The Protector's Temptation
Ugh, I feel kind of awkward and out of place writing for this again. I can only hope that this is enough to whet your appetite and reassure you that the story is at least on-going. I've edited Chapters 22 and 23 to bring them in line with the outlines I've put on my profile.
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
An uneasy silence wreathed the Seireitei as the moon shone brightly in the night sky. Everywhere one looked, countless soul reapers stood on guard around their divisions, their moods grim as they awaited news as to why they had been raised to their highest alert level since the war with the traitor Aizen almost a year and a half ago.
Deep beneath the First Division barracks though, a task force comprising of members of the Second Division, Special Forces and the Twelfth Division's Research and Technology Institute, combed through the formerly occupied traitor's cell. Towering lights were erected to illuminate the dank environment, blinding almost anyone that was not used to their radiance, as both mundane, scientific and spiritual methods were used to find any trace of the cell's former occupant. Hearing a pair of sharp footfalls in the normally lifeless passageway, each of the members hurriedly hastened in their tasks, just as Captains Sui-Feng and Kurotsuchi entered the cell.
The Second Division Captain eye's narrowed into a glare as her gaze swept over each soul reaper present, her displeasure clear for all to see. Separating from her fellow soul reapers, an emotionless Nemu Kurotsuchi strode toward the two Captains, stopping in front of them with her hands clasped in front of her.
"Well get on with it, report already!" Mayuri snapped at his creation/daughter, his tone snappish and impatient despite the fact that she hadn't even been given a moment to begin.
"Of course Mayuri-sama," she began in her lifeless tone, withdrawing a set of notes from within the folds of her shihakusho. "Regarding the disappearance of former Captain Sosuke Aizen, initial evidence is inconclusive as to how, when and who freed the prisoner. Despite our technicians' best efforts, no trace of either the prisoner or his accomplice has been found outside this room, suggesting that his rescuer was able to open a dimensional rift directly into his cell. Analysis of the bindings present revealed a lingering signature of energy similar to reiryoku, but differing in nature. We have sent it for further analysis."
Both Captains scowled as they digested the news given to them, Mayuri's lips in particular curling with disgust. "Is that it?" he growled, his voice growing in volume as did his temper. "The traitor has only been discovered missing today, yet for all we know it could've been days, weeks since he's disappeared! And you expect us to simply accept these meagre details?!" Knocking the papers out of her hands, he made to strike her, only to find his wrist in a firm grip.
"Now, now Captain Kurotsuchi, we need everyone working at their best and senseless violence isn't going to get the job done any faster," Ukitake spoke, his voice calming the nerves of several frazzled soul reapers.
Grunting, Mayuri ripped his arm free of his fellow Captain's grip and muttered under his breath, promising to pay Nemu back later. Turning his gaze over to Sui-Feng, Ukitake posed his next question.
"What news of the disappearances of soul reapers in the Rukongai Captain Sui-Feng? From the hints given here, it would seem that both incidents are related."
"Considering that we have only found their dust-covered robes as evidence, I can understand why you would draw that conclusion Captain Ukitake, but until we get the samples back to the Seireitei, we cannot be certain," she replied stiffly. "However, like here, we only discovered a vague essence left as evidence, belonging to something we've clearly never met before."
Nodding his head in understanding, Ukitake turned his attention back to their resident mad scientist. "The Captain Commander expects your reports within the next 48 hours, at which time he will convene a Captain's Meeting. I trust you'll treat this case with the diligence it deserves Captains."
Far away from the concerns of the Gotei 13, Ichigo sat with his eyes closed in his room, Kyoka's physical form laid across his lap as he placed his palm over it. Feeling the familiar sensation of slipping into his inner world, he opened them to find the familiar empty plane stretching out before him, Kyoka's home nowhere in sight.
"Ichigo? What are you doing here?" he heard Kyoka ask, just as she appeared before him, an expression of surprise on her face as she tilted her head to the side.
"I came for answers…" he muttered emotionlessly, drawing the blade sheathed at his waist and levelling it at her. "I want to know who you are…"
Taking a step back at his frigid tone, Kyoka adopted an uneasy smile, her limbs shaking ever so slightly. "W-What do you mean Ichigo? I'm Kyoka Suigetsu, y-your Kyoka Suigetsu," she stuttered out, flinching as he vanished and reappeared behind her, the cold steel hovering just above her skin.
"The Kyoka Suigetsu I know has been…missing these last few days. In her place has been someone, bearing her face to comfort me after having some of my darkest memories dredged up from the pit of my soul," he said in a whisper, forcing her head to the side with his blade. "I couldn't help but think just how convenient it was that I was feeling these emotions after having buried them for so long, a fact that she knew very well and accepted. It then occurred to me, it was remarkably similar to what my hollow did. Continually wearing down my barriers until finally, I sought out help against him. Whoever you are…you're doing the exact same thing, only you're forcing me to come to you for help. So I'll ask you one more time…who are you?"
Seeing her expression change from fear to a gloating smirk, his eyes narrowed just as she faded away into existence. "I must commend you on coming in here on your own Ichigo-kun…I was planning on dragging this out just a little bit longer, waiting until you were a broken mess once again, before I stepped in to offer you salvation," the same voice that had tortured him during his trials the past few weeks spoke. "Perhaps you do possess the strength to use us…"
Wincing as a bright light burst into life in front of his eyes, Ichigo shaded them with his arm as a ferocious wind tore through his inner world. When the light finally died away, he looked up warily, a scowl on his face as he hoped to finally meet the one that had tormented him. What he saw though, caused his eyes to widen in surprise.
The woman in front of him could have easily passed for Kyoka's twin if he had seen her from the back, but examining her facial expression, he couldn't have been further from the truth. While he had seen Kyoka shy, caring, loving, even mischievous; to see the lust-crazed expression on her face now sent shivers down his spine. The woman in front of him had the most vibrant violet eyes that he had seen, being a much lighter shade than Rukia's. Whilst Kyoka's demeanour spoke of love and affection, hers screamed sensual passion as she strode over to him, her violet robe untied and swaying in the light breeze to reveal hints of her breasts and womanhood to him.
"I am Mezame Kyoka Suigetsu," she whispered sultrily in his ear, nipping it as she spoke. Hearing her name, he tore himself form her grip and backed away warily from her, remembering the last time that he had met a Bankai spirit and the outcome thereof.
"Oh please Ichigo-kun, it's not like I'm going to bite…much," she said with a laugh, appearing in front of him, one of her arms wrapping around his neck as she pulled their bodies flush with one another, his blade in her other as she tossed it further away. Feeling him grow aroused, she smirked and let her free hand slide down his abdomen, palming his erection firmly. "You like this don't you, your instincts scream at you to take control and satisfy yourself don't they?" Forcing him backwards, Ichigo cried out as the ground beneath him fell away, dropping him down into a pitch black abyss. As he fell, he watched what seemed to be a stream of Aizen's memories, everything from when he was a child, to when he finally joined the Gotei 13. Grunting as a weight slammed into him, he looked up to see Mezame straddling his waist, her grin just as twisted as before.
"Ever since Sosuke was able to talk, he knew that he was special," she explained, tracing her fingers over his chest as they fell, while memories of Aizen's accomplishments continued to fly past them. "But throughout it all, one being has been there since the beginning. Oh, you might want to brace yourself for this," she mentioned casually, just as he felt his back slam into another wall, shattering it on contact.
Shaking his head to clear the daze he was in, he glanced around and found Mezame floating in front of him, staring wistfully behind him. Turning his back to her, he stiffened as she took the opportunity to slip her hands under his shirt, her slim fingers caressing every inch of his skin they could reach.
"The day that Sosuke discovered Kyoka's name…we were so ecstatic that he had finally found us…that our wielder could finally hear and speak to us," she whispered into his ear, just as an image of Aizen sitting in a secluded grove came before them. "My other self was so overjoyed; she complied with all his requests. But…that was not enough."
Reeling as the images begin to flash forward once again, Ichigo tried to extract himself from the zanpakuto's grip, only to find himself harshly dragged back into her bosom.
"My other-self twists people's minds against them as you very well know Ichigo. With a few subtle applications here and there, Sosuke was able to create a loyal following among the soul reapers, tools that he discarded without a second thought in the years to come." Gripping his chin with her fingers, she gently turned his gaze to meet hers. "Do you know what her greatest desire was Ichigo? It's quite pathetic actually, but all she wanted was to feel a hint of true love. Pathetic…absolutely pathetic!" she howled and thrust him away once again, tearing at her hair in frustration.
"I didn't care for such emotions like love and compassion…all I wanted from Sosuke was to be used…to feel my power affecting countless souls. I COULD'VE MADE SOSUKE A KING!" she screamed, violent winds tearing at the two of them as her turmoil was laid bare before him.
"And yet he deemed my power unworthy…unnecessary…insufficient…" she hissed venomously and began to shatter the floating memories around them. "He sought out that accursed Hogyoku and tossed me aside, using only my weaker self to accomplish his goals. He didn't even have the decency to return her affection for him!"
"And now, I see the same pattern repeating itself once again Ichigo-kun," she said in a low tone, turning to face him once more, her eyes narrowed and her lips pursed. Before he could think of a response to her tirade, he found his lips sealed and his body walking towards her, against his own will. Stopping in front of her, he could only watch as she cupped his cheeks with her hands and drew their faces together. "What guarantee do I have that you will not do the same to us Ichigo-kun…what assurance can you give me that we are not a tool to you?"
Feeling his jaw loosen, he swallowed the lump in his throat and met her demanding gaze. "You've been tormenting me for the past few weeks and you want me to convince you that I'm not going to use you?" he muttered under his breath, tasting her own, as their lips were close enough to touch now. "How do I know that you won't continue to torture me like this? To break me and use me for your own ends?"
"I already explained that I wanted you to be wholly dependent on us. What more is there to say, since you now know what to look for to see through the ruse? I will not apologise to you Ichigo-kun, but I will not serve you like my other self does." Seeing her hands begin to shake vigorously, she sighed and took a step back, relinquishing her hold on him. "She's becoming more insistent that I return control to her and I've grown tired of hearing her whimpering in the back of my mind. Until we meet again…make sure you have an appropriate answer prepared for me…" she muttered, just as a light mist enveloped her feet and began to make its way up her torso. As it finally covered her hair, it dispersed in a breath of wind, leaving Kyoka Suigetsu in her place, her emerald green eyes tear-filled as she stared up at him. Turning her back on him, she hastily retied her robe and began to walk away. She had only made it a few feet before she was stopped by a firm hand on her shoulder.
"Kyoka…I…" he began to say, only to fall silent as she shook off his hand.
"Please Ichigo…you've heard enough for today. For now just…leave me be," she said with a sniffle, dispelling the inky black abyss around them and making her way towards her home, leaving Ichigo alone, surrounded by the shattered shards of her memories.
As he was about to comply with her request and leave though, a faint flicker caught his eye amongst the broken glass. Stooping down to pick up the shard, he grimaced as he saw Kyoka and Aizen together, the latter gently stroking her hair, while she embraced him. The memory soon turned dark as Kyoka knelt on the ground, her robes in shambles as her sweat-soaked hair clung to her face, desperately crying out for Aizen as the world she was in fell apart. Unwilling to look on any further, he crushed the shard into dust, sparing her home one last look, before appearing back in his room in the Living World. Opening his eyes, he sighed and wearily rubbed his eyes and stood up, wincing as his bruised muscles flared in pain. Gingerly lying back on his bed, he rested his hands behind his head, while his mind pondered the question Mezame had put to him and what he truly wanted from both her and Kyoka.
Those few sleepless hours that he had spent thinking, soon turned into days and still he couldn't find the answer that he and his zanpakuto desired. Every waking moment he had was spent wondering what she meant to him, even more so now that she refused to speak to him after the incident. To have seen Kyoka at what was probably her most vulnerable moment and knowing that he had been indirectly involved in it, left a bitter taste in his mouth and coupled with the fact that he couldn't accept his Bankai's desires, he was left wondering whether they had made a grave mistake giving in to one another.
His frustrations soon manifested them outwardly as he became aloof and cold with his friends and family, a fact that prompted him to leave earlier in the mornings and late in the afternoons to avoid saying something he would regret. He was soon pulled forcefully from his thoughts as he arrived at school and found his path blocked by the enigma he had come to know as Katsumi Saito.
"Morning Kurosaki-san," she said cheerfully, slipping into step next to him, her bag clutched tightly to her chest as she kept up with his longer stride.
Sparing a glance at her out of the corner of his eye, he grimaced at one of the other problems on his mind. Even after such a short time at his school, she had gained a surprising amount of popularity among the students and faculty, a feat not possible without some sort of interference. Seeing no way to confront her about it, without getting half the school involved, he found himself going along with her blatant attempts to get closer to him, anything from helping her with her homework, or just allowing her to sit in on their practice sessions.
"Saito-san," he muttered back in greeting, causing her cheerful demeanour to dampen somewhat, "what are you doing here so early?"
"Ah, my caretaker had to be somewhere early today so he brought me in early with him. Otherwise it's quite a long walk from home to here," she replied with a smile.
"I see, well what is it this time?" he asked, not completely unkindly, but not overly friendly either.
"Well…" she trailed off, reaching into her bag and pulling out their science assignment from last week and causing Ichigo to groan.
Across town, a black BMW pulled up to a block of derelict apartments, the faint growl of its engine echoing through the narrow pathways. Slowing to a stop, the growl died away as the engine was killed, allowing an eerie silence to settle on the area. Stepping out of the car, Junichi glanced up at the surrounding buildings, his eyes scanning for the faint traces of energy he felt before. Spotting the flicker on one of the upper levels, he slammed the door shut, readjusting his tie as he walked forward.
Entering the lobby, he spied an elevator to his left and summoned it. Closing his eyes as he listened to the faint whirr of steel cables within the hollow shaft, he could feel his power begin to burn in anticipation and took several calming breaths to clear his mind. Hearing a faint ring, he opened his eyes to the dull grey interior and stepped in, ascending to the appropriate floor.
Walking down the corridor towards his target, he could faintly hear the sounds of muffled voices, their heightened tone indicating that they were arguing. Stopping outside the door where the noise was loudest, he raised his hand to the door, palm outwards. Exhaling a slow steady breath, he began to concentrate, causing an emerald green orb to form between his palm and the door. Once it reached the size of a golf ball, he pressed it against the steel door, watching with interest as a molten circle appeared on it.
Within the room, Ginjo watched on with a sigh as Riruka continually allowed Yukio's taunts to get the better of her. Knocking his glass of whiskey back, he scowled at the now empty tumbler. Putting on his most sheepish grin, he turned towards Giriko, hoping to beg another shot from the stone-faced bartender. As he opened his mouth though, a thundering crack sounded through the large room as their steel door shot past them, slamming into the wall with sickening force.
Glancing over at the door in his inebriated state, he could just make out the form of a large slender man. "Who the 'ell are you?" he slurred, conscious of the rest of Xcution adopting their own ready stances.
Staring directly at his primary target, a smirk appeared on Junichi's face. "Your death…" he hissed, a spurt of green flame escaping from his mouth.
Bewildered at the stranger's words, Ginjo could only turn away as a blinding emerald light flashed into existence and a booming roar echoed in his ears. Turning his limited vision to the source, he could just make out a draconic claw, before it buried itself in his chest and crushed his frantically beating heart.
I'll be honest here; I'm not sure how I feel about the chapter. On the one hand, I'm glad to have at least revealed her Bankai's form, as well as hinted at her powers, but the rest feels a bit disjointed, despite the fact that it is all linked together. I don't know; hopefully getting this awkward resurrection out of the way will help.
Till next time, bye-bye.