A/N: Major edits. Enjoy!
Chapter One – Cancel
It's Shinji's turn to parade into my room and present me with a boatload of flowers and one of those fancy cards that reads, "Get better soon!"
As if I need anymore shit.
Already clustered my nightstand are about twenty sets of get-well gifts, mainly flowers, but if we comb through this mess, we'll maybe even find some miscellaneous crap. For instance, the package of porn novels teetering on the top of my lamp, courtesy of Lisa. Apparently international bestsellers. And Mashiro's boxes of gourmet chocolates mummified in neon pink wrapping paper, miserably graced with a sloppy spotted ribbon. And let's not forget that cannibalistic Venus flytrap plant from my "old friend" Mayuri. Whatever I can do with a fucking Venus flytrap, I've got no clue.
"Why, I am quite offended!" Kurotsuchi had whisked around and snatched the ugly brown pot which sheltering the monstrous plant. As he tenderly stroked his own gift with his longest fingernail—a purplish-black strip of dead, rotten keratin—the flytrap had shivered and let out a low, rumbling purr of delight. I'd noticed that the conviction that always soured his voice, that hoity-toity attitude that always managed to piss me off in the past, still reeked on his tongue, fermenting down his throat in a stinking, disgusting bile-like fungus. Yep, still as gross as ever. Granting himself the privilege, he continued through his spiel, " This species has been engineered through decades of diligent research and development in hopes of warding off unwanted pests and vermin of all sorts! And you, my old friend, may have the first prototype as a humble gift from I!"
For as long as I could remember, we—that bastard and I—have hated each other inside-out. Back in the day, Kisuke always encouraged us to shed our differences and reconcile, going about with his silly shenanigans (once, he came up with the bright idea of taking the three of us out to a friendly dinner, and that turned out to be just a fucking disaster), but I always found it impossible. We had one of those innate aversions to one another, like cobras to mongooses, as if nature specifically instructed us to develop the urge to rip one another's heads off.
And coming to my hospital room to present me with a gift? A custom-engineered specimen? Now that really knocked my socks off. Either old Mayuri's been flipped over, kneaded thoroughly, and thrown through a three hundred degree oven and had his brain baked to a crisp, or he's done something suspicious to the plant that'd ultimately lead me to my painful demise. Yet for some stupid reason, I took the gift. Figures.
In a nutshell, my get-well gifts are a bit overwhelming. I've got oceans of flower baskets, pots, and bouquets swamping the three-foot radius around my hospital bed and stacks of condolence letters piling up underneath my bed. Unohana had suggested with a tight lip that I clear away some of these things. Apparently, my former roommate, this uppity bitch, Soi Fon, had requested to switch rooms "due to the fact that my strange plant reeked an acidic saliva into her hair."
But despite all the trouble my friends have gone through to meticulously sift through the local gift shop in order to find a card that won't produce too much scorn from me, I feel more melancholy than gratified. Every morning, I wake up to sniff the perfume of white roses, to stroke the soft petals of a wild daisy, to see the splash of color on my nightstand envelope before my eyes. Every morning, I have these painful reminders of what happened to me. As friends file in, one by one, bearing their apologies, the only feeling I can sense is pure guilt. Dammit, are they blaming themselves? But by knowing that they are holding themselves accountable for the incident, for me, it's like getting chopped not into two halves but a hundred little pieces.
I've got a feeling Shinji was hit the hardest. The first time he came in, I was floating on this strange dimension of swirling purples and greens, caught in the universe otherwise known as morphine. I could barely unscramble the twisting, revolving room I was in, but I did remember a watercolor painting of a bellflower on the wall and a mean, cranky nurse. Shinji walked wordlessly into my room, rolling behind him a squeaky vehicle—I'm guessing it was a wagon—that smelled like flowers. I heard the screech of a visitor's chair being drawn up to my bedside, and for the next thirty minutes, garbled, incomprehensible words dribbled into the room like thick, goopy soup. It took ten minutes before I realized Shinji was apologizing.
Somehow, I managed to muster up the willpower of twenty elephants and force out something that sounded like, "Gerrhellouddamroom, bahry. Neeshleep." Get the hell outta my room, baldy. I need sleep! And the last thing that my mind managed to register in my fucked-up brain was a slight upturn dancing at the corners of that damn baldy's mouth.
But now, the dick saunters back in, a bouquet of yellow lilies in hand and a jar of barbecue sauce tucked under his arm. Grinning stupidly, he twirls the sauce jar on his index finger. "Hey, asshole!" His face is clear and upbeat, and whatever agitation from that other day seems to have been washed away with his morning rinse. "How're ya doin' there?"
"Ain't it obvious?" I snort, crossing my arms. "I'm stuck in this here hellhole with nothin' t'do, an' why the fuck are ya givin' me a jar o' BBQ sauce?"
Shinji leans over the foot of my bed and raises an eyebrow. "Who said this was fer you, stupid?"
"What normal people walk 'round town, draggin' 'round a damned jar o' BBQ sauce?" I retort. "As far as I'm concerned, there's nothin' to cook wi' that shit-slime 'cause this is fuckin' Soul Society! Not a summertime rib fest!"
"That's fine. There's wild piglets out in Rukongai, so Kensei can bring his rifles from back home an' we can all go huntin', cook us some spareribs an'—"
"No way I'm doin' that!" I find myself launching a convenient pot of tulips at the baldy's flat, gross face. Shinji sidesteps, and the pot shatters against the wall, staining it brown and pink with a mess of dirt, clay shards, and petals.
Shinji jabs a finger at my miss and sniggers, "Hah! You gettin' rusty, Hiyori? 'Cause ya missed, dumbass!"
"Dickhead! Get yer damned ass outta here 'fore I beat the crap outta ya!" I snarl, clenching my hand into a tight fist that can effortlessly snap a pencil clean in half. A miraculous resurgence of strength—even if only for two or three seconds—will be extremely useful right now, provided that I can fly at him, full speed ahead, rip his bloated head right off, and stomp over his entrails.
"Someone seems to be having their monthly visit—" My next projectile, a vase of robust red roses, nails him square in the face. Shinji squawks, stumbling backwards and bonking his head against the wall with an agonizing "clack." Satisfied, I whoop in a way Rose would regard as ungraciously. Wiping the rose debris from his face and contorting his flat face into a grimace, Shinji swears something muddled under his breath.
"What's that?" I demand instantly. "Say it t'my face, dickface!"
Shinji waves the comment off, rolling his eyes. "Dickface? That's new…but aside that," he huffs, flicking a stray petal out of his ruffled hair, "I needa talk t'ya 'bout somethin'. Somethin' real important."
"Huh?" I glance up in surprise.
Shinji sets the barbeque sauce on the floor beside a pile of marigolds and daisies. He faces the window beside my bed, displaying a perfect view of the bustling entrance to the hospital. Individuals, whether they're hospital workers, visitors, patients, or pedestrians, hurry in and out almost nonstop. During my hellishly dreary stay here, I've taken the opportunity to familiarize myself with the routines of these people to point in which I've got a perfect sense as to when they come and leave. Nine in the morning? The Fourth Division's Third Seat is probably tiptoeing in, smuggling a freshly-baked croissant under her robes, and this spiky-haired dude with a tattoo very much resembling Kensei's on his face most likely taking his leave from visiting that weird-as-fuck canine captain on the second floor.
I notice how…forlorn Shinji seems as he watches Shinigami stroll the streets, laughing and socializing in the manner like we did so a century before all this shit happened. Not too long ago, he was whispering behind a closed hand with his fellow captains, spouting unnecessary hisses of "rumor has it" and "didja hear?" and snickering with a sly smirk pasted all over his face. Us seven, whom he was evidently stuck with for the last hundred years, certainly weren't his only friends. Honest to say, Shinji was a pretty popular guy back in the day.
"Hey, you gonna talk?" I hedge. As Hachi often advises, I ditch the rough edge to my voice, trying to live up to his "show some consideration towards peers" motto.
Tearing his gaze off the window with clear-as-day reluctance, Shinji redirects his attention on me. "Ah, yeah. Almost forgot why I'm here!" He lets out an ashamed laugh that falls apart a little too quickly. He clears his throat, pondering for a moment (in the meantime, my nerves are on the verge of snapping from the anticipation). Finally, he nods. "Central 46 just issued the Visored Repeal."
I blink. "What?"
Shinji takes a deep breath and hauls a visitor's chair, screeching up to the foot of my bed. He sinks down slowly, shifting around, and once settled, he looks me directly in the eye. "Aizen's confessed, Hiyori. I went t'the trial an' saw it all. So now the Central 46 has announced all o' his misdoings publicly, ya know, all the shit he pulled off before an' during the period o' the war."
"So what?" I say, rusty gears refusing to click together in my head. "What's it freakin' have t'do with a 'Visored Repeal'? I'm assumin' that it involves us, so get t'the point."
Shinji chews his bottom lip—a habit indicating that he's unsure of something. I heave a sigh in exasperation. If he's coming all the way here to tell me something, he sure is taking an awfully long time to get it out.
"He's confessed to it all" he announces. He seems like he's got more to say, but judging on the way his eyes flicker back and forth between two spots of the ground, he's pensive. At last, Shinji gulps in an enormous breath of air and cuts to the point, "You know how it works, right? The criminal charges an' shit?"
"Well, the Central 46, like I said before, listed all o' his crimes. Treason, homicide, voluntary manslaughter, fraud – a whole goddamned list o' stuff. I swear, the list took about thirty minutes or so to read. It was that horrible. I sat there, thinkin' to myself, Goddamn, Aizen. That's some real shit ya've got goin' there. Once the magistrate or whoever finished readin' to Aizen all of his misdoings, someone asked 'im if he had anythin' else to confess to."
I squirm in my spot. An idea nips at the back of my mind; I think I've got an idea of where this is going—but I'm not risking asking.
"So he was quiet for, say, twenty or thirty seconds. The magistrate was 'bout t'move on, 'til he tilted his head, an'…" Shinji's voice trails off.
"And?" I push. "An' what?"
"An' he," Shinji says, "admitted it."
"He confessed t'that night. Went an' stared at me like he knew I was in that room all the time, an' retold all the shit that happened that goddamned night."
I nearly choke on the air. Suddenly, I feel all discombobulated again, like being on morphine, and Shinji's words contort into a jumbled, inaudible mess again. I'm sure I heard him the first time, but my mind throws itself against the walls of my head, screaming for him to repeat those sweet, beautiful words. I guess that's what "that's music to my ears" truly means. And now? I don't know whether to holler or to cry. Aizen-fucking-Sousuke confessed. He fucking confessed!
"Th-that's great!" I sputter. "Must've gotten him another few thousand years on his plate. Spillin' the beans at least, eh!"
"Yeah." I meet Shinji's gaze, but he doesn't show the same enthusiasm for the news. Instead, those hazel eyes stare bleakly at his clasped hands, devoid of the light and joy of pure happiness. Hell, it's as if all happiness has been sucked away with a straw.
I remember that first night when Kisuke managed to separate the Hollow matter from our bodies and return us to a fairly stable state. I was as sore as hell; every inch of my body screamed to be released from whatever was eating me, inside-out, and that night, I let Kisuke hold me, despite the fact that I'd probably lose control and lash out at any given second. But Shinji spent the entire night, resisting the anesthesia's influence. He cursed Aizen at the top of his lungs, screaming out the most cold-blooded words that seemed to even give the air a chill. Using his own body as a battering ram, he barged himself against the walls of his room, demanding to go back to Soul Society to beat Aizen's ass, but Tessai put us all in secure barriers in the case that the Inner Hollows managed to resurface. Tessai's predictions were on the spot. Shinji almost pried open the barrier with raw strength, but Kisuke settled him down with a stronger and potentially more dangerous anesthesia.
Suddenly, a thought hits me. "We ain't outlaws anymore!"
Shinji doesn't answer. He continues to stare blankly, and a perturbed feeling begins to rustle me because this isn't a typical Shinji reaction, but in fact, the complete opposite. He is the life at a party, the one who proposes all of those senseless drinking games and the one who gets the most insane after a few shots. He is someone who'd make light of a situation no matter how much it just sucks, even if that light is dying candle flicker. He is that obnoxious morning person who bustles around, clanking platters and silverware together in a "breakfast symphony," saying bullshit like "What's the story, morning glory?" and "The early bird gets the worm," which inevitably draws up in me the urge to stuff a pancake down his constantly whistling windpipe.
I continue, "He confessed, so we're innocent, right?"
He raises his eyes slowly and drums his fingers thoughtlessly against the end of my bed. "I guess."
My nerves finally snap; I can't take it any longer. This mope-head's already gotten my patience down to a thin wire. I gave him three generous minutes to step it up, and what? He sits here, completely wasting my time, whereas I can be going to cafeteria and playing cards with the other patients. "Yo, cheer up, dumbass!" I pound my fist against the cheap hospital mattress. "We oughta be partyin' 'cause o' this! Not bein' glum!"
"Idiot." Shinji's eyes darken to shade of gray. "Ya don't get it."
"Of course I get it!" I shoot back hotly. "He's confessed, so we're innocent, right? That means we're free t'go an' Soul Society won't rag us fer it! Problem solved. Once Unohana gives the word, I'm outta here, and we can all go back home!" I beam, surprised by how much I like my own idea.
"Dumbass! They're considerin' on lettin' us back in!"
Letting us back in. My mind does somersaults, trying to decipher the message. "Lettin' us back?" I respond. "Where?"
"Idiot." Shinji rises to his feet and crosses over to my window. "Lettin' us back into Soul Society. The Gotei 13. Where else?"
"Don't play dumb, Hiyori." He whisks around, wearing a face of exasperation and frustration and anger. "You heard me. Our names a cleaned off, so the Central 46 is considering allowing us back in— as Shinigami again. captains' vote in three days. You know the drill."
The process in which Soul Society approves the proposal of a law is complex. First, someone of captain or lieutenant-level rank must appeal on the floor before all of the captains and state their business. I know Kyouraku's done this multiple times, so Lisa always explained stories of how he often slipped up on the speech and almost immediately, the Soutaichou shot him down. Once the case has been appealed, the Soutaichou decides whether or not it's reasonable to debate on. Once he casts his verdict, he gives the captains and the Central 46 one month to come up with a decision and after that month, the captains debate, and if the law gets through, the Central 46 have it off, where two-thirds of those guys—the same organization that sentenced us to our deaths that night—need to agree in order to ratify the new law, in this case, the repeal. Simple civics. I actually paid attention in that class back during the Academy days, albeit unconditionally.
"So," Shinji sighs. "We get the possibility of coming back here."
"We get to come back to Soul Society." I test the words on lips. They're like a jagged puzzle with malformed pieces that click together in that satisfying, perfect way. The words are just too alien. I squint up at Shinji. "But wait, who . . . who the hell started all of this?"
He is quiet for a fleeting moment. "A bunch o' captains, actually. Ukitake, mainly, but Kyouraku and Unohana also pitched in. Our old friends."
Our old friends, eh? Those three Captains have been on the job ever since I can remember. Hell, I'm surprised that Ukitake hasn't tripped up to some kind of cardiac arrest or something yet.
"Yeah," I say, nodding. "Soul Society's gonna have to deal wi' us sometime or later. If it weren't fer us, they would've gotten their asses whooped real good by that Aizen."
"Yeah," Shinji responds distantly.
I cross my arms. "So we ain't gonna take up their offer if it passes. Isn't that right?"
Shinji's eyes widen. My heart hammers in my chest. Why's he looking so shocked? Was that the wrong question? He makes his way back to the end of my bed and sits himself back down. "What?" he says quietly, absolutely serious. "What didja say, Hiyori?"
"We ain't gonna come back, are we?" I repeat evenly. "After all we've been through, we ain't comin' back even if they approve this Visored Repeal bullcrap."
He chews on his bottom lip. "Well, that is a possibility –"
"A possibility?" I explode. I never expected that diarrhea to come out of Shinji's mouth. It took me by complete surprise, like a cat hiding in the bushes, using his trippy stripes to cover himself up, and ambushing me right as I walk past. My shoulders shake; I can't control them. "Of course we're not comin' back t'this hellhole! They treated us like shit and now they're askin' us to come back? We will not come back – that's nuts!"
"Hiyori!" Shinji's voice is sharp. "I'm just sayin' that we're not exactly sure of what to do right now – it can go either way!"
"Either way?" I breathe. "No, absolutely not. We're s'posed to immediately turn it down. I mean, what happened to our pride? They cast are asses out, so by comin' back, it'll look like they got the better of us!"
"It won't –" Shinji begins.
"It will," I assert. "We'll look like snivelin' wusses, that's what. There's not way I'm comin' back. I ain't gonna. Nope."
"Why not, Hiyori?" Shinji asks, heaving a sigh. "We've got our plates clean. We're good to go."
"You don't realize what bullshit I'm hearin' right now. So you wanna come back?" I challenge, my voice quavering. "After that night? After that bastard? That night was hell fer us – a livin' hell. An' ya wanna come back to the place that ordered to have us slaughtered off like sick cattle? These guys – Central 46, Gotei 13 – tried t'kill us, Shinji. I have no flippin' clue as to why you'd wanna come back to a place that tried to," I take a deep breath and with the most bitter tongue, I hiss, "fuckin' kill us like – "
"Hiyori, like I said before, we're really undecided at the moment," Shinji cuts in, raising his hands in some kind of peaceful gesture. "Some o' us have the same ideas as you – Kensei, Lisa. Some o' us wanna stay like Rose an' Hachi. Some o' us are undecided, and some o' us are just flat-out confused!" His face takes on an expression of hope. "But we'll decide on this later – together."
"Listen, Shinji," I respond bristling. "Even if the rest of us wanna stay, I'm gonna say no. And that's final."
Shinji clenches the end of my mattress, his knuckles paling bleach white. When he speaks again, he whispers, "But Hiyori, don'tcha realize our lives'll be back t'normal?"
"Face it, dumbass," I say slowly. "Our lives'll never be back t'normal, got it? Ya should be aware o' that by now."
He ignores my comment and goes on wistfully, "Everything'll be back to normal. We'll be back home in the Divisions and . . . we'll live like we did a hundred years ago. You slappin' me wi' yer sandal flip-flop thing and me talkin' 'bout Shunsui b'hind his back. Fightin' Hollows, protectin' Soul Society." He raises his gaze solemnly. "Don'tcha miss those days, Hiyori?"
"Bullshit." I point at the door. Hopefully, his small brain will analyze it as a sign to get the hell outta here. "You talked about Shunsui even in the Human World. And I still mauled you – in the Human World."
"It ain't the same, Hiyori." Shinji gets up and makes his way towards the exit, slowly. "We belong back here – not in the Human World."
"We don't belong here."
"Just think 'bout it, Hiyori."
And Shinji slips out the door without another word.
A/N: How'd you all like it? Feel free to leave some feedback in the review box!