Disclaimer: Bleach and characters are copyright © Tite Kubo; Rurouni Kenshin and characters are copyright © Nobuhiro Watsuki.
A/N #1: This one-shot is a part of Vathara's "Clean and White" universe, taking place after "Clean and White" (FFNet: s/4481984/1/Clean_and_White) and "Mending Songs" (FFNet: s/3774334/1/Mending_Songs). Chronologically in the Bleach universe, it takes place about a year after the end of the "Turn Back the Pendulum" arc. Authorized and betaed by Vathara.
A/N #2: Jungyaku means "loyalty and treason", "obedience and disobedience", "right and wrong" - a union of opposites. It seemed a very appropriate title.
It was eerie. The halls of Thirteenth Division's headquarters were empty; not even Juushirou's two absolutely devoted Fourths were present. All of them - every single officer of the Thirteenth, ranked or unranked - were out on the practice ground, conducting a massive exercise.
All of them save their captain.
Sliding open the door of Juushirou's office, Shunsui paused in the doorway to study his best friend.
Juushirou was sitting behind his desk, studying the contents of a file. There was a pile of paperwork over to one side of the desk, and a tray containing a teapot and two cups on the other side. Everything appeared normal, peaceful - or at least as normal as anything was these days, considering the stress that all of Seireitei had been under for the past year.
"Are you going to come in, or just hover there in the doorway?"
Shunsui felt a wry smile cross his face as he stepped into the room, closing the door behind him. "Come in, of course. You went to so much trouble to get me here at a time when no one else would be present, after all." Crossing over to the desk, he sat seiza in front of it, picked up the pot, and poured tea into both cups. "What is it that you've found?"
Grey eyes looked up from the file to meet his gaze. "Not what we've been looking for," Juushirou said quietly, a slight frown twisting his mouth. "But... something else."
Something serious. "Good or bad?" Shunsui asked, eyeing him thoughtfully. Damn it. He'd thought that 'Shirou might have found some sort of proof, something that they could take to Yama-jii.
"Good, I think." Juushirou picked up his cup, took a sniff, then sipped at it. "It seems Urahara might have more than just Yoruichi in his corner."
"Oh?" This was news. There hadn't been any indication of support for the renegade captain except for Yoruichi - and 'Shirou's pretense of illness during the judgment.
"About, oh, seventeen to eighteen years ago, he and Isshin slipped a... 'ghost' shinigami into our records," Juushirou stated.
"A 'ghost' shinigami?" Shunsui repeated, puzzled.
"By the name of Himura Kenshin. He exists on paper, and he apparently has a badge - but he's not a member of the Gotei 13." Juushirou tapped the file he'd been studying. "Zaraki asked me to help him out with Eleventh's paperwork, since he's not used to dealing with it. That's how I found out."
"He was listed as a member of Eleventh? Wouldn't Zaraki be wondering about him, then?" Shunsui asked, frowning.
"They were cleverer than that," 'Shirou stated, a faint smile crossing his face. "According to the records in Eleventh's files, Himura is a member of Fourth."
Shunsui blinked. "Fourth?" he repeated.
"And Fourth has him listed as a member of Tenth," Juushirou continued, his smile widening into a smirk.
"How did you- Never mind, I don't think I want to know." Juushirou had an information network as broad and far-reaching as Second's, if a great deal more unobtrusive. It was one of the reasons they knew something was wrong.
"It's amazing how easy it is to distract Retsu sometimes," came the response.
"No, don't want to know!" Shunsui repeated. "So, did you manage to obtain his file from Tenth?"
"It says he's a member of Eleventh."
"Hm. A certain amount of confusion, but not as much as possible. They could have had anyone looking chasing their tails through the entire Gotei 13 if they'd tried."
"Actually, under even semi-normal circumstances, they chose exactly the right divisions. Fourth has paperwork on all divisions, and neither Tenth nor Eleventh pays much attention to their paperwork. Not to mention the captains don't talk to each other unless in a captains' meeting."
"Okay... So, how does this ghost shinigami of Urahara's help?" Shunsui's frown deepened and took a sip of his tea. "And... what does Isshin have to do with it?"
"From what I've pieced together, Himura is a master of Hiten Mitsurugi Ryu," Juushirou replied calmly.
Oh. Well, that would explain a few things - including Isshin's apparent involvement, and why 'Shirou thought this Himura would be of enough assistance to Urahara to be worth mentioning. Hiten Mitsurugi masters were powerful even before they became shinigami. And they knew how to hide.
"So... why would they have hidden him?" Shunsui asked thoughtfully. "Seventeen or eighteen years ago... we didn't even have anything strong enough to be called suspicions."
"We may not have had suspicions, but we did have enough to start getting cautious," Juushirou reminded him. "Urahara, Yoruichi and Isshin may have had more than that. And if Himura isn't in Soul Society, that means he's in the Living World. And, quite possibly, not dead."
Shunsui nodded thoughtfully. Living shinigami had existed before, and he could well believe it of a Hiten Mitsurugi master. "So... a powerful ally, who knows how to hide. And who well may attract others to his banner," he added.
"So... what do we do? You obviously want us to do something, or you wouldn't have brought the subject up..."
Juushirou smirked. "First of all, I slip these files back where I found them. Then... we watch Isshin. I have a sneaking suspicion that he may be in contact with Himura."
"Which we want to be as well," Shunsui agreed. "So, keep an eye on him until he makes contact, then make our move?"
In spite of seriousness of the situation - there was a reason Juushirou had made sure that no one would be able to listen to them, after all; strictly speaking, what they were doing, and had been doing for the past year, since the Vizard situation, could be called treason - Shunsui felt a grin cross his face. He wasn't made to always stalk the shadows - unlike 'Shirou, who might have been recruited to Second Division if not for his health - and the thought of finally acting, even if it was only a single step forward, energized him. "This is going to be so much fun..."