Chapter 2: Gina's Past I
A/N: Thank you so much for your encouraging review Gypsygrrl! I hope this one still lives up to your expectation! :)
(Approximately 120 years ago…)
"Kurosutchi taichou, Kurosutchi taichou! We did it! We did it!"
I could hear them, those people whom they referred to themselves as scientists. For some reason or other, they appeared to be expressing joy at something.
"Secure her heart rate and breathing pressure!"
As I slowly regained my consciousness and my sense of touch, I realized that my limbs were strapped down against my will. I jerked against their strength, feeling the non-corrosive metal bite into my bare skin. I felt my lungs slowly begin to expand and a strange, bitter liquid began to invade my nose and mouth, filling my lungs with it. My eyes shot open and I shook my head violently to clear my blurred, bubble-filled vision. It was then that I realized myself that my body could hardly take in any oxygen with all that odd pink liquid in my lungs; I understood there and then, that I was drowning…I was dying before I could even introduce myself to the world outside, past this glass barrier that had me sealed off from all sides. "Onegai…" I mouthed the words out. "T-Tasukete…"
"Release the chain restraints and the liquid pressure, you idiot!"
Soon after, I heard strange clinking noises and both my hands and feet were released. Almost instantly, I lifted my hands and covered my nose and mouth, to prevent the fluid from further entering my lungs. It seemed like an eternity before I felt the pressure exerted from the liquid dropping as the vents below my hovering feet opened to drain it away. Without any support to hold on to, I crumpled to the base of what I deemed it to be a large glass-like circular cylinder, in a messy heap. Gasping hard, I raised my head feebly just as the glass barrier fell away.
"Get her some clothes as well! Geez, I don't even know why I have such slothful, mindless recruits!" the same voice ordered to those scientists. "Nemu, come here!"
An eerie-looking man with golden eyes approached me and instinctively, I drew back but it was not like it did anything to diminish the distance between us. I was careful to keep my head lowered; for some peculiar reason, this man frightened me. My eyes widened when his shadow loomed over me. He placed one latex glove-wrapped finger below my chin and forced my head up. My eyes unwillingly slid over to his, and his lips pulled backwards to reveal his teeth which were startlingly white, considering that his entire face was painted with stark colors of black and white. "Good girl, I see you didn't break your storage equipment," he spoke up as he continued to turn my head sideways to scrutinize me. I opened my mouth to respond but found that I hardly could articulate a word, much less a sound. All that escaped from my throat was a whimper.
"Oh come now, there's nothing to be afraid of…let's see, what shall I call you…" he allowed the sentence to trail off as he took his finger away from underneath my chin. His golden eyes were still inspecting my face as if searching for inspiration. At that moment, a slight woman with dark hair stepped forward and went over to stand beside him. He turned to her with an irritated look on his face. "Well what are you waiting for, Nemu, my experimental explosive serum? Don't just stand there! Dress her already!" he snapped scornfully.
"Hai Mayuri-sama," Nemu answered impassively before she leapt into action. Swiftly, she unfolded the black and white fabric from her arms. It was similar to the one that she was wearing, I observed. I stiffened slightly when her hands clamped themselves around my wrists and I looked up questioningly at her deadpan face, wondering what she was going to do with me. She was startlingly gentle as she helped me get down from the platform and onto my feet.
"What are these?" I asked her timidly.
For a moment, her green eyes flickered with amusement but I must have imagined it because it vanished completely the next moment, like it had not been there before. She held out the white fabric which looked to be an undershirt. "Clothes, this is the nagajuban which is to be worn over this black kimono here; this is what your uniform is going to be like after," she explained patiently before she pointed to herself.
I stared at her uniform in fascination. "Why must we wear clothes?" I interrogated, staring openly at her with a mystified expression on my face. "I'm wearing my skin, aren't I?"
Before Nemu could answer my question, the man with the creepy golden eyes, who I assumed was that 'Mayuri-sama', dismissed Nemu in a rude manner. "That's enough explanations for one day…honestly Nemu, I asked you to dress her and not have a heart-to-heart! It does not take more than a minute to do that!"
"I'm sorry, Mayuri-sama," Nemu replied promptly. "I will do so at once."
I frowned at the older man in front of me. "Why are you scolding her for? She didn't do anything wrong to you." The moment those words left my mouth, I instantly felt a sense of regret and nervousness. His eyes slid languidly over to mine and fixed them with such a penetrating gaze that I had to look away.
"Nemu, I will put…Gina under your care; see to it that she is educated," Mayuri said in his commanding tone after a short pause. He turned back and pointed one finger at me, "That's your name…Gina which signifies your silvery hair."
It was ten years after I was, as Nemu had proudly described 'given birth to by Mayuri-sama and his ingenious science'. To anyone within hearing range, it sounded rather ghastly; even to me. The reproduction capacity was only unique to females…and not males or science for that matter. I was an 'Artificial Shinigami' just like my older sister, Nemu. She too was borne by the Gigai and Gikon technology by that creepy scientist. I did not like to think of him as my father; he was hardly a parent but Nemu was one to me though. She was the one who nurtured me since I was 'made' and had taught me about the existence of the Soul Society.
"Gina, why don't you try this one…what is the fifth incantation from Chapter 12 from page 398?" Akon asked me.
"I've given you over a thousand of those that even I've lost count of already!" I complained, pursing my lips in disapproval. "Can we move on to the next assessment please? I'm getting bored."
The older man only smiled pleasantly at me. "We have to finish these for Kurosutchi taichou. I'll buy you milk pudding, how's that sound?" he added.
"Really?" I exclaimed enthusiastically, knowing full well that he was bribing me. Who cares anyway as long as I got my milk pudding, all was fine. "Fifth phrase from Chapter 12 from page 398 right," I repeated. "Hadō #91: Senjū Kōten Taihō. Limit of the thousands hands, respectful hands, unable to touch the darkness. Shooting hands unable to reflect the blue sky. The road that basks in light, the wind that ignited the embers, time that gathers when both are together, there is no need to be hesitant, obey my orders. Light bullets, eight bodies, nine items, book of heaven, diseased treasure, great wheel, grey fortress tower. Aim far away; scatter brightly and cleanly when fired."
I grinned, when I saw Akon's expression of disbelief on his face. "You really have eidictic memory, don't you?"
"Well I am in love my brain and vice versa," I deadpanned.
Akon sighed loudly as he closed the 'The Shinigami Guide to Kidō Incantations' and placed the book on the table. "In just ten minutes of skimming through the entire thing? People take years justto have them memorized; that's just unbelievable!" he complained, ignoring my remark.
"Why, you've been in charge of my analysis for the past seven years and I've barely made any mistakes so what's there not to believe?" I asked him, smiling innocently. "So you owe me a milk pudding now."
He slapped one hand to his forehead. "I assumed that this 'ability' of yours will start to deteriorate with time because Nemu was just like that too…well, in the initial stages of course."
"Don't you have to write your report now?" I reminded him.
"Ah yes, I almost forgot about that…" he groaned. "And I'll get you your milk pudding tonight."
Just then, Nemu entered Akon's laboratory and Akon bowed in polite greeting and acknowledgement of her presence. "Mayuri-sama is requesting for your company, Gina; come with me."
I nodded my obedience and went over to her, suddenly aware of the sense of anxiety that coursed through me. Akon glanced over at me; I knew he noticed the sudden display of submission which was uncharacteristic of me. Of course it should be that way; anyone with the 12th Division Captain in the same room was bound to feel terrified of him. In my opinion, after knowing my 'father' for the ten years of my life, I had learnt the fine art of being a mute in his presence unless it was absolutely necessary, of course but not at the course of jeopardizing my own life.
"Nemu-oneesan, what does he want?" I asked, trailing slightly behind her so as to show the respect she deserved as being the vice-Captain despite the fact that she was my sister.
"You'll know when you get there," she answered flatly.
The walk to his laboratory was short, just a few doors away from Akon's and Nemu was being downright subdued, as usual. I knew it was only because of the influence of that crazy scientist. I swallowed the lump of fear that had established itself in my throat, bracing myself for anything that my 'father' might throw at me as Nemu gave the door, a slight knock.
"I have brought her as you have requested, Mayuri-sama," Nemu spoke up before she stepped back, a few paces behind me.
"Took you long enough," Mayuri barked and motioned me to come over to where he was sitting at, a table with a bizarre-looking machine in front of him. There was an empty chair across the table from him which I took. He leaned forward, exposing his healthy white teeth in a sickening grin. "I assume you know what you are here for?"
I nodded wordlessly, stiffening slightly when I saw that machine with their little odds-and-ends that 'looked' harmless but was designed to administer indescribable pain to their victim. I noticed Mayuri's crazed smile widened when he saw me trembling slightly. Of course, I knew what it was for though this 'laboratory analysis' was planned a little earlier than scheduled.
"Oh and Nemu, close that damn door!" he continued before fiddling with his instrument. "We don't want her screams to ricochet down the hallway…" he muttered this under his breath. Once satisfied with his instrument-regulation, he proceeded over to me while rummaging around in his laboratory coat pocket.
Promptly albeit reluctantly, I held out my arm and he delivered the familiar greenish anesthetic, though it did not seem to help as much seeing as it was supposed to according to my 'father' but I knew otherwise after a few of these clinical trials, so to speak. He just wanted to take pleasure in my pain just as much as Nemu's. After all to him, we are nothing but lesser beings…his less than perfect experimental designs. Without missing a beat, he began the excruciating insertion ritual of pushing those tubes into my skull and arms. My eyes widened as I gasped out in pain when they punctured through the protective layers my skin. My hands curled themselves into tight fists in my lap, trying to hold back the sudden intense surge of pain as the tears began to make their usual tracks down my cheeks. As another one was stabbed into the base of my neck, I released the bottled-up suffering in one long, piercing scream. It hurts so much…
The emotional travail and torment that I have suffered for the past ten years of Mayuri's experiments on my body was unparalleled to the physical pain which his healing serum could remove all traces of broken skin and scars. "I do hope you didn't lose consciousness like the last time," he said with a light warning laced in his voice.
I struggled to look up at him and managed to shake my head. My throat had gone hoarse from all the screaming that I did earlier. My vision was wavering but I fought to stay focused. I had learnt that losing consciousness was not worth it because he had other sample drugs on hand to force me from blacking out. "Now I want you to go into that 'oracle mode' yours," he commanded once he was back in his chair.
I closed my eyes trying to block out the many different flows of pain directed to my brain from all over my body; it could not possibly take the mental strain on top of it all. This clinical analysis was going to be over in a few minutes, I can do this…
"Hmm…how curious, your percentage accuracy still stands at 73.549% for the past three years and counting," Mayuri mumbled to himself as he wrote something feverishly on the clipboard beside him. He gave it a cursory once look-over of his final report and once he was satisfied, did he stop the excruciating machine's electrical impulses. I fell backwards on the chair in exhaustion, my spine unable to support my upright posture and body weight. My 'father' did even bother to take another look at me as he stood up and turned to my older sister. "Nemu, extract those tubes from her body and take her away."
It was the bitterness and anger concealed deep in the recesses of my heart that drove me to hate my so-called father and maker with such intense passion; the severe years serving as a science experiment for the 12th Division Captain was the reason why I had gained the human compassion for others of what he termed it to be as the 'Human Illness'.
"Nemu-oneesan, why don't I have one those things?" I asked my approaching older sister, as I jumped off from the ledge after an hour of spying on those sparring Shinigami novices.
"That's because you aren't a part of the 13 Division Imperial Guards," Nemu answered promptly. "Right now, having a zanpakutō is not an important issue; your hand-to-hand combat isn't formidable enough even after ten years of training you."
I only grinned at her. "That's because of my minimal stamina but my brain does make up for it… more or less. Besides I would prefer not to fight with anyone."
The older woman took one look at me and sighed audibly. "I wonder how you got such an expressive personality; even if you dislike it, you should at least have the basics to fight against Hollows to protect yourself."
"Hollows?" I repeated. "I read about those before; corrupted spirits borne from former Pluses that lose their hearts to despair and devour souls of both the living and the deceased."
"Yes exactly; you'll be eaten if you don't know how to protect yourself from them. Mayuri-sama has allowed for today's lesson to take place in Rukongai," Nemu said.
My eyes widened in astonishment at her words. "Really? I can go to Rokungai now?" I exclaimed enthusiastically.
"Yes, and I don't want you wandering off on your own," she added blandly.
I pouted, expressing my displeasure unashamedly to the vice-Captain of the 12th Division. "Aww, that's no fun…"
"The only reason why Mayuri-sama allowed you to go was because he wants your combat analysis; in other words, we are going on a Hollow hunt," Nemu continued, utterly disregarding my remark before she abruptly turned her back to me and began walking away.
Reluctantly, I followed after her. Like she had said, I've not yet learned the basics of combat and already that nutty scientist wants me to go up against Hollows; just how much longer does he need to study me…?
It had only been slightly over fifteen minutes when I first felt it…the creepy feeling of a nearby Hollow's presence in the Rokungai district. A few moments later, I heard a woman's scream which was followed by a tug of fear in my heart. "Come Gina!" Nemu called over her shoulder before she took off into a run in the direction where the shriek had came from.
I made a rude noise under my breath and silently followed after her. I'm not even prepared yet…! What am I going to do when I get there…?
"Dareka tasukete kudasai!(Somebody, please save me!)"
"Here!" Nemu tossed me a familiar-looking weapon. "This is a prototype katana that Mayuri-sama developed to combat against Hollows which is similar to that of a zanpakutō but it doesn't have a living spirit residing in it."
Flustered, I flailed about trying to catch hold of it and managed to do it just before it hit the ground. "And as usual I have to be his guinea pig…" I muttered under my breath.
The vice-Captain of the 12th Division went into action, the moment the two of us had spotted the corrupted spirit in the near distance. She directed a well-aimed roundhouse kick at its massive wrist and reflexively, it released its female victim with a loud bellow. Without missing a beat, Nemu disappeared only to reappear at a safer distance with the unconscious woman in her arms. It was evident that she had used Shunpo, a move that I was appallingly bad at much to Mayuri's dismay. Setting the woman underneath a foliage-free tree, she turned to me. "Finish it off, Gina."
I swallowed and stared up at the oversized spirit before me, which had already recovered from its initial shock and was stampeding, heading directly for me. Me finishing this…you have got to be kidding me; it'll finish ME off in two seconds flat…