A/N: Sooooo, it's been awhile...sorry. Life got crazy, and if any of you stalk my tumblr or read some of my other fics/comments, you'll know that I am currently in Japan. For a year. So yeah. Fun stuff. Hit me up on tumblr if you want to practice Japanese although my only promise is up to the intermediate level cuz that's where I'm at.
As always, this chapter wouldn't be nearly as good without Isame Kuroda's assistance!
Revised as of 4/11/2018 with thanks to BloodyCoreofHope and jcampbellohten called me out on accidentally using "Kenny" instead of "Ken-chan"! I really appreciate your hard work! Any remaining mistakes are my own.
"Report." Unohana commanded, attention on her minions.
"Hints dropped to random kids who know of them, at least. Don't think anyone really knows them at school, and judging by the conversations I've interrupted all the other students are pretty curious as to what's actually gone on with our favorite four," Matsumoto said, sprawled lazily across her chair. It wasn't like there was much paperwork to submit for this project, and even through this whole mission was a favor and wasn't gaining her money or sake, the woman was clearly glad for the lack of formal organization in this particular endeavor. At this point, she'd give sake to the people - or even do the paper work for - someone to help deal with the stupid rumors going around the unseated and higher seated members of all the divisions. Just because she was drunk at the end of a night out with Hisagi and Kira, or other people (Iba was an amazing drinking partner), didn't mean didn't hear what people were saying. "Abandoning their duty to Soul Society" her perfect ass...
"Thank you, Matsumoto-fukutaichou."
She shrugged. "Bit concerning that the kids aren't closer to more people, but then again, maybe not. Orihime-chan is amazing, but given the school, I'm sure there weren't a lot of people to appreciate her now, as she's grown a lot...and I can't see the Quincy being close to anyone – too prickly. Not sure how all of that will affect things," Matsumoto adds, frowning. "I mean, I knew that before we started this, since it part was in our initial briefing from Urahara, but aren't people supposed to have a larger support base? Isn't that healthier?"
Kenpachi gave a disbelieving snort. "Not everyone's a social butterfly like you."
Matsumoto rolled her eyes. "From the person who constantly gets trailed after by his division like a mother duck and her ducklings when in battle, I don't think that's an insult."
"Enough." Unohana says, a dark hint to her voice. If those two started again, nothing will get done, even if it is amusing to see her successor to a history of bloodlust and battle rage do something as mundane and human as worry.
The two quailed. Unohana allowed the ice to fade, and they relax, somewhat. It's good to see that the friendship and comradery was still strong among the remaining Gotei 13 captains and vice-captains, but there was a time and there was a place for such things. Now, in Urahara's training ground, going over the results of stage one, was neither the time nor the place...
"Ah, yes. The hostage is secured and remains unconscious. It is likely he has a concussion from the initial contact, but given the situation, we've opted to keep him sedated for the moment and monitor him with kidou. It was deemed between Urahara and myself, Taichou, that using the memory modifier was too risky, when you consider that we need him to remember the events clearly for him to play his part in the mission."
Unohana nodded. "Wonderful. It seems that we are on track for Stage Two to begin next week.
"Kenpachi, you did as requested?"
"Yeah, met with one of their human friends, beat her up a bit, but she'll remember my face."
Unohana nods in approval, smiling still. Kenpachi had neglected to add for his fellow minion's benefit that he had needed assistance finding the location of the match, thus necessitating Yamada-kun to be the sole medic as contact for the hostage. Tessai-san is, of course, quite accomplished at kidou, but there is a difference between 'being accomplished' and 'specializing.' In healing kidou, and that difference could be very significant.
Not so much for battle triage, but there was no need for that, right now, and this is a human boy. A subtler, more knowledgeable touch was needed, and Yamada-kun had greater experience (at least, Unohana hopes that he has, knowing Urahara Kisuke as she does) with both Kurosaki and his friends, for all that he's been a lower-ranked seated officer for quite some time. Unohana would have to work on getting him a promotion. There weren't nearly enough adventurous healers since some of that stupid propaganda the corrupt Central 46 put out that dissuaded sensible ideas like that.
What Unohana didn't know was that, for a human girl, she didn't go down easily. Sure, she didn't have a sword, but she had enough intent behind every single move to bruise him, and if he failed to dodge, possibly break a bone or two. She probably would've broken her hand, or foot, but she's friends with the Healer. It wouldn't be too bad.
(That was to say, the slip of a human girl impressed him and something in Kenpachi was glad to have met the annoying ryoka boy who might act as a protector, but also knows others of his ilk. And maybe, somewhere, Kenpachi was willing to acknowledge that there's a sliver of his own heart which beat to the same tempo as Kurosaki Ichigo's – when it comes to protecting and caring for Yachiru, if not the rest of his squad, at least.)
Addressing the group as a whole, Unohana spoke, "We shall return in six days to prepare for the confrontation the day after. You know your parts."
"Yeah, yeah, I got it."
Unohana grinned. She really had forgotten how fun plots and manipulations like these can be.
"Good. And bring some trustworthy underlings to bulk up the masses."
Judging by Kenpachi's grunt, Unohana assumed that she would be seeing the entirety of the Eleventh Division in six days. That would do very nicely.
The disappearance of Yamada Hideki was noticed first by his girlfriend, Kawamura Aoi. He was supposed to call her when he got back from basketball practice, but he hadn't. She knew practice didn't end late, and the team didn't go out for food or to a party afterwards either, because she called one of her friends on the team.
"Last I saw of him, he was heading home. He kept complaining that he needed to work on perfecting his shots, but he really needed to study for that Japanese history test we have coming up. I'll let you know if I hear from him, though, and I'll call Aki and see if he's gone over to his house to study or not."
"Thanks, Kou-kun. I'll try Hideki-kun's parents next and let you know if they've seen him."
She called the Yamadas, but no one picked up the home phone. It wasn't unusual for such a thing to occur, as much as it was bad luck, seeing as both parents worked. Although normally Hideki-kun's mother was usually home around now, she was also prone to shopping for dinner supplies around this time.
Hideki was never one to pick up the home phone, being far too absorbed in his music and studying to pay attention to anything on the outside world unless his stomach grumbled or his mother called for him.
Aoi opted to stop by the Yamada residence instead of filling their voice mail with calls.
"Ah, Hi-kun? He isn't in his room? The door's closed and everything..." Mrs. Yamada muttered to herself, before calling up the stairs, "HI-KUN! COME DOWN HERE, PLEASE!"
When no reply comes, the two women exchanged concerned looks.
Placing her hand under her chin thoughtful, Mrs. Yamada muttered, "I'll go check. Maybe he fell asleep or is listening to music while he's doing his homework, again."
"Thanks, Mrs. Yamada. it's just… Well, I have a bad feeling about all this..."
"Don't worry. Here, come on up with me and we can both give him a scolding for making us worry like that."
"Alright," she tried to muster up a smile.
There's no foot tapping as they climb, none of the gentle pulse that always accompanies Hideki whenever he listens to music. It's going to kill his hearing, one day, she knew, but she couldn't bring herself to care about it right now.
He claimed it gave him a better reason to ignore teachers when they call on him and he doesn't know the answer, or is sleeping in class.
Mrs. Yamada knocks on the door. "Hi-kun? I hope you're decent!" She calls, before opening the door and continuing the rant. "Honestly, it's nearly dinner, I know you had practice, but you're going to ruin your sleep schedule if you...!"
"Hello," the tiny child on Hideki's bed says, eyes bright beneath pink hair. "Hideki-kun isn't available right now. Boss needs him to pass on a message."
"What- who- where are your parents?!"
The child giggles. "Yachiru doesn't have parents. She has Ken-chan! And Boss is kinda like a grandma or aunt, and Strawberry! Well, Yachiru had Strawberry, and now Boss is going to get him back, along with his friends!" She finishes that proclamation with a laugh and claps her hands in excitement, before growing eerily still.
"Now, you're not going to interrupt the plans, right? Boss has been working really hard, and so has Yachiru and Ken-chan and everyone else. Hideki-kun will be back, just as soon as Boss gets her four runaways back! Boss is so nice, only taking one person for four people!"
The girl switched the subject of her stare away from Hideki's mother to focus on Aoi, who froze from the growing fear it pumped through her veins.
"Be sure to tell Strawberry that, okay?" The voice of a little girl shouldn't be able to sound so threatening, but it did.
It took all her energy just to nod in reply.
"Good! See you soon!" And with that, the child bounced out the open window, over to the neighbor's roof, where she quickly disappears from view using a series of similarly impossible jumps.
Mrs. Yamada sobbed, finally realizing what happened to her son.
Aoi slowly reached for her phone, and started calling the members of the girl's Karate team, since she didn't have Kurosaki Ichigo's number, or that of any of the rest of his group, herself. After all, there were only so many people in Karakura that would respond to such a name and be associated with these kinds of people.
And that's the end of chapter 10. Aka: things are slowly coming to light. And things are probably going to start exploding soon (this is Bleach after all).
Please leave a review! (And I swear I'm getting on with the replies. Promise!)
Also, next chapter should be out soon - it's currently with my amazing and wonderful beta's!