A/N: Hi all! After much delay, I’m finally able to write and post once again. I have to finish a few things and then I’ll be updating Twilight Ruby and Blood Moon too. About darn time too! A big thank you to everyone who reviewed and rec’d, I can’t tell you all how much it means to me!
Without further ado….
One would believe that the afterlife was a place where your soul was either sent to Heaven or Hell after you die.
For the most part, that is correct.
There is a Heaven, and there is a Hell.
Heaven, or rather Soul Society, is viewed by some to be paradise, but in truth, life there is very much like it was in the living world.
When a soul first arrives, it is sent to the Rukon District, the largest and most populated section of Soul Society. In total, it has three hundred and twenty districts broken down into four major areas. North, South, East, and West.
As is typical with the seething masses that still remain in the living world, there are areas that are peaceful, and areas that are not. In the center of Soul Society lies the Seireitei, or Court of Pure Souls, and it is reserved for those that possess spiritual pressure.
The living world is parallel to Soul Society, and both are merely opposite sides of the same coin.
Families separated by death are rarely reunited, unless they arrive together in the afterlife. No one ever gets hungry, if he or she doesn't have spiritual powers that is, and aging is slowed to a great extent, with life spans over two thousand years or more not being unusual, though such ages are limited to Shinigami or other Soul Society denizens.
Children can even be born as they are in the living world.
Souls can be killed like regular humans can, though they are capable of surviving wounds that normally would be considered fatal. A soul that dies in the afterlife is reincarnated on Earth as a new human with no past memories.
Of course, Soul Society is ruled by a king.
The Spirit King.
The Spirit King commonly leaves the running of the government to the Central 46 chambers, a group of highly elite Shinigami's, and to the Nobles. He lives with his family in the Royal Palace in a separate dimension in the very core of Soul Society, which is protected by the Royal Guard.
Something that is rarely, if ever, acknowledged is that the Spirit King has a brother, a twin.
The Shadow King.
Where one twin represents light, the other does so for the dark. Every soul carries within them the capacity for great good or terrible evil.
A time, oh so long ago, there was the conception of an extraordinary soul. One so bright, that it would remake the very heavens in his image.
But as in life, nature abhors a vacuum.
There must be balance, or life will be strangled to a choking halt.
If everything was peaches and light, then no one would strive to better themselves, no one would grow or learn.
And what would happen to those with a darker inclination?
So Destiny took it upon itself to correct the imbalance before it became an issue and split the soul in twain.
As is the natural order, the boys were birthed and celebrated, but everyone who gazed upon them remarked on their differences.
Where one had hair a brown so light it was golden, the other had a red so dark, it was almost black.
One baby would smile and coo, the other would be silent and watchful.
As the boys grew from children to men, the difference in their natures became more and more pronounced.
No longer bound together in childhood camaraderie, they found themselves taking different paths in life, making choices that would ultimately lead them to their inevitable destinies.
But there was one thing that they agreed upon.
The current tyrant that held sway over their world had to be stopped.
Battle and strife, blood and bone, all was laid bare as the brothers took their fate in their hands and decided to make a better life for themselves and their people.
To attain ones goals, there are many things that some are willing to do. Parts of themselves that are sacrificed for the greater good, but some are willing to sacrifice more than others, go to places that would have been best to leave alone.
When the brothers claimed victory over the old regime, they had to face what they had done in the name of glory.
Unable to forgive his twin the atrocities he had committed, even in the heat of battle, the now crowned Spirit King put a ban on his brother and sent him to reside in a realm of his own.
Since he had embraced darkness to conquer, he could now rule it.
Resentful of his brother, the newly made Shadow King went quietly none-the-less, for he still loved his twin.
Centuries passed and both kings grew in power.
Though they didn’t talk, the Shadow King watched in envy as his brother grew more prosperous, married and then had a family.
The ban that had been placed on him had decreed that his evil should not pass to another, so he was never to lay with a woman.
If he did, it would be his death.
But jealousy and resentment had been brewing for centuries and the dark king yearned for comfort in his lonely realm.
He had mastered the art of weaving shadows long ago, so donned a guise and left his pleasant prison.
He had watched over the years as souls came and went in the society that his brother had created, so he knew the places his twin’s eyes never saw.
The section of the Rukon farthest to the edges were home to the souls that were too violent, too derelict.
Practically kindred spirits.
He could mask his darkness with light and beauty, but it never changed who he was at his core.
He drifted in and out of settlements, spending hours just sitting bars, wandering the markets, watching.
If he was to commit high treason, not just any female would do.
One day, when he was meandering from one district into another, he saw a flaxen haired beauty sitting at the edge of a nearby stream.
She had a softly curving figure, with creamy pale skin that seemed to soak in the sunshine.
He was taken with her immediately.
And after one look into his darkly luminous eyes, she was his.
Their love, great though it was, had to be hidden and kept secret, for the Shadow King knew his brother’s wraith would be unbearable. So, he hid amongst the regular souls, hiding his spiritual pressure, buying time to spend in the scorching embrace of forbidden love.
After a time, nature took its course and he was told that he was to be a father.
All range of emotions filled him, but the most prevalent was fear.
For his love, for his child, for himself.
Nine months later and he lost everything.
His love passed in childbirth and he had to send the infant away.
Bitterness had filled him as he sealed his baby girl’s soul into a specially made geigai and placed a sygil of binding on her now human brow. It would suppress her spiritual powers, unless she could find a way to either break it or slip the geigai entirely.
He had given his progeny the best protection he could.
He then had brought her to the living world, on the other side of the Earth, and watched over her until she had been found by other humans and taken in.
Content that his daughter had escaped judgment for merely being of his loins, he went back to his realm and never set foot in the Soul Society or the living world again.
He vowed to himself, that he would never again leave his realm, and he stayed there until the day he died.
On that fateful day, sixteen years after he had made his vow, the Shadow King was in his library.
He paused in his reading when he felt a faint swell of distantly familiar power that tickled his memory.
So lost in thought, he never saw the blade anointed in his own daughter’s blood arc towards his neck.
His brother had been correct; breaking the ban had meant his death.
As a wise, um, man once said, It’s always about the blood.
Willow paid no heed to her surroundings as she moved with a single-minded purpose towards Kisuke Urahara.
She felt strong and free, like an unknown weight had been removed.
She was glad she had reigned in her earlier power flare, she wanted to deal directly with her attempted murderer, not lay waste to the building. She wanted to cut him, the way she had been cut, make him bled the way he had bled her.
The urge to be cruel and terrible overran her thoughts.
Not stopping to think that this new attitude might be a bit much, she slithered across the desert landscape, not noticing that her feet never touched the ground.
So intent on her kill, she never considered how she was now healed, nor what had happened to the white liquid that had been choking her.
She met wide gray eyes and couldn’t help the dark chuckle that escaped her.
His shock and, surprisingly, desire, was palatable. It tasted like wine on her tongue.
As she drew close, she whipped her right arm up in an graceful arc, her sword flashing silver in the undergrounds artificial sunlight.
Kisuke brought his cane up to block and her blade imbedded in the wood.
Willow smirked at his expression of disbelief and whispered in a voice that echoed silibently as she bore down, “Not as weak as I was before, huh? You won’t cut me so easily now.”
“What?” he responded in surprise as he twisted to the side and eeled out away from her.
“Don’t play dumb! You know what you did!” she hissed at him and attacked in a flurry of shining silver.
He blocked her strikes, but knew he would have to draw his sword. He grasped above the curve of the canes handle and pulled his sword free with nary a whisper.
“Awaken, Benihime!” he called out and the curved handle dissolved into mist and reformed into a black diamond-braid wrapped hilt. It had no hand guard, just a beautifully tied red ribbon.
Light hit the blade and it triggered a feint memory in the red head, cutting through the haze of anger and bloodlust that fueled her.
The hiss and scrape of a sword being drawn and then a flash of white light that had blinded her.
But she had seen the hilt of the sword before the flash of light.
It had had a hand guard.
Shaped like a hexagon.
And the diamond wrap had been pale sky blue, not black.
Shock froze her in place.
Curious gray eyes met stunned and suddenly scared silvery purple.
Willow let her sword arm fall to her side and her shoulders slumped as she whispered, “It wasn’t you.”
“What happened?” the blonde asked softly as he too lowered his sword.
Willow gave a choked laugh and shook her head ruefully before answering, “I was attacked at my house.” He looked like he wanted to interrupt, but she held out her hand to forestall him. “Before you ask, the only time I saw his face was when he looked like you.”
Kisuke jerked in surprise, “Me?”
She nodded solemnly. “He grabbed me and brought me here, then dumped me on the floor and stabbed me,” she explained as she touched between her breasts lightly. “When I looked up, it was you.”
“Then, why did stop attacking him?” a tall, thin blonde man asked as he stepped up next to Kisuke.
“His sword. The man who stabbed me had a sword that had a hand guard shaped like a hexagon and its wrap was pale blue, not black like Mr. Urahara’s.”
“Kisuke,” the shop owner corrected absently. “I think we can move past formalities at this point,” he said with a wry grin.
Willow gave a hesitant nod. She felt awkward now that she realized that she had attacked the wrong person. She looked down at her sword and willed it to return to its dagger form. She felt a ripple of satisfaction as the blade shimmered and reformed into her athme. She hadn’t been sure it would.
The others looked on in interest as the blade shrank and her shiny black mask dissolved into shadows, then melted away. The whites of her eyes stayed black for a few moments longer, then they too faded back to normal. Her natural emerald green replaced the power fueled lavender of her iris’s.
Willow looked down at herself for the first time and rose stained her cheeks as she got a good look at what she was wearing.
She was relieved to see however, that the extremely high boots had sheaths in them, just like the boots she had gotten from Buffy, and slid the athme away out of sight.
Afraid and self-conscious, she peered quickly under her top and gave a big sigh of relief when she saw that there was no longer a plate and chain imbedded in her chest, nor a gaping hole where it had been.
But the flesh over her sternum wasn’t completely clear either.
A thin line of pale white scar tissue, about two and a half inches long, showed where her attacker had stabbed her.
Curious, she looked at her right palm to see if it had healed too.
Not as surprised as she thought she would be to see the reknit flesh, the red head studied the long scar that started at the middle of her palm and slashed diagonally downward to curl around the bottom of her hand.
It too was a pale white, with a flat shine that seemed leeched of color next to the hue of her skin.
She had always liked to jokingly refer to herself as transparently pale, but the scar tissue seemed like dead skin compared to the rosy tone of her flesh.
As if the life had been utterly drained from the skin as it healed.
Suppressing a shudder, she held her palm up and asked Kisuke, “What happened?”
“Do you remember Ichigo fighting that huge monster in the park yesterday?” he asked, and when she nodded he continued, “It was a Menos Grande, and Ichigo had to ramp up his energy levels to fight it off. Unfortunately, after the fight his power kept gearing up. When a burst of his power slammed through you, you flailed your arms a bit and impaled your hand on Ichigo’s super charged and unstable zanpaktou.”
“Zanpaktou?” she ask in confusion.
“What?! You don’t even know what kind of blade you’re wielding?” a young female voice asked derisively.
“That’s enough, Hiyori,” Kisuke said in reproach.
The girl just snorted and asked condescendingly, “Do you even know anything?”
Willow’s eyes narrowed at the short, blonde pig-tailed girl, annoyed at her attitude and tone. “My blade is my soul weapon,” she snapped. “You’re a little young to be playing with knives anyway, don’t you think?”
Hiyori clenched her fists in obvious anger and gritted out, “I’m older than you, freak!”
“Freak? Who you calling a freak, pip-squeak?”
“Call me short again and see what happens!” Hiyori said menacingly.
Feeling unusually antagonistic, Willow smirked as she channeled her inner Cordelia. She flicked her eyes disdainfully over the other girl and said, “I’m supposed o be scared of you? Puhleese!”
If anyone was to ask later, Kisuke would swear it was the eye roll that accompanied the red head’s taunt that sent his former lieutenant over the edge.
The diminutive blonde snarled at the red head and Willow was taken aback as a white mask misted over the other girl’s face. “What the hell?” she exclaimed as she watched it settle over her smug and angry features.
The blonde’s eyes blazed golden in a field of pitch through the eye holes of the bone white mask as she pulled a sword from her back pointed it towards Willow. “Not so cocky now, huh?”
Willow covered her fear with bravado as she pulled her athme from its hidden sheath, and grinned darkly at the other girl.
“Not gonna hollowfy?” Hiyori sneered.
“What?” Willow asked.
“God, you really don’t know anything, do you?” she taunted.
“I know enough,” the red head answered shortly and willed her blade to elongate.
Hiyori didn’t wait for her to be ready, she attacked in an overhand swing. Willow flung up her blade defensively, catching the other girl’s sword with her own.
They stayed locked together as the blonde bore down, her sword inching closer and closer to Willow’s face.
The red head pushed back, but it felt like her strength was being sapped out of her. With a grunt of effort, she managed to twist her blade and flung the other girl’s blade away.
Her relief was short lived as Hiyori recovered quickly and attacked again.
Then again and again.
Each thrust was barely blocked in time as Willow struggled to keep up with the lightening quick strikes.
Willow couldn’t understand what was wrong with her. Why couldn’t she keep up?
Distracted, Willow missed a swipe and felt the burning sting of the other girl’s blade as it bit into her shoulder.
Blood flowed down her arm and dripped into the sand at her feet.
Willow stared at the bright scarlet drops and time seemed to slow.
Rage bubbled up and blinded the red head.
No one would make her bleed again! she shouted in her mind and swung her sword in a wild arc.
It was now Hiyori’s turn to back peddle and scramble to block as the enraged red head swung at her again and again, the flash of silver coming faster and faster.
The blonde looked up and met the insane, silvery purple eyes of her opponent and couldn’t help the ripple of fear that shot up her spine.