A/N: Read this note, would you kindly?

Here we are, by popular demand. I've been holding onto this for a good while now.

Alright, alright, folks asked for them, so here they are, published at last. First one's the harem, second the NarutoxRanni. Each will be radically different from the last of course, and I can only pray that I live up to your expectations.


Once more, we're sticking with the "Embers" rule for this story.

If folks don't like this, it won't be continued. Meaning that if the story itself ain't popular? POOF! Gone. Completely. I'm working two jobs during the holidays so I barely have time to write; as such, I cannot afford to write something folks don't enjoy. So by all means, speak up! Your voice matters! Make yourself heard! As ever, reviews are the fuel that sustain me. Without them I cannot write a single word. Simple as that.

Two jobs keep me absurdly busy, and I can't bring myself to write something folks don't like.

Alright then, this old man has kept you long enough! I'll let you enjoy this sappy little story.

As ever, I own no quotes references, themes or memes. Not a wit or a one!

Title's based on the song, Shed No Grace on Me, by JT Music

Now then, I'll not keep you. Get ready to smile~!

"Never been one for blessings...or gods."

What's that? Me, maidenless? Really?

Ha! That's cute.


Shed No Grace On Me

...that is a big tree."

Kurama's remark was certainly on point, Naruto mused; a mighty oak great and gilded like so much spun gold, it loomed large across the horizon; easily the biggest thing he'd ever laid eye on...and head seen more than a few giant monstrosities in his day. Yes, right, big golden tree. Very nice, very impressive, very bright. That much had never been in question.

The next bit? Not so!

Blue eyes swept left. Blue eyes swept right. He didn't see a single soul in sight. What he did see were rolling green hills dotted with piecemeal ruins, a sprawling landscape as open as it was vast. This was in every way a foreign land to him, a pace he'd never been before. Seeing was, as they say, believing, and he didn't believe for a single solitary second that he was anywhere near home. His pulse quickened in his veins as his thoughts began to race; the drums of a great hunt out for blood.


In the blue hell.

Had they woken up this time?!

"Why do we keep waking up in strange places like this?!"

His breath hitched in his throat, heralding a surge of panic lest he hyperventilate. He bit down on it and stomped it into bloody oblivion. Stop! Don't panic. Arms? Check! He glanced over at his right limb, thankful to find it still in one piece. The bandages were still holding at least, even if the fingers were a little stiff. Legs? He glanced down and heaved a sigh. Alright. Not hurt or crippled in any way. Great!

Which brought him back to the matter at hand. Here! Where! How?!

"Did I eat some tainted ramen or something..?"

"Stop panicking." a low sigh pervaded the back of his mind. "You're giving me a headache."

Easy for him to say! Everything had been fine! His last memory was of his head hitting the pillow. He'd been safe and warm in his bed, sleeping off that mission. He barely even remembered the details. Something about a scroll and a ring or something.

...you mean the ring on your finger?"

Blue eyes snapped to his left hand. On his fourth finger. All the color drained out of his face. It was...a simple thing, a little golden ban writ with symbols -runes?- he didn't much understand. He tried to tug it free, only for it to cling tight to his finger; much to his chagrin, the damn thing actually seemed to constrict around his flesh, biting down painfully.

"What the hell?! Why won't it come off!"

"Congratulations." he could hear the smile in his partner's voice. "Looks like you got hitched when you weren't looking."

"To who?!" he bleated back. Another tug, another failure. "Oi! Guys!" raising his voice, he called out to the wilds. "You got me, alright! Ya can come out now! Get this thing off me!"

Silence reigned supreme.

"This ain't funny!"


"Look around." Kurama prodded him when he began to flounder. "Maybe there's something we can use to get our bearings...?"

There. In the distance. Movement. A giant knight clad in golden armor, astride an equally large horse. Who was it? A man? A woman? Distance and armor made it impossible to discern their identity. Huh. Something was better than nothing. For lack of any other option, he started down the hill towards them. No need to use the cloak here. The rider cantered back and forth almost lazily, utterly unaware of his presence. Still he came closer. Only a stone's throw away now.

"Hey!" he shouted, waving a hand. "Any chance you know where I aaaaaaaargh!"

His words pitched into a yelp as the rider pivoted with frightful grace and brought a golden halberd crashing down...



...into an equally golden palm. Blue eyes blazed red as the ground cratered underfoot.

"That," he hissed, "Wasn't very nice."

Then he yanked.


Clenched knuckles barreled upright in a rousing uppercut, ripping the halberd from the golden knight's grasp and striking them dead on the chin in the same instant. Their mount reared. Rider met ground. Even as it began to rise Naruto leaped onto its chest. A sandal-clad foot stomped down, eliciting a low groan from his would-be killer as it drove them back into the dirt. Wrestling their shield down, he shoved a kunai up under the warrior's chin, point tickling the pale expanse of an exposed throat.

"Lets just calm down and reset our tempers, eh?" he hummed softly. "I'm not your enemy. Don't make me use this."

The knight went still beneath him. At length it made a tiny, awkward noise.

"Now, I'm going to let you go. Promise not to attack me?"

Another faint sound, almost like a sigh.


He stepped back, muscles tense, read to flee. The man -was it man or not?!- rose ponderously, sitting with legs folded beneath them. Their mount loosed an anxious whinny and pawed at the ground with a hoof, but made no move to attack. Seemed it had a brain after all, like its master.

"Good girl." he reached a hand up, offering it to the warhorse. "I'm not gonna hurt ya."

A low snort told him just what the steed thought of that. Still, it nosed his hand. Its emotions were easy enough to read; a simple lowering of his hands and loosening of his stance was all it took to calm the beast.

"Great. Now," he turned his attention back to the fallen knight. "Can you point me toward the nearest village? Or better yet, tell me where the hell I am? I'd settle for that."

The knight didn't speak. It only waved its hands, pantomiming something he didn't understand. Naruto blinked. Blinked again now, as the knight continued to perform...what in blaze was this, a puppet show or something? Couldn't make heads or tails of it.

...can't ya talk?"

He couldn't see the face behind that helm, but he could feel the disdain within their gaze. The knight shook their head. Slowly.

"Ouch." Naruto winced despite himself. "My bad. You can only grunt, huh?"

"Hrrngh." As he looked on the knight made another gesture. Slowly. More deliberately now, it pointed toward the giant tree, then to him, now toward a castle in the distance. That, at least, he understood. Maybe he'd find someone actually capable of speech that way. Still...

"Don't you dare. We have enough on our plate! We don't need a tag along!"

Oh a whim, he offered them a hand and helped them to their feet. "Wanna be friends?"

Rather than offer anything in the way of an answer, the warrior turned away and began to retrieve its fallen weapons.


Here at last, the great Sentinel paused, hefting their halberd and shield. Naruto tensed anew, ready to flee at the first sign of trouble. He didn't relish the idea of killing anyone, but he wasn't about to stand there and be killed himself. He stood his ground as it stalked back toward him. Only then did he realize how damnably tall it was. It stood tall, looming head and shoulders over him, brimming with unknowable intent.

"Wow." he looked up. "You're a big one, aint'cha?"

Tense as he was, he couldn't help but jump as that heavy halberd slammed into the soil, buried deep. The shield joined it a moment later, crashing down with such force that he felt his teeth rattle. And he wasn't even the intended target!

"Eh? What're you doing...?"

Bereft of its weapons, the knight paid him no heed whatsoever; instead removed its gauntlets, exposing pale hands. As he looked on aghast, the golden knight knelt before him and bowed its head low. Kneeling? Was this knight actually kneeling to him? Why? Slowly, almost ponderously, it reached up to its helm and began to undo the straps there. With only a minor grunt, the Sentinel removed their helm. An ebony curtain cascaded down their back, spilling down broad shoulders. With reverent grace, they set their helm aside, raised their gaze, and looked him in the eye.

Naruto's jaw clicked open.

"Ohhhh." he managed less than eloquently. "So that's what ya look like...

Bright green eyes blinked back at him, set within a stern visage and framed by those midnight tresses. Her face bore a jagged scar, hooking down from here forehead to well under her right ear, or what remained of it. An old wound by all accounts and healed, albeit poorly. pink with age, Younger than he expected,

His tongue betrayed him in spectacular fashion. "So you're a girl, huh? Why didn't you say so?"

Her eyes narrowed, thin lips pursed into an angry line. She opened her mouth to retort, but rather than speak, jabbed a finger just shy of it. Kurama hissed in his head. Naruto winced himself when he beheld the mangled bud of flesh there. He'd been right on the money, and yet now, he sorely wished he'd been wrong.

She didn't have a tongue. Someone had ripped it out.

...huh. It had been awhile since he felt anger.

"Who did that to you?"

She just stared.

"Fine." he'd fight that battle later. "You got a name?"

A shake of the head. When she made an irritated noise, she stabbed her finger into the dirt and scrawled a rough message.

"I no longer have one. I was the Tree Sentinel. No more-no less."

Another pause.

She wrote another line beneath it.

"I have failed in my duty and disgraced the Erdtree. Slay me."

When she made to write again, he caught her wrist.

She stabbed a finger at the message.


His brow furrowed. Hmm. Tree Sentinel. That wouldn't do. Everyone deserved a name. Even a mute, wounded wretch like this. His temper stirred again, and he shoved it down. Who would wound someone like this, tear out their tongue, and leave them alive? It...it just wasn't right. He couldn't imagine living a life without speech. It horrified him. The wound was old and healed, but maybe he could do something about it?

...thoughts for later, he supposed.

"Lady, I gotta call ya something." He flailed for a second, thinking. Tree Sentinel. Hmm. Gave up, and mashed the words together as only he could. "I've got it! I'll call you Trish, then." he snapped his fingers and stabbed one at her. "How's that sound? Meshed the words together, a little. Amazing, right?"

The Tree Sentinel made a baffled noise and shook her head.

"Nope!" he smacked his lips, "I deny your denial! That's your name now!"

She made a waffling movement with her right hand, telling him just what she thought of her new title.

A faint smile creased his lips. "Hey! I did the best I could, alright? I'd like to see you come up with one, you cheeky brat."

She glanced toward the message she'd left. Almost longingly.

"Sorry." he hummed. "I'm not gonna kill you. Not gonna let you kill yourself, either. Why don't you come with me?"

She reared back eyes wide. A hand touched her chest. Her lips parted, mouthing a single word.


"You see any other giant knight here?" he batted her shoulder. "C'mon, it'll be fun."

...well said." a new voice intoned behind them, cutting him short. "I did not expect you to best the Sentinel in such a manner. Perhaps you are the one I seek."

...where did she come from? I didn't sense her...

Naruto pivoted, just in time to watch a young woman appear out of the ether. The Sentinel stilled behind him, watching the newcomer intently.

"Greetings," her manner was smooth as silk, "traveler from beyond the fog."

Manifesting from a swirl of blue light and clad in black of cloak, this fresh stranger hid her face from them...or did, until she reached up and tugged down her hood. By contrast to the stoic warrior he'd only just befriended, here stood a young woman with chestnut hair, fair and fleet of foot. Her left eye was bound shut by a strange black mark, the like of which he didn't understand. As he looked on she knelt before him, almost gingerly, as if she were afraid of spooking him. A slow, ponderous silence pushed between them. At length, she broke it.

"I am Melina."

Her lone eyes met his.

...I offer you an accord."

A/N: Hello Melina~!

But where, oh where, did that ring come from?

To be fair, "our" Tarnished is still around...what class would you like to see him/her as? Because I've got some ideas.

Naruto running around befriending/recruiting enemy NPCs and bosses. Seems like something he'd do. And there we have it. Tree Sentinel's identity is a bit of an original concept on my part; seeing as we never see who or what's under that armor, only that they're veeeery tall. Could be anyone, really. Leave it to Naruto to name her Trish. Its like an amalgamation of tree sentinel itself.

Don't worry, I won't be making a habit out of naming NPCs, that ventures into OC territory, and I know folks don't enjoy that...

Well? Did you like this story? Yes? No? Maybe? Speak out! Make yourselves heard! Your voice matters~!

Once more, we're sticking with the "Embers" rule for this story.

If folks don't like this, it won't be continued. Meaning that if the story itself ain't popular? POOF! Gone. Completely. I'm working two jobs during the holidays so I barely have time to write; as such, I cannot afford to write something folks don't enjoy. So by all means, speak up! Your voice matters! Make yourself heard! As ever, reviews are the fuel that sustain me. Without them I cannot write a single word. Simple as that.

So in the Immortal Words of Atlas...

...Review, Would You Kindly?

And have some previews.

Granted, some are far off, but still...


"Tarnished, are we?"

"Nope, I'm Naruto. And maidenless? Do you not see the giant woman on the horse?!

That seemed to take the man aback; by the time he managed to rally they were already past him.

...lets see if we can't rekindle his warrior spirit."

"You can't heal him. He's rotted, inside and out. It won't work."

Wouldn't know until he tried. Time to put on an act to end all acts, something he hadn't done since he was a boy.

"RADAHN!" He spread his arms wide, voice echoing across the dunes. "I CAME HERE TO FACE A CHAMPION! I AM STILL WAITING!" Still grinning, he turned around, bent over, and slapped his flank. "Come and get me!"

A moment of awful silence followed. And then. The world shook with an answering roar.

Someone whistled behind him. "Big brass balls on this one...


...what do you hope to gain from all this?"

"Nothin', really." he stared into the campfire, heat smoldering in his eyes. "I like helping people." as she looked on he drove a stick into it, sparking the dying embers to new heights. "This place...seems like it needs a lot of help. So that's what I'm gonna do."

"Fool of a boy. You cannot save everyone.

He laughed at her. Actually dared to laugh. "See, that sounds like a challenge...and I've never backed down from one of those."

"Now, rot!"

"Nah. Why don't you stop using that ridiculous form, come down here, and lets talk this out like adults-HEY!"

"I am the witch, Renna. A pleasure to meet thee."

...that's not your real name is it?"

She didn't answer.

"Aw, c'mon! I wasn't trying to make you angry! You're cold, right? There's plenty of space here at the fire...

"What does thou hope to gain?"

...you're a tall guy."

Blaid chuckled. "And you fight like a warrior. Well met!"

"Would you take this message to my father?"

Nepheli clapped his shoulder. "Well fought!"

His gorge rose and he gagged. "How many lives did you graft to yourself...

"I command thee, kneel! I am the Lord of all that is golden!"

"Oi! That's my shtick!