Note: I do not own Bleach and its characters. This will span seven or eight chapters, I think, and is, for the most part, written in Soi Fon's POV. Also, I tend to write long chapters and am liable to commit errors and inconsistencies every so often, which goes to show this sucks. You have been warned.
When she took off a whole new world opened up before me. In the early years of her long absence, everyone saw what I appeared to be while few really knew what was going on inside me. In sum, I was given an entire world of opportunities but, on the whole, my heart was giving way to ruin—amid my elevation to rank. At the same time, I knew, with all the reason my faculties could procure, I'd much rather turn down the light and be with her than face the world for its inhabitants to marvel at my power. I received power nonetheless, and she left, if only to prove her judgments were irrevocable.
She left me behind, to perhaps never return nor think of me even. In the wake of her disappearance, I reckon I had taken every care not to drive myself to desperation, though in the long run desperation, with everything it was good for, overtook me. Swallowing me whole like some lone fish in a sea of sharks, it mastered me with not the slightest heed to something like mercy. It forced me to move on. And I did.
One hundred years.
If one should care to take a good look at my records, let me say that I have neither slept nor idled. In the course of a century there was very little hope, I came to learn, that we'd ever meet again, yet not a day passed without my mind voyaging to her, wherever she might have been. For all the world knew, she had perished somewhere in the human world. Yet somehow, in the oddest corners of my soul, every inch of me was clamoring for a sign from her, which perhaps would come too late, or not at all.
And then one day she reappeared.
In the end, I felt too much to wish her death. If nothing else, it was a love quite barren of results, even though it had thrived on in the darkest of days. At least it was real somehow. At least it never left. Now perhaps it remains to discuss the nature of my whole regard for her. But, then again, maybe not. Just who was I to speak of it when she cared for that bastard Urahara more than she could ever care for me? It was in this realization that this heart, broken before by a calamity it had barely endured, shattered to as many pieces as it had one century ago. She was in love with him, and for that reason she had once given up everything she had possessed, sacred or damned, to plunge into wretchedness with him. For my part, I could easily proclaim I could have done as much, could have loved her like that. Maybe even more.
Now redeemed into favor by the authorities of Soul Society, she's was basking once more in the same glory. Apart from that, she's announced her betrothal to the same bastard who took her away from me. I can just laugh for the hilarity of it all, for isn't my life now, as one may see it, bestrewn with all manner of ruin that can be proven to be real at every turn?
I healed, nevertheless. I healed, gathered up the pieces, and moved on ultimately. If she's happy now there's nothing left in my role in her life but to humor her and gratify her. I'm sure it isn't that hard to imagine, as I am exactly the kind who holds dignity by not only the nobility of my blood but also by the grace of my conduct. And this is not a pretext with which to disguise the turmoil inside me; I can truly rest content if happiness were granted her in the form of that man I loathe, only that I don't believe I'll ever get myself to accept him.
But all these are fragments of the past now, and have nothing to do with my current plight, therefore what remains for me is to be completely honest, and to admit I am aching again for a different set of reasons, for a different person altogether. This time, I fear my heart is falling headlong once more to a pit inestimable and intricate. Perhaps you can call it love. And I will tell you how this new story goes.
I have imagined any number of times what might, in the end, introduce destruction to my soul. But, before I get into that, pray consider for a moment, before you judge me, the durability of my character and the rest which holds the entirety of my being together. If it proved too hard I'd then be left to say I am a strong, in a way no less than what is expected of a person of my stature. My name is Soi Fon, captain of the Second Division of the Gotei Thirteen and formerly the Commander of Onmitsukido. I am the same person who, some time ago, vowed never to open nor reveal her heart to another, ever again. And this same person, despite all her efforts, shall have her resolve broken by one man. Hardly have the wounds from the previous heartbreak healed when something in me started to embrace a new light.
His name is Hisagi Shuhei.
Perhaps one inevitable aspect of any great captain is his tendency to fall from grace. When Tousen Kaname revealed himself to be a treacherous snake, promptly showing how gravely the decision he made lacked basis in either logic or propriety, each of us, I'm sure, made our own little deductions as to why someone of his principles preferred the dark road. As for me, his departure simply meant one thing; men, however commendable their tenacity is, when faced with temptation must bend at one point, if only to fulfill the stigma allotted to them. But whether or not Tousen was a man worthy of dear remembrance is irrelevant now. Indeed, rather than suggesting a man such as he might've done the world he left behind more good than harm, in spite of his crimes, I think he merely was one of the many tragedies that encircle the lives of many. In the long run, Kaname Tousen was just a man, just a drop in an ocean of souls, and whose existence has been necessary if only to complete a whole. But now the impact of his treachery is upon me, over me. Although none of the aftermath represents the same magnitude of evil as when he was alive and wreaking malice, I daresay I might as well be suffering just as much. In any case, I am not some sentimental idiot who'll go as far as to say the world ought to stop revolving to pay homage to my misfortunes. Nevertheless, one thought will remain the same; I never would've known Hisagi Shuhei quite as well if that blind bastard hadn't kicked the bucket.
The forerunner of the hinted unprecedented events was, to be precise, the reassignment of Yuroichi-sama to her former post; that is, Commander of the Stealth Force. What it posed for me was, I was forced to give away my inherited title which I had held for a span of nearly a century. I should've known all of it had been temporary. On the bright side, I was to retain my title as Captain of the Second Division. But, more than anything else, the whole of this change meant, for me, adapting myself to ordinary captain duties from which I had been previously excused, for the reason that the Second Division was tied to the interests of the Onmitsukido.
"As you are generous enough, Captain Soi Fon, to delegate your Commander of the Stealth Force title to our redeemed comrade Shihouin Yuroichi, it appears the time is ripe that you get a foothold on your principal captain duties. You are to set aside all your inclination toward the other direction and focus your efforts and attention on what is being served on the table." Commander recited.
The truth was, there wasn't any blatant need to assess my situation in full earshot of my fellow captains, much less to prolong this fiasco. Also, the announcement itself simply served to imperil the whole success of my reserves regarding this arrangement. Surely, I had as much reasons to fare better than a bitter loser as I could willingly surrender everything to Yuroichi-sama. I hoped everyone was aware of that. But, with the foreboding tone with which Commander had sent forth his message, I saw clearly not only what was happening but what was about to happen. Mark my words, there wasn't any reason for me to be glad about what little I could predict. So with scarcely any repose, he continued,
"I highly recommend you swap lieutenants with another division. This trade shall cover three months, more or less, in which case Omaeda Marechiyo shall learn how to deal with paper works and area management like a regular lieutenant, as opposed to the covert operations he has been so used to managing. As for you, captain, your temporary right-hand person shall henceforth introduce you to your official duties, which so deviate from what you are accustomed to. Moving on, you may request for your temporary lieutenant from any division should its captain permit."
What was clearly being demonstrated here was the obvious inadequacy of my knowledge in matters regarding office work. Indeed, it was no different from public humiliation. In fact you could argue it served as a step-down, or perhaps more accurately a discreet demotion. Whatever it was, chances were, I had no right nor heart to argue the state of my affairs. With that at hand, I consented, feeling as though my guts were being wrenched from my stomach. Having assessed my situation, I spoke, with sarcasm into the bargain,
"Understood. Well, is there someone here kind enough to lend his or her lieutenant to me? It's only for three months or so."
Of course the Eleventh Division was out of the question even if you noticed how Kenpachi's eyes flashed with interest the moment 'swap lieutenants' came out of Commander's mouth. And to think he was precisely the type who had made disinterest in captain meetings more ordinary than anyone living or dead, he must have been more than willing to relieve himself of his little vice captain, if only for a short while. If he were to propose that toddler, however, I'd be ready to bargain for Madarame or Ayasegawa, come hell or high water, for obvious reasons. But none of this imagined sequence was to take place because the Ninth Division lieutenant raised his hand, apparently eager to push forth a suggestion of some sort.
"I volunteer to be Captain Soi Fon's replacement lieutenant."
Well. I sure hadn't expected that. My gratitude was his for this occasion, nonetheless.
"What say you, Captain Muruguma?" Commander inquired, his gaze locked on the Ninth's newly-appointed, or should I say 'reacquired', captain, Kensei Muruguma.
"No gripe whatsoever."
"Captain Soi Fon?"
"I accept and am indebted to Captain Muruguma and Vice Captain Hisagi."
As swift as that, Omaeda shuffled to his feet to trail his new captain while Hisagi flash-stepped beside me. All around us, pairs of captains and vice captains were heading back to their respective areas as if nothing of interest had taken place. Soon enough, the meeting hall was bereft of any presence except mine and that of this tall man beside me. On a side note, all of this had been boring anyway. Moving on, I nodded at Hisagi, who did not make it apparent in any way if he had some grand reason to offer himself, only that he wanted to go with it bad enough to actually go with it.
"Quite the hero, aren't we?" I commented, out of my tendency to sneer on matters before anything else.
He stared down at me, as he loomed more or less one foot taller, with the same look one would give someone who had just been given an unexpected response.
"Don't know anything about heroism, but suffice it to say I feel it's my obligation to offer my services to you, especially now when you're in need of it."
"Really? Personally speaking, I would have thought it would take more than the praise you'd receive for a slick, noble display of charity to pull you away from your captain."
Seriously. With that '69' permanently inked on his cheekbone, one could mindlessly decide he was in fact worshipping the ground Muruguma walked on, and to deny that was about a breath short of a crime. To Hisagi's credit, though, Muruguma was truly a remarkable individual by all accounts, therefore there was maybe no reason in sight, or out of it, to deny whatever form of devotion his subordinates were likely to honor him with. And yet Hisagi was blushing now.
"If you wish to put it that way, there's nothing I can do about it, is there?"
"Muruguma is a very able captain."
"And so are you, Captain Soi Fon."
For some reason, I was piling forth more interest in his devotion to his captain than I would have allowed myself to show. Maybe it had a lot to do with the tattoo on his face and the amount of audacity he had mustered to display such an open worship.
"Can I tell you a short story, captain?"
"By all means, do so."
"Well, part of me, I must admit, wishes to impress Captain Muruguma. For starters, initiative and maturity are two things he values above all. With that into the equation, I assume that perhaps I can be elevated to higher esteem, at least in his eyes, if circumstances allow for me to prove my worth. On the other hand, the remaining half of me believes your current necessity requires my assistance. After all, I, out of all the vice captains, have the highest evaluation rating in terms of efficiency in delivering official reports and overlooking the performances of lower-ranking officers. So there."
I surveyed him to see for myself that he was wise according to the measure of his experiences. He was a generation or two younger than me, a criteria which somehow prompted me not to trust his instincts so easily. But he appeared so resolute, confident even. I remembered having been as resolute and contented with everything I had had. Yes, those days of bliss had chiefly consisted of my ventures with Yuroichi-sama… following her around like a shadow, dreaming of her day and night; those had been days of happier times.
"I'm impressed. Many who had known him believed him to be dead."
He sighed deep. From where I stood, the expression he was wearing was worth all the clandestine glances it could get.
"When I managed to get admitted to the Gotei Thirteen I inquired of the mysterious silver-haired captain who had the number sixty-nine printed right between his abdomen and chest. As you can see, he was my childhood hero. You can imagine my surprise when everyone assured me no such captain existed. My educators and the notable individuals I encountered, who would have known better, reiterated the same thing; no man in the Gotei Thirteen fitted said descriptions. Furthermore, no record, in any corner of the forbidden archives section, testified otherwise. But I believed and never stopped doing so. At the back of my head, Soul Society was up to something covert and unjust. Perhaps they had reasons of their own to vouch for many things. However, it was as easy as saying captain had been incarcerated or exiled for having tarnished a certain set of principles Soul Society stood for. On that note, Soul Society had done something worse. I would've readily accepted the idea of his death but, instead, everyone claimed he never even existed in the first place. Having had enough of the charade, I came to realize I had to profess something, anything. The best I could come up with was, in honor of him and my dedication I ended up having the same symbolic digits tattooed on my face for the entire world to see. He existed; that was the sort of truth which was established in me for as long as I could remember. I believed, strongly at that, that we'd someday meet again. And now here we are."
His speech was one of those love it or hate it types. If not, then, it was probably something deeper. In a way, I knew exactly how he felt, only that his story was to have a happy ending, togetherness in fact, while mine had to fade to black in something as unhappy as the love of my life's betrothal to someone I abhorred. A far-off worship, was perhaps the best name I could designate to our separate faiths.
"I know you feel similarly, what with Lady Shihouin restored to her rightful place now."
He was grinning, as if he knew more than he should. And I could've punched the living daylights out of him.