Author's Note: Well.. A new chapter at last! I honestly know that my updates have started to come out in a belated basis.. Hopefully I will be able to update more occasionally once my weekly schedule allows it.
Reviews: I'd like to thank vulgarite succulent, EL0NI, llloverrr, anon, Codegal and Mary Akataki for reviewing. It's really nice to know that the introduction so far is enjoyable :3
Disclaimer is on,
Chapter is T rated,
Chapter 4, A Soldier's Nostalgia
A charming sea of green swaddled quietly under the various bedsheets as she stirred in her sleep. Seeking for more of that overnight coziness in her bed's little nest, Neliel was smiling. The nudity of her body had fallen in love with the mattress's enticing comfort, a comfort she wanted to never end. Her legs smoothed fondly one on the other to snuggle for more warmth, tender hands resting defeated atop her soft pillow. With the blanket's gentle fabric lavishing her bare skin, her whole being could now shiver with a secret delight. She would always be like that while sleeping, having the uneasy, yet hopeful nap of an antelope. It had been a very long time, and she had eventually forgotten, how it felt to lay in a cozy bed. Like a human would...;
Huh, human.. A bit funny perhaps, but then.. This was her nostalgia..
Paradox for a hollow as it may be, but sometimes she would even have dreams of her past life as a human. She didn't remember much in her dreams, nor she would try to remember them after they were over. It was just that.. Bittersweet anamneses that would come and go at times. There would usually be people surrounding her, their faces dressed in pure light, and their voices too faint for her to recognize. Only their smiles she could clearly see. Friendly, congenial smiles, persons who must have really loved and cared about her. This made her happy.. Ηappy to know that she had been a person dear to their hearts, to remind her that even though a hollow, humanity and emotions still existed inside her. After that beautiful reminiscence, they would disappear, one by one, along with the dream.
Neliel relieved a deep sigh, her smile becoming subtly wistful. She didn't need to explain this nostalgia, she had never wanted to unravel and spoil this beautiful feeling. All she wanted right now was to stretch her limbs. The morning dullness would be too much for anyone to handle, not to mention that it was really comfy. On a second thought, she wanted to roll onto the other side of the bed. She could afford a few more minutes from her morning, those indispensable minutes she had never allowed herself while serving under Aizen's orders. Not wasting another second in this opportunity, Neliel twisted her slim body, soon arranging into a satisfying position. An oddly satisfying position.
She swore to herself that the other half of the bed was warmer, and this warmth was even trying to accompany her own. More than that, why did she feel like the vacant space of the other side was actually a bit crowded? Sure, bumping her head onto the wall while sleeping would almost be her ridiculous morning habit, but this wasn't a wall. It felt almost as if.. Neliel got a notion that something was not normal in all this, so she started to shuffle her face towards the surface of the sheets. A pair of soft amber eyes slowly lit up, still a bit sleepy due to the morning stupor. The few rays of light that had slipped through the window curtains were enough to illustrate some of the objects in the room, but otherwise, still a lot dark. There, inches away from her nose, she found the source of the warmth.
"Who is..!" She was startled, she was scandalized.
Neliel instinctively jerked backwards and flipped her body to jump out of the bed, only to find herself tumbling down on her elbows when she was carelessly betrayed by her own hastiness to escape. She tried not to hiss in this potentially dangerous situation, but her teeth clenched out of nervousness as she felt her skin tensing up at the feeling of exposure. She forced composure back in her eyes and with soundless movements she crawled herself towards the edge of the bed. Her heart was racing in adrenaline at the image of an unbeknown figure. What an upsetting awakening.. She looked beyond the edge of the bed until her golden gaze lowered on the floor. Her sword, she needed her sword.
Her eyes drifted at several directions below the bed and it was not long before she had spotted gamuza. She reached down and carefully wrapped her fingers around the hilt without making any noise. Neliel couldn't restrain a drop of sweat from stemming on her cheek as she turned to face the intruder, her mind embroiled in conflict between reason and instinct. She was staring more guardedly with each passing second, uncertainty and mistrust were tightening her grip on gamuza, but in the end, her patience had prevailed. To her utmost surprise the urge to draw her sword began to fade once her vision fell on what looked like.. bandages? Using her free hand she rubbed the remaining fog from her eyes.
"It's..him.." Neliel whispered inaudibly, the defensiveness in her eyes fading to portray the natural doe.
Suddenly everything had shot back in her head; Ichigo's battles, her transformation, Nnoitra's fall, and, an unexpected mission.. Neliel closed her eyes and let her face collapse prone on the pillow. Her fingers loosened and her sword dropped back on the floor, causing quite a clatter as the steel bounced off somewhere, but she didn't give much regard to it. Since the moment she had awakened cornered like that, a mental guillotine had been threatening her neck, but no more.. Upon a calm heart rate she was able to remember that the blue haired espada was the very reason she was sleeping in a bed in the first place. Neliel crossed her arms underneath the pillow, silently shifting her face so she could eye him in discretion.
Unlike last night, his spiritual pulse seemed quite more promising, still as weak as one can be, but enough to convince her that his life had escaped peril. She could actually hear him breathe without much of an effort, even though some of his breathing came out with shallow groans due to the heavy stress his body had sustained. Neliel observed most attentively as his thin azure brows would slightly furrow in discomfort, each time bestowing him a brief stubborn frown until he could breathe normally again. He was in pain, no one could doubt that. Surviving such wounds would already be an impossible feat for most arrancars, so he should be just glad that he had cheated death. Neliel's treatment had been applied just in the nick of time, but the rest of his recovery was only up to him.
Aside the matter of his health, there were still essential questions about the espada that Neliel needed to inquire herself. Like, why was she helping an enemy of her friend? Was it because Ichigo had protected him? Was it because her fraccion had decided to not let him die? Perhaps it was both, but still not the answer she was looking for. Back there, the sexta had asked for death. She had refused. Most would have admitted the hopeless situation and surrender to his will, but not her. Even at the most desperate of situations, a small beacon of hope would always stand to fight the shadows. She couldn't let this light go in vain, not without trying to save it. Surprisingly enough, on the blue haired arrancar's face, Neliel could see the reflection of a familiar person.
Ichigo had never needed a reason to throw himself into battle and protect his friends. He would always act out of instinct, even if those instincts wanted him to protect an enemy. When she first transformed to her adult body, one sheer instinct was burning inside her. Inside this instinct, she had found her answer. Protect him from Nnoitra.
Neliel dispelled all of her mental images with a brief closing of her eyes, then brought her hazel attention on his condition again. She unburied a hand from under the pillow, carefully tracing her fingers over his body to slide off the blanket covering the rest of his bandaged chest. Tacit relief lightened Neliel's reserved concern when she witnessed no blood at all. It was a positive sign for his recovery that the wounds hadn't opened up during their sleep. Her saliva wouldn't be that strong when it came to the extent of his wounds, which meant that for now he should avoid moving as much as possible. She really wouldn't like repeating the healing process over again, especially when recalling last time's complications. Fortunately for her, the sexta hadn't moved a hair from where she had left him in bed since last night.
This little convenience was more than appreciated. Neliel picked the blanket to cover the sexta's exposed chest, however, the blanket suddenly stopped midway to reaching his shoulders. The tercera's attention had settled on his sternum, where the lack of bandages bared quite a sight. Indeed, last night she had been able to treat all the painful wounds on his body. All, but one. She knew there was a scar down there, vertically long enough to cross unseen beneath the bandages and wind up on the region of his hollow hole at his stomach. The hazel in Neliel's eyes deepened as she ventured to trail a finger on the interesting wound, momentarily glancing up to his face to make sure the touch didn't disturb him.
Judging from the soft texture of the skin she could tell that it was an old scar. She didn't know much about the sexta, and she probably knew even less about Ichigo, but the two of them obviously shared a past together. The memories residing in 'Nel' were hard to summon, but from what she had kept of the sexta's declarations in the beginning of the battle, he had a bone to pick with Ichigo. That very scar was the source of his hatred towards the young shinigami.
That feeling of hatred had given him a personal motive to fight Ichigo, otherwise he wouldn't have demanded an equal battle at their top notch. The match had heated up right from the start, both sides were giving all they had, but once the panther was cornered, he had taken out his claws. And there he was, dominating the orange haired shinigami and laughing at his inferiority. Standing in the midst of battle he was finally looking down at all from the top, he was the king. One moment victory was at hand, the other he was falling in utter defeat. Finding his resolve in the hearts of his nakama, Ichigo had shattered the dark blue skies of his reign. The panther king saw how fragile his world in reality had been.
He was alone in this battle, whereas Ichigo had his friends to root for him. Nel was cheering for Ichigo too.. If they hadn't cheered for him, the shinigami boy would have most likely been lacerated by the panther's claws. Part of Ichigo's victory was thanks to them.. When a small part inside her felt responsible for what had happened to the sexta, even though quite hesitantly, Neliel slowly reached her hand to his face. Like the gentle bud of a flower, a noble sympathy for this arrancar had been growing inside her.
Where were his fraccion?.. Had he lost them in battle? Would their presence have helped him overcome this solitude? Her fraccion, her nakama were the ones that saved her when she had woken up bleeding, deprived of her memories, and oblivious to her surroundings. There, on his wounds, his torture, his face, the tercera descried another, nostalgic reflection. The reflection of someone that had once suffered a same fate.
She saw herself
She had completely zoned out in her thoughts, thus when the sexta suddenly started to grumble in his sleep, Neliel blinked rather unprepared. Regardless of her short daze, as soon as she had remarked the sweat dampening his forehead she could tell that this was no ordinary pain. His whole expression was drawn stiff, sharp teeth gritting and creases forming on the corners of the sea-green tattoos as his eyes were shut tight in distress. Neliel drew closer to him, round honey eyes engulfed in curiosity about the sexta's apparent hallucination in his sleep.
One simple word, and all the mild interest the green haired girl had garnered for him was ruined. Instead, an inexplicable irritation surged inside her mood as Neliel narrowed her eyes. She glowered him.
"Enough with this childish fetish..!" Her tone came not louder than what her composure allowed.
Sea-green locks snapped over the dormant espada as she quickly shoved away the sheets to withdraw herself from the bed. Neliel stood up and stared him intensively from over her shoulder. She wanted him to wake up; to open his eyes and look at her apologetically. Even after getting him back from the verge of death all he could still think of were his differences with Ichigo? As the kind shinigami had tried to make him understand after their match was over, he should just learn when to admit defeat and stop. It was his own contempt that had almost killed him, and had her, looking after him.
Bringing arms behind her neck Neliel lifted the locks of wild green hair and let them cascade down her back before starting her feet for the wardrobe nearby. There was still a slight chance that due to the loss of blood and extreme physical exhaustion that his body could suffer hypothermia now that she weren't close to him. One more blanket should be enough to keep him warm. Neliel opened her wardrobe and looked around for the bedsheets. A smile climbed on her lips after spotting them on a lower shelf, then the girl sat on her knees to fold the blanket on her forearm. As she had just returned on her feet to close the wardrobe.. Head to toe, she froze.
Maybe she hadn't noticed it before, but there was an espada uniform hanging just across her. The black waistband draping around the skirt was already enough for her to recognize this outfit. The wardrobe was immediately shut before more details unsettled her. She was not ready for that, not yet at least.
Neliel headed back to the bed and took her time to envelop the sexta with the additional blanket. It didn't look like he was going to wake up anytime soon. Maybe she could just let him doze off in his slumber while she'd be out to meet with her fraccion. However, whether he liked it or not, her chambers could use some more light. Neliel slightly opened the curtains until the bedroom was showered by the morning.
The tercera's eyes lingered staring at the curtains, for few seconds puzzled with a peculiar question. She couldn't recall closing the curtains at all last day.. but..who did it then?.. Neliel wrapped an arm around her waist, a pensive finger tapping on her chin. Hazel eyes resorted to the door when she had no answer, but a very good idea. Neliel's thoughts roamed back to certain someones.
"I wonder where Pesche and Dondochakka might be.."
Just thinking about those two gave her a smile as she decided to march out of the room.
I have to say that this is my favorite chapter so far. And yes, Neliel's mornings can turn out like that :3 Anyhow, some interesting questions raised during the chapter, but you'll have to wait till next time to find out.