Title: Imitative Arts
Characters: Kuukaku and Aaroniero Arleri, with appearences by Rukia, Yoruichi, and Ganju ( and of course semi-appearences by Kaien )
Warnings: character death, language, some not very detailed blood.
Summary: Kuukaku never knew just how much like her brother she was until she met the Ninth Espada.
Disclaimer: I own nothing, because I'm a poor, unemployed college student.
A/N: I'm not entirely sure why I wrote this, since I'm really not a big fan of revenge epics. But I do think that a confrontation between these two would be absolutely fascinating.
She otherwise probably would not even have gone. Soul Society was a big kid after all;
surely it could learn to wipe its own damn nose now that it had caught a case of the unfortunate Traitorous Taichou Sniffles. And yet...
...She still rather despised the girl who stepped timidly through the doorway of her newest house, but beside her slid the thin black shape of a maybe-gaurdian angel that was for once silent, only appearing to sit in the firelight and coax the girl into speech.
Kuukaku’s footsteps rang out, strangely sharp, on a floor of pristine white marble. Just like in a fucking tomb. Don’t think about it. She kept walking for some indeterminate amount of time through the seemingly endless mausoleum, doing something which she had not done since she was a very small child. She walked with her eyes closed, not even reaching out to brush a nearby wall with her fingertips, simply knowing where she wanted to be and going there.
As she walked, she spoke a mantra of sorts to herself, at first calmly and then loud and ragged, a string of angry words:
“I heard Shiba Kaien was here.”
“I heard Shiba Kaien was here.”
“Is that so?”
When she opened her eyes, she was standing in a dead white room with a vaulted ceiling, standing across from a figure wearing elaborate robes of immaculate white and her brother’s face.
“And is that little Kuu-chan? My, how you’ve grown.”
He, it, they looked her over. “But what are you wearing? It’s awful, it looks like shit.”
It wasn’t that it hurt, losing Kaien. Not anymore, anyway. She remembered a time when she had stung from head to foot with the cruelty of it, but even then she had been a sensible, practical girl who had bitten back her tears and fetched a cloth and water and begun to wash the body. Ganju had cried in the background the entire time.
But this was similar to losing her arm. The initial pain passed, as it always did, without tears, leaving only a deadened emptiness. It had settled in, deep in her chest, never hurting but always dark and heavy, heavy, heavy....
When the girl next to the cat explained what she had seen, it hurt again for the first time in decades. It raged, it stung, fresh and painful and angry. And that was what made her decide to join the shinigami as they flocked like blackbirds through the gateway to Hueco Mundo.
“Are you Kaien?”
The figure smiled, amused and seemingly pleased with its own enchantment. “Of course I am.”
“Kaien is dead.”
He shrugged, nonchalant. “You’re very unimaginative, Kuu-chan. Didn’t our family use to have that thing about ancestral spirits?”
“That’s true,” she admitted. “It did.”
And it would have been so incredibly easy to want to believe; so simple to throw away all thought and all reason...
It was Kaien who gave her her tattoo, telling her that it would sting a bit but not to worry. She didn’t worry. She didn’t even wince.
He taught her to fight like a man, too. And even though she was smaller and younger than him, she didn’t flinch then either. When he misjudged once and almost broke her jaw, she had only smiled as best she could and promised she would repay him for that.
He laughed then and said he would look forward to it.
...Except no brother of hers would settle for lying in wait ( you coward! ) in this pathetic, piece-of-shit castle.
Without warning she leapt on him, slashing and stabbing streaks of too-dark blood across the formerly stainless ruffles of cloth, the fine white floor.
When he countered, she was thrown back and she felt a hot, jagged pain that went all the way down her chest from shoulder to hip. She first hoped it wasn’t too deep, then realized that she didn’t really care.
The... Almost-Kaien cared, though.
“You crazy motherfucking bitch!”
And that was when she knew, completely and without a doubt: this thing was not Kaien.
She kept her promise to pay Kaien back in kind. The next day, she punched him so hard she broke his nose. And once he stopped the bleeding, he laughed all the harder, and told her she was perfect.
“I’m going to kill you,” she announced, rushing towards him again.
And wasn’t that always the way? You could easily get injured, killed even ( possessed by some strange nightmare and made to be not yourself ), doing this sort of thing. That never stopped anybody, simply because if you already came this far, it wasn’t about you anymore. The problem wasn’t what injury might befall you; the problem was nothing else but the sound of your brother’s name ( your wife’s name ) being defiled on that thing’s lips.
And that was always cause enough.
The girl got up as if to leave, then turned back, indecisive. Yoruichi spoke at last. “I think she has something for you.”
And so she did. Shyly, tentatively, she proferred what seemed to be nothing more than an indistinct old sack, reaching inside to withdraw a rather tattered shinigami shihakushou. There were dark brown-red stains all down its crumpled front; she handled it as though it were myrrh.
Kuukaku blinked, for once bewildered and knowing not what to say.
“I... Yoruichi, I burned that thing a long time ago.”
The cat tilted her sleek ebony head and spoke kindly. “This one is Rukia’s. She’s been keeping it ever since that night.”
On closer inspection, it should have been obvious from the start that this was not Kaien’s clothing. It was thoroughly petit, too small for Kuukaku herself, never mind Kaien.
She decided to wear it anyway.
Just as she turned to go back to her rooms to change and gather together a few things, Rukia called out to her to wait. She looked back to see tears streaming from the shinigami’s big storm cloud blue eyes. “Kaien-dono said... he said his heart would pass to me. So guess that now I should... give it...”
Their hands only brushed together for the barest second, and Kuukaku wasn’t ready to believe that she could feel and warmth or strength or goodness flow into her, but she was sure of what she was going to do.
“Thank you, Kuchiki-san.”
The blade of her zanpakutou was against his throat now, and he looked up at her with Kaien’s imploring eyes, the same color as her own.
“You... you wouldn’t kill your own brother, would you?”
She just smiled.
“P-please, I–” He never finished the sentence, because at that moment, with a sound that was long and ugly and satisfying all at once, she cut his throat.
On the night that Kaien died, she had been up late practicing kidou. And she had been so good, and so confident... she didn’t even know that anything had happened until she heard Ganju’s anguished yells.
She was out the door in a second, sprinting across the garden to where Ganju was
standing. Just standing with his mouth open, yelling something unintelligible at the sky, and all she could think of was how ridiculous he looked.
And then she saw.
“Nii-san! Nii-san!... What?” She rounded on Ganju, who had fallen to his knees and
wailed, distraught, at the ground below. She kicked him so hard she knocked him over, planting her foot squarely on his chest and yelling down at him.
“Damn you, give him some space! He needs to breathe!” Even as she said it, she knew it was
hopeless: that was just too much blood.
“What happened?” she demanded of the world as a whole.
“A shinigami came! Sh-she killed him, she even said so! And he...” His face as he looked up at her was full of incomprehension. “He thanked her....”
Hugging the bloody shihakushou more tightly around herself, she turned to leave. It was a sudden impulse that made her look back, and her lips moved before she knew she had anything more to say.
“And the real Kaien didn’t die like that.”