Definition of ignis fatuus as taken from dictionary dot com: "a flitting phosphorescent light seen at night".
Warning: Crossover with Harry Potter. AU. This occurs approximately 150 years from the current Harry Potter storyline (before Phineas Nigellus Black became Headmaster of Hogwarts.)
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or the Harry Potter series.
In the silence of the forest, the moonlight faded behind the veil of grey clouds. Darkness was easily contained, folded in the leaves and sleeves of the bountiful branches that hung both high and low. Shadows flickered and the eyes of many seemed to appear, blinking, before they were engulfed by the overwhelming blackness. The foliage did not break and a peculiar quiet encompassed the area as a slow fog inched its silvery wisps through the air and ensnared the stars into submission.
Further on hidden by the entangling overgrowth, a strange oval pond was nestled within the ground, cupped by the softened rocks. A creature with a shimmering white hide, almost silver, trod with care towards the water, ears flickering; a spiralling horn was protruding from the head and the feathery tail flicked carelessly, silver strands brushed by a nonexistent breeze.
A voice broke the din. The ethereal unicorn cantered off quickly.
The creatures of the Forbidden Forest that listened to the clipped tone did not hear an answer but their hungry eyes trailed after a delicate black moth fluttering in the air…
"This better not be a chase, Kisuke."
"But I thought you enjoyed chases," came the honest and most innocent reply.
The darkness enveloped the smirk. The lithe figure hidden in the garb of shadows flitted silently from branch to branch. A barely concealed moth trailed after the lone figure.
Shihouin Yoruichi came to a rest on a branch, her weight making the post dip lightly towards the ground. She commented quietly, "This is a very strange forest to chose."
The moth landed on the trunk beside her and Urahara's voice seemed to echo from the insect, "One cannot expect to find the expected in a wizard's backyard."
The special operations' leader snorted derisively but immediately sobered afterwards, asking, "So what can I expect from this wizard's backyard? I already know it needs grooming."
She swung to the next branch to obtain a better view of the large lake now in front of her and the moth trailed obediently after her.
"Well…" Urahara paused again. "You might encounter bloodthirsty living animals. This forest is most renowned. Many of the lost, boundless souls in and around this area are caused by them."
"That's why 'Forbidden Forest'?"
"Probably." Yoruichi could hear the smirk that probably mimicked the one graced on her face.
"Shame. Not fearful enough though."
"Oh?" questioned Urahara.
The skilled woman nodded empathically, "If the name was able to strike fear in their hearts, maybe the wizards wouldn't dive inside all of this…" She waved her hand around her. "…And get killed."
She shuffled a careless hand through short plum locks, sniffling in boredom, "But enough of this. I'm sure there has to be more than bloodthirsty creatures in this story." A wicked smile appeared on her lips. "Otherwise you wouldn't have called and asked for this 'favor'."
The twelfth captain responded accordingly, "I would not wish to have anyone more capable for this job than you, Yoruichi."
"Resorting to flattery, Kisuke?" Yoruichi had one arm supporting her as she squatted on her seat. "You must be desperate to figure this out."
"Hey!" came the almost indignant cry. "You would be curious too if there were several sudden spikes of soul energy emanated from this heavily populated wizardry area with no hint or sign of hollow activity before or after."
She almost rolled her eyes at the feeble excuse. "Shouldn't we be glad? No wizard-hollows. They're terrible to deal with." She paused and continued before Urahara can start a tirade. "I know, Kisuke. Kidding."
"No need to reassure this handsome man, Yoruichi," laughed the bodiless voice.
She snorted and ignored him, "This disturbance alone was enough to warrant the highly top secret covert operation."
He added mildly, "Central 46 gave it immediate attention. We can't ignore their orders."
"I wasn't questioning them. Though, whether or not you planned this is highly debatable." She shifted her position. "Knowing you…"
"Yoruichi, I'm wounded. You know I have no affairs with 46. To suggest such an event...Manipulating the council in my favour…" He trailed off.
"I didn't say that."
"It's what you didn't say that worries me," retorted the mocking tone.
"Either way," she voiced accusingly, "this is just the icing on the cake for you."
"What can I say, I'm curious."
"You're always curious." She sighed, dramatically despaired.
He conceded. "Well, he's taking research that, might I add, is forbidden in Soul Society and is trying to complete it before me!"
"I wonder… Is this wizard even aware of the race he partook?" teased the female shinigami. "Funny though. Forbidden research in the Forbidden Forest. Maybe the mortals didn't give this clump of shrubbery the wrong name after all."
Kisuke muttered, seeming to ignore her other comments, "Race. I, for a matter of fact, enjoy races."
"You enjoy winning races." She laughed. "There is a difference, my friend."
A disturbing, steeping silence suppressed their voices as they fell quiet; the wings of the hell moth opened and closed. "…He's approaching."
A tingle ran up her spine in anticipation when she felt the press of a wizard's spirit energy. The woman whispered, "You be the disembodied voice, and I can do the rest."
She leapt up the branches above her and circled the tree line inconspicuously. Her eyes did not leave the cloaked figure heading towards the lake. In his hand the target was holding a stick with light emitting from the tip.
When the wizard finally stopped at the edge of the lake, he pulled back his hood in a fluid motion. Yoruichi, observing him, paused at one tree and leaned forward; the hell moth landed gently on her hand.
The wizard raised his wand almost experimentally. The woman watching held a bated breath, waiting. Without warning, a flash of light streamed forth from the wooden stick and Yoruichi had to cover her eyes.
A moment passed. "Yoruichi…The reading is off the charts."
Hearing Urahara's voice, she blinked and almost gasped at what she saw.
The scene unfolding before her was surreal.
"Kisuke…What is this?" she whispered, not bothering to hide the awe and anger. "How could I have missed sensing this?"
Hidden in the water were hundreds of silver gilded cages. The cages were relatively dry, as they were magically protected from the water. She stared sharply into the prisons and saw that they were housing many different types of creatures; there were many humans among that number. The place reeked of hollow.
The wizard moved forward while talking animatedly and prodded a despondent creature in its cage. The creature in turn rose up and growled weakly before sliding back onto its side.
Yoruichi glared, disgusted. These prisoners were dying and the arrogant pig-headed 'magician' was tormenting them.
"I'm going to destroy him."
"But you can't just drop in on top of him," reasoned Kisuke. "We need evidence to convict him."
She didn't say anything; her hand was compulsively flexing as if she was wringing out a neck.
The twelfth division captain sighed and opted for a more condescending tone, "By all rights, we shouldn't be here without proof. We're from Soul Society and deal with the balance of souls. We do not go around offing anyone that is breaking rules that don't deal with souls."
"I know that!" she snapped. The female shinigami closed her eyes, attempting to control her temper. "Have it your way. One move, Kisuke. He makes one move and I'll get him."
She continued to watch the wizard in an unnerving gaze and Urahara fell silent.
The wizard, unaware of his audience, lifted his hand again and levitated two cages towards him. One housed a relatively normal rat and the other contained a small human child.
Yoruichi sucked in a breath when she saw the wizard take out a vial of silvery blood. She could hear Kisuke's voice against her ear, "A few more moments…Just a bit longer…"
The wizard used the blood in the vial to draw a circle onto the ground below the two cages before trailing a line of blood between the two creatures as if connecting them. The man took a step back and Yoruichi took a step forward, mesmerized by the wrongness of the situation.
The air around the cages crackled dangerously as the wizard started chanting. The energy levels were rising again and Yoruichi saw the brightness and darkness colliding together.
The soul from the human child was forcibly removed from its body with the soul still attached to the body by the chain of fate; however, the child's soul was slowly being split apart. With each cracking line on the spirit, blood was spilled and a wailing cry of pain was emitted.
"ST-ST-STOPPPP!" The soul screeched and twisted into a vulgar shape. Blood leaked from every orifice of his spiritual body as he protested.
The man chose not to hear him. He focused his attention on the rat, which also had its soul removed from the body. The rat spirit was forcibly moved towards the mutilated soul of the young child in a collision of red and white.
At that exact moment, both chains of fate broke and Yoruichi jumped off the branch. Kisuke's voice was a mere echo in a distance. "Don't destroy his spirit. We do not deal out Judgement after all."
In a blur of black, Yoruichi stood guarded beside the cages. She addressed the wizard smoothly, "Having fun with your experiments?"
Between them, the strange rat humanoid chittered and pawed the ground restlessly. On its head was a swirling skull cap, much like a half-formed hollow mask.
The wizard glared defensively, "Who are you?" He pointed his wand at her threateningly.
Her lips twitched into a sadistic smile, "I'm here to kill you."
The mortal paled before saying a jumbled incantation. Unfortunately, he never got to finish as a skull-crushing punch across his jaw knocked him clear across the muddy ground and into the trees.
"Che. Bastard," she spat out vehemently before uncurling her fist. "Too easy. Maybe I should've strangled you to make your death last longer." She sidled a gaze at the demi-hollow. "Just like you did to him."
As if it understood, the warped soul blinked and bared its teeth.
Kisuke spoke up again, "I guess I'll call out a clean up crew."
She nodded passively, "It's for the best. Though…" Yoruichi gazed around her uncertainly. "I think it will have to wait…There seems to be a reunion happening."
Lumbering towards her were massive demi-hollow, which were most likely the past projects of the wizard. The glowing eyes stared at her and she gazed back, not quite understanding what was happening.
At the corner of her peripheral vision, she noted a movement…
"Don't even fight fair, huh?" growled the shinigami. The twin dragons definitely determined the outcome of the fight, but to be fair, Yoruichi managed to eliminate many of the abominations before sustaining the heavy burns. Currently, she was sat upon by one of the dragons.
Her eyes darted around, combing through the dense forest ground. The hell moth was nowhere to be found and she concluded that it was probably long destroyed during the battle.
The other dragon snorted out fire before dipping its head to stare at her. The shinigami, disliking the scrutiny, spoke up, "What now? Going to eat me?"
The large slanted eyes lit up and the dragon spirit rose up to its impressive height. It roared and the other damaged souls scurried towards the cages.
Yoruichi watched as the souls picked at the cages, seemingly trying to find something, or someone, among the prisoners. Finally, one of the demi-hollow approached their imposing dragon leader while dragging one of the cages holding a living captive.
Her golden eyes were captured by an identical pair that belonged to a black cat.
The shinigami narrowed her eyes dangerously, immediately figuring out what they were about to do. She addressed the demi-hollow, "Why?"
The dragon spirit leaned forwards, huffing out a blast of poisonous air, before finally stringing out an explanation. "Someone needs to remember…us."
An expressive squirrel soul chattered, "We're too far gone! We're too far gone! We're too far gone! We're to-" One of the humanoid horses trampled on the squirrel, effectively silencing it.
"No one remembers us…when we were…living," concluded the dragon thoughtfully. "Older…souls…They…" The dragon spirit growled pitifully, shaking its head. "Cannot…Do not know words."
The spirit sitting on top of her rumbled, continuing where his twin left off, "The other souls shattered…after awhile."
Yoruichi nodded, "That makes sense. Their souls were subjected to too much pressure and could not hold the new structure." The shinigami pursued the other topic, "But why like this? I won't forget."
The dragon roared, "Everyone forgets!"
A chorus followed, "Everyone forgets! Everyone!"
She felt a gnawing pity grow steadily in her gut but instead forced it away. She snapped at them, "Well if you merge me with a cat, what would that achieve?"
The demi-hollow did not answer her. Instead, the dragon spirit gave a final roar before allowing his soul to collapse in a bright swirling blue. The other demi-hollow followed suit and the spirit energy swirled restlessly around the cat and herself, effectively paralyzing them both.
She tried to inch away from the pounding pressure of energy on her back but her body was unable to follow through in the command. Gritting her teeth together, she dug her fingers into the soft ground underneath her and spat out, "You will not merge me with a damned cat."
Yoruichi tapped into her reiatsu and attempted to push away the energy, but even as she did, the spiralling light coalesced around the feline and drew the dazed spirit towards her.
…And then there was mind numbing pain accompanied by the vague idea that she wouldn't mind being a cat if only the pain would go away forever. She wants to survive. Dying again was not on her list.
When her vision cleared briefly, she saw the tiny bits of residual phosphorescent energy dispersing into the inky sky...
Urahara Kisuke walked along the lake edge, assessing the damage done. He could feel the disappearing reiatsu around him and felt slightly weary. He could not identify the exact location of one Shihouin Yoruichi.
The captain stopped mid-stride and picked up the notebook on the ground near two open cages. He brushed off the dirt and flipped the cover page open casually. However as soon as he even began reading the words scrawled on the book, it combusted and he dropped it back onto the ground.
"A shame, really," Kisuke thought as he watched the wizard's notes destroy itself with magical fire.
Passively, he turned around and resumed the search for his fallen comrade, "But probably for the best that the notes are gone…"
He stepped into the shallow end of the lake and squinted out towards the distance. There was too much spiritual interference and he only had his vision to help him. He gazed at the cages, staring at the pitiful creatures inside them. They were all dead when he arrived.
"Where could she have-?"
Before he could finish the sentence, he did a double take. A few paces away from him was an empty cage and beside it was a strange black cat swaying lightly on its paws. Most peculiar about the cat was that he could feel the light press of Yoruichi's reiatsu coming from it.
He started, "Yoruichi?"
The cat wobbled slightly and gazed up at him with piercing yellow eyes. "K-Kisuke?"
Urahara walked up towards the supposed cat and kneeled in front of Yoruichi, "What happened?"
The very male voice replied, "The mutilated souls merged me with a cat, Kisuke." The cat looked despondent. "A male cat. Couldn't they tell that I was – am - female?"
The captain frowned lightly. "How did they merge you?"
"Sacrificed their spiritual energy, every last bit of it, and used that to combine the cat's soul with mine."
Urahara tapped his chin thoughtfully, "In all actuality, sacrificing themselves like that should not have worked. With such excessive energy created, the souls, as in your soul and the cat's soul, should have been destroyed before fully merging."
Yoruichi shook her new head, "Doesn't matter how it's possible. The deed is done. How can I change back?"
Urahara hesitated, "…I don't know."
"Great." The cat sat on its haunches and glared suspiciously at Urahara with bright eyes. "No experimentation, Urahara Kisuke. I do not want to be a test subject for your division."
"Of course," nodded Kisuke seriously. "We'll let Retsu handle this."
Yoruichi bobbed her head, "Alright. What now?"
Urahara opened the portal leading to Soul Society. "We go back and tell Central 46 what happened. Also, we can get our people up here to clean the place up."
"Joy." Yoruichi glanced at her companion and swallowed her pride, "I don't have enough energy to keep walking."
Kisuke nodded and picked her up without question. "Let's go?"
"I guess so." Yoruichi gazed up at Kisuke. "I wonder how Soul Society will react to my appearance…"
"Nothing bad will happen to you." Kisuke gave her a reassuring smile and walked through the portal.
A crazy notion and strange logic, right? But hell, they never explained her transformation prowess so…(Okay, so I don't know if they explained or not yet, since I've only read up to chapter 250 in the manga but meh. This is AU after all.)