Back in Black

Lt. Commander Richie

Disclaimer: I do not own either Bleach or D Gray-man. Eyup.

A/N: I love this idea so much. Unfortunately it was born of writer's block. But still, it's a great idea in my opinion~ The adventures of Lenalee in Soul Society, should she be dead and in possession of a dual zanpakuto! Yeah!

PS: This is the last chapter I have finished. Figures. I'll manage to write the rest of this if it kills me, though it more than likely will.

Night 12: Turn Back the Time Record Part 6


-/-

Her quarters were dark despite the later hour of the day, and Lenalee slumbered peacefully on her futon without much care. The air was warm and she wore a simple yukata from the 4th Division because of her discharge the day before- evidenced by the multitude of bandages she still wore on all her cuts. Most of her exposed skin was covered in bruises and white bandages, and she reached up in her sleep and itched at one on her forehead with equally bandaged fingers. From the corner a shadow watched her movement, deeper than the other shadows of the room but no more harmful. It roiled like a cloud, smoky and black yet possessing in its own way a sense of presence. By the door into the pocket garden sat the 5th Seat's shoes, unassuming and simple in their ability to sit and look innocent.

The short-lived Zanpakuto Rebellion had been devastating to the 13 Court Guard Squads. Spirits that hadn't been reined in fast enough had caused major damage, and those that had killed their previous masters were running amok in the Seiretei. A good portion of the shinigami forces were incapacitated in some form- be it through loss of their zanpakuto or injury because of the rogue spirits, and life in the 13 Court Guard Squads had basically ground to a standstill for an indeterminate amount of time. The 12th Division was nearly nonexistent, only a few buildings left standing after Vice-Captain Kurotsuchi's chase of her rather large golem of a spirit through the area and its subsequent further demolishing by the 6th Division's Vice-Captain and his zanpakuto spirits. Part of the 13th Division gardens was nothing more than a smoking plain of charred plants and earth after an unfortunate fight between two higher-ranking officers from the 7th Division and their spirits. The 4th Division was overflowing with injured, though through the combined efforts of their Captain and her zanpakuto spirit the number of injured was beginning to thin.

It was a pity that such an unfortunate thing had happened during such nice days. The air was clear and warm, almost insufferably so, but the wind that blew through Seiretei cooled the temperature to a manageable level. The weather had held steady like that for nearly two weeks and showed no signs of stopping- usually it marked time for those without pressing duties to shirk them further and disappear for the day to fish or relax. But not only was it wartime, there were more pressing matters than nice weather at hand. Nobody shirked and nobody disobeyed orders because of the urgency of the Rebellion.

The sounds of laughter filtered through the shoji doors into the pocket garden, making the patch of shadow in the corner of the 5th Seat's quarters shift in a vaguely human way. It seemed to cock an ear forward, listening intently to see just what it was that was making the noise. An incessant banging suddenly took over the whole small garden, like the sound of hands slamming open every door that ringed the small area as the sound of feet on the hardwood walkway echoed through the floor. Lenalee began to stir at the sound, her eyes screwing shut tighter in a way that belied that she was trying very, very hard not to wake up. Suspicious, the shadow spread across the floor in a river of smoke, coming to rest just before the door and shooting up into an armless human form with long and curling white hair. It loomed over the shoji doors with an imposing air, its white curls drifting about like the smoke it was made of. In a loud bang sunlight flooded the room, the doors jumping in their tracks from the force used to open them. The smoky spirit flinched slightly, its inhuman face somehow displaying surprise as it couldn't see the culprit that had woken its master from her much-needed sleep. Twin screams of pure joy made the spirit jump, the roiling mass of black smoke that made up its feet visibly twitching as it turned its head all the way around in a completely impossible movement to look at the culprits.

Lenalee was sitting up in bed, rubbing her eyes with her un-bandaged hand as two small boys ran circles around her futon. Their blue priestly garments nearly flew behind them as they ran, laughing and giggling madly like only five-year-olds could. One of them tripped over the hem of his hakama and fell to the tatami floor, his blue hat flying from his head and landing several feet away. His twin tripped over him and made a full flip in the air before landing on his back, his hat askew and looking rather dazed. As one the two boys began laughing even harder, ignorant of the dazed and confused expression that the 5th Seat beside them was giving them. They scrambled to their feet and the one still with his hat reached up with small hands to fix its placement while the other ran to his misplaced one and jammed it on his head. Again the two boys began to run, undeterred as they ran right through the smoky being that tried to stop them.

"Who do you two belong to?" Lenalee had brought herself to a kneeling position on her futon, watching the two boys chase each other around the room with curiosity. They paused and looked at each other, their wide green eyes full of wonder as though they had never thought of that before. As one the twins suddenly ran at the 5th Seat, jumping at her and nearly bowling her backwards in a double-teamed flying hug. She managed to stay upright and wrapped her arms around the boys to return the hug, ignoring the pain in her bandaged wounds. "Are you two lost?" The two blue hats in her immediate vision shook wildly, the two boys giving her a firm no.

"Will you play with us?" The boy on her left was the first to speak, looking up her with a pleading note in his large green eyes that was very difficult to deny.

"Please please please please?" The other one pleaded, jumping up and down even as he held onto the unfortunate officer.

"Katen's mean and doesn't wanna play." The first boy looked a little frightened as he spoke, apparently afraid of whoever he spoke of.

"Kyokotsu's laaaaaaazy!" The second boy looked adorably angry as he stretched his words, his small fists balling in the 5th Seat's yukata and shaking it. Somewhere in Lenalee's sleep-addled brain something seemed to click together, and she blinked several times in a very slow manner before looking up at her zanpakuto spirit and then down at the two boys that refused to let go of her.

"Sogyo no… Kotowari?" The two boys wriggled out of the girl's grasp as she spoke, looking somewhat cross as they stood next to each other in front of her. The smoky half of Dark Boots loomed over them, its inhuman features watching the two boys carefully as its hair floated gently as though suspended in water.

"You won't play with us either?" Immediately the two boys were pummeling the girl with their small fists, barely any strength behind their attacks but plenty of childish anger. Before they could blink the small spirits were nearly thrown from the room, a dark miasma of smoke following them out the doors into the small pocket garden and forming back into the dark zanpakuto spirit. It loomed over them with a fearsome expression, bending at what could be considered the waist to get into the boy's faces with its pit-like white eyes and inhumanly wide red mouth stretching into a freakish smile. A beat of silence passed between them before the two boys screamed about as loud as they could, the two of them making an effect akin to surround sound. They scrambled to their feet and pulled fans from their sleeves, batting furiously at the air in an effort to blow the spirit away. Lenalee got to her feet and pulled on a light haori with as much haste as she could before running out into the garden in her bare feet and picking up the twins in her arms. They continued to bat at the spirit with their fans, their scream unceasing.

"Where's Captain Ukitake?" Lenalee's voice was calm despite the toddlers screaming in her ears, a very unconcerned note in her voice as she addressed the two boys. One quieted but the other didn't, and the quiet one smacked his brother with his fan. The two began squabbling across the 5th Seat, the frightening face of the smoky half of Dark Boots and the officer's question completely forgotten. She immediately set one of the boys down and held onto his hand, hoisting the other higher up on her hip. They still swiped at each other until Lenalee began walking, her barefoot strides much longer than anything they could have made. The boy she held the hand of ran to keep up with her, and she made her way down the small corridor between two officers' quarters from the pocket garden to the main gardens with purpose in her steps.

"You're gonna play with us?" The boy she held on her hip looked excited, his small hands fisted in her sleeping yukata and his large green eyes wide with wonder. The 5th Seat sighed loudly but nodded, turning a corner on the outside walkway of the building and making her way to the garden doors of her Captain's office. Her arms both hurt and her legs burned but she ignored them, electing instead to just hoist the boy she held on her hip up a little higher since he had started to fall. Behind her the smoky half of her zanpakuto spirits followed, slithering along the ground in a river of blackness that gave the impression of careful watching. The boy that Lenalee held the hand of looked behind her and then sped up, pulling her along with a frightened urgency as he noticed the trailing blackness.

As she turned the final corner along the walkway to the area of the garden that held the back doors to Captain Ukitake's office Lenalee breathed a sigh of relief. Not only was her Captain there but Captain Kyouraku was present as well, the two of them sitting on the edge of the walkway with a teapot and cups between them. One of Captain Kyouraku's zanpakuto spirits, the Oiran with the skull headdress, sat in the shade of the roof behind them tuning a Shamisen. The two men looked up as she approached, taking in the spectacle with quiet understanding. The one boy let go of Lenalee's hand and ran to the white-haired Captain, tackling him in a hug much like he and his twin had done to the unfortunate 5th Seat. She went to set the other boy down but he held on like a limpet, shaking his head wildly until his hat nearly fell off. With a long-suffering sigh Captain Ukitake stood with the one boy held on his one side, approaching the 5th Seat with an apologetic smile on his face as he took the second boy from her.

"I apologize if they woke you." Lenalee shook her head and smiled brightly, waving away the apology with a hand. Captain Ukitake returned to his seat, setting the two boys down next to him where they could swing their legs off the edge of the raised wooden walkway. He reached into his sleeves and pulled out sticks of dango for both of them with a flourish, leaving the officer behind him with a perplexed look on her face as to why he was hiding them in there to begin with. Captain Kyouraku peered up at the 5th Seat with a smile from under his large hat, patting the edge of the walkway next to him.

"You're looking as pretty as ever, little Lena. Come sit and grace us old men with your beau-" there was a loud and off-key bang as his zanpakuto spirit smacked him with her Shamisen, eliciting a playful whine from the 8th Division's Captain. "My beautiful Kyokotsu, you're so mean to me!" The scruffy man's lament fell on deaf ears as the beautiful woman began the tuning of her instrument anew. With a light smile Lenalee knelt on the wooden walkway next to him, her hands clasped gently in her lap. On her other side the black smoke of her zanpakuto spirit coalesced into a puddle of darkness that quickly formed a vaguely human and white-haired shape. Its wide and pit-like white eyes squinted into the sun, vague swirls and shapes visible as the light hit its form. A content silence fell over the assembled spirits and shinigami, the warm air lending a kind of sluggishness to the day that wouldn't have otherwise been there. "Would you like some tea, little Lena? Maybe something stronger?" Lenalee's attention turned to the man next to her with a snap, her long unbound hair falling over her opposite shoulder in a curtain of black. She shook her head at the lazy smile he wore, watching it refuse to change as he nodded sagely and sat up to pour her a cup of tea.

"Thank you." She nodded and accepted the cup, taking a gentle sip so as to keep herself from getting burnt. Beside her Captain Kyouraku pulled out a large sake cup and a bottle, pouring himself a drink of his own. Further down the line of shinigami and spirits Captain Ukitake fixed his long-time friend with a look, the kind that could make even Captain Kuchiki break eye contact first. The large man's shoulders shrugged, his many layers of clothing rustling with the movement in a way that made him seem much larger than he was to begin with. Still, he slid the bottle back where it came from inside his robes and downed what he had poured for himself before stowing the cup away as well.

"Where's your other half?" The smoky black spirit's wide white eyes blinked several times as its head swiveled unnaturally to look at Captain Kyouraku. The motion made his laid back smile falter slightly towards disturbed, but it quickly fixed itself without much notice. The spirit's unnaturally wide red mouth opened and words seemed to fall out like water from a faucet, not at all like normal speech in that the spirit seemed to exude the sounds.

"Somewhere, I think." The voice was ethereal and thin in the bright mid-afternoon light, as though it was a shadow in the night being shone through by a lantern. "I don't keep track of him and he doesn't keep track of me. We're two completely separate entities." An understanding silence fell over the group then, broken only by laughing from the small twins that made up Sogyo no Kotowari as they prodded at each other with their sharpened dango skewers until Captain Ukitake took them away. Then they began hitting each other with their fans, and before he could take those away as well they were on their feet and running down the walkway and around the corner. The white-haired man gave a long-suffering sigh and put a hand to his forehead, picking his teacup up with his free one and taking a long gulp of the apparently scalding liquid. He seemed unharmed, however, and poured himself another cup as Kyokotsu began playing her Shamisen.

The beautiful melody filled the garden and seemed to blend with the surroundings, Captain Kyouraku leaning back onto the wooden walkway and grabbing his large hat to place on his head and tip over his face. The whole afternoon seemed to slow as the music filtered through the air, careful sips of tea accompanying the eventual snores of the 8th Division's Captain and the flutter of Hell Butterflies from one flowering bush to the next. The roiling black cloud of a spirit began to melt in on itself in an almost drowsy fashion, its white hair drooping like running paint. Lenalee smiled at the imagery, accepting a new cup of tea from her Captain and blowing over the top of it before taking a light sip. Eventually the spirit melted down into a puddle of blackness, its form still corporeal in that it refused to run off the edge of the walkway and onto the ground like any normal fluid would. The wind picked up for a moment and blew a rustling sound through the trees, but it died down as quickly as it came and the temperature rose once more in the stillness.

The tune Kyokotsu had picked to play was coming to an end as the sound of footsteps began to sound through the garden. From around the corner closest to Lenalee, with a tinkle and crash of crystal clicking together, came the male spirit of Dark Boots. His hands were tucked into his large layers of sleeves and his long curls of black hair were carefully held back by the crystals that grew from his skin. His beautiful face, usually sporting a half-smile of various strengths, was blank and almost stern looking in the afternoon light. With every movement he sparkled, and with a thick rustling noise the spirit sat down on the walkway behind his master and pulled her to him in an almost possessive gesture. Lenalee squeaked in alarm, a blush rapidly rising to her cheeks, but she managed to keep from spilling her tea all over the spirit's rich clothing. A pale arm held her at the waist; the spirit's other hand idly playing with the 5th Seat's hair in an offhand gesture.

"He's gone." The usually playful and silken purr of a deep voice had completely left the spirit. His tone was deep and businesslike, uncannily like that of Captain Kuchiki's in its severity. Lenalee twisted slightly to look up at her zanpakuto spirit, surprise written across her face as she realized that he was addressing Captain Ukitake. The white-haired man looked grim as he processed the information, setting his cup of tea down and lowering his forehead into his hands in a surprising gesture of what seemed like defeat. Long strands of fine white hair fell around his face like a curtain, amplifying the demeanor until it seemed as though the strong man that Lenalee had come to admire in her years serving in the 13th Division was completely at a loss. Even in bouts of sickness she had never seen him like this, and the prospect of what it meant absolutely terrified her. Her free hand fisted in the rich clothes her zanpakuto spirit wore, unmindful of the small shards of crystal that cut at the bandages on her palms.

"What's-" Lenalee tried to speak, her voice coming out with a light tremble to it that tinged the confusion with a worried note.

"4th Seat…" An apprehension seemed to fall over the male half of Dark Boots as he turned his attention to the girl he held in his lap, and his grip on her waist tightened as he took a breath and began again. "Yoshi, Lenalee. Yoshi Shiratori is dead."

Lenalee's mouth fell open in a slow motion as she processed the information, her eyes growing wide before they brimmed over with tears and she twisted to bury her face into the chest of the spirit holding her. Her sobs were quiet and muffled by the fabric, only the shaking of her shoulders any indication that she was crying. Both of the spirit's arms encircled her shoulders, his forehead lowering to rest on the top of her head in a comforting gesture. In a slinking, snake-like movement the puddle of darkness beside the two curled up around them in something resembling a hug. The 5th Seat's mouth opened and she tried to force words out, but they refused to come through gasps for air and shaky attempts to keep from crying out.

"How?" She finally managed to ask, her eyes clenched shut to stop the tears that were staining the spirit's clothes. The effort didn't do much, however, and she shook her head to clear the stuffy clouds from it in a nearly futile gesture. Her purple eyes opened with a series of blinks as her Captain answered, her eyelashes wet and sticking together in a forlorn way.

"Yesterday he engaged his zanpakuto spirit and lost. He's been fighting his injuries since he was brought to the 4th Division last night." Captain Ukitake's usually strong voice seemed almost defeated, and his long fingers laced through his hair in a nearly desperate gesture. With a groan Captain Kyouraku suddenly sat up, adjusting his hat with one hand and heartily clapping his old friend on the back with the other. The mood seemingly refused to lighten as he spoke, despite the tone that the old Captain used.

"It wasn't by any shortcoming of his that he died, Juushiro." Captain Kyouraku paused, looking thoughtful as he scratched at his chin. "If fact, it was probably because he did his job a little too well. That zanpakuto of his, Shiroka, it does more collateral damage than physical damage. You know that and I know that, hell I'm pretty sure everyone knows that now." As the laid-back man spoke, Lenalee disentangled herself from her zanpakuto spirits and sat up. She wiped at her eyes with the heels of her hands, taking deep breaths in an effort to stay calm. Tears still welled in the corners of her eyes, but she tried her best to quell them before they could trickle down her cheeks.

"Is Shiroka still free?" The wavering voice of the 5th Seat quickly got the attention of both Captains, Captain Kyouraku nodding solemnly as he turned to look at her. A certain and determined steel seemed to come over the girl then, a frightening coldness sweeping over the look in her eyes as she wiped the last of the tears from her face. "I would like permission to capture or destroy the rogue zanpakuto spirit, sir." The quizzical, almost hurt look that came from her white-haired Captain's brown eyes made her jaw set in a defiant manner that she didn't care to mask in her grief. "This is something I feel that I have to do." As her words hung in the air, heavy with purpose and seething determination, Captain Ukitake paused for a long moment. He closed his eyes, leaning his head into one hand in a hopeless gesture that seemed so at odds with the usually indomitably strong man.

"Granted." When he finally spoke, his voice was resigned. The old Captain sounded as though he had given up fighting the situation, and his equally somber old friend beside him looked as though he knew that. One large hand came up to rest on his shoulder, shaking it lightly before falling back to its owner's lap. In one demurely fluid motion Lenalee stood, her sleeping yukata and long sleeveless haori falling around her ankles with a light swish. She nearly stumbled as her legs decided that they didn't quite work, but caught herself with a dose of willpower that was nearly palpable. Behind her, both of her zanpakuto spirits rose and started to her aid. The 5th Seat raised a hand, however, and they stilled with equal worried expressions on their faces. With a light bow to her two superiors the black-haired girl turned to return to her quarters in silence.

"Lenalee." Her name, in her Captain's voice, made the officer pause and turn back to the old friends. Captain Ukitake looked businesslike as he stood, brushing off his hakama and white haori before facing the 5th Seat with a fearsomely serious look. "When you return, you will be my new 4th Seat. This is not negotiable." Lenalee looked slightly indignant, but she nodded tersely and turned her back to the Captains. Her gait as she walked away looked as though she should have been limping, but it was proudly steady despite the occasional shake. The male spirit of her zanpakuto followed after her, his arms half raised as though he was ready to take his master by the waist and pick her up to carry her. Behind them, the ethereal white-haired form of the other spirit bowed at an impossible angle at what could be considered its waist before falling onto itself and following the other two along. Captain Ukitake sighed in a heavy movement that seemed to deflate him, and he closed his eyes and brought a hand to the bridge of his nose. Behind the two Captains, Kyokotsu finished the retuning of her Shamisen and began a new tune in a different style.

"Juushiro." His name being spoken made the old Captain look up, his age showing in the gauntness of his features for the first time in a very long time. In a shuffling swish of fabric on fabric his oldest friend stood with a smile that could only be described as melancholic on his face. "It's not your fault. You're lucky to have as many officers with as much determination and devotion as you do."

"I wonder if I'll ever see someone deserving of it outlive me." A hearty punch to the shoulder hit the white-haired Captain head-on, and he stumbled to the side with a yelp of surprise. As he regained his footing he blinked several times in surprise, noting the particularly somber look on his old friend's face. "Shunsui?" He asked, confusion tinting his voice. Immediately the frumpy-looking man brightened up, tipping his large hat back with a genuine grin and gesturing to the rather impressive-looking Oiran sitting in the shade. She gave him a particularly heavy glare with her one eye, but her playing of the Shamisen stopped with a slightly flat note and she stood in a single graceful motion that shouldn't have been possible to a woman wearing as many layers as she was. The instrument seemed to disappear into her person, and with the amount of clothing she wore it could have ended up anywhere.

"We're going drinking. C'mon!" Without listening to the words of protest from Juushiro, Shunsui grabbed him by the arm and hoisted him along with his large stride. Kyokotsu followed, her one visible eye rolling at the antics of the two.

-/-


-/-

The sentient little flicker, nothing more than a bright white ball of floating spirit flame, crackled in the air not thirty feet in front of her. It wobbled from side to side, twisting and twirling about as though it was hanging from a string on a stick held by a small child. It twisted once again and suddenly stilled, something catching its attention. Lenalee held a hand out to her side to stop her zanpakuto spirits as they followed her, but the two had already stilled. Without warning the little flame sparked, nothing more than a hiccup in the small spirit's eyes, and the wall it floated next to exploded in a massive cloud of rubble and flame. Dust and rocks flew everywhere and Lenalee shielded her eyes, the bandages on her arms blocking most of the small pieces of detritus.

As the small spirit sparked again and another wall exploded into rubble and flames, the newly-appointed 4th Seat let her Reiatsu flare wildly. It reached out in a cloying cloud of intent, totally at odds with her usual demeanor as she stood her ground and dug her black shoes into the tiles. The little flame seemed to twitch and flip; twisting to fix what appeared to be two black spots for eyes on her. They disappeared for a moment in what appeared to be a blink, before the little spirit sparked once more in a motion reminiscent of a sneeze and the ground next to the officer exploded in a rush of heat and rubble. She didn't even raise a hand to call out a mid-level Bakudo spell, the shield snapping into place just in time for rocks and dust to fly around her and impact the walls. Again the little ball of fire sparked, this time the ground in front of the 4th Seat exploded with enough force that even through the new mid-level shield she cast her pigtails were blown backwards.

"You are the wind in the butterfly's wings; you dance the waltz of the misty morning, Dark Boots!" Without waiting for the rubble to clear Lenalee crouched and released her zanpakuto, leaping into the air with a determined look on her face. She twisted and brought her heels down where she knew the spirit had last been, but all she caught was the ground as it exploded around her from the force of her landing. Twenty feet in front of her stood a man with paper white skin, his hair the same color and much longer than her Captain's and ending in an inferno of white flames. His clothing was made of the same fire in places, but completely pristine white cloth in others. In his hand he held the unreleased form of Yoshi Shiratori's zanpakuto, a plain katana with a white Tsukamaki and a white tassel hanging from the end.

"Obliterate!" The man's voice was like the crackle of the flames that made up most of his body, and as he snapped his sword out to the side and switched grips with the hand he held it in it burst into flame as well. Everything about it turned white, but not the beautiful shade of white of snow or clouds. It was an ashen white, tinged gray and orange with flame and destruction- those same flames burst forth in a whip that snapped outward at the 4th Seat with a lightning fast movement. She watched it approach before jumping into a backflip, twisting tightly in the air before kicking off the open sky and heading straight for the spirit. She twisted just in time to try and drive her heel into his face, missing only by inches as he moved at the last second. She could feel the heat the spirit emanated just by existing as she passed, and skittered across the stones of the walkway she was using as her battleground with her heels kicking up sparks as she twisted to keep the spirit in her view.

"Carriage of thunder, bridge of a spinning wheel! With light, divide this into six!" Before she had even stilled the officer threw her hands up, all of her concentration focused on the spell she was casting "Bakudo #61, Six Bars of Light Prison!" As the Bakudo spell went off Lenalee stopped herself, crouching against the solid open air beneath her as she caught her bearings parallel to the ground. The fiery spirit, surprised, dropped the zanpakuto it held and struggled futilely against the binding spell with all its might. In a movement that shattered the air hard enough to cause a clap of thunder, Lenalee sprung forward and flipped to catch the spirit under the chin and shoot him into the air. Before he could get his bearings she was beside him, winding up another kick and letting it loose to blow him back into the ground with enough crushing force that the stone walkway around him shattered and exploded upward in a cloud of rubble and dust. Without hesitation the 4th Seat dropped like a rock into the cloud of debris, her intent fully on nothing more than the destruction of the rogue spirit. As she stilled for a moment a white hot blade suddenly impacted her side, searing flesh and ripping a massive hole in her obi and shihakusho.

"Beginning theme," a crackling voice hissed into the ear of the 13th Division officer, the spirit's breath uncomfortably hot on her bare skin to the point that she almost felt the flesh sear. "Flame Puppets." All around her flashes of fire lit up in the dust, quickly taking a shape akin to her own and sliding into ready positions for attacking. Paying no attention to them, the 4th Seat reached back and grabbed the hair of the spirit that held her. The strands seared at her bandages, some of them even blackening into cinders, but she yanked hard enough that he yelped in surprise and stumbled. Freed of his uncomfortably hot grip she twisted and brought her heel down into the small of his back. The spirit hit the ground and rolled, bringing his sword up with a whip of flame trailing behind it. He flicked the blade and something behind the 4th Seat exploded, sending her stumbling into the air as she kicked off to avoid the debris. Twisting and ignoring the blazing pain of the cauterized wound in her side, Lenalee turned to face the rogue spirit and stilled at an odd angle in the sky. Her hands immediately came forward to make a triangle shape, the blazing form of the ashen white man clearly in her sights in the center.

"Walls of ironsand, a priestly pagoda, glowing ironclad fireflies!" The spirit began to register what the 4th Seat was doing by the time she reached the midway of the spell, but the dust and debris still in the air were too thick to see where her voice was coming from. "Standing upright, silent to the end! Bakudo #75, Quintet of One Kan Iron Pillars!" With no more warning than the incantation, five large iron pillars faded into existence and promptly fell on top of the rogue spirit. As they began to fall the chains on top of them held the quintet together, the entirety of the massive weight resting solely on the back of the ashen man. His sword had fallen from his grip and skittered across the broken ground, landing a good half dozen feet away. It was onto that blade that Lenalee fell, her heels impacting the white metal and utterly crushing it in several places. With a series of snaps the hot metal busted apart beneath her feet, hissing and spitting sparks like a mad cat made of flames. The spirit yelled in anger, his hair and clothing spitting sparks and flames as things in the general area began exploding. What was left of the walls around what had once been the walkway they were fighting on were promptly reduced to rubble, then the buildings of the 6th Division on all sides around them, then more walls beyond that. Wooden supports and window slats, floors, doors, they all caught fire and burned as the spirit yelled and thrashed underneath the massive weight of the high-level Bakudo spell.

Fighting like this, surrounded by fire and death and rubble, made Lenalee feel as though she had forgotten something important. Her hand went to her pigtails, of all places, grabbing at the long tails before grabbing at her gold hair ties to make sure they were still there. It was an odd movement that didn't make the slightest bit of sense to the officer, but she quickly shook herself out of the stupor and approached the trapped rogue spirit. He had begun yelling curses at some point, his fingers scraping at the ground around him and leaving burnt trails in the dirt. She sunk down on one knee to look at him, the sharp points at the toes of her boots deterring his grasping fingers from targeting her feet.

She opened her mouth to speak just as a white-hot hand grabbed at the back of her neck, searing at her flesh with flickering fingers as more hands alighted on her ankles and arms. A triumphant look dawned over the spirit's face, and the 4th Seat cursed her forgetting about the clones that the Beast Sword had made. She kicked out and broke the grip of one of the doppelgangers just as the spirit began to dissolve into wisps of fire, the high-level Bakudo she had cast on him falling flat on the ground as a single small flicker of flame floated out from between the pillars. It twirled and danced in a way that seemed almost smug, flipping and twisting and bouncing with freedom.

Lenalee twisted, feeling skin blister and sear with the movement, and brought her free heel down on top of one of the clones. It exploded into a burst of hot air and flame, a shrill cry reaching the officer's ears as she kicked upward and nicked another of the fiery doppelgangers. The one grasping the back of her neck let go, only to wrap its hand in one of her long pigtails and pull. Accompanied by the acrid smell of burning hair, the white-hot hand suddenly came free. Choppy and short hair wisped limply around the face of the 4th Seat, burned off roughly at the level of her chin. In a movement that by all means should not have been possible, the young officer twisted upward and turned to drive her foot into one of the remaining fiery figures. She continued the movement and used what upper-body strength she had to throw the clone holding one of her arms over her shoulder and onto her knee. The armor there impacted the fiery doppelganger's face and it exploded like the others, a shrill scream accompanying the motion.

"Second theme, Flurry of Dancing Flames." Her newly-shortened hair whipping into her face in a motion that was all kinds of annoying, Lenalee spun to face the humanoid form of Shiroka's spirit. As the hair fell from her eyes the officer had just enough time to duck, narrowly dodging an explosion of fireballs that flew forward with erratic paths. The 4th Seat's body strongly protested the motion, but as she ducked she swept herself forward and into a slide across the ground and towards the feet of the Beast Sword. She reached him just in time to throw a foot up and launch him upwards, following after with only a second's respite. The paper-white spirit swung his sword and launched another flurry of fireballs at the officer, but in a flicker she was behind him and performing a flip that flung him into the ground with enough force to create a crater in the already-broken ground.

"Hado #33! Blue Fire, Crash Down!" A burst of blue Kido hit the spirit just as he tried to pull himself up, and Lenalee took the chance to center herself over the Beast Sword and let herself fall. Fire reached up around her and she felt it lick at her legs, Shiroka having flung his sword at her once more in an attempt to blow her away. Several of the 4th Seat's bandages flickered and caught, but with a massive explosion of sound, fire, rubble and Reiatsu she hit the ground heels-first right on the midsection of the ashen white spirit. With an angry yell and a metallic crunch he flickered away, the flames around the officer and the Beast Sword dying down with a flutter. Lenalee looked down at her feet, her eyes alighting on the sword beneath her heels with two clean breaks in it and the soot that blackened the dirt around her. As the embers around her began to die out she finally opened her mouth as though to breathe.

Her first breath came out as a gasp. One leg, and then the other, buckled out from beneath the 4th Seat and she fell forward onto the broken ground. In an instant a shadow was beneath her, supporting and cushioning the girl as she fell. Two strong hands took her by the middle and pulled her up into stronger arms, carefully cradling her beaten form as though it was made of eggshells. In places where her bandages had burned away the officer had begun to bleed again, and the red liquid spread across the clothes of the richly-dressed spirit that held her.

"You've done well." His deep and loving voice was a gift to the 4th Seat, and she weakly shook her head in protest as she grasped at his clothes with loose fingers. Her burned pigtail hung forlornly, swinging gently as the crystal-adorned spirit began walking in the direction of the 4th Division. Its twin, still long, was trapped between the officer's body and the spirit's arm.

"He should still be here," the pigtailed girl began, her voice shaking with an effort that seemed to be going towards not showing any weakness. "Yoshi shouldn't be gone."

"You did what he couldn't, Lenalee." Large purple eyes fixed on the face of the strong spirit that held her, and the edges of them shone with unshed tears that threatened to well over. "You've surpassed him. Remember that." The tears finally welled over and the 4th Seat let out a small sob, her fingers tightening around the rich cloth she held. A red stain blossomed from around her grip, bleeding into the mint green fabric and throwing the glowing green crystal chips that adorned it into stark relief. Lenalee's dark hair bobbed as she bit her lip, stifling her cries as she nodded her assent.

-/-


Eleven pages exactly, straight up. I like this development.

I didn't even have plans to kill Yoshi Shiratori to begin with. When I wrote chapter five he was still the 4th Seat of the 13th Division, but I went back and edited that out when I got rid of him. But so yeah, now he's dead and Lenalee is just one Seated position below Kiyone and Sentaro. She'll stay that way until after the Arrancar arc.

I'm not too sure how I'll deal with the current predicament of Aizen and his mullet-ness being all up in Karakura, but hopefully recent developments will keep me from having to do too much.

SO YEAH I AM SO SEASICK LOL I'M ON A BOAT. Yes. Writing this in international waters on a slow boat to Alaska and hopefully will be writing the next chapter on the same boat. Unless something unforeseen comes up next chapter will be the end of the DEATH 49 chapters. Blegh.

I really ought to update The Loveless. I'll try to get around to writing that chapter before the end of this trip.

Peace, yo. Blergh.