Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or any of its associated fictional characters or locations.
Welcome to the very last Division Exchange Program. And, quite possibly, the last fanfiction that I will regularly update. That's right, I'm going to try my hand at actual writing and see how that goes, leaving fanfiction alone except for maybe the occassional Great Expectations or the like. Thankyou everyone for your support through the, what, years by this point? Anyway, thankyou for reading and I really hope you enjoyed at least some parts of it.
If you're interested in any other writing I do, I'm going to more regularly update my Twitter (look up Angela Donlan) in regards to professional stuff. If you care, follow me. If not, thanks for readings this anyway.
Peace and love to all of you, even those randoms who leave hate comments, like "you're no funny" or whatever. :)
In fact, to those, your FACE isn't funny!
Yeah, how'd you like them apples! :P
Signing off, enjoy the read,
The Division Exchange Program
Chapter Twenty One
Mayuri Gets Some - *Dies*
The sun was setting over the Seireitei. You could see the evidence of destruction everywhere, the buildings that had been levelled, two words scribbled over the stones over and over and over again, the people who were still fighting, those who had given up and gone to have a drink with some friendly mutant horse with a rabbit's tail.
Over by a rock which looked, very slightly, if you squinted and turned your head sideways and hopped up and down while hyperventilating, or if you were just plain crazy enough to see it, like a woman's face, there were some people. Zaraki and his Lieutenant were there. Yachiru was quite happily redoing Zaraki's hair, as half of his bells had come undone when he'd been knocked out. Zaraki was sulking, annoyed that he'd been knocked out by someone less than half his size and who had been a healer. Yamamoto and Aizen had gotten bored enough, and bonded enough over hiding from an insane destructive machine, that they were having a friendly chat about the nature of ruling such a big population.
"Do you ever find that people just annoy you by coming to you with stupid problems?" asked Aizen.
"Yes, all the time. Like, my neighbour stole my chicken, or my sister's given her powers to a human and now she's in jail can you please get her out."
"Oh, yeah, I think that last one may have been my fault… But mine are always something like, my neighbour ate my child, or, the Soul Reapers are too powerful."
"Ah, well, we are quite strong. But, the point is, I just wish people would just solve their own problems."
"Absolutely," agreed Aizen. "It's like they don't realise I have entire universes to take over."
"Well, I can't say I'd go that far, but god damnit sometimes I just want to kill the lot of them."
"Yeah… Bit harsh for me, but I can see where you're coming from."
"No, Orihime," said Ichigo. "You can't eat rocks."
"But with a little simmering-"
"They're rocks," said Chad. "You can't digest them."
"He's right, I'm afraid," Uryu chipped in. They'd been having similar conversations like this all day.
"Oh, look, that cloud looks like a pony!"
Aizen shuddered. "Please don't say anything about those… creatures. I was trapped inside one for days."
"I was inside a pony once," Mayuri mused, bored. There was a general thump. Mayuri sighed and revived everyone.
"Why?" asked Uryu, with traumatised eyes. "Why do you keep saying things like that? Do you just not care about how damaging hearing that is?"
"I MEANT THAT I OPERATED ON ONE!"
There was a general, "oooooooh."
"You need to clarify these things," scolded Yamamoto.
"Kenny, my brain hurts," Yachiru said.
"It's okay, Yachiru, so does mine," Kenny said, patting her on the head.
"By the way," said Mayuri calmly. "How far off is the tsunami?"
"It's getting here… Slowly," replied Ichigo. "I think it looked closer because it's just that big."
There was a moment of silence. "We're all going to die," said Aizen calmly.
"Yep," said everyone.
Suddenly, there was a shout. "MAY I HAVE EVERYONE'S ATTENTION?"
The words were polite, but there was the unmistakable edge of 'if you don't listen NOW I will kill you so hard you won't just be dead in this life, you'll be dead in every life you have from now on, ever.' They all stood up and turned, almost as if they were compelled to by something beyond their control. Everyone else in the immediate vicinity did the same, all of them turning to a small hill on top of which there was a small, pretty cottage with all of them swore hadn't been there a day ago. On top of this house stood a man. Or rather, not a man, but a thing. A machine of destruction.
It was He Whose Name They Could Not Remember.
"I would like to remind everyone of a very special something which is happening today," said the thing. It was strange, he wasn't shouting but his voice carried to everyone. "A very special someone was born on this day, however many years ago she was born. You all know this by now, but there is one thing that hasn't happened yet that should." He paused, grinned, and one side of his face just couldn't really be bothered in joining in with it. "We haven't sung Nemu Happy Birthday yet!"
There came a general groan from the Seireitei. Hanatarou's smile didn't flicker. "Anyone who doesn't join in with the Happy Birthday will be immediately destroyed. And I mean so immediately that ten minutes ago you'll be at the bottom of the sea. And I don't even think we have a sea, so I'll have made one for you. Or maybe we do, because we have a tsunami so we need to have a sea… Either way you'll be dead if you don't sing it." Hanatarou smiled pleasantly at the Seireitei. The Seireitei gave his a half-doubtful, half-scared look. "Ready?"
There was a general mumbling in reply.
"I said are you ready?"
"Yes!" shouted the Seireitei in reply.
"Happy Birthday to you!" began Hanatarou. Everyone joined in. Aizen tried to sing quietly but then he would have sworn Hanatarou looked straight at him; he could feel the craziness boring into him through the distance, so he sang louder.
"Happy birthday to you!" Over in the nearest pub half the Captains and Lieutenants had gone to have a much-needed drink. Matsumoto smothered Histugaia in her assets while she sang. Hitsugaia tried not to die. Rukia, sitting next to Byakuya and Renji, sang along as tunelessly as her brother. Renji wondered what other artistic abilities they completely lacked.
"Happy birth-day dear Nemu!" Ikkaku and Aesegawa twitched from where they were still mostly unconscious, still singing along.
"Happy birthday to you!" Mayuri suddenly realised why it felt so odd to be doing this; it was because he had never sung Happy Birthday in… As long as he could remember. And it had never been sung to him either. He never got invited to birthdays and never threw a party for himself because he knew nobody would come. Then again, he hated everyone, so he didn't really mind.
"Hip-hip, hooray, hip-hip, hooray!" cheered everyone before bursting into applause. The applause went for a long, long time. Finally, it was just Hanatarou clapping enthusiastically on top of the house. "Well done everyone!" He cheered. "Nobody dies today!"
There was an uncertain cheer as he disappeared.
Unohana and Nemu had gone for a walk with Hanatarou, waiting for the medicine to kick in. Then he had disappeared. "If it was going to work, it would have kicked in by now," the Captain said, voicing the fears of both women. "The medicine didn't work."
"I know this is selfish of me, but I honestly don't know if I'm happy or sad about this." Nemu paused, thinking. "Is there anything else we can try?"
"If we had counsellors, and I thought it would help, I'd send him to one of those, but I just don't think it would work at this point."
Nemu nodded. She changed the subject by saying, "someone should probably do something about the tsunami."
"But nobody will, because everyone is insane here!" exclaimed a voice from a nearby rock. Mayuri jumped out from behind it. More gradually emerged Yamamoto, Aizen, Zaraki, Yachiru, Ichigo, Uryu, Chad and Orihime.
"Oh, hello Captain," said Nemu, surprised. "I thought you'd be in your lab, trying to fix it all."
"Have you seen my lab?" asked a very depressed Mayuri.
"Not recently, why?"
Mayuri was silent for a long, long moment. "Because it… I'm just going to build a new one. The old one is dead to me."
"But Captain!" exclaimed Nemu. "All the work you've put into it!"
"Dead to me, Lieutenant," Mayuri said, looking straight at her. "Dead. To. Me."
"Well… If you're sure. But what about all your machines, the time machine, the reality-inverting-"
"Reality inverting!" exclaimed Unohana. "Captain Mayuri, do you mean after I detected the issues you could cause with that machine, you still went ahead and built it?"
"What's happening?" frowned Ichigo.
"She knew the problems it'd cause, told him not to build it and he still did," explained Uryu.
"Yes, and so what? None of it matters anyway, it didn't work."
Unohana felt a stirring of something deep inside her. She very, very rarely got angry. In fact, she couldn't remember the last time she did get angry. But, she felt it now.
"Do you mean that not only did you defy my orders by building it, you also used it?" she asked, growing quieter but not softer. Mayuri hesitated. He'd never seen Unohana like this, but whatever she could do was no worse than what the crazy man could, surely.
"Yes, but nothing happened."
"Seriously, Captain Unohana, calm down," said Zaraki, just feeling annoyed and petty and wanting to irritate someone. Everyone looked at him, but for two different reasons. The first and most obvious was that it was Captain Zaraki telling Captain Unohana to calm down. This was like an elephant telling a mouse to stop being big. But one person had a different reason. Unohana looked at Zaraki and felt her rage grow.
"You," she began, her eyes narrowing dangerously. "Have the gall to tell me to calm down?" she asked.
Zaraki blinked, shocked by what he was seeing. "Are you… Angry?" he asked incredulously.
"Do you know who's fault most of this is? Yours. Because I gave you one of my healers, who turned out to be one of the most helpful people in the entire place, and you did nothing but abuse and ridicule him and make him clean up for you until he cracked."
"Well, yeah, but isn't that what you do with…" Zaraki trailed off. He could almost feel the rage coming from Unohana like a wave of throbbing red fury.
"No," she answered sharply. "That isn't what you do with Division Four members. And do you know why? It's because there's a reason we're healers. It's because I find the people who I see potential in. I find the people who have the most power. I see what none of you can, that not everyone who's strong and powerful decides to fight. Do you have any idea how much power it takes to heal someone? As much as it takes to go into Bankai. That's right. Every single one of my healers are as powerful as you. But I keep that secret, I tell nobody because I know how you people would react, by fighting them to try and test yourselves and that would only end in bloodshed. SO instead I let them grow stronger by helping people. But if I decided to, if I got angry enough, if I revealed to my healers just how powerful they actually are, not only could they defeat your entire squadron, they could take over the Seireitei."
While Unohana was talking, the tsunami was getting closer and closer, louder and louder, until finally Unohana looked at it and said,
"I AM TALKING."
The resulting wave of power was so strong that it beamed over the entire Seireitei, it put back together every single one of the buildings that had been reduced, it healed everyone who had been harmed, it beat back the tsunami and forced it back onto the ocean that wasn't supposed to exist, and then scared the ocean into dissolving.
There was a long moment of complete silence. Unohana, once again calm and regretful of having lost her temper said, "I just thought you should know how things stand."
Zaraki said nothing.
"Captain Unohana," said Yamamoto seriously. She looked at him. Hurriedly, he said, "I just want to let you know I'm never going to kill anyone from your squadron even if I really want to."
"Thankyou," she said politely.
Suddenly, he was standing there.
"Captain," he started. "I heard you shout. Are you alright? Would you like me to hurt anyone for you? You are my Captain, despite everything."
"No, thankyou. In fact, I wanted to apologise to you."
Hanatarou blinked, surprised. "What? Why?"
"Because I sent you on this Exchange Program. I should have refused to do it."
"Actually, I made you with my Complete Hypnosis," Aizen interrupted. They looked at him. "And I didn't realise how much trouble I would cause. To be honest I don't really care. But for the sake of my own safety I'll say this… I'm so… I'm… Sor- so-" Aizen paused, cleared his throat.
"You're sorry?" asked Nemu.
"Yes, that," said Aizen, feeling slightly queasy over saying it.
"Oh, well, might as well jump on this bandwagon," grumbled Yamamoto. "I'm sorry for passing the Division Exchange Program. I was one of its most avid advocates. And I apologise."
Something odd was happening. It was like, as people apologised for the hurt they caused Hanatarou and the entire Seireitei, things were changing around them. People had stopped fighting, but now they looked at the ones that had previously been their opponents. They began talking, apologising. Soul Reapers talked with Soul Reaper, with mutant. Soon everyone was hugging and laughing.
Ichigo looked around, frowning. "What the…" He looked at Hanatarou. For the first time since Ichigo had arrived, Hanatarou was smiling. And it wasn't the insane smile of before. It was the smile of a man who was very tired, but also very happy.
Nemu leant near Hanatarou. "Thankyou for making this the best birthday I've ever had. Nobody's ever done this much for me. Even if it was a little crazy."
"Any time," Hanatarou replied. He paused. Nemu could see he had something more to say.
Hearing his name seemed to make Hanatarou braver. "I know this is crazy, but, and not now, I mean, sometime in the future, not even near future, it can be years and years away, do you, um-"
"Just spit it out," grunted Zaraki, his form of encouragement. Even he was feeling nice.
"DO YOU MAYBE WANT TO MARRY ME?"
Nemu blinked. "What?"
"No, I forbid it!" Mayuri screeched.
"Kinda soon," Ichigo said as he awkwardly patted Hanatarou on the shoulder. "You've got to wait before asking that kind of thing."
"Yeah, even I wouldn't get married that soon after meeting someone," Orihime said, smiling sympathetically at Hanatarou, certain he'd just ended the relationship he'd just started.
Everyone looked at Nemu.
"What?" said Hanatarou.
"What?" said everyone.
"WHAT?" said Mayuri.
"You're one of the few people who have ever treated me like a person, and the only one who's ever been nice to me. Yes."
"But… But…" said Mayuri, for once speechless. "Who will help me?"
"I still will," Nemu said hurriedly.
"But you'll pay her," Hanatarou affirmed.
"Oh, will I now?" screeched Mayuri.
Hanatarou gave him a look. Mayuri stopped talking. Hanatarou clicked his fingers. Suddenly, the entire Seireitei was in formal. Nemu wore a white gown that was simple but elegant, and Hanatarou wore a suit. His hair was neat and, while he still looked exhausted, everyone in the immediate vicinity was startled at how different he looked. He looked… good. Like a respected man in the Seireitei. Nemu, startled and struck, stood still as he took her arm. He clicked his fingers. Suddenly, everyone lined the aisle that hadn't been there a moment ago. There was an orchestra behind them and a priest at the front who shushed Mayuri as he began to mutter vehemently under his breath.
As the wedding tune started, Hanatarou and Nemu walked down the aisle. Nobody was quite sure what was going on. But everything was pretty so they just smiled and went with it. The couple went down the aisle, stood in front of the priest. He mumbled at them for a bit. While he was doing this, Hanatarou said to Nemu, "you're so beautiful. I wish you could see yourself through my eyes, then you'd realise. But then you'd know you're too good for me."
"I feel the same way," she whispered. The priest shushed them and continued.
"If there is any objection to this marriage-"
"I OBJECT!" shouted Mayuri suddenly.
"Nobody asked for your opinion," Hanatarou said coldly.
Mayuri brushed off the icicles that had appeared on his nose and continued. "No!" he screeched. "No, no, no, no, no, no, NO. I am sick and tired of being so damn... Normal. Everyone else is crazy and I'm the only sane one here and I DON'T LKE IT! Things aren't supposed to be like this!"
"I'm not allowed to kill him, am I?" Hanatarou asked Nemu carefully.
"No," she said.
Hanatarou was disappointed.
"I give you people drugs and mutant creatures and all sorts of crazy things, and what do I end up with!" raged Mayuri. "A wedding! WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU PEOPLE? YOU'RE ALL COMPLETELY INSANE."
Hanatarou conjured up a kettle from somewhere. It said, "hello pot. You're black." The kettle disappeared.
"It's funny cause it's true," snickered Ichigo.
"SHUT UP! All of you, just SHUT UP. I mean, at first it was great, I was getting more action than I'd been getting in-"
"… And now the entire Seireitei is dead. I meant just in interesting subjects… Oh, never mind," Mayuri frowned, annoyed that he hadn't been able to complete his rant. He paused, looked around, thought for a moment. "No, this works perfectly." Grumbling, he began heading back to his much-reduced laboratory. "Stupid wedding… Seireitei… Chipmunk…" He entered his lab, ignored the destruction and went to a machine. It was a time travel machine. He put it on the strongest setting. There was a button that would exclude his lab from the effects, meaning he would remember what happened, but he turned this off glumly. He just wanted to forget everything.
He let it build up for a minute, then turned it on, letting it take the Seireitei back in time.
Aizen was, for lack of a better word, off his face. He had found some good-quality sake, and that was hard to find where he lived. He and Gin were both laughing, but not in the normal way. They were having a menacing laugh-off. So far Gin had gotten ahead of Aizen on sheer creepiness, but Aizen's laughter had more weight to it, so Gin conceded the battle.
"You know what we should do?" said Aizen, coming up with a brilliant idea.
"What? Tell me, oh Superman-like leader?"
"Who's Superman? Never mind, I don't care…" Aizen cleared his throat and tried to stand up straight. "We should take one of the healer people, right? You following?"
"Division Four healer people, yeah, gotcha." Gin fell over.
"And, like, swap them for one of the fighty people."
"Yeah!" Gin said from where he lay on the ground. "And say it's to help improve relations or whatever."
But then Aizen, drunk as he was, got a chill down his spine. It said, 'don't do it, for the LOVE OF GOD don't, bad things will happen.' He had a sudden sense of déjàvu. Like he had made this decision before, and it had led to bad things happening.
"Actually, no, let's just kill something instead," he said.
Mayuri was looking at his time travel machine curiously. It was doing something odd… Like it had been used. But he had set it so that he would remember if he used it, so obviously that couldn't be it.
"Captain?" said his Lieutenant softly.
"I have the medicine to deliver now."
"Good. Do it."
Nemu nodded and left.
Mayuri shrugged and went back to normalising all the mutant creatures he had. He'd gotten a sudden urge to make them normal and then release them all. For some reason the thought of having mutant creatures had begun to gives him chills.
He sighed and went back to un-mutantising a chipmunk.
Hanatarou was in Division Four, bandaging someone's arm.
"It should be alright in a few days," he told the Soul Reaper. They were trying to teach him to heal himself again after he had an illness, but it was taking a few days.
"Thanks," said the Soul Reaper. "What was your name again?"
"Hanatarou Yamada," he replied.
"Thanks Mr Yamada."
As the man walked away, Hanatarou stared after him in gleeful surprise. Then he shook himself. Why had be been so happy someone had remembered his name? Nobody forgot names that easily. He shook his head as he walked out. He had a delivery to make.
Liza had a crazy idea, and she had come up to the inner Seireitei to share it. She was waiting to meet with Unohana. It wasn't going to come to anything, but she still wanted to try it out. She was allowed in by the Lieutenant, a woman with silver hair who nodded at her politely. She sat down opposite the Captain, feeling awed. She'd heard stories about Unohana.
"I want to talk to you about the idea of getting counsellors-"
"You're hired." Unohana had no idea what prompted her to say it, but she'd never heard such a good idea in her life.
Hanatarou stood outside the Soul Reaper art museum, staring at it in shock. It had burned down in a freak fire accident overnight. Seireitei buildings were meant to be fire-resistant, but in truth, nobody but Captain Byakuya and his sister were mourning the loss. They were already talking about the possibility of building a new one in their Division as they walked through the ruins. As Hanatarou observed the destruction he noticed someone walking near him. It was a female Soul Reaper he'd seen around but had never talked to. She was reserved, so much so that she seemed slightly robotic, but she was humming something, she hadn't noticed this. It was 'happy birthday.'
Hanatarou had no idea what prompted him to say, "someone's birthday today?"
She didn't even start, just looked at him with blank eyes There was a flicker in her eyes, like she recognised him from somewhere. She shouldn't have engaged with the man, but instead of leaving she said, "yes, mine in a week."
"Oh. Well, happy birthday for them." He didn't see the surprise in her eyes, instead glancing about. "Um, so, I suppose it's a pity the art museum is gone."
"Do you think so?"
He looked at her. "Does anyone think so?" They both smiled, just a little. "I'm sorry for being forward, but are you Lieutenant Nemu? I've just… heard a lot about you. I just want to tell you that you do a great job, from everything people tell me."
There was a moment where they looked at each other awkwardly. "Well, I have to go-" they both said, stopped smiled. They turned, said a brief goodbye and walked off.
Nemu paused, turned, not sure why she was saying, "wait. What's your name?"
"Hanatarou Yamada," replied Hanatarou.
"Well, it was nice to meet you," she said, before turning and leaving.
Hanatarou smiled, waved awkwardly even though he knew her back was turned. He smiled the entire way, as did Nemu.
Hanatarou paused as he passed a rose bush. A thought grew in his mind. "Hm," he said, touching a flower gently. He wondered if Nemu liked roses.
He decided he would find out.