Empty.

I have little reason to live nowadays.

What do I do, you ask?

I'm a killer for hire.

My name, you ask?

I don't use it.

But...I do go by one title nowadays.

El Diablo.

The demon.

--

Quiet.

It was so...

Quiet.

He stared at the paper in his hands, nostalgic memories washing over him in a torrent of happiness, sorrow, and anger. It was actually a bingo book he'd pilfered off a now deceased shinobi. His name was written within it, along with a hefty bounty. "Triple S class, huh? Why am I not surprised...

A fluttering sound drew his attention, and as if sensing the raven's prescence, he pocketed the book, and held out a gloved hand.

"Come here."

With a silent flap of its ebony black wings, the bird landed upon its master's arm, its talon's digging deeply into the padded fabric that protected his wrist. Sharp, violet eyes shone from its skull, reflecting keen intelligence.

Cawing softly, it opened its mouth, clearly demanding food.

"Ah, ah." The man wagged a finger at the bird. "First, the goods. Then you can eat."

With an indignant sqwuak, the bird shook its head back and forth.

"Fine then." He shrugged. "You can go hungry."

"Caw!" It gave him an angry glare, one he calmly returned, blue eyes reflecting in the light of the full moon, even though his visage was safely hidden within the confines of his cowl. At last it relented, and held out its left leg, where a small scroll had been tied.

Untying the knot, the man read its contents, and then placed it upon the ground.

A transparent, static image appeared before him, and immediately, he went to one knee.

"I see you've made it here in one piece. Well done."

"..." He did not answer.

"Do what must be done." The figure itself could not be seen, but its voice was clearly that of a female, in her early twenties, with tan skin and blond hair. "You are not to hesitate, and you will show no mercy to the enemy. Capture the target alive, but kill all who get in your way. Do you understand me?"

"Yes, mistress." The man nodded, his head kept down, as if in reverence. "I hear and obey."

"Good." The image began to fade, and then it was gone entirely. "I expect good results."

The dark figure waited for a moment, before at last he rose, taking the scroll away within the folds of his robe. Gathering strength, he prepared himself to spring. At last, with a mighty rush of air, he leapt over the gates, black cloak swirling in the wind behind him.

The face hidden within the cowl frowned to himself, for he was expected. No sooner had he hit the ground, rolled, come up into a crouch....

Than five kunai were held to his neck.

"You there!" The guards snarled. "You've come here for the last time-

"CAW!" From out of the pitch black night, the raven swept in to harass the guardsman, pecking relentlessly at his face, raking its sharp, deadly talons across the length of his nose. 'Now!' Sensing his chance, the stranger seized the knife arm of the guard, threw him over his shoulder, and with a silent swish buried his own kunai deep within the chest cavity of his unfortunate victim.

His companions lurched back a step, mouth'sopen in a silent scream, but they too, soon met a similair fate. The second met with a sword through the gut, falling bonelessly to the ground. The last three realized too late that they would be given no quarter, but by then, the man had already turned on them, lashing out to seize one by the throat, and kicking another with such force, that all the bone's in his chest shattered.

Dropping the now throatless guard, the assasin turned his attention the last guard, a female with long dark hair. She tried to keep her distance, throwing a hail of senbon his way, but within seconds, she too was pinned upon the ground. Her eyes, hidden by the anbu mask, showed no fear, yet he hesitated to finish her. Something stayed his hand for a moment.

"You!" She breathed, recognizing the assailant at last. "But you're-

His moment of hesitation nearly cost him his life, but at the last second, the raven shrieked, alerting him to the knife in her hand. Thusly, he was able to silence her at the last second, with a quick, painless chop to the the bodies in a nearby alleyway, the intruder checked to make sure they were out of sight, before whistling to the raven, who now took a perch upon his shoulder.

"Good girl." He cooed, patting the fowl once upon the head, ruffling its feathers.

She gave him an annoyed glare, as if to say 'Cut it out'.

darted through the streets, an invisible blur to all but the most honed eye.

Its target was...

--

With the trained reflexes he had relied upon for years now, he dismantled the lock. The raven released his shoulder, and took its place upon the nearby railing, acting as a lookout, should anyone happen to stop by.

"You know what to do?"

The raven nodded an affirmative.

Like a thief in the night, he entered the house, sneaking through the shadows, avoiding conflict whenever he could, but mercilessly slaughtering when he could not avoid bloodshed. At last, he found what he sought, an ornate door that led to a seperate room within the mansion.

A loud creak, coming from one of the floorboards, made the man stiffen. He whirled around, weapon drawn-

And froze as he saw her.

A flash of memory rushed over him.

(One year ago)

"W-What're you doing here?!" She sputtered, jumping back half a pace as he pulled down the hood he wore. He had changed since they'd last seen each other, but there was no mistaking his identity.

Needless to say, she was startled by his sudden appearance after spending so much time in the world of the living, and had quite a few questions for him. "When did you-mmph!" Before she could finish her sentence, he violently crushed his lips against hers, releasing a flood of tension, stifling further protest as she gave in to him, pressed up against the furthest wall when at last they pulled apart.

"Wha-She began...

"Be quiet." He muttered, breaking the kiss, breath cold upon her face whilst he placed a finger across her lips. "You need to be quiet."

She managed a nod, biting her lip in dread for his hands now ran down her body with slow and careful precision.

"I have to tell you something."

They stopped when they reached her stomach, then ran over her belly, very slowly.

After an unbearable silence, he looked her square in the eye.

"How long." It wasn't a question.

"A...A month now." She finally mumbled. "They'll notice at this rate."

"Kami," He muttered, slapping one hand against the wall. "You're pregnant. I can't believe this....

"Sorry." She muttered sadly. "I shouldn't have pushed for it-

"Don't be." He shook his head, kissing her chastely upon the lips, with such tenderness, that her heart nearly stopped right then and there. "You have nothing to be sorry about." His visits were becoming more and more infrequent, but it was a sad necessity that they both had to deal with. "But damn, how're we going to handle this...

"He went this way!" The sound of footsteps broke the moment.

"I have to go."

He pullled his face away, hiding it within the cowl once more.

"Hy."

He paused, looking over his shoulder.

"You'll....come back, right?"

The flash of a sad smile could be seen within the hood.

"I don't know when I'll have the time to sneak away. Will you wait for me?"

She nodded, smiling softly.

"Forever."

He stared at her longingly, but finally tore his gaze away, and leapt out the window, into the night.

(End flashback)

But no, this was not her, this was not she.

She...

Was dead.

"W-Who're you?" The girl stammered fearfully.

"Naruto." He replied simply, though the name sounded hollow, empty, coming from his lips.

She took a step back, in fear. "W-What do you want with me?"

"Not another word." He had her pinned against the wall, cold, heartless blue peering into startled silver. His words held no emotion, no amusement, nothing. This was a job, and nothing more, just something to put food on the table for himself. "You have no freedom. I am giving you an order."

He didn't question who his clientelle was, so long as they paid half up front, and the other half, when, not if, he completed his assignment. He always finished a job, that was the one thing he prided himself on nowadays.

Back to the task at hand.

He was wasting time.

"Come with me, girl." He ordered. "That is, unless you want me to kill everyone you hold dear?"

--

(Throne room)

"Well done."

A small pouch of gold was tossed at him, caught easily from the air by his hand.

"Yeah, whatever. Just tell Grimmjow not to lose his arm again."

He turned to go, but hadn't gone more than five steps before the man upon the throne spoke again.

"Oh, and Naruto?"

"What?" He refused to turn around.

"Perhaps you'd like a greater reward?"

He and the raven exchanged a glance.

Intrigued, but more irritated than anything else, they turned around as one.

"What exactly did you have in mind?"

"You have no allegiance to either Soul Society or myself during this war, yet you are a vizard." He began, descending the steps with slow, careful precision, yet his eyes never left their mark. "And for some mysterious reason, you also seem immune to the effects of my zanpaktou, Kyouka Suigetsu." Brown eyes narrowed slightly as their owner approached the blond. "As you can see, that'd be a slight problem, were you ever to... switch sides."

"Spit it out already." Sighed the jinchuuriki.

"How dare you!" The black man with dreadlocks, whose name he had not bothered to remember, now seemed quite irked. "Show some respect to your superiors!"

"Superior?" The blond spat back gesturing to those present, "Bullshit! I'm not one of your servants! I'm not even affiliated with you weaklings!"

"Perhaps that would interest you then?" The other continued.

"What, so you're offering us power in exchange for our loyalty?" Snorted the bounty hunter, with the raven shaking its head in agreement. "Sorry Aizen, but we'll have to pass on your little offer." He tossed the sack of money up and down, as if to gauge its weight. "Besides, allying ourselves with one side is bad for business."

"That's a no, then?"

The raven surprised everyone, aside from Naruto of course, by adding her own opinion.

"Pretty much."

"Are you certain?" Brown eyes narrowed slightly as Aizen asked them again. "What if we were to pay the two of you for your...services?"

"No thanks. This is one job I'd rather not take." The blond waved a hand behind his back as they left, clearly ignoring everything that had just been said. "We won't spill any secrets or take any missions to kill ya though. Gotta protect customer confidentiality and all."

Moments later, the door slammed behind them.

--

"How long are you going to stay like that?" He asked once they were clear of las noches and Hueco Muendo, and back at their residence in the living world, which was much more than an abandoned mansion, and sported all kinds of electric surveilance equiptment and the like. "You've stayed in that form for at least a year now."

The raven gave him an inquisitive look.

"Don't play dumb with me." He grumbled darkly, flopping down on the couch. "C'mon, change back already." Sighing, he flicked on the television, and began to thumb through the channesl. "We've got another job in about an hour, and I can tell you're bushed."

"Fine," She sighed, fluttering off his shoulder to land on the nearby perch he'd set up for her. "But go into the other room first."

"Why?"

"Because I said so!" The bird cawed loudly, flapping her wings at him violently. "If I'm returning to my normal body then I need to get changed in privacy!"

"Yeesh, fine, fine." The blond grumbled, picking himself up off the couch...

VOTE FOR PAIRING! Next time: Cruelty breeds kindness. Flashbacks of the past...