Ever since the day that Barbo brought them up to speed on what was going on with the conspiracy, Akata had been avoiding them like the plague. The only ones who didn't seem upset by his sudden even greater distancing of them was Kinomi and Azucena, who never really noticed the so called distancing since she saw him and his sister daily at the 4th.
He was spending most of his free time at the 12th and not one of them was interested in going anywhere near that place. Heaven and hell know what would happen if Kurotsuchi ever got his slimy paws on any of them. The only one safe, or as safe as anyone could be when involved with the 12th, was Kinomi with her boring pure blood.
Barbo, Reina and Galgo returned to regular weapons class, stopping by only once in a while to train with them. They continued to meet every second Sunday at their new hide out to train together, with the continued exception of Akata.
Leon and Zan were doing alright in their classes, seeing as how they were the youngest students in said classes by several years. Azucena remained an at par fighter, everything about her was average other then her mask fragment.
The year went by without anymore word on the case against them, so Kinomi felt it safe to presume their anti campaign tactics must have been working, at least for now.
"We are still children now, not too much of a threat, but once we are all legal adults, then what? People are not as frightened of children as they are adults. Once we graduate and join the gotei 13, then what?"
"Things will be what things will be." Kyattsuai's voice echoed in her mind, calming her slightly.
"Yeah. I can't argue with that. Still. This is never going to end is it?"
"There will always be those jealous of those with power." Kyattsuai agreed. "And while you yourself may be somewhat exempted from this, the mixed heritage of the others make them easy targets."
"Well, I am sure if they ever found out I call one of the still 'at large espada' Otooji the fire works would light up the whole city for years to come."
Kyattsuai's agreeing chuckles echoed through her mind.
With a deep breath Kinomi focused her mind and quickly found herself in her inner world.
As usual the soft moon light reflected off of the white sand of the tropical forest. At once Kinomi assumed a defensive stance and quickly ducked to the side as Kyattsuai's claws barely missed her.
They sparred for several minutes, the terrain making it difficult as the thick foliage offered Kyattsuai a considerable amount of cover to stalk and hunt through and the sand constantly shifted under her feet. It was moments like this that Kinomi wished her ability to sense reiatsu was as strong as Leon's or Zan's.
Once she had received a good work out they stopped. The purpose of this visit was not to train, but to listen to her other half's take on the situation. Kyattsuai represented her more calmer, smarter side and she would be a fool not to listen to her.
"So, do you think we should keep as going or do you think it is time Taka-chan and I suddenly hit our caps as well?" Kinomi asked, resting against Kyattsuai's side and absently scratching the large panther behind the ears, holding back a chuckle as the soft sound of purring filled the small clearing they were resting in.
"I think your earlier prediction about no one believing that the two of you would cap out so suddenly still stands. It would attract too much suspicion." Kyattsuai pointed out.
"I agree. There is one thing that has been bothering me since the beginning." Kinomi admitted.
"What might that be Pantera-chan?" Kyattsuai asked, turning blue green eyes in her direction to regard her.
"Weather or not we should be involving our parents in this or not. I mean I know my old man would be alright with everything, he really isn't too fond of Yamamoto-sotaichou, but at least half of our parents have lives they have worked hard for here and it would be unfair for us to ruin it for them out of our own selfishness."
"Regardless of what path is chosen, the repercussions will flow." Kyattsuai pointed out.
Kinomi sighed, unable to argue that point.
"At least if we leave them out of our plans it gives them the choice to follow us or not." Kinomi pointed out.
"It is the best that can be done in this situation. That and to grow strong so as to crush all those who would oppose you."
Kinomi stopped her ear scratching and stared Kyattsuai in the eye.
"Bankai?" She asked.
"You are almost there." Kyattsuai assured her.
Kinomi sighed again and went back to scratching Kyattsuai's ears.
"Bankai is a long path, you know this Pantera-chan." Kyattsuai pointed out.
"I know. It's just. I got to be strong so I can protect the others. I am the eldest so it's my job to make sure we are all safe. Despite Barbo-kun and Reina-chan's heritage somehow I was elected the leader and I will not fail them." Kinomi vowed.
Kyattuai moved and nuzzled Kinomi's cheek in silent comfort. Kinomi nestled against her, accepting the silent comfort.
"It will be soon Pantera-chan. If not by the end of this year then by the end of next." Kyattsuai assured her warmly.
"I am that close?"
"Yes. Remember though, Pantera-chan, that achieving is just the beginning."
"I know. But it's another step forward. Well, it should be dinner soon. Can't fight on an empty stomach."
Kyattsuai chuckled in agreement and the world faded away to mist before Kinomi found herself back in her body, stretching to work out a few kinks from having been sitting in meditation for the last hour or so.
She was progressing fast. Not as fast as a genius like Hitsugaya-taichou had, who had only received training once he arrived at Shinoreijutsuin while she had been training since she was two.
"Kinomi-chan, Dinner." Rukia's voice called out.
Nodding to herself she sheathed Kyattsuai and returned the zanpakuto to her hip before heading down the stairs to join her family for dinner.
Making sure that he was alone, Akata slipped through the shadows on his way towards the 12th. He had studied everything about the 12th in the last ten years so he knew them all down to a dotted I and crossed T. Thus he knew that at this time of night Kurotsuchi-taichou would be in the central chamber alone, having sent his daughter out to retrieve their usual evening meals.
It took all of two seconds to override the door lock and enter the center chamber. As he anticipated Kurotsuchi was alone, sitting at the large organ like computer and typing away.
It was too early for his daughter to have returned so of course the captain turned to see who had not only dared to disturb him, but to break into his room. As Kurotsuchi turned, Akata drew his zanpakuto.
Kurotsuchi froze, then got up and stepped aside so that Akata could take the chair and use the computer. With a few deft key strokes he smiled as Central 46's central computer filled the monitor.
He set to work at once, accessing and creating files as he worked. He understood rather quickly how his father had been able to jerk the fools around so easily for so long. This was mere child's play.
His time was quickly running out. Kurotsuchi-fukutaichou would be returning soon. Shutting down the computer and returning it to the screen the elder Kurotsuchi had been working on, Akata withdrew.
He slipped into the shows, sheathing Sakkaku the moment he was out of the room and heading home where he knew his mother would be just finishing dinner and his sister would be awaiting his instructions.
Another few months and everything should be completed. He wished he could find more time but it was best to use the 12th's computer so that any trace would fall upon Kurotsuchi-taichou's shoulders and no one would even think of looking at him as the true culprit. All was proceeding according to plan.
"I wish we could trust Ukitake-taichou enough to invite him here." Kinomi sighed as she watched Zan, Leon, Taka and Reina attempt to break through the defensive line Galgo, Barbo and Azucena had made around the simple stick with a scrap of cloth hanging off of it that they were guarding.
Their team work was getting much better, but Kinomi really wished that someone with far more experience with this sort of thing could be leading them. It helped to repeat the lessons the academy was giving them, but without anyone to watch and critique….
"Wait a tick. Kyattsuai?" Kinomi called.
"Hmm?" Came the quick response.
"Can you watch us and pick up on our mistakes?" She asked quickly.
"Of course I can Pantera-chan. You are more then able to hold me in the material plane for an hour or so."
"You do not mind the others seeing you?"
"Of course not!"
With a grin Kinomi drew Kyattsuai and concentrate, watching with satisfaction as the white panther quickly materialized. Kinomi paused to scratch her behind the ear before joining her friends in their offensive strike, releasing her Shikai in the process.
With her power added they quickly claimed the 'flag' they had been trying to capture. They switched up the teams, evened them out so it was now 4 on 4 and went at it again. They didn't have long to train, only about two hours every two weeks, so they made sure to use every moment they had.
The match wasn't able to be finished as they ran out of time. Kinomi ran up to where Kyattsuai had been observing them, receiving the report and letting the others know how well they had fared and improved.
Kyattsuai disappeared, returning to Kinomi's inner world. The lessons for the day done they headed out with a promise to meet at lunch at school tomorrow. As usual Kinomi made sure to be the last one leaving.
She was halfway home when a voice stopped her.
"You are out late, Kurosaki-san."
"As are you, Akata-kun." She turned and smiled warmly at the boy.
"You wouldn't be up to something that should be reported?" He asked.
"Nah, just out for my usual Sunday night stroll. What about you? It's awfully late for you to be out and about."
"A simple walk to clear the mind before bed." He answered.
"I see. You seem to come from the 12th a lot these days. Apprenticing yourself to Kurotsuchi-taichou, Akata-kun?"
"The 12th is far more interesting then the brutes you hang out with in the 11th." Akata commented.
"Excuse me?" She demanded.
"I believe this conversation is over. Good night, Kurosaki-san."
Akata walked off. Kinomi shook her head in annoyance and continued on her way home. Sometimes she wondered about that boy's ideals.
Another few blocks over and she was once again stopped, this time by Yachiru-chan. It was becoming more common to see the girl without Kenpachi around as she became older and more independent.
"Evening, Yachiru-chan." Kinomi greeted.
"Evening Pantera-chan." Yachiru chirped back.
Even after all this time she was still some how so cute and spunky. Of course she was hardly some pathetic little teenage girl suffering from teenage angst.
"Are you going to be going to the Annual Sakura Festival Shingami Dance?" Yachiru asked hesitantly.
"Maybe." Kinomi brushed the question off.
The truth was she hated the dance. All it ever did was remind her of what they didn't have. She knew Reina and Barbo went together every year, but then they were the exception of the group. The rest of them didn't exactly have anyone to go with as the majority of soul society wanted nothing to do with them.
"Oh." Yachiru looked crestfallen.
Of course. Yachiru was suffering from the same outcast hell as they were. No boy or man was brave enough to dare to ask her to the dance, let alone to dance with her out of fear of what Kenpachi-sensei would do to them for looking at his 'daughter' the wrong way. Not that any such event has ever happened, but secretly Kinomi figured boys were far bigger cowards than girls when it came to social graces.
"What a sorry bunch we have become." Kinomi laughed bitterly. "I guess that's the price we pay for being able to put everyone below a fukutaichou in the hospitable without breaking a sweat."
"Yeah." Yachiru agreed sadly. "For once I would like to go without having to threaten Yumi-kun into going with me."
Kinomi chuckled. Last year she had ended up dancing with Galgo. She had seen grass with more enthusiasm then he had shown. Of course this year Zan and Leon would be permitted to come.
"Well, how about Taka and I hold off on our usual after class training tomorrow and we all get together and come up with a battle plan, even if it ends up we MAKE a few boys take us upon fear of death." Kinomi offered with a wide grin.
"I would like that." Yachiru agreed. "I'll tell Ken-chan to have a pot of tea waiting for us."
"Kenpachi-sensei makes the best." Kinomi sighed in pleasure. "Otousan is clueless when it comes to making tea and Okaasan either couldn't afford it or had servants to do it for her."
"Anyhow, see you after class tomorrow. Night Yachiru-chan." Kinomi waved.
Kinomi finally made it home, where a worried Zan met her at the door. She quickly assured him that she was only late because she had been talking to Yachiru-chan before hitting her bed before their parents could really get on their cases about being up so late on a school night.
After school Kinomi and Taka headed right over to the 11th, waving at Zan and Leon as they disappeared with a bang, followed by a flash on their way to the 2nd. Barbo and Reina headed back to the Kuchiki estate where they would be attending more classes, only this time on etiquette and other such boring things. Galgo went and found Stark, Shunsui right beside him under a tree is napping spot 35.
"I hate the Shinigami Sakura Spring Dance." Taka muttered. "I mean the foods good but all we do is stand there and watch Reina-chan and Barbo-kun twirl each other around while everyone else does their best to avoid us."
"Yeah, I know. But you know our parents will make us go anyway, they always do." Kinomi grunted. "And Okaasan will definitely make me go this year since Zan-kun is old enough to go now." She muttered.
"Ouch. Okay I'll go, if only to keep you company through the torment." Taka agreed.
"Great." Kinomi beamed.
The two girls arrived at the 11th, where the gate guards let them through with quick salutes as if they were seated officers. As always Kinomi felt the need to run her hand along the sash around her waste, running her hand over the Kanji for 11.
She always got a chuckle when she had remembered how the teachers had objected to her and Taka wearing those sashes they had worked so hard to earn instead of the standard ones that came with the uniforms. Kenpachi had come by the next day and asked what the problem was. No other word had been said about them.
Tea was ready for them by the time they arrived and Yachiru greeted them with a hug while Kenpachi excused himself under some pretence on checking how his troops training was going, leaving the three teenage girls alone to plot the worlds destruction, or at least hell for three as of yet chosen boys.
"The real question is," Taka started once they all had cups of tea and were seated, "is what boys are really worthy of our attention?"
"Not too many that's for sure." Kinomi sighed. "I can't think of a single boy at the school that is worthy that's NOT Zan or Leon and dating them would just be WRONG."
Yachiru sighed in frustration. This was getting them no where fast.
"Well, I take Yumi-kun every year and I really do not want to go with him this year." She pouted.
"Well, what about one of the other Fukutaichou?" Kinomi suggested. "Most of them are there anyway and half of them never have dates since it's tacky for them to be dating their subordinates."
Yachiru seemed to be thinking about it for a moment.
"That could sort of work." Taka agreed slowly. "But we really don't know any of the others."
"Well, let's make a list." Kinomi declared, pulling out a pen and paper. "Let's start with the 1st and move down the divisions. Should we name any of the Taichou while we are at it?" She asked.
"Maybe a few of the younger, and more sane, ones."
"Alright. The 1st." Kinomi set her pen on the page and waited for the names to start coming.
The went through the divisions, writing down the names of the eligible men that might be worth targeting. Once done Kinomi double checked the list before showing it to the two girls.
"Well, how do we narrow it down now?" Taka asked.
"Hmm." Yachiru seemed to be thinking.
"We could draw them out of a hat." Kinomi suggested with a shrug.
"That's kind of lame." Taka pointed out.
"And sounds kind of fun at the same time. Almost like a truth or dare kind of thing." Yachiru agree with a chuckle.
"I can not believe we are doing this." Taka chuckled as Kinomi tore the paper up and folded the names, spreading them out on the table and mixing them all up.
"I swear, I am not taking Yumi-kun. I take him every year." Yachiru declared.
"Alright, if you get Yumi-taichou you can pick again. Agreed?" Kinomi asked.
"I can live with that." Taka agreed.
"Alright, Jenken for first pick."
The three girls went through the ritual to determine who would go first. Yachiru won. She ran her hand through the small pile of paper before collecting one and opening it.
"Who did you get?" Taka demanded.
Yachiru flashed the paper to the others.
"Well at least it wasn't Yumi-tiachou." Kinomi chuckled.
"Yeah. But still. This will be interesting to say the least." Yachiru sighed. "You're next Kinomi-chan."
Kinomi ran her hands through the papers before settling on one and unfolding it. She chuckled and flashed it to the others, causing Yachiru to burst into laughter.
"At least he wont feel left out." Taka giggled.
"He will be an easy one to get to agree at least." Yachiru chuckled.
"Indeed. Your turn Taka-chan." Kinomi prompted.
Taka ran her hand through the remaining papers before settling on one. She opened it up to flash the name to the others.
"Looks like I will be the only one not going with a former 11th." She chuckled.
"Wow. That is going to be a tuff nut to crack." Kinomi noted.
"Well, we can always get Yumi-kun to make him go." Yachiru chuckled.
"Yeah. Well, we only got a few days so we should hit up our targets as quickly as possible. It's unlikely they have dates already, but just to make sure we had better go secure them." Kinomi dropped her name back into the pile.
"Yeah. I can't believe we have to resort to this." Taka sighed, returning her name to the pile as well.
"Do you think we can get Rangiku to do our make up for us?" Yachiru asked, returning her name to the pile as well.
"Probably. You know how much she loves this sort of thing and she has done it every other year." Kinomi chuckled.
The three girls headed out to find their respective targets.
Several minutes later after the girls had left Kenpachi returned to his office, Iba and Kira by his side with handfuls of paper work for the 11th.
"So is Yachiru-fukutaichou going to be bringing Yumichika-tiachou to the dance again this year?" Iba asked.
"Probably." Kenpachi grunted, scowling when he saw the shredded paper on his table. "I thought I told them to clean up after they were done."
Kira walked over and started to gather the papers up, noting that they appeared to have writing on them and opening one up to see his name written on it. Blinking, he opened the other papers to see more names.
"Um… What were they doing Zaraki-taichou?" Kira asked nervously.
"Who knows. Girl stuff no doubt." He answered with a shrug.
"Why do you ask?" Iba suddenly seemed interested and looked at the papers Kira had in his hand. "Why is my name on a scrap of paper?"
"Huh?" Now Kenpachi was interested as he took the papers from Kira and spread them out across the desk, noting the names.
They looked at the names in confusion, wondering what in blazes the girls could possibly be doing that they had names on paper and why three of the names had a little X in the corner.
Since Kinomi and Taka's targets were ironically in the same division, they split up from Yachiru and wished her luck on her hunting. The two girls arrived at the 9th and were instantly admitted. After all it wasn't too uncommon for them to show up to speak to its Taichou.
"Pantera-chan, Taka-chan, to what do I owe the pleasure?" Yumichika asked as the two girls sat down before him.
"It's about the Spring Sakura Shinigami Festival Dance." Kinomi broached the subject.
"Oh?" He asked.
"Yeah." She sighed.
"Yachiru-chan still can't get a date huh." He guessed.
"None of us can." Taka muttered.
He nodded in understanding. He had been expecting to see Yachiru, or her designated representative, soon to corner him into taking her like he had for the last several years. He had to admit he was surprised it was Kinomi who had shown up.
"Well, Taka and I were not going to go but Yachiru roped us in and Okaasan is going to make me go anyway to keep an eye on Zan-kun, so we decided we would be the ones asking this year." Kinomi explained.
"Oh?" Yumichika looked at them in interest. "How did you figure out who you were all going to ask?"
"We put everyone's name who we thought were worth it on a piece of paper and took turns pulling names." Taka admitted slightly embarrassed.
"And I got your name. So will you escort me to the dance please Yumi-taichou?" Kinomi asked sweetly.
He looked stunned for a moment, then offered her a soft smile and agreed.
"I would be honored, Pantera-chan."
"Sweet. Thank you. Taka-chan." She turned her attention to her friend.
"I got Hisagi-fukutaichou name." She admitted sheepishly.
Yumichika stared at her for a full second before bursting into laughter.
"Who did Yachiru-chan get then?" He asked.
"Renji-taichou." Kinomi admitted after a moment.
That caused another fit of giggles.
"Anyhow. Do you know where Hisagi-fukutaichou is?" Taka asked hesitantly.
"He should be back soon from delivering some paper work to the 13th." He admitted.
His prediction was right and Hisagi appeared after about five minutes. He seemed stunned by Taka's request to accompany her, but a glare from his taichou silenced any protest the man had to offer.
Their 'dates' secured, they headed out to find out how Yachiru-chan did with securing hers and to meet up with Matsumoto to see if she would help them with their makeup like they did every year.
"Don't worry about it Hisagi." Yumichika assured him once the girls were gone. "They will only stick around for an hour or so like they do every year before escaping." He looked at the girls retreating backs with a frown, sadness etched into his visage.
"Well, It's not like any of us have the time to find dates anyway." He reluctantly admitted.
"Yeah. Poor girls, always so outcast because of what and who they are. Anyway. You got those papers from the 13th?"
"Yes Taichou, they are right here."
Stay Tuned for Chapter 9: Dance of Blades
I actually did write the names on paper and pulled them from my BF's hat, lol
Sorry for the delay in updates. I forgot to keep posting over here because it's a bigger pain than at adultfan. I will kick my but into gear and post the rest of this.