Disclaimer:I do not own Bleach or any of its affiliates. Anything that you recognise is property of its respective owners. Any relations to persons living or dead are purely coincidental.
Title: Paradigm Shift
Summary: A thoughtless confession of the battlefield leads to a change of belief Súi Fēng never thought possible. "I have nothing to lose but my life. An insignificant trifle, eh shinigami?" GgioSoi
Music used for inspiration: Clubbed to Death – Escala, Paralyzer, Living in a Dream – Finger Eleven,
She narrowed her eyes as the arrancar opposite her stilled in his assault of her. His grin was at odds with the steel in his eyes and the way he fought. She would have thought someone like him would have enjoyed the thrill of the kill, and played with his enemy. But she was wrong. She recognised the feeling she saw in him. He enjoyed the challenge. He lived for the strain, the burn.
-She brushed aside her own enjoyment of a skilled opponent, when she realised this -
She silently approved and resolved to make her adversaries end a quick one. Opponents like him were rare and she valued that.
He cocked his head to one side. The long braid behind him fluttered in the wind and the blade at the end sounded like a bell on a cats collar. Her eyes flickered to it for a second before going back to his face. She studied his body, waiting for the tell-tale strain of muscles and the tightening of skin across his knuckles or the tension in his neck that signalled a burst of speed.
She enjoyed fighting him. His style was very different from any other arrancar she'd heard of and she was pleasantly surprised at his skill. Not as strong as some, but faster and far more agile than most.
But she hated his eyes. They were a cruel mockery of Yoruichi's own golden irises. Only he was defacing them with that look of determination that was sent towards her.
For that, she resolved, he had to die.
Then he opened his mouth and spoke.
"You're good, shinigami." He said, a hint of admiration in his drawl.
She said nothing.
He waved a clawed hand, the blade mounted on his wrist catching the watery light as he did so.
"Silence? I'm hurt." The hand went over where his heart should be and a crooked grin stretched his lips, showing discreet fangs bared in amusement. He shrugged. "Fair enough."
"Enough." She ordered, her voice cutting through the heavy air like a whip. "Stop talking. We have a fight to finish."
The smirk widened.
"Yes, I suppose we do, don't we?" he acquiesced. Then he sighed and the smirk faded. She narrowed her eyes. "I had hoped to finish the fight without resorting to this." He admitted.
She was cautious.
"What?" she demanded. He looked up dolefully.
"You see, it goes against my pride." He said with a frown. She felt her breath catch. "I fight with skill and speed, not brute strength." He spat vehemently. "I find this last technique far too," he fought for a word, "flashy for my liking."
She was aware that her eyes must have been very wide and that her grip on her sword was so strong it was making her knuckles turn white. His word cut her deeply, and struck a chord within her.
He shrugged mournfully.
"I have nothing to lose but my life. An insignificant trifle, eh shinigami?" he chuckled humourlessly. "I have my orders, you have yours. We'll follow them through no matter what, won't we?"
There was something in his eyes that told her that he'd read her just as she had him. It was true. She followed her orders to the letter, as did he. She frowned when he described his life as an 'insignificant trifle'. He was a hollow, and hollows were to be killed because they were animals. Animals that were dangerous and for the good of innocent people, had to be purified.
They were base creatures, driven by nothing more than instinct. But then how, she wondered, could a creature of instinct and barbarism relate to her in such a way? How could something like that have a line that they preferred not to cross? Pride.
Arrancar were the epitome of all mankind's sins. Wrathful, arrogant and sadistic. But… she was encountering one who had pride in what levels he would stoop to.
She understood that far better than she wanted to. She'd met no-one else who despised one their own techniques on principle. No one else who was as devoted to their chosen leader as she was. No one else who had clawed their way to the top, because power was everything and precision was lesser.
-She thought of her own Bankai and forced down all thought of ever using it-
He was an arrancar, a hollow. And so he had to die.
But he was like her, like no one else she'd ever met without looking into the mirror.
And so she couldn't kill him.
But Súi Fēng knew about sacrifice, and she knew that sometimes, you had to get your hands –and soul- dirty in order to fulfil your purpose.
-And judging from his words, he knew it too-
She relaxed her vice hold on her blade and settled into a familiar stance. She breathed out, low and steady.
She felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle when the air around her exploded with spiritual pressure.
She was sure if anyone else had been close, only she would have seen the disgusted, resigned look in the arrancars eyes as he spoke the name of his hated technique.
So she made a choice and she decided, for once, she was going to follow her own prerogative. Yamamoto could go to hell.
Standing over her broken enemy, she looked down at him with placid eyes. He drew a laboured breath and coughed, red liquid bubbling from his lips.
He was sprawled on the rubble and was valiantly trying to push himself up on shaking, bloody arms.
The long braid lay in a pool of his own blood and drew red inked lines like a brush when he heaved himself up.
He looked defiantly into her eyes.
She squatted down.
"Tell me arrancar," she began conversationally, "Why do you follow Aizen? He will just betray you in the end."
To her surprise, he spluttered out a laugh that sent him coughing.
"Aizen can go fuck himself." He wheezed, blood trickling down his chin. She raised her eyebrows. "I fight for King Barragan, with the hope that I can repay the debt I owe him."
"Debt?" she asked, oddly anxious to hear his words although she did not show it.
He looked up into her eyes and she saw that his own had dulled to a leaden, beaten gold.
"He saved my life." He coughed, "None of the Espada chose me as a Fracçion, I didn't have enough power." He spat with vehemence. "I would have been killed as soon as I was born if I was deemed too weak. But King Barragan chose me and saw that I could be of use. I could have purpose."
He hacked another cough and winced when he moved. She resisted the urge to move closer.
"But he doesn't care for you either," she stated bluntly, "He sent you out here to face a Captain alone."
He grinned, showing sharp, red stained teeth.
"No shit. I'd like to think he thinks I can handle myself but I'm not stupid. I'm still not fucking strong enough." He spat bitterly.
He hissed as he stretched the wound across his torso and held a hand over the ragged, crimson stained uniform.
She looked on impassively.
"Shinigami," he gasped out, he was becoming weaker by the second as blood continued to stream from his wound. "if I may have my blade?"
Súi Fēng raised a single dark eyebrow.
"No." She shook her head.
His brow creased and he snarled.
"You don't even give me the honour of dying by my own blade? Fucking shinigami bitch." He rasped out with venom. Scarlet blood sprayed from his lips and stained them red upon red.
She was surprised and she knew it showed on her face. He chuckled bitterly.
"Surprised? Surprised that an animal could possibly have any concept of honour? Just kill me already shinigami. I've failed in my purpose, I have nothing left." His voice was low and despondent but steady and unforced.
"Nothing left? How weak." She commented. She wasn't disappointed when she saw his eyes flash with anger.
"Weak? Weak?" he hissed, "How could I find another purpose? A disgraced fracçion whose opponent doesn't even find him worthy of killing? What could I possibly do save dishonour myself further? Who the hell would give me purpose after this?Tell me!"
Her mouth was dry and she swallowed painfully. She drew in a sharp, excruciating breath when she saw him bow his head.
"Just fucking do it. Spare me the dishonour of others seeing me being put down like a sick dog." He whispered and she had to strain to catch the words.
She barely realised the words had left her mouth in a quiet murmur. Súi Fēng felt a thrill of rebelliousness rush through her body and her slate grey eyes gleamed with fire.
"I could give you purpose."
He looked up at her with wide, disbelieving eyes.
She took a deep breath and resigned herself to the words she'd shaped in her head.
"I could give you purpose." She repeated. "Join us."
He scoffed derisively.
"Join the shinigami? No chance. What would I gain from that?"
She narrowed her eyes.
"Your life, for one."
He looked at her from under hooded eyes, his mouth a grim, scarlet line.
"Not good enough."
She was once again taken aback. To find someone who valued his life so little… it almost reminded her of herself when she served her Lady. But this arrancar had no one left to serve.
She almost distained to see him on his knees.
"I would offer you a position in my Onmitsukido. And a chance to have a purpose." She offered.
"What purpose?" he asked carefully, suspicious.
"To restore the balance." She said simply.
She knew he understood her somewhat cryptic words and watched with a careful eye as he considered. She hoped he would reach a decision soon, as his pallor told that his time was running out.
"I cannot abandon my debt to King Barragan."
"Your debt, if it ever existed, is fulfilled. You fought and laid down your life for him. You owe him nothing."
He fell silent again and she waited patiently.
She felt a hot rush of fury twist her face into an angry mask.
"Stubborn fool!" she spat and stood violently, biting her lip as the motion caused a dull, burning throb on her bruised ribs.
He looked at her steadily, having given up all efforts of sitting up. He was on his side, half propped up with one forearm.
"I don't want the former balance." He hedged. "I want a new one."
She didn't look at him.
"Like what?" she asked absently, bitterly. "We're not going to start sparing hollows."
"I don't ask you to." He said calmly, although his voice was weak. "All I ask is that the 'kill on sight' order be rescinded against arrancar."
"Not going to happen." She dismissed. "Arrancar cannot be reasoned with."
"You're reasoning with me aren't you?"
She had to admit, grudgingly, that she'd been caught there.
"The arrancar joined Aizen." She stubbornly reminded him. He barked out a frail laugh.
"'Join or die' isn't much of a choice. The extermination of the shinigami was an afterthought in the face of that. Some do desire it, I'll admit that, but most are just tired of being animals to you. Animals to Aizen. We may be born out of negative feelings, but we are still born."
She didn't believe a word of it.
- She ruthlessly pushed down a milder part of herself that urged her to listen -
"I'll think about it."
"That's a definite no then."
"Shut your mouth. I'll see what I can do."
He shrugged as best he could.
"I can ask of no more."
She squatted again, impatient.
"Well?" she demanded.
"I'll need some conditions, shinigami." He rasped. "But yes, I'll join you."
She felt the odd sensation of relief wash through her body.
A weak, crooked grin twisted his mouth. His red blood was stark against his wan skin.
"If you don't heal me soon though, I'll be of even less use to you."
She ignored his jest, and felt the warm reiatsu of healing kidō envelop her hands. She was by no means competent enough to heal him fully, but she knew enough to keep him alive.
As his more grievous wounds slowly closed and the blood flow was staunched, he slipped into unconsciousness, his body relaxing and his head lolling to one side.
She winced when she moved and resolved to heal herself after she was finished. She studied him admiringly, for a mere fracçion to able to land some of the hits he had… she was grudgingly impressed.
Now though, she had to face the consequences.
When he'd been healed fully by Unohana - Súi Fēng had insisted only the squad four captain be present – and the situation had been fully explained for the first, but certainly not last time, she allowed herself to relax somewhat. She'd left soon after he was pronounced stable and re-joined the fight.
When she'd limped through the flap of the tent hours later, missing an arm and being unwillingly supported by her lieutenant, she'd collapsed on a makeshift bed next to his and slipped into a deep sleep.
It would be days before she awoke again.
She came to slowly. It began with a vague awareness of feeling pleasantly warm and heavy and that she was lying on something soft. Then she noticed the shades of red and orange that her eyelids seemed to be painted. Her ears picked up the sound of rhythmic beeping, the soft whirr of machines and the gentle wheeze of what she blearily recognised as a respirator. Lastly, she smelled the clean scent of bleach and disinfectant that she knew pervaded squad four. She had a location, now she just needed a date.
Not bothering to try and move just yet, she gradually opened her eyes, letting out a barely audible groan as the light streaming in from an uncovered window hit her sensitive retinae. Getting used to the light, she studied the uniform white veiling for a moment or two before tilting her head to the side and looking around the room.
Her neck not co-operating, she hauled herself up before hissing and clutching at her torso, which she found was wrapped tightly in bandages. The sheets had fallen down to tangle around her waist and she steadied her breathing, wincing as she finished righting herself.
Looking around again, she expected to see an IV in her arm, connected a machine next to her, but she was wrong. The beeping heart rate monitor wasn't for her.
The other occupant of the room was lying deathly still, his face half covered by the oxygen mask and his eyes closed and limp. He looked so very small in that bed, surrounded by white sheets and wires.
She felt her mouth go dry. The staccato beeping played out background music and she felt her arms begin to shake from holding her torso off the bed. Lowering herself carefully, she fell the last few inches to land with a soft thump and jarring pain on the mattress. Catching her breath from the small effort, she stared at the ceiling.
The only part of her body she could utilise without it hurting was her brain, so she put it to use. Just how high had the death toll risen? Who was on the list, waiting for their name to be added to the memorial stones that jutted up like dragons teeth above the earth? Taking a breath and using what little energy she had to move her head to one side, she glanced once again at the figure lying in the bed, hooked up to machines and not even being able to breathe by his own strength.
She closed her eyes and evened her breathing. She hoped there wouldn't be another name to add to the list. She attempted to force herself into sleep. She knew it was silly, but she indulged herself anyway. She didn't want to be awake when he woke up. The memorial stones would have another name on them, one that she didn't want to hear being spoken softly to him, with pity lacing the tone.
There were others she knew. She almost felt thankful she wasn't especially close to anyone. She would feel sorrow, she was sure, and a sense of surprise when she didn't see half familiar faces. She didn't even know him that well. But for some reason she couldn't bear the thought of seeing one of them, the elite, lying there on that bed with not even the strength to breathe.
She felt her eyes close and she felt heavy.
No, she didn't want to be awake when Toshiro Hitsugaya woke up.
I'm not sure where I'm going with this, but I felt the need to get this out there. I'm surprised no-one has done this concept before, but hey, if I can take credit for being the first, I'm certainly not complaining. Hitsugaya will play a part in this, simply because I like him and have experience writing his character.
I have a vague idea as to where this will go, but I'm always open to more ideas, for this story or for any others. And yes, I do take requests and a few people have taken me upon the offer…
I'm utterly snowed under with assignments for university, so I'm spending much of my time researching Lockard's Theory of Transference, studying blood spatter analysis and looking up serial killers.
Criminology. So much fun.