The strength left his body and with it, the ability to stay standing also left him. His knees buckled and collapsed underneath him; the cold and unforgiving ground came closer and closer into view, but he never hit the ground. A pair of strong arms wrapped around him and gently laid him down, still keeping him in the arms. Through his blurry vision he could make out the dark figures of the people gathered around him; he let a smile cross his features at the sight of so many people that cared for him. He tried to form words but felt the thick coagulation of blood building in his throat; he felt some of it trickle down his chin and saw the eyes of his precious people widen and fill with tears. The person holding him tightened their grip on his body, as if holding him tighter would prevent what was to come. He felt hot tears land on his cheek and felt his own eyes widen.

Bringing a shaking hand up to the cheek of the person, he wiped away the tears, leaving a trail of blood. The person desperately grasped his hand, as if to prevent it from falling back down, as if holding the hand would keep him in the world a little longer. The hands that held his were shaking as he felt hot tears run down his hand.

"No-no…please, don't…please don't die! Please, I'm begging you, don't leave us, please! I'm sorry, I'm so sorry, so please…I'm begging you, don't die!"

His eyes fluttered, the energy to keep them open quickly leaving his body, but for the sake of the person, he tried to keep them open a little longer. He could feel his breathing slow as he felt the blood continue to pour out of his body. When he felt a warm sensation on his wound, he grasped the hand and shook his head in a silent command.

"Don't cry, please don't cry, not for me"

There was no response, only the tightening of the grip on his hand

"It's time to let me go…"

"No-no-no, I won't, never…I'll never let you go…I won't make the same mistake again, so please, forgive me and stay alive"

"Please…if you truly care for me…let me go. It's my time; I must go"

"Why are you giving into this so easily?! Where's the real you?! Why…why would you be so selfish as to leave us alone? Don't you care about us?"

"I'm tired, so very tired. Please, I'm begging you…let me go. I'm so tired, my body, my heart, my soul…they are all tired. You don't know how exhausting it is right now for me, so, please, as my friend, let me go. As a last request, see me off with a smile, please?"

He felt himself being gently lowered to the ground and felt the grip on his hand loosen. Letting out a breath of relief and gratitude, he smiled once more at the people who stared at him. When he saw the tears in their eyes he felt a pang of guilt, but as he watched, he saw each and every one of them wipe away their tears and let a smile cross their features

Those smiles…how nice would it be to be able to keep those smiles on their faces forever…But right now, I am so tired…so I want to rest

The people surrounding him gave a small nod of approval

"Thank you…"

With those last words, Uzuamaki-Namikaze Naruto passed on from the world of the living, leaving the world with a smile upon his face. It was amazing at how relaxed and at ease Naruto seemed in death, as if a heavy burden was lifted from his soul

A pale hand gently came to rest upon the eyelids and draw them closed

Uchiha Sasuke stood up and faced the crowd of shinobi, his head down to hide the silent tears

"Let's go, we need to bury the dead and reorganize our villages, it was what he would have wanted anyway"

With one last look at the body of his best friend and brother in all but blood, the last Uchiha turned and walked away from the dark shadows and into the open clearing; the warmth of the sun shined on his face

"Good Night and Sleep well…Naruto, when you wake up…let's meet again"

There was only darkness around him, but it was a comforting darkness, the type that is seen right before one falls asleep. As he floated in the comforting darkness, he could feel the time pass by, and with it, the memories of his life also floated around him

Then, as if a switch was thrown, an overwhelming amount of suffering penetrated his safe darkness. It was not his suffering but the suffering of others. The cries of pain, anger, hatred, fear, and betrayal and circled around him, suffocating him

Their voices pleaded to him to save them from their pain, pleaded to him to give them their justice, pleaded to him to save their loved ones from the future that was coming

Pain, anger, loneliness, betrayal, fear, hatred

Pain, anger, loneliness, betrayal, fear, hatred

Pain, anger, loneliness, betrayal, fear, hatred

Pain, anger, loneliness, betrayal, fear, hatred

Pain, anger, loneliness, betrayal, fear, hatred

Pain, anger, loneliness, betrayal, fear, hatred

Pain, anger, loneliness-

With a gasp, his eyes snapped open…

Finding himself on a futon in a spacious room, he looked around in a dazed state. Looking at the foot of the futon, there was a change of clothes. On his left, there was an opened door, revealing a bathroom. Gathering the clothes in his arms, he slowly made his way to the restroom to wash away the sweat that had accumulated on his body

When he opened the door fully, he found himself staring at his reflection in the mirror and let out a soft chuckle before stepping into the bath, which was more of a hot spring

He poured the water over himself and gently washed his body with the soaps and other products he found already stocked in the bathroom. It was relaxing and invigorating at the same time, as if he was moving around for the first time in a long time

Taking a deep breath, he lowered himself fully into the water and watched in fascination as the bubbles from his mouth escaped to the top. From the water, he could see the surface, but it looked completely different, like an illusion that was shimmering right before his eyes

The bright light from the lighting looked like the sun

He reached out a hand, as if to grasp it, and found himself being pulled up and out of the water. Strangely enough, he didn't panic and just let the person dry his body…

"You've been asleep for a long time"

"I know"

The figure handed him his clothes and helped him slip it on, tying the sash and securing the robes. The mysterious person then grabbed a towel and started drying his hair, quickly and gently.

"Are you ready for this? You could wait a little longer if you wanted"

"It's fine, I've been asleep to long…besides there are people I want to see in this new world"

As the person behind him finished braiding the golden locks, azure eyes opened and stared deep into the other's eyes

"I'm ready…"

"Then I welcome you into this world…my king"

Naruto read through a scroll as he rested his head against the trunk of a tree. The shadows of the leaves danced on his face as the wind blew through his hair. The sun, or more accurately the artificial sun, was warm and bright. In all the time he has been there, Naruto has not once seen any clouds or rain and it unsettled him because the weather was a little too perfect for his tastes.

"It seems that this world is about to be thrown into chaos…"

Naruto glanced through the scroll once more, his sharp eyes narrowing in thought

"Are you sure you want to do this? You don't have to do this now…you still have another century or so before you need to act"

"I learned a long time ago that it is better to act as if there is no tomorrow than it is to act as if there are endless tomorrows…besides, it would be suspicious if I showed up at a critical point. I want to make friends, form bonds, and make a place in this world, no matter how transient it may be."

The Shinigami nodded, his masked face staring deep into Naruto's soul

"I knew there was a reason I picked you to be my successor"

Naruto nodded and closed his eyes in thought before speaking once more

"I want to ask something from you"

"What is it?"

"Right now, as the next Soul King…my power would be too noticeable so I want to ask you to seal my powers so that I can grow along side my powers. I want to start at the same level as everyone else"

"Very well"

Naruto took a deep breath and allowed his body to change into a new form, after all a new beginning is nothing without some changes

His golden blonde hair turned into a rich shade of scarlet, alternating between fiery red and burnt orange in the sunlight. The locks of his scarlet hair reached his lower back in layers, as a small reminder of his mother and Jiraiya…though his hair was much calmer than the old pervert's style, though two locks of hair did stick up stubbornly, reminiscent of a fox's ears

His cerulean eyes darkened into a rich shade of purple, with slit pupils…a small reminder of his bond with Kurama

His pale tanned skin turned into a milky white as his whisker marks disappeared

He then felt himself shrink to that of a child's body no older than thirteen

When he finished his transformation, he gladly accepted the newly fitted clothes and tied his hair into a casual pony-tail, the dark blue ribbon contrasting nicely with his scarlet hair

"Why did you change your appearance?"

"Even though you said that people lose their memories when they get into soul society, I don't want to take any chances, especially if there are some records left over from my time"

"I guess that makes sense…oh well, I wish you good luck…and try not to get into too much trouble. As soon as you leave this dimension, I won't be able to act directly anymore…the only thing I will be able to do is set up a cover story for you. You will be the only survivor of a clan massacre-"

"Are you trying to turn me into the teme…I mean you know how bad he turned out"

The Shinigami continued as if he didn't hear the former blonde

"The only mentions of your clan will be in history books…your clan will have been wiped out in the last great rebellion for siding with Seireitei. The only thing left of your clan is this crest-"

There was a slight rustling as the Shinigami brought out the crest he was supposed to be holding on to. It was a small spiral with intricate symbols spreading out from it. Naruto stared at the crest, a tick of irritation forming on his temple

"You..you're doing this on purpose aren't you?"

The Shinigami let out a small chuckle

"Somewhat…The crest is actually a good cover up story for the seal on your stomach."

Naruto sighed and reluctantly accepted the crest and tied it on his waist, underneath his sash. There was a small glow as the crest rested into place.

"What was up with the glow?"

"The crest will help me keep an eye on you in case I need to intervene. It will also help seal your powers…think of it as a backup just in case something goes wrong."

Naruto nodded his gratitude and swung his pack over his shoulder. With one last look at the great being, he walked through the portal and into his new life within Soul Society…

It was dark when he came into the dimension; the lights were off and the street was empty. Deciding not to interrupt the sleeping people, Naruto made his way into the forest and climbed up the highest tree to sleep.

As he slept, Naruto felt himself being pulled into his own mind, and let a small smile cross his features

Finally…I've been waiting

When he opened his eyes, Naruto found himself staring at a forest clearing, and just outside the forest he could make out a valley with a giant waterfall. Underneath the waterfall was a giant statue of a beast-like creature; its ten tails were spread out, and upon the tips of the tails stood another statue of a beast. On the ninth tail, Naruto saw the statue of a nine-tailed fox and jumped up to it. Almost instinctively he knew what to do. Reaching out his hand, he placed it straight over the heart of the fox and waited. Warmth spread through his hand; suddenly he felt a thump underneath his fingertips. Another thump pulsed and Naruto realized it was the beating of a heart. Two more thumps and the stone cracked, revealing a majestic and fearsome fox.

The fox then began changing right in front of his eyes as it gained a more humanoid figure

When the dust cleared, Naruto stood gaping at the man that stood in front of him

His bright red hair seemed to glow underneath the false moonlight; his pale skin was as light as the moon itself, two fox ears twitched upon the man's head while nine fiery tails swayed behind the man

"You're late Naruto"

"Sorry Kurama…I had trouble waking up"

Kurama seemed to twitch at the statement and brought a hand to whack Naruto across the head when a hand stopped him

"Now, Now Kurama-chan…give Naru-chan a break"

Kurama's eyes widened as he stared at the man who was holding his arm

"Who the hell are you?!"

"Naruto-chan…how vulgar of you"

"Answer my question and then I might show you some respect"

"If you must know…I don't really have a name anymore, but you know me as the Rikudou Sennin"