Chapter 1: Plus

Naruto groaned blearily as he awoke, amidst the loud noises of fighting and mayhem. Wincing as his eyes were stung by the bright sunlight, he quickly assessed his surroundings. It seemed death and amnesia did nothing to dull his reflexes, as he easily dodged an errant flying man headed his direction. Rubbing his temples as the ruckus compounded his migraine, he tried his hardest to block out the ambient sounds and focus on his present situation.

Being in the middle of a massive brawl didn’t help anyone with his or her thought processes though, so Naruto sought the quickest route out of the place before he went crazy. Reflexively avoiding flailing fists and tumbling bodies, he pushed and shoved his way towards what appeared to be an exit from the massive fight. Unfortunately, his way was barred by a tall, muscular man, whose grin looked far too malicious to bode any well for the blond.

“Running?” the man sneered, cracking his knuckles. “You people ruined Keitaro-sama’s business, and once you realized you can’t beat Keitaro-sama, you run with your tails between your legs. Pathetic.”

Naruto growled, his migraine gaining intensity. “I don’t even know who this Keitaro person is. Now let me go, or I’ll be forced to get nasty.”

“Nasty? I’ll show you nasty!” the man roared gleefully, throwing a haymaker at Naruto.

Now, while the man was a rather proficient brawler, and had survived on the violent, lawless streets of East Rukongai’s seventy-eighth district, he was simply no match for someone who had been trained from a young age on how to kill a man. Even if that someone was having a blinder of a headache, and was a Plus who just arrived in Soul Society, instincts don’t just die. Muscle memory was in the mind, not in the body. So, it was child’s play for Naruto to parry the man’s fist aside, and plant a crunching palm into the man’s sternum. He might have been a man mountain, but a hard blow to the sternum can’t be ignored. Collapsing on the ground wheezing, the man watched through teary eyes as Naruto sidestepped his bulk, and disappeared from view.

Naruto leaned against the rough bark of a tree, clenching his teeth as he tried to reorganize his mind. From what he knew…he had nothing on his life. He didn’t know how he reached his current location. He didn’t know how he could even fight. He didn’t know his past. He only knew his name, and vague, broken flashes of what might be his life. By as the migraine eased slowly, Naruto found himself wondering. He wondered why he still possessed fighting skills, but without any memory of gaining them. He wondered why he couldn’t have retained his memories instead of fighting ability.

Deep down though, he had to admit he was glad he had even the slightest sliver of combat prowess. If not, he might have died in the fight previously. He sighed heavily, leaning his head back against the tree trunk and shutting his eyes. As his headache faded, the heaviness in his limbs grew. Exhaustion set in; he had expended quite a bit of energy wriggling his way out of that fight. Actually, it resembled a war between two gangs more than just a simple fight; there were simply too many people involved, and the mention of a certain Keitaro individual solidified the theory that there were two distinct groups fighting for some reason.

Drifting off to sleep, he was about to enter blissful slumber when he was rudely shaken. Grunting in ire, Naruto opened his eyes to tell off the person, only to find a worried looking woman leaning over his seated form. She had snow-white hair that trailed to her hips, teal orbs that shone with concern, and soft pink lips. She had two long bangs framing her oval face, and wore a simple white yukata that accentuated her slender figure. She also held a half-filled basket of what looked like herbs in the crook of her arm.

“You shouldn’t rest here,” she murmured gently. “You could be mugged at any time.”

“I’m new to the place,” Naruto replied simply.

Her lips curved into a soft smile. “You must be a new soul then. It’s okay. I can guide you along as you adapt.”

“Aren’t you worried I might be one of those thugs?” Naruto questioned, rising to his feet. She giggled, covering her mouth with her dainty hands. “You seem like a gentleman to me. And you spoke to me so civilly too. I like to think of myself as a good judge of character.”

“Arigato,” Naruto thanked. “It’s very generous of you to help me like this.”

“Oh, no, not at all!” she exclaimed, a light blush on her alabaster features. “It’s nothing much, really. Shall we go then, before those men find us?”

“Lead the way.”

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“So basically, it’s completely random where people end up?” Naruto asked, as his newfound friend guided him to her home.

“Hai,” she replied. “It’s somewhat unfair, but it’s a system that has worked thus far, and I doubt will change.”

“So, I’m dead, huh?” Naruto scratched the back of his head. “That makes me wonder even more.”

“If you don’t mind me asking, what are you wondering about?” the white-haired woman, named Shirayuki, enquired curiously. Naruto sighed lightly. “Well, I actually appeared in the middle of that large fight earlier. I somehow managed to get through the crowd dodging fists and knives, and made it out unscathed. Maybe I was some sort of warrior in my past life.”

She patted him on the shoulder comfortingly. “It’s normal for souls to forget their lives. I always feel it’s better to look towards the future.”

“It seems the lawlessness of the district hasn’t ruined your optimism,” Naruto smiled, watching as she opened the door to her wooden hut. It was situated in an alcove in the lush forests that surrounded the district, hidden from casual view. It was located rather strategically, Naruto mused. Far enough from the main town that thugs probably won’t find it, but close enough such that she could make trips to sell her goods.

“Iie, it hasn’t,” she giggled. Naruto couldn’t help but smile in return. Her laughter was infectious; hell, Naruto felt lighter just by walking beside her. Which begs the question… “Ne, Shirayuki-san?”

“Hmm? Oh, and please don’t address me so formally!” she frowned cutely. “It makes me feel old!”

Naruto shook his head amusedly. “Alright then, Shirayuki-chan, why haven’t you been captured by those thugs already? I mean, you are an attractive lady, living on your own in such a lawless district. If they even catch sight of you, which I’m sure they must have, then they would have tried all means to get you.”

She blushed at his compliment. “Ara, you are making me feel embarrassed.”

“You deserve any compliments to your beauty that go your way,” Naruto winked, deepening the blush on the emerald-eyed woman. “So what’s your secret?”

“Well…” she hesitated, biting her lip gently. “I seek protection from a gang, and in return, I have to…”

“It’s okay, I understand,” Naruto interrupted her. Seeing a salty tear coalesce at the edge of her eye, Naruto instinctively wrapped her in a hug. She resisted slightly, but soon gave in, allowing herself to relax in the warmth of the blond man’s arms. Naruto could feel his own yukata getting damp, as unbidden tears flowed from her teal orbs. “Don’t worry. From now on, I’ll protect you.”

Shirayuki tilted her head back to gaze into Naruto’s azure orbs with her teary eyes. “Do…do you mean it?”

Naruto nodded emphatically. “I meant every word.”

Her lips curved into a relieved smile, as she glomped Naruto. “Arigato gozaimasu, Naruto-kun!”

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Naruto awoke to the loud banging of the door. From Shirayuki’s somewhat frightened and resigned expression, Naruto could guess who their late night visitors were. Motioning for her to retreat to her room in silence, the blond man strolled to the rattling door, and opened it casually. At the door stood five men, all of them big brutes with malicious smiles and the stink of alcohol all over. Naruto forced a smile. “What can I do for you five gentlemen on this fine night?”

“Who the hell are you, blondie?” the man at the head of the quintet, obviously the ringleader, shouted incoherently.

Naruto’s smile died, as his face took on neutrality. “I am Shirayuki-san’s bodyguard.”

“Bodyguard?” the man echoed, before sharing a laugh with his men. “Bodyguard? Shira-chan needs no bodyguards! She has Keitaro-sama’s protection!”

Keitaro again. Must be some sort of gang leader of great prominence in this district. “Oh? Well, I’ve taken over the duty of protecting her, so you fine gentlemen don’t have to come around here anymore. In fact, tell your Keitaro-sama that he has no need to send men here to protect Shirayuki-san from now on.”

The leader, a tanned brunette, grabbed Naruto’s yukata roughly, pulling the smaller man towards him. “Listen here, blondie. I’m not here to play games. My men and I are in need of some fun right now, so get lost or you can have a couple of knuckle sandwiches for supper.”

“How about you have them instead?” Naruto returned defiantly, sinking a fist into the drunken man’s gut. As he collapsed on his knees, gasping for lost breath, Naruto kicked him aside. His eyes burned with a silent warning: fight at your own risk. If the four men were more sober, they might have heeded the warning signs. However, being intoxicated did little to improve their cognitive abilities, nor their locomotive. A few knuckle sandwiches later, the five men were sprawled on the ground, all of them struggling to stand up.

“Never come back,” Naruto hissed angrily. “And tell your boss that if he sends men here, they will all suffer the same fate.”

Naruto slammed the door shut, turning around to find himself embraced by Shirayuki. The white-haired woman buried her face into Naruto’s chest, blabbering her thanks over and over. Naruto wrapped his arms around her smaller frame tentatively. “It’s okay. I told you, didn’t I? I’ll protect you from now on.”

Shirayuki sighed happily in the embrace, relishing the feel of Naruto’s protective arms around her. For too long, she had been alone, always hiding and running. Then she resorted to seeking protection from the largest gang in the area for various favours. For the first time in her existence, she felt safe. Few people would ever feel protected while living in the slums of Rukongai, but she did. Shirayuki knew she had finally found the person she was meant to be with. He was strong, kindly and handsome to boot. So, used to losing her possessions regularly, Shirayuki decided that she wasn’t going to give up the fine opportunity presented to her at that moment and lose him. Leaning up, she planted a soft kiss on Naruto’s lips.

The blond man blushed and stuttered. Shirayuki giggled softly, pressing a slim index finger on his lips to stop his nervous words. “Arigato, Naruto-kun, for protecting me. Will you…will you protect me for the rest of my life?”

Naruto didn’t know how to answer that question. Should he read deeper into it? Or take it at face value? As his mind conflicted over the best answer, Shirayuki giggled at Naruto’s deer-in-headlights expression. She pecked him on the lips once more, which stupefied Naruto. He nodded hesitantly, clearly befuddled (but, as Shirayuki noted happily, somewhat pleased) at the bold actions of the jade-eyed woman. Seeing as he only landed in Rukongai half a day ago, and was still adjusting to his new life, it was no surprise for him to be struck dumb by her kisses.

Shirayuki broke the hug, slipping her dainty hand into his larger one. “Now that we’ve established our relationship…we can share the futon!”

Naruto couldn’t help but blush as she dragged him into the bedroom.

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Naruto still didn’t know what his life was before he died. But he didn’t care anymore. He had skills of a warrior, but that was only for self-defence. All he needed in his life was Shirayuki. It had only been a short two months since he arrived in Rukongai, but in that short amount of time, he found himself completely enamoured by the snowy-haired woman. She was bright, cheerful, and never afraid to get what she wanted. Her optimism was contagious, and Naruto was already looking forward to a happy and fulfilling life spent with her.

He followed her everywhere, keeping his promise of protecting her. Often, she would encounter Keitaro’s men wherever she went, be it collecting herbs or buying food. Now, she had no fears whatsoever; Naruto took care of any threats with casual ease. Shirayuki found his dedication rather cute. Often, she would tease him about it, causing him to stutter and stammer. His general shyness was also an endless source of amusement for Shirayuki, who flirted blatantly with the prudish blond. He would blush, become wordless, and avert his eyes. It even got to the point where Shirayuki felt like she was imposing on the quiet man; he fervently denied it, before turning crimson at his own admission of love.

“Ano, Naruto-kun, are you sure you don’t want to become a shinigami?” Shirayuki asked curiously from her comfortable position on his back. She had taken a liking to clambering on his back and letting him bring her about; he didn’t mind. “People say if you are hungry all the time, it means you have reiryoku and can become a shinigami. And being a shinigami means you have a better life.”

“Iie. Being a shinigami means I might have to leave you behind. And what life would I lead without you?” Naruto replied softly. “I’m happy here, and that’s all I need.”

Shirayuki giggled gently, planting a soft kiss on the nape of his neck. “You sure know how to make a woman feel special, Naruto-kun.”

The man declined to reply, opting to flush crimson instead. Shirayuki let out a happy sigh, leaning her head on Naruto’s broad shoulder. Her eyelids fluttering shut, she allowed herself to enjoy the ride. Only when Naruto’s rhythmic movements halted did she notice that he had stopped in his tracks. Opening her eyes curiously, she inadvertently gasped at the large number of men surrounding them. Naruto set her down on her feet as one of the men stepped forward from the semicircle of thugs. “Naruto, eh? How about you do the smart thing right now, and hand over Shirayuki to us?”

Naruto placed a gentle hand on Shirayuki and pushed her back to lean against the wall of a deserted house. He then turned his attention to the man who addressed him, silently scrutinizing the thug. He was tall, imposing, but worst of all, he looked like he knew how to fight, and had the scars to prove it. Naruto shook his head defiantly. “How about you men do the smart thing right now, and scram before I destroy you?”

The group of what Naruto estimated to be about a hundred men laughed uproariously. The leader smirked smugly. “You think you can take on all of us?”

“Even if you have weapons?” Naruto pointed out nonchalantly, having spotted the glint of metal on several of them. “Pretty much, yes.”

“Boys, this guy thinks he can take on all of us!” he declared, amusement clear in his voice. “How about we let him have a go?”

All the men cheered in agreement, before whipping out their weapons. Cleavers, swords and axes; they had every melee weapon one could possibly think of. The leader himself pulled out a large knife from behind him, silently gesturing for Naruto to attack. The blond man spared a glance over his shoulder, nodding assuredly at the frightened Shirayuki. Planting his feet firmly where he stood, he crooked a finger at the men. I can’t afford to move, or they would be able to capture Shirayuki-chan and hurt her to threaten me.

The leader acquiesced, dashing towards Naruto with deceptive speed for the man’s bulk. The blond smashed a lightning quick fist into the thug’s gut, before a snap kick to his temple sent the man into blissful unconsciousness. Shifting into a stance his mind screamed at him to, he awaited the bum rush of thugs. He didn’t have to wait long, as the closest men to him let out war cries and charged like a stampede of raging bulls. Naruto played matador, tearing down the ranks of men with frightening ease. The increasing mound of bodies and weapons lying in front of him in a loose semicircle proved as much.

Ten men were eventually left standing, reluctant to take even a step forwards. Naruto snorted derisively, crouching down for Shirayuki to climb on his back. “Take your friends and leave us alone, or face annihilation.”

Once they left the gang behind, Shirayuki squealed, hugging Naruto’s neck tightly. “Naruto-kun! You were so cool back there! You were like…”

As Shirayuki gushed over Naruto’s battle prowess, the blond man couldn’t help but smile. Yep, all I will ever need is right here.

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Shirayuki carved the last bits of the heart into the rough bark of the tree, before leaning back to observe her work. It was a simple message of love, with Naruto and her names scratched into the trunk of the tree, encapsulated by the heart. Naruto, seated at the base of the oak, shook his head amusedly at her antics. Shirayuki pouted cutely, before joining Naruto, the lovers seated beneath the carving she just etched into the tree. “I love you, Naruto-kun.”

“I love you too,” the blond replied, wrapping his arm around her waist as she leaned her head on his shoulder.

They sat there for hours, at the base of an oak tree that stood in the middle of a field of cheerful white daffodils. It was Shirayuki’s favourite location, and tucked in the middle of the forest, no one knew of it but her and now, Naruto. The emerald-eyed woman interlocked her fingers with Naruto’s, beaming at the flaxen-haired man. “Ne, Naruto-kun. Let’s make love here.”

He spluttered, turning crimson, but offered no objections as he laid her down in the field of flowers gently. They shared a chaste kiss, reveling in the simple expression of love. Naruto slowly undid Shirayuki’s obi, removing the strip of cloth. He slowly opened her yukata, admiring her beauty. Shirayuki blushed under his intense scrutiny, before boldly reaching out to undo his yukata. Naruto shrugged the robe off, leaving him completely nude as he planted butterfly kisses on Shirayuki’s milky skin. She gently ran her hands through his wild, unkempt hair as he marked her in the hollow of her shoulder. His hands reached up to cup her full breasts, caressing the soft globes lovingly.

She gasped softly, arching her back encouragingly as he enveloped a hardened pink nipple in his mouth, licking and nipping the sensitive nub. The other nipple was not neglected, as Naruto rolled it between his fingers, eliciting heavier moans from his lover. As he switched nipples, he ghosted a hand down to her folds. They were already wet, begging for attention. The blond obliged, slipping a finger into her pussy. Shirayuki’s moans intensified as he thrust his finger to and fro, rubbing her clitoris with his thumb dexterously all the while lavishing attention to her breasts.

Shirayuki felt like she was in heaven. Sexual favours for Keitaro’s gang usually meant discomfort for her; she was forced to choke on phalli, and was often penetrated in all three orifices without any prior lubrication. However, Naruto was showering attention on her, and the sensations were a far cry from her previous experiences with sex. Hence, it was not too long before she came with a cry, splattering Naruto’s hand with her womanly fluids. As she slowly recovered from her climax, Naruto shifted himself to line his throbbing manhood against her wet folds. He engaged her luscious lips softly, before asking. “Are you sure?”

She nodded quickly. Naruto sunk his member into her pussy, both lovers groaning as pleasure engulfed their senses. Once the blond man bottomed out, he waited patiently for Shirayuki to adjust to his size. His silent request for permission was replied with a gentle kiss. Moving slowly, Naruto tried to extend the pleasure, but the desire was far too intense. He picked up pace, slamming his hips against Shirayuki’s as she locked her ankles behind him, clutching his neck tightly for support. Gritting his teeth, Naruto made attempts to hold back his orgasm as Shirayuki screamed, her orgasm sending her vaginal walls convulsing around his cock. It was a futile effort, as he came a short moment after, spurting ropey strands of semen deep into her womb.

Naruto flipped their positions, now lying on his back and allowing Shirayuki to lay her comfortable weight on his body. She rested briefly on her lover, before reaching a hand behind to wriggle his softening tool out of her folds. Sighing, she snuggled happily into Naruto, relishing his warmth. The blond man wrapped an arm around Shirayuki, brushing her soft white hair lovingly.

“I wish we could stay like this forever,” she murmured, her breath washing over Naruto’s chest.

“So do I, Shirayuki-chan,” Naruto whispered. “So do I.”

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Shirayuki gasped loudly as she was shaken awake, a concerned Naruto gazing upon her worriedly. She panted, trying to remove the remnants of the dark dream from her mind. Naruto watched his lover in frustration, hating how he couldn’t help her with the recurring nightmares that have recently taken a hold of her sleep. Crow’s feet were emerging beneath her teal orbs, a sign of her increasing inability to sleep well. Stroking her back gently, he tried to calm the shaken woman down.

“Another nightmare?” Naruto asked, already expecting the shaky nod from his lover. “Shirayuki-chan…I…I think it could be me.”

She glanced incredulously at the blond man, but before he could get a tongue lashing for blaming himself, he pressed his finger to her lips, halting any arguments. He averted his eyes, gazing out of the window at the moonlit forest outside. “Remember when I told you I am getting hungrier these days?”

She nodded. Naruto sighed heavily. “Well, like you said, hunger indicates the presence of reiryoku in me. I reckon that if I’m getting hungrier, I’m gaining more reiryoku. But you’ve also been getting more and more nightmares recently. I doubt it’s a coincidence. I think…I think my reiatsu is causing your nightmares.”

Shirayuki slipped her arms around Naruto’s waist, leaning her head against his back. “Naruto-kun, I don’t care if I have nightmares for the rest of my life. They can’t harm me, as long as I have you to comfort me.”

Naruto placed his hand over Shirayuki’s, absentmindedly rubbing her hand with his thumb. “I don’t want to hurt you, Shirayuki-chan. I…I have an idea, but I don’t know whether you’ll like it.”

“What is it?” she asked, kissing his shoulder.

“We travel to Seireitei, and I learn to control my reiatsu as a shinigami. We’ll find some lodging in a Rukongai district nearby. It’s peaceful there, so you won’t be harmed. But I probably won’t be there with you all the time, not if I become a shinigami,” Naruto explained tentatively.

Shirayuki bit her lip gently, mulling over the option. Naruto patted her hands comfortingly. “It’s okay. It’s only a suggestion. Take your time to consider it.”

“It’s a good idea,” she admitted. “But as much as I dislike the conditions here…it has been my home for all my life. It’s difficult for me to give it all up.”

“Don’t fret over it, Shirayuki-chan,” Naruto murmured, prepared to return to sleep. However, Shirayuki seemed to have different ideas, as her hands wandered a bit lower. Her voice took on a sultry tone as she nibbled his earlobe. “Ne, Naruto-kun, I don’t think I can sleep now. I need you to…comfort me.”

He eagerly obliged.

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Naruto groaned as he rose from the futon, blinking blearily. Quickly shaking his sleep off, he noticed the absence of a warm body beside him. A quick glance at the window told him it was already afternoon. Naruto frowned, his eyebrows knitting together. He wasn’t a morning person by any means, but he never woke later than noon. Hence it was a major surprise to see the sun past its zenith and making its way towards the horizon. Shirayuki-chan would have woken me up, he thought, his fear growing. It’s not like her to leave me lounging in bed past noon.

Leaving bed and throwing on his yukata, he walked briskly into the living room. It was empty, as he had dreaded. Spying a spot of colour, he practically ran to the dining table, where a note laid. He snatched it off the table, eyes roving over the words.

Naruto-kun,

I have decided that I cannot stand the nightmares anymore, and will be better off with Keitaro-sama. Please do not come looking for me.

Farewell,

Shirayuki

It was short, simple, and a blatant lie. Naruto crumpled the note in his fist, gritting his teeth. Without further ado, he stomped out of the house, only pausing to lock the door behind him. On the way, he snagged a ruffian, bruising the man before demanding Keitaro’s home. He stammered the directions out, and was rewarded with darkness. Following the directions, he came upon a large mansion, guarded by dozens of men patrolling the outside of the house. He was not stopped as he blew through the doors, an indicator that he was expected. He followed the corridor all the way to the end, where he entered a large dojo. Seated across the dojo from him was a man served by three women, massaging and feeding him.

“Where is Shirayuki-chan?” Naruto demanded, his voice brooking no lies.

The man waved off the women surrounding him, before standing up to greet Naruto. “Welcome, Naruto-san, to my humble abode. I am Keitaro, a name you might have heard of before.”

“Arigato, for letting me know your face,” Naruto growled, his knuckles popping as he clenched his fists. “Makes it easier for me to hunt you down if you run.”

“Ah, there’s no need to be so hasty, Naruto-san!” the black-haired man said cheerfully. “In case you didn’t notice, you are in my home. I don’t take it too kindly to people who destroy objects in my home, and suffice to say, those people never get to harass anyone else anymore.”

“I assure you, I’m different from those people,” Naruto sneered. “If you don’t bring Shirayuki-chan out now, I will kill you and all your men.”

“You’re welcome to give it a try,” the man smiled amusedly, spreading his arms wide.

Naruto growled, dashing at the man. Subconsciously using reiryoku, he went much faster than anybody anticipated, which had the once-confident Keitaro backtracking, his obsidian eyes carrying a hint of fear. But it was a threat soon neutralized, as a wave of senbon soared through the air, peppering the ground Naruto ran across. Adjusting to his speed, the senbon throwers hit the blond with dozens of the needles. A sudden bout of vertigo overcame Naruto despite his attempts to get to Keitaro, and he collapsed on his knees, breathing heavily. His vision blurred, he could barely even make out his target as the man strolled towards his immobilized form. Poison, his addled mind thought, as he struggled to stand.

“I admire your strength, and your passion,” Keitaro said, although his words sounded warped and incoherent to Naruto. “But when it’s used against me…no matter how strong, you will get crushed.”

Keitaro signaled for two of his men. “Take him away,” he said, before pausing. “Oh, and show him what a whore his little lover really is.”

The two men grinned widely. “Hai, Keitaro-sama!”

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Naruto opened his eyes to see Shirayuki crouched before him, her jade orbs overflowing with concern. She smiled brightly at his wakefulness, crushing him in a hug. “Thank Kami you’re okay, Naruto-kun! I thought…I thought you might have died.”

“Shirayuki-chan…why?” Naruto winced. “Why did you drug me and submit to Keitaro?”

She averted her eyes, chewing her lip nervously. “He…he threatened to kill you in your sleep if I didn’t cooperate. I had to! I…I don’t want you to die because of me.”

“And I rather die than let that bastard lay his hands on you again,” Naruto retorted. He gazed down at his restraints; heavy chains locked his limbs down securely. “Please escape, Shirayuki-chan. I will find a way out of this, and we can go back to our lives. Don’t let him take advantage of you.”

Shirayuki shook her head, tears falling steadily from her eyes. “Iie…it’s too late for that.”

At this moment, the gate to the dungeon cell opened, and two men sauntered in. They snickered at Naruto’s futile struggling as they pulled a non-resisting Shirayuki away, and proceeded to rip her clothes off. She initially protested, but one of the men waved a large battleaxe at Naruto’s direction. She immediately went silent, allowing the men to roam their lustful hands over her nude body. Naruto squeezed his eyes shut, unbidden tears leaking from his eyes as the loud sounds of slurping were heard. The rustle of cloth falling to the ground, followed by a light scream from Shirayuki as she was evidently thrown on the cold floor unceremoniously made Naruto cringe.

Despair flooded his soul as the muffled cries of pain from his lover mixed with the loud groans from the two men. The sounds of flesh slapping together, and the smell of blood deflated Naruto completely. There’s nothing I can do…I promised to protect her, yet I failed so miserably…

Suddenly, the noises disappeared, and his obscured sight was replaced by the vision of a massive tree that Naruto couldn’t see around. He spun around, realizing that he was free of his restraints, but Shirayuki was nowhere to be found. Turning back to the tree, he noticed a black door carved into the trunk. Making a decision, he opened the door slowly, wary of any danger. There was nothing behind the door, but a long spiral flight of stairs that traversed the entire hollowed trunk of the tree. Heart pounding, he started climbing the stairs.

But no danger arrived. Naruto reached the top after a grueling climb, greeted by another black door identical to the one a few hundred feet beneath Naruto. With trepidation, Naruto creaked the wooden door open, and found himself standing on a large branch of the tree. The canopy let in only small shafts of sunlight, but it was enough for Naruto to make out a large bird perched at the end of the branch. By large Naruto meant a few times larger than humans; it was definitely not a real, existing bird.

“But I do exist,” the crow rumbled, its voice deep.

“What are you?” Naruto breathed, astonished by the size of the crow. “And where am I?”

“We are in the recesses of your mind, child,” the dark-feathered fowl boomed. “And I am the spirit of your shinigami powers.”

“My…shinigami powers?” Naruto gaped, before his eyes narrowed. “So it is true then? Shirayuki-chan’s nightmares were caused by me?”

“Indeed, child,” the crow answered. “That is why her nightmares often have crows devouring her. It is a natural consequence of uncontrolled reiatsu leaking from your body. But you have more urgent matters to attend to currently, do you not?”

“Shirayuki-chan,” Naruto whispered. “I have to help her somehow! Please tell me how to access my powers!”

“You are not ready to hear my name,” the crow shook its head. Training its beady red eyes on Naruto, it scorned. “You are pathetic, wasting your potential away. But it is there. For this once, I will help you unleash your reiatsu, and destroy those puny restraints. You can then rescue your damsel in distress.”

“Arigato gozaimasu,” Naruto sighed in relief.

“Don’t thank me,” the crow muttered disgustedly. “A poor showing from you is a poor reflection of me. Now, leave me and do what you have to do.”

Naruto’s eyes snapped open as black reiatsu encased his body, empowering him. Tugging at his chains, he broke them like toothpicks. The two men raping Shirayuki were in retreat, hastily pulling up their pants as Naruto’s reiatsu coalesced into a simple katana, with a unique spiral crossguard and a black wrap. A short black tassel hung from the pommel. Naruto flickered from view, reappearing in front of the two frightened rapists. His lips were twisted in a malicious smile as he raised his blade. In two clean strikes, they collapsed into pools of their own blood, dead.

The blond man rushed to Shirayuki’s side, his katana clattering to the ground as he held her to his chest. “Shirayuki-chan.”

“Naruto-kun,” she smiled weakly. “I…I should have had more faith in you. I led you into this. Gomen nasai.”

“Don’t apologise,” Naruto scolded lightly, brushing an errant lock of her hair from her face. “If anything, it’s Keitaro’s fault. And I’m going to make him pay for it.”

“Please don’t!” Shirayuki pleaded, clinging to Naruto’s yukata. “I don’t want you to get hurt because of me.”

“I will be fine,” Naruto assured her. “Stay here. I don’t want you to be accidentally harmed and…I don’t want you to see me kill them.”

“I…alright,” she nodded, clutching Naruto tightly. “Please don’t die. I don’t think I can live without you, Naruto-kun.”

“I won’t,” he promised.

8888888888888888

Keitaro snarled as he observed the carnage. Four hundred men on premises, all equipped with sharp implements…and yet, none of them were standing. The perpetrator? Uzumaki Naruto, who stood across the dojo once more. This time though, he had a blade, one that was stained and dripping with blood. His white yukata was splattered with crimson as well; it seemed only a grim prospect awaited Keitaro. But he still had tricks up his sleeve. Crooking his finger, he gestured for his last remaining bodyguard to appear. Naruto’s eyes widened as a struggling Shirayuki was brought into view, held fast by the bodyguard. Growling, the man slapped her hard, quelling her struggles.

As Naruto took a step forwards, Keitaro drew a short tantō, placing it across Shirayuki’s throat. “Ah, ah, ah, you don’t want to move closer, Naruto-san.”

“Bastard…you have no honour,” Naruto hissed, the grip on his blade tightening. Keitaro’s lips thinned into a wry smile. “Perhaps. But honour has no place in our world, Naruto-san. I want you to drop your sword, or your woman will have her throat cut.”

The blond man acquiesced, stabbing the katana into the ground. Naruto raised his hands into the air, the sign of surrender. Keitaro smirked, sheathing the tantō behind his back. “I’ll hold the woman, you get the worm.”

The bodyguard threw Shirayuki roughly at Keitaro, who held her fast by her waist, stroking her smooth skin with a finger. “My, my, if I had known the famous Shirayuki that my men love so much was such a beauty, I would have taken you all for myself a long while ago.”

The bodyguard strolled to Naruto, a gloating smirk plastered on his face. Before he could blink, the man was cut down, blood gushing from a long slash across his torso. Keitaro fumbled for his tantō, as Naruto charged the man. This time, there was no escape for the gang leader, as the whiskered man’s blade pierced his heart. Naruto grinned triumphantly, removing his blade from the man’s body as his corpse fell backwards, smashing his chair in the process. Whirling to catch a falling Shirayuki, the smile on his face disappeared as he noticed the crimson stains that blossomed on her yukata.

“I’m…I’m glad you’re fine, Naruto-kun,” she coughed, blood trickling from the corner of her lips. “I…love…”

Her teal orbs turned glassy. Naruto trembled, his body shaking uncontrollably as tears fell from his azure eyes, falling on Shirayuki’s pale, lifeless face. He pulled the white-haired woman close to him, holding her tightly as he continued crying silently. Even as the tears ebbed, he remained unmoving. Only when his hand brushed her alabaster features, and cold skin greeted his touch did it really sink in. Drawing her eyelids close, she looked peaceful, almost as if she was merely sleeping soundly. Storing his katana into a mysteriously present sheath, he tucked the blade into his yukata as he scooped her body into his arms.

His feet brought him not back to the hut, but to the field of daffodils. Laying her body on the ground gently, he slowly dug a grave at the base of the oak with his bare hands. For hours he worked, never stopping for even the slightest break. Once the grave was sufficiently deep, he shuffled over to her corpse, planting a kiss on her cold lips. He gingerly lowered her into the grave, and plucked a nearby daffodil for her clammy hands to hold on her chest.

“I love you too, Shirayuki-chan,” Naruto whispered softly. “Rest well.”

<<<<<<<<>>>>>>>>

Chapter 2

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