Tite Kubo owns Bleach. I just borrowed the characters. I make no money from this work.
Assistant Captain Momo Hinamori
So much was wrong. No. Everything was wrong. Nothing could or would make it better or make the pain in her heart ease. Whenever she tried to smile, tears would form in her eyes and then she had to force herself to resist the urge to blink. Blinking meant she closed her eyes and if she closed her eyes, she saw the image, which was forever etched, on her mind. The image which broke her heart.
He was dead. Captain Aizen, the most noble, kind hearted, laudable and wonderful man, Shinigami or Captain in all of Soul Society, in the entire world, had been murdered and even now, the memory of his wounds, of his near crucifixion called to her for vengeance.
When she saw the body she was certain her eyes were playing tricks, or someone had made an effigy of the man she adored. Then the swaggering, insolent and arrogant 'Captain' Gin Ichimaru had happened to pass by. It wasn't an accident, she was certain of that. He had engineered the murder and was now enjoying the reaction and the reflected fear that one of the best-loved members of the Seireitei had been murdered in one of the most difficult to access areas. Of course, her instinct had been to attack the man but even then, she wasn't given the satisfaction of causing him pain. Her friend, a dear friend she'd counted on for support since they'd graduated from the Academy had stepped in and prevented her justifiable revenge. How could Izuru do this to her? While he might be the Assistant Captain of Ichimaru, he'd been her friend long before and they'd shared a mutual admiration of Captain Aizen after he'd stepped in and saved them from the Hollows who'd attacked them in the human world.
Izuru was no longer her friend, of this she was certain. No one could have known Captain Aizen and then defended his murderer. No one who had any loyalty or understanding of how much she had, no, the whole of Soul Society had lost by this death would stop justice being done. Izuru was lost to her, corrupted by the sly man who had once held her position. Even though he visited his former superior, she'd often heard raised voices and just knew Gin was being unreasonable. Any advice or suggestion made by Captain Aizen was certain to benefit anyone. She had often thought he should be in charge, not the Captain-General yet never said a word.
Captain Ichimaru was jealous. It was obvious to anyone who had eyes to see.
To make matters worse, 'Shiro had intervened. A friend since her childhood had turned on her at the same time Izuru had betrayed her. Didn't he see that she had to kill Ichimaru even if it meant she had to defeat Izuru so she could attack his Captain? Was everyone but her blind to the facts? Didn't everyone feel the despair that surrounded her heart, making the many fractures rupture ever larger with each breath she drew? 'Shiro was hard and wrong. Becoming a captain so young had made him believe he was superior to everyone. Even her beloved Captain had mentioned his concerns to her about his youth and the amount of responsibility he had to bear. Of course, he tried to help 'Shiro. Instead of gratitude, her one time near brother had ignored the advice and continued on his misguided way. In spite of this behaviour, she saw it as her responsibility to remind him of his past, treating him as a junior, not a Captain. In fact, her Captain had slightly indicated his approval of her behaviour. 'Shiro had to learn his place.
He hadn't and Captain Aizen was dead.
'Shiro had always been jealous of Aizen. It had never been something she wished to mention to him, but she knew it instinctively. Maybe it was part of her women's intuition or she'd known 'Shiro since he was a child. He was extremely jealous of the senior Captain and she'd passed a few idle moments trying to work out the source of the jealousy. Was it due to how people vied to be selected for his Division or how crushed they were, like Renji, when they were moved somewhere else, as they didn't meet 5th Division's high standards? Was it how people liked, trusted and respected Captain Aizen, bringing their problems to him whenever they needed a sympathetic ear? Few people would approach 'Shiro for help. He was so young and inexperienced, not to mention his prickly attitude. Sometimes Momo wondered how an easy going female like Rangiku Matsumoto managed working with 'Shiro every day. He couldn't compare to Captain Aizen.
Of course, a new Captain, like 'Shiro, would be jealous of a man like Captain Aizen which is why he warned Momo against him. Did he think a warning from him would sway her loyalty and devotion to the man who was her Captain and the centre of her world? Hadn't he shown everyone consideration, even to the intolerable man who was Captain Ichimaru? Didn't he take the time to provide advice and assistance to him? All the times he had offered to help 'Shiro only to have his assistance rejected hadn't made Captain Aizen bitter or annoyed. The rejection had saddened him but nothing more.
'Shiro was ungracious.
Captain Aizen was dead!
Captain Aizen was dead. Her life may as well be over.
Staring at the bars of her cell, she fought the tears once more, but to no avail. They dropped from her eyes like the water dripping from icicles, chilling her skin as well as her heart. Once again she relived the last conversation, the precious moments she spent with him before selfishly falling asleep. Typically, he'd downplayed his part in protecting Renji from being dismissed for insubordination, when he'd been moved from his Division to the 11th Division. She was certain Captain Aizen was mindful of the immense pressure and grief Renji must have felt when he'd been sent to such a Division. She wouldn't have been able to bear it.
Even in this cell, she'd heard the news about the events in the Seireitei since the arrival of the Ryoka. Now Renji was in serious trouble again with his own Captain. He was in a cell, like her and Izuru because of insubordination and there was no one to speak on his behalf. Renji must be devastated by his former Captain's death and it was unlikely the Kenpachi would offer any support. Renji's own Captain was in no position to see reason. With his sister being charged with a capital crime and dishonour brought to his family name, he had little time for compassion or consideration. Sometimes she felt sorry for Captain Kuchiki. He'd rejected every offer of friendship from Captain Aizen and seemed intent on isolating himself from everyone.
Admittedly, she hadn't felt that way at first. Originally she'd believed the man to be cold, hostile, uncaring and arrogant but her Captain had taken the time to explain that Captain Kuchiki was young, inexperienced and bore a large burden of trying to match the power and experience of his grandfather who had been Captain of 6th Division before him. From the stories, she was told it seemed he would be a hard man to match and this probably weighed heavily on Captain Kuchiki and caused him to make many of his mistakes. Her Captain being the kind man he was had never outlined the many mistakes the junior Captain made, but unconsciously he'd let a few hints drop as he very rarely did. It was kind of him to notice, but the junior Captain appeared indifferent to any suggested improvements.
She felt pain in her hands and looked down, noticing without really thinking about it, her nails had dug deeply into her palms and they were bleeding. What was a little blood when Aizen was lying dead, drained of his blood and now lost to her forever? She should bleed more. The tears she continually shed should be staining her clothes red with the blood, which was no longer of any use to her. Her life was over. It should be over. There was no one who mattered enough to make her desire to remain alive. She wouldn't kill herself, but she didn't care if she was killed.
In comparison with her Captain, all the other leaders of the Seireitei left something to be desired, even the Captain General. Why was her captain the one who died? Who was so jealous of his abilities that they felt the need to murder him and leave his body so starkly displayed? Her first judgement was it had to be Ichimaru. Once, long ago, she knew Captain Aizen and the man had been close but when he became a Captain in his own right, the relationship had soured. She knew it had. On occasions, she'd heard raised voices, or at least Ichihara's voice raised when he'd visited her Captain. How anyone could argue with her Captain, she didn't understand. He knew so much, had so much talent and everything he said was due to good sense and lots of experience.
Again, tears spattered her cheeks as another paroxysm of grief shook her frame. Completely dead. He was dead to her and the rest of Soul Society and nothing could restore him. With his death she lost a lot of faith in the Shinigami who surrounded her, as one of them must be responsible. The only people she could not include were Renji as he was badly injured and in prison and Rukia as she too was under lock and key. Izuru was a suspect and the Ryoka. Could it be the Ryoka? Why would they want to kill someone they'd never met? Or had Captain Aizen's fame spread to the human world?
Her thoughts turned once more to Izuru. Had he helped Ichimaru kill her captain? Surely not. He loved Captain Aizen as well and held him in such high esteem. The look of adoration on his face when they'd been rescued could not be faked. Had he forgotten? Was he so altered by the tutelage of Captain Ichimaru he forgot about friendship and loyalty? Of course, Captain Ichimaru was there when Captain Aizen had magically appeared as their saviour, but only as support. She'd barely noticed him.
For a moment, she realised that the three people who had been rescued by the Captain and owed so much to him were all imprisoned. All had apparently dishonoured their divisions by their actions.
Shame struck her. Had she really dishonoured her Division? She had simply sought revenge on the most likely suspect for a murder. How was that wrong? If Izuru hadn't intervened, Ichimaru might be dead and then she would happily await execution. There was no point to her continuing existence without the kindly man who inspired her to greater heights.
Huddled on the floor, lost in despair, she hardly heard the door open. A slight whisper of shoes caught her attention and looking up she saw her friend, or one time friend, 'Shiro's Assistant Captain approaching. She held something and a small frown creased her forehead. They talked briefly and after Rangiku left she was left holding a piece of paper addressed to her in Captain Aizen's handwriting. His last words to her! He had once again thought of someone else when he should have been caring about himself and his own safety. More guilt plagued her. If she had been with him when he left, she might have been able to sacrifice her life to save his. She should have been with him to protect him in exchange for the times he'd saved her. Why hadn't he awoken her?
With a certain amount of hesitation, she broke the seal of the letter, fearing the words it might contain. Was it better to leave the letter unread and preserve her Captain's memory? No, she had to read these words addressed to her. He might have left instructions for her or even an indication of anyone he suspected of plotting to kill him. Was this the paper on which he'd been writing the night she visited him? Had he been writing to her while she selfishly slept in his bed?
Taking a deep breath, she decided to remain standing as a mark of respect. As she read the words her mind at first had difficulty in accepting what was said. Why was he grateful to her? He'd written he trusted her above all others, including the Captain General? Until now he'd always spoken so highly of their superior officer but maybe he was trying to keep his suspicions at bay.
A few more lines and his words became more urgent. She had been right! There was something very wrong in the Seireitei and Captain Aizen was the man who was trying to discover the cause and those people responsible. Even though he was genial and kind he was not a fool and knew he could trust her. Her heart lifted slightly at the thought of his trust and she vowed to do anything to destroy his assassin. Revenge would be metered out and the corruption, which lay at the centre of the Seireitei, would be exposed. It was her responsibility and a small touch of joy at her former Captain's trust strengthened her resolve. She was the implement of his justice.
She read the final paragraphs and felt sick. After reading the letter once, she quickly read it again, certain her eyes had misread the carefully drawn characters. There was no mistake.
Her shoulders drooped under the knowledge she didn't wish to accept. If the letter had been from anyone but her Captain, it would have proven impossible to accept the revelations. Staring at the floor, her mind calmed slightly as it became clear the actions she needed to take. At present she was of no use to her Captain as her movement was restricted. She had to gain her freedom, take her zanpakuto and face the person identified in the letter.
Until now, she hadn't really suspected 'Shiro. No, for now she would call him Captain Hitsugaya. He was not the 'Shiro she thought she'd known, but obviously he'd been corrupted by the power of being a Captain and plotted to remove anyone who might prove to be a threat or notice his activities. Once again, Captain Aizen had been kind and only the barest hints of the evil actions her former friend had taken were in the letter. 'Shiro hadn't shown his loyalty and her love and respect for Captain Aizen drove her to accept the words written in the letter. The few questions that rose in her mind she firmly ignored. This was his handwriting. These were his last words.
She could either accept the last words written by her friend and mentor or reject them and thus dishonour his memory and everything they'd been to each other.
There was no other choice. Her Captain had demanded she act; even requested it directly as his dying wish. It was impossible to ignore his words or his request, though she was at a loss to see how Captain Hitsugaya could be defeated if Captain Aizen had fallen by his zanpakuto.
Straightening her shoulder and dashing the tears away from her eyes. She made a vow. She would act on his words. Justice would not be ignored this time. It might even be possible Captain Ichimaru and Captain Hitsugaya were working together.
Today was the day she lost everything. Her friends were dead, disgraced or now verified to be enemies. The only reason to live was to carry out the last wishes of her Captain.
In minutes she was free and moving in the direction of Ichimaru's Division. He would be there with his smug little smile on his face, feeling pleased to have his biggest potential threat removed. If Captain Hitsugaya discovered she'd escaped, she knew he would follow her and it was easier for him to find her than her fruitlessly searching for him. Most Captains disguised their reiatsu and it was difficult to find them when they didn't wish to be found. This was the best plan and one which she was surprised she'd managed to formulate so quickly.
She would kill her former friend and then Ichimaru and Izuru too, if he got in the way. None of them meant anything to her now. Nothing was important except to carry out Captain Aizen's last request to her. A last request was sacred and only evil could arise from ignoring it.
For some reason her subconscious was pushing images at her: memories of times she'd spent with Captain Hitsugaya before he joined the Academy. The times when he used to look up to her and seemed to admire her. Every time one of these thoughts rose, she pushed it aside. Memories like that would damage her resolve and make the execution of her plan more difficult. If Captain Aizen warned her about the Captain of the 10th Division, there was a good reason. She quickly pushed aside the memories of Captain Hitsugaya's obscure warnings about Captain Aizen and Ichimaru.
As she drew closer to 3rd Division, she saw something, which startled her. Captain Hitsugaya was already there, talking to Ichimaru. From his tone, he might be threatening him. Tears rose in her eyes. Captain Aizen was right! Her former friend was threatening a fellow captain, even if it was Ichimaru! If he treated his equals in this way, who could say how he'd treat someone who reminded his oldest friend of their change in status?
Until now she was certain she knew the boy she'd called 'Shiro. They'd grown up together, cared for by the same woman. How could he conceal his true nature all this time? Had he been like this in childhood? There were times he'd seemed cold and distant but she'd thought that might be due to his pride. At first people had mocked him because of his height and while he showed no outward sign of his emotions, each time he became a little colder, a little more withdrawn.
All the teasing, even that which was well intended must have altered the boy into someone she didn't recognise. If she'd noticed, she might have been able to do something about it but once again, it was too late. Once she had seen him as a brother, now she knew they only shared a background. Even as the tears streamed down her face, she recognised they were not united in their views of the world and the correct actions. They were simply people who had lived in the same house.
Captain Hitsugaya turned to her, talking, entreating her to leave. He was under the delusion she was there to attack Captain Ichimaru. Stifling her sobs, she held her zanpakuto tightly and pointed it at Captain Hitsugaya. He appeared bewildered at her words, and it was hard to believe he was feigning his confusion. Then he made a point she had tried to ignore.
Why had Captain Aizen, a man known for his kindness, consideration and sense, asked her to take on the role of avenger?
Her confusion and disorientation grew. Everything was wrong. Everything. If Captain Hitsugaya hadn't said those words, she might have felt some comfort in the belief that she was acting on a last request but now it was all too much. Her heart was pounding, her head muzzy from the dilemma which faced her. What should she do? She had to keep fighting...
OOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOoooooooo oooooooOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO OOO
When she awoke, she was once more in a bed with another containment field around her. She recognised Captain Hitsugaya's work. His use of kido was unmistakable and once again wrong. When they were young, he often underestimated her abilities and it seemed he still did. He thought to contain her and keep her out of his way. Well, it wasn't going to work. He was the key to this, she was certain.
Nothing could hold her. She was seeking revenge, or justice. Was there a difference in this instance? Her Captain had been murdered, his body displayed like a trophy, an insult to every Shinigami.
She set her shoulders firmly. If she thought of his death now she would waver and lose her resolve and give into the tears that were once again threatening.
It took but a short while to free herself. She might not be able to sense Captain Hitsugaya's reiatsu, but she could certainly sense Ranjiku's. Trying to keep out of sight and masking her reiatsu as much as possible, she followed. Their route led in an unexpected direction. Momo had heard the announcement of the change of date and time for execution and instead of heading toward the Sokyoku execution ground they were going somewhere she hadn't expected. Wasn't attendance mandatory for the Captains and their second in command? It made it more important she follow them. Maybe this would prove everything Captain Aizen had written to be true, but then it meant she had misjudged Rangiku completely. What did it matter? Until the last few days her belief in her understanding of Captain Hitsugaya had been unwavering. Who really knew anybody?
She gulped at the thought. An execution. Of a person she knew. The thought of watching Rukia's execution made her blink. The death of another person so closely following that of Captain Aizen only made sense if the person was the one who murdered him. Rukia could not be guilty of his death.
Why were Captain Hitsugaya and Ran headed in this direction? Unless she was mistaken, they were moving toward the Council of 46! What reason could they have for heading there?
Unless they were attempting to plead for clemency for Rukia!
Why would they do that?
It made no sense.
Toshiro didn't have feelings for Rukia, did he?
Again, the axis of her world tilted. Toshiro in love? Why wasn't her brother appealing to the Council? Why wasn't Rukia's Captain?
Nothing made sense anymore but in spite of that she continued to follow. There must be a reason they were doing this. There was always a reason, even if she didn't agree with it. Somehow, someway this might eventually make sense because her life was now a complete tangle. From being a respected officer she had been imprisoned twice and almost branded a traitor for trying to execute a real traitor.
Her step faltered slightly as her resolution began to crumble. Toshiro mustn't be the monster Captain Aizen painted if he was trying to prevent a death.
They reached the building where the Council was held. Holding back, she watched as Toshiro and Rangiku entered only to emerge very quickly, looking shocked and chasing Izuru. If Izuru were here, then Captain Ichimaru must be here also.
Why were there so many Captains at the Council?
What should she do? Follow Toshiro or enter the building to see why the three people had exited so hurriedly?
Looking in the distance it appeared Izuru was preparing to fight Toshio but it didn't seem important.
Captain Ichimaru might be in the Council Building.
Despite everything written in Captain Aizen's letter, her belief in Captain Ichimaru being the cause of her Captain's death remained. She had never liked the man. Everything indicated he was deceitful and showed a lack of respect. He was close by when she found Captain Aizen and had seemed unaffected by his death despite everything his former Captain had done for him. How could he see the body and remain unmoved?
Her hand on the door, she hesitated. Shinigami were not meant to enter this building unless they were invited. The large wooden doors exuded a sense of the forbidden and the feeling made her unwilling to push the door open.
If she didn't how could she confront Captain Ichimaru? The truth. The truth might be behind the doors. There was no choice. She was going break the law again.
After opening the doors she entered and walked to the top of the stairs and looked down at the Council. The view was disturbing, as was the smell. It made no sense. She must be in the wrong place. This couldn't be true.
Everyone was dead. Bodies lying back in their chairs, slumped over tables, sprawled on the floor. Sprays of blood marred the walls and were smeared over the floors and furniture. Some of the bodies showed some indication they'd fought back, others didn't and none of the wounds were the same. One man appeared to have his head nearly severed; another had all his limbs removed. So much death. Was it possible for one person to murder so many people? Someone or more than one person had killed them, but was Toshiro one of them?
Her eyes rapidly roving over the scene in front of her, attempting to distinguish any signs of life, she tried to move but couldn't. Her eyes again travelled over the carnage in front of her. The silence made the experience even more terrifying. She had to tell someone but still her muscles refused to obey her instructions to move. The deaths had to be reported. It was important. Maybe the same person who killed the members of the Council had killed Captain Aizen!
Concentrating so hard on trying to move and find a way to report the latest atrocity, she didn't hear anyone moving in the room.
"Hello Momo," a familiar, but unpleasant voice said from over her shoulder.
Her body recoiled in shock and disgust as her trance was broken and she turned to face Captain Ichimaru. He was here as she suspected. Opening her mouth she was about to demand to know why he was here, why everyone was dead but he held up his hand, the sickly smile in place on his face. One day she wanted to see the smile slide off his face to be replaced by shock or anger but he seemed undisturbed by the sight in front of him.
"Come with me Momo. I have something Captain Aizen would wish you to see."
Her original instinct was to refuse but he mentioned Captain Aizen. What would Captain Aizen want her to see? If Captain Ichimaru said it, could he be trusted? Without replying, she followed as he led her further into the building. The rustling sound of their sandals moving over the floor was the only sound in the quiet of the rooms aside from the sound of her breathing. It sounded loud and harsh as she realised her breath was coming faster. Something was about to happen.
They stopped and he questioned her briefly before announcing there was someone he wanted her to see.
In this place of death, there was another person alive? Who could be so important that Captain Ichimaru had taken her further into the area forbidden to Shinigami?
She turned as instructed and for the second time within half an hour saw something that made no sense. Blinking hard she looked again and the figure smiled and didn't change.
It was her Captain. Amongst all the others who'd died he was alive and in front of her smiling his familiar beloved smile.
He was alive!
She didn't know she was walking toward him until she was close and he was holding her once more. Tears were flowing down her cheeks. He was alive and here and holding her once more. Her sobs were mingled relief, fear and joy with a little anger. Why did she feel angry? Her Captain was here, holding her close, apologising, reassuring her, saying he had to disappear. Why had he told Captain Ichimaru and not her? How could he trust the man when he'd told her in the letter he trusted her more than he trusted anyone? Pushing those errant thoughts away, she revelled in the knowledge he was alive and now everything made sense again.
He was alive and she felt alive once more. Nothing else mattered. Not even all the questions she had.
His thanks for her words made her dizzy. Now life could continue. She would take her place as his Assistant Captain, the Ryoka would be defeated, Rukia's execution stopped and everything would return to normal. There was no need to kill 'Shiro anymore.
That was a relief. Everything was going to be wonderful now Captain Aizen was not dead.
Why was he saying goodbye? This was the new beginning.
Why did she feel a sharp ripping pain through her chest and back? The agony was not exquisite, but harsh and extreme. Pulling back slightly from the comfort of her Captain's embrace, she looked down and saw his hand holding the handle of his zanpakuto in front of her chest. The blade was invisible.
No, the blade was in her body.
Time seemed to slow down as he pulled the blade out of her body and her thoughts scrambled. He was still smiling.
Her beloved Captain Aizen had stabbed her. Why?
He'd tried or succeeded in killing her. Why? Why would he do this to her?
She'd loved him devotedly, absolutely, never questioning his decisions. Why did he want her dead? Was it because she hadn't killed 'Shiro? Was she such a failure that she had to die?
'Nothing makes sense,' Momo thought as she slumped to the ground, her blood draining from her body. 'Is this really Captain Aizen?'
The sound of sandals slapping against the floor was the last thing she heard before all her senses failed.
Anyone who had read Daydreams and a few of my other stories may know Momo is not my favourite character.
Through the experience of writing this chapter and gaining, maybe, a better understanding of the shock she must have felt when the centre of her world was removed and many of her beliefs destroyed. It does not completely exonerate her from being silly and annoying.
Nearly at the end of the Soul Society arc.
Who will be next? Will I promise to update more often?