Hello, this is Urethane. Gonna keep this AN short. A longer one is at the end. Feel free to read if you wish.

Things to note in this chapter.

-Piandao knows of Naruto's heritage (when I do reveal his heritage, I have a feeling that many are going to be upset. I hope not though as it does make a lot of sense. I've left like a shit load of clues in the chapters (and I will for those to come as well), so keep an eye out.

-There will be no Naruto characters appearing, and if they do, they're just minor cameos at best. I have this strange gripe with people adding in Naruto characters that play a major role in crossovers. It's so boring to me (my opinion) and just... bleh. I wonder if you guys agree with me to a certain extent.

-Not much in this chapter except for a piece of Piandao and Naruto's backstory together and Mai's date with Naruto.

Naruto dropped to the ground panting heavily as his master stood before him. The wooden blade he once held tightly in his hand had clattered away from him as he had fallen from exhaustion. Sweat soaked his hair and clothes, and his wet skin caused the dirt from the floor to stick to him. He closed his eyes and gritted his teeth, hand shakily reaching for the blade that was just out of his fingers reach. The sun beat down upon him, but Naruto seemed to be completely unaffected by the heat, but it could be argued that all of his attention was directed mainly to the fact that he wanted to beat his master at his own game. But alas, he certainly was lightyears behind his master in terms of skill for the blade.

But then again his master always had a knack for using swords. The man was practically born with one in his hand! Naruto had witnessed first-hand from a good distance away, watching as his master took down a hundred Fire Nation soldiers in a nearby town with ease during one of their monthly shopping runs. All of them had come to forcefully bring him back to the capital city to atone for his crimes against the Fire Nation, mainly deserting them while the war was still ongoing. He had beaten them so badly that even the Fire Lord told the military not to chase after the master of swords.

That day Naruto was definitely convinced that Piandao was born to use swords.

Master Piandao did not take it easy on him that was for sure. The man's motto during their spars was 'if I could go through with it at your age, you're going through with it'. Piandao was a strict man to all who saw him, but his softer side emerged only when he was alone with Naruto. The boy he had raised since the day his mother had left him at his doorstep had been the light in his dark life. They shared a bond that was similar to a close uncle and nephew would, similar to a pair in the Fire Nation, except Piandao could get very harsh during their training.

He didn't earn the title as the greatest swordsman in Fire Nation history from lazing about. A few decades back, the man dominated the battlefields, never losing a single battle. However, after years of fighting he became enlightened and felt conflicted about the Fire Nation's position in the war. Finally, he chose to embark on a journey without the permission of the Fire Lord, travelling the world to study under a variety of benders, warriors and artisans.

Learning under his close friend and fellow deserter, Jeong Jeong, Piandao had learned the ways on how to perform Firebending katas, counter and combat against Firebending, just in case the need ever arose. Luckily for Naruto, Piandao learning Firebending meant that he had a pretty good teaching already.

Garbed in black linen clothing usually used in non-bending martial arts, Piandao was barely sweating. His long hair was tied up into a small bun that sat on his head and his neatly trimmed greying beard and moustache made him look very stylish. The wooden blade he held by his side was ordinary on its own but when held in his hands, hands that had wielded and mastered every sword ever made, it looked to be a weapon that could even destroy its steel counterparts without trouble.

"Why do we fall, Naruto?" The aged man asked as his shadow was casted next to his disciple. The man had turned down hundreds of brash candidates over the years who bragged about their own worth; therefore Piandao had only ever had one disciple, that being his surrogate nephew, Naruto. The boy was raised to be proud, but not arrogant, but Piandao had a deep feeling in his heart that even if he hadn't taught Naruto humility as the boy grew, the child would still have turned out the same.

"I..." He took a deep breath to stop his panting before answering with his release, "I don't know... Why?" There was little to no snark left in him as all of his energy had been practically used up, thus the lack of the usually witty and sharp tongued remark he would fire back at his master after being asked such a question. The golden haired boy turned over to lie on his back, soaking up the harsh beams of light that fell from the heavens.

"We fall so that we can learn to get back up. Are you ready to give up?" The pair had been at it for nearly two hours now which explained Naruto's heavily bruised skin from where he had failed to defend his guard. Naruto did not mind the beating he took at the hands of his master. Had this been a real fight with real swords, Naruto would've died a hundred times over. Each strike on his body was proof of that. Whether they were shallow or deep, they'd eventually affect him in a fight and cause him to slip up. But not only that, they were reminders of where he failed to defend himself and where he would have to fix the chinks in his armour.

This was merely Piandao's way of protecting Naruto. It was possible that his methods for training could be considered as child abuse, but Piandao would never take it too far like a certain Fire Lord would. If Naruto wanted to give up, Piandao wouldn't fault him. Not many could take such torturous training and stay sane or cheerful like Naruto did. The boy complained, yes, but they were all good natured complaints or usually just to annoy Piandao.

As such, Piandao decided to prod at him verbally to see if his disciple wanted to stop for today. "For just this moment, stop seeing me as your master but as an enemy who wishes to end your master. Are you going to lay there and allow me to destroy the person who cares and loves you?" Piandao continued darkly, narrowing his eyes and acting as if he was an actual enemy taunting Naruto, "Or are you doing to do something about it?"

Upon hearing his words, Naruto forced his abdominal muscles to bring him up to a sitting position. His body roared in retaliation, the strain he had already put on it coaxing him to give up, begging him to just let the 'enemy' win so that he could continue lying on the ground. So that it didn't hurt anymore.

'No. I'm not going to lie down and allow anyone to hurt my precious people!' His arms cried out as he forced them to propel the rest of himself upwards, allowing the boy to dip his head forth in his hunched sitting position. The sun's rays hid Naruto's face under his shaggy hair, not allowing any of his emotions to be shown.

'This pain is nothing if I lose someone like Master Piandao! NOTHING!' The voice in his head screamed. His round pupils unnoticeably turned slitted for a brief second before reverting back to normal, 'So get up... GET UP! GET UP AND FIGHT BACK!'

Naruto took a deep breath and began standing up slowly, pushing himself off the ground with both his legs and hands. His legs quivered briefly before he ignored the aching in his lower body, forcing them to stand still. Head still tilted downwards while on his feet, blood slowly trickled down the side of his face from a shallow cut on his temple where the skin had finally split, painting a line of crimson across his tanned face and whiskered cheeks as the droplet made its way to his chin.

Naruto bared his teeth as his limp hands clenched tightly, and he felt his reinvigorated muscles burn with energy. Still hunched back, he swung his energised hand to the side and grabbed the sword off the floor, lifting it up along with his entire body. Piandao's brown eyes widened by a fraction at the sight of the roaring flames he saw in the little boy's own eyes.

For a moment, it even seemed as though the azure orbs had turned into frightening vermillion.

Actually, the look on his face would've been adorable had the boy not looked as if he actually wanted to murder Piandao.

"HYAH!" Naruto cried as the boy rushed forwards, holding his sword close to his chest.

'The Will of Fire is burning strong in him...' A ghost of a smile flittered onto Piandao face at the sight of his apprentice charging at him with renewed strength, the determination to show his master that he wasn't going to give up so easily giving him strength. He noted just how heroic Naruto looked, charging at him despite his injuries with the blue sky at his back and the sun watching from above.

'I'm sure you'd be proud of him...'

If he hadn't been so focused on Naruto slashing at him with the sword, Piandao might've noticed a figure with a pair of golden eyes staring at them both from between the forested hills that were to the side of their training field. The sunlight suddenly turned unbearably harsh, to the point even the fighting master and student had to shield their eyes from the intense light that reflected off the ground. Over the two seconds it took for the light to die down the figure was already gone with the wind, leaving no trace of its existence behind save for the sound of quickly fading giggles.

Sitting in the kitchen with bandages wrapped around a majority of his body, a topless Naruto stared at Piandao with his large blue eyes. The man was busy unwinding another roll of thick gauze, having used the last bundle to wrap Naruto's injured chest up. The youth had lost yet again, but had actually put up a better fight in their previous spar in comparison to the rest.

"What do you mean "I've got the Will of Fire"? You mean my Firebending?" Naruto asked as he lifted a bruised hand up to his eye level before a small flame flickered into existence on the tip of his index finger. It made his digit look as if it were a lit candle.

"No Naruto, not your Firebending." Piandao smiled genially at the boy. Not even a few hours ago that face had been contorted into one of anger at the thought of losing his precious ones, people he had yet to find. But it made Piandao very happy to hear that Naruto had considered him to be one of his –soon to be many- precious people. Naruto had extinguished the fire on his finger and had begun to scratch at the bandage on his injured temple while Piandao sat down next to him on the chair.

"The Will of Fire isn't a physical thing Naruto," The master placed a finger onto Naruto's bandaged chest, right above his heart,

"It's a belief. Something you can only achieve through your heart..." His finger moved to touch Naruto's forehead, "And your mind, something I know you have trouble using at times." Naruto tittered with a weak grin as Piandao moved his hand back to his side.

Piandao was by no means calling his student an idiot. In reality, Naruto was a clever boy with a large amount of intelligence that backed up his strength, so Piandao felt no need to speak to him as if the boy were mentally his age. Though as smart as he was, Naruto could really be very dense at times. Whether this was intentional or not, Piandao didn't know at times as it seemed that Naruto enjoyed making his cool and calm master palm his face in exasperation.

"The Will of Fire is an old belief that love is the key to peace. It is the simple, yet very difficult to accomplish ideology that everyone you love and care for, you must believe in, cherish, and fight to protect."

Naruto nodded to show that he understood his master's words, "So you mean someone like you?"

"Yes. Our previous spar showed me that much." Piandao was beaming at Naruto through his eyes, who reciprocated it in his trademarked large grin, "I'm still glad that I'm one of your precious people."

"Now let me finish up with your left hand," Piandao said, gesturing for Naruto to gently lift it in order for Piandao to wrap it in bandages that had been soaked in a special salve the wizened man had created out of plants that were in the nearby vicinity. Naruto already had an incredibly high rate of healing, so the salve only seemed to make it go even faster. It would only take around six hours before his bruises would vanish.

Piandao wasn't that surprised after he had considered the boy's heritage.

"So does having the Will of Fire make me stronger?" Naruto asked as Piandao began wrapping the bandages around his limb. He had to make sure that the bandages weren't on too tightly in order to prevent unnecessary pain to his disciple.

His master hummed for a moment before replying, "In a sense. Since you want to protect your loved ones, you strive to become stronger so you have to power to protect them. Protecting those precious to you becomes... sort of an instinct. I guess you could even say that I have the Will of Fire in me as well when it comes to you." Naruto looked abashed for a moment at the bonding moment before he returned to his normal self.

"Whoa... I never thought of it that way." Naruto said as he marvelled at his free hand, staring at it in a new light. Somewhere in Naruto's mind, he knew that his Will of Fire would burn brightly in the future when he left the safety of his master and their abode in order to experience more of the outside world like Piandao himself had done. He knew for certain that in the future, he would find more of his precious people to help stoke his flames so that he could get stronger.

Secretly, he also wanted to use his powers to find her... the strange voice of a woman he had heard countless times in his dreams.

Though, as a bender growing in power, he just hoped that in the process he wouldn't burn himself down to cinders.

A few years later on Ember Island...

Naruto and Mai sat together in their seats at the perfect vantage point to watch the play and had their eyes peeled at the stage completely captivated by the amazing performance put up by the Hira'a Acting Troupe, who was using the stage of Ember Island for just one day. Many flocked to see the group act, not because they were well known, but mainly because they were not the infamous Ember Island Players, who were the ones who commonly did the plays. The Ember Island Players had a penchant for horrid renditions and frequently butchered up variations of amazing tales spawned from the mind of talented writers. In fact, their poor execution of renowned plays was the reason they were popularly visited by many of the Fire Nation's wealthiest, who came to amuse themselves from the simpletons on stages. A very clever gimmick to earn lots of money astheir plays often sold out fast.

However, this specific play was considered to be the most romantic play –one that the Ember Island Players often butchered up every year- ever written by many who had heard the original written version.

This wasn't a first for both Naruto or Mai, as both of them had seen the play a handful of times. Ever since Naruto had been taken in as Azula's bodyguard and butler, and Mai was befriended by them, they had been dragged along with the rest of the Royal Family and Ty Lee by the First Lady of the Fire Nation to watch it. It was a yearly event that left everyone except for Ursa in disappointment.

As horrible as the acting was, Naruto noted that Ursa always seemed to have a hidden smile that was brimming with bittersweet memories. The blonde boy assumed that she was reminded of her past, having watched it in her youth before she was made royalty by Ozai. Watching it again, but this time with her family, must've brought her a massive sense of nostalgia and happiness.

He was sad that the banished lady was not around to see the indubitably and infinitely better version. Naruto was certain that Lady Ursa wouldn't have blinked at all throughout the entire play. The current actors on stage were superb and poured all of their passion into acting as if they really were the actual characters. It didn't take much longer before the play was at its climax as the Dragon Emperor, bound to his mortal form -under the alias Noren- by the Dark Water Spirit, struck down the antagonist of the story after confessing his love to his mortal girlfriend.

The Emperor swung his mighty blade, the Kusanagi no Tsurugi, and slashed the Dark Water Spirit across the chest. The Water Spirit cried out in pain and clutched at his injured chest. It didn't take the Spirit long to realise that he was completely outmatched, and thus retreated into the darkness, silently cursing the Emperor for managing to somehow break the curse he had placed on him as well as the fact that he had been defeated.

Naruto had to admit that as much as he disliked the Dark Water Spirit, he got to have a pretty cool mask. He quietly wondered if there were replicas for sale...

As the Dark Water Spirit ran off stage, the Emperor's girlfriend who had been taken in as a hostage suddenly broke free of her confinements and revealed herself to be none other than the Dragon Empress, the wife he had been neglecting even beforehad been turned mortal by the Water Spirit. The shocked Emperor dropped his sword without care, rushing forwards to meet the masked woman.

"Even though I had forgotten you... that I was trapped in the body of a mortal... that I had fallen for another... you willingly gave me your heart! My Queen... I cannot help but give you mine in return!" The Dragon Emperor said from behind his red mask, wrapping his arms around his wife's waist. Although none of the audience could see theirs eyes as it was blocked by the masks they wore, love shone clearly from their eyes. It was easily inferred that the two playing the characters might possibly be more than just colleagues behind closed curtains, ergo their fantastic chemistry together on stage.

"Only with your glory hidden in false form, the very same power taken from you that I returned with my everlasting love for you, could you finally recognise my devotion!" The elegant woman said as she brought her hands up, clasping her palms around the cheeks of his mask.

"And I'll never forget it, my queen. Never." At that line, the shaggy headed blonde couldn't help but smirk as he remembered a certain fire-breathing ember-eyed girl who would no doubt be chasing after his head since he had gone absent without official leave in order to take Mai out for her advanced birthday present. Naruto couldn't help it. He knew Mai loved watching plays, and it was one of the hobbies he had unearthed from her cold exterior. Naruto smiled and tilted his head slightly, catching the wistful and gentle smile play on Mai's lips.

Even the cold and apathetic Mai had to admit that the play was amazing and very well performed, giving credits to both the books, the play and the actors involved with the current production. She was just so tired of watching the same old garbage being produced year after year so it was obvious that she was pleased by the –probably- once in a lifetime opportunity to catch a spectacular variation of the play.

She knew Naruto had paid a pretty penny with his saved up money in order to get the first class seats they were currently sitting in. The term 'a pretty penny' didn't exactly cut it because he had to overpay tremendously in order to outbid the seats from other wealthy families. Normally she would've been rather uncomfortable with the situation as it reminded her of her parents, however she knew that Naruto didn't spend the exuberant amount of money on her to make himself look good in her eyes, something her parents would have done without thought for her. Instead he had used the money to get better seats so that she would have an amazing memory of the play due to the clear view they had, thus giving her a birthday present that she would have a hard time forgetting.

As the actors delivered their final lines, they bowed to a clapping audience who had begun to stand up one by one to deliver the deafening applause. The curtains were quickly drawn, concealing the actors and marked the end of the play. Still in their seats while the audience below them began to shuffle out of the room slowly, both turned their heads to look at each other at the same time. Mai's eyes were soft and happy, unlike how they normally were.

"Thank you for the birthday present, Naruto." She bit her lip for a second, a light blush on her face at the fact that she had considered it a date between them, "That was amazing. I had a lot of fun."

Naruto scratched the back of his head, smiling down at the slightly shorter girl with happiness, "Don't need to thank me Mai-chan. This was a really fun date!" In the dark room, he failed to notice her blush darken at the fact that he too had perceived their entire time at the theatre as a date. She hadn't forgotten the fact that he had called her 'absolutely stunning' back at the palace when he first caught sight of her in an actual dress.

Realising that it was quite late into the evening, Naruto stood up and grinned as he headed towards the exit of the theatre, "Come on, it's getting late and we don't really need Azula-chan to bite our heads off."

Still slightly dazed from his last comment, it took Mai a few seconds before she finally came to her senses. She turned to see that Naruto was patiently waiting at the door with a raise eyebrow at her hold up, beckoning for her to follow after him.

Quickly getting out of her seat, she chased after Naruto and delivered a soft smack to his arm upon his laughter. They walked out of the large building that housed the theatre and headed towards the docks where their private ship awaited them. He had quietly borrowed the metal steamboat from the Fire Lord's personal collection of sea vehicles, which Naruto had to learn on how to operate as one of the requirements for being Azula's ward.

"We should do this more often." Naruto admitted to his best friend, who nodded. Mai didn't know what overcame her, but suddenly feeling particularly brave she rushed forwards and quickly grabbed Naruto's arm, wrapping her own around it. The way she held onto it was definitely more than what was considered to be 'just friends'. Even Naruto understood that much from the scarlet flushing on his whiskered cheeks.

Leaning into the side of his arm, Mai laid her head onto his shoulder that reached the bottom of her ears –there wasn't that big of a height difference between the three girls and Naruto despite their small age gap- and released a content sigh at her comfortable position.

"Yeah... Yeah, we should." She whispered back as they both made their way down the long and desolate boardwalk. At the very end of the dock, their private boat rocked quietly amongst the waves, it's once dull black colours replaced with the piercing orange of the dying sun. They even took a moment to stop and stare, admiring the breath taking sight of the blue ocean and darkening skies painted in different shades of red. Salmon pink skies were mixed with dark blue clouds, filling the skies up. The gentle waves of the blue ocean carried tinges of reds and oranges, changing colours every second as they moved. With the final shot of the amazing sight before her burned into her mind, Mai could easily say that her advanced birthday present was complete. Well, there was still the kiss but Mai wasn't a wishful thinker. She knew that she would never forget this amazing day even if she wanted to. It was impossible. It was the best day of her life... so far, of course since there were still many, many, many more to be had with Naruto.

She suddenly inhaled and brought her hand up to her fairly flat chest, clenching it over her heart.

There it was again. That strange feeling in her heart. Could it be? Was she... was she falling in love? That, as smart as she was, she wasn't completely sure. She was young and this could be all just something people her age experienced commonly, but she sincerely hoped that this feeling would stick around for the long run.

Mai was confident enough to say that in her current state, not even a fire breathing princess yelling her head off at her for stealing their crush away for the day could ruin her evening.

Hello, it's me. It's been a while, huh? Yes, I know I haven't updated in a while, but trust me it's not that I don't want to.

Anyways, I hoped you enjoyed this chapter. Not much after such a long hiatus, but I hope you'll forgive me. I'm trying my best to write, but I just end up saving and closing whatever I do write.

If you'd please, some motivation would be appreciated.

Also, if you're interested in DC X Naruto, go and check out my other account (link in profile). It's called The Boy with the Green Thumbs, featuring some of your favourite female villains de-aged and Naruto himself. Some of you guys have already seen, favorited and followed it, which really surprised me. When I saw a few familiar names I wondered if you guys actually knew that I own the other account.

Lastly, shout out to the gift that keeps on giving, SaucyHandles, who has been leaving really long reviews on most of my stories. Thanks for the words of encouragement and compliments! The rest of you guys also have my thanks for all the reviews you've given me! I genuinely enjoy waking up and seeing the words 'review' on my notifications. I go through every single review that's sent to me and I read them all even if it looks like I don't.

Anyways, that's all from me for now. See you at the next update.