"Sealed in Mt. Tenkou"
I don't own Bleach but I do own the story in this fic and things that are non-Bleach. All the name of places, historical events and other things mentioned which you don't seem to know IRL, are products of my imagination. Any similarities with the actual thing are purely coincidental.
From Previous Chapter:
"Are we going inside the cave?" She asked.
"That's just a façade." Hitsugaya said darkly.
And a façade it really was. The moment the white-haired devil's foot touched the entrance of the cave…the forest, the mountain, and the sky disappeared. Hinamori found themselves standing on nothing but pitch blackness.
"What's going on?" She gasped and grabbed the boy's arm.
"Sssssssh. Just wait." Hitsugaya replied.
Without a second sooner, red markings started appearing in front of them. It glowed a bloody red light. It seemed to be the only visible thing in the nothingness aside from the white-haired boy and her. She felt a creepy wave of reiatsu enveloping them as something large emerged from the light.
A double door, as huge as a three-story building became evident before them. Its frame was adorned with skulls and grotesque etchings. The two handles of the door consists of knobs with some kind of a beast's face with horns and long fangs. Its eyes glowed in the same shade of menacing red.
"Wha…what is that?" Hinamori squirmed behind the boy.
Hitsugaya huffed. "The entrance to that place called hell." No place like home. He thought.
Chapter Four: "Rukongai"
Hinamori tried to move her body and groaned as pain jabbed somewhere on her ribs area. What just happened? She thought as she eased herself up, only to find that she somehow fell on top of a wooden seat which probably left a bruise on the right side of her body. She reached for the nearest thing she can lean on and was surprised when her hand touched water. She jerked up despite the throbbing pain and realized that she was riding a boat.
"W—where?" She blinked.
"That was quite a fall." A familiar voice said with a taunting snicker. "But like what I said…I wouldn't care any less whatever happens to you as long as you are alive and with me."
Hinamori set her mouth in a grim line. "You could have at least warned me!"
"Now why would I bother?" Hitsugaya scoffed. "You wished for this, you deal with it."
"I didn't wish to be suddenly pushed into an unknown vortex of blood!" She pouted.
Indeed, the moment the huge doors opened before them back in the cave, the white-haired boy suddenly pushed her inside which caused her to tumble into a swirling vortex of what looked like a pool of blood. She felt herself being pulled down and even thought she might have swallowed some of the horrifying liquid, but strangely enough after all the havoc, she found herself falling on something and hitting its hard frame. She was not even wet. Her clothes were dry and weren't even tainted with a single stain of blood.
"Well…what do you want me to say? Hold your breath and plunge in?" The white-haired boy smirked. "Like any human will just do that."
"What is that thing anyway!" She asked exasperatingly.
Hitsugaya smiled darkly. "The welcome committee."
He lightly chuckled. If this girl was going to react like this every time she encountered something out of the ordinary, then it might not be that bad having her around. She could entertain him this way. "It is something that invigorates our kind. Blood excites our well-being. That swirling vortex reminds us that we are nearly home. Mind you that this is not the human world any longer." He shot her a dark shuddering glance. "This is hell."
"Hell?" She blinked up to him, and then glanced around her. "This is hell? We're already here?"
"In the outermost region…yes." He replied.
"Eh?" Big-eyed Momo sat straight and grasped the side of the small rickety boat. They were currently in a very dark place, but she could make out the things around her since there were candles floating around; black and red candles. And as she stared at the water beneath them, no reflection met her eyes. She dipped her finger and found the water to be very cold but smooth. It wasn't murky yet it was all black. They appeared to be traveling in a straight river but there was no wave nor current. The water was still. The only thing that could be heard was the slow gush that the long wooden oar seemed to make at the back of the boat. Hinamori stared in wonder as the old-looking oar moved by itself and made their boat advance in what seemed like an endless streak of black water.
"Normally…there is no need for me to go through this river." Hitsugaya started to say. "My rank gives me the privilege to just use the warp zone which will directly take me to Rukongai. But since I am with you, your existence must first be officially logged in the book of the netherworld. If heaven has that tunnel of light when a person dies, hell has this black river."
"Ah." Hitsugaya was standing at the front of the both with his back at her. "That's where all devils and demons reside."
"Really?" Fascination became evident inside Hinamori's eyes. "So, that's were you live too?"
"Yeah. But I don't currently stay there." Hitsugaya closed his eyes. "I was assigned to the front."
"To the front? Meaning the battle between good and evil?" She asked; full of curiosity.
"Actually, we prefer to call it, the war between heaven and hell. May I remind you that down here…there is no such thing as good or evil." He sighed. "It was my turn to serve in the battle at the boundary of heaven and hell. That's probably why you always see...awhitedragonintenkou." He mumbled.
"What?" She didn't quite understand his last words.
He cleared his throat. "Nothing." But the girl didn't look convinced. "Well, anyway…" He opted to change the subject. "…that ability of yours…do you have that since birth?"
"What ability?" Then, it hit her. "Oh…I don't think so. It is something I seemed to have gained while I was growing up. But it is really strange. Though, I always play at the shrine as a child, I don't normally 'see' things in Mt. Tenkou."
"Then, how were you able to open your reiatsu psyche?" Hitsugaya asked.
"Reiatsu psyche?" The girl blinked.
"Ah." The white-haired boy squinted to see if the end of the river was getting close. "That thing that enables you to see beyond the misty barrier set around Tenkou is not your third eye or even your sixth sense." He said in a matter-of-factly tone.
"Weh? What do you mean? I've always thought it was my third eye or something like that."
"No. A third eye will enable you to see spirits. A sixth sense will make you communicate with the dead. But both won't give you the ability to see us." Especially my astral dragon form. He added to himself. "What you currently have is an opened psyche which sees different forms of reiatsu."
"Different forms of reiatsu?"
"It was rare of a human to actually have an opened psyche of this type. It is difficult to open it. You normally feel reiatsu, you don't see it. Though, it is not impossible. Dedicated martial artists can train to open their psyche to see reiatsu. So for an ordinary girl like yourself to have her reiatsu psyche open…it is really strange." Hitsugaya frowned. "And now you tell me that it is not something you've gotten from birth. Hmmmm…"
"So, it is reiatsu I see in Mt. Tenkou?"
"We are not physically inside Tenkou. Even though, you see shadows and wings, am I right when I say that you can't really make out our faces."
"Whenever we battle in the spirit world, we release our reiatsu in its most powerful form. Since Tenkou is the gap…a dimensional anomaly…our reiatsu gets reflected back to the human world and you see our forms inside the mountain. This only happens when there is an intense battle going on and our reiatsu grows in an abnormal manner." Hitsugaya explained. "Ah. We are here."
Their small boat touched land and the white-haired boy hopped out.
Hinamori cringed for a moment before standing up. She rubbed her sides and then finally followed the small devil. "I'm not sure how I was able to see." She said as she scampered behind him. "There was this incident when I was still a kid when my grandmother suddenly fell on the dirt path at the foot of Mt. Tenkou. I'm not sure what happened back then but I don't seem to have any memory after that incident. It is one of those memory gaps I've mentioned to you before. But one thing I'm sure of, I was able to see since then."
Hitsugaya suddenly stopped walking. "Memory gaps?"
The girl nodded once she caught up with him. "Like that time when I made my wish."
The white-haired boy's face could not be seen. Internally, the image of the double pentagram in the traditional house was flashing inside his mind. He shook his head to drive the image out. "I see." Was the only word he said.
"Aren't you going to say anything else?" Hinamori asked.
"It's enough that I know about that detail. I will discuss it in front of other devils and get their opinion. But for now…" He glanced at the mossy steps before them. "…we need to get you in there."
Hinamori followed his gaze and saw a huge steel gate, twice the size of the door they entered, sitting menacingly at the end of the zigzagged mossy path. Around them, flames adorned the bush area. For a moment, she thought it would probably be really hot to step into the path, but the moment she did, she was surprised when the temperature felt exactly the same. In fact, it was somewhat cold. This must have reflected on her face that the white-haired devil spoke once more.
"It only gets hot if the flames rise up for more than ten feet." He said.
"They react to the soul that is about to enter the gates of hell. The more intense the flames are, the more it meant that the soul that was about to enter has grave sins. The heat that the flames will generate during that time will be an initial punishment to the soul." Hitsugaya explained. "And since, you are not exactly a soul and nor are you dead…the flames are just as it is—mellowed down."
"Charon…you may go now." The white-haired devil gestured towards the rickety boat they rode earlier.
"Charon?" Hinamori blinked and wondered who the boy was talking to, and then she saw. At the back of the boat, the oar slowly moved to one side and a haze-like figure caught her eye. She squinted and finally made out a torn grey caped figure as it stood up and bowed at Hitsugaya. She gasped when she realized that it was probably the one who had made it possible for the boat to advance. "But…but…" Poor Momo was once again confused. "…I didn't see it…err…him…I mean…" She stammered as she doesn't exactly know how to refer to the figure. Half of its cape was somewhat like a dark mist, but its hands were solid enough for her to see. They were like hands of a very old person; bony, thin and with crooked nails. She could not make out a face since the old-looking cape overshadowed its head.
"It is rare for their kind to show themselves. They are hardly sociable." The white-haired boy gave a final nod towards the haze-life figure and started towards the mossy steps. "Charons are boatmen of hell whose only job is to ferry souls across the black river. To the human world, they are often depicted as the "ferryman of Styx". Surely, you have heard of it."
"Oh…I see." Hinamori blinked once more and followed the boy. "I've always thought the ferryman was only one person…one old person."
"Person?" Hitsugaya smirked. "He is not one. He is another type of demon. Charon is not his name. Actually, they don't have names, or possibly, if they do have one, they only kept it to themselves. That's why we all referred to them as 'Charon'." He shot a brief glance at the girl. "He seems to like you, though."
"He is awfully taking a lot of time staying visible like that." He was referring to the fact that the rickety boat was still there and the Charon was looking at them with its haze-life figure; misty but very much evident to the naked eye. "Normally, they would just bow, disappear and leave."
"Re—really?" Hinamori observed the Charon with cautious eyes. It seemed to be looking straight back at her unblinkingly although she couldn't make out anything underneath its cape's hood. She was about to reach out for the white-haired boy when she realized that Hitsugaya already proceeded to the huge gate without her. "Weh!" She exclaimed and hurriedly went after the devil, but not before she bowed at the eerie-looking Charon as a gesture of goodbye, and then scurried off after the white-haired boy.
As the girl ran the mossy steps, the Charon watched from his small rickety boat. It wasn't true that he was only looking at the human. In fact, his cloaked gaze darted from the white-haired devil to the girl. He was observing both of them with great interest and was wondering how things will turn up. He had been a Charon ever since the beginning of time. He has knowledge on things that sometimes, Abigor devils members of the High Council had sought him for information that weren't recorded in the archives. He was probably the oldest Charon in the great black river and it had been a while since he saw this kind of arrangement between a human and a devil. And what made things more captivating, was the involvement of a high-ranked devil like Hitsugaya Toushirou.
The Charon bowed his head and stirred the oar of his boat. It must be fate, but then again, it could also be a curse. That human girl was cursed the moment she encountered one of their kind and it will thrive within her for as long as she lives. But, the devil she was with was someone who has noble blood. Maybe it could change her cursed life.
Beneath his shadowed face, the Charon smiled as a certain piece of information swam back into his mind. Something that he would probably be the only one left with; a very important memory.
As so with this, the Charon disappeared and the old wooden boat started moving away from the shore.
"Jidanbou." Hitsugaya greeted the demon with a smile.
"Oh! Hitsugaya-Taichou!" The gatekeeper replied with much welcome. "Congratulations on your victory in the battle field yesterday. I heard your legion had driven those blasted angels in a corner."
"Ah." The white-haired devil reservedly said.
He had arrived in Hell's main gate and as usual, the Andras devil was greeted by the guard and keeper of the gate, the giant and feared demon, Jidanbou. Normally, the demon would have one of his enormous axes unsheathed and hanging carelessly at one side, but that morning, both of his weapons laid quietly behind him.
"Quite silent over here. No tortured souls in sight. Are you on your break this early?" Hitsugaya asked.
Jidanbou chuckled heartily. "No…not really. I'm not sure if this counts as a break. For some reason, the house of internal affairs suddenly ordered a halt in taking in souls to the land of the dead. They said to stop the operation for a few minutes which means no human can die within this time period. That's why the normally long line in this gate was temporarily dispersed. Lucky souls." He scratched his head. "It's quite puzzling, really…normally upper management will give a few days notice before doing something like this. But it seems there was some kind of emergency."
"An emergency?" Hitsugaya's brow twitched. Could it be? He thought.
"Um," The giant nodded. "Apparently, a human…not a soul…but human in flesh and blood who had not yet died, had entered Hell's premises."
The white-haired devil's shoulders dropped down. Yup, it is exactly what I thought.
"They feared it may disrupt the system so a temporary halt was issued." The demon continued. "But what makes it confusing for me is as to why I am not ordered to go on alert and watch for this human. I was even told to lay low from my usual greetings with my beloved axes." He patted his two huge weapons.
"They would not be talking about this particular human now, would they?" Hitsugaya regretfully remarked as Hinamori emerged from the steep mossy step below; panting.
"Wha-!" The demon jumped in surprised and immediately grabbed his axes. Hitsugaya immediately restrained him.
"It's alright, Jidanbou. She's with me." The white-haired boy quickly said.
"With you?" A shocked expression crept on the giant's face. "But…Hitsugaya-Taichou…how?...why?" He was also partly wondering as to why he didn't feel the girl's presence beforehand.
Hitsugaya sighed. "It's a long story."
Behind him, Hinamori looked awed at how large the demon's axes were. Her eyes were huge and round as she quickly scampered behind the white-haired boy's back and even clutched his haori.
Jidanbou's jaw dropped open at the simple yet forthcoming gesture of the girl towards the Andras devil. He was expecting for Hitsugaya to tear the girl apart using his reiatsu as punishment for she dared to touch him but no violent reaction came from the white-haired devil. "A—no…Hitsugaya-Taichou…?" Questioning eyes beckoned the Andras devil.
But the white-haired boy just closed his eyes and crossed his arms. "I see. Internal Affairs had been alerted by the contract. As expected of Ise-sama. That's good. It would mean that they are already waiting for us in the concession room." He nodded approvingly. This saved him time in sending a mass message to everyone regarding his current situation.
"Contract?" The giant inquired. The puzzled expression was still on his face.
"Ah." Hitsugaya opened his eyes and shot Hinamori a cold look which made the girl bite her lip. "This human is under contract with me."
"What kind of contract?" Jidanbou asked with great curiosity.
"The 'one wish for your soul' kind of deal." Hitsugaya grouchily replied.
"What!" The giant exclaimed in disbelief. "But…but that's impossible! Hitsugaya-Taichou is an Andras devil! Since when does Andras devil grant this kind of task!" His voice boomed which made the flames around them shake.
"Like I said…it's a long story."
All this time, Hinamori was silent and only watched the conversation. Although, the giant was friendly towards the white-haired boy, she wouldn't push her luck and opted to stand behind Hitsugaya as if to protect herself if the demon suddenly decided to use his huge axes.
"But if that's the contract then why is she here?" Jidanbou continued to ask.
"Because she wished to be with me for as long as I live." He answered the giant.
The moment he said this, no word came out from either of them. The only thing evidentwas the sound of the burning flames around them. The gatekeeper's face was indescribable.
"A human actually wished to be with a devil?" The giant finally said.
"Ah." Hitsugaya scratched his head.
Jidanbou looked at the girl with mystified eyes. Hinamori cringed under his gaze and clutched the white-haired boy harder. How she wished that the devil was taller so she could totally hide behind him.
"Anyway…we should be going now. I need to discuss this to the council." Hitsugaya said with his frown never leaving his face.
The demon nodded and started opening the huge gates. He didn't speak a word and only threw unbelieving glances towards Hinamori. The steel structure rebelled with loud screeches as the giant pushed it for the two to pass through.
"It was nice seeing you again, Jidanbou. I hope I can go visit Junrinan one of these days." And then to Hinamori, he nodded reservedly. "Let's go."
"Ha—hai." The girl obediently followed as the white-haired boy stepped inside the gate. The giant demon still looked at her with same 'are u insane' look, but eventually bowed as acknowledgement to her white-haired companion.
"Please do come and visit, Hitsugaya-Taichou." He remarked in farewell. "And, uh…I will be logging the girl's entry by the way….what's her name again?"
This time, Hinamori opted to answer. "Hinamori Momo." She bowed. "My name is Hinamori Momo. Dozo Yorishiku."
The demon roughly nodded at the late introduction. Hitsugaya, on the other hand, just briefly raised one hand and continued with his fast strides; leaving Hinamori once more, in trying her best to follow his pace.
As Hinamori followed the white-haired boy, she couldn't help but to feel uncomfortable with her surroundings. First off, everything was dark and their path illuminated the color of crimson, may it be from the bloody walls or the flames from an occasional tree or bush. The ground looked like red dirt and the air was humid and dry. Above, the sky also had the same shade of crimson and not a cloud in sight.
So this is what hell looks like. She thought. I'm not surprised at all. It really is what they say in the books.
Every now and then, the girl will feel a chill creeping down her spine as groans became evident in her ears. Sometimes she would hear someone crying. But whatever it was, she was sure that it was due to intensive pain and suffering. She couldn't see the origin of these voices. So far, around her, shadows swam about. She squinted and realized that they were elongated shapes of a person's body. Most of the time, they were shadows of hands which seemed to be reaching out. Their path was full of these, but as the boy in front of her walked through, the shadows would clear out in an instant to give way.
Hinamori paused for a while and stared at a wall. It was high and she couldn't see what was behind it, but nevertheless she observed as shadowy forms started getting etched on the wall. She titled her head to make out what it was. Suddenly, a black hand started emerging from the wall. It doesn't have flesh and it seemed to be in a spirit form. It continued towards Hinamori slowly, as if pleading to her and before she realized it, she lifted her own hand and was about to touch it when Hitsugaya suddenly appeared between them and clutched her hand before it could touch the oneon the wall. Apparently, the white-haired devil had stopped walking when he realized that the girl was getting left behind.
"Don't stare at the shadows and don't you even dare touching them." Hitsugaya's commanding voice rang in the air.
Hinamori snapped back to her consciousness. "Eh?"
"This is my last warning and reminder to you." A more serious expression took over the boy's face. "This is hell. Nothing is safe. The 'beings' here cannot be compared in any manner to those that existed in the human world. Most of the time, they are not what they seemed. If you get left behind or had thrown yourself into trouble, I am not going to rescue you. I am not your babysitter, you know. If not for that loop contract, your soul might have been thrown with the ones behind these walls."
"There are souls behind the walls?"
"Ah." Hitsugaya let go of her hand. "The seven chambers of punishment existed behind these walls."
Recollection dawned on Hinamori's face. "Oh…the place where tormented souls go to in accordance to their sins?"
"Yes. That very place." The white-haired devil replied.
Hitsugaya arched a brow. "What? What's with that expression?"
"Well…this place seems deserted, though." She answered truthfully. "I was kind of expecting hell to be crowded, but so far…aside from you, the Charon and the giant demon at the gate, I haven't seen any other devil, demon or soul for that matter."
"We are walking in the back entrance." The white-haired boy said.
"Back entrance?" The girl blinked in confusion.
"You can also refer to it as the backstage or a hidden tunnel." Hitsugaya explained. He was starting to get tired telling all this to the human, but his calculations told him that it was better thanto haveher running off with a blindfold. She would cause more trouble that way. "We are not exactly in a path which was used by the devils/demons on duty in the chambers. Believe me. It is waaaaay too crowded in those areas. You have no idea how many evil person existed in your world." He scoffed and snobbishly turned on his heels. "If you want to see the horrible things that is happening behind these walls, then be my guest….but do it without me since it is such a low place for an Andras devil to be. And I hate the crowd. There is no way I will squeeze myself with them. I would probably end up disintegrating them with my reiatsu before having one of those filthy souls near me."
"Wow, you really looked annoyed." She observed as she fell a step behind him.
"Hmph….and you are annoying me as well. Stop lagging behind and hurry up. We don't have all day." The white-haired devil remarked.
Hinamori pouted. "Well, if you don't keep going so fast then maybe I won't get left behind." She pointed out.
Hitsugaya rolled his eyes. "Whatever." I knew it. This girl is really going to slow me down. "Then again…" A smile suddenly replaced the frown on his face.
Hinamori's eyes narrowed. She didn't like the way the boy was looking at her. That expression was slightly familiar. "Oh no…" She stepped away. "…not that. Anything but that!" What did he call that technique again?
But it was too late. Hitsugaya's arm was quick and winded around her waist once more.
"Wah! Not shunpo!" Hinamori remembered how it was the last time.
"You want to be with me then live with it." The white-haired devil said harshly. "'Cause I do shunpo all the time. It is practically how I walk."
"How you walk...?" But she wasn't able to finish her reply as she felt herself being pulled forward in an enormous speed. "Iiiiiiiiiii--------------yaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah!" She screamed as things around her became nothing but a blur.
Everyone in the room was silent. Men in black shihakushou and white haori just stood there as they contemplated the situation. There were six of them aside from the white-haired boy; four men and two female. And from the looks on how they carried their swords and how their reiatsu illuminated yet distinctly contained, it was evident that these people were no ordinary beings.
One female adjusted her glasses with a deep frown on her forehead.
The other just crossed her arms across her huge chests with her eyes closed thoughtfully.
Two of the men were elderly. One had a very long beard in contrast to the other at his side.
The remaining occupants looked younger than the two. The bigger one has a fox head with a very serious expression.
While the last one had glasses adorning his eyes which complemented his mellow expression. He was probably the only one smiling kindly amongst everyone else. "Are you sure that you don't know her?" He asked Hitsugaya.
The white-haired devil nodded his head. "I'm positive, Aizen-sama. I haven't met her before."
Both the two females just made a 'Hmmmm…' sound upon his answer.
Hitsugaya sighed. He didn't know why this kind of thing has to happen to him. This was the very first time he actually faced the council in an awkward predicament. Yes. He was facing the High Council of Devils right now, in addition to the President of Internal Affairs and his commanding officer.
Lined up in the left side were the members of the High Council. They were known as Abigor devils which lead a minimum of 60 legions of hell's army; ranked third from the top in the vast hierarchy and were considered as one the most powerful beings in Hell.
Yamamoto Shigekuni; the oldest amongst the four and considered as the Grand Duke of Hell. His head was bald and his beard long but well-kept. Aside from being an Abigor, he was also known to be a Paymon, a master of ceremonies in hell. He was rumored to be the strongest of the Abigors with his zanpakutou being the most powerful amongst all fire zanpakutous. Though sheathed, his zanpakutou looked nothing more than a walking cane.
Sasakibe Chojiro; another old-looking fellow but younger than Yamamoto. He was also a Duke in Hell; a noble rank (not devil rank) below Yamamoto's. Little was know about his zanpakutou because no one actually survived in facing him in a battle. Currently, Hitsugaya belonged to his legion and was under his chain of command. This was probably the reason why he looked disturbed amongst all the occupants of the room.
Aizen Sousuke; he looked relatively young compared to the other two. His physical age was probably someone around his mid-thirties, but like how the immortal they were, he was someone who had existed in hell for thousands of years. His face had always projected gentleness; very rare for a devil. Like Yamamoto, he had another designation. He was also known as a Jezebeth, the devil of falsehoods. Aizen actually started out as a demon of falsehoods. Some say that it has something to do with the power of his zanpakutou, but nothing was confirmed for no one had actually seen his technique. (Probably only Enma and the Chancellor were aware of it.) But somehow, from being a demon he had raised his power and became a full-pledged devil which entitled him to be an Abigor. The Jezebeth title stayed with him, though.
Komamura Sajin; he was also know as the great fox devil. His body was that of a fox but he walked like a man. His eyes were known to be one of the sharpest especially in the dark like an animal hunting his prey. He stood the tallest amongst the four. Like Sasakibe, he also had noble blood; the Duke of the fox clan. His zanpakutou was known to embody something huge and enormous in its third release. Some said that one could be cursed upon seeing it or even speak of it that they would rather remain silent about his sword's true abilities.
On the right side, two females stood. The first one was the head of Internal Affairs and the other one was Hitsugaya's superior and commanding officer.
Ise Nanao; a woman whose physical body looked like someone in her late twenties or early thirties. She was known to be a Caym, the President of Hell which deals with Internal Affairs. She had nothing to do with the army for that task was assigned to the Chancellor of Hell who had the high council under him. Her primary task was to oversee hell's livelihood operations and soul judgment system. She was a very powerful devil; ranked second from the top of the hierarchy, directly below Enma.
Mastumoto Rangiku; a heavily-busted she-devil. She has blond hair and a hot body to go with it. Physically, she looked like someone in her early twenties and probably often fantasized by the other male devils and demons due to her large chest. But don't judge her by her looks and sexuality. This woman was a Malphas devil; a rank above an Andras devil She commanded 40 legions of hell's army. She was under Sasakibe's command and Hitsugaya's direct superior. She was also known as a Semiazas, Chief of the Fallen Angels, for she was once an angel herself who cut her wings and joined hell. As to how she became a devil was still a mystery, same with the reason why she left heaven.
Hitsugaya looked at his direct superior; Matsumoto-Taichou. The woman seemed calm and serious, but he knew better. He knew that deep inside, the woman was rejoicing.
And indeed she was. Matsumoto was trying so hard not to make her lips twitch.
-- insert Matsumoto thought cloud here---
"Ho! Ho! Ho! Finally! My kawaii little Andras devil had gotten involved with something considered to be somewhat…'scandalous'." She happily thought with mischievous fangs visible in her mouth. "After all these years of seriousness in his boring legion…entertainment had finally emerged!"
-- hearts floated around the happy Matsumoto inside the thought cloud in contrast to the serious expression she had in the outside --
Hitsugaya knew that he was right on the dot in guessing what the woman was thinking about that he couldn't stop his brow to twitch.
"You said she was informed about the ancient pentagram by a cat?" The ever vigilant Nanao remarked as she adjusted her spectacles once more.
"Ah." The white-haired devil nodded.
"Hmmm…" Sasakibe searched his mind. "Do we know someone who turns into a black feline?" He turned his head towards the fox devil. "Your clan has more knowledge on beings which transforms into animals, Komamura-san. What input can you give about this?"
Komamura crossed his arms. "There are many beings in hell that can do a simple thing as to transform into a cat while in the human world. It is hard to tell."
"Still…" Nanao spoke again. "…that shrine in the foot of Tenkou has a strong barrier despite being old. No low-level devil or demon can penetrate it just like that. Also, the pentagram she managed to conjure isn't normal either. It is something which belonged to the book of the ancients which enabled her to summon a devil like Hitsugaya-san. Won't that narrow down the search a bit?"
"It may. Actually…it will thoroughly narrow it down to the extent of giving us zero results." Komamura remarked.
"Good point." Sasakibe analyzed. "That pentagram was something that can only be known by devils ranked Andras and up." He rubbed his chin. "And if we are going to place suspects in our list, during the time mentioned of the girl when she met the black cat, all of us are having a meeting in the great Hall together with Enma-sama. Hitsugaya-san was probably the only powerful devil not present there since he was battling the heaven's army in the borders during that time."
"In short," Matsumoto suddenly spoke. "None of the high-ranking devils might have done it.
"Well…there is still a possibility that one might have informed someone of lower rank about the pentagram or even possibly…commanded that individual." Nanao suggested.
"Someone of lower rank…hmmmm…" Aizen scrutinized the situation thoughtfully. "…you can rule demons out because that shrine's barrier will prevent them to pass."
"So this leaves us with what?" Matsumoto asked. "Fuku-taichous?" Fuku-taichous were devils placed second-in-command in an Andras devil's army.
"We don't have many Fuku-taichous." Komamura said. "The only fuku-taichou I know that may have been powerful enough to breech that shrine's barrier would be Zaraki Kenpachi's fuku-taichou, Madarame Ikkaku."
"But Komamura-san," Aizen glanced towards the fox devil. "Zaraki-san was your Andras devil and he died together with Madarame-san twelve years ago. There is no chance they could have survived that battle with heaven at that time. We all checked for surviving reiatsu but to no avail. They were confirmed to be annihilated."
The fox devil snarled. "I know. That's why I said if we take in account everything; it will give us zero results."
"Yamamoto-san, you had been awfully quiet." Sasakibe remarked. "What are your thoughts about the whole thing?"
The old man inhaled for a moment as if to clear his perception before finally speaking. "Hitsugaya-san…"
"Hai." The white-haired boy acknowledged.
"Does she know your name?" The old man asked.
Hitsugaya blinked for a while at the solemn tone of the grand duke. "Well, I don't think so…I'm not sure. The name she inscribed in the pentagram wasn't even my name. It was Abarai Renji's name, your Ronwe, Yamamoto-sama. But like what I told earlier. She thought of my astral form while doing the ritual. I assumed that it was because she was there while I was leading my legion in battle yesterday."
"That's another mystery." Nanao butted in. "That girl had special abilities."
"She is no ordinary human." Matsumoto added with a nod. Inside, she was still rejoicing. This will make things more interesting. Whoever that cat was, I'm sure going to thank him for bringing more life to my kawaii Andras' strict nature.
"Memory gaps, too…as she termed it." The white-haired devil supplemented.
"Hmmm…this is truly puzzling." The Malphas she-devil remarked.
"And considering that she was able get a loop contract with you is really suspicious." Nanao's frowned deepened.
"A loop contract…" The ever calm Yamamoto remarked. "…something that had only been passed down by word of mouth."
"By word of mouth in the noble hierarchy and not to us." Nanao corresponded. "I'm a Caym yet I am not aware that such a thing can be done until now."
"It is inevitable." Sasakibe closed his eyes. "Only those that were born in the noble bloodline are aware of this. Which makes things a big mystery."
"It could be just a coincidence, though." Yamamoto said and gazed at the white-haired devil.
"Coincidence?" Hitsugaya blinked.
"In her heart, the girl might really want to be with you, Hitsugaya-san." The old man explained which earned a mischievous smile from Matsumoto.
But the white-haired boy thought it to be ridiculous. "What! That's unthinkable. How can a human wish to be with a devil? An Andras devil for that matter. Do I look like someone accommodating?"
"Well…" Matsumoto grinned widely. "…you are kind of 'cute'."
A nerve popped out his temple. He swore. If this woman wasn't his superior, he would send her flying to the depths of hell. "May I remind you that she wasn't even aware of who I am and what I really look like. As far as I am concerned, she only saw my astral form. You know…that huge white devastating dragon. I can hardly call that 'cute'."
"A-ra? Some women like rough scary 'stuffs'." The she-devil said teasingly.
The room suddenly became icy cold…literally. But what do you expect from an Andras devil who could control the weather? It was obvious that the Malphas she-devil was really getting on Hitsugaya's nerves. The room was starting to freeze and it only halted when Sasakibe cleared his throat.
"As we were saying…" His Abigor superior remarked. Aizen only smiled. Komamura sighed. Nanao was rolling her eyes and Yamamoto remained calm.
"Maybe we should ask Abarai Renji?" Hitsugaya suggested. His aura went back in getting composed. "It was his name inscribed in the pentagram, after all."
"They should be arriving any minute now." Yamamoto said. "I've already summoned both my Malphas and Ronwe."
"And we are here." A deep voice spoke from behind.
All eyes darted to the new arrivals. Not far from where the meeting was being held, two men wearing same black shihakushou stood. The man in the left wore a white haori like Hitsugaya's and Matsumoto's. He had grey hair even though his physical age seemed like someone who was either in his late twenties or early thirties. He wore a stripped hat and wooden sandals. Like Yamamoto, he also held a cane. His companion, on the other hand, had red hair tied up. He didn't wear a haori, but what was dominant in his features were the black tattoos which adorned his body and a distinct visor placed on his head. His physical body looked like someone in his late teen years or early twenties.
"Ah…Urahara-san…Abarai-kun." Aizen greeted with a smile. Hitsugaya could only wonder how the hell a devil could sustain such gentleness.
"A-ra? The whole council is here together with Ise-sama." Urahara's eyes traveled around. "But Shunsui-san isn't here?" He was referring to the Chancellor of Hell who oversees the High Council, the one and only Adramelech devil. "And neither does Enma-sama?" Enma as mentioned before, was the head of hell; Satan…Lucifer, God's adversary.
Nanao immediately answered his query with an annoyed expression on her face. "Shunsui, as usual, is goofing off somewhere." It wasn't news that the Chancellor and the President don't go along very well. "As for Enma-sama…" This time, she sighed. "I don't know where Enma-sama could be. But wherever it is, I'm sure it is not as lame as to where Shunsui might be." Her aura grew darker.
Urahara chuckled nervously. "Haha…I see." Both he and Renji sweat-dropped and continued to walk towards the center of the room to where everyone was.
Urahara Kisuke; a Malphas devil under the Abigor, Yamamoto Shigekuni. Like Matsumoto, he commanded 40 legions of hell's army. And like his superior, his zanpakutou's sheathed form was a simple-looking cane. But no one would dare cross his path once he decided using his zanpakutou. It was rumored that it has something do with blood, but nothing was definite. He was also known as a Belphegor, a devil of ingenious discoveries and wealth. Like Aizen Sousuke, he used to be a demon, but his achievements in archeology and findings had raised his rank from someone in the internal affairs to someone that fought in the army. The places he had been to uncover ancient knowledge were dangerous places a normal devil wouldn't dare venture. It was due to this that he had raised his power and refined his skills that his reiatsu became eventually too high for a demon. Given this, Enma decided that he should be ordained as a full-pledge devil. So here he was; serving hell's army as a high-ranked officer.
Abarai Renji; known to be the fierce red demon, a Ronwe under Yamamoto's command and in direct supervision of Urahara Kisuke. Like what Hitsugaya told Hinamori, this particular demon commanded 19 legions of devils under him. Quite exceptional for a demon, but due to his attitude, Hitsugaya regarded him low.
Urahara took his place beside Matsumoto on the right and Renji followed him. Between the two lines, Hitsugaya's icy glare pierced right through the red demon which caused him to squirm a little.
"Oi." Renji remarked. "What's with that glare?"
"You. What have you been up to lately?" Hitsugaya's cold tone sent chills towards the red demon.
"Mah…mah…" Matsumoto interrupted them. "There is no need to jump to conclusions, Hitsugaya-kun. Just because his name got included in the pentagram, it doesn't mean that he was already involved. For all we know, he could be framed by the black cat."
"Black cat? Pentagram?" Urahara cocked his brow while Renji just gave them a puzzled look. "What are you guys talking about?" The red demon asked.
Hitsugaya sighed. Here we go again. He thought as another set of explanation got delivered by Nanao to the new arrivals.
Hinamori sat behind the closed tatami door. It wasthe place where the white-haired boy had left her and strictly gave an instruction of not moving from that very spot. She wasn't able to complain since she was still dizzy and nauseated as an aftermath of getting dragged in that horrible flash step thing called 'shunpo'. Her world started to fall in place as Hinamori took a deep breath and concentrated at the floor beneath her. She was currently slumped down at the traditional flooring of the Japanese-styled building. She thought that she might be hallucinating, but no. Her vision confirmed that unlike the burning walls, bushes and trees which they passed through earlier, this place wasn't like she was expecting. Everything looked normal around her. Like they just emerged in some kind of a town except everything looked like a village in the Edo Period.
Hinamori blinked and gazed around. The hallway was vast but no one was there. No paintings adorned the walls but paper lanterns hang in every curve and corner. And judging on how the lanterns were elaborately designed, the girl figured that they must be expensive. Very expensive.
"What is this place?" She murmured to herself. Every now and then she would feel a jab or jitter which came from the tatami doors where the boy disappeared earlier. It must be reiatsu. There must be devils inside there as well. She thought.
She took a deep breath and studied herself. She was lucky to be in one piece. Many times this morning she kept pinching herself to test whether she was dreaming or not, but she never woke up. Everything was indeed real.
"What have you gotten yourself into, Momo?" She whispered.
But does she regret it?
Hinamori closed her eyes. No…so far…I couldn't feel any sense of regret. In contrary, she felt…
Upon realizing this, Hinamori's eyes flew open. "I'm really not normal." She knocked her head with her fist. "How on earth can a human be happy in this kind of arrangement with a devil?"
She sighed once more.
Not far from her, a ray of sunlight streamed across the room from an opened window. Hinamori blinked.
"A-ra? Sunlight? I don't remember seeing a sun earlier while we were walking down that hot path." And then, she noticed something else. Her surroundings don't look dark and reddish at all. The sun's ray actually has a golden color. Hinamori leaned forward to get a view of the opened window. She could see a blue sky and a few fluffs of white clouds.
Wait a minute…white clouds?
She was sure that there wasn't a cloud in sight when they entered the huge gates. In fact, they sky looked like a blanket of blood.
Question marks flew around poor Momo's head, and then an idea hit her.
"Wai! Could this place possibly be…Rukongai?"
She recalled the white-haired devil's words.
"Normally…there is no need for me to go through this river." Hitsugaya started to say. "My rank gives me the privilege to just use the warp zone which will directly take me to Rukongai…
"Ah." Hitsugaya was standing at the front of the both with his back at her. "That's where all devils and demons reside."
"WAIiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii! Are we in Rukongai?" Hinamori squealed. "Could it be, that this is where Shiro-chan lives?"
"Hai! Hai!" An overly cheerful voice suddenly boomed behind Hinamori. "This is indeed Rukongai!" And then, it toned down a little. "Demo ne…this isn't where Hitsugaya-kun lives. Well, technically, he lives in Rukongai, but this place has many districts. His home is in District I, Junrinan."
"Junrinan?" Hinamori recalled the giant demon's words earlier. "Ah…ah I see. Thank you very much in…" She whirled around and was surprised to see a little girl with pink hair as the origin of the voice.
"Hello!" The little girl greeted her loudly.
"Oh! He-hello." Hinamori returned the greeting.
The child in front of her was younger than Hitsugaya; physically—for she was greatly aware that they could be thousands of years of age. She wore the same black kimono and white haori like Hitsugaya. The difference was that her haori wasn't plain white. It had several floral designs. Also, she wore an arm band with some kind of symbol she had no idea what meant. Almost near her feet, a short katana dangled carelessly, if not being practically dragged.
"My name is Yachiru." The child remarked. "You are Hinamori Momo, right?"
Hinamori blinked but eventually bowed. "Hai. That is my name. Nice meeting you, Yachiru-chan. But, how did you know my name?" She asked.
The pink-haired girl smiled radiantly. "Easy. I know everything that happens in hell."
"Um." Yachiru nodded.
Then, Hinamori remembered a certain detail. "A-no…is it okay for me to call you by your first name? Don't you want to give me your last name instead?"
But Yachiru just looked at her thoughtfully. "But you call Hitsugaya-kun by his first name, don't you? I find the nickname really cute---'Shiro-chan'. Maybe I should start calling him like that, too!" She concluded enthusiastically.
Hinamori knew that the boy devil will throw a fit once he hears this.
"But don't worry!" Yachiru waved a finger on her face before she could speak any further as if reading her mind. "I don't think he really hates the nickname despite how many times he seemed to be complaining about it. Hahaha" Her smile suddenly turned dark. "And I don't think he is disrespectful enough to get angry with me."
"Eh? What do you mean?"
But the pink-haired child just chuckled and patted Hinamori with several fast motions which made the poor girl eased forward with slight pain. "Hahaha don't worry about it!"
Hinamori squinted. How could a small child hit strongly like that?
"Ah! Gomen…gomen!" Yachiru apologized when she realized that she was 'slightly' beating up the girl. "I almost forgot that you are human."
"Had my presence in hell caused any problems?" Hinamori asked in a small voice.
"Eh?" Yachiru blinked as she saw the girl's worried face. "I said don't worry about it." She gleefully grinned. "A contract is a contract and hell will abide according to the rules. In fact, I think your presence here might freshen things up. It may even straighten loose ends."
"Loose ends?" Somehow, Hinamori observed that the pink-haired child was talking in riddles.
"Haha…in due time…in due time." She suddenly grabbed Hinamori's hand. "Shall we go! Shall we go!" She pulled her playfully.
"Eh? Go where?" Hinamori asked.
"There!" Yachiru pointed at end of the hallway where a staircase rested. "There's a balcony in the top-most level of this building! Don't you want to see Rukongai? In contrary to human belief, we devils and demons live in a quite pleasant place."
"B—but…I was instructed not to move an inch from this spot. He might get angry with me and…" But she was cut off by the gleeful child.
"Then I shall override his command!" Yachiru announced whole-heartedly.
"Override his command?"
The pink-haired girl suddenly made a sentai-like pose. One arm made a circular motion. "Over ride command…" She made several martial arts-like pose which seemed fake to Hinamori. "…NOW!"
Of course, nothing happened.
"Okay. That's good enough. It's the thought that counts anyway." The little girl declared and drastically pulled Hinamori with her. "Let's go! Hurry!"
"W-ait!" But Hinamori's resistance came to no avail as she found herself getting dragged by the strong child…
…getting farther and farther away from the spot where Hitsugaya had strictly instructed her to stay.
(UP Next: Chapter Five: "Enma States Ground Rules")
Nyahaha… Yeah, I'm jumbling them all up. :P I actually have excel spreadsheets which contained their internal structure (charts) and who is supposed to be what. --;;
I hope all of you aren't confused with all these make-up things I'm infusing in this story. I am making my own description of heaven and hell plus the explanation behind some existence in respect to those already used in Bleach. I find it hard and entertaining in a way. (though my brain cells are getting sapped) BTW, I didn't make up the names of the devil ranks, though. :D I just tweaked some things.
As usual…tnx for all the reviews and may you all post some more! R and R onegai shimasu!