Author response to the unknown review.
To Reviewer CWT.
First off thank-you for reading the story, it is much appreciated. I can't quite say if the romance is as weak as you seem to believe, and the reason I think this is because…Ichigo and Soifon's relation is not out in the open (for about 95% of the story).
I'm supposing that's the biggest disconnect that we're having is: Ichigo and Soifon do act romantically to each other, they simply do it when no one is around, which is hard to do considering their jobs. It has been shown repeatedly throughout the fic that they do do small romantic gestures (such as holding hands/giving kisses) or speak or discuss about their future together when there isn't anyone to listen in (in HM when they begin assault). However this is done in secret unbeknownst to the rest of SS, which is a romantic route rarely done in fanfiction (at least from what I've seen).
IF Soifon and Ichigo could have come out about their relationship (and everyone would have been okay with it) [in most romance fics I've read, they usually are], then yes, I would fully agree with you and would think that the reason they aren't more open was because they were embarrassed (or some other reason), but the reason they can't and they don't, is because they would be realistically punished (which did happen, it's improper military protocol which snowballed into a lot of other things). Now that more people are aware of it (mostly the captains), they can be a bit more open about; however, it is still limited to what Shaolin herself can physically handle. Recall, she wasn't the most emotionally expressive and between Ichigo, herself and Senna, she is the least likely to proactively adapt and adopt romantic gestures and such.
On the subject of the child, it is touched upon, but generally speaking, Ichigo and Soifon are more actions speak louder than words. In HM Ichigo acted as the vanguard protecting Soifon (as opposed to how it technically should have been, if she wasn't pregnant). Ichigo also discusses possible living arrangement in HM if things in SS go south, even jokingly. After Aizen's invitation, Ichigo and Senna do briefly muse about what future they bring about and how it will affect their daughter, which makes them think things over it more carefully. In preparation for the war, Shaolin wore a more restrictive armor just so that the baby would be safe when she fought in HM. Shaolin also focused on simply getting enemy attention and then retreating to give safe passage for Ichigo as opposed to many more viable options (if she wasn't pregnant).
But the main reason, it's not brought up enough is well…there are more pressing issues at this time. Granted, this is a life altering event, but considering that every action they took during the period of time it occurred was literally life and death, it got pushed on the back burner. Now that time has passed and things have calmed down, you will see that they are a bit more concerned about it, mostly because they have the luxury to think about such things.
As for Senna, Senna still loves Ichigo, that hasn't changed. She's just being more conscience about it and keeping it lowkey. Ichigo and her are falling in love naturally, instead of how forcible it was when it first came up. Senna isn't trying to do anything to force it, he knows how she feels, she's just being his friend and if things go better great, if not, she'll live. She is however diverting a bit more attention to Shaolin, who is doing the same in kind. Right now, they are in the weird romantic-friendship stage. They recognize that they aren't in love (or at least as deeply as Ichigo and Soifon), but they can't deny that they enjoy each other's company and find aspect about the other that they like. Like with Ichigo, Senna isn't trying to force it, she's focusing on being friends with the occasional romantic gesture. Shaolin herself, reciprocates this acting romantic in kind, but still establishes her firm, 'too fars' and 'too soons'.
So I hope that give you more perspective on my insight of things. As agreed, if this were a more traditional romance where they basically don't give a shit what SS thinks about them, I would agree that they seem to act more as friends than a couple. But considering they are keeping it on the downlow for very good reasons and try to be romantic when they can, I think it's sufficient enough for what it is. I think it might also seem stale because…well, they have ran the gauntlet of romance, they are both in it for the long haul consider all the trials they've been through together. But that's more my opinion, then observable fact.
Blackout2010: I tried to make this chapter as enjoyable as possible given the nature of it, so their will be plenty of reference that I hope you catch. Can you catch them all? So go ahead and jump on it. Enjoy!
Chapter 45: The vote
Getting up from his seat, the old man narrowed his eyes over the captains,
"Due to necessity in representing three of the divisions, Squad one, my own, Squad eleven due to the departure of its representatives," he pointed out to the now open spot, "and squad thirteen due to lack of solidified leadership, I shall go first. Hopefully, within the next month I can turn things over to Shusuke Amagi to ease the burden, and Zaraki will be able to actually attend himself."
Despite keeping a serious disaffected expression, Cirucci gulped nervously, swallowing down the lump that formed in her throat. While it didn't seem fair for him to wield so much sway, both for her case and in the vote, it was established very early on his right to do so as head captain of the Gotei 13; so long as he was trying to fix the problems of the division, and re-establish a proper chain of command.
Stealing a glance at her master and mistress, she took some solace in the fact that any decision could be nullified IF the reasoning behind it was deemed insufficient, which judging by their acuity, they were ready to speak out the first moment they could.
"Speaking on behalf of the first division," the man announced, snapping Cirucci's attention to the front of the hall, "I cast my vote against the Arrancar on the grounds of all that I have heard within this meeting."
The fraccion frowned as the man's words passed through the room unopposed, since everyone knew as the Sotaichō, he was speaking on the general overview's outlook, which was a difficult thing to contest. The situation was quite precarious on both sides of the aisle, it could drastically improve or go horribly awry.
Waiting to see, if any would oppose, he then turned to the envoy and nodded when none did. Cirucci flinched when the messenger diligently made the damning strike on his clipboard.
"Speaking on behalf of the eleventh division, I cast my vote against the Arrancar on the grounds that: the Arrancars have made a notable attempt in instigating a rebellion, not only in the Soul Society, but in Hueco Mundo as well. Given their nature, a success operation could have caused catastrophic damage." Yamamoto spoke out again.
A worried gasp escaped, the fraccion, when again no one opposed the man. Turning to her Espada worriedly she was a bit relieved to see him wanting -begging- for the chance to say something, but knew he couldn't, since the reasoning was both sound and infinitely more sophisticated then what Zaraki would give.
Seeing her lover and ward's agitation, Shaolin lightly chided the two, "Calm yourself, Cirucci, Ichigo, we did expect this opening display." She whispered, also unhappy with the results, but not showing it as adamantly.
"Noted, please proceed." The envoy urged on, looking back to the head captain.
Receiving the go-ahead to continue, Yamamoto nodded again and this time made to speak, but the fraccion noticed the air around her change ever so slightly, and noticed everyone around her seemed alert and ready to respond to his next few words. "Representing the thirteenth division, I cast my vote against."
The old man paused to judge the shifting in some of the captain's expressions, seeing whom would be the likely opposition. "I make this decision on the grounds that: the Arrancar are causing unnecessary tension and problems to Soul Society."
To the man's credit, most would admit it was a very Ukitake-like reasoning for the decision. Still…it wouldn't stop Ichigo. "I have to object, Sotaichō."
The head captain nodded tiredly, knowing that if he didn't speak out, then the man he unknowingly beat to the punch, his ex-pupil Shunsui Kyoraku, would have instead.
"Very well, Kurosaki-Taichō, what do you take issue with?" he asked cautiously, since he knew Ichigo and others had the ability to overturn this decision, unlike the former two.
Stepping out from between Soifon and Shinji, Ichigo walked towards the center of the hall, stopping beside his imperiled servant, and after placing a hand on her shoulder, giving her a silent assurance of his best, turned to face his expectant commander. "You are making speculative assessments of the future, which are making you jump to conclusions sir." he declared, removing his hand from Cirucci.
From the back of the room, Kyoraku asked, "Would you mind elaborating, Kurosaki-Taichō?"
Turning a hair behind him to face the man forced into a neutral position, he calmly answered, "His vote" he began, pointing to the Sotaichō, "is based purely on speculation. While we can't argue about the 11th's account of the Hueco Mundo situation, the 13th are making a speculation in which the 11th division can't substantiate. That means we must use what we can actually account for:"
Turning to his left, he extended a hand to his wife. "The maggots nest," he glanced to Nozomi, "the penance tower" and moved his left over to Urahara, "and the experimental wards."
From his right, Nozomi stepped forward, pensively, "Objection overruled." She spoke up to the court, uncrossing one of her arms, "I've already accounted of a few troubling individuals. Based on this we can make a speculative assumption for the unknown, in this case."
From Ichigo's left this time, Soifon spoke out, "I've also accounted for my prison as well, Commander Kujo. There were no 'troubling incidents' as claimed, so because continuation has not been set: Objection sustained."
"Objection contradictory." Byakuya called foul, as he turned to Soifon, "You specifically mentioned having to put down a cannibalistic rebellion."
The woman shook her head negatively, "No, it was not a rebellion of any kind. It was merely some Hollows cannibalizing other to gain power." She clarified, the subtle, yet important difference.
Tentatively, Hisagi raised his hand to speak, "Umm…wouldn't that have led to-"
"Objection: Speculation." Everyone else in the room chimed.
As Shuhei lowered his hand back down, Sajin continued Byakuya's earlier point. "By your own admission Soifon-san, you did put them down, which is included in the votes' reasoning: Unnecessary trouble."
Ichigo placed a hand on his hip and released a frustrated sigh, "Then by that really broad definition, we can say Cirucci is causing 'unnecessary trouble' right now by always walking around barefoot, or by wearing Yoruichi's old uniform, or by being a Hollow going near Shinigami."
Kyoraku nodded in agreement with the boy's words. "He's got a point. That is a pretty broad nebulous term that can apply to just about anything."
On the far end, Kisuke stepped forward with a frown, "Listen, I hear what you are saying, but you're arguing semantics. You aren't disagreeing that the Arrancar haven't or aren't causing trouble. You are just narrowing the scope to exclude some issue without addressing them, which validates the Sotaichō's point."
When he received an obviously discouraged look from his fellow students, the scientist turned to the head captain, a knowing smile taking it's place. The things he did for his friends, "That said, what is the severity threshold for it to be dictated an 'unnecessary' burden on Soul Society?"
Yamamoto slowly raised his hand to his beard and stroked it thoughtfully, refining his answer, silently impressed with Urahara's ability to take Ichigo's original objection and better state it with implied limitation all the while seemingly remaining neutral on the incident.
"The threshold is: causing casualties or damage to facilities being used as prisons sites."
After hearing the limits, Kisuke bowed his head, his hat tipping down over his eyes, as he carefully considered his options. After a good thirty seconds, envisioning a variety of scenarios, he looked back up and shook his head. "I concede the point on the grounds of it being a reasonable conclusion based on the current data available."
Turning to Kyoraku and Ichigo, he bowed apologetically, "Sorry guys, he stalemated me on this one."
Ichigo raised his brow, 'Stalemated?' he repeated internally, his confusion mirrored in the faces of a few others, but none willing to speak up.
"Anymore objections?" the envoy asked the group.
The echoing silence was his answer.
Senna groaned dismally, zero to three, even if expected, was still a pretty bad start to things. She wanted to say it sounded like the Sotaichō was just shifting the blame to the hollows; unfortunately for her, she couldn't say anything. She wasn't a captain, and under normal circumstances wouldn't even be in this meeting, not that it mattered, since she very much doubted she'd out debate anyone in this room with the decades long of oratory experience under their belts.
All poor Senna could do was silently endure the burden of knowing that she, unlike Cirucci-chan, was saved by her being born the way she was and a chance encounter with Ichigo instead of Aizen.
Seeing the downcast expression of her lieutenant, Yoruichi clasped her shoulder gently, "Don't worry. It's not over yet, Senna." She reminded the girl.
Taking the gesture for what it was worth, the young woman nodded softly. As she removed her hand, the two ladies turned back to the head captain. "Let us move on to Nozomi Kujo, representing Soul Societies' Kido corps."
Stepping forward, the green haired woman, eyed the room coolly, before raising a baggy sleeve to her chin, and lightly pressed her knuckle against it. "I, Nozomi Kujo, Kido commander and representative of the kido corps, cast my vote against the Arrancar. I would like to addendum that only the most powerful and dangerous be executed, as well as the banishing of all hybrids from the Seireitei."
"You do know I'm only here to help Kisuke and Ichigo, right?" Shinji spoke up, clearly unamused by her stance, "The rest of the Vizards stayed home because they were convinced you'd be ungrateful bigots for our help."
Frowning, the girl sought to explain herself, to a revered ex-captain and his gang of comrades, "I understand, but the banishing is to the outside of Seireitei." She said in more clearer terms, "We will continue to work with you, as fully supported and recognized allies, as well as rescinding any prior execution on you that might still be standing. My proposition is to relieve tension between Shinigami and hybrid relations."
"So, you're banishing us to the broken-down districts of Rukongai? Tell you what. Why don't you live in an underground warehouse cut off from civilization for about 50 years and then tell me how that does it for you?" Shinji replied snidely.
Slamming his cane into the ground, Yamamoto called things back to order, "Enough! That is another discussion for another time." He reprimanded the two of them, before guiding them back to the point they'd been previously discussing. "Right now, we are voting to see if this 'experiment' should continue."
The declaration made, the squabbling pair ceased their bickering, Hirako turning away with a growl, as Nozomi gave a weary nod to the Sotaichō. Order once again restored, the man re-stated for the record, "Nozomi Kujo has cast her ballot against the Arrancar. Please explain why you have chosen this choice."
"Certainly." She answered solemnly, turning her gaze back over to the other captains. "I believe in fulfilling our duties as Shinigami, I truly do. Our duties are defeating hollows and defending humanity. We also have a historic precedence that I think we should be observing."
As the captain looked at each other, wondering what exactly this 'precedence' she was referencing was, the spell caster looked over to the Arrancar in the room. "Recall, the Quincy. About 100 years ago, we finished our war against them and destroyed them all, why should we treat the Arrancar any differently?"
"I wish to object." Retsu spoke out, an unsettling anger in her tone. "We were wrong in killing the Quincy at the end of that war. The resulting massacre was only pursued further because we were hurt, scared and angry at the time." She looked over her fellow captain's incredulously, "Are we really so inclined to repeat that again?
Biting her lip, the thin woman measured her words and how she'd express it. "Looking back on it, we might have been wrong, but that's because Quincies are still humans." Narrowing her eyes, she pointed at Cirucci, "These Arrancar aren't human in the slightest, Unohana-Taichō."
"That's now true!" Senna shouted at her, uncaring of the disregard to courtly order. "They can think and feel for themselves. They have sentience and free will!"
Nozomi scoffed offhandedly, "For all their 'free will', they sided with Aizen. Why should we show them any mercy with that in mind?"
"You've never even spoken to an Arrancar before!" the ex-human accused the naysayer, "What choices did they have? Follow Aizen to a better life or wander Hueco Mundo forever!? Of course, they were going to fight for him, that's no different than some of Soul Societies hiring practices!" she said, point to where the Yachiru's had been standing earlier.
The girl would have continued, if not for the spiritual pressure of Yamamoto falling on her shoulders, not enough to harm her fragile constitution, but enough to stifle her voice momentarily. "You speak beyond your station girl." The old man boomed, eyes narrowing on her form, as the sweat began to fall from her face. "I will let it slide out of respect for what you've done for both Soul Society and Humanity, but you will know your place in these sacred halls."
Buckling to her knees, as Senna tried to catch her breath, Ichigo blasted his own energy outwards, brown eyes lighting up to a golden hollow glow. "Her station or not, you didn't refute her point…sir." The magnitude of his spiritual energy increased further, fighting against the head captain's and causing even the old man to brace himself against it. "I suggest we keep this civil and reign our power in. We wouldn't want her to accidentally die."
Although, he did not visibly stifle under the young man's energy, the commander did flinch, when he saw the ghost of his beloved Masaki standing beside her son, her unspeakable anger seemingly enveloping the whelp's aura. Closing his eyes, he sighed, "Very well." He relented, before firmly stating, "However, Senna-san will remain silent for the rest of the proceedings and her testimony will be disregarded."
"What!?" the girl shouted
Only to be silenced by Shaolin. "Senna!" she snapped. The girl recoiled back at the woman's tone, before kowtowing to the pregnant woman's gaze. With her silent conceding, Shaolin turned to the doctor beside her, "Unohana, please continue." She said coolly, closing her eyes to seem, disaffected by what she was forced to do.
Retsu frowned at the interaction, but couldn't blame them. Senna was like her mother for both good and for ill, especially when it came these types of causes, while Soifon, a veteran of these social spheres, wanted to protect Senna from doing something incredibly stupid and damaging to her cause.
"Returning to my objection. Nozomi is using a historical precedence of our actions with the Quincy to justify how we deal with the Arrancars." She calmly reiterated, "However, our response back then was purely emotionally driven. We could have forged an alliance that could have aided us both in this war and our everyday duties as guardians of the afterlife."
"Objection: Speculation." Byakuya spoke out, "There is no way to know that they would honor such an alliance between us, furthermore, we aren't supposed to involve humans in our affairs." Stepping out of line, he extended a hand to Senna, as if her very existence made his point. "Do you see the problems we have incurred with dealing with just one human? There is a reason giving humans spiritual powers is illegal for Shinigami."
Behind her closed mouth, Retsu was clenching her teeth, since she was well aware that Senna wasn't actually a human, but she couldn't go revealing that because not only would it undermine the integrity of everyone that knew of the younger Kurosaki's lineage, but it would hurt Senna's trust in her, since she wanted it to be kept a secret for personal reasons.
Honoring her doctor-patient confidentiality, she decided to attack the accusation in a different way. "You are comparing apples to oranges, Captain Kuchiki." She stated carefully, "Quincy have spiritual power and awareness without Shinigami influence, it's what made them exceptions, to the rules regarding our protecting of humanity. Senna got her powers FROM Rukia Kuchiki, your adopted sister, before awakening her own Shinigami power under Urahara's training."
Expecting the man to concede, Retsu was completely caught off guard when he simply said one word. "False." He spoke evenhandedly. As the woman looked at her compatriot dumbstruck, he explained his conclusion. "Senna had spiritual powers to begin with."
The entire room went silent at his brazen claim. All eyes fell to Byakuya, who looked extremely confident in his claim. Questions filled their heads, as to how he could claim such a thing, and thoughts of whether it was some kind of lie meant to discredit Retsu and Senna. Shifting away from the nobleman, the captain's gaze went to the girl, who was looking over to Ichigo and Senna, for some level of reassurance against the accusation.
"Hold on, I gotta object here." Spoke up Kyoraku, taking initiative over the still stunned healer. Turning to the young noble at her side, he asked point blank, "Where exactly are you getting this information from? It's not polite to slander someone, especially a young lady."
Slowly turning to the rugged captain, he answered, "Because Rukia gave her powers to her." He said conclusively, tone picking up just a bit. "Think about it. Rukia was critically wounded when she transferred her powers to Senna, which means they were obviously in a battle scenario." He paused to let it sink in and picture what the scene must have looked like that fateful day.
"If Senna wasn't spiritually aware at all, then it's reasonable to conclude, she would have been oblivious to what was going on around her in the spiritual plane. She would have ignored the clashing between Rukia and the Hollow forces, she would have ignored Rukia's cries for help, and most importantly of all, she would have kept walking on, ignorant of the death of the reaper behind her and the Hollows closing in to devour her."
The man turned to the woman question, vivid image planted in everyone's mind. "And yet here she is. That means we can draw one of two conclusions: Either Rukia wasn't as critically injured as reported in both her and Ichigo's unaltered field reports OR-"
"Senna could hear her cry for help." Hisagi stated the other obvious conclusion, the image of Senna being stabbed with Rukia's blade pictured in his mind's eye.
"Objection: Speculation!" Kurosaki-Taichō roared, moderately pissed that he'd try to undercut Senna to make his fellow anti-hollow members point stick. "I was in Karakura town and even I didn't know what actually happened or where they initially were to perform the power transfer to Senna. For all that we know, Senna could have been sitting on a park bench minding her own business, when Rukia stabbed her for the transfer!"
"Objection…overruled." Yamamoto interrupted slowly, admittedly a little intrigued by what the captain was proposing and where he was going with it. "Your point is noted, Kurosaki. However, Senna is here to tell us exactly what happened."
As Senna gaped caught unawares that they'd entertain the idea, Sajin spoke up next, "Is that wise sir? Can we afford to take her word, as uncompromising truth?"
Wheeling around at the large captain, Senna balked at the thought of being considered an untrustworthy liar. She clenched her fist at her side, wanting to speak out, but knew she couldn't as Hisagi added on, doubtful of her as well. "Well, couldn't Unohana or Urahara make a truth serum? That way we'll know for sure it's unbiased.
"Are you seriously thinking that Senna isn't an honest person?" Shaolin asked, clearly disapproving of the thought. "Each of us is more a liar than she'll ever be…"
As the conversation in the room continued, Senna stared blankly at the floor. The full realization of the situation sinking in. This wasn't good, if she did nothing than it would hurt Cirucci and the Arrancar's plight, but if she lied and got caught it would completely undermine the testimony she had supplemented with Cirucci and completely crucify the female fraccion.
Looking back up to Ichigo and Shaolin busy arguing over the drug, it's usage and accusation of Senna's character, she closed her eyes and thought good and hard about whether or not she'd actually be able to get away with lying here. She thought and thought and thought some more until she came to an answer.
She'd never get away with it.
Heart sink in her chest, she muttered lowly. "Yes…I did have powers." The conversation going on around her stopped making it all the harder for her. "I had powers, before even meeting Rukia. But I could only see and hear spirits, that's all I swear."
"I see." Nozomi said, as Senna's friends closed their mouths obviously beaten on the point now. "So: you DID have spiritual energy." She incidentally rubbed in, "That is good enough to apply the same statute as the Quincy."
Turning to the smoldering woman at his side, Byakuya coolly said, "I do believe this is now an apples-to-apples comparison. Which means Nozomi's initial reason still stands."
As the doctor turned away, silently conceding, Yamamoto turned to the envoy at his side. "Agreed. Let the record reflect it."
As the messenger began to jot it down, Senna started to tear up, feeling incredibly small at being the downfall on this important point. "Sorry guys…" she muttered apologetically.
"It's alright, Senna." Her brother reassured her, a slight smile on his face. "Don't beat yourself up."
"You did good Senna. Don't worry." Shaolin supported the depressed girl.
Shaking her head, to rid herself of the self-pitying thoughts, she wiped the tears away from the edges of her eyes, before flashing a persevering smile back at her loved ones.
Banging his cane to regain everyone's focus, the aged captain motioned to the woman on his left-hand side, "Commander Soifon, it is your turn to speak."
Stepping forward as Nozomi stepped back in her spot, the expectant mother quickly scanned the room and silently gauged each person, seeing just who was likely to speak up. Upon concluding that she'd go unchallenged, due to her status, she tilted her head in Yoruichi's direction and gave her a knowing nod that was equally returned. The signal they discussed beforehand to switch their reasoning. "I vote for the Arrancar. The basis for my vote is they can be utilized as first responders and provide patrol relief for Shinigami." She explained to the group.
As she anticipated, her words filtered through the room unopposed, no doubt none of the opposition wanted to waste their time or energy debating against an 'advisory vote'.
In the back, the envoy tallied the vote out of formality, her vote and likely Ichigo's vote to be kept separate from the other captain's for and against tallies.
Stepping back in her spot, Yoruichi sauntered forward. Crossing her arms over her bust, the shapeshifter spoke, her tone devoid of her usual mirth. "Representing squad two, I, Yoruichi Shihoin, vote for the Arrancar." Pausing to see who might argue first, she gave her student's reason, "I'm making this decision based on the Arrancar's ability to serve as a good source of information and serve as spices within the world of Hueco Mundo." Licking her lips, playfully, she asked, "So…any taker?"
A resounding silence fell over the crowd. Yoruichi glanced to her left and saw that Nozomi was contented with her. Shooting her gaze to Byakuya-chan, she saw he was digesting it slowly, trying to find something to broke issue with that he couldn't see just yet. Sajin's mask was dark, his eyes hidden behind the slits closed as he pondered the thought, while Hisagi and Toshiro were equally perplexed about the proposition.
Finally, raising a hand, Sajin spoke up, "Could you clarify how they can provide information, Yoruichi-san?" the man asked respectfully.
"Of course," She acceded, before turning to point at Cirucci, much to her surprise. "Take Cirucci here for instance, she was good enough to be made a fraccion under Aizen's regime. That means she must be relatively strong, certainly strong enough to brave the dangers of Hueco Mundo and tell us of any future trouble…" she placed a finger on her cheek thoughtfully, "Saaaaay, an Aizen knock-off trying to make another army."
With his question sufficiently answered, the large man stepped back in line. "Any other questions?" Yamamoto asked the room, encouraging them to speak now or forever hold their peace.
When none were given, the catty woman looked back over her shoulders, smug smile on her face. "Is that a point for the Arrancar? I think that's a point for the Arrancar."
Yamamoto turned to the envoy that made another stroke on the paper. Receiving a gracious nod, Shihoin stepped back into line, as Ichigo stepped forward.
Given a silent go ahead, the man made his case, "Representing the third division, I cast my vote for the Arrancar. If we were to combine our forces together, we cannot only better protect ourselves against future threats, but also create a more peaceful future by easing Shinigami and Hollow relations. The Arrancars can assist us in stopping rampaging Hollows in their world and in the human world, before they hurt too many people. And we can periodically grant them a humane release back into the cycle of reincarnation, because that's what most of them want: To return to being normal humans living normal lives."
Casting a glance to Cirucci, he nodded to her, understanding what most of Aizen's army actually fought for through her stay around them. Just as he was about to turn back to the Sotaichō, thinking his point was made, Shuhei called out to him.
"Ummm…what kind of future threat are you envisioning exactly?" the tattooed man asked, clearly drawing a blank as to what else could possibly threaten them next.
"Uhhh…" Ichigo droned, not actually expecting to be asked something like that. "Well…umm…" he closed his eyes to consider it, and only realized, he had nothing. What the hell could the spirit king be thinking of throwing at him next!? The little brat would probably throw him a curveball from hell, if he tried to mention his secret predicament with him.
"I don't know…" he muttered unsurely, before deciding to go with an answer he knew would be stupid. "The Quincy, maybe?"
As expected, his answer was met with unilateral skepticism, "How in the world would something like that happen?" Toshiro asked, incredulous of what he was hearing.
Sweatdropping, the man tried to defend his point, "I don't know!" he said hotly, a ting of embarrassment in his voice. "We didn't know Arrancar existed until a little while ago. So, for all we know, there could be a group of Quincy hiding out in some special place in Soul Society, laying the ground work for an invasion in a few years' time, to take revenge for what we did to them a century ago!"
"That's…very specific, Ichigo." Soifon pointed out, clearly a little worried, whether for his sanity or perhaps his prophetic words, neither knew.
"Specifically: idiotic, Soifon-san." Byakuya teased, enjoying the color of red on the man's face. "I'd sooner believe a member of the Kuchiki clan coming back from beyond the grave and creating a rebellion with his Zanpaktou spirit."
Urahara smiled amused by Ichigo's suffering. "Nah, more likely, a bunch of rogue mod souls coming back for revenge."
"Oooh! That's a good one, Kisuke. We can call them something robotic like 'bounts'." Yoruichi added,
"Well…" Spoke up Senna, much to Ichigo's dismay, "I was thinking an exiled group of people calling themselves 'the dark ones' lead by a guy with a scary sounding name. You know like Ganryu or something."
"Senna, that's preposterous." Shaolin shot down, arms crossed her chest.
"You really think so?" "Thank-you Lin-chan!"
"Everyone knows people trying to escape from hell are our true threat." She continued, just as seriously.
"Ooooh!" Senna muttered, her voice full of awe at the remembrance of the concept of Hell in the human world and it's now confirmed existence here.
"Seriously…?" Ichigo whispered, crying on the inside, heart shattering at the unexpected betrayal by his beloved.
"I…must admit I have had had more than a few sleepless nights wondering, if maybe there are more groups of humans with special powers that might be hollow based." Unohana quietly admitted, "Powers they'll fully bring to wage war against us."
"I know how you feel about restless nights, Unohana-san." Nozomi agreed surprisingly with the opposition. "My cousin, Kageroza Inaba, and my fiancée, Oku Yushima, were extremely smart, but had egos bigger than Kurosaki-Taichō's Zangetsu. The late Mayuri Kurotsuchi did some crazy stuff as the leader of squad twelve, I wonder what they would have, if they were in squad twelve under his command."
The loud throaty sigh emanating from Ichigo's persons caught everyone's attention. "I have only two things to say." He announced tiredly, raising two of his fingers up to eye level. "First off 'thank-you' for reinforcing my point." He then dropped his second finger, leaving up his middle finger to the crowd. "Secondly, all of you can go fuck yourselves."
"Didn't say shit, kid." Shinji defended himself
"I said nothing." Toshiro also spoke out.
Sajin however sweat dropped at the action, "I understand your frustration."
"Sorry for asking…" Hisagi apologized, placing a hand on the back of his neck.
"Conspiracy theories aside," Yamamoto admonished all partakers, "his point stands. Let's move on."
Setting aside her earlier anxiety, Masaki's apprentice spoke loud and clear, "Representing the 4th division medical corps, I, Retsu Unohana, cast my vote in favor of the Arrancar. I make this decision based on the data I've seen from Urahara. I believe he is capable of restoring the 'humanity' that some believe the Arrancar lack."
"Objection, Unohana-Taichō, Specu-"
Yamamoto's voice fell silent, as he and the rest of the Taichōs looked down at the far end of the hall, where Urahara was tossing a small orb up and down in the air playfully. But what got their attention was the loud rustling bang of the mountain of filing cabinets that suddenly appeared there.
"Man, this caja negacion Cirucci showed me is really something. A few tweaking's and it lets me bring all my paperwork with me wherever I go." Kisuke joyously exclaimed.
Cabinet mountain groaned loudly, as it swayed ominously above them. Slowly it shifted forward just a hair too far, a buckling crash echoing as the plethora of cabinet started to fall, threatening to crush the group.
Just as everyone was about to scatter out of the way, Kisuke tossed the orb in his hand up offhandedly. The black orb rose into the air and, upon reaching the zenith, exploded into a loud swirling vacuum sucking up the avalanche nary five feet above his head, swallowing up the entire cabinets and leaving a brisk rush of wind to sweep through the room.
Turning around coolly, the genius put on his best suave smile, "So…who wants to argue with the data?" he asked the startled crowd.
Unfortunately for him, one answered.
"YOU JACKASS!" Ichigo roared, caving in the smug bastard's face with a hellish haymaker.
The stunned man didn't even get a chance to hit the ground, before getting yanked back up by his collar. "You almost killed Senna, you dick!" the youth yelled, pointing behind him.
Following his finger, the inventor saw Senna lying on her back, her spirit escaping from her mouth to ascend, as Unohana, assisted by fellow kido master Nozomi, were healing her heart, while Soifon and Cirucci frantically shouted words of encouragement to keep her tethered to this world.
'It's just not fair…' Kisuke cried internally, his 'cool' moment ruined, as Ichigo reared his fist back to smack some more life out of him.
After the successful revival of both Senna and Kisuke, Unohana and Nozomi returned to their respective spots, significantly exhausted mentally. "I don't care if you object. I'm going to deny its existence." She stated frankly, drained by her kohai's actions.
Nozomi merely nodded, "No complaints from me, I don't care either."
"T-thank-you, Unohana-san! Kujo-san!" Senna said sheepishly, which was slowly parroted by the rest of the group for the ladies astounding work.
Stepping up, Shinji looked over to Yamamoto and made his address. "I vote for." He said simply, before closing his mouth and saying nothing more.
Seeing that he was obviously waiting for him to intercede, Genryusai stepped up, "May I ask why, Hirako-Taichō?"
"Golly Gee! I'd be more than happy to!" he said oh so exuberantly.
Cirucci and many others sweat dropped at his obvious mockery. 'I don't even fully grasp the language and I can see the sarcasm from here.' The fraccion thought to herself.
Putting his hand in his pocket, the usual comical smile of Shinji fell away, revealing an unusual hard serious look. "I made this vote based on Soul Societies' inexcusable tendency to jump to conclusions."
Silence fell over the room, as everyone didn't know what to say to his reasoning. While most knew, they could make a cause of objecting on personal bias, they were all acutely aware that he was telling the ugly truth about the Seireitei's long checkered past of split second decision.
Shinji continued to stare unflinchingly at the head captain, who stared right back, expression unreadable. The silence hung in the air until it was broken up by the most unexpected voice.
"How do you see things?" Cirucci asked the man curiously, not entirely sure about his respective angle and motivation. As the man's expression softened, as he turned to her, she gestured to her lord and lady. "Ichigo-sama and Soifon-sama, I understand why. Pero, why do you defend us?"
Resisting his usual urge to throw out his first love conversation-started, Shinji relaxed his posture as he explained things for her. "Well, at first it was a self-preservation thing," he admitted to her. Looking away, he scratched the top of his head annoyingly, "But after a while I got to thinking, the Soul Society can't keep going the way it's going."
Looking to Komamura and Hisagi, he held a hand up apologetically, "Forgive the phrasing Komamura, Hisagi, but I feel it's lost its sense of justice."
"That's a bold claim, Hirako-Taichō. Borderline arrogant." Kuchiki spoke up aggressively, challenging his assertion. "Are you appointing yourself as the arbiter of justice here?"
To the Vizard's left, Soifon's husband bluntly retorted, "I think he's right. Soul Societies isn't exactly fair to apply its rule of law to people they don't like and have knee-jerk tendency to ban hammer or execute someone."
"Do you have an example?" Nozomi asked, for once honestly curious. "I've only heard subjective claims involving those two the entire meeting." She said, motioning to Senna and Cirucci.
Ichigo closed his eyes and crossed his arms, nonchalantly, "How about the trial I had regarding me being a traitor?" He brought up rhetorically, before turning back to Byakuya and leveling an unpleasant glare at him. "Oh, yeah, I didn't get one. I got the business end of Senbonzakura."
As Byakuya tactfully backed down, Ichigo extended a hand to the head captain and continued, "When I did get a trial, they threw everything in the book at me. Then I got a slap on the wrist because I was a 'necessary part' of Soul Society, imagine if I wasn't one. And then, we flash forward to now and it looks like to me, you aren't giving either Senna's or Cirucci's testimony any real thought, but when it comes to looking at one of our soldier's behaviors, they can clearly do no wrong."
"Exactly, Ichi-boy!" Shinji quickly agreed not allowing Yamamoto a chance to intervene. Turning to everyone, he spelled it out for them. "Listen, I've been on both sides of Soul Societies Justice system. I remember the day I was here in my captain robes casting my vote to kill the Quincy. I know how I was feeling that day. I was pissed, blinded by my anger. I felt like we were the ones that were wronged, after the war, that our cause was just!"
"But…" he said steadily, raising a single finger up, to illustrate, the pause he emphasized. "But…I remember the feeling of when I woke-up in the human world, post Hollowfication. At first, I was horrified when Kisuke told me the news, then I was angry, but most of all I felt disgusted. I was betrayed, exiled and then cast to the side all without my voice ever being heard. I didn't ask for it, but I knew you'd never hear me out, you'd just put me down, because I was a freak with forbidden hollow powers to you now."
The man shook his head dismissively, before turning to Cirucci on trial, "I know what it's like to get the shaft like that and that's why I'm gonna give Cirucci here a fair shot that I never got, because right now, this is our chance to change how Soul Society administers justice. The old Central-46 is dead, Aizen and his manipulations are gone, and we've got a bunch of new captains today, let's see what kind of Soul Society we build right now."
Hearing the Shinji's and recalling Ichigo's firsthand account on things, caused the people around them to shift ever so slightly. Some changing expressions or stance, while others re-examine their thoughts. While he, like all the other captains, knew that what he just said would likely be struck, Ichigo was glad to see some more positive attitude towards the hollows. "Nice speech." Ichigo complimented, a serene smile on his face.
On the far end, Kisuke flashed the Vizard a winning smile, as he nodded, obviously vibing with what he said, "Yeah Shinji, wait till I tell Hiyori about it. We'll probably be able to say your name and the word cool in the same sentence from now on!"
"Quite." Byakuya spoke up, surprising the trio, with the small smile on his face. It soon disappeared, as he lifted a hand up to Shinji across the aisle. "However, we are to disregard such things. Your reasoning as a voter stands, but it's intent at commenting about justice and influencing the remaining captains will be set aside, lest we throw out all the prior votes and send it to a third party to make a discussion." The man then turned to the captains on his right-hand side and said, "Please, recall, we are not here to convince one another. We are here to state the facts, deliberate on them, and offer what we think is the best way to proceed per the majority."
The envoy nodded agreeing with the reason behind it, as did the head captain, "Your dissatisfaction, as well as your choice is noted." The old Shinigami spoke lowly, "You may step back."
Letting out a dispassionate sigh, Hirako slinked back into his place in line, while his opposite number took the floor. The regal looking captain looked at his fellow's patiently, before closing his eyes and casting his verdict. "As head of the Kuchiki clan and leader of squad 6, I cannot in good conscience vote in favor of Cirucci's cause, I must oppose it."
"And your reason, Captain Kuchiki?" the head captain asked, face scrunched up in consternation.
"I believe executing the Arrancar would assuage the fears of the Shinigami." Turning to Shinji, the man opened his eyes ever so slightly, and continued, "I do not believe this is the same reaction that we had with the Quincy. Our soldiers are not embittered over the war, they are afraid of the Arrancar and that fear is what is driving them to hatred."
"That's fucking bullshit! I object!" Ichigo shouted, taking a hot step forward, only slightly stopped from going all the way to the man's face by his wife's hand on his sleeve.
"Kurosaki-Taichō, please, calm yourself." Sajin implored the raging youth.
Leveling his glare at the masked captain, he had to resist the urge to roll his eyes, since he knew he couldn't have been the only one in the room that was thinking it.
Just as he was about to mouth off, he felt a slight tug on his sleeve. Following the hand up the arm and into the concerned face of his wife, silently urging him to keep a level head, brought a dampening groan. He knew that he was one of Cirucci and the Arrancar's best chance at survival, but he nearly jeopardized it in a moment of justified passion. 'But damn it Shaolin…'
Letting out a sigh, he bowed his head apologetically to Sajin, who returned it. Tilting his slightly, he mouthed a thank-you to his wife, who nodded back, withdrawing her hand discreetly.
Lifting his head back up, the upstart said more calmly, "Sorry, Kuchiki-Taichō. But I 'respectfully' disagree."
A little more appeased with his tone, the nobleman stepped back, "May I ask to what you are objecting about?" he set-up, giving him the floor.
Pointing to his fraccion, he said, "Not even twenty-four hours after I get out of the hospital from battling Aizen, did I find a pair of Shinigami pinning her to the wall picking a fight with her over their dead loved ones. This is exactly like what happened to the Quincy!"
Crossing his arms over his chest, Byakuya retorted, "First of, you weren't even born when the Quincy massacre occurred. Secondly, you are judging the actions of one, or in this case two people, by the whole, again. Lastly, you are talking about an incident that occurred within the first week, I'd be surprised, if there wasn't antagonism of some kind. But we are talking about now: where Shinigami can be better held to responsibility."
Turning slightly, he raised his arm in the direction of Shuhei, "Even at the claimed 'most hated' division, they are not acting out of hatred over the war, but out of their own self-loathing."
The objector narrowed his eyes dangerously, "And your division?"
"All we have is an unsubstantiated claim from an obviously biased source. Until I have investigated, I will not simply accept their claim, as gospel truth."
The nobleman watched as the young man took half a step back, not quite backing down, but still eyeing him carefully, no doubt warring with himself over what he should do next. "Is there anything more?" he asked cautiously, "Or do you concede, Kurosaki-Taichō?"
Running his tongue over his lips, he closed his eyes and thought long and hard about Byakuya, his situation and no doubt what he knew was making him pursue the deaths of the Arrancar. Rukia. He knew the man was lying his ass off, or at least, using it as a smoke screen, but deep down, he wondered to himself, could he blame him, if he was in his shoes?
Glancing to his wife expectantly and then over to Senna, he started to shake almost imperceptible, as the answer emerged from the darkest depths of his heart. "Answer me, Byakuya." He said to the man in a low, but unthreatening tone, "Are you doing this for Rukia? For revenge?"
At once a storm of people cried out objection after objection. From the popular speculation to the serious poisoning the well, the outcries came, but he ignored them all, looking squarely at the nobleman for an answer.
Kuchiki waited quietly, seeing if the man would crumble under the objection after objection, and when he didn't, amusingly like he thought he wouldn't, he raised a hand up to quell the chatter. "You do know that after that insinuation I am under no obligation to answer you, Ichigo."
Kuchiki tilted his head curiously, "So then why? To do so, forfeits your objection."
"Because I'm asking you as one person to another." He replied, "If…if you were…" the man breathed in deeply, as he balled his fist at his side, steeling himself, for what he had to admit. "Then I'd do it too."
"Objection: Coercion." Unohana rang out tiredly, she like a few others wondering what Ichigo was doing, since he'd basically thrown away any hope of continuing his objection.
Still, Ichigo ignored the doctor, "Believe me when I say this Byakuya, I'm just trying to do what the right thing is. I understand, if you hate the hollows, but please, I beg of you, give them a fair chance."
Finished pleading with the man, Ichigo watched as the captain stood there, his eyes narrowed and lips pressed together tightly, mentally trying to reach for a consensus of some kind. Finally, after an eternity of silence, Byakuya's hard expression tapered off, replaced, by a small bemused smile,
"Personally, Ichigo? I've already obtained my revenge on Rukia's murderer, but if given the choice, I would kill them all in Rukia's name." the man said, openly and honestly leveling with him. As he expected, Ichigo didn't have same look of disapproval like he had known growing up around nobles that held him to the laws, to social standings. No, the man had a quiet look of acceptance and understanding.
"However," he continued, "I know that deep down, that's not what Rukia would want me to do. No, I suppose that if she were in this room right now, she would likely side with you over me."
"Byakuya…" the man muttered, he and many others seeing a side of the nobleman that very rarely, if ever showed up around them.
Recalling his fiancée words about the boy, Kuchiki's lips curved upward just a bit more. "I think I am beginning to see what Kukaku sees in you and why she practically begged me to assist you in your tenure as a captain. You are fairly rude, lack much experience, and have a severe lack of tact, but you have the bearings of a king."
Looking away from him, he backed up, to take his place once again, "As long as you keep trying to pursue this 'higher justice', or coexistence you seem to see, I will polish your rough edges until you shine as a leader. I am not your enemy, Ichigo. While I do side against you here, IF you can provide the proof to change my mind, I will gladly do so. Laws are set in place to protect the people, but laws are not set in stone. They can be changed or rewritten, but it still serves to protect the people…all people."
As the envoy jutted down another point towards the anti-hollow faction, Ichigo nodded his head, coming to a better understanding with the normally cold nobleman. "Thank-you for answering, Byakuya." He replied with an appreciative smile.
Closing his eyes, the man scoffed coldly, normal demeanor returning, "You will address me by my proper title, Kurosaki-Taichō. I don't know where you received this notion that we were close friends, but I'm putting a stop to it now."
The sound of Toshiro snorting filled the room after that declaration, "Yeah, good luck with that Kuchiki-Taichō." The white-haired boy said, jutting a thumb to his ex-sixth seat, "I've been trying to do that for years!"
Seeing her husband blush, Shaolin smiled deviously, "He tried that with me too on the first day." She poured on the gasoline.
"Shao—Soifon!" the man barked, face burning red.
Toshiro however immediately picked up the underlying message, "Tried is past tense, Commander Soifon. What did you do to make him stop?"
Not expecting him to follow up with that, Shaolin's mind momentarily went blank, as a sudden overwhelming sense of clarity of the power she possessed in this situation made itself evident. As much as she was tempted to tell a half lie in that she had married him to get him to stop, part of her did wonder if the two men might actually try to follow through on it.
After carefully examining both men's body language, she considered that they would, and decided to go with the equally, unfortunate truth. "I beat the life out of him from the first day that he started it till the day he finally stopped." She answered, thoughts drifting back to their early days after the meditation session when it was first brought up, and to which she had to reinforce every time he misaddressed her afterward.
Ah, such lovely memories!
The captains of both squad six and ten shared a pointed look at one another, taking in the woman's insight, before turning back to Ichigo.
"Kurosaki-Taichō, I'd like to speak 'privately' with you."
"Why don't you swing by my office for some…paperwork you left behind."
Ichigo shot the men a scathing look. "Do you think I'm stupid enough to fall for that?"
Once again, both captain turned to the other, before turning back to him. Then, instead of taking the rhetorical response for what it was, they raised their eyebrows and placed a hand over their mouth, each of them judging the man critically.
Ichigo sighed, beside himself, as some of the others giggled under their breath. 'With friends like these…' he thought to himself, "Can we please move on to whoever is next, before I stab someone?"
Vindicated the two men eased their posture as the imposing form of Sajin lumbered forward from his place. Once all eyes were on him, he gave a curt bow of respect for the opportunity to represent his division, "With my condolences to Sanderwhicc-san, I must cast my vote against the Arrancar. I believe most them are too far gone." The giant said gravely, casting his vote.
Turn to his side, he looked at Kisuke and continued, "Urahara-Taichō mentions that they share similar behaviors to us, but all that I have seen in my experience is cruelty and sadism from hollows. Say and think what you wish, but Kaname Tosen was a kind and fair man, during his tenure as a captain. But when I fought him in Karakura town, after he'd been hollowfied, he did not resemble the man I remembered. I believe that the power of hollows took both his humanity and his heart."
"I understand why you'd think that, but, not to use Kuchiki's infamous phrase here, you shouldn't judge the whole by the actions of one." Kisuke reminded the masked captain.
Sajin nodded knowingly, "I am aware. I don't have to look any further than Cirucci to see. If she was a normal Shinigami, she'd serve as a role model of how an officer should conduct themselves in the Gotei 13. However, I have heard the reports of hollows cannibalizing others against their will, I have heard individuals with thoughts full of revenge, and I have seen and tested their destructive power in battle. That is why I asked if we could remove their hollow nature with the Hogyoku; because, I feel they are almost less people and more like wild animals rampaging about."
Reaching up slowly, he took the mask off his face, revealing his canine face to the stunned Arrancar. "I say this…" he spoke, looking squarely at her, "as a beast myself."
Cirucci gaped at the revealed beast man, completely speechless at what his presence here implied, if not outright meant. A disquieted grunt escaped her lips as she looked down at the floor, a pit of dread forming in her stomach. The crushing weight of his words sinking in as the thought that someone like him could be accepted, before Hollows would, and the condemnation he muttered. 'Are we…really so bad?' she thought to herself, genuinely shaken.
Seeing her stunned state, Sajin expression became sullener, "Left to their own devices, the Arrancar have chosen self-destruction, Sanderwhicc-san. While I will oppose genocide, I do believe a culling is in order. Forgive me."
The fraccion barely made a show to acknowledge, far too numbed by his damning assessment. Looking to her lord and lady, she was further disheartened, when it seemed like they had no real way to respond to it.
"Guess, I gotta disagree, then." Rang a voice from the far end.
Turning to see who had spoken up, the woman laid eyes on the man known as Kyoraku taking a step forward. The confident looking man gave the fraccion a playful wink, before turning to Sajin.
"What do you disagree with?"
"The outlook." He replied quickly, tipping his straw hat back even further, "I've already realized that trying to disagree with what you've said is just semantics, which apparently doesn't work too well around here." He then gave a slight bob of his head to the quieted ambassador, "That said, I can't just leave a lady on the verge of tears, so I'm counterbalancing your vote with my own."
Komamura nodded, before stepping back in line. "The floor is yours."
"Thank-you kindly, Komamura-Taichō." The bearded man thanked. Once all eyes were on him, he made his address, "Since everyone knows me and the division I lead, I'll just skip all of that and get to the vote. I vote for the Arrancar and the reason I do so is for the simple fact that without the power of Hollows, this entire conversation wouldn't be happening."
Waiting a sec to let his point sink in and allow any out criers speak out, the flamboyant captain made his case, "To start, as a counter to what you started, Komamura-Taichō: The Arrancar didn't choose self-destruction, at least not on their own. We, the Shinigami, are to blame for countless Pluses turning into Hollows in the first place, putting them in that spot in the first place, either by our lethargy or apathy."
Again, another pause, to make sure they were still following him. "Now that said: Let me move on to what I disagree with and what fuels my point of view in all this: the outlook. We've already wiped out a good percentage of the Arrancar, yes, even when some of them surrendered after Ichigo's little petitioning during the war, and we have them currently under our thumb. So, I honestly have to ask: What exactly are we afraid of here?"
Taking a few steps forward, he swept his hand over from Senna to Ichigo to Shinji, "I mean, we have Ichigo, Senna and the Vizards as physical proof that Shinigami can overcome the madness induced by Hollowfication and Hollow powers." He then brought his hand back to Cirucci, "And as Cirucci-chan has shown, we can expect Hollows to act civilly in the face of adversity, even nobly."
Turning to Shaolin the man called out, "Soifon-san."
"Yes?" she replied softly, unsure why he called her name.
"Tell me you submitted a report detailing how Cirucci Sanderwhicc bravely defended you after you were knocked unconscious, correct?"
"That is correct, yes."
"I'm guessing you were grateful for it, since if we just consider them mindless beasts, she'd have just consumed your soul instead of saaaay, taking you to Unohana for protection and treatment." He continued to badger her.
Soifon smiled softly, seeing what he was doing now. "Yes, I am."
"Thank-you." The man said graciously, turning back to the assembly. "Tell me: Does Cirucci's actions sound like a mindless, self-destructive beast or a thinking, feeling person? I think the answer is pretty self-evident: We've gotta stop painting the Hollows as either all bad or all good, it's in the middle, so let's stop with the generalizations."
"Do any object?" Yamamoto asked the silent crowd.
Shuhei stepped forward and when all eyes fell to him expecting an objection, he held his hand up placating, "I doubt I can out debate him." He openly admitted, "So I'll follow his lead and counter vote."
With the young man's peace said, the envoy turned back to Kyoraku, "Very well, thank-you Kyoraku-san."
Shunsui shrugged his shoulder, a little disappointed in ensuing result, but what could he do, he already tried his best. "After you captain Hisagi."
Giving an acknowledging nod, the young captain turned to his senpais, "With all due respect, I must cast my vote against the Arrancar. I agree completely on Kuchiki-Taichō's points: The fear and distrust is quite real. I admit readily that I can do better with my division, but if you really listen to what was said here today, you'll notice some of the more experienced captains are having just as much trouble with their situations."
Raising a hand to Ichigo and Soifon, he continued, "At the onset, the then at the time, Captain Soifon and Lieutenant Kurosaki established several does and don'ts when Cirucci arrived at the start of the experiment. The question becomes: Why exactly? Did they think that their Shinigami would disregard their orders to not touch her, if it weren't outlined in detail?"
"Objection: Speculation! There is no way you can conclude that they would have disobeyed. The Onimitsukido follow the orders of their leader unquestionably and the second squad place a lot of trust in our decision and guidance."
"I do recall, Soifon-san being quite an advocate for corporal punishment. I'm sure Unohana-Taichō can inform us the number of times that late Fukutaichō Marechiyo Omaeda was sent to her wards." Byakuya informed,
"Objection overruled, Kurosaki Taicho." Yamamoto intervened, "Captain Hisagi is presenting a reasonable assumption and questioning of both your and Soifon's actions. However…" The old man turned to Shuhei, "I will give you some latitude, but you must illustrate something more than a presumption of guilt of fear for the Shinigami of squad two's actions."
"Yes, Sotaichō." The youth acknowledged the small leeway granted to him, "I'm saying what I say because all the divisions that have met them and know their status treat them differently, using squad 13 as the basis of acceptance levels, it seems like the hollows are only accepted either in ignorance of their status or under heavy restriction, does that sound like a healthy peace? What about the rebellions and the Hollow's behavior, do we just not tell the Shinigami about it and hope for the best? Won't they feel betrayed, by our lack of transparency, would they rebel next?"
Ichigo bared his teeth trying to think of something to object to. He tried to think of what could counter his main point, seeing the resulting silence permeate the room, he was about to lose hope when it finally hit him.
"Objection: Subjectivity!" He shouted out.
As all eyes turned to him, the man kept up his air of confidence. Slowly, the various captains turned to Yamamoto for some level of guidance, who himself seemed to be pondering the young man's outburst. Cautiously rocking his cane from side to side, he slowly halted it, before finally speaking. "Explain yourself, Kurosaki-Taichō."
"Yes sir!" he vibrantly accepted, before turning on heel towards his fellow officers, eager to make his case, "Captain Hisagi is making a few key assumptions that are entirely subjective." Raising his pointer skyward, he continued, "The first is using the thirteenth division as the average for all Shinigami. As we all know, each division and its personnel are selected for their personal characteristics and skill set."
Raising his hand towards the Sotaichō, he accented his point, "Yamamoto's division is founded on uncompromising diligence and personal fortitude. Soifon's…well…Yoruichi's now I guess, was speed and tactics, while Kyoraku's is based on unique and awe-inspiring style, or Toshiro having situational adaptability."
"As much as I appreciate the praising," Kyoraku spoke up, thumbing his five o'clock shadow, "I have to ask: where you are going with this?"
Understanding the criticism levelled, he got to the point that he was making. "What I'm saying is: Do you think these people sound anything alike? If we grabbed a Shinigami amongst each of them, how much would they share in common with each other?"
"I'd personally be willing to wager they'd share a dislike for hollows." Byakuya quipped, stating a very obvious fact.
To Byakuya's surprise, Ichigo's smirk grew even wider, "Really?" he questioned, as he crossed his arms, almost willing to take the bet. Sweeping his arm in front of him, he asked, "IF that's the case, then why is this room so divided on this issue? We all hate hollows, don't we?" he posed to the group, his hypothetical scenario made reality before their eyes.
"Captain Hisagi," Yamamoto called out to the stunned silent voter, "Response?"
"Uh…umm…" the tattooed man stammered out, trying to regain his composure after the rather unexpected defense presented by his peer. Taking in a deep breath to calm himself, he thought about what Ichigo said, before meeting the man's gaze and replying back. "I think your usage of us, is a bit misrepresentative of the average Shinigami."
The man's wife raised a brow, questioningly, "Aren't the captains supposed to embody the ideals and aspiration of a division?"
"No, I don't think that measure works." Nozomi disagreed, "If that was the case, then we should expect everyone in squads 3, 5 and 9 to be filled with two-faced liars and traitors." She pointed out
"Agreed, it is a poor measure in this circumstance." The Sotaichō weighted in.
"You didn't disagree that they did embody the division, prior to their betrayal, sir." Kisuke interjected, trying to save the point as best he could.
The old man shook his head dismissively, "With none of them alive to testify and differentiate for us, we must presume that the time they spent with us was all an act."
"Guilty until proven innocent?" Senna piped up cautiously, "Is using an inquisitorial style over an adversarial style the right legal perspective to be using here?"
Seeing the disquieted look on her face, Yamamoto gave her an answer, "In the case of these known traitors, yes. Better an ounce of prevention than a pound of cure, as you humans say."
'What happened to nothing ventured, nothing gained?' Senna mentally voiced, disgusted by his seemingly self-serving outlook and hardline position. 'It's not like Aizen and the others can defend themselves here. Besides, other than us, nobody bothered to see why Aizen was going to do what he did.'
Heedless of the girl's scathing opinion of him, Yamamoto continued mediating, "Your first point of contention is refuted, Captain Kurosaki. What is your next concern?"
The man groaned, smarting from the loss that he was sure he had. 'Oh well, just have to make it count here.'
"Kurosaki-Taichō?" Unohana called to him, prompting him to continue less he be disregarded.
"Right, sorry." The man apologized, hand waving lightly. Growing serious he continued his defense, "I would also point out that Hisagi is implying that the Shinigami will feel betrayed, if we don't disclose the truth. He is excluding that if we explain the Arrancar's circumstances and reason for why they fought against us, that we can't or won't be willing to understand."
"Kid's got a point." Kisuke spoke up from the far end, "We are pretty much presuming a bad outcome. That's speculation, pure and simple. If we are going to accept that as a reasonable outcome then by definition, we gotta be open to assuming the opposite scenario."
"On what grounds, exactly?" Toshiro asked cautiously, wanting to support Ichigo, but remain fair on the issue.
"It's like the Sotaichō said: It's a reasonable conclusion. If we explain things in complete detail, completely declassify everything about them, we can expect a change in attitude."
"Change in attitude isn't necessarily good or bad, Urahara-san." Sajin countered
"That's true, but I believe the best in people." Ichigo replied to the giant. Looking over to Cirucci briefly, he gave her a reassuring nod, before turning back to his peers. "I believe that we can and will move forward to a better world, if we stop being afraid of uncertainty. Old man Zangetsu always told me that if I didn't move forward, I'll simply age while the world continues on without me, and that if I was afraid of the challenges in front of me, I'd hesitate and die."
"Look around you." He commanded, hand sweeping to the captains and commanders that stood shoulder to shoulder, equal to equal. "Soul Society can't hesitate anymore on this. We need to be willing to change, to be more open-minded!" he then pointed at his fraccion, "Because hollow or not, we all started as humans!"
The silence that filled the room was deafening, as most turned away from the display, trying to shake off and disregard the pull of his words. Few like his loved ones, expressively embraced his words, beaming at the man.
"Masaki…" the Sotaichō muttered to himself sadly, the son's words reminding him of his wide-eyed mother and her open heart. His mouth hung open for a second longer, almost to say something deep within, before he closed it, nostrils flaring as he killed the surge in his heart. "Objection overruled." He said solemnly, snapping the attention of the processing captains. With a shake of the head, he said, "You did not refute the aspect of the change being neither good nor bad. How YOU particularly feel people will respond is not only irrelevant and speculative, but most ironically it is entirely subjective."
"What…?" Cirucci gasped, reeling from what he was saying.
The fraccion wasn't alone in her disbelief. "Are you freaking kidding m-"
"Senna!" Ichigo yelled at her. The woman snapped her attention on him incredulously. She moved to speak, hand reaching out to the old man, but stopped when he shook his head dismally.
Letting her hand drop, she lowered her head, "My apologies…Sotaichō." She forced herself to say, realizing that Ichigo was not only trying to stop her from fighting a clearly futile fight, but also preventing her from being yelled at again. Bowing to her brother appreciatively, she more warmly apologized to him too. "And to you too, Ichigo."
With order restored, the Sotaichō turned to the clearly disquieted Ichigo, "Do you have any other issues, Captain?"
The man stood there for a good five seconds, taking in the patronizing attempt at seeming fair. Glancing at his wife, he sighed beside himself, "No, head captain." The man forced himself to say. Shaolin's eyes widening at the same defeated tone and words, she'd been forced to utter two years prior when it came to her future husband joining her division. "None."
The trio's hearts fell to the floor after his words echoed through the room, all confidence shot down at what they knew the tally was at this point.
"Very well," Yamamoto accepted, "Hisagi-Taichō, you may step back."
As the man stepped back, Toshiro glanced to Kisuke, the two men locking eyes with each other, fully understanding the gravity of the situation. It all came down to them.
Turning away from the inventor, the captain once venerated as the youngest ever, stepped forward slowly, casting his decisive vote, "As captain of the tenth, I cast my vote in favor of the Arrancar."
Seeing Ichigo let out a held breath, the child-like captain smiled much more confidently. "I make this decision because I've seen the tolerance Shinigami have shown to hybrids. Think about it:" he posed to everyone, "For all the harping of how Squad two put restrictions and rules to not harm Cirucci, no one seems to be willing to acknowledge that there is nothing stopping a determined person from trying to kill them. Sure, Ichigo and Soifon are likely putting someone to keep tab and serve as protection for them, but do you think that would stop someone with murder on their mind? Even our most battle hungry, the 11th are only engaging them in a fight after formally challenging them. Does that sound like someone coming at them with intent to murder?"
Jutting a thumb at Ichigo and Hirako, he further illustrated his point. "Both Hirako's and Kurosaki's division willingly follow the orders of two hybrids. I will grant that Captain Hirako was well known in Soul Society, and his old division in particular prior to being hollowfied, and that Ichigo is regarded unilaterally as the great war hero against Aizen; however, they are still fundamentally accepted as Shinigami with access to hollow powers, that which for a long time was considered taboo."
Seeing that the others were still paying attention, the small man nodded to himself, "I believe with Ichigo and Cirucci's cooperation, the Shinigami can accept their inverse: Hollows with access to Shinigami powers."
Waiting a moment to see, if he would continue speaking, Sajin stepped forward, motioning to speak. "I must object, Hitsugaya-Taichō." Said the giant wolf-man, "The basis in which you are making this conclusion is speculative at best."
The boy smirked at the notion, "I base my reasoning on recordable fact and measurable data."
"Oh?" the Sotaichō chimed, his interest piqued at what the prodigy knew that everyone else didn't. "Care to share with the rest of us?"
Nodding obediently, Toshiro confidently spilled his insight, "It would be Ichigo Kurosaki's distinguished and indisputable record of performing the correct course of action in any given situation. He has gone against the captain's collective judgment, he has broken Soul Societies dated expectations and has overcome trials both morally and physically fiercer than any we've seen. And guess what? Soul Society, categorically, has come out better for it. We've looked to him to spearhead endeavors, even seasoned captain would hesitate to engage, I think we should do so once again." The boy's smile widened, as he looked around the silent room, "Any further takers?"
One by one, the Sotaichō looked to each captain, and, after seeing each one of them ready to kick the proverbial can down the line to the next captain, nodded tiredly, knowing the truth the young man spoke, that he wasn't entirely ready to accept. "You may step down, Hitsugaya-Taichō."
Following the command, the boy stepped back in line, as Urahara and his robotic assistant Nemu stepped forward. "Saving the best for last?" the man asked the old commander, playful smile on his face.
If the glare Yamamoto was sending him had any power, he was sure that must have been his Bankai. "Just tell us your vote." Genryusai instructed, doing his best to ignore the irritating nature of the man.
Whipping out his fan, he simply said. "I vote for."
Some of the captains in the room began to look around expectantly, wondering why neither one of them was saying a word. Kisuke simply continued to fan himself, no doubt enjoying the moment, while Yamamoto's eyes narrowed further, patience tested by his attention seeking antics.
"Whaaaat?" the inventor purred, cocking his head to the side, as he snapped his fan shut. "Aren't you going to ask me why? Come on, you're dying to know aren't you?"
Everyone else in the room sweat dropped at his devil may care attitude. 'Dare he?' everyone asked themselves.
Breaking his death glare, the old man sighed deeply, "Why?" he rumbled in a low hard tone, a sure sign that his patience was nearing its limit with this man.
Kisuke's smile widened, 'Time to push more buttons!' he thought excitedly, "Why what?"
"Don't. Start." He warned him, as he tried to think of peaceful thoughts to calm himself, like the days when Urahara was exiled, and far, faaar away from him. "Just tell me."
"Are you sure?"
"Yes! I have to know."
"Aaaaand…what's that exactly?" he asked, feigning ignorance, "You never asked."
'Kurotsuchi, why did you have to die!?' The man banged his cane and flooded the entire room with his spiritual pressure. "DAMN YOU, URAHARA-TAICHO, YOU INSUFFERABLE FOOL! YOU KNOW WHAT I WANT TO KNOW! STOP MESSING WITH MY MIND!"
"Sotaichō." Nemu softly interrupted the conversation between her captain and the raging commander.
"WHAT KUROTSUCHI-FUKUTAICHO!?" the man roared at the android.
The dark-haired attendant looked to her captain for visual confirmation. Upon receiving it, she turned back to him and did as ordered. "Are you mad?" She asked with a well-practiced smirk. Her smile fell away, when Kisuke leaned over and whispered something to her, suddenly it returned in full force. "Bro?" she amended herself.
The Shoten proprietor immediately had to duck down as bolt of lightning magic surged from the head captain's finger, nearly leaving a 2-inch hole in the provocateur's skull. "Sheesh, that was close." The man said sweating bullets, as he looked at the whole created in the wall behind him. The things he did for Ichigo. "I thought it was a crime to attack a captain, especially unprovoked." He said, turning back around.
The head captain's anger dissipated for a few precious seconds, as he, like the others tried to process what he meant, when it finally clicked to him, the man shook in absolute fury knowing he'd intentionally exploited the law. "I expected so much better from you, head captain. Everyone knows attacking someone over mere words is a most…dishonorable thing to do."
The man's irritating smile grew wider, clearly milking this for all that it was worth. "Since we all know it would be pretty unethical for someone to self-administer their own punishment respectively, I think it should fall to the victim, in this case me, to decide what should be done." The man held his hands up and shook his head dismissively, "You know there is a lot of things I could ask: but I'll be nice. Your punishment will be that you read over that mountain of data that I brought. Perhaps, a bit of light reading might enlighten you and cool that hot temper of yours."
"Objection!" Byakuya spoke out, clearly unamused by his manipulation of the law. "You are trying to coerce him to make him change his mind."
Kisuke barely blinked an eye, "Nope! Not forcing him to do it right now. It's purely on his own time, as a punishment should be. Therefore, he's not forced to read it now, which means, it's not influencing his decision. Objection dismissed."
Taking a more neutral stance, the envoy asked the clearly prepared man, "So you are basing your objection on the research data you showed up from earlier?"
The blonde man gave an acknowledging grunt, "Research and progress is slow. But Senna, Ichigo and the Hogyoku are the keys to resolving this situation peacefully, and, if things pan out, maybe providing a path for us to better protect the souls of the innocent."
"That sounds highly speculative, Urahara." Yamamoto retorted, having calmed down some, wary of further manipulation.
"If that's true, then we must retroactively dismiss one, if not two of your earlier points. The first for squad 13, which I got stalemated on. I conceded to you on and I quote 'the ground of it being a reasonable conclusion based on available data'. Well now, doesn't that sound familiar? I got all my data to back it up and you won't take, well, I suppose it would cut down the squad thirteen reason, if you oppose. As for the second reason, it would dismiss, that would be the first divisions reasoning, which was based once again, on what was heard throughout the meeting, again I point to my rather large library of filing cabinets."
"That's true." Kyoraku pointed out, "If you go against this, we'll have to undo those earlier votes."
"All right, hat and clogs!" Ichigo cheered on glad to have a political and tactical genius on his side.
'Ah! To be beloved by my adoring public!' Kisuke mentally basked, tears of joy forming around his eyes. "Check and mate." He played it off with a cool shrug, as the envoy in the back notched another tally down on the sheet.
With the final person in the room having cast their vote, Yamamoto banged his cane. "Very well. This ends the voting process." Turning to the aid, he asked, "What does the tally reflect?"
The man studied the sheet inquisitively for a few seconds, before saying. "A case for deadlock, sir."
"Really?" the voice of Senna echoed curiously. The girl took a look around the room and upon doing a head count pointed out the obvious, "But, fifteen people voted, and no one was refuted, so…what do you mean?"
Seeing her confusion, the man elaborated, "You are quite correct in your count, lieutenant, there are fifteen people who voted. However…" the man glanced away momentarily, better phrasing his message. "this is a…unique situation. 7 Captains voted against the continuation of this experiment. Those seven were: Head Captain Yamamoto Shigekuni Genryusai, Kido Commander Nozomi Kujo, Captain of squad six Byakuya Kuchiki, Captain of squad 7 Sajin Komamura, Captain of squad 9 Shuhei Hisagi, and with the head captain representing them: Captains Kenpachi Zaraki and Jushiro Ukitake."
Senna's eyes narrowed, the math very clearly in her head, "Wait. If seven voted against then that means eight voted for. How is this a deadlock?"
Again, the patient man explained to her, "Technically speaking, Captain Ichigo Kurosaki and Commander Soifon Kurosaki's do not count as per the nature of their involvement and investment in the situation. Hence why I say a contestation for deadlock."
Gesturing to the pair, he painted the picture for her, "Suppose we count their votes as one a piece. Well, then the motion to continue the experiment passes, but then comes the argument as to why they should be allowed to have a full say given their actions against Soul Society and its rule of law. In the event, we count them as half a vote each, well since both voted the same way, it's a tie, factually."
"And if you don't count it, then it looks unfair, because they are supposed to have the right to say so." Senna said, catching on to the situation better now.
"That and it would disregard any information provided by both their division as well as the captain. It would be exclusionary, that would be no different than Yamamoto, the captains, or Central forty-six making the decision unilaterally without consulting the others."
'Well, considering how much of a pain in the ass he made it, might as well have been.' Ichigo thought to himself.
"So, considering a valid argument can be made for both sides of the issue, I shall present the information and arguments made today to the central forty-six. They will examine and weight-in on the issue quickly."
With the matter concluded, Yamamoto banged his cane against the wooden floor, the sound ringing throughout the hall.
"Very well. This meeting is adjourned."
Hearing those hallowed words escape the Sotaichō's lips, Cirucci closed her eyes and breathed a sigh of relief.
Grateful of her master and his family, for letting her and her kind see another sunrise.
Blackout2010: Well that's the end of that chapter. Sorry, if it seems, boring, especially in comparison to the rest of the fic, but it happens sometimes. I did my best to portray the arguments used as well as their own personal judgments and experiences as the basis for all of this. If some of the reasoning and attitudes come off as being...more emotionally impulsive...that's because it's supposed to be. Please remember, that in this situation, nobody is objective. They are just trying to be, everyone has their own ulterior motives. Some are just clearer than others. Well, till next time, I gotta slave to the grind again. Catch you all on the flipside.
Bleach: Quincy Arc (Yhwach and company)
Bleach: Memories of nobody (Ganryu and the dark ones)
Bleach: Bount filler arc (self-explanatory)
Bleach: Fullbring arc (Unohana makes a mention)
Bleach: Zanpaktou rebellion (Koga Kuchiki and Muramasa)
Bleach: Reigai rebellion (Nozomi, Kageroza, and Yushima respectively)
Bleach: Hell verse (self-explanatory)
Ace attorney series: (Objection, overrule, ect.)
Looney tunes: (ah my adoring public: bugs bunny)
Remember the titans: (You know what I want to know, stop messing with my mind: Pete to Sunshine)
Troll face/trolling (You mad bro?)