AN: Yo! CrimsonxAEGIS here with chapter three of the Noble Hermit. Now, for reals this time, things are gonna start heating up. We're really gonna get rolling here, starting off with some interaction between Tatsuki and Naruto, and touching briefly on his interaction with the Kurosaki Twins, before we move on to the the Hollow Invasion or as the manga calls it, 'Quincy Archer Hates You,' and Naruto officially meets the gang and is reunited with some old friends. You guessed it, Naruto is going to get chewed out pretty badly in this one; but we'll also get to see Naruto unleash his unlimited badassery for the second-ish time.

Neow! The Harem: I have decided to officially expand the Harem a bit, so we have an updated list of honey's for Naruto since the last time. This is not final, probably wont be final until we reach the Soul Society Arc which isn't actually all that far off from the Hollow Invasion, but for now here they are, by popular demand:

Shihouin Yoruichi

Shiba Kukaku

Unagiya. Ikumi

Arisawa Tatsuki (Note: Will not be romantically involved with Naruto until after the Winter War

Time-skip, so is technically not part of the Harem at this point in time)

Sui-Feng

Tier Harribel

Matsumoto Rangiku

Yadomaru Lisa

Ise Nanao

And I think that's it for now. I don't want it getting much bigger than this if at all. I might even remove someone from this list at some point too. As it stands this is going to be quite challenging making sure that I don't forget anyone and have them randomly falling out of the story-entirely forgotten along the wayside. We'll see how it goes though. If you haven't noticed however, I have decided that no Naruto characters apart from Naruto himself will be making an appearance in this story; for one that would just make this story that much more difficult to write due to the overload of characters, and secondly- no that's it. It would just be way too hard to write them in and do them justice. So apart from Naruto, this is a Bleach only Fic; dealing with bleach characters in a bleach plot and Bleach setting. That's it.

Another Incredible response from chapter two, apparently it was still a little bit fast paced, and I promise I will do my best to correct that. This one should be a little bit slower, or at the very least I'm damn well gonna try. I had a lot of people asking me to place Unohana into the Harem, unfortunately I'm still on the fence about that; the same can be said about Neliel. Both characters are awesome, I will admit that readily, unfortunately, I really just don't see how I could write them in properly, as it stands the Harem has gotten pretty big, and those two characters would demand quite a bit more attention since I don't really know much about them. But you still have time, I will take suggestions into consideration, but I may only accept one or two more characters. That's it. The absolute maximum. I may take the characters that have been suggested the most and put them in a poll for you guys to duke it out; but other than that, I have no more solid ideas. Again, I want to keep this harem from getting too large, since if you hadn't noticed by now, I am trying to focus on plot progression and character development at the same time. This on it's own is proving difficult, and the harem is sitting at nine women, which even I think is a bit big. I am not the Lemon Sage, nor am I on his level, and even he struggles at times with his large harems.

Other than that there aren't any other important issues. For those of you that wanted to see Shion and the kids, I'm sorry, but as I said to a few of you; those characters were only mentioned in the prologue as a tool for me to explain Naruto's emotional development. That's it, that's all.

At this point in time their involvement in the story really wouldn't make a heck of a lot of sense. Sure they would be attracted to the Seireitei by Naruto's fame and rumours of his ascent to Nobility, but this is Soul Society we're talking about here. Not only would it take them a very long time to even find where he lives, but there's no guarantee that Soul Society would even recognize their claim to his family name. This all happened while he was alive after all; and Soul Society is the land of the dead. In a way, it's a place where people can have a fresh start.

Now, after I've said all that, I am sorry to those who wanted to see some Naruto gals in this story, but at this point that would just get way too difficult to manage. I can't manage that. So it will not be happening. For those of you that asked me to keep it to Bleach Girls, then rejoice, because I saw your logic and took your advice. It's for the best.

Now I need to apologize for the long wait for this chapter. I am dealing with some pretty serious medical issues right now, and have just been informed that I may be dealing with either of two possibilities. A lifelong disability thanks to a twisted spine, or a cancerous tumour in my lower back. I don't know why I was given two diagnosis so different from each other but that's what I'm dealing with.

My doctor has me going in for blood work and MRI's and I'm also looking for work at the moment, so all of this is really eating up my time. Other than that though, I'm hoping to be able to write a little more often, so Chapter Four hopefully won't take quite so long to get out. I am sorry to all of you who genuinely like this story, but due to current circumstances, updates will be sporadic at best.

Now, I don't own Bleach, Naruto, or any of the characters depicted in either series. I merely use them and abuse them for my own personal amusement and that of my readers with no thought to monetary gain. Again, it would be nice; but if wishes were buffalo, I'd have a herd. :P

On with the Show I say!

Chapter Three: The God-Slayer's Comeback

Three weeks since that conversation with Isshin, three weeks since he realized that certain events had quickly begun to spiral out of control. Three weeks, and Naruto had come to a sudden realization.

It was time to reveal himself. It was time to make the first move of many in the fight against Aizen.

His first order of business would be the safe removal of the Hougyoku from an unsuspecting Kuchiki, after that he would need to find a way to dispose of or hide it safely so that Aizen couldn't get his hands on it. He had a few ideas, all of which involved seals, and all of which took the moral highroad as compared to Kisuke's chosen method.

He could empathize with the scientist, he really could; he would do anything to make sure that Aizen's plans, whatever they may ultimately be, did not come to fruition. He did however have his reservations about what those plans could be. The Hougyoku was only one part of some sinister plot, that much was certain, it was the end-game that Naruto was still in the dark about, and which was his primary concern. Any plan that involved that instrument of unlimited power could not be good at all.

Kisuke might know more, but it was doubtful, as he'd been here in the living world almost as long as Naruto had; so that was out.

Anyway, the second order of business was the transferal of Rukia's soul to a proper Gigai. The one she was in was no good, and while it worked for Kisuke's purposes, it was counteractive to Naruto's intention of righting the wrong done to her without her knowledge.

The third order of business, which would probably come first, was meeting his young human cousins for the first time. He was especially excited about meeting the young twins, even if he didn't show it, he still enjoyed the thought of having a family again after so long. The young Kurosaki twins, from what he'd heard, were like night and day. Both were charming in their own ways, and Isshin had assured him that he would love them both to death.

Literally in his case.

The fourth order of business on his agenda, was going to say 'hi' to his old friends and getting up to speed on what Aizen had been up to since his supposed 'assassination'. If they knew more about this then he did of course.

Since his conversation with Isshin, Naruto had taken note of something rather odd. For instance-

Blowing out a lungful of smoke, Naruto looked across the shogi board at his opponent. Harribel was sitting there still dressed in her night clothes which consisted of a sheer low cut black nighty. It was almost completely see through so he could see her bra and panties, both of which were a provocative black lace. If he didn't know any better, he would say she was trying to beat him at shogi using sex appeal alone.

It was almost working.

Over the last three weeks she'd been wearing her night clothes around the house as often as possible; only changing into her usual outfit, which in itself was very revealing, when she was going out. She'd been driving him up the wall, and it was getting harder and harder for Naruto to conceal this fact from his housemates. He was beginning to suspect that she was doing it on purpose to get a reaction out of him, or to force him to take action.

He was a bigger man than that, and he would prove it even if the lack of oxygen and blood going to his brain knocked him flat.

She was a very attractive woman, and he had to say the way the nighty contoured to her curves was extremely appealing to him; therein lied the problem. If Isshin was to be believed and Kukaku had taken it upon herself to finalize the engagement between them while he'd been gone, then he was technically a married man, and he wasn't sure how she would react if he started getting intimate with a hollow. Even if he didn't have a problem with it, and he was positive Kukaku would be of like mind, it was the principle of the thing.

Married men did not sleep around unless they wanted their wives to castrate them, especially if those wives carried a sword around all the time, simple as that.

Naruto moved one of his pieces and sat back in his cushions, chewing on the end of his pipe in thought. He had a lot to think about lately, and things had been so simple and peaceful in his life for over a hundred years. Unfortunately though, Isshin had said he was bringing the kids over today since it was a Sunday and they didn't have school, and from the looks of things they would be arriving soon. He probably didn't even have the time to finish this game before they arrived. So he definitely didn't have time to sit around smoking his pipe while debating with himself over life's greater mysteries.

With that thought, he watched Harribel make her move before she looked up at the clock. Noting that she too had noticed the time Naruto sighed, a cloud of smoke accompanying the breath of air as he stood to his feet.

"Looks like we'll have to postpone our game for another time Tier. The kids will be here soon, so you need to get dressed." Naruto stated dryly as he moved towards the hall. Harribel stood from her place and stretched, her breasts nearly popping out of her top as she did so, and Naruto had to quickly turn his head to avoid getting an eyeful as her nighty rode up on her hips.

This did not go unnoticed by Tier, and the strange glint in her eyes did not comfort Naruto at all. With a sigh, Harribel let her arms fall back to her sides before she sauntered towards Naruto at the hallway door, letting her hips sway seductively as she passed. Naruto twitched. 'Something is definitely going on here, just what did Isshin say to her that day? I know this is his fault, it's always his fault. Is she seducing me on purpose, or did her natural sensuality get some sort of level up in the last three weeks?'

On the bright side, it did provide him with some very good material for his books. He was positive the next release was going to be more popular than any of his previous works to date.

With Harribel going off to her room to change, Naruto decided to go and check on the three fraccion before the kids and their insane father arrived. He felt for those kids, growing up with a father like Isshin couldn't have been easy. Considering that from what he'd heard none of his children were even remotely like him, he was happy that his uncles more inane quirks hadn't rubbed off on them. So it was the least he could do to make sure that they realized the rest of their family was nothing like their crazy father.

When he reached their room, he gently slid the door open and confirmed that the three fraccion were indeed still lazing about and sleeping in; with that knowledge in mind, Naruto closed their bedroom door quietly and moved down the hall towards the sitting room to wait for his guests, passing by a few of the girls that now worked for him on his way.

Just as he reached the door, there was a series of rapid knocks on the front door before it opened and one of the girls who had taken up door duty for the day poked her head inside. Upon seeing him she smiled brightly and gave a small wave. "Oyabun-" Naruto's entire body seized up, the noticeable twitch was ignored by the door-girl though, which he was thankful for. He still wasn't used to being called by such titles, he'd tried to get them to stop, but maybe due to some unresolved hostility towards him they decided to keep doing it just to spite him. "That strange man from the other day is here, and he's got two little girls with him."

Naruto shivered, the strange feeling that always crawled up his spine when people called him by a title other than his name seemingly melting away and leaving him chilled. Gathering his wits about himself once more, Naruto nodded. "Bring them to the sitting room for me, I'll be waiting there."

With an enthusiastic nod, the girl disappeared back around the door and Naruto could just barely make out a muffled conversation as he made his way over to his pile of cushions. He'd had the girls set out some more cushions earlier that morning in preparation for their visit, so there were an additional five smaller piles scattered about the room not far from where he now sat. Unfortunately it would seem that Isshin didn't bring Ichigo along, probably because his duties as a Substitute Shinigami had dragged him off to the other side of town, so it would only be him and the girls for the day. Isshin had said he would only be there for about an hour or so, and after that he'd tasked Naruto with looking after and getting to know his younger cousins until he'd finished with his business elsewhere.

Harribel re-entered the room at that moment, looking about before taking a seat in the pile of cushions that she had previously occupied during their game of shogi. Folding her legs beneath her, Harribel took to simply staring at him as he sat there smoking his pipe and fiddling with a shogi piece.

There was a series of thumps near the front door before a loud shout, and both Harribel and Naruto were treated to the sight of Isshin flying into view for a moment before disappearing down the hall in a tumble.

Eyebrows nearly disappearing into their hairlines, Naruto and Harribel glanced at each other before looking back to the door as their door-girl led two young girls into the room. "You can sit anywhere you like, the Boss-man is cool like that."

The girls were fraternal twins, as they looked nothing alike, one being dark haired with large dark grey eyes; while the other had bright brown hair and light brown eyes. The brighter of the two, seemed to be just that, as while her sister wore a rather disinterested expression on her face, she was all smiles; looking about the room with a bright inquisitive air that was rather refreshing really.

With a throaty chuckle Naruto motioned to the two girls, and then to the cushions piled about the room. "Take a seat girls, while we wait for your father to scrape himself off the floor."

The dark haired girl snickered at that and the other just nodded enthusiastically before both chose a pile and plopped down into them.

It didn't take too long for Isshin to appear in the doorway, goofy grin in place and eyebrows wiggling suggestively. "So, Naruto m'boy, how have things been; been taking care of that stress problem?"

"Hah?" Pipe hanging from his mouth as he looked at Isshin incredulously, Naruto raised an eyebrow as he started piecing things together from the last three days. "Stress problem? What the hell are you-" Pipe suddenly slipping through his fingers as they went slack, Naruto finally connected the dots. The suggestive touches, the provocative dress, the seductive swaying of her hips at every opportunity—it really was all Isshin's fault. Clenching his fist and grinding his teeth, Naruto growled. "You told Harribel something unnecessary didn't you, you old goat?"

Isshin's smile only seemed to get wider at the sight an angry Naruto. "I'm a doctor Naruto, all this stress can't be good for your health. There are several outlets, but only one really does the trick; one that you could access quite readily with all these beautiful women living with you. You need to learn to let loose once in a while, it'll really help you out in the long run."

Naruto's growl grew in intensity, and Isshin stopped smiling, believing he'd finally stepped on a land-mine. "There are children present Isshin, let's save this conversation about my... health, for some other time. Alright?"

Isshin nodded quickly, before he too sat down on a cushion and sighed. "So traditional, yet always so comfortable." Isshin then turned to his daughters and smiled. "Yuzu, Karin; this is your cousin. He married into the family a few years back and I wanted him to meet you. Since he's been so busy with his work lately it had to wait until now, but better late then never."

Karin frowned. "If he married into the family, then is that barely dressed lady his wife?"

Naruto chuckled at the look that crossed Harribel's face at that statement. It looked like some sort of cross between embarrassment and incredulity, regardless of how slight the change in her expression was, Naruto had gotten rather adept at reading her in the time they'd spent together. "Sorry but no, Kukaku is living elsewhere at the moment because of her job. I'm sure she'd love to meet you all as well, but unfortunately that may not be for some time yet." Putting out his pipe, Naruto tucked it into his haori and smiled. "My name is Namikaze-Uzumaki Naruto, it's nice to meet the both of you."

The bubbly girl, Yuzu, nearly bounced out of her seat in her haste to introduce herself. Out of the two, she seemed the most enthused about meeting another member of their family, even if he was a cousin by marriage alone. "I'm Yuzu, it's really nice to meet you!"

"And I'm Karin, so tell me," Karin leered across at Naruto with a strange glint in her eye, before her brows knit together in a more serious look. "You some kind of Yakuza or something?"

Isshin chuckled uneasily at Naruto's surprise, while Naruto himself looked like a deer caught in headlights at the question, before he realized what his home must look like to others with all those women dressed in sleek, formfitting, black suits patrolling the property. A few of them had even brought their large German Shepherds from home, adding to the image that had obviously been painted in the young Kurosaki's mind. Those suits also looked like they cost a fortune, and Harribel had confirmed that she'd chosen them as the new uniform a week ago.

She liked the look apparently.

All in all, it really did look like the home of a Yakuza boss, so he couldn't really blame the girl for the misconception. Shaking his head, Naruto sighed. "No, I'm not a Yakuza. I'm a writer, and those girls are my hired security. My books made me quite a bit of money in the last decade, and it was easier to hire them than it was to draw up a long-term contract with a Private Security Firm." Glancing over at Harribel, Naruto frowned. "That and it was just kind of dropped into my lap, so to speak."

"That makes sense I guess." Karin muttered dryly. It was obvious that she wasn't convinced, tough nut to crack that one.

Taking a moment to collect himself, Naruto studied the girls in front of him for a moment. It was his first time meeting them, and normally on first meetings Naruto would at least have some sort of idea for a conversation starter, but he was drawing up blanks. Thankfully, the peppier of the two decided to save him the trouble.

"Ne, what's your wife like? Is she nice? I bet she's really pretty too."

Naruto smirked, Kukaku was an interesting person that much was certain, and she was only really nice to young children and her family, unless said family pissed her off. Which was actually very easy to do. "She's nice as long as you don't get on her bad-side, she's a rather irritable woman that one, violent and very aggressive too; she has a flare and passion for fireworks and is a veritable genius of her craft. She's tough as nails and has a vocabulary that would make a sailor blush on her best days. You two would like her though, and I'm sure she would like you." Looking over at Isshin, Naruto smirked. "I really should get her out here some time, she'd like this place. Not to mention, she would never pass up the chance to see her ol' Uncle Isshin again."

Isshin laughed nervously, a nervous look on his face and sweat collecting on his brow at the very thought of Kukaku finding out that he really wasn't dead. He would most definitely die—for real this time. "I'm sure she would Naruto."

Like that the group went on to discuss trivial things, favourite foods, movies, hobbies and the like. It was one of the most normal conversations Naruto had had in a long time. Considering most of his conversations with Harribel lately revolved around her state of dress.

He could swear he had developed ulcers thanks to all the stress.

When Isshin finally did have to leave, Naruto took the girls out into the yard where Karin took to playing a game of soccer with some of the guards who were on break. They'd shucked their suit-jackets and ties and opened a couple buttons on their tops for better air flow; had all the women in his life suddenly decided to mess with him?

Yuzu however had decided to sit on the deck with him and Harribel. While he drank Sake and smoked his pipe, she drank tea with Harribel as the older woman taught her how to play shogi. It was nice, to be able to get to know his extended family. Even if he was just a glorified baby-sitter for the day, he missed things like this.

Laughing and playing with friends and family; not having to care about whether or not tomorrow will be your last day. He hadn't felt that way in quite some time. Over the passed one hundred years, Naruto had constantly been worried about Aizen discovering him here and sending an even more powerful Espada after him and those he lived with.

It was a pleasant feeling, to just forget those worries for a time.

For several hours they either played in the yard or talked on the deck, Naruto staying silent the whole while, just taking everything in. He wasn't completely idle though; his senses had been blanketing the city ever since he'd felt something that had him worried.

The hollows we're disappearing.

Over the last few days, Naruto had felt it; hollows would appear and then only moments later, they were gone. Ichigo hadn't been involved, of that much he was certain, since the boy's reiatsu usually never even made it anywhere close to the hollows before they inexplicably vanished. Ichigo was also nowhere near this quick with dispatching Hollows either.

He sensed another was responsible.

The reiatsu of this being was completely different from any shinigami, it was a reiatsu he hadn't felt the likes of for close to one hundred years.

Quincy.

A Quincy was in Karakura. How had he missed it? Had his senses really grown so dull in the last one hundred years that he'd failed to detect a lone Quincy? Or was something else to blame? Ichigo came to mind at that question; his reiatsu was so wild and uncontrolled that it covered an entire corner of the city. Acting as some sort of dampener to the senses and making it near impossible to pinpoint his location; the same was true for any others in the area of effect. Especially if their reiatsu was far below the strength of Ichigo's own.

Another vanished at that moment, and he could feel Ichigo and the weak presence of the Shinigami who had gifted him with his current abilities arrive at the location only a moment later.

Naruto frowned and puffed absently on his pipe. 'Things are getting out of hand. I'm going to need to step in if this continues... one Quincy usually isn't much of a threat to the balance, but since Karakura is so rich in reishi and it's inhabitants so spiritually sensitive, it's a veritable feeding ground for hollows, more show up in this city than anywhere else in the world. If this Quincy continues as they are, it could have serious repercussions,especially if Soul Society decides to investigate; and considering this Quincy seems so god-damned trigger happy, that may happen sooner rather than later.' A tugging on his sleeve knocked him out of his thoughts, and when he looked to his left, he saw Yuzu there with a concerned expression on her adorable face, looking up at him with her large brown eyes with a cute pout on her lips.

"Ne, Naruto-san, you're really quiet? Is something the matter?"

Naruto exhaled the smoke in his lungs and offered the girl a small but reassuring smile. "No, nothing's wrong Yuzu. I was just thinking is all; my next book is set for release soon and I have much to think on concerning the book signing. It's nothing too terribly important though, so I really shouldn't be worrying over-much with my little cousins here."

Yuzu frowned cutely, before a big smile appeared on her face. "Then you can play a game with me! Harribel taught me how to play shogi, but I'm not that good yet."

Naruto chuckled before glancing over at Harribel, who simply stared back at him coolly, as if daring him to deny his young cousin. Lifting a hand, Naruto ruffled the girls hair affectionately before turning in place and pulling the board towards him. "Very well Yuzu, let's beat the big bad Harribel at a game of shogi then."

Harribel cocked an eyebrow at that as Yuzu cheered. They quickly set up the board and before long, the game was on. With Yuzu in his lap, they took turns making moves against Harribel, all the while Naruto couldn't help but feel an innate sense of foreboding. Something terrible was going to happen soon, and the time for hiding would end.

Looks like it might just be time to dust off his Zanpakutou after all.

(SCENE BREAK)

After his game with Yuzu and Harribel, Yuzu had dragged Harribel off to do 'girl stuff', and Naruto was left alone with Karin. The two had been sitting on his deck for the past ten minutes just staring at each other. As far as staring contests went, it was pretty intense. There was no animosity, Karin seemed to be genuinely curious about him but didn't know how to start with her questions, while Naruto just didn't know where to start. Thus was their dilemma, neither knew a good way to start the conversation, and so simply sat there staring at each other. Naruto puffing away on his pipe as was usual for him, and Karin simply stared at him unblinking.

He could smell food cooking from the kitchen, so perhaps one of the girls had decided to cook something for dinner, last he'd seen of Yuzu and Harribel the two had gone in that direction. Who knew?

"So you're a writer then?" Apparently Karin had gotten tired of the silence and decided to start the back and forth. She struck him as the aggressive type too, so it wasn't that surprising. Naruto raised an eyebrow and reached into his Haori, his pipe stuck firmly between his lips.

Nodding Naruto took out one of his drafts that he'd been working on from a seal drawn on his left pectoral and waved it in the air. "I write books of a more adult nature, so unfortunately I can't let you read those. This one however," Naruto handed the small notebook to the dark haired girl, and she took it with a raised brow, "is geared towards younger audiences. I've been working on it for some time, but I can't seem to be able to finish it. Perhaps you can help me with that."

Karin raised an eyebrow and looked up at Naruto like he was stupid. "Dunno what kind of person you think I am, but I'm not exactly the artsy type."

Naruto chuckled softly at that and gestured to the notebook. "You don't need to be. What I need from you, is an opinion; is there anything about this book that you like, that you don't like, that sort of thing. Even if you don't read books often, I need the input of someone your age or maybe as old as your brother Ichigo to really progress here, you could even give it to Yuzu to look at if you want."

Karin sighed and pocketed the notebook. "I'm not really the reading type, I'm more into sports and the like."

Naruto hummed thoughtfully, taking his pipe from his mouth and rubbing his chin. "Sporty eh? I think there are a few things we could do." Naruto grunted as he stood, walking out into the yard a ways before turning back to Karin, who was looking at him curiously. "You ever been interested in Martial Arts, Karin?"

Standing from the deck Karin walked into the yard until she stood only a few feet from Naruto. Looking up at him, Karin gave him a once over before smirking. "I knew you weren't just some lay-about writer. What do you do? Karate like Tatsuki-san?"

Naruto smiled. "Nope, not exactly. I am a master of Hakuda, Goken, and Kawazu Kumite." Of course, he'd had to completely redevelop the Kawazu Kumite after he'd died, and that had taken some doing. It was a fighting style that relied almost completely on the usage of Sage Mode, and without chakra sage mode was practically impossible.

There was one thing that hadn't changed however, Naruto was a Sage, which meant he would need to rediscover Sage Mode as well. That was why it had taken him so long to redevelop the Frog Kata. He had first needed to create an entirely different form of Sage Mode, utilizing all of the same principles and techniques, but using only a singular energy source.

He called it the 'Spirit Sage Mode'.

Karin balked at that one. "Frog Kata? I've never heard of that one, or this Hakuda... or Goken. You make these up yourself or something?"

Naruto laughed. "No, all of these styles were invented by old friends of mine. They died a long time ago, but have given me permission to continue the development of their techniques and styles as I see fit. This also means, that I can teach them to whomever I so choose. So, want to learn a little of my martial arts, Karin?" At that he extended his hand towards Karin, who looked at it strangely for a moment.

After several moments of silent contemplation, Karin chuckled dryly. "Yuzu gets a book, and I get Martial Arts. Why not?" With that, she reached out and shook Naruto's hand.

She had no idea what she was getting into.

(SCENE BREAK)

It had only been a day since the Kurosaki twins had come to visit, and already Naruto missed the life they brought with them to his home. They were so lively, both in their own ways, and had really brightened up the atmosphere if only for a short time.

With Karin he'd decided to teach her the Goken, as it was the least complicated of the arts he knew. Hakuda encompassed several different martial arts all rolled into one punishing package, while Kuwazu Kumite would require that he taught her Sage Mode.

He was understandably wary about teaching someone so young something so dangerous, regardless of whether or not she had the potential for it; and she did, but Sage Mode was extremely dangerous just in the learning of it. She wasn't ready for it, and if she tried to learn it as she was, it would destroy her very soul.

Not a very comforting prospect.

Yuzu and Harribel had bonded as well, the young girl seemed completely enamoured with the former Espada for some reason; and Harribel had become a complete mother hen around the bubbly pre-teen girl. It was weird, the stoic Arrancar had allowed Yuzu to pull her about the house for hours without complaint, and after they had all finished eating the meal the two of them had prepared, she helped the girl with the dishes and had even let the young girl sleep with her for a few hours until Isshin had arrived to pick them up.

As cute as it was, Naruto just hadn't expected it.

All things like that had to come to an end at some point though. There would be other times to visit with his family here, for now however, he had more pressing matters to attend to. Namely being the close proximity between the Quincy and his other cousin whom he'd yet to meet.

He had a bad feeling about this; but for now at least, the Quincy seemed perfectly content with killing hollows and keeping his distance from Ichigo. That would change eventually, but until then Naruto would continue to watch the situation closely.

The other more pressing piece of business had directed Naruto's attention elsewhere, somewhere more mundane then the happenings of the Land of the Dead.

The Mall.

Thus, here he was, in the Mall and surrounded by hundreds of normal people going about their business. He received several odd looks to be sure because of his choice of dress; being more traditional then most others akin to the elders of society who remembered the old ways. He was comfortable however, and that's all he really cared about when dressing himself.

Normally, he tried not to venture out into the wide world that often, but since he'd already acknowledged that he would need to start moving in opposition to Aizen soon, it couldn't be helped. That and there were a few things he needed to pick up, namely a new note-pad and writing utensils for his work. As well as a calligraphy brush and ink, among other training supplies that he'd ordered a week ago for his newest student. Or at least, for the person he was thinking of taking on as a student. He hadn't actually spoken to them about it yet, but they struck him as the type that would get rather annoyed about being left out of the action.

That and their chakra reserves were among the largest he'd seen in a person outside of the Elemental Nations. Out of everyone he'd ever met in the World of the Living, they had the largest potential where the Ninjutsu of his world was concerned. They of course had no idea that their forced visit to his estate on behalf of his new employees had managed to catch his attention. He was thankful for that at least, since if they hadn't appeared in his home that day then he never would have realized that someone like that existed in this world of the living. He'd watched them for the entirety of the visit as often as he could, trying to get a proper read on their level and personality. He liked what he saw so far.

He knew of course that a random offer for training from what was in essence a complete stranger in this day and age was a little strange, but he was positive that if he explained the situation and what he was really offering, this person would jump all over it in a heartbeat.

He could teach them so much, but only if they were willing to learn. It helped that this person was already so strong in a physical sense, that was one thing he wouldn't really need to help them with. Unlocking their reiryoku and their chakra, and getting them combat ready in a short amount of time was another matter entirely; but he was confident he could do it in a week or two's time.

He had his ways after all.

So Naruto wandered about the mall, visiting various stores and stalls and gathering up items from sports equipment retailers and arts and crafts hobby-shops. Training dummies, several bags full of blank paper, brushes and bottles of ink, bandages and antiseptics, the list of course goes on and on. He'd had to seal much of his purchases away somewhere on his person, but carried a few bags with him to make himself at least look like a normal customer; though he was just about finished for the day.

Making his way into the food court, Naruto looked about for a place to set down his bags before going to get some ramen. He knew of only one place that made ramen like Old Man Teuchi used to, it was a place he'd found about three years ago in this very mall, and if memory served correct—aha.

Across the food-court from his current position, he spotted the small shop nestled in between two of the more mainstream food-stays of the current era. It was quaint, a small bar with six stools behind a beige curtain, and just behind the bar were the stoves where the dish would be prepared by the chefs before being served to customers at the bar.

Five of the stools were full, the only one that was empty being the one stool that no one ever sat in. Why? Because it was reserved for him of course.

He didn't know when they'd gone and made it official, but even though he only visited once every few months or so, he always sat in that one spot and ordered ridiculous amounts of ramen, so the owner had gone and designated that as Naruto's very own stool after his forth visit or so.

Making his way over, Naruto shouldered his way gently through the crowd and brushed the curtain to the side; stepping inside, Naruto was met with a smile and a wave from the chef and owner of the establishment. Placing his order of six miso and pork ramen bowls, Naruto placed his bags on the floor next to his stool and took a seat to wait for his order.

Now to think of how he was going to find this person he needed to speak with without looking like some kind of creepy stalker.

(POV CHANGE)

Tatsuki sighed tiredly. Being who she was, she was never really one for girly-stuff, preferring to go to the dojo and train her body until she dropped. She was on target to become the strongest girl in Japan, just one tournament win and the title would be hers.

Thus, excursions to the mall to get a little girl time in shopping for clothes of all things she found to be rather exhausting. This was why she was so tired, she'd been in the mall for a good part of the day after school had ended, getting dragged about by a few of the girls from her class.

There was Ryo, Mahana, and Honshou, along with a couple girls Tatsuki hadn't bothered getting introduced to; fortunately for the sake of Tatsuki's sanity at least, Orihime was off somewhere doing something or other. So at the very least she wouldn't have to deal with Honshou constantly groping the poor girl in public.

Three hours into their shopping trip they had made a stop in the food court with their bags, Tatsuki having stopped by a sports equipment retailer early on to pick up some new training gloves since hers had been worn out a week ago, as such she only had one bag.

So she sat there, drink in hand, listening to the girls go and about what high school girls do. Boys, boys, clothes, boys, make-up, clothes, boys, grades, and so and and so forth. Most of these being things that Tatsuki had next to no interest in.

Then again, recently she had found herself thinking about something that had been bugging her. She'd been having thoughts about someone herself, but not about silly boys like most girls her age, no she was thinking about someone older. He was more mature than even Kojima, and his presence was as sharp as any blade; now she could be mistaken, but she could wager a guess as to say he was probably one of the strongest people in the world. That was the feeling she got from just a few minutes in his presence.

Of course, she had made the mistake of mentioning that she'd actually been having thoughts of a none too innocent nature about a man at school already, she wasn't about to do so again any time soon. Finishing off her drink, she set the empty cup back on the table and stretched; after hearing a satisfying pop from her shoulder she relaxed into her seat and sighed quietly. This was of course when she noticed something odd.

The girls at the table had all gone silent, staring at something behind her with wide eyes, even Honshou was staring at something behind her, her lips parted slightly and a blush lighting up her face while her glasses gleamed ominously in the light.

Looking behind her in an attempt to catch even a glimpse of whatever had caught their attention, Tatsuki saw someone familiar. Four familiar someones in fact. It was that scantily clad Harribel woman from a few weeks ago and her three followers along with two other girls from the former all-girl gang dressed in what had become their new uniform. Sleek black suits, white undershirts, black ties, and opaque black sunglasses.

They appeared to be looking for someone, as they were standing in the middle of the food court and looking about from left to right. This continued for a moment before Harribel's eyes landed on Tatsuki and they lit up with recognition. This was barely noticeable, as Harribel hadn't come off as the most expressive, but Tatsuki had caught the minute change in her expression. The small group made their way over to their table at Harribel's urging and soon came to a stop only a few feet away.

"Arisawa-san?" At Tatsuki's nod, Harribel pulled a chair over from another table and took a seat, the three women Tatsuki had seen following her around all the time sitting at an empty table nearby while the two girls in suits took up what appeared to be defensive postures behind Harribel. That was when Tatsuki realized something; Harribel had sat down right next to Honshou, who was staring unabashed at the older woman's breasts.

Then again, even Tatsuki found her eyes drawn to the enormous breasts the older woman obviously had no qualms with showing off. So she couldn't really blame a lesbian for being completely enamoured with them.

Looking back up into Harribel's eyes, she took note of the fact that the woman had raised a single eyebrow; obviously she had been caught staring. Blushing a bit under the older woman's scrutiny, Tatsuki fiddled with her skirt, idly noting that she was still wearing her uniform from school.

"Did you need something, Harribel-san?" Tatsuki asked quietly, still somewhat embarrassed that she'd been caught ogling another woman's breasts like she had. Especially this woman.

With a curt nod, Harribel's expression once again became neutral before she herself seemed to sigh. "Naruto-san came to the mall a few hours ago," at that Tatsuki's head shot back up to regard the other woman, again noting that a strange gleam of at least partial recognition had entered Honshou's eyes at the name. "We've been looking for him for about twenty minutes and have been unable to locate him. So we thought it prudent to ask you or your friends if you've seen him."

Tatsuki shook her head, as she was positive she would have recognized an individual like Naruto wandering about the mall. He wore traditional Japanese clothing after all, so he would be pretty hard to miss. That was when her eyes passed over a ramen shop at the other end of the food court and caught a glimpse of red and black.

Blinking in a stupefied manner, Tatsuki pointed with a single finger at the ramen shop and Harribel's gaze followed. Quirking an eyebrow, Harribel reached back and tapped one of her fraccion on the shoulder, the girl with the long, straight black hair; "Sung-Sun, go and retrieve Naruto-san for me." Sung-Sun herself looked confused at first, before she followed her mistresses gaze. When she finally saw what her mistress was staring at, she placed a single hand over her mouth, hiding that portion of her face behind her sleeve, and giggled.

"It would seem Naruto-san has fallen prey to his addiction once again, Harribel-sama." Sung-Sun said through her giggle as she stood. "Fufufu, I'll be back shortly." With that she left and Harribel returned her attention to the girls at the table. That was when the older woman seemed to finally register that they weren't alone and turned her frosty gaze on the other girls.

"And who might you all be? Friends of Arisawa-san?"

Slowly, as one, all the girls nodded. Honshou's glasses had started slipping down her nose and her blush had increased in intensity, but other than that, the girls simply seemed to be in awe of the older woman. Tatsuki couldn't blame them, this woman was confident and mature. A far cry from the people they were used to interacting with for the most part. Her very presence exuded this confidence in waves, and even those in the food court around them could feel it. She drew the eyes of both men and women without even trying; some curious, others were completely taken in by her almost unnatural beauty and exotic appeal.

She looked like a Hawaiian swimsuit model to be blunt.

That was when Tatsuki looked at Honshou and her face paled. 'Oh shit! Honshou looks like she's about to lose it!' Unfortunately, Tatsuki hadn't been able to react in time. Honshou appeared to have reached the limit of her sanity.

Raging Lesbian with a breast fetish, plus incredibly beautiful dark skinned woman with very large breasts, equalled a potential molestation the likes of which you only read about.

Potential being a very flimsy word at this point in time, as it was almost a sure thing.

Fortunately for everyone involved, when Honshou did pounce, she ran face first into the rock hard washboard abs belonging to the newest addition to the scene. Tatsuki blinked confusedly, just like the other girls present as Honshou rolled on the ground holding her face and groaning in pain. When had he gotten here?

Standing there, looking down at Honshou, was the blonde man that Tatsuki had only met once before; they hadn't spoken to each other directly, but she had the distinct impression she had felt his eyes on her that day. Standing there looking down at Honshou with a rather amused visage, was Uzumaki Naruto.

He was much more physically imposing than he'd been when she'd first seen him. Then again, he'd been sitting down that time so she hadn't been able to get a good look at him. He was huge, that much was obvious. A mountain of compressed and streamlined muscle, easily standing at least six feet tall, and weighing what must have been at the very least two hundred pounds. Broad shoulders and V-shaped torso barely concealed by his red Haori, so many things all rolled together to create what modern day society would label as an Adonis.

Honshou groaned from the ground, finally coming to a stop and laying still. "What the heck hit me?"

Naruto chuckled, and the girl looked up, and up, and up further still until she could look into the startlingly blue eyes belonging to the veritable wall of muscle that she'd run into. Considering he hadn't even budged or shown any kind of discomfort when a girl of her size had slammed into him with that kind of force, all that muscle was obviously not for show. "I wouldn't say I hit you, more the other way around, ne?"

Honshou blushed in her embarrassment, before standing and dusting herself off. Rubbing her nose to ease the slight pain she was feeling before looking back up at Naruto, realizing for the first time just how large he was in relation to herself. "What the heck are you, some kind of giant? You're almost as tall as Sado-san!"

In truth, Tatsuki realized he was only about an inch shorter than the Mexican youth in their class. He had a similar complexion as well, though his skin was a shade or two lighter than Chad. So the comparison was valid for the most part.

He was still freakishly tall for a Japanese man however, even if he looked like an American, the slant to his eyes and his general facial structure gave away his true heritage.

Deciding not to humour the girl with a response other than to laugh quietly to himself, Naruto turned to Tatsuki and smiled. "Arisawa Tatsuki was it? A pleasure to see you again, you've been doing well I hope?"

Tatsuki nodded. "Well enough I suppose. I feel the need to warn you about the girl who broke her face on your stomach though, she's a raging pervert and die-hard lesbian, your friend Harribel should keep a close eye on her at all times."

Naruto blinked several times, tilting his head to the side in an almost adorable manner as a confused expression formed on his face. "Why just Harribel though, all of the people who work for me are female."

Tatsuki sighed and pointed at Harribel's chest with a blush. Harribel simply blinked and looked down at her own bosom with a raised eyebrow. "My breasts Arisawa-san?"

The next thing they knew, two hands appeared from behind Harribel and captured her breasts. A perverted giggling drew their attention to Honshou, who had somehow managed to sneak around Naruto and behind the stern woman. Obviously, she hadn't been able to resist and was now squeezing and massaging the woman's chest with a perverted grin on her face.

The jaws of those sitting at their table, and those of Harribel's fraccion dropped in shock, while Tatsuki herself seemed to have turned to stone, her face paling considerably and her eyes widening drastically. Harribel simply blinked several times in surprise, looking at the hands currently violating her person and wondering how she had missed the girl sneaking up on her. Naruto's expression hadn't changed at all, apart from the pronounced twitching of his eyebrow.

Finally registering just what was happening to her, Harribel's fist came up over her shoulder faster than anyone at the table could follow and slammed into Honshou's face. The girl dropped to the ground immediately, once again rolling about on the floor in pain and gripping her face.

Naruto sighed and pinched the bridge of his nose to alleviate the coming headache. "A pervert with a breast fetish, reminds me of my old mentor, a little bit too much actually."

Harribel simply looked at her now smoking knuckles before waving her hand through the air. "I don't recall giving you permission to touch me in such a manner, girl."

Tatsuki couldn't help it, she snickered. That had been amusing to watch, especially since she hadn't been the one to deal out justice on the perverted lesbian of Karakura High. "Sorry about that, usually I'm the one beating the hell out of her for groping one of the more innocent girl's in our class. Should have warned you sooner."

Naruto waved his hand. "It's fine, hopefully she'll learn quickly that she shouldn't be doing that to just anyone."

Harribel clicked her teeth, looking down at the girl still rolling about on the ground with thinly veiled disgust.

Tatsuki sighed and stood up. "Well Uzumaki-san, it was nice seeing you again, but I really should be going. I've been here long enough and the rents are probably wondering what's taking so long."

Naruto nodded, but placed a hand on her shoulder as she made to turn away with her bag. "A moment of your time Arisawa-san, if you would."

Tatsuki looked back at Naruto for a moment with a frown, but nodded anyway. "Sure, what's up?"

Naruto withdrew his hand and looked over to the table they had just vacated. "Not here, come to my home tomorrow morning. Suffice to say, I have an offer for you, but it's not something I want too many people knowing about."

Noticing her wary look at that statement, Naruto waved a hand dismissively through the air. "Nothing like that I assure you. More along the lines of your training in fact; but the details will have to wait." Turning to look over his shoulder, Naruto smirked at the sight of Tier's Fraccion beating the snot out of Honshou for having inappropriately touching their mistress. "Girls, Tier, we're leaving."

The three fraccion stopped stomping on the downed girl at that and looked up at him owlishly. When they noticed Tier getting up from her seat and bidding farewell to the other girls at the table, they abandoned the battered and bruised, groaning mass of flesh that was Honshou and hurried after her as she and Naruto made their way out of the mall. Their two silent shadows merely bowing formally before hurrying off after them, leaving the group of school girls to sit about in their confusion.

A rather loud yet pitiful groan from Honshou drew their attention momentarily, but in the end they simply decided that going back to what they were doing before would be the smart choice.

(SCENE BREAK)

"WHAT?!"

Thus was the cry of Honshou the next day at school, the girls were all sitting out on the lawn and for the most part lunch had just about finished. That had been when Tatsuki had been asked about their shared encounter with the man the day before.

When Tatsuki had told them just who that was, Honshou had reacted much in the way she thought the lesbian would. By breaking down and bawling her eyes out at the fact she'd missed her chance to have her collection of Icha Icha signed by the author. Her idol. And the one man in the world she had said she would go straight for.

Then again, what teenage girl wouldn't be attracted to such a man. Hollywood had nothing on Uzumaki Naruto, and to see him in the flesh, most of the girls had been too stunned to even speak. If Tatsuki was more interested in boys and dating than she was her martial arts, then she too probably would have fallen to his natural charm.

He was mature, handsome, and exotic. He had all the looks of the ideal American Surfer, bronzed skin pulled taut over corded, perfectly sculpted muscle; oceanic blue eyes, golden blonde hair and standing at an impressive height close to six and a half feet. He also had this calming aura about him that seemed to draw people in. It gave one the innate sense that they could trust this man, that if there were no one else on the face of the Earth, he would move heaven and hell to ensure your well being.

In the eyes of the young women of the day, he was the perfect man. Too bad he was so much older than them though, Tatsuki herself may have given it a shot if he was more around their age.

If only she knew.

Back to the current situation however, Honshou was still bawling her eyes out and Tatsuki was quite frankly, getting bored with it all. Watching Honshou practically have a nervous break down was fun and all, but even that got old after a while.

"Yes Honshou, that was the Uzumaki Naruto that you love so much. It's your own fault for not realizing it yourself after I told you all so much about him before, so stop making me feel so bad about it." Tatsuki groused. Honestly, this was getting really old.

Cue more hysterical sobbing.

Tatsuki's eyebrow had developed a rather dangerous tick, any second now she was bound to blow her top. This of course was well known by everyone that knew her as the perfect time to run away. Unfortunately for Honshou, she didn't get that chance.

Making a show of rolling up her non-existent sleeves, Tatsuki stood and stalked towards the pitiful sight of the school's resident lesbian bawling her eyes out over a man of all things, before laying into her with a beating for the ages.

Several minutes later, Tatsuki stepped out of the dust cloud kicked up by her scuffle with the red-head looking oddly refreshed. "Ah, nothing like partaking in your favourite past-time to start the day."

"It's mid-day." Ryo deadpanned, looking up from her book for a moment.

Tatsuki just waved her hand dismissively. "Details."

It was then that the warning bell rang out over the grounds, alerting everyone outside that the lunch break would be over in just under five minutes and that they should start making their way to their first afternoon class. Tatsuki however, was looking towards the end of the day with a sense of apprehension; it's not everyday you get invited to the house of a famous novelist and Oyabun after all.

While Naruto himself didn't seem all that foreboding or even dangerous, it was the woman that was almost always standing or sitting at his shoulder that really put her on edge. As a fighter, and a damn good one too if she said so herself, she could easily distinguish the skill level of other fighters with a single glance; and that woman was much stronger than her.

Naruto though, was a different story altogether, all of her instincts told her that he was a kind and gentle man, yet they also told her that he was far above her in strength and skill. These conflicting feelings were enough to utterly confuse her.

All the more reason to be wary of him, at least for the time being.

Sitting through the afternoon classes was as dull as it ever was, simply listening to a teacher drone on and on about whatever gibberish they were spewing; then again, Tatsuki couldn't find it in herself to pay much attention. It had been that way since that morning, as she'd found herself stuck thinking about what Naruto may have wanted to speak with her about.

Did he want to offer her a job like with all those other girls, or was it something else? Actually just thinking about being offered a job of any sort by an author of erotic literature the likes of Icha Icha had Tatsuki shivering. He did say it had something to do with her training, so was he going to ask her how she trained for reference or something?

So it was with great trepidation that Tatsuki found herself standing outside the gates of the large Traditional Japanese Mansion after school had let out for the day. The grounds were literally crawling with the former members of the all female gang, all dressed in form fitting black suits and ties, with the plastic earpieces you see on TV. Some even had large German Shepherds with them.

Whoever was heading the security of this place had actually managed to turn these girls into Professional Security personnel; at least in appearance alone.

She was let in fairly quickly, considering how much respect she'd managed to gain with the girls who worked here before; and so, it was only a few minutes after her arrival that she found herself sitting seiza in front of the large blonde man. He was, as per usual, simply sitting in his cushions and smoking his pipe while nursing a cup of what she assumed was tea. Harribel was positioned to his left on a single cushion with her legs crossed and her arms crossed beneath her breasts, her cool and almost detached gaze levelled on Tatsuki while Naruto simply observed her quietly with a great deal of scrutiny.

Exhaling with a sigh after several long moments of silence, Naruto decided to start things off to the point rather then beat around the bush. "Welcome to my home once again Arisawa-san; I asked you here because I have an offer for you that I highly doubt you'll want to refuse."

Tatsuki's face scrunched up a bit in displeasure when she heard that, and looked Naruto in the eye almost defiantly. "Isn't that a bit presumptuous of you; saying you have an offer that I won't refuse even though you barely know me?"

Naruto smirked slightly, not condescendingly or arrogantly, just to display his amusement at the statement. "I have a keen eye for character, and you strike me as the type of person who doesn't like being on the sidelines when their friends are involved in questionable activities."

Tatsuki frowned. "Questionable activities? What the hell do you mean by that, none of my friends are in any gangs or anything."

Naruto nodded and took another puff on his pipe. "Not a gang per say, a military organization actually, dedicated to the protection of human souls and the destruction of evil entities known as hollows."

Tatsuki blinked several times, absolutely blind-sided by that statement. "What the heck are you smoking, maybe you should stop."

Naruto looked at his pipe with a raised eyebrow. "Looks and tastes like normal tobacco to me." His gaze shifted over to Harribel and in a joking tone he spoke with a small smile towards the quiet blonde. "You didn't slip anything funny into my tobacco did you Tier?"

Tier merely shook her head and that was that. Turning back to Tatsuki, Naruto chuckled. "I know it sounds outrageous Arisawa-san, but what I'm about to tell you is all true. After I have explained everything to you, I will give you one day to make your decision; at that time, you will find me here awaiting your answer. Our story starts a little over one hundred years ago-"

And so, for several hours Naruto told her everything he knew about how he had come to live in this world of the living, about Aizen, and about what Ichigo and Rukia truly were. He told her of his connection to Ichigo's father, his sisters, and Ichigo himself. How Ichigo and the rest of his family only really belonged in the world of the living because of a technicality, and of his own plans concerning Aizen and what was known as the Hougyoku.

He told her everything, and Harribel merely sat at his side, her eyes closed as her true nature, and that of her fraccion, was exposed.

Strangely enough Tatsuki apparently already had her suspicions about Ichigo, having seen him running about in strange clothes while carrying a large sword on his back once before, and so after having everything explained properly she wasn't quite so sceptical about it all anymore. In fact, she seemed almost thankful that all of this was finally being explained to her after having been standing just outside of the loop for so long.

The fact that Tier was some sort of super-hollow, shinigami hybrid didn't even bother her all that much; it helped that Naruto had told her that she no longer needed to devour the souls of the dearly departed. Not even a slight craving.

It had something to do with her shinigami side apparently. Naruto himself admitted to knowing very little about it, but he had sworn he would know more once he could get decent insight into the Hougyoku and how it worked.

After having explained everything to a now shell shocked Tatsuki, he then made his offer. Stating quite simply that he wanted to train her, not only in how to utilize her already budding Reiryoku, but in some of his own personal styles. All of which was knowledge that had long since been lost to humanity, or at least, the humans of this World. All hers, free of charge.

He wanted to take her on as an apprentice.

That had been what had shocked her the most about the current situation; receiving an offer of apprenticeship from a being that was over two hundred years old, with more Martial Knowledge than any living human. A master of several forms of martial arts, and several arts that only she could learn.

He said he wouldn't explain just why she was so different from any other human, especially Ichigo, until after she'd accepted his offer. Then he would fill in any blanks and explain just what it was he'd seen in her. After that, they would get started on her training as soon as possible, as her close proximity to Ichigo would undoubtedly make her a target.

When he'd sent her on her way for the evening, he'd left her with more questions than answers really. What made her so special? What exactly was he? Was he a Shinigami like Rukia, or was he something completely different? It was one of the things he hadn't told her. Perhaps he'd simply forgotten to mention it? Whatever the case may be, she was slightly confused, but she would think on all that later.

She had a decision to make, and one day to do it.

Train under a two hundred year old spirit, learning arts passed down for hundred of years, techniques that would make her stronger than any living human and even some dead. Get herself involved in whatever world Ichigo had found himself to be a part of however unwillingly, or refuse and go back to her ordinary life.

It was a very easy decision to make. Tomorrow Tatsuki would return to Uzumaki Naruto's home, and she would accept his offer.

Just the thought was enough to almost make her giddy.

(SCENE BREAK)

It was now Wednesday, middle of the week, and the time had come. Naruto could feel it. Which was why he currently found himself standing atop a street light in soul form. His Zanpakutou resting in place at his lower back and more than ready to make a come-back.

He could feel it in the air, the atmosphere that surrounded Karakura had completely changed. Something was going to happen, something big, and he had prepared himself for the worst, if such things came to pass.

Such as an army of hollows deciding to descend upon Karakura Town. Which was absolutely ridiculous—though that was exactly what was happening apparently.

They were all low level hollows, but there were so many of them it wasn't even funny; a few had tried their luck with him, only to disperse into reishi before they could register what had happened. They were so sluggish that Naruto had only to utilize his incredible speed to purify them when they got too close. It had been so fast they hadn't even caught the motion of him drawing his blade and cutting them in two before it had been returned to its' scabbard. For him or any other Shinigami it wasn't anything flashy, sure it was fast, but that was it. Other than being far too quick for most to follow, it was nothing more than a simple slash.

Kinda boring really, but since this was all happening in a highly populated area, it would be best if the high level hollows remained in Hueco Mundo for the time being.

He was watching the unfolding situation with a keen eye, keeping an especially close eye on the young Kuchiki. While her reiatsu wasn't nearly as strong as those she was surrounded by, it would still smell of a shinigami to any hollow. Which made her a large target. He hadn't yet had a chance to take the Hougyoku from her and give her a new gigai, but he had a feeling he would get the chance to do so in the near future.

Switching his attention to the park and the large tear in the sky above, Naruto frowned. He was getting a really bad feeling from that place, but as of yet nothing had happened. It was the sole reason why Naruto had remained stationary and refrained from hunting down the mass of Hollows currently invading Karakura, and why he'd had Harribel and her fraccion go in his stead to ensure Tatsuki was unharmed.

They would be arriving at the school any moment now, and hopefully Tatsuki was still there, or they would need to spend time searching for her. Time that these hollows would be loathe to give them willingly.

The Quincy had gone and really made a mess of things; but there were signs that another had a hand in this mess. This whole situation reeked of Aizen's handiwork, as there was no way a simple piece of Hollow Bait would be capable of drawing this many hollows to one place, not without tampering.

Naruto sighed as he cut down another hollow that had come too close; this whole mess was getting really annoying. Though it would appear that he'd waited too long to approach Rukia, as she was now with both Ichigo and the Quincy. It would be prudent of him to make an appearance soon, and with that thought in mind, he made to shunpo in their direction before his attention was drawn by something concerning.

The hollows were converging; and not on any of those fighting them either. They were in fact heading in the opposite direction, towards the park. Naruto watched for a moment, puzzled at the peculiar behavior as every hollow in the area as far as he could see made its' way towards the large tear in the sky above the park.

There was a niggling feeling in the back of his mind that he'd seen this before. He couldn't quite recall when, or even what it meant, but it was on the tip of his tongue. Thinking hard about what it could be, Naruto suddenly found himself thinking about just what it meant when hundreds of Hollows all came together.

"A Menos Grande?" Naruto muttered in disbelief. Impossible, why the hell would a Menos make it's way to the world of the living? Aizen was definitely responsible for this. There was no way a simple Hollow Bait would have enough allure for a Menos Grande to actually take notice. The massive bone white hands currently pulling at the tear in the sky told him that it was indeed a Menos Grande making it's way into the world of the living, and that his attention was apparently needed elsewhere rather urgently.

The situation with Rukia and Ichigo would have to wait. None of those that he could sense on the ground were any match for a Menos Grande at their current level. In reiatsu alone Ichigo had the Menos Grande beat, but with his lack of experience, he wouldn't be able to utilize that impressive well of power properly.

Changing directions Naruto shunpoed his way to the park, needing only a single step to arrive on a bridge overlooking the park where the Menos had stepped out even as Ichigo and the others made their way there.

He could see them now as he stood on the bridge's guard rail, calmly analyzing the situation from his vantage point. Urahara had apparently arrived on the scene with another familiar face, Tsukabishi Tessai and two young children whom he didn't know, while Rukia was on her knees next to Urahara, under the effects of some sort of binding Kidou.

He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he didn't notice the presence of two other people and a small black cat on the bridge next to him until he heard a feminine squeak of surprise.

Turning slightly to take in the sight of the two teenagers and their pet cat, Naruto raised an eyebrow at the fact they could see him before he got a good read of their reiryoku. They weren't all that impressive, but it was enough for them to be capable of seeing him. With a slight nod of acknowledgement, Naruto's attention returned to the scene below just as Harribel and her fraccion appeared out of Sonido on the bridge behind him, getting another squeak of surprise from the auburn haired girl.

Harribel stepped forward and with a slight hop, jumped onto the railing next to him before folding her arms beneath her breasts. "We found her, but she was wounded quite badly by a hollow before we arrived. We brought her back to the estate and treated her injuries to the best of our abilities. Unfortunately we don't have your expertise with healing Kidou, so she will need your attention soon Naruto-san."

Naruto nodded, not noticing that the black cat had been staring straight at him with eyes wide with disbelief ever since he'd appeared. His attention was focused solely on the sorry excuse for a battle below; he had to admit, watching his young cousin get thrown around by a Menos Grande was slightly amusing. However, he was merely observing for the moment to get a better read on his young cousin. He would be taking over his training soon after all, so it would be prudent for him to be aware of what he needed to teach the boy first.

From the looks of things, he had quite a task ahead of him.

"I will deal with it when we get back, for now though, we should get involved. Ichigo isn't ready to take on a Menos, and if he continues to try, he'll be doing nothing more than annoying it. I need to get down there before it decides to use its'-"

A shout from below from the young Kuchiki still at Urahara's side drew his attention back to the Menos, where it had opened it's massive jaws and had begun charging a menacing orb of saffron. Naruto cursed and made ready to charge into the fight. "Let's go, this is beyond them as they are."

With a quick shunpo, Naruto appeared in front of Ichigo and shoved him back before the Cero made impact, exploding violently and shrouding his location in a thick screen of airborne dust.

(POV CHANGE)

Urahara was confused. For the first time in a while, his carefree expression had completely changed. He was serious now as the others looked on with confused frowns; they had just watched Ichigo get tossed away from the Cero with a good deal of force, but because of the dust in the air, they couldn't make out just who or what had shoved him away. This had gone entirely unforeseen on Urahara's part, he was positive he knew the identities of every spiritually aware being in Karakura.

It was as if Ichigo had been thrown by the very air itself however, as there was no telling presence within the cloud of dust that Urahara could make out, and to this day Urahara knew of only one person who was capable of concealing their reiatsu from the senses completely. That was impossible however, as he'd been dead for over one hundred years now.

So they waited, even as the Menos took a step forward, another Cero already charging in it's gaping maw. As the dust began to clear a form started to appear, a dark silhouette of a large individual wearing some sort of cape or Haori.

When the voice rang through the air Urahara froze completely in disbelief. Tessai's reaction being pretty much the same as his glasses slid down his nose and his jaw dropped open slightly.

"I don't take too kindly to others intentionally putting my family in danger, Kisuke."

A massive gust of wind blew through the park, dispersing the cloud of dust that stubbornly refused to clear on its own, and revealing to everyone present just who it was that had pushed Ichigo out of the way. The Quincy was immediately on guard, and the four other individuals appearing next to the man in bursts of static didn't help to calm his nerves. Ichigo was of course quite a bit miffed at being pushed away, but Tessai and Urahara were both speechless.

The man was roughly six and a half feet tall, with broad shoulders and well muscled arms. He had long blonde hair tied into a wild tail running down his back, and even though his back was turned to them, they already knew exactly who this was based on his attire alone.

An ankle length sleeveless blood red haori wreathed in a pattern resembling black flames, worn over black hakama and a pair of straw sandals. He had a wakizashi hanging from a cord at his lower back, his hand placed at the hilt of the sword as he prepared to draw.

The four women turned to them then, the taller, blonde female standing directly behind him and facing Ichigo to ensure that he didn't get too close and endanger himself again as Naruto continued. "You know he isn't ready to face a hollow of this level yet Kisuke, but I can let it go just this once."

The Menos fired its' second Cero at that moment, and it was dealt with quickly and easily, with a single flick of his wrist his sword was drawn and the Cero was turned towards the sky with laughable ease. Then, the man vanished for a moment before shimmering back into view in the same place, only facing them this time. Though, when nothing happened, Ichigo laughed. "Was that disappearing trick supposed to do anything you-"

His tirade was quickly stopped when the Menos reared back and howled in what appeared to be pain, a large seal having appeared on it's mask out of nowhere; seemingly carved into the bone with a blade were a series of Kanji arranged in a large circle that were all glowing a dull gold. As Naruto sheathed his Zanpakutou, he muttered one word as his sword clicked back into it's scabbard. "Katsu."

In the next instant their world was consumed by a light so bright it was blinding, and a sound akin to that of thunder that rattled the eardrums and made one's head ring; originating from the seal carved into the Menos' mask and blossoming outwards and into the sky in a towering ball of flame, was an explosion that had consumed the head of the Menos completely and even eclipsed the very sun. The massive hollows body rocked violently, before with an anguished howl, it began dispersing into reishi and the tear behind it slowly began to close.

Once the last of the hollow had vanished into the air, and the fire and smoke created by the explosion had cleared, everyone simply stared at the gathering of new arrivals in stunned silence as they waited for their ears to stop ringing and the black spots to fade from their sight, before Naruto and those with him casually made their way over to where Urahara and the others were standing.

Urahara idly noticed that Ichigo had fainted at some point either from exhaustion, or shock, one of the two. He'd been fighting hollows non-stop for well over an hour, and even with his reserves, he just didn't have the stamina to go on any longer. Some rest would do nothing but good for him, but he would need to get him back to the shop for proper medical attention. He would however need to deal with this little situation first.

When Naruto stopped in front of him and Tessai, with Rukia blinking up at him in shock, Urahara couldn't resist poking him several times with his cane, as if to assure himself that the man standing before him was real. He did this for several moments, simply poking Naruto with his cane in disbelief before Naruto decided that enough was enough.

Naruto swatted Urahara's cane away when it came in for another jab at his stomach, before sighing. "Yes Urahara it's really me, and while I think it's obvious, but you and I need to have a little chat. Bring the Kuchiki to your shop and I'll meet you there." With that, he turned away, not even giving Urahara a chance to gather his wits about himself before he and the four women with him vanished in bursts of speed.

Tessai cleared his throat after his jaw clicked shut. "Urahara-san, I believe it would be best for us to finish up here and make our way to the shop post-haste."

Urahara blinked and looked up at his long time friend. "Please tell me I wasn't hallucinating Tessai-san. Or did I really just see Namikaze-san return from the metaphorical grave?"

Tessai sighed, one part resignation, the other to hide his own shock at the current turn of events.

(SCENE BREAK)

Urahara sat quietly at the table in the Urahara Shouten, Tessai sitting next to him as the pair mulled over the days events. Events that revolved around a certain individual that was currently sitting across from them at the table, smoking his pipe and sipping sake leisurely as if there wasn't anything off about this whole situation. The other blonde sat next to him had them both on edge though, since they were positive that they'd seen what looked like bone plating on her body.

Naruto didn't seem bothered, but neither of them had any way of knowing his true intentions until he told them, which up to now, he hadn't bothered even beginning to explain. So they sat in silence, and it was wearing on Urahara's nerves.

He knew Yoruichi was nearby, possibly trying to listen in on the conversation without giving away her position since to this day she was the only one who could hide from Naruto effectively. She had a bone to pick with Naruto, that much was certain, but she didn't want to tip her hand too soon.

With a sigh, Naruto set down his dish and took a puff on his pipe before locking his eyes onto Urahara seriously. "First thing's first, I'm sorry to you both for not revealing myself to you sooner. It was foolish, brash, and insensitive of me to do as I did, but it was also the only option available to me."

Urahara frowned but remained silent as Rukia returned to the room from checking on Ichigo. Taking her seat next to Tessai and turning her attention to Naruto, Urahara took out his fan and flipped it open in front of his face in his usual manner. "I'm afraid I don't quite understand Namikaze-san, why was it your only option to make everyone think you were dead?"

Naruto gestured to the woman beside him, who until that moment remained silent. "My name is Tier Harribel, formerly the Third Espada under command of Aizen. I was sent to kill him that day over one hundred years ago because he felt that Naruto-san was getting too close to exposing him to his superiors in Soul Society; as such, Naruto-san was viewed as a threat too great to be ignored. We both came to an understanding however, and to fool Aizen into believing we had both died on that day we decided to go into hiding."

Urahara's gaze darkened at the mention of Aizen, but Rukia looked absolutely confused. "So Aizen was responsible for your disappearance as well then?"

Naruto frowned, but nodded. "Tier here is an Arrancar created using an incomplete Hougyoku of Aizen's creation. The strongest of these Arrancar are known as the Espada, or Aizen's elites, and the lower the number the stronger the Espada. The Espada are numbered from ten to one by my understanding." Puffing on his pipe as he let Urahara absorb the information, Naruto exhaled before continuing. "Aizen somehow discovered that I was onto him, and I had only just managed to discover the incomplete Hougyoku before he sent Tier to kill me, so I decided to let Aizen believe that his gamble had succeeded. That way he wouldn't be on guard for my continued interference, and he wouldn't send one of the other two higher ranked Espada to finish what Tier could not."

Urahara nodded grimly, understanding now why Naruto had done what he'd done. Naruto was a shinobi, and a shinobi's greatest tool was deception; by making even Soul Society think that he was dead, Aizen too would be caught in his trap. This would ultimately allow Naruto to make his plans from the shadows and observe Aizen without tipping his hand. The element of surprise was a very powerful tool after all.

If there was one thing that even Urahara rarely understood, it was Naruto's mind. The man was intelligent and cunning, and even though it would hurt even himself, he was not above deceiving even his own friends and family if it meant that his enemy would also fall into the same trap.

Make Aizen ignorant to your survival and make him arrogant in thinking that his plans were progressing without problem. In this way he would be entirely unprepared for the eventuality in which you revealed yourself to still be alive. In this way you could force him to make a fatal error, throwing a major wrench into his plans.

Urahara sighed and brought his fan down into his lap. "While I cannot fault you your reasoning Naruto-san, there must have been a better way."

Naruto shook his head. "I thought of everything Kisuke, this was the only way for me to regain the element of surprise. The fact that I gained a powerful ally from the ordeal is just coincidence, but it is one I am thankful for." Putting his pipe back between his lips, Naruto turned his gaze on the young Kuchiki girl. "Now, as for you Kuchiki-san, I need you to come over here for a moment." Stopping for a moment, Naruto frowned. "Actually, lose that gigai first."

Urahara frowned, even as Rukia complied with the strange request with only slight hesitation. "Urahara, go and get Kuchiki-san here a proper gigai while I work." Urahara's eyes went wide in shock; 'How did he know about the gigai? Does this mean he knows about the Hougyoku as well?' For several silent moments, he didn't move to fulfil the order. That was until Naruto shot him a piercing glare for his inactivity.

As Urahara left the room, Naruto picked up the discarded Gigai and frowned. 'I could actually see some uses for this; Tier has already made it clear that she isn't fond of being a Hollow and if there was a way she would change that in a heartbeat. That's why she was so willing to offer her past to me when I was trying to find a way to reverse Hollowfication using seals. Up until now there has been no viable way to reverse hollowfication though so that wasn't possible, but I think Urahara has stumbled upon something remarkable. If you could turn a shinigami into a normal human with this gigai, I wonder what would happen if I tweaked the design a little and gave one to Tier.' It was definitely food for thought, so he quickly stowed the gigai in a seal on his bicep before turning to Rukia who had been fidgeting nervously in her spot next to him. Smiling gently Naruto took out a small square of paper from within his Haori, followed by a bottle of special ink and a brush from a seal on his pectoral. "Now Kuchiki-san, this may be painful for a moment, and you will probably lose consciousness, but I need you to bear with me."

At Rukia's hesitant nod, Naruto started drawing what he had dubbed the extraction seal. It was a seal he'd developed after Isshin had told him where Kisuke had hidden the Hougyoku; it wouldn't harm Rukia, and it would enable him to extract the Hougyoku with a simple application of reiryoku. After that, he could think seriously on what he would do about the device.

When he finished drawing the seal, Naruto had Rukia open the front of her robes only slightly, just barely revealing the small swell of her breasts while keeping her decent. Pressing the seal to her sternum with two fingers Naruto looked into her violet orbs seriously. "Take a deep breath now, and relax. This should only take a moment."

Rukia nodded once again, even though her face was beat red with embarrassment at exposing herself even this much, before Naruto activated the seal and she flinched as the the feeling of a red hot poker travelling through her chest took over her senses. The pain only lasted a moment, and when it was over, her eyes rolled back into her head and she fell back into Harribel's waiting arms.

Harribel sighed, fixing the young woman's robes with a free hand as she cradled the petite woman against her breasts, before looking up and seeing Naruto holding a familiar object in place of the paper tag he'd used on Rukia.

It was a small bluish orb resembling glass, held gently between his two fingers. He was observing it with a keen eye, puffing tentatively on his pipe for a moment before shoving the Hougyoku into his Haori and scratching his head. "That went well, now I just need to figure out what to do with this thing."

"Can you destroy it, Naruto-san?"

Naruto looked up hearing Urahara's voice from the other side of the room. He was looking at Naruto with a grave expression, but he didn't appear angry. He almost looked hopeful, but was trying to cover up that fact by appearing the very image of grim. He was holding a gigai in his arms that resembled Rukia down to the last detail; it was obvious that he had already made the gigai for Rukia and thankfully, unlike the one Naruto had stored away on his person, Naruto was able to tell that it was indeed just a simple gigai.

Thinking about the question for a moment, Naruto shook his head, not in refusal but in resignation. "I don't know, I'll need to study it for a while before I can develop a seal capable of such a thing. If worst comes to worst, I'll seal it into an alternate dimension where it will never fall into the wrong hands. Aizen will never know I've taken it either, so there's a plus." Pausing for a moment and looking over at Tier thoughtfully, he tilted his head to indicate that he was speaking to Urahara. "I would like to ask your permission to test a theory of mine Urahara."

Tier tilted her head in confusion, while Urahara's frown grew more pronounced, but when he looked over at Tier he seemed to have thought of his own theories. "And what theory is that, Naruto-san, that you would need to ask my permission?"

Naruto sighed, exhaling a large cloud of smoke and resting his elbows on his knees while linking his fingers together under his chin. "I have been thinking of a way to reverse the process of Hollowfication, I have a willing assistant, but up until now I have had no success using a variety of different seals." The response seemed to shock Urahara, but being as it was scientific in nature, Naruto knew he'd caught Urahara's complete attention. Urahara himself sat down at his place by the table and set the gigai down next to him before leaning forward in interest. "I spent sixty years trying to find a way to do this using seals, but I have yet to discover the proper formulae. I have however come to one hypothesis after learning of how Tier became an Arrancar; if the Hougyoku is capable of granting the users wish, such as breaking down the barriers between hollows and shinigami and giving a Hollow the powers of the latter, would it not be possible to take it a step further?"

Urahara leaned back and rubbed his stubbly chin in thought. He looked over at Tessai with a question in his gaze but the large man merely shrugged. Turning back to Naruto, Urahara placed his hands in his lap and shook his head. "I honestly don't know Naruto-san; when I made the Hougyoku, I knew it's capabilities to break the wall between Hollows and Shinigami, and it was the very reason why I locked it away. It's possible in theory, as the Hougyoku does appear to answer the will of the holder, but whether or not it's actually capable of changing the nature of a soul from one extreme to another is unknown." Taking off his hat and rubbing his fingers along the brim, Urahara cleared his throat. "You are right in thinking that however, as even I'm not completely sure just what the Hougyoku's limits are, I'm sure it could at least act as a catalyst for a much larger change. However, I want you to promise me something before I give you my permission to actually use the Hougyoku. When you are finished testing your theory, destroy it or lock it away. End of discussion."

Naruto nodded immediately. "I had already intended on doing so Kisuke, I merely wished to test my theory first. If it's a success, I can observe the process and develop a seal to replicate the effects; once I am finished, I will begin looking into a way to either destroy the Hougyoku, or seal it away for all eternity."

Urahara was silent for a moment before his face broke out with a broad grin. "If your theory is correct, you will have discovered a whole new way to 'purify' a hollow. I do hope it works, and if you need any help at all you just let me know alright, Naruto-san?"

Naruto chuckled. "I'll be borrowing that modified gigai of yours Kisuke, in case this doesn't work I'm sure I can modify it even more to work towards the same effect. Harribel here is quite willing to help me in this research, and if I can turn her into a shinigami using the already existing powers of the same as a starting point, then it will make it a whole lot easier to figure out how to perform the full change on a pure hollow. I also promised her that I would find a way, she isn't all that fond of being a hollow after all, even if she is part shinigami in nature."

Kisuke nodded, his smile still in place as Naruto and Harribel stood up. "I'll be leaving Rukia here with you Kisuke, you can tell her as much as you wish, but I would prefer if she was left in the dark about my true identity for the time being." Harribel handed the limp Kuchiki over to Tessai before following Naruto to the door. "Tell Ichigo to come see me when he wakes up. If he doesn't know where I live, tell him to ask Isshin to bring him to my house. We need to have a chat him and I."

With that, the two were gone and Urahara was left alone with an unconscious Kuchiki and a silent Tessai. Silent for only a few moments before he seemingly thought of something, or someone. "Yoruichi-dono will not be pleased." Came the grumbled statement from the large dark skinned man.

Urahara chuckled sadistically. "No, no she won't Tessai-san; and I'm almost certain she was listening to the entire conversation. She's most likely following him home now, so he'll be in for quite the surprise when he arrives."

(SCENE BREAK)

When Naruto and Harribel returned to his home, the tall blonde woman immediately took him to the room where they'd laid Tatsuki down to rest and he immediately went to work. She was banged up pretty badly, but it looked as if all the major injuries to her person had been taken care of for the most part.

As in partially healed.

Deciding that it would do him no good to dwell on it since it actually made his job easier, Naruto set to work with some healing Kidou and finished healing her more serious injuries. The rest, such as the bumps and bruises could be handled with time, and he didn't have the control or the patience to tend to such minor injuries.

Several hours later, Naruto emerged from the room and Harribel retreated inside to watch over the girl as she recovered, allowing Naruto a chance to relax after such a hectic afternoon.

Heading into his sitting room, Naruto sat down on his cushions, pulled out his pipe and sake and prepared to simply relax for what remained of the afternoon, and maybe the evening if his muse decided to give him a break. It had been an interesting day that much was certain, and luckily Urahara had taken his reappearance about as well as he'd expected.

He was upset with him for sure, he could see that much, but he also saw the truth in Naruto's words and couldn't dispute them for long.

Yoruichi however would be another story entirely.

Naruto paused at that thought, about halfway through lighting his pipe, he could only hope that Yoruichi took it so well. He knew she wouldn't, but there was always the hope. She had always been the more playful, carefree, and expressive of the two individuals in question. This also meant that she would have been hit the hardest at the thought of his death, which in turn meant that if he revealed it all to be a lie-

Naruto groaned tiredly, she was going to murder him.

Whatever his reasons for doing so, lying to Yoruichi had never been something Naruto enjoyed even thinking about. That woman could lay on a guilt trip so thick his father would start feeling guilty wherever he may be. Confused, but guilty.

Pipe adequately lit after that little bout of depression at the thought of his very real death at the hands of his purple haired friend, Naruto took several puffs before noticing something odd in the corner of the room.

Tilting his head curiously, Naruto was about to get up to investigate when a small black cat stepped from the shadows in the corner and bound across the room before coming to a stop and sitting itself down just in front of Naruto. It then simply took to staring straight into his eyes, it's own reflecting a degree of intelligence Naruto had only ever seen in the summon animals from District Thirteen.

It's golden eyes reminded him of Yoruichi for sure, and the way it was looking at him was exactly how he imagined Yoruichi would when he eventually got around to finding her and telling her the truth as he had Urahara.

This little cat looked pissed.

Sighing, Naruto leaned down and patted the cat atop it's head. "Did one of the girls decide to bring their pet to work today? I know some have brought their dogs, but a cat?"

Suddenly and without warning, Naruto felt a searing pain across his face, causing him to lean back in surprise and dab at his nose with his free hand. That was when he realized the cat had just lashed him across the nose with those very sharp claws it was now holding up in front of it's nose like some sort of deranged serial killer. "That was for one hundred years of letting me think you were dead, Naruto."

Freezing in place, Naruto looked down a the cat with an owlish expression, eyes wide in surprise. Naruto found himself wondering idly, why such a thing as being clawed by a cat of all things hurt him so badly, then it was how could a cat speak in this World of the Living, and finally he settled on-"Holy shit, Yoruichi? Why the hell do you sound like a guy?"

The cat raised a little kitty eyebrow and lowered it's paw to the floor. "You could tell it was me... how?"

Naruto frowned as he went back to stemming the bleeding of the cuts on his face. "Your eyes gave it away, and there doesn't exist a normal cat in this world of the living that can speak." Grumbling childishly for a moment, Naruto used a small bit of healing kidou on his face to close the gash her claws had left behind. "Now answer the question, why do you sound like an old man when you're clearly female?"

Sweat drop forming at the back of her head, Yoruichi sighed. "The fact that I can turn into a cat doesn't have you stumped, no it has to be why I sound like a man that you're hung up on." Shaking her head Yoruichi hopped into his lap and placed her fore-paws on his chest so she could stare straight into his eyes. "If you think that I'm done with you after a little scratch like that, you've got another thing coming. I heard how you explained it to Kisuke, but you should know us women are a lot harder to please than that idiot. One hundred years I mourned for you Naruto, only to hear that you ran off with some half-naked hollow floozy and her little trio of devotees. How exactly are you going to pay me back for that, hmm?"

Naruto blinked dumbly and lowered his head with a groan. "This is gonna be painful isn't it?"

At that, he could swear he saw a smile stretch across the cat-Yoruichi's face. "You don't know the half of it-let the negotiations for the recompense of one hundred years of my time officially begin."

(SCENE BREAK)

When Harribel returned to the sitting room she was expecting the usual sight of Naruto sitting in his cushions smoking his pipe and nursing a cup of sake. What she hadn't been expecting however, was to see her friend folded at impossible angles until he resembled a pretzel and covered in dozens of scratches from some kind of animal. A cat if she had to guess, judging by the black cat perched upon his back and licking it's paw without a care in the world as Naruto groaned painfully.

Now this wasn't the strangest thing she'd ever seen, but it was pretty far up there on her list.

When Naruto noticed her entrance, he simply grunted. "Not. A. Word."

So with a nod, Harribel turned on her heel and left the room, closing the sliding door behind her. She was about to start on her way back to the room where Tatsuki had just woken up, before the sound of an unfamiliar man laughing sadistically from inside the sitting room drew her up short.

When the laughing didn't stop and the screaming began, Harribel decided that investigating it wasn't worth it.

Anything that could make Naruto scream several octaves higher than an elementary school girl was far too strong for her to deal with.

No sir, she was not getting involved with that; she liked not looking like a salty snack thank you very much.

(SCENE BREAK)

"So you've accepted my offer—" Naruto was interrupted by a loud crack as Harribel popped his shoulder back in to it's proper place, the sound being loud enough that it made Tatsuki who had woken about twenty minutes ago wince in sympathy.

They had convened in Tatsuki's room only a few minutes ago so that Naruto could tell her what he would be teaching her once she had fully recovered, which he'd said should only take another day or so. "Thank you Tier, and as for you Tatsuki..." Tatsuki perked up as Naruto rolled his shoulder while looking at her out of the corner of his eye, the majority of his attention being on the black cat sitting off to the side. "You can rest here for the night, or head home, either way works for me. I'd like you to be here tomorrow morning though, so whichever works best for you."

Tatsuki blinked. "Tomorrow morning even though I have school? Sorry but my grades are pretty important."

Naruto smirked at that, that was until Harribel pressed her knee into his back and pulled his shoulders back with both hands. His spine let out a series of snaps and cracks as the vertebrae slid back into place, and this time Tatsuki wasn't the only one who winced. Huffing and puffing as the pain passed, Naruto leaned forward, his arms falling limp over his knees. "I can teach you something that will make your life a heck of a lot easier. It's the ultimate in multitasking tools—and it's called the Shadow Clone."

Tatsuki blinked. "The shadow clone?"

Naruto nodded, before reaching into his haori, and pulling a small scroll from one of the storage seals inside. Handing Tatsuki the scroll, Naruto continued. "It's a surprisingly simple technique, one of the easier one's to learn in fact. The only real problem with it is the amount of energy required to create even a single clone. Within that scroll is your first assignment, get it done before midnight and I'll show you how to multitask like a pro." With that, Naruto made to stand, but just as he was making to his way to his feet, Tatsuki grabbed his Haori and held tight.

"Wait-" Tatsuki said firmly. "You haven't explained anything to me yet and already you're saying all this nonsense about clones and what-not. I'd really like that explanation you promised me the other day."

Naruto chuckled lightly before gesturing to the scroll in Tatsuki's hand. "Completing the exercises detailed on that scroll will be all the explanation you'll need. Think of it as a test, if you succeed, I'll tell you everything you want to know. Remember-" Naruto walked to the door out of the room and slid it open before looking back at Tatsuki over his shoulder. "Get it done by midnight, and I'll teach you the shadow clone technique. After you've learned that, you'll be able to learn everything you need to know to succeed in a normal human life while never attending another class ever again."

With that, Naruto stepped out of the room, the black cat and Harribel following him into the hallway before he gently slid the door closed.

Naruto then retreated to his sitting room, leaving Tatsuki to read the scroll on her own. If she was as talented as he thought, she'd have the exercises down by ten in the evening, and then he could really start her training. It was only a matter of time.

Looking at the clock in the sitting room Naruto frowned. It was getting on in the evening, roughly six o'clock, and Ichigo still hadn't arrived. Was he blowing him off, or was he still out of it at Kisuke's?

Sitting down and relighting his pipe, Naruto sighed as he leaned back in his cushions before watching Yoruichi sit down next to his elbow. "That brat better not make me wait too long... I swear, kids these days have no respect for their elders."

No respect at all. Reminded him of himself when he was that age to be totally honest.

A little bit too much of himself.

With another sigh, Naruto exhaled a plume of smoke from his lungs before scratching Yoruichi behind the ear. One hundred and ten years of waiting, and the days events had convinced him that the waiting would be coming to an end soon. If Aizen was pulling these kinds of stunts, then Naruto could no longer afford to simply wait. Unfortunately, Ichigo was likely to be involved in the whole mess, it may only be a gut feeling of his, but he wanted to make sure Ichigo was prepared for whatever might come his way before the shit hit the fan.

Only a short while longer, then he would make a move of his own; and Aizen wouldn't know what hit him.

At that thought, Naruto grinned. 'I hope you're ready for me Aizen.'

It would be awfully boring otherwise.

AN: And that's a rap on chapter three, Naruto has revealed himself, and we're awful close to the Soul Society Arc which will start at some point in the next chapter.

Now, sorry again for the looooong wait, but these things take time; and on top of that, I've been dealing with some medical issues here which are making it difficult for me. I'm trying my best, but updates will be sporadic at best.

I can honestly say that I'm not 100% happy with how this chapter turned out, but I've rewritten it probably six times now and this is just how it turned out; and I just don't see myself possessing the time to rewrite it again without tacking another month onto the update time.

That's a no. Need too keep this story rolling on after all.

Hopefully the next chapter will come out a bit better, hopefully.

Anyway, have a good one mates, this is the CrimsonxAEGIS, signing off.