the feeling of having something on his hip.

Hayate bent to a knee helping him belt it off his side. It was just off his left hip. He was right handed so it made it easy for him to draw it.

Hayate said," There. Tomorrow morning we will start training you in katas. Meet me at the courtyard tomorrow at seven."

That was an hour and a half before classes. For now he was just grateful for his teacher. Tomorrow would be a new day.

Chapter Text

A/N thanks for the reviews and support.

TigrezzTail: Thanks for your review my friend. Yes there will be a full apprenticeship. Both between Naruto and Hayate and Naruto and Yu Xaiogang.

DarkRavie: Thanks for your review my friend.

Warning there will be a small time skip during the chapter.

Naruto's POV

Xiao Wu greeted him with a tackle hug the moment he walked into the dorms. It was only due to the fact he had rested in the carriage that he remained standing. Her running hugs were just as powerful as her attacks.

She asked excitedly," Did you get your first ring? What is it? Did the hall accept you?"

Her questions drew everyone's attention. As far as Naruto knew he was the only one with a ring or eligible to get one right now. Most of the students had come from villages. While not from the ninja villages they had similar systems.

He said laughing slightly," Easy Xaio. I am just find. Yes I got my first spirit ring. It is a 423 year old frost wolf. As for your last question yes the Spirit hall accepted me. I am officially a spirit master."

Her eyes expressed the happiness that she couldn't find the words for. It wasn't often someone their age made it the rank of spirit master. Most of the time it would be a year or two before they achieved it. Most were lucky to achieve their second spirit ring by the time they graduated the first school.

Naruto's dream was beyond the school. He was going to become a retainer. The most respected of those who lived in both worlds. Hayate was one and one day he would be too.

Xaio led him to his bed after that. Exhaustion was clear on his face. It took only a moment for him to change into his new pajamas. Then he crawled into his bed.

The next morning he woke up at six. It was becoming a habit for him. That gave him a full hour before he had to meet Hayate. Everyone else was still asleep. Choosing to get ready without waking them. He silently changed into a black jacket with a grey shirt and black pants.

After putting on the tool belt he left for the cafeteria. Given how early it was there was only two other students. They were students who would be graduating that year.

He grabbed a plate giving them both a nod before moving to the buffet. It had fresh foods available. He piled on eggs, bacon, and a little reluctantly two bananas. If he didn't his teacher would get upset. According to Xaiogang he needed at least two fruits or vegetables in every meal. For his drink he choose milk. He had to get taller.

Then he sat at a table by himself. The two older boy's didn't have any interest in what a first year had to say. If he was a third year they might consider talking to him. Not how he was however.

Once he was finished he went to the courtyard. It was still too early for him to meet Hayate but he could still strengthen his ki. The courtyard had one student in it. A girl who looked a year older than him. She was practicing her ki. By the power radiating off of her she was about to have a break through. If he had go guess she was probably about to achieve level 10.

Choosing not to disturb her he went to sit under a tree. Crossing his legs he closed his eyes. Xaiogang had said that he had to feel the energy around him. To draw it into his body with each breath working the ki through every part of him evenly.

When he drew in a long deep breath he could feel the power enter him. As he held the breath he circulated the ki. Expelling the excess with his breath and repeated the process. With each breath he took he kept in a little more ki.

As time passed he noticed the ki felt different than it had just the day before. It felt colder. He wondered if it had to do with his new spirit ring.

Before he could think further on the subject a hand touched his shoulder. Opening his eyes he forced himself not to jump. Hayate was kneeling so that they were at eye level. The man's warm brown eyes held concern.

He greeted with a half smile," Morning sensei."

Hayate breathed a of relief as he said," Good you are awake. I tried calling your name but you didn't respond."

So he was worried about Naruto. That was different from what he was used to. If it had been anyone else from their village they would have rejoiced. Instead his sensei tried to bring him out of it. It set something warm alight in his belly.

Ignoring the warm feeling he said," I was strengthening my ki. Sorry I worried you."

Hayate stood with a smile and held out his hand. For a moment Naruto considered ignoring it. Then he figured it would be rude. So he took the much larger hand and his teacher pulled him to his feet.

"We are going out to the nearby hill. It will be perfect for what I have to teach you."

So that's how both of them ended up at the hill. It overlooked the school and was a place he would be going back to.

Hayate drew the wooden sword he brought with him and Naruto did the same. Then the older man said," Alright follow my movements. If I say freeze don't move. I'll come over to adjust your stance."

Nodding his acceptance they stood across from each other. Hayate held his sword out in front of him. Naruto tried to copy it.

Almost immediately the other called out," Freeze."

So he didn't move. His elbows were pushed closer to his ribs so that they were protected. Then his right leg was pushed two inches forward. While his back foot was kicked back half a step.

The stance felt awkward but at the same time right. Maybe this would work for him. The sword even wooden felt right in his hands.

Later that afternoon found Naruto in his teacher's office. He didn't have the chance to read the book he was given. So he was a little nervous about how Xaiogang would react.

As if sensing his nervousness he asked handing him a cup of tea," What's wrong Naruto? You are acting strangely."

He said bowing his head slightly," I haven't read the book yet, teacher."

To his surprise the man didn't look angry. In fact he didn't even look surprised.

Instead he said," Naruto I didn't expect it to be read. I knew you were exhausted yesterday. In fact I half expected you not to show up for classes today."

That made him blink. So he wasn't angry just accepting of it. That wasn't something he was used. His teacher's at the academy would have yelled at him. Then they would have given him impossible assignments as punishment.

Xaiogang said reasonably," Come sit. We will go over the first skill that I believe you have. I believe based on your current skills and given how small you are. It will be a skill that will slow your enemy down. There's a current skill called ice touch. I believe yours will be similar to that. Here is what I was able to research."

Time skip a two years later

Naruto blocked an overhead strike before sidestepping a kick meant for his ribs. Using his superior speed he came in with a backhand. A wooden crack sounded in the air.

Despite it being a cool Autumn day sweat dripped into his eyes. There wasn't a chance for him to wipe it away. Instead he had to duck under another strike.

The swords continued to strike wood until Naruto stumbled on a a slick spot of grass. His right leg went out from under him. Unable to block the coming strike properly his sword was knocked from his grip. The tip of a wooden sword was at his throat.

Naruto said calmly," I yield."

A warm voice said as the sword was removed," Well done Naruto. You have come a long since we first started."

Hayate Gekko stood before him looking slightly winded. He had been coughing a lot more in recent weeks. It made Naruto wonder about the illness. Though he couldn't ask it was a taboo with Hayate. Still his teacher didn't let it effect their training.

Naruto had grown not only in their swordsplay but in height. When he first arrived at the school he was well under average in height for his age. Even girls a year or two younger than him were taller.

Now Naruto stood just over four feet tall and sixty seven pounds. Due to his training with Hayate he was muscle and very little fat. Very little about his personality had changed in the last two years. He was still hyperactive and eager to learn. Though he was slightly more trusting of Xaiogang and Hayate. Both men taught him everything that he asked. It was a matter of Naruto asking. While he was still wary of them he didn't fear asking questions.

One unexpected relationship had also formed. His friendship with Xaio Wu. Their friendship had grown a lot in the last two years. First starting with her teaching him basic ki techniques. To them eating every meal together. While she wasn't an earlier riser at first she became one.

That day was a Saturday and despite not having classes Naruto worked hard. He still met with Hayate in the morning for his training session. It was two hours instead of one. He would break for an hour before meeting Xaiogang for his extra studies.

Hayate said with a hint of pride," Tomorrow I believe we can start with real blades. It will be back to katas though. Tomorrow we can also start on chakra and jutsu."

Excitement shone in his blue eyes. Going back to katas was disappointing. They had been sparring for well over six months now. However it would be with real blades not wooden ones. They could actually kill each other if they weren't careful. So he accepted it.

The jutsu training was what had him excited. They had been going over the written material. Basics that were boring but necessary. Along with shinobi history. Hayate made it interactive to keep his attention.

To actually be moving onto jutsu was a big step. Unlike the other two from his village he didn't have a clan to learn from. No one sent him scrolls to learn from. What he had was a patient teacher who cared.

Naruto was bouncing around the man with excitement. Hayate walked him back to the school with an indulgent smile. When they got to the school Hayate held out his hand. At first Naruto was confused. Then he realized that he wanted to wooden sword. A little reluctantly he handed it over.

Setting it aside he said," Alright now pull your sword from your tool belt."

Naruto focused his ki into his hand and the image of his sword came to mind. The next moment he was holding it in his hands. Compared to two years before the sword didn't seem as long. It seemed the perfect size for his age.

The belt was strange for him. It didn't appear to be a belt to go across the hip. Instead Hayate helped him belt it across his back. While it was awkward at first he realized it was the same way Hayate bore his sword. That made him feel better about it.

Hayate said nodding," You look like I did when i was your age. You will make a fine retainer one day."

Warmth spread through his chest. It was no longer something he ignored. Hayate's soft praises always made him feel wanted. At first he didn't accept them. To used to be hated or if he accepted a kindness it was taken from him. Over the last two years he had grown to trust Hayate and Xaiogang somewhat.

Naruto replied with a grin," I'm going to surpass you one day sensei."

Hayate said good naturedly," That day is a long time coming kid. You have to become a genin first. Then we can talk about whose surpassing who."

Like a child he stuck his tongue out at the man. In return he had to dodge a playful swipe at the back of his head. It was their game. While most wouldn't understand it they did. It was their way of accepting each other.

Once in the school grounds they split up. Naruto to the courtyard for strengthening his ki. Hayate to whatever he had to do for the village.

Naruto was so close to breaking through to the twentyth level. Once he did he could get his second soul ring. So he sat underneath his tree and focused. His power was just below the surface. Ready to be used at a moment's notice.

With each breath he took in the power increased. The basic cultivation technique had its faults. Not being able to take in more ki was one of them. It worked for his age however. Xaiogang promises him a new one after he got his second ring. It was something he was looking forward to. That and seeing what new skill he would have.

He took a breath in and circulated his ki. It felt different this time. Like something was going to explode out of his chest. With his next breath it did. Power sang under his skin. It was the feeling of breaking through the next level. It felt amazing. The smaller levels were nothing compared to this breakthrough.

With that he opened his eyes a grin on his face. Excited he rushed to Xaiogang's office. Almost forgetting his manners he knocked.

A curt," Enter," was heard.

He knew he was still early for his usual tutoring. Still he was surprised to see Sasuke Uchiha standing in front of the desk. Xaiogang looking like the stern headmaster he was supposed to be. The stern look softened when he saw who entered.

Xaiogang said sounding surprised," Naruto you're early."

"Teacher i broke through the twentieth level. I'm ready to get my second spirit ring."

Amber eyes widened. They both knew how hard he had been worked to get to the breakthrough. He spent the last three months stuck at level 19.

Xaiogang said a smile touching his lips," Well done Naruto. This makes things easier then. Young Uchiha here has broken through the tenth level. Meaning his is ready for his first ring. On top of that summer vacation starts Monday. So use today and tomorrow to prepare for the hunt. Be here at six in the morning. If you're late you don't get to go."

Sasuke grumbled but didn't complain. Sasuke had changed over the last two years. No longer tried to use his name for everything. Not that any one here cared he was the last of the Uchiha. Instead he was working to overcome that he came in at a half level. His goal was to find a way for him to achieve level 30.

They were no longer out right enemies but they weren't really friends either. Both Naruto and Sasuke tolerated each other but for the most part avoided the other whenever possible. Xiao Wu had taken to trying to get them together to try and make them be friends. Sometimes it worked. Most of the time it didn't.

Sasuke went past him ignoring his presence and out the door. Naruto turned to leave his job done.

He was stopped by Xaiogang's call," Naruto wait. There is something I wanted to talk to you about."

The blond turned back around. Part of him wondered what his teacher wanted to talk about. Why the man looked somewhat guilty? He took his usual seat in the chair across from his teacher. The man began to pace in front of him.

Finally after about five minutes after he started pacing he stopped. Opening a drawer he pulled out a flyer and on it was the picture of a monster. The symbol for Shrek academy. What did this mean? He was still two years to young to go.

His teacher unanswered his unspoken question," This is a flyer for Shrek academy as I'm sure you know. I went to speak with the headmaster and council there. They wanted to know about promising new students. I mentioned your name and that you wanted to be a retainer. Most of the masters brushed it off. At least until i mentioned you had a full spirit essence harmonization. Then they were very interested. Mainly because full spirit essence harmonization is so rare."

Naruto nodded. They had talked about this before. That's why unless specifically asked he didn't tell people about it. He didn't want to be treated any different than other students.

Xaiogang said breaking him from his thoughts," I would like you to graduate a year early. You are already taking advanced courses and would be ready for it this time next year. That would mean you going in at nine instead of ten. Do you you want to wait that extra year? Or would you like to graduate early?"

If he graduated a year early he would be a step closer to being a retainer. The down side was his training with Hayate. Hayate would not be able to go to Shrek academy. From the moment he graduated til he returned to the leaf he would be on his own. This was not a decision he could make lightly.

He asked," Can I have time to think about it?"

Xaiogang nodded and said," Go ahead. I will need an answer before the school year starts again however."

Chapter Text

A/N thanks for the reviews and support.

TigrezzTail: Thanks for your review my friend. Uh no. That would be a headache for both of us. There will be a couple of time skips to prevent said headaches.

DarkRavie: Thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

After warning Hayate that he would be gone for a few days he packed his bags. While he had not practiced with the blade he would be taking it with him. Better to have it and need it. Then not have it and need it. Belting that over his shoulder he put the knife Xaiogang gave him in his took essence belt. After that he packed his bag with clothes and food.

The rest of his time was spent training. Hayate still wanted him to train the next morning. The next morning came early for the blond. Despite having used most his energy he found it hard to sleep. Nervous energy filled him.

The next morning he yawned as he moved into their training area. Hayate was already there waiting for him. The brown haired ninja greeted him with a gentle smile. One that he returned.

Hayate said pulling his own sword free of its sheath, "Good morning Naruto. Same as before. Follow my movements. Halt when I tell you to."

Naruto did as he was told. The sword was much heavier than his wooden one. Katas that were muscle memory for him were difficult to execute. Five times for the first kata Hayate had to stop him and correct his stance.

By the time an hour passed his arms were shaking with the effort. Relief passed through him as Hayate said, "We are done now. Well done, Naruto. I know it's difficult going from wooden to steel. Practicing every day will help you build up your endurance."

Naruto sheathed his sword across his back nodding. His muscles were aching but he wouldn't complain. It wouldn't do him any good to. There burn and aches meant he was growing stronger.

Hayate said handing him a water bottle, "Here drink this. Slowly not to much at one time. Now the first thing I'm going to teach you is something you wouldn't normally learn until you're a genin. It's the tree walking technique. It's not really a jutsu but a chakra control exercise."

Naruto frowned but didn't argue. His sensei knew what was best for him. Most students don't have a lot of chakra. So their control over it is better starting out. He was the opposite. His chakra was nearly endless but he had very little control over it.

Hayate brought his hands up into a basic seal. Naruto could feel the man's chakra flow. The power behind it was strong but controlled. A light blue light surrounded his feet. Then his teacher began to walk towards the only tree in the field. To Naruto's surprise he began to walk straight up the tree.

When Hayate reached the bottom most branch he said, "Despite it looking easy it's not. You have to find the balance in your chakra. Too little and you won't stick. Too much and it will force you off. Take a kunai out and mark where you reach."

With a nod Naruto brought oout one of his kunai and began to focus as his hands came up in the seal. Once he thought he built up enough chakra he ran at the tree. It wasn't even two steps up that he began to fall. Marking the spot with a swipe of his kunai. Not a second later he hit the ground with a thud. The back of his head bounced once before he settled.

With a growl Naruto was back on his feet. He focused his chakra again into the soles of his feet. Once more with a running at the tree he tried to climb it. Three steps later he was once more on the ground with a thud.

Damn it! He was not used to trying to use his chakra. Like his ki it connected to him. If he could not control himself he could never hope to control it. Ki was slightly easier to use however. He had been using it for two years now. Ever since he had awakened and become a spirit master.

Hayate landed in the grass to watch him with an amused look. He said after five more tries, "You need to use more chakra."

Naruto looked at him then nodded. More chakra it was then. Once more concentrating on his chakra he focused it into the bottom of his feet. Using more than what he had before he began ran towards the tree. Keeping his focus he ran up the tree. It didn't take long for him to surpass his previous marks. They were all within a few inches of each other.

Four steps later he was forced off of the tree. Marking the spot he jumped off the tree. This time landing on his feet this time instead of his back.

Hayate praised quietly, "Good Naruto. That's much better than before."

He gave the man a small smile. While he had spent two years with Hayate praises he still wasn't used to. Naruto was learning to accept it but it was taking time. Between Hayate and Xaiogang he was working on accepting praise easier. He was also learning to trust the two men.

His thoughts turned to the offer he was given. It was almost unheard of for a student to graduate from a school before they were at least ten. Even then most didn't leave the first school until they were twelve.

If he were to accept the offer then he would be the youngest in the school. He would also be leaving behind his only friend. Xaio Wu was smart but not enough to graduate early. Naruto needed her help when he first started. It didn't take long for him to catch up then surpass her.

Naruto could see the pros to going early. That would put him in his third year by the time he had to return to the Leaf. This would put him a lot closer to his goal to be a retainer.

Hayate asked drawing him from his thoughts, "Naruto where did you go?"

He blinked then said quietly, "Just considering my options. Hayate what do you think?"

Hayate sighed as he said, "A year isn't a long time. I can get you some scrolls but if you leave I can't help you as much."

Naruto's shoulders slumped. His sensei was correct. Leaving a year early would leave him with a year less of ninja training. If he stayed then he would gain that training but lose his spirit master training. There were so many things he had to consider.

Hayate continued with a sigh, "Don't take this as my dropping you as a student. I'm not," when Naruto glanced up at the brown haired man he continued, "I think it would be the best for you to go. Especially if you can get into Shrek academy. There is a Weapons Master there that could teach you. His name is Fan Yu he will a good teacher for you. He taught me most of what I know."

Naruto could only nod and take his sensei's advice into consideration. After all it was up to him on whether or not he choose to leave a year early. There was a lot he would have to weigh.

The day was spent practicing the tree walking techniques. His progress was decent but not where he wanted. By the time it was for dinner he was up to the third branch. Dinner was spegetti and salad. Two helpings later he found Xaio Wu waiting for him outside of the mess hall.

She was an a few inches shorter than him. Despite having come in two levels ahead of him at the start. He broke through the twentieth level first. She was smart but struggled in some of her classes. They had become best friends over the two years.

They slowly began to walk towards their dorms. After a moment of silence she asked, "Is it true that you might be leaving a year early?"

He asked without really answering her question, "How did you find out?"

She smiled at him knowingly as she responded, "I overheard you talking about it, Hayate. Why didn't you tell me?"

He sighed, "I'm not sure if I want to take it. There is still a lot I can learn from Hayate and Master."

She considered him for a long moment. They had been open books to each other for awhile. This was one of the few times he couldn't tell what she was thinking.

Finally she said, "I think you should take it, Naruto. I think you would do well with Shrek. They are well known for bringing out the best spirit masters. There is little else you can learn from here except from Hayate."

It seemed everyone whose opinion he cared about were for him going. As much as he didn't want to admit it. They were right. The best option would be to go to this academy.

Once again he was unable to sleep. His thoughts were stuck on his decision. Despite having a few months to decide he knew it would be best to figure it out now. Rather than to put off the decision. In his heart he knew what he would do.

It wasn't until late that night that he fell asleep. If it wasn't for his alarm he wouldn't have woken up in time to meet his teacher and Sasuke. He ate a light breakfast of toast and eggs before heading to Xaiogang's office. Both his teacher and Sasuke were already there.

Xaiogang asked, "Have you both eaten?"

They both nodded. With nothing left to be said they went out side. A carriage was waiting for them. Like last time the trip was made in several hours. Mostly in silence each lost to their own thoughts.

When they arrived Sasuke had many of the same questions Naruto had. Who were the armed men? What kind of beast would he kill?

While he teacher only wanted what was best for his students. Naruto knew that there was a risk in killing a spirit so close to the age limit. If it was too old there was a danger of it killing you when you tried to absorb the ring.

Naruto had been the first proof that while difficult it was possible. Still many masters wouldn't dare get so close. Instead the would stay a safe distance so not to risk their lives. He had to wonder if Sasuke would be like that.

The Uchiha had two options for his first ring. One was a white ring. That was a ten year spirit but less than hundred. Or a gold ring that was over a hundred but less than a thousand. According to Xaiogang's research though a level 10 spirit master's first ring could only be 423 years old. Otherwise it would kill them.

For Naruto his options were a hundred year spirit ring. No spirit master worth their salt would get a ten year ring as their second. Not unless they wanted to be the laughing stocks of the spirit halls.

With his second ring he would have to go back and register his new ring. He would receive ten gold coins a month instead of one. If he wanted to live comfortably for the rest of his life he could stop there. That wasn't his wish though. Being a retainer would require at least a third spirit ring. On top of that he would need at least two years in a secondary spirit master school.

Xaiogang said breaking him from his thoughts, "Due to the danger we will face, Naruto you will be rear guard. I will take point. Sasuke you will be in between us. No matter what happens we must not get separated. Both of you have your essence at the ready. We will need it to not only track a spirit beast but to protect ourselves."

Both boys said, "Yes sensei."

This was different from the last time he had come. His teacher was more on edge. Had something happened in the forest? Given that it was one of many in the world it wasn't that unheard of. If one wasn't prepared when they went to kill a beast they would die. That was why many spirit masters went for a ten year ring for their first. If they were alone it was too dangerous to go after an older ring.

However he knew better than to question his teacher. This was not the time or the place for such questions. It would have to wait until later. As soon as they entered the forest he could feel it was different. Darker than the last time he was here. It sent a shiver down his spine even as his instincts screamed at him to run.

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.

Guest: Thanks for your review my friend. Spirit beast. A very very angry spirit beast. Technically it's not there for either of them.

DarkRavie: Thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

Everything in him screamed to run far away from this forest. The killing intent was immense. Looking at Sasuke he noticed how pale the other went. It was only through sheer force of will that the other wasn't shaking with fear.

Xaiogang whispered, "It is as I feared. Someone has awakened a very powerful spirit beast."

Naruto asked matching his sensei's volume, "What do we do now, sensei?"

Amber eyes looked out across the forest floor as the gates behind them closed. If they were to continue or go back was up to Xaiogang. In Naruto's opinion it could go either way.

Naruto for his part was torn between wanting to go after it and waiting. Even if they killed it there was a good chance it was too old for them to absorb the ring. Then again it could be a powerful 700 year old. Somehow he didn't believe the second part.

Xaiogang said finally, "We will continue on. However if I tell you to run you both will obey immediately."

Both boys nodded. Naruto knew that if he was given the order to run he wouldn't obey as promised. Instead he would fight to his last dying breath if necessary. There were people who could get hurt if they didn't bring this spirit down.

Retainers were those who protected those who couldn't protect themselves. Even if he was just a retainer in training he would do his best to live by that code. Looking at his sensei's back he knew even if it meant breaking his promise. Some things were bigger than them.

The treck through the forest began much like his previous. Xaiogang took the time to explain to Sasuke about his spirit and spirit skills. The look on the ebony haired boy's face was one of resignation. It took Naruto a long moment to realize why.

Sasuke like their sensei had has awakened at half a level. That meant he would never achieve level 30. He would be a grandmaster at best all his life. It put a bad taste in his mouth. To be stuck at such a low level when he had so much potential.

Sure he and Sasuke weren't friends but the ebony haired boy had been making an effort. He wanted to be better. That was what Naruto saw in the other boy. He saw the difference between the Uchiha that arrived at the school to the Uchiha he saw now. If he didn't know the other before he would have never believed they were the same person. Naruto made his decision to check the school library when they returned. There had to be something to help them there.

It didn't take long for him to be drawn from his thoughts. The air around them became electrified. The hair on the back of neck stood up on end. The wolf in him rumbled and he could feel it awaken. If Lupus was being awakened by this feeling it couldn't be good.

He asked his breathing coming out in pants, "Do you feel that? Something is coming."

Lupus said in his mind, 'The mountain's protector. I never thought there would be a day he would leave his precious mountain.'

'Mountain's protector? What do you mean by that, Lupus?' He questioned as his eyes searched around them.

Lupus sighed as answered, 'There are at least two protectors in each spirit beast sanctuaries such as this one. In the wild there is typically only one. There are natural sanctuaries all over the world. Most humans just use ones such as this that are easy to quaradine off.'

That made sense. They could keep an eye on those coming and going. Looking for the prodigies that would shape the world. They so far had ignored Naruto despite his grades. To them he was a scrawny nobody. To be fair when he first came to the forest he was scrawny. That was no longer true. With the exception of his hair it was hard to put the person he was now with his old self. So he didn't hold it against them.

Activating his spirit essence was the first step to this. Whatever the protector of the mountain was it was hunting them. Whether this was because they were humans or something else remained to be seen. Linghun appeared on his shoulder as he called to it. The air while still electrically charged grew colder as a gold ring formed around his chest.

He said his eyes searching the forest around them, "Prepare to fight. Whatever it is, is coming."

Sasuke didn't hesitate to call his falcon to him. Like Linghun it could take physical form or give Sasuke an advantage. While Naruto didn't know the full abilities he had a fair idea of what they were. Likely enhanced sight and talon like nails. No skills yet not until he killed his first spirit beast.

His teacher's own spirit was out and Naruto pulled the radishes out of his belt. Apparently it's favorite food was radishes. This would hopefully give them an advantage. After the spirit had eaten Naruto made a decision. Despite having little training with the true blade he would need it here. He called forth his sword and buckled it across his back.

Xaiogang raised an eyebrow but didn't comment. There was no time.

Sasuke said his eyes in the sky as his falcon took off, "I'll have him search for..."

He was cut off when the trees to their right began to shake. Loud footsteps could be heard. Whatever it was it was large.

Naruto's hand was on the hilt of his sword as a large shape burst into the clearing. Leaves shook from the trees and fell onto them. Not a single one of them took notice. They were staring at a giant White Tiger. It had black stripes running down it but that wasn't what caught their attention. Instead it was the blue lightning coming off of the tiger.

Naruto had heard of the White Tiger clan. They were one of the most prominent clans in the spirit master world. Though it had been many years since the last White Tiger spirit essence had appeared. For it to be a spirit beast was almost unheard of.

It let out a loud roar. The roar made his ears ring. Something about it seemed sad though.

Lupus said quietly, 'He was a friend. No doubt he sensed my disappearance and blames humans. He was never one that liked them to begin with.'

Oh that explained a lot. Great they were going to be attacked for something that happened three years ago. How was it his fault that he had two spirit essences. It was just another thing that made him different.

Xaiogang yelled, "Naruto! Sasuke get back out of the forest. Tell the masters to send word to the Spirit Hall."

Sasuke turned to follow orders but Naruto asked, "Sensei what about you?"

Xaiogang growled, "Go! I'll be fine but you won't!"

The ebony haired boy said as their teacher began attacking the Tiger, "Naruto we have to go."

As the other was pulling at his arm he heard, $You damn humans! You killed my friend!"

His blue eyes searched out the source of the pain filled words. The only thing there was the three of them and the Tiger. Could it be?

Lupus said, 'Yes due to having me in you, you can understand him. He can understand human speech but your friends cannot. Be careful, White Tiger will not be reasoned with. He never liked humans and the fact that he thinks you killed me will only make him want to listen less. The only way to continue on is to kill him.'

'And you expect me to do that how? He's over a thousand years old. We didn't come equipped to handle that. The most I can handle for my second ring is 723 years old.'

There was a brief hesitation before Lupus answered. When he did it caught Naruto off guard, 'There is a way you could survive it but it's tricky.'

'Tricky how?'

Lupus said, 'There is a seal on your body. No doubt you have encountered what lies within it once before.'

It took Naruto a long moment to remember. He had encountered something strange upon his awakening.

Flashback

He stepped forward and the man said tiredly," Last one. Concentrate. Make out an image inside your heart. Materialise it in your hand."

He focused on the image that resided inside him. Having tried this a few times before it wasn't hard to find. What surprised him was when it moved. As if his spirit essence wanted free and was alive.

Angry feelings filled him as his thoughts darkened. He heard a voice say," Well well well. I never expected you to find me so young child. What do you want with me brat?"

He said in a whisper," Your my spirit essence. Aren't you? If you aren't my my spirit essence then what are you?"

A grumbling noise and a growled out," No I am not your spirit essence brat. Look elsewhere. If you want to know what I am ask you Hokage."

Witth that whatever it was went silent. So he began to focus in his heart again. He would ask the old man when this was over. First he had to get his spirit essence.

End of flashback

The dark feelings that he felt. Was that what Lupus was talking about? In a way it made sense but he still didn't know what it was. The Hokage refused to tell him.

Lupus said, 'With good reason. The adults of your village knew but the old man wanted to give you a normal life. The dark feelings are actually the Nine Tailed Fox. He is sealed within you.'

That rocked Naruto to his core. Why? Why did it always have to be him that was different? Why couldn't he have a normal life?

Lupus growled, 'Focus boy! With his help you can accept the strength of this tiger.'

It seems like he didn't have a choice. Either that or kill the beast and leave the ring only to kill another. That wasn't an option here. Naruto would go with the plan.

His eyes turned up just in time to see Xaiogang be his in the chest. Lightning courses over the man's body. When he hit the ground he stayed down. Blue lightning courses over him causing the muscles in the man to twitch painfully.

Naruto said not looking back at Sasuke, "I can't just leave him. Sasuke you go go. I'll hold it off."

Sasuke asked fear lacing his voice, "What about you? Even the sensei was unable to injure it. What can you do?"

He didn't know yet. His swordsmanship was good but not this good. Giving up was not an option however. He had to fight to protect his teacher and comrade.

Naruto said as the tiger turned towards them, "Go I have something of a plan but I can't fight it and protect you."

Sasuke whispered after a moment, "I'll bring help. Try to last until then."

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support. For those who don't know yet Of Light and Darkness' sequel has been posted. It's name is Something's made your eyes go cold. Hope you will check it out. Enjoy the story.

lara5170: Thanks for your review my friend. White : 10 Year Spirit Ring
Yellow : 100 Year Spirit Ring
Purple : 1,000 Year Spirit Ring
Black : 10,000 Year Spirit Ring
Red : 100,000 Year Spirit Ring. These are the order of rings from least powerful to most powerful. For every ten levels a spirit master is able to kill a spirit beast in order to gain it's ring. The older the beast the better ring and skills one receives. I hope this answers your questions.

phantomscribe55: Thanks for your review my friend. It is definitely an interesting one to try. A difficult one as well.

TigrezzTail: Thanks for your review my friend. Things are rarely as they seem my friend. Keep reading.

Happy Halloween everyone! Hope you had a good day.

Naruto's POV

His plan wasn't a great one. With his sword on his shoulder he would at least be able to defend himself. The problem would be defending himself and Xaiogang. His teacher was defenseless in his current state.

While he was desperately trying to come up with a plan the tiger moved closer to his teacher. It was obvious what it's intent was to kill the man. Then it would turn its attention to the boy. In that moment he moved without consideration of his own safety.

As a heavy white claw came down to strike his teacher he met the movement with his sword. The blow made him stumble and almost end up on the ground himself.

The tiger snarled moving away, $You humans. Always you come in pairs. Never stopping to think of those you kill. I will kill the cub then the man.$

Cub? Did it mean him? If it thought he would die so easily then it had another thing coming. He was not only fighting for his own life but that of his sensei. If he failed the man's death would be on him. That could not be allowed to happen.

So he moved protectively in front of Xaiogang. His sword was angled in the third kata stance. His weight was on the balls of his feet ready to move at any moment.

He snapped at the creature, "If you want to get to my teacher you will have to kill me first. You are friends with Lupus right? He's not dead. He's in me as my second spirit essence. He says you won't listen but I have to try."

It snarled angrily but no words came forth this time. Fear coursed through his veins. There was a very real chance that he would die here. Even being a level 20 Spirit Master he was still only 8 going on 9 years old. There was no way he could or would back down. That was not the kind of person he was.

When the next strike came he was a little more prepared. It still almost sent him crashing to the forest floor. Pain erupted in his shoulder of the arm holding the sword. While the blow was blocked by his sword it did not stop the power of the strike from trying to dislocate his shoulder.

Still he did not move from in front of his teacher. There was too much of a chance of the man getting hit. Being unconscious he would be unable to activate his ki. Thus if he was hit he would not survive the attack.

Some would say that it wasn't the duty of the student to protect the master. Those that said that never had a true bond with a person before. It didn't matter the age or the title of someone. He would protect those he held precious with all he had.

There weren't many he held precious in his heart. Only two, Hayate and Xaiogang. Still he held them close to his heart. They were the first people that cared about him. The first people who showed him any care. If he was to lose either of them he didn't know what he would do. So he would protect Xaiogang to his dying breath if necessary.

Another strike came faster than the previous two. Naruto didn't get his sword into a block in time. Pain erupted in his chest as the claws tore through his jacket and shirt.

The force of the strike sent him flying high into the air. When he hit the ground it knocked the wind out of him. This left him gasping for breath. He didn't get the moment to regain his breath that he needed. Instead he had to roll to the right to avoid a claw coming to step on him. Then he regained his feet and went back to a defensive stance.

This time instead of just swiping at him the tiger charged him. He rolled forward staying close to the ground. The tiger went over him unable to stop itself. As it did he brought his sword up slicing through its fur and into the under belly.

It roared in pain even as he was doused in the beast's blood. The blood was hot and sticky on his face and clothes. The tiger soon was back across the grass. It's blue eyes were watching him in anger and wariness. No doubt it expected him to be the easy target. Instead he injured the beast. While it was not a fatal wound it no doubt hurt. He once more took a defensive stance.

Internally however he searched himself. Lupus said there was the Nine Tailed Fox in him. He would need extra power to kill the tiger. That was the only place he would be able to get it. Then there would be the issue of the ring. Without the help of the fox he would most certainly die trying to absorb the ring.

There was a dark place in his mind where he could the dark thoughts gathered. Where he hid his pain and anger at the villagers. Given how dark the fox was said to be that was the most logical place to start looking.

When he touched that part of his mind the feelings came rushing through him. It left him stunned that he missed the tiger moving. The beast rushed at him again. By the time he noticed it was to late to move or dodge. It plowed over him knocking him to the ground. His sword was dropped and he tried to catch himself in a roll.

When he fell it was awkward and too much weight was put on his left wrist. A loud crack filled the air and pain like he never felt before shot up right his arm from his wrist. Grimacing in pain he moved away as the beast attack him again.

The sword would be useless to him now. He had not trained at all in using his right hand. If he survived this he would be doubling his swordsmanship. He needed to know how to fight using both hands just in case.

A rumble went through his mind, "Well it seems you have got yourself in a bind, brat. What is my help worth to you?"

Naruto eyed his teacher as he said, "I will do anything to save my teacher. Lend me your strength, Fox."

The dark voice said in a pleased tone, "Then don't return to the weak child you once were."

"That's all you want?"

A dark chuckle answered him, "The happy you are the better my conditions. Even with this damnable seal keeping me from taking you over. Besides if you die. I die."

There was more to it than that but there was no time think on it. The tiger was coming at him again. A power he never felt before startled to coil up in his chakra center. Slowly it began to fill his body in a way he never thought possible. A orange glow began to come off of him.

In the ninja academy they were told of ninjas who had chakra so strong that it became visible. He never considered that he might one day be one of them. This however was not normal chakra. Even with as little training as he had he knew that much.

Naruto knew that he would have to kill this beast. He injured it but still it did not back down. Just as Lupus said it was beyond reasoning with. Killing it would likely be a mercy compared to the life it was living.

A rage he knew wasn't his own came forward when the beast stepped towards his teacher. This has to end here and now. There was no telling when Sasuke would be back. Or if anyone would believe him.

He focused on the power from the fox and his first skill. Iced fang was what he named the skill. Depending on how much ki and chakra was used it would make pockets of ice on the opponents body. It could be used to slow someone down or to kill. It could also be used with his touch or his spirit essence's.

As he watched the beast charge at him again a plan formed in his mind. As he slid under the tiger he kicked the wound and discreetly called forth Línghún. He told his spirit to wait for the right moment and attack the throat. It would have to be perfect timing otherwise he would lose his advantage. He was going to try a jutsu he had only seen once to distract the beast. Hayate only showed him the jutsu to show him the difficulty of Dance of the Crescent Moon.

Flashback

Hayate stood in front of a sitting slightly smaller Naruto. Today had been a day for lectures rather than practice. While they were more boring than his practice days Naruto could understand why they were necessary.

Hayate said sternly, "Until I deem you ready, Naruto, you must not use this jutsu. If done improperly it will kill you."

Naruto asked his curiosity getting the better of him, "What is it, sensei?"

Hayate replied bringing his hands up his left hand horizontal while the right was vertical, "Shadow Clone Jutsu."

Suddenly instead of one of his sensei there was now four. This wasn't like the regular clone jutsu he had seen before. Even he could tell that they were solid clones. It was amazing. This was what was required to be a jounin.

End of flashback

It was risky and he promised Hayate sensei that he wouldn't use it. This was one time he would have to break a promise he made. His plan had to work.

Despite his left wrist being broken he just a few moments prior, it wasn't any longer. Was this part of the fox's power? If so the Nine Tailed Fox was more than a reason for his village to hate him. It could be helpful in battle as well. He easily made the sign that he only saw once.

He bit out as the tiger began watching him again, "Shadow Clone Jutsu!"

With the help of the fox's orange chakra he had enough power to make one clone. It looked slightly wobbly on its feet but it would do. Given that he still didn't have experience with jutsu it was surprising it worked on the first try.

They both turned to face the tiger once more. The tiger seemed to be confused at first.

Then it snarled, $Humans and their tricks. I will kill you both and leave your corpses here for your friend. When he returns I will kill him as well.$

Naruto snapped back, "You will not harm anyone I care about. As long as I still draw breath you will not harm them!"

He spied his sword a little ways away from him. It was between him and the tiger. If the beast charged again it was possible he could slide under it and grab the blade. A trick that worked twice however would not likely work a third time. He was pretty sure the beast was smarter than that.

Then again he could have the tiger charge after him and use his skill to distract it while the clone went for the sword. It was a less risky plan but there was still the chance for failure. It was still the best plan he had that could possibly work.

Focusing on his ki he charged at the tiger. The tiger blocked his path to his sword thinking that's what he was going for. When he was close enough to the beast he used an evasion skill known as Shadow Steps.

It drew him closer to the tiger but instead of head on it drew him close to its side. As he went past it's front right leg he swiped his hand at the white furred leg. Almost immediately ice began to form on the fur.

In response it swiped at him with the opposing leg. He was thrown back across the area. Instead of landing on the ground or on his feet he hit a tree. It knocked the wind out of him but he quickly recovered.

Once he was back on his feet the clone he made was by his side. The sword Hayate had given him was in his hands. It was flickering in and out. Naruto knew the clone wouldn't last much longer. Given that it was his first try he shouldn't be surprised.

He took the sword and then it was gone in a puff of smoke. In the next moment he had to use Shadow Steps again. This time it was to get away from the tiger. He used it just in time to avoid the beast. Due to its bulk it was unable to stop. It hit the same tree that Naruto had just a moment prior.

Línghún appeared from the shadows. His spirit essence latched down onto the beast's shoulder. Ice began forming in greater quantities than he expected. It wouldn't have surprised Naruto to find that the beast's blood was being frozen as well. As he went for a killing blow he was thrown back by blue lightning.

 

Indescribable pain coursed over him. It was far worse than the pain he felt when his wrist broke. That had been something he could throw off. Not lightning going all over his body.

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support. Happy Holidays everyone.

lostxinxthexdarkness: Thanks for your review my friend. Glad you enjoy it.

lara5170: Thanks for your review my friend. In a way he's going to be at least as powerful as itachi.

Shadow Wolf 15846:Thanks for your review my friend.

DarkRavie: Thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

He collapsed on the ground unable to move. If this was what his teacher felt he was glad the man was unconscious. It was like someone had lit all of his nerves on fire.

His jaw was locked preventing him from even crying out. Not a single part of him could move. His ki and chakra were reacting wildly to the attack. They kept trying to lash out at the unseen attacker.

The dark voice of the Nine Tailed Fox said, "You're going to die at this rate, brat. The lightning will eventually make your heart stop."

He snapped back, 'Then help me! How do I disperse this lightning?'

The fox replied, "Even I don't have the power to disperse that lightning. You have to do it. Use your ki to make the opposite charge. The two ki's will disperse each other."

That was something he knew how to do. In class they were taught how to disperse their ki. It was effective in ridding the body of low level poisons. It could also be used as a show of power.

Depending on one's soul realm would make it effective or not. The most effective at using it was the controlled soul realms. Mostly the ice and the water realms. His was a chaotic soul realm. It didn't have a set element like most soul realms.

While he had a range of spirit beasts to choose from. It did make it difficult for him to choose a cultivation technique. His teacher chose a ice cultivation technique. The best time for him to use it was under the moon.

While it made it difficult for him to sleep he still used it to the best of his abilities. At the same it didn't feel exactly right. Useable but not perfect.

He focused on his ki. Even touching it he could feel the chaos of his ki. Instead of trying to control it he forced it outwards. The lightning dispersed and he collapsed with a groan.

Despite the lightning being gone he found it difficult to move. His muscles were spasming erratically. Even moving up to his hands and knees took what little strength he had left.

Naruto knew that if he didn't get up he was going to die. Then his master would die.

The tiger said sounding surprised, §You are tough for a human. Still you need to die. Unless you abandon the man.§

Never! He would never abandon his teacher. With a cold look he pushed himself up to his feet. He swayed dangerously but stayed standing. In his right hand was the sword. He barely was able to keep it in his hands. His muscles were spasming erratically making it hard to keep a grip.

The tiger snarled and leapt at him. Naruto fell back against the ground. His sword lifted into the air as the tiger passed over. He opened a new wound into the beast's belly.

The tiger moved away from him watching him anger clear in its eyes. Both he and the beast were injured and needed treatment. If things continued the way they were then both would be dead. His master would follow as soon as he died.

Lupus said calmly in his mind, "Let me help you, Naruto. Just like with your other spirit."

He had no other choice but to use Lupus. There just wasn't any strength left in him to keep fighting like this. Releasing his hold on Línghún he focused his weaning strength on Lupus.

The temperature of the air changed to near freezing. The spiritual pressure made his weary body unable to move an inch from where he stood. His second spirit may have sounded calm when it told him to call it, in reality it wasn't. In fact by the pressure in the air it was extremely angry. To think that it was so powerful without a ring to support it.

The tiger asked in shock, §What is this? This child didn't have this kind of power before. If he did, he would have used it beforehand. Where is this power coming from? It almost feels like Lupus.§

As the wolf emerged Naruto dropped to a knee. He was exhausted and drained of ki. If he tried to help in this fight he would only get in the way.

The tiger said sounding surprised and confused, §This must be some kind of new trick made by you human. I must admit that it is impressive that a human like you could pull something like this off. Still with this kind of power you must die.§

The tiger tried to step past Lupus but was blocked by the wolf. Lupus rammed his body into the white tiger.

Lupus snarled, §You have fallen far my old friend. In years past you wouldn't have attacked a human child. Not without proof of wrongdoing and even then you would have stayed your claw. It is time for a new guardian of the mountain. One who is not quite so insane.§

The tiger rushed at Lupus and the fight began anew. Lightning and ice clashed against one another. Naruto was just far enough he could feel it but didn't effect him. So he collapsed back into a cross legged position.

If Lupus won this fight then he would need ki to summon Línghùn again. He brought his hands together just below his navel. Taking a deep breath he pulled ki into his body. Normally he would have his eyes closed to do this effectively. To do that here would be suicide. He had to be ready to move at any moment.

Lupus and the tiger fought viciously. It was obvious even seconds into the fight who would win. Lupus was fresh into the battle and uninjured. If left to his own devices the tiger would die from his wounds eventually.

Lupus fought with the tiger for a few moments. This allowed him to fill his reserves slightly. To get them anywhere near normal would take several hours. One of the downsides to having so much ki, refilling his reserves was a pain. Unless he was asleep, then it would refill fairly quickly.

The tiger landed one strike on Lupus. It was on the wolf's right side. While painful it would not be life threatening. The strike gave the wolf the chance to end the fight. He floored the tiger knocking the other to the ground.

Lupus without warning or hesitation sank his fangs into the tiger's throat. Life blood spilled out from the massive wound. As it's eyes glazed over in death a purple spirit ring appeared above it.

Lupus rumbled gently, §You should not fear for the forest or the mountains. With his passing a new guardian will be born. This time with less insanity.§

Naruto gave a short nod of acceptance. This was the way of things and he would have to get used to it. Eventually all things died and one day he would too. Not before he became a retainer and eventually Hokage.

Glancing over at his teacher he let out a sigh of relief. The lightning dispersed and his teacher was regaining some of his color. There was no doubt he would need medical attention but he would live.

As Lupus faded back into his body Naruto called Línghún out. Línghún the shadow fox now lay on his shoulder. It rubbed its head against his own. Then he called to the spirit ring. Then it circled around Lìnghún. Without warning the golden ring latched onto the fox.

The pressure was worse than when he first got a ring. His teacher said with time it wouldn't hurt as much receiving a new ring. However given the power differences between him and the tiger it was no wonder. According to his teacher the max age for a second ring was 723 years old. This tiger was well beyond that. Even with the nine tailed fox it was going to be a difficult time trying to control the power.

Hell fire coursed through his veins. His inner soul felt like it was spasming like his muscles had with the power of the lightning tiger. Pushing the power through his veins was difficult. It didn't want to go evenly. It took all of his control to keep it from overwhelming him.

Red chakra began to mix with his ki and he knew that the fox was pulling the power into him. Lupus' mark was drawing some of the power as well.

With each breath the power flowed more easily between the three. This went on until the ring became one with him. He looked at Línghún to see the differences this time.

Once again the shadow fox had grown. He was the size of a teenage wolf. The once small fox that could curl up on his shoulders now stood tall. He knew that if he wanted to he could make Línghún small again. It would just be a matter of focusing. There were streaks of dark blue in its fur. Lightning was coming off in sparks.

Voices could be heard behind him but when he tried to stand the fatigue caught up with him. The whole world went black as his name was shouted.

Sasuke's POV

It took longer than he expected to find help. The spirit masters that were in the area were wary of entering the forest. None of them wanted to fight the giant tiger that had been seen.

It took going to four different camps and three bars to find a group to agree to come to his aid. It was a group of four. One was a grand master level 24. Two were spirit experts level 32. They were the closest thing he could find to real help. He knew a higher level master would be better but they would work.

When they went to the forest things changed from when he left. The atmosphere wasn't as oppressive. The dark feelings were gone as if they were never there.

The group shared looks before rushing to the direction direction that Naruto and the Headmaster were. Sasuke could only hope that the two were still alive.

The moment they reached the battle area he saw Naruto try to stand. Then the blond fell as he shouted, "Uzumaki!"

The spirit grand master was the first to move. He rushed to the blond's side. It was that movement that shook the rest of them out of their shock. On the ground was the dead body of the tiger. It's throat was torn to shreds. A little farther away from that was the headmaster. The rise and fall of his chest told Sasuke that the man was alive. By some miracle both Naruto and Xaiogang were alive. The tiger was dead.

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.

DarkRavie: Thanks for your review my friend.

TigrezzTail: Thanks for your review my friend. Yeah he definitely got lucky this time.

Naruto's POV

When he came too he knew that he was no longer in the forest. A softness under his back spoke of a bed. He could hear sounds of people near him. Power hummed underneath his skin. The mergingIo of his soul and the ring was a success.

A hand lightly touched his hair. Its fingers carded through gently in a soothing motion. It was almost enough for him to go back to sleep.

Until a familiar voice asked, "How long is he going to stay asleep? It's been three days now."

An unfamiliar voice replied, "His body needs to heal, Xaiogang. We are lucky he survived at all. Even more so that, his soul didn't fracture and break from the strain. He's not even 10 yet and already has a purple ring. If I didn't see it for myself I would have said thag it was impossible."

Naruto opened his blue eyes to find a familiar ceiling above him. He was back at Xaiogang's office. His teacher was next to him. He let out a groan as he tried to sit up. His entire body ached.

Xaiogang's hands left his hair to gently push him back onto the bed. Worried amber eyes entered his vision. He relaxed back into the bed he was laying on. If his teacher didn't want him sitting up it was for the best.

A woman with red hair and green eyes appeared in his vision next. She went through all the medical checks. He winced when she lifted his broken wrist but said nothing.

Finally she said, "He will live and his wounds will heal. You are very lucky to be alive, Mr. Uzumaki. If your friend had not brought you back when he did we would not be having this conversation."

Friend? Did she mean Sasuke? They weren't friends. Now that he thought about it, they weren't really enemies either.

She interrupted his thoughts, "Xaiogang I'll take my leave. If there is an issue send for me. I don't foresee that there will be however. Your disciple is strong."

Xaiogang bowed his head and said, "Thank you, Anna."

She acknowledged him with a tilt of her chin and then she was gone. Healing spirit masters were rare and many belonged to clans. It wasn't often you saw one outside of a clan stronghold.

It seemed his master had many tricks up his sleeve. Such a thing it seemed saved his life.

When amber eyes turned back to him there was a fierce anger in them. On instinct he flinched back trying to put distance between him and his teacher. Despite not being in the village for almost three years his reactions were still the same. He still flinched away from anger.

The anger softened until it was more disappointed than anything. That hurt more than any blow ever could. He didn't want his teacher disappointed in him. He looked away to hide his self hatred.

Xaiogang stated softly his hand coming under Naruto's chin making the boy look at him, "I almost lost you, Naruto. Do you know what that would have done to me? You are my only disciple. I cherish you above all others."

Naruto's eyes filled with tears as he whispered, "I'm sorry, master. I sent Sasuke to get help while I stayed behind. I couldn't let you die just as if you were in my position you wouldn't leave me to die."

Xaiogang inquired his head bowing slightly in acknowledgement that he would have done the same, "You have never had someone to look after you, have you? How did you survive for so long by yourself?"

Naruto paled significantly. That was one of the few things they had not talked about. He didn't like thinking about his past before the academy. It was filled with pain and loneliness. No one wanted to be around him or to give him an ounce of kindness.

The past two years had been the best of his life. Despite his difficulties with connecting with people they were filled with happiness. A friend, a teacher, and mentor.

Naruto answered vaguely, "I did what I had to do. I don't like talking about it, Master."

Xaiogang seemed to think about it for a moment. Then he ruffled the younger's blond hair. Naruto before he could stop himself leaned into the touch. When he caught himself he found he didn't want to pull away. The touch was gentle and warm.

Xaiogang ordered gently but firmly, "Get some rest. I'll check on you in a little while."

Already he could feel his energy draining. He responded in a slurred whisper, "Aye, Master."

As soon as he said the words the world faded to black. His sleep was dreamless but the feeling of warmth never left him. When he awoke the second time the exhaustion was gone. While his wrist still twinged when he tried to move it, it didn't hurt nearly as bad as before.

It was only when he sat up that he realized he had been moved. Before when he awoke he was in his master's office. Now he was in an unfamiliar bedroom. Books lined the walls either in stacks or on bookshelves.

He sat up and after a moment of dizziness threw his legs over the side. Slowly standing he used the wall for support. It was then that he noticed he was in pyjama bottoms that were much to big for him. If he had to guess they were likely his master's. A belt was the only thing keeping that at his waist. Part of the leg was rolled up to keep him from tripping. His master it seemed planned on him waking up while he was gone.

The next thing he noticed was that he wasn't wearing a shirt. It allowed him to see that his wrist had been expertly splinted and his wounds stitched. If he didn't know it had only been a few days he would have thought it had been weeks. The wounds were sealed up and completely healed. Stitches he could tell were ready to come out.

He slowly moved around the room not finding any of his clothes. When he reached the door he leaned on it. Did he want to leave or did he want to wait on his teacher to get back?

The decision was made for him when the door he was leaning on opened. It threw him off balance so that he fell into the one who opened it. A gentle chuckle made him look up. It wasn't Xaiogang like he was expecting. Instead it was Hayate.

The swordsman was wearing a black t-shirt and grey pants. His headband was across his shoulder rather than being a bandana.

Naruto said happily, "Hayate sensei!"

Hayate asked his eyes checking over Naruto's form, "How are you feeling, Naruto? Any lingering pain?"

Naruto shook his head as he replied, "No, sensei. The healer did her job well. I just feel slightly weaker than normal."

Hayate pressed his hand into one of the healed wounds. Naruto didn't even feel a twinge with the action. There was a look of contemplation on the other's face. Did his teacher know of the Nine Tailed Fox?

"Hayate sensei? Do you know that I have the Nine Tailed Fox in me?"

Hayate said his brown eyes widening, "So you found out. All the adults in the village know. Lord Hokage wanted you to have a normal life. So no one was allowed to talk about it."

Or in Hayate's case, tell him. If the old man wanted him to live a normal life, he failed. Naruto didn't know friendship or kindness until coming to the academy.

Hayate held out a bag to him pulling him from his thoughts. He said, "I brought you some clothes. If you are feeling up to it. I have been asked to take you and Sasuke Uchiha to register your rings."

Naruto asked, "He got a ring? What did he kill?"

Hayate shrugged and said, "A young forest wolf. I believe it was only 55 years old."

So he received a white spirit ring. It was the most common for new spirit masters. If the tiger had not appeared they would have gone for a better ring.

For his part Naruto began to change into the clothes he was brought. He changed into a grey undershirt, and black pants. Over the shirt he put on his black jacket.

He said stretching his muscles, "I think I'm well enough sensei."

Hayate nodded his acceptance. Then they walked out. Xaiogang barely glanced at them from his book. A small smile crossed his teacher's face.

Sasuke was waiting for them outside of the school. A brief look of relief crossed the boy's face. They weren't given the chance to speak. Going to the spirit hall was a short trek into town.

An old man greeted them cheerfully, "Hayate Gekko, it's been awhile since you were last here. What can I do for you?"

Hayate pushed the two of them in front of the man, "We are here to register these two. One is to be registered as a spirit master. The other is to register his second spirit ring."

The man looked at the two boys in surprise. They both looked too young to have a second ring. Most children their age were just getting their first ring. The geniuses would be getting their second. Even then it would be those who came from a clan.

A voice said from behind the old man, "Naruto-san! It's not time for you to collect your stipend yet. What brings you to the spirit hall?"

Naruto grinned and greeted, "Spirit Lord Yao! It's good to see you! I'm actually here to register my new spirit ring."

The old man that greeted them moved aside to allow Yao to step up. Yao had been the man to register his soul ring two years prior. Since that day he was always the one to give him his stipen. The man was something of a gentle soul but fiercely protective of those he claimed. Naruto was lucky to be one such person.

Yao said ushering them into the room, "Well let's register the young Uchiha as a Spirit Master first. Then we will register you as a Grand Master."

Sasuke at first was reluctant to go. He was an unusual case having been awakened at only half a level. Naruto knew he would have a long road ahead of him. He wanted to make it easier but wasn't sure how.

Still he walked up to the crystal with his head held high. Placing his hand on the crystal he focused his power and called out his ring. The white ring circled his chest and a brown forest wolf appeared and howled. Then Sasuke's essence appeared. The falcon was faster than before. Like a forest wolf it had speed that would rival those at his spirit rank.

Yao said nodding, "Level 11 falcon. Well done young man. Starting today you will receive one gold coin a month. Spend it well."

Next it was his turn. They were surprised the last time he came in. A child with no family to speak of with full essence harmonization. Now he would surprise them again by doing the impossible.

He touched the crystal and activated both his rings. The frost wolf let out a howl with the activation of his first ring. Weaker masters in other halls covered their ears. Yet it was nothing compared to what was to come.

When the purple ring appeared over his chest Yao let out a gasp. As did the other spirit master. He ignored them and the tiger he had defeated just days prior roared. The force of the roar was enough to shake the entire building.

Six months later

Students from years two and up sat in chairs. They were excited to be apart of the ceremony. It was graduation day and a third year was graduating a year early. Most of the students had looked down upon the boy without kith or kin when he arrived. He was just a nobody.

In the three years since he arrived he changed everyone's perceptions of him. The first day of classes had been the start. Fighting a student with a ring and then becoming the headmaster's disciple. Then he went so far as to prove what had only been a theory prior to that. Evolution of spirit essences was possible.

He became the youngest in the academy to get his second spirit ring. Once again he did what should have been impossible. Accepting a purple spirit ring into his body. No one dared look down upon him after that.

Naruto for his part was happy to be graduating. Xaio Wu promised that she would find him no matter where he went. Sasuke threw himself into his studies to improve himself further. Kiba was being the same old person he was before. However he no longer poked fun at Naruto. There was no bullying between them.

The ceremony was simple. Their names were called and Master gave them a paper. It was proof that they had graduated as spirit masters. Some received letters of recommendation. Those were useful for certain jobs or to get into a secondary school.

When it was his turn Naruto was given two papers. One was his graduation and the other was a letter. His letter was going to take him to Shrek Academy. It was rumored there the students were monsters. Only the best of the besr graduated. Only 1/4 of the students made it through the first year. They trained the best Spirit Masters in the world. As a level 24 Grand Master he would show them his strength.

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.

TigrezzTail: Thanks for your reviews and support. Lol yep. He will be looked after once he gets into the next academy.

DarkRavie: Thanks for your reviews and support.

Naruto's POV

The trip to Shrek Academy took him through the mountains. It was a less travelled path and one that few made alone. His journey while it took several week was an uneventful one.

When he eventually came out of the mountains and into a large town he felt relief. There would hotels and food he didn't have to kill himself. He was also three days ahead of schedule. The entrance tests for Shrek didn't start till tomorrow and they lasted a week.

He chose one of the smaller hotels in the center of the city. It was a cheap stay of only four copper a day. The room was small but it had its own bathroom and a comfy bed. Compared to sleeping in the mountains it was perfect.

With new students about to enter Shrek Academy the town was bustling with people. Parents were escorting their children around. Several children looked too old to be entering Shrek. Applicants had to less than 13 but have a spirit level of 21.

He chose food stalls rather than restaurants to eat at. It was cheaper and allowed him to see all that was around. The town itself was simple and had about as many people in it as the Village Hidden in the Leaves.

Once again he was thankful that no one knew him here. Back in his village people hated him. It wasn't until recently he found out why. He had the Nine Tailed Fox sealed in him. The same demon that attacked his village almost ten years prior. He hated how they were frightened of him because of some thing he had no control over.

With a shake of his head he moved through the town. His belly was now full with food he found. It only took him a few moments to make his way to the hotel. Outside of it one black haired boy, purple haired boy, and a black haired girl. They seemed to be arguing with the owner.

As he approached he heard the owner snarl, "That boy is the bastard son of the White Tiger clan. If we allow him to stay then they will stop staying here. We cannot afford to lose the business."

The purple haired boy questioned anger in his blue eyes, "We are apart of the Tang Sect and frequently come to this hotel. We come more often than the White Tiger clan. Can you truly afford to lose our business?"

Naruto inquired with a cold glare as he walked up, "You would be losing my business as well."

The four of them turned to look at him. Surprise filled each of their gazes as they were not expecting anyone to interfere. The owner of the hotel looked between them. Defeat was clear in his brown eyes.

The man snapped, "Fine he can stay here. If the White Tiger clan asks you forced my hand."

The three others let out a collective sigh of relief. The oldest boy with purple hair held out his hand and said, "I'm Bei Bei from the Tang Sect. The other boy is Yu Hao. Finally this is Tang Ya head of the Tang Sect."

Naruto shook the hand and replied with a smile, "Naruto Uzumaki. Nice to meet you."

The girl if his instincts were right was a Spirit Elder. One rank above Naruto. Bei Bei was also a Spirit Elder but was not far from Spirit Ancestor. Something was off about the youngest however.

He looked to be a year or so older than Naruto. At first glance he wouldn't seem to be anything special. His spirit power was that of a Spirit Master. A level 14 if Naruto wasn't mistaken. Much like the way he was there was a power untold just beneath the surface. Sealed to prevent full access to the power.

The look in the other's blue eyes told him not to say anything. Not that he would. It was not his secret to tell after all.

In the end their rooms were right across the hall from each other. Yu Hao had to leave almost immediately to register himself as a Spirit Master. It was obvious just as Naruto had beek that he was excited about his little bit of money that he would receive.

That night Naruto couldn't sleep as the excitement of the next morning was getting to him. Shrek was one of the academies in the world. It was rumored that only monsters graduated. According to Bei Bei only inner academy students can be considered true students of Shrek. That the course work for that was beyond imagining. If he wanted to be a retainer, he would have to shoot for entering the inner academy as soon as possible.

When morning finally came Naruto ate a simple breakfast of eggs and toast. Today he would face the entrance exam. The others were gone before he was even awake. Given what he had seen they would be at Shrek anyways. He hoped to see them again soon.

With his bag over his shoulder he made his way to the opposite side of town. Even from a distance he could see the walls protecting the school. Shrek was enormous. Just the grounds of the school spanned the over fifty miles. Each corner belonged to a different empires lands. At the same time however the school was independent. It belonged to no one empire.

It took him over an hour to reach the gates. When he did though there was a line of hopeful students. Each looking to become a member of the school.

Most of them were quite a bit older than him. If he had to guess they were barely meeting the below thirteen requirement.

From ahead of him he heard a shout, "Too old. Disqualified from entering."

Whoever it was began to cry like a little child. Naruto winced at the high pitched sound. It had been years since he cried. Why someone older than him would make such a sound was beyond him.

Then the line moved as the child was forced to leave. It continued like such. Students were either accepted or denied based on their power and age. Those that were accepted were given a student id badge. It was similar to the Spirit Master badge that each had. Naruto's own Spirit Master badge was in his too belt.

Finally it was his turn. An old man sat behind a table.

His grey eyes barely glanced at Naruto as he yawned, "Ten gold coins for the application fee."

That was practically robery but he didn't have much of a choice. He pulled ten of his coins from his tool belt. Without hesitation he dropped them into the jar. The man then held out his hand. Naruto knew the man wanted to check his power and age. Both were easily done by holding another person's wrist.

He dropped his wrist into the other's awaiting hand. There was a flash of surprise and incredulity in the other's eyes.

He shook his head and denied what was obvious, "That's not possible. You are only nine years old and yet have a soul power of 24. How?"

Naruto smiled showing his teeth as he answered, "Level ten when I was awakened. That and a good teacher. I have a letter of recommendation if that is needed."

Naruto shifted to use the hand not being held to call out his letter. The man released his hand and took it. It only took a few moments for him to read it. When he was finished the letter was returned and he was given a badge without another word.

There were choursed shouts of anger at his age. How he shouldn't be accepted at such an age. That he somehow cheated the test.

Naruto's anger flared at the words. He earned his right to be here. If they wanted to deny him the right then he would show his strength. Without a word or a second thought he pulled his rings forward. Línghún appeared on his shoulder as his gold and purple rings circled his chest.

Spiritual pressure increased causing the entire line to take a large step back in fear. His second ring was a purple ring. Something that shouldn't have been possible for someone his age. Yet the proof was staring them right in the face. No one could deny his right now.

Fan Yu's POV

A new year was starting. Students from all over the world would be trying to enter the academy. Fan knew that only a handful of them would make it.

The first years wouldn't be his problem unless they had a talent with weapons. Even then it wouldn't be until after the three month's mark. There weren't many that could make it as weapon specialists.

Then there were the students who wanted to be retainers. He was the Head of Spirit Weapon Facility and the Retainer classes. Fewer students had what it took to be retainers than Spirit Weapons masters. As it stood right then he didn't have any students for retainer classes and only one for weapons master.

He was making his way to the weapons facility when he felt it. Spiritual pressure that was greater than what a new student could normally possess. Even when one of the White Tiger clan's children was tested; he didn't have that much power. That boy was almost at level 30 and he just entered the academy. So who could this power belong to?

Then as quickly as it came th spiritual pressure began to dissipate ahsun. Almost as if he imagined it. Interesting... this person could be one to watch this year. Whoever they were.

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.

Zoran Dawn-Eclipse:Thanks for your review my friend. Glad you enjoyed the story.

TigrezzTail:Thanks for your review my friend. Yep there will always be haters.

DarkRavie: Thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

With the guidance of an old man he was able to find his dorms. Apparently there was two students to a dorm unless one dropped out or was kicked out. Both rates were high for the first three months. It didn't really drop until after the first year.

When he arrived at his dorm, he found that his roommate was already there. It was the boy from the hotel again, Yu Hao. Sky blue eyes met ocean blue eyes. Naruto felt there was something more about this boy than what was beneath the surface.

Yu Hao said smiling faintly, "You must be my roommate. Naruto, right? We met in the village."

"That's right. You were with the guys from Tang Sect. I heard they are the last of their clan," he replied.

The Tang Sect. Everyone heard of the once great clan. Whether you were from the combat countries or from the ninja villages.

Many years prior a boy created a new clan. His name was Xaio Tang. Together with the original Seven Shrek Devils he defended the world. They made hidden weapons and became the first alchemists.

The hidden weapons would eventually become the precursor to spirit weapons. They were used by the first retainers and all who came after them. Even to that day everyone knew of the Sect.

It fell into ruin in the last few generations. He knew that Xaiogang was trying to help the current head regain its former glory. His sensei asked him to look after and befriend her. That she was a few years older than them.

Yu Hao said breaking him from his thoughts, "If it wasn't for the Tang Sect I wouldn't have been allowed in school. As it stands now I have to reach rank 20 before the end of the year."

Naruto replied smiling, "You can do that with hard work. Maybe the alchemist's guild could help. They need apprentices'."

Yu Hao shook his head, "I'm too weak according to them. Until I'm at least a Grand Spirit Master I can only train."

Naruto winced. Without help the other boy wouldn't make it to rank 20 before the deadline. He was already considering joining the alchemist guild. He was looking to fix his teacher's abdd Sasuke's condition. Neither of them would be able to become Spirit Elders.

He said lost in thought, "I was planning on applying as an apprentice. Maybe I give you what I learn to make. If you are interested that is."

Yu Hao nodded, "If you wish to help me. I would not be refuse it."

Then it was decided. He would join the alchemist guild. He wanted to join them anyways so it wasn't putting him out any.

Both boys used the silence to decide to train. He sat on his bed and focused on pulling ki out of the air. His cultivation technique was still his basic one. With any luck he would find a better one in this school's library.

By the time dinner rolled around both boys had worked up a sweat. Naruto could feel something changing in him. It had begun when he first got his second spirit ring. Only now was it becoming more obvious.

Lightning coursed over his body whenever he pulled new ki into his body. He knew it had to do with his two new spirit skills. Lightning fang and thunder break. He knew that the second skill had come from putting the ring on Lupus as well Línghùn. It was the only reason why he survived getting a purple spirit ring.

His bedding already had the scorch marks that his old bed did. It made a pang of homesickness go through him. The school had been the closest thing to a home he had. With Hayate back at the Village Hidden in the Leaves he was alone again.

With a sigh he stretched noticing the soft blue ki that surrounded the other boy. It seemed that they had a similar element. Though he doubted it was the lightning element. The boy was too cool headed it seemed for that. More likely than not it was water or ice.

They had spent most of the day training their ki. It wasn't enough for either to break through a level but Naruto could feel his strength increasing even day. From what he knew of the alchemist guilds they should be open now. Most didn't open until later in the day and stayed open long into the night.

 

He left without a word to Yu Hao, not wanting to disrupt the other's training. The hallways he found were full of students. Many of them wore white or blue jackets. This building was for first and second years it seemed. He should be wearing the white jacket but he didn't have to until the next day. So it could wait one more day.

Making his way through the throngs of students he found his way to where the guild hall was. Every major city had a Alchemist Guild Hall. Shrek had a city within its school walls as well as outside. This allowed there to be two Guild Halls. He wouldn't be allowed at the one outside the walls until he passed the three months test.

The guild hall was a nondescript building. It was only the emblem on the outside that marked it as from the Alchemist Guild. Taking a deep breath he walked in.

Chapter Text

A/N thanks for everyone's support. I'm sorry for how long it took me to update this fic. It was one of mine where I lost every one of my for it. I have spent the last week rebuilding the notes that I could remember and pulling what I can from the story.

SILVERBACK1: thanks for your review my friend. He is young still and is beginning to realize new goals. Keep reading you will find that he isn't the same as he was back in ch1.

TigrezzTail: thanks for your review my friend. Dont worry helping his roommate will be a good thing. Eventually.

DarkRavie: thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

Men and women in blue jackets were walking through the halls. Most had books or scrolls in their hands. To them he was invisible. A nuisance at best. His youth would a detremite here.

A voice asked from his left startling the youth, "How may I help you today, lad?"

Naruto said turning to see a red haired man with green eyes, "I want to begin an apprenticeship. Are there any master's looking for a student?"

The man was in his early thirties and from the badge on his shirt he was a master. A bronze badge meaning he was a second level master. He was young to be at such a level.

The man replied cocking his head to the side in a curious manner, "You are a little young to be looking for an apprenticeship lad. Come back when you are a Grandmaster."

Where was the fun in just telling the man? He knew that if he activated his rings here he would shock the guild. His youth would be his advantage as they would all see him as a child.

As the man turned around to leave Naruto activated his rings. The spirit pressure in the room increased dramatically. It caused everyone to stop and stare. A gold ring began to circle his chest soon followed by a purple just below it.

He inquired with a cheeky grin, "What about now, Master Alchemist?"

The red haired man stared dumbfounded at his rings. Then they rose to look at his face. The hallway was quiet waiting to see what the alchemist's answer.

After a moment the man said, "Come with me then."

Naruto proceeded to follow the man down the hall. He allowed his rings to disappear and kept up. Being with Hayate and Xiaogang allowed him to understand how to keep up with those with long legs.

They went down through the halls and took several turns. Masters and apprentices passed by them. They either ignored him or gave a cursory nod. Very few stared curious about why he was there.

They soon came to a set of oak doors and the man pushed them opened. Inside was a simple office where bookshelves lined the walls. Towards the back was a desk and that's where the man headed toward.

Naruto followed slightly unsure behind him. The only office he had been in was Xiaogang's. When he was close enough the man waved him to the chair in front of the desk. Then he leaned against it staring at the young boy.

After a long moment he said in a low tenor, "There a many master in this guild hall. Most are not looking for an apprentice. Either they are too old or have too much on their plate to take on an added burden. Those that do wish for an apprentice usually have an age and schooling requirement. How old are you boy? You obviously go to Shrek or you wouldn't be here."

Naruto replied calmly, "I am Naruto Uzumaki, first year student at Shrek. I am nine years old and a level 24 Grandmaster."

The man stared at him for a long moment then laughed, "Extraordinary. It's not often we have someone like you come in. Which primary academy did you go to?"

"Nuoding Academy, sir," Naruto said a little put out by the laughing.

He had never seen someone go from laughing to serious so fast. It was as if a light switch had been flipped.

The man inquired in a serious low tone, "You are Xiaogang's boy?"

Naruto could only nod. Was his master not liked by the guild? Would this apprenticeship be ruined before it even began?

A slightly awed answer came to his unasked questions, "So he finally found himself a disciple. Someone to believe in all his crazy ideas without proof," the was a prolonged silence before he continued, "I have decided then. You can do your apprenticeship under me. I am Ren Xaiofan 32 years old and a level 57 Spirit Ancestor. You would be the first apprentice I have ever taken. Do you accept?"

Naruto bowed as his teacher had taught him and replied humbly, "I accept."

"Then let's discuss the terms of your apprenticeship."

Hayate's POV

The trip back to the village had not taken long. Without the children slowing him down he made it in two days. As usual he spirit essence was scouting ahead. Always looking for trouble to be sure the way was clear. Jonin or not one could never be to careful when traveling alone.

It passed peacefully much to his surprise and when he arrived at the gates he was greeted by the surprised faces of Kotetsu and Izumo. No doubt they were not expecting him until next year. When Naruto should have been graduating.

He said with a grin, "Good to see you both as well. My place as usual for drinks?"

Both men gave matching grins and nodded. They would be there when he returned from his meeting with the Hokage. No doubt wanting to know all about the student he had taken.

His thoughts went to the boy who made it to Shrek. If the boy thought his life was hard before he had no idea what was waiting for him at Shrek. Most students never graduated from the school. Those that did were sought after all over the world. With Naruto's goal to be a retainer he would have it harder than anyone else. It would three years before the boy would come back to the village.

He wished the best for Naruto and looked forward to seeing him when he returned. The boy had been a ray of sunshine to him.

Chapter Text

A/N thanks for your reviews and support.

Pat123: thanks for your review my friend. I'm glad you enjoyed it so much.

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DarkRavie: thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

It was late in the evening when he returned to his dorm. The conditions of his apprenticeship were simple but showing him around the guild had taken awhile. The guild hall was only one part of the building. There were places to make medicines. Other parts of the building held their materials. There were even places to use the medicines as a bath or training.

The disappointing part would be that he could not take medicines he made outside of the guild hall until he was an iron apprentice. Most apprentices took six months to become an iron apprentice. They had to study from the library and work diligently with their masters.

Ren as the man insisted that Naruto call him said some apprentices could make iron within three months. Already the blond was determined to outdo everyone who came before him. He would make iron before the month was out.

The ranks went iron, copper, bronze, silver, gold. From there they went into similar tiers as adepts. If they prove themselves worthy that's when they can be called masters. It took years upon years of study and practice to become a master.

Ren seemed to find his determination amusing. All things considered there wasn't much for Naruto to do outside of training. He could not enter the retainer program until after the three month trial.

That was where most students were dropped from the school. You were given one shot in the trial if you failed you were expelled. There was no way he could fail at that time. If he did everything he had done so far would be for nothing.

His thoughts were interrupted by the spiritual pressure that was inside his room. Yu Hao didnt have that much power.

Naruto's hand went to the knife that Xaiogang had given him. Ever since he got his second ring he never went anywhere without it.

When he pushed open the door he was surprised by what he found. The air in the room was nearly frozen. It gave a blue hue to the air and to the young boy it felt comfortable. Considering that he had a frost wolf as his first ring it wasn't surprising. What was was surprising was that it was coming from his roommate. From what he understood Yu Hao had a ten year baboon like creature. There was no way it should have this level of coldness. It seemed that his roommate was more intriguing than he gave credit for.

Naruto chose not to disturb the other's training. Instead he sat cross legged on his own bed. He would rather train his own ki than sleep anyways.

The night passed quietly with both boys training their ki. Yu Hao broke through another level before the night was over. It put him one step closer to being accepted in Shrek.

When morning came Naruto changed into the school uniform. It was a black undershirt with a white jacket. On the jacket's left shoulder was the sign of Shrek. Unsurprisingly it was that of a monster. It was said that only monsters graduated from the school.

They didn't speak as they made their way to the cafeteria. It was the same as Nuoding Academy. There was an upper and lower level of the cafeteria. The upper levels had those with cold eyes watching the lowers. No doubt they thought themselves better than him. Naruto would prove them wrong one day.

Today would not be that day. He didn't want to show his hand too soon. They would underestimate him because of his age.

They would underestimate him even more with the fact he kept a knife at his side. Until he passed the first test he could not freely carry his sword about.

Breakfast went without a hitch. He ate quickly choosing the healthiest food he could. He and Yu Hao scarfed it down quickly. It seemed like the older boy wasn't used to eating what he wanted.

Naruto knew the feeling. Having spent most of his childhood trying to find things to eat. He never had enough to eat until he started school. Now he took every chance he had to eat his fill.

Once they were finished eating both and Yu Hao go to their classroom. Both boys were in the same class. The class was filled with students from all over. Class one it seemed would be the best. Naruto would make sure of it.

A purple haired boy was soaking up all the students attention. Naruto and Yu Hao both frowned at the sight. Neither of them liked seeing someone act like that. For Naruto it was a reminder of how Sasuke used to act. Stuck up little brat.

Both boys sat close to the front of the class. A woman with silver hair and cold brown eyes. Below her eyes were frown lines.

When they fell onto Naruto they widened she said, "Ah yes. The young prodigy. Just because everything thinks so highly of you doesn't mean I will go easy on you. That goes for any of you brats. My name is Zhu Yi. I will be your home room teacher. Remember that in my class the weak shall fail. My aim is to create monsters not garbage."

That had most of the class in an uproar. They didn't like to be called weak or garbage. All things considering they were weak. At least in comparison to others.

She continued angrily, "Every single one of you are garbage. The entire lot of you will run 100 laps around the school field. Those who fail face explosion."

People tried to argue. That was when the spiritual pressure increased to dangerous levels. Eight rings of various colors appeared causing the entire student body to flee. No one wanted to get in trouble with a spirit emperor

She snarled, "As I am your homeroom teacher it is my right to expel any student. I will give you one minute if you have not started running by then the entire class is expelled."

That had everyone scrambling for the door. Naruto trailed slightly behind. He knew she was bluffing but he also didn't want to get crushed. He was the youngest student in the class. Everyone was a good couple inches taller than him. The last thing he needed was to get trampled on the first day.

Without further ado they began running around the school.

Chapter Text

A/N thanks for your reviews and support.

TigrezzTail: thanks for your review my friend. It certainly is.

DarkRavie: thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

Running around the field was easy. With his training with Hayate had him physically fit. Running had been part of his daily training.

He lapped every classmate twice but he noticed, that Yu Hao was the last person. Every other classmate continued to lap the poor boy.

Naruto noted as he finished his last lap that some students only completed part of their run. They were clan heirs or those that thought they could get away with it. A dark part of him hoped their teacher caught them.

Twenty minutes til the deadline and his friend still had 30 laps to go. There was no way he would make it unless someone stepped in. As he moved to call forth his spirit power someone else beat him to it.

It was a boy with purple hair and deep ocean blue eyes. The same one that the girls had been fawning over in class. What was he going to do?

He watched as the other boy ran to Yu Hao and activated his spirit essence. Wings sprouted from his back in rainbow of colors.

He watched in amazement as the two finished the remaining laps with seconds to spare. His initial assumption about the other had been wrong. Maybe the other wasn't as spoiled as Naruto originally thought.

Naruto immediately began pushing through the crowd of his classmates. Most of them ignored him for he was just another nobody. Here he had yet to prove himself. Until their first examinations no one knew of his strength.

When he reached them both Yu Hao and Wamg Dong were sitting up. Yu Hao grinned happily at him. Without hesitation Naruto held out a hand to help both boys to their feet. Grins were shared all around and bonds that would last a lifetime formed.

"Alright everyone gather around," came the sharp order of their teacher.

A circle was formed around her as everyone wanted to know the verdict. No one wanted to be sent home.

She began calling out low clan members and even some high members. Each student stepped forward as their name was called. Naruto noted it was the students who had not finished their laps. Yu Hao he noticed was not on that list.

Was she counting the laps with help? If so then he would support it 100%. He didn't want to lose the only friend he had in this school.

She ordered coldly, "You lot pack your bags. From here on you are no longer apart of Shrek Academy."

"What?!" Came shouts from the group as a whole. It seemed their teacher valued honesty. Good.

A red haired boy growled, "Why, sensei? What's the meaning of this?"

She said with a hateful look, "Sherk Academy does not tolerate cheaters and liars. You only ran 97 laps and skipped three while I wasn't watching. Even if you have power. No integrity will bring disaster upon these lands. I say whether or not you are suitable for this Academy. Now get out!"

The boy continued, "Teacher Zhu that's unfair," he pointed to Yu Hao, "He didn't finish 100 laps. Why didn't you kick him out?"

Zhu said coldly, "If he didn't finish his laps I would have kicked him out too. However I never said you couldn't help each other. He finished you did not. Now leave or I'll destroy your spirit abilities. I may have a bad temper but I follow through on my convictions. Does anyone else have a problem?"

They all intoned together, "No sensei."

She then ordered, "Now go back to your dorms and get changed for class. Be back in fifteen minutes."

Naruto and Yu Hao rushed to their shared dorm. Both boys quickly changed but before they left Naruto noticed something. Yu Hao seemed stronger than before. The ordeal with the running may have pushed his spirit through a breakthrough.

There wasn't time to consider this they had to rush back to class. When they arrived most of the class was already seated. It only took a few minutes for the rest to show up.

Zhu snapped, "Yu Hao stand up and tell everyone your spirit level."

Yu Hao stood next to Naruto as he said, "My spirit level is 14."

Whispers could be heard throughout the class. No one could believe that such a weakling was let in.

Zhu said her eyes colder than ice, "That's right. He is only level 14. He was given a special recommendation and did not have to sit through the regular exam. Before he is kicked out no one may ask him questions about it. Take your seat."

Yu Hao did as he was bid.

Then she began lecturing, "We will start our first lesson. Our first lesson will be about basic offense and defense. Soul users are divided up into different categories. There are power, mind, food, support and so on. Wang Dong what are best suited for attack and defense?"

The boy stood and replied confidently, "Strength, mind, and area control are best for attack. Defense are support, food, and defensive skills."

Naruto wanted to shake his head. That was wrong the other was forgetting a key component.

Zhu snapped, "That is a stupid answer. Sit. If this had been 4000 years ago you would have been right. But it's not. Uzumaki can you tell me why?"

Naruto stood as he answered, "It is because of the spirit guide weapons."

Zhu praised, "Good you aren't as dumb as you look. Today we will be discussing spirit guide weapons. Because of their appearance the lines between support, attack and defense are blurred. In the last 1000 years spirit guide weapons have changed the way we fight. If you have enough strength you can make up for abilities using these weapons."

They all began taking notes on the lecture. Naruto was interested in the weapons. His time had been spent learning swordplay before coming here. These weapons might just come in handy.

Chapter Text

A/N thanks for your reviews and support.

Autismguy593: thanks for your review my friend.

TigrezzTail: thanks for your review my friend. Exactly. It wont be the last they test their students.

DarkRavie: thanks for your review my friend.

Naruto's POV

He sag cross legged in front of a pot. It was a basic alchemy pot that all apprentices were required to have. Made out of iron one put in ingredients and channeled their ki into it. If done correctly an apprentice and master could crush the ingredients solely with their ki. Then mix and compress it into a pill form. Or it could be compressed but left as a liquid.

The pills could be taken by spirit masters. They improve training times between them. It could also clear out any of the blockages in the body.

The liquid cleansed the body from the outside in. Bathing in it while training ones ki was the key to it. It effectively doubled ones training.

Several hours were needed for either to be effective. It also took several hours just to make one. It was why masters took older apprentices. The older students had more leeway in their classes than a first year. Especially one who had not taken his first exam yet.

Ren reprimanded drawing him for his thoughts, "Focus! You're about to enter the compression stage. One wrong move and it will explode."

Naruto focused on his ki as he put his hands onto the pot. If he was older he would be able to control his ki inside without touching it. However given that he was only 9 that wasn't possible. Yet.

His ki circulated around the pot crushing the ingredients inside. Pulling out the the essences of each item took precision. Something he almost wasn't able to grasp.

Finally, however that step was done. The final step was using the force of his ki to compress the essences together. For the pill they were making he had to focus on his ice element.

The room turned ice cold with his ki. With each breath he released one could see it. The power of his ki had grown tremendously with his second ring. Months of working on control excersises and he still didnt have full control yet.

The compression felt like it took hours. Realistically he knew it only took a few minutes. When he could compress it no longer he released his control and sat back.

Ren waited a moment allowing the room and the pot to return to normal temperature. Then he opened it and stuck his hand inside. When it came out an ice blue pill came with it.

For a moment Ren examined it before declaring, "Well done! You made your first pill. Since you bought the materials yourself it's yours. When you get you iron badge you will be able to sell them with my approval."

Two days. They had two days to make sure he knew the basics of alchemy. It was when the examinations would be given. Otherwise he would have to wait an entire month for the next one.

Yu Hao was tutoring Naruto in arthimacy. It wasn't his strong suit but he was slowly learning it.

Tomorrow they were going to work on their fighting abilities. Yu Hao's spirit essence was in his eyes. It allowed him to control the battles around him. Within twenty meters he could see everything. If they were fighting together they would be unstoppable.

Naruto knew that the arena to test their skills against other students would be open after the first exam. He looked forward to being able to test out his abilities. Here he wasn't as special as he had been back Nuohing Academy. Shrek only took in monsters after all.

Naruto had denied that he was a monster when he was called that by his villagers. Here to be called a monster was to be coming of age.

Ren said dropping the pill into his hand, "Take this and train tonight. It should help you break through the 25th level," he paused then added, "Or give it to your friend. He could certainly use the added boost. His talents lie in ice."

Naruto grinned. That's what he needed. He didnt want to give the wrong elemental pill to his friend. It wouldn't do Yu Hao any good if it wasn't his element.

For himself he had a choice of elements. Lightning and ice. Ice he had mastered as much as he could before his boost in power.

Ice fang had evolved with the boost. Larger ice spots came from touches and not just with his hands. He could focus it to any point of his body. Or even envelope his body entirely. The last one took a lot of his ki and could only be held for a few moments.

Lightning fang was similar to how the tiger fought. His lightning element was purified ki. It took hours of purifying for him to be able to use his skills.

The attack would disrupt the ki flow of the defender. Only a person who had absolute control over their ki could dissipate the attack. They would have to expand their normal flow swiftly. Most were unable to do so before they lost consciousness.

Thunder break was a second skill given to him when he gained the purple ring. With it he could undo Lightning fang.

In going up against another Lightning ki user it also emitted a negative charge. Most lightning ki techniques were positively charged. As such it made fighting those with the same element as himself easier.

For now though it would be given to his friend. Yu Hao needed the pill more than him. With any luck the boy would break through a few levels.

After being dismissed he left straight for the dorms. As expected Yu Hao was training his ki. Naruto startled the slightly older boy when he flopped down upon the bed. The glare he received made him laugh lightly.

Yu Hao snapped, "You have your own bed to flop down on. Don't disturb my training. I'm far enough behind as it is."

Naruto held up the pill just as his friend was turning away. He saw the widening of the others eyes.

Naruto tossed it to him and said, "Here you have this one. I promised to help you train. Now I'm doing good by that promise."

Yu Hao stuttered out, "A... are you sure? I mean these are incredibly expensive and rare for first year students."

Naruto grinned as he answered, "Of course. You're my friend."

"Thank you."

There was only another brief moment of hesitation. Then the dark haired boy took the pill and went back to training. Grabbing his sword he decided to train another one of his techniques.

Chapter Text

A/N thanks for your reviews and support.

kirsty21: thanks for your review my friend. Glad you enjoy it.

TigrezzTail: thanks for your review my friend. They certainly are.

DarkRavie: thanks for your review my friend.

Fan Yu's POV

After letting his disciples out for the day he normally would work on his own projects. This day something was different. Something told him to go to the courtyard.

It was later in the day so students were in their dorms. Either they were doing homework or training their ki. The courtyard should be clear of students but it wasn't.

Three blonds were fighting in the middle. The sparks from steel clashing against lit up the darkening area. It wasn't quite twilight but it soon would be

As he drew closer he noticed that all three were wearing first year uniforms. It wasn't often he saw one first year student with weapons skills that weren't their spirit essence. Most of the time it had to be taught when they came to him.

The closer he got the more he realized that they were the same person. It seemed this child was from the elemental villages. The copies were all flesh and blood.

Yu watched with a critical eye as the swords clashed expertly. Each movement was precise and well executed. Someone had trained the kid well.

The boy and the two cloned suddenly came back together. It looked as if he was going to dissipate them when they separated again.

One of the clones went left and the other went right. The one he thought was the original went above. Then he recognized the technique as they attacked in tandem.

Dance of the Crescent Moon. That explained who taught the boy swordsmanship. He remembered Hayate Gekko as a student at Shrek. He helped the man when he was here. Out of the students of that year he was the best.

If this was the man's student then he would be here to become a retainer. Interest. He could be more than just a student in retainer part of the school.

When the boy went to land his ankle twisted and he collapsed to a knee. He held his injured ankle. Then his head shot up as if sensing Fan's gaze.

The boy called out startling blue eyes suddenly on his hiding spot looking up to his , "Who's there?"

The voice was a lot younger than he expected. Even for a first year that was way too young.

Fan stepped up and the blue eyes locked onto him. The boy questioned cautiously, "Who are you?"

Fan sighed at the suspicion but answered, "I am Fan Yu Head of the Retainer classes and Deputy Headmaster of the Spirit Weapons Faciltiy. I recognize that technique you used. A student of Hayate Gekko I assume?"

The boy looked him up and down still suspicious. Then he greeted, "Naruto Uzumaki. Hayate is my sensei. How do you know him?"

Fan replied with a small smile, "I taught your mentor. He was one of my students. Had a natural talent for Spirit Weapons but never nurtured it. How old are you 10?"

Naruto said, "9 actually. I turn ten in October."

He is only 9? Extraordinary. In the entire time Fan Yu had been at Shrek no one so young had ever been accepted. There wasn't even an ounce of deception in the boy's eyes.

This child was something else. His eyes held a determination in them of someone far older. It made Fan want to see him nurtured into his full power.

Normally the Weapons Hall would not take a student until after their first month exam. If the student couldn't pass that exam they didnt belong in Shrek. He could see that this kid however would not have any problems with the exam. Someone had trained him well and he took to it.

Fan was sure that the Headmaster would allow him to make an exception. The man was as laid back as they came. Even if the main school didnt agree it could be done in secret for at least the next three weeks.

Fan said as footsteps could be heard from the other side of the courtyard where the first year dorms were, "You have strong potential there, Uzumaki. Do you have any plans for the next three weeks before you take the exam?"

Uzumaki shook his head as he gained his feet. There was slightly less weight on the injured ankle but if he wasn't looking for it he would have missed it.

Another child appeared from behind Uzumaki. He came from the dorms and by his clothes he too was a first year. Uzumaki's eyes lit up with happiness at seeing the boy.

The boy had dark hair with deep blue eyes. The boy greeted, "Naruto! I did it! I broke through to the 18th level!"

18th level? This kid wasn't even level 20 yet? Then what about?

Staring at the blond he knew there was more power behind him. Even if his friend was weak, Uzmaki wasn't.

The boy queried blinking at the sight of Fan, "Who is this?"

"Fan Yu of the Spirit Weapons Facility. You are?"

The boy answered with a gentle smile, "Yu Hao level 18 Spirit Master."

Yu Hao... this was the kid Zhu said had potential for the Weapons Facility. His level was too low to amount to much. However she was rarely wrong about someone.

A thought came to him. What better way to test their abilities than with a practice match?

"If you two want I can offer you a place in the Weapons Facility," he held up as hand to stop their questions, "First you must pass a test first. Fight me. Show me your potential."

The boy's glanced at each other then Uzumaki nodded. There was something else in his eyes. Determination and fire. It would be interesting to see what the boy could do. To make things fair he wouldn't use his full strength. Otherwise he might kill the boys.

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.

TigrezzTail: thanks for your review, my friend. Falls into their lap might not be the right term. First, they have to prove themselves. And the power difference between them is nothing to scoff at.

DarkRavie: thanks for your review, my friend.

Naruto's POV

Both he and Yu Hao activated their spirit rings and essences. The world around Naruto became almost like a grid fashion.

Spirit eye and resonance allowed his friend to see 360 degrees up to thirty meters. It would allow them to read Fan Yu's movements before he made them. With any luck, they would be able to land a few hits on the man.

Fan Yu's own spirit essence activated along with three rings. Two gold and purple. As Deputy Headmaster of the Spirit Weapons facility, he had to have more than just three. He was going easy on the boys who between them only had three rings.

Naruto nodded to Yu Hao. He would allow his friend to control the battle. As an attack-type spirit master, Naruto's main focus would be keeping Fan Yu busy. Yu Hao would be trying to find openings.

Without an ounce of hesitation, Naruto rushed at the man. There was the briefest flicker of surprise in the man's eyes before they hardened.

That flicker was the only warning he had before the man slammed into him. The breath was knocked from Naruto who skid across the concrete. He hadn't even seen the man move much less had time to block the attack.

He rolled back onto his feet hands prepared to block another strike. A strike that didn't come. Instead, Fan was simply watching him.

Naruto returned to his feet carefully watching the man. Fan watched him with a cold look in his amber eyes. He was just as wary as Naruto was. Even if he was several ranks above him.

He took a deep breath to calm himself. Xaiogang would be disappointed if Naruto didn't use his head. Fights could not be won with strength alone. Strategy and using one's head were apart of it. Even if he wasn't a control spirit master he had to use his head and not waste chakra.

Yu Hao ordered, "Naruto use that technique you've been practicing."

Blue eyes widened. He wanted Naruto to use Shadow Clones? Would they even work against this man?

The questions faded quickly as resolve filled him. He had to trust in his friend. If they didn't work then at least they would know. Better to use the techniques that were already seen and hide his spirit abilities. At least for now.

Naruto brought his hands up in a familiar hand sign. He called out focusing on dividing his chakra as many times as possible, "Shadow Clone Jutsu!"

At the activation of his jutsu, his chakra split three dozen times. 37 Narutos stood in the courtyard surrounding the man. Surprise stayed longer than a few seconds on his face.

No one his age should have been able to pull off such a Jutsu much less to this degree. Naruto would force this man to use his spirit essence if it was the last thing he did.

Unlike Naruto, Línghún could not multiply himself. Calling forth his own spirit essence would detrimental to using shadow clones. Unless... that was it.

He called forth Línghún. His essence answered his call easily. Without having to speak it already knew his plan. As soon as it disappeared into the crowd of Narutos' they rushed at the man.

Puffs of smoke announced the loss of clones. He received their memories of the man barely moving to hit them.

Naruto moved so that he was in the middle of them. At the moment he was just trying to get a feel for the man's power. It was difficult considering Fan seemed to be content on playing with him.

His hand flexed. The temptation to use Lupus was great. The Guardian of the Forest would certainly do damage. Using it though had been forbidden by his Master. Xaiogang had gone to great lengths to make sure no one suspected him. He would not let that go to waste.

Fan let out a brief cry of pain and another destruction of a clone told Naruto that Línghún got him. Perfect use of his spirit while testing his clones.

Naruto rushed through the clones catching Fan Yu off guard. Línghún had a firm bite on the man's right arm.

He ordered, "Línghún, lightning!"

Electric ki flowed over his shadow fox essence into the man. Closing the distance Naruto went to strike him in the abdomen only to have Línghún flung into him. The force of the fling sent him skidding across the concrete tearing open the sleeve of his jacket and cutting his arm.

Yu Hao leaped from his place hidden in the clones. He struck Fan Yu in the shoulder before being thrown back by Fan's own punch. The shockwave of ki could be felt even from feet away. Nearly sending Naruto right back off his feet.

It was in that moment he realized that there was absolutely no winning this fight. Even if he used Lupus he might land a few hits but they would be defeated. Three spirit rings were not enough against this man.

Naruto would give it everything he had through. It was time to use his second soul ring.

Yu Hao must have realized what he planned to do. For he and the remaining clones fell back. They formed a barrier between the blond and Fan.

Fan sighed, "It seems this is as far as your potential goes. You both landed strong attacks on me. You should both be proud of yourselves. Not many can accomplish what you did."

"This isn't over yet. I still have a trick up my sleeve."

In truth, it was a dual trick. Two-spirit abilities in one ring. No one knew about it except Naruto and Xaiogang. He would use the first of the two now.

Lightning began to envelop the young boy. It focused itself on his right arm. Using two of his clones as a distraction he closed in on Fan. As soon as he got close Fan tried to block instead of dodging. His clones had moved so that there was no room to run.

Naruto's ki attack hit the man in his forearm. Lightning coursed over the man causing him to grunt in pain. It disrupted his ki but only for a moment.

A black outline formed behind Fan as he growled, "Shadow Liger, transform!"

Claws struck out at him and the force sent him flying into a clone. It dissipated. The others soon followed as the took them out in the blink of an eye

The man activated his soul rings. A golden light shone around them as the pressure around them increased. Two gold, two purple and four black.

The pressure made him tremble with fear. He never felt anything like the fear he felt right then. True fear kept him pinned to the spot where he landed.

Behind him, Yu Hao was too frozen in place. They were in the presence of a Spirit Douluo.

Then the pressure abated leaving both children shaking on the ground in fear. Neither of them had ever encountered such power.

A hand appeared in his vision looking up he found Fan Yu staring down at him. Gone was the cold look instead had returned the warm look in the amber eyes. After a moment of hesitation, Naruto took the hand.

He was hauled to his feet and even as he stood his legs shook. A reminder of the difference in power between them.

Once Naruto was slightly steadier Fan Yu went to help Yu Hao. Gently they were led out of the courtyard into an unfamiliar building.

A bald man grabbed Yu Hao from Fan and led them towards a sitting room. Naruto was pushed into a soft chair and Yu Hao did the same. They were in shock he blatantly realized.

"Cai Hao go get me two mugs of hot chocolate. Also see if you cant find an unused soul crystal," came Fan's order.

When the older boy came back the hot chocolates were given to the shell shocked boys. The hot chocolate warmed him in a way he hadn't felt before. This wasnt something he was allowed to have before.

Fan said once they were calmer, "You both passed the test. I'm sorry that I scared you so bad. If I hadn't you would have kept coming at me all night if necessary."

Naruto's lips twitched slightly with amusement. It was true. Unless he was put down he would keep going until he had nothing left.

The man continued, "Let me introduce myself again. I am Fan Yu Deputy Headmaster of the Spirit Weapons Facility. This is my core student Cai Hao. There are a few other students but mainly they keep to themselves. They have their own masters to work with."

Here he paused. Naruto considered his words carefully. Out of the students in the academy only Cai Hao seemed to hold any esteem to the man. Yet he had chosen Yu Hao and himself to be the next students to enter.

Why? Why them?

Fan continued calmly, "I am in need of new apprentices. The ones already in the academy have their own way of doing things. Some good some not. You both would be a fresh pair of eyes to the department. The skill you have shown in working together was extraordinary. So if you are both amenable then I would like you both to start training here."

Yu Hao stood from his chair and said as he bowed, "I would be honored to have you as my teacher."

A soft look entered the man's eyes as he looked at Yu Hao. Naruto reluctantly said, "I am an apprentice alchemist. Would I be able to work here?"

Fan nodded as he answered gently, "Of course. I can work around your schedule as an alchemist. You have morning classes and then spend your afternoons at the guild? Then your evenings can be spent here."

Naruto nodded. That was certainly possible for him. If he was going to learn from both facilities he would have a leg up on other retainer students.

He said, "I would be honored to be one of your students."

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.

Zoran Dawn-Eclipse: thanks for your review, my friend. All good my friend we all have a lot going on.

TigrezzTail: thanks for your review, my friend. Six whole ranks higher. Fan Yu isn't a bad guy. But he will do what is necessary to stop someone if needed. This time it just happened to be Naruto.

DarkRavie: thanks for your review, my friend.

Naruto's POV

A blue crystal was held out to the blond after he finished his chocolate. Fan said, "Take this and focus your ki into it. I want to try something."

Naruto took it confused. The man motioned for him to go on.

Taking a deep breath he focused his ki into the warm blue crystal. It lit up briefly for a moment ice blue with electricity running through it.

Then it began to change. The lightning broke off into nine pieces. They formed a circle each piece fitting perfectly into it.

Out of the formed a giant ice dragon rising through the lighting circle. It roared before finally settling.

Fan said checking the crystal, "Well I'll be damned. I thought it was possible that your ki had begun to acquire a form. I didn't expect this though. A fully formed doesn't soul sea is rare for your age. Now, look at the nine points. With any dragon soul sea, there are points. They represent the seats of the dragon. There are nine in total. For the most part, people only have three or four in their soul sea. To have so many you have a lot of potential."

Naruto asked curiously, "What does this mean for me? What does knowing your soul sea do?"

Fan continued, "When you first start training your ki you learn basic cultivation techniques. Your soul sea will make a form. This is when you would change your cultivation accordingly. If I had to guess you are stuck in trying to break through to the next level. Keep that crystal. As long as you are the only one to use it. It will tell you any changes in your soul sea."

Naruto nodded. Fan was leaving the room the next moment. This left the three children alone and confused. He was only gone for five minutes before he returned.

In the man's hands was an ancient-looking scroll. Fan said, "This will explain the cultivation technique. This should allow you to break through the 25th level. I cant help you with this for my own soul sea is different. Yu Hao when you get to this point I will give you your own crystal. Until then you will just have to be patient."

Naruto bowed as he said, "Thank you sensei."

Yu Hao said, "Yes teacher. I understand."

Fan Yu ordered, "Go. It's late and if I remember correctly the exams for the Apprentice alchemist are in a few days. When you pass that then come back."

Both boys bowed before leaving the faculty. Yu Hao went back to his training while Naruto's focus went straight to the scroll.

On it was a warning telling him not to use the technique unless he had both elements of ice and lightning. To use it against the warnings would result in death.

It went further to say that once he activates the hand signs he must be left undisturbed. The longer he could stay in the cultivation technique the first time. The more control he would have over it.

Another warning lay at the very bottom of the scroll. The words so faded that they were almost illegible.

While using this technique he had to keep his ki and chakra flowing in the correct direction. If it faltered for even a moment he could lose his mind and kill everyone around him.

After several moments of serious consideration, he decided to go with it. The risks were heavy but he could not stay at level 24. Not if he wanted to help his teacher and friend.

The hand signs were dog, dragon, and horse, and dragon again. Then he had to hold the sign of the dragon. That would activate the cultivation technique.

Cultivation techniques as a whole were only written out by those who discovered them. Inscriptions were a dangerous business. A spirit master could lose themselves in it. Insanity would overrun their minds. If the inscription was done wrong then it could destroy the body.

Focusing he began the hand's signs dog, dragon, horse, and dragon. His eyes closed as he felt his elemental kis activate.

Lightning began to swirl around him. The air began to freeze and dense fog filled the space. His breathing slowed in and out while he focused only on his ki flow.

It was erratic and unstable. It wanted to lash out and reverse its flow. The training that he had gone through to control his chakra only helped marginally.

The difficult would only increase from here on out.

Yu Hao's POV

As had become the norm for him he had spent the entire night training. He was too weak to be any use at this point. He was barely making the minimum level for the exams in a month.

Only a moment later he realized how cold the room was. Even with Daydream big brother's natural affinity towards ice.

"That boy," speaking of the Daydream big brother, "Yu Hao be glad that boy is your friend. To be able to control the Black Heaven and Earth technique is said to be impossible. Yet he has been able to keep control all night. There is no way he will make it to classes today. If he can truly train the Nine Seats of the Dragon then there will be only a few children who could match him."

If Daydream said it, it had to be right. So far the ancient spirit beast had not lied to him. If it wasnt for the ice and mental attributed worm he would be useless.

Sighing Yu Hao changed into fresh clothes. With a last glance at his friend, he grabbed his bag. Maybe when classes were over Naruto would be done.

Zhu inquired when he made it to the classroom, "Hao you're alone today. Where is Uzumaki?"

"He started training on a new cultivation technique last night," he answered, "He can't be disturbed until he finishes."

Zhu ordered dismissively, "Take your seat."

They continued their discussion on spirit weapons. They were basic information. If he wanted more on them that would require time in the facility. He highly doubted he would get any experience with the weapons for a while.

When classes ended for the day Zhu called him over and said, "Hao I want you to go to the Alchemist Guild. Tell Uzumaki's master what is going on."

"Yes, teacher."

Finding the Alchemist Guild wasnt difficult. Getting them to let him in to see Ren Xaiofan however was. The man was busy preparing for his student to take his exams.

They refused to let him pass at first. Saying that he was a friend of an apprentice held no sway. Every minute he stood here arguing was wasting time he could be spending earning money selling fish.

Naruto not being a ranked apprentice didn't help his case. None of the masters knew or cared about a foreigner child. To them, Naruto was little more than a nuisance until he proved himself.

When he was finally let through he found Ren Xaiofan studying a large book. It was the size of three of his own textbooks combined.

The man said without looking up, "You are not Naruto. What can I do for you?"

Yu Hao replied, "Naruto won't be making it for studying today."

Xaiofan's head shot up a moment later his green eyes on Yu Hao's blue ones. He asked in a low growl, "Why not?"

"Hes learning a new cultivation technique," he replied. He was not a mouse. He couldn't show any fear to this man. No matter how intimidating he was.

The man groaned, "Now of all times he learning one. Take me to him."

That was how they found themselves in the shared dorm. Frozen air had become electrically charged. It seemed his friend had moved into the second stage.

Xaiofan was studying the scroll that Fan Yu had given Naruto with a frown. Whatever he was finding he didn't like it.

He snarled, "What the hell was Fan Yu thinking?! This is well beyond the capabilities of a Grandmaster. Much less a nine-year-old."

Yu Hao queried curious to know more, "What is it?"

Xaiofan replied blowing out a harsh breath, "It is the Black Heaven and Earth technique. Only a few masters know of its existence in this world. Those that do know it is extremely dangerous. The risk to one's mind is high just trying it. The number of those that successfully have completed all three stages I can count on one hand. Most die in the first stage. But in reality, the dangers don't truly begin until the third stage. Only one percent of those that try to make it to that stage. It's a forbidden cultivation technique because of this."

Forbidden. There were very few cultivation techniques that were classified as such. Most belonged to the dark spirit masters.

Fan Yu must have pulled a lot of strings to get his hands on such a technique. The man was powerful by his own rights. To be a Doulou at his age was extraordinary.

At the same time, he was apart of the Spirit Weapon's Facility rather than the main school. Many masters looked down upon the faculty. They thought only the weak needed such things.

In truth with the weapons fighting those stronger than oneself was more possible. Not guaranteed. Just possible.

Both Yu Hao and Xaiofan were too lost in their own thoughts to notice the subtle changes happening. The ki was retracting back into Naruto but it wasn't becoming less intense. If anything the intensity only continued to grow.

Then it exploded knocking Yu Hao off his feet. Xaiofan was able to keep his feet but only barely.

The ki retracted back into Naruto calming slightly. Xaiofan groaned, "He's entered the third stage. It won't be much longer now. Either he will complete it. Or it will kill him."

Naruto's POV

His breathing was ragged as he continued to focus. Sweat ran down his face with the effort.

His ki was trying to break from his control. With each moment it only got worse. Only the sheer force of Naruto's will allowed him any control.

Inside his ki center, he could feel the ki beginning to form something in the lightning and ice. The scroll had said that he would need to force his ki into a form. One that matched but was slightly different. That would be the final part of this technique.

His ki lasted out in a final effort to break free of the confines of his body. It almost worked but with the last bit of his strength, Naruto wrenched it back. Pressing down upon it lightning and ice worked together to form a roaring dragon in his center.

With that done he opened his eyes to see his dorm room. The windows were fogged with the temperature changes. Slowly the room began to return to a normal temperature.

For his part, Naruto collapsed back onto his bed. He was absolutely exhausted from that. He should have realized that fighting with his ki in such a way would leave him exhausted. Closing his eyes he tried to calm his racing heart.

A warm hand on his wrist startled him into sitting back up. Only for another to press down on his chest. His eyes shot open to find Ren checking his pulse. Slowly he relaxed into the hand holding him down. Ren wouldn't hurt him.

Ren chided not sounding angry just disappointed, "That was stupid of you to try alone. You could have killed yourself."

"I'm sorry sensei," apologized Naruto. He had known the dangers before he even began the technique.

Even if he had died he wouldn't have regretted it. Disappointed in himself for not being strong enough but no regret.

Ren sighed, "You didn't damage your center or your mind. Both of which you should be grateful for. Now get some rest. You have a long day ahead of you tomorrow."

"I can," he tried to argue.

"No," snapped Ren, "You can't. Doing anything more would be useless right now. It would only hurt your progress. So rest. The exam is tomorrow."

"Yes sensei."

Chapter Text

A/N Thanks for your reviews and support.

CAD270895: thanks for your review, my friend. I can't guarantee pairings just yet. I don't know who I'm going to match who just yet.

Zoran Dawn-Eclipse: thanks for your review, my friend. I'm glad you enjoyed it. If Naruto wasnt as strong as he is it would have turned out much different.

TigrezzTail: thanks for your review, my friend. I'm glad you enjoyed the dragon. Soul seas can take many forms and most of the time it's not seen until much later in life. Once it is formed through that's when training truly begins. As we will see in the coming chapters.

DarkRavie: thanks for your review, my friend.

Naruto's POV

The roof was hot as each apprentice sat at their desks. It was the first part of the iron apprentice exams. 72 apprentices in total were hoping to get their iron apprentice badge.

Once earned badges were always to be worn on the outermost part of their clothes. They would gain access to the Alchemist Library allowing them to study even further.

Up to this point, they had to rely on word of mouth from their master's. The information could be incorrect or insufficient for exams. It all depended on how well the master themselves knew the information.

Xaiofan was the complete opposite of most masters. If Naruto had questions he had to first search for the answer himself. Then he and Xaiofan would have a discussion on what he found.

This worked in his favor. Rather than immediately seeking out his master he first went to the man's library. It gave him independence that most apprentices didnt have until they were silver rank.

If Xaiofan was to be believed his knowledge alone would allow him to pass the silver apprentice rank test. Sadly his practical skills were still lacking due to the sheer amount of ki he possessed. He needed time which if he passed his first test at Shrek he would have plenty of. That test was only a few weeks off.

Both he and Yu Hao were ready for this test. It was all thanks to his master who listened to his concerns. He showed that like Hayate and Xaiogang he could be trusted at least to listen to him.

If the masters of the Guild knew that he had taken those medications out of the hall a few days before. Xaiofan would lose his credibility as a master. They could even go so far as to ban the man from the Hall. As such Naruto would also lose any chance he had at becoming an apprentice.

That was not something he would risk. With this exam, he would be an iron apprentice. Then he could focus on learning control and making the alchemist pills.

The test in front of him was finished and as expected it was easy. Xaiogang had shown him the value of knowledge. While he might still prefer practical learning he didnt ignore the value of book learning.

He couldn't help wondering how the man was doing. He sent a letter but so far he had not heard back. Realistically he knew it took time for mail to travel but he couldn't help the impatience.

Xaiogang treated him less like a student and more like what he thought a parent would towards a son. While he didnt have any experience with it himself he had seen it in children back at his village. It was something he constantly longed for.

Both Xaiogang and Hayate had taken up father like roles in his life. Without them, he would be lost on what to do.

A ding sounded alerting Naruto to the end of their first trial. An examiner came around to pick up their test sheets then told them to wait in the hall.

Around him, other students stood and made their way to the door. The looks he was given told him exactly what they thought of a nine almost ten-year-old being in their midst. They thought he was much too young to be a first-year student at Shrek. Much less to be taking his iron examination.

Sneers had crossed their faces the moment he presented his letter of recommendation. To them, he was just a snot-nosed brat who was in way above his head. He would show them that he wasnt someone to look down upon.

Nervous energy filled the air as they waited for the results. They were nervous about whether or not they passed. Naruto knew that he would pass this portion of the exam. There was never any doubt in his mind. Xaiofan prepared him well for it and if it was simply tested on his knowledge he would pass easily.

It was not, however. He still had to successfully make a pill. Rank mattered not as long as it formed.

Other things also had to be met when an alchemist apprentice was tested. Tradition dictated that no apprentice could test for any other level until they became iron apprentice. If his master had high enough faith in him. Then in several months, he could take his silver exams bypassing the bronze completely.

It wasn't unheard of but to do so was rare. Knowledge in the Alchemist library was locked based on rank. What most apprentices needed would only be available once they reached the rank of bronze.

Xaiofan being the man he was kept all of his notes and books. That was what made up most of his library. A few other important books were in it but they were vastly outnumbered.

Fan Yu, on the other hand, was the exact opposite. His library was had scrolls of techniques from all over the continent. There were even a handful of ninja techniques.

He too allowed Naruto to use his library. One scroll, in particular, he was trying to learn the technique off of but was having difficulty. Its name was the 3000 Lightning Movement technique.

From what he could tell it was broken up into three parts. Lightning flash which increased the speed of the user exponentially. It was based off of one's strength ki and how much of their ki was purified. Naruto had the ki needed but still had difficulty purifying large amounts.

A boy snapped drawing his attention away from his thoughts, "You shouldn't be here. You're just a child. How you were even picked up by a master is beyond me."

Naruto shrugged as he replied, "I have to tradition the same as you. Otherwise, I would be testing for silver ranked apprentice. My knowledge is already on par with that."

"Bullshit!" Snarled the boy.

If Naruto had to guess he was four years older than Naruto. This made him at least a second year at Shrek. As much as they down upon him, he would surprise them by placing first in the written.

The boy stomped back over to what Naruto could only assume was his group of friends. They waited almost an hour before the proctors returned.

An older man with grey-brown hair said, "We will now announce the results of the first exam," every apprentice straightened, "For the first time in ten years we have someone who answered every question correct. Naruto Uzumaki congratulations. Your hard work has paid off and you made your master very proud."

Only three others were accepted into the second stage. The bully was not one of them. Outrage made his face go an ugly purple color as Naruto walked past him.

He didnt dare attack the blond in fear of who his master was. Attacking an apprentice without actual provocation was seen as a declaration of war. Though he could wait until Naruto passed his first exam at Shrek.

When he did that he could be challenged at Shrek's Arena. In the arena, students honed the combat skills against one another for ranking. The best of the best were declared the 7 Shrek Devils. It was a high honor only done once one group was about to graduate.

Next year would be the next battle for it. Naruto planned on being one of the chosen. Shrek made monsters and he would be acknowledged as one of the best. Being one of the Seven Devils would improve his standing when he became a retainer.

First, he had to pass his iron examination. The second examination was in one large room. Alchemy pots sat on the tables. They were basic iron pots used by entrance level apprentices.

Ingredients lay on the table next to the pots. They were low-level ingredients but easy to work with. The pills formed could be used for accelerating training potentials. The better one's control the more likely it would be a higher grade.

Most pills were broken into three grades for each level. Low, mid, and high grade. Black colored was low grade. Dark blue was mid-grade. Silver was a high grade. There was a final grade rarely seen outside of the Alchemist Tower. It was gold.

The higher the grade pill the more effective it was. To know what kind of pill it was you had to check the line through pill. Each element had a colored line specific to them.

Naruto went to the first desk and waited for the others. The three other apprentices came in just a moment later.

The proctor was the last to come in. Looking at each of them, in turn, he said, "Today you will use the ingredients on your desk to take a pill. There are enough for three chances. If you run out of ingredients or time runs out you will be disqualified. You have two hours to complete one pill."

They immediately began working on their pills. Naruto lit his cauldron and began putting ingredients in counting each carefully. If the count was even slightly off it would fail.

Once they were all in the pot he focused on his ki. His ice ki began to leak into the pot and he struggled to keep control over it. It wanted to lash out with the force of his strength. Only his will to succeed kept it in control.

Ice began to form on the table before him and the pot began to shake. Minutes passed and the ingredients were finally drawn into their essences. Carefully he began to compress the essences into the pill that was needed to form.

Behind him, he heard three explosions in rapid succession. It seemed they had failed in their first attempt.

Naruto returned his focus completely to the task in front of him. The compression was the most difficult part of making a pill.

His pot rattled loudly as he compressed his ki and the essence of the ingredients. Minutes passed until the rattling stopped.

Slowly he released his ki and the air around him returned to normal temperature. Carefully he opened the pot and looked inside.

The pill lay perfectly in the center. It was dark blue in color and a light blue almost white stripe through it. It was a cultivation strengthening pill specific to ice spirit masters.

He grinned at the sight of it. It was just a rank one mid-grade pill but it was his. The fact that he had been able to do it without Ren acting as a stabilizer was a feat in itself.

Picking up his pill he went to the desk where the Proctor sat and handed it to him. He was swiftly dismissed back to his desk. The man would not announce the results until it was over.

Two hours passed swiftly. While waiting for the others to finish Naruto sat on the floor with his legs crossed. He focused on cultivating his ki trying to break through the 25 levels.

With the Black Heaven and Earth technique he finally broke through five minutes before the end of the test. His center had expanded ever so slightly with the new level.

It was unnoticed by most but everyone's center size was different. Depending on the cultivation technique and how well it was used one could grow its center. His was larger than most because of the sheer amount of ki he was born with. It would only continue to grow as he trained.

Opening his eyes he heard two explosions behind him. It seemed that two of the examinees had failed. There was no way to make a pill with less than five minutes to the test.

Carefully he stood and brushed the dirt from his clothes. There was only one apprentice left trying. From the way her pot was rumbling it was either almost over. Or it was going to explode.

To his surprise, she was able to hold through it. The pot slowly settled onto her table. When she lifted the lid it was obvious she had succeeded.

She pulled out a black pill with a red line of fire ki going through it. Rank one grade low but it was still a pill.

She brought it straight to the proctor and then they waited. When the time was up and no other pills were brought forward the proctor began examining them.

First was the girl's pill. Naruto could feel the man's ki activate as he examined it.

When he spoke it was in a low tone that was almost a whisper, "Rank 1 Grade low. Flame ki regenerating pill. You pass Miss Lune."

The man passed the pill back to the girl. Then he turned to Naruto's and a brief flash of surprise went through his eyes. It was soon followed by intrigue as the man picked it up.

Ki once again activated as he examined the pill. Naruto was not worried about what the man would find. He had done an excellent job. Not only had a pill been formed but he only used one set of ingredients. The others had used at least two if not all of the sets.

"Rank 1 Grade mid. Uzumaki you pass as well. Well done on your pill," said the man as Naruto stepped forward to take it.

The two that failed were led from the room. Two men entered with Master Alchemist robes over their normal clothes. The badges declared them gold masters.

One master stood in front of Naruto and the other stood in front of Lune.

The one in front of Naruto said as he placed the badge on the out part of his jacket just above his heart, "Naruto Uzumaki today on you are an Alchemist apprentice rank iron. Should you wish in three months' time you may take the bronze examination. Good luck to you and your master."

Similar was said to the girl. Her green eyes glared at him as if he somehow slighted her. For his part the blond ignored her. It was people like that, that annoyed him.

At least he had his pill and his iron badge. That was a win that he would not let go.

Hayate's POV

He stood in the Lord Hokage's office surrounded by several clan heads. Only the Uchiha clan wasnt present as they had been killed shortly after the youngest son went to Spirit Academy.

It was two months since the start of Shrek's first semester. Naruto would be taking his first exam in less than a month.

Normally family and mentors were invited to the exam. It was a great way to earn fame for young Spirit Masters.

This time almost the entire upper echelon of the village. It seemed that there was going to be a show during this year's first-year exam. Only Hayate knew that Naruto would be in the test. Seeing these old men surprise would be the highlight of his year.

Sarutobi said drawing his attention, "Thank you for coming. I have received word that one of our three Spirit Master students has entered Shrek early. They have invited us to see the first exam of the year."

Several of them began to mutter amongst themselves. They all seemed to think Sasuke would be the one in Shrek. It seemed they forgot that the young Uchiha would never be able to reach level 30.

If it wasnt Naruto then it would be the Inuzuka kid. There was no way that Uchiha kid would make it to Shrek a year early. He would be lucky to even make it into the intermediate academies at all.

Sarutobi continued putting a stop to the murmurs, "I will be going. Clans should choose at least one member to accompany me. Hayate Gekko will be going as well. Make your decision in three days."