When the chains of your past are broken, who will you forge your future with?
This is a oneshot on the life of Hisagi Shuhei and Hinamori Momo after the war with Aizen.
I lay on the grass in the afternoon breeze.
The cold, soothing wind flowing over my scarred face.
The outskirts of Sereitei are a second home to me.
Its open air and green hills are a comfort from the traditional Japanese style city of white walls, golden brown roofs and heavy wooden doors.
I've always come here in times of doubt and times of worry.
After Aizen had sent our world in a disarray beyond reason, many were hurt and many lost on both sides.
I had wondered how the Gotei 13 had withstood this set of trials.
But without a doubt everyone stood strong in the face of danger.
I gently placed a hand on my scar.
And then on the tattoo on my left cheek.
"69" I told myself. A reminder of the pain of losing my first hero.
Then I remembered seeing Tousen-taicho…
A reminder of the pain of losing another.
How long has it been since Tousen's betrayal?
How many lives had he taken as a result?
I know for sure he had worn down mine.
But as I remembered Tousen, I also remembered Gin.
That smile betrayed many more than Tousen did.
Matsumoto-san knew it all to well.
But Aizen, their master and friend, betrayed us all.
None of us expected his ploy.
Not even his most trusted fukutaicho.
Hinamori-san took it the worst.
She admired him from heart, this much I could tell.
But the monster used her like a pawn in his game that led to this set of messes.
Though she no longer frets over Aizen, I worry that time hasn't been kind to her heart.
I decided to pay the 5th Division a visit to ease my doubts and hopefully ease hers.
I stood up from the green meadow that was my bed.
Turning on my heel, I marched back into Sereitei.
"It would be faster if I used Shunpo."
So I did.
Blazing past the streets at a speed that blurred the corners of my eyes, the world around me seems to slow down.
But I reached my destination faster than one would expect.
"But it's still a long way." I said panting slightly, in front of the wooden, guarded gates.
If only there were faster ways to get around, life would be easier.
Maybe I could invent a way to move faster than Sonido.
Like being able to mark my destination with some sort of seal and appearing before anyone realizes I'm gone.
Or turning into a beam of light just to move faster and get to my target quicker.
Even an ability to open a dimensional door would be helpful.
"But one can dream, can they?"
Such techniques are difficult to even concept.
"Excuse me?" the guard at the gate asked, thinking I had asked him a question.
I had forgotten I was still at the gate and had not entered its premises.
I snapped out of my stupor and asked, "Is Hinamori-san inside?"
The guard was slightly shaken by what I had just said.
The man before me answered, "Yes, she is."
I had a bad feeling about this.
"Thank you very much." I politely answered.
I entered the gate and into the building, hoping the worst was over.
It was emptier than I thought.
Whether the lobby, the kitchen, and the back rooms, barely anyone was around.
It seems that the shinigami are busy cleaning up the aftermath of Aizen's war.
I searched most of the rooms including the captain's and lieutenants rooms but found no sign of her.
Not even her presence lingered anywhere.
I returned to the lobby and walked towards a shinigami attending the counter.
He was an average man of 5' 4''.
"Excuse me," I asked, making the man turn to me. "Where is Hinamori-san?"
The man was as shaken as the first.
My intuition was right.
Time did not heal her gaping wounds.
The man regained his composure but his voice betrayed his actions. "Hinamori-san is in the dojo training. She has not left the division for days."
I marched into the Japanese style hallway, towards the only room I had to check.
When I reached the room, I paused and gently slid the door enough to slip through.
And there she was.
In a black hakama and the insignia of the 5th division on the sleeve of her left shoulder, she swung her wooden sword.
The sound of her footsteps as she moved and struck the air.
The sound of her steps as she faced the window, the sun highlighting her graceful form.
Auburn hair tied in a green bun on the top of her head...
The same color of eyes on her slightly sweaty face...
No doubt she spent time here as the man said.
She was as shaky as the two men before her and her face paler than usual.
Had she worn herself down this much?
I paced towards her, my steps soft but steady.
She heard my steps and finally noticed my presence.
She turned to me with a smile and said, "Hisagi-san. What brings you here?"
I stopped right in front of her and felt the air of despair surround her.
It was an act.
"Hinamori-san," I went straight to the point. "The burden of one is light on the shoulders of many. You don't have to shoulder the pain of losing Aizen all to yourself."
She was surprised by what I had just said.
It seems I've hit the mark.
Her eyes were wide at first.
But they returned to their normal shape…
And settled into sadness, along with a frown on her face.
Her shoulders slumped slightly before she regained composure as she put her hands in front of her in a polite manner.
Though she smiled to hide her pain, the sword she held shook from the grip of both hands.
"It's alright." She said. "I understand that Aizen wasn't a perfect man so you don't need to worry about me."
"But I am worried." I told her.
I placed a hand on her head and gently stroked it to ease her pain and calm her nerves.
I smiled at her. "I know how hard it is to lose someone you admired so much and be betrayed by him. So don't take the pain inside. We're here for you."
She stopped shaking and said, "Thank you, Hisagi-san. You've always been the nicest to me."
I lay my hand down and saw that she was feeling much better.
Although I worry that she may have received a different context from my words.
"Would you like some tea Hisagi-san?" She asked of me.
I answered, "I'd love to."
I turned and walked back to the door but felt that she was blushing behind me.
It seems my day will be a long one.
We sat down across each other with a short-legged table in between us.
The fukutaicho's room was smaller in this division.
Green tatami mats on the floor, a swinging fan on the ceiling, and a rolled up futon on the corner behind Hinamori-san's left were what composed this room.
But if it hadn't been for the window to her left, I wouldn't have noticed that the table showed signs of pen marks, some ink stains on the floor close to the cabinet at the side, and some wads of paper stuffed under the table our cups of tea were set on.
Hinamori-san may be carefree, but because of Aizen, everything was neat and proper.
Was his hold that strong that she lost all sight of becoming a proper attendant?
It was the opposite. Her feelings for him were this strong that sh-
"Hisagi-san," She suddenly asked. "I'm sorry for the mess. It's not usually like this. Do you dislike girls who are messy?"
"No, not at all. But how long have you been here?"
That futon in the corner was a dead giveaway.
She took her cup of tea and drank it in one gulp.
Maybe she needs to slow down a bit.
She set her empty cup down and said, "Not very long. I've just been tying up loose ends. I was worried that the division would be in chaos when I was gone. But when I came back, everything was in proper order like it used to be. It's like someone took care of all the work while I was away."
Ah…I have an idea who did that.
At the time Aizen defected and Hinamori-san was resting, Kira-san asked me to handle the fifth division's paperwork and maintenance.
Hinamori-san dawned a serious expression and asked, "Hisagi-san, do you know who took care of the division while I was away?"
I'd rather not say, but it wouldn't be wise to lie.
"That would be me." I answered honestly.
It seems I surprised her again from the look of her face.
Hinamori-san smiled and said, "Thank you Hisagi-san. You've saved me again."
It was good that she was brightening up.
The air of despair had begun to lift.
"Um, Hinamori-san," I asked, "What do you mean lose ends? Was there something I missed when I took charge last time?"
She answered, "Of course not. I meant that I wanted to fix the things of Aizen."
I took my cup of tea and drank while listening to Hinamori's story.
"Aizen left a lot of things in this place. As long as those things are here, I'll be reminded of what happened between us and it bothers me."
She wants to leave it behind.
It's hard for her, no doubt, but she's bravely facing the truth.
What a courageous girl…
"You can't move forward if there's so much to trip on, right?" I told her.
She nodded and said, "You're so philosophical Hisagi-san. I never knew."
"It's nothing really." I told her. "I'm still behind you when it comes to leaving the past."
Still with a smile, she told me, "That's not true at all. You're very amazing. You didn't graduate from the academy but already became a fukutaicho before I did. You even taught me, Kira-san and Abarai-san when we were on our field training. You even risked your life and got hurt protecting us."
I remember that time. This scar on my face is a result of that.
She continued to speak, "I know you don't have that faith in yourself, But I still want to have faith in you. So please help me continue believing."
Was it just me or did I hear her right?
For a moment, the wind around her suddenly changed.
It startled me, but refreshed me at the same time.
I finished drinking the cup of tea and thought about what she said.
If I want to keep her faith strong, then I should help her in whatever she's going through.
"Thank you Hinamori-san." I said to her. "But you need to go home and get some rest. You're obviously tired from overworking yourself. I'll take care of the rest."
She replied, "It's alright. I finished all of it."
I glanced at the futon in the corner…
She finished it alright.
All three days worth at the least.
But seeing that she's fine, it's time for me to leave.
I thanked her and stood up, and she stood right after me.
Yet as I turned to exit the door, I get this feeling that she'll…
Of course not.
It's just my imagination.
"So Hisagi-san," she interrupted. And with an expectant smile, "When are you asking me out for Takoyaki?"
I was floored.
It wasn't my imagination.
I'm a little scared right now. But for some reason, I feel I should take her out.
The trip wasn't that long, but enough to talk to her on the way.
We had a lot in common and things that surprised each other.
Yet I kept getting pulled into her pacing, not wanting to let go.
Eventually we arrived at the Takoyaki stand and placed our orders to the kind vendor.
The Takoyaki cart, close to the 11th division, sent the wafts of the cooked Takoyaki into the wind.
"Here you are!" the vendor said as he handed our share of Takoyaki.
She took hers first in her left and handed her payment with her right.
I did the same. But as I reached for the payment in my pocket, I realized that my pocket was short a few yen.
I was really embarrassed from the situation I was in.
I tired to look as non-threatening as possible, and said to the vendor, "Um…could we talk about this first?"
I doubt that worked. My looks suited a wanted poster.
The man replied with a hearty smile, "No problem. Your girlfriend paid for yers too, you lucky dog."
I was wide-eyed with disbelief though I took the Takoyaki and thanked him.
I walked alongside Hinamori-san and said, "Thanks for saving me back there. I owe you now."
She replied, "No silly. I just paid you back for everything you did for me."
"Oh." I said in amazement. So that's why she asked me out.
It was how she could thank me for all the things I did for her.
We ate the Takoyaki as we walked aimlessly through Sereitei.
"I remember Kira-san doing something like that." I told her, in nostalgia of the memory.
She answered, "But he's always like that."
We walked around long enough that we didn't realize we had walked straight into the place where Aizen was 'killed' and hung on the wall.
We stopped and Hinamori looked a bit anxious.
"It's alright. We don't have to stay here." I said to ease her and keep us moving.
"Eh?" She said, confused, but rooted to her spot.
Had she already forgotten?
Or rather, she hadn't realized it yet.
I looked at the wall where he set his devious trap.
The memory stained in my mind…
"This is the place…" she said, looking at the wall he was pinned.
It seems…it hasn't left hers.
"Hisagi-san," she said, looking ahead, "You were close to Tousen as well weren't you."
I simply nodded knowing it was true.
"Then," she turned around and faced me. "Was he always so close to Aizen?"
"I…" I stuttered. "I don't know. Tousen always kept us at an arms length. For all we know, he must have."
She faced me with straight eyes, pain written on her soul.
Her thoughts filled with grief and her heart heavy with sadness.
I could only watch as her eyes watered.
"What should I do Hisagi-san? Moving on hurts so much than just letting go and forgetting." She said with sadness in each word.
Those tears that begun to fall from her eyes…
Why are they so painful to me?
And why...why now?
But one thing was for sure.
"Hisagi-san…" she cried.
Those tear stained windows need to be emptied.
I held her to my chest and gently whispered, "Let Go. And Let it out. I'm here to listen."
And like a dam, she bursted with tears, her little heart broken by a memory long forgotten.
"WAAAAHHHH…." She continued to cry.
"WAAAhhhh…." Sobbing softly in my chest, her tears stained my clothes.
She sobbed and held my robes.
She sobbed as her grip tightened.
The day was darkening over the horizon.
What time was it?
Had it been that long?
Hinamori-san and I had spent the whole day together, and so far, she continues to amaze me.
But the pain in her heart shattered mine.
Just as I was…and still am.
Holding in that pain for so long, was he that important in her life?
How much did she love him?
We walked away from that place, in hopes of finding a better place of peace.
Even I can't stand the new memory gained from being there.
But as I look at her now, Hinamori-san is much happier than she was before.
I hope she's fully made peace with him.
The winds haven't changed around her so I'm sure she's fine.
Hinamori suddenly said, "What are you thinking about?"
"Shouldn't we be getting back?" I answer.
She frowned and said, "Already? But you haven't taken me to dinner yet."
I have a feeling she just wants to eat out.
There were a lot of loud people in the restaurant we sat in.
It was Rukongai of course, so everyone was loud.
Maybe a nice place on earth would've been better.
Especially since the 11th Division was eating in the restaurant.
But it seems they weren't the only ones here.
Abarai-san was busy in a drinking contest with Kira-san.
Matsumoto-san was also here with Hitsugaya-taicho.
From the look of his scowl, she must have dragged him along.
But everything seemed fine…until Matsumoto-san joined us at the table.
"Ahhh…Nothing like a drink to drown out the day's worries!" She exclaimed with her taicho in tow…again, against his will.
"What did you bring me for?" the short, white haired captain asked.
"That stuffy old place is making you stiffer than usual. You won't be able to grow up if you stay there all day." She retorted with her hands on her waist.
I could see veins throbbing on the captain's face. "Like dragging me here makes any difference?!"
"Ara…" Matsumoto-san answered, "You've stiffened up again. What could be the problem?"
"Like I said!!!" Hitsugaya-taicho exclaimed.
I smiled at the humor that played before me.
But more so seeing Hinamori-san's laughter.
In an entire day, she had me at the edge of my seat.
Yet it was comforting as it was exciting.
Such a young soul, bright and cheerful, yet simple and beautiful.
What am I saying?
This is ridiculous isn't it?
Going out on a date...
feeling sad when she's sad...
and happy when she's happy...
its almost as if...I...
It's so apparent now.
I must be.
"Are you forgetting who you are?"
I casually look behind me. Nothing.
To the right, nothing there. I look again.
"Can you remember?"
I wish I didn't.
"Those who do not fear their own sword have no right to fight."
"But not in your heart Shuhei."
I see. I really am bad at letting go.
"Come Shuhei. Let me remove the doubt in your heart."
If my hypothesis is true, he's at that hill where I had told him my greatest fear.
I stole a glance at my friends.
I didn't think I'd suddenly leave like this.
I'm sorry Hinamori-san.
But even I have ends that need to be tied, once and for all.
The green knoll with the tree at the cliff had changed color with the arrival of night.
My zanpakuto, Kazeshini, was tightly gripped in both my hands, the chains attaching them, behind me.
There at the cliff stood Kaname Tousen—the former 9th Division captain.
I know he died that day in the war.
I personally saw to it.
I held the chained sickles parallel to my body, pointing to the trees beside me.
The sickles in my hands were ugly. A double bladed sickle, one edge pointing down and another pointing up…this was stuck on the top of the steel bar that was the handle. And at the base—the chains to bind them together.
My opponent began to speak.
"Do you know why your weapon is shaped the way it is?"
I could not answer.
He walked a step and said, "Because you fear battle the most. You hate conflict with all your heart so you wish to keep enemies at a distance where only you can hurt them before they could hurt you."
"What does that have to do with anything?" I ask.
"Everything." The seeming apparition answers.
He takes a step forward.
I must stay calm though the distance shortened.
"There." The dark-skinned man tells me. "Can't you see it already? You're trembling in fear." He takes another step forward.
Only ten feet away.
But he smiles seeing my calculating gaze.
"Have I taught you nothing Shuhei?" he says as he takes two steps forward.
Eight feet before he reaches me.
Six, before he can strike.
He raises his hand and points at me. "Why is it that you cannot forget me after I have died?"
"Who could? You sent two worlds in a state of panic and three in a war." I told him, while preparing my weapon.
"That is not the answer." He told me and took two steps forward. "The answer is that you fear but cannot believe you will live past it." He took another step forward and said, "You lack Faith. And as a result, you lack the courage to let go of me."
That's not true….
It just might be but…
But it can't be true, right?
"You fear the darkness before you because only you see it and shoulder its weight. As long as you don't feel pain, you will never step forward into the light." He told me and took a step forward. "Where your partner fears the past, you fear the future, always thinking about the what if."
He took another step forward.
"I know you Shuhei. You want to live in a world beyond the darkness and the conflict. But that's just it. There will always be conflict. Between us, between her, between the hollows, the humans and most especially ourselves."
I grit my teeth before shouting, "So what do you expect me to do?!!"
I close my eyes not wanting to see him before me and to hide the tears that wished to flow. "I'm afraid… the world I knew was frightening…but after that war, it was even more frightening."
I throw one chained sickle at him, the weapon cutting through the wind. It reached him and phased passed him.
This is a nightmare.
"I can't walk this world alone! Not when everything I believed in became a lie!"
"Then follow the truth!" He shouted and suddenly yanked me by the collar. "You have walked through the darkness and live to hear me speak. You took your chances and walked into another person's life and guided her through HER darkness. Be strong and of good courage. Because no matter how dark the world gets, the light will always break through it. Have Faith and See."
....My heart no longer beats erratically.
From my reflection in his shades, I could see the serious man I have become.
He lets go of me and backs away while drawing his sword.
"I am your darkness. Your past, present, and if be, your future. So what is your light to defeat me?"
I kneel and pull back the chains, allowing the sickles to fly backwards.
I catch them and wield them in my hands.
"Well?" he asks expecting me to answer.
I stand up and tell him, "The winds of change".
His eyes narrowed as he said, "Winds of Change?"
"Yes." I tell him as I stand tall and confident. "Because a fresh wind is what fuels the fire in my heart. And as long as there is a wind to breathe, there is a bright flame to shine the way."
I hold out my kusarigama…no, my weapon of the wind and coil myself ready.
...It happened in a flash, and in a flash Tousen was scorched, laying on the ground.
His face was disfigured but I could tell he was smiling.
"I finally see. This is what they say when your life flashes before your eyes."
And his body crumbled, fading as blue lights, tossed like dust to the wind.
But what he left behind was very curious.
His sword lay there on the ground, the center of what used to be his form.
That sword must have been how he returned from the dead.
A part of his soul was sealed in it.
I knelt down to reach it but stopped halfway and let it fade in the wind.
"Thank you Tousen. I understand what you've tried to teach me."
I stood up and turned around to see Hinamori there, with anxious eyes.
She must have been watching me all this time.
I wordlessly walked towards her, knowing she had many questions.
But she simply nodded and smiled.
Likewise, I did as well and we both walked back to the restaurant.
Nothing needed to be said.
Because the past was buried and our sadness with it.
We both blushed under the gaze of Matsumoto-san.
Though we all sat together, it seemed as if Hinamori-san and I were kneeling before Matsumoto-san.
"So," the half-drunk redhead asked, "Where were you two awhile ago?"
Hinamori-san replied, "Why do ask?"
Matsumoto-san's gaze became cat-like and confident. "Don't tell me…you two just…"
We both blushed and Hinamori-san said, "W-we wouldn't do that! You're really drunk."
Matsumoto-san replied, "Ah, but you considered it, ne?"
Hinamori-san wouldn't think of something like that, right?
But seeing her blushed face made me change my mind.
I was wide-eyed with shock since I couldn't imagine her thinking of something like that.
But for her to consider the option…
I guess it's in her nature to consider everything an option.
No wonder she puts up with almost everyone.
"Ah! It's not like you don't harass Shiro-chan everyday with your big breasts!"
Well…I did say almost.
Soon Matsumoto and Hinamori-san begin a yelling and drinking contest over who has more femininity.
This doesn't look good.
Especially after Hinamori-san downs the third drink in a row.
"Hinamori-san, get a hold of yourself!" I plead as I hold onto the hand she used to grip the mug as tall as her head.
She yells back, "Shut… hic! …up. My breasts aren't big… hic! …but I'm not like a brain… hic! …less broad…. Hic!"
She suddenly overpowers me and shoves the drink down my throat.
My world begins to spin.
Alcohol is my worst friend.
With the party done and my vision back to normal, Hinamori-san and I walk out of the restaurant and back to Sereitei.
When Hinamori-san was sober once more, she began apologizing to me.
"I'm really sorry! Please forgive me!" she yelled as she bowed repeatedly.
I scratched my head and replied, "Sheesh, it's nothing to worry about okay?"
But she seemed a little down nonetheless.
Alcohol really needs to stay away from us if this will keep happening.
I place a hand on her shoulder and tell her, "That was actually fun. But, next time, warn me when you're past your second drink. I'd like to be able to wake up in my bed the next morning."
She laughed and said, "You're pretty weird, Hisagi-san."
"So are you," I retorted.
"There's no way I'm weird." She said to me with arms crossed.
"Normal girls wait to be asked out." I explain. "They don't ask the guy to ask them out while acting cute."
She sweatdropped and blushed hearing that.
But sighed in resignation nonetheless, "Ah, and here I thought I was normal. I am weird aren't I?"
In a good way though...
a very cute way...
After a while I walked her back to the division headquarters since she insisted on spending the night there.
But as we walked I asked her, "Um, Hinamori-san, were you serious about what Matsumoto-san said?"
She froze in her spot and blushed as she played with her fingers behind her back.
I stopped and turn to face her, my eyebrow rose at the expression she's making.
She replied, "Is it a bad thing to think of those things?"
"You're interested in that? Or are you just curious?" I asked her.
With a blush still on her face, she placed her hands in front of her and said, "Both..."
"You never cease to amaze me..." I tell her honestly.
I knew she was sharp and that she understood things despite naivety.
So why was she acting this way?
Why was she so honest and shy, yet expectant and bold?
Or rather, it's obvious isn't it?
I walked to her and said, "Its normal. But to me it's surprising."
I place a hand on her chin and lift it slightly so our eyes meet.
I wished to suppress these feelings.
"I really like that part of you Hinamori-san." I say as I bring my face closer to hers…
"In fact." I come even closer, "I like everything about you."
All inhibition was lost and I press my lips upon hers.
But without hesitation, she embraces my neck and deepens the kiss.
I wrap my arms around her and embrace her softly.
But her fragrance just makes me…I cannot describe it…
All that goes through my mind is the image of this wonderful woman.
Is this what it means to fall in love?
...Yes, I believe so.
Her embrace tightens, wishing to not let go.
She wanted this, because this girl waited for it.
she waited for me, but chased after me as well.
Our lips part and I saw her blooming face full of satisfaction.
But she longed for more.
It wasn't hard to tell what was on her mind.
But…I'm not ready to go that far so quickly.
I let go and tell her, "I guess this means goodnight."
She pouts, completely dejected. But she says, "Okay. I want you to know I'll always be here for you Shuhei-kun."
She's rather cute right about now.
Hahaha...She has been the whole time.
We reach the 5th division headquarters and I noticed how happy she was leaning on my arm, embracing it like a lover.
But when she saw the front gates, she sighed and said, "Over already?"
"I'm afraid so." I reply. "We can do this again next time."
She smiles and blushes as she stands in front of me. "Thank you Shuhei. I can never seem to repay you."
"You don't have to," I reply. "But if you need anything, you can look for me. I'll always be there for you."
She gives a genuine smile and says, "That's really sweet. Goodnight, Shuhei."
I turn around and walk but pause as I hear her say, "I love you."
I face her and tell her, "I love you too, Momo."
She suddenly asks me, "Um, can we-"
"Do this again?" I said, finishing her sentence. "As many times as you want."
She nodded, her eyes full of joy.
I turn around and continue on my walk towards my division as I hear her enter hers, a gentle wind surrounding her form.
This girl, petite in frame, fragile in heart, had taught me what it means to have faith and what it means to love.
Our bonds may have just begun, but our courage will not be broken.
And I thank you Tousen for teaching me what it means to have courage—acknowledging fear, and knowing the important things beyond it.
Be strong and of good courage, have Faith and See…
I do believe now, Momo….I do believe...