Hello, to you all once again. Once again I find myself apologizing about the delay and rationalizing that I'll do better next time, but we've all seen how well that has worked. Hopefully I will be having a decent amount of time to write in the coming weeks and I pretty much have most of the next chapter already written in my head, so it shouldn't take me that long to write. I was originally going to have the next chapter and this chapter be combined but I figured you guys had waited long enough and would rather I post something now and something later. However long the next chapter takes, I hope you enjoy this chapter and as always reviews and constructive criticism are appreciated.
Note: I do not own Naruto or Bleach.
The Desire to Kill
"You're telling me that he had no friends in the Academy? That no one really knew who he was?" Soifon disbelieving eyes drilled into the Shinigami Academy teacher who sat across from her in the Captain's office of the Second Division. Yorell Muyle had dark brown hair with several streaks of gray and wore a patch that identified him as a professor for the Academy where most shinigami have their division number. He wore his Zanpakuto with the ease that comes from centuries of experience.
"He was basically a social outcast," the teacher confirmed, "But he really seemed to prefer it that way. He never even made any attempts to befriend his classmates as far as I know, and there were only a few who were not intimidated by his rather... cold manner."
Soifon made a sound of frustration in the back of her throat. Her investigations into the background of Uzumaki Naruto had basically been at a standstill from the beginning. No one seemed to know him as a friend and no could tell her anything beyond the very brief summary the Academy provided each captain with upon graduation. She studied the words on the page skipping over the top which simply stated 'Uzumaki Naruto, Ranked last in his class'. It went on to basically say that they knew nothing about what his true skills were.
"If I may ask, Soifon-Taichou, why are you so interested in the dead last of the academy? Surely there are others in your class who would benefit more from your attention." Soifon glanced up from the page and studied the man in front of her. A Shinigami who retired from active duty was not common, and teaching at the Academy was often where these souls ended up. They were no weaker than they had been before, and the position of teacher within the academy carried a moderate amount of respect, since it was usually only the most experienced who received the job. Breaking off her gaze at the man, she grabbed a paper from her desk and handed it to him.
"I believe you may find this report interesting, Yorell-san." Her gray eyes remained upon the Shinigami professor as he glanced over the piece of paper. After a few minutes of studying he raised his eyes to meet Soifon's, a question in their gaze. "Look at who filed the report." She explained simply. His eyes returned to the paper before widening almost comically.
"Has this been confirmed?" She nodded almost imperceptably. He scanned over the report again, trying to make sense of it. "But this should be impossible for anyone freshly out of the Academy, no matter what state the other Shinigami were in."
"Apparently the normal boundaries do not apply to Uzumaki Naruto. I only just received confirmation a few hours ago which stated that he did indeed subdue several drunken members of the eleventh squad who were causing a disturbance on his patrol route. It has also been confirmed that one of them was the seated officer, Abarai Renji. All of this was done without weapons on either side, and witnesses reported that the members of the eleventh squad were hard pressed to even land a hit on Uzumaki." She paused here to let the info sink in before continuing. "There is also the fact that he was able to fight me to a standstill in an unarmed spar."
Soifon was again treated to the sight of the Shinigami professor's eyes widening. "Impossible."
Soifon continued as if he had not said anything. "Albeit I was holding alot back, but it seemed he was as well. This is why he has not only my interest, but my concern. We know nothing about his personality or motivations and can only guess at his true skill level." Her mind thought back to what the blonde had said, her eyes taking a far away look.
'Killing is all I know how to do.' The memory of his cold steel eyes shook her more than she would admit. Shaking off the memory, she brought herself back into the present where an aged Shinigami was eyeing her curiously. She cleared her throat self-consiously under the professor's gaze and continued. "I will not feel comfortable assigning him to any squad until I know he is trustworthy."
Muyle clasped his hands together and rested his chin on them, never taking his eyes off of Soifon. "Have you tried talking to him?" The question caused Soifon to smirk, but before she could reply there was a knock on the door and a emotionless voice called out.
"Uzumaki Naruto, reporting as ordered."
"Enter." Soifon called out. Muyle kept his face blank, but he shot a mild glare at Soifon as the door slid open, revealing the blonde hair, whiskered face, and glacial blue eyes of one Uzumaki Naruto. He slowly walked into the room, his eyes carefully evaluating every shadow of the room with the experience of someone who has been on both sides of an ambush countless times. He wore the same outfit he had when he had first shown up at the training grounds. Simple black pants with many pockets, a nondescript black shirt, and the jacket which was crisscrossed by streaks of flames. Several pouches were strapped to his side and the strip of cloth with a metal plate which bore a spiral in the shape of a leaf was tied around his head.
He stopped half a dozen paces behind the seated Shinigami professor who still had his back turned to him and the door, before going into a rest position, hands clasped behind his back, feet a little wider than shoulder length, and eyes straight ahead, drilling a whole in the wall above and behind Soifon. He stood like that for a moment before either of the rooms other occupants realized that he was not about to break the silence. Muyle, turned to him and stood, "Ah, Uzumaki Naruto. I hear you have been causing just as many waves outside of the academy as you did in it." Naruto's eyes glanced at his face before returning to the far wall, never breaking his silence. "I have heard that you have displayed remarkable skill in areas that you never participated in during your years in the academy, skill that some would say belong to a prodigy. I am curious, are you able to contact your zanpakuto as well?"
Their was silence for a moment before Naruto answered, never moving anything besides his mouth. "A prodigy, huh?" His voice sounded almost amused. "I never was, nor will I ever be a prodigy. I simply know how to use what I have. As for my zanpakuto... I am unaware whether or not I am able to contact it, seeing as how I have never tried."
Soifon glanced sharply at the professor, but his look of surprise confirmed that he had not known this either. Resigning herself to not having many questions answered in straightforward ways she returned her gaze to Naruto.
They stood there for another moment, both Soifon and Yorrell Muyle studying the young shinigami before them, while he seemed to ignore them both. Finally, Soifon stood as well. "Uzumaki Naruto. You have been called here to answer a very simple question." Her eyes stared into icy depths, as if some clue to his answer could be found there. "Who is Uzumaki Naruto?"
For just a second, a hint of confusion broke through his carefully controlled mask, before he regained control of himself. "Sir?" And just like that his face, eyes, and voice were back to the carefully maintained emotionless facade. Soifon strode around her desk until she was standing right in front of the blonde, and next to Muyle.
"I want to know who you are. What motivates you? What is your dream? What do you fear? What can you do? And why the hell you didn't do any of it in the academy?" There was dead silence in the room. Naruto's iced blue eyes stared straight into and through the grey orbs of Soifon, as if he was looking into the distance, into the past. Buried deep within those eyes Soifon thought she could see a glimpse of the man that stood before her. A glimpse that both terrified and enthralled her.
"You wish to know who I am? No, you only think that is what you seek. You wish to know what I am." This cryptic statement was followed by silence. As he continued to stare into the distance. Soifon, caught in his gaze, didn't dare break the silence. But Yorrell was not so willing to remain silent.
"Well, then, what are you, boy? Out with it." Naruto turned his head and pinned the man with a steady gaze. A sharp intake of breath told him that he had silenced the man and he returned to staring through Soifon's eyes, to whatever sight lay so far away.
"I have been called many things. So many that it is impossible to describe myself in its entirety. But the essence of who and what I am is the same.." Another moment of silence before his voice again sounded, this time no more than a whisper. "I am shinobi. I am... jinchuuriki." The finality of the tone and the distant expression in his eyes stifled any response there may have been. Quiet descended upon the room again, this time neither of the seasoned shinigami dared to break it. With a small bow to both of them and a quiet, "If that is all? Soifon-taichou; Yorell-sensei." Uzumaki Naruto left the room, leaving behind more questions than he had brought.
Yorell summed up both of their feeling, "Damn, so much for finding answers."
It had been a month since her conversation with the mysterious Uzumaki Naruto and he still haunted her thoughts. She never let on to any of her classmates or professors what was going on in her head. Maintaing her high quality of work and hanging out with her friends took up most of her time, though a few people closer to her did notice that she seemed distracted at times. She made several subtle inquiries about the blonde enigma but the only things she discovered was that he had been sent to some sort of remedial training for shinigami, which answered a few questions, but none of the ones that were truly bothering her. Deciding to put the mystery to the back of her mind for now, she concentrated on the captain in front of her.
Soifon-taichou, captain of the second division, leader of Seireitei black ops forces studied them with hard eyes. This was to be their first trip to the real world of the year, and Junko coudn't help but feel nervous. It would be their classes first time being put into a real combat situation where they were expected to do most of the fighting. Several members of the second squad were accompanying each group to keep them safe, but their performance evaluation depended on them slaying any hollows they came across without assistance. She nervously clutched the hilt of her zanpakuto, the feel of the navy blue cloth which adorned the guard of her blade was a comfort for her. Unbidden, an image, and a cold, emotionless voice came to her mind.
"My blade serves one purpose. When I draw it, my opponent dies."
She shook her head, ridding herself of the image, only to realize the whatver Soifon-taichou had been saying, she was finished. The Shinigami captain, was now staring behind her at the group shinigami that were to be their escorts. Junko scanned them briefly and almost gasped in surprise when her eyes landed on a familiar head of blonde hair. Surprised by his presence she examined him. He looked exactly like she remembered him when he walked out of her room a month ago. His blade was strapped comfortably to his side, and she noticed that his hand, while relaxed, was resting on the hilt of his blade, ready to draw it for any provocation. As if sensing her gaze, Naruto's eyes turned to meet hers, and even across the courtyard of the shinigami academy, she could still easily make out the deep blue of the freezing ocean that laid behind his eyes. Their gaze held for a second before she gave him a bright smile, which he responded to with a slight nod of his head. He immediately returned his gaze to the silent shinigami captain, an action which Junko soon copied. She remained unaware that her brief interaction with Naruto had been noticed by an interested captain .
Trying once again to forget about the blonde for the moment, she prepared herself for her task ahead. She knew she would be expected to kill and was prepared for it. Somehow she knew that today she would finally be able to answer that question that had haunted her for a month. "Why are you here?"
"Uzumaki! Front and center!" Soifon stared at the mysterious shinigami as he walked to her. No, walk is the wrong word. He prowled, his body tensed and ready, a predator in every sense of the word. Here, in the real world, hostiles could be anywhere. It had taken Soifon decades to develop the kind of attitude that she already observed in the Uzumaki Naruto. He came to a stop before her, going into a stance that indicated his attention, but did not make him vulnerable in any way. Soifon turned to the gathered Shinigami, both second squad members and academy students.
"Before we begin our live combat testing we have something to take care of. Most of you academy students have hardly had to lift your blade, much less defend your life. But realize that is what is on the line." Soifon began pacing in front of the assembled Shinigami, her eyes taking a moment to study each student. "Every time you draw your blade your own life and the lives of your brothers in arms are relying on your ability to fight, your ability to kill. If you are not willing to accept this, then you have no place among our ranks." She paused for a moment to allow these thoughts to sink in. "Today, and every day at the academy is a chance to prove yourself capable of handling this responsibility. Keep that in mind from this day forward."
Soifon stopped her pacing and turned to Naruto. "Uzumaki Naruto, recent graduate of the academy. I'm sure some of you may recognize him. He is here today because he never proved himself while he was in the academy. Today is his chance to finally do that. If he proves himself capable, as with any other Shinigami, he will be assigned to a squad. Before you split off into your groups in order to be evaluated, Uzumaki Naruto will demonstrate to us his capabilities. Keep him in mind as you go through your own tests. More than just to be evaluated, he is her to show you how to kill." She turned to Naruto and in a lower voice so that only he could hear her continued, "I do not like you, Uzumaki. But more importantly I can't trust you. In my opinion, you shouldn't get this chance. But lucky for you, you do get this, your last chance" Her eyes fought with his in a manner reminiscent of their own physical fight weeks before. "Prove your words and prove yourself and show that this chance has not been wasted." And with those final words, Soifon produced a small, silver wafer before closing her fist on it, spreading its spiritual essence into the air. With a small, smirk and a whispered, "Let's see what you can do." Soifon took her place next to the assembled Shinigami, leaving Naruto on his own.
A terrifying howl sounded from an uncomfortably close distance. The observing academy students whispered among themselves. Some telling stories of the legendary dead last, some wondering if the Shinigami Taichou had lost her mind, putting him up against something like that. However, all of them couldn't help but notice the utterly indifferent attitude of the Shinigami all their attention was devoted to. His hand still rested upon the hilt of his blade, and some began to voice the question of what the sword of the dead last would look like. He hadn't even shifted his stance, letting himself remain still as a statue as the academy students speculated. His cold eyes scanned everything in front of him, searching for a target. Not a hint of fear in him could be sensed, for he was not the prey. He was the predator.
Without warning a huge shape materialized in front of him, no more than a hundred feet away. It too remained still, eyes observing the audacious warrior that stood before it. The hollow stood more than six times the height of his opponent. His long arms stretched down to his knees, and his glowing eyes had the sense of a primal intelligence. His teeth were pointed and razor sharp, and a drop of saliva hit the ground with a sizzle. Still, Naruto had not moved.
With a piercing howl, the lumbering hollow charged, pushing off with his long arms to gain an extra burst of speed. It quickly halved the distance between them, claws and teeth ready and waiting to kill.
Naruto still had not moved.
Junko didn't think she had ever been more terrified in her life. This huge beast was bearing down on her friend and she was too terrified to even move. Her knuckles were white on the hilt of her zanpakuto. As she stared at the terrifying sight before her. From her position she was able to see the profile of Naruto's face as well as the oncoming monster. Just as she was about to scream something even more frightening happened. Naruto closed his eyes, as if welcoming death... and then he laughed. Not a creepy laugh, not a sarcastic laugh, nothing like that. It was full blown humorous laugh, as if the man had never experienced something more hilarious. His eyes were closed and his head was thrown back. It was such a confusing sight that even the hollow slowed his approach, puzzled by the response of its intended prey.
Naruto's voice broke through his laughter, though it was still colored by humor, "This is the fierce hollow, the nemesis of the Shinigami. This animal is what you fight against." And suddenly the humor and laughter was gone, replaced by the ice cold attitude that they were all familiar with. "Pathetic." The cold tone was spoken with so much certainty that for an instant Junko felt ashamed that she had been afraid of this hollow. "This hollow is nothing more than a common beast. And it does not deserve the honor of dying by a blade." His tone began to take on tones of anger, even rage. "You all wish to know how to kill. The easiest way is to conquer your fear and then... give it to your enemies!" As he said this a weight descended upon the crowd. It was not the weight of spiritual pressure, but something far more focused, more primal. Junko's attention was drawn back to Naruto and she gasped when she saw his eyes, crimson as blood, with a black slit for the pupil. Junko could see the pure, undiluted rage held there. "You all feel it don't you. Even though it isn't focused on you, observe what pure fear, pure terror can do to your enemy." His words were laced with venom. "You cannot simply be willing to kill. Your entire purpose at that moment, you entire being is focused on the sole objective of ending your enemy's existence. That is what you feel now, not simply the will to kill, but the desire to kill."
The hollow was cowering before him, having been slammed to the ground by the pure force of the Shinigami's rage. Naruto approached calmly, the hollow managed to raise his head and froze when it met the crimson fury of the angry Shinigami's eyes. He never hurried, never ran, just walked with a slow sureness of purpose. The hollow whimpered. The blonde pause half a dozen paces from the prostrate hollow. "Pathetic." He repeated before he simply vanished. A wet crunching sound reached the ears of the onlookers as a hole appeared in the mask of the hollow an instant before it shattered. Naruto's form reappeared in front of the crowd, fresh blood coating his hand and forearm. His gaze swept over the crowd. "Any questions?"
The hollow screamed in pain, the harsh sound causing many of the students to wince. Gradually the oppressive feeling they were experiencing faded, even as the rageful crimson eyes were replaced by freezing sapphire. "Good luck to you all." His cold voice broke the silence that had settled as the hollow faded. But the silence that lingered as he walked away lasted much longer.