Chapter 4: The Shinigami in the Lake
Characters: Urahara/Yoruichi, with a fair amount of Shibas, Soifon ( and slight implied Yoru/Soi ), Mayuri, and a rather important mystery person.
Genre: Drama, with a dash of mystery
Warnings: Spoilers, some language, and there will eventually be bloodiness.
Summary: There are reasons why the relationship between Urahara and Yoruichi is... strained.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, except for a few minor ocs and my own bizarre interpretations of the plot.
A/N: Apologizing for lateness. However, this chapter does reveal what's up with Eighth's fukutaichou.
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
– William Blake
4. The Shinigami in the Lake
A little over a week before Shihouin Yoruichi sat ensconced in her chambers reading over
the trial transcript again and again, something happened in Soul Society that had reverberations across all of the world. Although many would remember that event ( and Fourth spent weeks cleaning up the rubble after Fifth was done investigating ), very few ever came to understand it. Perhaps those who would come to understand it best were not the great courts, or the investigators, or even the scientists; they were in fact people that only a handful of those even in Soul Society knew existed, and even then, they were not known personally.
At the time this strange event occurred, one of those people was perched high in an apple
tree, reading a book. She was an oddity, half-Scottish and half descended from some strange Eastern country none of the townsfolk had heard of before they met her father. Yes, she had been strange... but she was even stranger now, because her youngest brother had died over a century ago, and she still looked to be sixteen. She had dark, braided hair, and wore horn-rimmed glasses. Her name was Lisa, after her grandmother.
Giving her name was perhaps an easier task than trying to explain what she was, because she herself could not yet answer that. She knew that she had fallen into the river one day and been sure she would drown; perhaps she had, because after that, nobody looked at her and nobody talked to her. She wandered for some months, she was never sure how many, half-dazed. All the time, she had felt a tearing pain in her chest, as though something were being ripped out. One day, while bathing in a stream, she had looked down and discovered, to her horror, that part of her flesh really had separated from the rest.
She was never able to recall later exactly what happened in the weeks following that, save that she had been determined not to let this continue. Somehow, without knowing quite how she knew it, she perceived that if that circle of flesh that was peeling away ever got ripped out completely, the consequences wouldn’t bear thinking about.
There was one other thing she remembered; she remembered meeting herself, or some phantom who looked like her, and doing battle with it. When she woke up, she was lying flat on
her back in an unfamiliar clearing, with a sword by her side and a strange man with long, wavy hair looking down at her curiously.
And then... then, everything had settled into a routine. The two of them wandered; there
was little else for them to do. They could only make themselves seen to others through great effort, and eventually gave up entirely on this venture; it didn’t help that normal people were afraid of what they were able to do, and cursed them away as demons.
Maybe that was what they were, because Lisa could have sworn that her shadow self had
called her a shinigami; her father had taught her the superstition about gods of death before he himself died; although she would never have considered herself to be such an ominous thing, the word had been clear enough.
The man’s name was Rose, which Lisa thought was a rather odd name for a male; but she had long since stopped worrying about it. Occasionally, they came across monsters that called themselves Hollows; sometimes they killed them, sometimes not. They also would see what were apparently proper shinigami from time to time: men and women dressed in identical flowing black uniforms. Sometimes, shinigami killed Hollows; sometimes, it was the other way round. Either way, Rose and Lisa never stopped to talk to these shinigami, because it was obvious that the shinigami did not possess quite all of the powers they themselves did, and they were wary of revealing how close they were to being Hollows to people apparently dedicated to hunting just the same.
From overheard snippets of conversation from shinigami and Hollows alike, they began to
assemble information on the places called Soul Society and Hueco Mundo. Rose knew some
Spanish, and was able to translate what Hueco Mundo meant. The shinigami spoke the same
language as Lisa’s father, and she was usually able to get the general gist of what they were saying, even if her understanding was fractured at best.
So, it was with great trepidation that the two became aware of the same prescient feeling: something was coming from Soul Society, coming straight towards them. Lisa dropped her book, crouching lower among the branches of the tree, grasping her zanpakutou so tightly that her knuckles went white. She couldn’t bring herself to like the shinigami, despite the possibility that she herself was one, and she didn’t feel happy about accepting anything that Soul Society was sending towards them.
Rose looked milder, still sitting crossed-legged at the base of the tree; still, he put down the mandolin he had been playing and cautiously drew his own zanpakutou. They waited, breathless in fear and anticipation.
“Look.” Rose saw it first, gesturing at a point just above a tall pine that stood alone at the edge of a nearby lake. At first, Lisa didn’t see what it was that he was looking at, but a second later, it resolved itself into a dot that sparkled with what she heard shinigami refer to as reiatsu. It was moving fast; in a few seconds it was going to crash–
“Rose! Do something!”
“What– what do you expect me to–”
At that moment, whatever it was landed, with a loud splash and a hissing noise, in the formerly glassy lake beside them. Rose stood up, looking a little ridiculous as he simultaneously tried to jump forward and hold himself back. Lisa leapt down from the tree, inadvertently bringing a few half-ripe apples crashing down with her.
Glancing at each other, they nodded wordlessly and crept down a worn little path that led
to the lakeshore. There was a flurry of white water a few yards out, and Lisa was sure she could make out the shape of somebody struggling frantically in its midst. The strange thing was that the figure didn’t even seem to be trying to swim; surely even the world’s worst swimmer would be able to do better than that in this deathly calm water.
Apparently reaching some sort of decision, Rose leapt out over the lake, landing and
balancing in an oddly elegant way on the rippling surface of the water. Above Lisa’s shouted protests of “Don’t do that!”, he reached down and pulled the struggling figure up with him.
It was, to Lisa’s surprise, a shinigami, a man wearing their loose black clothing and an
armband that identified him as being a fukutaichou– whatever that was, it seemed to be the office of someone very important. In spite of herself, Lisa was intrigued.
The shinigami was still struggling in Rose’s grip, eventually breaking away and splashing
noisily towards the shore. He was a young man with chin-length blond hair, and he would have looked relatively normal were it not for his bizarre behavior. For a moment, Lisa wondered whether it was possible for shinigami to become rabid, because he looked completely demented. He was babbling something; Lisa caught a few words, but they didn’t make much sense. Apparently, Rose was thinking along the same lines her, because he sprinted over and asked, “What’s he saying?”
“Something about... I don’t know. He’s saying something about something he’s dropped; he
thought that if he got rid of it, it would stop something from happening, but I guess it didn’t. There’s a word I’ve never heard before, something like Hougyoku; I think that’s what he’s saying he dropped; he’s–”
“He’s turning into a Hollow, Lisa.”
And so the stranger was. His face had somehow become half-transfixed by a Hollow mask, like the ones Rose and Lisa found themselves capable of donning. It was strange-looking, covered in horizontal ridges. He was scratching at it, trying unsuccessfully to pull it off.
“That’s almost the same thing that happened to you,” Rose commented.
Lisa stared at him. “What? Really?”
“In which case, we should probably do something to stop him going anywhere.”
The two looked at each other for a moment, then simultaneously tackled the blond shinigami to the ground.
A little under an hour later, the three sat in a circle. Each one was bleeding freely; the shinigami had attacked them in his half-Hollow form and tried to tear Rose in half. Lisa was making some makeshift bandages from the linens of a nearby house; she couldn’t help but think that everywhere they went, mysterious reports of thieves ended up following them. Very mysterious indeed.
The conversation between them was as slow as could be expected; Lisa turned out to be
much worse at actually speaking Japanese than she was at understanding it. On a couple of instances, they ended up staring at each other in exasperation, with Rose looking more and more indignant all the time.
By the end of the day, the only thing Lisa was entirely clear on was the shinigami’s name, which was Hirako Shinji ( or was it the other way round? She was beginning to find that she didn’t really care ). They camped out in the shade of the apple tree; the next morning they would try to figure out more of what was happening.
Somewhere, in the uninhabited black crags to the north of Soul Society, the pale lavender
crystal of the Hougyoku glimmered in the twilight, completely unharmed.