October 20th 2011
It had been close to six months since the most recent recruits had joined the academy. Those six months had not been wasted when it came to their training. While initially they struggled, eventually they adjusted to the higher level of activity, leaving them more inclined to relax than collapse when the day's classes ended. As such, they were finding themselves with more time to practice their preferred skillsets.
Seta, having found himself to be something of a kido prodigy, spent a great deal of time at the firing range, improving his accuracy. Having mastered the first ten hado and bakudo, he had a great deal of fondness for Bakudo #9, the one used to kill him. That is to say, he used it on anyone who annoyed him enough. This, in turn, meant most of the class were very familiar with the procedure to escape from that particular binding Kido. An optimist might think that was subconsciously one of Seta's goals so that no one would be caught with it like he was. But no one was about to ask, and if they did, he wouldn't answer. Kido being mostly performed with hand gestures meant a steady hand was essential, so Seta also spent time performing jinzen often. It had reached the point where he sometimes heard smug taunting from an unseen voice that he felt he should recognise. Makimaki-sensei told him this was a sign of progress on connecting with his zanpakuto.
Yosuke split his focus 70-30 between zanjutsu and kido training. Of course, about half of his kido training was due to Seta hitting him with every bakudo they'd learned or were trying to learn. As Seta's closest friend (and therefore most frequent target) he'd suffered #9 so often he could literally escape it in his sleep, forcing Seta to explore other options. While his zanjutsu training was going well, Yosuke constantly felt... restrained somehow, by wielding the single long blade. The style was slow and methodical which didn't fit him at all. Since shikai zanpakuto were supposed to match the wielder, he threw himself into trying to connect with his sword. Due to his efforts, he not only heard a voice as Seta did, he also could swear on his afterlife he'd seen a humanoid figure of blue and red at one point.
It would not take a psychic to guess Chie's chosen area of study. Every day after classes she would challenge the first person she came across to a hakuda spar. Having died and ended up in an afterlife filled with martial artists, it was difficult to convince her this wasn't her own specially made slice of heaven. Swords weren't really her style so her zanjutsu rarely saw independent practice. However, she dutifully practiced jinzen when she had a particularly tough day, it being the least tiring exercise. Kido, though, was her weakest area. She mostly stuck to practicing bakudo there. The Hakuda instructor told her if she wanted to focus on hand-to-hand, she could – there was at least one captain who did just that – but that captain was a master of flash step and since they hadn't learned that yet, Chie would need a method to keep opponents stationary so she could get in close.
Adachi was already skilled in hand-to-hand combat before his death. But it turned out that skill was not necessarily due to a particular talent in the discipline, more due to relentless practice in the police academy. Since he had no real dedication to the art of hakuda, he didn't practice often outside of class, instead preferring to keep his zanjutsu skills up. His skills in kido leaned heavily towards bakudo. Hado was passable but his attempts at healing were abysmal, often causing more damage than they fixed.
Taro was an oddity. He had skill. In everything. Nothing exceptional but he could keep up with several of the lesser class 1 students without much trouble. A rather impressive feat considering he was actually in class 2. Add that to the fact that he spent his time studying rather than training, it made people wonder why he wasn't in class 1 in the first place. The truth of it was simply a lack of raw power. Class 1 trained future captains and Taro would never have the level of strength to get there. One day he would be an ideal lieutenant but it would be a thousand years before he could bridge that final gap.
"So what exactly is this about, Captain Hitsugaya?" Seta asked as as the five of them followed behind the diminutive captain.
"A little respect, if you would, recruit." Toshiro reminded. Upon joining the academy, all students are considered part of the 13 Court Guard Squads and should show utmost respect to superior officers at all times. 'Speak when spoken to' being implied.
Seta stood straighter as he walked. "Yes, sir! Sorry sir!"
Hitsugaya nodded, then answered the initial question. "I assumed you would like an update on the status of your case. We believe the assailant has been... apprehended, in a manner of speaking."
"Thank you, sir. But if I may ask, why-"
"-have I dragged your friends along as well?", Hitsugaya finished the question for him. "We initially assumed Tohru Adachi and Taro Namatame were the first and second victims respectively, with you being the third. It seems we were mistaken."
Toshiro said no more after that. Instead he led them all into a district marked with the kanji for '2', marking it as belonging to the second squad. The members of said division could be seen training in various disciplines wherever the academy students looked. The second squad actually had its own uniform that included a couple of variations depending on that reaper's particular job. The vast majority could be seen wearing all black as well as a face mask to conceal their identity. The few who didn't wear the mask were officers, as they needed to be recognised by the main forces.
Lieutenant Omaeda, balding and decorated in garish jewellery as always, could be seen standing at attention to the side of the group's apparent destination. "Captain Hitsugaya, sir! Captain Soi Fon is expecting you!"
"Thank you, Lieutenant." Hitsugaya acknowledged without looking at the man.
On the other side of the door was a rather spartan office. Walls of undecorated wood panelling, and a tatami mat floor. The only significant features a desk laden with paperwork facing the door and a three foot statue of a black cat in the corner to the left. The room, Captain Soi Fon's office as it turned out, was occupied by not only the Captain herself but several others. All of them wearing civilian clothing.
Some of them familiar. "Yukiko?"
The dark-haired girl in red turned at the familiar voice. "Chie?"
The two girls rushed towards and then held each other as the girl in red started to weep. "I'm so sorry, Chie!", she sobbed. "It's all my fault! I shouldn't have left you alone like that!"
"Shh,shh, it's okay! It was just bad luck is all, you couldn't have known. And I'm fine now, see?" Chie consoled her.
Still by the door, Yosuke nudged Seta and gestured with his head at a redheaded girl watching the tearful reunion with a smile on her face. "Hey, bro! That girl over there! Isn't that Risette?"
"No way!" Seta breathed.
"It is!" Yosuke whispered excitedly. "That hair, that smile, those beautiful slim legs! That's really her, man!"
"I've been planning for this day all my life." Seta said. Even though that statement could've been literal, it wasn't. "Check me out." he told Yosuke before walking confidently towards Rise.
She looked up at him as he reached her, the close proximity making the height difference very obvious. They stared into each others' eyes and a faint blush could be seen on her face. Taking her hands in his, Seta took that as his cue.
And got on one knee.
"Oh god." she sighed, knowing exactly what was about to happen, having been through it before. Multiple times.
"Will you marry me?" Seta asked loudly, enough so for the whole room to hear and their heads to snap in his direction. Entirely focused on what was clearly the most interesting (entertaining) thing happening at that moment. Even Omaeda was peeking through the still open door to see the dumbass at work.
Unfortunately for the ensuing spectacle, Soi Fon had had quite enough of people ignoring her and released a significant amount of spiritual pressure. Hitsugaya and Omaeda were unaffected (though Omaeda twitched reflexively. This was usually a sign of his captain in a bad mood). All of the recruits were having trouble standing (except Seta who was already kneeling). The civilians, however, immediately stopped breathing and collapsed. 'Hmm.' Soi Fon thought. 'Perhaps I overdid it a little.' and immediately let up.
All the recruits did the smart thing and stood at attention right away, save for Chie who helped her friend to her feet first. Omaeda returned to his post and Hitsugaya finally closed the door.
"Now," Soi Fon started, her calm tone not fooling anyone into thinking she was really calm, "If I could get to the reason you were all brought here, your case has been closed."
"What case?", three of the four civilians asked at once.
The fourth civilian; a blue-haired boy wearing modern day clothing consisting of a blue shirt, yellow tie, black trousers and a blue, peaked cap, looked at Soi Fon as if asking for permission to speak. The Captain gave a slight nod in answer. "My name is Naoto Shirogane. Before my p-passing," Naoto said, slightly stumbling on the last word, "I was a private detective, apprenticed to my grandfather. I was investigating an unusual case consisting of a string of deaths in the Inaba region recently. "Two poisonings," Naoto glanced at the pair of Rise and Seta, still standing next to each other, "two stabbings," Yukiko, then Yosuke, "a hit-and-run," Chie, "and finally, death by biker gang." Naoto finished, looking at Kanji.
"All between the ages of 15 and 16, all dead within the span of seven months. It was the second poisoning that made me suspicious. Before that there was nothing else to connect all the victims-"
"Get to the point, Shirogane." Soi Fon ordered.
Naoto nodded, swallowing. "Yes. My apologies. Approximately two weeks ago, I was home looking over the data I had collected when I was... interrupted." The businesslike facade started to fracture. "I heard a voice. It was congratulating me. Telling me how... impressed it was that I noticed. I told Tobi to get help. To get my grandfather." A deep, shuddering breath. Hands started to tremble. "My grandfather came in. Asked me what was wrong but stopped when he saw... s-something. Called it a soul reaper. He was so angry! The voice didn't care. Said it was impressed with him too. Would take him but he was too old. Not like... Not like me." Look at the floor. Can't let them see! "I felt weak. Fell into my chair. 'Poison', I knew. I was going to die! I was...!" 'so scared!' Stopped before you admitted it out loud. "Grandfather knew as well. Still so angry but he knew it was too late. He did... something. Made a bow in his hands... S-said he w-would-"
Naoto couldn't go on any longer. She turned to face the wall and slammed her forehead against it. Her shoulders were shaking but she didn't make a sound.
Yukiko started to move before she noticed Seta already next to the silently crying girl. He put a comforting hand on her shoulder and she spun to face him and cry into his academy uniform, continuing to hide her face. He turned the two of them round so he was directly facing the staring crowd. He glared back, ordering them to look in another direction. They all did, Hitsugaya adding an approving nod before doing the same.
Seta knew full well what Naoto was going through. He had gone through it himself on his first day in Soul Society, if in a less... public manner. His upbringing had left him with significant control over most of his emotions, thus he was able to maintain a facade when retelling his demise to Hitsugaya. It was two days later that he finally broke down. Two hours beating his fists against the nearest wall, six more blubbering in an alleyway, trying to come to terms with what he'd lost. What had been stolen from him. That creature having the gall to mock him in his last moments. So Seta let Naoto express grief into his shirt. Any of the others would've done the same for him even if the guys would've felt weird about it.
Soi Fon cleared her throat. Getting all of their attention again, Seta keeping one ear on the conversation. "For those unaware, the spirit bow is the signature weapon of the Quincy. A group of spiritually aware humans who trained themselves to destroy hollows, unknowingly creating weapons that completely eradicate souls. We believe Johei Shirogane was once Raidou Kuzunoha, one of the last Quincys alive. Upon investigating the Shirogane home, we found it abandoned. But one room had the telltale scorch marks and spirit particle pattern of a soul eradication. While the 13 Court Guard Squads as a whole are against such things," she glanced at Seta and Naoto for an instant, "but on a personal level, I can't help but find such a punishment justified."
"That is all. Dismissed."
A/N: I really hope Naoto's account of her death worked. It felt like it worked. But writing it and reading it are two different things. So I'd love some feedback on that.
You know what? I can't seem to write a story without angst or really depressing stuff included. FEShadow? Sure it's like that sometimes in canon but I went above and beyond with giving the protagonist an enormous superiority complex and daddy issues (I cringe thinking about that backstory now but I'm not changing it this far in). HP:GOTY? Canon starts with child abuse no matter how you slice it, so hard to avoid angst there. This? Speaks for itself. But Fate Butterfly? Based on the story that's Happy Wacky Fun Time for the vast majority? How in the hell did I make that angsty?
Ugh. Whatever. REVIEWS! Like in the other stories, messaged responses only from now on.
Astrih Konnash: A bit fast, yes. But the students are all just training now so not much to write about. It's school. And a military one at that. You fall into a routine eventually. And yeah, I was just a little bit proud of Naoto's death scene. Raidou was Quincy but gave it up decades ago and expected the knowledge to die with him. What he does now, however... I know exactly where Teddie shows up but if you want to share ideas and yours is better, I'll give credit where it's due.
Kigita: Hope I sated your Seta/Rise needs for a bit with the proposal... Eww. That was poorly phrased.
Anyway, don't know when the next'll be out but... meh. Just be glad I posted something. It's more than FEShadow is getting. I'LL DO SOMETHING WITH IT SOON, I SWEAR!
Thanks for reading!