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Chapter 4 – Zanpaktou

"Disintegrate…"

"You black dog of… of…"

Remember! Remember!

"of Ron… Ronadonini!"

"Look upon yourself in horror!"

"And then claw out your own neck!"

"Bakudo Number 9! Geki!"

The incantation had worked. Naruto's target was now surrounded by a red light and was completely paralyzed, or so Naruto thought. Soki, her blue hair contrasting the surrounding red light, seemed to move in slow motion within the sphere. For the most part she was helpless, but she wasn't completely paralyzed. Finally managing to free herself she smiled at Naruto, "That was really good Naruto, but if you're gonna say the incantation you have to say it right."

Naruto was disappointed; he had thought that he had finally managed to remember the full incantation. Soki, having spent enough time with Naruto in the past few months, knew exactly what was going through Naruto's head, "Relax Naruto. You were so close. It's 'Rondonini' not 'Rona-donini,' and 'claw out your own throat' not 'neck'." She tried to console him by patting his shoulder.

"Again!" Naruto spat back at Soki as he pushed her hand away. Naruto and Sokis' minds had very different thoughts at that moment.

Naruto's head was filled with fear. Vice-Captain Hyuga had given him until tonight to get the incantation down for Bakudo number 9. For the past 3 months, Hyuga had been working with Naruto in secret; mostly in the privacy of night. Despite the progress that Naruto had made, she never seemed to be satisfied. In fact, the only thing that did come of his progress was an increase in Hyuga's cruel nature. That coincided with a rise in Naruto's dislike and fear of her.

Soki's head was filled with much different thoughts. Ever since seeing Naruto in his very first basics class she was intrigued by him. At first, she was mainly attracted by his good looks: his spiky blonde hair, his muscular while not oversized body type, and his cute boyish face. After purposely befriending him in the advanced class, the two struck up an intense friendship, and for the past 3 months had been almost inseparable in and out of class. While many people found Naruto somewhat conceited and annoying due to his natural talent and desire to better himself, the same two qualities only made Soki like him more. There was something that only Soki, having gotten so close to Naruto, could see in him. It was something that she had never seen in anyone else. Her smile beamed at Naruto's determined face.

After several attempts, Naruto finally managed to memorize the incantation and render Soki fully paralyzed. "That was awesome!" Soki yelled out as she ran, now released from her bonds, straight at Naruto. Leaping, she wrapped her arms around Naruto; Naruto returned the congratulatory embrace without hesitation. This was nothing new to Naruto. Soki was his best friend, his confidant, and the only real connection he had in Soul Society. He loved her; just not the same way that she was now beginning to love him.

"Wow that was awesome, Naruto!" Naruto and Soki, still in a joyful embrace, released each other and turned to see a small boy staring at them in amazement.

"Oh. Thanks Saruchi," Naruto looked down at the short boy with long black hair. Saruchi was the only other person that Naruto could call a friend, although he wasn't nearly as close to him as he was to Soki. Coming from a noble family there was a lot expected from Saruchi, but due to a lack of skill and self-esteem he had never shown any real promise. While pseudo-respected throughout the Shinigami Academy, many tended to avoid him; Naruto and Soki were the only two that really accepted him. Soki, due to her good looks and extreme popularity, was considered foolish by many for associating herself with Naruto and Saruchi.

"We're about go work on our zanjutsu. Do you want to come with us, Saruchi?" Soki asked with a slight grimace. She had felt somewhat obligated to ask. Saruchi's face lit up; he loved to spend time with Naruto and Soki. It wasn't that Soki didn't like Saruchi; she just didn't like having to share her time with Naruto. Because Naruto didn't know about her feelings for him, however, Soki knew that including Saruchi was an easy way to hide it.

Saruchi nodded excitedly and the three turned together to walk towards Training Ground #7. Walking and talking elatedly, Saruchi failed to see what the other two had noticed. Naruto and Soki stopped walking instantly. "Saruchi," Naruto's voice was low but serious. Saruchi stopped talking and looked back at Naruto. Following his eyes, Saruchi looked up to see a Hell Butterfly flying towards them.

The Hell Butterfly slowly made its way to their position. All three gasped as it hovered directly in front of Naruto. Naruto looked at both his friends in turn before raising his hand and allowing the Hell Butterfly to perch on his fingertip. He had never felt anything like it; the Butterfly was weightless, but the loud booming voice that only he could hear echoed in his head, "Uzumaki Naruto, come directly to the chamber of the Captain Commander."

Soki and Saruchi could only wait to see Naruto's reaction to the Hell Butterfly's silent message. Naruto's eyebrows shot up. "What did it say Naruto?" Soki asked apprehensively as the butterfly left Naruto's finger but remained hovering in front of him.

"But…" Naruto was still amazed by what he had heard, "But I don't know what the Captain-Commander's chamber is." Although Naruto was talking more to the butterfly than the other two, both Soki and Saruchi's' jaws dropped. Not even Naruto could fathom why the Captain-Commander would want to see him.

The Hell Butterfly turned on the spot, as if waiting for Naruto. At that point, Naruto knew exactly how to get to the Captain-Commander's chamber: the Hell Butterfly would lead him. Seemingly sensing Naruto's understanding, the butterfly started off towards the north at a much quicker pace than it had arrived. Naruto took off after the retreating butterfly, "Sorry guys… I'll see you later…,' he said over his shoulder. Soki and Saruchi stared awkwardly at each other.

The Hell Butterfly led Naruto away from the Shinigami Academy and down many open corridors that he had never been through before. He didn't pass many people, but the few shinigami that he did meet stared at him as he went by. Finally, Naruto emerged from his last corridor and was left in awe; the Hell Butterfly seemed to understand and paused momentarily. Before his eyes was a huge wooden door with a large "1st Division" printed in the middle. Behind this door was the 1st Division grounds and the chambers of the Captain-Commander. The Hell Butterfly, having let Naruto bask in his own awe, flew towards the large wooden doors; they started to open slowly.

Naruto watched as the large wooden doors creaked open in shock; he didn't even notice the Hell Butterfly, job complete, return from where it had come. As the doors finally opened completely, a grey haired Shinigami stepped out from the side and spoke in an official tone, "Uzumaki Naruto, follow me please." The older man, who was dressed more formal than any other Shinigami Naruto had seen before, turned and started walking through the courtyard that the wooden doors had hid. Naruto was led through much of the 1st division territory but did not have time to take much of it in as the Shinigami he was following was moving fast. Finally, the two reached a small door with a weird shape on the printed on it. The formal shinigami opened the door and motioned Naruto to enter.

Cautiously, Naruto entered the room, followed by the grey haired shinigami. Naruto had known what to expect when he entered the room, but actually seeing the Captain-Commander standing before him was unbelievable. His eyes closed, it wasn't completely apparent if the Captain-Commander was looking at him or simply sleeping; but something told Naruto that this old man was examining him closely.

"Uzumaki…" the commander spoke out. His voice wasn't loud but it sent shivers down Naruto back; he did not know how to respond. The commander turned to what Naruto could only think was his Vice-Captain and nodded. The grey haired shinigami that had led him to the room returned the nod and left the room leaving Naruto alone with the most powerful Shinigami in Soul Society. That idea did not help Naruto stop the shivers.

"Do you know, Uzumaki…" Naruto noticed that the commander's eyes opened slightly. His pupils were aimed not at Naruto but off to his left, "that only one other person has progressed as quickly as you have in this academy?" Naruto was amazed that the commander was talking about something as casual as his progression. He wanted to reply 'no,' that he had no idea that he was progressing that quickly or that he knew of anyone else who had done so. Something told him that the Captain-Commander knew his answer already. "That is…" the commander closed his eyes again, "… unsettling." Naruto did not understand.

The Captain-Commander did not elaborate further on the matter. "I understand that you have not yet attained your zanpaktou." Naruto's self-esteem took a huge hit when he heard the words. While it was true that Naruto was progressing at a rapid pace, he had still been unable to communicate with his zanpaktou. Most people in the advanced class of the academy who had been there over several years had managed to use their zanpaktou, even in their shika state. Soki was one of those few people, but despite Naruto's attempts for hints and clues nothing had helped. She told him that it was something that had to come from within your soul. Naruto shook his head dejectedly.

Naruto was alarmed to hear the Captain-Commander give a little laugh. "Uzumaki, I believe that there is a reason for that." This startled Naruto more than the laugh. Did he mean that there was a specific reason that Naruto couldn't hear his zanpaktou calling out to him? Seeing Naruto's shocked face made the Captain-Commander give another little laugh as he raised his walking staff into the air only slightly. Slamming the staff down into the ground, a small hidden door opened behind his desk. Turning around and walking through the door the Commander call out, "Follow me, Uzumaki." Naruto hesitated, but followed the old man through the door and into a dark room.

As Naruto entered the very poorly lit room it was obvious that the room had not been used in a very long time. Standing only a few steps into the room was the Captain-Commander. Naruto walked forward and stood next to him. Everything was silent for a long while until the shaking started. There was a box, small and non descript except for the fact that it was floating in mid air, that had started to shake violently. It was like there was something inside the box that wanted desperately to escape.

"Ever since Kisuke sent you to Soul Society, this box has been shaking." Naruto's eyes were focused on the shaking box, but his mind wondered how the Commander knew about Kisuke. "It is of no consequence, Uzumaki." He seemed to know what Naruto was thinking. "What is bothersome is my theory of why this box is shaking." Naruto waited for him to elaborate, but he said nothing as the sound of the shaking intensified.

Standing silently next to the Captain-Commander, Naruto's head seemed to race with questions. These questions disappeared instantly, only to be taken over by a single thought as the commander lifted his walking staff into the air. He touched the tip of his staff to the shaking box and the box turned to ash that fell to the floor. Where the box had been floating was now occupied by a small, orange-red glowing orb of what Naruto could only think was light.

"Uzumaki," the Captain-Commander spoke, "Zanpaktous are linked to the souls of Shinigami. The zanpaktous themselves choose which, if any, soul to call out to, and when that soul is extinguished the zanpaktou returns to the void of nothingness to await another it deems worthy." There was a long pause as the commander opened his eyes slightly; they were filled with the light from the glowing orb. "Some zanpaktous, however, remain in our world even after its linked soul is gone. There is no known reason for such occurrences. Some zanpaktous are simply… eternal." As the Captain-Commander paused to let his words sink in, the dark room was void of all noise.

Naruto's eyes stared at the orb of light in wonder. There was something about this light; something familiar; something terrifying. Suddenly, right before Naruto's eyes, something seemed to be staring back at Naruto from inside the orb. It was face; not human face but some sort of angry animal with menacing black eyes and glaring fangs. Naruto thought he had seen the face before.

"Uzumaki, please release your reaitsu." It wasn't a question but a command. Naruto, lost in thought, obeyed unconsciously. As Naruto's reaitsu increased, something strange started occurring within the orb. The face that Naruto had seen had protruded from the orb as if trying, but failing, to escape the limits of the light. A strange growl started emanating from somewhere within the orb. This growl became louder and louder before turning into a howl. The howl rang through the room, shaking Naruto to the core. Naruto was horrified, but the commander simply released a confirming "hmmm."

"Uzumaki," The Captain-Commander's voice was still low but seemed to pierce through the orb's howling, "this zanpaktou has been dormant since before my time. The morning before the Captain's walk, it started to release a spiritual pressure that I had never encountered." Naruto remembered the day of the Captain's walk. "I felt that same pressure when I passed you in the courtyard." That, Naruto thought, must have been why the Captain-Commander stopped right in front of him. He had felt the same thing in Naruto that he had felt from this orb of light? This orb of light that was actually a zanpaktou!? "Touch the light, Uzumaki," the commander ordered.

Naruto was terrified. The last thing he wanted to do was touch the orb, but he knew he had to. He and the orb shared something that he didn't understand, and he had to know what it was. In a movement that happened before his mind could stop him, Naruto reached out and wrapped his hand around the orb.

"Master?" The voice echoed through Naruto's mind; or was it his mind? Where was he? He knew he wasn't in the same room anymore; he couldn't feel the commander's reaitsu anywhere.

"No! You are not my master…" The angry voice rang out through the darkness that now enveloped him. It was much darker than the room he was just standing in, and Naruto couldn't tell if his eyes were opened or closed. Suddenly, Naruto's eyes, apparently open, were filled with an intense light. The light was the same color as the orb. Instead of a small ball of light, however, Naruto's eyes were completely immersed in orange-red light. He raised his hand to shield his eyes.

Naruto waited, but his eyes never became acclimated to the light. Try as he might, he couldn't look anywhere near the source of the new light. The only thing that seemed to come into his view was a dark figure far off in the distance. "You… are my master…"

The voice was coming from the direction of the distorted figure. "Has it been that long?" The voice seemed to be asking himself the question instead of asking Naruto.

"Who are you?!" Naruto yelled out from behind his hands.

"That voice!" The tone of the undistinguishable figure seemed shocked, "It's brighter than I remember! Less composed; more anxious. You are not the same as before…" the voice now seemed disappointed, "But, there is no doubt that you are my master…" The voice was now loud; Naruto knew that the figure was close to him, but he still couldn't see who was talking to him. Who was this? Why was he calling Naruto 'master?'

Naruto could feel something on the top of his hands. Some force was trying to pull his hands down and expose his eyes to the blinding light; and it was succeeding. There was no resisting the force, and Naruto hands were soon pulled down below his face; the light hurt his closed eyes.

"Open your eyes… Uzumaki Naruto…" It was the same voice as before. Naruto knew that whoever was speaking had forced his hands down. Despite the pain Naruto knew would pierce his eyes if they were exposed to the orange-red light, something told him that he should obey the voice. Slowly, Naruto opened his eyes.

The light was still blinding, but Naruto tried his hardest to fight through his mind's desire to keep his eyes closed. Naruto finally got to a point where his eyes could open no further; his eyes were small slits, but he could make out a figure standing right in front of him blocking some of the light. The figure, to Naruto's dismay, was still fully distorted.

Naruto knew there must be a reason why the figure was still distorted. The two were standing so close that, even through Naruto's slits of eyesight, he should be able to see the figure clearly from that distance. "It has been a long time master…" Naruto couldn't see the figure's mouth moving.

"Who are you!?" Naruto repeated as he closed his eyes. He knew that straining himself to keep his eyes opened was no use.

The figure seemed to give a mocking laugh, "Have you forgotten your faithful servant in these many years? My name, master, is…" There was only silence.

Naruto felt the heat of the intense light disappear suddenly. Shooting his eyes open, Naruto instantly knew that he had returned to the hidden room in the Captain-Commander's chambers. Letting his eyes adjust to the sudden change in light and allowing himself to rethink what had just occurred, Naruto was too inattentive to realize the item in his hand.

Remembering that the Captain-Commander must still be beside him, Naruto let his head turn. Had Naruto not just went through an amazing experience himself he would have thought that what he was seeing was astounding: the Captain-Commanders eyes were almost completely open in shock. His eyes, his old grey eyes, were focused on Naruto's outstretched hand. As Naruto turned his head to follow the commander's eyes, his eyes too shot up in shock. In his hands, glowing a faint orange-red, was what Naruto knew was his zanpaktou.

Standing alone in the darkness of training ground number 8, Naruto couldn't take his eyes off of the zanpaktou held out in front of him. The last few hours had been only a blur; he only vaguely remembered anything since leaving the 1st division territory. His mind seemed to unconsciously guide him to the training ground to await Vice Captain Hyuga. He didn't even notice her approach.

"Have you memorized the incantation, yet?" The Vice Captain's voice rang cold in Naruto's ears; he had become almost used to the tone. Without lowering his outstretched arm, Naruto's head turned to Hyuga. The sound of her voice seemed to break him from his long daze. It didn't, however, break the astounded mood he had been in since receiving his zanpaktou. For the past few days, Naruto's main focus had been memorizing the incantation, but now that was just an afterthought. The most important thought in his mind now was to understand what was in his hand and how to use it.

Naruto's eyes locked onto Hyuga's, and her harsh eyes were on his as she waited for an answer. For one quick second, however, the Vice-Captain seemed to let her curiosity overcome her and her eyes fell to Naruto's zanpaktou. In that second, Naruto saw her eyes grow wide and light up; they seemed to become almost white. He followed her eyes and noticed that they were not on the sword itself, but instead on the orange thread that fell from the end of the hilt. The thread seemed to be coiled sloppily around the black hilt many, many times but still managed to hang down several inches; Naruto had not noticed it until that moment. When his eyes returned to Hyuga, her eyes had already returned to their usual state.

"Maybe I expected too much from you," Hyuga stated in her usual condescending tone, "am I moving too fast for you?" Naruto cringed at the way she said the words. So condescending. So cruel. Her face remained as emotionless as usual, but Naruto sensed that somewhere inside she was smiling, pleased with herself. "Maybe I…" her voice suddenly died before she could spit out another insult. She must have felt that they were no longer alone.

"Now now, Hinata," the words rang out heavenly in Naruto's ears, "those were not the same words you said to me earlier." Slowly, gracefully, Captain Kuchiki walked into view from somewhere behind her Vice Captain. She walked towards Naruto with a sweet smile on her face and stopped just about halfway between the he and Hyuga. She looked down at Naruto as she spoke again, "Hinata, I distinctly remember hearing you say that you were pleased, albeit surprised, with Naruto's progress." Although her words were directed at her Vice Captain, Kuchiki seemed to be speaking the words simply so that Naruto could hear them. Behind the Captain's back and out of Naruto's view, the corner of Hyuga's lips fell.

"Captain," the tone of Hyuga's voice changed slightly, "I believe that any praise in Uzumaki's direction will only hamper his progress due to his…" there was a pause and a mean smile crept across her face. When Hyuga's voice rang out again it was back to her condescending tone, "… natural arrogance and lack of talent."

Captain Kuchiki's smile remained as she looked down at Naruto. "Naruto," At the sound of his voice emitted from the Captain's lips, Naruto smiled and almost forgot what Hyuga had just said. "Do you believe that you lack talent?" Naruto just stared into Kuchiki's face and nodded, his jaw hanging open now. Kuchiki's smile rose slightly, "Neither do I. Now," the Captain turned to face her now glowering Vice-Captain, "please demonstrate Bakudo number 9 on Hyuga."

Naruto's surprised face turned to face the Vice Captain. He was shocked by hearing the Vice Captain that treated him so awfully referred to by her name alone, but then again, Captain Kuchiki did not need to call her by her title. Now that that initial shock was over, a sly, pleased smile rolled over his lips. He was allowed to, no, required to, use a kidou spell on someone who showed him nothing but utter contempt by Captain Kuchiki. Hyuga was smiling back at him, and Naruto could tell that she did not think he would be able to do it. This sight only fueled his desire to recite the full incantation and make the spell the most powerful possible. Naruto and Hyuga stared at each other right through Captain Kuchiki.

Kuchiki, looking back and forth between Naruto and Hyuga, stepped out from between the two. Both combatants seemed to ready themselves without taking their eyes off each other. Naruto refused to blink as he recited the incantation in his head. Finally, he closed his eyes and spoke in a loud voice, "Disintegrate, black dog of Rondaniini!" In his head, Naruto could see Hyuga looking at him with her evil smile, "Look upon your burning soul and sever your throat!" Naruto opened his eyes and the Hyuga from inside his head was now standing before him, the same smile on her face. Naruto pointed one angry index finger at her. "Bakudo Number 9! Geki!"

From Naruto's outstretched finger came a red light that formed a sphere around Vice Captain Hyuga. Inside the sphere, Hyuga's smile had turned to a look of indifference. Naruto, panting and still pointing, was pleased with himself, and when he chanced a glance at Captain Kuchiki she too look pleased. This brought a smile, a nice smile, to Naruto's face. That smile faded instantly as Naruto looked back at the red sphere and watched as the encircled Vice Captain walked in slow motion out of the sphere. Even though Naruto had recited the incantation perfectly, Hyuga escaped the sphere just as Soki had earlier. As the Vice Captain, now fully out of the sphere, smiled mockingly at Naruto, his eyes shot down to the floor in failure.

"Ha!" To Naruto's surprise, Captain Kuchiki let out a laugh. It wasn't a bitter or condescending laugh; it sounded purely sweet and happy. Naruto's face shot up to face hers. "That was very good Naruto." She laughed again. "It takes a very strong kidou spell to hold back someone at the level of Vice Captain. I am proud of you." At the sound of this an involuntary smile formed on Naruto's face and his feeling of failure slowly faded. Out of both Kuchiki and Naruto's' sight, Hyuga made the slightest grimace.

Lost and entranced by the Captain's smiling face, Naruto did not hear the first part of her words. Something she said, however, a name that he recognized, brought her words into focus. "Kisuke wanted me to keep this a secret from you, but I believe that telling you would only speed up your training." Captain Kuchiki paused as Naruto was left to wonder why he had heard this name twice in the same day. "Would you like to know the secret of the thread wrapped around your hilt, Naruto?" Without even thinking, Naruto nodded. Something strange seemed happen every time he heard the name Kisuke

Naruto's eyes moved from Captain Kuchiki to his zanpaktou's hilt. It wasn't until that moment that he realized that, despite not seeing many zanpaktous, he had never seen any zanpaktou with a thread wrapped around the hilt like his. The orange thread was twisted around in no particular pattern, weaving up and down and leaving large portions of the black hilt visible.

"Not until," Kuchiki's voice brought Naruto's eyes back to her face, "Not until you can completely paralyze Hyuga with you kidou spell." It was a challenge. Naruto's jaw dropped again, but not due to the awe of Captain Kuchiki. This time it was due to the impossible challenge she had presented him with. If he had just so recently failed at the same task, how did she expect him to accomplish it?

Suddenly discouraged, Naruto's eyes drooped down to his feet. From the corner of his eyes he could see a bright light flickering from nearby. Turning his head only slightly, he noticed that the flickering light was actually the thread wrapped around his hilt. It was a very faint flicker, and something told him that only he could see it. Reaching out, he wrapped his around the hilt.

"Master…"

Naruto could swear he heard a voice speaking to him in a calm voice. It seemed to come from the sword itself. Just like his encounter with the Hell Butterfly, the voice seemed to speak out, but only he could hear it.

"Master, you know you can do this…"

That voice! He had heard it before. It was the voice of the distorted figure that had forced him to look into the blinding orange light; it was the voice of his zanpaktou. His zanpaktou was speaking to him; calling out to him; encouraging him. Something changed inside of him. Naruto knew that he could fully utilize the kidou spell, even against a Vice Captain.

"BAKUDO!"

Naruto's loud voice brought a stunned and alarmed look to both Hyuga and Kuchiki's' faces. Naruto, his eyes still focused on his zanpaktou, knew that both the hated Hyuga and the cherished Kuchiki doubted him, but something inside of him told him that right now he did not need the full incantation. Without effort his reaitsu rose sharply, and his zanpaktou started to glow orange.

"NUMBER 9!"

Naruto's determined eyes turned back to his target: Hyuga. The Vice Captain's eyes were suddenly with fear and shock. She was looking at Naruto, who was now glowing the same vibrant shade of orange as his zanpaktou. Naruto's hand left his zanpaktou and pointed a single finger at Hinata. Kuchiki's smile widened at the same sight.

"GEKI!"

From Naruto's outstretched finger came a dark red light that surrounded Hyuga once again. This sphere of paralyzing light, however, was so much more intense than the last one he had created. It seemed tightly compressed and powerful. This was much smaller sphere, more like an orb, that seemed to wrap around Hyuga's body; had she been able to move even slightly she would have escaped easily. Also, the once transparent red light was now a dark blood red that almost obscured its contents. At once, both Naruto and Kuchiki knew that there was no way the Vice Captain could escape from the paralyzing light.

"That's enough, Naruto." Kuchiki's sweet voice seemed out of place in the intensity of Naruto's head. His eyes turned to the Captain, her smile again wiping everything but joy from his head. The orange reaitsu disappeared, as did the sphere. The now free Hyuga gave a contemptuous 'hmph!' as she straightened her clothes and hair.

Naruto watched Kuchiki raise her hand to her side. Lost in her smile, he did not realize that it was an effort to restrain her Vice Captain who had remained in place; a mutinous look still in her eyes. "So," Kuchiki continued as she lowered her hand, "I guess you've earned your prize."

Slowly, purposefully, Kuchiki walked towards Naruto. Pausing in front of him she reached her hand out towards his zanpaktou; Naruto fought the urge to jerk back and remained still. Instead of grabbing the zanpaktou itself, however, the Captain let the orange thread fall over her hand and raised it to Naruto's eye level. Naruto's eyes were instantly drawn to the thread in her hand and he could swear that a slight growl echoed from his zanpaktou.

"All zanpaktous hold mysteries that we may never fully understand," Kuchiki's eyes narrowed at the thread in her hand, "but Kisuke believes that he has solved the mystery of these very rare threads. This is," Kuchiki let the thread fall but stretched out a finger and ran it up and down the hilt over the coiled thread; another quiet growl escaped, "an age thread."

Naruto's eyes lit up as he pulled his zanpaktou out. He tried to trace the thread with his eyes but was lost in the coiled mess. If this thread measured out his zanpaktou's age it must be older than Naruto could even imagine.

"An age thread?" Naruto thought that the words had escaped his mouth, but it wasn't his voice he heard. Lifting his eyes, he saw that Hyuga's eyes were once again on his zanpaktou's hilt.

"Yes, Hinata. Very few people have threads that wrap around their hilt like Naruto's, and," she let a short pause ring out," I believe there is only one other that has an age thread as long as his." Naruto did not notice as Kuchiki stole a quick glance back at her Vice Captain. Hyuga was now looking down at the hilt of her own zanpaktou with large white eyes.


Hope you enjoyed... read and review...

Sorry for the long delay in chapters... and for anyone following "Finally Found" I'm working on the ending...