A/N: Well, here it is, folks. The sequel to Phases of the Moon. Don't expect the same crazy updating speed from me for this sequel…a lot of that was born about by me being so close to ending Phases and being so excited about it. I do have an original story I'd like to get off the ground, but at the same time, I hope you all enjoy this story.
The setting is ten years after the end of Phases, and if you haven't read Phases of the Moon, I highly suggest you do so. It's not required, but some of the plot points will be brought up from Phases.
On the agenda for Chasing the Moon, we have—1) Establish the ByaYuzu pairing. 2) Wrap up the Arrancar plot and reveal the main villain. 3) Show some fun scenes with everyone in their Divisions. 4) Don't horribly mangle anyone's characters, and 5) Maybe…potentially…start showing off a certain plot-heavy two syllable word that involves the syllables ban and kai.
Kind of a tall order, isn't it? Well, let's get started! Short intro chapter this time around, just to get the ball rolling.
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. At all.
Chapter 1: To end our peaceful days
Kurosaki Yuzu, vice-captain of the Sixth Division, smiled as she walked down the hallway towards the administrative office, hugging a small stack of papers close to herself. It was about midmorning, and she had been out for the earlier part of the day running errands. It should have been an annoying chore, but the Rokubantai's business had brought her to the Thirteenth, and it was always nice to sit down for a bit and chat with Ukitake and Rukia.
She had run into Karin as she passed the Eleventh, and as Karin was coincidentally heading over to the Fourth to hand something to one of the countless Eleventh Division members that drifted in and out, the walk back had turned into a nice run, as the two of them engaged in a brief shunpo race.
She paused for a moment to tuck a stray strand of hair behind her ear, making sure she didn't look too disheveled. She glanced at herself in the window, quickly observing her reflection. The younger Kurosaki twin nodded once in approval, smiling slightly as she adjusted the vice-captain badge on her right arm.
She still remembered the day, just over a month ago, when Byakuya had offered the position to her. Back then, she had been third seat, and she had helped him supervise a training session. She had been cleaning and inspecting Jungetsu in the aftermath, and he had come out to her from his office.
"Since taking on the position of third seat, you have assumed many duties normally assumed by the fukutaicho of the Division. I have had no complaints with your work. I would be remiss to not offer you the position officially."
It still felt weird seeing it on her arm. The work was definitely different than usual, and hearing the title attached to her surname was just odd. But it was satisfying work, and she liked working with the other officers.
In the past ten years, she had really grown to love the Rokubantai…
"Yo, fukutaicho-chan!" yelled a familiar voice. Yuzu looked up, smiling at her third seat.
"Ohayou, Shiyougi-san," she said.
Shiyougi Hideki was a dark-haired shinigami with an easy smile and a cheerful manner. Apparently, he had been sixth seat back when Renji had been vice-captain, and had slowly risen through the ranks. She worried sometimes that some of the others resented her quick rise through the ranks, but Hideki had helped put everyone at ease when she had been appointed third seat.
"Well, she's a Kurosaki, right?" he had asked the group over dinner. The Sixth Division could be a solemn place during the day when Byakuya was in residence, but Yuzu had learned early on that the Division had two personalities—one it showed in front of Byakuya and the rest of Soul Society and one it showed to itself. "She's still on living world time! So ten years for her is like one hundred years for us."
That had gotten a laugh out of them, and had eased tensions all around.
"Didn't see you at breakfast," commented Hideki, a frown on his face. "Did taicho have you running around again?"
"Mm, to Thirteenth," said Yuzu, nodding. "Ukitake-taicho had papers for him. I ate there. I wanted to get a head start today. I'm actually going to deliver them now."
"Sou ka…" said Hideki. "Well, he's in. I think he's got a visitor now, though."
"I'll listen in before I open the door," promised Yuzu. She waved her hand cheerfully as she walked down the hallway. "Ja ne."
"Aa, see you," said Hideki with a grin, continuing on his way.
Yuzu walked up to the office door, a smile on her face as she considered Hideki's words.
A visitor…she thought. I wonder who it is…
She paused at the sliding door, listening. Voices rose up from in the room.
"I see…" said Byakuya, and Yuzu could practically hear the contemplative frown in his voice. "Has the soutaicho decided who to send to address the situation?"
"He's thinking of leaving it to Ichigo and the Fifth right now," said a familiar voice. "He'll send word once he's decided officially."
Yuzu's smile brightened as she recognized the voice. It was Abarai-taicho.
"Understood," said Byakuya. "Thank you for taking the time to inform me of this."
"No big deal," said Renji. "It's weird for you to not make a captain's meeting, you know."
"I had other obligations…" said Byakuya smoothly. Yuzu frowned at this. Had he not been at the meeting this morning? She'd left earlier than he usually came in, so she wouldn't know.
"That is none of your concern, Abarai."
Yuzu took a deep breath, deciding that she'd eavesdropped enough. The conversation was quickly taking on a private nature. She knocked on the door, revealing her presence.
"Ano…shitsureishimasu," she said, opening the sliding door and bowing politely. Byakuya looked up at her from his desk as Renji turned around, a grin on his face. He was standing in the middle of the room, his arms folded.
"Yo, Yuzu-chan," he said. "How's it going being my replacement?"
She smiled. Renji had been one of the people to offer her advice after she had officially taken on the rank of fukutaicho.
"He's not as serious as he looks on the outside. Just stay polite and act natural, and you should be fine. The Division will probably latch onto you more than him—he doesn't really deal with the men as much, so you have to make sure to keep 'em engaged."
"I'm still getting used to things," she admitted with a small chuckle. "But it's going well so far."
"Sou ka," said Renji, grinning at her. "Keep up the good work." He turned towards Byakuya. "Then, I'll be heading back now, Kuchiki-taicho."
Byakuya nodded once in response, straightening out a stack of papers on his desk. Renji patted Yuzu on the shoulder on the way out, closing the door behind him. Yuzu debated asking Byakuya what they had been talking about, but decided against it. She didn't know how he would take knowing that she had stood outside the door practically eavesdropping.
"Taicho, I have some papers from Ukitake-taicho," she said, giving Byakuya a polite bow. She stepped forward, setting them on the desk.
"Thank you," said Byakuya coolly, taking them and setting them aside. "Did he seem well?"
Yuzu frowned. Ukitake's illness was progressing slower than it would have in the living world, but she had spent most of her formative years in a clinic. She knew how to observe illnesses. To her eye, Ukitake actually seemed to be getting worse…She had asked Unohana-taicho one day if they had tried modern tuberculosis medicines, but the look the Fourth Division captain had given her was answer enough.
"I see…" said Byakuya with a frown as he observed her change in expression.
"…He seemed well enough today," said Yuzu. "He was great company…but I didn't want to tire him too much."
"Understandable," said Byakuya. "…What are your other duties for today?"
"Er…well, I was going to go see if Shiyougi-san needed any help with the drills this morning…and then fill out that form for the window replacement before lunch. If there was nothing else, I was planning on visiting Ojii-sama today. Did you have anything you wanted me to do?"
"Iie," said Byakuya, setting down his pen. He took a sip of the cup of tea at his side. It was probably cold by now, Yuzu noted. There was no steam rising from the water. "…There is nothing pressing. Give Ryushin-sama my greetings."
"Hai, taicho," said Yuzu, bowing. She frowned, looking over at Byakuya. "Ano…about earlier…?"
"Hmm?" he asked, looking up.
Yuzu shook her head. "It's nothing," she said. "Never mind. I was actually going to brew a fresh batch of tea. Would you like me to refill your cup?"
"That would be acceptable."
"Then I'll be right back," said Yuzu, taking the cup of tea from his desk and heading out the door. She took a deep breath as she closed the sliding door behind her, the tea cupped in her hands. In the back of her mind, she could feel Jungetsu's quiet contemplation. Over the past ten years, she and her zanpakuto spirit had gotten quite a bit closer, and it was easier to communicate with her now.
Something wrong, Jungetsu-chan…? she asked.
The zanpakuto spirit did not respond. There were some days when Jungetsu preferred not to talk, so Yuzu let her be for now, heading off to the kitchens to brew a fresh pot of tea.
Karin landed on the ground outside the Fourth Division, seeming to reappear from thin air. She tossed her dark ponytail back over her shoulder with a wave of her head, taking a deep breath and wiping the sweat from her brow with the sleeve of her shihakusho. After dropping Yuzu off at the Sixth, she had decided to continue on to the Fourth at a run, not wanting to lose some of the momentum she had built up. She took a deep breath, readjusting Ongetsu's scabbard so that it was secure in her sword belt before stepping into the building.
"Kaaaaarin-saaan!" whined a distressed Hanataro, rivers of tears pouring from his eyes as he hid behind her. Loud noises and the sounds of carts striking walls came from one of the examination rooms, followed by the sounds of panicked Fourth Division workers trying to calm their charges down. Her eyes narrowed, and she glanced back at the seated officer behind her.
"Are they at it again?" she asked.
"Hai…" said Hanataro weakly, nodding once.
"Alright," said Karin, clenching her fist. "I'll deal with it." She walked up to the door of the examination room, taking a deep breath.
"TASHIMA! HIRAI!" she yelled as she slammed the door open. "What the hell is going on here?"
The two injured Eleventh Division people looked up at her, their eyes widening in shock as they froze. They were seated on the examination table, tossing a roll of bandages between them and poking fun at a teary eyed Fourth Division nurse. Karin jerked her thumb towards the door and the nurse quickly ran out, coming to stand with Hanataro.
"A-Ano…Fourth Seat Kurosaki…" said one of the men, Hirai. He ran a hand through his hair, glancing at his partner.
"We were just…" began the other man, Tashima.
"You guys have some nerve!" she said. "What the hell gives you the right to take it out on the Fourth Division because you were stupid enough to get cut up during drill practice, huh?" She slammed her fist into the wall, causing both of the men to jump.
"We—we were just having fun—," stammered Hirai.
"D'you know how much work it is to get idiots like you back on your feet?" she said angrily, jabbing her thumb in the direction of the Fourth Division. "You think it's easy, running around and cleaning up your mess? I'm pretty pissed off myself, since I've got to fill out the paperwork for you losers, so you better treat them with respect, or I'll give you something to get sent to the hospital for. We clear?"
"H-Hai!" said both of them quickly.
"Good," said Karin with a scowl, whirling around and walking out of the door. She let the sliding door slam shut behind her, running a hand through her hair and walking out into the hallway. She let out a short breath, folding her arms and turning towards Hanataro and the nurse.
"They should behave now," she said, glancing back inside.
"A-Arigatou, Karin-san," said Hanataro, taking a deep breath. "It's really been more manageable since you started coming by."
"Ah, well, I can't stand people that act like that in hospitals," said Karin, scowling. "…I used to be a nurse, and guys like that were the worst. They give you any more trouble, let me know and I'll deal with it."
"Hai," said Hanataro, nodding.
Karin frowned, listening to the inside of the room, but it was quiet this time. She turned towards the Fourth Division officer. "So…I've got some papers to sign for those two, or whatever?" she asked.
"Aa," said Hanataro, nodding. "The usual. If you'll just follow me…"
Karin nodded, following Hanataro down into the hallway. He set two forms on the desk in front of her, and she signed quickly underneath "Admitting Officer" handing them both to him when she was done. "Honestly," she said with a scowl, leaning against the desk. "It wasn't like they were even fighting or anything. Yumichika was trying to get them to do sword drills and they apparently decided it would be more fun if they stabbed each other in the chest."
"Well, it is the Eleventh, Karin-san," said Hanataro with a small smile. "We get accidents like this all the time."
"You shouldn't let them treat you like crap for it," said Karin, glancing at him. "Stand up for yourself a little."
Hanataro laughed sheepishly, scratching the back of his head. "Sorry," he said.
"Ah, whatever," said Karin with a shrug. "The thing about those guys is that they won't move until you scream at them a little. But they should be alright now. Send word if they start causing trouble, and I'll come back over."
She pushed up from the side of the desk, getting ready to head back to her Division.
Karin frowned, sensing a sudden spike in reiatsu. The doors to the Fourth Division slammed open, a worried voice shouting through. Her eyes widened. She knew that voice.
"Out of my way!" yelled the commanding voice of Tenth Division captain, Hitsugaya Toshiro. "We've got an emergency here!"
Hanataro's eyes widened, and he quickly ran past Karin, heading outside. Karin could hear the usually mild-mannered healer yelling orders to nurses, reminding her that Hanataro was a seated officer in the Fourth Division, and also telling her how serious the situation might be. She watched through the door, her eyes wide as she took in the situation.
Toshiro stood in the center of the room, his uniform stained with blood. None of it seemed to be his own, though, and the healers were ignoring him for the most part. His face was slightly pale, and there was a worried, almost frantic look in his eye.
On the floor in front of him, being quickly tended to by a team of healers, was Matsumoto Rangiku, vice-captain of the Tenth Squad.
A large gash had been opened up in her chest, blood staining the Division floor.
TO BE CONTINUED