She was still running, her bare feet making a dull thud as they hit the frozen pavement outside of the apartment building, rubbing her hands on her shorts as she ran, trying to get the plastic feel of dead skin off of her hands. No matter how hard she tried though, she could still feel it, even with the numbness that she felt spreading through her arm. She still kept running, trying to focus on breathing as she ran past the cemetery, her old house, and the darkened houses of everyone she used to know. She nearly ran past the local clinic when she noticed a light shining through one of the curtained windows there. Skidding to a halt, she walked a few steps forward through the snow that had piled up since earlier this evening, squared her shoulders, and knocked on the clinic door. A pain was beginning to spread through her left arm where it had gone numb earlier and she moved her shoulder, wincing a bit as she slid the messenger bag filled with her things and her school uniform off her shoulder and kept knocking. It felt like hours later when the light finally went off and she collapsed to her knees in the snow, hugging the bag against her in the snow and she began to cry. The tears felt cool against her skin and she just sat in the snow, holding her left arm in the snow bank, hoping that the cold would make the burning pain stop. The door to the house opened and a man stepped out. "Hey, you punks! Get outta here! What do you think you're doing waking people up at night?" She sighed and stood up, wiping the tears off of her face with her right arm and pulling the messenger bag back over her shoulder as she began to head off. The man saw her move and walked over to where she stood. "Hey, I - Masumi-chan? What? What happened to you?"
"I - I just need a place to stay for the night. Gomenasai, sir." she said, bowing slightly, waiting for him to tell her to leave, suddenly aware of what an unkempt little urchin she looked like, standing there in her bare feet, with her sleep tangled hair and messenger bag, wearing shorts and a tee shirt. A sudden jab rushed through her arm and she started --.
And sat up, waking herself as she felt a hand catching her left hand and putting a bandage on. She wasn't in the clinic but in a strange hospital, with a different doctor standing next to her. "I'm sorry. I know that taking the IV out hurts, but I didn't think that you would wake up yet. How are you feeling?"
She looked, blinking as she looked at the black robed figure standing next to her, fussing around to get what looked like a blanket and some broth for her. She propped herself on the pillow, the loose robes around her sliding a bit as she did so, and she tugged at them absently, pulling them together a bit as she leaned forward, rocking softly as she tried to catch her breath.
"I - I'm better. I don't hurt as much. It wasn - it wasn't your fault I woke up. Really. You didn't hurt me with the IV. You were just doing your job. That isn't why I woke up. It was - it was. Just-just a dream. That's all. That's all. Really, I'm fine."
The man very gently draped a blanket over he shoulders, which were still shaking even after she had caught her breath from waking up so suddenly. No, boy, she mentally corrected. He didn't look as if he were much older than her. He gently took her hands and put a bowl of warm broth into it and she looked at him carefully and nodded.
"Arrigato, hakushi," she said softly and began to sip slowly at the broth. It tasted good, and she fought to keep herself from drinking it too fast, finally slowing down as she drained the last of the bowl. If she drank any more, she would be sick. The doctor had not given her very much, but it didn't change the fact that it was the only food that she had eaten since the breakfast shake and chocolate peanuts from the vending machine at lunch at school earlier today. Earlier, before everything had gone wrong.
"You - you don't need to call me that. I'm Yamada Hanatarou."
She straightened up a little bit. "Yamada Hanatarou. I see. I'm Dakamoragu Masumi."
The doctor smiled and took the bowl from her. "Dakamoragu Masumi. That's a pretty name. Okay, I think I can remember that. I'm sorry. You can keep talking, but Unohana-teicho wanted me to check your injuries once you woke up."
Masumi nodded. "I understand, Yamada-san. Go ahead."
The doctor looked at her and blushed softly as he began to check the wound on her shoulder. "No, everyone calls me Hanatarou. It's okay. It's an easy name to remember, really. Can you lie down for a second. The scar across your stomach looks redder than it did when Unohana-teicho did the preliminary examination earlier."
Her eyes widened a bit at the request before she took a deep breath, reminding herself that this was a doctor who was asking that as she lay back down. "I guess I understand that. I am only Dakamoragu-san when I am working. The rest of the time, everyone calls me Masumi or Little Mouse."
"Okay, you can sit up again now. It is healing better. Now, I'm going to check your feet. This might hurt a bit. But, why would people call you a little mouse?"
Masumi smiled and took the hand that Hanatarou offered her to help her sit up and dangled her legs off the edge of the bed, trying to keep still as the doctor bent down to examine her feet. "I guess because I look like one. I really don't know. Almost everyone I've ever met, ever since I was little, has called me that at least once. It's hard to mind when you've heard it all your life." She shut her eyes and breathed deeply as the doctor touched the burns. She knew he needed to, and that the pain meant that they were healing, but it still hurt to have him touch them.
"I'm sorry. I know that last part had to have hurt. I would heal you, but Unohana said that any more healing kidou might make things hurt even worse right now until you rest, so I'm going to put a burn plaster on to help it heal faster."
"I understand. It's fine. You don't have to apologize for trying to help me," she said, the ragged edge of her voice muffled by her knees as she focused on breathing. She had to be stronger. Not being strong enough was what had gotten her into this mess to begin with. She would not take that out on someone else, let alone someone who was trying to help her. She had gotten through worse wounds than this and never screamed or cried once, not since the night her cousin died when she began to find the edges of her tower. Just because she couldn't find her tower didn't change anything.
"That should help until morning. The reiatsu transfer should have taken enough by then for you to tolerate more healing kidou. How are you doing? Do you need anything?"
"No. Just listening to someone talking helps. It really does. I'll be fine in a second here."
She felt a hand gently resting on her shoulder. "Will you let me help you sit back up? If you stay bent like that, you're going to hurt your stomach and shoulder even more."
She nodded, still fighting to steady herself against the ragged, almost sobbing edge to her breathing hard enough that there was no resistance left for her to fight with as Hanatarou helped pull her shoulders back until she was sitting up again.
"There. Now, I need to check one more thing, but are you sure you don't want me to get you anything first? Maybe pain medicine would help?"
"No." The word came out much sharper than Masumi had intended and she instantly softened her tone. "No. I'm sorry. I developed a bad reaction to pain medicine a few years ago. I really don't need anything."
"Okay, then. I -ummm - I need you to sit up a little more. I- hold still," Hanatarou stammered briefly as he reached out and laid his hand over her heart very carefully. She wanted to ask him what it was he was checking when she felt the slight press of energy, not pushing but simply a slight buildup which settled over her heart. Almost immediately as she felt the slight touch though, the energy felt like it was burning through her, sharply and suddenly enough that the force of it left her with dark splotches and stars moving at the edge of her vision. The pain stopped almost as suddenly as it had come and Masumi gasped and blinked, feeling that forming tears that were clouding her vision as she felt the pain finally beginning to fade a little. She opened her eyes slowly then and tried to sit up, only to find she was already doing so. She looked up and saw the doctor staring at her, no longer the cheerful and rather apologetic figure who she had seen when she had woken up from the medicine. Instead, he now looked very concerned over whatever had just happened, and if she caught his eyes she could see something else. It could have been shock, it could have been anger, but she was too surprised by that look to think of asking him which before he spoke again.
"Your channels! That shouldn't have hurt at all! What did they do to you? How could they have hurt you like that?" Poor Hanatarou sounded so pained and bewildered at the thought of anyone hurting another person so deliberately, right on top of the last edges of the pain was what undid the last of Masumi's control and the tears that had been forming began to trail softly down her cheeks. The more she tried to stop it, the faster the tears seemed to flow until she was truly crying outright. The doctor stood there, one hand on her back for support and the other over her heart from the check, and began to gently pat her back comfortingly as Masumi tried to answer his question.
"I think they were too focused on trying to keep me alive to care if it hurt or not."
Hanatarou faltered, looking confused by what Masumi had just said. "But I thought the traitors killed you? Why would they try to save you if they were going to kill you?"
Masumi bowed her head a little and shook it, as much to keep from seeing the look on his face with what she had to say next. "They didn't want to kill me. They needed me alive to be able to turn me rogue. And I was too weak to keep them from dragging me out of the world in my head, to keep them from hurting me, so I-" The tears were running too fast now for her to be able to keep speaking and she simply sat there, shaking as she began to truly weep.
She wasn't sure how long it was that she cried, but finally she ran out of tears and just sat shivering as the last of the sobs choked out of her, leaving her tired and limp as she waited for the doctor to yell at her for pulling at the injuries by leaning forward again. Then, Masumi realized, that she was being held upright by the person sitting next to her, hugging her.
"Shhh. It's fine, it's fine," the person said comfortingly and Masumi realized with a start that the person who had hugged her when she was crying was the doctor who had been checking on her before. His hand tightened slightly on her back as she tried to back away and she stopped, realizing that he was trying to keep her from pulling her stitches.
"No, it is not. There should have been no need for you to need to do that. I should not have been letting myself cry like that. I'm sorry."
The doctor tilted his head to the side and looked at her oddly. "But, I would have been a bad doctor if I didn't do that. You were going into shock. Even though you were stable, I still had to do something to help."
The last comment sounded so much like something that Ichigo's dad might have told her when patching her up that she began to smile a little, not sure if it was because of the words themselves or because she couldn't imagine two people more different than Kurosaki Isshin and Yamada Hanatarou.
"I suppose not," Masumi conceded, beginning to feel a little more like her normal self. "but I still feel as if I should argue that point. Thank you."
"Be careful when you lean back so you don't tear the stomach wound or the stitches."
She nodded and slowly sat back as the doctor stood back up, and she sat cross legged and pulled the blanket around her shoulders tighter to block against any chill.
"You said talking would help. Do you want to tell me about your bracelet?" The doctor's voice sounded cheerful again. Masumi fought against the urge to shake her head again. She had told him that it would help, and it did, and he had tried to pick something that wouldn't hurt.
Masumi reached up and ran a hand absentmindedly through her hair, "The bracelet I destroyed was the sign I was --."
Hanatarou interrupted her. "You had another bracelet? I meant the one that you're wearing."
Masumi looked at him oddly. "You don't understand. I cannot wear my bracelet anymore. That is why I destroyed it, because I-," she gestured offhandedly and a bit of light caught her attention. She looked at her right wrist. There was a bracelet there. A bracelet made up of small silver tokens tied to a red cord.
"This can't be right! How could I - I destroyed this before I came to Soul Society."
Hanatarou shrugged. "I don't know. Maybe it's like a zanpakuto. They can regenerate themselves."
Masumi shook her head. "No, I know the treaty. These are different. They're only symbols for what a true rusubin is. They hold marks of all the alliances or favors a rusubin has with certain people or groups. That is why when anyone tries to make a rusubin rogue, the rusubin has to destroy it. The only way I could have one would be if I were still a rusubin."
"Then that's what happened. That's what the message meant."
Hanatarou nodded cheerfully. "Yes. It was like the ones that came before. Do the tokens normally flash like that?" he asked , reaching out gingerly stopping so that he would not accidentally touch the tokens on her bracelet.
Masumi turned the cord around her wrist until she could see it. "Sometimes. It means that there is a message," she said absently and found the token that was flashing with a soft light glow, flipping it over so that she could see the symbol carved into it. It was a sea dragon, Shinsanorya-sama's token. She took a deep breath to steady herself to touch it.
"You look worried. It's good that the bracelet returned, right?" Hanatarou asked, a slight worry line across his forehead creasing the otherwise still cheerful face.
"No, it is good. It's just the message is from my senpai, and he views failure as a personal betrayal. More for us than himself because if we fail, that means that he did not prepare us well enough to do our jobs. I might as well listen and get this over with." She touched the token quickly and braced herself for the yelling that knowing senpai, was almost inevitable when he was angry. Which made the first words that the token spoke even more of a shock.
"You did well, Masumi-chan. I do not know if anyone on the council could have done more than you did in that situation, so do not think that you failed. I am reinstating you as the rusubin of Karakura Town and any other areas that will be added because of your increase in power. If you were not still rusubin that would be impossible. You will resume the role once you are healed enough for Soul Society to allow Amazoraku-sama into Soul Society to train you for long distance work. The other rusubin will divide the area between them until then, so do not worry about neglecting your duties. And for God's sake, eat and sleep, girl, so that you actually can heal."
She blinked as the last couple of words faded. "Senpai isn't angry at me?"
Hanatarou smiled and shook his head. "It didn't sound that way to me. I need to stay here for a little longer, until Unohana-teicho comes back, but can I get you something? Are you tired?"
Masumi shook her head. "No, not yet. But I'll try to drink another bowl of broth. Maybe that will help."
He nodded and sent the order for another bowl, and sat down, grabbing one of the large boxes of bandages from a stack that were piled next to the bed. Masumi took a few from the box, in spite of his protests and began to roll them as they talked, in spite of the doctor's initial protests.
A good bit later, she finally stretched out, yawning as she began to doze, and gratefully heard Hanatarou wish her a good night as he put a blanket over her, taking the two boxes of bandages she had rolled from beside her on the bed as he turned off the main light. She thought she said good night in return, but she was not quite sure as she burrowed deeply under the blanket and allowed herself the first true sleep she had had in over a week.