This story is the first chapter of the Introduction Arc, providing backstory for the main cast of characters in Bleach: Tribulations. ---
From the void of slumber he had wallowed in, he found himself being spirited away to awareness again. His eyes slowly opened to a bright light and felt its clear-cut warmth on his face. The sound of birds were outside the window and the sound of people waking up filled the air. He closed his eyes once again and deeply inhaled the fresh morning air. Everything around him was peaceful and quiet, his mind at ease. "I wish I could stay like this forever. So calm and relaxing." He thought, a smile forming on the man's face.
"Kei..." A voice rang out.
"......" No answer.
"Kei...." The voice called out again, this time with a hint of annoyance.
"......" No answer, the man tossed and turned in response, ignoring the voice.
"Kei....." The voice said, sounding more annoyed than before.
"......zzzzz...." The man responded with a slight snore.
"KEI WAKE UP DAMMIT!" The voice yelled in a mixture of anger and aggravated annoyance.
Kei felt his peaceful world collapse in an instant, bringing him back to the thralls of reality. He felt a violent shaking overtake him and when he didn't move, a large pain soon erupted from his sides in response. Almost instantly he opened his eyes in a pained expressing, them extruding outward. Kei mouthed a silent ow and grasped his injured side, rubbing it to stifle the pain.
"Good morning there! Are you awake yet?" The voice asked in a happy-go-lucky matter of fact tone, standing near the Shinigami's bed with their arms crossed.
He furiously rubbed at his eyes and blinked several times to see whether or not he can view the environment clearly. Kei sat up and looked at the source of the voice, giving them a hateful stare and a smirk with his dark blue eyes. "Thanks for the wake up call Masaki." He said with a sarcastic inclination. "Not like I wanted to be hurt in the morning or anything. You might as well as stab me in the back and say good night too." He finished as he swept his brown hair to the side and let out a large yawn, stretching in his arms and back in the meantime.
"If you want me to, I'll be happy to oblige with your request Kei." Masaki responded mockingly, jabbing his finger onto Kei's still burning side, making him flinch in slight pain. "I don't see why you're complaining though. I'm sure our youthful and fit bodies can handle such "extremities" like a furious slap to the side with ease." He finished with a slight laugh, his slicked spiked black hair bouncing in a frozen motion.
"Whatever." Kei grunted in hidden annoyance, laying back on his bed momentarily. He stared at the ceiling and then to Masaki, noting the unseated Ninth Division uniform on him. "Am I missing something?" He thought to himself. He looked at his clothing and realized he hadn't moved an inch since he had awakened. "Shit." He exhaled, immediately getting up for his uniform.
Masaki stood besides him, a wide grin on his face. His sky blue eyes always made him look he was laughing and as a result, not a lot of people really took him seriously. This and his expression further accented his attitude towards the situation, aggravating Kei even more. "It's funny to you right now but when this happens to you, I won't be returning the favor." He said, changing hurriedly. "Are you just going to stare or what?" The young Shinigami asked, turning to face his companion.
"Who would want to stare at your lanky body Kei? Not even a girl would pay attention to you. The only one that does so is Nerine and shes been our friend since we were kids!" Masaki responded with a loud, mocking voice. Kei scowled and threateningly stared at him. "Now me on the other hand, I'm just a babe magnet. All the girls just want a piece of me you know. Therefore, they would rather stare at my body instead of yours." He confidently said in a triumphant smile and victorious eyes.
Kei scoffed at his friend's ignorant and self-assured remarks. "A babe magnet huh?" Masaki nodded his head a knowing way. "If that was the case, how you come I've never seen you with a girl in all the years that I know you? Also! What about that time where you said you'll ask Risa Amase out? Didn't she reject you a couple of times and each time she did, you came back crying to us and how you hate the world? Yeah, I'm sure the Handsome Devil everyone loves." He proclaimed with a smile as he stared into Masaki's eyes. The entire time Kei was speaking, Masaki's eyes widened in surprise in lieu with the revelation of his past love life. Eventually, his brow furrowed and his eyes lowered, admitting a shamed defeat.
"Touche." Masaki said in a hush tone. He crossed his arms and pursed his lips, a notable change of expression taking place. "So...are we going to stay here and mock each other until one of us leaves. Or are we going to report to duty? Nerine and Shuten are probably waiting for our sorry arses. And knowing Shuten, he won't be happy about this at all." Masaki finished, taking slow but loud steps to the door.
Sighing, Kei walked to his friend's side and gave him a small clap on the shoulder, attempting to make him feel slightly better. Breaking out into a small grin, Kei uttered, "You're right about that but lets spice it up a notch. Last one to make it down to the meeting area has to buy the winner lunch. Deal?"
Smiling, Masaki hastily nodded his head in agreement, a small grumbling having apparently erupted from his abdomen. "Alrite then! I can already taste that meal in my mouth! Haha!" He said in a cheery demeanor, grabbing his things and already making his way to the door. However, Kei was already ahead of him, having foreseen Masaki's attempt at getting first.
"Not this time Masaki! You're so going to be buying me a meal !" He laughed with glee, appearing in front of the young man. He flicked his finger at Masaki's forehead and gave him a mocking yet playful smile, leaving the Shinigami confounded for several seconds, unsure of what just happened. This allowed the 3rd Seat Shinigami ample time to make his way to the court grounds, where Nerine and Shuten were anxiously waiting for the two men. They took notice of Kei almost immediately, as he moved in such an exaggerated matter that only his closest friends could recognized. Masaki was flabbergasted and was hastily attempting to catch up, only a few strides behind him. "Dammit, I don't want to buy him a meal! I need to save that money for her gift!" Masaki whimpered to himself as he moved forward.
Both Nerine and Shuten wore the same uniform with the same insignia, indicating that the whole group was surprisingly in the same Division together, albeit Shuten had Vice-Captain's armband, indicating his rank. Nerine looked at the two with amusement as they attempted to get to them first while Shuten had a solid face of impassiveness but a slight smirk appeared for a brief moment.
"This is it! I'm going to get that sweet delicious lunch!" Kei thought giddily , only a few feet away from the pair. He landed softly on the ground, a huge smile etched on his face, having won a childish game even though they were over a hundred years old. Masaki soon followed, looking at his friend with a glare of defeat.
"It wasn't a fair race Kei, you cheated and you know it, having that head start and all." He said glumly, apparently acting like a sore loser. He looked at the others for support but Shuten turned his head in contempt. "Of course you wouldn't." He said under his breathe. Nerine saw his look and waved. Other than that, she was rocking back and forth and was staring at the sky, obviously bored.
"Oh really now Masaki? I don't think I cheated at all. It was clear that I was going to win anyway, I am the strongest after all." He said in a matter of fact tone, relishing Masaki words. "Why are you even mad? This was all for fun anyway. You know me. I'm a kid at heart. So you should just -"
"Sorry to bother you two with your endless chatter and arguing. But we've been waiting here for quite a while and we're wasting time." Shuten coldy cut in, ignoring the two Shinigami. "We're part of the Court Guards now. We aren't the kids we used to be." A grumble erupted besides him, causing the gruff Vice Captain turn to his side. Nerine looked at him with an embarrassed smile, laughing in response.
"Sorry." She said quietly with a melodic voice. Nerine was fumbling with her fingers. "I'm just hungry. You guys took so long we probably missed all the good stuff already." She looked at them with a grumpy face, her eyes becoming pouty and her cheeks were puffed in an exaggerated manner.
Chuckling, Shuten turned his attention towards the others, who were laughing at Nerine's facial expression. "It's not funny guys!" She yelled, her voice becoming shriller. The Vice-Captain sighed, turned to Nerine and bowed to her. He then walked to Kei, who was closer, and slapped him on the head with his Zanpakuto sheathe, a large whooping noise coming from the impact. The force of the blow sent him to the ground, landing on his butt with a thud. Before Masaki could react, Shuten was upon him, repeating the same punishment on him. The two stayed on the ground with a pained expression, furiously rubbing their heads to stifle the stinging pain.
"Can you please stop acting like children now? Get up!" Shuten commanded with an authoritative tone. "Honestly, if I wasn't your friend, I would have to punish the lot of you as Vice-Captain." He said, echoing the word punish to them with a slight smile.
The two immediately got up, patted the dust off their clothing, and made their way to Nerine and Shuten. "Sorry." They murmured in unison. The two turned their heads to Shuten and moved their heads disapprovingly. Their companion laughed, "You had to see this coming guys. You mess around to much and I can't always be there to whip you into shape and order." He finished, waving his sheathe in a threatening matter.
Masaki and Kei raised their hands defensively. "We got it Shuten. We got it. Boy, you were way funnier before you got this promotion." They said.
Shuten shrugged them off and started walking to the dining hall. After several steps, he stopped. "You guys coming or what?" He asked without turning around.
A Breakfast of an Assignment
Kei stood in front of the doorway to the dining hall, unmoving as the other three walked passed him. Nerine turned her head and noticed abrupt stop. "What's the matter Kei? Not hungry anymore? Or did you just realize something? She asked, pulling his clothes to make him move with her.
"..What?..Huh? Oh, nothings wrong." He said, finally compiling with her wishes. Her long brown hair sweeped past him, tickling his nose but filled with the aroma of honeys and flowers, a truly stunning smell in his eyes. "Um...Nerine?"
"Yes Kei?" She replied indignantly, grabbed her food with slight hesitance as they moved. "Everyone got the good food Kei, this is yours and Masaki's fault." She randomly said.
"Has Shuten been acting strange lately? He's been walking a bit different lately." Kei asked, looking at her while he grabbed an apple.
"Hmmm. Not really; Shuten always seems the same grumpy and brooding self. He's been like that since we were kids." She replied knowingly, walking slower to herself in pace with Kei.
"Ehh, maybe its the duties of being a Vice-Captain making me think this. It feels like it was just yesterday that we graduated the Academy." He replied, taking a bite of the apple, the sweet juices trickling down the side of his lips.
"Feeling nostalgic for no apparent reason Kei?" Nerine said with a giggle while they sat down.
Kei shrugged and remained silent for a while, playing with his food for the time being. For the meal's entire duration, he hardly touched the meal before him. Meanwhile, Nerine destroyed her meal in a matter of moments, the total opposite of what someone would associate a woman with. "Maybe you think that because Shuten wiped the floor with you and Masaki." She said half-heartedly, taking a sip of her drink.
"Hardly. I had this feeling for a while; it's been making me feel uneasy for the longest time. Ever since he met that new recruit, Sōs-" The bell rang before Kei could conclude his statement. He scowled for a slight moment and looked at Nerine, who gave him a strange look. Kei grabbed the remainder of his meal and stood up with a sigh as he motioned for his companion to follow. "Let's go, we don't want to "miss" our orders." He said with a slight laugh. "Maybe we'll be doing worthwhile for once."
"I'm not sure about that Kei. I thought that our last foray into the World of the Living was pretty fun!" Nerine interjected with a smile as she trailed behind him.
"Pshhh. That was because the Hollow we were assigned to was child's play! And after that, all we did was enjoy the sights the location had to offer! Not to mention the loads of shopping you did with your Gigai!" Kei told her with a knowing look while he waved his finger at her.
"Oh you!" Nerine exclaimed, giving Kei a hard slap to the back, keeping a large smile as she looked stared at him. "Don't use me as an excuse to complain...or else.." She murmured to Kei, her eyes took on a noticeable glaze and her smile quickly went crooked, as if she had just imagined a gruesome fantasy. A fact that Kei couldn't even fathom. For added benefit, she licked her lips, and beamed with glee.
"I'll keep that in mind.." He said weakly and with a defeated expression. They continued walking, eventually making their way to their Headquarters. Kei and Nerine stood next to each other and were a few people away from Masaki, who continually moved in an uncomfortable manner, as if he didn't get to his business. Shuten wasn't that far from the three of them, standing in an authoritative posture with his arms crossed. His facial expression wasn't clearly definitive of his emotions but he seemed bored and disinterested with all of them. He moved quite a bit, causing the Vice-Captain badge to glisten in the light.
The room was quiet. Rows of ready Shinigami stood in the interior of the room, anxiously waiting for their superior to arrive. However, minutes passed and the silence became unbearable, even to their nonchalant Vice-Captain, who kept moving to ease the discomfort in his lower body. Their expressions changed from serious into a bleak yet visual discomfort. Eventually, they were unable to deal with the boring atmosphere and several of the Shinigami broke into conversation, finally breaking the silence and filling the room with voices.
Kei never took the chance to observe the room he was in; he was usually on assignments or just didn't care to look around. But seeing that he had all the time in the world, there was no point in not looking, even for a little bit.
The interior of the main headquarters was vast yet sparingly decorated, included a myriad of potted plants and pieces of decorative furniture. Near the end of the room was the extended floor, apparently indicating that it was their leader's desk and base of operations, if one could call it. It was merely a finely crafted desk of oak and hickory, possibly exported from the Human World. Besides the desk was a door, the Captain's Quarters. Kei noted that the placement of the entire room was strange and unusual. Or rather, the Captain had a blunt and boring taste, who didn't want to put the effort in renovation. But whoever designed the dastardly inside of the headquarters wasn't really at all creative and must have been either intoxicated to the extremes or insane.
"If I were to become Captain of this Division, I'm definitely gonna make some well-deserved changes in this establishment." He thought, slowly turning his head to face the woman besides him. Just then, a thought came across his mind.
"By the way Nerine. Did you ever tell Masaki that you used his money instead of yours?" Kei asked with a devilish smirk.
Her eyes widened at the mention of the nature of her purchases. Kei had definitely hit the sweet spot. "Got ya." He thought to himself with a victorious smile, anxiously waiting to observe her reaction.
Almost playing to the Shinigami's expectations, the woman's brow immediately furrowed and she growled at the Shinigami. However, the growl did not sound threatening at all. Rather, it sounded like a cute and meek kitten attempting to act tough. "Don't tell him! It'll be a surprise! Plus, he owed me a birthday present and I'm saying that this made us even!" She defended herself innocently and with a coy expression.
"Um. Yeah I guess but with the amount you spent, I don't think so." He snickered haughtily.
She couldn't help but hiss at Kei in anger. "I'm a woman! I have needs and delicate taste you men cannot even fathom to comprehend!" She said to him in a justified tone.
"More like a woman with expensive tastes..." He murmured to her, barely able to keep in his laughter.
Suddenly a loud noise erupted from the front entrance, and the door slowly slid open. The bickering pair ceased their childish yet funny argument and stood at attention. Nerine bowed her head down, along with everybody. Kei looked up.
A man came in.
He was small in frame but well built for his size and age. His legs were surprisingly tall, as if they were frail twigs ready to snap or break at a moment's notice or mere exertion of force. Overall, the man was taller than most individuals, who might possibly the tallest out of everyone. The Captain's face seemed to be quite serious and overbearing, much more than usual as the expression he typically bore was unemotional and uncaring, just like Shuten's but more relaxed. He wore the standard Captain's haori, denoting his rank but it was slightly modified to bear a sense of individuality, if it was there at all. This difference was that it slightly shorter and instead of being pure white, streaks of black outlined the clothing, making the Captain seem like a freakishly tall white tiger. It was a funny sight to behold.
The man made his way to the front of his people, standing behind the podium and surveyed the room. His eyes stopped at Kei, who was the only one that didn't bow his head down in respect.
The two stared at each other for at least a full minute before Kei broke the connection, afraid of being reprimanded by his superior. Before he cast his eyes down, Kei glimpsed a faint smile on the Captain. The other Shinigami were becoming uncomfortable because many of them made grunts of discomfort, with their nervous breathing gradually spreading through the entire room.
Kei looked at the rest of the room. He counted more than one hundred individuals. His eyes met with Megumi Kawara's but she reflexively looked down, flustering at the sight of his gaze. He gave her a thumbs up and a grin but she continued to ignore him but at the corner of his eyesight, he saw a nod of agreement.
"Aaaaaahem...!" The Captain called out, echoing his voice so that everyone one of them could hear him, ending their grunts. He silently stood at his position, turning his head left and right to look at the Shinigami before. Drawing in a deep breath, their superior finally spoke. But the tone of his voice surprised them. It was cheerful.
Their eyes widened and some of them had their mouth agape as he continued to speak. "How was everyone's morning today? I hope it wasn't painfully excruciating. I hope you all slept well!"
They were speechless.
Breaking out into a broad grin, the White Tiger Captain continued behind his podium. "Well, I've been having a great morning if you don't mind me saying. It's a fine day for some good ole assignments, don't you think? Or maybe some old-fashioned Hollow hunting. Haven't had any of those in a while. Don't you think its time for one too?!"
"Are you kidding me? Why is the White Tiger out of all people speaking liking this? Is he playing a trick on us? Or am I just dreaming?"
As if someone was reading Kei's mind, one of their number raised her hand and suddenly spoke. It was Yukio Hoshimitsu, one of Kei's former classmates and slated know-it-all out of the entire bunch. "Sir, don't mind me asking. But are you okay? Normally, you aren't this jovial, even during parties." Everyone looked at Yukio, whose hair was finely braided into a singular ponytail while she had her bangs parted at the middle. Her voice was rather assertive and it seemed liked Yukio knew what she was saying. Nonetheless, Yukio like Kei and everyone else probably believed that it was an elaborate trick being played on them.
Yukio continued, "What's the deal sir? Everyone here is confused as much as I am."
She turned around and looked at the assembled Shinigami, who all nodded their acknowledgement of the situation and her words or made grunts of approval.
After observing the White Tiger quietly listening to them with intent, Kei looked around until his eyes gazed upon Shuten Tamane. Beneath his long crop of hair, his calm and morose eyes were quietly staring at the Captain at the podium. His look didn't even seem much of a glare. It seemed like Shuten was unfazed with what was happening; he seemed to be taking everything in a calm manner. As should be expected from his friend.
Then there was Nerine, who was besides him. Her gaze made it seem liked she was paying attention but Kei knew that she was probably daydreaming; Nerine wasn't known to pay attention during briefs or meetings for that matter. She noticed that someone was sneaking a glance at her and Nerine turned to look at him, giving him a somewhat forced smile, acknowledging her dopiness.
Masaki was far from the both of them, actually being two rows away and was near the window. He was looking at the White Tiger like everyone else but his lips were pursed. Masaki was moving uncomfortably, going up and down in an attempt to stem the urge of the release' he had been holding in for a while. He looked at Kei, eyeing him with an expression. When is this going to be over? I really have to go.
Kei shrugged in response. He was unsure of what to say and mouthed sorry to Masaki, whose expression turned downcast from the silent conversation.
The White Tiger tilted his head and looked up to the ceiling, as if he was thinking. Suddenly, he snapped his back to face all of them, sending some a bit back. "Alright, alright. I understand your concerns, and it'll be duly noted. But please, remain quiet." He stomped his feet on the ground to get the groups' attention once again. The clamor of grunts and coughing subsequently subsided.
"Is there something wrong with me acting jolly all of a sudden? Can't I just act happy in front of you? I really wanted to show the lot of you I don't have a stick up my rectum as some of you had previously said. Their Captain stated, his face contorted in sincerity. Kei couldn't help but laugh at his statements. Man, White Tiger is good at bullshitting us, that's for sure.
"Continuing with what I said. There's a reason for my behavior today, do you know what it is? .....Of course not! I haven't told you yet." He chuckled to himself, enjoying the bland joke. The White Tiger remained silent for a moment, attempting to build up a form of suspense. "We're going to partake in a small tournament"
Yukio raised her hand again. "I have another thing to say sir. if you will hear me.
"You again? What is it Yukio? Another smartass remark? Please go on. Enlighten me my dear." He bluntly replied, fiddling with his fingers on the wood before him.
"Not at all sir. Just a remark. Normally in these circumstances, you would present yourself with your usual self. Why would you, the almighty White Tiger of the Ninth Division, be so "happy" for this competition? What was so special about it?" Yukio said. Kei wasn't sure if she was being disrespectful or was actually being sincere for the mental state of her superior.
"Well my dear. If you shut up and let me finish talking, I can finish. Dear lord, does anyone in my squad have any sense of manners around here?" The Captain haughtily questioned. Finally, the gracious White Tiger had regained his famous composure the Division had been sorely missing, even if the change of attitude was welcome, it was too alien for them to be readily accepted.
Taken aback by his blunt and direct response, Yukio grumbled something under her breath and cast her head down in defeat.
Rather than stay behind the podium, their Captain slowly started pacing back and forth on the wooden floor, his arms behind his back. "As I was saying, we're going to partake in a small yet experimental military exercise actually. The first of its kind and something approved by both the Captain-Commander and the Captains! Something exciting for once in the borish Soul Society. A change of pace around here, rather than be off on some meager assignment the lot of you could easily accomplish. But it's not just the battle, its the prize that is included!" He exclaimed with glee. "The winning group gets their Division a fantastical dinner, generously provided by the Captain-Commander. Is that good enough for you?" He asked, turning around to face his subordinates.
All across the room, murmurs of acknowledge echoed their response. A resounding and unanimous yes. Or so it seemed. Kei turned his head and observed the crowd before him. While the majority of his companions were rejoicing at the announce and the prospect of victory, some were moving their heads in disagreement and disgust. Seemed like a military exercise wasn't their cup of tea. Either that, or they just expected some better news.
Kei looked at Captain Kousetsu's facial expression, attempting to discern any hints of subtle deception. But he immediately caught the attention of his superior, who gave him a rather cheery yet creepy smile as he waved his finger at him, reminiscent of a "no-no". Kei looked away in mock embarrassment, hiding his face with hands.
"OI. Calm yourselves you senseless mass of dribble and stupidity!" White Tiger commanded with an authoritative voice, his tone booming throughout the room. It immediately shut everyone up and even surprised Shuten, who was in close proximity to the Captain. "Now to finish my long and dreary announcement to the lot of you. I'll make it quick, I have better things to do thank talk to you." He said, stopping to take a short breathe.
"So, are there are any poor saps willing to volunteer to represent the glory of the illustrious Ninth Division? Or do I have "conscript" the entire team?" Kousetsu asked with a nonchalant expression as he minded his fingernails.
The noise in the room immediately calmed down and was suddenly filled with silence. The only thing that could be heard were the callous breathing and coughs made by the Ninth Division Members. "Hmmph," Kei uttered. "Ironic that everyone was excited about it. But when the Captain brings the subject about volunteers, they immediately shut up. Bunch of freeloaders." He said under his breath. His hands were in his pocket, curled tightly around a charm. Kei pursed his lips, deliberating if he should take part in it. He nodded his head to the invisible agreement and raised a hand with a tight grin.
"Third Seat Kei Yume, reporting to duty sir!"
Kousetsu raised his eyebrows in disbelief and acknowledgement. "We have a volunteer ladies and gents! Are there any more takers?" He demanded as he walked back and forth, hands behind his back. Kousetsu idly turned around and motioned for Kei to come forward.
Kei started to step towards his superior, heading for the White Tiger's side. He couldn't help but stare at everyone's faces. Each of his comrade's expression belied their true truths, either that of jealously, horror, confusion, or outright joy.
Out in the back, a small hand steadily lifted itself up, barely noticeable to the untrained eye. It slightly quivered, possibly from nervousness, and a small cutesy voice soon followed. "....Uhh..uh...Nerine Amamine..also reporting for duty!!" Her face scrunched up in hesitance and fear, apparently afraid of her comrade's glares of surprise and pity. It wasn't much of a surprise; Nerine was known throughout the Division to not be much of a fighter, although she had a famous wild temperament unchallenged by others. Instead, she was noticeably skilled in Healing Magic and her Shikai, so much so that Nerine was on equal footing with the majority of her superiors.
Since Nerine volunteered her services, Kei looked expectantly at Masaki, hoping he would do the same. However, he seemed nonchalant about the current proceedings and was merely paying attention to a girl beside him, who fluttered her eyelashes at him. Kei's constant stare caught Masaki's attention but he waved him away. The man's expression darkened at his companion's refusal, who continued to mouth "no". After a short battle of wills, Masaki relented and his facial expression became downcast and trodden. He sighed at Kei and gave him a notorious scowl.
Masaki raised his hand high up into the air and said with quiet yet somewhat reluctant voice. "...Masaki Satō, reporting for action sir!" After White Tiger nodded with approval and acknowledge, Masaki turned around with a dejected look and haughtily left the grounds, pushing his way through the masses.
"Fantastic! We just need two more volunteers! Any takers?" Kousetsu said, carefully observing all of them for any hint of a reaction. Conversation subsided and silence permeated the room. Captain Kousetsu gave a slight growl and curled his fists in humorous anger as no one returned their acknowledgements. "Come on you fools! Speak up or face your maker!" He yelled, pointing his right hand at the crowd, indicating he didn't have any qualms in choosing either of them.
To Kousetsu, the great White Tiger of Soul Society, any one under his command were eligible.
Kei looked expectantly at Shuten, pursing his lips in anticipation. "Come on Shuten. Masaki, Nerine, and I are already in. It should be normal that you should join as well." He thought silently to himself.
Surprisingly, Shuten noticed Kei's glimmering and expecting eyes and he nodded in response, as if he heard his pleas. He sighed and hesitantly leaned forward, adjusting his weight to stand a little bit better. The gray-haired man raised his hand, catching the attention of everyone else and the Captain. "Vice-Captain Shuten Tamane, reporting for the War Games!"
Kousetsu exclaimed in glee, jumping up and down in happiness and clapping his hands. His usual personality typically brought up questions about his sanity. But Kousetsu battle record and abilities as well as his personality convinced people to leave him alone. This was one of those times.
Once Kousetsu situated himself in a "regal" manner again, he motioned Shuten to the spot where all the participants were. "Since I know that NONE of you are going to volunteer and are a bunch of COWARDS, I'll just conscript one so we could have a full team." The room suddenly broke out in resistance and were squabbling over each other's voices.
"SHUT UP, the lot of you! No matter how much everyone complains, it's not going to change the fact that someone will be conscripted!" Kousetsu harshly barked, his amplified by his spiritual energy. He darkly smiled as he mulled over the choice of "applicants" before him. Seconds passed. Minutes passed...
"Lets see, who will go out and play with the other Divisions?" White Tiger asked himself, pacing back and forth while making occasional glaces at the rest of the Division. "Hmm, I think I made the perfect decision!"
"Yukio Hosmitsu!" He yelled aloud. Kei slightly jumped from the surprise, his mouth agape and wide-eyed. The same went for everyone, especially for Yukio, who trembled with fear. "Ever since you've been in this Division, you had always questioned my orders, which always caused me great agitation. As a punishment and a means to shut you up, you will be conscripted into the Ninth Division War Games Team, no questions asked, no whining. Got that?" He continued, relishing her confusion and anguish.
"But sir!" Yukio loudly resisted, which sounded like to be a mixture of a cry and a sniff.
"NO BUTS Yukio." Kousetsu adamantly said. "I have spoken!"
Yukio jumped back at the force of her superior's words. Dejected, she laid her head low and stayed quiet. Every so often, her body trembled and sniffling sound was heard. No one went to comfort her; everyone stayed a safe distance away from Yukio for fear of being an additional conscript.
Kousetsu turned his attention to everyone else, who all seemed to be unaware of his gaze. "Now for the lot of you, leave my sight and do your duties! After you do one hundred laps around the Rukongai!"
Surprised, they all groaned and turned around to fulfill their orders. As they left, Kousetsu barked again, "Don't blame me! Blame your cowardly hesitance!"
The room was empty sans the War Games Team. Everyone was together but Yukio distanced herself from the group, obviously not happy for the recent run of events. "Yukio, come closer to us. Since we're all going to be together for a while, we might as well get comfortable with each other." Kei said as he offered his hand to her.
She looked up at him in awe, her glasses glistening in the light. But she slowly nodded in acknowledgement and hesitantly reached for the Shinigami's hand. Their two hands clasped with each other and Kei pulled her towards them with a welcoming smile. "Don't be afraid, I'm here for you. Promise." He said with a wink.
Yukio gulped and shyly turned away, letting the hair cover her eyes.
The silence in the room was broken by footsteps from Kousetsu boots. He made his way towards the group with a short smile. "So, it seems like the best of the Division is here with me." He said. "Except you Yukio." Kousetsu stated with a laugh.
"But sir, isn't that a bit uncalled for?" Masaki defended, looking up at the Captain.
"I have to concur Captain Kousetsu. We haven't seen the full extent of her abilities yet." Nerine chimed in, clinging onto Shuten, who seemed rather apologetic about the matter. He remained silent..and he preferred to be that way.
Kei turned his head to look at Yukio. She saw him look at her but instead, Yukio buried her head in Kei's shoulder. He briefly patted her head in comfort, whispering an ineligible lullaby into one of her ears.
Kousetsu didn't answer, but simply walked forward. He grabbed Kei's arm and spun him around, pushing Yukio away, and grabbing him by the hem of his garment. He pulled Kei closer, until he was at eye-level. Pinned, Kei couldn't hope to resist the Captain's strong grip. All he could do was look at him with a mixture of fear and utter confusion.
"Now listen to me, Kei Yume. You mustn't lose because of that weakling! Understood?" Kousetsu growled. Kei remained silent and only acknowledge the White Tiger's words with a nod.
He smirked at Kei's expression and quietly placed him down without a word. Kousetsu then turned around and slowly made his way towards the exit, hands in his pocket and started to whistle a jovial tune.
"Don't forget, you have a few weeks to prepare before the big day!" Kousetsu voice rang out from outside.
A moment of silence happened between the Team once again. This time, it was less awkward and more depressing, especially after their Captain's unwarranted and cruel words.
Shuten was the first to leave, seemingly having no care for the transgressions brought before them. "I have no need for this anymore. I'll see all of you at the War Games." He bluntly said.
"Bu-bu-but Shuten, you can't just leave us to ourselves!" Kei interjected, taking a step forward to stop the Vice-Captain with his hand.
But Shuten moved to the side and brushed Kei's hand away with a sweep of his Zanpakuto sheate, causing him to withdraw his hand in stinging pain. He pursed his lips and said, "I don't need to train like the rest of you; I'm entirely fine on my own."
Sighing with annoyance, Shuten flicked the hair over his eyes out of his face and made his way out of the room.
"He sure does sound pretty cocky don't you think?" Masaki questioned, his arms crossed. "I know Shuten isn't an individual known for playing nice, but it's definitely out of character."
Nerine nodded in agreement, "Yes, it's definitely a first to see him act like this." She said as she walked over to Yukio, intent on seeing if she was okay, mentally. Yukio shyly moved back from the woman, her face etched with uncertainty.
"Aww, don't be shy Yukio-san. We're your friends here." Nerine cooed to her companion, who was probably near to tears after what Kousetsu said to her. Both Masaki and Kei nodded their heads in agreement, meaning to calm her down.
Kei made his way towards the woman on the ground and offered his hand to Yukio with a comforting smile. But she nodded no to his offer. "Oh? If that's so, will you accept my words then?"
"I'll always have your back. And if something were to happen to you, I would gladly come to your side." He said.
Yukio smiled a little at Kei's words. Her facial expression of discomfort and sadness slowly curved into a half smile. Kei gently stroked Yukio's head and she immeditely got up to give him an embrace, something that he returned in kind.
"I'm sorry Kei, Nerine, and Masaki...for the way I acted towards all of you during our Academy days.
For once, Kei was able to see the true "face" of Yukio. It wasn't that of a cold-hearted woman brimming with elegance. In fact, Yukio had seemingly threw away her brash exterior and showed her true self. In reality, the woman was an ordinary girl like everyone else. Someone who just desired attention, acknowledgement, and companionship. He blushed a deep red at the thought. But right now, Yukio seemed cute and adorable.
"I like her more like this." He thought to himself.
When his eyes met Yukio-sans, she still had her wide smile. And for some reason, that smiling face looked far more genuine than her usual expressions that Yukio typically wore.
It was different. It was difficult to explain but could he really call it her real expression? Even though a small amount of time between the two, it seemed like a friendship spanning several years had been formed. The atmosphere around her had become much gentler than before.
"Ara ara, don't leave me out of this too Kei!" Nerine cut in coyly. She jumped on him as well. "I want a hug too! Teehee!"
Masaki, on the other hand, did not take part in the "festivities" going about and merely glared at the spectacle set before him. Wide-eyed and mouth agape, he felt a stint of jealously and couldn't look away. "Hmmph" was all that escaped his lips.
Kei noticed too and looked at his best friend. He mouthed an innocent "sorry" to him. But everyone knew that deep down, what kind of person would refuse the attention of two woman? Especially if they were attractive or cute for that matter.
And just when Kei thought it would be almost over, a light and small echoed throughout the room. "Onii-chaaaaaaaan!!" It rang out. A young woman in her middle-teens zipped through the rafters. Her movements were hardly recognizable to the untrained eye but to Kei, he was all too familiar with the technique used.
He locked eyes with the girl and gasped. It was his younger sister, Rei Yume. But before he could react to her unsaid arrival, Rei fell on top of him, dragging Yukio and Nerine to the ground as well.
Kei was taken was taken by Rei's sudden appearance. Everyone else just looked at them with expressions of awe and distaste.
"W-where did you come from Rei?" Nerine managed to ask while she blinked with surprise. Unknowingly, she also increased her grip on Kei's robe. "And w-why are you here?"
"Hmmm? The rafters near the window of course." She nonchalantly said. "I heard there was a meeting today and I wanted to check up on my dear Onii-chan."
"I didn't even feel your presence arrive until you called your brother out." Masaki said honestly and with a saddened expression. He looked away and merely kicked the dust out from the floor.
Rei slyly smiled and stuck her tongue out at Masaki. "Oba-san had been teaching me some new tricks."
Kei bit his lip and made a half-hearted effort to get up. But with Yukio and Nerine clinging onto him and Rei on top of him, it was useless to do so.
He just looked up at his sister with a vacant expression. She broke out into a smile and looked at him eagerly. "Grandpa taught you Tenshi Ippo didn't he?" He asked.
She nodded in acknowledgement, "Mhm. Just the basics but enough to surpass Shunpo practitioners," Rei replied. "Oba-san said I have a talent for it."
Turning his head to Masaki, "Did you hear that? My sister is better than you! Haha." Kei laughed mockingly, causing his companion to shrink in embarrassment. "Now Rei, can you please get off of me now? You're pretty heavy for a girl your age." He said jokingly.
"No I'm not!" Rei cried out, smacking her brother in the head. She then pushed her brother down and ran her hand through his somewhat rough hair, making him shiver. She haughtily blew into Kei's ear as a mocking blow, enjoying the obvious discomfort he displayed.
Rei completely enjoyed the fact that Kei could not move and used it to her advantage. Rei raised her body slightly over Kei, barely hanging over him. She stared down onto him. Her ebony hair fell on top of him.
Then, Rei's face steadily approached him. Kei closed his eyes. All he could do was accept it. No resistance was applicable.
".....NOOO!!" A voice rang out. Suddenly, it felt like a weight was lifted from his body. Literally. But his eyes still remained shut.
From the sound of it, a small scuffle ensued and their were cries of pain and annoyance. Kei finally opened his eyes to see the spectacle before him.
Nerine was on the ground, her face scrunched up with embarrassment and defeat. Rei being the apparent victor, sitting on the woman's chest. Rei threw up her fist in a triumphant victory pose, and yelled a victory cry. It was quite surprising actually, mainly due to the fact that Nerine was considered to be one of the most able close-quarter combatants in the Division.
But Rei didn't let it end there; she came closer to her opponent and start to pick at Nerine's stomach and sides, giggling at her various facial expression. Noticing that Kei was looking at the both of them, she smiled coyly, her eyes taking on a devilish hint.
She moved closer again and started to unfurl the top part of Nerine's robes, edging towards her bosom. Rei then grabbed Nerine and placed her in a rather seductive pose. Kei couldn't but glance at her. Nerine's face turned a cherry red and she quickly turned her face away, with tears starting to form away.
"So is this what you wanted Onii-chan?" Rei asked, running her hands across Nerine's body. "You know, this is pretty ecchi, even for you."
He coughed loudly and shrugged his shoulders. "You know Rei, that isn't true." He muttered defensively. Rei mockingly stuck out her tongue at her brother.
He looked at Nerine, who pleaded at him with puppy dog eyes. "Now Rei, can you please stop picking on Nerine, I think she had enough of your antics." Kei finished.
Rei looked up at the ceiling and puckered her lips in thought. "Hmmmmmm. Only if you apologize for what you said."
"For what?" He replied.
"You called me fat." Rei reflexively said.
"But you sorta are," Kei responded back.
She growled at Kei threateningly but then Rei started to pound her fists on the ground, unknowingly shaking the very foundations they were on. "Wahhhhh! No I'm not! No I'nm not!" She cried out. Rei subconsciously moved around whilst on Nerine's chest area, whose expressions immediately turned from blatant confusion to utter discomfort and uneasiness.
"Great....another temper tantrum from my sister." Kei thought to himself. He sighed with annoyance and rolled his eyes. "Okay okay." He said as he raised his arms up in defeat. "I don't really say this much, especially to you, but....I'm sorry."
Rei cocked her head, letting the moment sink in. But then she immediately broke out into a smile and slowly stood up, bringing Nerine along with her. The Shinigami looked uneasy and confused from the small ordeal and she held her stomach with pain. "Woooh! That was fun while it lasted!" She said, whilst stretching her arms.
Kei gingerly talked towards Nerine and tenderly brushed at her clothing, smoothing out the wrinkles and removing any particles of dust that clung to her. He looked at his sister, who looked at him questioningly. Breaking his noble and kind exterior, Kei abruptly smacked his sister in the back of the head, a smile on his face.
"OWWWWW! Onii-chan! What was that for?!" Rei yelled out, furiously rubbing the back of her head.
"For being an idiot." He instantly replied, wagging his finger in front of her disapprovingly. "You interrupted very important business and caused an unknown amount of harm to Nerine."
"What about me Kei? Your sister hurt my pride!" Masaki stated, making his way to his friend's side.
"No one cares Masaki." Kei said, unconsciously tapping his foot impatiently on the ground.
"But I care." Masaki muttered, turning away in shame. He then made his way to Nerine's side, who patted the man's shoulders for comfort.
"Now as I was saying,
Kei stopped before the entrance and turned towards his companions. "Now, shall we get to training?" He finished with a wry smile, beckoning to them.
Revelations of the Truth
Today was the day. It was time for the much waited Gotei Thirteen War Games, where all the Divisions could come together and effectively showcase their military prowess and might in a friendly manner.
Kei and company waited anxiously outside the War Grounds. The area was extremely large and vast, rumoured to be nearly the size of the Rukongai. Built to mirror
It was quite surprising that the Higher Ups were able to create an area like this in such a short amount of time.
Behind the Scenes
- As of now, the aritcle spans on 16 pages on Microsoft Word.
|An Unwanted Truth|| Succeeded by|
On the Run