Disclaimer: See Chapter One.
A/N: Ok so thank you so very incredibly much to everyone who has had patience with me for the last three months or so. I appreciate it a lot. Especially since I've been buried so deep in work that I've had to struggle to even outline or get ideas because I've been so overwhelmed with trying to survive. I'd like to say that it's going to be getting better but I can't promise anything at all at this point because I'm being kept on the project until the new year. Hopefully I can beat out at least an update a month but I make no promises. I'm barely sleeping these days so writing has to come after that.
And also thank you from the bottom of my heart to those who either nominated or voted for me in the COA. I honestly didn't expect it at all. So THANK YOU.
Now it's short but it's all I've got a the moment and something is better than nothing right?
Neat, almost flowing writing stood dark and glaring against the white of the two sealed letters that he held in his hands. Two letters, two destinations. What he was certain were Captain Aizen's last words written. One was to Momo, the other to the Captain Commander. He could see her in his mind, Momo crying in rage and pain. It tore at him in a way few things could. “Matsumoto.”
He held the hand holding the letter to his Lieutenant without looking. He couldn't. Because if he thought about it too much then he would possibly do something he would not regret in the slightest. And it wasn't the time for that. Not yet anyway. First and foremost, he had to ensure that the Gotei 13 did not fall into any further confusion with the loss of one Division's Captain and Lieutenant. “Deliver this.”
“What are you going to do?” Matsumoto took the letter.
He kept his gaze on the second letter. “I'm going to see the Captain Commander.”
The sun was up, that bright morning summer sunshine that was blinding all on its own. But the minute you added the stark whiteness of the stone that made up most of Sereitei to the equation it meant that she'd have paid good money for a pair of sunglasses. It also made her crankier than she already was, which was really saying something considering that she was about one good shove from going into pissed off slayer mode and just busting into the Central Forty-six's Chambers and having a nice beat down on the pompous old jerks. And yes she could have made it in but not without having pretty much every shinigami in Soul Society on her like Xander on a Twinkie (the Captain Commander included). So, doing that was out, for more than one reason.
Which didn't help her bad mood any but other things had some. She'd made some progress in the last few hours. Shiro and Shunsui had the Shield and she knew that they'd use it even if they didn't know all of the reasons why she wanted them to use it. How did she know? Because she knew them like she knew her own hands. They were two of the best men she'd ever had the unending privilege of meeting in her entire long existence and they would do what any truly good person and leaders would do, of that she had no doubt.
Which meant she had one thing she could be certain of and could check off her list. The next few though would be a whole lot less pleasant than seeing her old friends. She pushed her weight off as she went from one roof to the next silently and swiftly in the bright sunlight as she kept track of the sounds of the groups still out searching though the streets of Sereitei. They weren't a threat but they could and had proven to be an inconvenience.
The blood in her mouth tasted coppery and gritty from all the flying dirt she'd inhaled, which sucked on a major level. She spit it out onto the dirt about a foot from where she had her hands planted on the ground as she knelt. It was soaked up almost immediately by the dry earth leaving it even redder than before. Teeth grinding, she ignored the pain rolling through her body like a tidal wave on steroids and blinked the sweat out of her eyes. She'd asked for this, she had. And she was not going to wuss out now.
“My, my, Dawn-san, should we stop for now?” she looked up though the little pieces of sweat soaked hair that had escaped her ponytail at Kisuke-san and bit back the urge to scream. The man wasn't even winded and he was waving around that stupid ass fan in front of his face with a big grin.
“No way in hell.” she pushed herself up off her hands and though it took some effort she managed to stand. After more than one night sitting up on the roof of the Kurosaki house she'd managed to get out of Isshin-san that her sister had trained Kisuke-san. And if she couldn't survive training by one of her sister's former students then she knew that when Bu-no, Amaya got back her sister wouldn't be willing to truly train her like she had her shinigami students.
And she would be trained. She didn't care if she had to work herself almost to death between what Tessai-san and Kisuke-san were putting her though. She would be trained. She wasn't a little girl any more, she wasn't weak or scared and she'd spent half her life watching her sister fight. They were standing at the beginning of a new life and she was determined not to be the same helpless person she'd been during their years in Sunnydale.
The hat covered blonde head across from her tilted to the side and a look crossed Kisuke-san's features she hadn't seen before. “You are as stubborn as your sister, truly.”
Her lips twitched, stubborn, that was the nicest way she'd ever heard it described. “Oh you really have no idea.” she put her self back into defensive position and prepared to go up again in hand to hand. She had a list a mile long of things she intended to learn from those around her and being able to fight hand to hand on par with the likes of Kisuke-san and her onee-san was just one of them. Even if it meant she had to try a thousand times more and put up with a million times more pain to get to that level.
The Kuchiki Manor, like her family's own, had its own private guards. Men and women who were trained and entrusted with the protection of the members of the Clan. Of course their main priority was supposed to be the protection of the Head of the Clan but when said Head was a Captain of the Gotei 13 it was kinda pointless. All shinigami were well trained but Captains were the elite, the most dangerous people in all of Soul Society. So when a Head of a Clan was a Captain them needing a bodyguard or guards wasn't likely. Which was great for them.
Unless it was another Captain and Head of Clan, or in her case former, who had a bone the size of Godzilla's spine to pick with the current Head of the Kuchiki Clan. Of course she wasn't planning on going in like a several hundred foot lizard tearing though Tokyo even if it was really tempting. Nope, she was going in on the other end of the genre as far as Japanese stereotypes went, ninja-like.
Which so wasn't a challenge when you're nearly a thousand years old, a slayer, a former Captain of the Gotei 13 and you started learning how to sneak out of the house at fourteen years old. What it was though was a trial in patience, not that she'd ever been accused of having a lot of the stuff to begin with. It was already close to noon and she'd spent the better part of half an hour already during her day mentally bitching about Soul Society's lack of the great things called cars. But it wasn't even worth really thinking about compared to the other things she had on her mind. Trivial bitching in her head was just her way from going completely into 'Someone's going to bleed' mode.
She'd save that for later though, when she had the targets she wanted. She slipped down from her spot and landed silently, not a single sound coming from the action that didn't blend seamlessly with the sounds of the garden behind her. Every sense in her was on high alert, hundreds of little pieces of information going through her. Byakuya, not the young fire filled young man she'd once known, but the cold dangerous adult one she'd tried to keep from fighting Ichigo the day before stood before the Kuchiki family shrine. The smells of incense, flowers, candles, smoke and steel filled the air, a reminder. His back was to her, the sharp contrasts of his haori at odds with the softer lights and colors that made up the shrine and room.
Her gaze moved past Byakuya to the shrine and she felt her eyes widen a fraction. Two pictures caught her gaze and wouldn't let go as her mind wrapped itself around what they were. One was a drawing, age beginning to creep up on it despite the glass frame that held it. She knew the drawing, she'd done it. Her brows furrowed for a moment and she mentally shook her head to clear away thoughts that had no importance. None. But the other picture was important and she knew it and it made her anger rise, cold and storm filled.
“So that's how it is.” her voice cut though the illusion of a peaceful moment making Byakuya stiffen almost imperceptibly before he turned his head, his body following in a smooth motion. It was a grace that hadn't been there when she'd known him as a young man and it was a reminder that he wasn't the person he'd been then. A reminder that made the storm in her flash with thunder and lightening.
“Why are you here?” simple question really, and when all of it was boiled down there was a simple answer.
“Because I couldn't get a hair appointment until next Thursday.”
There was no reaction, not that she'd expected any. Apparently the Byakuya she'd once known had been replaced by a cold robot. But if that was the way it was then she was very very good at being cold and highly dangerous too. She was the storm, always had been and never knew it. And it was when there was complete stillness and silence before a storm that it became its most dangerous. “A warning. If Ichigo or Rukia die you won't survive until the next sunrise.”
His expression didn't change, not really but there was something different. It washed over her like a mist, a warning. “This matter is of no concern to you.” so arrogant, that tone. It reminded her of Genrei and it pissed her off, especially since Byakuya didn't have a damn clue what was really going on.
“The hell it isn't. I swore an oath, gave my word.” she felt Areno Ame in the back of her mind itching for a fight and she had to reign her anger in before she just knocked Byakuya on his ass. The storm in her was cold and dangerous but the desert was hot and it's equal in power. Both ruled her and both would be what Byakuya got if Ichigo died. Actually both would be what everyone who was in her way would get. “And I'll do what I have to.” she felt the calm she'd learned to master wash over her, like gentle wind. And she would do what she had to. She didn't care. She might have to hurt a few people and cause a lot of destruction to do it but it was better than the alternative.
“One who has abandoned their duties knows nothing of honor.”
“Honor?” the snort was dry, sarcasm made into a single sound. “Honor doesn't bleed for you, fight beside you. It doesn't laugh or cry with you. It doesn't love you or remember you or mourn for you when you're gone. I know exactly what honor is and isn't and what it's worth. I have lived duty and honor my whole life and so don't you dare lecture me when you're about to let your own sister die.” she heard the sound of footsteps coming in their direction and tensed her muscles as she met Byakuya's gaze head on, green eyes boring into dark blue. “You've been warned Byakuya. Stay out of this.”
And then she left, pushing everything she had into shumpo to get away before anyone else saw her. She had too many other things to do to spend time beating the crap out of people who weren't the real threat.
****Like I said short. But later chapters will have Kenpachi, Gin, and more fighting.
Also (for those who read it) I'm going to try and finish Watching Forever for Halloween..which is a wait I know...but I've completely changed how I want to end the story and it's gonna have a major impact on the rest of the series. Like character death, war and the balance of power shifting kinda changes.
Now off to work on NQP because I've finally hashed out a hunk of the long term plans on the series and can move forward now that I've got a day off.