Disclaimer: See chapter one.
A/N: Sorry about the wait. The muse was cranky and RL has had me by the ankles dragging me around. This is shorter than I'd like it to be but I'm hoping that if I post it and get feedback it will appease the muse enough to come out and play.
“So she's gone?”
“Ahh. Mimasaka-san, what a pleasure to see you again.”
“Cut the Mimasaka-san crap Urahara-san, it's Dawn.”
“Of course, of course Dawn-san.”
“I need your help.”
She didn't care what anyone said the night was a beautiful thing. It was life. It was beauty. It was calm.
It was the sounds of yelling and fighting below her. What the hell? She looked down from her perch on the roof and bit back a groan of frustration. Ichigo was fighting with someone again. Dear gods, did the boy not grasp the concept of keeping a low profile?
Check that, she didn't want the answer.
She watched the scene below, not even willing to get involved. Yoruichi was down there anyway and she wasn't in the mood to step in between what clearly looked like a fight between two hot tempered and stupid males. Besides, her stepping in seemed kinda like a moot point anyway. If Ichigo couldn't handle what looked like a minor spat then the kid had no business in Soul Society to begin with.
“Shinigami are shinigami. There aren't any good or bad.” those words struck a chord. A deep one. They set her mind in motion. Shinigami were shinigami and while they all had their own personalities one thing was consistant.
They followed orders. Be it from the Captain Commander or the Central 46, they followed orders. Which meant they were predictable if you knew how things worked.
And she knew. She really knew. Their arrival hadn't gone unnoticed and certainly not their little adventure at the gate. She'd bet ten to one odds that there would be a Captain's meeting in the next few hours where the Captain Commander would address the situation. She had a bit of a soft spot for the old grump but she knew the Captain Commander's methods. He didn't change, he never changed. He'd been there for the start of the Gotei 13 and she'd bet Areno Ame he'd be there at the end.
But it meant that they had an advantage. She had an advantage. They had one mission; save Kuchiki Rukia. That was it. Get the girl and get out. Which was gonna be a challenge with four teenagers in tow. Alone, she could do it. Alone, she stood a chance. Well, she had stood a chance. Now all of Soul Society had to know they were there.
And they'd be looking for them. She smiled but it was a grim smile. One that meant she knew a way but didn't like the methods she'd have to use. She could get to Kuchiki Rukia and get the girl out but she'd need a distraction.
You make everyone look at your left hand so they don't notice what you're doing with your right. She turned her attention back down to the squabble still going on down below. She knew how to make everyone look at the left hand.
She just didn't like the fact that she was going to have to use everyone else to do it.
She pulled the wrapper off one of the power bars Dawn had insisted she bring with her once her sister had been told about how food and spiritual energy worked. She'd complained about having to tote the half a dozen bars with her to Soul Society but she'd at least admitted to herself that Dawn was being the smart one once again. Her reatisu was still healing and a lack of food would only slow the healing process down.
“You're about to go off on an insane rescue mission that I can't go with you on. The very least you're gonna do is take what I tell you to take so I know you've got a better chance of coming back.” Dawn might be a pain in her ass but her sister had had a point and she'd caved with only the bare minimum of complaining. Mostly because Dawn was right but also because she didn't want to hear the complaining that she would have heard from Dawn and because she didn't want to end up dead again either. Call it a personality quirk but she wasn't such a big fan of the dead no matter how her last two had turned out.
“Your sister plans ahead.” she looked over to where Yoruichi was sitting next to her on the roof in the warm summer night and shrugged.
“She's the smart one of the family that way.” she took a bite of the bar and tried not to grimace at the overly nutrient and carbohydrate filled taste that warred with the chocolate that the manufacturer had tried to cover it with. She'd had much rather had brought some onigiri with her but it wouldn't have traveled well and it didn't have half the substance of even one of the bars. She swallowed the gritty food and looked out into the night. “You know we're insane for even trying this right?”
“Mmm. The thought had occurred to me.”
She felt her lips twitch. Yoruichi wasn't nearly the young girl she'd helped train once upon a time nd she was fine with that. More than fine actually. She actually liked the person Yoruichi had grown into though it did make her feel her age for once. Made her feel like she really was pushing a millennium instead of the twenty three years she looked. It made her not want to voice the plan that had formed in her brain about how they could all get out the situation they'd put themselves in alive.
But reality was reality and a fight was never pretty or simple or easy and it was always dangerous. And the teenagers asleep below in the elder's house had been warned more than once about the danger they were putting themselves in. She'd already taken a bunch of green teenaged girls into the mouth of hell to face an army, she could pit another four teenagers with at least a fighting chance against the might of the Gotei 13.
“You've got something on your mind.” she glanced back over at Yoruichi and met those feline eyes that held a cunning intelligence behind them. “Yeah.” she looked back into the night.
“You're going to take the other way in and go after Kuchiki Rukia by yourself.” the tone was knowing and she turned her head and narrowed her eyes at Yoruichi. “You sneaky little hell cat!” so that was why Yoruichi had decided to go to the Shiba clan to get in to Seireitei.
She decided to let it go though. Apparently she was becoming predictable if even Yoruichi could anticipate her and her plans. She let out a dry chuckle. “So you and the trouble magnets down below get in in the most visual way possible and provide the distraction and I'll go get the damsel in distress.” she looked back out into the night. “Sounds like a plan to me.”
She stared out into the night and took another bite of the power bar and chewed as she considered everything. She let her mind roll over everything she knew for certain, everything she knew she could anticipate. Which wasn't much but it was enough to give her some hope.
She only managed to pull herself out of her own thoughts when she realized that she'd finished the atrocity that her sister considered food. “You know, I've got a bad feeling about this.”
A very bad feeling. Like someone walking over her proverbial grave. She didn't know why, call it instinct or intuition, but she had the feeling that things were gonna get worse before they got better.
“NO! NO! He'll think I ran away!” she rounded a corner into the main room of the elder's house and stopped dead at the sight before her. Ishida was trying to pull Ichigo out the door only it didn't seem to be working as Ichigo held on for all he was worth.
“So what!” Ishida kept pulling.
She rolled her eyes and shook her head as she felt Yoruichi jump off her shoulder. It was just barely sunrise and way too early for this kinda crap. Which Yoruichi clearly agreed with if the sight of claws slashing was any kinda indication. Metal note....Yoruichi apparently was about as much a morning person as she was. And if Ichigo's screech was any indication the message got across. She just shook her head and made her way for the front door while Yoruichi yelled at Ichigo. The boy just didn't seem to have the common sense of a twinkie.
Oh. Twinkie. She was so gonna start calling him that. She smirked as came to stand beside Sado. Well not so much stand as be shadowed by the sheer size of him but the quiet guy was a full head taller than just about every human she'd ever met. Seriously, what the hell had the teenager been fed to make him so big? And where could she get some? She gave a mental shrug. At her age growth spurts were a thing long of the past.
It took a couple of minutes but finally everyone came out and she just found herself shaking her head once again as Yoruichi jumped up onto her shoulder. “What am I? The cat transport?”
“Humph.” that apparently was all she was gonna get out of Yoruichi and she decided to let it go. She wasn't a morning person and neither was Yoruichi and until sunset they were both gonna be playing wranglers to the wild bunch. After sunset though Yoruichi was on her own until they managed to pull off the odds and she got Kuchiki Rukia free.
Personally she was kinda glad she was the one that was gonna be playing stealth rescue rather than babysitter. Cause the longer she was around Ichigo the more she was wanting to punt the boy around like Kasumi had done to Isshin about a million times over the years.
Hours of walking. Freaking hours and she just....she just had to be hallucinating. Shiba Kūkaku's house was....
It was freaking disturbing. And as someone who'd seen some pretty freaktastic stuff over the years that was saying something. But come on!
The house itself looked normal enough, if kinda small compared to what she'd been expecting from a former member of one of the five, now four, great noble families. But the two huge human arms protruding from the ground holding a red banner with Shiba Kūkaku's name was just about thousand degrees left of subtle. And that wasn't even taking into account the giant chimney. Ok, so she'd always known that the members of the Shiba clan were crazy but to quote Spike....bloody hell.
It didn't mean it was gonna slow her down though. If the atrocity ahead of them was the house they were looking for then so be it. They'd been walking since sunrise and it was already mid afternoon and she wanted to sit down and rest. Not that she was all that tired, as a matter of fact she felt better than she had the day before, but every hour where she could eat and rest was another step further in reatisu healing. And the sooner she could do multiple shumpo the better as far as stealth went.
“Halt! Who goes there?” she looked up and to her left and spotted the guard standing atop the fist twenty feet above her. “Strangers. And two of them are shinigami.” a second voice from the right. Well hello captains obvious. She took a step back as the two of them jumped down, absently noting Ichigo reach back for his weapon. “Suspicious characters! You are not allowed to pass!”
“Be gone or you will die right here!”
“Damn. Not more gatekeepers. Soul Society is a pain.” oh goody Ichigo was bitching again. As if the last half hour hadn't been enough. If he kept it up she was gonna force feed him Ishida's cape.
“Yoruichi-dono!” once again it was in unison out of the two big guys. She looked down at Yoruichi who was half hidden behind her legs and rolled her eyes at the cutesy face Yoruichi was making. Cats shouldn't be able to make cute faces. It was just freaksome. She didn't care how many times she'd seen it years before.
“Here is some unconfirmed information: You already heard there were ryoka in Soul Society yesterday? Six of them. And one of them was said to wield a sword as long as his body. A Shinigami with orange colored hair.” why had he told her? Why? Why had he done it? He wasn't even sure himself.
But that moment, Rukia's reaction, he hadn't seen her so very alive since they'd brought her back to Soul Society. For a moment he'd seen something in her eyes. For a moment there'd been a reaction.
For a moment she'd been the Rukia he'd once known again. For a moment he'd seen in her the person that had once been his best friend. Not that it mattered.
He shook his head, like the stray dog he was and let his mind go to the rest of the report they'd gotten. Six ryoka. Two of them dressed as shinigami. One undoubtedly Kurosaki Ichigo and the other...
No one knew.
But the reports had given a description. Short with golden hair and wearing a green obi and a shihakusho without any sleeves. It didn't match the descriptions of any shinigami he knew. But it didn't matter. Kurosaki Ichigo did.
“I see.” a puff from a pipe and she wrinkled her nose against the smell. “I get the picture.” of all the things she'd expected when Yoruichi had brought up the Shiba clan, this really hadn't been one of them. For one Shiba Kūkaku wasn't a guy. Nope, big with the not-a-guy-ness. Hell, Kūkaku's rack was bigger than Inoue's
“All right. I'll take the job.” why wasn't she even a little bit surprised that a Shiba was willing to do something insane? Because the whole clan had been crazy explosives people for as long as she could remember that's why. “If Urahara is involved I can't refuse even if I wanted to.” Kūkaku stood up. “However, while I trust you...” she looked right at Yoruichi. “...I don't trust them.” ok that was annoying but not really unexpected. “I'll include one of my men to keep an eye on them.”
“One of your men?”
“Yeah, one of my men. But he's actually my kid brother.” Kūkaku headed over to one of the sliding doors to their right. “He's still a brat and not all that useful.” well that just screamed bad. Now she was gonna have another person to round up and get back were he belonged eventually.
But when Kūkaku slid the door open and revealed the guy from the night before that Ichigo had been brawling with she couldn't help smacking herself in the forehead. “It figures.” it was a mutter and it had nothing on everyone else's reaction.
And then Ichigo and Shiba Ganju started pointing at each other and yelling.
And about two seconds later she had to jump back and drag Inoue with her as they started to try and beat the ever living crap out of one another.
The sounds of her feet darting over the ground were barely a whisper in the night as she ran, the feel of her hair rippling out behind her like ghostly touches against her neck. The moon wasn't high yet, or full which gave her added cover. Something she didn't need yet but would once she arrived at her destination. It was commonly known that there were only four ways in to Seireitei, the four gates that faced in the four points. That was the common thought. The truth was something else if you knew enough or bothered to look deep enough.
All fortresses had weak points. Areas where food and water and waste had to go in and out. You want to cripple an army, you go after supply lines. You want to get into a fortress, you find out where they're getting their fresh water from and exploit it if you can. One time, so far back she could barely remember any more, she'd been a bubble headed cheerleader. But by the time she'd become a shinigami she'd been able to plan battles in her sleep. Had made her able to look at a place and know it's weak points.
Some people could ride a bike on nothing but instinct, her instincts were more along the lines of battles and ambush tactics. This was one of those times when she was actually grateful for the instinct because it meant she knew the weaknesses she could exploit. The routes and mentalities that she could use in her favor.
Plus she'd had a couple of centuries of boredom to actually test out her ability to get through the route she planned to use. Can we say 'Let's hear it for boredom.'?
She kept running. She needed to make it to her entrance point before sunrise so she could use the distraction that Yoruichi, Ichigo and the others would provide to get her past the guards.
***Review please. The muse needs fodder so she'll come out and play with me again.