Bleach is the property of Tite Kubo and its licensor, I own nothing
Scars that Sting
"One hundred and fifty six years"
That's how long it had been.
She remembered it exactly, didn't know why, and didn't bother questioning it. It was what it was.
156 Years Ago
It had been raining that day too. She had noticed it as soon as she'd woken. The rhythmic beat on the roof, the added thickness in the air. Although dulled by the process of waking, her senses had still been sharp enough to pick up on it. But something was different, there was something else she'd missed. A hand on her shoulder, still gently rocking her as it had been for the last few seconds, rocking her out of the dream world and into the waking one. But she wasn't scared, nor did she mind. She'd known immediately who the hand belonged to…and she'd been so worried about him.
Three months, two weeks, and four days with no word, she'd kept a steady count since his departure.
At the time she hadn't understood why that was. She remembered her young, immature mind thinking, "What was so difficult about sending a letter?" Taking out two months worth of frustrations on those she sparred with.
Combatants that, although her age, were nowhere near her skill. It had been an unfortunate time for them. Punished for someone anothers crimes, they got to know the medical building quite well during those long three months.
She had also channeled her anger and used it to improve both her kidou and hand to hand combat skills, if, for no other reason than to make the time pass quicker. They say you shouldn't wish time away, but back then she had.
The third month her sensei had actually pulled her aside after one, particularly rough, training session. At first she thought he was going to chastise her for being too aggressive when training with the others; more than half of those she sparred with ended up needing some sort of treatment. Their injuries more serious than just a scraped knee. But he hadn't, instead he had commented on her new-found diligence and focus, expressing the pride he had felt that one of his own should be taking their future responsibilities so seriously, especially at such a young age. "If you can manage to keep this level of intensity then nothing will be impossible for you." If only he'd known. The old fool.
Time continued to pass and she had just about given up all hope of ever seeing him again when, without warning, he was there.
Nothing but a hand in the darkness, the rest of him hidden in the dead of night. Others would've been worried, maybe even scared; a hidden stranger waking her silently in the middle of the night. But she hadn't been, not even a little. Because before she'd even opened her eyes, she could already feel him, his familiar reitsu, although highly suppressed, was all the proof she'd needed.
Sitting beside her, in total darkness, he had waited patiently for her befuddled mind to grasp the many thoughts and feelings, none of which were angry, that flowed into her. The overall feeling had in fact been relief.
"Ats…" a quickly pressed finger against her mouth had kept her silent.
She had felt foolish and embarrassed at the highly uncharacteristic mistake, and for a moment, felt more than a little fear that he'd vanish before being discovered by the others around them. Males were strictly forbidden to enter the female section of the dojo, punishment for breaking this rule was expulsion for both parties.
But he hadn't and, together, they'd waited in silence, listening to the silent breathing; waiting to see if her slip had cost them.
Luckily it hadn't and, after what seemed like an eternity, she felt him remove his hand from her shoulder and grasp hers gently, slowly pulling her upwards into a sitting position.
In the darkness she sensed him lean forward towards her, and quietly, without the need for prompting, she'd wrapped her arms around his neck, pressing her much smaller body against him. Her face burning fiercely, her body trembling nervously, she'd realized that this had been the first time she'd ever made any kind of contact with him that hadn't involved either punches or kicks.
His lean, yet strong body had been cold and slick with the outside rain. But there was something else that seemed very out of place, a peculiar patch of wetness that was warm when everything else was cold. Given a few more seconds to think about it, she probably would've figured it out. Looking back it seemed so obvious now. However, as soon as she'd noticed she'd felt the oncoming rush of wind pressing against her face as he had silently flash-stepped them out of the room.
2nd Squad Captains Quarters
Soi Fon stood at the window of her sparsely furnished captains' quarters, quietly staring out into the pouring rain and reliving a part of her past that she wished would leave her.
The rain had been continuously falling for three days now, due to which, training exercises had been moved to the indoor dojo for the time being. It meant that the only training possible inside the cramped space was close combat training. Three years ago she, herself, had put in an application to the Central 46 asking for an extension. It had been denied, fucking pencil pushers.
Perhaps she should resend her application now that they were all dead?
Definitely something to think about.
Eyes wondering over to the small wooden building set off to the far right of the garden she mused about what drills they were currently engaged in. She supposed that technically she still should have gone. Despite the fact that watching her squad members assassinate motionless gigais seemed beyond pointless she was concerned that, without her there, keeping a watchful eye then that boob Omaeda would just let the rest of the squad goof off while he sat in the corner stuffing his fat face.
For a moment her thoughts drifted to Omaeda and she wondered if she shouldn't just send him out into this rain to do some punishment drills, even though he hadn't done anything that particularly deserved punishment. Unless being an obnoxious slob merited punishment, which Soi Fon definitely thought it should, it might give her some entertainment to wile away what was otherwise going to be a very slow day. Besides, she could always make something up.
A small smile played at the corner of her mouth at this thought, but was quickly erased when she sensed somebody outside of her door.
There was a pause, "Yes? What is it?"
She heard the doors slide apart, "Excuse the interruption," the voice was male, he paused before continuing, "I am here to deliver orders from Captain Commander Yammamoto Genryuusai."
Orders? Curious, she hadn't heard anything about any mission.
"Leave them on the table," she said, still not turning to face the messenger.
She listened closely, counting his footsteps as he entered the room.
It would take him precisely seven steps to reach the desk situated in the center of her quarters, eight, if he was short, which she didn't believe to be true, nine, would mean he was moving around the desk, ten, and she would slice off his head before he even thought about step eleven.
Fortunately for the messenger, on the eighth step, she heard him place the file gently on her desk and begin to head back towards the door where he knelt again.
She didn't hear the doors slide shut. "Was there anything else?"
"The Captain Commander also requests your presence at the Captains meeting at 16:00 this afternoon. That is all."
Soi Fon waited until she'd heard the doors slide shut and the messenger move down the corridor before finally turning away from the window and heading over to the black desk.
Kneeling on the centered, yellow pillow she eyed the folder curiously, speculating about the contents. Could it be something to do with Aizen? She doubted it. Aizen had been quiet recently Genryuusai wasn't the type of leader to provoke a possibly deadly enemy into a fight without first gathering more information.
Were they finally going to appoint new captains to Squads 9 and 3? More likely, but still doubtful, for that there would've had to have been a Captains exam and she'd heard nothing about it. Besides, even if the rumors circulating about another Shinigami, apart from Lieutenant Abarai, mastering bankai were true, it would be unlikely that they would be captain material. And it definitely wasn't going to be Lieutenant Abarai, of that she was sure.
After a few more minutes of pointless speculation Soi Fon finally decided to just look at the damn orders and be done with it.
Sliding the folder in front of her she purposely took her time opening it, if only to remind herself that patience was a virtue, before removing the contents from inside.
Scanning the first page she cocked an eyebrow; it wasn't what she had expected. She filtered through the rest of pages in a quick but efficient manner before going through them once again to commit the information to memory. Finished she slipped the pages back into the file. "How pointless," she pushed the folder away with disgust.
She checked the time. Only ten minutes had passed. She still had hours before the meeting.
Standing she returned to the window and looked out into the rain which continued to fall as if it would never stop. And as she stood there, slowly, despite her best efforts, her mind began to drift again. Drifting back one hundred and fifty six years.
9th Squad Barracks
Yawning loudly Hisagi Shuuhei looked out towards the gardens as he exited the 9th squad barracks.
The rain really wasn't letting up, "What is it with this time of year?" Checking the zanpakuto at his side he began his walk around the perimeter of the 9th Squad barracks.
Inside, the jovial cries of laughter and camaraderie could be heard from the rest of the squad. They were obviously enjoying the afternoon off he'd given them.
To other Shinigami it probably seemed that the Lieutenant, and man currently in charge, of the 9th Squad, was too soft on his subordinates. By giving them extra time off Hisagi could possibly be seen as trying to buy his squads loyalty, perhaps out of fear of losing control now that Captain Tousen had abandoned them.
Luckily, Hisagi didn't worry too much about what others thought, everybody ran their squads differently, so what if he cut his guys a little extra slack now and again, as far as he was concerned they deserved it. The 9th Squad had suffered heavier losses than most during the past year, and it would be a good while longer before the effects would be forgotten. He knew that best of all.
Besides, all sentries were at their stations and today, at their own behest, the men took turns doing perimeter sweeps instead of just leaving three permanent guards out there, traipsing about in this ungodly rain.
Hisagi was particularly proud of that. It wasn't often that other men volunteered to do a lesser job. To him it showed how strong the bond between his squad was.
All in all, nobody could say anything. The 9th Squad was doing their duty and morale inside the barracks was at an all time high. It was a win win, as they say.
Arriving back at the entrance Hisagi faced the garden and listened to the laughter inside and rain out. He realized that he felt more at peace now than he had in a long time. It was a nice feeling. Back then, when he'd first been told that he alone would be responsible for the everyday running of the 9th, the thought had filled him with abject terror. He didn't have any desire to command a squad, nor did he believe he was ready. But gradually, it had changed. He didn't remember when he'd stopped being fearful, he only realized that he had. Unfamiliar jobs, that had seemed daunting at first, were now routine, filling out reports, supervising training sessions, and really just dealing with the daily running of things.
He knew that he was just filling in until a new Captain was appointed, but still, it was valuable experience.
"So how come ya ain't in there having a big ole group hug and a singsong with the rest of your squad, eh?" the voice from behind him was surprising, breaking his train of thought and causing him to whip his head round to locate the source. "You wanna be careful. You were so far gone I coulda stuck my zanpakuto through the back of your head without you even realizing it."
"Madarame," Hisagi faced the smirking 3rd Seat of the 11th Squad who stood leaning casually against the wall behind him, "A momentary lapse, it won't happen again."
"I hope not, a moment is all the enemy will need."
Hisagi's eyes twitched irritably, he tried to hide it by moving to the guard rail. Crossing his arms he leaned against it directly opposite Ikkaku. "I would've assumed you'd be halfway through your third bottle of sake by now."
The bald Shinigami laughed loudly and, pushing off of the wall, wagged a finger in Hisagi's direction, "Not yet, I got some business to take care of first."
"Business?" he watched Madarame move past him and taking a seat on the bottom step of the entrance, "With me?"
"Na, not with you, but I was passing and thought I'd drop by anyway," a roar of laughter drew Ikkaku's direction towards the inside of the barracks, "Heh, seems like your boys are having fun."
"Morale is important to a squad," the reply was more indignant than Hisagi had intended, slightly irked that the arrogant smirk still hadn't left Ikkaku's face.
He shrugged, "I suppose, but you should be careful you know. Just coz they like you, don't mean they respect you."
A brief pause, "I'll keep that in mind," Hisagi said, dismissing the thirds obvious attempts to rile him, "So what business do you have that brings you past us?"
Another shrug, "Nothing spectacular," Ikkaku removed a file from the inside of his robe, the smirk having left his face, and waved it in front of him, a little too hard for Hisagi's liking. "Response letter for the 1st Squad," he sniffed loudly turning the file over in his hands.
Ikkaku nodded, "Genryuusai sent orders to Captain Zaraki. This is his response."
Hisagi was confused, "Is that normal?" Ikkaku looked at him, "I was under the assumption that orders didn't require any kind of response. Did Genryuusai request it?"
"Then why would…"
Ikkaku cut him off, "Let's just say the Captain weren't too thrilled by these orders. Started tearing up the place, shouting and swearing about how it was all "Bullshit." He ended up kicking the messengers' ass just for bringing it."
"Is he okay?"
"Captain Zaraki? He was still a little pissed when I left but…"
"I meant the messenger!"
Ikkaku paused, blinked twice, and shrugged…again, "Who cares, he's the 4th Squads' problem now. Anyway the Captain wanted to send a response but, since he damn near killed the guy, he had no one to take it, so he sent me instead."
"I see," the two fell into silence, Hisagi still was leaning on the rail while Ikkaku stared off into space.
Eventually, Hisagi's curiosity got the better of him, "So what does it say."
Ikkaku lifted the file and looked at it closely before answering, "No clue, but I imagine it's nothing good," he grinned, "What I wouldn't give to see the look on the old mans face when he reads."
"What were the orders?"
Ikkaku turned his head to look at Hisagi and smiled, "What, you didn't get one?" the sarcasm was possibly dripping, "All the squads got one, even the third probably."
Hisagi ignored him, "Is that so."
Ikkaku laughed, waving a hand in the direction of the standing Shinigami, "You're no fun Shuuhei. It's kinda pointless me saying all this stuff if it doesn't piss you off even a little bit."
"I'm sorry to disappoint you."
Standing, the bald Shinigami stretched out his arms. Slipping the folder back into his robe he turned to Hisagi, "Well, I'd better be going," Hisagi continued to stare into the space Ikkaku had just vacated. "Oi, Shuuhei." This brought his gaze back to Ikkaku, "Me and Hozikimaru," he tapped the zanpakuto sheathed at his side, "We ain't had the pleasure of a match with you and wots is face."
"Right, right. Anyways, next time you're around the 11th Squad barracks, come to the dojo," in his eyes fire raged momentarily, "It'll be fun."
Hisagi paused before answering, "I'll think about it."
Ikkaku laughed for the last time, "You do that," making his way out into the rain and across the garden he raised an arm, "Ja."
Once he was sure Ikkaku had gone Hisagi released the held breath and moved away from the railing. Why was it that when faced with an army of hollows Hisagi could carve them up and send them screaming back to Hueco Mundo, feeling only a slight twinge of fear? And yet, when faced with another Shinigami challenging his skills and abilities, his fear seemed to be magnified by a factor of a hundred.
Shaking his head Hisagi pushed the thought to the back of his mind, "A true warrior knows fear, and fights on regardless," his mind repeated the familiar, comforting mantra.
Taking a deep breath he turned and, once again, started his perimeter sweep of the barracks.
Main Assembly Hall
She was early.
Not that it really mattered of course, there was now way she was going to be first; she never had been. There would be at least three other captains already there, possibly even four.
Straightening her Captains' haori, Soi Fon took one last, deep breath and pressed both hands against the doors, her small frame dwarfed by the enormous wood panels. Pushing hard the ancient hinges creaked loudly as the doors swung slowly inward, casting light into the inner hall, illuminating the previously darkened space and its inhabitants who stopped their idle chitchat to turn and look at her.
She'd been right.
Her eyes quickly scanned the room and identified the three captains. None of them were a surprise. Ukitake Joushiro of the 13th Squad, Hitsugaya Toushiro of the 10th, and, finally, Kyouraku Shunseii of the 8th, all stood in their stations, watching from their peripheral vision, as she entered the hall and moved towards her own station, the giant doors swinging closed behind her.
Ukitake greeted her cheerfully as she passed,"Good afternoon Soi Fon-san. Quite the weather we're having. Wouldn't you say?"
It never failed to annoy her; the way the sickly captain seemed to refuse to address any of them in the proper manner. It just felt so…unnecessary. Stopping, her eyes lanced to the left and fixed him in a steely gaze, "Captain Ukitake," as always, addressing him formally, "I hope you are in good health these days?"
Ukitake chuckled nervously under the cold stare, "Uh…I'm feeling much better, thank you," he'd meant it to sound lighthearted, however the quiver in his voice had given it a slightly strangled edge, "And yourself? I hope you are well."
From further ahead Soi Fon heard a low chuckle, "Come now Ukitake?" Kyouraku drawled, smiling from beneath his hat, "Even from here I can see that the young Captain is, as always, in excellent health." She gritted her teeth to prevent what would have been an ugly, yet appropriate, response.
Fortunately, more so for Kyouraku rather than herself, the doors behind of the giant hall groaned loudly once more, announcing the arrival of yet another captain. Soi Fon didn't bother to turn to see who it was, instead continuing on to her station where she stood patiently and waited for the remaining time to pass.
By 3:58 all of the captains, including the often tardy Zaraki Kenpachi, had arrived. Soi Fon scanned the room from the corner of her eye, observing their behavior closely. She was relatively sure that they had all received the same orders she had. Her assumption based purely on the unusual tension filling the room, a tension she herself was feeling. Usually when Captains received detailed orders they all knew what to expect from the inevitable meeting that would follow, which took away the need for tension.
It wasn't much longer after she'd finished making her observations that a massive reitsu was felt approaching the hall. All eyes shifted to the front where, emerging slowly from behind a pillar, Captain Commander Yammamoto Genryuusai shuffled forward towards his seat at the front.
She raised an eyebrow at something peculiar "Sasakibe isn't with him?" her eyes danced around the room to confirm the 1st Squad Lieutenants' absence.
Settling into his seat with a sigh Genryuusai surveyed the gathered Captains before clearing his throat loudly, "This Captains meeting will now commence," his gravelly voice boomed throughout the hall.
"Oi! Just a second old man," Soi Fon's eyes snapped to the left, immediately zeroing in on the shout, a mixture of shock and outrage at such disrespect filling her body.
"Typical," her mind sneered.
Genryuusai was unperturbed, his eyes drifting lazily through the ranks until he located the source of the shout, "Captain Zaraki?"
The 11th Squad captain glared up at the commander from his station, "Did you get my letter!"
Genryuusai took a deep breath before answering, "Lieutenant Sasakibe reviewed your letter to the 1st Squad. He then informed me of your concerns."
"Concerns? That son of a…"
"Zaraki!" the shout came from Kommamura who glowered over at the 11th Squad captain.
"Eh?" the eye patch sporting Shinigami turned to look at the dog faced 7th Squad Captain, "You got a problem fur face?"
"Show some respect," Soi Fon was surprised to hear the words leave her mouth, bringing Zaraki's attention from Komamura to herself.
His mouth twisted into a condescending sneer. "Shut your mouth little girl before I shut it for you."
Soi Fon felt anger boil up inside of her, "You son of a…"
The room immediately fell silent. Kenpachi rolled his eyes as Soi Fon bit down on her tongue to prevent her mouth from getting her into more trouble. She lowered her gaze to the floor, feeling slightly shamed that she'd been scolded by the Captain Commander.
There was a brief pause as Genryuusai made sure that there would be no more interruptions before he continued, "Today you all received orders, or rather incident reports that you may have found confusing. However, the reason I have brought you all here today is to get some of your opinions on these reports." It was obvious none of them understood what the old man was going on about, what the hell was the point in that? However, nobody said as much, the only sound came from Kyouraku who just chuckled and shook his head gently.
Genryuusai looked to the Captain of the 4th Squad,"Captain Kuchiki, the report sent to you was more detailed than that the others received, if you could relay the events written in the report for your fellow Captains."
The revelation made Soi Fon bristle, "Why the hell did he get more information that the rest of us?"
She kept her mouth shut.
Zaraki, however, did not, "Why the hell does he know what's going on?"
The Captain Commander ignored the outburst and nodded in the direction of Kuchiki Byakuya who returned it curtly, stepped out of his station, and began to recite what he had obviously memorized. "Approximately one year ago a supply line that runs from the home of the noble family Schweitzer to Sereitei was attacked by bandits."
Zaraki sighed impatiently, "We know that much, get on with it."
Byakuya ignored him, "The supply line is used to transport Soul Essence, an extremely rare metal used only in Sereitei. The transports are guarded at all times by a joint task force of fifty trained guards from both Soul Society and the noble families private security force as it traverses 23 spirit miles from the Schweitzer home to Sereitei. The bandits attacked the transport approximately midway through its journey. They were successful in their raid and the Soul Essence was taken." He paused, waiting for any questions.
"Soul Essence?" Soi Fon had never heard of it.
Ukitake was the first to speak, his voice sullen as if he already knew the answer "What happened to the guards?"
Byakuya's response was immediate and as usual, void of any emotion, "Thirty three were killed. The others were all seriously wounded."
Captain Unohana Retsu followed the answer with another question, "Why was it decided to deploy so many guards? Wouldn't it have been more logical to keep the transport small so that it wouldn't draw unwanted attention?"
"The noble family Schweitzer possesses one, of only two, Soul Essence mines in all of Soul Society. Their mine is situated deep in the area referred to as The Badlands, as you are aware there are many hollows in that area. Even with dampening kidou the strong reitsu emitted by Soul Essence makes it virtually impossible to hide while in transit, large numbers of Hollow are therefore attracted to it. Fifty guards were deemed a necessary precaution."
Since no more questions came forth Genryuusai interjected, "Continue Captain Kuchiki."
Byakuya nodded, "Regrettably, the bandits escaped into The Badlands where our forces were unable to pursue."
"Why not?" it was Hitsugaya Toushiro this time, arms firmly folded across his chest.
"I'm sure none of you have forgotten what happened a year ago," Genryuusai didn't need to say anything more.
Aizen was the unifying thought around the room
It ended up being Kommamura who asked the question that was on everybody's mind, "Could it be Aizen?"
Genryuusai shook his head slowly, "The traitor Aizen Souske has no need for Soul Essence."
Soi Fon raised an eyebrow, "And why is that?"
Kyouraku didn't give her chance to ask, "Do we have a lead on who these scoundrels might be?"
"No, none of the survivors remember much. It seems the only lead we have to go on is this, "The sun fell from the sky.""
Zaraki snorted, "What the hell does that mean?"
Byakuya ignored him, "This phrase has been recited by all of the survivors."
"So they used kidou," Ukitake rubbed his chin, "Interesting."
"I believe so," Byakuya continued as if there had been no interruption at all, "Six months after this event, the second Soul Essence supply line, coming from the Latimer family mine located in Limit Valley in the south, was also attacked. This time Sereitei sent an additional thirty Shinigami to protect the transport. Once again, all were defeated and the Soul Essence was taken."
"Sixty four deaths, sixteen wounded."
"What about the enemy? Did we at least kill any of them?" Zaraki asked.
"Not unless they carried the bodies away with them. We believe it to be the same group."
"And why is that?"
"Let me guess," Hitsugaya mumbled, "The sun fell from the sky?"
"No," Byakuya stated firmly, "There was no mention of the sun. However a common phrase was once again repeated by all of those who survived."
"The earth sought its revenge."
Kyouraku grinned broadly, "Ooh, I'm getting goose bumps," he looked around for confirmation, "Spooky, isn't it," he got none.
"Why is this the first time we've heard about it?" Unohana had looked stricken since the death toll had been revealed, "Surely the survivors should have been brought to the 4th Squad for treatment.
"The noble families requested that nobody be informed of the attacks on the transports," Byakuya replied, seemingly unaffected by Captain Unohana's distress, "As for the survivors, they were treated by medical staff sent by the families."
"But the Shinigami who survived…" Hitsugaya began.
"They were sworn to never speak of the incident and were all subsequently hired by either the Latimer or Schweitzer families."
"But why hide it? Bandit raids aren't exactly uncommon," Ukitake muttered, unable to get his head around the whole situation.
"To protect the families honor."
"Give me a break, not that crap again," Zaraki scoffed.
"What of this Soul Essence?" Komamura asked, "You said only we in Sereitei use it. What is it for?"
Genryuusai looked over to the right, "Perhaps Captain Kurotsotchi would be better suited to explain?"
Kurotsotchi Mayuri beamed as he stepped from his station to finally fill the idiots in on the complexities of Soul Essence and its uses. "Soul Essence," he began grandly, "Is the material needed to complete the finalization stage of the zanpakuto materialization process." The other captains remained silent, "As Shinigami we use our zanpakuto to battle Hollow. Each zanpakuto contains a living entity in its own right. We as Shinigami form a contract with his entity and utilize its powers in battle. However, when a zanpakuto first comes into existence its spirit particles are highly unstable and are therefore prone to dematerialization. Using Soul Essence we are able to stabilize these particles, thereby giving it a permanent form."
Soi Fon couldn't help but ask, "And how do you stabilize them?"
"It's really quite simple," Kurotsotchi said offhandedly, "We break down the Soul Essence and filter it throughout Sereitei. It is the only method that is one hundred percent effective."
Zaraki's eye hovered upwards suspiciously, "You mean this stuff's always in the air?"
Kurotsotchi nodded, "That's right."
"Is it dangerous?" Komamura asked.
"Oh my no, soul essence particles are everywhere in Sereitei, they are only minutely different to spirit particles and prove no risk to us Shinigami."
Hitsugaya was following the proceedings with only a mild interest, "What would happen if there were no more of these particles?"
The purple Captain rubbed his chin thoughtfully, "An interesting question, I can only theorize of course…" he paused dramatically before diving right in, "…but I imagine that it would be a lot harder for zanpakuto to materialize. In essence, no pun intended, the number of Shinigami in Soul Society would begin to decline. As we lose Shinigami through battle…" another pause, "…or betrayal, we'd also lose their zanpakuto, and since we wouldn't have the zanpakuto to equip new forces we'd become weaker."
"Are these Soul Essence particles really that important?" Ukitake questioned, "Kurosaki Ichigo wasn't even in Soul Society when his zanpakuto materialized. Yet, it didn't seem to make a difference."
Mayuri chuckled, clicking his fingernails together. "Ah yes, the ryoka boy, I can only assume that due to the massive amounts of reitsu his body released upon his Shinigami transformation, it stabilized…automatically," he grinned, "It's all rather fascinating, wouldn't you agree?" He'd decided to omit the part about his future plans that involved Kurosaki Ichigo's dissection.
Soi Fon didn't like where this was going, "Could the Soul Essence be used as a weapon?"
Mayuri tittered loudly at that one, "Oh my no," the tone of his voice emitted a grating arrogance, as if explaining a simple math problem to a monkey. "As I said, Soul Essence is merely the final ingredient in the materialization of the zanpakuto. Beyond that it is a relatively useless property that is only valuable to those that rely on using zanpakuto."
"Meaning us," Kyouraku said.
"So why steal it then?"
Kurotsotchi shrugged, "Who knows, a case of mistaken identity perhaps. Large transports of that size garner a lot of attention; it is not too far a stretch to believe that the bandits thought there would be something more valuable inside," he smiled, "Of course…" he began slowly, "There's always the possibility…" he trailed off.
"Spit it out freak," Zaraki said suddenly, he was getting bored of all the drama.
Mayuri glared at him out of the corner of his eye "Note to self, cause accident inside 11thSquad barracks within the next 3 months." "There's always the possibility that somebody out there is trying to weaken our forces, less zanpakuto means less Shinigami. It doesn't take a genius such as I to figure that out."
The room was silent as the Captains thought about the possibility.
"What I don't understand is how a group of poor-assed bandits could kill eighty men without even breaking a sweat," Zaraki said, "I should have them on my squad."
"I needn't remind you that these men are criminals," Byakuya said with the usual air of disdain he always used when addressing Zaraki.
"Who cares, they can obviously get the job done."
"Whether it is a case of mistaken identity, or an outside enemy trying to weaken our forces, I have decided that we can no longer sit back and allow these criminals to run free any longer," Genryuusai spoke slowly while all of the Captains' listened without interruption. "Our supplies of Soul Essence are running low and relations with the two noble families are now strained. This threatens the future security of Soul Society and cannot be tolerated. Both the Latimer and Schweitzer families have requested that we intervene, and I have agreed to their request. If we cannot stop the thefts of the Soul Essence transports they have stated that they will have to consider withholding supplies of Soul Essence for an indeterminate period of time," he paused before continuing, "That is something we cannot allow to happen." He paused, peering over his staff at the assembled captains, "It is time we showed our strength to those who would try to weaken us. One Shinigami with the rank of Captain will be sent to the Schweitzer household accompanied by a Lieutenant. Their mission will be to reestablish our relations with Lady Schweitzer before proceeding to personally escort the next transport of Soul Essence, due to depart in one months time, back to Sereitei."
Soi Fon's mind immediately whirred into action, quickly running through all of the captains in an attempt to identify who Genryuusai had chosen.
Immediately both Zaraki Kenpachi and Kurotsotchi Mayuri were dismissed as possibilities; both were too big liabilities to have anywhere near a noble family. Zaraki would destroy the bandits, of that she had no doubt; the man was a born killer. But he'd probably also end up destroying the transport, as well as the guards…maybe even the nobles. He was too reckless.
As for Kurotsotchi, he was a freak that would probably be so excited by the prospect of having a pure supply of Soul Essence all to himself that he'd end up assassinating the guards, stealing it, and then trying to create a weapon out of it.
Hitsugaya? Doubtful; they'd take one look at him and think Genryuusai was playing some sort of practical joke. Despite his skill as a Shinigami Hitsugaya's appearance was a flaw, especially around noble families. They expected Shinigami to be tall, handsome protectors of Soul Society, not some short kid with weird colored hair and a chip on his shoulder.
Komamura? Also doubtful; for much the same reason as Hitsugaya. She'd seen fellow Shinigami who had flinched when they'd first laid eyes on him. A noble man/woman would run screaming from the room. She supposed he could wear his hat, like he used to, but she hadn't seen it since Tousen's betrayal and was pretty sure it was gone for good.
Ukitake? She didn't think so; although a great diplomat and warrior when he was healthy, his illness was too big a liability on missions like these. The last thing Genryuusai wanted was Ukitake's illness flaring up just as the transport was leaving, it'd be completely defenseless.
That left Captains Unohana, Kyouraku, Kuchiki and of course, herself. Although she was under no illusions that she'd be the one chosen. "Thank Soul Society for my cold abrasiveness," she thought happily.
Out of the three remaining choices Byakuya seemed the most logical choice. Captain Unohana's medical expertise were pretty much indispensable around these parts, Genryuusai couldn't afford to lose her. Kyouraku, although reliable could rub some people up the wrong way, plus he never really looked at any task with much enthusiasm, and she suspected that that wouldn't go over so well on this mission.
No, Kuchiki Byakuya was the obvious choice. He was powerful, serious and a member of nobility himself, he was everything this mission needed and more. He would be chosen. She couldn't have been surer.
"I hereby appoint Captain of the 2nd Squad Soi Fon to be in charge of this mission. Both you and your Lieutenant, Omaeda Marechiyo, are to depart tomorrow at dawn."
Genryuusai banged his staff twice on the floor signaling the end of the meeting, "Dismissed,"
It took a moment for the shock to wear off…and a moment more for her mouth to actually start working again, "C…C…Captain Commander," she spluttered, stepping out of her station and kneeling before him. Genryuusai paused, standing over his chair, prepared to leave, the others Captains still stood in their stations awaiting his departure.
She heard a muttered, "What now?" from Zaraki.
"Please excuse my rudeness but…" she stalled; unsure of what to say. What the hell could she say? She had to find a way to get out of this without seeming either ungrateful in the trust placed in her, or a coward.
"Yes Captain?" Genryuusai prompted, "But what?"
"While I appreciate your confidence in me…" she began calmly, "surely one of the other Captains must be better suited to carrying out this mission."
"Aww…I think she's scared," Zaraki taunted from behind her, "Hey old man! Give me the mission, I'll get it done."
She ignored him and continued her plea, "It's not that I'm fearful of the mission Captain Commander, as you well know we at the Secret Mobile Corps welcome any challenge…However, I am not suited to be a diplomat. Neither, for that matter, is Captain Zaraki."
"What? You…" Zaraki began.
She quickly cut him off, "You're saying you are?"
He laughed, "Hell no."
"Then keep your mouth shut."
The words stunned Zaraki momentarily, then, slowly, a twisted grin began to spread across his face, he chuckled gently, "I'm gonna enjoy cutting your head off little girl," he said advancing from his station.
Feeling his approach Soi Fon's hand snuck behind her haori and grasped the hilt of Suzumebachi. She already knew where the first, and hopefully last, blow was going when Genryuusai spoke again, "Kenpachi, return to your station."
Zaraki stopped mid-stride, the wolfish grin vanishing from his face, "Oh come on," he protested, "Just let me cut her up a little. I won't kill her," he bargained, "Just teach her a little lesson."
Genryuusai said nothing. For a moment there was a standoff, the two men staring silently at one another. But it soon ended with Zaraki who, with Soi Fon watching him out of the corner of her eye, returned grumbling to his station.
With that taken care of Genryuusai turned his attention back to his 2nd Squad Captain. "Judging from your statement, I assume that you have somebody in mind?"
Soi Fon kept her head lowered, "If I may make a suggestion. Captain Kuchiki Byakuya is nobility himself. Surely Lady Schweitzer would feel more comfortable in his company rather than my own. That's without even mentioning my Lieutenant who is still not fit to be amongst regular people, let alone a family of that stature."
She waited. Genryuusai remained silent for a long time, she knew that he was staring at her, and so kept her eyes firmly on the ground.
Eventually, the silence was broken. Unfortunately, it wasn't Genryuusai who broke it. "The Captain Commander has already requested that I take on this mission, however, due to personal conflicts between my family and the Schweitzer's I was forced to decline," Kuchiki Byakuya's voice held a slight smugness to it and Soi Fon knew that inside of that cool, collected exterior he must have been laughing his ass off.
"Personal conflicts?" Ukitake inquired, "Sticking his nose into other people's business as usual," she thought sourly. "What kind of personal conflicts."
"I would rather not discuss it," Byakuya replied, "However, I do agree with the 2nd Squad Captains assessment regarding her Lieutenant," her body went rigid. "I myself have experienced Lieutenant Omaeda's company. I agree with the Captains belief that he would be more of a hindrance than a help during a highly sensitive mission such as this."
Genryuusai hmmed loudly, "Do you have any other suggestions?"
Much to Soi Fon's displeasure, Byakuya did, "I believe it would be beneficial to appoint a different Lieutenant to Captain Soi Fon's command for the duration of this mission."
This was going from bad to worse.
Kyouraku was the first to offer, "What about Nanao-chan? She's quite the lady and I'm sure she'd charm the trousers right off those nobles."
The noble Shinigami shook his head, "While that may be, I believe for a show of true force at least one male must be present."
She was going to kill him for that remark.
"If I may make a suggestion," Soi Fon heard Komamura step forward from his station. "I personally believe Lieutenant Hisagi Shuuhei would be ideal for this mission."
"On what basis?" she found herself asking angrily, "I would not refer to a man who was so easily duped by his own Captain as ideal in any way, shape or form."
If Kommamura was offended by her tone he didn't show it. "Be that as it may, Lieutenant Hisagi has an exemplary record of service, has taken to running the 9th Squad with both efficiency and dedication, and I personally believe his character to be beyond reproach," he had moved forward and was now standing beside her. "And need I remind you that the former Captain Tousen duped us all, not just his Lieutenant."
"You need not," she hissed quietly.
"What of the 9th Squad?" Hitsugaya commented, "If Hisagi leaves then who'll take command?"
"I will," Komamura replied solidly, "It will not be difficult to combine the 9th Squad with my own until Lieutenant Hisagi's return."
"And the 2nd?" Kyouraku asked.
"I believe Lieutenant Omaeda is more than capable of handling the squad for a month. If not he would not be worthy of the title given to him," Komamura said.
Soi Fon felt sick, "Oh, god no."
Genryuusai though found the idea appealing, "Captain Kuchiki."
"Have you encountered Lieutenant Hisagi in the past?"
"What are your opinions of him for this mission?"
A pause, Soi Fon remained silent, "I believe he is acceptable for the task."
That was all Genryuusai needed to hear, with another hmm he said, "Very well, as of this moment Lieutenant Hisagi Shuuhei of the 9th Squad will be temporarily placed under the command of 2nd Squad Captain Soi Fon. Until Lieutenant Hisagi's return, command of the 9th Squad will be given to 7th Squad Captain Komamura Sajin. Are there any further objections?"
Inside her head Soi Fon screamed objections, but she allowed none of them to be known, it was pointless; she'd already lost. "Very well the two of you will leave tomorrow at dawn…dismissed."
Outside the building, the rain continued to fall. Inside it, Soi Fon wanted to die.
9th Squad Barracks
Hisagi was unable to hide his surprise. "Me?"
Towering over the 9th Squad Lieutenant, Komamura gave a nod,"That's correct,"
Hisagi was at a loss for words. When his 5th Seat had appeared at the office, stating that Captain Komamura was requesting an audience with him, he hadn't even batted an eyelid; he'd assumed it would be just another of the regular visits that Komamura made to the 9th Squad, double checking Hisagi's squad reports and making sure that the young Lieutenant wasn't getting overwhelmed by his duties.
But this was something completely out of the blue, "A…am I being punished?" he eventually managed to stutter.
Although a serious question Komamura tipped his head back and roared with laughter, "Of course not," he said, once it had subsided, "The reason you were chosen was because all the Captains agreed that you were best suited for the job."
"Surely that can't be true," Hisagi protested, "I'm sure there must be another Lieutenant more suitable than myself. Lieutenant Nanao, or Lieutenant Abarai perhaps?"
Komamura smiled patiently, "Hisagi, you should see this as an opportunity. Working closely alongside another Captain is an invaluable way to improve your own skills."
Hisagi nodded, "I understand that, but I've never even trained with the 2nd Squad, let alone fought alongside Captain Soi Fon."
"This mission calls for a delicate balance of both strength and diplomacy. I am well aware of the reputation Captain Soi Fon holds amongst some of the Lieutenants…," Komamura said.
"Aggressive, petulant…dangerous," the words hit home like a thunderbolt, they'd all been said by Omaeda, and he was her Lieutenant.
"However," Komamura continued, "I believe her to be an especially dedicated and skilled warrior," he said, before adding, "despite her volatile temper."
Hisagi listened politely, nodding his agreement until Komamura had finished. "What will happen to my unit?"
"I'll be taking command of them until you return," Komamura said kindly.
He was relieved; Hisagi knew that Komamura would treat his men kindly and not as a burden like he suspected some of the other Captains would have done. But he still couldn't shake the feeling that he was being punished somehow. That, maybe, by sending him off on this mission Genryuusai was telling him that he wasn't fit to lead the squad. Suddenly, all of the old doubts and fears returned.
Hisagi forced them away for the time being, "When do I leave?"
"Is there anything I should do?"
Komamura took a deep breath and thought about it for several seconds before answering, "Although the official orders are still being drafted you should inform your squad that they are to report to the 7th Squad barracks tomorrow morning for orders. You should also report to Captain Soi Fon. She's the lead of this operation and will inform you of any necessary requirements."
Hisagi nodded his understanding, "Thank you for telling me personally Captain Komamura, I appreciate the kindness."
Komamura shook his head, "Think nothing of it Hisagi, I am merely doing for you what I hope others would do for me."
"Even so..." Hisagi trailed off.
Komamura smiled, "Good luck Hisagi, I have faith that you will do an excellent job," turning on his heels he began to walk away before adding, "I hope the rain stops before your departure tomorrow."
"Thank you, sir."
2nd Squad Grounds
They were watching him, had been ever since he'd crossed the bridge. He'd counted six so far, tracking him silently ever since he'd passed through the perimeter and entered the 2nd Squad grounds.
Unlike the other squads of the Gotei 13, all of which had quite similar layouts and were set deep in the heart of Sereitei should an emergency occur, the 2nd Squad grounds were noticeably different. Positioned on the outskirts, a deep canyon separated it from the main body, making it both the most isolated and the biggest area assigned to any one squad.
Dense woodland flanked Hisagi on both sides, camouflaging those that followed, as he made his way down the dirt path heading for the heart of Squad 2 territory.
It was an unnerving feeling, being watched like this, made worse by the fact that it was already pitch black and the only light to guide him was of the unsubstantial kind that the moon so kindly offered. It made the going slow. The path always illuminating for a few brief seconds before, once again, the moon disappeared behind tenacious rainclouds and the path was swallowed by the hungry night.
Hisagi stopped and listened to the rain thud against the umbrella, waiting for the moon to emerge once again so that he could continue his journey. Surveying the wooded area to his right he noticed that one of the reitsu that had been tracking him had disappeared, now there were only five pairs of eyes. He surmised that the missing person must have gone on ahead to alert the Captain of his impending arrival.
He thought about his own squad, and how they had taken the announcement that he would be leaving them for a month. At first it had been met with confusion, followed by worry.
"They're not thinking of transferring you are they sir?" one of the more insecure of the group had asked.
His laugh had been genuine, "Of course not," the thought of him working as an assassin was preposterous.
"Don't be an idiot," his 6th Seat had stated angrily, "Everybody knows that the Lieutenant is a man of honor. There's no way he'd want to work with Secret Mobile Corps."
That much was true enough. Ever since his entry into the Gotei 13 he'd always regarded the 2nd Squad with a quiet disdain. Their belief that it was okay to dispatch an opponent without him ever knowing that they were there went against everything Captain Tousen had taught him to believe.
It was not how a true warrior should act.
"But what if they want the Lieutenant to replace Lieutenant Omaeda, it's obvious that Lieutenant Hisagi would make a better Lieutenant for the 2nd Squad. Hell…even I would be," another squad member had said, voicing his concern.
"You'd have to achieve Shikai first."
Hisagi had spoken up before a debate could get started, "Captain Komamura has assured me that this is only temporary. Once the mission has been completed I will be allowed to return to my duties leading the 9th Squad," the concerns had stopped then. Everyone in Sereitei who knew Captain Komamura also knew that he was a man of his word. He was trusted.
After a while someone spoke again, "It could be worse for you sir. At least Captain Soi Fon is cute. You could've been going with Captain Kurotsotchi."
Laughter had filled the barracks, "Cute? Are you nuts? She's got the body of a twelve year old boy."
More laughter, "Come on, settle down," Hisagi had called, happy that the mood had been lifted but slightly uncomfortable by the way the conversation was heading.
He was ignored, "Well, I heard she was a lesbian."
"Oh yeah, big time, apparently she's always fawning over the former 2nd Squad Captain like a lovesick puppy."
That was it, "Enough!" the sharp change in his voice had immediately reduced the room to silence. "Need I remind you that Captain Soi Fon is in fact a Captain, and as such deserves our respect…not ridicule," wherever he cast his glare it was avoided by sheepish squad members. "Some of the other Lieutenants have voiced an opinion that I am too soft on you, that I let you slack off. I have always defended myself and my running of this squad. Perhaps I was mistaken," he'd taken a deep breath, his squad had remained silent, "There is one thing I absolutely do not tolerate, and that is anybody from my squad disrespecting a Captain. Is that understood?" nobody answered.
"Sorry sir," a voice had filtered from the crowd.
"Won't happen again sir," followed by another one.
Mumbled apologies echoed from the other squad members as Hisagi had watched them shift uncomfortably in front of him, "See that it doesn't," he'd said, and then, his face had softened and he'd smiled, "Besides…I don't think about things like that, it depresses me."
Everybody had laughed, and Hisagi had once again known that there was no need to worry about his position, about why Genryuusai had selected him for this mission, or what was going to happen in the next month. Because, at that moment he knew that he was damn good at his job.
He stopped walking and raised the umbrella slightly.
Before him the path ended and the tree line on both sides cut sharp ninety degree angles giving way to a vast circle of open fields. A few buildings were scattered here and there, but his focus was on the one set squarely in the center.
It was bigger than he'd expected, bigger than the 9th Squad barracks to be sure, even in this poor light he could still see its pure white walls and golden pillars clearly. As if on cue lightening lanced through the night sky lighting up the field and giving him a better look. He saw the thick wooden roof, adorned with carvings of Chinese dragons and lettering. Heavy wooden doors fifteen feet high guarded by two armed men. The building as a whole made an imposing impression. He wondered how many of the other Lieutenants had actually seen it.
He realized that he was staring and quickly started to make his way again, across the open area and towards the two guards who watched his approach with caution. Once he got to within fifteen meters of them the lead guard held out his hand. "Halt," he ordered, his voice though muffled by the rain could be heard clearly. Hisagi did as he was told and stopped walking. "State your business."
"I'm Lieutenant Hisagi of the 9th Squad, I would like to meet with your Captain," he called through the rain.
"For what purpose?"
Hisagi sighed; this was starting to get old, "We are to leave tomorrow on a mission, I will act as her subordinate. I'd like a chance to speak with her to ensure that there are no necessary items I should bring."
Neither guard said anything, they just waited. A minute passed, then another, and then another, and just when Hisagi was about to open his mouth to speak again he detected a presence, glanced upwards at the large doors moments before another Shinigami appeared beside the lead guard that he had been speaking too.
They were fast, so fast that he'd almost missed the guys approach altogether.
The newcomer said something to the lead guard that was lost in the rain. Hisagi saw him visibly relax and nod curtly in his direction, "You may enter. Please follow me, the Captain is expecting you."
Handing his staff to the newcomer the doors swung silently open and the guard turned and walked inside. Hisagi followed silently, passing the remaining two guards who ignored him and instead stared into the open fields.
His escort waited under the overhanging roof until Hisagi had caught up with him before jerking his head to the left, "The Captains quarters are this way, please try not to touch anything."
Hisagi was actually a little offended by that remark. "Excuse me?"
The escort responded without turning to face Hisagi, "I mean no disrespect Lieutenant, there are many traps located throughout our base that you are unaware of, touching the wrong thing could be highly dangerous,"
Hisagi frowned, "Are you preparing for an invasion?"
"We are always prepared for any eventuality," the escort recited, as if it had been drilled into him since his days at the academy.
The conversation ended there and they continued on in silence through winding corridors and sliding wooden doors, as a matter of fact Hisagi could've sworn that they had passed the same sculpture three times already. "Must be another feature of the building," he concluded, "If anybody who isn't meant to be here gets in they'd have a hell of a time finding their way around."
He tried to remember the route that the two of them had taken. Through the entrance, turn left, second right, second left, fourth right, third left, fourth right…first…but that was where his memory failed him. He cursed his own stupidity, he should've been more aware of his surroundings, not thinking about how bizarre the entire layout of this structure was.
The escort stopped outside two sliding doors, "We're here," Hisagi watched as he kneeled before two sliding doors before doing the same.
Before the escort could open his mouth an irritated, but familiar, voice drifted out from the other side of the door, "What is it?"
The escort spoke without even opening the doors, "Excuse the intrusion. Lieutenant Hisagi Shuuhei of the 9th Squad has requested an audience with you."
"Very well," at her words, the escort stood and without a word, made his way down the hall.
Hisagi moved over to the doors and slid them open slowly, head bowed at the appropriate angle, "Thank you for seeing me at this hour," he began.
The voice, now unimpeded by the door, was much clearer this time, "What do you want?"
Hisagi stumbled at the frankness of the question, "…I…Well I..."
She continued her onslaught, "Spit it out Lieutenant, I haven't got all night."
Suddenly he was nervous, everything in his mind went blank and he began to desperately struggle to find anything to say. "…I wanted to…Or rather, I would…"
He heard her sigh, "Just get in here," she snapped.
"Yes ma'm," standing Hisagi finally lifted his head and looked at the Captain for the first time.
She stood behind her desk, her small frame partially hidden behind it, glowering at him, hands firmly set behind her back. The zanpakuto that lay on the desk was clearly a warning, in case he got any ideas about attacking her perhaps. He wondered if she did this with all of her guests, the young woman was clearly paranoid.
Following her lead he placed his hands behind his back and entered the room confidently. "I wish to inquire as to necessary equipment that might be needed for the mission," clear…concise…perfect, he was back on track.
Soi Fon could see his eyes kept trying to stray from their fixed forward looking position, down to Suzumebachi that rested on the table. "Does my zanpakuto make you feel uncomfortable Lieutenant?" she asked.
He didn't seem as nervous anymore, he'd obviously recovered from his earlier slip-up. "Then why do you keep trying to look at it."
"I'm not ma'm."
The question was laced with venom, "Are you calling me a liar Lieutenant Hisagi?"
"Of course not ma'm…I'm…"
"Intrigued by it ma'm."
Soi Fon hid a wry smile from him by turning to face the window, "And what is so intriguing about it."
"It is said it has the ability to kill any opponent in two strikes, no matter how minor they are."
"And that's intriguing to you because…"
He paused for a long while, "I'm unsure ma'm."
She turned to look at him, taking the chance to study the man she'd be working with for the next few weeks. She'd seen him around Sereitei before of course, normally behind the former Captain Tousen, but this was the first time they'd been this close to each other.
He was soaked to the bone. That much was obvious. She seemed to recall that his hair, now matted to his head, was normally spiky. He was tall and looked physically strong, with a small 69 tattooed onto the left side of his face and three nasty looking scars.
"Why should I trust that you are capable of completing this mission with me Lieutenant," she asked, after she had finished sizing him up.
"Ma'm, I am well versed in both kidou and zanpakuto combat. I have served as the Lieutenant of the 9th Squad for a number of years now and…"
She interrupted him, "Under Captain Tousen."
There was an uncomfortable pause, "…Yes ma'm."
"Hmm," she sat at her desk and removed Suzumebachi from in front of her, "Tell me Lieutenant," she began slowly, "What is your opinion of Captain Tousen?"
Hisagi answered without hesitation, "While Captain of the 9th Squad Captain Tousen was a kind man who was patient with his squad. He is an extremely skilled Shinigami and I learnt a lot under his guidance."
Soi Fon raised her eyebrows, "A rather brief assessment. So, what is your opinion now that he has betrayed Sereitei?"
This was more difficult, "While I do not understand his motives for betraying Sereitei, I believe that Captain Tousen believes that what he is doing is just. As such I have no opinion on the matter. He is now with the former Captain Aizen, and my loyalty is to Sereitei."
"A very diplomatic answer," Soi Fon thought. However, she was a little impressed by the Lieutenant; most would have denounced their Captains and sworn to kill them when they got the opportunity. But this one had stated what he'd believed and that was all. No approval, no damnation, no judgment whatsoever. It had happened and he had accepted it…interesting.
She stood, "Very well. We leave tomorrow at 5:30am from the east gate, do not be late. As for equipment…" she paused to think about it, "…Bring your ceremonial robes for when we meet Lady Schweitzer, also go to the Technological and Research Bureau, have them give you Reitsu Dampening pills, if the bandits do make an appearance, I want our presence to be a surprise."
Hisagi nodded, "Yes ma'm."
"Dismissed," Hisagi nodded again and turned to leave the room. Just as he was about to step over the threshold the 2nd Squad Captain spoke again. "Lieutenant," he stopped and turned to look at her, she was seated back at her desk filling in forms, "I don't tolerate failure," she looked up, "Try not to disappoint me. It would be very bad for you."
"I can assure you Captain that I won't."
To Be Continued