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: This is my first chapter fic for over a year, so any advice would be greatly appreciated. Otherwise, enjoy!
But even the blemished part isn’t
The darker truth
is what’s confided. Her whisper
whispers through me now: Come here little one...
Come here ‘till I tell you.
– Elizabeth Oness
It was a turbulent spring that bloomed the year after the Arrancar War finally crumbled in on itself and expired in a thing that most would call victory. This year, it began to rain too early and too heavily, and seemed to have no intention of stopping. The air was warm for early spring, but far too windy; high lords and ladies in the Seireitei bemoaned lost accessories that had been stolen away from them by a heavy gale, and a maple tree had apparently been uprooted and crushed part of Seventh’s office space. Trees and branches were toppled in Rukongai, too, and poor women could be seen wandering out on the roads, looking for firewood to warm the still-cold nights. One such woman, her hair up in knot the wind was doing its utmost to untangle, was headed for a promising looking grove of cedars whose tops were shivering with today’s weather: heavy wind and a light, persistent rain that promised to continue indefinitely.
As she walked, she noticed two very peculiar things. The first of these was that the cedars surrounded a house. This in and of itself wasn’t unusual, although she felt a stab of envy at the thought of being able to have a real house, not her two-room shack near the noisy fish market. She had never seen a house so thoroughly strange before, though, and at first wondered if her eyes were deceiving her. It was very tall and thin, with a smokestack that towered even higher than its trunk; whoever built it must have been quite the architect, because it was standing up to the wind surprisingly well. The whole thing was painted a vivid blue and decorated with a pattern of giant black dragons that looked to have been hewn out of stone. The woman had never wandered this far out into the country before, and wasn’t sure what to think. What was this place? Should she just turn around now and go home?
It was as she was considering this, however, that she realized the second strange thing about this place: something was watching her. She found herself unable to say how she knew this, since whatever it was made not the slightest ripple of sound, but she was sure it was there. The skin on the back of her neck crawled and prickled, and the feel of the wind through her hair chilled her. She had stopped walking altogether now, holding the bundle of branches she had already gathered limply at her side. No, please no, please just go away....
Something brushed against her leg, and she screamed.
The woman turned and fled, dropping the wood she had gathered in the process and not caring. The bundle bounced, and twigs and small branches snapped apart in a series of small noises. Eventually, it settled, and the sound of running feet faded away into the distance. The branches sat on their own now, loosely bound with thin brown string, a gray-brown pile on a winding little road of no particular color.
Then, something moved amongst the bundle, as though the wood had fallen on it and it was just now regaining its senses. None of the peasant woman’s friends believed her when she told them of the strange creature that had accosted her on a lonely road, but perhaps they would have thought different if they had seen the dark shape that crept out from under the firewood. Even then, though, they would not have attained any certainty, for whatever the creature was, it moved like lightning; in a split-second it was leaping away towards the strange house in the cedars.
It moved like oil, or maybe like smoke made liquid; whichever, it was too fast for the eye to truly follow, and it would appear to the casual viewer to be a curious black streak gliding through the air, barely touching ground. It spiraled through the trees, not breaking a single branch. It was very light, and could almost have been blown away by the wind, but it moved with a speed and purpose that wind alone could never hope to match.
It reached the house, with its ornamental dragons and towering chimney, and paused, perhaps considering its situation. It was quite small for something that could make a full-grown woman turn and flee in fear; it looked to weigh less than all but the smallest of young children. Its eyes were narrow and yellow, a common color for the eyes of an animal; yet there was something unusual waiting behind them. All in all, it was a beguiling creature.
Apparently having reached a decision, it crept up to a window, eased it open with one paw, and slid inside with no noise other than that the window made. It glided through rooms unnoticed, once even slipping between the ankles of a young man who felt uneasy for a moment, then quickly decided it must have been his imagination.
Finally, it found the room it was looking for. A woman was sitting with her back to the door, her legs crossed at the ankle. She had lit a fire, even though it was neither particularly dark nor cold; the flames threw uneven shadows against the wall. One of them, however, darker and somehow sleeker than the others, moved more purposefully. It slunk towards her, taking its time now, its eyes glowing brilliant gold in the firelight. It was just a few paces from her, almost close enough to claw away the rat’s tail of untidy black hair that was flung down her back. It leapt, claws just bare inches from her skin–
–And slid over her lap like silk, finally settling on the floor across from her. The woman regarded it critically, her mouth twisted into a frown, but there was a smile of some sort in her green eyes.
“You gonna tell me what’s going on, or am I gonna have to sit here all night and watch you mope?”
The cat looked away for a second, and then, without warning, did something more unusual than any of its other feats. Amidst a cloud of pearly smoke that seemed to appear from nowhere, it turned into a tall, dark-skinned woman with hair that reached down to the small of her back. The only vestige she retained of her feline form was the color of her eyes; these were a striking amber color.
But today, for all their potential beauty, they were not pleasant eyes to look into, for they were brimming with worry and a dark hint of bitterness. Nevertheless, she smiled, and even if it didn’t reach her eyes, at least it was a response.
“You moved again, so I had to come looking for you.”
“Sorry,” said the other woman, not looking sorry at all.
“A woman dropped a bunch of sticks on me today, Kuukaku.”
“And you didn’t try to avoid them? It’s your own damn fault, then, don’t expect me to feel sorry for you. Shunshin indeed.”
Silence reigned again for a few more minutes, while the one called Kuukaku lit a pipe and then blew smoke into Yoruichi’s face. She appeared not to mind. Kuukaku looked exasperated.
“Nothing.” Yoruichi’s answer was surprisingly swift, as though she were attempting to outrun the other’s line of questioning.
“Don’t give me that shit, you came here for something. You always do.”
“Nothing. I mean, that’s what happened. That stupid son of a bitch. I think I could kill him, Kuukaku, I really do. Nothing.”
“You’re not making sense. Now c’mon, spit it out, whatever it is.”
Spit it out. Now there was an interesting turn of phrase, for it implied that whatever the matter was, it was something not really connected to her, something that she could simply extract and be done with. And that was precisely the problem. Keeping with the analogy, the thing that had gotten her into this state in the first place had already spread through her blood and twined itself around her heart; it was at once a poison and a part of herself. Why not tell someone dying of cancer to just rip out every organ it’s spread to– it’ll work just as well.
But you had to start somewhere, didn’t you?
“Remember everything that happened in 1896?”
“Hell yeah, I do. I was still kinda little back then, but Nii-san told me everything that happened.”
Yoruichi smiled, somehow looking more distressed than before.
“...I don’t think he told you quite everything.”
She had committed herself then, she realized. Kuukaku was curious now, and she was going to squeeze out all of the ugly little secrets no matter what. Yoruichi paused, took a breath, and started to tell, for once, the truth. And it did hurt.
Ah, but we’re no strangers to hurt... are we, Kisuke?