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This article, Warnings On The Way, is property of Northstar1022 and cannot be utilized without the creator's permission.

PLOTLINE: This story deviates from the main storyline immediately after the war against Sōsuke Aizen, creating a parallel timeline where the Thousand-Year Blood War does not take place. As such, there will be inconsistencies.

This follows the events from Something Wicked This Way Comes. Sixth Division Captain, Masahiro Matsunaga, nearly escaped death with the help of Master Healer, Gennai Hiraga, the 4th Divsion Captain. News quickly spreads through Soul Society, prompting to investigations and tracking. Captain Saizō Fujibayashi scouts for clues at Matsunaga Manor, while later that evening, Lieutenant Akihiko Tanaka of the 6th Divsion, begins his own investigation. This led to his own fight for his life against two Arrancar: Inigo Guillén and Ballesteros Tibor. What lies ahead for Squad 6 with both of its leaders down? Also, Squad 11 deals with their own inner battles.

Part I: Things Dreams Are Made Of

The stone pillar blew apart with such a resounding boom that it shook the very foundation of the huge pagoda. Kenzō's body flew through the air, his body badly beaten and uniform torn and stained with blood. Without the support of the pillar, the ceiling quickly broke apart, sending chunks of wood raining down. Kenzō hit the floor, cracking it before flipping into the air and landing on his front, sliding to a complete stop. The rubble and dust settled to an eerie silence as Kenzō laid motionless.

"Hey..." a growling voice echoed from the darkness all around Kenzō, "... don't tell me you're dead already." Kenzō continued to lay there, barely breathing. "What's wrong?... I thought you wanted to be the next Kenpachi." Slowly, the sounds of steps drew closer and closer. Each step caused dust to rain down from the ceiling and shook the ground like an earthquake. A large shadowy figure began to form as each step grew louder. "A Kenpachi never falls... And it looks like you just fell down." The tall, wild haired man towered over Kenzō's body. He held a chipped and seemingly worn-down sword in his hand. "Hey." Kenpachi Zaraki growled as he kicked Kenzō's ribs. Kenzō, without warning, rolled up and launched a quick uppercut, which Zaraki dodged with relative ease. And like a snake striking, Zaraki shot out his hand and clasped Kenzō's head with an iron-like grip, causing the lieutenant to dangle in the air as he struggled to free himself.

"What was that pussy move?" Zaraki grinned as he stared at Kenzō, who's face was completely covered by Zaraki's hand. "Playing dead? No one from the 11th Divsion plays dead. Either you fight, or you stay dead. There's no inbetween." Kenzō tried to pry himself free, but his groans were muffled by Zaraki's hand increasingly squeezing this skull. "You want to be captain? Then you have to kill me." Kenzō tried to pull away from Zaraki's grip. "Come on. What are you waiting for?" As Zaraki squeezed harder, you could hear the sound of Kenzō's skull starting to crack. Kenzō's screams continued to be muffled as he struggled.

Suddenly, Kenzō threw up a kick that Zaraki blocked with his sword hand, only for his other arm to be struck in the elbow by Kenzō's knee, causing him to free himself from his grip. Kenzō fell to his knees and when he looked up towards Zaraki, a large fist struck him in the face with enough force to slam him back to the floor, causing the wood to splinter and crack as his head bounced off of the floor and slam back down. "That's it? That's all you had!?" Zaraki screamed as he lifted his leg and stomped so hard on Kenzō's back that it caused the lieutenant to smash through the floor down to the one below them. A small explosion erupting around the two and sending a shockwave that shook the pagoda once more. The lieutenant hit the floor below with another loud thud, a plume of smoke blew out around him, blood splirting out of his mouth and spraying the floor.

Kenzō struggled for a few seconds to get up, only for him to feel the full weight of Zaraki slamming his knee into the middle of Kenzō's shoulder blades. Zaraki gripped the back of Kenzō's neck, "Don't you know how to do anything else but play dead?" Zaraki continued to grin as he lifted the lieutenant into the air again. Kenzō gasped for air as he tried to pull Zaraki's fingers from crushing his neck. "Might as well kill you now to end this game." And Zaraki threw Kenzō through the air, slamming him into the wall, leaving the lieutenant imprinted in the stone. Kenzō spewed out more blood as it rolled down his chin and neck. His vision began fading as he was slowly slipping out of conciousness. Zaraki began to chuckle, then laugh out loud maniacly as he ran towards Kenzō. All the lieutenant could do was catch a glimpse of another fist crashing against his face.

Kenzō was blown out the other side of the wall from the force of Zaraki's punch. Kenzō's body once again slid across the floor. Now outside, his body skipped across the shingles, shattering them with each thud. The full moon in the night sky cast it's light all around. Kenzō rolled to one side, trying to prop himself up on his hands. Zaraki walked through the opening, the grin replaced with total lack of expression. Kenzō could only manage to get to his knees as he hunched and coughed up more blood, forming a small puddle below him. Zaraki stopped directly in front of Kenzō. The lieutenant looked up at the former captain towering over him like a giant. The moon directly behind him. "You ain't got what it takes to be captain." Zaraki lifted his sword up in the air, a faint golden glow began to eminate from his body. "You ain't got what it takes to run my squad." His aura grew wilder, a wave of pressure blowing away some of the shingles. Kenzō shielded his eyes with his forearm. He could feel his body slide closer to the edge, being pushed by Zaraki's power. Complete darkness awaiting below. "You ain't ready for this." Zaraki said in disgust and swiped downward, releasing a tremendous blast of force, completely engulfing Kenzō, who's body split right down the middle before being blown apart in a blinding explosion.

...

Kenzō shot out of bed screaming, his hand reaching out trying to grab something, only for him to grasp the air in front of him. His body was coated in sweat, his breathing was heavy. He tried taking in deep gulps of air as he wiped the sweat from his forehead. He placed a hand on his chest, feeling his heart beat so hard that it seemed like it would burst out of his ribcage. The moonlight peered through the slits of his bedroom window, shining down onto his lieutenant's haori as it lay draped over a chair on the other side of the room. His eyes were glued to it as he recalled Zaraki's voice in his mind. "Am I ready to be captain?" Kenzō said in a low whisper as he laid back and closed his eyes. He focused on the sounds of crickets chirping to rock him to sleep, hoping his dreams would not haunt him again.

Part II: Sparring with the Lion

Location: 11th Division courtyard. The next morning.

The sky was partly cloudy that morning, clouds casting slow moving shadows across the courtyard from the partial blocked sun. It was routine for this squad to get up early every morning and begin weapons and hand-to-hand training. The courtyard was filled with several members of the squad paired up against one another. The air was filled with the sounds of practice swords striking one another and bodies hitting the floor from grapple moves. The members formed a large ring around the edge of the courtyard as they practiced, giving plenty of space for Lieutenant Kenzō who was sparring against 3rd Seat, Mari Tsunoda, and her brother, 4th Seat, Rock Tsunoda.

Mari's arm flew through the air, her fingers straight with her hand emulating a blade. She thrusted it towards Kenzō's head, who merely tilted his head and brought up his forearm to parry the attack. Kenzō followed up with a quick punch to her kidney after the parry had exposed her side. She winced in pain and hobbled a few steps to the side as Rock rushed forward with two jumping kicks. The lieutenant again parried the attacks, stepping back as he did so. Rock landed on his feet and the two paused for half a second, sizing each other up. In that split second, both fighters began running scenarios of what kind of attacks would follow. Rock was the first to attack, opting for a series of precisioned punches ending with a leaping knee strike. Kenzō's forearms absorbed the blows as he continued to step back, always leaving a gap between the two.

"Is everything alright, Lieutenant?" Rock said in the midst of his attacks.

Kenzō continued to block and parry the attacks, "Yes..." Kenzō docked a clothesline and sidestepped away from Rock, "...everything is fine." Rock spun around with a quick backhand, but Kenzō merely leaned back and allowed the attack to pass him. Kenzō brought up his leg and lunged a kick towards Rock's midsection. The force of the attack knocked Rock off his feet and fell directly on his back. "You should worry about yourself." Kenzō said with a smile and small chuckle.

"Less talking, more fighting." Mari said from behind Kenzō. She had appeared instantly in the air, he leg reared back before sending it towards Kenzō's head. Kenzō clasped her by the ankle barehanded and swung downward, plucking Mari out of the air and sending her crashing to the floor. She let out a slight groan as she hit the floor. "I'm not seeing much fighting from you." Kenzō said jokingly, still with that smile. He was interrupted by Rock's attempt to bearhug him. Kenzō flipped into the air as Rock went past him and once he landed on his feet, he came up from behind, wrapped his arms around Rock's stomach and lifted him off the ground. He arched his back and brought Rock over, slamming him on his shoulders, the ground splitting under him. Mari was again in the air, this time bringing her foot down where Kenzō was. He quickly rolled to the side, letting her foot strike the floor. She dropped low, sweeping her other leg as she balanced herself on her hands. Kenzō brought his own leg over, balancing himself similarly to her and the two engaged in a windmill of leg strikes that resembled breakdancing. Kenzō proved the better and knocked out her leg as he slid in closer, spinning around and hitting her with a strong heel kick that knocked her back.

Kenzō instinctually turned, lunging an open hand into the air. Suddenly, Rock blurred in the air with his fists over his head ready to come down. Kenzō immediately gripped him around the neck where he had launched his hand. Rock quickly brought his legs up and wrapped them around Kenzō's arm, his feet directly under the lieutenant's chin. Rock had trapped Kenzō's arm in a modified armbar, but Kenzō showed no signs of distress, as Rock's weight brought Kenzō's arm down while the 4th Seat had his back on the floor and the lieutenant was bent over still standing. "Not bad, Rock." Kenzō said, his free hand on Rock's leg, trying to figure out what to do.

Mari, her long messy brown hair tied back in a ponytail flowing in the air, let out a warcry as she launched a series of punches. Rock held the lieutenant in place while applying pressure on his arm, causing Kenzō to parry with his free hand. He managed to turn Rock to better dodge Mari's attack. She lunged another punch, but over extended. Kenzō leaned back as her fist went past his chest. Kenzō wrapped his arm around her neck, gripping her sleeveless uniform by the collar. He wrenched his arm back, whipping her into the air. She let out a yelp as she flew through the air, landing directly on her rear end.

Kenzō's head snapped to the side and set his sights on Rock. His smile was gone, his eyes casting a fierce gaze. He gripped Rock's neck tighter, his other hand gripping his leg. He lifted the 4th Seat with one arm, bringing Rock's massive frame up past Kenzō's shoulders and then slammed him back down to the ground. The ground cracked again, but Rock maintained his grip. Kenzō rose him once more and slammed him down another time. The ground cracked even more as it buckled inward. Kenzō could feel Rock's grip slipping and he picked him up, took a few steps, lept into the air and slammed him down one final time. The ground seemed to explode under Rock, pieces of the courtyard flying through the air. The rest of the squad instantly stopped their practices to see what had happened.

As the smoke cleared, Kenzō stood over Rock who laid motionless. Mari was rubbing her rear end as she walked over towards the two. Kenzō continued to stand there, Rock with his head tilted back and eyes closed. Suddenly, Rock coughed, slowly moving his limbs. Kenzō's face lightened, showing a small sign of relief. Rock brought his upper body up, tiny pieces of rock falling off his black hair. He massaged his neck, "Are you sure everything is alright?" asking the lieutenant with one eye open.

Kenzō merely smiled and extended his arm in an offer to help him up.

Part III: News from Squad 12

The emergency captains meeting had already run an hour and there didn't seem to be an end to Captain Hashimoto's explination of how the invaders had entered Soul Society. Kenmei Hashimoto, Captain of the 12th Division and President of the SDRI, had a way with words. If there was an overly complicated way of explaining things, Captain Hashimoto would choose that. He would get so excited that the words would just flow out of him. Captain Nobuyuki sat in the captain-commander's chair, eyes closed with that ever present smile on his face as he listened to Hashimoto intently. The other captains, though, merely stood there testing their patience.

Captain Satō and Captain Miura, the oldest captains under Captain Nobuyuki, also stood their with smiles, trying to be polite while Hashimoto went on about particle acceleration and separation, fluctuations in barometric pressure and so on and so forth. Captain Hikage stood motionless the whole time. His mask made it impossible to know what expression was on his face. Captain Miyazaki stared blankly at Hashimoto, lips pressed tightly together as if trying to contain the pressure in his head forming. Captain Hiraga and Captain Ryusaki stood there stoicly, indifferent to what Hashimoto was saying. Captain Kakyoku, the youngest of the captains, was busy entertaining herself with filling up her cheeks with air and quickly pushing an air bubble from one cheek to another.

Captain Hashimoto paused for a moment. He combed his brown scholarly hair with this fingers and fixed his glasses. Captain Miyazaki's eyes opened wide and leaned in closer, excitement building with the thought of the conversation being over. After a deep breath, Hashimoto went on with his conversation. Defeat instantly washed over Miyazak's face and deflated back to his spot. "Dammit", Miyazaki whispered quickly under his breath. Captain Miura, who stood at his left, let out a small giggle, which caused Hashimoto to pause again while the other captains stared at her. She quickly cleared her throat, slightly embarrassed, "Sorry. Please, do go on."

Looking around the room, Hashimoto assessed that he may have went on a bit longer than necessary. "After ariving at Captain Hikage's coordinates, I felt a slight shift in the atmosphere's pressure and the hint of ozone in the air. The cause most likely being a tear through dimensional walls. I assume that is how the perpetrator managed to enter Captain Matsunaga's land unnoticed."

Captain Yoshirō plucked at his mustache, eyes closed, trying to make sense of the new information. "If that is so, then can we assume the perpetrator can access any point in Soul Society?" The Acting Captain-Commander asked in his humble voice.

Captain Hashimoto fixed is glasses once more, something he did whenever he didn't have an immediate response. "I would have to run additional tests. If they were able to breach us this far, the likelyhood of an even closer breach is within the realm of possibility. Again, further tests are needed for a more definitive answer, Captain-Commander." The captain crossed his arms in front of his chest, tucking the hands under the sleeves of captain's haori.

"Very well, Captain Hashimoto. Captain Hiraga, what is the status of Captain Matsunaga?" The old captain turned his attention to the 4th Division's captain now.

Captain Hiraga turned his head to face the leading captain, his eyes covered by his black sunglasses. "The 6th Division captain should make a full recovery. My shikai's ability neutralized whatever toxin was inside his body. He should regain consciousness soon shortly." Captain Hiraga said flatly.

Captain Yoshirō smiled slightly, letting out a slight sigh of relief. "When Captain Matsunaga has rested, please check in with him and find out any details of his attacker and who we're facing." He leaned forward, lifting himself with his hands until he stood straight up. Although his age caused him to slightly hunch forward. "Captains, you will all continue your patrols and any unusual activity is to be reported back here immediately." All of the captains bowed in acknowledgement of their orders. "Dismissed." The Acting Captain-Commander said and began walking towards the doorway leading to his office, his feet slowly shuffling across the floor.

The remaining captains began walking towards the exit, Captain Hashimoto paused briefly to let Captain Miyazaki meet him. "Did I get carried away again?" The 12th Division captain whispered as the two walked together.

"No, no. It was great." The 3rd Division captain said sarcastically as he patted the other captain on the shoulder. "Don't think I could have said it better myself."

"You're just kidding with me." Hashimoto said slightly disappointed.

"Absolutely not. That part about particles shifting was so captivating... it felt like I was really there witnessing the shift." Captain Miyazaki said as the two walked down the hall and off in the distance.

Part IV: Lieutenants Meet

One would think that the difference between a meeting of elite captain's and elite lieutenants would be merely the title. This would not be the case.

A meeting of captains is well organized, structured and civil; each one being able to step forward and become the focal point when they are presenting an opinion or information, while the others remain silent out of respect. They are the figure-heads, the leaders of their respective squads, providing an example to their lieutenants and potential replacements if things fall apart. So, obviously, that is how lieutenant meetings are supposed to be run.

This could not be any further from the case. Lieutenant meetings are notorious for their shouting matches, disorganization and overall lack of structure. When walking through that sliding door into the small room, it wouldn't be surprising to find some lieutenants leaning up against the wall, laying on the floor, walking around and just about anything that involves sitting down at the one small wooden table in the center.

While the captains look to Captain Yoshirō as the leader, the lieutenants don't have such an equivalent in their organization. The obvious choice would be Kenzō Takeshi, 11th Division's lieutenant, as he possesses the most experience and power amongst them. But he splits his time between both captain and lieutenant meetings, making it difficult to lead every time. So instead it falls to Eiji Magurama, the second most seasoned member, a title contested by 13th Division's own lieutenant, Sōkaku Date.

Sōkaku is known for being a hot shot, approaching everything with overly dramatic words, speaking in such a manner that it almost seemed as though he were performing in theater. Even the way he walked, he carried himself in a way that seemed to be a performance, putting on a show for the lucky audience. Sōkaku grinned as he walked through the door running his fingers through his short blonde hair. He took in a deep breath, expecting to overwhelmed by the cheers of the other lieutenants. Instead, he was met with silence, broken up only with the sound of Kiku groaning as she rolled her eyes.

Eiji turned his head, scowling towards Sōkaku. "You're late." The lieutenant said sternly as he held a paper with the 13th Division's orders.

Sōkaku casually walked up to Eiji, the spear that is his zanpakutō casually resting on one shoulder as he held it in place with one hand. Sōkaku was also known for keeping his zanpakutō released most of the time, so it wasn't a surprise to see the cross-shaped spear. It was slightly intimidating to see, not only because of its appearance, but because Sōkaku is an exceptional combatant with it, training extensively with Captain Ojima. His ability to utilize it in combat is almost unparalled. He extended his hand towards the paper, "If you're important, people will wait for you." He said leaning forward with his nose slightly turned up and still grinning, snatched the paper quickly.

"So what's your excuse?" Shingo asked off in the distance as he laid on the floor with his eyes closed and arms crossed over his chest. His own zanpakutō laid flat next to him. This was probably one of the few times that his jokes actually generated a laugh from some of the lieutenants.

The sound of laughter was broken by a sudden slam of hands against the table. That alone was enough to cause the ground to tremble. Immediately, everyone fell silent, their eyes turning to face Eiji. His red eyes burned hot as he stared at the lieutenants. "Do you think its funny that Captain Matsunaga and Lieutenant Tanaka are in the hospital? That we're being attacked? Is there something funny about that?" Eiji fiercly stated. "I don't know about you, but I'm not taking this lightly. We're lieutenants. Act like it!" He exclaimed, his voice growing louder with each word.

The room was uncomfortably quiet now as Eiji sorted through the papers in front of him. Eiji was known to be a humble man, almost never showing signs of anger. So for him to be like this, the other lieutenants knew that is must be something serious. "We're to begin doubling our patrols. If you spot any suspicious activity, you are report back to headquarters immediately. You are not to engage any combatants on your own."

"Why not? The Captains think we can't fight?" Sōkaku asked as he leaned back against his chair.

Satuski Yukino, 10th Division's lieutenant, shot forward, her braided hair swinging, concern washing over her face. "The 6th Division lost their lieutenant AND captain! Whoever they are, they're strong enough to take out one of strongest captains!" she squeeled.

Sōkaku merely grinned, closing his eyes once more. "Well maybe we need some new blood."

Kiku sighed loudly, "There you go again, thinking you're good enough to be a captain."

"My dear, I AM good enough to be a captain." Sōkaku said, letting the words roll off his tongue as he winked towards the attractive ninth division lieutenant. She reciprocated by rolling her eyes and looking away.

"The only person good enough to be a captain is Kenzō and you all know that." Shingo said from off in the distance, still lying on the floor.

Eiji lowered his head slightly, which Kiku noticed the faint depression in his expression. He had always thought that one day he would be captain, but Kenzō was always the frontrunner. Kenzō excelled at strategy, planning, leadership and combat. Several of the lieutenants have sparred against Kenzō, some more serious than others, but the 11th Division lieutenant has always beaten them. In fact, since the Academy days, Kenzō has never been defeated, earning him the nickname, The Undefeated Lion. So it didn't come as a surprise that Shingo would mention Kenzō as being the next captain. Kiku went to reach out her hand but was interrupted by another visitor.

Hachiro Yamada, a scruffy older looking man wearing the traditional attire of a lieutenant, stepped through the doorway. He reached up with his hand, tilting his straw hat up to uncover his face. "Now, now, you're all good candidates for captaincy. You just have to not waste time talking about it." He said in a humble tone while scratching the stubble on his chin.

The rest of the room fell silent as he gracefully walked around the table. Almost instantly, Shingo sprung to his feet and stood at attention in unison with the others. Even though he wore the clothes of a lieutenant, he was far from it. In fact, Hachiro Yamada was a Combat Instructor at the Shino Academy who was personally trained by Captain Yoshirō and Captain Satō. It was only because of a request from the acting captain-commander that he donned the uniform and acted as the 1st Divsion's lieutenant. So the other lieutenants weren't yet used to seeing him walking among them.

"I assume everyone has their orders?" Hachiro asked softly as he scanned the room. Without hesitation the other lieutenants nodded, including Sōkaku. "How about we focus more on that instead of who's going to be the next captain." He smiled again with that humble air around him. It's almost misleading at how much power truly resides within this old man. Hachiro casually knocked on the table, "So let's get to it, kids." The others bowed quickly and rushed out of the office but before Eiji and Sōkaku cleared the doorway Hachiro called out to them. The two lieutenants turned back, facing Hachiro who was walking towards them. "Change of plans for you two." Eiji and Sōkaku merely looked back confused. "I want both of you to patrol together on the west side."

Immediatey both lieutenants groaned almost like children being punished. "But, Senpai..." Eiji quickly tried to speak.

"No buts, Eiji. You two are equally powerful, but you let your egos get in the way of your true potential. Maybe working together will teach you humility." Hachiro said sternly as he placed a hand on each other's shoulder. "I have no doubt that with your skills, you two could very well become a fiercesome force."

Sōkaku rolled his eyes as he grinned. "A star as myself can't shine if he needs to share the stage."

Eiji shot back, "See? That's why you're not good enough to be captain. You don't know how to work as a team." Eiji couldn't hide his frustration with the 13th Division lieutenant.

"Then its your job to teach him that, Eiji." Hachiro quickly stated, slightly squeezing Eiji on the shoulder to remind him to calm down. "These are my orders to both of you and I won't be questioned about my reasoning."

Eiji accepted with a sigh. "Very well, Senpai." He said defeated as he lowered his head.

Sōkaku merely chuckled and wrapped his arm around Eiji's neck, "Don't worry, Senpai. I'll make sure Eiji doesn't get himself into too much trouble. And if things get tough, he has me to get him out of it." And began rubbing Eiji's head with his knuckles. Eiji quickly pushed him off and was about to take a swing at him before realizing Hachiro was still standing there. Instead, Sōkaku sprinted out the door with Eiji following. Hachiro sighed as he witnessed his two best lieutenants acting like children.

Part V: Small Wounds

Back in the Sōgō Kyūgo Tsumesho (綜合救護詰所, The Coordinated Relief Station), Shingo was already up and flirting with one of the nurses within the 4th Division. He was only wearing his black hakama, revealing his lean but toned chest and his bandaged abdomen. As usual, she was not reciprocating his gestures, but that didn't stop him from trying. Captain Ojima merely smirked as he continued wrapping a bandange around his cut arm. The captain's wounds were minor and didn't require as immediate of attention as Captain Matsunaga and Lieutenant Tanaka.

As Captain Ojima continued tending to his own wounds, a very tall and large shinigami had cast a shadow over him. He held out a tray with several new bandages and small jars with assorted ointments and disinfectants. The captain tilted his head up to see this towering juggernaut.

Lieutenant Daisuke Sasaki looked down at Ojima through his black sunglasses. "Do you require assistance, Captain Ojima?" He asked with a surprisingly soft voice.

Captain Ojima shook his head slightly and responded with an equally soft tone. "No, thank you, Lieutenant Sasaki. I can handle this on my own."

Just then Captain Hiraga walked into the room looking straight at Captain Ojima. He didn't say a word. Instead, he continued to look for a moment as if something was on his mind, but chose to keep it to himself. "Sasaki, help me tend to Captain Matsunaga. Captain Ojima, if you're able, I would suggest you head to see the Captain Commander and report back to him." His voice was flat as it carried across the room towards the two. Daisuke placed the tray on a nearby table and began to head towards the hall with his captain. Ojima lifted himself off his bed and gathered his belongings before heading out.

Even before Captain Hiraga and Lieutenant Sasaki entered the room, Captain Matsunaga was struggling to get up to his face, supporting himself with one hand on his bed and the other on a walking cane. The lieutenant immediately ran up to the injured captain and placed a hand on Masahiro's chest to hold him up. With Daisuke's size, the 6th Division captain appeared like a small child in his hands. "I'm fine. I don't need any assistance." Captain Matsunaga said trying to free himself from the lieutenant's grip.

Captain Hiraga walked up to the silver haired captain holding one hand up, gesturing to the lieutenant to allow the captain to stand up on his own. "You're not well enough to return to active duty, Captain Matsunaga."

"Like I said, I'm fine, Captain Hiraga." He finally managed to stand up straight, though he was still weak enough that he required the support of his walking cane. The poison that he was inflicted with had been removed thanks to the healing properties of Hiraga's Zanpakutō, but there was lingering weakness that hadn't subsided yet.

Off in the distance, the shinigami could hear the sounds of struggling and several nurses trying to restrain something that was quickly approaching their room.

"Let me go. I have to see my Captain!" The male voice exclaimed in agitation. Captain Masahiro easily recognized his lieutenant's voice.

"Lieutenant Tanaka, please, you are not well enough to be out of bed." A nurse said to no effect as the lieutenant burst into the room.

"Captain Matsunaga, you are alright!" Lieutenant Tanaka said relieved. From head to toe, he was wrapped in white bandages like a mummy. Several strands had come undone as he fought his way to his captain's room, his face partially wrapped at his forehead and over his left eye. His pale pink hair hung in patches that flowed from the seams of his bandages. Lieutenant Tanaka ran up to his captain, placing his arm on Masahiro's shoulder while examining his condition.

Captain Matsunaga plainly pushed his lieutenants hand off of him. "Tanaka, please. I am not some mere cadet." The captain once again raised himself, this time showing defiance against his body's weakness. He stood straight and unflinching. "I am a captain of the Gotei 13." Without the assistance of his cane, Masahiro gracefully walked across the room to collect his belongings. "Tanaka, you know better than to go out on your own. I've trained you to be better than this."

"Captain Matsunaga, I had to find out what had happened to you." Lieutenant Tanaka defended himself.

"Then you leave that to Captain Fujibayashi and his team. We are the 6th Division. We have a responsibility to be model shinigami. We cannot be running off because we let our emotions compromise our duties." Masahiro spoke sternly to his lieutenant who shrunk under his captain's words. Masahiro grabbed his captain's haori and examined the bullet hole in it. He paused for a few moments, lost in his own thoughts before turning his head slightly towards Tanaka. "I heard you fought against two Arrancar."

"Yes, Captain." Tanaka responded sheepishly.

"And you fought and defeated both of them without assistance?" Masahiro said flatly.

"Yes, Captain." Tanaka responded in the same previous manner.

Masahiro paused once more. "Good." This was the captain's subtle way of showing acceptance of his lieutenant's work without showing emotion. Tanaka, at least, could rest assured that he was not entirely in trouble with his captain.

<-- Previously in Something Wicked This Way Comes

Continued in Behind Enemy Lines -->

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