It kept on raining, never daring to stop: not even for a few minutes to spare her aching heart the pain. She used to think of the rain as something to look forward to, something to love and enjoy every minute of. Something which removed all the burdens of life and washed her conscience clean of everything. But not anymore.
It kept pouring rivers all over the place, wetting her clothes and dampening her rich green hair. It stuck to her cold pale skin like glue, never letting go, just like her heart; it was clinging onto the faint line of hope even though she knew that not even the faintest of lines were there. It was all gone, all over.
To her, life had always been a game to enjoy and win, but this day had changed her way of thinking. Now she realized that she had been wrong all along; that life shouldn't be taken as a game and that it should be handled seriously, just like her former-captain always told her all those years ago.
"Kensei," she whispered softly as she struggled to hold back the lump forming in her throat. It hurt, it hurt so very much; it was suffocating her. She bit back a sob as she took in deep, slow breaths. Glancing around her anxiously, she took a few cautious steps towards a nearby wall and pressed herself against it, successfully hiding herself from view.
She observed the place around her: rubble and stone were everywhere and dust coated every other thing in the area. She was trying to muffle her coughs, when suddenly she winced in pain and clutched her broken ribs. And yet the wounds marring her heart hurt more than the ones on her well-being. Her eyes shut against her will, blocking out the gray sky.
When she opened her eyes again, her breaths were visible in the air, taking the form of small smoky clouds before dissipating like they had never existed in the first place.
The sound of clashing swords invaded her ears, alerting her of a battle taking place nearby. She bit her lower lip and closed her eyes while moving her hands to block the voice that she knew would come next. She couldn't take it, she couldn't!
The shriek of an angry hollow cut through the silence and Mashiro couldn't do anything but keep her eyes shut and her hands covering her ears. She let out a small sob before falling down and leaning against the wall behind her. She rested her head between her knees and tried to ignore the sound of clashing metal against hard skin and the voices of her frantic friends.
"We can solve this together; we can defeat it together, just like we always used to do when we were a captain and a vice-captain."
Another hole in the roof of the place they had accommodated, followed by more flying dust and pouring rain.
"Yeah...like we always used to do."
A lone tear fell down her bloodied and dust-coated cheek, leaving a trail in its wake. She couldn't take it; she had to put a stop to this madness. She couldn't let the others keep fighting. This had to be stopped.
"Ne, ne….Kensei, I'm bored! Let's do something fun!" Mashiro pouted cutely at the silver-haired Vizard as she waited for his reply. It had been two weeks since Kensei's failed attempt at ending his life, and his confession to the others.
Ever since then, a noticeable change in Mashiro's demeanor was noticed. She was always with her former-captain; following him almost everywhere like a child would do to his elder sibling, always trying to distract him from everything.
They all knew the reason behind the sudden change and it was only normal for Kensei to notice that as well, though he kept silent about it nonetheless. Everything changed between them since the kiss they shared, and who was he to complain?
Because deep down he had appreciated her efforts at helping him.
"What do you want to do now, Mashiro?" He asked her impatiently, rolling his eyes. The golden-brown color of his normal irises changed every once in awhile out of its own accord to take the form of his hollow self.
Mashiro always tried hard to disregard the changes that were slowly happening to him, believing that they could still put an end to this, believing that he was stronger than his other self.
"What about this?" Her tone was as soft as the smile she gave him, effectively stunning him. Mashiro had her moments when she acted mature, as a person worthy of her status as a Fuku-taichou of the ninth division, and obviously this was one of her moments.
With the same grace with which her captain saw her fight with against her enemies, she wound her arms around his neck and prompted him to lean in for the kiss she had in mind. Kensei was still too surprised to offer much resistance; instead, he complied almost immediately.
The kiss, even though it was a bit short, seemed like it lasted a life time to the two. It was a toe-curling kiss. At first, Mashiro took the lead, until she finally felt Kensei taking control and wrapping his arms around her waist to pull her off her feet. Almost automatically, her feet wrapped themselves around his waist as the kiss was taken to a whole new level of love and passion.
When they finally had to pull away, they did so very reluctantly. He leaned down so his forehead was against hers as they both struggled to catch their breaths.
"Are you still bored now?" Kensei smirked slightly at her before placing a soft kiss on her forehead.
"Well, I'm still a little bit bored," Mashiro said with a pout. "Kensei! I don't like being bored!" she whined childishly, a smile which held many secrets gracing her soft lips. Her face was flushed red.
"Oh? What do you suggest we should do to fix this?" He purred in her ear huskily, his hands still wrapped tightly around her lean and agile frame, pressing his body against her own and trapping her.
"I don't know…" she cooed softly before kissing him. This time, however, he wasn't surprised. He responded to every move of her mouth and tongue from the beginning, flaring their hidden desire, urging it to reveal itself and to come to the surface.
Mashiro was jerked from her memories when dust erupted from the destroyed and shattered stones and rubles, interrupting her only route for escape from everything around her.
She blinked a couple of times to clear her blurry vision before taking a look back at the fight. Neither side seemed to be losing. Shinji was trying to inflict as little damage as he could. Yet, she knew from experience that if Shinji were to go easy in this matter, he would be a goner for sure.
Her breath came faster, clouding the air, and she rubbed her arms at a sudden chill.
"Oi, Mashiro. What are you doing out here? It's freezing."
The woman in question turned with a childish look on her face and a pout on her delicate lips. "You scared me, meanie!" she answered back defiantly. She crossed her arms over her chest and looked away from him.
Kensei sighed and ran a hand through his unruly silver hair before shaking his head in annoyance and approaching her sitting form. He settled next to her on the cold surface of the roof and took in the sight before him. The illuminated city was staring back at him with its bright lights, even after staying in the living world for some time; he still wasn't used to it.
He could bet that Mashiro was thinking the same thing in her pretty little head.
"Ne, Kensei?" the green-haired Vizard started a little hesitantly before bowing her head and hiding her face from view. "What are we going to do?" Her voice barely concealed her feelings of worry and anxiety.
Mashiro was confused and lost, and if there was one thing she hated the most it was feeling lost. She hated not knowing what to do. It reminded her so much of that fateful night when their lives were turned upside down to take a whole new turn.
She remembered feeling this way when she witnessed the horrible transformation which occurred to Kensei; when he suffered from the hollowfication experiment. She had watched with her own two eyes as he had fallen down on his knees, choking on a seemingly unending flood of a white substance; then pain struck her chest and she too fell a victim to the same experiment.
"I don't know," he sighed heavily, his eyes fixed on the city before him. He honestly didn't know and he wasn't about to feign knowledge just to reassure her that everything was going to be alright.
Out of the corner of his eye, he noticed her trembling slightly so he calmly pulled her closer to him and hugged her to his chest, letting the silence between them fill the gap.
Mashiro felt safe in his embrace. A burden had taken a permanent residence in her heart ever since she knew about Kensei's slow transformation. She was always trying hard to distract him, making him feel angry or annoyed with her childish antics so as to take his mind off his suffering.
He had been too quiet, too distracted since then, and she would be damned if she left him the way he was. Even if she bickered with him on a daily basis, she still held feelings for him.
Her small hands fisted his shirt as she pulled herself closer to him, relishing in the warmth his body offered her. Inhaling deeply into his scent, she let out a satisfied sigh; it was her only way to sooth herself when no words of comfort were spoken.
Mashiro suddenly blinked her eyes open when a body crashed into the dusty ground next to her. She stared at the person for awhile before her mind processed that it was Shinji. He grunted a little as he pushed himself off the ground, focusing all his weight on his elbows. He had a long gash running vertically over his chest. A never-ending river of blood gushed mercilessly out of the wound.
She ran to his side before kneeling down beside him. "Shinji! Don't move! You don't have to fight anymore!" She said in a rush as she tried to push him to lie back down. His mouth was ready to spurt out objections, but his body failed to assist him in that.
She was trying to make him as comfortable as she could as she waited for Hachi to come and start the healing process with his Kidou, when another flashback hit her.
"Kensei, you're so warm!" Mashiro chirped happily before moving closer to him, closing what little distance had been between them. Her hands brushed against his shirtless chest; he was so warm!
"Mashiro! Stop moving so much, will you? I'm trying to sleep here," he scolded her before letting out a series of muttered curses. He rested one hand over his eyes to obscure them from view. The tip of his mouth quirked slightly to form a small smile.
"Promise that you'll never give up, Kensei," she entreated softly, her eyes wide open, not letting sleep overcome them.
He was silent for a long hard moment before his hands slowly wound themselves around her waist, effectively pulling her closer so that her head was resting on his heaving chest.
"I promise," he whispered into her ear, his breath tickling her and sending goose bumps all over her delicate skin. She shivered a little before relaxing and leaning back into him. Just when she was about to close her eyes and let sweet sleep take over her, she felt Kensei's hands tighten around her waist and his head dip into her neck. She heard the sound of his teeth as he gritted them so hard that she feared they would shatter from the pressure.
Her heartbeats started racing in her chest, leaving no more room for sleep as her eyes shot open. "Kensei? Kensei! What's happening to you?" She was struggling to turn around to look at him but he was holding her too tight; she couldn't move. She was concentrating on freeing herself when suddenly the pressure vanished and she went sprawling on the hard floor.
"Get out, now! GET OUT!" The duplicate voice Mashiro heard snapped her out of her shock-state as she looked up to find him trying to keep his ivory hollow mask from forming on his face. Her blood ran cold; it was happening. It was happening and she was the one forced to witness it happen. She was too shocked to do anything; her body was paralyzed with shock and fear; she couldn't move, couldn't react to anything around her. Her eyes only focused on the struggling person before her on the bed.
The only voice she could hear belonged to the silver-haired man; his scream made her flinch in fear and worry. When the duplicate sound of breathing reached her ears, she knew deep down that it was all over.
A pair of glowing crimson irises stared back at her, instead of the golden-brown eyes she had grown accustomed to seeing every day. She abruptly realized that she was staring at Kensei's hollow. Suddenly, he wasn't on the bed but rather before her; he held her by her neck and pulled her to her feet.
Her hands almost instantly shot to grab the offensive hold on her neck. He was killing her, making her choke to death, and Mashiro was too surprised to do anything about it. Her feet barely touched the ground and the bitter reality was still hitting her hard.
She caught a flash of yellow and before she knew it, Shinji was holding her close, keeping her safe from the hollow which had taken a permanent residence in her former-captain.
"Stay away, Mashiro! He wants to kill you," Hirako Shinji told her, before drawing his own Zanpakutou out of its sheath.
"No, don't!" Mashiro quickly held his arm to stop him from unsheathing his Zanpakutou. "Shinji, please wait. Kensei won't be defeated this easily and I can bet that he's fighting right now to take control again. He's still in there, I know him," Mashiro tried to reason with him, she even begged him, but Shinji only gripped the hilt of his Zanpakutou tighter and pushed her back behind him. The other Vizards began arriving one after another, all bearing the same grim expression on their faces and their Zanpakutou drawn.
The green-haired woman tried to talk them out of it, to prevent them from fighting him, but their answers were all the same as Shinji's.
"Mashiro! Don't interfere, just go and find ya'rself a place to hide in. He's after ya'!" Hiyori growled loudly.
"Kensei wouldn't have liked to know that he killed you," Shinji said lowly before attacking the hollow head on.
Mashiro was left dumbstruck. She heard Shinji shout something but it was too late: Kensei stood before her in his hollow form, raising his fist to deliver a hard blow. He failed when Yadomaru Lisa blocked his attack and pushed him back a few feet. "Get out of here, now!" She yelled with her cold, nonchalant tone.
The shocked Fuku-taichou nodded frantically, salty drops scattering with the movement of her head, before she let her feet carry her away from the battle behind her. All the while she kept repeating the same sentence in her head: He promised….
"He promised…" she whispered while getting to her feet. Green bangs hid her eyes as she clenched her fists. "And I'm going to make him keep his promise," she vowed before walking away to pick up Shinji's fallen Zanpakutou off the ground.
The blond former captain could only watch with his mouth open, unable to say or do anything to stop her. The way she spoke her words silenced every objection he had. He only nodded softly. It had been her battle in the first place.
"Just don't get ya'rself killed." He gave a small smile.
"Kensei-meanie can never kill me!" She turned with a bright grin on her face before dashing to where the fight was taking place. On her way, she noticed Hachi rushing past her to tend to Shinji and felt a small wave of relief.
Her eyes hardened when she caught sight of silver hair and ivory mask. Swallowing, she prepared herself to attack. She couldn't use any of the foreign Zanpakutou's abilities. She had left her own in her rush to get out of the room and unfortunately she couldn't find it at the moment.
Lightning split the night sky into two parts and the deafening sound of thunder followed. A moment later, she flash-stepped and stood next to Hiyori, waiting for an opportunity to attack. She noticed that Rose and Lisa were nowhere to be seen. When she saw their battered bodies in the middle of the rubble, she gritted her teeth and stood defiantly.
Suddenly, Love was pushed back and thrown against a still-standing wall; Mashiro took it as her cue to attack. She rushed towards the hollow form of her captain, ignoring the shouts of disapproval and words of caution, her eyes fixed on her target.
The hollow saw her coming and prepared to launch his own offensive counterattack. The shriek of the hollow resounded throughout the place as he dashed towards the attacking blur of green. The Zanpakutou clashed with the iron-skin of Kensei's forearm, the strength of the blow sending Mashiro flying back.
She attacked again, only to be stopped by a blow aimed at her face. The hollow's fist hit her cheek hard enough to leave a bruise and small scratches. A trail of blood marred her chin and she swiped it quickly before attempting to attack again. Yet this time, she couldn't find the person she sought.
Looking frantically around her, she failed to notice the incoming attack from behind. She turned in time to see Hiyori block the attack destined to hit her back.
"Don't go too soft on him, dumbass!" Hiyori growled. The hollow proved to be far than she could handle in terms of strength as she was pushed back and sent flying to the ground with a punch of the hollow's fist.
Mashiro was left face to face with the person she had grown to love and care about. Her hands wouldn't move, her feet wouldn't budge from their place and her breath was stuck in her throat. Her racing heartbeat was the only sound she could hear.
The hollow took the chance of her frozen momentum and grabbed her roughly by the neck, lifting her high up in the air. A look of absolute triumph shone in his blazing red eyes.
"K-Kensei," she struggled to say, but her voice only came out as a choked whimper. She couldn't believe that her ex-captain, her friend, her lover was going to allow his inner monster to finish her off just like that.
A lone tear fell from her eyes to grace the fingers of her capturer and soon to be murderer as she prepared herself to fall into the blessings of unconsciousness. The other Vizards could only watch in horror, too shocked to do anything, their mouths ajar and their eyes wide open.
It took Mashiro only a moment to realize that the pressure of the grip around her neck was gone. Taken aback by the sudden turn of events, she wasn't able to hold a footing, making her fall down a few feet before balancing herself. She raised her eyes, only to be greeted by the sight of the silver-haired man hitting and slashing at an unseen enemy, fighting for dominance and control.
His pants and pained groans sliced through the eerie silence; everyone was waiting for the final outcome. Mashiro took a few hesitant steps towards the struggling form of her hollowfied former-captain. Unsure of what to do, she reached with an unsteady hand and barely brushed his ivory mask.
Everything stopped dead; the fight which was clearly raging in Kensei's inner world seemed to be settled. The green-haired woman took in a shaking breath and waited for a few moments.
She didn't know what was happening. One minute, she was standing in front of the hollow which was trying to take over the man she had grown to love, and the next, she found herself being flung back with an unusual force.
The force of the blow she received knocked the breath out of her lungs and it took her awhile both for her to find her voice again and for the black dots to disappear from her vision.
"Mashiro!" Hiyori shouted and raced towards the falling woman, attempting to catch her before she crashed into the hard ground. It only took a second for Hiyori's attempt to be cut short by a punch she received from the hollow, making her crash head first into the rubble and stone.
Shinji pushed Hachi away and tried to stand on his two feet. However, a wave of dizziness came crashing down onto his senses, making him lose his balance and, therefore, fall to the ground again. He muttered a few select curses under his breath before looking back at the fight between his comrades and the hollow.
Love struggled to stand on his feet after having been thrown against a wall. He shook his head a little to clear his vision before staring up to find the hollow standing alone in triumph and looking down at who seemed to be Mashiro.
He gripped his Zanpakutou tightly and attempted an attack to distract the hollow and lead him away from his injured friends. He surveyed the area, looking for a suitable place as quickly as he could. It only took a moment of distraction on Love's part to be caught in a mighty headlock. Too surprised to do anything, he could only struggle to get in as much air as he could.
Lightning flashed in the background and thunder roared. Rain poured down from the holes in the roof and coated the whole scenery. All hope seemed to be lost.
A blur of green rushed by Love and he immediately knew what his-usually-cheerful-friend was up to, so he used all of his remaining strength to free himself and put some distance between himself and the monster.
A shriek of pain sliced through the air simultaneously with the next flash of the lightning and the corresponding roar of thunder. The tip of a Zanpakutou could be seen protruding from the hollow's chest, dripping with the crimson liquid which all had grown to see and know.
The masked man's head turned slowly to look at the person behind him, his crimson eyes betrayed a look of utter disbelief before the bloody color gradually dimmed, to be replaced with the golden-brown irises of Kensei. The crackling of forming cracks echoed through the place before it was followed by the shattering mask.
Mashiro's face was obscured from view as she buried it in the space between her former captain's shoulders, the Zanpakutou in her hand still cleanly piercing Kensei's chest.
"You promised….." She whispered sorrowfully.
He coughed out blood and only saw black spots before the Zanpakutou slipped out of his body and he fell, landing with a thud on the cement ground.
The Zanpakutou began to slowly slip from between Mashiro's fingers until it broke free and hit the ground with a loud bang. She had her face bowed. It was clear that she was crying from the way her shoulders shook.
Although his voice was faint, she was still able to hear it. Her head shot up and her eyes started roaming, looking for the person calling for her. The moment her eyes landed on him, she dashed to his side and sat beside him.
"I-I'm s-sorry I was so w-weak," he whispered as he tried to give her a small apologetic smile, but he ended up coughing out blood.
"You promised me, Kensei. You promised!" Mashiro sobbed as she clenched her fists on her knees, not daring to look up at him.
"I-I know and I'm…sorry for breaking my p-promise to you," he told her with difficulty. With a shaking hand, he tried to reach out to touch her cheek, but it was proving to be quite difficult. When he was about to give up, his cold hand was suddenly enveloped in warmth. He noticed Mashiro holding his hand as if her life depended on it.
"Didn't we agree to solve this together?!" She shouted at him while tears of agony and heartache streamed down her cheeks like rivers, mingling with the falling rain and washing them away as soon as they left her eyes.
He turned his head away from her as an answer to her question.
"Kensei, you baka!" she berated him before hitting him a few times. She only received a bitter smile from him before his freezing cold hand went limp in her own warm one.
Her eyes widened with fright. "Kensei? Oi, Kensei! Open your eyes, it's not funny! Kensei-meanie, open your eyes!" She felt her heart skip a beat and something clench inside of her with worry and anxiety.
She looked frantically around for Hachi, only to find him already by her side with his Kido activated to heal Kensei's injuries. A gentle hand settled on her shoulder, and she looked up to see none other than Shinji smiling at her comfortingly.
"Don't worry; he's a one strong fella'. One of the strongest as a matter of a fact," he said reassuringly.
Mashiro wiped her tears hastily and looked back at the blond man with a bright smile on her face. "Of course he's strong! This is Kensei-meanie we're talking about here!" She pouted childishly which earned her a few collective laughs from everyone around her.
"Well, let's get ourselves dried off before we catch a cold, ok?" Shinji said, directing his speech to everyone. They all nodded in approval before heading to their rooms. Fortunately, their rooms had been spared and weren't as damaged as their basement.
"What about Kensei?" Mashiro wondered.
"Ah, don't worry about him. I got him covered." Shinji winked at her before moving to carry the man in question back to his room, with Hachi following closely behind them to maintain the barrier around the silver-haired man.
After a moment, Mashiro soon started following them, too, with a skip in her steps.
Morning came with the sun shining brightly in the light-blue sky. The yellow rays of the sun snuck into the room of one of the grumpiest morning people. A loud groan was heard, then a few muttered curses, followed by a wince of pain.
"Good morning, sleepy-head!" Mashiro said rather loudly as she skipped over to Kensei's bed.
"Not so loud, Mashiro," Kensei grumbled before burying his head in his pillow and hissing a little in pain; his body still hurt him even after Hachi's healing Kido.
"Well, I don't care, because, you, mister, broke your promise yesterday," Mashiro scolded him, all the while poking his chest with her finger.
"I already said that I'm sorry," he sighed heavily.
"That's not enough!" The green-haired woman whined.
"What do you want then?" Kensei resisted the urge to slap his forehead and waited for her to tell him what she wanted so that he could get this thing over with.
"I want this!" And she hopped over him and pressed her lips against his. Kensei was surprised at first, but he quickly caught up to the movement of her lips and raised the passion in the kiss a few degrees higher. When they finally broke apart, his mouth curved to form a smirk.
"Is that all you want?" He whispered huskily in her ear, before planting hot kisses on her neck.
"Hm, what could you offer more?" she asked with the same tone of voice he used: low and seducing.
"Oh, a lot more than that if you're interested." He couldn't hide the smile tugging at the corners of his lips.
Mashiro leaned down to brush her lips against his temptingly and before she could pull back, Kensei's arm snaked itself around her waist and pulled her closer to him.
"Well, looks like everything is back to normal," Lisa commented as she moved away from Kensei's door.
"Yeah, definitely." Rose agreed with a sigh.
In the background, the voices of Hiyori and Shinji could be heard, bickering about something. It was like a daily routine for them, so no one actually paid them much thought.
Lisa and Rose sighed.
Yup, things were definitely back to normal…
A/N: I don't own Bleach.
First of all, a huge thanks to my beta-reader PsychoLeopard and my other beta-readers too, thank you! Second, I hope that you have enjoyed reading this.
Praise? Flame? Criticism? Anything?