The steady sound of footfalls filled the palace of Las Noches. A humble, meek looking man strode down the corridors, his gaze fixed straight ahead. This man who knew where he was going, what he was doing, would stop at nothing to get there. It could be said that he was mad, but he prefferred the term...focused. At the moment, his focus was on what lay behind the door that now barred him.

A slim looking fellow with grey glasses and pink hair was waiting for him there. Unlike the man that stood before him, this individual wore all white, as opposed the other's black shihakusho and the white haori draped over it. They couldn't be more unalike, but the pinkette clearly showed deferrence to the one who now stood before him.

"The reaitsu has been fully merged with the host. We are ready to begin, my lord."

"Very well." The man extended a hand to recieve the item." The serum, if you please."

A small black box was placed into his hand.

"Of course, my lord. He's prepped and ready for the procedure."

"Very good. You are dismissed."

Moments later, the door opened, flooding the otherwise dark room with light. A man stepped into the light, casting a mighty shadow over it, as if it desired to staunch the room of its very luminance. For one of his stature, he carried an unique air about him, his mild mannered features revealing nothing of what lay beneath his kindly smile, or his fatherly gaze and warm, pleasant tone. Even the glasses and brown, curly hair lent him an almost scholary appearance.

Now, he approached the operating table, where the subject was kept. Szayel Apporro had declared his recovery nothing short of miraculous. For a body like his to have survived so much trauma, and after losing half his life blood and right arm, it surely spoke of much fortitude and valor. He lived, even know, though his mind still slumbered.

He lay on the cold slab of granite. He lay there, unmoving, as he had been for days, months, weeks. Left for dead on the battlefield. His body broken. His mind shattered, held together by a battered and weary will. He'd been pronononced brain dead, and had been placed upon life support to keep the oxygen flowing through his otherwise shriveled lungs. Various wires and rods were inserted into the body at random intervals, each monitoring a different aspect. Pulse. Heartbeat. Reaitsu levels. Oxygen intake. White blood cell count.

By all accounts, this one should have died long ago. That he was still alive was miracle in of itself, even if he had to be kept on life support. All of this was about to change, as the man held up the syringe, containing a thick black liquid, and injected it into the neck. There was a wet squishing sound as the vial was drained of its contents, then the man removed the syringe and swiftly stepped back.

"Seal the room." He called to no one in particular, but the door, recognizing the voice command, immediately slammed shut behind him. At once, the room was once more plunged into darkness, lit only by the faint blips of light from the machinery. He made a sweeping motion with his hand, and series of glowlights lit the walls, providing him with some radiance. Had he not possesed keen eyseight, he might have missed it, for what happened next was nothing short of extraordinary.

Suddenly, inexplicably, the body moved. Twitched. Just a brief, momentary flext of his right leg, but then, then his left arm began to experience the eplileptic like spasms as well. Now, he shuddered, a small groan working its way around the breathing tube. Seconds later the apparatus was forcibly removed, as a pair of hands violently extricated the device, ripping it free of the throat.

A spray of sickly white flew from the bodies mouth, bleachig the already pristine white floor for three yards ahead. The body writhed, violently this time, before loosing a soul piercing scream, shattering every glass beaker in the room, and creating a small crater beneath him with the force behind it. The force of the blast was enough to shatter everything in the room, but still the man stood firm.

When at last the final light burst, when screaming had finally died down, and the youth actually needed to breathe, only then did he step forward and speak. "Welcome back to the realm of the living." There was the metallic clank of machinery being activated, and the prone body uttered a gasp as the various wires and appendages retracted from its skin, leaving the pale skin to heal from the various puncture wounds. "Uzumaki Naruto."

Sapphire blue eyes flew open. He couldn't move anything other than his right arm, and even, the limb was slow and stiff to respond. A flurry of thoughts filled his head. Was he dead? Was this the afterlife? What had happened to the others? Or worse....had he been captured? But worst of all....worst of all....it wasn't....she wasn't....

"Am I...dead?"

"Yes, you are dead." The man's voice filled the dimly illuminated room, as did his footsteps as he moved to stand before what had once been a motionless, lifeless, corpse. "And yet, you still draw breath. Ironic, isn't it?" He didn't so much as flinch when the blade suddenly materialized out of the darkness and brought itself directly to his neck. Though the tapered tip pricked his neck and drew blood, the bespectacled man still remained stoic.

"Have I said something to offend you, Naruto-kun?"

"W-Where am I?!" The blond demanded, panic whelling up inside his eyes. "Where...What did you do to my friends?!"

"Friends?" Here the man frowned. "Do you mean those traitors who killed you? I haven't done anything to them. Though you'll want to once I've explained myself."

"W-Wha?!" Despair replaced the panic. "Th-They'd never do that! You're lying! I'd never hurt them!"

"I am not lying. Please, allow me to explain-

"Sneer down upon the fallen." The blond hissed, suddenly solemn. Another hand reached out to the ruby red light his sword had abruptly become, as if beckoning it,whilst his fingers closed about some of it. What formed in his hand then, was a weapon straight out of the ninth circle of hell. He gripped it, its pole, and slammed it into the ground. Immediately, the tiles upturned themselves and the operating tap flipped itself backward and into the air...

Despite the fact that it had been bolted down.

The man with glasses smiled, calmly moving to the side as it shot past and slammed into the wall.

It was a scythe. Easily twice as large as the boy was tall, and covered with red tattoo's that ran across the black polish of its edge, ending only at the streamlined silver edge. That same scythe was now draped across his neck, read to seperate his head from its shoulders. And still, still, the man smiled calmly.

"That's a fine zanpakuto. Might I be given the honor of knowing its name?"

"What the hell's a zanpakuto?! And where are my friends?!" The blond demanded angrily.

"Could you please answer my question first?"

"Juuchi Yosamu." The youth replied sternly. "It's name means Ten thousand cold nights. Now TELL ME!"

"Very well." The man shook his head sadly and beckoned to someone who could not be seen. "But please don't think ill of me for showing you, or telling you the truth." Now, the other entity in the room stepped forward, revealing a slender figure with a feminine looking face, pale skin, juniper green eyes and long, messy black hair, which was held down by a half helmet that didn't quite seem to be properly in place. "Ulquiorra. Show him. Show him everything that you witnessed on the eve of June twenty first."

"Hai, Aizen-sama." Reaching up to her face, the girl traced a finger across one of the green tear marks that appeared to be painted onto her face. Somehow, she removed her left eyeball, and swiftly crushed it between her fingers, forming a fist. "Behold, boy. This is what occured after you 'death' on that night." What the blond saw was enough to loosen his grip and the scythe slipped numbly through his fingers. His mouth worked silently for a moment. Those were the exact events, right up to where he'd fallen asleep in front of the fire, and supposed, that everyone else had done the same. It was not so. He watched Sakur glance about, and draw a kunai. Then the others followed suit. One by one. They...They...killed him in his sleep.

"I'm afraid that they're currently off celebrating your demise." The man known as Aizen finished. "Thankfully they are unaware that you still live. We where able to find you on the outskirts of your town before any lasting damage could be done-"

"Why?" He muttered in disbelief, interrupting him. "Why would you, a complete stranger, save me? Don't you know what I am?"

"Why on earth would an uncle wish harm to befall his nephew?" Aizen countered with an almost parental smile. "And the matter of the Kyuubi has already been...adressed."

"N-NEPHEW?!" Naruto spluttered in disbelief, then frowned. "Wait, what did that second part mean?"

A light snapped on then, revealing a mirror to the far right.

"Lift up your shirt." Aizen instructed, the blond doing so as he turned towards the mirror.

Naruto did so, and croaked in surprise.

"The...The seal...where'd it go?"

"It didn't go anywhere." Aizen answered. "We merely broke down the bijuu itself, into raw reaitsu. Upon doing so, your body healed of its own accord, but as a result you were reduced to a vegetative state, which, with this device," Now he held up the syringe again, revealing that some of the black fluid still dripped off it, "We were able to rectify."

Naruto still stared at himself in the mirror, a mixture of awe and relief filling him when he found no one inside his head, nothing whispering murderous thoughts inside his mind. Nothing, only his own, sane thoughts that spoke of confusion and disbelief. Perhaps if the fox had still been inside him, Naruto wouldn't have thought of what he was thinking now. Why? Why had they done this? Why?

"Everyone thinks I'm dead." He pulled down his shirt, a white, clean one, and dusted his hands of imaginary dirt and his pants, which were also bleached white. There wasn't a single trace of his old self to be found, even the Konoha headband had likewise disapeared, leaving his unruly hair to stick out every which way. And then, there was the thin scar, left by a kunai knife, that ran over his left eye, which, by the grace of kami, he could still see out of, despite the fact that it had been a through and through slash.

He was looking at a complete stranger. The face that stared back at him was cold, confused, and sad.

"Correct." Aizen's voice intruded upon the red haze that was starting to fill Naruto's thoughts, though only briefly. Even without the fox whispering foul words to his heart, the blond could feel the first vestiges of rage worming their way into his mind. He was powerless to stop it, the anger and frustration welling up inside his soul. He hadn't done anything wrong. He'd completed the mission, he hadn't had any choice BUT to kill Sasuke, it was do or die, and he didn't want to die. But they didn't understand. And they'd killed him for it?!

"My friends killed me." He mumbled, the first tremble wracking his body.

"Not exactly." Here, Naruto jerked his gaze back towards the bespectacled man. "We were able to identify one individual who wasn't present at the time of your 'death'. I believe you know her as Hinata Hyuuga?" At this, Aizen calmly folded his hands before him, waiting for the reply to come from Naruto's now gaping mouth. He hadn't know Hinata very well, he still didn't. But somehow...

It made him feel better, knowing that someone hadn't wanted him dead. Kakashi and Yamato-sensei were still up in the air, but he'd thought the same of Sakura-chan and the others until only recently, that they'd never harm him, never turn on him...and that had turned out so well. But...Hinata hadn't been there. That girl didn't have a mean bone in her body. If anything, the only wierd part was that she kept fainting whenever he talked to her.

"Sh-She didn't have anything to do with it?"

"Correct." Aizen answered matter of factly.

"And you're my uncle?" Naruto glared at him increduously. "You don't look a damn thing like dad. And I know what he looks like."

"As I've said before, you are neither alive, nor or you dead." Aizen gave Naruto the expression a father would give to an errant child. "When the kyuubi was sealed into you, it caused a massive mutation of your DNA, you, for lack of a better word, on a genetic level. Haven't you ever wondered why you have a sword that can change into a scythe? Or why you're unable to perform any jutsu other than the few you already know? Or perhaps why it was so difficult for you to control, let alone master the sage chakra? The answer is simple. Your father, Minato was my younger brother. I, am a shinigami. Which is what you were, until the Kyuubi was sealed inside you. As for the discrepancy due to our appearances, I suppose you could blame your grandfather for that."

At a loss, Naruto reeled from this information.

"I-I have a grandfather?"

"Had." Aizen corrected again. "He's been dead for at least a century."

"A CENTURY?! How old was he?!"

"Well past the five hundred mark."

"Y-You're kidding! How long do shinigami usually live?!"

"Quite awhile. The head captain's well over a thousand years old."

"EH?!"

"You can take your time, Naruto-kun." Aizen assured calmly. "Ask me whatever you'd like."

"O-Okay, if I'm not a shini-whatever-

"Shinigami." Aizen corrected kindly.

"Whatever!" Naruto snapped angrily. "If I'm not one of these 'shinigami' then what am I?"

Aizen smiled again.

"It's ironic, actually. You wear a mask around others to hide your sadness, and now, thanks to the nine tails, you've obtained yet another."

"What?"

"Vizard." Aizen answered with this term, arms spread wide as if it explained everything. "You are a hybrid, not a shinigami or a hollow, but both. Though your power may pale in comparison to those of the arrancar, such as Ulquiorra" Here he gestured to Ulquiorra, who had remained silent until now:

"Greetings." She gave a curt nod, her face still blank. But her eyes were another matter entirely. "I hope that we can see eye to eye...boy." Whereas every other part of her displayed outright apathy, those bejeweled green orbs bored into his sapphire, the intensity of which startled him, and forced Naruto to drop his gaze. God almighty, what the hell was that just now?! Why was he trembling?

"Y-Yeah." He managed. "S-Same to you."

"Well then," Thankfully Aizen chose to speak again then, and saved Naruto from further making any more of an ass of himself than he had already. "Lets find you a proper set of clothes. Then you'll be shown around, introduced to the other espada and the like, I'll explain everything as we go, of course."

"Explain?" Naruto blinked. "Explain what?"

Here, Aizen's smile was as innocent as a deranged, psycopathic, yet fatherly uncle's could be. It was as if he had been waiting for Naruto ask that question since the very beginning, but his tone did nothing to betray the silent satisfaction he felt at sharing his goal with the boy. Instead, he allowed the smile to take on a more pleasant air.

"Why, how I plan to rule the world with you by my side, of course."