Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach
AN: Apologies for the delay. I've...stalled out here. I'm still writing, but I can't get the muse to cooperate. That's why this chapter is so short...it didn't want to be put down, and this is the result.
As such, I can't make any guarantee when the next chapter will be.
Byakuya Kuchiki was a calm man. Very few things got under his skin, and even fewer deserved any sort of reaction from him. So for him to be inwardly cursing his luck, it took something extreme. Such as Ichigo and Ayumi getting into a battle before he had the slightest chance to contact the rescue team. Knocking off the strongest fighters in Squad 11 beneath its annoying Lieutenant was not being stealthy. Ichigo had promised that he was capable of discretion, and Byakuya had foolishly believed him. He had come to trust the younger Shinigami- he had to, considering the man was married to his sister. And he had believed that Ichigo could manage to be cautious.
That belief had proven to be false.
"Ichigo Shiba has brought Ryoka into the Soul Society?" Soi-Fon growled, her eyes narrowing as she looked ready to jump from her spot in the line of Captains.
"According to Ikkaku, yeah," Kenpachi drawled, "Didn't think the kid had it in him. I want to fight him...he made Yumichika look like a pansy."
"Now hold on," Ukitake protested, "I am sure Ichigo has a good reason. Did Ikkaku not claim the woman he brought with him was his sister? Is it possible that Isshin is still alive somewhere? Maybe Ichigo was bringing his sister to explain that."
That will not work.
Byakuya could respect his colleague for his quick defense of Ichigo and for coming up with an excuse so swiftly. That did not, however, mean he expected it to work. Not least because revealing Isshin was an iffy proposition. Aizen likely knew he was alive, but the same was not true for the other Captains.
"Ol' Isshin?" Gin asked, tilting his head, "Thought he died years ago."
"Indeed," Byakuya added, well-aware he had to play a role.
"As we all did. But Ichigo has never been a liar, and the report did mention the Ryoka had the same hair as he does."
Aizen coughed lightly, "Did the same report not mention that she was the Substitute? If Ichigo had no interaction with the Substitute as his report claimed, why then would he then claim the Substitute as his sister?"
"I am sure he had his reasons," Ukitake protested.
"Perhaps, but it does seem odd. Could he not come here to explain himself?"
Just as he had a grudging respect for Ukitake's attempts, Byakuya had a more grudging respect for Aizen. The man was maneuvering himself into a dominate position in the debate, with the skill of a master manipulator.
"He was attacked by two officers, one of his own rank."
"It was his 'sister' who was attacked, he merely defended her."
Before the argument could progress further, Yammamoto slammed his staff into the ground cutting it off. All heads turned to the Head-Captain, who looked much the same as ever. Maybe with a slight bit of frustration.
"Regardless of his reasoning or relation to the Ryoka, it is clear that Ichigo Shiba is attempting to rescue the prisoner. As such, Rukia Shiba will be moved to the Repentance Cell, for her own protection. Captain Kuchiki!"
"Yes?" Byakuya asked smoothly, inwardly cursing his luck and accelerating the backup plans.
"You and Lieutenant Abarai will escort the prisoner to her cell."
The Head-Captain nodded in response, and turned to the rest of the Captains, "Captains Soi-Fon and Zaraki will lead the response forces. We have three targets. Ichigo Shiba and the Substitute Ryoka, Kaien Shiba, and two unidentified Ryoka."
"This information comes from?" Captain Kommamura questioned.
"The guard of the West Rukongai gate," Tosen answered, "I interrogated him the moment I felt the reiatsu of the Ryoka."
A nod came from the metal helmet, "Very well."
"You have your duties. We must capture or eliminate the Ryoka."
And with that final statement, the Head-Captain crashed his staff into the ground again. The Captains nodded in response, and filtered out of the meeting room. Most went their own ways, though Tosen and Aizen stayed together as they left. The same went for the 'counter-conspiracy' Captains...Byakuya, Ukitake and Kyoraku. They moved to a secluded area, and began discussing the backup plans. Plans that had to be accelerated, as the infiltration had failed.
"We have to get Rukia out fast," Ukitake began.
"You've got that right," Kyoraku grimaced, "Didn't expect the fighting to start so soon. Aizen can wait for now."
"I will have little trouble removing Rukia," Byakuya added, "I will not, however, be able to keep her hidden for long. If what Shiba and Urahara have said about Aizen's power is true."
"And we don't have a way to contact the teams. Man...this isn't going according to plan."
Ukitake merely ran a hand through his long hair, "I had wanted to avoid this. Is the base under the hill prepared?"
"Good...okay, I will attempt to contact Kaien. Shunsui? Can you find Mr. Ishida?"
Kyoraku shrugged, "Sure, given enough time. I'd have to beat Mayuri though...he's going to be like a moth to a flame with a Quincy."
"Especially after Ichigo retrieved Soken...yes, that is a problem," Ukitake sighed softly.
"There is nothing to be done," Byakuya began walking away, "I will retrieve Rukia. We must move quickly. Lieutenant Ise will need to find the evidence for Central 46."
The 'evidence' being the corpses of the council, as that was what the Captains assumed had happened by now. If Ichigo's story were any indication, Central 46 would have long ago been killed by Aizen by this point in time. This may not be true...the timeline may have changed to some extent. But it was the only chance they had of exposing the traitors, short of them doing it themselves. And taking Rukia may very well succeed in doing that...again, if Ichigo were to be believed. Aizen, once he had the Hōgyoku, would have no reason to hide his true intentions.
But relying on that was something that not one of the Captains condoned. There was too much risk to Rukia in that plan.
"Be careful Byakuya," Ukitake cautioned his friend, "We don't know how carefully Aizen is watching the situation."
The Kuchiki head merely turned to look back, his face an unreadable mask, "I am aware."
With that, he vanished in his infamous shunpo, leaving the elder Captains behind. To figure out how to salvage a situation that was rapidly rushing out of their control.
Near Squad 12
"Willing to bet that we're going to have to fight soon?"
"That's a fools bet, and you know it!"
"Killjoy. A good fight can get the blood rushing y'know."
"I thought you were an assassin, not a member of Squad 11."
Laughter came from a form that would have most people, shinigami or otherwise, questioning their sanity. Namely, an average black cat sitting atop the shoulder of the black-haired Kaien Shiba. The Lieutenant had a scowl on his face more reminiscent of his nearly identical cousin than his typical smile. Not that one could blame him, considering he had to put up with the cat...Yoruichi Shihōin in disguise. He wondered how Urahara dealt with this on a daily basis really...Yoruichi was even more immature than he was! Really, she had suggested using her transformation to distract guards...casually mentioning she'd be nude as a result.
That wasn't something he wanted to see. Kaien was many things, but a pervert was not one of them.
And in any case, they had more important things to worry about. Namely, the fact both of them had also felt the battle. And since both of them were highly experienced shinigami- Yoruichi admittedly moreso than Kaien -they both knew that the gig was up, so to speak. Hence the reason that they were currently holed up in an old warehouse, waiting for the sun to set.
"Maybe so, but I've always enjoyed a good duel," Yoruichi said, once she had finished laughing.
"I prefer sparring myself," Kaien countered.
"Hmm...good point. We'll need to spar once we're done here. Kūkaku swears you could give Isshin a run for his money."
The Lieutenant snorted, "While I appreciate my sister's confidence in me, I'm not that good."
"Perhaps. But you will have to be, if we are to rescue Rukia."
The pair lapsed into silence after that, just watching the sun set through the barred windows of the warehouse. For all that her personality could be annoying, Kaien found that he liked Yoruichi. She was playful and arrogant, but kind at the same time. In a way, it reminded him of a wilder Miyako.
Well, perhaps not quite that. But regardless, he could admit to finding the disguised shinigami's company enjoyable. That being said, they couldn't stay in the warehouse forever. The two of them were the distraction force for a reason. Kaien, being the second-highest ranking shinigami in Squad 13 would be considered a bigger threat than Ichigo- who had done a very good job of hiding his abilities. Even if it required getting into a fight, his job was to keep attention off the others. Yoruichi was a help in that regard...if he encountered someone he couldn't defeat, she would jump in.
"We should probably get going," Kaien finally said, once the sun had fully set.
"After you Kaien-kun," Yoruichi replied, pointing her tail at the door and inwardly grinning at the Lieutenant's deadpan expression.
Shaking his head in mock annoyance, the Lieutenant did just that. Kaien looked around the area, turquoise eyes scanning the surroundings for any sign of patrols. While he heard the sound of shinigami walking in the distance, their own little area was relatively clear.
"Looks clear to me."
"Good. Let's get going while the going is good," the cat replied, jumping back onto Kaien's shoulder, "Don't want to run into Mayuri. He creeps me out. Don't know what Kisuke was thinking."
"That makes two of us."
Yoruichi laughed, "It is fun to laugh at Kisuke isn't it?"
"For a genius, he lacks common sense."
As the two vanished into the night, they both shared a laugh at Kiuske's expense.
Renji Abarai cursed under his breath, as he ran to Rukia's cell. He had received the message from Byakuya the moment that the Captains meeting was over. The message that his best friend was going to be moved to the Repentance Cell...far ahead of schedule. Ichigo and his sister had spooked the Captains, and it was not a good thing by any means. The plan had been to have Ichigo break into the barracks and run with Rukia. Aizen would go after them- and by extension the one person with the power to possibly counter him that wasn't under Kyoka Suigetsu's influence -while the conspiracy was exposed. Now they had to go for the backup plan.
Namely, him and his Captain breaking the girl out. It was lucky that the Head-Captain had decided they would be the ones to take Rukia to her new cell. By doing so, he had given them the perfect excuse to be near her without other guards. That would allow Renji and Byakuya to grab Rukia from under their noses and spirit her away to the training ground under the Hill. The place was lined with Seki-Seki and very well hidden...no one would find them quickly. So long as they could stay there long enough for Aizen to be exposed...
This is too damn risky. Damn it...Rukia, I won't let them get you...
Renji sighed heavily, as he pulled open the sliding door to the brig. Rukia was sitting in her cell, staring out the window as that kid from Squad 4 squeaked and scampered out of the room when the Lieutenant glared at him.
"What are you doing here Renji?" Rukia asked, a dead tone to her voice...acting out her part.
"We've received orders to transfer you to the Repentance Cell," the redhead answered, not letting worry show in his voice, "Because that idiot husband of yours is trying to break you out."
"Ichigo?" Rukia asked, shock leaking into her voice.
What went unspoken, was the rest of the question...Ichigo got caught?
"He's still out there, but that's why we're moving you," Renji continued, "Just waiting on Captain Kuchiki to arrive."
"I would have thought he would have at least visited first," Rukia mock-complained.
The Lieutenant just laughed, "Ichigo always was hotheaded."
"And you aren't Renji?"
An eyetwitch was the answer to that, "Watch it Rukia."
"Oh why? Will you hurt me? Prisoner abuse is against the law you know."
I see she gave up on the dead voice. Two can play at that game Rukia!
"What about abuse of the guard? That poor kid seemed like you had been beating him."
Rukia's eyes narrowed, "What was that?"
"Oh nothing at all," Renji answered slyly, "Just that he seemed scared of my shadow."
The petite woman in the cell glared at her friend, and growled softly. Renji didn't back up though...it was fun teasing Rukia like this. She always had the best reactions, and he didn't get to do it often enough. Of course, he probably should have thought about the fact he was going to be hiding out with her under the Hill for the foreseeable future before he did so. But this being Renji, he didn't think much of the future. Instead, he merely enjoyed the look of quiet fury on his friend's face. Thinking that she couldn't do anything to him.
For her part, Rukia remembered the plan. She knew that Renji was going to be stuck with her and her brother for who knew how long. And she was going to enjoy getting back at the redhead for this. Especially since she knew he thought he was safe from retribution.
"Hanataro is just a bit skittish," Rukia ground out.
"More than a bit," the Lieutenant replied.
"Maybe, but it certainly isn't my fault!" she replied, "Now, are you getting me out of here or not?"
Before Renji could come up with some sort of snide comment, Byakuya arrived. The Captain sent a cool eye over both his subordinate and sister, getting both of them to snap to attention. Only Ichigo was immune to that stare, and it showed.
"Are you two finished?" the Captain asked smoothly.
"Yes nii-sama!" Rukia replied quickly.
"Of course Captain!" Renji replied just as quickly.
Byakuya inclined his head slightly, "Hmm. Come, we must transfer the prisoner to her new cell."
As Renji moved to open Rukia's cell, he shuddered inwardly. He had forgotten just how scary Byakuya Kuchiki could be if he wanted to. The man was at least indifferent to somewhat nice most of the time in private. But when the man wanted to be the harsh Kuchiki Head...
Shaking his head slightly, the Lieutenant opened the cell door and tugged Rukia out. The smaller woman gave him a half-hearted glare, but didn't bother resisting. She knew the plan well enough.
The pair of younger shinigami followed the Captain as he lead them out of the barracks. The other members of the Squad tended to scatter, as Byakuya had a frosty look for anyone in his way. With good reason...the sooner they had left, the better. There was too much risk of Aizen, Gin or Tosen deciding to 'help' escort Rukia. They couldn't afford that, and Byakuya knew that.
In point of fact, the moment they were clear of the barracks, he turned to look at his sister.
"Take my hand Rukia. Renji, find Shiba."
"Yes sir," Renji replied, before vanishing in a shunpo.
Rukia watched him go with a worried expression, "Will he be okay?"
Byakuya merely nodded, "Yes. Renji has been training harder than anyone. Now, take my hand."
As she grabbed her brother's hand, Rukia felt herself pulled into a shunpo faster than any she could manage. It wasn't quite at Ichigo's level, but her husband was easily the fastest person she knew. To say she was shocked senseless would be an understatement. Watching the world spin past her face while she clutched Byakuya's hand for dear life was not a fun experience, and certainly not one she ever wanted to repeat. Forcing herself to focus, Rukia watched their surroundings better. They had passed out of the main Seireitei, and were quickly approaching the Hill at the center of the city.
Not one shinigami had accosted them, which was something of a miracle. Few could see Byakuya when he went full speed. Those few were the other Captains, and a couple powerful Lieutenants- notably, Kaien and Renji -and none of them were nearby. Ichigo's raid had at least drawn attention away from the paths Byakuya had long ago scouted out. This allowed him to reach the Hill unnoticed.
"You may let go Rukia."
The smooth voice broke through Rukia's thoughts, as she realized they were standing in front of a wooden door.
"We're already here?" she asked before she could stop herself.
"Indeed," Byakuya answered, an eyebrow climbing slightly, "You recognize this?"
"Of course, this is where...Ichigo didn't tell you about Grimmjow?"
The eyebrow went higher, "No."
Byakuya merely held up a hand, "Later. We must get inside before Aizen notices you are missing."
Rukia didn't argue the point. Even if she was not looking forward to explaining to her brother about the fact they had an Arrancar on their side...
AN: As above, not really satisfied here. At least we're getting more changes from canon and a little comedy bit with Kaien and Yoruichi.
Hopefully I can update soon but...I just don't know. Depends on if the muse cooperates, since I don't want to sacrifice quality if I can avoid it.