Chapter 3: Hidden Treasure
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: Neither Urahara nor Yoruichi makes an appearance. But Aizen's got a cameo, so I hope that makes up for it. Also, the idea of Fifth being in charge of investigations is completely made up, and has no basis in canon, but it works for this chapter, so hopefully nobody minds.
Black are the willows against the horizon,
Darker the mind where ambition lurks;
Ashes of gold and gray dust of oblivion
Are all that remain of a man and his works.
– Nan Fitz-Patrick
3. Hidden Treasure
Ooi Kaida, the sister of Eighth’s deceased fukutaichou, was walking amidst the rubble.
She was of the minor nobility by marriage; the Ooi family had managed to make something of a name for itself, even if her own family of origin had not. Not until her brother, that was. There had been shinigami in her family before, sure enough, but they had all been like her: destined for a low rank and the rather menial slaying of minor Hollows. There had been a shock she would remember for the rest of her life on the faces of her relatives when he was appointed to the position of fukutaichou fresh out of the Academy, and they didn’t even know that a few months later, he had managed to achieve bankai.
No matter what the official status of Ooi’s family was, however, today she looked like
somebody who had emerged from the highest-numbered districts of Rukongai. Her golden
blonde hair was unbrushed, and it floated randomly in a mock halo around her head. She had dressed in a hurry, and it showed; the usually neat appearance of her clothing was today disheveled almost beyond the point of recognition.
She was wandering through what had been, just a week prior, a collection of manors and
offices that made up one of Northern Seireitei’s many neighborhoods. There was no one living here now, however. Where there had so recently been a collection of the lordly white towers that were the Seireitei’s preferred form of architecture, there was now a massive pile of rubble. The place looked as if a bomb had gone off, and although Ooi would never allow herself to follow that train of thought to its conclusion, that was in a sense exactly what happened.
Investigators from Fifth were walking up and down the ruined streets; what precisely they
were looking for, Ooi neither knew nor cared. There was only one question she wanted
Just as she was wondering who the proper person to ask would be, there came an interruption from the main street in the form of Fifth’s taichou. Although neither Ooi nor any of her relations were members of Fifth, she nevertheless recognized its taichou instantly. Aizen-taichou was famous throughout the entirety of the Seireitei, although if Ooi had ever stopped to consider why this was, she would have found herself quite unable to say.
Aizen Sousuke had graduated from the Academy top of his class. Although he seemed to
possess no particularly impressive skills, he was hard-working and likeable; he fit into Soul Society’s system perfectly and somehow managed to command instant respect. He had risen to power naturally and easily; Fifth’s former taichou had died suddenly and unfortunately when she somehow failed to spot a massive Hollow that snuck up on her from behind, and by the time the other taichou had ratified their decision to promote him, Aizen had already been running Fifth perfectly for nigh on three weeks.
Knowing instinctively that he would help her, Ooi approached him.
“E-excuse me, Aizen-taichou, I’m sorry to bother you, but I needed–”
He glanced up at her, looking surprised for a split second, then smiling warmly. “Ah, you’re Ooi-san. I saw you at the trial, of course; I’d be happy to be able to help you any way I can.”
She bowed her head, blushing in appreciation of his kindness.
“I need to know... have you found my nii-san’s body anywhere? My... my family really needs to know, Aizen-taichou, and nobody’s told us anything, and...” She burst out in fresh tears, something she had promised herself she wouldn’t do.
“That’s okay, I understand completely. Come over here and we’ll talk about it,” he said; as he did so, he turned to his fukutaichou and called out, “Tousen, please see to Squad Three, you know how Mori’s come down with something....”
A few moments later, Aizen was explaining the situation to Ooi. “We haven’t found anything. It’s not surprising really; with conditions like this, such things can and do happen. Of course we’ll keep searching, and we’ll tell you if we find anything at all of interest to you.”
“Can I ask you something else?”
“Of course, Ooi-san.”
“What happened to him, really? We all know it was that... it was Urahara’s fault, but nobody can even tell me what actually happened to my nii-san!”
Aizen paused at this, perhaps considering. Then, very slowly, he started to explain.
“Ooi-san, the fact of the matter is, nobody knows for sure. That’s why we’re still investigating. It would help us a lot if we could only find the Hougyoku; then Twelfth could analyze it and figure out exactly what it does. As you probably know, Urahara refused to tell anybody; I believe he’s been taken in for further questioning; hopefully we’ll get some answers then. Of course, we could presumably piece it together from the written records of his research, but the Council is still keeping those classified. Intra-organizational bureaucracy and all of that. Still, I’ll tell you when I know anything pertinent.”
“Thank you, Aizen-taichou.”
They went their separate ways after that, Ooi walking back to her home where her husband was waiting, looking more worried than ever over her condition; Aizen continued supervising the investigation. As he did this, he strolled along through the streets that were still viable; he had always found that walking helped him think.
It was true, Urahara’s research was locked away in some vault in the Immaculate Tower
Grove; nobody else would be allowed to know what this Hougyoku did until such time as the
Council saw fit to release the information. Was that important, though? At first, upon hearing the news that Urahara had created a device of such extraordinary power, he had to admit that his heart had fluttered a little; this could prove to be a vital asset in his plans. The more he thought about it, though, the more he realized that if this device had taken out so much of the city, it was very likely because Urahara himself had been unable to control it properly. No, subtlety was to be much preferred over the possibility of blowing yourself up with your own weapon. Besides, his own research was centered around Hollows; what use could he possibly have for what appeared to be a giant, rather unmanageable bomb? Or course, if he was ever able to get his hands on Urahara’s papers, it would be prudent to double-check. But for now...
Handing this thing over to Soul Society’s government might not be such a bright move
either. For now, maybe Fifth didn’t have to look for it all that hard. Aizen smiled to himself; everything was in order.
At that very moment, in the world of the living, a boy and girl were tramping up a winding path that led through a remote forest. Few people lived up here; they had been walking for two days straight and had yet to sense anyone nearby.
The boy was tired, and he expressed this by dropping the pack he was carrying and falling
over with a soft thud. He was exhausted; he did not look to be much more than five years of age, and he had yet to acquire the sort of stamina that would make this journey bearable.
Nevertheless, the girl turned to glare at him as he fell. She was a good five or six years older than him, with a rats’ nest of hair and a bruise the size of an apple plastered across one arm. If the bruise hurt her at all, she gave no indication of it, just as she was ignoring the numerous scratches she had received from traveling through parts of the forest where there were no convenient paths.
“Hey, what the hell d’you think you’re doing, huh?”
“Nee-san, I can’t go on any–”
“Shut it!” She slapped him across the face. “Nii-san said we’ve gotta do this, so you’re gonna be quiet for once and just do what he said.”
After that, the boy was quiet, and they continued on their way. That night, they camped
out in the shelter of a massive oak, from whose branches tree frogs made their strange singing sound in the darkness. The boy’s stomach growled with hunger, and he counted the branches on the tree to distract himself from it until he finally dozed off.
The next morning, they continued on their way, the girl occasionally consulting a map given to them by their elder brother. The sunlight was bright that day, shimmering like gold through the branches of the trees overhead, dappling the path underfoot with wavering spots of light. It especially glinted off the glossy, almost lacquered handle of a zanpakutou that protruded from the girl’s pack. It was not her zanpakutou; although she did indeed possess such an instrument, hers was tucked into a closet in her home.
This wasn’t the only strange item contained within the girl and her brothers’ packs; they
were both veritable treasure chests full of all sorts of oddities. There were practical things such as any shinigami on the go could be expected to have with them, such as the zanpakutou, a few packages of Soul Candy, a collection of the tools commonly used by members of Twelfth, a few basic reference books. Then, there were other things; here were the basic ingredients needed to make gigai, conveniently distilled into vials of differently colored powders; some books that were hardly basic at all ( such as Life and Habits of the Vasto Lorde, and The Complete Kidou Collection: Levels Eighty-Four Through Ninety-Nine ); a few scraps of paper containing scribbled
instructions for making things that would scare most of the government of Soul Society out of their hakama.
The two children eventually reached their destination, a secluded cave that rested behind a grove so thick with underbrush that the cave itself was rendered almost invisible; they searched on hands and knees for the low-lying opening for most of an hour before they found it. Then, depositing the treasure inside, they smoothed the underbrush they had disturbed back over the mouth of the cave, and left a different way than they came.
They were glad to be away from it, even if they were both too proud to admit it. Although the cave itself was natural, there was something about it that was distinctly not: at some point, somebody had lined the walls of it with sekki-seki.
A few hours later, a member of Third passed over the spot on patrol; she sensed nothing, and continued on through the forest.