Title: The Music of the Night
Disclaimer: I own neither Bleach nor The Phantom of the Opera
Dediation: For Sandy, who demanded KaiRuki. This piece is based upon this picture
Characters/Pairings: Rukia, Ichigo, Orihime, Shinji, Aaroniro Aluluerie, Aizen, Gin, Grimmjow, Tousen, Isshin; Ichigo/Rukia, Kaien/Rukia
Summary: In this AU, Rukia and Aaroniro make a bargain that will forever change history. There are no such things as happy endings.
Notes: I've been a fan of the musical The Phantom of the Opera since I first saw it when I was about nine or ten years old. I fell in love with the concept that in this story it just wasn't possible for there to ever be a happy ending. I realize now that it has influenced me a great deal more than I always suspected.
Insolent Boy! This slave of fashion, basking in your glory!
Ignorant fool! This brave young suitor, sharing in my triumph!
"I did not come here to be taken care of by you."
Her words rang out hard and cold, and the ninth Espada felt a small thrill of delight when he saw how the pathetic boy's face fell. The child looked so lost now, a complete opposite to the confident young man who had just torn through one of the walls of Aizen-sama's fortress with a swing of his blade. All it had taken was just a few words from the young girl to pierce straight through the boy's stronghold and completely destroy his self-confidence.
"Huh." An unimpressed voice came from behind him. "I didn't realize that the female actually thought that she could take care of herself without ol' loverboy at her beck and call."
Aaroniro turned away from the image on the screen to look back at his brother. The sixth Espada was lounging in one of the chairs, his hands behind his head, watching the rescue party intently. Or rather watching the girl with an almost unnatural interest in his eyes.
"You find the girl intriguing?" Aaroniro's voice was purposely light.
Grimmjow's eyes slid over to view Aaroniro (one of the few brothers that he was actually able to tolarate), before turning back to the screen. "I don't find her particularly interesting, but rather the effect she has on loverboy."
"Ah." Aaroniro nodded his masked face in understanding. "You are concerned with the boy then."
Grimmjow nodded, as a slow grin stretched over his face. "He's the strongest member of the whole group, of course I'd be interested in him." He frowned. "Of course, Aizen has forbidden us to seek them out."
Aaroniro turned away from his brother to look back at the girl. "Yes. It would not do to disobey Aizen-sama's orders." There was a short pause, before he spoke again. "It would be so unfortunate, wouldn't it? If one of them just happened to stumble across an Espada in their quest to get Aizen-sama's pet? I doubt that Aizen-sama would have a problem with his subjects acting in self defense." Aaroniro watched as the girl now rested her hand upon the boy's, as the leader of their rescue party led an old battle chant (He had used that chant once - when he had first taken the girl on a Hollow hunt).
The grin on Grimmjow's face widened. There was a reason he liked Aaroniro better than the others. He stood up. "I forgot. There was some place I needed to be."
Aaroniro waved him off. "Say hello to Aizen-sama's pet for me." He turned back to the screen in time to see the boy shoot one last look towards the girl. Something boiled inside him, the feeling only grew when he saw the girl cast that same look back at the boy. He knew that look, he knew it well.
"Hmm?" Grimmjow paused before the door. "What?"
Aaroniro watched now as the girl raced through the halls, her cape flying behind her. "Make sure you drag out the boy's death."
Flattering child, you shall know me
See why in shadow I hide...
I am your Angel of Music
Come to the Angel of Music
Darkness surrounded her, licking her feet and threatening to drown her very existence. She stood there in that sea of black and waited for her would-be murderer (not that she would give him that chance).
Her hand on Shirayuki, she watched the Espada as he made slow deliberate steps towards her, his hand reaching for his mask. Her grip tightened, and she shifted her weight, ready to draw out her blade the moment the Ninth Espada tried to pull anything.
He pulled off his mask and let it fall to the ground. It made a loud clunking sound that echoed out into the darkness.
Rukia's hand fell from Shirayuki and all she could do was stare in disbelief at the figure before her.
"K-Kaien-dono...?" Her voice was shaking so much that it was a miracle that she could force the name out of her mouth.
The figure continued to stare down at her.
The darkness now curled around her knees, its heavy tentacles reaching higher and higher. Aiming for her throat.
"Kaien-dono?" Her voice was stronger now, as millions of questions ran through her head. "Kaien-dono?"
His face remained as smooth and as forebearing as stone. His eyes remained trained on her shaking form.
"Are you Kaien-dono?" Desperation filled her, and it was plain to hear in her words and even easier to see in her face. Unbidden, she took a step toward this tall statue of a God.
And just like that, the spell was broken. Kaien-dono smiled and it was as if all of the darkness in that room had vanished and all that remained was light. "It's been a long time, hasn't it Kuchiki?"
Tears prickled the corners of her eyes.
Wandering child, so lost, so helpless
Yearning for my guidence...
Have you forgotten your angel?...
Too long you've wandered in winter
Far from my far roving gaze...
You resist me,
Let your soul obey!...
I am your Angel of Music
Come to the Angel of Music
It was like taking a long, sharp pin and pushing it deep into the body of a still fluttering butterfly (not anywhere near the heart, the butterfly would continue to beat its wings even after its captor was long dead), and pinning it to the wall.
It had been such a long time since Aaroniro Aluluerie had had this much fun. The girl actually believed that her beloved Kaien-dono was still alive. He almost wanted to inform her of the foolish Soul Reaper's fate. Almost. But not quite. He had continued taunting her, seeing how far he could push her by reminding her of the fact that he was forced to live this half-life because of her, this small girl with too blue eyes.
"Are you prepared to be killed by me, Kuchiki? I'm asking you if you're prepared to give your life in repentance... to the very man you killed."
He wasn't sure what sort of reaction he had expected, but it definitely wasn't the one that she gave. Her eyes had seemed so far away even as she looked at him, and she had looked so sad and tired. There was no hestitance in her voice when she next spoke to him.
This was what he wanted. This was exactly what he had wanted for so long. He only needed to convince himself of that fact right now.
Had her eyes always been so serious? Where was the girl he had once known? The girl with the smile always in her eyes. Where was she? Where had she gone? Where was his murderess.
"...But not just yet..." Her voice was small, almost hesitant as if she were begging. "I can't do it yet... I... I did kill Kaien-dono..." The words were forced out of her mouth as if they were poison. "I believe that crime... Is something that will not fade, no matter how many decades pass by. If by cutting me down, Kaien-dono's sadness will fade even a small bit... Then I will happily offer my life..." Something inside him was reacting to her words, something he had long forgotten. What was this feeling that he had as he watched her? And why was it getting stronger and stronger with every slight flutter of her lashes? "However, right now, I have come in search of here in search of Inoue... in order to help my nakama." She had barely had any friends when he knew her... during those days from so long ago that still haunted his memory (or had she had anyone besides himself to take her hand? He remembered that there had been another child, who had cast several yearning glances upon the girl whenever she had passed his line of sight. He hadn't liked those looks). "And therefore, until we rescue Inoue Orihime... No matter what Kaien-dono says... I cannot give my life yet." She looked right into his eyes then, and he saw her soul.
There had always been a reason why he had wanted to find her again. Always. He had believed for so long that it was because he wanted her blood to grace Nejibana's blade. But he saw now that that wasn't the case.
Time changes everything. Even a lust for blood.
She had really grown up since that night. She was no longer a little girl, she was a whole different creature all together now. One that he couldn't help but be intrigued by.
"So..." He drawled out, eyes shifting away from her. "I can have your life... after we rescue your friend?"
Rukia looked up, startled. "We?"
He grinned and grabbed her hand. "Come on, Kuchiki, we haven't got all day." He bent and picked up his mask. He looked back at her and smiled. "I bet that you've been really worried about your friend, haven't you?"
She opened her mouth to say something, anything, before she closed it again. She looked away.
He frowned. "Hey Kuchiki." She didn't look up. He sighed, and placed a hand on her head. "Kuchiki, look at me." She looked at him, her eyes slightly watery. "You care about your friend a lot, don't you?"
She nodded, swallowing what looked to be a sob.
"Then that's enough to convince me to get her back for you."
"You'll help me?" Her voice was unsure, and there was only a tiny touch of hope in it. That night fifty years ago had drained out all of the vast amount of hope that had laid in that girl. It drove home the fact that he was no longer dealing with the same person any more.
Unbidden, he stroked her cheek. "I'll help you." He squeezed her hand. "Just remember, Kuchiki, once we've rescued your friend, your life is mine to do with as I wish. Do you understand?"
She nodded once and squeezed his hand in return.
The bargain was struck: a life for a life.
Fondest greatings to you all,
Just a few instructions before rehearsal starts.
"Well," Gin commented as he watched the screen, his feet on the table. "This does look interesting."
Tousen frowned at him. "We have a traitor in our midst and you find this amusing?"
The other former Soul Reaper shook his head. "I wouldn't necessarily call him a traitor. If anything, I would say that he's about to make things a lot more interesting around here."
"I will never understand the obsession you all have with Kuchiki Rukia." Tousen sounded disgusted with Gin, but that wasn't unusual.
Gin leaned back in his chair. "Must be because you can't see." He paused as he watched the Ninth Espada take the girl's hand and lead her towards the door of Inoue Orihime's room. "Nobody really knew what it was about Helen of Troy either, but every man who ever saw her never stopped trying to save her."
Tousen looked mildly interested. "What were they trying to save her from?"
Gin shrugged. "Who knows. But they had to save her, even if there was nothing to be saved from. A girl like that will forever have men trying to fight in her honor or to claim her."
It was now that Tousen seemed to get it. "But isn't it a rather big risk letting Inoue Orihime walk right out of here? We may never get her back."
Gin let out a little chuckle. "You know that little bird believes that she can accomplish the impossible. She'll be back. When there's a prize like the Hogyoku hanging about, there is no way that Inoue will not attempt to come back into our midst." He stood up from his chair now, and headed over to the camera screens. "Plus, if he's about to do, what I think he's about to do, there is no way our little bird is ever going to stop trying to come back."
He pressed a button, and light began dying everywhere. "Let's help out our Casanova, shall we?"
One of the Hollows he had once eaten had had the ability to enter the minds of others and twist their thoughts.
He now used that same ability to inform all of his brethren of the great gift he wished to bestow on Aizen-sama. The gift of a worthy opponent. All the silly little boy needed was a push in the right direction.
And what was a better push than the death of the one person he had once risked life and limb to save only a short while ago?
Rukia's hand was soft and every so often she would turn back to smile at her "Kaien-dono". She couldn't see if he smiled as he still wore his mask to hide his identity. But the way he held her fingers in his hand told her what she needed to know.
Aizen-sama gave the go-ahead for the plan. He even offered to have some healers tend to one of the rescue party who had been injured earlier that day.
Aaroniro thanked Aizen-sama for his most generous help.
And Rukia smiled.
What I once used to dream, I now dread.
If he finds me it won't ever end,
And he'll always be there, singing songs in my head.
And he'll always be there, singing songs in my head.
Who gives someone else their heart, knowing that they are going to die and leave somebody dear behind? Somebody who will spend the rest of their life dreaming of what could have been.
Selfish people, that's who.
Shiba Kaien, however, had never seen the act of giving his heart, his legacy, to the girl-child who had come to be very important to him in such a short time as a deadly burden. He had given her his heart because that was all that he had left to give her. The very thing that made him Shiba Kaien.
Kuchiki Rukia had understood that. She understood that when he died upon her sword, Kaien-dono had bestowed the greatest gift in the world onto his murderer.
Time was running out. Soon, she would be just another corpse.
As she watched now as her friends greeted each other, laughing with relief, she knew time was running out.
Kaien-dono's hand squeezed her shoulder. His hand felt hard and cold.
The gate was now open. It beckoned with its warm light. Light that was no longer meant for her, who would die in this darkness.
"Hey, Rukia." Ichigo sounded impatient. "You coming or what?" His eyes dropped down from her face to stare at the hand that grasped her thin shoulder tightly. He frowned and took a step forward.
Still retaining his hard grip on her shoulder (was he trying to snap her shoulder blade in half?), Kaien-dono pulled off his mask and grinned at the startled boy.
Ichigo and the others looked shocked as they viewed this mirror image. Renji choked.
"Vice Captain Shiba?"
The Espada smiled and shook his head. "Aaroniro Aluluerie."
His smile disappeared however when she chose to speak.
The boy's head snapped towards her, looking for an explanation, any explanation. She only offered him a sad smile. "I give you my heart."
Aaroniro Aluluerie's face twisted into a snarl and he jerked the girl back by her hair. His zanpaktou out and flashing in the air, he rose it over her head. Rukia stared back up at him, she would not back out on their bargin, not her. She would honor it with her life.
Around him, he could hear panicked yells as her companions ran to save the girl. And then, white figures rushed out of the darkness - his brothers and sisters, and they pushed the ill-fated rescue party towards the gate.
He could hear the boy screaming the girl's name as he was pushed further and further back towards the gate.
He rose his blade, and yelled out for the boy to hear.
"YOUR LIFE FOR MINE!"
Ichigo heard a shrill scream before he was forced through the gate, the mocking laughter of the Arrancar ringing in his ears.
Kuchiki Rukia had been taken by the darkness.
Say you'll share with me
He had broken several fingers trying to claw his way back through the gate. Apparently, if he had had less spiritual energy than he did, he would have lost more than the use of his fingers for a couple of weeks. He would have lost his life.
He remembered that someone had been screaming Rukia's name, howling it to the skies in animalistic tones. Apparently, that had been him.
He didn't know how he had gotten home, but he woke up back in his body in his room. He had been covered with bandages, and his body had felt like an inferno (he found out later that the gate had burned him as well).
And for one strange minute, he had thought that she was still there, in his house. He had jumped out of bed, ignoring how his body had protested in pain, and he had raced all over the house, searching. His panic had grown as each room he entered carried her presence, but held no sign of her.
Finally, his feet had carried him back to his closet, the closet that Rukia had claimed as her own, once upon a time. His bandaged hands had been shaking as he touched the wood.
He took a breath and prayed. Prayed that she would be waiting for him.
The door slid open and only the memory of her remained.
God was dead and Kuchiki Rukia was gone forever.
He fell to the ground beside her closet and stared at nothing.
Rukia had disappeared.
Slightly heavy footsteps approached him. Ichigo saw nothing. A warm calloused hand wrapped itself around his shoulder.
"She can't be dead." Ichigo stated. "She's not allowed to die. I'm supposed to protect her."
His father said nothing as he held his son tighter.
"She's the one. She's the one who I'm supposed to protect. She can't be dead. She can't be. I'm supposed to protect her."
"Ichigo. Sometimes, things happen that nobody can stop or change, no matter how much we want it to." His father's voice sounded strange, being this serious. He wasn't used to his father acting this way. For once, he wanted his father to continue acting the role of the fool.
"He had my face." Ichigo muttered, closing his eyes. He could still see the bastard as he jerked Rukia back by her hair and he could hear his laughter as she bit out a chocked scream. "He looked just like me."
Wishing you were somehow here again,
Sometimes it seemed if I just dreamed,
somehow you would be here.
Wishing I could hear your voice again,
Knowing that I never would.
Dreaming of you won't help me to do
all that you dreamed I could...
Too many years, I take back tears,
Why can't the past just die?
The cloak in the Sixth Espada's hand bore little resemblance to the cloak that Kuchiki Rukia had worn when she had first stepped into Hueco Mundo. It was shredded in several places and the collar had been dyed a deep red from the blood that had once flowed through Kuchiki Rukia's viens.
It was all that Ichigo could focus on.
He could hardly hear any of the others, or Grimmjow's own taunts. He couldn't see anything else either. Only the cloak... the one piece of evidence that proved that Rukia was never going to come back to him.
"He kept her alive for hours, you know." Grimmjow offered conversationally. "You can keep a person alive for days, even with their hands cut off."
"SHUT THE HELL UP!" It was Renji who screamed, clutching his zanpaktou so hard that the skin over his knuckles went white, on the verge of splitting under the strain.
The Espada only grinned. "Oh, I'm sorry. Did I offend you or something? I thought you were her friends, don't you want to know how she spent her last hours?" The bone jaw gleamed in the moonlight, highlighting how sharp his teeth were. "She screamed so many names before he ate her heart." He paused and began counting off the tips of his fingers. "Nii-sama. Renji. Captain." His eyes found the boy. "There was one name that she kept calling out, what was it? What was it, now?"
Ichigo's hand began to shake. A dark thread drifted through the white sea that was his eye.
"Oh, that's right." Grimmjow eyes glinted with anticipation. "She kept crying for one of those cowards who abandoned her back then. His name was-" He gagged as the huge claw of a Hollow dug into his neck.
Human skin lay on the ground. The huge white limb with its red markings looked strange attached to the body of the teenage boy, his left eye completely black and glowing yellow.
"DON'T YOU EVEN SPEAK HER NAME!"
Rukia was dead.
Rukia was dead.
The world had ended.
Think of me, think of me fondly, when we've said goodbye.
Remember me, once in awhile, please promise me you'll try
When you find that once again you long to take your heart back and be free,
If you ever find a moment, spare a thought for me.
The doors to the small shrine opened without so much as a single creak. The lone picture of Hisana smiled sadly at him, almost as if she knew that this day would come and she shared his sorrow.
As a measure of respect towards his wife and his sister, he was dressed for once not in the fine robes befitting his stature as the head of the Kuchiki family and as a Captain of the Gotei 13, but rather in the simple grey robe that he had worn when courting Hisana, sneaking down to the outer slums as a younger man. He had no care for either his position or his lineage now.
A hand covered with faint scars reached up and gently moved Hisana's portrait to the side in order to make room for the shrine's new occupant. His hand lingered on the border of the portrait for a moment before returning to its original task. Another portrait now stood beside that of his wife's, as well as a small red collar (a token from the days he had sought his sister's death).
Rukia's portrait was smaller and rougher looking than the picture of Hisana, which he had commissioned from a well-known painter of the Courts. It was painted while Hisana was wasting away, and yet it had still managed to capture much of her beauty.
The portrait of Rukia had been a rough sketch by himself. He had never bothered to commission a painting of his little sister; there was always too much to do and besides, they had had all the time in the world. The painting could wait. At the time, all he had been concerned about was this need to fully understand and cherish this young woman who had been his sister.
Now, as he looked at that rough sketch (he had never had much talent for drawing despite what his tutors had claimed) that barely captured the girl who had once been his younger sister, he could almost admit the truth to himself.
He had fully expected her to come back. A bit scratched perhaps, but alive.
"May you find each other now, when you could not in life."
Orihime cut a somber figure as she walked up to the abandoned building. Her eyes were red from too much crying and she wore a black dress. She stopped outside the building that housed the Vizards and took a deep breath to calm herself. Her fingers dug into the skin of her palms. She took a step through the barrier.
Sounds of fighting came from down below, and she could hear the roar of a Hollow (Kurosaki-kun's?) followed by loud laughter.
Hacchi was there to greet her as she reached the bottom of the stairs. He looked worried.
"He's more violent than usual today." He stated. "You might want to be careful, he's having a hard time telling friends from enemies at the moment."
Orihime offered what could only be described as a weak smile. "Don't worry about me. I can handle it."
She walked past him to where Kurosaki-kun was currently attempting to smash the masked face of one of the Vizards into the ground. His horrible laughter echoed throughout the compound and even though his opponent was fighting him back, Kurosaki-kun barely even seemed to register that he was fighting a losing battle.
He seemed to stop for a moment at her voice, before deciding to ignore her and continue his spar with Hirako-san. Orihime felt irritation running through her body.
"Kurosaki-kun!" She yelled at the top of her lungs. "Why weren't you there today?" Anger filled her. "How could you not be there?" Tears prickled the corners of her eyes again. Her nails dug into her skin.
He actually stopped this time to regard her, pulling up his mask. Hirako-san stepped back a little to watch them, his hand never leaving his sword, and his eyes never leaving Kurosaki-kun.
"What was the point?" Kurosaki-kun demanded rudely.
"The point?" Orihime could barely understand what she was hearing from him. "The point would have been to show respect for Kuchiki-san! The point would have been to show that you cared about her enough to come to her funeral! How could you not be there?"
"Don't talk to me as if you know what I'm going through!" He snapped, his hand tightening around his sword threateningly.
She wouldn't back down though. Not now. "Do you honestly think that you're the only one who misses her, Kurosaki-kun? What about her brother? Her Captain? Renji? And all of her other friends from Soul Society? What about me?"
His eyes narrowed dangerously, and he actually growled at her. "Shut up."
"She was my friend too! Do you think that I've been dancing for joy about any of this? I never wanted this! I never wanted her to sacrifice her life for me!"
"Well, what the hell did you expect?" He screamed at her. "Going off the way you did! Letting them take you to Hueco Muendo? Did you honestly think for one moment that they would leave us alone if you went with them?" He was panting now, and his spiritual energy was rolling off in waves. "Rukia is DEAD, because of YOU and your lack of ability to think!"
Tears were now running down her cheeks. This was the first time that she had ever seen him like this. "I didn't ask for it." She mumbled, her head downcast. "I didn't ask for my friend to die. I admit that there were times that I was jealous of her, because Kuchiki-san was so wonderful and strong and she was able to protect others in a way I never could. But, I didn't want her to die. I – I wanted to go home with Kuchiki-san and Kurosaki-kun and everyone else. I wanted to train with Kuchiki-san again." Tears flooded her vision and she bit her lip to keep a sob from bursting out. She rubbed her damp cheek angrily with the heel of her hand. "You're not the only one who misses her, don't forget that."
She turned around and started to walk out of the room.
Kurosaki-kun's voice stopped her. "But I'm the only one she gave her heart to in the end. I'm the only one."
There was a short pause, before he screamed out "FIGHT ME!" and there was a clash of swords as Hirako-san met his blade.
Orihime continued her journey, a slow plan beginning to form in her mind. Her hand reached up to touch one of her hairpins.
'How far can I go?' She wondered. 'Where does the end lie?'
Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world,
Leave all thought of the life you lived before
Let your soul take you where you long to be!
... Only then, can you belong to me.
Darkness abounded in the cell in the earth. The only light was faint rays created by some of the stones in the area, creating an eerie affect.
"I can see why he likes this place so much." Gin commented dryly, as he surveyed the area. "Quite the little love nest." He came up to the table in the center of the room, and stared down at its subject curiously. "That her?"
"Yes," Aizen stared down at the creature with a smile on his face, the sort that he only put on when he truly was pleased with something. His eyes ran down the figure again. "What do you think?"
Gin touched the hole nestled below the figure's throat. "This has to be some of your finest work. It actually feels as if I'm touching thin air here." His head snapped back to Aizen. "Did you do what he wanted with her memories?"
Aizen nodded. "Better. This little creature believes that she died the same night that the former Shiba Kaien did."
"Beheaded by Ukitake, who couldn't deal with the fact that he had led his beloved Vice-Captain to his death."
Gin allowed a small grin. "And the boy?"
Aizen smiled in return. "Never met him."
"So terrible." Gin commented. "I do hope that there will be a happy ending. I love happy endings."
"Aaroniro Aluluerie will be happy at least." Aizen remarked, raising a hand over the creature's closed eyes. "Awaken, Mariposa."
A pair of blue eyes, almost violet, snapped open. The being on the table slowly rose up. Dressed in white, with the remains of a white mask threaded through her hair, and a Hollow hole at the base of her throat, Mariposa was a rather striking creature.
She bowed her head to Aizen and kissed his hand. "I live to serve," she breathed, before releasing him. He ran a finger down her cheek.
"Such a pretty one you are, Mariposa."
Mariposa smiled in return.
Another presence was then felt among them. Mariposa's smile brightened as she reached for the other man in the room.
Aaroniro Aluluerie smiled as he picked her up in his arms. The number nine was tattooed onto her white shoulder. "I have missed you, my love."
She smiled. "My life is yours to do with as you wish."
He grinned. Little did his beloved Mariposa know: he already had.
End of Act One