I've got to stop being so hard on myself and just write. I think I redid this chapter from scratch at least a hundred times over the past few months, but I never really liked it. After so long without an update, I decided that I had to post something, and thus, here we are. Hopefully, further chapters wont be so... difficult.
P.S.: I made a mistake in regards to the way Tenmei's helpers were dressed in chapter 6. I have since gone back and corrected it.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, Rosario + Vampire, or any of the characters contained therein either story. I write this for my own amusement, the amusement of my fellow fans of said series, and for the sake of technical practice in writing itself. Do not ingest without first consulting a physician.
I waive ownership rights to any original characters created by me, for this crossover, if the original creator(s) of either of the two aforementioned manga wish to use them. However if said event occurs, I humbly ask to be consulted first.
Though frankly, if either author even so much as acknowledges this story exists, I think I might die from shock.
This story is rated M for violence, coarse language, and mild innuendo. Reader discretion is advised.
Chapter 7: Bygone dreams
Dark. Such was the hall in which two shadows walked. Garbed in robes of crimson, the pair stepped softly across a floor of polished stone. Wide was this hall, so much so that the passing silhouettes, one taller than most men, and one as small as a child, were dwarfed like rats atop a freight train. Smooth walls of smokey obsidian flanked them on either side, lit sporadically by orange embers from far too few torches to properly cover the imposing passageway. So huge was this corridor that, when paired with it's poor lighting, no living man or woman could possibly grasp it's ceiling within their gaze.
Silence reigned for the pair, interrupted only by their own footfalls as they made their way down the hallway with practiced ease. Even if the hall was cast entirely into unlit oblivion, they would have been able to make their way to their destination. They knew where they were going. Moments begot moments for either cloaked shadow, until their trek lead them to a massive, iron bound double-door.
"I, Esper, servant of the Scarlet Throne, have arrived," intoned the smaller of the two, as he pressed a single, leathery hand flat against the cool surface of the iron bound door.
"I, Chimera, servant of the Scarlet Throne, have arrived," echoed his taller counterpart, who mirrored his partner's gesture. A low rumble echoed in response to the ritual actions of the two. Stone ground upon stone, and steel slid across steel as chains inexplicably rose out from the shadows towards the dark void above. Slowly, the way parted inward, and the great blockade of stone and metal gave way to reveal a vast, lone room beyond the door.
An infinitesimally fluorescent gray marble floor, cut into thousands of matching tiles, stretched out before the arrivals. Rising out from the marble were wicked columns of barbed steel, evenly spaced about the room is four rows of forty, and at least as wide as a grown man is tall. The sound of a sluggishly flowing liquid sloshed and dripped in the background, and the scent of rusted metal emanated from the darkness beyond the columns of steel. Both of the ones garbed in crimson robes understood exactly what the paired sensations assaulting their perception implied. Neither bothered to vocalize to the other that they understood, for such observations were meaningless.
If one had asked them, they would simply have stated that it was obvious that you would find fountains of blood in the presence of the Scarlet Throne.
"Esper, Chimera," A rumbling, hollowed voice called out from the far side of the room, "approach."
Thus it was so. The pair of crimson robed shadows swept across the dimly lit chamber, only to kneel before a large raised dais at the far side of the room. Built from obsidian, the platform was cut into five steps, each gilded with cross sections of sharp steel along it's edges like razor blades. Atop the dais was a seat, styled in the manner of the thrones of ancient Europe, and carved from a single, massive ruby.
Sitting upon the gemstone throne was a man, or at least a facsimile of a man, dressed in robes of crimson identical to the pair kneeling before his dais. Oversized, flowing sleeves disguised the creature's arms and hands, and a wide, open hood concealed his face. Only a pair of glowing, white slits gave any indication that there was indeed a being beneath the robes at all. The pair breathed easily in their prostrate position before the dais, as they waited for some signal from the creature above.
"Now," it spoke after a moment of silence, "relay unto me the tale of your accomplishments in the human world."
"Yes, master," The shorter figure, Esper, said with an even tone born from confidence in his actions, "the deed you tasked of us in the human territory of Hawaii is done. The boy from the human nation of Japan arrived with his family, as you predicted. However, he was... under guard, by a group of four Youkai."
From that point, the taller of the two, Chimera, continued their report. "We utilized an explosive Monster-Seeker lined with blood-venom to disable his guardians, and a Scraken hunter-killer to finish the work. The boy transformed into a ghoul, but ultimately was no match for the Scraken in his crazed, berserker state. In the end, interference from other humans in the area lead to the loss of the hunter-killer, but the soul you commanded us to retrieve is now in your possession."
Producing the briefcase at his side, the robed dwarf Esper opened the receptacle with his old, withered hands to reveal it's contents; a single, black jewel that emanated a lavender incandescence within the darkness of the chamber.
"You've done well, both of you," the being upon the dais rumbled in a pleased tone, "the appearance of Youkai was unforeseen. Our client told us nothing of the presence of such in the day to day activities of the target. Given the circumstances, the loss of a single hunter-killer is well within the boundaries of acceptable casualties. More may always be made. Yet still, I am curious..."
"Of what, Master?" Asked the taller of the pair, raising his head from it's bowed position to gaze upon the being it addressed as lord.
"Our client only told us that the target was a boy from the human nation of Japan, vacationing upon the island of Hawaii," the white-eyed entity explained, rising from his seat at the throne and slowly descending the dais towards his subjects, "we were given knowledge unto which flight he would arrive upon, that he would be with his family... with such vague depictions... I cannot help but question whether or not this was indeed the soul they sought to have removed."
"My, you are rather perceptive, Lord Soifra," cried a new voice, airy and whimsical, from behind one of the steel columns in the distance. Out from behind the column came another, garbed in black robes with naught visible but a plain, featureless white mask to hide the stranger's face. "I can tell from the aura emitted by the crystal from as far as here that your agents struck down the wrong child. I must say I'm disappointed. Has the Scarlet Throne fallen so far that it is unable to live up to it's boasts, or is telling the difference between two teenage human males that look completely different outside their ken?"
The being, so-called Soifra, narrowed it's glowing-white eyes in anger at the newcomer's words. In a casual motion, he raised a single arm towards the man in black robes. A baseline hum was the only warning given, as a lance of invisible telepathic energy shot towards the masked man. Catching him completely off guard, the shockwave knocked him into the air and impaled him against one of the many protruding spikes from the chamber's steel columns.
"I do not take kindly to those that waste my time with games, sorcerer!" Soifra hissed, a palpable aura of malice shedding from his body like waves from stone dropped in a still pond.
"I would think not," was the reply of the apparent 'sorcerer', his very body bursting into black flames, before he appeared beside Soifra, untouched by the outburst of the being in crimson robes, "and all jokes aside, I do apologize for the vague account of the target, but we believed it was necessary. My employers did not wish for you and your people to be burdened with the knowledge of whom it was you were acting against. That another child his age would arrive on the same flight was an unfortunate coincidence that we were not prepared for."
"Fool, did you expect us to reject the contract from fear of mere knowledge of our victim's identity?" Soifra growled venomously, "for such an insult, I should kill you where you stand."
"Now now, if you were to kill me, you wouldn't receive the agreed upon payment from my employers," the Sorcerer said conversationally, as if stating a harmless fact, "and without that payment, how would you ever manage to usurp them?"
This gave the being with white-eyes pause. Whatever this payment was, whoever 'they' were, it was enough for him to reconsider his actions towards the masked man that had mislead them before. Turning towards the sorcerer, Soifra addressed him in a more composed, but no-nonsense manner, "My price is now doubled, sorcerer. There will be no more games. You will tell us everything we need to know to assassinate the target properly, and you will explain to your employers the cause of delay was due to your own negligence."
The masked man nodded graciously, "of course, Lord Soifra. For one such as yourself, I'm certain you needn't know much than this to know what your next course of action should be, so I will be brief."
For Esper and Chimera, they could have sworn that despite the mask, they could feel the sorcerer's grin as the next few words escaped his lips.
"Your target for assassination is, and was always named, Ichigo Kurosaki."
'These events are your responsibility, Ms. Tojo. As such, you will act as his guardian until such a time comes that I tell you that you are relieved. You must not fail in this. If he were to not recover while in our care, before we know for certain what transpired on the other side of the portal, I fear a tragedy of monumental proportions will fall upon us all.'
For Ruby Tojo, a day that had started rather pleasantly had morphed into a nightmare. Against her better judgment, she had lent Yukari Sendo a magical item that would allow her to transport herself, and a number of passengers of her choosing, to the location of an individual at large a few days prior. She knew why she'd asked to use it, nor had Ruby seen any harm in allowing her to borrow such an object. She suspected that the other girls from the Newspaper Club would end up going along, too - and not just because Yukari would have required help to activate the device. Her only regret at the time was that she couldn't break away from the work assigned to her by Tenmei Mikogami during the reconstruction to go along. Now, though, she had more regrets than she cared to count, not the least of which was that she wasn't there to save them.
She didn't have time to dwell upon those regrets right now though. Even now, those four were still in danger. Only Yukari was conscious, but the child had done nothing but stare into space since her return to the Academy. Meanwhile, Moka, Mizore, and Kurumu were being attended to by a small army of specialists from various branches of the school staff, and even a small number of experts from elsewhere called specifically to help in treatment. During this crisis, Ruby had been given the task of watching over the orange haired boy who had arrived with them until his presence could be addressed by the Headmaster directly.
All of the injured had been taken to individual rooms, which were actually classrooms that had been commandeered on the fly for use as operating rooms for each of the wounded, as the still-remodeling academy lacked anything approaching the appropriate facilities for such intensive care in its current state. One member of the faculty had briefly floated the idea of transporting them somewhere else for treatment, but the suggestion was quickly squashed. They simply didn't have the time to move them to a more appropriate venue, and still save their lives.
She didn't know who this Ichigo Kurosaki was, or why he was important. She knew he was human, but she had no idea why the Headmaster had placed such a high priority on his individual safety. It was as if the Headmaster feared some great calamity would fall upon them all if he failed to recover.
His treatment for the poison, called blood-venom, was fairly textbook, in both application and result. It was only through luck that the grounds still had the materials to administer it, though. Blood-venom was a complex substance, made from a base that combined boiled components of vampire, werewolf, and troll blood. Once the base was made, it was laced with a cocktail of mundane toxins, and enchanted into a deadly brew that was a almost universally forbidden. Even simply mixing blood-venom was considered an offense worthy of death in the world of monsters. Fortunately for everyone involved, creating it's antidote was not.
Common treatment for blood-venom exposure was the application of a human-made anticoagulant called warfarin, along with the application of magic to reverse the enchantment that bound the different substances together as a single toxin. The disenchanting process, along with the chemicals contained in the blood thinner, would react together to separate and destroy the toxins in one fell swoop. It wasn't a difficult process, yet even as early as a half century ago, the toxin had no treatment. Application of the toxin in the near past had been almost universally fatal when paired with even a relatively minor wound.
Looking down at the unconscious young man, Ruby's thoughts drifted towards another certain young human. The girls of the Newspaper Club were visiting Tsukune on his vacation, that much she knew. If this level of injury had befallen them, and an uninvolved human had been caught in the middle, what had happened to their vacationing classmate? Was he hurt? 'No...', she thought. 'If he had been hurt, they would have brought Tsukune back through the portal for treatment, right?'
She couldn't shake a lingering doubt in the back of her mind, though, that something terrible had happened.
Heavy... so heavy. It was as if an omnipresent weight was bearing down upon each and every part of his body at once. He couldn't move, he couldn't speak, couldn't breathe. All he could do was watch, and gaze at the sight before him.
In every sense of the word, he was helpless.
The lone silhouette of a woman looked back at him. Bodies, the beaten forms of people he knew laid at her feet. They were his comrades, his friends, and they had put themselves between the woman and him in an effort to stop her. Yet they could not harm her. No... saying they could not harm her would be incorrect. In truth, they had refused to harm her. In their refusal, they had paid the price.
"Ne... Kurosaki..." the woman whispered, in a low voice, full of affection, even as blood still dripped down her hands, "let's go, Kurosaki."
Instantly, she was in front of him, her hands leaving blood stained trails where she had caressed his cheek with the very tips of her fingers. Auburn locks of hair cascaded down as she knelt before the him, her clothes tattered and torn from the obvious violence she had wrought. Looking down upon him, the blood soaked woman giggled, as if enjoying a private joke.
"Let's go, together!"
He tried to scream, but in his paralyzed state, all he could do was stare.
Ruby was broken from her worries as her human charge jolted upright, and let out a scream of pure, primal terror. Alarmed at his sudden action, Ruby rushed to his side. Even with magic being employed, his wounds had only begun to heal. The sudden rise in his posture from laying to sitting up could easily re-injure a purebred vampire, let alone a human. She had to restrain him long enough for the orange haired adolescent to regain his senses – or at least to be sedated.
At his side, Ruby forced Ichigo back into a prone position on his bed – which in reality was little more than a desk with a pillow and some blankets used for padding. Holding the young man down by his shoulders to stop him from thrashing, Ruby was surprised at the raw strength possessed by the young man. Indeed, it wasn't anything remarkable as far as Youkai were concerned – a strong human was still weaker than a weak monster – but even with his injuries, the force he could bring to bare was impressive, for a human.
Brown eyes made contact with magenta, as Ichigo finally became aware of his surroundings. A single bead of sweat dripped down his brow, and he shut his mouth with an audible click, 'That same dream, again...' he thought to himself, as he gained his bearings. Noting the strange magenta-eyed girl pinning him to the desk and staring at him as if he was the fourth zero on a repair bill for her new car, Ichigo's thoughts quickly shifted, '...but more importantly, where am I, and who is this girl in the weird costume?"
"It's good to see you're taking your duties seriously, Ms. Tojo, but I believe there is no further need for you to hold Mr. Kurosaki down," came the voice of a slightly amused Tenmei Mikogami, now standing in the doorway to the makeshift hospital room.
Standing up quickly, Ruby flushed slightly from embarrassment. There had been something there, in the boy's eyes. Something she could not readily identify. When their eyes met, there had been a spark of recognition, like a rabbit becoming aware of the presence of a predator. It was passive, buried deeply, but Ruby Tojo vaguely understood the dangerous edge she had felt when she had met his gaze.
"If you would be so kind, Ms. Tojo, please go assist with the treatment of our injured young ladies," the Headmaster continued in a measured, calm tone, "I would like to speak with Mr. Kurosaki privately about the events that lead him to our grounds."
"O-of course, Headmaster," Ruby said, surprised, but relieved by her sudden dismissal from the room. Briskly, she made way for the door, and slipped past the Headmaster into the hall without another word.
"Please do not mind Ruby," Tenmei offered, noting the growing confusion on the orange-haired boy's face, "she has had a long and difficult day, being rude was not her intention."
Ichigo hesitantly shook his head. Very little of what was going on made any sense to him. The last thing he remembered, he was on a beach... that was when it hit him. The explosion, the blue monster, the Aono kid and his father's death, the poison, and the portal. Everything came back to him at once. Closing his eyes and sighing, Ichigo let his confusion give way to a frustrated resignation.
"Do not worry about the young ladies you came through the gateway with either, I can assure you that all of them will survive and should make a full recovery," the Headmaster explained as he crossed the distance from the doorway towards the desk, "we were in luck that you were able to get through when you did, though, or Ms. Shirayuki would likely have been lost to us."
There was a pause, as the implications of the Headmaster's words hung in the air. Shaking his head to clear the morbid thoughts away, Ichigo asked, "where am I?"
"You could think of this place as a pocket dimension of sorts, though that description would not be entirely accurate," the Headmaster told him, "we now dwell within a place called Youkai Academy, a school for monsters and other beings humans would call 'supernatural'. Here they gain an education, and learn to coexist with humankind in the world at large."
"A school, huh?" Ichigo replied thoughtfully. If someone had asked him his impression of what he'd be told, he would have said it seemed like something out of a fantasy manga, but he realized that the same description could be made about many of the things in his life.
"Yes, but that isn't exactly important right now," the Headmaster said, "please, Ichigo Kurosaki, could you explain to me precisely why, and how you arrived with four gravely injured students of my school?"
The shift in tone of the Headmaster's voice was barely perceptible, but it was there. The implied suspicion, a subtle edge of possible hostility... this man, or approximation of a man, would have no qualms about unceremoniously ending Ichigo's life right here on the spot if given cause.
Taking as deep a breath he could take with his injured ribs to collect himself, Ichigo steeled his nerves. He'd done nothing wrong, and had nothing to hide. He'd tell the priest everything he wanted to know. All he could do was hope that this 'Headmaster' was only trying to protect the interest of his students, and wasn't looking for an excuse to do him injury.
"How are they doing?" Asked one Ruby Tojo, who had just only arrived in one of the rooms in which the four girls from the Newspaper Club were being treated. She had been greeted by a man in the black formal garb of a Catholic priest, who's eyes were obscured by shades - one of the Headmaster's personal servants, she knew from experience.
"The treatments are over, all we can do for them now is wait while they rest," the man reported tersely, "the Sendo girl still hasn't said a word to anyone. Whatever happened over there, it was enough to turn her into a mute. She'll probably need to see some kind of psychologist before all of this is through. That or receive memory alteration."
Ruby's eyes widened. Memory alteration was possible with magic, but was only ever suggested in the most extreme cases of psychological damage. For this man to even suggest such a thing was –
"Do we know what happened to them?" Ruby asked in a quick, desperate tone. Her nagging fear over the circumstance was quickly blossoming into much deeper dread.
"Calm down," the man in black ordered bluntly, "that's what the Headmaster left to find out by talking to our... guest."
Swallowing hard, Ruby nodded. She'd have to trust the Headmaster to handle this. It wasn't like she had a choice in the matter, anyway. Even if she wanted to question the human herself, she wasn't in a position to try and usurp the Headmaster's authority on the matter.
Ruby opened her mouth to say something, but her response quickly died as on the far side of the room, a sudden flash of light dominated the room. Emanating from an object that had been taken from Yukari Sendo's possession during her medical check, the intensity of the light grew steadily, until it faded almost instantaneously. In it's wake, a certain shihakusho wearing man near where the stone had once laid was revealed.
He did not look amused.
"Now, then," Isshin said calmly, his gaze shifting from person to person throughout the commandeered classroom, "I want you to take me to my son."
"...and after we came through the portal, I passed out," Ichigo said, finishing his account of what had happened on the Hawaiian beach. His version of events had been blunt and to the point. He hadn't enjoyed reliving the events so soon after they'd originally transpired. That this 'Headmaster' had seen fit to interrogate him the moment he regained consciousness was definitely not a plus in favor for younger of the two Kurosaki men, but at least he'd allowed him to finish his explanation without interruption or harassment.
Perhaps it had something to do with the fact that he was injured.
"I have just one question for you, Mr. Kurosaki," the Headmaster stated, after mulling over Ichigo's words for a moment, "when the creature appeared, why didn't you use your powers as a shinigami to kill it?"
Ichigo looked at the Headmaster as if he'd grown a second head. He recalled the man had distinctly referred to him as the 'savior of the White Invasion'. Did that mean that he didn't know that in order to stop Aizen, he had to give up his shinigami powers?
'Wait, how does he know about any of that, anyway?' Ichigo thought to himself, 'this guy may not be human, but he's obviously not dead!'
"I'm sorry, did I say something wrong?" the Headmaster asked, a bit put off by the odd way Ichigo was staring at him.
"A-ah, no... it's just that, at the end of the battle, I had to give up my powers as a shinigami to stop Aizen..." Ichigo explained, awkwardly, "it's... not something I want to talk about."
"Is that so?" the Headmaster asked in a mysterious tone, "I'll respect your privacy, in that case. I thank you for your cooperation. Ichigo Kurosaki. And, on behalf of my students, I thank you for the risk you placed on yourself to help them."
Ichigo look startled, and asked, "w-wait... you believe me? Just like that? Why?"
The Headmaster smiled enigmatically, and said, "I do, but, it's not something I want to talk about."
Ichigo couldn't help it. He gaped like a fish.
Turning away, the Headmaster added, "when your father get's here, make sure to tell him that I'd like the both of you to pay me a visit before you take your leave of here. There are a few important matters we need to discuss in regards to the day's events. Until then, good day, Ichigo Kurosaki."
Ichigo couldn't help but scowl at the Headmaster's exit, 'Somehow,' he thought to himself, 'that bastard reminds me of Hat-and-Clogs...'