Disclaimer: see chapter one.
A/N: Thanks again for the amazing reviews everyone. Now, no blathering from me tonight because I need sleep.
“Oh owwww!” her ass felt like it'd taken on a damn truck. Though once she had the chance to walk a bit it'd be fine. Still though.....owww.
“Is everyone alright?” she shifted at glared at Inoue, ignoring the groans of pain out of the boys. “What part of don't use your powers or it will kill us didn't you get Inoue?”
“But it was fortunate that no one was hurt.”
She stood up and glared as she felt Yoruichi jump onto her shoulder. “That wasn't fortunate it was pure dumb luck.”
“Were you even listening?” Yoruichi sounded as ticked off as she did. Good.
“I'm sorry.” Inoue looked close to properly chastened but not nearly enough.
“Hey, you don't need to be so mean.” she turned around and glared at the three males. “You don't get it do you? You make a stupid mistake like that and you aren't just gonna get yourself killed but all of us. Learn to use your god damned brains before you act!”
“We're all perfectly fine thanks to Inoue.” she just shook her head at Ichigo. “You don't seem to understand the seriousness of the matter.” she agreed with Yoruichi on that. But then they were dealing with teenagers and she'd listened like a brick wall at their age.
And they were being completely ignored as the rest of their group seemed to register Rukongai, the lower class part of Soul Society. The place where all the spirits from the human world ended up. The area they were in wasn't the worst district of Rukongai but it wasn't Seireitei either. It wasn't the home she'd always been in. The places of the elite and of the shinigami. “Is this Soul Society?” she ignored Ichigo as she looked around them and let her senses stretch. Let herself breathe in a place she'd thought she'd left far behind. If the punk kid could ignore her then she could ignore him easily enough.
“Yes, this place is commonly known as the Rukongai. This is where souls first live when they are guided to Soul Society.” well that was true enough save for one exception. Herself. And she hadn't exactly arrived under the normal circumstances. She tuned out the conversation as she breathed deep and felt the power, the realness, the sense of coming home wash over her.
She was back.
“Here I come!” she snapped back to reality in time to see Ichigo go running for the Seireitei, for the very clear boundary between the two places.
“Idiot! Don't get to close.” Yoruichi was yelling as she just shook her head and rolled her eyes as she began the mental count down.
Three. Ichigo was still running and Yoruichi was still yelling and she could see the wall starting to fall. Ichigo wasn't going to listen and unless she decided to beat the boy she doubted he ever would.
One. And there went the wall with a huge cloud of dust and a slam. “Are you sure Kisuke didn't beat all the brains out of him?” she batted a flying rock away from them with the back of her hand.
“I'm beginning to wonder.” that made her snort.
“It's been a long time since someone has tried to pass though the Seireimon without a pass.” the dust cleared and finally he came into view. Jidanbou, the guardian of one of the four gates into Seireitei.
Oh goody. Note the sarcasm blaring.
“It's been a long time since I had a guest. I welcome you brat.” Jidanbou brought down one of his massive hammers and laughed. “Now try and hit me brat.”
“Huge! What's with that guy? That's not a normal sized person.” Ishida sounded thrown. Not that she blamed him cause Jidanbou was big. Like twenty times the size of a normal person big but he really wasn't all that out there for her. Besides, size had little to do with power. Jidanbou was huge and physically strong but if you put him against a Captain he wouldn't last five minutes. Check that. Five seconds.
She tuned into what Yoruichi was telling the three teenagers. “He's been on duty for three hundred years and only this gate has yet to be broken through by someone.”
“Well that just figures.” only one gate had been broken into when she'd left so it just had to be some sort of sign that they'd landed near the only one left that hadn't been broken through. And while she was pretty sure she could take on Jidanbou and win even without her bankai the line had already been drawn. The challenge laid down. There were unspoken rules amongst the shinigami and one of them was that fights were one on one.
Which Sado and Inoue clearly didn't get as they went running for Ichigo as Yoruichi yelled at them from her shoulder. She sighed and shook her head. When the hell had she become the one who didn't just rush blindly into a fight? And why wasn't she even a little surprised at the others doing it?
Because she wasn't sixteen and stupid any more.
And clearly Jidanbou saw their intent as he used his axe to cut a swathe through the stone of the ground to block their path to Ichigo. Dust went flying as the ground shook and she had to bat yet more flying rock away from her face. She glanced around and spotted a building that suited her needs. She'd only gone a few steps when she heard Ishida behind her. “Hey! Where are you going?” she kept moving and didn't look down at him until she was standing on the roof. “Getting a good seat.” she plopped herself down onto the roof to watch the show.
She wasn't disappointed either as Ishida ran to join Inoue and Sado who were talking to Ichigo through the slab of stone. “I'd forgotten how hard of a teacher you are.” her brow furrowed at Yoruichi's comment though there was no recrimination in it at all. Was this a harsh lesson, letting these kids face Jidanbou? Yes. Was forcing them to watch while Ichigo fought alone a harsh lesson? Yes. Yes to all the lessons this would bring.
“You live and you learn or you don't live long Yoruichi.” she shrugged a shoulder as she watched Jidanbou's hammer come down with a crash. “True.”
She watched things unfold below, very aware that if she had to she would interfere. She was willing to sit back and see just what sort of potential Ichigo had but she wasn't willing to let him get himself killed.
And she was kinda surprised that he wasn't a bleeding pulp already. “Not bad.” she wasn't talking to Yoruichi in particular when Jidanbou's axe came down a second time and Ichigo blocked the blow. Though to be fair she hadn't seen him do anything but block so far. Still, there was a lot to be said for blocking a blow like the ones Jidanbou was capable of.
Though when the giant of a man started in on a ten blow count with crappy counting skills felt her worry rise as debris started flying. “Alright. I guess the show's over. That idiot is gonna get himself killed.”
“Just watch.” she didn't stop her motion to stand but she listened to Yoruichi. And then she saw him as the dust cleared. Ichigo was still standing, not a scratch on him that she could see.
“What the...” Jidanbou looked shocked. “Why are you still standing?”
Why? It was a good question. But not one she needed an answer to. Ichigo had power, had a base of reatisu that was incredible for someone his age and so lacking in experience. All he needed was time, practice and the right training and the kid would be able to put any of the so called 'prodigies' she'd ever seen to shame, herself included.
“You finished?” Ichigo moved, bringing his oversized sword in front of him. “Then I'll be the one attacking this time.” she almost snorted at the arrogance of the statement but didn't have time to before Jidanbou pulled his second axe and the two of them went down. She felt the flare like a shock wave as Ichigo's reatisu rose to meet the attack and her eyes widened as Jidanbou went flying back with nothing left of his axes but the hilts.
What the hell had Isshin spawned? Cause Ichigo wasn't normal even among those born with power. The word potential didn't even cover it and she knew it, at least as far as power went. Power Ichigo had. It was experience, training, and brains he lacked.
The ground shook and nearly caused her to lose her footing on the roof and she focused on the sight ahead of her. Jidanbou crying about his axes and Ichigo looking very uncomfortable while trying to comfort the huge guardsman. She just shook her head and watched as Yoruichi jumped down from her shoulder and headed down to where their charges were.
The sight was funny but that wasn't what she was focusing on. No, her thoughts were more focused on what was to come. There were a thousand empty spaces in between what she thought might or could happen and what would happen and it was those spaces that worried her. Worried her more than she wanted to admit because no matter how old she got she didn't like killing and she hated knowing that she couldn't completely protect the kids below her.
Knowing a thing, accepting a thing didn't mean you liked the thing.
“The Third Division Captain Ichimaru Gin.” Jidanbou sounded scared all to hell.
She didn't think, didn't plan. She moved. As fast as she could, which wasn't quite up to flash step level but it didn't matter so long as she got there fast enough.
“Ah, look at this...” she stopped on the other side of the gate just in time to be able to follow the slash to Jidanbou's arm as it happened. She took in the Captain standing on the other side. Tall, silver haired and with a smile on his face that wasn't and probably had never been a pleasant one. More like he was laughing at the whole world.
It wasn't too big of a stretch for her to think he was probably an asshole. “That isn't allowed.” he was still smiling as Jidanbou struggled to keep the gate up and Ichigo yelled.
“Shut up!” her shout cut through everyone's attempts to talk as she leveled her gaze on the Third Division Captain. She didn't know him, not even as a student, which meant he'd come after she had left Soul Society. From no where to Captain in under two hundred years. That meant he was good, really good. She didn't even bother to look over at Ichigo as she felt the wind pick up some around her. “Ichigo, fall back.” she kept her voice even, bland as she kept her eyes on Ichimaru Gin's smiling face.
“No way!” her eyes snapped back over to the teenager. “I said fall back Ichigo, now. You've got no clue what you're up against.”
“I'm not just gonna let him...”
“You'll do what I tell you to if you want to stay alive.”
“Well, well, Kruosaki Ichigo.” she shifted her gaze back over to the silver haired Captain. “And who might you be?”
“Not in the mood to play games.” she wasn't about to tell him her name. No freakin way. She knew she couldn't keep her presence in Soul Society hidden long but there was no way in hell she was announcing it to anyone that she didn't trust. As a matter of fact the only one who knew any name other than Amaya among their group was Yoruichi.
“Amaya-san.” she heard Inoue say her name like the girl was worried. And she had a right to be. The only person among them that had a chance of standing up and winning against a Captain at the moment was Yoruichi and that was only a chance.
“I see.” he was still smiling when he turned around and started walking way and it made her 'not good' meter go up a notch. “Now for more reasons that one I can't let you pass here.” ok, more like ten notches as he turned back around and drew his sword. She felt Ichimaru's reatisu spike and she moved as fast as she could as her own reatisu flared to meet her needs.
It took less than a second for her to grab Ichigo by the scruff of the neck and toss him backwards out of the gate. But by that time she knew it was too late to do anything else but pull Areno Ame from her back and block Ichimaru's attack.
She felt the impact all the way up her arms only a hair's breath before she went crashing into Jidanbou so hard they both went flying. And Ichimaru's blade was still pushing her back as she held Areno Ame in front of her.
“Damn it!” she could feel the air rushing past her and her back against Jidanbou's chest as she struggled to keep Ichimaru's blade from cutting though Areno Ame.
“Not finished yet.” she heard in her head and she felt her own reatisu spike as Jidanbou finally hit the ground the instant Ichimaru's blade begin to pull back. But that spike of power, she held onto it and pushed herself. In an instant she was on her feet and closing the distance among everyone's yells.
Only it was too late and she had to force herself to an abrupt stop just feet from the falling gate. With Ichimaru on the other side smiling at her. “Bye Bye.” he waved at her as the final feet of the gate crashed down and she ground her teeth in frustration.
Son of a bitch!
He'd just landed himself on her 'really dislike' list. And if she got the chance, once she had her bankai back, oh there would be a major ass kicking. No punk Captain with less than two centuries under his belt was gonna pull a stunt with her and come out of it unscathed.
“Amaya-san.” she turned at the sound of Inoue's voice as she tried to reel in not only her own temper but the anger she could feel from Areno Ame.
“Hey, Amaya. Are you alright?” she looked over at Ichigo who still held his zanpakutō at his side. She let out a deep breath and returned Areno Ame to her back. “I'm fine.” she glared at him. “But the next time I tell you to do something listen to me.”
Ichigo's expression turned angry. “I could have beat him!”
“You could have ended up a smear on the damn wall!” he was really pushing her and it was taking all she had to to just smack the hell out of him.
“What the hell do you know anyway? We don't even know who you are!”
She couldn't help it, she growled at him. Isshin's son or not the kid had a lot to learn. Especially about pissing her off. “I know when to pick my battles, you stupid brat!”
“Enough!” she looked down at Yoruichi standing between them and bit back a retort. Fighting wasn't going to do a damn bit of good and she knew it. She let out a sigh and started walking. “Inoue, I think we're gonna need your skills.”
“Yeah.” she pretty much ignored everything else as she walked over to the unconscious heap that was Jidanbou. She needed to get her temper in check before she did something she might not regret.
Well there was something to be said about the loyalty of those who lived in Rukongai because the leader of the District they were in had offered to put them up for the night because they were willing to not only defend but heal Jidanbou. Not that she was complaining, she was a little sore from everything. Nothing a few hours wouldn't take care of but still, a chance to rest and come up with another plan was good. She took a sip of her green tea and looked over at Yoruichi. “So you got any bright ideas?”
“Shiba Kūkaku.” well that made her widen her eyes. The Shiba Clan? Oh man. They were notoriously nuts. Of course she'd decided that anyone who played with explosives all the time had to be.
But. That all important but. They were also crazy enough and odd enough that they might be useful. “I get blown up and I'm gonna kick your furry ass Yoruichi.” she stood up and walked outside, content that Yoruichi had a plan.
The sun was setting, painting the sky in bright oranges and reds as she sat up on the roof. How many hundreds, thousands of times had she sat and watched the sun set over Seireitei? She didn't even remember any more. There were too many. To many times, too many memories. Too many days that she'd lived and taken for granted. A dozen human lifetimes. A thousand lifetimes for a slayer and yet it hadn't been enough. It would probably never be enough. Soul Society was where she'd found peace and life and had grown into an adult. Where she'd been the happiest she'd ever been. A place that was far from perfect but that had given her so much.
But as the looked out over the skyline she knew that she wasn't looking at the saving light at the end of the tunnel, more like the flame thrower aimed at her head. And oddly enough she was alright with that. Because looking out over Seireitei in the distance she finally had her chance to say a proper goodbye. To finally let go.
There were only two possible outcomes available to them. One was winning and never coming back and the other was losing and dying. She didn't plan on dying if she could help it and now, watching the light fade away, she was alright with never coming back too.
After all, she'd learned that no one could stop change.
*****So we've begun the Soul Society Arc for real. Hope you like it. Remember that reviews are love and I'm a review whore.