Disclaimer: See chapter one.
A/N: Sorry for the delay. RL had me busy and now gimpy. I nearly broke my leg today...well work nearly broke my leg but same difference.....anyway it ends with me on crutches and painkillers which is so entertaining for me when writing because I have to read what I've written four or five times just to make sure I'm actually writing in english. Anyway. Thanks so much for the reviews and rec's everyone. They helped motivate me a lot when certain parts of this chapter fought with me.
As for when this story starts it begins right at ep 17 and goes from there. Though I'll let everyone know which of the filler arcs I decide to keep or get rid of once we get close to where they crop up in the anime.
And again special thanks to Wolfie and the ladies at PL for putting up with me and Deepred for her wonderful art.
Now, It's five in the morning and I haven't slept yet.
-see, she's amazing and my art hero. Go look at her stuff.
Tired, so tired. Without the wealth of reatisu she'd always relied on to increase her speed and reflexes in spirit form she was having to use her slayer abilities to compensate. Only a slayer's speed and reflex were pretty limited compared to a third seat or higher shinigami.
So basically Kisuke had been kicking her ass for the better part of five hours solid. She flipped back, the muscles in her legs burning, and out of the way of Kisuke's blade as it came flying at her head for what had to be the hundredth time in the last three hours since they'd moved up to using swords. She landed on one knee, a sealed Areno Ame in her right hand just in time to see a chunk of the end of her hair fall to the ground.
Oh hell no!
He hadn't just messed with her hair! Oh she was gonna kill him.
“So close. You'll have to do better than that Amaya-san.” she flicked her gaze up at him and her eyes narrowed. The blonde ass hat was gonna suffer. No one messed with her hair. Demon goo, fine. Vampire dust, fine. Soaking wet from Areno Ame, she'd learned to cope. But remove some of it and there was gonna be blood spilled.
She felt the anger fill her, white hot and rolling and with that anger came something else. Something that lived in the desert. Something that lived for the fight, lived for the anger, lived for the chance to win. There was no voice, she wasn't strong enough for a voice but she got the feeling. The mental equivalent of “Where the fuck have you been?”. Which just made her want to groan. Oh goody, Areno Ame was pissed off. That was gonna be so the kind of fun that wasn't to deal with later.
But that flare, that reaction, that feeling, it was a start. It was power. Her power. It was almost enough to make her forget that she was gonna hurt Kisuke for messing with her hair. Almost. She shot forward, grabbing hold of that feel of reatisu she could use for all that she was worth as she grabbed the back of Kisuke's jacket and yanked him backwards for the ground.
He went down with a cloud of dust, looking just a little bit surprised. She stood over him and looked down. “You don't mess with the hair.” she prodded him with one sandal clad foot. “You want to cut me open, fine. But the hair is off limits.”
He looked at her a little funny which made her frown. “What?” she stepped back and he popped up to his feet with way too much spring to it for someone who'd been fighting for hours. Gods she missed her old endurance.
“Well, well. Most impressive.” that made her frown even more. That sounded like an insult. That she could drop him on his butt at all. She'd been a Captain once, and she still had her slayer abilities and if anything her slayer abilities had gotten stronger the longer she was alive and human.
“You shouldn't have been able to do that Amaya-san. Not yet anyway. Based on the damage to your reatisu it should have been a week before you could move at that speed.” she wasn't stupid, she could read between the lines on that statement. And she knew just how weak she'd felt when he'd released her from her human body.
Her healing. Her slayer healing.
For once she was happy to be a slayer.
“Manager!” the call from Tessai brought her up short and she went skidding to a halt and looked up and over to where the voice had come from. And if she hadn't already been stopped in her tracks she probably would have gone skidding anyway at the sight. There with Tessai stood Dawn.
“Onee-san!” Dawn waved with her free hand and she blinked. How in the world had Dawn found out where she was? And how the hell could Dawn see her when she was out of her body? Wait, she could answer one of those pretty easily, Isshin had to have told Dawn.
She moved over to where they were, pulling on the reatisu she could use to get her there faster. The more she used it, pushed it, the easier it became to use and every time she could pull on a fraction more. It'd taken her getting pissed off about her hair and a few hours for her to get to the first piece of reatisu and in the hours since then she'd been progressing. Kisuke had initially thought that it would take her over a month in the human world to get back to bankai but now he'd already cut that in half.
“What are you doing here Dawn?”
“My, my, you're full of surprises Amaya-san. A sister?” she looked over at Kisuke and then back at Dawn. “Yeah.” that was the only answer to any questions regarding Dawn she was willing to give. She'd told Isshin the whole truth about her past. About the hows and whys of her ending up in Soul Society but she wasn't willing to tell anyone else. She wasn't willing to risk anything happening to Dawn and telling some things made certain risks a given even if it was Kisuke and Yoruichi.
Dawn seemed to get it though, probably because they'd discussed what was safe to tell. “You've been gone for over a day and I just wanted to check on you.” she smirked. “Nice look by the way. Very wannabe samurai.”
“Brat.” she shook her head and smiled at the fact that she could already tell the difference in Dawn's Japanese. A day of having to speak in it only had already started to make a difference. And then her brain caught up. She'd been down in the training room with Kisuke for over a day? “Guess it's time for a break then.” more like a break and getting back into her body and gone. Ichigo was due to start his training and she didn't want to see him before they left for Soul Society. Too many potential questions from him that she didn't want to have to answer and saving his friend would be just the distraction she needed to keep him busy.
If they lived through getting in and out of Soul Society then she'd worry about how to deal with Ichigo. She still hadn't worked out how to answer questions from anyone else though yet but then she'd never been great at being the plan girl.
“I can't believe I let those two nut jobs talk me into going.” she pulled her hair through the elastic hair tie one last time before ignoring the messy ponytail. It wasn't like she'd be in her body a whole lot after breakfast for the next forty eight hours anyway.
“It's not like you're actually going to be in the hospital.” Dawn had a point but she still didn't like it. She didn't care how old she got hospitals weren't her friend. So she decided to just ignore it. “What are you gonna be doing while I'm gone?” she sat down on the bed and crossed her legs while Dawn rummaged through her laptop case for something.
“Isshin-san's trying to distract Karin and Yuzu from the fact that Ichigo is gone so we're going to go on a picnic today. And tomorrow we're having a girls day.” her eyebrows went up. Dawn going all older sister on Yuzu and Karin? Bonding? Well that was a surprise. Isshin pretty much adopting Dawn wasn't a shock but Dawn just going with it? Yeah, kinda was.
But at least it meant that Dawn was settling in some. Getting used to things. And being around a normal, and she used the term very loosely, family seemed to be good for Dawn. Not only in taking Dawn's ability to speak Japanese from conversational to fluent but in regards to giving Dawn something to hold on to. Which Dawn was gonna need. She furrowed her brow as several thoughts occurred to her. She needed to talk to Isshin.
She stood up and headed for the bedroom door, intent on finding her old friend before breakfast. “Where are you going?”
“It almost time for breakfast.” she didn't say anything else as she headed out the bedroom door and down the hall for the stairs.
She found Isshin in his office, prepping for a day of running his clinic. She still found it odd that he'd decided to be a doctor after all the years they'd spent as fighters but he had his reasons the same way she had hers. He turned around to look at her when she closed the door behind herself just in case one of the girls decided to come get him for breakfast. “You've got something on your mind.”
Her lips twitched at that. He could still read her like a book. “It's about Dawn.” she stopped. She wasn't sure how to ask. She'd never planned ahead before when it came to what would happen to Dawn if she died.
“Don't worry about her.” he knew what she was going to ask. Knew that she was well aware of the possibility she wouldn't live through the upcoming rescue mission. Knew that she didn't trust anyone else in the world more to take care of Dawn except for Jushiro and Shunsui. He knew it. She knew it.
“Dad! Breakfast!' Yuzu's voice brought her up short in saying thank you so she didn't. Not out loud anyway. But her gaze met her old friend's and there was complete understanding there. He'd protect Dawn and she'd protect Ichigo.
She had a debt to pay to the teenage shinigami after all. And she always settled her debts.
Desert. Sand. Storm clouds overhead. She breathed in deep, savoring the smell of the dunes and the rain looming in the distance. Home, this was home to her in a way nothing ever had been or ever would be. This was part of her own soul.
“We have been trapped.” she looked across the dunes and something inside her just felt right for the first time in what felt like forever. Areno Ame, the personification of her zanpakutō stood on the next dune, looking as she always did.
Eternal, graceful, beautiful and deadly.
“We have been made weak.”
She gave a small nod, she understood the anger but she also understood Willow's reasons for what had been done. It was what kept her from hating the red headed witch. And love, love kept it too. She might not consider any of the Scoobies real friends or family any longer but it didn't mean that she didn't love them. It just meant that it was time to move on. “Give it time.” she needed to placate Areno Ame, to make her understand and move on. She had. The past was the past, nothing could ever change it but you could move on from it. That was one of the few things she'd learned in all her years that she could count as even remotely close to wise. “We're together again.”
Her words seemed to take a moment to settle in and when they did she knew she'd just passed a hurdle. “We are strong.”
She smiled “We are.” and then she reached for the two blades that stood planted in the sand.
She blinked, and it was like the felt more whole than she had in ages. She could feel the weight of her swords in her hands. The cool and the heat. The weight and the power. The earth and the sky. She looked across the distance to where Ishida Ryūken stood with his bow and smiled. For the last day and a half he'd been running her around like she was a teenager.
She let her reatisu flow, all of it that she could get to. All that she could pull on, less than a quarter of what she'd once been able to call on without a second thought. Kisuke was right, the more she used it the easier it was and her slayer healing was getting one hell of a boost being in Ryūken's underground training room. The Quincy's were masters at manipulating spirit particles and a room saturated with them was just the boost she needed. She didn't absorb them or manipulate them like he did but her own reatisu recognized them and reacted.
Reacted and made her healing progress even further. Not far enough for her to feel right wearing her haori but it was only a matter of time. She wasn't strong enough to be called a Captain again but all she needed was time. She smiled at Ryūken, a dangerous smile. “Now we can really play.”
“This isn't a game.” seriously, how does someone less than a tenth her age end up such an old stick in the mud?
“Everything's a game Ryūken-san, it just depends on how you play it.” she tensed her muscles and shifted her weight as she called on Areno Ame with her mind. Life was a game, it was just that sometimes the game was Russian Roulette.
The smell of the river washed over them as they lay on the grass in the early morning sunlight. “So do you even have a plan for when you get to Soul Society to get this Rukia girl out of jail?”
“Not really.” she shrugged but she doubted Dawn could see it laying down. She wasn't the planner, never had been and Yoruichi was the one that had been in Soul Society the most recently. She didn't even know if things had changed any as far as security and layout went in two hundred years.
“Because that always goes well, the lack of a plan thing.” it amazed her that Dawn could already capture snarky sarcastic teenager so well in a new language but then Dawn always did excel when she wanted to.
“This isn't my mission. I'm just....”
“Laying on your back doing nothing.” Yoruichi's cat face came into her field of vision and she reacted on instinct. In less than a blink of an eye she was on her feet with Yoruichi held by the scruff of the neck away from her. “Don't do that!”
“The cat talks.” Dawn sounded...not incredibly surprised but a bit.
She looked at her sister. “Dawn, meet Yoruichi. Yoruichi meet my sister Dawn.”
“You didn't mention Yoruichi was a cat.” Dawn raised an eyebrow. Buffy looked over at her former student and friend and frowned. Only to get a swipe on the wrist from a set of super sharp claws. “Owww!” she dropped Yoruichi who landed on her feet. “I've got one word for you; vet.”
“Yourichi-sama!” the female voice came from higher up the bank of the river and she looked over to see a girl about Dawn's age with red hair waving in their direction with a mountain of a guy behind her. She ignored the sting of the scratch on her hand and looked down at Yoruichi. “So that them?”
“Yes, they're both showing strong progress.” she raised an eyebrow and looked back at the two of them. Inoue Orihime and Sado Yasutora, both had begun to develop their own individual spiritual powers even though they were human. The fact that humans could develop powers wasn't unheard of, but finding two at once was rare.
“And you're sure you want me to help you with this?” she had reservations about this. Her reatisu might be weak and her shikai not even at full force yet but she at least knew her zanpakutō and it's abilities. These kids hadn't even been using their new found gifts for a week yet.
“We don't have time to go easy. Ichigo only has five days of training left.” she let out a sigh. Fine, she'd spend her days training with the two teenagers and she'd do what she'd been doing for the last two days. She'd go out and hunt hollows and practice alone up in the hills outside of town.
They only had a few more days before they were going to leave for Soul Society and while she might not be strong enough to call herself a Captain still she wouldn't be helpless either.
She looked at the two teenagers sitting on a rock in front of her in the early morning sunlight that was fractured by the trees around them in the forest. “It's about power.”
“Where have I heard this before?” Dawn's drawl made her turn around and glare at where her younger sister was leaning against a tree with her body propped up next to her sister. “You aren't helping Dawnie.”
“Yeah well I've heard this speech before.” Dawn yawned for good measure and crossed her ankles.
She put her hands on her hips. “Yeah well I'm not training you this time! So shut up!”
“Fine, fine. Wake me up after you've bored them to death.” Dawn closed her eyes and she had to fight the urge to drop a lightening bolt on her. She took a deep breath and turned back to the two teenagers waiting on her to go on.
“As I was saying, it's about power. Both of you have it. Now you need to learn how to use it against someone else.” she drew Areno Ame from her back and held it at her side, blade down. “In Soul Society you're going to be facing shinigami and the only way to survive is to be better than they are, smarter and stronger. Let's get you started.” she took a step back “Michishio, Areno Ame.”
She felt the rise in her reatisu and then the weight of her blades in her hands. “So cool Amaya-san!” Inoue's face lit up like a little kids seeing a toy and it almost made her want to smile. How many times had she gotten that same kind of spark in her own eyes when looking at weapons?
Wait, she didn't want an answer to that because it made her sound kinda insane even in her own head. She shook her head and let the power roll through her like thunder as she felt the storm build and the earth beneath their feet begin to shift. “Thanks. Now, time to test out your skills.”
The rain was falling on her, cold and constant, a comfort as she sat alone on the top of the hill. The storm was small, contained, because she willed it to be. Because the storm was hers. She was the rain, she was the desert. She could feel her reatisu rolling through her, comforting and solid. Strong.
But not strong enough.
Once she'd been a Captain, a leader, someone who held one of the strongest bankai Soul society had ever seen. Once she'd had to power to challenge the Gotei 13 and any ruling the Central 46 could pass down. The power to win was unlikely even then but now. Her power barely ranked as high as a lieutenant and she lacked the power being the head of a noble house had once given her.
Now she was just Mimasaka Amaya and she was going to walk back into a world that she'd been ripped away from over two hundred years before. She glanced down at the Captain's haori laying in front of her between the blades of Areno Ame, the emblem of the Tenth Division a sharp contrast in black.
No, she wasn't the person she'd been before and she didn't deserve to wear the haori but given time she'd have her old power back.
If they all managed to live that long.
“Don't say it.” she narrowed her eyes at her kimono clad sister and fought back a sigh. In a few hours she would be leaving, heading back to Soul Society on what could possibly be a suicide mission and Dawn didn't want her to say goodbye. She understood Dawn's logic, a goodbye was a final thing.
“Fine.” she ran a hand through her hair and looked up at the fireworks going off above them and over the river. A celebration, a festival. A day to be happy and carefree. None of them really were, not even Yuzu and Karin but they all pretended to be. Because the moment they stopped pretending then things became real and the danger couldn't be ignored. “I've already talked to Isshin.” she let the statement hang, a big flashing sign.
“I know.” Dawn's voice held something in it, an age and understanding that she'd honestly never thought she'd live long enough to hear. To be honest she shouldn't have.
But then things never worked out the way she thought they would. Certainly not in her life or her death even.
Maybe her death especially.
**Ok the pain killer high writer is now going to finally go to sleep because codine is evil. Remember reviews are loved and will make me feel better so that I don't randomly beat people with my crutches.