Malicious Intent

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. That honor belongs to Tite Kubo.

Warnings: AU-esque, Spoilers for Soul Society Arc

AN: For the Bleach_contest on LJ. Theme was "Murder." Prequel to The Darkest Reflection by Dracoqueen22.

Hanatarou supposes that murder is in the eyes of the beholder. That the difference between a warrior or a soldier and a killer is a fine line indeed. One thinner than realized and all the more dangerous for it. A truth of blood and death, of violence and corruption. Of remorse.

And since he is in the fourth division and invisible in his own right, Hanatarou sees things better forgotten. Hears things best left unsaid. He slips into oblivion easier than Aizen-taichou ever did, unseen for all that he is blatantly obvious. People talk when they think no one else is there. Act in ways seemingly impossible.

There are whispers of murderer and monster. Killer. Demon. Eye shifts and shivers. Murmurs of how viciously Zaraki Kenpachi defeated his predecessor. That even Hollows tremble at his presence.

But all Hanatarou can see is the man who brushes his daughter's hair from her face when she cries. Who takes her tiny hand in his larger one and holds on.

Death does not equal killing. And saving is not the same as mercy.

Hanatarou has watched his comrades slowly eaten alive or bleeding so much their shihakushou is red and saturated or broken to the point that mending is impossible. Has seen Unohana-taichou carefully snap the threads of reiatsu that gave them life, heard their final sighs of relief. Has kept her secret just as everyone else in the fourth and will forever continue to do so.

Of course from there, his mind inevitably goes to the biggest murderer of all. To a traitor, betrayer, and fraud. But what does one call a monster that eats other monsters? A killer who only kills his own kind?

Human perhaps is all too good an answer. And that is why they fear Aizen Sousuke most all, for having the courage to do what should have been done so long ago. Chamber 46 is no real loss, and Hanatarou can honestly say that Soul Society is the better for their demise.

However, such thoughts are best kept to himself. Hanatarou just lowers his head and pretends not to listen in as he quietly sweeps Yamamoto-soutaichou's office. Whispered words wash over his ears as he looks at the captain-commander underneath his eyelashes, just watching as the old man sits upon his throne and dispassionately stares out at his kingdom. As if he hadn't just ordered the execution of their allies. Of a sweet and innocent girl and a boy who has done nothing but help them.

He hurries through the streets afterwards, twisting around the other people. Their rumors and comments in his ear. Murmurs of Aizen's evil and how the Shinigami will protect them. He sees their eyes flicker to Zaraki-taichou as he walks by, filling with either fear or contempt. Maybe both.

And Hanatarou thinks that they have no idea what a real murderer looks like.

Ever Hopeful,