No matter where we are… there is always something… something holding us together.
Chapter Two: Crossed Realities
The moon was slowly crawling across the sky, drawing memories into her eyes through the open window. She sighed, allowing her hand to travel to her shoulder, to the mark that was still etched in her skin. She absently traced the lines as her eyes closed out the moon's ominous light.
I have to talk to him. She thought of Kisuke in the other room as her hand lay gently across the scar. I have to ask him what the chances are… I can't sit here and try to figure it out when I don't have the resources to do so. Another sigh followed the thought as she dug her nails into her skin lightly, temporarily. Damn him. This thought was for Ulquiorra, though she didn't dare to whisper his name in her mind. Instead, she allowed her last lively breaths to escape her as she fell into a restless sleep.
Ulquiorra couldn't figure out why the night was so peaceful to him. He didn't know why he was awake under the pale moonlight while the rest of the world was inactive. At the same time, he was relieved the town was silent. People had moved into their sleeping quarters and he was left to the outside world by himself. His schedule was opposite of everyone's before he had even decided for it to be that way – or had he decided it? He wasn't sure.
He stood after a few moments, deciding it was better to wander than to stare aimlessly at the clouds. He tried to remember everything he could as he paced down the streets. His bare feet were almost soothed by the worn pathways of the center of town. Nothing here seemed too familiar, though all of its structure was ingrained in his mind. He was in the outer shell of the Soul Society, Rukongai. He glanced toward the tall walls to the left of him, recognizing that as the Seireitei. Soul Reapers were a part of his memory as well, their power above anyone else. He didn't know their exact functions, nor did he know their duties, but he vaguely knew of them.
He also knew his name. Other than that, everything was a blur.
He continued to walk and search for answers in the moonlight's misleading cast. It felt like he was missing something important, that life wasn't always like this. He hoped he hadn't spent his life wandering, searching for answers. What a waste that would be. Even walking in that moment, he despised the idea of his life being there for walking and pondering. He had to remember something. Again, his eyes turned to the moon.
If anything, I just need an answer. It can be what I want to hear, or it can be what I dread hearing. I just want to know…
She woke up to the moonlight still pouring through the window. Would she always lose sleep? Would the moon always taunt her with how slow time seemed to move? She ignored it for once and stood. She figured Kisuke was sleeping, but he would certainly wake for her requests. He truly was good to her, and even his side of the story pained her with knowing she had betrayed him. I still am.
She walked through the silent house and into his sleeping quarters. Before she could even cross the room he was already awakened by her presence. His hair was out in the open, tousled in a messy array that somehow suited him. She hadn't thought about what she had to look like, but she couldn't imagine it was any worse than she had looked lately. She hadn't paid much attention to herself at all really.
"You're up early," he mumbled, clearly he wasn't ready to wake up, but at the same time he rarely refused the offer to help her.
"Yeah, I guess I am."
"Well, come in," he said, stifling a yawn. She listened, completing her destination across the room, and falling down beside him. She didn't hesitate to lie next to him, knowing he wouldn't mind. This way she could stare at the ceiling instead of facing his eyes. She rested her hands on her stomach as she allowed her body to easily fall back into a relaxed state. She didn't even bother with staring at the ceiling, but instead she allowed her eyes to close as she listened to his question.
"What's bothering you now, Yoruichi?"
"Do you have to ask?" She responded calmly. It didn't bother her to think about it really, but talking to him of all people… it seemed awkward. She wondered if her relationship with Ulquiorra was obvious, or if she was just worried about the guilt she felt for betraying everyone for him.
"I see. What do you want to know?"
"What happens to the soul of someone like him?" She asked it more boldly than she could have managed even a day earlier.
She heard him intake a reserved breathe, but it didn't bother her. If he was annoyed with the whole ordeal, she could live with it. She had expected him to be mad, or perhaps to lose all trust in her, but he never did any of that to her. If he could handle this conversation without finally giving in to his true feelings toward her decisions, she would be amazed. He was so easy going, and she was thankful for that.
He knew this conversation was coming. It was only a matter of time before she would emerge from her shell. Even he realized this, and felt some optimism that her mood might lift now that she was finally opening herself up to discuss the situation.
"There are many possibilities," he said simply, "We haven't done enough research on them to know what happens, though I would assume it's similar to a hollow. Even so, a soul being released in Hueco Mundo has different potential as well."
"I see." She said softly, expecting him to go on. He knew so much more than she did about all of these things. He had never given up on research even after leaving the Soul Society.
"I can't say much more than that, except the chances of you finding him are slim."
"I never said I wanted to find him. I just needed to know what was out there." She was caught off guard by his accusation. Did he worry she would try to abandon him again if the opportunity was available?
"So if he was found, you wouldn't care?" He asked, skeptical on her idea of uncaring. He hadn't seen her this dedicated on anything in a long time. He doubted she would drop such dedication so easily.
"I would. But I'm not going to go out looking for someone that might not exist," she said honestly. There was no sense in hiding the truth from him if he asked it of her.
"What are you going to do now then? I can't see you sitting around dwelling on the past for much longer," he said with a heavy breath. She could feel his eyes on her now, searching for dishonesty.
"No, I can't. I'll be preparing just like everyone else for the war." That was a typical answer for the current times. He figured she had more intentions than just fighting alongside her comrades, however. At least he couldn't doubt that she would be building up her strength, and at least he could count on that as a distraction for her.
"Yes, you came back just in time for that, didn't you? Perhaps it would have been easier if you were already there."
"That was the plan," she explained with a slight smile to her voice. He led her right into and easy way to explain herself without the need to involve talking about Ulquiorra. It was true, her intentions were to infiltrate from the inside. If the war started and she was already pretending to be on the Espada's side, it would have given her a huge advantage. Aizen would have been expecting that, however. So what was my real purpose? No one there trusted me.
"I assumed so."
The conversation was too simple. The ice in the air made the lines tight and newly bound chains were still finding their way into easement after her breaking down of all boundaries. One miscalculated sentence, and everything had the potential to crumble. It was a building stage, a recovery and reconstruction of her spirit. She was reclaiming herself, letting her weakened mind learn to be submissive again. She was still on the side of letting go.
Yoruichi noticed the moon wasn't so bright in here. They were tucked away on the opposite side of the room, hidden from its teasing light. She loved the moon, but it blinded her dreams when she fell asleep to it.
"If there was a chance," she said, her voice sounding exhausted as she slipped into relaxation at the same moment as she continued the conversation, "If he made it to the soul society… what would happen if he was found?"
"Nothing, probably. There aren't many who know of him, and there would be no sense in revenge on an innocent soul."
"That's good," she responded as a murmur. For once, she felt semi relaxed. She had Kisuke to thank for that.
Someday I will cloud your skies again… someday.
"Ulquiorra! Ulquiorra!" his name was muffled, or perhaps he was just exhausted from being up all night and didn't hear it clearly. He stirred a little, his eyes opening hesitantly to greet the morning sunlight. It was late in the morning and the sun was hanging in the sky almost perfectly above him. He squinted to avoid its malice. He was relieved when a shadow covered up its beam, then he realized the source of relief.
"You missed breakfast," Akemi retorted when she realized his attention was captured. Her golden eyes were ashamed with him, and her lip formed a pouting crease.
"Sorry," he mumbled.
"I tried to tell them not to, but they all ate your helping!" She said while she flailed her arms to show her enthusiasm.
"It's fine," he said, though the tone wasn't to her liking.
"Are you ok?" She asked, calming down a little. He just looked at her, unsure of how to respond. Why does she care? He hoped she would just leave if he kept up his unresponsive nature, but instead she just kept pressing farther.
"You didn't have to stay outside, you know. Com'mon, I'll show you, it's nice inside!" She tugged on his shirt lightly to signal that he should follow. He watched her walk a few paces before she turned around and stared expectantly at him. Hesitantly, he stood and followed her – he didn't have much choice.
He hated it. The inside was small, dirty and full of people. Most of them were younger, though a couple of looked around his age. He quickly scanned and estimated there were thirteen people, all cramped around in the tight space, all hanging off makeshift bunks and lying on the floor. All of them stared at him with interest, and the same unspeaking gaze that everyone in town seemed to give him.
He couldn't see himself living there. It was below him, far below him. Even if he had no idea where he came from, he knew this wasn't right. Still, his face kept its stoic appearance as he waited for something to erupt.
"This is Ulquiorra!" Of course. The girl wouldn't allow for silence to cloud a room. He glanced down at her as she whirled her arms in a gesture toward him.
"Of course it is," one of the older ones said, one that Ulquiorra assumed was close to his age, maybe a few years younger in appearance. "He's all you've been talking about." The boy closed his eyes and relaxed against the wall. His raven hair was a mess, a large piece hanging in his face, a particularly annoyed expression accompanying his posture.
"Nuh-uh," she argued, folding her arms across her chest for a brief moment before resuming her gestures, "Can he stay with us?"
"Sure," the other one about his age, a girl with long auburn hair said, her emerald eyes staring at him with interest, "he seems fun."
"Fun? He looks like the total opposite," the other one said impatiently, opening one eye slightly to glace and Ulquiorra again, "I don't even think he has a personality."
Ulquiorra was hardly paying attention to their bickering. It was all background noise, all an annoyance he didn't bother tuning into. Instead, he was focused on the noise outside of the shelter. It sounded like there was some disturbance occurring – yes, it sounded silent. He doubted the building he was in could restrain noise; in fact just moments ago he heard their commotion along with the noise inside. Something was off.
He glanced behind him just as the others began to shush with the rest of the town.
"It's one of them," Akemi said softly, trying to restrain the excitement and fear that was growing in her as the powerful entity loomed closer.
It was another evening. Another day she spent roaming around with little care of where she would go. Another day that she found herself perched on her tree while she hazily watched the sun set. Despite a hopeful turnaround of the previous night's conversation, her mind was lead into thinking of other things. Revenge. Everyone wanted to see Aizen's team fail – she wanted to be the cause of it. She had seen the inside. She knew some direction of the main hallways. She felt she had superiority toward Las Noches. After all, she had lived there for a while. Even so, she wasn't that determined. She was just thinking, trying to find a strategy in what she had learned. Perhaps it was recovery, since she was returning to her original duties. A weaker recognition made her think she was only distracting herself from more painful thoughts.
Ulquiorra hadn't even crossed her mind much as she relived the hallways, the people, and the numbers. She blocked him out of the count. Her thoughts somehow weaved around him as though she were living in the present this time through, walking through the halls with their fourth already destroyed. There were nine left, she had seen them all, but no matter how much she tried to remember their faces, it didn't matter much. Who was the stronger? What about Grimmjow… he had fought at least Soi Fon, perhaps Kisuke. Was he defeated as well, or had he simply been injured enough for them to get around him? So perhaps there were only eight.
If her appearance there had dwindled them down to eight Espada, she could at least be thankful for that outcome. She had been right there, right before Aizen… That annoyed her more than anything. She clenched her fists into tight balls as she thought of that. That image brought back everyone, including Ulquiorra standing beside her. But her focus was on Aizen in that scene. She was anticipating a way to destroy him. That's twice I've had him so close to me, yet I haven't been able to kill him. Someday…
"I'm sorry to intrude." The words made her glance down calmly toward the ground. Soi Fon. She knew she would be coming again soon. She half smiled at her.
"You're not intruding at all. What brings you out here?"
"I just wanted to talk to you," she said carefully, glancing at the ground as she spoke.
"Sure. About what?"
"I just wanted to see how you were doing is all." She finally looked up, a little unsure of why Yoruichi was sounding like herself. She seemed to be lost in thought moments ago, which worried her as well, but she seemed completely normal for the moment.
"I doubt that's all you came here for," she said, reading Soi Fon's facial expressions with ease. She had something to say, something she wanted to tell her. She jumped down from where she was sitting on the inside of a branch, so lithe that the tree hardly moved with her motion.
"Yeah, you're right," she said with a hinted sigh. How does she always know what I'm thinking?
"It seems I'm going to have to go back to remembering that nothing gets past you," she admitted half-heartedly. I can't tell her now. No… she's finally getting over this, why should I bring it back up?
"So? What is it?" She pressed, watching Soi's eyes begin to haze in turmoil.
"It's… nothing really, it was probably stupid for me to come all this way to discuss it, I'm sorry," she said as calmly and as honestly as possible. It wasn't a stupid matter, but it was one she needed to sweep under the rug. She's recovered so fast, so suddenly. What happened that made her change her mind? What made her suddenly deal with what happened?
"I'm not going to break, Soi Fon," she said with a frown, watching the hesitancy on her face.
"Of course not." Of course you wouldn't. I should have realized…remembered… You're strong. Of course you would have gotten over it.
Yoruichi sighed in a way that was loud, and attracted Soi's attention. She wanted to get her annoyance across, and it worked, partially.
"I'm sorry, Yoruichi. It's just… I'm not sure if I should be telling you this."
"If you're afraid to tell me something, I can wait," she said with a smile that was normal, that was real. Soi Fon felt ashamed that she would forget such things in Yoruichi. She also felt relieved and happy. Her Yoruichi was back. Whatever caused her to become drone and locked away – it appeared to be gone. Still, she was fragile in a way. Perhaps she had just learned how to conceal everything. Perhaps she was just good at that as well as everything else she was so good at.
"Thank you," she bowed lightly, and took a step backward.
"You came here to see how I was doing, remember? You never got an answer," Yoruichi said, which made Soi stop moving. Their eyes were focused on each other directly now, she wasn't afraid to see if Yoruichi had truly recovered. She wanted to know, she wanted to see the life in her eyes as much as she believed she heard it in her voice.
There was something there, some indecision, but it was almost like a complete turn over since she had last seen her. She was calculating and energetic – nearly recovered into what she used to be. The slight disturbance in her appearance was perhaps the small bits that she couldn't conceal, or maybe it was the recovery system still in effect. She almost felt like showing her amazement with the change with a gasp, but she held in her reactions.
"You look a lot better," Soi said as a way to accept it herself.
Yoruichi laughed lightly, and shook her head.
"You never change Soi Fon."
"What…?" She asked, blushing slightly, thinking her words had been taken the wrong way perhaps.
"Exactly what I said. You never change. You're hiding something from me, something you want to say, but you're unsure of. Then you turn around and make a statement like that."
"I thought we were talking about how you're doing now?"
"Then... did I say something wrong?"
"Of course not. You're just fumbling over your words as usual," she smiled. Again, it was a smile she recognized. Not the crooked, half smile, half fake effort she had put into her smiles before. It was the smile she remembered. That was enough to make up her mind. All of this. All of this recovery and change that so drastically happened. In a few more days, she would be perfect again. If Soi let her know about her recent discovery, she would put Yoruichi in danger of falling into the same depression and uncertainty again.
"Anyway, I do have something to discuss with you," Yoruichi said, her expression clearing away toward a more serious state.
"I think I might have some vital information on Las Noches, and Aizen's army."
"Oh?" She asked, once again feeling on edge with this discussion. Suddenly everything light and airy turned cold and delicate.
"I believe there are two Espada out, not just one. Do you remember what happened to Grimmjow?"
Soi Fon thought back to the incident. The blue-haired Espada that had attacked her, number six… she remembered him because he was in the way. He was also arrogant which had pissed her off.
"Yes, I remember. I fought him off," she said with a hint of spite.
"Did you kill him?"
"I'm not certain… Kisuke said he'd handle him."
"I see. I suppose I will have to talk to him tonight then. I know the layout around Aizen's main quarters, as well. Perhaps you could talk to the Head Captain to see if a map would be potentially helpful."
"Sure, I guess I could inform him of what happened."
"I'm sure all of the Soul Society knows what happened by now, correct?"
"Yes, I had to report back on what happened. On my side anyway." I still don't know your side of the story. She thought with inquisition.
"I can provide the necessary side of my story as well. If you could, I'd like to get access to visit soon."
"Oh… yeah. Just give me a few days to clear some things up," she said with a half smile.
"A few days? You must be pretty busy."
"I am. I have another guest at the moment."
A/N: Sorry for the incredibly long wait for an update. I have been working on several stories at once, and they are all finally close to being updated. It really slows me down working like that though, so I'm going to try to adjust myself to a better schedule so my stories aren't all held off for a month.
This is the last… slow chapter. I promise things will pick up in the next chapter, and I am looking forward to writing the next part since it will allow more style and voice instead of building up a base for a plotline like these past two have been =P
Hopefully I still have readers. Comments and critiques are appreciated, and I thank everyone who is sticking with this story.