Author note: I want to thank all my readers for your patience and understanding. I try to meet readers' expectation and though I'm not the best in writing, I am still improving. I know some readers are complaining that I don't reply to your reviews and I sincerely apologise for that. I do appreciate your reviews. So, thank you.
(Chapter Two: Joining the Dark Side)
Senjumaru Shutara grasped her wounded arm and groaned, stifling the excruciating pain which had escalated. The hostile environment and cornucopia of plagues infesting the desert were contributing to her afflictions. She had been trying to activate a distress signal that would supposedly activate a wormhole for her to return home, but nothing happened.
"Danger exists. Fear is optional. A fascinating punch-line that suits your situation, don't you think?" Naruto materialised in a static blur before the mortified Shutara. He wore sensual cologne with distinctive tinge of rosemary. The blond was dressed in a frock coat with obsidian peak lapels, a taupe waistcoat over his black turtleneck knitted with delicate silk, a white trousers and a pair of polished derby shoes.
"You will not get away from this. I promised." Shutara's voice was broken, mixed with insatiable rage and despair, yet her eyes were filled with sheer conviction; it was nostalgic to the blond and it thrilled him. "If I got out of this… I will skin you alive. You hear me?"
"Meh, I don't really believe that. So much hubris with nothing to back yourself up. It's not really working out, you know?" Naruto grinned and observed Shutara with a perspicacious mind. "Still trying to get out of this mess? Please. You know it better than I do. Your… friends have abandoned you. Let me rephrase it for you. Abandoned yo-"
Naruto chuckled. "I see. I get it now. You're slowly accepting your reality, huh?"
"I said shut up!"
The blond raised his hands and mocked surrender. "Fine by me. Sooner or later, you'll accept it."
Rummaging his pockets, he took out a bag of fruits. "Here, this is for you."
Shutara eyed the food with disgust, despite her hunger was overruling her rationality.
Naruto arched a brow, perplexed at her unwillingness. "What? You don't know what these are? Fruits? You put it in your mouth, chew it, ingest it. Your body absorbs its nutrients and-"
"I know what they are!" The raven-haired reaper exclaimed.
"Oh." A proverbial light-bulb lit up in the forefront of Naruto's mind and he guffawed in hysteria. "That's very funny. You're afraid I will poison it. Is this what all this is about? Me? Poisoning you? Ha!"
Shutara swallowed hard. "Well, if he wants to kill me in my current… state, it would be easy for him. Why would he want to go through all this fuss just to end my life? I-I guess…"
"Still don't believe me?" Naruto sighed and snatched an apple before he took a bite. "See? No poison."
"Face it, Uzumaki. You're just another lowlife scum that doesn't even deserve a fair trial."
"Oh, nice one. Zinger." Naruto winked. "Nice and tight. I like that. You know what's funny? Despite the ridiculous bravado that you're expressing, deep down inside you, you're afraid, Shutara."
The raven-haired captain rolled her eyes and retorted sarcastically. "Oh, that's very droll."
"No, you're afraid. You want me to think you're gloating, but you're not. You're very afraid. I can see right through you." Naruto fondled his ring and invoked. "You want me to think you're still in control. You still have worthless hopes that Soul Society will rescue you. A very naïve perception, I must say. You want me to think that Soul Society is unstoppable, but it isn't. You're afraid, Shutara."
Abruptly, Naruto leaned close to Shutara and felt her breathings became rapid. He noticed she was clenching her trembling sweaty palm and her pupils were dilating, a significant evidence of trepidation. The blond grinned with triumph and whispered. "And you should be."
Remorselessly, Naruto ripped Shutara's tattered robe and exposed her porcelain shoulders. She yelped, startled by her nemesis's transgression and struggled in frantic panic. The blond possessed herculean strength that overpowered her and he pinned her hands above her head. However, she didn't want her enemy to realise she was frightened of the inevitable.
She cannot allow her enemy to see weakness in her.
"Is that supposed to scare me?" Mustering her fortitude, Shutara glared fiercely at Naruto, despite shuddering from the chill of his hands.
"You know…" The blond brushed a finger across her cheek, admiring her perfect complexion and elegant features. "You're really beautiful when you're angry, Shutara. Eat the food. We don't want our angry little princess to die out here now, do we?"
Naruto stood up and walked away.
Shutara hesitated for a moment, staring cautiously at the blond before she reached out for the apple.
"Oh, by the way." Naruto stopped in his tracks and smirked shrewdly at her. "The truth is, I am invincible. Killing things outright is getting boring nowadays. Perhaps putting a little dose of poison in the fruits and watch my victim writhes to death can prove… entertaining. And my body is immune to toxic. I can't die by any diseases whatsoever."
"You're lying." The raven-haired reaper growled.
"Maybe." Naruto winked. "But can you afford it? Good day, Tara-chan."
Yamamoto Genryusai Shigekuni was studying the docket of archives on his antiqued desk. Central 46 had been ushering him persistently about updates of Captain Senjumaru's classified operation. He had sabotaged the device that he issued Shutara and altered it to the extent where it only functioned when her objective was completed. Shigekuni pinched his nose and stared at his steaming tea.
"Sir, you're not allowed to-"
"I have something important to address to the Captain Commander! Move aside, soldier!"
The veteran commander arched a quizzical brow at the commotion outside his office and muttered. "What's the matter?"
Sasakibe Chojiro, a diligent and loyalist, slid open the door and bowed. "Captain Commander Yamamoto, I have told Captain Kirinji that you requested not to be disturbed, but-"
"It's alright. Send him in."
The lieutenant blinked. "Yes sir."
Chojiro obliged to the instruction and led an agitated Tenjiro into the grand office. Shigekuni beckoned his lieutenant to leave and assayed the perturbed commander with a miffed glare. "What can I do for you, Captain Kirinji? You came here in such short notice? Something urgent that you wish to talk to me about, I presume?"
Tenjiro tossed a stack of documents crudely on the desk and scowled. "Can you explain to me what is going on here? Huh? What is Central 46 playing at? Captain Unohana's expedition was stated that it was a recon mission, not a suicide mission! And Captain Senjumaru as well! The council is betting a huge wager on this one! And you know what's funny. You're an accomplice as well! Are we expendable to you, huh?"
"Fix that tone of yours, Captain Kirinji! I am your superior and you will acknowledge that!" Shigekuni exclaimed. "I don't care if you're upset or confused. You straighten yourself up and remember your place! Are we clear?"
The medical commander balled his fist and swallowed his umbrage. Reclaiming his composure, he spoke in a monotone. "Crystal, sir. I apologise for my misconduct. I-I was out of line. I just want to know what is going on."
The aged captain sighed. "Where do you get these files?"
"I… borrowed it?" Tenjiro scratched his temples sheepishly.
"You stole it from the Central 46 compound. That place is a restricted zone. Even I require a permit for entry." Shigekuni corrected. "That is a federal offence tantamount to treason. As a squadron commander, I am sure you are familiar with the rules more than anybody else. I can prosecute you for immediate execution and you will not be liable to any pardons."
Beads of sweats formed on Tenjiro's neck and he stammered. "I-I am aware of the risks, Captain Commander Yamamoto. However, I do wish to know the truth. W-We deserve to know."
"Some truths are best kept hidden from the populous." The veteran commander retorted with bitter disdain. "I will not punish you for stealing these files from a restricted zone, Captain Kirinji, but bear in mind that I will not tolerate such shenanigan from you in the future."
"People are fragile beings. They only wanted to know convenient truth that sounds amiable. That is why what I'm about to disclose to you must never be revealed to the public. If you failed to withhold the information, I will kill you. Do you understand the severity of this matter, Captain Kirinji?"
"I understand, sir."
"You want to know what torture is, Arturo?" Naruto crossed his powerful arms and gazed in apathy at Shutara atop a hill. "She is trying to reach out for hope, but she is fearful. Soul Society has abandoned her. She is injured in this barren wasteland with no emotional support or medical treatment. Right now, she is fighting a war inside her."
Arturo gazed quizzically at his vivacious master and questioned. "What do you mean, milord?"
"You're clueless, aren't you? If she accepts my food, she would become paranoid. After all, I just mind-fuck her into thinking that the fruits might be poisonous. However, if her hunger got the better of her and she ate the fruits, she would realise they weren't poisonous. And her guilt of accepting an offering from her enemy might trigger a traumatic episode."
"A psychological warfare, I assume?"
"Precisely. She is a tough, independent woman. And tough woman has egos. It's the natural order of things. It will hurt a lot if her pride is tarnished. After all, pride is all that is left to her." Naruto sighed deeply and stroked his chin. "She is so mesmerising, don't you think? She really reminds me of…"
"That soul reaper that you defeated not long ago?"
"Yes." The blond sighed. "Continue your surveillance on her. I want her to be protected from any nearby hollows, do you understand? This is my desert. She is my prey. That means she is mine. I won't allow anybody to hog the fun. My fun."
"I hope you don't mind me asking, sir, but why the hassle? You could always use your gift to manipulate her to do your biddings willingly."
"Because I'm a cold, manipulative, self-obsessed bastard." Naruto patted his subordinate's shoulder and smirked. "And mainly because I'm bored. Life wouldn't be fun if you can do anything, right? Don't fail me on this, Arturo. You know I hate failures."
Tier Harribel had attained supreme authority as she evolved into the highest echelon of a hollow's hierarchy; she became a feared Vasto Lorde. She was a solitudinous warrior, but unlike other monstrosities who believed in dominance, she wanted to unravel the truth about Hueco Mundo. It was an inexorable fact that transforming into a Vasto Lorde was an arduous task, but she believed she could bypass the limits of her capability.
Tier heard about the rumour of the legendary God of Hueco Mundo venturing the desert of purgatory. Apparently, the enigma possessed unfathomable powers that defied imaginations and waged war against Soul Society. What stunned her was the fact that he had returned unscathed and victorious.
No hollow could perform such an inconceivable task.
"Do you know greed is essential? It is vital to the survival of civilisation." Naruto sat atop a boulder, taking a bite from his red apple.
Tier was an alpha predator; her senses were honed to the extremity she could discern threats from afar. She was not terrorised by the intruder's unexpected visit, but his profound ability to bypass her detection skills. She carried a placid façade on her masked features and glared warily at the blond. "Who are you?"
"Sentient beings are pertinacious. It is our nature. We will never be satisfied with what we have. That's why we strive to conquer others. Hollows prey on the weak to avoid being reverted into mindless drones, such as Menos Grande. But that's not the entire truth, is it?" Naruto snickered and tossed the fruit away. "Greed is a bottomless pit that requires an endless effort to satisfy a need that will never reach satisfaction."
Tier swung her blade and growled. "I won't repeat twice. Who are you?"
Naruto dusted his coat and stood up. "Avarice strikes deep and grows with more pernicious roots. Greed is the driving spirit of civilisation. It compels growth and prosperity. It welcomes evolution and self-improvement. Tell me, how do you feel about limitation? Does it make you feel insecure about your survival? Do you not want elevation?"
Tier grew impatient and raised her sword. However, she was paralysed in fear when the blond animated his frame before her. Tier instinctively took retreating steps and was prudent about her dilemma; she still couldn't measure the man's strength and it was unwise to strike the unknown.
"I wish to offer you the chance to heighten your capacity, Tier Harribel. In exchange, I demand your service."
The blonde narrowed her eyes in exasperation. "You want my obedience."
Naruto grinned. "You are a clever girl, Tier."
She stared gingerly at the anomalous entity. "And if I refuse?"
Naruto shifted his sight at the granite sky and sighed. "Do you know that Hueco Mundo used to be more than just an empty desert? It used to have more than just vegetation. It has a sun. A light source. Everything changed when Hueco Mundo lost its light. Do you know who took away the light from this realm? I'm sure you have an answer, do you?"
"But that was just a myth." Tier gulped. "They said it was the God of Hueco Mundo who did it."
"Ah, that's right." Naruto chuckled. "I did it."
Retsu was swirling her tube of virulent chemical and examined her experiment behind her opulent-framed spectacles. She scribbled down a few notes diligently on her clipboard and spoke with a melodic voice. "Kirio, be a dear and get me the buffer solution for me please?"
The lieutenant nodded. "Right away, Captain Unohana."
Twirling around, Kirio strolled towards her assigned destination, but was surprised when Tenjiro stood at the doorway.
"I need to speak with your commander in private, Lieutenant Hikifune. Please leave us-"
"I can't do that." Kirio protested. "I-"
"Kirio." Retsu smiled as her gaze was fixated at her report. "Didn't I tell you to get me the buffer solution? By all means move at a glacial pace. You know how that thrills me."
"Kirio." The Shodai Kenpachi removed her glasses and sighed. "I don't enjoy repeating such a simple instruction."
"R-Right!" The lieutenant fearfully darted to her work, leaving Tenjiro in the laboratory with her superior.
"What do you wish to speak with me about? Coming here unannounced is unspeakable." Retsu narrowed her eyes; her melodic voice exuded gravitas and authority. "I might have excommunicated myself from my post as the commander of the eleventh division, but that doesn't mean I wasn't one of the four founders of Gotei Thirteen. You will respect that, won't you?"
"Of course." Tenjiro sighed. "I just need to talk to you about Captain Senjumaru's expedition."
"And why do I care about her-"
"You should." The medical commander interjected. "You can predict her fate, can't you?"
"And what about it?"
"I believe you deserve to know something."
Arturo was marvelled by Shutara's perseverance. Despite her agonising starvation, she refused to consume the fruits. Her sense of honour and integrity intrigued him. He could somewhat comprehend his monarch's fascination over the dauntless reaper; she was different. Under such horrendous plight, ordinary beings would have succumbed to insanity.
The fire of valour in her eyes weren't extinguished. On the contrary, her determination had magnified.
Arturo arched a brow. "She would rather die than to receive help from an enemy? What an inane notion. Simply ludicrous. Has she lost her sense of rationality?"
"Being rational is a tool, but not the only tool we possess." Naruto materialised his dynamic frame beside his subordinate with aloofness plastered on his comely features. "She is unlike the many reapers I have slaughtered. They were cowardly and easily betrayed their conscience for survival. In the end, she chose to forfeit her life than to lose faith. You may think that is absurd, but I think it's admirable."
The immortal phoenix bowed. "Milord, have you-"
"Nonsense." The blond scowled. "I don't have a heart, remember? Love is just a fraud. Do you know where does fraud derives from? I'll answer it for you. Greed. The mother of all sins. Love weakens you. It only makes you hesitate in battle and reveals to your enemy nothing but weaknesses. Arturo, do not suggest such blasphemy to me ever again."
"I apologise for my recklessness." Arturo sighed. "But, may I ask who is she?"
"Oh, yes." Naruto folded his arms and smiled. "I almost forgot to introduce you to our newest associate. This is Tier Harribel. She is my assistant."
Tier was garbed in an ebony striped blazer with shawl lapels that outlined her voluptuous frame, midnight blue shirt with turtleneck collar underneath the jacket, black dress pants and a pair of shimmering stiletto heels. Her lustrous sunglow hair was decorated with braided locks. Bestowed with tremendous powers, Tier had her grotesque masks removed and revealed her bewitching features.
"Tier Harribel. Please to make your acquaintance."
Arturo nodded. "Arturo Plateado. Henceforth, we will be comrades."
"Stay here. I will talk to Shutara myself."
Tier and Arturo bowed. "As you wish, milord."
With a snap of Naruto's fingers, reality shattered into static pieces and a medieval castle of gargantuan proportions manifested. The infrastructure resembled a palatial cathedral that stood in the epicentre of the barren wasteland. Naruto sat on his gothic throne and stared dispassionately at a bewildered Shutara.
The Romanesque nave was supported by golden Corinthian pillars engraved with pictorial tapestries and the walls were imprinted with decorative mosaics. The sparkling stained glasses and clerestory windows cast ominous rays at the demonic sculptures displayed vividly throughout the hallway. Shutara inspected the marble tiles with her slender finger in disbelief and was awestruck. "W-What the hell?"
"This is a mere fragment of my powers, Shutara-chan." Naruto grinned. "I can do more than just making a kingdom appears out of nowhere."
"W-What now?" Shutara spoke with a hoarse voice. "You have me cornered. Why don't you just kill me and end this escapade?"
"Kill you?" The blond chuckled. "That is unnecessary, Shutara-chan. Do you want to know why I chose to spare your life? Or Hana-chan's? It's simply, really. I believe it is Soul Society who should be held accountable for its actions. If you killed somebody with a sword, do you blame the sword? You are just being used as a tool."
"What is your goal?" The fallen reaper coughed.
Naruto crossed his legs and smiled. "To rupture the balance."
"T-The balance? You tried to burn the entire Soul Society into ashes, you monster!"
The blond arched a brow. "Why? Why would I want to destroy such a stunning thing? Soul Society is such a beautiful realm. It has endless potential to flourish!"
"My goal is to erase the fallacy of god's creation! My goal is to destroy humanity!"
"No." Naruto shook his head. "There won't be a world if nobody takes risks. Humans are flawed. They are abominations! They don't deserve to live in this world. God created hairless apes with so many imperfections that it was ludicrous to think about it! And the Spirit King is his servant. I will not condone its existence. It must die!"
"You fool!" Shutara reprimanded. "The Spirit King is the key to the balance. It-"
"I told you, didn't I? My plan is to rupture the balance!" Naruto interjected. "Let me give you a little insight information about God. God is a maniacal prankster. He gave humans instincts and emotions. Instinct is such an extraordinary gift, and yet what did he do with it? For his amusement, he set the rules on opposition! I refuse to bow! That is the reason why I became the God of Hueco Mundo."
"If there is no law in this world, we become nothing but animals." Shutara smirked. "But you know that. After all, you're just a fucking anima-"
Before the reaper could end her disparaging statement, Naruto flicked his wrist. Instantaneously, she was struck by a transcendental force that nearly knocked her consciousness out of her. Her limp body sailed through the atmosphere and crashed into a pillar.
"Don't cross me, and maybe I'll consider showing mercy." Naruto stood up from his regal throne and ambled in an autocratic gait towards the moaning reaper. "We will continue our conversation once you have understood your situation better."
As if on cue, Tier appeared behind her sovereign and bowed humbly. "Milord."
"Throw her into prison. Make sure she gets the nutrients her body needs." Naruto smirked. "You can use any methods necessary to make her comply with your demands."
"J-Just kill me!"
Naruto clicked his tongue and cupped Shutara's chin. "Oh, no. I will not hurt such a beautiful thing like you. I will make you submit your will voluntarily to me, Shutara-chan. I will break you, just like I broke Hana-chan. When this is over, you will understand that your hatred is misplaced. Soul Society has forsaken you. Your friends have deceived you. I am the only one in this world who doesn't want you dead."
"You will not get away from this."
Naruto simply grinned. "I already did."
"Irrelevant." Retsu inspected the data on her computer and informed, "I already know about the Central 46's conspiracy. Your assistance is nugatory."
Tenjiro arched a brow. "W-Wait, you knew? All this time?"
"Yes." The Shodai Kenpachi sighed. "That is the reason why I'm developing a countermeasure against that monster's power. I have fought against him. I know what he is capable of. An ordinary soul reaper is no match against that hollow. That is why we need a monster. A monster that can stand against him."
"Are you not… angry?"
Retsu shrugged. "The Central 46 may be the king on the chessboard, but I'm the player."
"Then what are you going to do when you succeed on what you are doing?"
The Shodai Kenpachi glared menacingly at the medical commander and growled. "When I catch Uzumaki Naruto, I'm going to cut him up and let him die slowly."
"You have to listen to me, Captain Unohana." Tenjiro converted his frustration into sympathy and softened his voice. "Uzumaki Naruto has your mind completely messed up. You see him every place you look. Whatever he did to you has inflicted so much pain in you that you have become delusional. You think by doing all these will make you one step closer in defeating him, but he is just playing with you."
"Are you done talking?" Retsu retorted. "Help yourself to the door."
Ichibei took a swig from the jug of hot sake and smirked. "I must say, Captain Commander Yamamoto, you are a genius. You purposely fed Captain Kirinji the truth and used his sense of justice on him. You allowed him to tell Captain Unohana the truth so she would redirect her vengeance on both the Central 46 and Uzumaki Naruto, not knowing the puppeteer is actually you."
Shigekuni tided his paperwork and huffed. "He wanted the truth. I gave him the truth."
"But you know he was faithful to his comrades. You exploited that and told him the truth so he would convey the message to Captain Unohana, thus fuelling her anger." Ichibei chortled. "It was well-planned."
The aged commander scowled. "The truth is… I was the one who disclosed Captain Unohana's past to Central 46. I allowed them to know the fact that she was a potential threat. The bureaucrats were gullible fools. They assumed she was criminally insane, so I led them to their belief. I fed them information that favours my intention. I acted as if I was Central 46's pawn. In reality, they were dancing in my palm the entire time."
The monk sighed. "Are you going to eliminate Uzumaki Naruto?"
"Yes. He must die." Shigekuni nodded. "I purposely sent Captain Senjumaru to Hueco Mundo. I know she won't be able to defeat the monster, but I know she won't die either. I was intrigued when Captain Unohana survived the confrontation. She was too much of a lone wolf to be let alive. But I thought about it and it all makes sense."
Ichibei arched a confused brow. "And that is?"
"He has a fetish for strong and powerful woman. Like every alpha predator, they seek compatible mates. He is no different." The aged commander mused. "He saw something in Captain Unohana that captivates him. It was her extraordinary willpower and strength. I wanted to test my epiphany, so I sent Captain Senjumaru for the task to verify my hypothesis. She will be my bait to get to that monster."
"And what makes you think she'll come back."
"Trust me, Captain Hyosube." Shigekuni smirked. "She will."
Naruto descended the labyrinth of stairs and arrived to the penitentiary. Tier bowed with utmost respect at her jovial overlord and stood behind the blond. Flailing his hand flamboyantly, Naruto smiled. "So, how is she holding up? It has been weeks. I hope she didn't choose to starve herself to death."
"She has finally accepted the food, milord."
"Excellent." The blond ambled with jaunty steps towards the reaper's cell and smirked at the despondence scintillating in her dull eyes. "So, you have finally decided to be cooperative. That's good. Now, we can have a rational conversation."
Shutara sequestered herself in the lugubrious corner of her prison and hugged her knees, concealing her haggard features in the shadow. "I… just want it all to be over."
Naruto sighed. "I'm a little disappointed. Soul Society back-stabbed you bad, my dear. Are you going to just sit back and let it happen? No fuss, no protest? That's not the real you."
"You don't know anything about me. I just-"
"You want revenge."
"Deep down your heart, you want Soul Society to suffer for what they have done to you. Their treachery, their deceits. You want to destroy the world of lies, don't you?"
"No! I don't-"
"Yes you do, Shutara. In your gut, you know." Naruto smirked; she just needed a little push, and push he would give. "Soul Society sold you out to me. They left you here to die by my hands, just like what they did to poor Hana-chan. They wanted you to be desecrated and eviscerated by me. And you know that. Their action almost led to your death, well if I was any lesser, you would already be in my stomach."
Shutara looked away.
"For once in your life, Tara-chan, don't be the voice of reason. Be the voice of wrath!"
"You just want to sow discord within the ranks of the Gotei Thirteen, don't you?"
Naruto smiled. "A great man once said, 'The world is a stage, and all the men and women are mere players.'"
"You can't just ask me to betray my world." Shutara protested.
"I'm the God of this world. I can do anything I want. What's your point?" Naruto snickered, his enticing voice was echoing with sheer power. "Besides, it's not you who betrayed your world. It's your world that betrayed you. So, what do you say? Ignite that fire of vengeance inside your soul and join me."
"And what do I get in return?"
Naruto simply smiled. "What you always wanted."
Ah! Another chapter done. Yes, I took some reference from Al Pacino's splendid speech in The Devil's Advocate and some inspiration from The Mentalist. Hey, how could I resist?
Anyway, I was thinking about adding characters from other amazing franchises. Uh… Blazblue, Guilty Gear, Soul Calibur, Tekken, Warcraft, Final Fantasy, etc. These are examples, but I'm not sure if I should go for that idea. What do you think? Do you think it will go overboard or it might be a great idea?
Please rate and review
(P.S: Shutara better stay as a woman, Tite Kubo, or I'll fucking flip the table!)