Obligatory one off disclaimer: I do not, will I ever own Bleach or any song/program/item I may reference in this work - would I be here if I did? The rights are all held by their respective owners and/or creators.
Please note for future reference; this story is rated M and will contain frequent bloody violence, mild use of torture, regular use of strong language, topics that some might find offence and/or vulgar, strong and frequent sexual references and innuendos and mild sexual content that some might be uncomfortable with and numerous character deaths (there is no Plot Armour here). Whilst at first things might seem PG-13 I assure you it will get worse; you have been warned, this is a grim!dark Bleach story not intended for the faint of heart.
Justice is lost
Justice is raped
Justice is gone
Pulling your strings
Justice is done
Seeking no truth
Winning is all
Find it so grim
And Justice for All - Metallica
Justice is dead to the world,
And nobody even knows it;
So forth went Abaddon in retribution,
Blade held high in defiance with Pride standing tall
Whilst five riders lead the Unforgiven
Forward unto dawn and into the meadows of Heaven
to punish the wicked and self-righteous,
To the sound of tolling bells and shattering Seals,
They clashed to the bitter end,
Fighting for Glory, Redemption, Balance
…And Justice for All
Prologue – The Bliss in Ignorance
She had promised herself she wouldn't cry. But, in the grand scheme of things, promises were such easy things to break: no more so brittle than the glass of a fragile mirror. And if each broken promise was a shattered mirror then she would have long ago broken enough to ensure she would be plagued by disastrous luck for all of eternity. And that was just from the past few months alone.
But as Kuchiki Fumiko stood in the ashen remains of the once glorious Shiba manor, she decided that maybe it was better to let herself cry. Just this once, though… What was one more broken promise to the already never-ending list?
Lifting her violet gaze from the crack floorboard on the ground which she'd previously found so interesting, the short, raven-haired woman looked around the charred entrance hall. The entire building creaked under the harsh push of the growing wind as grey clouds gathered overhead, visible through the cracked ceiling. The blackened room seemed so much darker already. Off in the distance she could hear the sound of groaning wood, a slight snap crying out in the silence as somewhere, a banister, or a support beam finally caved under the momentous pressure. The irony of the situation, she thought.
Gently wiping a tear from her eyes, she could only smile wistfully as she recalled how once upon a time the room in which she currently stood would have been alive with laughter and commotion.
Now there was only her, dressed in her tattered and burnt Shinigami garb, the black material bloody and damp from a now non-existent downpour. Her Officer's haori was lost to the winds, having been torn from her body during the battle. Her Zanpakutõ - or what was left of it - was secured around her waist, attached to her once vivid violet obi, the broken hilt and what remained of the fragmented blade sticking out of its broken sheath.
Despite herself, Fumiko could still picture the messy children running around the halls with bedraggled servants lolling along behind them in their vain, half-hearted attempt to catch the little runaways; who were no doubt either making their escape, having caused havoc of some sort or abandoned one of their countless tutors in search of more productive means to pass the time. She chuckled dryly, remembering that, at one point in time, she too would have been one of those children gleefully squealing as they made a bid for freedom.
But the days of playing tag and the like with Shiba Akiyama and the rest of her childhood friends around the manor, Akiyama's father joining them on countless occasions - being the overgrown child that he was - had long since passed. But as she stared up at a hole in the ceiling, the grey clouds looking down on her with a grave sternness about them, Fumiko chided herself for recalling such thoughts. Some things were best left forgotten.
What am I supposed to do…? She asked herself, waiting for an answer that would never arrive. Somewhere behind her, the short woman heard the creak of the damaged doors swinging open with an agonising groan of protest, all its effort already spent trying to remain upright. But the wails of the doors went unnoticed, Fumiko too engrossed in her own thoughts to pay the noise any heed.
So many are dead; Shihõin-sensei, Akiyama, Ryûkami… Ichiro, at the thought of her beloved husband the dam broke. Her knees finally gave out as she crashed to the battered floorboards, soot jumping into the air and dancing around her.
What did any of them do to deserve the hand fate dealt them? And why, of all people, was she still alive when so many stronger than her had already fallen by the wayside like rice in the harvest field? It just wasn't fair. But, then again, nothing was ever fair. Because that was the universe's most important rule.
Fumiko hung her head as the sobs racked her small frame, the heavens bursting with a screech of thunder and the darkening skies crying. Where did it all go wrong? she wondered hopelessly, her small hands tightening into fists as the imagines of those that had abandoned Soul Society swam before her mind's eye. Traitorous scum…!
She wanted to scream in blind fury. Curse them for all she was worth for what they had done. But a hand landed on her shaking shoulder before she could give into her anger. Whoever it was didn't speak, however: they just let her cry the last of her tears, for which she was grateful. If she didn't get it out now, she would only break down later when she could least afford to do so. Everyone left is looking to me for answers I don't have! But breaking down in front of them isn't going to help anyone, she told herself.
After wiping away the last of her tears, Fumiko hiccupped in an embarrassed fashion, rubbing her blotchy eyes. Taking a deep breath, she nodded to her companion that she was done. Feeling the hand lift, the invisible ten-ton weight that she'd been shouldering for the last few hours went with it - she wasn't alone anymore.
The Kuchiki noblewoman let her breathing return to normal before she summoned the energy to clamber back to her still shaking feet. Dusting off her tattered robes, she turned to see who had found her in her grief-stricken state.
"Kuchiki-sama," Yamamoto Genryûsai murmured grimly, inclining his head in respect. Yamamoto was a young, raven-haired Shinigami who looked to be in his early twenties, his long hair was pulled back into a braided ponytail and his dark red eyes, once soft and full of warmth, were hard and narrowed coldly. A fresh scar marred his forehead, a screwed line running from the corner of his left eye and disappearing into his hair. "The other remaining senior Shinigami were concerned; you left the meeting without notifying anyone about where you were going."
"Gomennasai, Yamamoto-kun," Fumiko muttered like a reprimanded child, "those petty arguments weren't really helping anyone and I needed to clear my head so I could think more clearly."
"Agreed," the younger Shinigami intoned gruffly. "I too have been thinking; this war will not be easy to recover from, and much will need to change in the coming years. As the most senior Shinigami remaining you'll no doubt be appointed as the one to lead the change. That means becoming the Captain-Commander of the remaining Royal Court Guardsmen." He doubted he needed to remind Kuchiki Fumiko, of all people, of the seriousness of the current situation.
"I had assumed as much," Fumiko replied bitterly. She'd never wanted to be the Captain-Commander: that had always been Akiyama's dream. But there was nothing she could do about it now. "…Our first order of business is the Õken. As of this moment it is now officially Soul Society's most prized possession – we will have to hide it away, anywhere that could be overlooked will do for now. Only a select few can know of its location and what it is truly capable of. If word reaches the people of Rukongai about what we have done to one of the most holy artefacts in our possession it would start a riot – possibly another war."
"…we'll have to destroy all mention of this war." Fumiko said softly, cupping her chin between her right forefinger and thumb, eyes closed in thought. Nobody can ever know the truth. Nobody besides those who lived it can know how close we came to defeat. We have to preserve what we can to protect the future generations. "No one can ever know of how close we came to utter destruction - or learn anything of those that brought us to our knees. I want all reports concerning the past year delivered to the Kuchiki estate by this time tomorrow; I'll preserve the bare essentials and see the rest burnt to nothing more than ash."
"With all due respect, Kuchiki-sama how is that going to help anyone?" Yamamoto demanded, his brow crinkling into a rather ugly expression, his new scar magnified by the movement. He didn't understand how acting ignorant would help anyone.
"Simple," she said, responding to the question he'd left unasked. "Ignorance is bliss. We'll begin again with a clean slate. We'll wash our hands of the war that has just been waged and focus instead on rebuilding. Our enemies have been dealt with and sealed where they belong and will never be able to threaten us or anyone else ever again." How Soul Society would one day learn to rue those words. "We have no need to remind ourselves of them any longer. Now come, Yamamoto, we have much work to do and precious little time to do it in."
But Kuchiki Fumiko could not be more wrong. The war they had just waged was far from over. It was merely halftime. And, in time, Soul Society's greatest enemy would emerge again; more terrible than ever to reap vengeance and harvest sorrow sevenfold after what had been done to them. Done to the justice of the world…
And thus my epic can truly begin, published exactly one year to the day that the original hit the site and a hundred times better than before. I thank all those that took time to read/favourite/alert and/or review this brief prologue (me love you long time if you reviewed); it means a very great deal to me to know people take time out of their day to appreciate my work in some manner or another. As with the original this will be updated bi-weekly, though on Saturdays this time around instead of Fridays, as to allow me time to work on this and keep up with my course work for collage.
That said I'll see folks on February 11th with Normality is Overrated as we catch up with our hero: Kurosaki Ichigo, seventeen months after his titanic clash (read: Curb-Stomp Battle) with Aizen Sõsuke and there's a few odd things going on in Karakura Town. Tune in next time to find out more~!
Do a barrel roll~!