Chapter 6: Hate Me Hate You
"Byakuya...?" Hotaru tried the name out as she turned her attention back to the fight between the two men. She had no idea what incited the fight but whatever it was about, it seemed pretty serious, and even Renji seemed rather concerned. There had to be something she was missing here, something on the inside but she wouldn't press for information, not now. Across the way, on the opposite side of the lop-sided circle that rallied around the fight she could see Grimmjow. His blue hair stuck out from the crowd, making him easy to spy.
Hotaru quickly averted her eyes, hoping that he wasn't able to see her back and ducked down farther into the crowd. She honestly didn't want to see this fight...the outcome seemed pretty much decided at this point. She really had wanted to cheer Ichigo but...this Byakuya seemed very strong. He hadn't even suffered a hit from Ichigo yet, nor had he dealt any blows either. The orange-haired boy was practically beating himself up.
"Hey, hey, knock it off! Save it for later ya bunch of idiots!"
Hotaru winced as the powerful voice boomed over the excitement and jeering of the crowd, the direction the voice having come from was soon making its way through the crowd. It was a man...a very tall and terrifying-looking man with what looked to be a young girl glued to his shoulder, a happy look on her face.
"You heard Kenny! Now get back inside!"
It was strange to see the majority of the group actually vacate to the school building, they obviously too frightened of the new-comer to stay any longer. Hotaru looked out the corner of her eye; Grimmjow had stayed. She turned her purple eyes back over to her left, feeling as Renji tensed beside her.
"Is...is that the guy you were talking about?" Hotaru whispered as the tall man and Byakuya began to speak with one another, ignoring Ichigo as the orange-haired teen pounded his fist into the earth in anger at his apparent loss despite the match ending in a draw. The red-haired boy nodded his head with a gulp...so this was the teacher in charge of the boy's section of the Fighting Faction.
"Byakuya, what the hell do you think you're doing? You know fights between teachers and students have to be approved first," the tall man said in a mocking manner. Honestly, he really couldn't give a crap...all these brats could tear each other apart for all he cared; battles, as long as they were fair, were all that mattered.
"Kenpachi..." Byakuya spat with distaste, turning to glare at the taller man as he readjusted the sheathe at his waist. Strange, Hotaru hadn't noticed that there before. "This 'fight' was personal, not school regulated." the man stated simply with an air of natural elegance and poise. He didn't wait for an answer and simply walked away, leaving the group without another word.
Hotaru stared on with her mouth agape. When she realized that she'd been staring, she quickly closed her mouth and lay a hand over it. Well that was certainly...interesting. Still, it had nothing to do with her. She had her own problems to worry about. Now that she looked down, she could see that Ichigo hadn't moved from his spot on the ground...maybe he was hurt?
"Um...Ichigo-san? Are you hurt?"
"No, dammit, I'm fine," he shot back, awkwardly getting back onto his feet. He hadn't meant to sound angry towards her, he was just pissed that he'd let Byakuya get the better of him. Hotaru winced at the ferocity of his words, assuming that they were meant for her and quietly apologized. She watched as he hobbled slightly away, missing her opportunity to ask if he'd like for her to heal him. She turned to see if Renji was behind her, half-hoping he'd say something encouraging like 'Don't mind him.'. Instead, there was no one...Renji must have run after Byakuya or something. And to top it off, the group that had gathered for the fight was now entirely gone.
"How long you gonna sit there in the dirt?" she looked around for the source of the voice, looking up to see Grimmjow right in front of her with his hand extended. Was he offering to help her up? She glared, then turned her gaze away from him, and with a push of her hands got to her feet on her own.
"I'm perfectly capable of getting up on my own." Hotaru replied, hurriedly maneuvering around him to head towards the school building, leaving him with his hand still extended out to no one.
"Oh really? How about answering people's notes? You able to do that?" the blue-haired boy shot back, turning slightly as he stuffed his hand back into his pocket. Shit, that's what happened when you tried to be nice. Why the hell did he even do that anyways? It wasn't like him.
"All you wrote was an address, and I'm still not really familiar with the places in Karakura." she responded simply, heading once again towards the steps to the school.
"Fine then, meet me out here when school is over and I can walk you there." It sounded like an offer but it was really more of a demand, emphasis added onto that demand when he walked up right beside her.
"And if I refuse?" Hotaru questioned, both of them falling into a walking pace with one another. She hoped no one was looking...she didn't want anyone thinking that they were beginning to hang out or something.
"I'll find you and drag your ass along with me, you know I will." he laughed, causing her to grit her teeth.
"What's so special about this place? Why can't you just go ahead and tell me?"
"You'll find out if you come along, won't you?" Grimmjow said, turning a corner and parting ways with her for now. Hotaru stopped and watched him walk down his hallway...was he actually going to class? That was new, she remarked as she continued on her way to her own classroom. According to the packet, they'd start the day out in a regular classroom with tables, chairs, and desks rather than the dojo where she had initially suspected. They would receive their assignments first, then move onto the dojo for training. As weird as it was, things actually seemed normal for once...she couldn't really explain why. Surely this whole faction thing was fighting and nothing more...probably just some kind of implementation into the Phys. Ed. From where she'd heard been hearing on t.v., there were going to be some changes. Besides, she could tell people like Ichigo and Grimmjow were experienced fighters...may have just been because of streets fights but it still counted as experience.
So, she wondered as she rounded another corner...where was the place they sent non-fighters or those who lacked the skill or abilities to to heal and treat wounds (she counted the Healing Faction more as a Fitness and Wellness type of class, the kind where you would learn how to do CPR and such)? It was odd...the little girl named Momo who had been hanging around Toshiro seemed to fall into that group. She didn't seem very strong nor did she give off the impression of being a healer. Still, Hotaru supposed she couldn't rightfully judge someone until she got to know them. Mizuiro...Keigo...Chizuru...where were they all now? And all the other girls? It was partially due to their silly antics that the first day had been kind of entertaining...she still had Orihime and Tatsuki though so she supposed she should count her blessings.
"Hey! Hotaru-chan! Over here!"
"Hi Tatsuki!" she greeted over to the spiky-haired girl's side. It seemed their classroom was currently locked and a very tiny group of girls was huddled around outside the door. "So...this is it?" she questioned, looking back down the line to see if she recognized anymore familiar faces. There were two senior-looking girls, one with dark-tan skin and the other oddly-colored flowing green hair. Another lone girl with a short skirt and long braid stood staring quietly at the floor, and next to her stood Rukia who then friendly nodded in her direction once their eyes met. At the very end of the line stood two silver-haired girls that were obviously sisters.
"Yep, this is the place. I really hope Suì-Fēng-sensei gets here soon! I'm so pumped for this!" Tatsuki announced, jumping around and punching the air like a boxer.
"Yeah...I guess..." Hotaru answered a little halfheartedly. True, the whole concept was interesting and seemed a lot better than just sitting in a classroom like she'd done for many years but looking around now...the idea of fighting these girls actually seemed a little scary. Were they skilled fighters like Ichigo, or were they just naturally strong? She couldn't help but wonder if any of them actually possessed powers just as she did. It seemed a long-shot but an interesting thought.
The door they'd all queued up in front silently slid open then clicked. It was the click that actually drew their attention. Hotaru only hoped that Suì-Fēng-sensei wouldn't jump out and surprise them like she had for their apparent first test. She'd really been caught off guard and had only missed being hit by dumb luck.
The girls all filed in, taking a seat around the room as they prepared to be informed of their assignment.
"So tell me Hotaru, who did you get paired with? You're one of the ones that got paired up with a boy, right?" Tatsuki asked her friend en route to the dojo that was situated just a little ways behind the main school building. The boys were supposedly already there, forced to wait on the girls before they could start the actual training part themselves. Suì-Fēng lead the way for their group, silently walking with her arms crossed over her chest. Hotaru had to admit, she'd only spent a little time around her new teacher but she already greatly respected her; someone so short and tiny in stature and yet she had a burning fighting spirit that no one could deny. It was nothing short of amazing.
She quickly remembered that Tatsuki had asked her a question, snapping her head back over, "Oh, yeah, I actually got partnered up with Ichigo."
Tatsuki laughed, "Well what a lucky dog he is then. Hey, if he hurts you though you can be sure I'll be smacking him a good one!" Tatsuki joked, holding a fist out in front of her for effect, Hotaru laughing in response. This feeling...friends and laughter...this was definitely perfect. School had once been a nightmare to her, surrounded by unfriendly bodies that only sought to ostracize her even further by excluding her, pretending that she didn't exist. But now...now things were fun. And even better, Chibi-Usa and the other scouts were coming for a visit as well!
"What about you, Tatsuki? Who's your training partner?" Hotaru asked innocently once their giggling had ceased.
"Hmm," Tatsuki murmured, trying to keep her voice low, "you saw the really quiet girl earlier, the one that was standing by Rukia? That's her...I think her name is Nemu. I haven't actually talked to her yet though. I wonder if she's able to put up a good fight!"
Once at the dojo, Suì-Fēng didn't bother to introduce or announce their arrival, simply slamming back the sliding doors with so much force they nearly blew off their fixtures. Obviously, the tinier woman who resembled nothing less than a ninja didn't care...she was in charge and they'd all come to learn that. The room full of boys was silent as Suì-Fēng marched to the front of the room to stand near Zaraki and the little girl that seemed to favor sitting on his left shoulder. However, the silence didn't last once the other girls entered the room; a round of laughs when up and even a few cat calls.
"Damn jerks," Tatsuki growled, cracking her knuckles as Hotaru turned her gaze to the floor, wishing very much that she could just disappear into the cracks. It seemed like the boys were already partnered up so the girls were left flailing for to find their own spaces. Hotaru gave a small smile, slightly forgetting herself, and headed in the direction of Ichigo's bright orange hair. It was kind of funny, he was very easy to find, kind of a like a beacon in a storm. She quietly took a seat on the floor beside him, sitting with her legs underneath her while he sat normally, crossing his legs and wearing a bored expression on his face.
"You're only here because you've managed to pass our tests," began Suì-Fēng, "This means you either have great spiritual awareness and physical prowess. And for the rest of you...dumb luck." Hotaru winced, her eyebrows knitting in embarrassment...that comment had to be directed at her. Did anyone else know of her blunder?
"And now that you are, you're gonna train like there's no tomorrow. This school was picked particularly for its high number of spiritual activity. A lotta you out there may not even realize how much power you really have." Zaraki continued, a rusty-looking blade glinting in the light as it dangled from his hip by a cloth belt...why was there no sheathe? The pink-haired girl jumped up and began to speak too, "That's right! But that's why we're here to find out exactly what everybody can do! Like for instance, some of you might even be able to see and interact with spirits!" She giggled, flailing around yet never managing to fall off.
Hotaru felt Ichigo stand up beside her, wondering what could have been the matter.
"Look lady," he began, turning to address Suì-Fēng, "I didn't show up to school today to be recruited by a bunch a weirdos. I'm going home." Placing his hands in his pockets, he turned around to leave, casually stepping around Hotaru as he did so.
"Cocky, isn't he?" Suì-Fēng remarked, still stone-faced with her arms crossed, Ichigo's abrupt announcement not even having phased her.
"Don't worry, I'll get him," Zaraki stated just as casually, wearing a grin that stretched across his entire face. Grabbing Yachiru by the scruff of her shirt, he pulled her from his shoulder and dropped her to the ground, the little girl surprisingly landing on her feet. "Yay! Go Kenny!" she cheered as Zaraki disappeared in a frightening black-colored blur, re-appearing once he was close enough to Ichigo to strike a blow.
"Whoa!" Ichigo grunted, just barely missing the powerful punch thrown his way; even the air waves following the punch seemed intense. He rolled out of the way, heading back into the group of students still sitting on the floor. Hotaru had long since moved from her position, now turned the opposite way and resting on her knees. Should she help him? Maybe this was supposed to be their idea of discipline though...and she couldn't risk getting in trouble again. If Michiru and Haruka found out, what would they say about all this? The sound of bickering caught her ear and she turned to her left to see who on Earth would dare be talking right now, especially when Suì-Fēng was still perfectly capable of exacting discipline as well.
"Dammit Neliel, get the hell off of me! Fuck, you and your tits weigh like a million pounds!"
"Shut the hell up, Nnoitra! I didn't plan on touching you today, believe me!"
It was the green-haired girl from earlier this morning, and she obviously shared bad blood with a black-haired boy wearing an a white, gauzy-looking eye patch. She quickly turned her attention back to Ichigo and Zaraki, the latter still trying to land a hit on the younger boy.
"Come on then kid, come and hit me with everything you've got! You're supposed to be strong, right?" Zaraki mocked, effectively drawing the rusty blade from where it had been tied to his waist. Hotaru looked over her shoulder, Suì-Fēng was shaking her head almost as if she were embarrassed and the tiny pink-haired girl was still jumping up and down cheering.
"What are you, nuts?" Ichigo yelled, doing his best to avoid the sword which came ever closer on each swing. The more he dodged the more into the crowd the battle flowed and the more people that began to scatter. Hotaru looked around, she had to move too or she'd be hit! Still, she felt that she should help Ichigo in some way. She quickly scanned the room for any useable objects, maybe there was something still left here from the kendo club...there, on the wall, a single bokuto was hanging. It may not have been able to rival Zaraki's blade, but it was still better than nothing.
"Ichigo, grab the sword!" she yelled, hoping the boy would turn in time and be able to see her pointed finger. "Huh?" she murmured...when had they gotten this close to her?
"Idiot, look out!" Someone grabbed a hold of her, that much she was aware of, and she and her savior tumbled out of the way rolling over a few times before finally reaching a stop. "If you're not gonna fight then get off the battlefield." Dammit, she knew that voice, it was Grimmjow. She quickly pushed out of his arms and scrambled back.
"I could have handled that on my own." she said, a tone of halfheartedness in her voice. Okay, well maybe she hadn't needed help but not from him.
"Tch, whatever," Grimmjow muttered before climbing back to his feet. "So...you got partnered up with him?" He never really had cared for the orange-haired boy, his attitude just got on his nerves.
"It's not really your business but yes." Hotaru stated matter-of-factly, "And you got partnered with Rukia..." Poor Rukia, Hotaru thought, trying to pick out the dark-haired girl amongst the scattered students, instead her eyes fell on the running figure of someone...they were headed to the bokuto on the wall.
"Ichigo, catch!" Rukia shouted, throwing the sword his way with precision. Hotaru blinked...well, she supposed that was one way she could have helped. The thought of actually running to get it hadn't crossed her mind. She heard Grimmjow snicker beside her, assuming it was due to her lack of action in the matter and turned to reprimand him but...no, he was wasn't laughing at her. He was laughing at the futility of the idea of fighting against a metal sword with a bokuto.
"Fools! This has gone on long enough!" Suì-Fēng shouted, disappearing before anyone could pin-point her location. "Suzumebachi!" It was too fast for her eyes to follow but something hit Ichigo in the back, causing his entire body to lock up and collapse. "Zaraki, enough! You've made your point. I can only hope he understands his folly by this point."
"Yeah, yeah..." Zaraki brushed it off, throwing his sword back over his shoulder rather than replacing it, the grin he'd been wearing the entire battle still plastered to his face.
"Now everyone get with your partners, we've lots to get through today." Suì-Fēng ordered, causing some of the students to scramble.
Grimmjow laughed as he began to saunter off, "You have fun with that. Oh, and I'll see you after school." Hotaru frowned, staring at his backside as he left, successfully resisting the urge to call him a gorilla or something fitting like that. She climbed up and ran over to Ichigo who still lay motionless on the floor,
"Ichigo-kun...are you hurt badly?"
"Nah, I just can't move my body. Freakin' annoying...what did she even hit me with?" the boy grumbled, if it hadn't been so binding then his body might have been twitching. He was using all of his strength in an attempt to move and nothing! These people were serious...
"Let me see if I can help." She may as well try and heal him, Suì-Fēng didn't seem keen on the idea of coming back over to un-do whatever it was she had done. She lay her hands over his chest, a warming purple light beginning to flow from her palms. The aura engulfed them both; had he sustained any injuries, he would have found them being completely healed with no trace of scarring left behind. "Can you...can you move?" Hotaru asked after a moment, the power disappearing in the blink of an eye.
"Huh...y-yeah! I feel better than ever!" Ichigo exalted, sitting up with a spring, holding his hands out in front of him...strange, he felt really energized too, like he had even strength to knock down a wall. "Hey, how did you even do that?"
"It's...just a power I was born with. I've always wanted to be a nurse so I think it suits me quite well." She laughed...what a wonderful to remember that she got embarrassed in front of him...why did he have to be so cute and kind?
"A power you were born with? If we're partners in this thing guess I should come clean too...ever since I was little I've had the ability to see spirits. Pretty weird, huh?" he joked as she helped him to his feet. Hotaru felt herself smile a little bit...he didn't find her healing ability weird or strange at all, and even had a unique ability himself. She knew she should wipe the grin off of her face before Suì-Fēng saw but...she put her hand delicately over her mouth, as if she were trying to hide laughter.
The two quickly turned to mimic everyone else, standing in two straight lines opposite of each other. There was plenty of room of between them and the persons beside them. Honestly, there was only one scenario that fit the bill-a sparring match.
"Well, looks like we have to fight. You ready?"
Oh, she was ready, she just didn't like the idea of it. As everyone began, the lines began to fall out formation and the fighters were granted more room. It seemed strange to just lunge at an opponent you had no intention of killing, much less fighting for fun. What a horrible phrase, fighting for fun...still, you had to do so in order to become strange.
Hotaru turned her head up at Ichigo and nodded, "I'm ready. I know you'll do it without realizing, but, please don't feel the need to go easy on me." Even Michiru and Makoto unadmittedly pulled their punches at time, in fact, the only person who refused to do so during senshi training was Haruka, but only because she believed Hotaru was stronger than that.
"Alright then," Ichigo nodded back, pushing off with his feet to lunge. There were a few things she had to keep in mind, a little something Haruka had taught her about enemy assessment. Ichigo was a lot taller than her which meant his legs were longer and kicks more powerful. She'd have to watch out for that. His fight with Zaraki had probably wound him up a little bit, that she would have to watch out for too.
On second thought, maybe she wouldn't be watching out for anything as she lay back against the floor, clutching her throbbing eye. Damn it all, he was fast...and he'd sucker-punched her in the eye. Ow, this was definitely going to be a black eye, she grimaced, waiting for the pain to somewhat pass before she stood up. She could hear Suì-Fēng scoff from across the room, and Zaraki give a hearty laugh...were they laughing at here? Great...she could only hope no one else had stopped to look at her.
"Hey, hey asshole! I saw that!"
Hotaru cracked open her uninjured eye, that was Grimmjow...and that meant the last thing she needed right now. Was he coming over here now too? She hazardously forced herself onto her knees, the blow still leaving her a little shell-shocked. That blue-haired idiot was trying to pick a fight with Ichigo, she had to stop him.
"Saw what?" Ichigo shot back, stopping in his task of going over to help her as such. He honestly thought she could have dodged that...he hadn't hit her on purpose...well, he had in a sense, this was a sparring match but he hadn't meant to seriously injure her or anything.
"That. You punched her on purpose!"
"The hell I did. It was an accident, I thought she could dodge it!"
"Spare me, Kurosaki, you're just trying to cover things up because now you look like the bad guy."
"Enough! Stop it!" Hotaru yelled, squeezing her way in between the two of them, a hand still draped gingerly over her eye. If she was going to have a black eye then there should have been no sense in hiding but still...blame her pride on that one, she supposed. Hotaru turned to face Grimmjow, "This isn't even your fight, go away!" she tried to whispered under her breath. Her only response was a glare back down at her before he abruptly, roughly, grabbed her wrist and began to drag her away.
"Hey what are you doing?" Hotaru demanded, trying her best to wriggle out of his grasp...it felt like he was going to pull her wrist out of its socket. She looked back to Ichigo who stood just as confused as she was, scratching the back of his head. She wanted to yell back at him, hoping that maybe he would get the impression that she needed help just from looking at her face. But as they neared the doorway, she could just make out Rukia's similar small frame running over to his side. The two shrugged their shoulders at each other, striking up a conversation about them most like, Hotaru decided.
Once she'd pulled from the doorway of the dojo, she could only wonder why Suì-Fēng and Zaraki had failed to stop them...why? After they'd cleared a few steps away from the dojo, Hotaru could feel his grip loosen on her wrist and she jerked it free, misjudging the energy needed to perform that task and stumbled backwards. Her hand was still draped over her eye, strange that she hadn't thought to use that hand to dig her nails into him or something of the sort.
"What's your problem with me? What was all that about? Ichigo and I were just-"
"Shut up and come here. We're going to the Infirmary." he ordered, attempting to grab a hold of her wrist again but she noticed the action and jerked away from him again.
"Not until you answer my question."
"Simple, that was an unfair fight. That bastard should have know that..."
"What...?" she questioned when he paused. He seemed to think on it for a moment then growled before trying to grab her hand, this time gesturing with an outstretched palm.
"Never mind. Will you just come on already?" She knew she'd regret it later but decided to take his hand anyway.
"Yeah, you're gonna have a black eye alright." It wasn't like it was news to her but she supposed he was just trying to help...or his version of it anyways. At first he practically ordered her to move her hand, and when she told him she'd be fine, he yanked it down and held it to the bed. "Sit there and I'll fix you something."
"I already told you that I can-"
"Shut up, woman. Swallow your damn pride and shut up." he demanded, shaking his head as he wondered around the clinic looking for something. Damn him, it wasn't pride! She was only trying to tell him that she could heal it up and be fixed in no time. She sighed and raised a hand to her eye, watching as he disappeared around one of the curtains that sealed off the beds in the infirmary, a purple glow emanating slowly from her hand. Hotaru could sense him moving from behind the curtain and quickly cut off the power, not really feeling like explaining her powers to him. In retrospect, maybe she should have...if he ever found out about them and learned that Ichigo already knew, she highly doubted he'd be pleased.
"Here, take this." A bag of ice? Well, that would do for now. She hadn't been able to fully heal the bruise thanks to his return but she'd at least lessened it. With the ice and her body's natural healing ability, hopefully it would be gone before she had to go home and face Haruka and Michiru.
"Thank you," she mumbled, "...can I ask you something?" It was like her lips were moving on their own, but...there was something she was curious about. "Why do you hate Ichigo so much?" By now Grimmjow had his back to her, glancing over a shoulder to see as she asked. He grabbed a hold of a nearby chair, spinning it, then sitting in it backwards.
"Why the hell do you care?" he asked, now technically on eye-level with the girl as he rested his arms and chin on the back of the chair.
"You really seem to hate him...why? It may not be any of my business, but it might be soon, especially if you two end up fighting for no reason."
"..." He went silent, staring at her face as if the answer might have been written there. "I just hate him...okay? The way he tries to play super hero really ticks me off." That couldn't have been all...there had to be something vital that he was leaving out. She knew it wasn't entirely impossible to hate a person just because of the way they looked, talked, or behaved but still...this bad blood ran deeper than that. "Anyways, see? I did something for you so now you gotta do something for me."
"You did this so you could ask a favor?" Hotaru asked, a little dumb-founded...that was one way to go about it, she supposed. Either that, or he was looking for a way to get back and/or fight Ichigo in secret. "Okay fine, I'll go." Besides, maybe if she was able to kill enough time going to where ever it was he had in mind, then hopefully this black eye would be ancient history.