By Nes Mikel
I herby acknowledge that the work of fiction presented here is for my own personal amusement and entertainment purposes alone. Most of the story, characters, place names and other etc stuff in this fiction are copyright Bleach, Kubo Tite, Weekly Shounen Jump, and any others I might have forgot.
For non up-to-date readers, this fiction contains characters and events introduced post Soul Society arc and spoilers up to Chapter 315, where the story deviates from.
With that said, enjoy.
"Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…"
"Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day…"
- PART I -
He is the first to arrive in front of the grave.
In truth, the 'grave' in front of him was nothing but a stone marker. Since it housed no body within, the stone marker was there simply to remind them all that their friend was once one with this world. It was also stupid to think that his friend's spirit will be present here since they were already spirits themselves… but wouldn't that mean that all those prayers he prayed in front of his mother's grave when he was still alive was meaningless as well? After all, his mother's spirit had already ceased to exist. No, the stone was there so they will never forget. The rest of his friends knew this. That was why they built this monument in the first place.
He sighs in front of the grave, and smiles a tiny smile as a small wind picks up the hem of his captain's cloak. Beneath the giant butcher sword he has strapped on his back, the edges of the kanji number '5' could be seen peeking out from beneath the flat of the blade.
"It's been too long."
For Kurosaki Ichigo, 150 years was indeed a long time.
He is the last to arrive to the meeting.
Aizen was smiling that fucking cheeky smile of his (just like always), acting as if he actually expected he'd show up late. The hot glares he received from a few of his so-called comrades only served to add cold fuel to his already silent anger he kept boiled within. Bah! Some of them seriously needed to get their sticks outta their asses. He hated the stuck up types. They were taking things way too seriously.
"Sit down. The tea is getting cold."
He only snorted and sat himself down in the usual seat, next to that immature brat with the stupid teeth and stupid crown he wanted to punch in so badly. He sipped his tea and choked down the urge to spit it out. What the Sexta Espada needed was a glass of cold milk, not this horsepiss. He hated tea.
For Grimmjow Jeagerjaques, 150 years was too much of a long time.
She is the second to arrive in front of the gravestone.
She is usually the first to arrive on the day of anniversary so she is at first surprised to see someone is there before her. She is surprised again when she notices that instead of seeing one of their usual members in their group, it was he who was standing in front the gravestone instead. The vice-captain of the Thirteenth Division says nothing as she silently stares at Ichigo's back as the Fifth Division captain continues to stand there muttering not a single word. Even with his borderline sucky reiatsu detection abilities he surely must've noticed her presence by now but he still doesn't speak.
She decides to breaks the silence.
The silence promptly returns. Then, for the first time, there is movement. He bows his head down and finally opens his heavy mouth.
She kicks him in the head.
"Ow! What the hell was that for, you stupid bi-"
"Idiot! Do you think our friend wants to see you looking like that?"
He scowls but says nothing. She knew he knew she was right.
"So don't look smug." She continues. "That's what we always do when we come here. Instead of looking gloomy like the pansy you are-"
She ignores him. "-we instead celebrate and throw us a party!"
"Why do you think we built the grave in the middle of a forest full of Sakura trees?" She smiles as she lays open the red canvas she carried with her. "This is the best place to hold a hanami party!"
She tries to act cheerful in front of the gravestone. She always does, because she knew her friend – their friend wouldn't want to see them gloomy like Ichigo. Seeing the confused look on Ichigo's face still, she kicks him again, and they resume squabbling like they always did whenever they ran into each other.
For Kuchiki Rukia, the past 150 years was, in fact, a time filled happy memories.
Still, the sadness of losing one of her friends never went away.
"Sorry I'm late."
Raising one of his hands in cordial greeting, the Primero Espada was the second to last to arrive.
A smirk from the side. "I win."
The arrancar that sat opposite from the pink-haired one rolled his eyes. "Oh shut up."
He sighed. So it seems that they had a small betting pool going on to see if it was either he or Grimmjow that would show up last. Ah well, can't say he blamed them. He knew he was impractical and he knew he should probably at least try to correct his ways, but no matter how hard he tried it just seemed it wasn't worth the effort. Heck, he probably would've been the Espada that showed up last too; it was only because of Lilinette and her violent ways he even bothered to show up. Rubbing the sour parts on his beard and his butt he sat himself down in his usual seat. Did she really have to tug at them so hard?
All Stark wanted to do the past 150 years was to sleep.
Why did everything have to be so troublesome?
"I sympathize with you."
He is mildly surprised at the comforting voice coming from the green-eyed Espada that sat himself to his immediate right.
He smiles at this, and sips his tea. Maybe today won't be so bad after all.
Like Rukia that arrived just beforehand, the next two to show up at the gravesite were surprised to see the Fifth Division captain there among them.
The older one was the first to react to his presence.
"Aaaaaaaah! What the hell are you doing here!"
Sitting on top of the red canvas with that ever permanent scowl on his rugged face, the captain did not look all that happy to see them either.
"So is this is where you've been disappearing off to every year? Should've known better, I knew something was up when you two came up with some elaborate excuse whenever I tried coming over to your place on this day."
"What we do is none of your business!"
"I am your older brother."
"That doesn't automatically give you the right to stick your nose into every single thing we do!" She yelled as she turned and pointed towards the open road. "Get out! You're not welcome here."
"A fifth seat from another division has no right to tell me where I should go. I'm a captain."
For Kurosaki Karin, the seething resentment she held for her older brother only continued to seethe even after 150 years.
"You have no right to be here!" She continued to shout at him. "You're the one who let-"
"That's enough Karin-chan!"
"Stay out of this Yu-"
The older twin's outburst is cut short when the younger sister tackles the older sister into the ground.
"Pl-please Karin-chan, stop this. Onii-chan… he… he actually showed up! Can't we… can't we just get along?"
For Kurosaki Yuzu, all she wished for these past 150 years was for the three of them to become family once again.
Seeing the heartbroken look on her younger sister's face, Karin conceded.
"Tsk… fine. He can stay."
"I-I'm only doing this for you!" Karin blushed. "It doesn't mean I've forgiven him, okay!?"
Wiping the tears away from her eyes, Yuzu smiled. "Okay!"
The eighth arrancar to arrive to the meeting was, like the two others that will show up after him, wasn't exactly what one would call a dedicated member among the Espada. Scanning the already assembled crowd in front him, he made it clear to everyone that his displeasure was noted as he stomped towards his seat. At least Stark hadn't show up yet, but then again neither has Grimmjow. Oh well, at least that means that he hasn't lost the bet just quite yet.
Absentmindedly swinging the chains that connected his waist to the large scythe he wielded, the Quinto Espada plunked himself down in his usual chair and plopped his feet up on the table. If Aizen wanted to punish him for it then so be it. He wasn't in the mood to follow orders right now.
He twisted his neck slightly to the left so he could take a good look at the eye candy in front with his single right eye.
"Stop what? Hmm?"
"And stop that too."
"I haven't the faintest clue as to what you're talking about."
"You are staring."
"Since when's staring a crime?" His leering smile grew larger. "You seem awfully talkative today, don'tcha?" He leans forward. "You have the hots for me or somethin', hm?"
"Is there a problem?"
Tch. It was so like that bastard to show up just when he thought he could get a rise out of her.
"No. No problem at all."
"I am glad to hear that. Well then, now that most of us are here, shall we have some tea until our remaining two members arrive?"
Oh well, perhaps another time. After all, he had all the time in the world.
For Nnoitra Jiruga, these 150 years were but a blink of an eye. For him, time was insignificant.
So long as the ends justified the means.
The next to show up to the small clearing was a group of four, three women with a single male amongst them. The male is the first to notice the captain's presence.
"Huh, what? Ichigo? Oh my, it's Kurosaki!"
The most robust among the three women then runs up to the Fifth Division captain and embraces him in a bear hug, stuffing the orange-haired shinigami's face full with breasts.
"You've finally decided to show up! I'm so happy!"
"Ahh! Mahana, get off me! You're acting more and more like Rangiku-san every day!"
"Hehe, I'll take that as a complement Kurosaki! My vice-captain is my role model after all!"
"I knew it! And I said get your hands off… hey, where do you think you're touch-"
A cold female voice cuts into the overly cheerful atmosphere.
"Get off him, Mahana. This is not how a seated officer is supposed to act. You should be ashamed of yourself."
The busty girl pouts even as she continues to fondle. "You're no fun Ryo."
"I-I agree with Ryo. You should probably apologize to Captain Kurosaki…"
She finally lets go of him. "Oh come on, not you too Michiru! He's Kurosaki! Kurosaki! There's no way I can call him Captain! I mean, come on, just look at him!"
"What's that supposed to mean?" Ichigo glared.
"Like it or not we can't change the fact that he's a captain." The glass-wearing girl pointed out. "And when we're talking to a captain we should show our proper respects. That is the way how a seated officer of the Gotei 13 should-"
"Gotei 13 this, Gotei 13 that. You know what, Ryo? You've always been hard-headed about everything but ever since you transferred into the First Division you've been more stuck up then ever. Did that grandpa brainwash you or something?"
"You will address him as Commander-General-"
"Stop it you two!"
As the three girls Natsui Mahana, Kunieda Ryo and Ogawa Michiru argued back and forth amongst themselves as they have for the past 150 years, the single male snuck out of their small group and approached the sulking captain who was busy pouring himself a cup of sake despite protests from the Thirteenth Division vice-captain who was tugging at his sleeve.
"Kuchiki-san, mind if I talk to my captain for a bit?"
"Hm?" Rukia turns and immediately notices the look he has on his face. She lets go of Ichigo's sleeve. "Oh. Sure. Go ahead. Just make sure your captain doesn't turn into a drunkard like Captain Kyoraku."
"Don't compare me to the likes of him!" Ichigo shouts as Rukia sticks his tongue out at him in response. He shakes his head as the girl goes away. "Sheesh… she never changes…"
"I don't want to hear it." Ichigo responds as he quickly drains the contents of his cup.
"I'm proud of you."
For Kojima Mizuiro, it has been 150 years since he smiled a smile that wasn't reserved for the ladies of Seireitei (and on his occasion, his comedian best friend).
"You're creeping me out, Mizuiro."
It was a natural response. Mizuiro laughed. "I could say the same thing. What made you change your mind all of a sudden? Did you realize the world is suddenly coming to an end or something? Or is it because it's been exactly 150 years now?"
Ichigo does not respond.
"Have you finally forgiven yourself?"
Ichigo still does not respond.
"Your vice-captain and your eleventh seat were looking for you, you know. Trying to drag you here like they always do every year. I wonder how they'll react when they discover that you came here all by yourself? Inoue-san showed up too, came all the way from the Ninth Division to see if you'd be willing to come along with us."
"…And here we have my eighth seat lecturing me about life and trying to cheer me up."
Mizuiro chuckles at this. "Strange how things work out, don't they?"
There is another moment of silence.
Ichigo lets his body fall backward and watches the petals of sakura flow through the wind.
The seventh arrancar that showed up to the Espada meeting said nothing as he sat himself next to the sad excuse of fat that called himself Espada and the pink-haired insanity that also called himself Espada. The Segunda Espada had no time to spare for a fat lob or a mad scientist like those two youngsters. Everyone else in Las Noches was his junior; even Lord Aizen that ran things around here was his junior. He was loyal to his Lord but held little respect for him as he was a shinigami. And the Espada? Pah! The youngsters around him were nothing but incompetent little fools.
There were some exceptions, of course. He respected the Primera's strength, even if he was a total slob and was hardly serious about doing his job right. In that regard he respected the Cuarto better, but sometimes that stoic Arrancar followed orders as if he were a dog. The Tercero on the other hand was worthy of his respect in both strength and dedication but she held the misfortune of being a woman. A pity. Had she been a man she would've been the perfect warrior. And don't even get him started on the rest of the lot! Fools! Incompetent fools! All of them!
Especially that Septimo that sat two seats away to his left! Argh. Oh how he craved for battle. Glorious, glorious battle, where all the cares in the world would vanish like a ship cutting through an ocean. Instead he was stuck here trapped between these white walls waiting for the Lord to give out orders. At least his Lord kept him and his fracción entertained with battles from time to time, but sometimes he wished his Lord understood his needs for battle a little better. But he would not complain for he was no fool like the rest of them. He was the grandest warrior.
Still, Barragan couldn't help but feel as if he'd wasted the past 150 years simply tolerating.
He was a patient man, but patience only went so far.
The ninth person to show up in front of the gravesite was… a unique individual.
"BOHAHAHAHAHA! COME, MY PUPIL! FIGHT ME!"
"Get the hell away from me you freak! And I'm not your pupil! I'm a captain for god's sakes!"
"OH! You are a shy one aren't you? Come on BOY! There's no need to be afraid!"
"Stop talking like I'm afraid of you! I don't want to… wait, hey wait a sec! Put your sword back in your sheath!"
"But you give me no choice, BOY! I must show you my NEW ABILITY! We shall FIGHT!"
"That's what you've been saying for the past 100 years and every time it's been the exact same ability! Face it you moron! You DON'T have a new ability!"
"Feast your eyes on THIS!"
"No you idiot! Don't release your sword, don't-"
For Don Kanonji, these 150 years have been nothing short of jubilation.
"So I see Stark and Grimmjow haven't arrived here yet."
The sixth to arrive to the meeting chuckled as he sat himself to the right of the childish Arrancar who was made Espada some 150 years ago. He then turned to the front of the table, where their almighty leader usually sat himself in his overblown chair and quietly noted that he had yet to grace himself with his oh so mighty presence. It was unfortunate in the fact that a man with a god-complex ran things around here but it wasn't like he could do anything about it. At least it worked to his advantage. As long as that man was in charge he could continue with his research just as he liked.
"You have a bet going on?"
He looked up to see the Espada sitting across the table slightly to his right. "Are you curious, Noveno Espada?"
He smiled. "Nnoitora and I made a bet to see who'd be tardier between the two."
"Tsk. That's easy. Stark for sure." The Decimo Espada that sat two seats to the right spoke up.
Tsk tsk, such a simpleton this one was. "I wouldn't be so sure if I were you."
"I agree." The Noveno spoke again. "I think Grimmjow will be tardier."
"What makes you think that, huh?" The Decimo questioned the Noveno with a glare. "Just what makes you think that?"
Sigh. At it again were they? Why can't the Decimo just accept the fact that the Noveno was higher in rank than he was? Just because the Noveno was born from a lower Hollow didn't make the Noveno automatically weak. Many of his fracción were lowly Gillians too and they were stronger than most of those half-baked Adjuchas arrancars out there.
All eyes turned to the green-eyed arrancar that was sitting to the far left.
"Stark has Lilinette." He repeated.
"Ah." And with that, the Decimo said nothing more.
The Octava Espada chuckled. The Cuarto silenced the entire debate with just a single sentence. How very interesting. The dynamics shared between his Espada comrades… it was so very interesting. Perhaps maybe he should look into it a bit more carefully. It certainly seemed like it was worth a look. Research into relations – a field he'd never attempted before. It would open up new doors. Yes, it certainly was worth a try. The prospect thrilled him with pleasure already.
For Szayel Aporro Grantz, 150 years was not enough.
When the tenth person arrived at the place where they all arranged they'd meet showed up, she was a little surprised to find the former TV personality-turned-shinigami tied to the trunk of a nearby sakura tree, knocked unconscious with a huge bump on the back of his head. One look at the grumpy orange-haired kid that was blinking and squinting away with his eyes, however, quickly brought a smile back to her face.
"Heeey Kurosaki! The Don giving you troubles again, eh? Man, I haven't seen that guy in ages! Probably not since that TV incident back in the real world!"
The Fifth Division captain turned around to greet the newcomer. "…Ochi-sensei?"
"What's with the look, huh? Surprised to see your former homeroom teacher?"
"When did you turn into a shinigami…? No, better yet, why are you here?"
"About 10 years ago. What, you didn't know? Sheesh Kurosaki, this is why you need to show up to these reunions more often. Keep in touch, you know? As for why I'm here, isn't it obvious? Us Karakura people gotta stick together!"
Ichigo continued to look dumbstruck.
"But geez! A captain! You've got it good doncha?" She slapped him hard on his back, forcing him to cough. "I'm still new to this shinigami business so I haven't moved up in rank that much. Still the seventeenth. Low, eh? And here you are, my favourite student, a captain. Geez, this is so embarrassing."
"Seventeenth…? Sensei, you've only been a shinigami for 10 years and you're already a seated officer? Kanonji's been one for nearly a century and he's still the twentieth! Which division did you land yourself in?"
"The Eighth. Why, what's that gotta do with anything?"
Ichigo immediately understood why his former homeroom teacher moved up in rank so fast. His teacher had a rather slim body, wore glasses, had a good sense of humour, drunk sake, and to top it off she was bit of a pervert. She was the type of woman Shunsui would love to have around. Poor Nanao. She was going to have her hands full for a while.
His teacher quickly waved her goodbyes and went off to chat with the other people gathered here today for the reunion. She came here to enjoy herself after all. Even after 150 years, the spirit to party has never died down within Ochi Misato.
The fifth Espada to show up in the grand hall where the meeting was to take place that night didn't really have a clue where to sit even when he had been here at least a hundred times before. Instead of sitting in his assigned seat like Commander Tousen told him to when he guided him towards the hall, he instead walked up to the seat where the big burly Adjuchas arrancar sat in.
"Go away weirdo."
A finger in his mouth, he stared at the Adjuchas arrancar's seat in envy. "Auuuuu…"
"I said go away. I ain't giving you this seat no matter what. I kick puppies, you know. Giving me that look ain't going to help."
"Were you even listening?"
"Show a little tolerance." The blind shinigami behind him speaks. "He is still a child."
"He's been a child for the past 150 years for fuck's sake!" The burly man yells out. "If it weren't for you looking out for him, Commander Tousen, I doubt he could even tell where the freaking bathroom is!"
The Noveno Espada sitting next to him chuckled.
"What's so funny?"
"That is enough." Their commander silences them. "I won't tolerate dissent among the Espada. Make one wrong move and I'll punish you both. Understand?"
"Of course, Commander Tousen."
The former shinigami then crouches in front of the child Espada and pats his head.
"Move along now. You should go back to your assigned seat. I know you want to sit next to the Noveno but there is a time a place for everything. You must wait patiently for Aizen-sama now."
Looking dejected, the child stubbornly goes back towards his assigned seat and plops himself in the center and starts chewing his fingernails.
"Can't believe this fucking kid got to become the Septimo Espada…"
"Care to repeat that, Decimo Espada?"
"Nothing. Nothing at all, Commander Tousen."
The Septimo Espada stared off into space, blissfully unaware of the proceedings around him, the earlier transgressions already forgotten.
For Wonderwiess Marjera, time stood still for 150 years.
"You look well, Kurosaki."
Ichigo spins around. "Would you quit doing that? I've had enough people sneaking behind my back today already for god's sakes."
For Ishida Uryuu, nothing changed for the past 150 years.
"I honestly didn't expect you to see you here."
"I could say the same thing about you. I thought the high-and-almighty Royal Guards weren't allowed the leave the premises around the King's dimension?"
"I am a special case. I act as the liaison between Squad Zero and the Gotei 13."
"Because of your status as a Quincy?"
"Yes. Oh, and before I forget, your father sends his regards over from the other side. In case I was to ever run into you during my stay here."
"Tell the bastard I don't care."
"I'll do that. I'm sure he'd like that response."
An awkward pause settles over the former two rivals.
"I can't believe you're technically higher than rank than me even when you're not a shinigami." Ichigo finally blurts out.
"That's what's been bothering you?" Ishida chuckles. "Don't worry. While I am technically higher in rank than you it's only ceremonial. We can't order you around even when we wanted to. And Squad Zero isn't part of the Gotei 13 – that's why it's not excusive to just shinigami. Since our goal is to protect the King's dimension at any cost, we have various other ability users at our disposal so even a Quincy like me can-"
"Okay, okay. I get it already."
"Ishida, there you are!"
Ishida spins around and sees the red-haired captain waving at him a short distance away. Ichigo sees him too.
For Abarai Renji, these 150 years were years filled with blood, sweat and tears. He worked hard to earn his rank, and it showed.
"Thought you might be here." He says when he catches up to them. "Old man Yama's calling for you. He's been pretty eager to hear your report on the latest updates on the defences of the King's dimension."
"Understood. I'll be on my way." Ishida stands up and turns to Ichigo. "I'll still be around Seireitei for a couple more days. If you want to talk, feel free to contact me."
"Thanks… I guess."
"See you later, Kurosaki."
He is gone.
"So you actually came, eh?" The Third Division captain asks him.
"You want to talk about it?"
Renji laughs uneasily and sits down next to him. He pulls a large bottle of sake out of his sleeve.
He didn't tell Renji he was already on his fourth bottle.
When he arrived, there were already three others before him.
While the other one's purpose for arriving so early to this meeting was questionable, the Cuarto and Tercero he could understand. Among the ten Espadas Aizen-sama had serving under him those two were probably the most loyal out of the bunch. They never dared to question Aizen-sama's orders, carrying them out flawlessly like they the devoted followers they were. And while he himself considered more loyal than average to Aizen-sama, he at least liked to have a little personal freedom to himself. After all, he was an Espada. He should have the right to flaunt around his status a little, no? What use was power and status if one couldn't flaunt it?
Which was precisely the reason why he disliked the other, third member of the Espada that was already here present here in this room.
Higher rank. Higher power. Higher status. A position that was originally available to him and him alone, the Noveno swept in and took that away from him. Wasn't being an Adjuchas before becoming an Arrancar at least the minimum requirement before they were even considered into the Espada? The Noveno was a Gillian for god's sake! The Noveno was a proven fragile too. Why, he'd bet he could smash its head with in a single punch if he wanted to!
But no, he can't go on a rampage now. Especially not in front of these other two. He would wait. He would quietly bide his time. The Decimo Espada will have his chance. The Decimo Espada will have his revenge.
Yammy already waited 150 years.
Fate will surely bless him with another chance.
"It's so peaceful, isn't it?" Renji asks him suddenly.
"What do you mean?" Ichigo asks with still-closed eyes. He had been napping.
"I mean, we're still at war with the Aizen and his Arrancar right? Yet here we are, sitting here among friends underneath the sakura trees, holding a hanami party of all things."
"Renji, the only reason we're celebrating in the first place is…"
"I know, I know, you don't have to remind me." Renji sighs. "By the way, where's the rest of your squad? I see your eighth with the girls over there but I don't see your other three. I don't see Inoue around for that matter."
Ichigo shrugged. "I dunno. Mizuiro said they'd be arriving-"
"Well, seems like at least one of them's arrived." Renji commented absentmindedly.
Ichigo's scowl deepened as he sat himself upright to see who the idiot was that was calling his name. But instead of seeing the usual face he'd expected to see, a small boy that looked to be only about 15 years old bumped headfirst into his face.
"Hey Ichigo, you alright…?" Renji asked him, trying his best not to laugh.
"The hell I am!" Ichigo jumps up, holding a bloody nose to his face. He glared hotly at the shinigami that collided into him. "What's the big idea Shibata!"
"Captain, I'm so glad to see you!"
Time was kind to Shibata Yuuichi. From the small parakeet a 150 years ago, a boy matured and turned into a man.
Suddenly realizing that he was acting improper in front of his captain, the eighteenth seated officer from the Fifth Division kneeled down in front of his superior. "Captain, its Asano-senpai!" He reported. "He's in trouble!"
This was actually expected. "What's the idiot eleventh got himself into now?"
"IIIIIIICHIIIIIIIIIGOOOOOOO! HEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEELP MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!"
Shibata pointed towards the screaming Asano Keigo who looked not a day older from the time 150 years ago, and the scary devil sister Asano Mizuho that was currently chasing her younger brother with an oversized zanpakutou that was twice her size.
"KEIGO COME BACK HERE! HOW DARE YOU DO THAT TO DARLING!"
"IT WASN'T ME! I SWEAR!"
"Do I even need to ask what happened…?" Ichigo asked his eighteenth seat.
"Erm, apparently Asano-senpai switched vice-captain Matarame's hair shampoo with pink hair dye."
"Was I unclear? I said that apparently Asano-senpai switched…"
"Ikkaku uses hair shampoo?"
Shibata looked unsure how to respond. "Err... I guess so?"
Ichigo turned to Renji.
She is not fazed in the slightest at the two's presence here. She was a little disappointed she failed to arrive here first, but the detail was trivial: in the end it didn't matter who'd arrived first or last. They all served Aizen-sama with their heart and soul. They were his servants, now and forever. All that mattered was to complete their given missions. She shouldn't expect anything less. The disappointment that coursed though her body was a distraction. It needed to be cleansed.
She nods to the Cuarto and the Noveno. They nod back, acknowledging her presence. She sits down next to the Noveno Espada and crosses her arms underneath her large breasts. She then closes her eyes. Might as well make use out her spare time. She withdrew into her meditative state and fought to purge her unclean thoughts out of her mind. The Tercero Espada needed to be the embodiment of a perfect solider.
It was Halibel's sole purpose for the past 150 years.
For Sado Yasutora, otherwise known as Chad, 150 years didn't seem to affect him at all.
The kind giant had arrived just moments before and he already blended right into the crowd. He was currently chatting away with Karin, his sister, and he seemed to be on good terms with her for some reason Ichigo could never figure out. Seeing his vice-captain and his sister chatting away like that gave him a uneasy feeling in his stomach he really couldn't explain.
"Arara? Am I perhaps… the last one to show?"
He knew that voice from anywhere. "Urahara-san."
"Oh my! This is certainly a surprise!" The recently reinstated Twelfth Division captain snapped his fan open and stared at him curiously from underneath his sandal hat. "I thought you swore you'd never come to our annual gatherings?"
"I thought I give this reunion thing a try." Ichigo lied. "And you're not the last one to show. We're still missing a few people." He stared at him. "Where's the rest of your squad?"
"I left Nemu-san in charge of the division building. Tessai, Ururu and Jinta are all away in the real world for a month patrolling a sector of the black abyss for any more hollow-arrancar activity."
"Sending your third seat and both of your fourth seats? Sounds like things down there are getting pretty serious."
"Ah, not really. But you know how old man Yama is. Better safe than sorry is what he says." Urahara snaps his fan shut and giggles in glee. "Speaking of missing people, I don't see Honshou-san or Arisawa-san around too. Such a waste to not see them here! Hanami is more enjoyable with more women around, don't you agree?"
He ignored the last part. "Last I heard they were forced to team up in one of those routine Rukongai border patrol squadrons. Tatsuki was complaining to me all about it last week. Seems like Chizuru hasn't still given up on her."
"They make for a nice couple, don't they?"
Ichigo rolled his eyes. "You'll die a lonely man."
"I'll take that as a complement!" He smiled. "Oh yes! I met Yoruichi-san and Inoue-san on the way here! I think they'll be arriving here shortly."
"You called, Urahara?"
"Ah!" He perked up and spun around to greet the two newcomers. "That was perfect, Yoruichi-san! Just perfect!"
The Second Division vice-captain, who was for once not in her cat form, approached the group celebrating around the gravestone and waved her hand. "Hello everyone! Look who I brought here with me!"
The self-declared 'Karakura' group applauded the newcomer who stood behind Yoruichi a step behind. Looking embarrassed like never before, the individual then stepped out from behind Yoruichi and gave everyone a friendly wave.
Inoue then turned to Ichigo.
Ichigo was at a loss for words. For the first time in a long time, he didn't know what to say.
The Cuarto Espada said nothing even when he noticed he was not alone in the meeting room. He had expected to be first but he was proven wrong when he noticed the presence of the Noveno Espada and Ichimaru Gin talking about something off to the side. The Cuarto Espada's eyebrows rose a tiny fraction at Ichimaru Gin's rather odd choice of a conversational partner but he quickly decided he rather not pry. Paying them no heed, he walked straight to his assigned seat and closed his eyes as soon as he sat down. He would open them again when the rest of them were here, and then he will wait some more until Aizen-sama would grace them all with his presence. Aizen-sama had called for an emergency meeting, so it would take a while until every member of the Espada were recalled into this room from all over Las Noches. Perhaps it will take a few minutes. Perhaps even a few hours. Nevertheless he would wait here like the faithful servant he was.
It was no secret Ulquiorra Schiffer was the most loyal arrancar among the Espada, and his feelings of devotions had not changed at all during these past 150 years. If anything his feelings of loyalty only grew stronger, especially so when Aizen-sama graced him with the task of assigning him as the temporary caretaker of Hueco Mundo during their first direct clash with Soul Society and the subsequent destruction of the fake Karakura town, creating what the residents of the real world called the black abyss.
But if there was one thing that shook the very foundation of his loyalty to Aizen-sama, it would probably have to be the time when he was ordered to kill Inoue Orihime. He still remembers the way that woman looked at him when his white hands pierced through her soft chest, the frail lifeblood escaping through her bosom and her lips, the inhuman howl Kurosaki Ichigo emitted when he saw the woman he tried to save die in his arms. He remembers taunting him, goading him into a fight just like Aizen-sama ordered him to, but somewhere in his mind he knew this wasn't right. Then Kurosaki Ichigo attacked him, and his mind turned blank after that. He isn't exactly sure how he'd survived the encounter, but he survived it nonetheless.
No matter. What was done was done.
The Sun was in their hands now, after all.
Inoue Sora looked just the same as he did when Ichigo exorcised him 150 years ago. He was the one man Ichigo was desperately trying avoid all these years. He was the very reason why Ichigo didn't want to come to the reunion.
Because he had let Inoue Sora's sister die.
Because this gravestone here was the only thing that remained of Inoue Orihime.
In truth, everyone gathered here today on the 150th anniversary of their friend's death wanted to make a real grave for the friend that gave her life in her own attempt to save everyone. But even after death, in the eyes of Central 46 and Soul Society she was still a traitor. Because they were unable to clear her name they were unable to make her a proper grave. So they did the only thing they could – they built their own grave. They were not allowed to mark the stone but everyone knew who the grave was for. As long as they were all alive she would never be forgotten. It was the only thing they could do to honour her memory.
To Inoue Sora, Ichigo did the only thing he could do. He apologized.
"I'm… I'm sorry."
Sora smiled at him. "Why do you say it in a way as if you'd given up on your own happiness?"
His words only served to open the already deep wounds he held within his heart. "I… only survived Hueco Mundo through her sacrifice." Ichigo thought he could hear Karin threatening to punch his lights out in place of the absent Tatsuki, but he paid it no heed. "That kind of thing… can't be forgiven. I don't have the right to pursue my own happiness."
Inoue Sora only chuckled at this. "Kurosaki-kun. Don't you remember? You nearly gave up your own life to save mine. You're that kind of person. So it's all right."
"Inoue-san, what are you talking abou-?"
"I forgive you."
"Even if none of your friends doesn't… even if the whole world doesn't… I forgive you, Kurosaki-kun."
"But… but… why…?"
"Because the right to be happy is given to everyone."
Ichigo was stunned.
Why was he able to say those words so easily?
No, it wasn't easy. It couldn't have been. It was hard for Sora too. So why did he…?
"I'm sorry, brother."
"Do you remember, Kurosaki-kun? The words she said to me before I was cleansed."
"I remember it word for word."
"I wanted you to hear."
"All the fun things. Like school, the things I like, the people I like…"
"At the beginning all I did was pray everyday but I thought that wasn't good. That I shouldn't just show you me being sad. That you'd worry if that's all what you saw."
"That's why I wanted to show you! That I'm happy! That you don't have to worry about me!"
"And that is why… I can forgive you Kurosaki-kun."
The serious atmosphere dissolved in an instant when the sharp voice cut through like a hot knife through butter. The source became clear soon enough when a young girl wearing oval-shaped half-frame glasses burst through the bushes, cuts and scratches all over her shinigami uniform.
"Damn it Chizuru! You ruined everything! Don't you realize just how much courage Sora-san went through-"
"THERE IS NO TIME, MAHANA!" She grabbed Ichigo's sleeve and gripped it tightly. "You have to come with me. RIGHT NOW."
"What's going o-"
"Ah, Abarai-Taichou! Urahara-Taichou!" Chizuru notices the presence of the other two captains present here at the graveyard. "If you're not so busy right now can you come with me as well? This is very important! Please, you have to help us!"
"Wait, wait, Chizuru!" Ichigo yanked his arm away and forced Chizuru to release her death grip she had on his uniform. "I ain't going nowhere unless you tell me what's going on!"
"It's Tatsuki you insensitive pig!" She yelled at him, not caring she just threw an insult at one of the Gotei 13 captains. "She was dragged into Hueco Mundo by the Arrancar!"
"-meeting. I hope to see all of you there, my fellow Espada."
Aizen-sama's Tentei Kuura message ended there.
Well, wasn't that just convenient. Aizen-sama wanted to gather the Espada in the 41st War Room inside the 14th Palace, which just so happened to be this same room Aizen-sama just described. The Noveno Espada didn't even have to take a single step to be the first among the ten Espada to arrive at the meeting room.
"Oh? I didn't e'er take you to be the fast one."
The Noveno Espada turns as the large door to the meeting room opens and watches one of the lieutenants severing under Aizen-sama come into the room. "Ichimaru-sama." The Noveno Espada bows in respect.
"Now now, no need be so formal. We've known each other now for, what? A 150 years?"
"I believe so, yes."
"Guess we got a bit of time before the others arrive here, eh? Come 'ere a sec." Ichimaru beckons the Noveno Espada over with his hand towards the balcony and never-ending moonnight spread out below. "Ahh, never get tired of watchin' this. The stars and the moon are so pretty. You'll never see a night like this is Soul Society, ya know."
"Did you want to talk about something, Ichimaru-sama?" The Noveno Espada asked a little nervously.
"Hm? Oh yeah, I guess I do, sort of."
"Ichimaru-sama, forgive me but I'm afraid I don't quite follow…"
"Well, you know what this meeting is about, don'tcha?"
"Aizen-sama only mentioned for us Espada to gather here in this room."
The Noveno Espada didn't miss how Ichimaru-sama's grin grew larger by just a fraction. "Well, actually this meeting sorta concerns you Noveno-chan."
"Me, Ichimaru-sama?" This was a cause for concern.
"Ah, ah, you don't need to act so defensive. It ain't your fault. Rather, it's about your fracción."
"My fracción? You mean Loly and Menoly?"
"Yep." His smile grew even larger. "Do you know where they are right now?"
The Noveno Espada frowned as it activated its pesquisa and silently spread its radar all over Hueco Mundo. When it found them, the frown only deepened.
"What are they doing out there in the desert 200km away from Las Noches?"
"Ah, don't worry, don't worry. They were only being a bit ambitious. They wanted for you to be proud of them."
The Noveno Espada does not understand.
Ichimaru-sama chuckled again. "Confused, are you? Fine, fine. Ya see, they've been sneaking into Soul Society from time to time behind yer backs."
"……What? Why would they-"
"Like I said, all they wanted was you to be proud of them. What they planned to do was to occasionally raid the Soul Society's countryside so they could draw some of their shinigami out into battle, then kill the shinigami and deliver their bodies to you so you could feast on their souls. Ain't that so sweet of 'em?"
"What they've attempted is dangerous."
"Yep yep. And as a result, they got more than they bargained for."
"What do you mean?"
"We've got a shinigami intruder on our hands."
His words put the Noveno Espada instantly on the alarm.
"Yer fracción's fighting the shinigami they dragged into Hueco Mundo right now, but the shinigami's a lil' too strong for them." Ichimaru-sama continued. "That's why Aizen-sama's assemblin' the Espada. To deal with the intruder threat."
"Isn't it a little excessive to assemble the entire Espada to fight against just one intruder?"
"Yer forgetting somethin'. Remember what happened 150 years ago?"
How could the Noveno Espada ever forget?
"Jus' one more thing."
The Noveno Espada is distracted momentarily when it notices Ulquiorra coming through the door and into the meeting room. He spares the two of them a quick glace, but he soon resumes walking towards his assigned seat. The Noveno returns its attention back to Ichimaru-sama. "What is it?"
"We know the identity of the intruder."
"One you're quite familiar with. Wanna know its name?"
"If Ichimaru-sama would be willing…"
"Yer so modest." Ichimaru smiles. "That's what I like about you."
"You flatter me, Ichimaru-sama."
"Hehe, fine fine. I'll tell you. The Shinigami's name is Tatsuki. Arisawa Tatsuki. I trust you're familiar with her?"
The Noveno Espada's eyes light up in glee. It was Tatsuki-chan! Tatsuki-chan was in Hueco Mundo! As a Shinigami! A chill runs down through her spine, shivering as excitement courses through her entire body at the prospect of seeing her best friend once again. Oh, if only Aizen-sama will assign her as the one to go after her…! It's been so long! Too long!
For Orihime Inoue, 150 years was indeed a long time.
"Rain, rain, go away, come again another day…"
"Rain, rain, go away, come again some other day…"
"Little Arthur wants to play, in the meadow by the hay."
"Rain, rain, go to Spain, never show your face again!"
"Rain, rain, pour down, but not a drop on our town!"
"Rain on the green grass, and rain on the tree."
"And rain on the housetop, but not on me."
"Rain, rain, go away, come again on washing day."
"Rain, rain, go to Germany, and remain there permanently!"
"Rain, rain, go away…"
"Come on Martha's wedding day…"
- Part I -
I always wanted to write this, but whenever I tried starting it I ended up being stuck because the Bleach manga didn't quite have all the details I wanted to create an ideal 'Orihime turned into Arrancar' story. But with the revelation of all the Espada's names and glimpses into their personalities, along with the juicy fact that Karakura town is now in Soul Society, this 'what if' scenario finally came into fruition.
Now if only Kubo would really turned Orihime into an Arrancar. If only.
Unfortunately with the way things are going on with the manga right now that prospect is becoming less and less likely. So instead I have to satisfy my fantasies here in this written piece of work, of which I'm quite proud of. I've experimented lots with this chapter, and since the 20 truths format worked so well with 'Grind' (of which Genocide Sunshine is loosely based on), I figured hey, why not incorporate the same format in my muti-chapter work as well? Thus, this. I really like what I've done with it so far. Now if I can only keep that drive to write going on with my other pieces of work…
As a side note, Nursery Rhymes are scary!
Until next time!
- Nes Mikel
Part I, Flamment Quarzite, Complete, March 30th, 2008