Arigatou! Everyone! I love your reviews and appreciation! I worked really, really REALLY hard on the party scenes and at the same time, didn't give too much away, after all, this wouldn't be a story if I only made the chapters longer, but gave everything away from the get-go, now would it?
A Captain's Toast! A Captain's Life! The Gotei Thirteen's Celebration Ceremony!
As Naruto set himself down in the chair, as everyone spilled back out into the hallways, as the door slid shut behind him as he finally had the time to realize how bland his new office was, a thought entered his mind. Now what? He'd succesfully managed to wrest everyone's attention away from Aizen, maintained his new position as captain, but now what? He essentially had no idea as to what to do next.
Then the shattering of glass filled the room. He didn't have time to glance around, didn't have the time to wonder how he hadn't sensed them coming, only to react. His body threw itself into action, years upon years of practiced instinct taking over in a heartbeat as he threw himself over the desk and towards the door.
Barely catching her fist in time. His assailant was skilled in hand to hand combat, he knew that right away, but the rest vanished in a blur as he threw her over his shoulder, and saw her.
He found himself face to face with a tall woman, her face hidden in tan skinwrap that covered all but her golden eyes and a long, violet purple ponytail that stuck out behind it.
"You?" He frowned, raising one hand in a defensive claw.
He moved again to pass her, and she moved to block him, and it was almost with relief that he struck out at her face. It was just a feint, and when she ducked, he jammed at her stomach with his knee, but she twisted so that the blow didn't fall true, and came back with a fist to his stomach.
A small smirk twisted his face. She really could fight, and so a fight would be had.
Dropping all semblance of defense, he jumped, and in response, she kicked at his chest. He crashed to the ground, and she threw herself on top of him, struck him in the face, once, twice, three times, and kneed him in the side before he was able to throw her off. She was on him again in an instant, but as she tried to pin his arms, he flipped her onto her back, pinning her with the weight of his body.
She curled her legs up and heaved him away, and then they were on their feet again, crouching, circling, striking at each other with hands and feet. She kicked at his stomach, and barreled into his chest, and they were on the ground again. Hand to hand combat wasn't exactly Naruto's forte, but with little left to do he grappled with his attacker.
And he was getting pretty good at it, hand to hand combat that is.
He didn't know how long they'd been grappling when he realized...she was laughing. As he flipped her, he understood her joy, understood it completely. She'd never had such a fight, she'd never had such an opponent. She was faster than he was offensively, much faster, but he was her better in strength and stamina, and she'd never known a fighter with such tenacity as Naruto Uzumaki. She was calling up moves she hadn't tried since she was a child, blows she'd only ever imagined having the opportunity to use on anyone but Kisuke.
Yet this was different than her basic sparring practice with Kisuke, back when they were kids, trying to improve their skills. They were playing. It was a game for the two of them now, to see who could pin the other, before he/she pinned you. When Naruto wriggled out of her hold, pinned her arms behind her back, grabbed a soft fistful of her hair, shoving her face roughly, but not too roughly now, into the ground, she was laughing as well.
"You tricked me." He panted, irritated that he'd been baited into sparring with her, more out of frustration than anything, but he'd fallen for it only frustrated him further, and when he felt her move, he tightened his grip, just enough to hold her, or so he thought.
"Oh did I?" She kicked her feet up at him abd squirmed her arms out of his grasp. She elbowed him in the face, and when he jumped to avoid what would've been a crippling blow, she flew at him, flattening him to the ground. She pinned his arms just as she had done, and shoved his face into the dirt. Finally, she dug one knee into the small of his back.
It was over.
"Surrender, brother." Her ponytail had come loose at some point during their little scuffle, and now it was tickling at his nose, along with the loosened fabric of the cloth that she'd worn over her face. "I win this time."
He mumbled something into the floor, and she arched an eyebrow, pulling his head out of the carpet so she could hear him properly.
Naruto spat an amused swear word as she released him, yet refused to get off his back, something he did not protest to. "Any particular reason why you smashed through my window and beat the crap out of me just now?"
"Winning isn't everything, Naruto." The Goddess of Flash replied.
"That doesn't mean it isn't important" He twisted his neck to smirk at her. She'd always call him brother, despite the fact that he'd thrown aside the title of Shihoin to his name. After all, they were pretty much the same age, give or take a few decades. Familial bonds like that lasted for entire centuries.
"Simply put, I have centuries of experience on my side." She sighed, tying her hair back once more. "You've only just started practicing your hakudo, that is, hand to hand combat training, again. After being cooped up in that seal for a hundred years, it makes sense that you'd lose to someone like me. In fact," She rolled her shoulders, popping the joints there. "I'd say its only natural."
"It's still not fair." He retorted.
"Aw," She teased, reaching down to ruffle his hair, an action that would draw forth a sputtering crimson blush in lesser men. "You're pouting again. How precious."
Coming out of the exceedingly long flash of pain, Soi fon shook her head in exasperation, briefly buried her head in both hands, and sighed. Not only were these flashbacks becoming increasingly random, but they were leaving her with a splitting headache. She needed to get out of here, away from him, before she recalled more of her painful past.
Thus, she nearly fell off her chair when turned to go, only to find an pair of angry blue eyes glaring at her, mere centimeters from her face. She's forgotten where she was.
"Have you been spying on me, Soi fon?"
The thick smell of tobacco drifted towards her, causing her to cringe.
He'd had the scent of smoke about him then, too. The day everything had started to change, he'd reeked of smoke and cigars. It was a pleasant smell, really, better than the sake and flowers captain Kyoraku often stank off, and certainly preferable to the scent of blood that always lingered about Zaraki...
They circled each other. She was waiting for any small movement out of the man before her, any reason to begin her attack.
Her patience was soon rewarded as he lashed out with a kick. She blocked the blow with her forearm, her wrist twisting around to clasp the man's ankle. No sooner had her fingers curled about his leg, then she found herself holding empty air. She whirled, catching the offending kick that came from the right, pulled her opponent's leg forward, yanking him into her waiting foot.
Again, no contact was made. He'd caught her heel in his palm, and before she could blink, he used her face to launch himself up into the air. He spun as he ascended, both of his legs kicking outward and into her now materializing body, fresh out of a flash step.
Once more using her body as a springboard, he maintained his airborne status as pushed himself off her shoulders, his leap carrying him into oneof the many trees that line the clearing. Upon landing she kicked him in the temple with the side of her heel before vanishing in a blast of shunpo.
He staggered back, rubbing at his sore eye, and she felt a surge of elation widen her eyes as surprise shone in his. A hit! Excitement overtaking her, she shot forward again, Suzemabachi curled back then thrust forward, ready to administer the first crest that would lead to her death in two steps ability.
The stinger met a white wall of reaitsu before it could reach his chin. The man stood back up, smirking as his haori shredded itself into nothingness, followed shortly thereaftet by the upper half of his shihakusho.
"Shunko." He declared, lips pulling into a quirk of a smirk. "Don't tell me you forgot about this, Soi fon?"
Not waiting for her answer, he thrust his right hand forward, discarding both the incancation, and number.
"Sho.(Thrust)" Powered by the incredible energies of the flash cry, the level one spell powered through her defenses, and shoved her away from him. She hit the ground hard, the soft mud cushioning her fall, but only barely. She struggled to rise, but the sound of clapping distracted her.
"Alright, alright, let's wrap this up before you DO kill me."
Soi turned around to see Naruto leaning against the wall of the pavilion, smiling and shaking his head lightly. Realizing she had been outdone, Soi fonsmiled in return as she walked over to her master. She still had much to learn, but that strike was the beginning. She was getting better, and for the first time, a hint of pride filled her eyes.
She felt better already.
"I take it something's bothering you?" he inquired as she reached him, the white light already fading from his form, leaving the shaggy blond bangs to fall back over his face, framing his eyes. It gave him an almost rugged, feral appearance, as if he were not of this world, but of the next.
"How could you tell?" she asked with surprise, trying to avert her eyes, but at the same time, failing to do so.
"You always try to kill me when things don't go your way."
"C-Captain, we were training," she said shortly, hoping he would believe her lie. For a moment, just as the end there, she really had been trying to kill him. Her reasons were her own, but truth be told Soi fon was angry. She was frustrated with the Sou-taichou's ruling that she wasn't allowed to take the rank of fuku-taichou yet. Naruto-sama hadn't even spoken out for her, instead, he'd just remained silent, quietly returning her incredulous glare, as if daring her to speak out against the decision. She did not. And so instead, Soi fon languished at third seat, and the lieutenant position remained empty.
"Bullshit." Naruto ignored the look she shot him; he had obviously calculated the risk of that comment ahead of time. He knew it would get him in trouble later, but it was worth it, he just seemed to get a rise out of provoking others. He smirked.
"Let's take a break, Soi fon." He reached up to tenderly feel out his eye, then winced, clearly in a great deal of pain. "I need to tend to that nasty little shiner you just gave me."
Elation filled her again.
They'd just finished sparring, and she'd hit him! She couldn't stop think about it, even as he pulled out his sword and began to clean its already glistening surface, whilst allowing her to put a wet cloth over the throbbing wound. With little to do in their free time, the Onmitskido mostly indulged in their own private matters, but for Naruto, all you'd ever see him doing in his spare time would be polishing his sword, or occasionally sparring with other division members. And now, she had an injury.
Both the latter and former were an exceedingly rare occurence, which was why Soi fon was surprised to see him now pull a cigar out of his pocket, snap his figner without even reciting the kido's name or number, and begin to smoke it. He never smoked.
"Hmm?" He looked up from polishing his zanpaktou, and upon finding no imperfections in the wazikashi, sheathed it with a quick, fluid motion. He'd always polish that sword, but strangely enough, leave the tachi and nodachi of his zanpaktou be. Now, his good eye focused on her
"When did you start smoking?"
"Naze?" He grinned around the rich cuban cigar, holding it with his teeth. "Well, technically, we're already dead, so you really don't think the occasional smoke's gonna kill me, do you?" Before she could ask again, he flicked a bit of ash off the end and held it to her lips. "Here, why don't you give it a try?"
Soi fon frowned. It tasted funny. She then made the mistake of inhaling it and instantly regretted it. Coughing and spluttering, she felt her eyes begin to water with hot, stinging tears, whilst her body tried to rid itself of the foul toxins that now filled her nose and lungs.
"Baka. Not like that!" His laughter spilled across the courtyard, and she blushed as he took the cirgar away from her lips, pressed it to his own, then inhaled deeply, slowly, quietly. "You've got to savor it, not snort it." Pursing his lips, he blew, creating three, small rings of smoke with each breath.
Soi fon crinkled her nose and shook her head, unable to hide her displeasure. One taste was more than enough for her, and she didn't intend to have that foul smoke running down her throat again.
"We're all entitled to our own opinions, Soi fon. Go ahead, you want to say something, don't you?"
"I don't like it." She replied, folding her arms and pouting, donning a more feminine expression. "It tastes horrible, and I STILL don't understand how you can tolerate something that tastes so horrible."
"Maybe it's an acquired taste?" He teased.
"I doubt it." Soi fon stuck out her tongue before launching herself into a quick series of push ups, another unusual gesture for her, as she never, ever tried to show off in front of her captain. She never grew her hair long either, but that was also something she had done in recent months. "You said it yourself. You've only just started smoking. How can it be an acquired taste then?"
"Because my fiance gave me them."
Soi fon hadn't been expecting that. Stunned, her hands lost their sweat soaked purchase on tiled floor, and she fell facefirst.
"Oi." He poked her on the head with one finger. "You spacing out again?"
"A...party?" The expression Naruto wore was nothing short of incredulous. Hinamori had arrived in his office shortly after he'd been escorted here, and he hadn't even finished settling in before she'd made the suggestion.
"H-Hai." She fidgeted a bit under his stare. "It wasn't really my idea, but-
"Hisashiburi danna ne, Naruto-kun!"
"Eh?" For once, the blond taichou wore a look of pure, open confusion, as none other than Shunsui Kyoraku entered the room, having been here since Momo had begun been speaking, now choosing to make his presence known. "Kyoraku, what the hell are you doing here?"
"Preventing you from doing paperwork!" Came the captain's loose response. "What else?"
Naruto remained silent for a moment longer, before sighing.
"Well then, I can't say no to that, now can I?"
It was later that night that Naruto acquainted himself with the lieutenants' and other shinigami.
"Any particular reason everyone here keeps staring at me?" He asked one of them, a petite shinigami with amethyst blue eyes that held just a hint of purple. He heard someone call her name from a nearby table. 'Rukia' it sounded like.
Realizing that he was speaking to her, the girl stiffened slightly, realizing that she too had been caught staring.
"Sumimasen. You just that closely resemble a friend of mine, Uzumaki-taichou. That, and," and now a slightly befuddled look entered her eyes, "I apologize if I'm being rude, it's just that...well, I've never seen you before. If you don't mind me asking, what squad were you from before your promotion?"
'Promotion?' Naruto rolled his eyes at what Rukia thought was an innocent question.'Does getting out of jail count as being promoted? Sure, lets just call it that. I don't want anyone thinking I'm some kind of lunatic'The shinigami saw this, mistook if for annoyance, and her lips curved into a frown.
"Sir, if you'd rather not say-
"I was originally from the second division." Naruto didn't know why he bothered to answer her, but he did. "Old man Yama was the one who suggested I take the position as a captain, so I agreed, if he'd stop bugging me for the next three hundred years."
"Three hundred years?"
Crap. He realized his mistake right away. Only Shunsui called Yamamoto that, and he'd likely given away that he was at least a few centuries old, something Rukia probably wasn't aware of until now.
"I didn't catch your name." He asked, trying to steer the subject anywhere but there.
"It's Rukia." She replied though without the smile this time, a clear sign of confusion and suspicion. "Rukia Kuchiki."
Rukia Kuchiki.At this, any semblance of curiosity Naruto had been harboring all but vanished. Kuchiki. Kuchiki. Rukia Kuchiki. It echoed in his mind, over and over again, until it drowned everything else out. There was something terrible about this girl that he needed to remember, but when he tried to, the knowledge slipped through his fingers, much to his frustration. Realizing this, he tried to speak, but found that his strength deserted him, and his voice had dropped to barely a whisper.
"Did you say...Kuchiki? You were borninto the Kuchiki family?"
"Um..."Rukia fidgeted a bit, rubbing her hands together and refusing to meet his gaze. Whether it was out of confusion or embarassment, Naruto couldn't be sure. He just knew that there was something very, very important about that name that he wasn't able to remember. Why?
Naruto blinked in surprise, feeling an odd mixture of relief and dissapointment that he couldn't explain. But allowed Rukia to continue, speaking, while at the same time, doing his best to appear interested.
"I wasn't, not originally. Nii-sama adopted me into his family."
"I-I see." He wiped at his brow, only to find that he had broken out in a cold sweat AND as he pulled his hand away, he found that it was trembling, ever so slightly. "Sorry about that, I was just curious."
"Uzumaki-taichou, is something wrong?"
Something waswrong. He couldn't think straight, his shihakusho suddenly felt like it was strangling him, and there were too many prying eyes, too many loose lips asking annoying questions.
He needed to get out of here.
He needed air.
Ignoring the question Rukia had asked, Naruto mumbled something about getting them a drink, then purposely lost Rukia in the crowd that had started to form around the bar. Unfortunately, as Naruto tried to make his way towards the door, a hand snagged him from behind and forcibly dragged him toward the bar.
"Hey, you're not leaving us, are you? You haven't even had a drink yet, right, Kyoraku-taichou?" Naruto, trying to politely refuse the invitation to share a drakn, instead found himself staring a woman with crystal blue eyes, strawberry blond hair, and a rather sizeable bust that was practically falling out of her loosely cut kimono.
"Hey, my eyes are up here."
Doing his best to control himself, the blond captain slowly turned his gaze away, in an effort to conceal the obvious rise he had gotten out of staring at her for those three seconds.
"Oho. You certainly aren't wasting any time, are you?"
"Yeah. Same to you." Naruto muttered swiftly, clinking his sake bottle against Kyroaku's and doing his best to avoid making small talk, which, with Shunsui Kyoraku in the nearby vicinity, was an absolute impossibility. "Um...So tell me, how's Nanao-san doing? I heard she's your lieutenant now."
In reply to thatcomment, a sly smile grew across Kyoraku's face. He leaned forward and clasped Naruto's shoulder, his voice thick with both alcohol and amusement.
"Oho, interested in Nanao-chan, are we? I never knew you had the hots for her."
'Not on your life.'
Naruto feigned a smile.
"Of course...not. She's your lieutenant after all."
"And a fine one my Nanao-chan is!" Shunsui crowed merrily, tipping backwards a bit and almost toppling clear off his stool. "Let's have a drink to her then! And to having you back with us again!"
Realizing he couldn't escape it, Naruto sighed, raised his glass, and used his best theatrical voice:
"And may you find someone who can keep up with your womanizing ways!"
"Haha!" Shunsui snickered. "I'll drink to that!"
The two laughed, one more heartily than the other, and drank their sake.
"So..."Shunsui drawled/slurred, clearly starting to feel the effects of the sake, "Do any of the beauties here catch your eye, Naruto-kun?" Both Soi fon and Naurto stiffened at that remark, though for different reasons. Naruto had stiffened slightly, pain flashing through his eyes, before they narrowed slightly. His gaze swiveled across the room, making its way towards her.
"Actually, I do see someone."
Soi fon, still unaware of the fact that she'd just now been spotted, swore under her breath as she felt another flashback, accompanied by a sharp and painful migraine, coming on.
The day that he...dissapeared...Soi fon took it upon herself to burn all of his belongings. Pictures, books, ramen collection, everything. He wouldn't be coming back, she told herself, so what was the point in holding onto useless memento's that would only remind her of the traitor? Anger was an acid that did more harm to the vessel in which it was stored, that to anything on which it could be poured, but right now, she wanted to pour her rage over everything, including all his belongings.
It would giver her a sense of solace, she told herself. If every single trace of him was gone, then she'd only be left with memories, and hopefully, even those would fade away with time. But it was not to be. Midway through her rampage, she'd found the box of expensive cigars stashed away under his bed, or rather, beneath his bed, as she found the hidden compartment in which they'd been stored.
"Don't touch!" The not taped to the box, that was Naruto's. He always left signs like that around. Fighting the tears that threatened to break through her resolve, Soi fon crumpled the note and tossed it aside. Only to find another, this one stapled down onto the velvet lining the lid of the box, so as to make certain it wouldn't be thrown away.
There had been two notes written on the box. The first one, in big, black letters that she'd disposed off, but this one, beneath that, written in a smaller, more elabarote penmanship:
"To my dearest beloved, I hope you enjoy these, and think of me always."
That tore it. This woman, this stupid dead bitch was the cause of all the pain that had been building and building up inside until it was ready to burst. She couldn't bring herself to understand it. As Fuku-taichou of the second division, she should shrug this off as if it were nothing.
But as Soi fon, she couldn't. She could not bring herself to seperate her emotions from these matters, they were to inexplicably intertwined. Tears pooled in her eyes, rolled down her cheeks, followed by scr
"BANKAI!" Soi fonshrieked aloud, not caring if anyone saw the massive hulking form of Jakuhō Raikōben attached to her arm, not caring if her reaitsu practically shredded the room into a pile of rubble.
The next day, Soi fon took up smoking as yet another one of her bad habits.
"Naze....Naze, Naruto?" Confusion, tears, and sorrow filled her eyes, contrasting her soft, gentle voice, floating across the clearing as she approached him with a bewildered gait. "Why are you doing this? Wasn't tomorrow our wedding day? The day we would announce our love to the world?"
"Why?" Why won't you answer me?" She ran a hand through his hair, her own dark locks perfectly framing her face, and the tear that ran along the delicate curve of her cheek. "Why won't you speak to me, Naruto?"
"Urusai!" He pointed the blade at her throat, the motion eliciting a small, tearful sob from her. "Do not come near me!" Bewildered, not knowing what else to say, she proved unable to hold back her tears any longer. "Have I done something to upset you? Please, tell me what it is! What is it that I have done wrong?!"
She fell to her knees, covering her face, muffling her cries.
It all hapened so fast.
"Away with you!" She shrieked at her bodyguards. "I did not call for you!"
A flash of red, a scream, the wet squelch of a sword penetrating and leaving flesh. He stared at her corpse, eyes widening in disbelief as her blood soaked his hands, pooled at his feet.
"No...this wasn't supposed to happen." He cradled her head in his lap, but she did not stir, did not move, did not show the faintest sign of life. "It...It he wasn't going to...no...NO! Yukiko....YUKIKO!"
"Traitor!" Someone hollered. "What have you done to her?!"
With a scream, he rounded on the first shinigami he saw.
Soi fon watched the two exchange a toast, quickly averting her gaze when she saw Naruto bring a cigar to his lips, much like the one she was currently smoking, and light it. He got up then, said something to Kyoraku, and swiftly headed towards the exit, not caring that Rangiku got up to follow him, nor that he rudely bumped into Soi fon en route to the door.
Where was he headed to?
Next time: Hangover.