Yup. It's me again. I come bearing a reincarnation fic.
Although it's probably not the best idea to be posting this so soon after offering to write a fic for someone else and with TIW still a long way from completion, I've been forming the plot for this one in my head for a very long time now, and with summer only a week away, I can't wait any longer to start it up. So start it up I shall.
But I also feel the need to say that because it's me writing it, you can bet it's not going to be the stereotypical happy-fluffy-bunny-love reincarnation fic. So if you're looking for immortal love breaking the boundaries of life and death, you'll probably have better luck elsewhere. Here, you're more likely to find Hitsugaya torture, Matsumoto angst, Ichigo and Renji mass confusion, Ichimaru and Aizen utter villianism, and wonderful Urahara … well, Uraharaness.
Disclaimer: I own plenty of bleach, just not the Bleach I'd prefer.
"Shut your eyes and sing to me"
Shut Your Eyes, Snow Patrol
Bury Me Deep
The battle field raged with carnage and gore and shinigami barely able to continue their fight. But able or not, continue they did. Because it was the only thing they could do.
Aizen Sousuke's plans had been followed through and disrupted in the worst possible way. Now the shinigami of Soul Society and whatever little help they managed to scrounge up from elsewhere were locked in a war of epic proportions against Aizen's many hollow-derived soldiers. Casualties were exceeding estimated amounts on both sides as nearly all of the Third and Fifth Divisions were demolished, the Eleventh falling close behind as it was taking the front lines, and the Espada were left as Aizen's only remaining true offense. They had managed to take the fights away from the living world, but that was only a small consolation.
Ukitake Jyuushirou stared out across the ravaged battle field in awe. It was hell. In every sense of the word.
"Status report!" he barked shakily into the Hell Butterfly fluttering near his ear. "All divisions! Everyone! Status report!"
"First Division reporting!" called out a weary Sasakibe-fukutaichou. "Yamamoto-soutaichou is currently engaging Tousen with Komamura-taichou. Casualties have exceeded 300, but we are gaining ground."
"Second Division!" Soifon-taichou's voice verberated through the Hell Butterfly. "Oumaeda is dead, but other casualties have been kept to a minimum. We have Seireitei under control for the time being."
"Third Division reporting!" coughed Kira-fukutaichou. "We have retreated to the edges of Rukongai's 74th District! Casualties have risen far over half. I'm not sure how long we can hold out!"
"Fourth Division reporting!" scrambled Isane-fukutaichou. "Unohana-taichou is currently with Fifth Division! Casualties have not yet passed 150, but it's looking grim."
"Fifth Division!" spluttered Hinamori-fukutaichou, nearly hyperventilating in her anxiety. "We've sustained heavy casualties! Nearly three-fourths! Unohana-taichou's doing all she can, but I'm not sure we can hold our position much longer! It's awful!"
"Sixth Division!" grunted Abarai-fukutaichou. "Kuchiki-taichou is at it with some crazy Espada, Ulqui-something or other! We're holding out well enough; casualties are under 180, I think. We've gained a mile or so, but nothing more."
"Seventh Division reporting!" Iba-fukutaichou shouted. "Komamura-taichou is holding his own with Yamamoto-soutaichou! We've held our position but advancing has become difficult! Casualties have exceeded 200!"
"Eighth Division reporting!" came Shunsui's strained voice. "Nanao's been gravely injured, but we've managed to gain ground with minimal casualties. Hana-kun of Fourth is currently stationed with our division. He deserves a raise."
"Ninth Division reporting!" Hisagi-fukutaichou called in turn. "Casualties have reached 350. We are currently at a stalemate. I'm not sure how long it will last."
"Eleventh Division!" howled Madarame between sword clashes. "I'm kinda busy right now! Kenpachi-taichou's off with Yachiru fighting with some guy named Noitora! He'll slice that Espada's ass!"
"Twelfth Division reporting!" he barely heard Kurotsuchi-fukutaichou's voice over the other sounds of fighting. "Mayuri-sama is engaging the Espada known as Zaera-Polo. He appears to have the upper hand, though he is wounded. Casualties exceed 200, and we are losing ground steadily. We have retreated to the southern Rukongai District 78."
"Thirteenth Division reporting!" thundered a distraught Kotetsu Kiyone, obviously crying. "Sentaro's gone, sir, and casualties are quickly rising past 130! We have gained a few miles, but we have also reached a stalemate, sir!"
"I-Inoue Orihime reporting!" stuttered Inoue-san, sounding just as weary as the rest of them. "We-We're all still alive, but Mizuiro's been badly injured! I'm healing him right now! Ichigo and everyone are fighting Grimmjow and Wonderwice! I-I don't think they're losing…."
"Tenth Division! Report!" shouted Ukitake-taichou, trying not to sound as anxious as he really was. "Tenth Division!"
"Ukitake-taichou!" Ukitake turned to see the third seat of the Tenth Division, Hideyoshi Kazuki, running toward him and cupping something tightly in his hands.
"Why has no one responded for Ten-"
"We've got a big problem, Ukitake-taichou!" Hideyoshi huffed. Blood and sweat mingled as they slid down his forehead into his fearful brown eyes. Ukitake did not like that expression. Kazuki-kun was many things, but he was never easily frightened. That desperate stare… It could only mean one thing. Something had happened to his superiors. Something bad.
"What's happened?" he asked urgently.
"Hitsugaya-taichou and Matsumoto-san won't respond! They were fine a second ago, then…! I don't know! They just stopped reporting! It doesn't make any sense! We were hoping you could help. We didn't know what else to do. Maybe … maybe they'll say something if it's you."
The third seat unfurled his hands to reveal a Hell Butterfly with a broken wing. That alone was a bad sign; the butterflies tended to take on similar injuries to their counterparts. That meant Hitsugaya's Hell Butterfly was almost certainly damaged as well. Ukitake allowed himself a quick cough into the folds of his sleeve before he carefully took it from Hideyoshi's fingers and held it to his ear. He could hear nothing for a long, agonizing moment, but then came soft, measured breathing accompanied by an unceremonious thud. He let out a sigh of relief at the proof of life, lowering the butterfly closer to his lips.
"Hitsugaya-kun? Rangiku-chan?" he whispered, no louder than the breathing he heard on the other end. He was aware of a sharp gasp, definitely Hitsugaya, followed by hasty shuffling. "Hitsugaya-kun," he tried again. "Hitsugaya-kun, can you hear me?"
He heard something that sounded disturbingly like the young taichou vomiting.
"Uki…take…taichou?" The voice was strained and scratchy, but it was there.
"Yes, Hitsugaya-kun. It's Ukitake-taichou. Where's Rangiku-chan?"
A pause. "With me," he finally managed. "She's down, but … I don't think … she's gone." The pain Ukitake realized he must be feeling manifested itself in every single word he spoke. Not good. Not only was Rangiku out for the count, but Hitsugaya didn't sound far behind.
"What's wrong with her? What's going on?" Ukitake asked as he motioned for Hideyoshi to get someone in Twelfth Division to trace the other Hell Butterfly's location. They needed to find him as soon as possible. Until then, it was best to keep him talking. A little pain was always better than death.
"I'm … not sure. I can't … see … very well."
"Everything's blurry. Minor … concussion … I think. And…"
"And what, Hitsugaya-kun?" he pressed.
"And … I only have … one eye left … to see with."
"What happened?" Ukitake demanded. The seriousness of the situation had just escalated another notch.
"Fighting … Espada, but … he … got help."
"What kind of help? What happened, Hitsugaya-kun?!"
"Ukitake-taichou … I have to get … Matsumoto … out of here."
"I understand. Just stay where you are. We're tracing your location as I speak. We'll get both of you to someone from Fourth Division as soon as we can."
"No," Hitsugaya countered, his raspy voice taking on a new intensity. "We have to … get out of here now … before …"
"Hitsugaya-kun! Hitsugaya-kun!" Ukitake could hear hasty shuffling followed by a grunt that he assumed was Hitsugaya attempting to pick up his fukutaichou. More shuffling, then came something that chilled him to his very bones. A scream. "Hitsugaya-kun!"
"Well, well, well. If it ain' the li'l taichou that got away."
Ukitake felt sick. A nausea that had nothing to do with his illness. He recognized that voice, and he recognized the sound that came after. The gut-wrenching sound of a zanpakutou being withdrawn from flesh. A squelching thud as something collapsed into a pool of what could only be blood.
"Nighty night, li'l taichou," the voice of Ichimaru Gin bounced off of every fiber within Ukitake's being.
"We have the location, Ukitake-taichou!" bellowed from his own, uninjured Hell Butterfly.
"Shunsui!" he yelled hoarsely, a crippling coughing fit threatening to invade his throat despite his valiant efforts to hold it back. Now was no time to wallow in his weaknesses.
"I heard everything! See you there!"
From opposite sides of the battlefield, two of the oldest and most experienced division heads stepped into a simultaneous shunpo. It took them no longer than a few minutes to bypass the countless miles between them. When they arrived however, it became clear that they had not been fast enough.
Ukitake released himself from his shunpo to meet the back of his closest friend, bent over a near-dead Hell Butterfly laying in a particularly large pool of sticky, crimson blood. Enough blood, in fact, to officially declare two shinigami beyond recovery. Yet…
"Jyuushirou…" Shunsui trailed off, his voice heavy.
Ukitake did not reply. What could he say? The Rukongai road they looked out on was covered in blood and bodies.
But Hitsugaya and Matsumoto were nowhere to be seen.