Nahualli | Soul Society V

Iyo woke to the sound of her mother attacking the framework again. She was standing on a stool with a small carving tool with her clothes on inside out and her usually impeccably smooth curls a tangled mass that fell all around her head as lifeless as she looked.

It took one summons to see the Nahualli Council for her mother to do a complete one-sixty and things got ugly fast.

She rubbed her sleepy eyes, lounging across the futons. "Mama, are you going crazy?"

Kazuye jolted. "What?"

"Are you going cuckoo?" Iyo asked again.

Her mother blinked.

Iyo yawned. "Well, it's okay if you are," she admitted. "We can get a house in the countryside away from civilization and live the rest of our lives as agoraphobics. Akaho-san will be around to take care of us anyway so we won't have to worry about food or clean living; you know how OCD she can get."

Kazuye lowered her carving tool, eyebrows creased in confusion. "Have you no interest in boys?"

"Oh good, you're not going crazy." Iyo rolled onto her stomach and rested her head over folded arms. "Here I was starting to worry." She regarded her mother's quizzical glance with a smile and then turned her attention to the new protective symbols on the ceiling's framework. "You have noticed there's no spellwork in your charms, right?"

Kazuye grimaced, touching her fingers to the wooden surface with longing. "It seems there isn't."

"Why isn't there spellwork in your charms, mama?"

"Because I don't have spiritual energy to use spellwork…." Kazuye stepped off her stool and sat down atop it, distraught. She repeated herself, the words sounding clearer. "I don't have any spiritual energy."

Iyo concentrated on her mother's defeated form, seeing for herself that her mother, indeed, did not have spiritual energy to use. She felt surprisingly normal and the usual warmth she sensed radiating from her had been replaced by a cold wall.

"I think someone did some evil voodoo on you," Iyo taunted playfully. "Was it Akaho-san? She's been itching to curse you."

"Akaho wouldn't dare."

The door slid open and the redhead in question leaned into the doorway. "I already tried," she admitted. "Your mother is a hard witch to curse. She has a sixth sense for that sort of thing."

"But her spiritual energy has been blocked up completely and we know you were hanging out with that Mzali hag behind our backs," Iyo countered, noting the Qasim's unique wardrobe. She wore a sleeveless vest over a tank top that exposed the extent of her tattooed arm and tight jeans with combat boots. A pair of fingerless gloves poked out of her vest pocket, a new pair. "And where are you going?"

"Underground," Akaho answered, looking to Kazuye. "Will you be fine?"

Kazuye nodded dully.

"Am I finally going to get to meet your boyfriend, mama?" Iyo asked teasingly. "Hinamori-san told me he pretended to be the nicest guy in the world until he offed himself when the lieutenant from Thirteenth Division was going to be executed. I heard he had a great reveal before going to Hueco Mundo—hey, do you think we can go to Hueco Mundo? Can he take us? 'Cause I think I really, really want to go."

"Why do you want to go to Hueco Mundo?" asked Kazuye, exhausted.

"Because I've never been there before?" she offered, shrugging.

"I don't think we can go to Hueco Mundo."

"Why not?"

"Because three Nahualli witches in Hueco Mundo is like a slab of meat in the cage of thousands of starving lions," Akaho explained. "Hueco Mundo is the last place you want to be, especially as a work-in-progress."

"Mama, Akaho-san called me a work-in-progress!" she complained.

Kazuye strained to respond. "You'll be fine as soon as you turn fifteen. Most witches reach maturity by then."

"Fifteen is a long time!"

"You'll be thirteen soon enou—" Kazuye jerked out of her seat and rushed as far seven steps before retching sparkling white liquid all over the ground.

Akaho rushed to her side, pushing a handkerchief to her mother's mouth.

Iyo stared at her mother's vomit curiously. Vomit didn't usually sparkle, nor did it burn a hole through the floor. "Mad voodoo curse," Iyo said with certainty. "Mama—"

Tears had sprung in her mother's eyes. She was in pain as she ran her fingers over her neck.

"It burns," she croaked, struggling to breathe. She held onto Akaho's arm like a lifeline, tears rolling down her face. "Akaho, go. You have to go—we can leave this place."

Iyo jumped onto her feet, running across the room to pull her mother into a hug. She didn't want to see her cry, but she couldn't pretend she knew how to get rid of the voodoo curse placed on her. It probably wasn't even a curse. It could be something else. She didn't know. She never paid attention to her lessons unless they involved blowing stuff up and healing was the most boring subject she ever endured. She wished she had listened to Akaho when she explained healing spellwork.

"Akaho-san?"

Akaho pried Kazuye's fingers from her arm and faced Iyo. "Don't leave this room. Your mother is in no condition to protect you. I promise I won't be long."

But her mother always protected her…and those words sounded very strange in her ears, no matter how many times she repeated them.

Akaho whispered something to Kazuye before getting up to leave. She left them alone in the room, and instead of her clinging to her mother in her hour of need…her mother clung to her.

"Xinechtlapopolhui, Ixchel."

Iyo suppressed a shudder. The last and only time her mother had called her by her birth name was the day she revealed it to her, stressing how important it was for her to remember it and never speak it again.

Kazuye took her face in her hands and forced her to look her straight in the eyes. "There are people that want to hurt you," she grated, trying to smile despite the tears forming in her eyes. "These people have done all they could to prevent me from protecting you. I can't do anything to help you without access to my spiritual—"

"Take mine!" Iyo demanded. She wanted to find a way to help her. "I have loads to spare."

Her mother shook her head. "You're too young."

"But I'm not! I'm nearly thirteen!"

Kazuye laughed quietly. "Yes, you are," she said, tucking Iyo's stringy hair behind her ears. "I could kill you if I tried."

"What am I—?"

"Listen to me, Ixchel," she started, the name rang of power. "You protect yourself."

"But you're here—"

"—and I'm useless," she interjected. "So you listen to me, if another witch, that isn't me or Akaho, however strong they are, whatever rank they may be, no matter how young or old they might be, you strike back. Hit them as hard as you can. If they retaliate, you hit them harder. Whatever happens—if there are casualties—"

Iyo hated that sort of talk. Casualties? She couldn't even process it. She knew what that meant with women like her mother and Akaho because neither one of them pretended to be saints. Certain circumstances led to unwarranted casualties. People tried their patience, people wronged them, Nahualli hunted them—there were so many reasons.

Although she had initially been devastated because she grew up under the impression that her mother was incapable of wrongdoing, Kazuye let her be angry. She allowed her to call her as many names as her seven-year-old self could think up and didn't hold it against her when she latched onto Akaho to replenish her spiritual energy after numerous attempts to hex her mother. Kazuye didn't even complain when the hexes started to work and she had to live weeks of purple hair and a clown face.

Eventually, Iyo learned that everything Kazuye did was for a reason, part of some greater scheme. But that had been her mother.

Iyo couldn't fathom causing death. She didn't have a grand scheme.

"Are you listening?"

Iyo snapped out of it. "Yes, mama."

"Then do it, Ixchel. Do it."

.

.

Somewhere, glass smashed into a wall followed by the sound of a struggle before a dead silence rolled in.

Iyo opened her eyes and searched the room for her absent mother wondering if the noises that roused her from sleep had all been a dream. It might have been a nightmare after all the food she ate during lunch. She had been advised to quit while she was ahead, but she refused, stressing that she had to eat double since her mother couldn't stand near the smell of food without barfing more sparkly, acidic vomit. She wanted to prove she could protect her mother in Akaho's absence, though several hours had passed since their bodyguard left and she was bound to reappear any minute now.

Maybe Akaho returned.

Suddenly, a voice reached her. "The spellwork is strong here."

It wasn't Akaho.

She jerked around, kicking the blankets from her legs. She scrambled onto her feet, wondering when she had the time to fall asleep.

Footsteps neared.

Iyo panicked, ambling towards the closet. She dropped down into a seat as the voices grew louder up until two silhouettes appeared behind the left entrance of her room. She wished her great-grandmother's ancient carvings still had their spellwork. Maybe they could protect her from whoever the strangers were.

The doorframe rattled noisily and words were exchanged in a language she didn't understand.

A cold male voice answered their efforts, speaking in Japanese. "Force it open."

She watched—a prayer stuck in her throat. Her heart pounded in her chest with every harsh bang the shoji doors received. She flinched with each thump, winced when the door splintered, wooden shards landing across the tatami and the washi paper ripped to shreds as if by claws.

Iyo saw bright, calculating eyes fall on her and the man they belonged to as the door fell away in large chunks of bamboo wood. He stood behind two women in blue robes, taller by at least three feet with choppy black hair and a strong build. He looked daunting—eyes alight with malice.

One woman, a redhead covered in blue ink, placed a tattooed hand over the invisible wall blocking their entrance. "The spellwork is impressive."

The second woman, a blond with a freckled nose, peered in, spotting her among the closet clutter. She grinned, a chilling smile that strummed a cord down Iyo's back.

Every fear came rushing forward. She swallowed hard.

"I used to love seeing that tortured look on her mother," the second one said, proud. "Lovely girl."

"Can you break it?" the man asked, regarding the redhead.

"Not without a price," she answered, looking down at her hand.

"Pay it. We shouldn't keep Sumika waiting."

Iyo sat paralyzed in her seat as the trio reverted to the language she didn't understand. She couldn't sense her mother and that meant two things: unconscious or dead. She dreaded the latter. She didn't want to believe it was possible because if anything was certain, killing a Sayegh Shaman was nearly impossible to accomplish. And she had faith.

Her mother was somewhere in the house unconscious thanks to the intruders. That was what she told herself.

The redhead started murmuring words, her lips pressed against her tattooed fist. The blond gauged at her expression, thrilled with it, and the man said nothing.

Iyo surveyed the room for some form of weapon and spotted the carving tool her mother had used on the framework on the ground. She sprang towards it while she still had time, snatched it in her hands and scrambled back to the closet, listening to the amusement in the intruder's voices.

"It's useless, girl," called the blond. "Even if your mother taught you how to carve protection, you don't have her power."

She refused to believe her efforts would be useless as she stabbed the sharp end into the wood. She felt a wave of energy push her into the wall.

The invisible barrier was in the midst of withstanding a strong surge of malignant energy—ancient spellwork.

Iyo looked over her shoulder. The redhead cradled the stump of her hand to her chest, using the other to push against the barrier, making it and the fissures forming along its surface visible.

She panicked, stabbing the tool into the wood harder into the only legible symbol she could think of under pressure. The Sayegh crest—scales, two crooked lines joined at the top with a plate strung from each end of the horizontal line. It looked terrible, but she poured all the spiritual energy she could muster when the barrier shattered, bolts of wayward energy struck different areas in the room.

She kept the carving tool held close to her chest and scrambled closer to the back wall of the closet.

The redhead slumped against the wall, blood pouring from her sacrificed hand. She brushed off all sign of concern from her companions and the three approached the closet stealthily.

The blond leaned close, fingers dancing up the barrier Iyo was surprised was keeping her out, a curious smile on her face. She found the crest, raking her nails along the surface, staring her down.

"This is weak."

As soon as she spoke the words, the barrier shattered and Iyo sat vulnerable with only a carving tool to defend herself with.

The blond reached forward.

Immediately, Kazuye's words resonated in her mind. "Then do it, Ixchel. Do it."

There was power in that name and she never understood it until then. She fisted her hands, closed her eyes shut, and inhaled deeply. Spiritual energy seemed to course through her limps, rushing to her lungs when she let it all out in the form of a silent scream. A burst of energy threw the trio off balance, sending them flying in different directions and smashing through walls from the sheer force of the power.

She had done this one time before, when the swarm of Hollow were closing in on her and her mother told her to envision anything without need of calculations or measurements. Sayegh were pure power. She proved herself as a Sayegh that day. Its effectiveness left her winded.

Iyo acknowledged that she had used too much spiritual energy as she forced her body onto her feet. She needed to find her mother and run somewhere safe. If she found Sasakibe, he could help her.

She only hoped they three had hit their heads where they landed.

She heard the floor creak under her weight. It startled her to see the damage done to the house, but sensed all the enchantments protecting her were gone. Nobody would come save her unless they heard the racket, but she doubted these three had been dumb enough to storm the house without erecting a barrier to prevent trespassers.

Maybe someone would notice it? But they were Nahualli. They could create invisible barriers that would rouse no suspicions.

Her hope was dwindling.

Iyo sprinted across the room, hoping they were dumb. She slipped on the pool of blood the redhead left behind, landing hard on her back and sliding to the opposite wall.

She groaned, body paralyzed by waves of pain.

Another sound alerted her senses. Rubble clattering to the floor as one of the three rose to their feet with a terrible spike in spiritual pressure. It fell upon her like a ton of bricks, pinning her to the bloodied ground.

Heart pounding in her head, the anxiety was hard to bear. She was fighting against using the remainder of her spiritual energy because there was no one to replenish it and having none meant certain death. And she couldn't die. She wouldn't do that to her mother.

She felt his towering shadow fall across her body and the tension in her muscles doubled, back throbbing with new pain. Her eyes found him raising a sword over his head, ready to stake her with it.

"Dead or alive, she said."

Iyo fought the urge to cry, shutting her eyes tightly. It would hurt. That's what swords do when they pierce the skin.

It's gonna hurt so bad—

Something warm spilled over her face and the man made a gurgling noise.

The weight on her body disappeared.

It was over.

Good, it didn't hurt.

She opened her eyes, set on finding the sword sticking out of her chest cavity but found nothing. She looked up to the shocked expression on her assailant's eyes and the sword jutting out from between his neck and shoulder.

With a yelp, she scrambled onto a seat, kicking her feet to get away from him before his body hit the floor with a thud. Her back hit something hard and her heart dropped to her stomach because it wasn't a wall.

Blood dripped from the bridge of her nose and slowly, she tipped her head back. She bumped into a second man. This one looked like he could use some sunshine, a haircut, and some food. He didn't need an introduction.

"Where is Akaho-san?" she asked quietly, politely even.

A smile graced his lips. "I wonder."

He moved away from her, walking down the hall.

Iyo hated how safe she suddenly felt and jumped to her feet, running in the opposite direction calling out for her mother and Akaho. She opened several doors, searched several rooms to the point of realizing the house staff was curiously missing, before she finally found her mother slumped on her side surrounded by shards of glass.

Beside her was the man dressed in black, pressing his fingers to her neck in search of a pulse. He spared Iyo a look, eyes a dull brown, a shade lighter than his tangled hair. There were hollows in his eyes and his cheeks were sunken in. She sensed no spiritual energy from him, couldn't even see it. He was closed off to her.

In an obstructed corner, Iyo could see another body. It was probable that had been the reason for the shattered glass.

Iyo approached, ignoring the pain of the tiny pieces stabbing into her foot. She was careful.

"I'm Iyo," she introduced lamely.

His eyes met her face. "I know."

She felt stupid.

Her expression must have amused him because he had smiled.

"You didn't kill Akaho-san, right?"

"No," he said simply.

"And she's not outside either, is she?"

"No."

He was indulging her. She felt even stupider, but she couldn't stop talking.

"Can people vomit sparkly, acidic liquid?"

He rose to his full height, ignoring her question. "More are coming."

"I take it you're about to leave."

He said nothing, though he did offer her his hand.

Curiously, she sauntered closer and touched his palm, ready to jerk away if needed. His fingers closed around hers and immediately, she felt a surge of spiritual energy rush up her arm and run straight to her core.

He let her go quickly and as soon as he turned, he was gone.

Her insides were shaking. If she had ever thought her mother's spiritual energy was strong, this man was stronger. She shook herself out of her stupor, remembering his warning. "More are coming."

Iyo checked on her mother quickly to make sure she was wound-free.

She sprinted out the other entrance, wincing at the pain on her feet. She found the dead man still lying on his stomach with the sword sticking out of his body. She kicked his body onto his back and grabbed the sword's handle. It was better than no protection. She was too nervous to use spellwork.

She gave it a harsh tug, stomach twisting at the sound of the metal scrapping against bone and the gush of blood pouring from the wound.

A shadow caught her eye.

She started to turn, but she only felt the impact. The rest was dark.


"How long has Hisame-san been here?"

Captain Hirako shot Urahara Kisuke a look of disbelief. "What's that matter? She's about to have her kid executed."

Urahara grimaced. "The Council should know better than to give her a reason to act out."

"Tell that to Sumika. She ordered it." Hirako found Hinamori rummaging through the shelves, reorganizing the mess he had made that morning. "How's she doin' today?"

Hinamori pictured Kazuye taking a knife to the wooden frames all over Iyo's room carving new symbols with a wild look in her eyes. She had uttered a thousand words beneath her breath in the short instant that she was present and remained busily frazzled ever since. She banned everyone from giving Iyo a reason for her mother's sudden personality change.

"Plotting against the Zahir," Hinamori answered, pushing a leather book into the shelf. It was the only reasonable response she could give when it came to Kazuye's behavior. "Same as yesterday."

"What did the Zahir do to her?" asked Urahara.

"Beat her senseless during the hearing," Hirako replied. "She promised to behead one with her bare hands."

"Hinamori-san, do you know how long she's been here?" Urahara asked, sticking to the initial subject.

He walked into Fifth Division intent on learning as much about her stay as possible, sounding almost suspicious, though he didn't seem as surprised as everyone else had when Kazuye turned out alive.

"Almost a month," she said truthfully.

"What has she been doing here for a month?"

Hirako arched an eyebrow. "Sunbathing," he said simply, as if it was universal knowledge. "She's on vacation. She told ya that already, she aint lying."

Her captain wasn't lying. Kazuye had been sunbathing on the rooftops of Fifth Division before she received the summons. She had a golden tan she had been proud of at the time, but since then, she had been as pale as paper. It was like she had never seen the sun before in her life, or a hairbrush.

The Captain-Commander said nothing according to the order. Not even when Captain Kyoraku tried bringing up the subject, he was shot down immediately and it was never to be spoken again.

How long would it take for Iyo to figure something terrible had happened?

"Why're ya askin' so many questions?" Hirako asked, arms folded over his chest. "I heard you've been talking to everyone 'bout it. Bet Kensei complained 'bout her to ya, eh?"

"She threatened to sleep with him," Urahara said, as if it were a serious danger.

Hirako huffed. "She aint a succubus! She's an adult Nahualli with complete control over her spiritual energy," he retorted. "'Sides, that wasn't even a real threat and even if it was, he wouldn't be complain' long."

Hinamori shook her head, cheeks flaring with a blush.

"Everyone is looking for a reason to hate her," Hirako finished. "She's old enough to know better now and she's been minding her business—"

"There is only one reason Hisame Kazuye would return to Soul Society and it isn't to mind her own business," Urahara interrupted. "She's lying."

Hinamori tried keeping her focus on her bookkeeping, but listening to his confession made it hard. Kazuye was lying. She was in Soul Society to release Aizen from his prison under a serendipitous guise.

"How do ya know?"

"A hunch."

Hinamori finished organizing the shelf and excused herself to meet with the unseated officers for target practice. She needed to leave before her guilt led to a revelation.

The door burst open before she reached out to touch it and Kazuye appeared, pale as a ghost with dark circles under her eyes and fresh blood splattered across her clothes. Her usual companions were missing and Hinamori found that as shocking as her appearance because leaving Iyo was the last thing she ever wanted to do with her execution up in the air.

Captain Hirako burst out of his seat, the chair slamming into the wall behind him, as he rushed to her. "What the hell happened?"

"They know my power," Kazuye started, choking back tears. "Sumika ordered for them to take Iyo. I couldn't—"

"You stay here with her," Captain Hirako ordered, looking at Hinamori. "I'm heading to see the Captain-Commander. He'll hear from me."

Kazuye slumped into the couch, face in her hands, as soon as the door closed noisily.

Hinamori approached her cautiously, casting a look at Urahara who looked concerned himself. "Do you want something to drink? Tea?"

"Something sour." She raised her face, eyes glistening. "And maybe something alcoholic."

"Okay." She nodded and started to the door. She stopped at a thought, turning to her once more. "Hisame-san, where's Akaho-san?"

"Away," she uttered, eyes trained on Urahara. "I couldn't have her persecuted for my sake."

.

.

Hinamori returned to the office with a pitcher of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a ceramic bottle of the strongest sake she could find on short notice. Captain Hirako left Kazuye under her watch and she wanted to accommodate her as much as she wanted to keep her safe. She trusted Urahara Kisuke's suspicious questions were due to interest and that he was not the person Akaho predicted would recognize Kazuye's actions as lies. He said it himself.

She paused at the entrance as their voices reached her ears, stricken.

"…I've been barfing sparkling poison since then," Kazuye confessed, ill. "Someone heard wish-granting was my trade and easily figured out what my strengths were. The Zahir developed a way to annul it. I can't use spiritual energy."

"Do they have permission to mix the two?" asked Urahara. "The concoction is strong enough to kill a man. The chemicals shouldn't be mixed with others outside the equation."

"Like numbers were probably considered and spiritual energy was used to substitute the stronger chemicals." Kazuye made a gagging sound. "I haven't tasted spiritual energy this bad since I was a fourteen."

"What is it like?"

"Like a terrible aftertaste."

"Have you tried creating more?"

"I can't without proper sustenance," she admitted, pausing. "I can't stomach food."

"You can take from another."

It sounded like a suggestion.

"Replenish with another? Are you offering?"

Urahara chuckled. "Can you?"

"I can."

She seemed averse to the idea.

"Why don't you?"

"I need someone with more spiritual energy than I have in reserve to do a complete flush, else there's a chance the poison will stay in my system longer than it would had I let it dissolve."

"There is someone."

"Yes, a teenage boy without power. He is useless to me."

Kurosaki Ichigo?

"The Captain-Commander won't allow Sumika to execute Iyo," he eased, sounding confident. "And I'm here on the subject of that powerless teenage boy. You won't need to wait a year for the poison to dissolve."

Hinamori's eyes went wide. A year? She vividly recalled Kazuye's struggle before Captain Hirako covered her eyes. She heard her cries and bones cracking and the violent shuffling over the slippery marble floors. They fed her poison that forced the truth from her lips and a hidden contagion that closed off her ability to use spiritual energy. It would take a whole year for system to wash it away. She didn't have a year.

"How long?" asked Kazuye lowly. "How long do I have to wait?"

"Until I finish the blade."

"Should I expect it sooner or later?"

"Sooner."

Hinamori heard the sound of rustling feet and took several steps back, surprised when she heard Urahara's voice as clearly as she did by the entrance.

"Your death should have broken your oath to Aizen. Why are you still loyal to him?"

Heart hammering in her chest, Hinamori swallowed hard.

"Kazuno was still alive when I died. My oath was still hers."

"Rumor has it that you have been roaming the streets, touring the thirteen divisions, touching every surface available to you"—had Urahara not mentioned it, Hinamori would have never realized that Kazuye had been doing it from the start with a look of deep concentration—"you've been Measuring. Have you finished the model, Kazuye?"

His toned had turned grave.

"What model, Kisuke?" she asked curiously.

"Your model of Soul Society."

"Would you believe me if I said I haven't?"

"No."

The silence was long.

"You do this, Kazuye, and you would be an enemy of Soul Society."

"Soul Society has been cruel to me. Aizen—"

"—is using you."

"And I know it," she said in certainty.

"This makes you my enemy."

"I can live with it, can you?" she asked playfully.

There was no way Hinamori was going in that room. Her opportunity was lost. She didn't mean to eavesdrop when she did, but curiosity won her over and now she had no choice but to listen. She heard it all.

Urahara knew exactly why Kazuye was there and she was nothing short of straightforward. She had nothing to hide.

"Now, I have more important things to do than speak about elaborate Aizen ploys with you." Kazuye's voice sounded closer to the entrance and Hinamori had half a mind to flee had her feet not been glued to the ground. "Honestly, you have such little faith in me. I'm not his monkey, you know. I can ignore the oath. Goodbye, Urahara-san."

The door slid open and Kazuye stepped out, catching Hinamori standing close to the corner. She crossed the distance and took the bottle of sake, downing it in one swig.

"Hinamori-san, I'm going to recover my daughter. You can either come with me or join Urahara-san and link my vacation into some wild conspiracy theory about letting Aizen outta his cage." She threw the man a furtive look and huffed. "Everyone just wants a reason to kick me out again when all I wanted was to revisit my childhood memories."

Hinamori was left with little choice but to follow Kazuye and make sure she stayed out of trouble.

.

.

"What are you going to do?" asked Hinamori, hidden beside Kazuye in the foliage within the underground illusion hallway.

The only reason they made it that far down was because the twins from the other day granted them entrance without taking their weapons or marking their skin with the vine-like tattoos. They were firm believers that Sumika's actions had been both unfair and uncalled for and were eager to see the sort of scene that was bound to ensue.

"I haven't thought of that yet," Kazuye admitted, peering through the bushes at the entrance to the Akram Elder's chambers. "I figured my nails were sharp enough to gauge someone's eyes out, so I'm going on that."

Hinamori didn't like her position. She was the one with the sword. "Hisame-san, I think you'll need more than sharp nails. They can use their spiritual energy."

"I really wish Akaho was here. She wouldn't need spiritual energy to rip Sumika a new one."

"Is she really gone?"

"No, she's in the middle of infiltrating the underground prison."

"Oh—" Hinamori sputtered, jerking around to face her. "What?"

"I finished preparations several days ago," she confessed. "The model was completed before the summons, a tad rushed because Akaho scared the shit out of me with her creepy Blood Reading, but I mapped out the whole prison and made an entrance for her before this powerless fiasco."

Hinamori blinked, dumbfounded. "How?"

"I made a model of Soul Society using clay and spun thread full of my spiritual energy," she started, as if tired of explaining it. "It's an exact replica of Soul Society, miniature but exact, and if I decide to add a secret garden to Shinji's bathroom, I'd simply mold it in clay and it'd be there as soon as I can snap my fingers."

"So, you made a door to the underground prison?" Hinamori asked in disbelief.

"I made several," Kazuye corrected.

"Several?"

"It's fine. Everyone will simply think they've been there forever."

"Will it work?"

"Akaho is capable. She'll have it done."

"What will happen once it's done?"

"I'm quitting my day job—oh, here comes someone." Kazuye finished with a whisper. "Mind if I borrow your zanpakutō?"

Hinamori tugged it free from her sash and handed it over, thinking she probably should have questioned her about that. She watched a blue-robbed woman walk down the hall, straining to look through the foggy room. She was the same woman Kazuye threatened to behead.

She glimpsed in their direction and Hinamori ducked.

"I've already sensed you," the woman announced. "You're useless without your spellwork."

"Good."

Thwack!

A body hit the ground.

Hinamori turned to where Kazuye once was to see the space empty and then raised her eyes. Kazuye tossed the zanpakutō in her direction and she caught it in midair.

She emerged from the foliage to join the witch as Kazuye decided she couldn't be bothered with carrying the body out of sight and started to kick the unconscious woman towards the other end of the forest.

She leaned over with a smile on her face. "Oh, I'm going to make her wish she was never born."

"You don't mean that," Hinamori said, startled.

"I totally mean that."

Footsteps rang behind them. They turned quickly to the archway on the other side, but by then it was too late to jump into the bushes because Sumika and Sumire were standing with a dozen blue-robbed women prepared for any assault on their behalf.

The Akram women smirked proudly.

"You truly are foolish, child," Sumika said, shaking her head in disappointment. "Coming here alone to retrieve your little abomination."

"Hey, Hinamori is standing right there!" snapped Kazuye.

Sumika didn't even spare Hinamori a glance. She was invisible to her, beneath them.

"Apprehend her," Sumika ordered, and then turned to Hinamori, staring straight through her. "You know what to do with that one."

The dozen robbed women appeared all around them in a flash. Kazuye was quick to surrender and Hinamori, once more, had no choice but to follow suit. She had no power among the Nahualli, but she was also aware that they couldn't do anything to her because she was a shinigami of the Gotei 13.

.

.

Hinamori returned to the little glass prison without a sword or the ability to use kidō. Iyo was lying unconscious in seven-barrier prison with blood all over her back and face, despite having a few contusions and scratches. On the other side of the marble room were the four Elders, the Queen, Sumire and the small army of Zahir witches set on treating Kazuye as though she had the power to protect herself from their rough beatings.

Sumika crouched down before Kazuye, fingers curling under her chin. "You poor thing," she cooed. "You have no power to protect your little abomination, yet you are here taking hit after hit…willing to die for her sake. Without your power, you are as good as human, so these"—she ran her fingers down the length of Kazuye's bruised and broken arm, forcing her to wince—"must hurt."

A devious smile played on her lips, but at the sound of Iyo's pained moan, it turned into a frown. Iyo didn't wake. She had been stricken from sudden pain that might have roused her from the darkness before taking her once more.

"That girl of your killed two Zahir witches, two of my strongest."

"Your Zahir endangered my daughter," said Kazuye, blood pouring from her mouth. Dark blotches stained the white marble. "She protected herself."

"Yes, and now we have a reason to execute her."

That had been the plan all along. Kazuye was under no one's protection. If she committed a crime, she would be forced to pay the price. The Nahualli was a group that no one dared cross. Despite their affinity to neutrality, they were vicious once provoked.

Sumika must have planned for this when the Captain-Commander gave her no response to her request.

Hinamori remembered to breathe. The sight of Kazuye's shock was painful to stomach. She only wanted her daughter back, who was wrongfully taken. They started it, but Iyo killed two of their kind, whether or not it was self-defense, the decision of what to do was theirs and that was exactly what Sumika wanted.

"Do it," Kazuye croaked, provoking her. "Do it! Kill her! Kill my girl! Take from me the only weakness I possess! Give me a reason to start a war, to do wrong, to kill—to prove that I am an abomination!"

Sumika straightened, taken aback.

The entire room seemed quieter than ever, a quiet storm brewing.

Kazuye's crazed laughter echoed in the room as she rose on wobbly legs. "I have never had ambitions," she said lowly. "Not when my grandmother advised me to take my crown, not when others helped me understand my power, not when I accepted that you were all a pack of assholes—never have I had ambitions." She raised a crooked finger in the direction of her daughter. "For that girl, I will destroy the Akram lineage and enslave the rest. But you, I will keep you alive."

Hinamori's heart clenched. Those were promises, not mere words. Savagery at its finest; she would give it to them, served on a silver platter.

Outraged, Sumika commanded her Zahir guards to silence her.

Kazuye was forced on her knees, one Zahir on each side, pressing a heavy palm on her shoulder. Three others stood behind her.

"You would threaten me?" asked Sumika, almost skeptical.

"Threaten? That implies uncertainty," Kazuye responded, proud. "I am making an oath. So, please, give me a reason to fulfill this oath to you."

The Elders murmured on their platform, barking out orders to their Queen.

Two words rang out from Sumika's mouth. "Execute her."

"No!" Hinamori breathed, covering her mouth.

A Zahir positioned herself directly in front of Kazuye, positioning her hands on her pallid face to give her neck a clean twist. Kazuye struggled, but the blue-robbed women proved stronger.

"Please don't!" Hinamori cried, wishing someone listened.

She couldn't bear the thought of Iyo waking to see her mother on the ground dead. She couldn't accept Kazuye dead.

The box muffled her screams. She knew. That didn't stop her from protesting—panicking as the Zahir started applying pressure, bit by bit, to make Kazuye scream in agony.

Kazuye bit back the urge. It seemed to take every bit of control to prevent it, biting down hard on her lip and squeezing her eyes shut. There was a moment in which her chest stopped rising and falling when Hinamori started to cry. She didn't want to see this, the pain marring her once beautiful features.

She stopped moving, breathing—and hopefully feeling.

Hinamori choked back a sob, hands cupped to her mouth.

"Mama?"

Iyo.

Iyo was seated, hands pressed to the barriers sealing her in, eyes wide in realization. "Mama! No! Mama!"

She started kicking the wall with her foot, harder and harder each time, until the first three barriers shattered. She winced the next time she stomped against the forth barrier, having damaged it, but she didn't care. She was the only one that could save her mother, the only one that wasn't tattooed with their seal, and for a moment, she was her only hope.

"It seems the little abomination has woken," Sumika said, aloud. "Sumire, redo the barriers."

Kazuye twitched, opening her eyes to glance in Iyo's direction. She said nothing.

Sumire appeared before Iyo's prison and pressed both hands against the surface, recreating the three barriers Iyo broke in the blink of an eye.

Iyo grew frustrated, pounding away harder. She was screaming incoherently, legs shaking with the damage they sustained.

Kazuye let out a strained sound and Hinamori could tell that just the right amount of pressure would snap her neck. It would be over. The Zahir grinned in anticipation and for the last time, Kazuye struggled—

The entrance burst open and a powerful voice rang out. "Get away from her."

Hinamori blinked tears from her eyes, watching five Zahir women scurry back to their ground as the Captain Commander appeared in her line of sight. Kazuye slammed into the ground, pushing her body onto its back and inhaled the air, her hands flew to her neck.

Sumika opened her mouth to provide reason, but the older man cut her off. "Hisame Kazuye is under my protection and so are the two young women in her company, execute either one of them and you can expect to find our treaty broken."

"They killed many Zahir!" snapped Sumika, then pointed an accusing finger at Kazuye. "She's threatened to enslave us."

"You took Hisame Iyo from her home without my consent," he answered, the aura surrounding him was heavy. "The girl retaliated in her right. You have no valid crimes to accuse them of." He glanced in Hinamori's direction. "And let's not forget you have taken a lieutenant of my Gotei 13 prisoner and there are consequences to that."

"She entered here of her own volition! To aid this abomination!"

"Hinamori Momo was merely following orders. It was her job to keep an eye on Hisame Kazuye, not protect her, and she raised no blade against you nor has she made threats. You have taken an innocent prisoner."

Kazuye coughed violently, blood falling everywhere.

"Release them and I will forget this incident," Yamamoto bargained.

Sumika bristled. She waved a hand in Sumire's direction and in an instant Hinamori and Iyo were released.

Iyo scampered to her mother's side, dropping down to wrap her arms around her. She was wailing, promising to be good and listen and learn all the spellwork she wanted.

Hinamori bowed appreciatively to her superior, thanking him in a quiet voice.

"Then let us forget this incident," Sumika said, defeated.

Yamamoto glanced in Kazuye's direction as he turned. Iyo was planting kisses all over her face before noticing and thanking him for speaking up in their favor. She spoke the words her mother wanted to say but couldn't.

He started stepping away, but halted. He returned to the two witches and offered Kazuye his hand—a peace offering from the Captain-Commander if she ever saw one.

Kazuye lifted a shaky hand to his, accepting his aid. He pulled her onto her feet and started toward the entrance without another word.

Hinamori joined them, a weight lifted from her shoulders. Iyo dragged them all into a group hug before Hinamori helped the two of them wobble their way out of the underground and past the alley entrance near Eight Division.

Yamamoto entrusted her to escort them to Fourth Division to have their wounds tended before leaving them.

.

.

Captain Unohana mended both Kazuye and Iyo as soon as they entered the Relief Center and intimidated both into avoiding all form of physical exertion for the next couple of days. They were discharged because Captain Unohana recognized Akaho as an able caretaker, which brought into question when had the Fourth Division captain come to that conclusion, but nobody asked.

Kazuye wanted to sleep. Iyo reverted to her child form, having exhausted her spiritual energy. Hinamori wanted to rest her aching feet and eat something before calling it a day.

It was dark out when they reached their First Division home to the smell of food and a scene of destruction. Kazuye admired the sheer power hanging in the air—electrifying. There was static everywhere.

"Akaho-san!" called Kazuye. "I need a bath and some alcohol!"

Hinamori followed Kazuye into her bedroom. It seemed to be the only one in three that had remained intact. The bottomless trunk sat open, several futons were stacked in the corner and the closet was opened. Dark clothes littered the floor.

The bathroom was partly open, steam pouring from within. Kazuye noticed. "That was fast."

Kazuye prepared a futon for Iyo and gestured for Hinamori to put her down after carrying her all the way from Fourth Division. Hinamori tucked the slumbering girl in, smiling down at her when a piece of cloth fell over her head.

"Oops, sorry."

Kazuye snatched it away, holding a hand over her bare chest.

Hinamori dropped her gaze, a flush appearing on her cheeks. "I should get going."

"I think Akaho made food, you can drop by the kitchen and get some," said Kazuye, turning her back to her as she sauntered to the bathroom in only her pants. "I'll be there as soon as I scrub the blood off my skin."

Something caught her eye. Hinamori lifted them to see a tattoo blooming across the shaman's right hip, sprawled across her back like thin limbs. Tiny words and symbols webbed between the various branches, reaching up to her right shoulder blade. It sat completely on one side, a mark in black.

Even when Kazuye was sunbathing, Hinamori had never seen the tattoo before.

"I didn't know you had a tattoo, Hisame-san," Hinamori breathed.

Kazuye paused at the door, looking over her shoulder and down her back. "Oh yeah, it's a rite of passage." She shrugged and her hair fell across her back, covering most of the tattoo.

Hinamori started to the door silently as Kazuye entered the bathroom.

She screamed.

Hinamori rushed back into the room. "Hisame-san?"

"Why are you in my tub?" snapped Kazuye, back slamming to the door. "—Don't be sarcastic, get out!"

A low voice responded.

"I said I'd get you out not put a roof over your head—"

"Hisame-san, are you okay?" called Hinamori loudly, eyebrows creased in confusion.

Kazuye poked her head out the door as water fell to the floor, steam rolled out overhead lazily. "Hinamori-san, I'll be fine."

.

.

Akaho was in a mood.

Regardless, she received Hinamori with unfeigned pleasantness and offered her tea, which she accepted. Hinamori reiterated the events of that day at her request and sighed, the warm liquid filled her with relief. It relaxed her muscles and made her drowsy.

"What did you do today?" asked Hinamori, innocent enough.

"The last favor I will ever do for Kazuye," Akaho answered, jaw clenched.

Hinamori turned to the door when she heard it opening and as soon as Kazuye stepped into the room in front of Aizen Sōsuke, her grip on her mug slackened and it smashed to the ground, the liquid soaking in the wood.

"Good evening, Hinamori-kun."

He greeted her as if nothing had happened and it infuriated her, a silent wrath that challenged the amount of guilt she built up.

Hinamori left her seat silently, stepping around the broken shards. "Hisame-san, I'm going home now." She bade farewell to Akaho, then turned to Kazuye one last time before leaving. "Please visit Fifth Division tomorrow morning."

"Thank you for everything."


Kazuye took a washcloth from the counter and bent down to clean the broken mug. She cut her finger with a particularly sharp piece and heard Akaho sigh exasperatedly. She ignored her and let the cloth soak in the liquid before tossing it across the counter to the sink. She took a seat to Aizen's left, leaving a stool in between. She glimpsed in his direction. He looked terrible like he needed a whole chicken and a haircut to start with some major life adjustments.

He caught her staring. She felt stupid.

She looked to Akaho, who glared at her. She felt stupider.

To be in a room where she felt stupid was something she certainly did not miss.

"Did something happen?" asked Kazuye, noting the tension.

"Ask him."

Kazuye glanced at Aizen, who smirked. No intention of saying a thing.

"Akaho, please."

"He locked me in his cell," she bit out. "Of course, he stabbed me first."

She turned to him for confirmation, to which he responded, "You sent your lover to release me."

Kazuye rolled her eyes, pushing herself out of her seat. She didn't have time for this. She met him face to face. "I can put you back where I found you, you remember that."

.

.

Kazuye couldn't sleep with Iyo's snoring and Akaho's curled body in the corner of the room, waking every other minute to make sure she was still in the room. She slipped out of bed, the floor creaking noisily under her weight. She pushed herself onto a seat.

"Where do you think you're going?" asked Akaho, startling her.

"To pee!" she cried, getting on her feet.

Kazuye stepped out of the room, tugging on a sweater. She winced; her bones were tender from the healing. It was easier to mend them by using spellwork and since her spiritual energy remained blocked by the poison, she used Captain Unohana as a conduit. That sort of spellwork left her exhausted. She needed the sleep.

A cold breeze hit her face like pins and needles. She burrowed her hands in her pockets when she sat on the steps leading into her laughable backyard and stared absently at the patch of green sprouting in her vegetable garden.

She regretted not going to the bathroom now. She needed to go, but she didn't want to stand up. She found some warmth and she knew if she got up, she wouldn't find it again when she returned.

"Oh gods, I want to die," she confessed.

"That can be arranged."

Kazuye yelped, spying Aizen leaning on the other side of the verandah, looking as though he had been there long before she seated herself. She wanted to cry because she nearly pissed herself, but didn't want to humiliate herself.

"Please go away," she groaned, rubbing her face. She leaned her face into the framework. "I just want to sleep."

"Outside?"

"Iyo is snoring." She closed her eyes, assimilating to the cool surface against her cheek. It felt good on her prickly muscles like an ice pack to fresh bruises. "Akaho is hounding me. You shouldn't have stabbed her. She's going to leave me and it's all your fault."

"Fujitani-san is weak-willed," he explained, approaching her. "She will be your undoing."

"Akaho worships me, despite all my faults and mistakes. She couldn't fathom betraying me."

Aizen stood beside her. "But she will."

"No, she won't."

"You sound so confident."

"Because I am. I trust her more than I do you."

"I haven't betrayed you," he reminded her.

"Not yet," she countered.

"Not yet," he agreed, glimpsing at her through the corner of his eye.

Kazuye grumbled noisily.

"Why don't you have power?" he asked, expertly changing the subject.

"Because the Akram hags agreed to have me poisoned on their quest for truth," she remarked. "They didn't believe Iyo was yours. There were reliable sources spreading that rumor, I made sure of it. There were people that were dead scared of Iyo because they thought she was your daughter."

"That doesn't answer the question."

"I know, I just wanted you to know how much trouble you caused me. My right arm was broken three times in the span of a week because of you and I really don't want to talk about my nose or the fact that my neck was nearly snapped. I almost died." Kazuye drew her collar up as the temperature drop. "I have no idea how you managed to get that letter to Hinamori—"

He gave her a look.

"I'm not asking you to explain," she snapped. She faced forward, letting her emotions settle. "Are we done now? Have I earned my freedom?"

"Done?" He chuckled, his face lit with moonlight and streaked in shadow. "This is just the beginning."

Nahualli | END

. .

[ 1 ] Xinechtlapopolhui, Nahuatl for "I'm sorry or excuse me." Given the context in which this was used, you can guess it was the former.

[ 2 ] The name Ixchel, pronounced "Eee-SHELL," means "Rainbow Lady."


xl note: Yeah, I totally just ended it there. I wish I had something better to say other than I miraculously accomplished what I needed to with Nahualli and it was a fun trip, which goes to prove that I can finish a series if I set my mind to it and that I can write a short story.

On that note, I'm not done with Kazuye. This was a bit of an experiment to see if I could write something people could enjoy even though it's AizenOC. I'll be writing a prequel to this that follows Kazuye's time in Soul Society and in the Human World that is jammed packed with my signature twists and turns. I know people would usually write that sort of story first, but I've never done things normally. I write out of order-don't ever do this, it's a terrible thing when you've got a long story to tell.

So...feel free to join me with the prequel. Omixochitl will be released on February 2 (and it will be a journal only story available at my livejournal, you can find a link to it on my profile).

It will address Kazuye's parentage, how Aizen convinced her mother to make that oath to him, there is a love triangle, Iyo and Akaho will make a late appearance, but they will show up. All the loose strings will be knotted together in the sequel.

As always, many thanks to the people who favorited/alerted/reviewed the story. Especially, BookLover2401 and KawaiiRiniBunny for reviewing the previous chapter.

Thank you for following me on this short journey and hope you embark on the longer one (only if you want). Thank you for reading!

If anyone has questions, please feel free to ask them. I'll gladly answer them. :)