Greetings to you all from the author. While this is not my first attempt at writing fanfiction, this is my first time doing it on this site and I believe this will be my first story which will go more than a few pages. Reviews are appreciated, contructive criticism is appreciated. Keep in mind that a lot of the story I already have determined, I just need to write it, so ideas for where to take the story, while appreciated, will most likely be ignored. Also this will be at least slightly AU for both Naruto and Bleach so don't flame me for any inconsistencies with the real storylines. Remember, there is a method to my madness, so at least wait a chapter or two if you have any questions about what's going on to see if I resolve it.

Note: I do not own Naruto or Bleach or much of anything else. I am simply a poor college student who decided to write some of the crazy things my head has come up with.

Background: After a life of pain and bloodshed, a broken Naruto has died. But instead of winding up with the rest of his deceased loved ones, he finds himself in Soul Society. Our story starts as he graduates from the Shinigami Academy.


Voice of the Dead

"Congratulations to all of you who have survived the past six years. Know that your instructors have every confidence in the fact that each and every one of you is now a strong and capable shinigami…" Uzumaki Naruto stood alongside his classmates as they were officially made shinigami, the keepers of balance between the real and spirit worlds, and guardians of the Seireitei. Tuning out the rest of the overly long and terribly uninspired speech, Naruto's hand caressed the hilt of his Zanpakuto as he let his mind wander.

Six years. Has it really been that long. Have I really been dead that long. The time in the academy seemed to drag on forever and yet, I can't get rid of the feeling that just yesterday, I was alive in Konoha.

The speaker droned on but Naruto's eyes were closed, letting his mind wander to memories he rarely bothered to visit.

It was spring last time I was there. The Sakura trees were in full bloom, almost made it seem like it was snowing. The small brook under the bridge at Team 7's old training grounds was slightly swollen from the increased rain.

The graduates were instructed to stand and state their names, unsheathing their Zanpakuto. They were even given permission to release their Shikai if they had achieved it. Several of the 'prodigies' did just that, making sure everyone knew how much better they were than their peers. Naruto dismissed them, only paying a minute amount of attention to the proceedings, his mind still lost in his past.

Baa-chan gave me the day off, knowing fully what day it was and where I would spend it. I can still remember clearly each and every name carved into the memorial stone. I probably spent more time there than Kakashi ever did, staring at those names which seemed to be carved with blood. Then again, Kakashi's name wound up there too, alongside his friends, his family. He stuck by his nindo to the end, earning his spot among Konoha's heroes.

Naruto was last in the line of Shinigami and it was finally his turn. The order was determined by class rank. Inwardly, Naruto couldn't help but snort at the fact that dead-last had become one of the more prevalent nicknames for him around the Shinigami academy. If only in his own head, Naruto thought it was amusing that even here he got pinned with the nickname. Slowly standing, he drew his Zanpakuto in a simple move which did not expend any energy on useless flourishes and left him with a perfectly balanced defensive guard.

I wonder if anyone bothered to carve my name after I died. I wonder if there was anyone left to carve my name. So many went before me. So many died…because of me.

Naruto's cold blue eyes swept over the audience, mostly vice-captains for various squads scouting for new recruits. Few in the crowd could suppress the shiver that ran through them at meeting the eyes of the blonde. Naruto opened his mouth and softly spoke two words. "Uzumaki Naruto." His voice was flat and emotionless, betraying nothing of his inner feelings. It was the voice of the dead.

Smoothly sheathing his blade, Naruto sat down just as slowly as he had risen, dead silence filled the room for several seconds before the speaker was able to continue. "Again, congratulations to all of you. You will be contacted within the next several days about your squad assignments. Good luck to you all." And with that Uzumaki Naruto once again put academy days behind him. Walking without any haste, he began to head back towards the dorms, which he was expected to vacate within the week. Once more allowing his mind to wander, Naruto paid little heed to where his feet took him.

No more will others die because of me, no more will I have to watch as those I love are cut down before me. I may not have anyone to love here, but I'll be damned if I allow anyone else to feel that pain. That's a promise.

The look in Naruto's eyes discouraged any interaction on any level with the blonde as he made his way back to his room. Unnoticed by all around him and even to himself, Naruto's knuckles were white where he gripped the hilt of his weapon. A slight breeze as he took a shortcut through the school gardens brought the scent of sunflowers to his nose. The mask of coldness which Naruto had maintained for six years seemed to crack for an instant as his eyes widened, the twin sapphire orbs glistening slightly. Pausing a moment to close his eyes and collect himself, Naruto couldn't help but wonder what had caused this slight break in his meticulously maintained façade. Continuing on, Naruto finally reached his room. Closing the door behind him, the blonde slowly sat down on his bed and closed his eyes.

A final stray thought wandered through his head, betraying his mask. It seems like only yesterday I planted sunflowers on her grave. And with that Uzumaki Naruto, former shinobi of Konohagakure, jinchuuriki to the Kyuubi no Kitsune, and newly graduated Shinigami, for the first time in six years, wept.