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Learning to Live

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This story is No. 3 in the series "Breaking the Fall". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: There are moments when the lines shift and everything changes. Those moments can define or destroy you. Third story in the Breaking the Fall Series.

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Anime > BleachjezaeiriFR181851,7455144075,11029 Oct 0919 Apr 12No

Choice

Disclaimer: See Chapter one.

A/N: Ok so another chapter down now that I'm back from holiday where I didn't manage to do nearly as much writing as I'd hoped to do. But I did get some planning and outlining done for LPD and decided on some things now that our favorite Tenth Doctor has left us.

Anyhoo, how about a story?
















Tunnels, why did it always have to be tunnels? She hated tunnels, sewers, caverns, and caves. And she always seemed to end up in them. She was pushing a thousand years old and she was still running around sewers like she'd done her first week in Sunnydale. Apparently some things just never would change.

Still, the darkness, the dank and the fact that she was still wet from her little swimming adventure was forgotten as she felt a familiar flare of reatisu far far in the distance. Like steel and death and determination, that's what it was and she knew it--Ichigo. She stopped dead in her tracks for a moment, her head tipping to the side as she ignored the water still dripping off her hair. Ichigo and someone strong fighting, at least a Third Seat if she had to guess. It just figured. She'd meant for them to be a distraction, not start brawling the moment they landed in Sereitei! She shook her head and shrugged. Well at least Ichigo wasn't dead yet and if the boy couldn't handle at least a Third Seat then she'd underestimated him.

She started moving again, she was at the far edge of Sereitei and she had a lot of distance to cover to get to the Shrine of Penitence and Kuhiki Rukia. Besides, she trusted Yoruichi to keep Ichigo from getting himself killed



*



"If you want to live through this kid you might want to start using that brain of yours." Amaya had said it and it kept coming back to him. Use his brain.

Think.

He wasn't stupid but Amaya's words, they kept coming back to him--use his brain. He had two things he needed to do, save Rukia and find the others. Only the others were trying to save Rukia too. So that meant-- that meant that if he could find Rukia then they would too. Which meant that all he had to do was find Rukia and the others would all eventually too. So that meant all he really had to do was find Rukia.

Only he didn't know where she was and he didn't know Soul Society well enough to know where to find her. But Ikkaku would. All he had to do was wait for the bald shinigami to wake up and then ask.



*



Ok, it was official, she hated tunnels with a fiery passion. Hated. Hated. Hated. She looked around herself in the dark, eyes squinting and senses trying to distinguish something, anything that could tell her where she was. And all that seemed to get her was a fat lot of bubkus. Hours, literally hours she'd been going through the tunnels trying to get closer to the Shrine of Penitence before coming out to potential threats and all it seemed she'd done was get herself lost.

"Stupid slayer abilities. A natural sense of direction would have been nice you know!" she could feel the vein in her forehead twitching as she glared up at the dark stone ceiling. She sighed when the universe didn't do squat and looked in front of herself again. She'd come to yet another fork in the tunnels, and she did mean fork, there were four options in front of her and she didn't know which one to take.

Dammit! Stupid tunnels! She hated tunnels! She'd tried using people as beacons, pinpointing the reatisu of her own group in order to know where to go but it hadn't done a bit of good. As far as she could tell everyone had been separated, Sado alone, Inoue with Ishida, and Ichigo just seemed to be running around like a crazy person. She didn't have the faintest clue where Yoruichi was but once she found that stupid cat there was gonna be nail clippers and a tracking collar in the mix. And possibly a visit to the vet. She was in just that kind of irritated mood.

Not that it mattered too much as far as using any of them as a focal point to help her figure out where the hell she was. Everyone was running around, popping up on her senses like fireflies at night. She couldn't predict where they'd show up next but she did know they were alive. Probably getting into all sorts of trouble but alive. Apparently they were capable of causing mass pandemonium when they weren't even trying. Kinda made her wonder just what those teenagers could do if they WANTED to cause chaos. Must not go there. She shuddered mentally. Dawn would be going to school with them in a few weeks. She'd put down good money on the building not surviving until Christmas. And she was so seriously getting distracted.

A thought hit her, one that made her reach up and smack her own forehead. "I'm such a dumbass!" the exclamation echoed through the tunnels. No she couldn't use Yoruichi or any of the teenagers as a focus point for her to get her bearings on direction but she did know at the very least one reatisu she could rely on without fail--the Captain Commander. The First Division's barracks and the meeting hall were both close to the Shrine of Penitence and nothing shy of a Captain's death would pull the old man away from such a central location.

She smiled as she closed her eyes and let her senses stretch. She'd been slightly above average at sensing reatisu back during her Academy days but a century of having to hunt down Shunsui to try and get paperwork done had forced her to hone the ability into a fine tuned thing. The man was way too good at hiding his reatisu to only ever really use the ability to get out of work. But it seemed time hadn't dulled her senses any and picking out the Captain Commander was as easy as finding the sun in the sky.

"Gotcha." her smile widened as she started down the second tunnel from the left at full speed. It was already early afternoon and if she could make good time then she could get to the Shrine of Penitence sometime after sunset and get Kuchiki Rukia out before the sun came up again. And once she had the girl she could start rounding up everyone else and get the hell out of dodge before things really got ugly.



*



It was near sunset, she could feel it. Her internal clock was one of the few things she could rely on no matter what. The slayer in her had always been there, even after death and like the things it hunted it was a nocturnal creature and itched to be active as the sun began to set. On the plus side even a whole day spent running through dark tunnels couldn't mess with her sense of time but on the bad side her tendency to spend most nights awake made her very much not a morning person.

But her innate hatred of mornings wasn't nearly as relevant at the moment as what her other senses had been telling her through the day as she made her way closer and closer to the Shrine of Penitence. What was important was that she'd felt Ichigo get into a fight almost immediately after they'd arrived in Sereitei, though why she'd been even a little bit surprised by that she had no clue. The boy was as much of a trouble magnet as Dawn was. She shook her head. She had the distinct feeling Dawn wasn't causing Isshin nearly as much trouble as Ichigo was bound to give her. She hoped.

But in the hours since she'd felt Ichigo fighting she'd felt other things, many other things. She'd felt Ishida fight someone near noon but it'd been a short fight to say the least. She'd still gotten a flash or two from him and Inoue later so she was fairly sure that the two of them were fine. She'd also felt Sado multiple times throughout the day. Nothing big, just little fits and spurts as he seemed to pop up like a firefly on her senses. He was mobile, very mobile if what she'd felt was any indication but he hadn't gotten into a real fight yet which was good.

But she'd felt two other things that made her worry, a lot. One was the fact that Ichigo seemed to be moving and keeping out of any trouble since that first fight, a sure sign of impending doom in her experience. And two was the massive base reatisu of someone that seemed to be roving around Sereitei like some huge monster searching for the right thing to attack. She didn't need to know whose reatisu it was, a name and face were irrelevant, but she did kjnow one thing-it was easily Captain level whoever it was and it was searching. What it was searching for she didn't know and it worried her, a lot. Even Ichigo wouldn't survive against someone with that much power and whoever it was could probably give even herself a close to ass kicking even with her bankai. But unfortunately there wasn't anything she could do at the moment and with any luck she could have Kuchiki Rukia out of hock and the others gathered up before the unknown found any of them.

She looked up at the ladder to her left and let out a happy sigh. She couldn't get too much closer to the Shrine of Penitence from the direction she was going in without looping around and coming up from the other side and that would take hours at best. But it didn't matter too much because coming in from the back was the better bet anyway. The sun would begin to set in close to an hour and once it did start to sink she'd leave the tunnels. But until then she needed to make sure she had the energy to see herself through her mission of the night. She faced the wall, looking for anything that might give an indication that it might be even remotely more comfortable than the other bare stone and found nothing and frowned. Cold stone it was.

She shook her head and pulled Areno Ame from her back, the green strap that held it there coming over her head easily. She sank down onto the cold stones, grateful that she'd managed to dry off during the course of the day and leaned back as she sat Areno Ame down beside her. She tipped her head back and closed her eyes with the full knowledge that the chances of anyone finding her were slim at best. Back during her days as Captain only the Fourth Division had come down into the tunnels and it was only her boredom, slayer disposition and old habits from her Sunnydale days that meant she knew even the most bare bones of the system.

Her initial time to breathe and let her muscles relax after almost a full day of running didn't last long, food was more important than rest in the long run. So with an almost grimace she reached inside her uniform and pulled out two of her four remaining energy bars. It was going to be a long night and she'd need all the spare energy she could get. Though, if she was honest with herself, she wasn't even tired after running so much. Her old energy levels were almost back to normal and she had the feeling that given another twenty four hours and some food she'd be able to reach bankai again.

Though she didn't plan on being in Soul Society long enough to hit that point. Oh no, she planned on getting Kuchiki Rukia during the night and then having everyone else gathered up by noon the next day. Between herself and Yoruichi they could shumpo around to get the kids and be gone before the Captain Commander had the chance to figure out it was them or where they might be hiding. She was confident in taking on pretty much any Captain and surviving if not winning except for the Captain Commander. She might have two bankai but even she wasn't crazy enough to take on the old man alone and hope to come out as anything but a burned out husk.

She shook her head and pulled open the wrapper of one of the bars. She had an hour to replenish her reserves and be ready to make her move and she needed to make the most of the time.



*



An hour could make all the difference in the world between feeling fine and feeling better than she had in ages. More energized, with the feel of her reatisu having made the most of being allowed time to rest and heal. She was well aware that multiple shumpo wouldn't be a challenge and that was a good thing because she was going to need the ability during the night time hours in order to complete her objective.

Adjusting Areno Ame across her back so that it felt just right she looked up above her to the ladder that would take her above ground near the heart of Sereitei. Now wasn't the time to procrastinate, she had things to do. The others had managed to keep themselves from getting killed during the day and once sunrise came again things would only get worse because the longer they stayed the better chance there was of things going wrong in the someone's dead kind of way. A deep breath and she closed the distance to the ladder and began to climb, no time like the present and all that.

The stone slab that separated the tunnels would have been impossible for someone of her size to move if they were normal but she wasn't and lifting it up a crack to scan around for any threats wasn't a challenge. The area was clear, an open space just on the far side of the Shrine of Penitence from the normal path most would take. The light was a burnt orange, the setting sun casting long shadows from the buildings that surrounded the open space she'd be going up into. She didn't see anyone and couldn't help the quirk of lips that came as she pushed the slab up higher. “No one watches the left hand.”

She used one arm to push herself up while she used the other to lower the slab back into place, any sign of what was below it disappearing as it matched perfectly with the other stone slabs. But it only took a moment for the smile on her face to fall away as an unfamiliar reatisu washed over her. It was young compared to her own age but strong and well controlled, a lieutenant's.

Well crap. It just figured her luck wouldn't hold out.

She let her senses stretch as she stood slowly, pinpointing the figure standing on the far roof behind where she'd come from. From the blind spot the slab had created. Oh goody, because she so wanted to get into a fight with a lieutenant. Note the sarcasm.

She could see his eyes even with the distance between them and it wasn't hard to jump to the conclusion that she wasn't going to be able to just walk away. Which was proven then when he vanished from his spot on the roof and reappeared about ten feet from her. So no conclusion jumping, not even stepping.

“Surrender now.” his eyes were serious, the look only made more so by the stripe tattooed over one cheekbone and across his nose under one eye and the three scars that went from his forehead down to his neck over the other eye.

She just looked at him, assessing him. More tattoos on his cheek below the stripe and on his bare arm. A strong build and fighter's stance hidden carefully. So not only was he not stupid but strong, always a good combination of a lieutenant. Though it meant that it was going to be a pain in her ass to get him to leave her alone. Though she could try, had to try. She didn't want to fight and draw attention to herself if she could help it. “Do us both a favor and forget you ever saw me.”

“I can't do that. You and the other ryoka are disrupting the peace of Soul Society.” his expression didn't change. Ok, so he was one of those kind of people.

A lone eyebrow went up. “And if we get who we came for we'll leave and poof-no more disrupting.” which got zip for reaction out of him. She let out a sigh and shook her head. “I really don't want to fight you.” she didn't. She had real issues with fighting people she knew weren't evil but if she didn't have any other choice she would.

“If you surrender now our blades won't have to cross.” his weight shifted into a better fighting stance as he drew his sword and she knew why. He could see her answer in her eyes. She wouldn't surrender, she wouldn't back down and if she had to she'd go through him. She'd go though almost every person in Sereitei if she had no other choice.

Her left hand went back and she drew Areno Ame from her back in one smooth motion. “Well it looks like we'll be going for door number two then.”


*


***Reviews are love especially since my birthday is in a few days.
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