Actions

Work Header

Daisy

Chapter Text

Welcome!


A little bit of info about the story:

Name: Daisy

Rating: T (for now)

Timeline location: Some time before the Rukia rescue arc, but after Ichigo's birth

Updates: When the inspiration strikes. Your reviews are what keeps me writing.

Main pairing: Hitsugaya Tōshirō x OC

Chapter length: 4k words


Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or its characters, which you will recognize.

*Note: Some non-cannon side-characters will be used as side-characters.


List of OCs appearing in the chapter:

Takagawa Yuuko (9 th Division)

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11 th Division)

Matsushita Koichi (11 th Division)


This story was inspired by a short poem by Julie Martinez:

and if you don't
like me, as i do you;
i understand.

because who would
really choose
a daisy, in a field
of roses?
-Julie Martinez


 Chapter 1: Special skills

It is dark. Dark and large. You can simply feel the space around you. The feeling that one gets while in here is that kind, as if you are a tiny speck in the middle of a gigantic world. A simple coin toss here, in the darkness, would be like a bell at a shrine, ringing its song as loudly as possible.

This is where I reside. This is my home.

I hate the darkness. It is as cold and as unforgiving as you can imagine. I like the sun and the smell of paper. I would do anything to light a small flame in this void. I would love to chase the black away. I would give everything I have. Just for one candle. One. Single. Candle.

Here, in the darkness, where I reside.


 Paperwork. It was quite an infamous bane of the employed Shinigami. In fact, the higher your rank, the worse it got. Out of the two hundred officers that existed in each division, the twenty Seats had it the worst. All the detailed reports about missions, their subordinates, team management, coordination, training and other Division duties had to be written down. Then, some of them were carried to other Divisions, to be checked out and approved by different Seats from those. There were also some which needed to be typed out into one of the large virtual bases of Seireitei, which was supposed to be done by the 12th Division. Of course, that usually didn’t happen, and one or two unlucky officers from the paperwork’s home Division were required to fill in. In the end, there was a stack of paperwork that needed to be filed into its proper place at the Seireishokairō, the Spirit Library, from where it was sent to Daireishokairō, in other words, the Great Spirit Book Gallery.

Contrary to the popular belief of all Shinigami absolutely abhorring paperwork, there were few and far between who didn’t mind it that much. And, here we have one such an officer. It is a small girl, rather plain looking and boring. If you had seen her on the street while walking, you would’ve probably simply skimmed over her figure, maybe noting her colorful scarf, and then forgetting her immediately afterwards. Her hair was wavy, short, giving it an impression that it hadn’t been brushed in a while. Her dark eyes were focused, through her thin glasses, onto the paper in front of her as her fingers flew across the keyboard with practiced ease.

She entered the final sentence, saving the document and sending it through proper channels. She made sure to sign her own name in front of her 12th Division supervisor’s, Tsubokura Rin’s. He was her sempai, only in rank, and he had been charged with checking over her imputed data in the digital database. She liked the rather meek and clumsy person, who took good care of her, and always made sure to send her a note back, telling her about a good job that she had done or noting her mistakes. Of course, she knew about his little sweets infatuation and she made sure to have a treat or two ready for him whenever she could.

The small Shinigami stood, taking the large heap of papers and neatly stacking them into a pile which she could carry. She headed for the long lines of library rows and placed the proper folders where they should go. When she was done, about two hours later, she only had a couple of thin files in her hands. Those were going into their own Division records, so that they could find their hardcover reports if necessary later or to a different Division, to get confirmed first.

The petite girl headed for the exit, climbing the numerous stairs up towards the ground level. She was ready to leave the Seireishokairō for the day and finally see the sun. She liked the sun. It Seireitei, the weather was often good, suiting the current season. So, the bright and warm summer day outside had been calling to her for a while, tempting her with a cup of sake on the roof of their barracks, as she watched the sun go down in the evening.

“Kobashigawa Hinagiku from the 11th Division, checking out.” She informed the middle aged woman behind the desk on the main floor. Now, if you have a mental picture of a librarian, you could perfectly apply it to Takagawa Yuuko. She was a slim woman, tall and a brunette, with a bosom to rival Matsumoto-fukutaicho’s. Her shihakushō was modified, sporting a short skirt instead of the traditional hakama. The sleeves of her kosode were gone, showing her division, 9th, quite clearly. Yuuko wore a button-down dress shirt from the Human World under her uniform, instead of her shitagi, most of the time unbuttoned a tad, to show her distracting front.

“Here you go, Hina-chan.” The cheerful woman said, passing a katana over the top of her counter which strangely resembled a receptionist’s desk. As the smaller Shinigami accepted with a polite bow, Yuuko continued to watch the officer tie her weapon properly to her waist. “You’ve been down there for a while. Did you finish everything?” The woman asked.

“Yes, Takagawa-dono. Thank you very much for your concern.” Hinagiku bowed slightly once more, smiling at the woman behind the desk. Truly, she had finished all of her work for the day, not just most.

“Alright then, off you go.” Yuuko shooed her off, but then pointed at her own golden-rimmed glasses. “Don’t forget about that now, Hina-chan.”

Hinagiku’s hand flew up to her face, scampering to quickly take off her reading glasses. It was a bad habit, and she knew it. Numerous times she had walked outside of the library with them still on her nose. It was only after her head would begin to hurt that she would realize her mistake.

“Thank you, Takagawa-dono. I am in your debt.” Hinagiku offered a third bow to the older Shinigami, heading towards the door. She was ready to leave the library.

“Send my regards to Kobashigawa-sama!” The yell followed the small Shinigami out of the heavy doors. Hinagiku’s mood, which had lifted considerably at the warmth of the cheerful rays of sun on her skin, fell once more at the parting words. She allowed the doors to close with a creak and headed towards her barracks, files under arm. Of course Yuuko needed to send her regards.

Now, we have reached a vital topic for our not so young but fairly inexperienced Shinigami. Hinagiku Kobashigawa was the granddaughter of the infamous Setsuko Kobashigawa. No, her grandmother wasn’t some overly powerful and amazing Shinigami that you are undoubtedly imagining right now. No. Setsuko Kobashigawa was something much, much worse. She was one of the six judges of the Central 46, the core of Seireitei government. Needless to say, it was more of a pain than an advantage for her talentless granddaughter.

Everyone had expected great things of Hinagiku. They had expected her to follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, not engaging in ‘Shinigami nonsense’ as Setsuko called it, and studying hard to become a member of 46 herself. But, Hinagiku had had different ambitions. She had quickly realized that law was not for her. She had too much passion, too much compassion. She couldn’t deal out unjust sentences for the sake of Seireitei, she had found out that much after one of her numerous arguments with her grandmother.

In the end, the petite, sheltered girl, had enlisted herself (with a faked signature of her caretaker) into the Shin’ō Academy. Of course, it had been an outrage, that judge Kobashigawa’s granddaughter was to become a Shinigami. But, her Grandmother had managed to swallow that stone after a while. Though, Hinagiku had received no support during her years in Shinōreijutsuin. She had studied, suffered her wounds and trained her arts on her own. The only thing that she had received from her Grandmother was a stern, disproving look whenever the terminology from Shinōreijutsuin was used at the dinner table.

Hinagiku finally crossed the border into her Division territory, feeling the familiar giant reiatsu of her Captain on her back. It was a warm presence, like a welcome of sorts, waiting for you as soon as you crossed into the Division grounds. And, it was the amount that the fearsome man leaked unconsciously. Of course, we aren’t talking about a very gentle or kind Captain here. We are talking about Zaraki Kenpachi, the Captain of the 11th squad and the wildest and most violent of all Captains. Yet, Hinagiku felt safe in his Division. She felt his reiatsu and she only thought of home. Maybe she was a bit wrong in the head.

“Oh, Paper-pusher! You’re back!” Ikkaku Madarame, the bald 3rd Seat of the Division greeted from his spot. He was sitting next to Yumichika Ayasegawa, the 5th Seat, which wasn’t an uncommon sight, at the porch of their offices. Hinagiku had often heard the Shinigami from other Divisions comment how the 11th only lazed about, doing nothing. And truly, when she came from work in the middle of the day, only to find these two cloud-gazing as they picked who to fight next, she could even begin to agree with the other Divisions. But, she knew that it wasn’t so.

Ikkaku Madarame wasn’t the best choice for a 3rd Seat based on his intellectual or office-management abilities. However, Hinagiku knew that there was no one who worked harder in their Division than the bald Shinigami. When she got up in the morning, just in the nick of time before the morning call, she could hear him practicing in the training grounds near her window, drenched in sweat already. She had seen the sempai hand out advice and instructions to numerous unseated and seated officers, both at and outside the 11th Division’s dojo. Not to mention the almost daily tradition of unofficial training which he offered to the greenhorns on the lawn in front of their offices. Ikkaku Madarame was a rude, adrenaline driven, reckless man, but he was also caring and he protected his own.

Yumichika Ayasegawa probably spent an hour or two too much in front of his precious full-length mirror, which had been imported from the Living World through unearthly channels. He worried about his appearance about as much as his success in battle, which, as you can guess, needed to be beautiful as well. Hinagiku had been asked numerous times by the man himself in passing if his hair had been ruffled by the wind and if she could fix it. She supposed that it had something to do with her being female, as the fairer sex was rather scarce among the 11th Division. But, when push came to shove, Yumichika Ayasegawa would forsake even his appearance for the welfare of his comrades.

So, when Hinagiku heard the comments about her Division being lazy, she responded in an 11th Division manner, by pulling out her Zanpakutō, ready for a fight.

“Yes!” She bowed to the 3rd Seat politely. “I hope that you’ve had a good day, Ikkaku-dono.” Hinagiku straightened, her smile fixed on her face as always.

“Great day, Paper-pusher!” The 3rd Seat replied, obviously in a good mood. “That bastard Enjōji from the 8th was looking for a fight again, so I gave it to him today!” A bloodthirsty grin split on the man’s face as he thought about the fight.

“I’m glad for you, Ikkaku-dono.” Hinagiku nodded again, politely pointing towards the vacant 4th Seat’s office. “If you’d excuse me, Ikkaku-dono, Yumichika-dono. Please, have a good day.”

“Wait, Paper-pusher, don’t you want to hear about-“

“Let her go Ikkaku.” Yumichika intervened, much to Hinagiku’s relief. As much as she liked hearing about Ikkaku’s battle endeavors, she preferred getting the rest of her work done. After all, she had planned to head for the dōjō later to brush up on her Zanjutsu. “We need her so that we wouldn’t need to do the reports. It’s not beautiful to be scolded by Yama-jii.”

Hinagiku smiled at the reason, letting her giggle pass through her lips as soon as she was out of the men’s earshot. She didn’t mind the paperwork. She knew that her Division was absolutely disastrous with it, since their Captain had a ‘play first, work when you die’ kind of a mindset. She had become the favorite go-to person for every seated officer. But, in the end, the top four Seats had decided to monopolize her. It was strange, how her fame as a ‘Paper-pusher’ had begun with her quickly finishing her own work and then practicing at the dōjō. Then, one of her close colleagues had begged her to help him, as he had a date. And afterwards, her skill with paperwork had spread like wildfire. She had gotten money, make-up, clothes, sweets or weapons from various officers looking to be rid of their work. The Captain had, naturally, intervened, but not in a way that she had expected. Now, she had an official job description of working on reports. If it involved paper, any form of paper (yes, toilet paper as well), she was the one being called.

The petite Shinigami took off her straw shoes before stepping onto the clean wood of the office patio. The door of the 4th Seat’s workspace was open, as usual. There was an unfortunate officer inside, scribbling furiously (and quite messily) on his report paper.

Matsushita Koichi was the 7th Seat of the 11th Division, known for his hand-to-hand style preference. He was a brawler, through and through, using his Zanpakutō only when necessary, despite having achieved his Shikai quite a while ago. He was a tall, broad shouldered man, with a defined jaw, always carrying his nodachi around with him. If you stared at him long enough, with his amber, attentive eyes and ash colored hair, he looked like a wolf, hunting his next prey. And, considering his home Division, the 11th, he probably was.

“Matsushita-dono.” Hinagiku bowed politely, entering. “Excuse me.” The 7th Seat’s amber eyes quickly switched focus onto the girl in front of him, but she didn’t doubt for a second that he had sensed her coming a mile away. Even before she had decided to enter his working space.

“Hinagiku-kun.” The Shinigami greeted with a nod, his hand resuming its rapid movement across the paper, despite the fact that his eyes were still going over the young Shinigami’s form. “You’re already done with your stack?” The pen finally stopped moving and Koichi sighed, looking comically disappointed.

The smaller Shinigami offered an apologetic smile. “Filed and ready for the 12th Division inspection.” She placed her remaining couple of folders onto one of the five desks and settled into the chair behind it.

“Why can’t we go back to the days when Captain didn’t know about your special ability and have you doing my work as well?” The 7th Seat complained, twirling his pen in his hand and looking like he was absolutely not planning on finishing the ominous stack of reports that was looming on his left.

“Because I would die of overwork then, Matsushita-dono!” Hinagiku answered, exasperated, causing her sempai to laugh.

“Hinagiku-kun, you’d definitely survive!” Koichi readily retorted, letting go of his pen to grab half of his undone stack. “Can’t you save me? I should’ve reported for a mission in Gense hours ago!”

The female Shinigami contemplated for a moment. Then, she extended her hands, giving up. It would’ve taken him hours to finish that, anyways, Hinagiku thought. This way, she was simply helping the Division, since he needed to go on a mission. Yes, she was doing this for the sake of the Division. For the Captain’s sake. Hinagiku would do anything for the Captain.

The small Shinigami took her reading glasses out of the folds of her kosode, putting them in their proper place. Immediately, her back straightened, her posture became proper and she took up her pen, focusing solely on the papers in front of her. You see, this girl hadn’t had the usual childhood of a Shinigami. She hadn’t been born into the business, nor had she managed to fight and apply her way to the Shin'ō Academy from the Rukongai districts. She had been born into the Kobashigawa family, one of the more prestigious ones. And, as a Kobashigawa, she was destined for greatness, thus, she had had her manners and proper upbringing pounded into her from her young age.

Hinagiku’s eyes quickly scanned the information on the paper, filling out the necessary fields. There were often some optionals, which she never bothered with. If they were optional, they were unnecessary, thus didn’t require an answer. It was one of the secrets of her paperwork speed, other than her good concentration. As you can guess, most members of the 11th Division were rather easily distracted by the quietest sound of a nearby fight.

District: 11th

Seat: 7th

Name: Matsushita Koichi

Report topic: Rukongai Patrol

Brief summary: A squadron of four Shinigami and a Seated leader were dispatched, as requested by the…

And Hinagiku turned off her brain for everything other than the reports that she was filling. Luckily, 7th Seat Matsushita was quite fond of her, often sitting with her in the evenings on the roof, drinking sake and complaining about his day. So, she already knew who the man had assigned the patrol to. Heck, she had even remembered the details of the incident that had occurred in one of the lawless areas. An Asauchi had almost been stolen, but in the end, it had all been well. The Shinigami in question had gotten an appropriate punishment for not tying his katana properly to his hakama-himo.


“Oi! Paper!” Kenpachi Zaraki’s voice boomed as he threw open the door of the 4th Seat’s office violently. His tiny lieutenant, Kusajishi Yachiru was swinging left and right from his abrupt stop on her usual perch, his large, strong shoulder. Her mad laughter was ringing around the wide backyard of the offices, making a couple of the passing seated officers bow at the Captain’s arrival.

Hinagiku jumped a bit from the below of her Captain, but then lowered her upper body into a perfect, proper, forty-five degrees bow, addressing him and his Lieutenant with utmost respect.

“Zaraki-dono, Kusajishi-dono. I hope that your day has been pleasant thus far.” Koichi snickered from his seat at his kōhai’s choice of vocabulary. There was a moment of utter and complete silence, as the Captain and his Lieutenant glared at the overly formal bow in front of them. Well, the former glared as the latter stared in fascination.

“What the heck is that?” Kenpachi finally spoke, his baritone ringing out through the silent office. He entered, his feet tapping on the clean and polished wood. “My day was bad. There were no good fights to win!” It was quite difficult to say who was more surprised, Koichi, by the fact that the Captain had simply taken the politeness of his subordinate in stride or Hinagiku, by the fact that her boss had actually replied to her this time.

“If I may offer my assistance in any way possible, Zaraki-dono?” The small Shinigami asked, finally rising from her bow. Kenpachi looked from her tiny pile of unfinished paperwork to Koichi’s much larger stack in silence, while Yachiru jumped down, landing softly in front of Hinagiku.

“Silly Parupiru! Of course you can help Ken-chan!” Yachiru grabbed Hinagiku’s hand, dragging her down to the small Lieutenants eye level. “Just go get me some snacks!”

“Yachiru. She can do that later.” Kenpachi interrupted, grabbing Koichi’s shoulder and pulling him to his feet. “Go get the paperwork to the 8th and 10th first. Before we’re late.” He ordered, pointing towards the door. “And you, get to the 1st Division, you’re late. The old geezer has already sent me two Jigokuchō. It’s annoying.”

“Understood.” Hinagiku grabbed the folders that she had finished earlier, presenting them to the Captain with a bow. “I was going to deliver this to the 8th and 10th Division by the end of the day, Captain. It just needs your signature to confirm.”

“Turn.” Kenpachi ordered, causing Hinagiku to jump and comply. His large hand grabbed the folders from her and placed them against her straight, clad in black, back. “Pen.” Hinagiku grabbed the one from her former desk and handed it over her shoulder to the tall man. The Captain signed the documents, one by one, opening them to quickly scan over the information before confirming them. “There. Now go.” He told her in his usual monotone, ignoring the yells of pain coming from Koichi, as Yachiru forced him to carry her on his shoulders while she used his longish hair as reins.

“Go, Fish! Go!” The happy Lieutenant yelled out as Hinagiku bowed once again before taking the files and preparing to head out. “Mush!”

“Paper.” Kenpachi spoke once more, stopping Hinagiku in her tracks. She gave him a questioning glance, waiting for the rest of his words. “Head to the dōjō after you’re done. Playing is more important than work.”

“Understood, Captain.” She replied before taking off her glasses and stuffing them in her kosode. The 8th Division was, unfortunately, on the other side of Seireitei, so she wouldn’t be able to get there too fast. Once there was no more polished wood to step on, Hinagiku slipped on her waraji and headed for her destination.

“Safe trip, Paper-pusher!” Ikkaku Madarame yelled from his spot next to a couple of officers who were training.

“I’ll be taking my leave, Ikkaku-dono!” Hinagiku offered a hasty bow before rushing outside of the Division grounds.

As she decided which route of the confusing streets of Seireitei to take, Hinagiku wondered if Captains found it easy to navigate. They must, after all, they had been there the longest. Besides, most of the 1st and 2nd Seats were proficient at Shunpo, the greatest expression of the Hohō technique. Except her Captain, that is. He didn’t care much for it, so he hadn’t bothered learning it.

Hinagiku, herself, was just a beginner with Hohō. However, she thought that if she put enough hard work and patience into the technique, she could, maybe, be on pair with their Division’s 11th or 12th Seat one day. Well, speaking of practice, Hinagiku smiled, bending down to tighten her waraji straps around her ankles. There’s no time like the present, as her mother would say.

The small, unseated Shinigami flared her reiatsu slightly, focusing it on her feet. She remembered the text from the Hohō handbook which she had bought some time ago. Keep calm. Never lose focus of your reiatsu. Think of the place where you want to arrive before you take your step. Imagine yourself speeding up. Imagine your footsteps becoming long. Then, take your step.

Breathe.

And the young Shinigami took her first step, flying forwards. Unfortunately, she had calculated her reach, speed and focus rather badly. Instead of feeling the roof of the building down the street under her waraji, her toes brushed against the edge of it, causing her to tumble down and crash into the solid block in front of her with great speed.

“Ouch.” She murmured, not moving. Everything hurt. A couple of tiny rocks broke off from the top of the hole which she had created, spraying her with dust from the rubble. “I-“ Hinagiku whispered miserably. “I miscalculated.”

Laughter came from behind her, causing Hinagiku to look at them, upside-down. Sure enough, the members of the 11th Division had peeked through their gate to see what the commotion was about, led by Ikkaku and Koichi, and now they were cracking up at the position that they had found their little Paper-pusher in. She was lying on her back, in the hole which she had made in the wall, the files which she had been carrying a little ways off, scattered.

“Paper-pusher, you’re supposed to have a safe trip when someone wishes you one! Idiot!” Their 3rd Seat laughed it up, clutching at his stomach.

“Stop embarrassing the poor girl, Ikkaku.” Ayasegawa Yumichika joined the talk, chuckling. “The hideous pose that she’s making is enough embarrassment.” The 5th Seat then pointed out something that Hinagiku wished that he hadn’t. “Just look at her undergarments!”

The laughter doubled, if that was even possible. Hinagiku felt her face flaming up, and she was pretty sure that one could fry an egg on her forehead then. She could hear Ikkaku yelling out ‘Grannie panties! Grannie panties!’ as he rolled around the floor in tears. Sure enough, the rest of the spectators weren’t in a better state. Hinagiku was pretty sure that she saw their 10th Seat, a cowardly man named Makizō Aramaki, more famously known as Maki-Maki among the Division.

She had never jumped up and straightened herself quicker. However, the men from the Division didn’t stop laughing even after her hakama were pulled up into their place, leaving her underwear out of sight. The small Shinigami quickly gathered her files, cursing herself for not waiting until she was further from the barracks or had a broader space to practice her Shunpo. Her hand found the place where she had tucked in her glasses, checking their state. They were unbroken.

“The damages are coming out of your pay, Paper!” Her Captain’s booming voice followed her shameful retreat towards the 8th Division, flanked by the laughter of their Division’s men and Yachiru’s cheers. She didn’t even have the strength to bow to her Captain.

That’s all folks!


Detailed explanation, for those whom it may concern:

Terminology used in the fic (mostly translated via Bleach Wikia):

Seireishokairō – Spirit Book Galley (Spirit Library), invented by yours truly as a source of books about Shinigami and their ways, along with their paperwork. Located in the 9 th Division because they are in charge of arts and culture (says Bleach Wikia).

Daireishokairō-Great Spirit Book Galley, cannon, located in the Central 46. Access to it is restricted.

Seireitei-Court of Pure Souls, the capital of Soul Society

Shihakushō-Shinigami uniform

Hakama-the pants

Shitagi-the white under kimono

Kosode-the black top

Waraji-the straw sandals

Shinōreijutsuin or Shin'ō Academy-Academy of Spiritual Arts or Spiritual Arts Academy

Nodachi-long Japanese sword

Shunpo-Flash step

Hohō- Step Method

Zanjutsu-Swordsmanship

Hakuda-White Hits (hand-to-hand combat)

Kidō-Demon Way or Spirit Way

Bakudō-Way of Binding

Hadō-Way of Destruction

Kaidō-Turn Way or Healing Kid ō


Thank you for reading :)

Chapter Text

Welcome!


List of OCs appearing in the chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11 th Division)

Tsutsui Tomoka (10 th Division)


This story was inspired by a short poem by Julie Martinez:

and if you don't
like me, as i do you;
i understand.

because who would
really choose
a daisy, in a field
of roses?
-Julie Martinez


Chapter 2: Every day's work

It is dark. Here, where I reside. Dark and large. In this void I’ve made my home. I can’t leave. There is no way out. No exit. No door. No light at the end of the tunnel. No silver lining.

I love paper. I love everything about it. Its smell. Its scent is like home. Like me. Like everything I know. I love the feel of paper. The different kinds of textures. The thin, the thick, the homemade, the recycled, the crinkled, the embedded. I adore the sound of paper. When it flutters. When it crinkles. When it gently folds. But the sound I love the most is the soft sigh of a page of a book as it is turned, gently, with care.

There is only one sound which I really hate. The sound of a paper being ripped apart. Violently damaged.


 The walk to the 8th Division barracks took longer than expected. Well, of course it did, since she had planned of using Shunpo to get there. But, Hinagiku didn’t dare try it again. Maybe it’s no use, after all? She wondered. I never did have much talent for it, anyways. She sighed as she finally spotted the gate of the 8th Division, her solemn steps hurrying. Then again, she thought, if Captain Zaraki can fight without Shunpo, so can I.

Hinagiku stared intensely at the gate of the 8th Division. Should I? She was in a long, straight street made of barrack walls. She could barely see the end of it, the grey stone looking orange in the evening sunlight. Why shouldn’t I? The Shinigami wondered again, her steps not slowing down, but not speeding up. Should I? She asked herself, clutching the files closer to her chest as she looked at the entrance of the barracks getting closer. Why shouldn’t I? Her reiatsu flared a tad, focusing on her feet kept taking her closer and closer to the gate. Hinagiku focused her gaze down, looking at her white clad toes as they moved forward. Surely, this time… She stopped.

I should.

Her dark eyes looked up, determined, her reiatsu pooling to her feet steadily. But, as soon as she became aware of her surroundings, the young Shinigami relaxed, controlling her energy once more. She was standing in front of the 8th Division gates. With a silent sigh, Hinagiku entered the wide courtyard of the Squad.

The scenery was much fancier here than at the 11th. After all, Shunsui Kyōraku, the rather extravagant Captain of the Division had been in his position for over a hundred years. He had had the time and the resources to make his barracks into ones to be envied. And truly, Hinagiku sometimes did. She missed living in the luxury of her Grandmother’s home when she visited either the 8th or the 13th Division barracks. They resembled the Kobashigawa household in a manner that Hinagiku couldn’t deny.

There were carefully potted plants decorating every possible unused surface on the walls, beside the fact that the pale, grey stone already had ornamental stones inside it. That single improvement had made the Division barracks all the more welcoming. Then, there was the giant sakura tree, no doubt planted ages ago, which showered the whole front of the barracks in soft, pink petals. It was quite endearing to watch, which made Hinagiku all the more sure that the Captain had made sure that it was positioned right there. He did have a rather well-spread reputation of being a womanizer and a laid-back man.

Hinagiku switched her hold on the files to one hand, taking of her waraji with the other and neatly placing them among the numerous others by the front step. They were one of the smallest. Then, she padded quietly across the polished, wooden patio, noting the numerous sakura petals on it. Her Captain would’ve probably gotten annoyed with the mess, asking them to chop down the tree. He liked his space, and his barracks, clean and battle-ready, thus, making them a rather plain to the eye Division.

The Shinigami allowed her reiatsu to completely soak into her body, as if she were hiding her presence, so that she could better sense another, quite large, energy source. Her senses were rather average, but she had a problem that she never seemed to be able to overcome. You see, Hinagiku didn’t have very high reiatsu. Not in the least. But, since her days at the Academy, it had grown, with her progress. This had, unfortunately, impaired her reiatsu sensing abilities, as she wasn’t used to the change in herself yet. Her own reiatsu would block off any trace of another’s, causing Hinagiku to become confused and frustrated.

As soon as she pulled her energy back, a strong wave hit her square in the head, making it pound and her knees tremble. Kyōraku-taicho. She’d found the Captain’s office easily enough. Hinagiku allowed for her reiatsu to leak out once more, protecting her from the massive pressure of Kyōraku Shunsui’s mere presence. You are probably wondering why she needed to feel for the location of the offices? Very simple. Even though Hinagiku had visited the 8th Division barracks numerous times, she had also gone to all the other Squads as well. This lead to the seemingly identical layout of the compounds mixing up in her head, causing her to often get lost. Her sense of direction wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t as bad as her Captain’s, which comforted her. If he could get around without it, so could she. Well, it was mostly Kusajishi-fukutaicho’s fault, rather than the Captain’s (in)ability, she mused.

“Kobashigawa Hinagiku from the 11th Division, requesting entry!” The Shinigami spoke a little loudly after knocking on the wooden door gently.

“Come in, Kobashigawa-kun.” The Captain’s voice came from inside, sounding a bit too relaxed for this time of the day. Hinagiku pushed the sliding door open, revealing the lavish office of Captain Kyōraku.

“Excuse me.” She offered a bow, while her eyes darted left and right, taking in the familiar sight. The Captain had redecorated since she had been here last. Or had Nanao Ise, his loyal and stern Lieutenant, made the adjustments? The soft mat which had been in the middle of the room was now gone, undoubtedly because the Captain had used it for drinking sake and laying down, instead of doing his work. In its stead, there was a small, low sofa, fitting in nicely with the dark brown wooden furniture of the office, along with a modest coffee table and a couple of colorful cushions. “I hope that you’ve had a good day, Kyōraku-dono.” Hinagiku spoke to the Captain, who was sitting behind his desk, quite surprisingly.

“Yes, yes, it’s been a very fine, slow day, Kobashigawa-kun.” Captain Kyōraku answered in a lazy, but not bored, tone. He had always been amused by her politeness, remembering her almost instantly, which Hinagiku couldn’t really say for other Captains. The only thing that they recalled about her was her last name, and only for a couple of minutes after she mentioned it. The next time they met, she would once again become a nameless Shinigami officer to them.

“Nanao-dono.” Hinagiku didn’t move from her polite bow of a perfect thirty degrees until the Lieutenant acknowledged her presence. “I hope that you’ve been well.”

“Kobashigawa-san, thank you for your concern.” Nanao Ise was a polite woman, one with proper manners and etiquette drilled into her core, just like Hinagiku. Perhaps that was one of the reasons why the young Shinigami didn’t mind being around the strict Lieutenant, unlike many of the other unseated officers, who rather feared the woman? But, it wasn’t like she had much of a chance to be around Nanao Ise, or any other Lieutenants for that matter.

The hierarchy was quite simple and easy in Seireitei. Out of the two hundred officers in a Division, there were twenty seated officers. And, out of those twenty, only two were practically considered to be Gods. It wasn’t only the position or the giant reiatsu that separated the Captains and Lieutenants from the rest of the Squad. No, it was also their skill with the blade, their Shikai and Bankai power and their overall intelligence and management abilities. All in all, they truly did acquire their status of fame, power and respect through their own strength. There was not a single 1st or 2nd Seat who was unworthy of their position.

But, to some of them, the position hit them in the head more than the others, leaving them to consider their Division members not worthy of much attention, as if they hadn’t been green once. Luckily, Kyōraku Shunsui was anything but the stereotype.

“Kobashigawa-kun, you have something for us?” Captain Kyōraku was looking intently at the couple of folders which Hinagiku was clutching to her chest with great care. The small Shinigami nodded, quickly approaching the Captain’s desk. She chose the two files which were for the 8th Division and separated them from the other eight and then placed the small notebooks on the wooden surface in front of the Captain.

“These are the files of the joint missions and patrols that the 11th and the 8th Division have had in the last month, along with the other paperwork which needs your approval and our Captain’s as well.” Hinagiku pushed the files over to the Captain. “Please look them over and return them to us as soon as possible, so that we can file them in our records. They are due next Monday.”

“Alright, Kobashigawa-kun.” The Captain pulled the documents towards him, but didn’t look them over immediately. Rather, he turned around and put them on top of one of the tall piles behind his chair, taking a minute to consider which stack was the proper one. Hinagiku managed to read a small sticky note on the mountain of papers, which said ‘before next week’. “Well, then, I’m sure someone will look it over by Monday.” The Captain turned around with a lazy, albeit a bit sheepish, smile.

You will, Kyōraku-taicho!” Nanao Ise piped up from her desk, her tone angry. Hinagiku chanced a look at the woman, noticing that she had pushed her glasses up in frustration, making her eyes vanish behind the glare of the light on the glass.

“Of course, of course, lovely Nanao-chan.” Captain Kyōraku said, standing. “It’s exactly as you say.” Hinagiku got nervous as soon as she felt the reiatsu of the Lieutenant spike at the easily-spoken words. “Now, I think that I’ll go see Kobashigawa-kun off?” It was spoken like a question which caused Hinagiku to gasp. Clearly, it also made Nanao quite angry, but, the Captain was a bit too quick for her. “Shall we?” He had wrapped his arm around Hinagiku’s shoulders, taking the small Shinigami out of the office and onto the barracks’ patio.

“I hope you have a great evening, Nanao-dono!” Hinagiku managed to say over her shoulder, praying that the Lieutenant wasn’t angry at her for not being properly polite. But, the Captain wasn’t letting her stop. He slowly led her away from the office, completely ignoring the cracking sound that followed their leave, probably Nanao’s pen, and the shout of rage that came afterwards, ‘Kyōraku-taicho!’.

 “Now, Kobashigawa-kun, how has the 11th Division been treating you? Aiming for any seated positions anytime soon?” The Captain began a friendly conversation as they two Shinigami walked through the maze of the 8th Division barracks. He must’ve noticed the tenseness of the young officer’s shoulders and posture, as she wasn’t used to having a Captain talk to her so familiarly, much less see her off.

“The Division is great, thank you for asking, Kyōraku -dono.” Hinagiku spoke. “There aren’t many women in the 11th Squad, but the men are just as rowdy and loud. It is quite lively every day. I enjoy my work, even though I am an unseated officer and Zaraki-taicho takes great care of me, along with everyone else.” The young woman spoke with a smile, thinking about the various shenanigans that the battle-loving Division members got into while they were off-duty.

Captain Kyōraku laughed. “I’m sure that you’re embellishing some details, Kobashigawa-kun, but I’m glad that you are.” They had almost reached the giant sakura tree in the front of the barracks. “It’s very important for one to love their Division.”

“I wholeheartedly agree, Kyōraku-taicho.” Hinagiku bowed politely to him and then hopped into her waraji, strapping them on securely. This time, she would try and Shunpo her way to the 10th barracks. After all, the sun was setting quite quickly and it was almost dark. She was probably going to have to leave going to the dōjō for the next day.

“Kobashigawa-kun.” The extravagant Captain caught her attention once more. “I hope that you are aiming to improve your skills sometime soon. I would like to see you on a seated position in the next ten years, and so would your grandmother, I’m certain.”

Hinagiku looked down, her eyes narrowing and a nauseating feeling forming in her stomach. She wasn’t good enough to be a Seat. She knew that. Her skills were average at best. Her reiatsu was mediocre. She had no special talents, nothing. Even her intellect was just ordinary. She was the definition of average. And, average Shinigami simply did not become Seated officers. At least not in the 11th Division.

“Thank you very much for your wishes, Kyōraku-taicho.” The young Shinigami bowed once more, respectfully. She received a nod from the Captain, but nothing more. “I’ll take my leave, then.” And Hinagiku walked away from the easy-going man. Once she reached the gate, she chanced one more look at him, seeing that he had settled on the dark wood of the patio and already had a sake cup and bottle next to him. The Captain raised his drink at her, as if greeting her, and then drank.

Hinagiku didn’t look behind herself after that.


 Captain Kyōraku’s words stayed with her during her walk to the 10th Division. In fact, they bugged her so much that she had even forgotten the option of Shunpo, to shorten her journey. After all, it was not every day that someone as distinguished as Kyōraku Shunsui paid attention to a no-seat officer like herself. The mere fact that he had bothered to remember her name and placement was flattering enough, but to encourage her to practice further, to dare to aspire to achieve a Seat in her Division. It way beyond mind-boggling to the painfully average Shinigami.

Hinagiku briefly recalled her graduation from the Shinōreijutsuin. It had been ages ago. Almost forty years, if she recalled correctly. But, years had never been much of a bother to her. After all, she was a soul. She aged slowly and time was of no importance. She looked to be around thirteen, maybe fourteen winters old, yet she was well over a hundred. Life in the Spirit World was a slow, troublesome thing. Sometimes, when she had the free time to allow her mind to wander, Hinagiku wondered why humans called this ‘Heaven’? It wasn’t an afterlife that she would choose, despite the fact that she was, on a certain level, happy with her existence. Her heaven would include a much more peaceful, quieter place, with perhaps a lot more sweets and a lot less rules.

But, her current thinking revolved around the time when she had finished her Academy years. You see, in the Shin'ō, there are six years of studying, each devoted to a certain level of development. They prepare the Shinigami for their service in the Gotei 13 and teach them the basics of being an officer. There, they learn Zanjutsu, the art of the sword, Hakuda, the unarmed fighting style, Hohō, the high-speed movement based on Shunpo, and Kidō, the use of reiatsu in demon magic of offense, healing and binding.

It had taken her the appropriate six years to finish the Academy, and she was by no means an expert in any of the Zankensoki. By now, she was the most confident in her Zanjutsu, which she had trained every day since her enrolment in the Shinōreijutsuin. Her Kidō wasn’t too bad either, but she wouldn’t bet her life on it. And, as you had previously seen, her Shunpo was still a work in progress.

Hinagiku still remembered her graduation vividly. After all, how could she forget? She’d met Zaraki Kenpachi back then. But, beside the 11th Division, another had been on her list of possibilities. She could still recall the day her first Division invitation letter arrived. It had been pink, with flowers and perfume on it, and she had thought it a practical joke of one of her friends from the Academy. But, it had simply been Captain Kyōraku’s style.

He had set a date for a small interview, so that they could chat about his Squad. Hinagiku still remembered how she had washed her red Academy uniform twice and spent an extra half an hour on her hair and makeup. Her grandmother had drilled it into her. Your appearance says who you are. But, Captain Kyōraku had been nothing which she had expected. At the end of the interview, he had told her that he wouldn’t be offended if she didn’t choose his Division. He had told her that his offer was from then, to until she became a Captain. She always had a spot in his Division.

And, for someone as infamous as Kyōraku Shunsui to recognize her, a failed attempt at a noble, a girl who gave up on being a member of Central 46, it had been rather flattering. Hell, who was she kidding, it was still beyond flattering. But, she had disappointed the Captain. She had been in the service of Gotei 13 for almost half a century now, and she was still an unseated officer, one who didn’t even know the name of her Zanpakutō.

Hinagiku gripped the hilt of her Asauchi, her mood worsening. She truly wished that she could connect with the sword better. After all, most of her classmates had already learned the names of their swords, using them as best as possible. Some had even become highly ranked Seated officers. But, she was a failure, just like her Grandmother had predicted. Her fingers tightened their hold on the pure white wrapping of her hilt, and the Shinigami grit her teeth.

Breathe.

And she took a step, flying forwards.

It was a strange feeling, using Shunpo, even a half-baked one like Hinagiku’s. You could compare it to one of those swirly roller coasters. You know, when you get to the top, all slow and steady, and everything is fine and then suddenly, the car surges forwards at an incredible speed, making your teeth clatter and your head feel like it has entered a blender. It was that kind of a sensation. One’s body became light, so light like it was flying, but it was still moving, as if they were falling from a great height. And, there was that single thing that told Hinagiku that she had done a good job with her Flash Step. A pit opened in her stomach, almost hurting with the force of its uneasiness. It was the basic instinct of fright, as soon as one lost their solid footing.

Hinagiku tightened her hold on the files in her hand as she flew even further, her next step taking her to the end of the wide space before her. From there on, she pushed her reiatsu to her feet, bursting it out towards the floor and allowing her to jump onto the roof of the building. Her next Shunpo step took her to the edge of that roof. Hinagiku reached the 10th Squad in no time, alternating between Shunpo in wide spaces and running where she couldn’t use her skill safely.

However, when Hinagiku arrived at the gates, she was panting. The small Shinigami took a break, pulling at her colorful scarf a bit, to allow herself to breathe easier.

“Of course I’m winded.” She whispered to herself. “Shunpo is just as difficult as the first time I tried it.” Hinagiku wiped the sweat off her brow and touched the material under her armpit. It was wet. “Great.” She sighed out, exasperated. Visiting a Captain’s office while looking disheveled and smelling like a pig. Well, there was nothing she could do now.

“Hina-chan!” A familiar, high and overly sugar-coated voice called out to her. Hinagiku straightened, suppressing her frown. “Ah!~ I didn’t know that you were coming to our offices today! You should’ve told me!~ Meanie!~”

“Tsutsui-dono.” Hinagiku offered a small nod, smiling. “It’s been a while. I hope that you’ve been well?” Tsutsui Tomoka. Now, that was a familiar face. Tomoka was a girl that one would most definitely describe as cute. She had everything, even her status as the heiress of one of the most prominent noble families. She was of average height, not too short or too tall, and she had the perfect hourglass figure, which looked absolutely amazing in her Shinigami uniform. And, that was quite a feat to accomplish. Tomoka’s long, black hair was always perfectly styled and it fluttered around her like it was enchanted to do so with magic. She was someone that you never saw without makeup on, her lips always red and shiny and her light eyes always framed with a thin layer of crayon, making them quite striking compared to her peers’.

“Mou!~ Hina-chan! I’ve told you to call me Tomoka.” The newcomer complained with her hands on her hips, pouting in a cute way. “I’ve been great. I’m rearing up for the 7th Seat now! Soon, I’ll be even closer to Hitsugaya-taicho!~” But, as great as Tsutsui Tomoka was to the eye, there was one thing that had always annoyed Hinagiku about the noblewoman. Her personality. Tomoka was one of those overly familiar, too cute to be true, kind of girls, with whom Hinagiku didn’t know how to deal.

“I wish you luck, then.” The shorter Shinigami said, smiling politely. In a second, Tomoka appeared at her side, tossing an arm around Hinagiku’s shoulders, pulling her into the barracks.

“Hina-chan, when are you going to get a Seat already?” The cute Shinigami complained in a whiny voice. “You’ve been in the 11th Division for ages! I was right when I told you to choose Kyōraku-taicho’s Squad over that pack of brutes. But, you just wouldn’t listen! Mou!~ Hina-chan is so stubborn!~” Then, Tomoka finally stopped dragging her and looked about. “Something stinks.” She bluntly commented, holding her nose.

Hinagiku gave a small sigh. “That would be me.” Tomoka froze in the middle of taking off her waraji, turning to the shorter girl with a shocked face.

“Eeeeeeh?” She exclaimed.

“I was working on my Shunpo.” Hinagiku began, but Tomoka had already grabbed her by the shoulders and forced her to sit on the wooden patio in front of the barracks. Then, the cute noble took out a box from somewhere in her uniform and opened it. Hinagiku had never seen so many beauty products in one place. “Tsutsui-dono…”

“I’ll have you all fixed to see my Captain in a bit, Hina-chan!~” Tomoka was already choosing things from the case, opening them and beginning to apply them onto Hinagiku’s face. “After all, Hitsugaya-taicho is rather cute, don’t you think?~” Hinagiku had no time to defend herself as her friend from the Academy attacked her with both makeup and matchmaking ideas. If there was one thing that Tomoka loved, it was romance. “There we go!~ All done!~” The Shinigami noble finished, spraying perfume all over Hinagiku and leaving her to cough and sneeze in a cloud of fragrance. “This way, Hina-chan!~”

The short Shinigami hurried to take off her waraji and follow Tomoka to her Captain’s office. She coughed a bit, tapping her chest lightly. The only thing that she could smell was cherries. Tomoka had gone a bit overboard, as usual. Hinagiku sighed as she tuned out her friend’s ramblings about her Captain and how amazing he was. She had heard about Tomoka’s infatuation with Hitsugaya-taicho enough times. The girl was obsessed.

“So, I was thinking of going to see Aizen-taicho later?” Tomoka said, stopping for a second so that she and Hinagiku were walking side by side. The cute girl looped her arm through her friend’s giggling. “I heard that he is working at the Academy today. And you know where he always goes after lessons! It would be a good time to go see him, don’t you think?~”

“S-sure.” Hinagiku wasn’t really a fan of Captain Aizen. Well, it wasn’t that she didn’t like the man or anything. She just simply didn’t know him. Captains were all busy with one thing or another, and she had only seen Captain Aizen a handful of times and from far away. He looked like a kind man, though. But, Hinagiku still didn’t feel comfortable with going to ‘see’ him. With Tomoka, that usually meant going to stalk the poor man. And no one wanted to be stalked by Tsutsui Tomoka.

“Great! I’ll meet you at eight then, outside of the 10th Division gates?” Tomoka was already on board, though, deciding things on her own. “You should probably wear a proper kimono, not this stinky old uniform.” Tomoka complained, pulling on the sleeve of Hinagiku’s kosode. “Well, here we are.” They stopped in front of a sliding door and the 10th Division Shinigami let go, skipping away. “Oh, and,” She turned her head to add over her shoulder. “Some of my other friends will be coming with us as well! Bye, Hina-chan!~”

Tomoka skipped away, humming a happy tune, leaving Hinagiku to sulk in front of the 10th Division Captain’s office. Tomoka’s friends had always been a rather peculiar crowd. Well, she’d deal with that later.

“Kobashigawa Hinagiku of the 11th Division, requesting permission to enter!”

That’s all folks!


 Thank you very much for reading and I hope that you enjoyed. Do leave some comments and tell me what you think :)


 Until next time!

Chapter Text

Welcome to another chapter of Daisy!


 Thank you very much for the two kudos and the wonderful 18 hits!


 

List of OCs appearing in the chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11th Division)

Tsutsui Tomoka (10th Division)

Kida Rini (11th Division)

Saji Daichi (10th Division)


 Chapter 3: Missions assigned

It is dark. When I wake up, I’m greeted by the black void around me. Yet, I know that it isn’t a void. It is a space. A space full of things. And, as much as I dislike the darkness, I like the place where I’m in. There is a game that I enjoy playing here.

Finding things.

I go around the blackness, searching for the thing on my mind, and then I find it, by touch and smell and sense. I only find useful things. Paperclips. Information. Paper. Books. Lighters. Chocolate. Strawberries. I don’t like useless things. They shouldn’t exist. If you have to purpose, then you aren’t living, you are simply being there, existing. I like being useful. I need to be useful.

So I find things.


 “Come in.” The indifferent tone of the 10th Division Captain called Hinagiku into the office and she obeyed. Before sliding the wooden door open, the Shinigami quickly wiped at her lips with her sleeve, taking off the overdone layer of lipstick which her friend had pained her lips in.

“Hitsugaya-dono. Matsumoto-dono.” Hinagiku bowed in respect as soon as she entered. “I hope that you’ve been well.”

“She’s asleep.” Captain Hitsugaya’s voice came, still as even as always. Hinagiku looked up, taking his, rather crude, statement as acknowledgment. She spotted the Lieutenant, the busty Rangiku Matsumoto lounging on the comfortable looking couch, dead asleep. In huge contrast, the young Captain was sitting behind his desk, diligently writing, the enormous stacks of paperwork around him rivaling Captain Kyōraku’s. “What do you need?” Hitsugaya spoke without looking up from his report. His pen never stopped its scribbling.

“This is the paperwork from Zaraki-taicho. It needs your signature and confirmation before it can be filed.” Hinagiku walked forward, extending the two files.

“Due?” The Captain never stopped writing.

“Monday next week, Hitsugaya-dono.”

“Taicho.” He corrected her, causing Hinagiku’s face to burst into flame.

“I meant no disrespect, taicho, it’s just the way that-“ But, Hinagiku was saved from further embarrassment and trouble with the young, and rather strict, Captain, as his Lieutenant awoke with a gasp. She sat up, staring wildly around the office, halting both Hinagiku’s words and Hitsugaya’s writing. Then, the busty woman began sniffing the air, finally turning to see the newcomer in the office.

“You!” The sleepy Lieutenant exclaimed, her finger pointing at Hinagiku. The poor girl completely forgot her manners, not used to dealing with someone like Matsumoto. The short officer pointed slowly at herself as well, asking.

“M-me?” Her original Kyoto-ben slipping through the carefully learned grammar and pronunciation.

“You!” Matsumoto now jumped from the couch, hurrying over to the girl, grasping her gently by the shoulders. The Lieutenant took another long sniff, grinning now. “You’re wearing Eternal Cherry Fields! That’s limited edition!” The busty woman explained and Hinagiku could swear that she heard a crack behind herself. “Where did you get it? I was too late! They sold out.” The woman sounded genuinely disappointed.

“A-actually, it’s my acquaintance Tsutsui Tomoka who has one.” Hinagiku explained. “She insisted on spraying some on me earlier.”

“Tsutsui… Tsutsui… That’s our Division, no?” When Hinagiku nodded, the Lieutenant seemed even happier. “That’s great! I’ll just-“

“Matsumoto!” Captain Hitsugaya bellowed from behind Hinagiku, causing her to jump in fright. “If you have time to be worrying about beauty products, you’d better have time to finish last month’s paperwork!”

“But, Captain!” The Lieutenant stood up to the fuming man, pouting in displeasure. “I was going to go drinking with Shūhei and Izuru tonight.”

“No drinking!” The room temperature had dropped a couple of degrees by then and Hinagiku could feel herself slowly feeling sicker and sicker, like she was going to hurl at any moment. If Captain Hitsugaya didn’t control his temper and reiatsu, she probably would. Her fingers were already shaking like leaves on a tree in autumn.

“Alriiiiight.” Matsumoto dragged her vowel in clear displeasure, seating herself behind her desk. Hinagiku took that moment to bow to both of them, extremely politely, hoping that she wouldn’t incur the wrath of the young Captain. Her head was still pounding from the sheer power that the white haired man emitted.

“If you’ll excuse me, Hitsugaya-taicho, Matsumoto-dono.” The Shinigami felt her face heat up at the corrected title. “I’ll take my leave now.” And she scampered towards the door, with as much grace as she could muster, walking slowly backwards and waiting for her dismissal.

“Thank you for bringing these. You’re dismissed.” The Captain’s voice gave her permission to leave, his tone back to its usual monotone. Hinagiku took that opportunity, rushing out the door with another polite bow.

As she quickly found her way back to the place where she’s left her waraji, the small Shinigami pondered on the different Captains which she’d had the opportunity to meet. Definitely, it was Hitsugaya-taicho and Matsumoto-fukutaicho that made her the most uncomfortable. It wasn’t that they were bad people, far from that. More like, Hinagiku felt like she was intruding on a personal matter whenever she was in their presence.

Of course, they were apart, she was fine with Matsumoto-fukutaicho. The woman was overly enthusiastic and quite perky, even nosy at times. But, Hinagiku’s interaction with the high-ranking officer was minimal at best, hence, it wasn’t a big problem. Deliver papers, listen to the woman complain, nod along and agree that work is tiresome and troublesome and then excuse yourself.

But, Captain Hitsugaya was a different matter. She had been in the Academy before he had entered, so she remembered the big fuss about the infamous prodigy during her last year. She could recall how Tomoka would drag her to numerous first year classes just so they could ‘see’ the young man. By their graduation, at which point Hitsugaya had entered advanced and private classes, her friend had memorized his schedule and everything borderline significant about him. It was quite an obsession, which never progressed into any form of a friendship or a companionship, and continued well into Tomoka’s later years as an officer.

They had graduated, with Hinagiku choosing the 11th Squad and never fluctuating away from it. Tomoka had, instead, chosen the sixth Squad, under the newly appointed and quite infamous Captain Kuchiki. After that, she had switched to the 13th Squad, and after her short time in the 9th Division, she had then finally settled in the 10th Division, when Hitsugaya had been appointed the 3rd Seat there. Long story short, Tomoka had never stopped obsessing over the young prodigy.

So, whenever Hinagiku looked at or addressed the Captain, she recalled all the borderline intimate details of his life which Tomoka had supplied her with, against her will. To say that she was embarrassed about that was an understatement. She didn’t know how to talk to the man. She found herself getting overly flustered and reverting to her embarrassing Kyoto-ben more than often. So, she preferred to deal with Matsumoto-fukutaicho or their 3rd Seat, who was a rather bland man, without much personality.

Hinagiku used a couple of clumsy Shunpo steps to hurry her way to the barracks and entered her room in record time. When she glanced at her clock, she noted the time. It was half past seven. She was doomed, and that was an understatement. Tomoka was always late, so eight usually meant eight thirty in her language, if not more. However, Hinagiku knew that she couldn’t afford to use Shunpo in a proper kimono, much less if she wanted to smell like a normal girl, not a Shinigami who has just finished training in the 11th, Ayasegawa Yumichika excluded, as he always smelled amazing.

The shihakushō came off easily, as she was well-practiced in taking it off and putting it back on. She threw her uniform in the basket of dirty laundry and quickly pulled on a light robe. There were going to be no people outside of the dōjō at this time anyways, but she’d rather be on the safe side. After grabbing her bath essentials, Hinagiku hurried out of her shared room and towards the baths.

She was lucky that, despite the lack of women in the 11th Division, they still had a bath for both genders. Stripping completely, the small Shinigami quickly washed herself with a bucket and then dipped into the prepared bath, uncaring that it was rather cold. While she was hurriedly lathering her torso in soap and rubbing it clean, the door to the small room opened and her fellow 11th Division female member entered.

“Kobashigawa.” 15th Seat Kida Rini was a slim, tall woman of a gentle, elegant face. She had fiery red hair, cut short due to one of the fighting accidents. You could spot her as easily as you could spot their Lieutenant in the crowd. However, a large contrast to her feminine looks was her speech, which was overly familiar and sometimes even rather masculine. She swore as much as the Captain and she fought as fiercely as their 3rd Seat. But, the rare female officer was a gentle, caring person, with her large family in Rukongai, and considered all unseated members of the Division her precious kōhai. “Oi, that’s freaking cold!”

Rini exclaimed when she touched the water, immediately pulling her foot out of the large ofuro. “Sorry, Kida-dono. I was in a hurry, so I didn’t bother with the warming up.” Hinagiku offered a nod in apology. It was rather hard to stay formal if you were in a bath with someone, after all.

“Well, I’m in no rush.” Rini walked out of the small room, and soon enough, Hinagiku felt the water heat up underneath her. “Better, isn’t it?” And the 15th Seat undressed herself and began washing her hair with great care for a member of the 11th Division.

“Yes, thank you very much.” Hinagiku replied before hurriedly dunking in the water, to wash the sweat and shampoo out of her hair. “I’ll change the water for you.” She said, exiting the bath and going towards the small mechanism in the corner. It was at times like these that she thanked the Soul King for the brilliance of the 12th Division. The bath at the Kobashigawa residence wasn’t a mechanical one, thus needing servants to change water all the time.

“Don’t bother.” Rini said, stopping her. “You said that you were in a hurry, no?” Hinagiku gave a small nod, standing there, a tad awkwardly. “Then, off with you, Kobashigawa.”

“Thank you very much, Kida-dono.” And the small Shinigami was off. She couldn’t help herself and the thought of inviting the Seated officer to their outing crossed her mind a couple of times on her way to her room, coupled with regret.


It really took her a short time to get ready. Her hair wasn’t that long, coming to a little below her ears, and there was no styling required, as it was naturally wavy. Actually, there was no styling possible for it, which had always pissed her Grandmother off. Long or short, her hair had a mind of its own and wouldn’t get straightened properly or stand in any bun, even when practically slicked into perfection with gel. So, Hinagiku had given up on styling her hair, instead opting to cut it short enough for it to require less than five minutes on both washing and drying. It was perfect, really.

Hinagiku opened her small wardrobe, as the unseated officers’ quarters were quite modest, and rummaged around. She didn’t have any clothes from Gense, as she had always gone on those missions with absolute supervision, in and out, no free time. So, the girl only had a couple of formal kimonos to choose from. She really didn’t want to dress very formally, in a red and black outfit which her Grandmother had sent her recently, so she opted for a summer yukata with a flower pattern.

The usual time for kimono dressing was anywhere from twenty minutes to an hour, especially when a single person was involved. But, Hinagiku was not just anyone. She had lost count of the number of times which she was forced to dress herself as quickly as possible into a kimono. And, her Grandmother, the strict woman that she was, always demanded perfection.

After rubbing her lotion in, Hinagiku managed to slip into her clothes with some difficulty, as the fabric tended to get stuck on her still moist skin. But, as soon as she tied the obi, she was done. The Shinigami decided to forsake any jewelry or makeup, which Tomoka was undoubtedly going to notice with quite a bit of distaste, to save time.

The petite girl was ready in record time, rushing out of her room. The trip to the 10th Squad barracks was short, as they were much closer to the 11th Division than the rest of them. Hinagiku arrived to the large gates, positioning herself underneath the kanji for ten. She was the first to get there, as usual. The short girl played with the end of her obijime, waiting. She noticed a small flower growing in the middle of two blocks, just next to the gate. She bent down and picked it, smiling. Hinagiku carefully placed it into her hair, making sure that it was secured there properly.

“Hina-chan!~” Tomoka’s voice sounded out behind her and the Shinigami turned, facing her friend. The noble was coming over, leading a group of girls with her. As usual, Hinagiku didn’t know even one of them. “You look so cute! But, you could’ve put on at least a bit of makeup, no?” She frowned cutely pouting, her bottom lip outwards. “No worries!~” The girl didn’t allow her friend a pause to say anything. “I can fix that in a jiffy!~” And the makeup kit came out of her outfit mysteriously once again.

Hinagiku stood as still as possible as the noblewoman began working on her face. She only coughed once, when the other Shinigami blew on her eyes, so that the excess powder wouldn’t get smudged. Next, Tomoka put on some lip-gloss on her friend, smiling as she did.

“There we go!~” The beautiful girl commented, pulling back and grinning wide. “Now, you can be seen with us!~” She giggled, motioning to the rest of the group. “Oh, where are my manners?” Tomoka gave another, rather obnoxious, giggle. “Everyone, this is Hina-chan. Hina-chan, everyone!” And the introductions were officially over.

Hinagiku opted to stay behind the group, listening to the conversation and nodding at appropriate times. Even if she had worn the red kimono, she wouldn’t have been overdressed. One of the girls was wearing a formal yukata, in pale turquoise, while her golden, decorated obi was tied in a taiko musubi in the back. Another had on a short, styled kimono, which was obviously ridiculously expensive, Hinagiku could tell, and a very complicated hairstyle. Tomoka stood out the most, though, with her blood red modern dress from Gense and heels, showing off her long legs.

The group of girls headed for the local restaurant, on the Seireitei outskirts, which was quite a popular place for the off-duty Shinigami. It wasn’t often that Hinagiku had a chance to go out, but even when she did, this wasn’t the place where she went. It was a fancy restaurant, done in wood, with a bar counter. They served everything from sodas, alcoholic drinks, sweets and even lunches. Needless to say, this was Tomoka’s favorite place of dwelling, when she wasn’t on duty.

The waiter greeted them hospitably, knowing the noblewoman by name and seated the small group of giggling girls into a secluded corner. There, they got menus and began choosing what they wanted. Hinagiku looked through her list, not really finding anything which appealed to her. Sure, she could get a strawberry and caramel sundae, her usual order, but this simply didn’t seem like the company to eat that in. They were serious women and she didn’t want to appear childish. Now, when the rowdy group from the 12th Division visited the restaurant, then, they usually ordered as many sundaes as she could eat, cheering her on to finish them all.

After around ten minutes of Hinagiku listening to her companions talking about Captain Aizen and how amazing he was, the waiter, thankfully, came back. Tomoka smiled at him, tossing a compliment or two, flirting shamelessly.

“It is very nice to have you, as always, Tsutsui-ojousama.” Said handsome waiter, smiling slightly. He seemed only a tad uncomfortable with the attention that the noblewoman was giving him, probably because his superiors wouldn’t be too happy if they saw it. Otherwise, judging by the way his eyes wandered up and down Tomoka’s dress, which accented all the right places, he was pretty thrilled.

“So, what shall it be girls?~” The black haired Shinigami flashed a smile at her friends, waiting. She didn’t order first. Hinagiku knew this situation well. It was quite familiar from their Academy days. Tomoka liked to play this game. She would wait for everyone to order, and then choose the thing which she liked best to repeat as her own preference. Then, the girls would know who her favorite was at that time. Hinagiku once used to be just like these girls, who were smiling at each other, yet thinking of how to best one another with their choice of food or drink.

Luckily, a Jigokuchō appeared, settling on Hinagiku’s fingers before her turn to order came. She focused her reiatsu into a point, allowing the message to pass from the black butterfly to her head directly, instead of the words being sounded out loud.

Kobashigawa Hinagiku of the 11th Division please report to your Captain and Lieutenant immediately. You have been assigned a mission. The departure time is set for 600.

The young girl quickly calculated the hours of sleep that she would get. Too little. “Forgive me, Tsutsui-dono, but I must be excused. I have just been assigned a mission.” The Shinigami bowed politely to the group of girls, slipping out of the booth and towards the door. The formal geta made it a bit difficult for her to walk, but she managed. Truly, she had been away from home for too long. Shinigami wore comfortable waraji, unlike at her Grandmother’s house, where wearing geta was something as normal as wearing underwear. Hinagiku had been glad to trade the big, bulky sandals for simple, straw ones.

Just as the girl was leaving the establishment, her foot slipped in the geta, making her lose her balance. She fell forward. Thankfully, warm, strong arms caught her, straightening her. Hinagiku looked up, meeting kind brown eyes, before looking down once more, her body bending into a formal bow, once she realized who exactly it was that had helped her.

“My apologies, Aizen-dono.” The short Shinigami said in a tiny voice, feeling a blush crawl onto her cheeks. There was no denying it. The man was handsome. Not to mention kind. And he was a Captain to top it off. A dream come true.

“It was my pleasure.” The man told her, smiling. He was always smiling. His reiatsu was as high as any Captain’s, but it wasn’t suffocating the unseated Shinigami. No, he was suppressing it just enough so that she could feel its comforting, warm presence. Hinagiku didn’t feel sick at all, unlike when she went near her own Captain, who never reined it his reiatsu. “You take care now.” Captain Aizen told her, holding the door for her to pass. “Good evening.”

“I wish you a pleasant night, Aizen-dono.” Hinagiku offered one more bow, before exiting the restaurant as swiftly as possible, given her footwear. The kind Captain seemed more amused by her mishap than anything, and continued on his way. The girl hurried to the nearest corner, where she bent down and slipped her geta and pure white socks off. She couldn’t use Shunpo with them properly, not that she could use it very well anyway, and dirtying her socks was not even an option. Here, she did her own laundry, unlike at her Grandmother’s house.

As soon as her bare feet touched the cold ground, Hinagiku’s posture relaxed. Flat, firm ground was under her soles and she was set. The Shinigami focused her reiatsu on her feet, pushing it into a small, shoe-like shape. Keep calm. Never lose focus of your reiatsu. Think of the place where you want to arrive before you take your step. Imagine yourself speeding up. Imagine your footsteps becoming long. Then, take your step.

Breathe.

Hinagiku recited from the handbook. Then, she stepped.

The small girl flew across the expanse of the street, landing at the corner. She skidded, jumping on one bare foot and made a sound in the back of her throat, expressing pain. Shunpo without any shoes was difficult because it hurt her feet, but it was much more successful than her other attempts. She simply imagined herself wearing shoes. Hinagiku stepped once more and her Shunpo pushed her up onto the roof and then towards the 11th Division barracks.


“So just show this at the gate and off you go.” Captain Zaraki handed her a paper, which was crumpled on the edges and had a corner missing. Hinagiku couldn’t help but smile at the sight of it, already used to getting her paperwork in damaged form. Her Captain was definitely not the best at keeping track of papers. That was why she did it for him. “While we’re still young, Paper. Go kill some Hollow and make us proud.”

“I will do my best, Zaraki-dono.” Bowed the polite girl, as always, her manners drilled into her from young age.

“Papapuri is leaving!” Yelled out the cheerful Lieutenant, Yachiru, waving away energetically from her spot on the Captain’s shoulder. Hinagiku turned, bowing respectively to her as well, before continuing on her journey. She had heard the 3rd Seat Ikkaku and 5th Seat Yumichika talking about how she was the only one in the Squad who was able to treat the Lieutenant with the proper amount of respect, despite the young girl’s eccentric nature. And, Hinagiku had blushed with the praise.

Then again, it probably wasn’t praise to the 3rd or 5th Seat. But, she was proud of her abilities. If there was one thing that she was glad that she had gotten drilled into her, it was the good manners. Hinagiku couldn’t remember when she exactly became two-faced, but she was pretty sure that her acting skills were praiseworthy. She had become able to slip into this perfect, polite, proper lady persona so well when she was young, that it had become her natural demeanor. Now, she didn’t know how to let loose anymore. She only knew how to be polite.

That’s why she loved the 11th Division and why she stayed there, despite all the protests which she received from her Grandmother. They were rowdy, rude and battle thirsty. And, to top it all, they didn’t care about how you addressed them. They only cared about how strong you were. And when it came down to it, under all the quiet, blushing and politeness, Hinagiku had true grit. At least, she liked to believe that she did.

No matter how much it hurt, she didn’t give up. No matter how tired she was, she didn’t give in. No matter who told her no, she pushed ahead. No matter who doubted her, she believed in her ideals. No matter what, she walked her own path, regardless of her Grandmother’s name.

Hinagiku smiled as she left for the gates. She was proud to be a member of the 11th Division, despite the fact that she hadn’t managed to rise in ranks. She looked down at the irresponsibly kept paper and read the instructions on it. She would be joining a group of Shinigami from both 11th and 10th Division and heading off to the outskirts of Rukongai. There, there were Hollow to be exterminated.

It wasn’t a long journey to the meeting spot, the Western White Way Gate, Hakutōmon, where she was going to wait for the rest of the group. It was the closest Gate to their Division, and their barracks were practically next to it. Hinagiku exited the maze of narrow streets into the main four roads and headed left. In the slowly rising dawn, without any sunlight, yet bright, she could clearly see the humongous Hakutōmon looming at the end of the path. There was a small, black speck near its roots. Obviously, she wasn’t the one who would be doing the waiting.

Breathe.

Keep calm. Never lose focus of your reiatsu. Think of the place where you want to arrive before you take your step. Imagine yourself speeding up. Imagine your footsteps becoming long. Then, take your step.

Breathe.

Hinagiku imagined invisible, reiatsu-made slippers over her waraji and stepped forward, her foot hitting the ground harder than the last step. Then, she flew.

It didn’t take her too long to cross the distance between her and the group, perhaps a good ten minutes or so. She made sure to slow down at least a kilometer away from the Shinigami, so that she could approach them running, slowly. She didn’t want another embarrassment like the day before.

“Hello!” Greeted one of the Shinigami who had been waiting. “My name is Takezoe Kōkichirō, the 7th Seat of 10th Division. I will be the one leading the mission. You are?” He was tall, broad shouldered and dark haired. His face sported a stubble and a thin moustache on his upper lip, but it suited him somehow, making him look rather rugged and manly, unlike their 10th Seat Aramaki Makizō. His eyes were dark, narrowed and stern, despite his friendly tone.

7th Seat? For a Hollow extermination? Why in the world was such a high ranked officer assigned such a job? Something’s wrong.

Despite her doubtful thoughts, Hinagiku fixed a smile on her face, bowing respectively to the dark haired man. “Kobashigawa Hinagiku of the 11th Division, it is a pleasure to be working with you, sir.” The 7th Seat seemed surprised by gentle and calm demeanor. Hinagiku was used to that. The 11th Squad was well known for their rambunctious behavior.

“Alright, Kobashigawa-san.” Kōkichirō spoke, having collected himself. “We have a nine men cell, which will be divided into three three men cells for this mission. You will be assigned to Group 2, along with Nakajima Hideki and Saji Daichi of the 10th Division.” He pointed out the Shinigami standing a little ways off, looking mighty nervous. “Get acquainted, we leave as soon as everyone gets here.”

“Thank you very much, Takezoe-dono.” And with another bow, which brought even more shock to the 7th Seat, Hinagiku walked over to the anxious Shinigami. He looked young, and not in the sense of age. She, too, looked young, barely a teenager, yet she was well over fifty, courtesy of her nature as a Soul. But this Shinigami, he was green. Obviously, new to the job.

Hinagiku would know. She wasn’t an expert in sensing reiatsu or determining one’s strength based on it. No. It was through her years as a Shinigami officer that she simply knew who was new. They all tended to be a tad anxious or overly confident, a little green in the face and sweating profusely before their first mission as a proper Shinigami. This boy in front of her, he was no exception.

“Good morning.” Greeted the girl, bowing to the young man. He jumped a bit, turning to focus his green eyes on her. His hair was dark, messy and stood almost against the gravity. His face was young, gentle and he looked ready to faint. “My name is Kobashigawa Hinagiku from the 11th Division, I’m looking forward to working with you.”

“S-Saji Daichi, 10th Squad.” He stammered in a high, nervous pitch. “I-It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Hinagiku offered him a comforting smile and nod, and then a small silence ensued. He seemed rather uncomfortable, switching his weight from one to the other leg and fiddling with his fingers nervously. Then, Saji spoke again. “T-this is m-my first mission. I’m a-a bit n-nervous.” And he chuckled awkwardly.

“Don’t worry, Saji-dono.” Hinagiku offered him a soothing smile. “This is a routine Hollow extermination mission. There are more than enough of us and we will be well organized. Plus, we have 7th Seat Takezoe-dono with us. Surely, you don’t need to be that worried.”

“Y-you’re right, Kobashigawa-san.” Stammered the nervous Shinigami. “Besides, I will have you in my group to protect me if we get in a bind. The 11th Division is strong, after all.”

“Of course.” Promised Hinagiku. “I will protect you.”

She had been too naïve.


That’s all folks!


 A little info from the chapter:

Terminology:

Ojousama-young Lady

Obi-the part of a kimono which goes around the waist

Taiko musubi-way of tying an obi

Yukata-type of a casual summer kimono

Obijime-string used to tie an obi

Kanji-Japanese letters which were brought from China

Bowing (you’ll notice that Hinagiku uses the 30 and 45 always, meaning that she’s overly polite):

Nod-when you're interacting with people you know very well, such as a friends or relatives

Fifteen degrees-an acquaintance of equal business or social rank

Thirty degrees-sitting in a semi-formal situation and want to show a moderate level of gratitude or respect

Forty-five degrees-interacting with someone who is higher-ranking or has some sort of power over you

Seventy degrees-it conveys profound respect or regret. Outside of religious uses, it's almost entirely reserved for dramatic apologies or audiences with the emperor.

Some other info:

I own a proper kimono and it takes me around an hour to put everything in its proper place xD


I hope that you guys enjoyed the chapter!

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome!


Have you guys read the newer chapters (670 and on) of the manga? I swear that the last scan broke my brain xD I've been giggling whenever I thought of Bleach ever since xD I'm pretty sure that we just witnessed Hitsugaya getting Neville Longbottomed!


 List of OCs appearing in the chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11 th Division)

Nakajima Hideki (10 th )

Saji Daichi (10 th )


This story was inspired by a short poem by Julie Martinez:

and if you don't
like me, as i do you;
i understand.

because who would
really choose
a daisy, in a field
of roses?
-Julie Martinez


Chapter 4: Dyed crimson

It is dark. I live in the darkness. I thrive there. In the smells, the touches and the tastes. I thrive without sight. Yet, I wish to have it. I long for the day when a light will appear. A star to shine and show me my way. To take me out of the darkness.

In the pitch black, I wait and fold. One crane. Two cranes. I fold many, many cranes. I fold all the time. Folding can be done blindly. You don’t need light to use paper. Paper can be felt.

A thousand cranes.

That much is how a wish costs here. So, I fold in the dark, waiting. Waiting for the star. For the light. One crane. Two cranes. I fold many, many cranes.


 She had been too naïve.

Promising to protect another, when she couldn’t even protect herself. She didn’t know how this had happened. It had been a routine Hollow extermination mission. In the closer parts of Rukongai no less. Yet, she had been naïve. Her Captain said almost every day that there is always a good fight just waiting to happen nearby. But, this hadn’t been a fight.

It had been a massacre.


Hinagiku ran. Her heart was beating like crazy and her leg was bleeding profusely. Judging by the amount of liquid, she wouldn’t be able to move soon. She needed a strategy. But, she couldn’t clear her mind. No, she could only feel the weight of the body on her shoulder as she attempted to Shunpo away, which wasn’t working. She couldn’t focus her reiatsu. There was a thick, warm liquid running down her forehead, painting her vision red. She didn’t bother to wipe it. There was no strength for that. It entered her mouth through her clenched teeth. Blood. She didn’t know where her Asauchi had flown off to. She could only hear her own heart beating in her ears.

She was going to die.


It had been going so well. They had separated into their groups, chosen leaders among the three of them and proceeded to the outbreak point to exterminate the invading Hollow. There had been only a couple, smaller ones there. Hardly a job for a joint Division operation. Hardly a job for a 7th Seat. So, Hinagiku had stayed on alert. She and Nakajima Hideki, a fellow Shinigami and their group leader, had agreed to help their greenhorn, Saji Daichi, gain some experience. They would allow him to enter battle, only providing support.

And then, it had all gone to Hell.


 Hinagiku stopped, taking short, ragged breaths. She was at her limit. Saji, as lanky as he was, was at least two times her size and weight. She couldn’t carry him any longer. Not on this leg. The girl slumped to the ground, the dead weight of the body of her comrade landing right next to her. She looked over at him, the screams and roars in the background slowly coming into focus in her ears. There were three long, jagged gashes across his chest, bleeding.

He was going to die.


Hinagiku wasn’t sure when it had happened, but one second, she was laughing with Hideki and planning to meet up later that week for dinner and next, blood had sprouted out of his mouth and neck, splattering all over her face and chest. Slowly, the warm, red drops had slid down her cheeks, mixing with the sweat that was beginning to appear, as her body kicked into overdrive. She couldn’t tear her eyes away from his face, frozen in a smile, his dead eyes focused on her. Hinagiku had never seen someone die before.

At least, not like this.


Her heart was still pounding, her stomach doing loops and jumps. She needed to puke. A couple of seconds later, the Shinigami wiped her mouth on the ripped sleeve of her shihakushō and dry heaved. There was nothing more to spit out. She noticed the blood on her pale flesh and remembered.

Hideki. He was so young. He had just been promoted. He wanted to become a seated officer. He had dreams. He had been alive.

The clear picture of Hideki’s laughing face flashed in her mind, speared through with a set of wicked, sharp claws. His blood everywhere. The smell. The taste. The sound. Hinagiku dry heaved once more, as her stomach couldn’t really push anything else out. She coughed and then looked behind her.

Her ears still weren’t working right. They were both ringing with an annoying buzz, like they were full of determined mosquitos, and silenced at the same time, like she was in a vacuum. But, she could hear some things properly. Her terrified heart, beating wildly in her chest, pumping blood and adrenaline all over her system. The terrified screams, as the people of Rukongai ran around, attempting to hide from the rampaging Hollow.

She had to do something.


The battle had begun so fast and it had been so much unlike the usual spar that she had with 3rd Seat Ikkaku or the quick dispatching of an occasional Hollow. No. This had been a nervous, bloody and shaky battle between her, the clawed Hollow and her own grip on her sword. She had been a mess.

Saji had screamed in terror somewhere to her right, as he had noticed their surrounded state, along with Hideki’s body on the ground. Then, he had proceeded to yell out, stumbling backwards and falling on his back.

Hinagiku had been unable to help him.

The clawed Hollow, still covered in the blood of his previous victim, had flung her to the side with one swipe of its powerful, lanky limb, sending her flying and her Asauchi somewhere out of her sight. Then, when she didn’t get up fast enough, it had switched its target. After all, a squealing, crying and floundering about Shinigami was much more fun than the limp and still one.

Hinagiku had watched in her sideways, blurry vision as Saji, the greenhorn whom she had promised to protect, was being mangled by the claws which had just moments ago slain their comrade. With unknown strength, the girl had managed to extend her hands and fire off a Hadō #31 Shakkahō from her position on the ground. It had hit the clawed Hollow and given her just enough time to use a clumsy Shunpo to get both her and Saji away.


Hinagiku looked away from the fire and destruction behind her, focusing on her fellow Shinigami instead. She took off her kosode and placed it over the man’s chest as a makeshift bandage. Then, she proceeded to tie it with shaky fingers as tightly as possible, to stop the bleeding. After her slick with blood fingers slipped for the fifth time, she yelled out.

“Come on, dang it!” Hinagiku then raised her hands to her hips, quickly brushing the liquid off on the material there and took a deep breath. She reached out, tying a secure, tight knot. “Tha’s how ya’ do it, dang it.” She murmured to herself, her Kyoto dialect coming out in the mayhem.

Then, once that job was done, the girl took another deep breath and with shaky fingers took a look at her leg. The gash was deep, but straight and clean. If she bandaged it properly, it could heal rather quickly with the help of the 4th Division. Hinagiku ripped the sleeve of her shitagi, and then tied it to stop the bleeding. She would be fine for a while. Her head wasn’t spinning and she could hear everything properly now.

“Ya’ jus’ sit there, wontcha.” She murmured to the unconscious Saji, before struggling to her feet. Her head spun a bit, the scenery in front of her swimming. She touched the side of her head, feeling the wet and already swollen bump. She had hit it pretty hard. It felt like her whole brain was pumping in the rhythm of her heart, pounding, heavy, like her head would fall off and roll away any second, still jumping as the heart dictated. Her blood was burning, though.

She had never felt this way.

Hinagiku took a step forward, staggering. She knew vaguely where her katana had flown off. She needed that. She needed a weapon. Her feet seemed light, like she was walking in a constant Shunpo. Her arms didn’t have any weight either. She was floating. There was nothing. Her head swum, the scenery in front of her coming in and out of focus.

She had lost too much blood.

The gash on her leg had already colored the white, makeshift bandage a deep crimson shade. She wouldn’t last long. Hinagiku bit her lip, the pain in it becoming greater than the one in her leg. She felt her face come out of the cold numbness that her whole body had been enveloped into. She could hear the screams for help, calling a Shinigami to come and save them, sounding from the direction of the large, clawed Hollow.

She was no good at finding things on her own. Hinagiku knew that. It had been when she had gotten her Asauchi. It was her katana that was her lucky charm for finding things. And now, it was gone.

Hinagiku closed her eyes and took a deep breath, focusing. She could find it by reiatsu. Every day, she meditated with her katana, attempting to learn its name. The constant pouring of her reiatsu into the sword had left a faint trace, like a thin line of smoke, which rose from the sheath. She could find it if she just looked for that.

Her violet eyes opened, searching. She ignored the panicking people running around her, away from the Hollow. She tuned out the slicing sounds which more than often hit their mark, resulting in a sickening squelching and ripping song of battle. She couldn’t listen right now. She needed to focus. She could cry later.

She could see it.

A thin line of purple, willowy, smoke-like reiatsu rising steadily in the chaos, like it didn’t have a care in the world. It didn’t exist in the battle. It existed in her. Hinagiku grit her teeth, hearing them scrape against one another, before she stepped forward. It seemed like ages, the journey which she took to her sword. She was vaguely aware of screaming Souls running by her, some looking at her in horror because of all the blood and some smiling in relief, at the sight of a Shinigami. Regardless, she didn’t have the strength to stop or reassure them. She was doing all she could to stay on her feet.

Her Asauchi was a sight for sore eyes.

Hinagiku dropped on her knees beside it, her trembling, cold hand grasping it in relief. Her breathing was out of control again. She attempted to steady it, inhaling large breaths and then holding them for a while. As soon as her vision cleared of the small stars which appeared from lack of oxygen, Hinagiku forced herself to her feet once more, using her Asauchi as a cane.

Then, she turned.

Hideki’s face was still there, right in front of her eyes, playing on a loop. Smiling, freezing, bleeding. Smiling, freezing, bleeding. Smiling. This time, it was Hinagiku that froze the image.

“Tis fer ‘im.” She murmured to herself, positioning her blade at her hip, where it was supposed to go. “This is fer ‘im.” She opened her eyes, her vision focusing once more. It was easy to find the Hollow. It was the biggest of the bunch, slashing left and right, devouring screaming Souls with gusto, ripping them apart. It was covered in grime and blood of the battle and it seemed to love it. “Yer gonna pay.”

Keep calm. Breathe.

And then, she stepped forward. Her body flew in a Shunpo, reaching the Hollow in two steps. Her Asauchi flashed from its sheath, slicing in a perfect, practice-like motion. Blood gushed from the wound, splattering all over the short Shinigami and the ground around her. The Hollow howled in pain, staggering backwards.

Hinagiku didn’t give it the time to recover. Breathe. She took one more ragged breath and stepped forward, her Shunpo sending her flying. She was behind the Hollow in a second. Another perfect slash across its back, to bleed it out and render it weak. Then, her left hand came to her sword, switching its position and she sliced across, the blade going through the soft back of the monster’s knees with little resistance. It couldn’t move any longer.

“That’s fer ‘im, ya’ damned creature.” She cursed, her eyes cold as the Hollow writhed on the bloodied ground. Then, it turned, its glowing eyes focusing on her with as much malice as possible. The crack in its mask, where the teeth were opened and it spoke.

“Sh-Shinigami.” It gurgled from the blood filling its mouth. “M-mercy.” It begged.

Hinagiku readied her Asauchi, feeling the heat of reiatsu on her fingers. The katana was tingling, begging to be used on the vile creature in front of her. Breathe. She took a deep breath and tightened her grip. The blade slid back into the sheath and the Hollow began rising from the ground, the number of Souls which it had devoured speeding up its healing.

“I will give ya’ mercy.” Her accent as present as ever. Her head was clearing. She was strangely calm. “Jus’ like ya’ gave it to him.” Her knees bent in a move which she had practiced days and days on end, but never showed to Ikkaku during their spars. Breathe. “Iai: One slice.”

And she stepped.


She was cold. Numb. Short.

Wait, short?

True, Hinagiku didn’t have the height of an average person, but she wasn’t this short. The girl looked around, turning. Everything loomed over her like tall, stern giants. Either she had become small or she was in giantville. Her bets were on giantville.

She didn’t know where she was.

The young Shinigami looked around, turning. Tall, dark trees stood around her, their green leaves olive in the night. She could smell the sweet scent of gardenias, her mother’s favorite flowers. Her Grandmother had barely allowed for them to be planted in the garden. Something about color and shape and form of the yard, which Hinagiku hadn’t understood too well back then, when she had been just a small child.

Hinagiku sought out the sweet and gentle scent from her childhood. The comforting aroma became stronger and stronger as she neared the small bush of pure white, delicate flowers. This was how her mother had smelled. She could remember it. Gardenia. The sweet, silky aroma which lingered in the room even when the gentle woman left it. Yes, Hinagiku could remember this well.

She wandered around the bush, trying to figure out what she was doing here, in her Grandmother’s gardens. As far as she remembered, she had become a Shinigami. She was working in the 11th Division, much to her Grandmother’s displeasure. She tried to remember why exactly she had decided to become a Shinigami, because living with her family in her Grandmother’s house was as close to paradise as she could get.

“Hello there.” Spoke a gentle, silky tone to her softly. Hinagiku looked up to find a familiar figure. Her eyes filled with tears which she didn’t have the strength to push away. She didn’t know why, but she was simply sad at the sight of that face. No, not the hysterical unexplained crying that sometimes happened. No, her gut was tearing apart in her body with pure sorrow and her throat was closing up and her eyes stung and her nose had undoubtedly gone red. She was devastated at the sight of her mother. “Now, now, no need to cry.  Come here, my little daisy.” And the woman bent down, scooping her easily into her arms. The comforting, warm smell of gardenias enveloped Hinagiku and she was immediately lulled into a sense of security. Yet, her tears kept coming at a steady pace, despite the fact that her gut had stopped wrenching. “Shall we make some cranes?”

And her mother pulled out some colorful origami paper out of her kimono sleeve, sitting down with her child in her lap. She handed them to Hinagiku, who began folding with her small, stubby fingers. Her mother had always had these. Ever since she had discovered Hinagiku’s passion for the art of paper folding and cutting, the woman had begun carrying them around, to be able to soothe her child at any time.

“There you go.” Smiled the gentle woman. “Nothing to cry about, is it?” And then she let out a short, melodic laugh, before she began humming a song under her breath. Her mother had definitely inherited the Kobashigawa genes to their fullest potential. She was tall, pale with long, sleek hair as black as night and dark violet eyes. The picture of beauty and her mother’s greatest treasure. Oh, how Grandma had been excited at the prospect of marrying her perfect daughter off to a rich noble.

It was then when she heard it. The screaming and screeching of a Hollow coming closer and closer. And then, all she could see were the bright stars in the sky on the warm summer night and origami paper with pictures of pale pink cherry blossoms and ponds being panted crimson with drops of liquid. The scent of gardenias became muddled with the familiar coppery aroma of fresh blood and Hinagiku couldn’t hold her tears once more.

She searched out her mother with her eyes, but she didn’t find the woman. Instead, all she could see was a fairly young man with a dark, short ponytail tied at the nape of his neck, his soft eyes gently looking at her as he smiled. But, there was something wrong with the picture. The man in the black shihakusho froze and then three, menacing long claws impaled him from behind, sending blood all over Hinagiku.

“Hideki!” The scream tore from her throat, hurting it and she jumped up from the grassy earth, only to see that the man was gone. She could still smell the gardenias. But, there was no copper. There was no blood. That didn’t stop her heart from pounding like she had just run a marathon, though.

The young Shinigami looked around, her head pounding from the motion. Her throat was dry. She was going to be sick. Hinagiku grabbed the closest thing and puked into it. Well, more like dry heaved above it. She was vaguely aware of the tears streaming down her face and the sobs that were coming from her small body, shaking her frame. She felt frail. Broken. Small.

“Easy, Kobashigawa-san.” A gentle female voice spoke to her and the woman’s hands came around her head, pulling her dark hair back. One cool palm rested on her forehead and Hinagiku immediately felt better. She’s using Kaidō. Realized Hinagiku through her muddled thoughts. She leaned back when her coughing stopped and allowed the gentle woman to wipe her face and help her back into bed. She didn’t have the strength to do it on her own. “Drink this, please.” A glass came to her lips and Hinagiku drank.

“Unohana-dono.” The girl’s mind finally caught up with her and she attempted to bow in respect, but the healer stopped her.

“Now is not the time for that, Kobashigawa-san. You must rest.” And the healer made sure that her patient was tucked in properly. “If my assumptions are correct, you will be able to head to your barracks in no time.” The woman smiled at her. “The only problematic wound was the one on your leg, and it is healing nicely.”

That’s right. The Hollow extermination mission. Hideki. The clawed Hollow. There had been too many. Saji. Where is Saji? Did he make it?

“Unohana-dono, forgive my impatience, but did Saji Daichi of the 10th Division survive the mission?” Hinagiku asked politely, her voice cracking only once from the lack of use.

“Saji-san is just fine.” Unohana told her. “He was lucky enough that you acted quickly and brought him off the battlefield. He has been asking about you almost every day since he woke.”

Since he woke? Wait, how long have I been here? By the state of my hair, at least a week. Hinagiku deduced, her hand tremblingly going to her short, messy bob. It was oily. Dirty. Her Grandmother would probably have a fit if she saw her right now.

Hinagiku couldn’t suppress the laughter which bubbled in her chest and then came out. Unohana gave her a soft smile at the giggle, but didn’t comment on it. Hinagiku wondered if the Captain of the 4th Division thought her to be mad.

“Could I trouble you to tell me the today’s date, Unohana-dono?” Asked Hinagiku. It wasn’t unusual for a Shinigami to end up in the 4th Squad Healing Houses. Not at all. Especially if you were from the 11th Division. Hinagiku herself had frequented the place even during her years at the Academy. She had accompanied their 3rd and 5th Seat quite a few times as well, usually being the one to take care of the paperwork which the two men loathed. She had come a number of times to get stitches when their 7th Seat, Matsushita Koichi, had been too rough with her in a practice session. Not to mention the amount of times she had visited the 4th Division to finish their 15th Seat’s, Kida Rini’s, leftover paperwork, after the woman had run off. But, she had never been treated by Captain Unohana herself.

“Today is Friday, the first day of July.” Captain Unohana offered a gentle smile. “You have been in the 4th Division for exactly ten days now.” Of course the Captain realized what she was asking. After all, the leader of the 4th Division had been around for a long time and she was famous for her wisdom. “I have had quite a bit of trouble with your Division members, though.” The woman seemed amused at Hinagiku’s shocked expression. “3rd Seat Madarame-san was quite adamant to feed you some hot pepper and 5th Seat Ayasegawa-san made sure to tidy you up every day.” When the woman noticed the mortified, blushing face of the girl, she chuckled. “I never allowed their attentions to go too far.”

“What about N-Nakajima?”

“I had quite bit of trouble with 15th Seat Kida-san, though.” Captain Unohana spoke after a moment of silence. However, that brief moment told the petite Shinigami everything she needed to know. He was dead, just like she thought. Nakajima Hideki was dead. As the beautiful Captain began telling Hinagiku the numerous stories of how her comrades from the 11th Division and even some members of the 10th Squad had come to see her, getting into all sorts of trouble, the girl’s mind wandered.

She couldn’t forget those eyes. Saji’s terrified green ones. Hideki’s dark ones, widening in shock, face going from a smile to a numb mask of pain. Then, the blank stare. The dead stare. Those eyes haunted her the most. The Shinigami smiling, freezing and then being slowly covered in droplets of red.

Captain Unohana left a little later, saying that she will be sending someone to help her to the bathroom. She was good to walk and bathe on her own. It was after her painful, one-legged shower, with the aid of a sweet girl named Kaede, that Hinagiku settled back into her bed. The sheets were new, pure white and clean. She slowly dragged her fingers over them, enjoying the scent. It was clean.

The warm summer breeze blew in through the window, carrying the scent of gardenias with it. Someone had brought them. She didn’t doubt that they had caused her dreams to be about her mother. It had been years since she had dreamt of her last. She missed her mother, yes, but she wasn’t devastated by her death any longer. The pain had ebbed away with time, now only a dull ache when she thought back on that day.

Hinagiku’s re-dressed fingers reached for the left side of her neck, where a jagged scar lay. She hated that mark. It was her only reminder of that day. She hadn’t noticed the passage of time. It had been in July, as well, when her mother had died. Her gardenias had been in full bloom. She had forgotten the anniversary of her mother’s death.

A knock came from the door, breaking Hinagiku out of her thoughts. “Come in, please.” She called out and an unexpected visitor entered.

That’s all folks!


Thank you very much for the hits and I'll be looking forward to some comments, hopefully :)

Chapter Text

I hope that you enjoy!


 List of OCs appearing in the chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11 th Division)

Matsushita Koichi (10 th Division)

Kida Rini (11 th Division)


This story was inspired by a short poem by Julie Martinez:

and if you don't
like me, as i do you;
i understand.

because who would
really choose
a daisy, in a field
of roses?
-Julie Martinez


 Chapter 5: Wounds

It is dark. I’ve grown tired of this pitch blackness. I wish for light. I yearn for it. Now. Now. Now.

I don’t want to wait. Call my name. Bring me light.

I don’t want to touch about in the dark, judging by smell and feel alone. I want to see. I don’t want to fold in the dark anymore. I want to see. I don’t want to stumble blindly anymore. I want to see.

I don’t want to wait. Call my name. Bring me light.

I want to see.


The door opened and in came a familiar figure. Hinagiku pushed herself up, her hands flying to tidy up her messy hair and pull her simple kimono over the scar on her neck. Captain Hitsugaya of the 10th Division walked in, looking a tad awkward as he did, which wasn’t a usual demeanor for him.

He gave her a short, curt nod, his sharp eyes roaming her figure, assessing the injuries. He didn’t comment on the way she held her kimono rim to her neck. “Unohana-taicho has informed me that you are healing nicely. How do you feel?” The young Captain pulled out a chair and sat next to her bed, making her squirm uncomfortably.

She absolutely did not want him to see her scar. It wasn’t appropriate. It was ugly. “I am healing well, thank you for asking, Hitsugaya-do-ah-taicho.” Hinagiku managed to catch herself before she addressed him with ‘dono’, which she normally used. She didn’t want to be corrected once more. It wasn’t appropriate.

“Good.” He seemed at a loss of words. “That is good.” The white haired Captain sat there, staring at his hands for a moment. He then, seemed to realize that he was still holding a small bouquet of flowers. “Here.” He brought them up, extending them to a confused and a little intrigued girl. “I brought these for you.” Hinagiku accepted them, looking carefully at the small arrangement. It was dominantly in white yarrow, which meant health and healing. She wondered if he knew the message which the flowers carried.

“Thank you very much, Hitsugaya-taicho.” She whispered, looking at the simple, yet precious bouquet. It wasn’t as extravagant as some of the other which she had gotten. A big arrangement of azaleas from her Grandmother, telling her to ‘take care of herself for her’ was sitting by the bedside. It had been obviously prepared by a professional florist. That sort of perfection was unachievable even by herself, who had been taught to prepare a bouquet as a part of her ‘lady training’.

The numerous suitors that her Grandmother had introduced her to had sent their own bouquets as well, ranging everywhere from ‘get well’ wishes to ‘eternal love’ in their meaning. The most curious, though, was a single arrangement of gardenias, which stood on the window still all on its own. They were pure white, but clearly home-grown. She would know. Her mother had planted exactly that kind in her Grandmother’s garden.

But, she got the warmest feelings when she looked at Captain Hitsugaya’s flowers. They weren’t brought under any false pretenses or manipulation attempts. No, his wish for her to get well was genuine. Hinagiku smiled, her throat closing up and her eyes watering as she looked at the white flowers. They smelled of honey.

“I-forgive me. I know that it’s not appropriate… But, Matsumoto said that I couldn’t visit without flowers…” The white haired Captain seemed to become flustered at the sight of her crying. He cursed his Lieutenant under his breath and then tried again. “It’s just a small token, nothing like these.” And he motioned towards the large, imposing bouquets sent by rich, male acquaintances of her Grandmother.

“No, no.” Hinagiku quickly interrupted the distressed Captain, who looked less like a high ranked officer and more like the teenager that he was, awkwardly flustered. “I like them. Yarrow is a nice flower.” She smiled softly. “This just reminded me why I joined the Shin’ō Academy.” Hinagiku explained. She looked at the young man, surprised to see him listening intently. It was only the second time that she was holding the attention of a highly ranked officer, the previous being when her Captain found out of her special skills with paperwork.

“Why did you join?” He wondered when she stopped talking.

“Everyone was genuine there.” Hinagiku told him. A look of understanding crossed his face. “There were no more corporate pretenses and hidden plots. Despite being a woman, I was a person first. I earned my spot because of my abilities.” Then, she looked down at her bandaged fingers holding the flowers. “More like my inability.”

There was a moment of morbid silence as the presence of the dead weighted on the both of them.  “You did everything you could. To the best of your ability.” His blue eyes caught hers, and she couldn’t move suddenly. Hinagiku realized why Tōshirō Hitsugaya was a formidable Captain. She couldn’t look away. Her limbs were frozen. He oozed power and control. He was terrifying. But, there was no murderous intent. He didn’t want to harm her. Just have her full attention. “It wasn’t your fault.”

And Hinagiku cried.


She couldn’t sleep. She would lie in her bed for hours on end, just staring at the ceiling or out of her window at the peaceful gardens of the 4th Division. Captain Unohana had scolded her already twice for it, and had prepared a potion for her to drink on a regular basis. And when she could fall asleep, she would wake in the middle of the night, screaming, reaching for her Asauchi. She hadn’t cried since the day when Captain Hitsugaya had first visited her. It felt like her tears had dried up. But, there was a dead sort of sadness inside of her, one that she couldn’t shake away. Hideki’s face kept haunting her. She kept remembering their last conversation.

Most of the 11th Division had been to visit her. Captain Unohana seemed to be sick of them, but she never said anything, ever the polite woman. However she did give Hinagiku a couple of meaningful glances, when the rowdy group was being too loud. Their 3rd Seat, Ikkaku, had brought her some spicy noodles from her favorite stall, sneaking them past all the healers. In contrast, 5th Seat Yumichika had made sure to pack a couple of casual kimonos from her room and fold them properly in the small cupboard next to her bed. The 7th Seat Koichi, had been to see her progress a couple of times, always brining a stack of paperwork with him, and sitting in the corner to do them, asking for her advice ever so often. The 15th Seat Rini had also visited, talking mostly about her own missions and the current situation at the barracks. Apparently, they were fighting once more with the 7th Squad.

But, as much as Hinagiku enjoyed those rowdy visits, it was Captain Hitsugaya’s that she mostly looked forward to. He was surprisingly gentle, when she had asked for his help to move to a better position, and quite humorous, in an unsuspected way. His jokes concentrated around hinting that he enjoyed his Lieutenant’s, Matsumoto’s childish antics and quite liked the way that the 11th Division was, comradeship-wise. He didn’t approve of the constant, everyone against everyone, fighting which happened on a daily basis, but he did admit that it gave them a special kind of bond, one that he couldn’t hope to recreate in his Division, no matter how much he tried.

It was strange, to see a Captain, of all people, relax a bit. He had a habit of raking his fingers through his white hair as he slouched in the chair, talking. He would also sigh a lot, reprimanding his comrades in an almost fatherly way. Hinagiku had to admit that her opinion of the young man had changed. He seemed less like an unreachable ideal of power and information that Tomoka had painted for her, and more like a normal, everyday man. She even went as far as considering them close acquaintances.

She had managed to gather her courage to ask him about Nakajima Hideki one day and the young Captain had obliged. He had told her how he had recruited the talented Shinigami from the Shin’ō Academy and how his choice had been right. Hideki had always been a bright one, asking questions about this and that unabashedly, always wanting more knowledge and more power. But, he had been lazy apparently, and he had had no personal goal to drive him forward. But, regardless of that, he had had a bright future in front of him, and it had been ripped away from him in a blink of an eye.

But, all good things must come to an end. Hinagiku thought as she slowly stripped, going into the showers of the 4th Division Healing Houses for the last time. It was a good thing, this rest. No matter how terrible the circumstances bringing me to it were. A silver lining. She peeled off the bandages around her leg, looking at the closing wound. It still had stitches in, ten of them. It wasn’t infected and was healing quite nicely. Captain Unohana had told her to just come back in a couple of weeks and get them out. There could be a bit of scarring, but not much, the gentle woman had explained to her. Not that that makes any difference. Hinagiku shrugged to herself, undoing the other bandages on her torso and a completely useless one around her neck. I won’t ever marry a man who will judge my body’s purity on scars.

After Captain Hitsugaya’s first visit, she had asked for a bandage to be put there, just to cover the marred skin. She hated that part of herself. It was a testament of her weakness and inability. It was ugly. It made her ugly. She didn’t want anyone to see it. Captain Unohana hadn’t seemed too happy about the bandages going to waste, but since nobody could locate the colorful scarf which Hinagiku usually wore around her neck, she had allowed for the Shinigami to get some wraps for it. The woman had told her that she could attempt to use Kaidō on it, but that since it was years old, she couldn’t promise that it would be a successful healing. Hinagiku had thanked her and refused. She needed the scar. It was a reminder of her ugliness. She needed to remember.

The water that hit her was warm and it soothed her. She lathered herself in soap and quickly shampooed her hair. Her thoughts wandered off to what the Division was like. But, as she imagined Ikkaku and Yumichika doing paperwork under Captain Zaraki’s menacing scowl, she felt herself being watched. It was a strange feeling, the small hairs on the back of her neck rising in attention. A warning. She whirled about only to see an empty bath.

Hinagiku closed the showerhead, listening intently. She grabbed the white towel and wrapped it around her wet body. She could only hear her own breathing and the droplets hitting the puddle on the tiled floor. She froze, holding her breath. Her heart thrummed in her ears as she stared, wide-eyed, all about. There was someone there. She knew. She simply knew.

“Hinagiku-chan.” The girl turned, her blood frozen cold in terror. He was standing there, in the standard, black shihakusho, the katana strapped to his hip. He smiled at her, gently, softly, just like he had that day. “Hinagiku-chan…” Hideki spoke once more, overly familiar, just like he was in life. He seemed so alive.

“H-Hideki.” She addressed him in a broken tone, before a door creaked open on the other side of the bathroom.

“Kobashigawa-san?” Kaede’s voice came from the room next door, the healer peeking in. “Are you done? I have your clean clothes here.”

“Y-yes, just a moment, please, Kaede-dono.” Hinagiku turned back to where Hideki was, only to find him gone. I’m going mad. I’m going completely mad. She realized.


The 11th Division was exactly like she imagined it would be. There were brawling Shinigami left and right, the cheering and betting in the dōjō as loud as every day. It was just as she remembered it. As Hinagiku wandered in through the gate, she smiled. The familiar sounds of yelling, battle cries and swords clattering one against the other filled her ears. She was home.

“Ah, Paper, welcome back.” Her Captain spoke as soon as he saw her, grinning from his position on the porch. The Lieutenant was absent, which was rare. Kenpachi waved her over and Hinagiku obeyed. “Sit.” He ordered and she obliged.

“It’s good to be back, Zaraki-dono.” Hinagiku said with a small bow, the only one which her current seated position and tight bandages allowed. A silence ensued in between the two Shinigami. The Captain kept drinking from his sake cup, despite it being an early afternoon, and Hinagiku looked out into the yard, watching Ikkaku beat down a couple of greenhorns, teaching them the basics of battle survival. He kept yelling and egging them on, which they took in stride, as encouragement, the four of them attacking him together. Yet, they never moved in sync. They didn’t know how or when the other was going to act. They didn’t know their comrades, much less understood their opponent. The battle was entirely one-sided.

“You did good, Hinagiku.” The fearsome Captain spoke again, looking at the greenhorns as well. “The only members of that mission that survived were you, that newbie with you and the Seated officer. It was beyond your level.”

“Do- Do you regret sending me?” Piped up the girl in a tiny voice. The Captain let out a booming laugh, distracting one of the newbies and causing Ikkaku to slam the poor lad on the forehead with the back of his sword. Shouting ensued, along with yelling to pay attention.

“I think that we both know that power comes in small packages as well as large ones.” Kenpachi spoke, sipping more sake. “I don’t regret sending you.” He told her. “I will regret it unless you hone that battle spirit of yours, though. Everyone makes a mistake or two.” The man explained to her and then turned and focused on her. “I will expect to see you at the dōjō as soon as those wounds are healed, Paper.” And the man gave her a nod, dismissing her.

“I thank you greatly for your advice and faith, Zaraki-taicho.” Hinagiku bowed a perfect, formal bow of forty-five degrees. She couldn’t help the way her vision swum from the tears that gathered in her eyes. She really did love the 11th Division. The young girl slipped off her waraji and continued off towards her barracks, on the opposite side of the medium sized compound.

“Oh, and Paper.” Kenpachi caught her attention once more. “I’m expecting you bright and early tomorrow in my office. Paperwork has piled up.” Hinagiku couldn’t help the smile that lit up her face and she offered one more, quick bow and ran towards her room.

Paperwork! Finally!


Her room still smelled of paper, clean sheets and warm summer breeze coming from the open window. But, there was only one thing missing. The scent of expensive perfume. Hinagiku was shocked a bit when the door behind her opened with a slam, the familiar figure of Kida Rini entering. The superior officer grinned at her, immediately grabbing the small bag of clothing which Hinagiku had been carrying.

“Geez, Kobashigawa!” Exclaimed the Shinigami, placing the bag on Hinagiku’s bed. “You should have sent a Jigokuchō and I would’ve come to help you out! You’re not supposed to carry heavy things with wounds like that.” The woman complained, ushering the girl to her bed. “Let me see if you ripped out any of your stitches.” And without waiting for permission, Rini pulled Hinagiku’s casual kimono open and began unwrapping the bandage. “You got lucky. They’re all intact. No more carrying things.” And then the Shinigami re-wrapped the wound and closed the kimono, plopping on the only other bed in the room.

“T-thank you, Kida-dono.” Hinagiku managed to squeak out, still shell-shocked. 15th Seat Kida was known to be quite overly familiar with people, but the petite girl had never had the attention of the successful woman focused on herself. “If I may inquire as to what you are doing here?”

“Now, now, Kobashigawa, no need to be so formal.” Rini grinned happily, her long legs swinging back and forth in a kind of joyful high. “After all, we’re friends now, are we not?” Asked the woman.

“If you wish us to be, Kida-dono.” Replied Hinagiku, a little uncertain. She wasn’t good at these kinds of things. She preferred paperwork. What was written on the paper was the truth. There were no hidden meanings, feelings or hints. Kami, she was bad at catching hints. Paperwork was good. People, they were difficult. There was always some other meaning behind their words, not matter how honest they seemed.

Rini frowned suddenly. “Do you want us to be friends, Kobashigawa?”

“I-ugh-e-erm- yes.” Hinagiku had never been asked this sort of question. There were no ‘friends’ in the highborn society where she was from. No, they had acquaintances and people they knew of. There were no comrades, no friends, no intimate relationships other than those forged by money or status. You had enemies and allies and that was pretty much it.

“Then, call me Rini, for starters.” The woman grinned once more. “Or roomie, if you want?”

Hinagiku was pretty sure that her jaw dropped. “Yer my new roommate?” Rini’s eyes widened and her grin grew.

“What was that?” She asked excitedly, suddenly moving to Hinagiku’s bed. “You have an accent!” Hinagiku felt her cheeks heating up. She tended to slip up and revert to how she used to speak before all the training when she was surprised. It was an unseemly habit which her Grandmother loathed. She hated the fact that her granddaughter had picked up her father’s accent. “It’s a Kyoto-ben, no? So cute!”

Rini seemed rather overjoyed at her newest discovery. “You must be mistaken, Kida-dono.” Hinagiku attempted to save herself from any further embarrassment, but the woman was too adamant.

“Say something else!” Kida persisted. “Why do you hide it? It’s such an adorable accent on you!”

“It’s not appropriate for a lady to speak in such manner.” Hinagiku murmured, looking at her lap. She felt her good mood deflate as soon as she had repeated those familiar words. It had been her Grandmother’s favorite mantra after her mother’s death. Hinagiku still remembered just how many times she had been instructed to keep quiet during guest dinners. She remembered just how many books she had been forced to read out loud, learning proper grammar. She remembered how disgraceful it was whenever she used her accent around the rich and the noble. She remembered their looks of pity and distaste.

“Lady?” Rini asked thoughtfully. “Then you might be in the wrong Squad, Kobashigawa. We don’t have too many ladies here.”

Hinagiku grinned, causing Rini to raise an eyebrow. She had seen the uptight girl only smile softly at someone. Never did she grin like this, showing her teeth, in pure mirth. “I suppose that I could call you Rini-dono, then? If it’s not too much trouble.”

“I suppose that dropping the honorific is too much to ask?” Rini sighed, but her constant smile betrayed her. “Anyways, I have a mission to attend to, just some cleanup, as usual, so I’ll see you later, ‘right? Don’t hog too much of my stuff.” And with a small wave, the cheery officer was gone. Hinagiku couldn’t help but smile at the closed door of their room. It was nice, the idea of actually sharing quarters with a friend.

Her previous roommate has been a woman from a prominent clan, who hadn’t been too happy with her choice of Division. She was always locking herself in the small powder room on the side, putting on makeup and expensive perfume. Heck, she locked her possessions in a chest, so that no one would be able to touch them. Not to mention that the young Shinigami had only been interested in 7th Seat Koichi and had looked down on Hinagiku all the time. It had been a borderline unpleasant roommateship, for the both of them.

Hinagiku walked to the door and locked it, since the male members of the 11th Squad had a fairly popular habit of barging into the female quarters. She then undid her obi, letting it fall to the ground. Next came her kimono, the soft pink fabric fluttering on the floor as well. In a rebellious moment, she left them there, not bothering to fold them properly. If her Grandmother saw that, she would pop a vein, Hinagiku didn’t doubt it.

She chose a simple, silk, sky blue kimono with daisies on it. It was colorful around the rims, showing hand-drawn, watercolor flowers in green, purple, white and yellow. Her mother had had this made for her a long time ago. It was a precious memento and one of her favorite kimonos. With practiced motions, Hinagiku tied an obi around her middle in a casual bow in the back. Without any shoes, she headed out. She couldn’t sit still and do nothing. She had already sat around in the 4th Division workless long enough.

Besides, I bet that those lazy asses haven’t done any paperwork in the last month. She arrived to the offices fairly quickly, only to see Ikkaku still fighting with the newcomers. They had switched the members of the attacking group, yet the 3rd Sea still seemed pretty unfazed. He hadn’t even released his Zanpakutō and was easily fending the newcomers off, not breaking a sweat. He kept yelling out instructions one after the other, correcting their stances or manner of attack.

“You look like you want to join in on the fun, Kobashigawa.” Their 5th Seat had managed to sneak up on her. Again. Among all of the members of their Division, it was Yumichika and Koichi who could sneak up on her the best. Their Lieutenant was the ultimate little sneak, but she usually wasn’t interested in Hinagiku. Yachiru found the petite Shinigami boring, since she liked to write and write and then file all day, rather than play. The only thing which their Lieutenant valued was the fact that if Hinagiku did the paperwork, she wouldn’t have to. Though, it was a passive sort of valuing, never mentioned, never known outloud.

“If I were being honest, I would tell you that as much as my mind years for a fight, my body wishes for a long, calm day of catching up on all the undone paperwork with maybe some chamomile tea on the side.” Smiled Hinagiku. 5th Seat Yumichika, as eccentric as he was, was an intelligent and reasonable man, unlike many of the members of their Division.

“And I would gladly join you for that tea.” Smiled the handsome Shinigami, patting her shoulder, which came to around the middle of his upper arm. “After I hand out a couple of beat downs over there, that is.” Hinagiku couldn’t suppress the relieved laughter which left her throat, erupting in a giggling fit when she calmed it down a tad. It was a good day to be alive. Yumichika looked at her with a strange, sympathetic look in his eyes, before he gave her a small smile. “It’s good to have you back, Paper-pusher.” And the 5th Seat stepped into his waraji, heading towards the brawling group on the grassy field. “It’s even better to see you laugh like that.” He tossed over his shoulder.

Hinagiku headed into the office with a soft smile. As macho and threatening as the 11th Division members were, they were quite kind, when the nature allowed them to be. No one really talked about the comradeship in the Squad, but everyone knew. It was kind of their ‘code’ if you could call it that. Hinagiku liked to compare it to the Bushido code, even. It was about honor. If one of your Division members needed help, you pitched in, no questions asked. To have the officers greet her when she’d come back from the 4th Division was proof enough. She hadn’t been defeated. She had come back from her fight victorious. Hinagiku belonged.

She wasn’t surprised at the mountain of papers which was tilting threateningly to the side, ready to fall. When she peered around it, she saw three more of the same size behind it. They hadn’t touched their paperwork during her absence. With a sigh and a shake of her head, the girl headed to brew some tea before she began waddling through the reports. She was most definitely going to need some help. It was probably time to locate Koichi Matsushita, their 7th Seat and the only one who actually did more than his own paperwork.

Hinagiku took the cup of tea to the desk and searched for a couple of older papers. She was going to have to go from almost a month ago to the present time.

This might take a while. She sighed to herself, bringing the large pile to the desk. I definitely don’t want to be injured again.


 That’s it for now!

Chapter Text

Welcome to another chapter of Daisy!

Thank you for all the hits :)


 OCs appearing in this chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11 th )

Kida Rini (11 th )

Matsushita Koichi (11 th )


 This story was inspired by a short poem by Julie Martinez:

and if you don't
like me, as i do you;
i understand.

because who would
really choose
a daisy, in a field
of roses?
-Julie Martinez


 Chapter 6: Life goes on

It is dark. The scent of pages floats around me as always. My eyes see nothing. Then, a flame appears. It is a tiny, small flame, but it burns with the light of a thousand stars to me.

I can see.

I can see the space around me, the place where I was born, the place where I’ve always dwelled. I can see the familiar pages around me, stacked one upon the other. I can see the numerous cranes which I have built. Their shadows create shaky, enormous birds on the ground, trembling as if they will take flight at any moment.

And then, the light is gone and I am thrust back into darkness.

Hurry up.

Call my name.

I am ready.

You are almost there.

We are ready.

Fight.

Fight.

Fight.

 

 

 

Call my name.


 She sliced across, but the man read her movement easily and sent her flying backwards. Her behind hit the hard ground when he followed through with one more swipe of his sword.

“You’re not trying at all, Paper!” Yelled out Ikkaku, enraged. “Come at me like you mean to kill me!” His katana kept flying at her in a series of complicated motions, making the slight girl scramble back on her hands and butt. “If I were a Hollow you’d already be dead! C’mon! C’mon! C’moooon!” Hinagiku was forced to roll to the side to evade the next attack.

Thankfully, one of the other officers from the group attacked the unrelenting 3rd Seat, pushing him back and off of her. She panted, attempting to catch her breath and calm down the shaking of her hands. As soon as her stitches had been taken out, she had thrust herself back into battle, unyielding. It was sometimes Rini who gave her a beat down that made her sore for the next couple of days, and other times, she joined the group of unseated officers who fought Ikkaku during the day on the front lawn.

Her kenjutsu was steadily improving and Rini kept telling her that she would soon push her out of her Seat. But, Hinagiku was doubtful. While she might be quite handy with her Asauchi, she was nowhere near learning the name of her Zanpakutō. And it was common knowledge that the chances of on being appointed as a Seated officer practically diminished when they couldn’t release their shikai. But, Hinagiku wasn’t trying to become a seated officer. She had given up on that hope almost as soon as she had joined the 11th Division. If she compared Rini, who was the 15th Seat with herself, she could see just how much she lacked.

The fearsome woman had wiped the floor with Hinagiku a number of times now in a friendly spar, which was testament enough of her abilities. And she hadn’t even used her Zanpakutō’s ability or Kidō. It was safe to say that in a Squad such as the 11th, Hinagiku had little chance of becoming a high ranked officer. Perhaps, if she transferred. But, she hadn’t even considered transferring. No. She was in her dream Division, no matter how difficult it was to be there. She didn’t care about a successful career. She felt at home there, in the 11th, where she was the God of Paper(work).

“Orrryaaaaaa!” Ikkaku’s battle cry brought her back to present and the girl grit her teeth, holding her sword with both hands. His attack clashed down on her, making her knees hit the ground once more. That will bruise later. The slight girl thought. “Hold your ground, Paper!” Yelled the 3rd Seat cheerfully, kicking away one of the Shinigami who had attempted to help Hinagiku out. “Push back!” He demanded, and the girl tried to obey. However, his strength and weight were on his side, making her lose that battle instantly.

But, Hinagiku wasn’t about to give up. Hideki’s smiling face flashed through her mind, not that it had stopped haunting her whenever she closed her eyes, and the girl dropped further to the ground, her back hitting the soft grass. Ikkaku let out a shout of surprise, off-balance because he had used his weight to his advantage too much. But, he was much more experienced that Hinagiku. His katana moved in a fluid motion, coming to slash at the girl’s side, while he moved his feet, catching his balance in an instance.

Hinagiku was forced to parry the attack, placing her own katana sideways, parallel to her body, before attempting to roll away from the danger. But, she hit an obstacle on her way. Two strong legs were on each side, boxing her in. The girl attempted to knock them out of place, but they were as hard as iron, withstanding her meagre Hakuda skill. She was defeated.

“C’mon now Paper! You can’t give up at the first sign of defeat!” Ikkaku shouted above her, still experiencing the high of the multi-officer battle. “You get knocked down, you get up! You get slashed up, you heal up! You get beat down, you power up! That’s how we work here in the 11th!” Ikkaku’s Zanpakutō hit her side, digging in slightly and drawing blood. “Are you in the 11th Division or not, Paper?!”

Something snapped.

Hinagiku’s body moved on its own, her blood burning. Her katana flew up the length of Ikkaku’s unreleased Hōzukimaru, all the way to the hilt, causing sparks to fly. The side of the blade slammed with all the force she could muster from her position into the 3rd Seat’s privates.

“I’m a member of the Division, too, dang it!” Hinagiku lost control of her accent, not that it was noticed by the distressed 3rd Seat, who had jumped away with a surprised and pained yelp, holding his katana loosely.

“You play dirty, Paper.” Complained Ikkaku, lowering himself to the ground while the pain lessened. “That wasn’t a proper move.” He cried from the floor, as Hinagiku rose up, wincing as she did. He had landed a solid blow to her side. She was going to have to wrap that before doing her paperwork today.

“This wasn’t a samurai battle, Ikkaku-dono. It was a spar.” The girl smirked, brushing off her shihakushō and sheathing her Asauchi at her hip, where it usually rested. Ikkaku gave her a glare from the floor which said that he definitely did not approve of her sparring methods.

“Well, well, showing your 11th Division spirit here, aren’t you, Paper-pusher.” Yumichika had arrived, smirking at the small group of Shinigami. He took in their dirty and sweaty forms and frowned. “Ikkaku, we have an assignment. And clean up before you come, won’t you?” And the 5th Seat walked away, heading for the barracks for his mission paperwork.

“I should head out as well.” Hinagiku concluded. “I would like to thank you for the wonderful spar, Ikkaku-dono.” The girl offered a perfect forty-five degree bow to the bald man, who had by now risen from the ground.

“Anytime, Paper. I’m always good for a fight.” The 3rd Seat grinned, walking with the girl towards the baths. “Though, next time, I don’t want to see any dirty moves.” And he laughed, heading off into the men’s bath.

“I make no promises.” Hinagiku raised her voice so that the man would hear her. Ikkaku’s laughter followed her into the bath. She headed for the small locker with her name on it. Hinagiku’s eyes locked on the empty Seat number space and the small smile from her playful banter with Ikkaku was gone. She reminded herself loosely that the chances of her becoming a Seated officer were less than low. Maybe closer to nil. There were simply one too many good fighters in the Division. And while her kenjutsu was impressive for a Shinigami her size, she was nowhere near the level needed to become even the 20th Seat.

The warm bath soothed her, despite Ikkaku’s loud and out of tune singing from the men’s part. She had learnt to tune him out a long time ago, along with any other noise which came from the other side of the wall. The cut in her side stung, but she knew that the water from the bath would make it better. It was the invention of the 12th Division, along with many other things, using the 4th Division’s expertise. They had made the water used for baths rich with minerals and healing salts. They stung, yet they helped the injured officers get better faster. Of course, if one was uninjured, they could pour their water from another place, which didn’t have the supplements.

Hinagiku went quickly about her hygiene routine, making sure that she was presentable and dressed in a spare shihakushō that was usually in her bathroom locker. Soon, she was heading out towards the offices, her hair still damp from the water. The sun was high in the clear skies and in warmed her skin comfortingly. The air was warm, making Hinagiku wish that she could walk in shade. Perhaps, they could employ the 12th Division to build them some covering or something. Maybe she could buy a parasol.

“Oh, Kobashigawa!” Greeted Koichi, their 7th Seat from his usual position on the floor of the 4th Seat’s office. He had always preferred to sit on the ground and write on a small, almost for coffee, table. But, that was only one of his many eccentric habits. “I started bright and early today. You’re late.”

“It is a pleasure, as always, Matsushita-dono, to be working with you.” The petite girl offered a small, polite bow, before seating herself at the usual desk. It would normally be used by their 4th Seat, but seeing as the position hadn’t been occupied in well over forty years, it was a frequent home to their own records machine. The slight Shinigami pulled out her reading glasses and begun skimming through the small amount of leftover paperwork. She had miraculously managed to catch up on all the work which she had missed due to her injuries. There wasn’t much left anymore. Certainly, not like when she had arrived.

A comfortable silence fell on the two Shinigami as they worked, occasionally taking a bathroom or snack break. There were clashing sounds coming from the front lawn, where their 6th Seat had taken over the group fighting that Ikkaku had been orchestrating earlier. It was common knowledge in the Division that if you walked through the front gates and headed for the offices, you would see a group of brawling greenhorns practicing with a senior member. It was a good way to keep up one’s skills and to become stronger. Usually, it was either the 3rd or the 5th Seat who gave those beat downs.

It was in the late afternoon that an unexpected person burst through the doors of the office. The tall form of Captain Zaraki Kenpachi loomed in the doorway for a second, his eyes surveying the current status of the room. On his shoulder was perched his Lieutenant, a happy smile on her face, as always. She seemed to be in a good and non-destructive mood, which brightened Hinagiku’s day instantly. The Lieutenant enjoyed disrupting her work as much as she loved causing other types of mayhem. The small pink haired devil thought that it was quite amusing to see the petite Shinigami panic over all the reports that needed to be written and typed out.

“Good evening, taicho.” Greeted Koichi, his eyes rising from the paper. He laid down his pen and leaned back, stretching his legs before him, under the small table. “How was the meeting?” The amber-eyed man smirked.

“Pft.” Scoffed their fearsome Captain. “Yama-jii is as annoying as always. Preaching about new recruits from the Shin’ō Academy.” Complained the tall man. At that point, Yachiru had already gotten distracted and jumped over to the still working Hinagiku.

“What are you doing, Papapiri?” The Lieutenant thought of a new nickname. “We don’t need all this silly paper! It’s no good!” But, Hinagiku had anticipated this. With a small smile she placed down her pen and carefully moved the finished pile away from the destructive Lieutenant.

“But, paper can be quite fun, Yachiru-dono.” Smiled the petite girl. “Shall I show you?” She wondered. The pink haired Shinigami didn’t answer, but her starry-eyed expression said enough. She wanted to see what was so special about paper. “Alright. Now, if you would watch carefully.” Unknown to her, the young Shinigami had the attention of both the childish Lieutenant and the two men in the room.

She pulled out a small piece of perfect square paper, painted with red colored leaves on one side and began folding it. Her slim fingers knew just how to press the sides and then unfold them, as they had done it a thousand times before. She bent, angled and pressed into perfect, symmetrical lines, making a shape out of the flat surface. And when she was done, she showed the amused Lieutenant her masterpiece. A small, red and yellow, giraffe lay on her hand, complete with ears and horns.

“Woooooah!” Exclaimed the amused pink haired Shinigami, reaching out to the animal figurine. “It’s pretty! Pepapiru made a Giraffe-chan!” She giggled, looking the animal over. “Can you make a Lion-kun next? So that he can eat the Giraffe-chan!”

Before Hinagiku could question the girl’s logic and general sanity out loud, their Captain spoke in a warning tone. “Yachiru.” He reprimanded, sending a look her way. “Why don’t you go see who is in the dōjō?” The Lieutenant turned to him, pouting. There were no doubts that she knew that he was simply telling her to get lost. As small and childish as she was, Yachiru was a full-fledged Shinigami.

“If you say so, Ken-chan.” She replied begrudgingly, trudging out of the room, origami giraffe in her hand. Something told Hinagiku that she would regret showing her special skill to the Lieutenant.

“Paper.” Kenpachi addressed her, glaring down at her small form behind his desk. “I want to organize a tournament to show the new recruits what we are all about. Get the paperwork in order and clear it with Yama-jii. Coordinate with some Seated officers on the activities.”

“Understood, Zaraki-dono.” Replied the girl, jumping up to bow when she received her next instructions. He turned to Kochi next.

“What are you doing?” The Captain asked.

“Last month’s paperwork for my squadron, taicho. And, my own for last week.” Koichi replied, pulling his legs back in and preparing to keep working. However, the Captain wasn’t done.

“That can wait.” He said to his 7th Seat. “Go to the Academy tomorrow and find some strong guys.” The man ordered much to Hinagiku’s despair. The paperwork would never be finished at this rate. “Paper.” The Captain addressed again. “You will go with him and pick up the profiles of all the Shin’ō graduates this year. I need to choose the strong guys.” And with that the Captain turned to leave.

“Zaraki-dono!” Hinagiku stopped him, calling out. “If it’s not too much trouble could you tell me who will be making our promotion poster for the Academy this year? So that I can coordinate with them about the tournament?” She asked.

“I’ll be doing it.” The man replied and then looked up, thinking. Hinagiku was pretty sure that all color drained from her face. This was going to be a disaster. Koichi noticed her horrified expression and attempted to mask his laughter with a cough. “With Yachiru.” He added, making Hinagiku drop her jaw and Koichi burst into uncontrolled giggles. “Bring me the tournament plan when you clear it with Yama-jii. And stop giggling like a schoolgirl, you bastard.”

“Yes, taicho.” Replied the 7th Seat, unable to follow that order.


That night Hinagiku was plagued by a nightmare. Half of it was about the recent incident with Hideki and the other half were the numerous posters that her Captain and Lieutenant were making. She truly couldn’t pick which had been worse. And as if that wasn’t enough, Rini had laughed her ass off in the morning, when Hinagiku had told her of her night terrors.

At least she had working with Koichi to look forward to. There were not too many sane people in the 11th Division, and luckily, their 7th Seat was a rare border-line normal one. True, he enjoyed brawling as much as the next 11th Division Shinigami, but unless he was in a fight, he could be reasoned with. Koichi was infamous for always wooing female Shinigami from different Divisions and getting dumped rather royally, in front of the whole Squad, when he double dated. It was one of the more frequent topics around the Division and the source of everything Hinagiku had learned about romantic relationships.

After all, drunken men shared one too many details that her Grandmother wouldn’t approve of her hearing. And, the 11th Division enjoyed more than one occasional drink with the 8th Division.

Hinagiku met Koichi at the Division gates at 8 in the morning, sharp. He was late a couple of minutes, as always, and flash stepped next to her, apologizing profusely. In all honesty, Hinagiku could never hold anything against him. He was simply too genuine in his lies.

“Forgive me, Kobashigawa!” Begged the handsome 7th Seat. “I got up so early this morning and took a bath, getting ready to meet all those little new Shinigami at the Shin’ō Academy, but alas! On my way here, I saw an old lady crossing the road and I just had to help her!” The young man raked one hand through his messy hair, still wet from the shower, and then pressed his palms together in a begging motion. “Do you forgive me, Kobashigawa? I don’t know what I would do without your forgiveness!”

“Yes, yes, Matsushita-dono.” Hinagiku couldn’t help the amount of sarcasm which entered her tone. “You have my forgiveness. Let us not dwell on the subject any longer.” She would truly forgive him if she hadn’t heard the man himself bragging last night about the young girl that he was bringing to his barracks that evening after their date. If Hinagiku had to guess what he had been doing that morning, she would bet that it had something to do with his lady friend.

“Oh, Kobashigawa!” Koichi didn’t restrain himself and grabbed her, pulling her into a hug. “You are too cute for your own good!” Hinagiku felt her face burn as he held her, and she stayed as still as possible until he let her go. She wasn’t too good with physical contact. Especially with someone ranked above her whom she didn’t know that well.

Thankfully, Koichi, as flirtatious and often a tad too touchy feely as he was, was very good at picking up emotions. He let the small girl go rather quickly and gave her a happy grin, making her forgive him overstepping the obvious boundaries which she had set. Again.

“Shall we practice that Shunpo of yours a tad?” Asked the 7th Seat, smiling down at his companion. He’s overly chipper this morning. The girl noted. Must’ve been a good night.

Hinagiku gave him a shy, still red-faced nod. “I would be honored if you took the time, Matsushita-dono.” She could feel herself trembling at the thought. Despite the fact that Koichi had joined the Division after her, he had risen in ranks in a flash, as he was not only skilled in his favorite Hakuda, but in other forms of combat as well. On the other hand, Hinagiku was painfully average in everything, despite the years which she had spent honing her skills.

“Alright then, why don’t we play tag all the way to the grounds?”

Keep calm. Hinagiku told herself, focusing on her reiatsu. She envisioned her waraji, coating them in her mind in a layer of her own, pale purple energy. Like lavender shoes. Lavender waraji. They even smell like lavender. She smiled, a scent of the gentle flower coming to her nose. She felt calm. Now, step forward.

Breathe.

Hinagiku flew forward, her Asauchi hitting her leg uncomfortably from its position on her hip. She reached out and gripped it tightly, so that it wouldn’t rattle as she moved. Her second step brought her even further through the territory of their Division and soon she would be crossing into the slim belt around the first Squad which belonged to the 2nd Division. The trip would take but fifteen to ten minutes, contrary to the hour that it would usually take her to go around all the dead ends.

She felt Koichi’s reiatsu flare behind her in a silent challenge before completely vanishing. He was chasing her. Their game of tag was on. Not straight. Hinagiku grit her teeth, changing direction.

For one as untrained in the art of Hohō as her, it was difficult maintaining a straightforward quick pace in Shunpo, much less skillfully changing directions. She was aware of her reiatsu spiking and lowering all over the place, as she made it milder to be able to stop and then stronger so that she could turn a sharp right, jumping over the roof of the dead end.

She zigzagged to the best of her ability, gritting her teeth. She couldn’t feel Koichi behind her at all, her panic of getting caught rising, even if it was just a simple game that they were playing. But, then she miscalculated. Her step took her farther than she had anticipated, as she had obviously put too much reiatsu into her foot and Hinagiku sailed past the corner and towards the wall.

Remembering her numerous incidents with walls and buildings, when she crashed into them with full speed, Hinagiku slammed the end of her Asauchi into the ground. The force sent her light body flying up and over the wall, still at a high speed. She managed to land her toes on the end of the roof, pushing one more flash step out before heading towards the ground rather quickly.

She skidded and stopped, her right shoulder slamming into the wall of a building. Hinagiku panted for a moment, attempting to catch her breath. She looked to the wall only to see it intact. Good. I can’t afford giving any more money away on repairs. But, it wasn’t just that. Hinagiku would never admit it, but Captain Suì-Fēng instilled such fear in her that she couldn’t quite describe it. Having to explain why exactly a wall was missing on the stern woman’s grounds would be equal to a nightmare of hers.

“That didn’t seem like a bad landing.” Koichi’s voice sounded from above. Hinagiku looked up to find him chewing on a peach casually. “Clever use of your Asauchi.” He gave her a nod of approval. “But, you might want to take care of those turns, they were more than sloppy.”

He isn’t even out of breath! Hinagiku stared in shock. It’s useless, after all. I can’t compete with a seated officer. “T-tha-nk y-you f-for yo-ur pa-ti-ence a-and he-lp, Ma-tsushita-do-dono.” Panted the girl, attempting to gather herself. She could feel beads of sweat falling from her hair and rolling down her neck and forehead. Luckily, she had remembered to wrap some bandages around her scar, as those had become a substitute for her lost colorful scarf.

“Now.” Koichi ate the rest of his peach, jumping down next to her and landing soundlessly. “If you practice controlling your reiatsu more and bring your stamina to a higher level, you will soon be able to give me a run for my money.” Grinned the officer and offered her his elbow. “Shall we take a slow walk the rest of the way? It’s nice outside.”

“I-If it’s n-ot too much trou-ble.” Answered Hinagiku, her breathing a little easier. And she took Koichi’s arm, walking along the streets of the 7th Division, the last before Shin’ō Academy grounds. She was grateful for his subtle way of telling her to take a rest before getting to the Academy. She wanted to be seen there as a proper Shinigami graduate. Someone from the fearsome, battle hungry 11th Division who demanded respect.

That’s all for now folks!

Chapter Text

Welcome to a new chapter of Daisy!


I would like to especially thank the first person to leave a comment, Best_Kind_of_Insanity, you're the reason I've updated so quickly :)


OCs appearing in this chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11th)

Kida Rini (11th)

Matsushita Koichi (11th)

Mifune (5th)

Nakajima Hideki (10th former)

Nakajima Shin (Shin’ō Academy)


This story was inspired by a short poem by Julie Martinez:

and if you don't
like me, as i do you;
i understand.

because who would
really choose
a daisy, in a field
of roses?
-Julie Martinez


Chapter 7: Friendship, a mysterious thing

It is dark. Nothing. No reply. Silence. There is only silence. My every plea is met by silence.

Where did it go? The brilliant light that I saw? It sparked for a second. For a millisecond. I need that light. I want that light. I hate the darkness. I hate the loneliness. I hate this cage built only for me to dwell in.

I’m ready.

I can fight.

I will fight for you.

Forever.

Just.

Give me light.


The Academy grounds were filled with feelings of nostalgia. Hinagiku couldn’t help but look around as she walked, smiling when she saw different, familiar things. Like the Kidō Hall where she had snuck in during the night to practice numerous times. Or, the tall and old sakura tree where she had gone in the afternoon with Tomoka to study or laze about. And then there was the large pond where she had enjoyed reading next to. Yes, Hinagiku missed the Academy days as much as the next Shinigami.

“Pretty nostalgic, isn’t it?” Koichi asked, looking around as well. His eyes darted about, and he wasn’t moving his head at all, yet the girl knew that he could see everything around him.

“You could say that I miss my time as student here sometimes.” Agreed Hinagiku.

“Ah, but it’s been longer for you, Kobashigawa-kun, hasn’t it?” Asked the Seated officer. “I know it’s not polite to inquire a lady’s age, but I do remember you when I had just joined the Division.” The amber-eyed brawled smiled. “You were the one who scolded me when I was just a greenhorn about my paperwork being late. You even went so far as to come to my barracks and demand I hand it over, don’t you remember?”

Hinagiku couldn’t help the red blush that colored her cheeks. “I remember.” She agreed. How could one forget finding him in a compromising position, after all? She could still remember his bare back, the sheet slipping further down as he turned to her in shock to this day. They hadn’t spoken of the incident after his clumsy apology ages ago. “I had practice in acquiring the necessary papers, even back then.” She offered him a small grin. “I thought that you were quite surprised, if not frightened, by my tenacity?”

“Oh, I was scared alright.” Agreed Koichi. “My previous Division was the 5th. 5th Seat Hinamori had been in charge of me. I’d never had a woman barge into my room and keep me awake just so that she would get the necessary reports.” He laughed, probably at the double meaning of his words.

“Hinamori?” Wondered Hinagiku, blatantly ignoring his suggestion, her brow furrowing. “That name sounds familiar.”

“Oh, she rose in rank. She’s a Lieutenant now.” Koichi told her. “Hinamori Momo, 5th Division.” When he saw no recognition in the girl’s eyes he gestured with his hands, making her let go of his elbow. “She keeps her hair like this-“ The man gathered his longish ash colored hair. “And a cloth over the bun.” He gestured with his hand in a circular motion.

“Ah! I know her!” Recalled Hinagiku. “She was already in the Gotei before I joined.” Explained the girl. “But, I’ve never talked to her. Their 3rd Seat is the only one that I usually have contact with.”

“Mifune?” Asked Koichi, a frown on his face. “He’s an ass.” The 7th Seat exclaimed, ignoring the couple of Academy students who noticed them and bowed respectfully. Hinagiku offered a nod to the group, making them whisper to each other happily and run off. She had almost forgotten just how amazing it was to be a full-fledged Shinigami and walk through the Academy grounds. Here, any officer was widely respected, no matter their placement in the Division.

“I find him to be quite polite and well-read.” Hinagiku told Koichi before turning towards the Main Hall. There, she could find the teachers’ lounge and the Headmaster. “If you don’t mind, I would like to be excused now. I must acquire the papers needed for student profiling.”

“Have a blast.” Koichi encouraged her, breaking off towards the left. “I’ll be at the Kenjutsu arena. Come find me when you’re done.” And the two split up.


Hinagiku walked from the Headmaster’s office towards the Kenjutsu arena, flipping through the folders in her arms. She was reading the names along with their grades in different subjects. She mostly focused on Zanjutsu and Hakuda, because those were the two things which her Captain valued most. Her eyes stopped at an eerily familiar picture, her blood freezing in her veins.

Hideki.

She blinked, looking at the picture once more. No. The kid just looks like him. True enough, the graduate on the paper had a certain likeness to the deceased officer from the 10th Division, with his messy, dark hair, spiking up against the laws of nature and the kind smile which shone from the page. They could be brothers. Hinagiku mused, her feet moving once more, as she read the information underneath.

Name: Nakajima Shin.

Height: 170cm

Weight: 60kg

Hair color: Black

Eye color: Black

Blood type: 0

Zankensoki:

Zanjutsu: 5/10

Hakuda: 4/10

Hohō: 1/10

Kidō: 2/10

 Hinagiku frowned. She had found out from Captain Hitsugaya that Hideki had been one of the top of his class. He had finished the six years of Shin’ō Academy in just four, rivaling many talented Seated officers and even Lieutenants. The reason why he still hadn’t been offered a respectable position in the Division himself had been because of his inexperience and general laziness. The young Captain had shared his honest hopes for Hideki with Hinagiku. He had prayed that the Shinigami would find his motivation and rise in ranks quickly, rather than sit in the unseated section. After all, he had the number of missions needed to advance. But, Captain Hitsugaya hadn’t been right.

Hideki had died too quickly. If only I had had a better sense of reiatsu. I could’ve felt that Hollow earlier. If I had practiced more, I could’ve saved him. Hinagiku shook her head, banishing those thoughts from her head. She knew how that ended. She couldn’t have done anything different. She had done everything by protocol. That Hollow wasn’t supposed to be there. A Huge Hollow should have been registered on the sensors. If those had worked properly, that accident wouldn’t’ve happened.

Sensors? The girl stopped once more, her mind reeling. Why hadn’t the Huge Hollow registered? They have the certain amount of reiatsu which goes over the normal amount. They should’ve raised the alarm. Something was wrong with that mission. Starting with the Seated officer from the 10th. And Hinagiku made a mental note to look into it afterwards. Instead, she bent the edge of Nakajima Shin’s painfully average information sheet and tucked the papers under her arm. It was time to find Koichi.


All the way back to their barracks, Koichi had talked and talked about all the potential candidates for their Division that he had scouted. He talked about their Zanjutsu skills, mistakes and possible improvements. Frankly, Hinagiku had been rather surprised. She had seen their 7th Seat battling it out with Ikkaku numerous times and he had always done it with his bare fists. True, she had read his records from the Academy, and knew that he had had 8/10 on his Zanjutsu. But based on how little he used the skill, it was surprising that he was that well-versed in it.

The two officers had spent the rest of their day in the office, sitting at the same table in the 4th Seat’s office and choosing who to invite to their Division. Hinagiku had been surprised with just how much she had pushed Koichi to accept her idea of inviting Nakajima Shin to their Squad. He hadn’t been too keen on it and had read the boy’s sheet with a raised eyebrow. But, after shrugging, he had agreed without mentioning Hideki. Hinagiku was sure that the Seated Shinigami doubted that the young man would accept their invitation.

The night fell rather quickly and Hinagiku was just finishing her work at Seireishokairō when she was stopped by Takagawa Yuuko, the appointed librarian from the 9th Division.

“Hina-chan!” The brunette pushed her golden-rimmed glasses up her nose and handed over Hinagiku’s Asauchi with a smile. “I heard that you had a bit of an accident on a mission. How are you?”

“I am well, thank you very much for asking, Takagawa-dono.” Hinagiku knew that Yuuko couldn’t help herself. She simply loved to pry in other people’s lives. Not that the Shinigami meant anything bad with her nosiness. No, she was simply generally curious.

“That’s good.” Concluded the librarian, trailing off. A short, mildly awkward silence ensued, making Hinagiku offer a polite bow to the woman and head for the door.

“I bid you goodnight.” The short Shinigami said.

“Send my best to your Grandmother, Hina-chan!” Yuuko’s words followed her outside, into the warm night. She forced herself not to dwell on the topic of her family, better said her Grandmother’s family, but rather to let her mind drift. She couldn’t help feeling a bit guilty, though. As much as she blamed her Grandmother for the sheltered and controlled life which she had lived, she also understood the woman on a certain level. Being a judge for the Central 46 was an amazing, prestigious position. And Hinagiku had had the succession of her Grandmother being handed to her on a silver platter. All she had needed to do was marry well and follow the rigorous studies.

She could understand why Setsuko wasn’t happy with her choice to become a Shinigami. Her only granddaughter was off fighting life and death battles in the old Soul’s eyes. If Hinagiku were in her Grandmother’s position, she wouldn’t approve either. But, that didn’t stop the young girl from living her dream.

You see, for one such as our small Shinigami here, entering the Shin’ō Academy had been an act of rebellion against her perfect grandmother, the judge. It was a way for her to completely break the mold which her caretaker was attempting to force her into. Being a Shinigami wasn’t forbidden by the Kobashigawa rules, but it was frowned upon. It was a low position in the society, and definitely something that a woman should not be. Kobashigawa were quite traditional, after all. Women were supposed to be wives. Good wives. Perfect. To fit the mold.

Her mother had never fit into that. She had been a beautiful, soft-spoken woman, polite and proper. She was the dream bride to any noble, due to her own, prestigious birth. She had been brought up with all of the proper classes and private tutelage that one could get. Yet, she had the infamous Kobashigawa rebellious streak just like everyone in their family. She had fallen in love with her father, a simple man from Rukongai, instead of the noble which she had been engaged to.

“Deep thoughts?” A familiar voice asked from behind her and Hinagiku jumped, spinning around. The piercing eyes of Captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya stared at her from the shadows of the alley. He looked quite eerie there, with almost no reiatsu leaking from him, the silver hair gleaming in the moonlight. However, his arms were full of a familiar sight. Paperwork.

Hinagiku couldn’t suppress her smile. “One could say so.” The petite Shinigami said, her voice almost loud in the evening silence of the peaceful Gotei 13.

“I’m glad that you’re doing fine.” The young Captain gave her a quick onceover, as if assessing her nonexistent injuries. “Everything healed well, I see.” He commented. A short silence ensued between them, a little on the awkward side.

Hinagiku wasn’t sure what to say to the Captain. She was somewhere between embarrassment, as he had seen her in a truly vulnerable state, and fear, as he was her superior officer, no matter the friendly moments which they had shared during her time at the 4th Division Healing Houses. If she were being honest, Hinagiku would tell you that she missed her talks with the handsome, and yes, she did think that he was rather good-looking, Captain. But, she wasn’t sure if she was allowed to contact him after her release. He certainly hadn’t made that effort until now.

“I’m grateful for your concern, Hitsugaya-taicho.” The girl finally settled for. Polite and not overstepping my boundaries. She figured. The ball is in his side of the court now. If he wants more communication, he can ask for it.

“I’ll be on my way, then.” He gave a brief nod towards the tall pile which was still in his arms. I should offer to help. Hinagiku thought, looking at the size of it. I could repay him for his kindness this way. Even with two people, it would take a couple of hours to finish. “Matsumoto ran away from work again.” He gave a tired sigh, already accustomed to his Lieutenant’s dislike for work of any sort. Hinagiku felt her previous nervousness vanish.

In her eyes, Tōshirō Hitsugaya became like a different person when he spoke of his subordinates. His posture relaxed, shoulders slouching slightly and his back wasn’t as straight as when he addressed uncomfortable or official matters. His eyes also softened. And, what Hinagiku was pretty sure was an involuntary action, his mouth quirked a tad on the side, into a tiny smile. Even when he was scolding Matsumoto-fukutaicho, he seemed comically irritated, almost amused. He enjoyed her antics.

“I wish you a good night, then, and hope that your work will be quick to finish.” Hinagiku offered a formal bow, and when she rose, the Captain’s posture was tense once more, his eyes distant. He had expressive eyes, the girl noted.

“Good night, Kobashigawa.” The young Captain told her. “Be careful on your way to the barracks.” And he vanished, the slight breeze from his Shunpo rustling Hinagiku’s hair.


For the whole next week, Hinagiku wondered about her brief meeting with Captain Hitsugaya. It wasn’t a romantic notion or anything. No, she had a purely platonic interest in him, despite the fact that she thought that he was rather handsome. You see, for someone with the rank of a Captain to pay attention to a lowly unseated officer in the Gotei 13 was quite rare. And, as level-headed as Hinagiku was, she was not exempt from that.

But, after she had gotten over her childish wonder at the fact that she had received some attention from the young Captain, the girl had a chance to realize something more about him. He was a good person. Someone she would even go as far as considering them friends, if the circumstances were different, that is. Unfortunately, her extensive schooling in proper manners of a lady prevented her from acting rashly and speaking out. As rebellious as Hinagiku was, she couldn’t forget the years of learning. She didn’t know how to speak out anymore. She was tame.

Hinagiku let out a sigh, resting her pen on the table surface and taking her glasses off. She took a sip off her tea, now cold, and rubbed her eyes. It was already evening and she had barely managed to get through half of her work. With the new assignment from her Captain, she was busy planning the tournament on top of the usual paperwork. Not to mention that Ikkaku and Yumichika were seen by some humans on their last mission and caused trouble. She needed to file their information as well, along with the information of the team which was sent to erase the humans’ memories.

Her Division was troublesome, but she loved it there. She remembered the time when she had decided that she would join the 11th. They had been assigned a training exercise in the last year of Academy and her group had been sent to a secluded village plagued by Hollow. The creatures, once threatened, called their kind for help, and a Menos appeared. Hinagiku had never been so terrified in her entire life.

The giant creature, seeping with evil energy had opened the skies, screaming in a deep, tortured voice and headed for the small group of Shinigami. Hinagiku had never seen one before that. She had learnt about them in school, yes, but this was a whole different level. The pure pressure from its existence had brought her to her knees, the sickening reiatsu which was undoubtedly wrong in so many ways making her late breakfast jump into her throat.

That was when he appeared. A tall man, garbed in white with the number eleven on his back. He had smiled at the creature in pure joy, as if he was a madman and rushed at it, holding nothing back. That was when she had felt it the first time. The reiatsu of her soon-to-be Captain. It was a force which pushed you to your knees, making you bow to him and his might. It made the energy of the Menos seem insignificant. He was the ultimate warrior. He was strong. Too strong. Hinagiku couldn’t imagine him losing to something like a Menos back then. Even now, she couldn’t imagine him losing. Not to another Captain, not to anyone. He was the strongest. Zaraki Kenpachi.

She had worked until her blood and sweat mixed just to be a part of his Division. And yet, she had barely made it. Hinagiku had never switched Squads. Tomoka, her friend from the Academy, had told her numerous times to go somewhere else. Invited her to the 6th with her. Invited her to join her in the 9th. Begged her to come to the 10th. But, Hinagiku wouldn’t. She only had one Captain. And she had vowed to serve him until she died.

“Hinagiku!” A familiar female voice called out, its owner’s head popping into the room through the door. Kida Rini, the 15th Seat of their Division offered a blinding, white-toothed smile. “There you are!” And she entered the 4th Seat’s office.

“Rini-dono.” Greeted Hinagiku with a small smile. “Welcome back. How was your mission?” The two girls had become roommates, on Rini’s request. Usually, Seated officers had their own quarters, but the fierce Shinigami had decided to give those up, instead rooming with her subordinate. It was the first time that Hinagiku had called someone a friend and used their first name in conversation. It had been awkward, in the beginning. She wasn’t used to being overly familiar with people, unlike Rini. The Seated officer didn’t really care about formalities. After a small amount of time, Hinagiku wasn’t sure if she could go back to the time when she hadn’t had the cheerful woman as her friend.

“Thank you.” Nodded the 15th Seat, moving some charts of tournament placings and options to sit down. “It was pretty good, but a little boring, since I went solo.” She shrugged. “I didn’t even get the chance to release my Shikai.” She was frowning  a tad, obviously disappointed. Hinagiku had learnt quickly that her new and only friend valued a small number of things more than a good fight. “You should put a rule here forbidding Zanpakutō abilities.” The woman pointed at the bottom of the chart which was full of names.

“Thank you, I shall take your advice.” Nodded the petite Shinigami, jabbing down the new rule on the paper on her left, where the others were. “I’m glad that you weren’t hurt, Rini-dono.” She looked at the 15th Seat whose tired eyes were flying across the chart. She had a couple of scratches and bruises, and there was a band-aid on her cheek, obviously stopping the bleeding. Hinagiku could sense the slight presence of Captain Unohana’s reiatsu leaking from in. It was infused with Kaidō. But, none of those injuries were serious. Hinagiku knew, after all, she had treated the cut from her recent spar with Ikkaku herself. It was still snugly bandaged and stung if she bent her torso too far towards the left.

“Oh, that reminds me.” Rini released the chart which she had been examining and reached into her backpack, taking out a small package, professionally wrapped. Hinagiku could tell. She had studied the art herself, due to her Grandmother’s insistence. One must always pack her own gifts, the stern woman would say. “Here you go. A souvenir from Gense.” Hinagiku’s hands accepted in automatically, schooled into taking everything that was offered to her. Her Grandmother had scolded her if she refused a gift from their guests just because she didn’t like it. “Open it, silly!” Demanded Rini, breaking Hinagiku from her thoughts and reminding the petite girl of their Lieutenant.

“Thank you very much.” The polite Shinigami said on reflex before carefully unwrapping the present. Her slim fingers skillfully found the seams of the packaging, undoing them, so that the decorative paper could be preserved. As soon as it could, the fabric inside slipped out, falling into her lap. Hinagiku reached for the silky, water-like material which flowed and pulled it up so that she could see it better. It was a combination of plum purple, light violet, sky blue and hot pink, showing a complicated flower design. Hinagiku couldn’t tell the type of the bud, but she knew that she liked it.

“So?” Rini asked, breaking her from her wordless staring into the object. The woman was smiling lightly, as if she knew that a quiet Hinagiku was a happy Hinagiku. Well, she probably did. “Do you like it?”

“T-thank you very much.” The petite Shinigami managed to squeak out, almost like a robot, her mind completely blank. But, it sounded much more sincere than the first time she’d said those words. She allowed the fabric to further unfold and noticed that it was quite long, almost a whole meter. “I- what is this for, Rini-dono?” She wondered, sure that it had some purpose. Like a Division requirement or new trend? Their 5th Seat had tried to start one recently, after all, making all Seated officers wear a couple of decorative feathers similar to his.

“It’s quite popular in Gense.” Explained the woman and stood, going around the 4th Seat’s desk. She took the fabric from the shocked girl and folded it expertly. Once into a triangle and then once more to tuck in the corner from the middle. Then, she wrapped it around Hinagiku’s neck, letting it rest there in a loose circle. “I noticed that you weren’t wearing that rainbow scarf of yours anymore, so I figured that you needed some encouragement. I’ll be offended if you don’t like it and won’t wear it, you know.”

“Thank you very much…” Hinagiku whispered, her throat closing in on itself. She was aware of the fact that her eyes were annoyingly itchy, slowly filling up with tears. Her belly felt like she had a rabid zoo of animals in there causing a ruckus and her chest felt warm. She couldn’t suppress the sob which left her throat, but managed to choke it slightly, causing it to sound even worse. “D-dank y-ou v-very m-much…” She sobbed, her tears finally overflowing.

“Anytime.” Rini replied, hugging the small, crying girl from her spot behind her. Hinagiku could smell the skilled Shinigami’s pleasant, sweet scent. She focused on the perfume, which she had noticed lingering in their room when she got up in the morning. It smelled of honeysuckle and warm vanilla and strangely of home. She couldn’t help her tears, they simply kept coming. Rini’s arms were warm and gentle, holding her close and she was breaking down.

It took Hinagiku a while to calm down. At some point, the taller woman let go of her and made her sit in her previous spot. Rini handed her tissues in silence for a while and Hinagiku wiped at her nose and face. Just when she thought that her tears were done, her nose would tingle in that sad and uncomfortable way and she would feel the water running down her cheeks once more. When her dry heaves slowed down and became occasional sniffles Rini offered another smile.

“Do you feel better now?” She asked. Neither of them needed to specify about what. Hinagiku had been plagued daily by her nightmares, awake or asleep, and Rini was the person who she spent a lot of time with. Besides, the Seated officer was no newbie to the business. She’d had her own share of traumatic battles and seen a number of fellow Shinigami die.

“No one’s eva’ given me somethin’ like this.” Hinagiku managed to whisper, her fingers touching the soft scarf in fascination. “Thank ye very much.”

Rini’s grin grew to an unimaginable size and she tilted her chair back, looking quite satisfied with herself. She tossed a glance outside of the office window and raised her eyebrow in a distinct motion, showing a certain amount of discomfort. “You do know just how much more work on this silly tournament we still have to do, right?”

“Quite a bit.” Snickered Hinagiku with her red nose and wet eyelashes. Rini nodded pointedly.

“A whole damn lot.” And the two girls left the office for the day, heading for the popular restaurant near their Division, deciding to listen to their Captain and ‘play first and work when they die’.

That’s all folks!

Chapter Text

Welcome to another chapter of Daisy!


Thank you very much for the kudos and the hits! Anyways, I've been watching some other things and thinking about writing some other stuff..

Quick question: Any fans of ATLA here?


OCs appearing in this chapter:

Hinagiku Kobashigawa (11th)

Kida Rini (11th)

Mentioned:

Matsushita Koichi (11th)

Nakajima Shin (Shin'ō Academy)


This story was inspired by a short poem by Julie Martinez:

and if you don't
like me, as i do you;
i understand.

because who would
really choose
a daisy, in a field
of roses?
-Julie Martinez


Chapter 8: The Joy of Paper's work

It is dark. I hate it. I hate this. I hate it. I hate. I hate!

No… I don’t. I want to be useful. I don’t want to hate. I want to help. I want to serve. I want to fight. I want to see.

I want a lot. I hope that she does, too. But, she doesn’t say it a lot. She just hides it. Why does she do that? Why can’t she just say what she wants? That would be so much easier.

I know what she wants.

She wants power. She wants a Seat. She wants recognition. She wants to protect. She wants to serve. She wants to feel. She wants to be free. She wants to be reckless. She wants to be childish. She wants to be selfish. She wants… She wants so much… and she never asks…

I will give it to her… the key to all… power.

I will give her power.

Just.

No more dark.


Hinagiku generally found interaction with Captains stressful. But, there was one thing which she found beyond nerve-wrecking: communication with the Captain Commander. Yamamoto-sotaicho was a good man, she couldn't deny that. She had read in her books about the numerous reforms which he had made, trying to form a fair and just community in Soul Society. But, as good as he was, he was terrifying.

If you thought that working under Zaraki Kenpachi made you want to drop to your knees and vomit from the sheer force of his reiatsu, you obviously haven't had the chance to visit the 1st Squad's offices. As soon as you entered there, you could feel it. The feeling of being watched. Every single movement of yours was being followed and if you made a single wrong step, you would be squashed like the bug which you were. Yamamoto Genryūsai didn't flare his reiatsu unintentionally like her Captain. No. He had every intention of making you sweat.

The man was a living legend.

Even her Grandmother, who always had one or other complaint about the Shinigami couldn't offer a bad word about the old man. Hinagiku had met him once before her rebellious enrollment into the Shin’ō Academy. He had been at her mother's funeral. She didn't know how exactly the ancient Shinigami had known her mother, or why he had come to pay his respects, but he had. She had been hiding in the garden, in her mother's favorite spot under the tall trees where the wooden swing had been set up. She could still remember the fresh scent of grass, just watered and the sweet, intoxicating smell of gardenias, her mother's favorite.

Yamamoto Genryūsai had found her effortlessly.

She could still remember the old, wrinkled face appearing from the shadows and the creaky voice greeting her. He had talked to her about origami. He hadn’t even asked about her mother. And back then, Hinagiku hadn’t really wanted to talk about her mother. She couldn’t remember anything from that night. She could only remember her Grandmother’s worried face, as the woman dragged her towards the Healing Houses. It was two years later that Hinagiku got her memories from the traumatic night back through her dreams. But, she had managed to get over her mother’s death. Well, as best as a child who lost a parent could.

Hinagiku stepped into the 1st Division’s courtyard, the sun shining in her eyes. The familiar monstrous reiatsu of Yamamoto-soutaicho hit her square in the chest. He had flared it a tad, focusing on her precisely, she could tell. Hinagiku flared her own mediocre reiatsu, defending against the pressure. It was normal to declare yourself in this manner when you entered the Division. After all, Yamamoto-soutaicho knew all of the reiatsu in the Seireitei by heart.

Hugging the charts to her chest, careful not to crinkle her and Rini’s two days of rigorous work, Hinagiku allowed her energy to focus on her waraji and she followed through the manual of Shunpo, as always. Keep calm. Focus. Determine your next step. Breathe. Move. The young Shinigami flew across the expanse of the courtyard, reaching the wooden patio in around ten steps. She took off her waraji and walked the familiar corridor towards the main council room confidently. She knew the 1st Division layout quite well.

You see, Hinagiku was as much of an anxious teenager as anyone sometimes. The first time when she’d needed to visit the Commander’s offices, she had taken a map of the compound and learnt it by heart. She hadn’t wanted to embarrass herself by getting lost in front of the highest ranked officer in the Seireitei. True, in the last thirty years or so, her memory had waned a bit, but she could still find her way.

Hinagiku didn’t need to open the large doors which lead to the main council room. They were open, letting in the warm summer breeze. It carried the scent of fresh grass and hot sun, making the girl take a deep breath as soon as she entered the shade. The large, wide room which she entered with a polite bow was usually used for Captains’ meetings, but every so often, the Commander could be found there, doing his work. Hinagiku supposed that that’s where the old Shinigami found himself comfortable, without the rush of the busy officers of the 1st Division running everywhere. She could relate.

“I hope that your day has been well so far, Yamamoto-dono.” The petite Shinigami bowed in a perfect, thirty degrees angle, showing her utmost respect for the man.

“Setsuko’s granddaughter.” The old man addressed her, raising his head from the sheet of paper which he had been reading. “You have improved.” He told her, but Hinagiku was pretty sure that those were just empty words of comfort. “Does Zaraki have more impossible requests?”

Hinagiku’s lips quirked up and she offered a polite nod. “Only the implausible ones, soutaicho-dono.” The petite Shinigami waited for him to motion with his hand slightly, placing down the current report which he was going over. He had given her permission to come closer. She climbed the three steps to his current position and handed over her charts, tweaked with Rini’s expertise and experience, bowing once again as she did and then moved back down, still as respectful as ever.

The old Shinigami’s eyes flew across the page, and then he stopped, looking up. He didn’t even open the charts. “Give me a brief summary of the request, Kobashigawa. Only the topics which I need to approve.” He told her.

“Of course, soutaicho-dono.” Replied the girl with a nod. Her back straightened, her posture becoming stiffly formal and her voice went a bit deeper, as she got rid of her nervousness, going on autopilot. “Due to the fact that the Shinōreijutsuin graduates will be applying for their positions soon, we wish to hold a battle tournament to both promote and re-arrange our Division. The graduates will be allowed to participate, to test their skills or practice, and if they later wish to join, their results will be taken into consideration when assigning their new positions.”

The old man’s eyes narrowed. “Granted. You know that the matter of Seated officers is the Captain’s business, Kobashigawa. What do you need my permission for?”

“We would also like to cooperate with other Divisions, soutaicho-dono.” The old man’s lips quirked in the corner. He recognized her softening up method very well from his experience with her grandmother, Kobashigawa Setsuko. He motioned once more with his hand for her to continue speaking. “We would like to borrow three teams from the 4th Division with Seated officers, at least two with single digits and at least four with double digits, for treatment on-site. Also, we would like permission from Captain Unohana to be on standby at the Healing Houses, in an unlikely case of serious injuries.” She was overreaching and they both knew it.

“I can grant permission for three teams, one lead by a single digit officer and two lead by double digit officers. Nothing more, nothing less.” The Captain Commander interrupted her. “You will need to clear it with Captain Unohana, as well. My grant is void if she disapproves. As for her own participation, you will discuss it with her. Next.”

“We would also like permission for Shikai and Bankai release in the final rounds of the tournament, to be able to determine the strength of the Shinigami who will be appointed as Seated Officers.” Silence ensued. Hinagiku knew that she was pushing it with this. The rulebook of Gotei 13 clearly stated that the unjustified release of Shikai or Bankai was severely punishable. After a few moments, the Captain Commander spoke.

“I will grant that request under only one condition.” His dark eyes connected with her violet ones, locking Hinagiku into place. The warm breeze, which had been pleasant until that point, now seemed to rise in temperature, like a firestorm, burning everything in its wake. Hinagiku’s skin prickled and she could feel it breaking out in gooseflesh. Her own reiatsu pulled back into her body, almost like armor against the wave of fire which was coming from the Captain Commander. “The release of one’s Zanpakutō will only be allowed during the battles for Seats.”

“Thank you very much, Yamamoto-soutaicho.” Bowed Hinagiku with utmost respect. He waved his hand at her, signaling for her to leave, his eyes glued once more on the paper he had been reviewing when she had interrupted. Hinagiku felt strange walking out without any folders in her arms. It wasn’t often that she had a walk without any paperwork to keep her company. The girl stepped into her waraji, her eyes going up to notice the brightly shining sun. It was a warm day. She wiped the sweat which Yamamoto-soutaicho’s intimidation had caused and let out a sigh.

Keep calm. Focus. Breathe. And then take a step.

And Hinagiku flew forward.


Her eyebrow twitched in annoyance. “Wha’ the Hell is this?” Hinagiku wasn’t even aware of the fact that she lost control of her accent, her Kyoto-ben slipping out. She stared in shock at the numerous posters which covered her usual desk in the 4th Seat’s office and the majority of the floor as well. Rini looked up from her spot at the low desk in the corner, which was usually used by their 7th Seat, Matsushita Koichi.

“Zaraki-taicho and Yachiru-fukutaicho sent those earlier.” The 15th Seat’s lips twitched in amusement. “They worked very hard on them, the greenhorn who brought them had said.” Hinagiku was in all honesty too enraged to notice the degree of amusement which was slowly overtaking her friend. Instead, the petite Shinigami bent down, picking up one of the posters and looking it over in anger.

It was a shaky portrait of Zaraki-taicho, hand drawn in a traditional style. He looked fierce to begin with, but the artist had made him look borderline menacing. As if that wasn’t enough, there were large letters next to his head and murderous eyes saying: ‘Only the strong guys’.

Hinagiku had, in all honesty, expected this. Zaraki-taicho loved the yakuza culture after all, and if this didn’t look like a yakuza recruitment or even threat letter, she would stop folding origami. The Shinigami let out a sigh, giving up. She knew that it would be a disaster. Her meticulous planning was going to waste.

“Should I return them?” Asked Rini, twirling her pen absentmindedly. But then, something clicked in Hinagiku’s head and gears fell into place. She smirked.

“No.” The girl paused and then sprang into action. “Help me out.” And she began gathering and stacking the posters perfectly next to the desk. “Go get some more hands. A couple of greenhorns will do.”

“What are you planning, Hinagiku?” Rini’s eyebrow rose as she got off the cushion and brushed the non-existent dirt off her behind. Hinagiku had a smile on her face as she collected the posters with vigor.

“Ye’ll see.” Her voice was giddy.


It took three more hours to finish the extra work which she had made for herself and Rini, not to mention five other officers. The 15th Seat had brought them over from their unproductive watch and cleaning duty and made them obey the petite girl. Hinagiku had asked the men to fold their Captain’s posters and place them into envelopes, along with a letter of invitation.

While they were doing that, however, Hinagiku had another quest which she needed to complete. She drafted up a request for three teams, approved by Yamomoto-soutaicho that morning, and prepared to take it to Captain Unohana’s 3rd Seat, Iemura Yasochika to approve. Then, she had to draft the request for the Captain herself, to formally ask her if she could be on stand-by during the tournament.

By the time she was done, so were the greenhorn officers, the Shin’ō graduates from last year. She then made them dispense the letters among their own Division, each officer getting an invitation, along with sending at least twenty to each of the Divisions, allowing Seated Shinigami from other Squads to participate in their tournament if they wished. The last task for the young ones was to take the rest to the Academy and give them to the graduates chosen by her and Koichi some time ago and then approved by their Captain. There was a small part of her which rejoiced at the fact that Nakajima Shin was on that list as well.

Then had come the difficult part: locating her own Captain. You see, there was only one troublesome thing which delayed Hinagiku’s diligent work by hours: every single paper needed her Captain’s approval. Well, not every, as she made sure to compile them properly so that he could sign a maximum of ten times a day, which believe me, was quite a feat to accomplish. But, the trouble was that her Captain loved to skive off of work. So, as soon as the man would become bored in his own office (please read dojo), he would head out to search for a good opponent. And then, it was up to Hinagiku to locate him and get him to sign the paperwork, no matter how busy he was.

She had left Rini in charge of preparing and mailing the letters and gone first to the 9th Division, where they printed everything to request a couple dozen more ‘Kenpachi: Only the strong guys’ posters and then she had hit the wall.

Where in the world are you, Zaraki-taicho? Asked herself the petite Shinigami as she pushed her reiatsu into her feet and jumped on a nearby roof of the 9th Division. She stood there for a moment, looking about. Maybe she could see a smoke cloud or a sign of fighting. Anything, really. She begged for her Captain to begin his rampage, like he always did, for once. But, there were no signs of a struggle anywhere. Seireitei was as calm as a lazy dog on a hot, summer day.

She let out a sigh, pushing her short hair behind her ears and calming down. She slowly tuned out the buzzing of the insects from the nearby bushes. Hinagiku closed her eyes, letting her reiatsu envelop her and then retreat into her body. She could feel the sun heating her black uniform, making her sweat profusely. It was hot. Too hot.

A bead of sweat made its way down the back of her neck, sinking into the fabric of her shihakusho. And then, she could feel it. It was a strange sensation, feeling someone out only by their reiatsu. If you weren’t too skilled in it, you would feel what Hinagiku felt at that moment. It was like her body went numb and she was a Soul no longer. It was like she had no living body which could be hurt.

She was energy. Pure energy. A smoke-like violet cloud which swirled in the wind, shimmering like a thousand stars at once in the bright sunlight. And then, she could feel it. The familiar, overwhelming pressure. Her Captain was a hard one to miss. His yellow reiatsu wasn’t gentle and fragile like her, evasive and swirly, moving with the wind. No, his was like a storm, swirling in on itself, ready to lash out angrily at anything that got close. And to Hinagiku, that was home.

Without opening her eyes, the petite Shinigami stepped forward. Her Shunpo was executed perfectly, her body flying on instinct, her reiatsu doing all the work. She could feel the warm layer of sweat cooling on her skin as she raced along the rooftops. She knew that she would be in complete control of her body as soon as she opened her eyes, so she left them closed. She could see well enough without them.

The numerous reiatsu spots, some stronger and some weaker, told her exactly where she was. Even without that, Hinagiku had always had an eccentric knack for finding things. She didn’t know why, but since her acceptance into the Gotei 13 she had been able to find just about anything she set her mind on finding. Even something as ridiculous as her mother’s old drawings.

A shout sounded from in front of her and Hinagiku’s eyes snapped open. Suddenly, her body seemed so heavy. Her reiatsu went out of control once more, spreading around her and she slipped on her last flash step, the momentum sending her towards the ground. The petite girl crashed into the street, rolling a little ways forward. Her Asauchi dug into her hip and leg, which was going to leave some pretty nasty bruises the next day.

“Ouch.” The Shinigami picked herself up, shaking her head and sending her curls flying about messily, in an attempt to clear her vision. “That hurt.” She told herself and managed to get up on her feet. Suck it up, Kobashigawa. Hinagiku thought. Grit your teeth and suck it up.

"I think that you should consider getting a bag, Paper." A familiar deep voice growled from somewhere behind her. Then again, with the hit to her head that she had just taken, Hinagiku wasn't too sure where behind was exactly.

"Duly noted, Zaraki-dono." She replied, turning towards the shaky source of his voice and reiatsu, not straightening up. Instead, she simply made it look like a polite, forty-five degree bow.

"Aaah. Nanao-chan isn't going to be happy with you, Kobashigawa-kun." Kyōraku-taicho's voice sounded from in front of her as well. He didn't sound one bit upset about his street and a part of his wall being ruined. "We just repaired that wall after the last drunken disorderly mishap." Hinagiku could bet that he was grinning in mirth. That was Captain Kyōraku for you. He always found humor in the most unlikely of places. Mishaps especially. Her mishaps.

"Forgive me, Kyōraku-dono. I shall pay for the damages from my own salary, as always." The Shinigami apologized. This had happened a number of times with her. Unfortunate accidents, they called them. But, Hinagiku thought of her failed Shunpo more along the lines of a bad, destructive habit.

"I see you've gotten a new trinket from Gense. It's quite stylish." The flashy Captain told her again in his relaxed tone. Now, Hinagiku slowly raised her head, only to see where exactly she had landed. The back gardens of the 8th Division. Her Captain was sitting on the patio, in the cool shade, drinking sake with Captain Kyōraku. The two men seemed like they had begun some time ago, as there were two empty bottles next to them already.

"Thank you for the gracious compliments, Kyōraku-dono." Hinagiku offered a small bow, her cheeks coloring. She had been wearing the scarf Rini had gifted her every day since. "I'm terribly sorry for my rude and untimely interruption, but could you sign this paperwork, Zaraki-dono?" And Hinagiku looked to her hand, where the papers had been, only to find them gone. They had scattered around her like feathers would from a ripped pillow during her fall. The Shinigami felt her cheeks flare in red as she hurried to gather the papers.

"Turn." Ordered her Captain, placing his cup down. The girl obeyed, handing him a pen from her shihakusho and the paperwork and straightening her back as much as possible.

"Oooh, that's an interesting method." Captain Kyōraku commented in amusement as he sipped his sake. "I might have to ask Nanao-chan to do the same for me." And he chuckled merrily. Somehow, Hinagiku doubted that the stern Lieutenant would succumb to the idea.

"Done." Her Captain grunted, handing the folders back to her. "Did you get my posters?" He asked, grinning. He's too proud of his work, Hinagiku almost sweat dropped.

"Of course, Zaraki-dono." She instead smiled, nodding. "I was just at the 9th, printing more, sir." Now, this seemed to brighten Zaraki's day. He took a long swig from his sake cup.

"Dismissed." He told her and Hinagiku offered one last bow to both Captains before focusing. With a surprisingly fast Shunpo, she flew away. Captain Kyōraku took another sip from his cup.

"She's getting faster and faster, Kenpachi." The man commented, looking at the debris which the small girl had caused. When her Captain offered a grunt of agreement, Kyōraku grinned lopsidedly at him. "So, when will you give her to me?"

"Paper is staying where she is." Zaraki growled, taking a sip once again.

"Alright, alright." The other Captain chuckled, knowing that the discussion was over, once again. But, he was a patient man. He smiled, looking at the cloudless blue sky. The insects buzzed from the nearby bushes loudly. "It's a fine summer day." He sighed, drinking.

"It's too damn hot." Growled Zaraki, picking up the sake bottle and pouring them both some more.


Hinagiku was ready to fall over. She stopped using Shunpo and halted. The sun was slowly going down, setting the whole Seireitei on fire. She had been running from Division to Division the whole afternoon and she was ready to fall over. Her legs were shaking and she was out of breath. The petite Shinigami gave a sigh, trying to calm down and plopped onto one of the steps. There were silver and black spots popping out in front of her eyes.

Lack of oxygen. She diagnosed. Too much adrenaline. Her fingers were shaking in their position around the leftover stack of papers. Suck it up, Kobashigawa. She told herself, gritting her teeth. Grit your teeth and suck it up. The girl took a look at the number on her leftover paperwork. There’s only a couple of folders for the 10th Division left. Hinagiku gave another sigh and then stood.

Her ‘game playing’ with Captain Hitsugaya had been on her mind quite a bit. Well, not that she had really been playing any sort of a game with the man. No. She had just been trying to figure out where they stood. Well, not that they stood anywhere. Lord, she was a mess. Hinagiku shook her head and got up from the step, heading towards the 10th Division rather slowly, forsaking her Shunpo. Maybe her sweat would dry off before she reached the Division gates.

A couple of days had passed since her last encounter with the young Captain where her own brain and body had betrayed her. She really had wanted to follow-up on their acquaintanceship and turn it into a regular thing. She had enjoyed the young man’s company too much for her own good. Not only was he well-spoken and had a similar sense of humor to her own, but he was smart. And not just regularly clever like Yumichika or Koichi. No, he was incredibly smart.

Her Grandmother, Kobashigawa Setsuko, had made sure that Hinagiku had been taught all the games which a lady could participate in during high-class social events. At one point in her life, those had been fun things, yet, the old judge had managed to turn them into forms of torture. There was a certain language that one spoke as they played a game. Saying to a gentleman that you were shy, or that you enjoyed his company, or even that you were willing to give yourself over to him was a skill which Hinagiku had become well-versed in.

She had been shocked when the young Captain had brought a deck of cards one day, when he had come to visit her in the Healing Houses. He had suggested that they play while chatting, and it had been quite enjoyable to the petite girl. Next, he had brought a shogi board. And the time after that, they had borrowed a game of scrabble from Captain Unohana.

Hinagiku had honestly thought that she would never enjoy another game of any of those again in her entire life. Yet, those had been fun. Captain Hitsugaya had even allowed her to win a couple of shogi plays, and she had pretended to lose in scrabble the whole time. It had been endearing. He was a brilliant man. He had thought of some moves on the shogi board which even her books hadn’t taught her. It was a combination of a beginner and a professional playing, an unexpected and endearing game. And it had repeated in much the same fashion. He was a brilliant Captain, Hinagiku had realized. She had understood during those couple of weeks in the Healing Houses why exactly was Hitsugaya Tōshirō called a prodigy.

Though, she may have underestimated his knowledge of the rules of the high society. He was, after all, a brat from Rukongai. With a sigh, Hinagiku looked upwards, noticing that she had arrived to the gates of the 10th Division a bit too soon for her liking. She shook out her hair, noticing that the ends were still damp from her daily run around the Seireitei and she walked in. For once, she hoped that she would bump into her old friend from the Academy, Tsutsui Tomoka, and suffer the brief makeover which the noblewoman always forced on her.

Ah man! I love this chapter xD


 I know, it’s pretty much a filler, but I really, really love it. It has that ‘summer and relaxed’ kind of feel in it for me… What about you guys?


Thank you for reading!

Chapter Text

Welcome to the new chapter of Daisy!


So, now we're up to date with all the chapters written on ff.net and the updates will most likely become weekly.

I would like to thank all of you for the hits and especially: Mariah and blanca for the comments, as well as bleachxnarutofreak for the bookmark!


OCs appearing:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11th)

Tsutsui Tomoka (10th)

Takagawa Yuuko (9th)

Kida Rini (11th) – mentioned


Here's another poem by Julie Martinez, I hope that you'll enjoy it:

They warned

me not to fall

in love;

but they didn't

warn me

about you.

-Julie Martinez


Chapter 9: Revelations

It is dark.

I’m waiting.

It is dark.

Where are you?

Where did you go?

Hinagiku took off her waraji politely before stepping onto the polished, wooden patio of the 10th Division. She headed towards the general direction of the Captain’s office, not really sure if she was going the right way. She had a feeling like she was. And, Hinagiku usually trusted her feelings. Her sensei back at the Shin’ō had called it instinct. A primal sixth sense which one developed through numerous battles. But, the petite Shinigami really couldn’t see how that was connected to her sense of direction.

Usually, she couldn’t find her own way at her Grandmother’s estate. But, after she had entered the Academy, her sense of direction had improved immensely. She had gone to her Kenjutsu teacher, who had spoken of the sixth sense before, and asked him about it. Instinct, the old Soul had told her. She had begun to use her instincts, her body, rather than listening to her sense, her mind.

She found the office after a few tries, but it hadn’t really taken her much time. There was a large sign above the door where you could read ‘Captain and Lieutenant’. Hinagiku could understand why Hitsugaya-taicho had chosen to share his office with his Lieutenant, despite the new arrangements which allowed for them to have separate rooms. Matsumoto-fukutaicho did little to no work even when he was diligently reminding her, as he had explained, one could only imagine what she would be doing on her own.

“Kobashigawa Hinagiku of the 11th Division, requesting permission to enter!” Hinagiku raised her voice so that the man inside could hear her. There was no answer. She waited for a moment longer and then retracted the little amount of reiatsu which she flared on reflex into her body. Her eyes closed briefly, seeing clearly the willowy, gentle, pale violet energy shimmered around her for a moment before she looked beyond the physical door and into the spiritual dimension of the office. There was no reiatsu inside. “Dang it.” The slight Shinigami opened her eyes and headed towards the 3rd Seat’s office, a couple of maze-like corridors down.

“Hina-chan?” A familiar voice asked from behind her. Hinagiku whirled about, seeing her friend, Tomoka’s face. Strangely, the usually cute and perky Shinigami didn’t look all that happy. In fact, although her makeup was as perfect as always, her eyes were so sad and her expression was as if someone had died.

“Tsutsui-dono, are you alright?” Hinagiku moved in a flash coming to her acquaintance and gently gripping her upper arms. “What’s going on?” Hinagiku had never seen Tomoka like this. After all, the noblewoman had everything that she could ever wish for. She came from one of the more prominent noble families. She had clothes, makeup, jewelry, private tutors, handsome suitors and people waiting on her beck and call. What more could a person want?

“I-I’m so sorry.” Tomoka whispered. “I’m so sorry I couldn’t…” Hinagiku searched her eyes, waiting for the noblewoman to spit the problem out. Obviously, something was wrong. But, for the life of her, the girl couldn’t guess what. “I should’ve gone to the 4th to visit you.” Tomoka finally whispered out, in a strangely teary voice.

This sent Hinagiku’s mind reeling. She had been in the Healing Wings the last time after her failed mission in Rukongai a few weeks ago. Hideki’s face flashed in front of her eyes, becoming twisted in pain just like always in her nightmares. The Shinigami compartmentalized in an instant. She pushed the sickening feeling in her gut in a dark box, hiding it within herself once more. She would deal with that later.

“It’s quite alright, Tsutsui-san.” Hinagiku remembered the expensive bouquet, obviously professionally arranged. “I received your prayers and hope for cheerfulness. It was quite sweet, I assure you.” A bouquet of purple crocuses and white hyacinth wrapped in white, lace fabric with a bright yellow ribbon flashed through her mind. Yes, the crocus was cheerfulness and the white hyacinth could mean ‘I’ll pray for you’, among other things.

“B-but I was a coward.” Tomoka whispered, her arms coming to wrap around Hinagiku as she pulled the shorter girl towards her in a hug. The petite Shinigami could feel the grip of her Academy friend’s fingers on the back of her shihakushō. It was strong and her hands were shaking terribly. For the love of the Soul King, Hinagiku couldn’t guess what was wrong with the noblewoman. She had never seen Tomoka like this. “You could’ve died, H-Hina-chan.” Hiccupped the girl.

“But, I didn’t, so it’s quite alright, isn’t it?” This caused another onslaught of hiccupping and sobbing and Hinagiku softly suggested that they take tea in Tomoka’s office, since it was closer. It was after around half an hour that the noblewoman finally managed to compose herself and focus enough to tell her troubles.

“I’m such a coward, Hina-chan.” She whispered into her fancy, decorated teacup from Gense. Hinagiku had made sure to add some extra cinnamon in her friend’s tea, as the noblewoman quite liked the flavor of it. “You went on a routine mission and you got terribly hurt. And I was even too cowardly to go and see how you were doing… Even Hitsugaya-taicho went…”

“You’re not wrong, Tsutsui-dono.” Hinagiku spoke softly, as if not to cause another bout of tears. “It was a routine mission. At least, it should’ve been. Yet, not only were nine Shinigami assigned to it, but one of them was a single digit Seated officer.” The words spilled, really, and Hinagiku couldn’t seem to stop them. She had let the idea fester in her mind for too long. She had covered all the conspiracy theories which she could cover, from the assassination attempt on the 7th Seat of the 10th Division, Takezoe Kōkichirō to her own. She simply needed to say the words out loud, so that she would seem less insane. But, is Tomoka the best person to spill to?

“What do you mean?” The noblewoman asked, her eyes becoming sharp. She was thinking. Gears were turning in her head and then she gasped out a cute, almost squeaky sound. “You don’t mean sabotage?” When Hinagiku offered a shrug Tomoka frowned, eyes narrowing. “But, who would want to kill 7th Seat Kōkichirō?”

“Exactly my thoughts.” Hinagiku agreed, taking a sip of her tea.


Hinagiku headed towards the Seireishokairō with a stack of papers in her hands. With the Captain's tournament and recruitment going on, she was having trouble finishing her usual caseload. Not to mention Tomoka's guilt trip had taken at least six hours of convincing the girl that it was quite alright.

Hinagiku understood. She really did. At least, after the noblewoman had sobbed to her over her teacup one whole evening. Now, she could relate. Her Grandmother had attempted to sabotage her own mission load a couple of decades back. After all, her only granddaughter was working on a life-threatening position in the military, going on at least a monthly trip into the secluded and dangerous places of Rukongai. Hinagiku was pretty sure that if her Grandmother could see the conditions of living during a mission the woman would faint.

If you weren't a Seated officer, you had a shared tent, if you had a tent at all. Hinagiku had slept on the hard ground enough times to become comfortable with it. At first, she had hated it. Even in the Academy, during their first overnight assignment, she had pretty much agreed with every single complain that Tomoka had loudly voiced to their superior. But, the petite Shinigami had grown comfortable with the hard ground since then.

There was something primal and positively enchanting about sleeping under the stars with the moon lighting the scenery around you, basking it in a silvery hue. Hinagiku remembered that mission well. She had been sent with a platoon of men, led by Abarai Renji, the current Lieutenant of the 6th Division, into the desert to find a Hollow lair. They had decided to camp after a day of unfruitful searching. She could remember how she had listened to the former 11th Division member talk to one of the greenhorns about the missions. She had been lulled to sleep by his growl-like voice and the bright light of the almost full moon. And, since then, she hadn't minded one overnight mission.

Yet, her Grandmother never approved. She never got to the point of understanding that Hinagiku was as much of a Kobashigawa woman as she was. And you need to know that Kobashigawa women were known for their rebelliousness. Setsuko was the first female to ever become a judge in the Central 46. Hinagiku's mother had been the first to give birth to a child to a man outside of the noble bloods. And, Hinagiku had been the first to become a Shinigami. How Setsuko had fought against it. She had used every means available. From bribery to threats.

But, she had miscalculated. Hinagiku's Captain was that Zaraki Kenpachi. He didn't care much for money and he laughed in the face of threats. The young girl had chosen well. Only one law existed in the 11th Division, and her Grandmother could never gain its favor. The strong survive. Her Grandmother was truly strong, but not in the way which Zaraki Kenpachi acknowledged. To him, she was trash, just like the rest of them weaklings.

But, Tomoka had a different situation. She wasn’t just a noblewoman. No, she was the noblewoman. She was a Tsutsui Clan member. An heiress. Her family had allowed her to follow in her brothers’ footsteps by entering the Shin’ō Academy. Tomoka had explained how she had gotten minimal support. After all, noblewomen weren’t supposed to become warriors. They were to be mothers, wives and caretakers. They were supposed to support their husbands from behind and give them children to further the Clan. The Tsutsuis had doubted that Tomoka would manage to finish the Shin’ō even.

The noblewoman had spilled her story that night, through tears and at least ten cups of ridiculously expensive tea which Hinagiku couldn’t afford anymore. True, the petite girl had had to sort through the overly dramatized version to figure out what really happened, but she had gotten the gist quite well. And, it was painfully familiar.

The Tsutsui Clan, despite allowing their heiress to become a Shinigami, had used their power in the Central 46 and made sure that the girl wouldn’t get any dangerous missions. Tomoka was usually sent on information gathering ones, with one of their single digit officers, perfectly safe at all times. It had been an enforced order, no doubt, which Hitsugaya-taicho hadn’t been able to fight. Yet, Hinagiku had lost a fraction of respect for him then. Her Captain had stood up to her Grandmother, who was an influential judge, and he couldn’t to a couple of paid-off men.

So, Hinagiku could understand quite well how traumatic her own injuries had been for Tomoka. After all, Hinagiku wasn’t just a nameless Shinigami. No, she was someone who Tomoka knew quite well, lying in a hospital bed, wrapped up in bandages. After their chat that day, the girls had become undeniably closer. Hinagiku could feel it. Heck, who was she kidding, Tomoka’s frequent visits to the 11th Division spoke for themselves. Not to mention the newfound companionship between the noblewoman and Rini.

“Kobashigawa Hinagiku of the 11th Division, signing in.” The Shinigami nodded to Yuuko, the busty officer from the 9th at the front desk of Seireishokairō. The woman in question jumped a bit, closing her book. A romantic novel, Hinagiku would bet. “I hope that you have been faring well, Takagawa-dono.” She politely bowed to the woman as soon as she managed to place the pile of finished paperwork on the counter.

“Oh, Hina-chan, I’ve been marvelous!” Yuuko answered with a smile, typing in Hinagiku’s information onto the computer keyboard. There, it would be sealed with Yuuko’s reiatsu, so that the logs would be safe. “Charlotte just decided to go back to Mark, instead of marrying John.” The woman explained happily. She absent-mindedly extended her hand to Hinagiku, who placed her Asauchi into it. “But, there is also Pierre, the handsome and rich foreigner as well…” Yuuko pondered, placing a tag on Hinagiku’s katana before putting it among the other three which were already checked in.

No one above 10th Seat. Hinagiku noted as she tuned out Yuuko’s chatter about an unborn baby and the mystery of its father. She, instead, offered one more polite bow. “I wish you a great day, Takagawa-dono.”

“Yes, yes, always busy, Hina-chan!” Yuuko giggled, opening her book once more.

Hinagiku struggled with the paperwork. The pile tilted left and right as she headed to her usual spot in front of one of the large, blue screened computers. She placed the papers down, dividing them into two piles so that they wouldn’t fall over. Then, Hinagiku ran quickly to fetch the folders from the storage room. She couldn’t help the small grin which grew on her face.

No matter how stressful her recent weeks had been, she was good as long as she had her paperwork. There was simply something comforting in the smell of paper, the dim lighting of the Seireishokairō and the rustling of the pages being turned. It calmed her. It gave her inner peace. The petite Shinigami settled into the comfortable chair in front of the computer, taking out her reading glasses and putting them on. She took the first paper and went into autopilot, her mind clearing.

She had wondered quite a few times what the Inner World that all Seated Shinigami talked about would look like for her. Supposedly, it should be a mirage of yourself. Of your inside. Of your soul. Perhaps, hers would be a library. Then, again, she could also imagine a Temple. An old, traditional, Shinto temple. Something calming. She liked the calm, after all.

Hinagiku wondered about her Zanpakutō sometimes as well. She had been in awe of Tomoka at first. After all, the girl had discovered the name and had commanded her Zanpakutō by the end of their first decade in Seireitei as proper officers. It was a beautiful naginata, quite befitting of its wielder. The naginata were famously called the woman’s spears due to their past with the high born ladies of the Gense.

In all honesty, Hinagiku was jealous. She knew that that was something that she shouldn’t feel, as Tomoka was her acquaintance. Yet, she had felt it. She sometimes envisioned her Zanpakutō as a beautiful woman, tall, slender, dark haired and pale, like her mother. And, at other times, she envisioned the spirit as a short, childish girl, much like herself. She had had numerous ideas as to what the ability of the katana would be. Perhaps faster filing? She usually joked with herself, further falling into depression.

In truth, you see, Hinagiku doubted herself. Deep down she thought that she would never be able to call out her Zanpakutō. Even during their Shin’ō Academy years, in classes specifically designed to help Shinigami contact their Inner Worlds, Hinagiku had failed miserably. She hadn’t been able to hear the whispers, like the others. She hadn’t been able to feel a presence. She hadn’t even dreamt of her Zanpakutō, which was the most common manifestation of contact. Hinagiku had failed miserably for once in her life.

Entering the last key into the computer, Hinagiku rubbed at her eyes, getting them used to the dim lighting of the library once more. The screen really was putting a strain on her sight. She looked to her left, where the two piles of paperwork had been. They was nearly gone. Only a couple of more diagrams and funding plans for their Division’s tournament. She was almost done.

A loud crash sounded from somewhere behind and to the right of her, followed by a string of rather colorful swearwords. Hinagiku got up, heading that way. It wasn’t uncommon, with the atrocious organization in the Seireishokairō for a Shinigami to accidentally knock a pile of books or papers over, sending them flying all over the place and creating more work for poor Takagawa Yuuko.

“Damn Matsumoto.” Hinagiku rounded one of the tall, wooden bookcases only to find a familiar white haired Captain hurriedly picking up papers from the floor, cursing his Lieutenant under his breath. He turned instantly when she stepped into the light, his eyes freezing her in her spot, dangerously narrowed. “Oh, it’s just Kobashigawa.” He commented, giving her a nod, before getting back to his work, this time in silence.

Hinagiku’s legs moved on their own, bringing her to her knees next to the young man. “Did Matsumoto-dono choose to spend her time with Izuru-dono and Hisagi-dono today?” She gathered a couple of reports and professionally hit them on the ground, leveling them with each other.

“Today.” The young Captain snorted. “Try the whole week.” He shook his head and let out a frustrated sigh, calming down. “I’ll send her into Gense on a mission if she keeps it up. Thanks.” Hitsugaya accepted the perfectly stacked papers from Hinagiku and placed them on the side, watching the petite Shinigami diligently collecting the paperwork, carefully placing it together.

“If you don’t mind me saying, Hitsugaya-taicho, wouldn’t that be counterproductive?” The girl couldn’t suppress the slight smile which appeared on her face as she quickly collected the rest of the papers, not noticing Hitsugaya’s focus on her.

“True.” He gave a sigh, sitting back on his knees and raking one hand through his hair. “How have you been, Kobashigawa?” He was stalling, really, and they both knew exactly why. No one, not even her, wanted to dive into the mountain of paperwork which Hinagiku was just finishing collecting from the floor.

The girl hit one more stack of folders on the ground, making sure that they were perfectly aligned. “I’ve been quite alright, thank you very much for asking. I hope that you’ve been taking care of yourself as well, Hitsugaya-taicho.” The Shinigami handed over the stacked files to the young Captain, but she didn’t look into his eyes again. They seemed to be all-knowing and to stop time for her somehow. When she looked at him, she was reminded of just how much power he had and it froze her, literally.

“I’ve been managing.” The young Captain nodded and a short silence ensued. Hinagiku felt her cheeks reddening and she hurried to get up. Hitsugaya followed suit, reaching down and taking the looming papers into his arms. The pile tilted towards the side ominously and the girl reached out at the same time as the Captain, catching the top. “Um-I- Thank you.”

“Er- If you would- Here-“ Their fingers bumped into each other, tangling as Hinagiku attempted to find the end of the folder. “Let me.” She murmured and took at least a third of the folders into her arms. The Captain gave her a nod from behind the papers, his face finally visible.

“Thank you.” He repeated. “I’m this way.” He told her and they headed through the maze of the Seireishokairō. The large library was separated in a couple of sections, based on one’s clearance level. The files were also coded by Division and rank, but most officers didn’t bother respecting that. So, the 9th Division had invaded a bit of the 8th’s space, their personnel files mixing terribly. Hinagiku had overheard Ise-fukutaicho yelling about it one afternoon while she had been entering her own reports into the database.

But, Hinagiku has never been on a Captain cleared level. Simply, her own Captain had never bothered with clearing her or himself for access like that, and the petite Shinigami had never asked. She had never needed that form of power, anyways. But, now that Captain Hitsugaya was leading her down the flight of stairs and onto the lowest level of the library, she became a bit envious of the power which his rank granted him. Maybe, she should ask her Captain to clear her as well.

The lowest level had no natural lighting, unlike the one which she worked on. No, there were no tiny windows at the top of the walls here, letting the sunlight seep in through them. Here, the lighting was mostly bluish, coming from tall, pillar-like lamps which stood in between rows and rows of records. You could barely make out the kanji on the papers in front of the rows, telling which Division owned which section. Hinagiku followed the young Captain diligently, her eyes going left and right, memorizing as much as possible. She noted that a couple of books and folders had been bound by red, reiatsu infused, tape, making them sealed records.

What she wouldn’t give to just take a peek into one of those. Sealed records were just a myth among the lower ranks. They were the ultimate treasure of Seireishokairō. Something that no one dared to touch. But, in Hinagiku’s mind, they were only books. And books, she loved to read.

“This way.” Captain Hitsugaya led her away from the long rows of books and records and towards one of the computers designed by the 12th Division. “Thank you for all your help, Kobashigawa.” He let out a sigh, placing his pile on the desk. Hinagiku knew exactly what came next. He would have to input every single file into the database by hand and then make folders from the papers which will afterwards need to be sorted into their proper place in the Seireishokairō.

“It was no trouble at all, Hitsugaya-taicho.” Hinagiku offered a small, courteous bow after placing her own stack of documents on the table. She noted the other computer, back to back with the one that the young Captain would soon be using. The girl felt her fingers going numb from nervousness, but she managed to push the next words out as well. “I-if you would like, I could come down here and help you input the data into the virtual base?” She managed to mumble out, squishing some of her words together.

The Captain seemed surprised, but then shook his head. “You have your own workload, I wouldn’t want to trouble you.”

“It’s no trouble at all!” She interrupted the young man, and then felt her cheeks going warm. She had just interrupted a Captain. A real, living Captain. In his words. “Forgive my insolence. I overstepped my boundaries, Hitsugaya-taicho.” Hinagiku’s body bowed deeply on its own, hoping that the punishment wouldn’t be too severe. She had heard that the Captain of the 6th Division had forced a rude officer to go on a patrol in Rukongai for a month without a break.

“Nonsense, Kobashigawa.” Captain Hitsugaya’s voice had taken on an unamused note, like he was more displeased by her current display, rather than her earlier rudeness. “After you’re done with your work, you may come and help me, of your own free will.” There was another moment where Hinagiku didn’t dare look up, but merely nodded in silence. “Kobashigawa.” Now, this was a warning for her to look at him. She obeyed mutely. Captain Hitsugaya’s icy eyes locked her into her spot, all voluntary functions leaving her body instantly. She wondered for a brief second if he had this effect on everyone. “I’m not your Captain. I can’t give you an order. Don’t forget that.”

“I would like to aid you of my own free will, if you would permit it, Hitsugaya-taicho.” Hinagiku didn’t break their eye contact, no matter how much she wished to bow respectfully once more. She was being rude. She was speaking up. She was breaking protocol. And, she felt exhilarated by it. She was, after all, a member of the 11th Division. Rules were simply guidelines for them.

“Of course, Kobashigawa.” Hinagiku caught the briefest upturn of the Captain’s lips, but she couldn’t be sure that she had seen it. Though, it had seemed like a beautiful expression, and she did wonder why the young Shinigami prodigy didn’t smile more. Probably something to do with his male ego and image with his subordinates.

Hinagiku rushed up the stairs and back towards her desk, eager to complete her daily workload. But, she couldn’t help the small amount of guilt that was growing inside of her stomach like a deadly disease. As much as she had wanted to offer her help to the young and intriguing Captain, her motives weren’t pure this time.

That’s all folks!


Oh, I enjoyed writing Tōshirō here so much! I couldn’t resist giving him a bit of an awkward moment there xD


Thanks for reading!

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome!


OCs appearing:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11th)

Matsushita Koichi (11th) – mentioned


For all those who are reading this:

You see yourself as very average, ordinary. And there is nothing ordinary about you... - Emily Giffin


Chapter 10: Determination

It is dark. I’m sitting here, in the darkness. Alone. Always alone.

It is dark. I can smell the paper all around me. I slowly fold the one in my hands. Slowly. Delicately. Careful of the edges. Careful of the corners. It needs to be perfect.

Should I quit on ye?

Never.

Have ye quit on me?

Never.

I’ve failed ya’.

Never.

A drop falls onto the work in my hands, ruining the paper. I trace it with my fingertips and I know. I’m not the only one crying.

Don’t look.

Don’t listen to him.

Not him.

Look at me.

Listen here.

But, she can’t hear. She can’t hear me. She never could. I fold. Once. Twice. I turn the paper. Edge to edge. Corner to corner. It’s done. Just a simple flower.

Listen to me.

Childhood, innocence, purity…

Not him.

Me.


Hinagiku let out a sigh and opened her eyes. The dojo around her was completely black in the silence of the early morning. It was well before five, when the first sunrays peeked over the horizon and basked the white Seireitei in a flame-like light. The young Shinigami had gotten up unusually early that morning. She had had a quick wash, taking a look at her side, where the gash made by their 3rd Seat used to lay, only to find a light mark of irritation. It had healed perfectly, though the skin was still a bit tender. And after that, the girl had headed for the Division dojo, while it was still empty, for some much overdue training with her Asauchi.

She moved her blade from her lap to the wooden floor in front of her, sighing once again softly into the darkness. No answer. No tingling. No visions. Nothing. She might as well give up on learning the name of her katana. Yet, Hinagiku was a stubborn fool, like many were in the 11th Division. Despite the fact that she’d already told herself numerous times that she couldn’t do something, she strived for greatness. Nearly every morning she meditated for at least an hour with her Asauchi, hoping to hear something.

At least the katana is pretty. The girl told herself, looking at the sword. She had picked it out from the number of Asauchi that were presented to their class at the Shin’ō Academy. It was a regular katana, a little shorter than the average, due to her petite stature, with a white tsuka. If you looked carefully, you could see tiny designs on the wrapping, as if someone has stitched in numerous flowers into it. Hinagiku had searched and searched for their name, but she had never been able to figure it out. Perhaps the maker had simply drawn flowers from his own mind, she had often told herself. And then, she had wondered about what that had to do with her soul, as it was her Asauchi now.

Other than that, it was a fairly regular katana. But, to Hinagiku it was beautiful, and she would never trade it for another. She remembered when she had just gotten the sword. She had slept with it in the same bed, hoping to bond with it quickly. Yet, here she was, more than four decades later, still not knowing her companion’s name. She had tried to stifle her envy, when Tomoka had learnt the name of her Zanpakutō in the Academy. She had attempted to console herself, repeating how Zaraki-taicho didn’t know the name of his katana either. Yet, Hinagiku had always come back to that depressing hour of meditation, when she begged for the sword’s name in her head.

“Should I quit on ye?” She asked in a whisper, her Kyoto-ben flowing freely in the dark. “Have ye quit on me?” She wondered, touching the sleek blade with her fingers gently. Not a month before, it had been covered with blood and gore from the battlefield. She had lost her Asauchi in battle. That was a taboo for a Shinigami. You never, ever let go of your sword. Not even when you die. “I’ve failed ya’.” She whispered finally, her eyes stinging with tears. A single drop fell on the smooth blade, the sound ringing out in the empty room.

“Hina-chan.” The girl looked up, gasping. Again. She cursed in her mind. He’s here. And truly, there he was. The man that had been haunting her, awake or asleep for weeks now. Hideki stood in his Shinigami uniform at the end of the dojo, offering his usual, polite smile. He didn’t speak anymore. He just stared at her, still. Cold. Dead.

“Hideki.” Hinagiku breathlessly whispered. She knew that he couldn’t be there. He was dead. She had seen him die. Heck, she had seen him die over and over again. Yet, there he was, standing, smiling at her cheerily.

“Hina-chan.” He spoke once more, in the same, eerily cheery tone as usual. Hinagiku felt her throat close up and her nose tingle. She knew what came next. Tears. She was crying again. She hated when she cried. She’d always just cried. When her mother died. When her Grandmother took over her life. When she failed in the Shin’ō Academy. When she messed up in her Division. She cried and cried and cried. She acted like a little spoilt brat from a noble family and she downright hated it.

She hated how powerless she was.

“I’ll find out what happened, Hideki.” She whispered through her tears, with a surprisingly strong voice. “I’ll find out why this happened to ya.” She gripped her Asauchi’s pure white handle with as much strength as she could muster, making her knuckles go pale. “I swear it on my Kobashigawa name.”

She felt something tingle underneath her fingertips and looked down to her katana. The immaculate design, which had been barely visible on the tsuka was now rather easily noticeable. The flowers were being colored a pale lavender color, like the paint was being bled into them slowly. Hinagiku traced the pattern with her fingers slowly, feeling the uneven texture of the soft cloth. She could recognize the flowers clearly now.

Daisies.

“Childhood, innocence, purity…” She whispered the symbolic meaning of the flower, her fingers going over the hilt once again. “Hideki.” Hinagiku remembered, looking up, only to find herself alone in the dojo. He had gone. “I’m going mad…” She whispered to herself, shaking her head.


As much as she wanted to forget the change on her Asauchi, Hinagiku couldn’t help tracing the tsuka ever so often, just to check if the change in texture was still there. Even as she sat in vacant office of their 4th Seat, working, her hand wandered to her hip, where the sword was, checking. She would read, write and complete the form, and then, after she deposited it on the ‘Finished’ pile, her fingers would trace the daisies of her katana.

Something had changed.


Her hands slipped along the lines of records, searching for the proper one. She knew that she only had a few moments before he got suspicious of her absence. But, she seemed to be having bad luck with finding things, which was rather unusual in her case. She had a great sixth sense. Well, she had developed it during her years as a Shin’ō Academy student.

There it is. Her mind supplied, her hands catching the spine of the document. She looked around warily, as she was officially committing her first crime, before pulling out the file. It didn’t have too many pages, but the seal of both the 11th and the 10th Division stood on the front. Both Captains had approved it.

Now, she had thought long and hard about it, and she had come to the conclusion that there was no way that either of the Captains had been planning to kill of their subordinates. No. It had to have been someone else. Now, the only thing that she needed was the initial report of the accident, the request for a mission and the scouting party information.

Her fingers trembled and her heart pumped like crazy as she sifted through the material, her eyes skimming over names and names. She was trying to commit them to memory, but she doubted that she would be able to recall all of them. However, there was one thing which stood out. The initial report had been signed off by the 3rd Division. And, that was mighty unusual.

“Kobashigawa?” His voice drifted towards her through the bookcases and the slight Shinigami fumbled to place the record back. One of the covers caught on the neighboring one, wrinkling. She pulled it back out. His footsteps were coming closer and closer. The girl straightened out the page and stuffed the records file back into its place, moving a little down the shelf just as a familiar Captain rounded the corner. “There you are.” He commented, coming towards her. “I thought you’d gotten lost. There is no order down here.” He sighed, his fingers raking through his spiked, white hair, a habit which had been endearing just a couple of hours ago.

“I had a little trouble, but I think that I’ve found all of the places.” Hinagiku answered, smiling. She could still feel her heart pounding wildly in her chest and beads of sweat running down the back of her neck. She had almost gotten caught. And, as friendly as Captain Hitsugaya was with her, he would have had to arrest her. She had just committed a crime. “This-“ And the Shinigami placed one more file into its proper place on the shelf, minding the date and district, “-is the last one.”

“Thank you for lending me a hand, you’ve been a great help.” The Captain offered a rare smile, motioning with his head for her to follow him back to his desk and computer. As she did, guilt pooled into her stomach, making her almost physically feel sick.


“Paper, is the tournament stuff done?” Her Captain’s bark made her look up from the report, where she had been staring at the same line for at least an hour, she was sure. The guilt had been in her, not giving her any peace, ever since the night when she had aided the young Captain of Squad 10. Well, he had helped her, too, unknowingly. She had tried to convince herself that Hitsugaya Tōshirō was the kind of man who would understand her motivation and determination, rather than judge her actions, but those had been false thoughts. He would’ve tossed her in jail, regardless of the circumstances.

“Yes, Zaraki-dono.”  Hinagiku compartmentalized, again. She pushed the guilt and those thoughts into a black box inside of her and locked it away, tight and secure. Now was definitely not the proper time for that. Instead, she allowed her mind to drift to the matter at hand. “I have obtained permission of the 13th Division to use their training grounds as an arena, which should be set up in a couple of days. Unohana-dono has allowed us three teams of healers, along with Seated officers and she has promised that she would be in the Healing Wing, should any more serious injuries occur.”

Her Captain was nodding along, smirking. Obviously, he didn’t care much for the preparations. He simply wished for the fighting to begin. “Has an exception for the release of the Zanpakutō been granted?” He grunted.

“Yes, only for the Seated positions.” Hinagiku confirmed. “We are to set up a spiritual barrier to prevent any reiatsu damage to the surrounding area.” She hurriedly rummaged around the desk, finding the necessary slips of paper. “If you would only sign these, I will have the application forms for the tournament ready to begin distributing by the end of tomorrow. From there we can-“

“Turn around.” Her captain growled, taking the papers and the pen, signing them on her back, as usual. “Do what needs to be done.” And he was gone once again. Hinagiku allowed a sigh, looking out the still open door. The lawn in front of the offices was empty, the summer heat forcing Ikkaku and his band of battle-hungry greenhorns into the Division dojo.

The slight girl glanced at the pile of papers on her desk and for once, gave up. Placing her reading glasses on the top of the numerous, perfectly stacked, documents, Hinagiku stripped off her kosode, leaving her in her white underclothes. She tossed it over the back of her chair and exited the office. The girl stepped onto the soft grass, barefoot.

She closed her eyes and took a deep breath, allowing her reiatsu to flow freely. The constant push of her Captain’s overbearing and borderline malicious presence completely vanished in her mind and then, she could see everything in the darkness. Well, not see, per se. Feel, if you would. She could sense the smallest movement of the grass in between her toes. The constant ticking of the thousand tiny feet of little ants, collecting Koichi’s dropped breakfast. The soft hum of a bee rushing from one flower to the other in a nearby bush. The rushing of the breeze against her face. The movement each hair on her head made. The grunting coming from the dojo. The distinct sound of one’s back hitting the floor. Ikkaku’s victorious yell. The approaching footsteps.

Iai: One slice!

Hinagiku whirled about, her katana drawn out in a quick motion, barely noticeable. It clanged against another sword, before she completed her movement, sheathing it again. Her eyes opened, the world a tad too bright for her. She took a moment to focus on the figure before her.

“Attacking a Captain is punishable by death, you know.” The Captain with whom she’d become quite familiar with greeted her in his own, dry humor way. His Zanpakutō stood drawn, knocked a little to the side from the force of her strike.

“Please accept my most sincere apologies.” Bowed Hinagiku. “I will accept any punishment than you deem necessary.” She continued, not giving him a chance to speak. The female Shinigami found her panic more focused on the current crime which she’d committed, rather than the one before. And all in the presence of the same Captain. I must have a death wish. She cringed.

“That won’t be necessary.” The young Captain’s voice gained a certain stiffness which Hinagiku had forgotten he was capable of even using. She had offended him in some way, obviously. He was reverting back to the way he had been, back when she was simply a nameless, faceless Shinigami bringing him paperwork. “Stop bowing, Kobashigawa.” So, that was the problem. Hinagiku straightened, still keeping her eyes cast down in respect. I hope he didn’t find out that I’d rummaged in the Seireishokairō.

“I’m very grateful for your leniency, Hitsugaya-taicho.” A sigh came from the young man before her, like he was giving up the topic. Hinagiku attempted to calm down her heart and keep her voice as steady as possible. Luckily, the years of practice under her Grandmother’s tutelage had given her that. She could hide her panic well. Panic and guilt.

“They told me to ask you about the undelivered reports.” Tōshirō pointed towards the open office door.

“U-undelivered?” If you asked the young Captain what Hinagiku’s reaction looked like to him, he would describe it as complete and utter panic, as if she had just spotted a very large Hollow. Then, that panic turned to horror and desperation. “I-if you could give me the date of the documents?”

“July 2nd through 20th.” And that brought even more horror to the girl in front of him, much to the Captain’s amusement. “Shall you get dressed before looking for the files?” He pointed out her shitage top, which was practically see-through from her short workout and summer heat.

“Excuse me!” Squeaked the girl, her cheeks coloring even more, and this time the sun had nothing to do with it. She ran into the office to grab her kosode and hurried to tie it properly around her waist. Captain Hitsugaya waited for a moment outside, attempting to school his expression back to the usual, neutral one. He entered the office to find Hinagiku searching through the large amount of paperwork on the only tall desk in the room with vigor. She was murmuring something to herself, stacking the sheets in perfect little piles. “I’m so sorry that it got lost. I was sure that I had filed it properly. I swear that I will find them in a moment.” Then, she stopped, leaving the drawer of the desk open, letting the files from her hands fall back into it. Her desperate and panicking eyes searched out his and she gave him the look of a kicked puppy, if he dared call it that. “If you could wait here a moment, sir.”

And she was gone before he could reply. “Of course.” Tōshirō said to the empty room, a smirk coming to rest on his face. He wasn’t the kind of Captain that enjoyed it when his underlings squirmed, like Gin or Kuchiki. No, he preferred them to be outspoken and honest. He found that that brought the best results. Of course, he demanded respect, he was a Captain, after all, and they were in the military. It was quite intriguing, though, seeing the usually impeccably organized young woman flustered over a couple of reports.

Five, and then ten minutes passed and Tōshirō began looking around the office in boredom. He had left his own office because his eyes had grown tired of looking at the letters and begun to ache, so he’d figured that a Shunpo around the Seireitei would do him some good. But, the waiting was even more boring than paperwork, which said something.

Tōshirō Hitsugaya considered himself to be a patient man. He enjoyed the wait when something was worth it in the end. He sometimes wondered if his Zanpakutō had anything to do with that. Being a dragon, Hyōrinmaru was a beast in his essence, bloodthirsty and eager for a fight. He loved to wait, to be on a prowl, and then to tear into his prey and reward with gusto in the end. Tōshirō wondered which part of him was like his Zanpakutō sometimes, as he considered himself to be much more disciplined.

The young Captain’s eyes trailed around the space, noting things absent-mindedly. It was an office meant for a 4th Seat, yet, it had two desks, much like a regular Captain’s office. There was a large, tall one to his right, with different mountains of papers on and around it, obviously meticulously sorted. The other one was low, so that one could sit on the floor and work there, and the mess around it was quite unsightly. It was obvious to him right away that the tall desk was used by Hinagiku.

He picked up one of the open letter from the top of the pile, the name on top of it catching his eye. Nakajima. It was a reply to the invitation to the 11th Division’s tournament. Tōshirō wasn’t snooping. No, he most certainly wasn’t. But, the young Captain couldn’t help his curiosity as his eyes skimmed across the paper, reading the contents of the letter.

A familiar reiatsu spiked behind him with a well-placed Shunpo and Tōshirō let go of the letter like it had burst into flame, letting it fall back onto the desk. Hinagiku entered the office once more, her short hair a complete mess from the fast run that she’d just executed. She was murmuring something about incompetent men and their sorting abilities while ruffling through the folders in her arms, positioning them properly. Tōshirō forced a smile down. He couldn’t really help himself. He could remember himself from just a couple of decades ago, being just like that: meticulous and stiff, immersed in his work. Well, more so than now.

“Forgive me for the long wait, Hitsugaya-dono.” She slipped and he didn’t even bother to correct her. The slight Shinigami handed him the folders, sliding the pile a bit so that he could see the dates on the top, written with neat, almost cursive-looking numbers and kanji. “I have arranged them properly so you wouldn’t have any trouble with that. I’m sorry once again for the misplaced documents.” And she stepped back and offered a bow. Tōshirō couldn’t help the small frown that came onto his face at her over the top formality, but he didn’t comment on it.

“It doesn’t matter.” He told her and turned to leave, the back of his mind reminding him of just how much work he had left with the graduation of the Shin’ō Academy around the corner. “I’ll be looking forward to the tournament.” He said to the girl, enjoying the flash of surprise which took over her face. He liked the way her eyes widened, showing off the interesting color of the pupil. They were purple. A deep violet, reminding him of the pansies that Matsumoto had allowed one of their officers to plant outside of his window.

“I- you- ahem.” She blinked twice, collecting herself. “I wasn’t aware that the Captains had been informed of the Tournament yet.” He could see by the way her eyes glued themselves to the floor, more specifically, her own feet, and the way she bit her lip after she said that that she was beating herself up, completely embarrassed about the situation. For once, Tōshirō disliked his rank, which was obviously making the girl in front of him uncomfortable.

“We haven’t.” Now, her eyes drifted up, only for a second. A flash of purple, before they focused on the floor once again. “Then again, most of my officers have been informed of it via mail. I must say that I admired your work with the posters.”

“I- It was Captain Zaraki-dono’s work, sir.” Hinagiku didn’t look at him again. He wished that she would, but she didn’t. “And Yachiru-dono’s.” He liked the way her eyes widened when she looked at him. How they focused and couldn’t seem to turn away.

“Brilliant application, then.” He remarked and gave her a curt nod. “I must be on my way.”

“I wish you a great day, Hitsugaya-taicho.” She bowed low, with utmost respect, and he couldn’t help but allow himself to trail his eyes over her figure once more. The folders in his arms suddenly seemed much heavier than they were two seconds ago.

“Good day.” And he flash stepped away. He was a tad annoyed by the flapping of the folders in his arms and forced himself to slow down so that they wouldn’t scatter across the Seireitei. When he entered his office, many greetings by his officers later, he was met by silence and emptiness.

Matsumoto had escaped.

With a sigh, Tōshirō dropped the folders on his desk, flinching at the sight of the mess on it. He wondered if he could somehow bribe Hinagiku to do some tidying up for him. She runs the 11th Division already, he told himself, banishing the thought from his mind right away. He knew Zaraki well and he had always been curious about the inner workings of the man’s Division. Simply, paperwork and Zaraki Kenpachi were like two magnets of the same polarity: they didn’t go together. Naturally, Tōshirō wanted to know the man’s secret. If he knew it, perhaps he could’ve had a night or two off, as well, even with the amount of things he reviewed because of his highly incompetent Lieutenant.

But, now that he knew the reason why the 11th Division was still standing, he wasn’t sure what to think. Kobashigawa Hinagiku. He knew that last name quite well. He remembered the name of the judge from Central 46, after all. The woman with cold eyes and perfect hair. The one who’d told him to murder his friend. How could he forget. Judge Kobashigawa Setsuko.

When he had first seen the name on an official report delivered to him, he’d thought it a cruel joke of some sort. Yet, when he realized that the report told of a young Shinigami’s survival in battle, in quite extraordinary circumstances, he couldn’t help his curiosity. If there was one thing which Tōshirō valued more than rules, it was his instincts. So, he had gone to see this Kobashigawa Hinagiku, the girl who’d saved the life of one of his recruits, much to his Lieutenant’s amusement.

She had been tiny, like a little hurt rabbit, frightened beyond belief, broken, in that hospital bed, and he’d wondered just how was she related to Kobashigawa Setsuko, that cruel, cruel woman from Central 46. She’d looked at him with admiration, in genuine surprise, as she probably thought herself a lowly unranked officer, not worthy of a visit from a Captain, especially once from a different Division. He had been at a loss of words then, realizing that Kobashigawa Hinagiku was just a tiny girl.

What am I doing?

Tōshirō dropped into his chair, his hands raking through his hair, a habit which he’d found himself developing since he’d become a Captain. He’d never had much interest in lower ranked Shinigami, much less those from other Divisions. He assured himself that he was curious only because of her connection to that woman, but, he was aware that he was just deceiving himself. If one thing was true, he was curious. Strangely so. But, who was he to deny his own instincts? It wouldn’t hurt to indulge them, in his spare time, of course. After all, he found the violet-eyed Shinigami rather pleasant to converse with, when she wasn’t painfully aware of the difference in their rank. Not to mention that she was quite good at shogi.

Surely, a small game wouldn’t hurt?

That’s all folks!

Chapter Text

Welcome everyone!

Now, I read an amazing story a few days back and while it only has a couple of chapters, I must suggest it to you, my precious readers. It has a beautiful OC, a wonderful, easy writing style and a great portrayal of our favorite white-haired Captain!

So, I would recommend: Paper Tiger by PunkShinji to all you Tōshirō lovers :)


Also, something else, I've started taking 'Imagine' requests. So, if anyone is interested, they may comment with something that they wish me to write :) It doesn't have to be Bleach, either.


OCs appearing:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku

Kida Rini

Matsushita Koichi

Tsutsui Tomoka

Uchida

Couple of unnamed 11 th Division members


I give you yet another poem that I like:

You are my favourite

paradox.

because you bring both

tears of complete anger and

sadness to my eyes, yet you are

the same person who's there

to wipe them off.

because you bring both

rain to my weather, and the

sunshine which forms a

beautiful rainbow at the end

of it all.

and because no one can make

me feel as small, and

no one can make me feel

as big, as You.

-Julie Martinez


Chapter 11: Tournament I: Panic

It is dark. But, it isn't unbearable any longer. I don't care if I can't see. I don't have to see.

Because I can hear.

Finally, I can hear. I hear her voice, talking to me. I can hear it when she speaks to others. I can hear them. I can hear. I'm awake. I'm alive. I exist.

I like to sit there, in the dark, my fingers always folding. Crane. Crane. Crane. Dove. Dragon. Crane. Crane. Crane. And I listen. The birds are singing. People are talking. Wind is rushing. Blades are clashing.

Soon.


The day of the Tournament came like a storm.

Hinagiku was caught quite unprepared by the sheer chaos of it, and the amount of hours and careful planning which she had put into the preparation, not to mention the self-given pep talks, now seemed like a distant memory. Her mind was blank and everyone wanted something. Usually, that something was quite silly.

She had the urge to simply scream.

Rini was a Godsend, helping her out with anything and everything and really, taking much more than her own share on her shoulders. Hinagiku had thought she knew their 15th Seat quite well, but she had discovered a new side to the loud woman that day. Rini could be positively tyrannical, if needed. And she didn't lose her head.

Unlike Hinagiku.

And that was just how her friend had found her.

"Hina?" Rini looked around the tents which had been set up in a circular, perfectly mapped out, area on one side of the training grounds of the 13th Division. It reminded the 15th Seat of the military camps from one of the books which she'd gotten from Gense. There was a tent for everything from medical to food, and she'd even stumbled upon one inside which was a man doing a rather extravagant tattoo on a member of her own Division. "I don't evenwant to know." She'd told him once the man had scrambled to get up and collect himself, closing the shihakushō so that his lack of undergarments weren't exposed anymore.

"Kobashigawa allowe-" The man began, but Rini's hand just shot up again, this time successfully making him silent.

"I really don't want to know." Said the 15th Seat, her tone telling the unfortunate Shinigami that she knew that Hinagiku had definitely not approved a tattoo parlor for the tournament. "Where's Hinagiku?"

"She was here moments ago, Ma'am." Said the man, nervously tying the knot of his shihakushō. "Went towards the right." Rini nodded with another fleeting look towards the warrior's inner thigh, where she'd spotted a large face of their Captain appearing in permanent ink, before leaving the tent, shaking her head.

"Got some ink done, Kida?" Rini met their 7th Seat's amber eyes dead on, glaring. He put his hands up in a defensive motion, but couldn't help a snicker. "Meant no offence, I promise."

"Have you seen Hina?" Rini asked, grabbing his kosode sleeve so that he couldn't escape while she looked around, searching for the small girl.

"Sure." The voice was a bit too close for her comfort and she looked back at Koichi, only to find him a mere breath away from her face. "I bet that it's a butterfly above your arse or something." He grinned wolfishly down at her and Rini felt her face heat up. She didn't even think before she kneed him in the stomach, making him bend over. After that, she delivered the final blow, a slap to the back of his head, before leaving towards the right.

"Useless." She commented. "Who would tattoo a butterfly above their butt anyways?" Rini tossed a look up, noting the general time from the sun's position. She really needed to find Hinagiku. After all, they had mere hours before the tournament applicants would begin arriving. The cloth flap of one of the tents in front of her opened and their 5th Seat exited, fanning himself with a brochure of some sort. Or, was it a map? She didn't really care. However, Yumichika caught her eyes and his frown became a relieved groan.

"Good, you're here." He said offhandedly. "Go deal with Paper. She looks ready to throw her breakfast all over the floor." And he wrinkled his nose in distaste, murmuring something about stinky vomit in sweat-smelling tents before heading suspiciously in the direction of the tents where the food was.

Rini frowned once more, before extending her arm blindly and catching one of their greenhorns who was running around like a headless fly. "You. Go get me some mint tea and bring it here." After he nodded enthusiastically, she added. "Sweet." And then turned him towards the food stalls, finally releasing the hold on his shihakushō. The poor Shinigami shot off like a rocket on a mission.

Rini pulled the flap of the tent to the side, entering the stuffy interior. It was dim lit with a single opening on the top, which was also the only source of air. She could immediately see why Yumichika had hightailed out of there with a frown on his face. The whole tent smelled of sweaty men, who had undoubtedly spent some time in there, changing or resting. In this heat, Rini didn't blame them for wanting to get out of the sun, even if to enter a stuffy tent.

She easily spotted Hinagiku, as the small Shinigami was crouched next to the only table in the room, murmuring something to herself and shuffling papers. Truly, she lived up to her popular nickname, smiled the 15th Seat and headed over to the girl.

"Hey." She called out, jumping a bit to sit on the table. Hinagiku's violet eyes connected to Rini's, wide and panicked. She looked ready to hurl. Rini flinched at the though.

"Kida-dono." And, apparently, she'd regressed back to her old ways of extreme politeness. "It seems that I'm unsuited for orchestrating an event on this scale, after all. If you could-" Rini's foot came down from her position on the table, slamming into the shorter girls head. She didn't even block it.

The papers from Hinagiku's hands flew in every direction and she remained on the floor, sprawled like a starfish, where Rini's kick had landed her. The 15th Seat let out a small sound of displeasure, a click of her tongue in the back of her throat and hopped off the table, reaching down. She grabbed the back of her friend's shihakushō and pulled her up by the collar effortlessly. Hinagiku didn't even protest, she just hung there, looking pathetic.

"Awake yet?" Rini asked and was met with silence. She made another noise in the back of her throat and then shrugged. The woman swung her head forward, head-butting her target easily. She pulled back a bit, seeing the way a red mark appeared on the girl's delicate skin right away. "Awake yet?" She repeated and pulled her head back once again. Hinagiku's eyes met hers, wide and a little glassy from unshed tears.

"I'm awake!" The girl squeaked and Rini let go of her shihakushō. Hinagiku landed on her feet, a little unsteady, but seemingly much more aware of her surroundings.

"Alright." The 15th Seat nodded and then grabbed the hilt of her Zanpakutō. "Think fast!"

It all happened in a flash. Rini's katana, a slick blade, with a maroon and black tsuka, slid effortlessly out of the sheath at her waist. Hinagiku didn't block the first blow. In fact, she barely registered it and dodged it only thanks to her reflexes. Obviously, her everyday training with their 3rd Seat was paying off, despite the fact that she could hardly keep up with him, even in a group of three.

She heard the blade swish through the air, right next to her ear. It was a real wakeup call and Hinagiku felt the world around her come into focus. Her mind went blank. Completely. She forgot about the tournament. She forgot about Hideki. She forgot about her Grandmother. She forgot about snooping on Captain Hitsugaya's watch. She forgot.

The second swipe of Rini's sword became slow, deliberate, like she was going easy on Hinagiku. The petite Shinigami grit her teeth and her right hand gripped her Asauchi at her hip, tight, feeling the daisy pattern on the tsuka. As soon as the attacking katana was in range, she drew.

Iai: One slice!

Her mind was calm.

Rini pulled back due to the force of the blow, but turned in a circle, using it to her advantage. With her next attack, she had Hinagiku flying through the side of the tent, ripping the material in the process. But, the 15th Seat wouldn't be deterred, she followed through. Rini swiftly jumped through the hole in the fabric, giving chase after her prey.

"Don't run, Hinagiku!" The petite officer had just enough time to turn around, her eyes wide in shock, before her superior was on her, sending them both to the ground. The clean battle of swordswomen quickly turned into a heated struggle on the grass as both tried to flip the other over, thus gaining the upper hand. Their blades lay forgotten a little ways off, and Yumichika, who'd been standing nearby and drinking sake, picked them up delicately, shaking his head at the sight.

A crowd had gathered quickly, most of the spectators from the 11th Division, yet, there were a few volunteers there as well. The 5th Seat pulled back a little, shaking his head. He didn't want to get his shihakushō dirty. After all, he had washed and pressed it carefully for the opening speech of the tournament. He would be checking in the participants as well. He needed to look his best.

"What's going on there?" Ikkaku's familiar voice came from behind Yumichika and the 3rd Seat stepped next to him, tilting his head in different directions in an attempt to get a better look at the pair on the floor. "Who's fighting?"

"Kida and Paper and solving some tension, I suppose." Yumichika supplied helpfully. "Uchida is taking bets over there. You could get in on the action." Ikkaku's smirk widened as he calculated the information in his head and he hurriedly pulled out his bag of coins from the inside of his shihakushō. Yumichika watched his subordinate and old friend push through the yelling and cheering crowd, placing a handful of coins into Uchida's hands.

"3rd Seat Madarame!" The unseated officer exclaimed, obviously terrified. "I-I-"

"I'm betting here, Uchida. Not arresting you." Ikkaku cut him off, causing the man to eagerly nod.

"Who are you betting on, sir?" He asked, counting the money.

"Me."

All Hell broke loose.


"-four tents, three stalls, ten tables, fifteen chairs, an antique set of teacups, ten bowls of ramen and six of udon. Not to mention the two broken legs, numerous concussions, at least a dozen broken fingers and even an abdominal stab wound!" Hinagiku cringed as the list went on. "Wow! You've outdone yourself, Kobashigawa!"

"It wasn't my fault!" The girl defended, which only caused her superior to laugh.

"It kinda was." Koichi said, still chuckling.

"It definitely was." Their 5th Seat's voice spoke. Captain Zaraki had entered the tent, Yumichika and Ikkaku following him. Their 3rd Seat sported a bandage around his head now, where a stray blade had managed to slice his skin during the all-out brawl. After him joining in, no other member of the battle-thirsty Division had held back and the small group of Shinigami, all while exchanging blows in every way, had totaled at least one 10th of the camp.

"Forgive me, Zaraki-dono." Hinagiku stood, much to the fumbling displeasure of the 4th Division member who was attempting to treat the cut on her arm, and bowed low. The high ranked officers exchanged glances for a moment, while the Captain stared down the small Shinigami, his face not betraying anything.

"I can't believe you started a brawl, Paper." He finally said. But, before she could apologize again, he continued. "You should've waited for me to get here, at least."


A single Shinigami stood in the middle of the mess created mere minutes ago, tents strewn everywhere, stalls broken, officers moaning on the floor in pain, being tended to by the 4th Division. The youth looked around, but he couldn't find the familiar redheaded woman who'd given him a task. He looked down to the mint tea in his hands, before raising it to his lips and taking a sip. Despite the summer heat, the liquid calmed his nerves and he thanked the 15th Seat in his mind quietly.


Hinagiku straightened her shihakushō for the nth time, even though it was immaculate. She had had to Shunpo her way back to the barracks, along with Rini and a number of other members of their Division. By the time she had gotten back to the camp in the 13th Division, the sign-ins were on the way already.

The whole area was bursting with activity. Hinagiku had done a quick check, flash stepping from one stall to the other tent, taking notes on her clipboard of who had taken the first shift and how well they were doing. It was all going as smoothly as one could expect a large scale fighting festival to be going.

Luckily, after Rini's small intervention, Hinagiku's head had cleared. Now, she knew that all she needed to do was follow the careful and detailed plan which she'd been writing out for at least a month and despite the occasional small panic attack, she would be fine. Rini had checked on her a couple of times in between of controlling the setting up of the arena and the bleachers. The 15th Seat was still worried, Hinagiku could tell.

But, by the time the opening ceremony started, a short speech from their high ranked officer, Ayasegawa Yumichika, and a staged duel between their Captain and their 3rd Seat, Hinagiku had become a ruthless machine. She was barking orders left and right, using Shunpo to get around the camp easily, and keeping everything that was happening inside of her head.

"Kobashigawa!" Koichi stopped the girl just before she flesh stepped away, eager to get to the other side of the bleachers with the list of participants that would be battling it out in the arena later. Most of the Shin'ō graduates had answered their invitations and would be participating in the fighting.

"Matsushita-dono." Hinagiku greeted with a nod instead of her usual, polite bow. They were both in a hurry. "How may I help you?"

"Ikkaku is causing trouble again, do you think you could?" Koichi saw her grit her teeth in anger. "They're in the 3rd Sector." She handed him the papers from her hands wordlessly and gave him another nod before vanishing with a Shunpo. The 7th Seat chuckled as he read the information on the clipboard and then disappeared as well, heading towards the other side of the arena.


Tōshirō Hitsugaya raked his hand through his hair, completely messing it up. It wasn't like it was listening to him anyways. With the extreme heat, which was making him unbelievably moody, the gel that he usually used didn't do much to keep it out of his eyes. His bangs had fallen onto his forehead at least a dozen times in the last ten minutes, and he was seriously considering a haircut.

The young Captain hurriedly signed the report, not really reading it. He only noticed that it was from the 11th Division. If it was from there, he figured that everything was in order. He simply couldn't imagine Hinagiku not making sure that everything was immaculate. In fact, he could almost imagine her freaking out over a simple mistake, just how she had had a small panic attack a few days back, during his little hunt for proper paperwork. That girl is going to work herself to the grave. Tōshirō chuckled at the irony of his thoughts.

"Tsutsui Tomoka, 8th Seat, requesting entrance!" A voice said from just outside his door and Tōshirō quickly slicked back his hair with his hands, in a futile attempt to tame it.

"Enter!" His voice betrayed nothing. The door slid to the side and the young woman gave a bow before entering. Tōshirō's eyes followed her as she carefully deposited some work onto his Lieutenant's, quite commonly vacant, desk. Then the Shinigami turned to him and seemed to think for a bit before speaking again.

"May I speak freely, taicho?" She asked and when she received a nod she took a small step forward. Tōshirō took in the way her posture relaxed a bit, yet her eyes darted to the side. She was nervous. Then again, it wasn't as bad as it used to be. He remembered the girl, Tsutsui Tomoka, from when he'd been a 3rd Seat. He remembered the number of missions which he had attempted to assign her to and been denied permission. "I was wondering if I could attend the tournament of the 11th Division?" Tōshirō's mood worsened in a second. She hadn't been the first to ask. She must've noticed the drop in the temperature of the room and the slight rise in his reiatsu due to his anger as she hurriedly added. "I've finished my work for the day, of course."

"Go." Tōshirō didn't bother to hide the bite from his tone. It was positively icy. The noblewoman in front of him flinched, one of her eyes closing at the sheer venom in his tone and she absentmindedly rubbed her upper arms. He forced himself to calm his anger, lowering his reiatsu and allowing the room temperature to rise back up. Tōshirō picked up the next report and started working again, reading the same line over and over again, hoping that his mind and eyes would connect to each other already.

"Taicho?" He fixed the girl with an icy stare, an ability which he was quite proud of and she stepped back once again. "Would you like to join me?"

"Excuse me?" She stood her ground this time, despite the icy tone, and Tōshirō filed away a newfound respect for the usually overly bubbly and generally annoying woman. Heremembered her, after all. Tsutsui Tomoka had never been one to be ignored. She had been in her last year of the Shin'ō Academy when he had started his first. She had led his fan club singlehandedly. With dignity befitting her status, of course. Blood status. How he despised that.

"Well-" She trailed off, suddenly finding the ground rather fascinating. "Most of our Seated officers are already at the tournament camp, either participating or watching. The rest are rather miserable, sir. They all want to watch the 11th Division battle it out at the arena."

"And my going has what to do with it?"

"It would allow them to watch as well, sir. It would be great support for the Division." She looked up then, locking eyes with him. Admirable, Tōshirō noted. "You're always speaking of making this Division a family, sir. Of making us happy. All of us want to watch the tournament. Wouldn't that be good bonding?"

"And the work?" Tōshirō raised his eyebrow at her. While he liked the determination which had taken over his usually meek 8th Seat's face, he didn't like that it was directed at him. He was her Captain, for Soul King's sake.

"Most of it has been done, sir. But, what we haven't finished, we will as soon as the tournament is over."

"So, in other words, you want me to pause all new missions until the end of the tournament?" He lowered the report back on its pile of unread papers, propping his head up with one hand, elbow on the desk.

"Yes, taicho." You could hear a fly buzzing in the room.

"Alright." Tōshirō sighed out and stood. He took his Zanpakutō from the back of his chair and strapped it to his back in one fluid motion. When he turned around, Tsutsui was still there, looking at him in shock. "Did you think that I wasn't interested in the battles?" That shook her from her frozen state.

"No, sir. I just thought- well- that you wouldn't enjoy watching them."

"And you came to ask me anyway?" The unlikely duo left the office, heading down the corridor. Tōshirō noted the way she carefully walked a couple of steps behind him, respectful of his rank and gender. Even if he wasn't a noble himself, he was aware of some of their customs and etiquette. He was instantly reminded of Hinagiku. Well, she is a Kobashigawa. Estranged or not, she had to receive some training on proper etiquette for noblewomen.

"I want to believe in the 10th Division that you speak of, sir." Tsutsui told him and he stopped for a moment, turning to look at her.

"So do I." Tōshirō told her with a small smile and noted the way that she looked positively shocked, her pale face reddening.

He had never seen her blush before.


Hinagiku had thought that she would be able to breathe after the first round started. Obviously, she had been very, very wrong.

The mess simply seemed to escalate during the tournament. No, nothing big like you're imagining right now. There surely wasn't an invasion of Hollow or a crash of a meteor. No. Rather, it was the little things. And Hinagiku, being Hinagiku, the infamous Paper pusher of the 11th Division, would've preferred an unexpected meteor crash over those little things.

After the first brawl, Ikkaku had started three more, making her the absolute bad guy and killjoy of the Division, as she had broken all of them up with a few well-aimed Bakudō spells. The 3rd Seat had calmed down a bit after his staged duel with the Captain, though, where their leader had demonstrated his power by effortlessly knocking out the poor bald Shinigami, much to Hinagiku's delight. One couldn't cause trouble if one was unconscious.

But, Ikkaku hadn't been her only problem. It was the Captain of the 6th Division, Kuchiki Byakuya, whom she had cursed at least ten times in her head since the beginning of the tournament. She had politely requested of him to be a referee, due to both his power, in case they needed to stop the match, and battle expertise, and he had confirmed his presence for the duration of the first day of the battles. Yet, she hadn't managed to find him. Anywhere. In the end, just as she was giving up hope, Koichi had grabbed the 6th Division's Lieutenant, who had been snacking in the food section of the camp, and dragged the poor Shinigami to the girl. It was Abarai Renji, after he'd been given a couple of tissues to wipe all the takoyaki sauce from his mouth, that had joined Captain Ukitake of the 13th Division and Captain Kyōraku of the 8th Division in the VIP section, much to Hinagiku's relief and his own panic.

Rini had managed to set up the sound system which the 12th Division had lent them properly, due to her previous position in said squad. The large speakers and the microphone were positioned around the arena, so that the commentator's voice could be heard from every position. Of course, their Lieutenant had been testing it out the whole morning, and Hinagiku swore that if she heard one more song about flowers and animals, twisted into a bloody fairytale by the young girl, she would destroy the speakers, her working relation with Tsubokura Rin be damned. Then again, she could also invest in some earplugs.

"That is Nakajima Shin, right there, ladies and gents!" Koichi's voice came from the loudspeakers as he gleefully relayed the details of the all-out brawl in the arena below. By the cheers, he had been a great choice. His charismatic way of relaying the match along with the offhanded comments full of trivia or personal information kept the crowd yelling like mad. "Now, do remember, that would've been a fatal shot had blades been allowed! He will be one mean officer as soon as he picks his Division! What do you say Ukitake-taicho?"

"His Kenjutsu is superb, Koichi-kun." Agreed the white haired man, looking a tad uncomfortable with the attention. He was smiling a bit, as always, and Hinagiku couldn't help but mirror the gesture from her spot on the bleachers. "But look at that teamwork on the north of the arena." And Koichi informed the crowd quickly of the names and stats of the group which had banded together, fighting against the numerous opponents. Hinagiku gave a small nod to herself and quickly wrote down a note on her board before turning around and leaving the bleachers.

She didn't notice a familiar head of white hair appearing almost opposite of her, all the way at the top of the numerous rows of seats.

That's all folks!

I had a lot of fun writing this chapter, as you can probably tell, and I had a blast planning the whole tournament! I hope that you guys will enjoy the originality :)

Also, I hope that you noticed my reference to Diamond Dust Rebellion in the last chapter!

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome!

I have no excuses, to be honest. I'm sorry for the long wait for this chapter… I've started college classes once more and between that and two jobs, I've been a bit busy…


OCs appearing in this chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku

Kida Rini (mentioned)

Matsushita Koichi (mentioned)

Tsutsui Tomoka


I hope that you enjoy this quote as much as I did:

"A star falls from the sky and into your hands. Then it seeps through your veins and swims inside your blood and becomes every part of you. And then you have to put it back into the sky. And it's the most painful thing you'll ever have to do and that you've ever done. But what's yours is yours. Whether it's up in the sky or here in your hands. And one day, it'll fall from the sky and hit you in the head real hard and that time, you won't have to put it back in the sky again."

- C. JoyBell C.


Chapter 12: Tournament II: Exigent

It is dark. Dark and loud. And warm. And oh so warm. I wish for the cold. I pray for the winter. I like winter.

I enjoy snow. Snow, from what I remember, is beautiful. Pure, white, just like paper. It is so fragile, yet, so deadly. Pure. Joyful. Yet, serious and deadly. One wouldn't want to be left alone in the snowstorm, after all.

She likes snow as well. I would know.

She likes the cold.

She likes the ice.

She likes the numb.

She is too numb.

I'm not.

I feel the rage. I feel the anger.

I like that. I like feeling. I like letting go. There is nothing in discipline.

Only darkness.

And I'm sick of the dark.


"This way, taicho." Tomoka climbed the last flight of the stairs leading to the top of the bleachers and smiled at her Captain from above. She waited for him for a moment, as he was looking around, taking everything in.

"Are the seats assigned?" He asked when he finally reached the top as well, panting a bit. He breathed out a sigh and Tomoka pitied him for a moment. With his ice Zanpakutō, she could only imagine just how much of a strain the hot weather was putting on him. She had noticed him slow down his Shunpo twice on the way to the camp.

"Knowing Hina-chan, they are, but nobody's respecting it." She giggled to herself, a cute, practiced sound, her hand coming up to her mouth. "Shall we sit over here?" She pointed at the nearby empty spots and after she got a nod from her Captain the two settled there.

The 13th Division's training area had been completely transformed. The normally rocky area with a large, deep hole in the middle had become a huge coliseum of sorts, with an arena in the center. The bleachers were tall, obviously designed by the 12th Division, stretching from the bottom of the pit all the way to the top and beyond on a strong construction of metal and stone. The arena was like a rocky desert, with uneven terrain, providing the young Shinigami-to-be with the option of sneak attacks and a certain amount of stealth or cover, should they choose to use it. The dust and sand which covered the arena in a thin sheet had risen in the midst of all the fighting, creating a small yellow and brown cloud, making the visibility a bit low for the spectators. Through, it provided a good cover for those who were lying in wait inside the arena.

Tōshirō leaned forwards in his seat, his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, taking in the scene. It was a well thought-through battle, if anyone asked him. He had doubted Hinagiku's battle experience when he'd realized that it was her who would be organizing the event, but he had obviously been sorely mistaken. That, or she had had help from an experienced fighter.

The simplicity of the arena allowed for the young graduates to test their abilities in battle freely, using their surroundings to the best of their ability. Yet, the scenery wasn't overly complex, demanding certain tactics, like an arena could. It was a great choice, he concluded with a small nod to himself.

And that was without even mentioning the style of the battle. It was an all-on-all. While it didn't allow for any one person to shine completely, it successfully eliminated a number of participants and provided the chance for the future officers to get a feel for battle. If they were attacked by Hollow, it was highly probable that they would be outnumbered. He had been quite impressed with one small group of four, which had decided to band together to win the competition. They had each provided support for the other members. The young Captain had memorized their names as the commentator shouted them out to the cheering crowd.

And, that was another reason why this type of battle had been perfectly chosen. It allowed for the Captains to take notes on each member of the graduating class and then decide who they would invite to their Division. Tōshirō leaned back in his seat, looking around to see the mastermind of the tournament, but he couldn't find her. Truly, he was impressed. But, he hadn't expected anything less. From her skills in shogi to her background as a veteran of the 11th Division, Hinagiku had had to have a set of impressive skills, especially for something like this.

"Hitsugaya-taicho?" Tomoka's voice next to him brought him out of his thoughts. His eyes darted to her, but he didn't give her any other sign that he was listening. "Do you know the rules of the battle?" She asked, searching through the pamphlet which they'd been given at the entrance to the camp.

"Just watch." He told her and she looked back down at the fighting. "See there, they took that one out." Truly, a member of the 11th Division had darted forwards, taking an unconscious applicant from the arena and towards the wide green tent in the corner of the field. "Anyone who is knocked out or unable to fight is disqualified." Tōshirō noted the young girl who had stepped out of the rocky arena and been approached by a Shinigami as well. "Anyone who steps out of bounds is out, also. Kidō is apparently allowed, but blades aren't." He concluded, taking note of the numerous bokken, bo staffs and even kendo swords that the graduates were using. "It's a fairly good set of rules. Though, I would've probably banned Kido as well." He huffed from the heat, as the sun was high above them in the sky and there was no cover. Tōshirō felt like he, himself, was melting.

"Why?" The girl next to him asked, and he suddenly realized that she had, in fact, been listening. It's not Matsumoto, he scolded himself.

"I doubt that they want anyone to be seriously injured or even die in the altercation." The young Captain explained. "Untrained Kidō, especially in a situation like this, can be quite dangerous."

"I see." Tomoka nodded and the two lapsed into a short silence. The battle was paused after a couple of hours for a short break and Tōshirō practically flew from his seat. He could feel the heat radiating from his black uniform that had soaked up the rays greedily. Yes, he was positively cooking. He allowed Tomoka to lead him around, his mind hazy from the heat. "Would you like some ice-cream, taicho?" She'd asked at some point and he'd nodded wordlessly. He didn't have the strength. Perhaps he should've stayed in, like he had been planning.

"Thanks." He'd said once the girl had placed a cone in his hand with smile.

"It's nothing, taicho!~" Tomoka had chirped happily and continued to flutter from one stand to the other. Tōshirō followed, his brain taking the back seat. Everything seemed like a wild, multicolored dream at that point. The first lick of his ice-cream told him that it was vanilla and he wondered if the vendor had had watermelon. He liked watermelon flavor. "Hina-chan!~" Tomoka was talking to another one of her acquaintances, but Tōshirō didn't follow the conversation. He had managed to find some shade under a stall and he was quite content to stay there for the rest of the unbearably hot day. Maybe even leak some reiatsu to try and cool down.

"Hitsugaya-taicho?" Hinagiku's face appeared in his vision and he absentmindedly took in her violet eyes. They really were quite a fascinating shade of purple. She blushed in front of him and then grabbed one of the passing Shinigami. He was a Seated officer in the 11th Division, Tōshirō knew. He'd carefully remembered the important officers from each Division, after all. Hinagiku had handed the man her clipboard and instructed him to do something, but all that Tōshirō could hear was a dull thrum in the back of his head. Then, she focused on him once more and he found himself smiling at her goofily.

She was speaking something to him, but, he couldn't really hear it.

Though, after she gently snaked her arm around his, her fingers coming into the crook of his elbow and leading him away, he didn't really protest.

Indulge, right? His overheated brain had oh so helpfully supplied.


Hinagiku was at her wit's end.

She had been in the middle of completely freaking out over the number of cups and the amount of bandages when Rini had told her that they needed to proceed with the match. The 15th Seat had explained that with the rising heat, both the spectators and the fighters were getting increasingly cranky. Some had even left. As if that one newbie tossing a badly aimed, yet rather strong, Hadō wasn't enough. They'd had to immediately stop the match, despite their plan for a single battle. Koichi had done a splendid job of making the impromptu break seem completely intentional.

But, as Hinagiku was on her way to check out the Shin'ō graduates in the green and white tents of the 4th Division, she'd seen them. She didn't know why, but instantly, she boiled. She had literally felt herself squeeze the teacup in her hand so tight that it burst, sending the cool liquid down her fingers. Now, you need to understand something, Hinagiku wasn't used to feeling strong emotions. She'd lived a fairly sheltered life of pleasure with her status as a granddaughter of a famous judge. Her mother had made sure that her only daughter and heir only felt joy at its finest. The last time that Hinagiku had felt so strongly had been her parent's death. And even then, those emotions had been numb somehow. She was used to that state. She was used to being numb.

But, this. This was different. The Shinigami had felt her reiatsu spin and rage and go out of control and wrestled with it to reign it back in in mere seconds at the sight. She didn't know why she'd reacted like that. They were in the same Division. He was her Captain. Why in the world did she feel so… so… livid?

"Hina-chan!~" Tomoka had spotted her and bounded over, hugging the petite Shinigami with a smile. Hinagiku returned the embrace stiffly, painfully aware of the couple of small cuts on her hand from the porcelain of the cup that had dug into her skin. "Oh dear!~" Tomoka exclaimed, noticing the trouble. "What happened, Hina-chan? Mou!~ You need to take better care of yourself!~" The noblewoman didn't stop talking, as usual. "Don't you agree, taicho?"

But, the young Captain quite obviously wasn't listening. He was standing under the shade of one of the stalls and licking an ice-cream, looking around seemingly in a daze. Hinagiku instantly knew that something was wrong with that picture. Her eyes narrowed as she looked more carefully at the man, focusing her reiatsu so that she could feel his. Tomoka was chattering about the battle in the background, not really needing another person to converse with. Hinagiku sucked in a breath as soon as she felt the immense power that the young Captain wielded.

It was like an iceberg, if she would have to compare it to anything. And, she could only see the top of it with her reiatsu. There was an impressive amount of power hidden, out of her sight, but she could feel it. It was positively suffocating and she couldn't really imagine it being let loose. But, that wasn't what worried her. She'd already known just how powerful a Captain must be. Her own was the loose cannon of loose cannons, Zaraki Kenpachi.

What got Hinagiku worried was the state of that top of the enormous iceberg. If one considered the way she saw a person's reiatsu, her Captain's as a wild, electric yellow storm. Her own as a purple smoke, gentle, willowy and sparkling as it waved about in the wind. She saw Captain Hitsugaya's as a layer of cool air. You know, when you leave ice out in the heat and you see a cloud of white engulf it. It was a cool, pleasant air, and she could swear that it smelled faintly of watermelons. Hinagiku had always been able to tell the white haired Captain's reiatsu apart because of the smell. She wasn't too fond of them, but she didn't mind the fruit. Somehow, it made the reiatsu seem even cooler.

But, that wasn't the case at the moment. Now that Hinagiku had prodded the Captain's reiatsu gently with her own, it didn't swirl around the purple smoke in a gentle, yet icy cloud, but it simply flopped to the side, almost like jelly. Something was terribly wrong with the man.

"Hitsugaya-taicho?" Hinagiku carefully asked, keeping her voice just strong enough so that he would hear her over the chatter around them. His eyes focused on her, trapping her in place and the girl sucked in a ragged breath at the intense gaze. Then again, he'd never looked at her without seeing her, like she was used to being looked at at her Grandmother's compound.

"Really purple." He murmured, and Hinagiku wasn't sure if he meant for her to hear it or not. However, she felt herself blushing profusely at the comment. Tomoka had stopped speaking in the background, finally, supplied Hinagiku's mind, and she was now gaping in disbelief. The petite Shinigami made an instant decision.

She grabbed one of the passing Shinigami, recognizing his reiatsu as one of those that usually followed Ikkaku's around. She gave the man her clipboard and gave him strict instructions, all while keeping the white haired Captain in the corner of her vision field. He was looking at her, but his eyes didn't have the usual power which they did. They were unfocused. She knew, even if they locked gazes now, he wouldn't be able to trap her, like he usually did. Something was undeniably wrong.

"Hitsugaya-taicho?" Hinagiku gently spoke to him once more when the young Captain smiled at her, rather lopsidedly, if she might add. She'd never known that he could make that kind of an expression. Hinagiku was a little puzzled by the way her stomach did a small jump, but she ignored it. "Are you alright?" She asked the white haired man softly. He looked like he was ready to fall over, whether from Tomoka dragging him around or from the intense heat, she wasn't sure.

"Hina-chan?~" Tomoka spoke behind her, her voice slowly moving away. "I'll be right back, alright?~" But, Hinagiku wasn't listening to her anymore, either. Instead, the short Shinigami reached out slowly, snaking her arm around the young Captain's, pulling him along with her tentatively at first, expecting him to move away.

Though, he just followed obediently and she couldn't help the way her cheeks went red.


Yamada Hanatarō wasn't having a good day. It had nothing to do with the usual things which disturbed his regular duties. No, the 11th Division wasn't hunting him down once again, like they enjoyed doing purely for sport, as he cleaned their barracks. No. His trouble was a bit direr this time.

He'd been ecstatic when Captain Unohana, the gentlest and kindest Captain, if you asked him, invited him into her office a few months ago. When he'd been handed the usual promotion papers, saying that he could accept the Seated number if he wished, he had been beyond himself with joy. After signing his name, taking on the promotion, he's spent some time staring into the new plaque which the Captain had given him.

Yamada Hanatarō, 7th Seat of the 4th Division it read.

He'd hung it proudly in front of his new office, getting settled in. And then, this had come. The request for aid during the Tournament in the 11th Division. His Captain hadn't given him that mission as an order. No, she'd asked him if he wanted it. (That's why Captain Unohana was the gentlest and kindest.) And he had, of course, accepted it. He wanted to prove to the woman that she had chosen correctly when she had promoted him.

He'd made a big mistake.

Two weeks after accepting the mission and preparing for it, here he was, in the middle of utter chaos, attempting to control both his unit and the rowdy group of 11th Division Shinigami who'd come in for treatment. One had a severed leg. A severed leg, mind you! And, what did the stupid warrior tell him? Can you just… sew it back on… or something? The audacity! Healing wasn't a swing of the sword! No, healing Kidō took time and precision. Patience. Energy. It had taken him three hours and an energy pill to get that leg back on, all nerves and muscles properly attached. And the Shinigami had just jumped up and left back for the arena!

"7th Seat Yamada-san!" A nervous looking Shinigami, obviously new to the Gotei, poked his head into the healing tents.

"That's me." Hanatarō peeped up, standing up from his position next to a man with a gash wound across his chest. The slash had been cleaned and cauterized, so all that was left was for one of his team members to apply some anti-scarring salve on it. "How can I be of help?" He asked the shifty officer.

"Kobashigawa-san asked for someone. It's urgent." Hanatarō frowned, taking off his long, skin colored gloves, and quickly grabbing a few things. He'd officially met Kobashigawa Hinagiku once, when he'd first accepted this mission. She was a serious, no nonsense, kind of person, always lugging around some paperwork and of course, a detailed plan of activities. If she was asking for him, it meant trouble. The unnamed officer led Hanatarō to a nearby tent, leaving as soon as the medic knew where he was to go.

The inside of the tent was hot. Hotter than even his own, medical tent. Hanatarō sighed, reaching back and trying his medium length hair into a small ponytail. That allowed the hot air to move around his neck, cooling him down a bit. When he looked around, he realized that Hinagiku Kobashigawa was nowhere to be found.

"Kobashigawa-san?" He called out to the suffocating tent, hoping that she indeed wasn't inside, so that he could leave as soon as possible.

"Behind the screen, Yamada-dono." Her voice came, leveled, the only tone Hanatarō had known her to make. As he went towards the only screen in the room, he wondered about Hinagiku for a moment. In all honesty, he'd been surprised at her overall persona. She was polite, above all things, and very careful about procedure and protocol. Not only that, but Hinagiku had a certain face which she made when she saw the other members of the 11th Division 'hunting' Hanatarō. The left side of her lips would go up, like she was suppressing a smile or biting the inside of her mouth. At first, Hanatarō had thought that she enjoyed the shenanigans of her Division members from afar, but later, he'd learnt that that face meant worry and disapproval. After all, she'd personally sent him a letter of apology, along with a generous gift basket for his trouble.

As soon as Hanatarō rounded the small divider, he felt his jaw drop. Hinagiku Kobashigawa was kneeling next to a makeshift bed, like all the beds in the camp, trying to push a rather red faced Captain Hitsugaya back down into a lying position. He couldn't help but stare as the two Shinigami in front of him shared a couple of words, ridiculous sounding, considering who the two were, concerning the young Captain's health.

"You can see why your discretion would be most welcome, Yamada-dono." Said Kobashigawa breathlessly as she finally managed to get the stubborn superior officer into his bed.

"W-what happened, Kobashigawa-san?" Hanatarō blanched, stumbling towards the duo.

"I'm not certain." Replied the female Shinigami in a low tone, as if not to upset the currently drifting Captain. "When I encountered Hitsugaya-don- taicho he was already like this. I fear it's an illness of sorts." She turned to Hanatarō, and the officer found himself noticing just how purple her eyes were. "I was never any good at Healing Kidō, I fear. What do you reckon, Yamada-dono?"

"Oh, I'm sure that you were a great student, regardless of the subject, Kobashigawa-san." Replied Hanatarō, nodding.

Finally, the small crease of worry in between the woman's eyebrows vanished and she smiled a bit, looking at the healer with gentler eyes. "I was talking about the Captain's state, Yamada-dono."

"Oh." Exclaimed the officer, ducking to hide his blush and coming closer to examine the Captain. He was used to using his abilities by now. The focus, which used to take him hours in the Academy, now took mere seconds, and his hands felt numb, like they'd fallen asleep. Yet, he could feel more than usual through them. Much more than just touch. He could feel the pure reishi that was in the air. Only then did he lower his palms to the Captain's form. One went to his forehead, the mind, and the other to his heart, the soul.

Hinagiku bit her lip, anxiously waiting for the 4th Division member to finish his work. She'd met Yamada Hanatarō some time ago. She had remembered him easily enough: he was a mousy, quiet type, always apologizing about one thing or the other. In all honesty, she hadn't thought much of him. Her Grandmother would be ashamed and enraged, probably. The old judge had always taught her granddaughter that one must not underestimate even but an ant, for it could turn out to be a lion instead. Hinagiku had never really understood those words.

Now, watching the officer work, she felt like a small wave of clarity had washed over her. Hanatarō working and Hanatarō cleaning were two completely different people. This person, this healer, he had no hesitation in his movements. He took mere seconds to manifest his Kidō and used it with complete accuracy, making it seem effortless. Hinagiku found herself being quite envious of his abilities.

"Phew." Exclaimed the young Shinigami after a couple of moments, wiping the sweat off of his forehead. The heat of the tent combined with the exertion from his work had gotten to him. "There is nothing wrong with the Captain, physically." The healer concluded. "I fear that it's simply the nature of his reiryoku which is being affected."

"Nature of his reiryoku?" Asked Hinagiku, frowning. Her minds had begun sifting through the excess information which she'd gathered from the numerous textbooks about Zanpakutōs which she'd read. Though, the healer interrupted her inner musings.

"Ice." Explained Hanatarō. "The Captain's Zanpakutō is an ice-based katana. The more powerful the sword, the more powerful the bond between nature and Shinigami."

"I see." Hinagiku murmured. She'd heard of the extent of the Captain's powers and how he could control the weather itself, but, she'd never thought that the nature would be able to reciprocate the influence. "So, he was simply in the heat for too long?"

Hanatarō nodded. "That is the only diagnosis which I'm comfortable with giving him. Nothing else is wrong."

"What should we do with him?" Hinagiku frowned, suddenly realizing that the Captain was in no state to return to his quarters on his own, and she had much more pressing matters to attend to, no matter how much she wished to stay and watch over his state.

"I will assign an officer to be with him at all times." Hanatarō nodded, standing up. "I will check on him from time to time as well." Before leaving, the young healer bowed respectfully, despite being a higher rank from the woman before him. "Good day, Kobashigawa-san." He told her, before exiting. He heard her voice reply, absent-mindedly after him and wondered about her relationship with the prodigious Captain.

One didn't just look at anyone like that, after all.


Hinagiku had briefly heard from Kida Rini about a movie that her newfound friend enjoyed immensely. A movie. A moving picture from the Gense. Hinagiku had quickly become quite adept at navigating through a large number of characters and actors (what was the difference, anyways?) that Rini loved referencing. And, there was one that came to mind which described her state for the rest of the first day of the Tournament.

Scrat.

It was a sort of a squirrel, completely obsessed with its acorn, except that Hinagiku was pretty sure that her own nut was fictional. Thankfully, the large fight had ended by sunset, with ten new graduates from the Academy as proud winners who would be eligible to participate in the fights of the fourth day, as well. There had been no major injuries, only a couple of broken bones and bruises. Even one nasty burn. But, Yamada Hanatarō had proven a very capable squad commander and he'd dealt with the problems with a cool head and skilled hand. Hinagiku had made a note on her clipboard to mention his calm and diligent work to his Captain in her report. She was definitely looking forward to working with the man some more.

There had been a thing, like an itch, in the back of Hinagiku's mind the whole day, telling her that she needed to do something, which she hadn't quite been able to think away. So, after finishing all the paperwork and checking for the first successful day of her project, the tired and sweaty officer headed slowly towards the Medical section of the tents. She easily slipped into one of them, no-one really taking notice of her, as most of the Shinigami were heading towards the 1st section of the camp, where Zaraki Kenpachi and Shunsui Kyōraku had opened the celebratory sake.

Hinagiku entered the dark tent, squinting as her eyes adjusted to the lack of lighting. She easily noticed that it was empty, as the screen had been moved to the side, giving her a clear view of the previously occupied bed. With a sigh, the short girl turned around, leaving the tent, completely drained, of both her energy and spirit.

She simply felt... exhausted.

That's all folks!

 


I just wanted to clear up something regarding the Rukia and Renji snippet I added in the last chapter. I feel like I gave you the wrong impression. I really support their friendship, but I don't think that they are a good romantic couple. I'm IchiRuki all the way!
Though, I do think that Renji has a bit of a crush on Rukia.

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome!


I'm sorry that it's been so long! There are actually more chapters on FFN for those following....


On the other note, this story has officially gotten its beta:

The amazing Sassifrass who has helped me out with this chapter!


OCs appearing in this chapter:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku

Kida Rini

Matsushita Koichi (mentioned)

Tsutsui Tomoka


I hope that you enjoy this quote as much as I did:

"If you hear a voice within you say 'you cannot paint,' then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced."

-Vincent Van Gogh


Chapter 13: Tournament III: Face

It is dark.

Dark and damp. Full of panic. Full of rain. Full of trembles. She fears. She fears a lot. She fears herself. She fears her betters. She fears failure. She fears disgrace. She fears so much.

She doesn't fear pain. She never feared pain. She never feared death.

I fear it for her.

I fear a little. In this darkness, I've known only safety. She hasn't. Perhaps, she is protecting me in this darkness of hers. Perhaps. And perhaps, I'm protecting her, of this fear of mine. Perhaps.

It is leaking everywhere. It is raining in my dark. She is trembling.

She caresses me. And then, it stops. The sounds of rain patter. The sounds of shouting.

Finally, she is steady.

I'll be strong for you. I'll surpass my fear for you. I'll never retreat if you so desire. I'll never know defeat with you.

You won't lose.

You won't die.

We don't lose.

Draw me.

Use me.

Fight.


The second day of the Tournament came a bit too soon for Hinagiku. It was Kida Rini, her new roommate and superior officer that woke the exhausted Shinigami up and directed her towards the baths for a much-needed wake-up shower.

"And you need to make sure that-"

"You've already told me that, Hinagiku." Rini interrupted her, bending her head back and rinsing out her short, red hair. She shook it out next, sending drops of cool water everywhere. "Three times." Commented the 15th Seat. When she was met with silence, except the rowdy splashing of the men's bath next-door, she glanced at her friend. Hinagiku was sitting in her towel, looking at the soap in thought. Her dark hair, naturally wavy, still had its usual curl, even with all the water in it.

"Sorry." Mumbled the distracted Shinigami in a tiny voice.

"Are you scared?" Asked Rini, making Hinagiku look up at her. The girl had a slight blush on her face, and the redhead wasn't sure if that was from the heat or from the embarrassment of seeing her superior in only a towel. "Or nervous?"

Hinagiku looked back down, thinking of the fights that would occur that day. Unseated officers separated into blocks A, B, C and D would duel it out in the arena. She had been sorted into block A. She would be fighting today. She would be fighting first. She would have another chance to earn herself a spot as a Seated officer. She would be able to prove herself. Show that she wasn't just a Paper Pusher. Show that she was worthy of the Kobashigawa name.

"Excited?" Rini's voice made her blink. She'd forgotten that her friend was still there.

"Terrified." Answered Hinagiku, her accent showing. "An' delighted." She smiled at Rini, showing the other woman her shaking hands. They hadn't stopped trembling since she'd woken up. And, she knew that they wouldn't stop trembling until she entered that arena and grabbed the hilt of her Asauchi, ready to strike.

"Make us proud, Hina."


The morning was a blur. They'd set up the new arena easily enough, as the 12th Division had sent over some of their officers to help. Surprisingly enough, the 11th Division members hadn't caused a brawl yet. Everyone seemed to be expecting the two huge fights that would happen that day. The tension in the air was overwhelming.

Around six in the morning, a light rain had begun. The whole skies had turned gray, a dull, uninteresting color, making the working Shinigami look rather eerie. It was still warm, but somehow… suspenseful. Hinagiku dressed in silence in her rooms, free of any duties except a small amount of management for the day. And it was a good thing, too, as her mind had gone in a numb, dream-like state at one point.

The room which she shared with Rini were empty, as the Seated officer had left some time ago, the only sound the rain drops falling from the roof outside, once they collected in the sewer system. But, Hinagiku could hear a dozen flies in her ears, buzzing, making her head feel large, making her feel like she was going to puke at any second. Her hands dressed her on autopilot, and it was while her numb and shaky fingers were pulling on her socks and tying her waraji that she realized that it was time.

She was ready.

Doing a couple calculations in her head and going through her mental calendar, she could tell that she had one more hour until the signing in began. Hinagiku grabbed her Asauchi and tied it to her waist, where it always hung. She was, after all, in the 11th Division. Even if the Shinigami weren't required to carry their weapons at all times, unless an emergency was declared, the Zaraki Kenpachi Squad members almost always had their katana with them.

The traditional paper doors closed behind her silently and the slight girl looked at the skies, taking in the rhythmic falling of the water drops from the edge of the roof. She felt the weight of her body suddenly, her knees shaking, her breath becoming ragged. She was going to do this. She could do this. She would do this.

Hinagiku closed her eyes, breathing in with the rain. One. Two. Three. Breathe. One. Two. Three. Breathe. She counted the drops hitting the hardwood patio right in front of her. She couldn't see them, yet, she felt every single vibration. One. Two. Three. Slice.

If anyone had looked, they would've simply seen the fourth drop split in half, before flying left and right, not reaching the wood that would've been its destination. Hinagiku opened her eyes, taking in a deep breath. She felt her fingers tremble as they caressed the tsuka of her Asauchi, decorated in pale, lavender daisies.

I'm ready.


She spent the morning going around and taking care of small tasks, like managing the stalls' supply lists and taking care of minor technical adjustments. It was almost an hour after the signing in had begun for the Tournament that day that Rini found her and dragged her by the hand to the long line of tables, making her stand in line and submit her papers.

Hinagiku read through the instructions and agreement which she had written with Koichi's help in a numb state. It seemed ages ago that they had been sitting in the 4th Seat's office, tossing ideas about what should and shouldn't be allowed at which level of the Tournament. But, she knew well that it had been a mere couple of weeks ago. Just eighteen days. Only four hundred and thirty-two hours. Just. Only. Time sure flies quickly.

"Have you signed it yet?" Rini had come back to the line, her bright red hair now pulled in a tiny ponytail at the nape of her neck. Hinagiku looked at the new side of her recently acquired friend, friend mind you, and gave a small smile.

"That hairstyle suits you, Rini-dono." She complimented, causing the other officer to snort.

"Yeah, yeah. It's convenient." She replied off-handedly. After all, Rini had never been known for her beauty in their Division. No, she'd been known for her fearless strength and grit in battle. Beauty was not a word one associated with her. Though, from a purely objective point, Hinagiku could see that a little bit of makeup would've done wonders for the 15th Seat. Clearly, she'd learned a thing or two from following Tomoka at the Academy. "Now, stop deflecting. Have you signed it yet?"

"Here." Hinagiku swirled her signature on the bottom of the paper, agreeing that she was responsible for her own life, her injuries and her own behavior during the match. She had agreed not to release her Zanpakutō, as if she could, use excessive force on a downed Division member, as if she would, or attack outside of the battle arena, as if she should.

"To the tables, go on." Rini urged her, pushing her towards one of the officers sitting at the sign-in desk. Hinagiku knew his face, yet she couldn't place his name. She'd undoubtedly written it some time, but her memory had gone foggy. Perhaps I'm nervous. She told herself, trying to access any other information that she was sure she had in her brain. Nothing came up. She was blank.

"Name and position, please." He asked her politely, taking the signed consent paper from her hands. Yesterday, she'd been behind these desks. Yesterday, she'd been encouraging young Academy graduates not to be afraid. Suddenly, she realized why they'd looked at her with those vacant, terrified looks and she felt guilt deep inside of her stomach, stirring.

"Kobashigawa Hinagiku, Filing and Documentation." She recited on autopilot. There were numerous positions in the unseated department, after all. And, none of the members of the 11th Division quite enjoyed being assigned to the Filing and Documentation sector.

Headed by their 7th Seat, who was quite lazy in the signing and filing department, and had atrocious sense of organization if you asked Hinagiku, the F an' D sector was mostly in charge of writing reports, taking care of paperwork, assigning missions and tidying up the filing rooms at the Division. They were as close as one got to the 4th Division in any Squad, if you asked an officer. Their missions were far and few in between and the members submitted complaints about their placement to their own superior officers constantly, which led to a bad working environment. It's safe to say that nobody needed to explain the popular 11th Division nickname of the sector to the newcomers.

"The Failure and Desperation Squad? Are you sure that you want to be fighting today, miss?" Asked the officer, looking her up and down. Hinagiku nodded once, biting the inside of her lip to stop herself from talking back. A lady must never talk back. A lady will remain polite and proper, even in the direst of situations. She'd been drilled well with those rules, after all. "Alright, then, miss. Could you repeat your name, please?" Asked the man, seeing that she was quite determined to fight.

"Kobashigawa. Hinagiku, like the flower." The petite Shinigami recited on autopilot, as she'd done numerous times in the Academy and during her years of service. It was comforting, having to explain how her name was written. Compared to the Kobashigawa estate, where everyone knew her name perfectly well. Compared to all the fancy outings which her Grandmother had made sure she attended in a proper, ladylike manner, where her last name was usually followed by a gasp. After all, if you were a noble unfamiliar with Kobashigawa Setsuko, you were a failed noble. It wasn't the wealth, nor the power that made the woman fearsome. No, it was her merciless determination to reach the top. To be the best. Hinagiku knew that all too well.

"Alright, Kobashigawa-san." Said the officer, looking up at her from the papers he'd filled out and filed into the 'complete' box below the desk. "If you're ready, the Tournament will proceed in just thirty minutes. You should be at the entrance to the arena by then, ready. Your door is C2." He informed her, placing a small map and card with her name, picture and position on the tabletop.

"Thank you very much." Replied the girl, taking the offered items, even if she didn't need the map.

"Good luck." Told her the officer with a sad look in his eyes. Hinagiku couldn't help but bite the inside of her mouth once more. Her Grandmother had sent her off with that look. It was all those years ago, when she'd been entering the Shin'o Academy that her only living relative had given her that face. Like she was being pitied. That didn't stop her Grandmother from having a shouting match with her granddaughter, though. Every time Hinagiku came to the estate from school, there would be snide comments about her choice of profession waiting for her. That, of course, would escalate over the course of days that the girl spent with her guardian. Those days had turned to hours later. Then minutes. And now, only angry letters. In the end, her Grandmother only sent her notes of utmost formality. There was no more yelling. No more sadness. Only disappointment.

Hinagiku supposed that it was for the best, though. Her Grandmother would never agree with her becoming an officer and she would never give up her life as a Shinigami. Besides, the girl had never been good at replying to her guardian. She would usually sit there, in silence, listening to the angry tirade, before her Grandmother left. Then, she would cry or just sit, staring into the distance, her tears all dried up.

"Ahhh! Hina-chan!" Hinagiku jumped a bit at the nickname, whipping her head about. "All done and revved up?" Asked Koichi, grinning at her. He looked more than excited, even if he wouldn't be participating in the match.

"Y-yes." Replied the stunned Shinigami, a different smile flashing through her mind. Hideki.She blinked, and Koichi's smile was a crooked, cheeky grin once again. His proud lady-killer and definitely not the sweet smile that he usually offered.

"Good, good." Nodded the officer. "I won't be cheering, you know, because I'm commentating. But, just so you know, I'm definitely rooting for you to be in the top twenty!" He talked while walking towards one of the entrances to the arena quickly. "Now, get going!"

Hinagiku didn't even have the time to thank her superior for his support and trust, as she was quickly absorbed into a shuffling crowd of officers, all eager to enter the arena. Her card was checked quickly at the entrance, and then the young Shinigami set out to find her gate, all the way on the other end of the arena, as Koichi had pushed her through the entrance A.

She arrived at C2 with a thin sheet of sweat covering her forehead, making her bangs stick to the damp skin from the heat of the day and the number of bodies pushing about below the bleachers. Standing with the other eleven participants for her gate, Hinagiku got the nervous shakes once more. Her hand trembled and her heart pumped in her chest like a terrified bird, trying to fly away.

It seemed like seconds had passed before Koichi's booming voice sounded from the direction of the closed door, welcoming their judges, Captain Sōsuke Aizen, Captain Suì Fēng and Lieutenant Izuru Kira. Apparently, Captain Ichimaru had decided to pull a 'Kuchiki' as the operations team had begun calling it. Hinagiku felt her stomach turn and bile rise up her throat. She could feel herself becoming as pale as a sheet. Looking around, the Half of the officers around her had a similar reaction. One had even hurled on the side of the corridor. The other half, though... They were grinning. They were excited. They were eager. After all, they were the Kenpachi Zaraki Squad.

Hinagiku closed her eyes and took a deep, shaky breath, grasping the hilt of her Asauchi with trembling, freezing fingers. She opened her eyes once more, narrowing them in determination. She was no longer a Kobashigawa. She was no longer a lady. She was no longer an orphan. She was no longer alone. She was a member of the Kenpachi Zaraki Squad. And she would prove it today.

The door opened, the light of the day blinding her for a mere second, before she saw the arena. Even if she had designed it and helped the 12th Division plan it, it was a whole other thing seeing it in person. The area seemed huge from below, a giant platform, surrounded by water, six paths leading from different gates to the middle.

"Now, ladies and gentlemen, Captains and Lieutenants! This is our arena for today." Came Koichi's booming voice over the speakers. "With an impressive size of blah blah, holding an amazing blah blah gallons of water, this will be the sight of the today's two battles." Hinagiku jumped a bit, realizing that the battle had begun already. Her gate mates were running forward, gripping their swords tightly, some of them moving skilfully with Shunpo and others just charging in.

Hinagiku gripped her Asauchi, grit her teeth and flew forward as well.


Kida Rini, the 15th Seat of the 11th Division, under direct command of Ikkaku Madarame was one of the last Shinigami to eagerly rush up the bleacher steps, excited to watch the incoming match. You have to ask yourselves, why in the world would a person from the 11th Division be one of the last people to hurry to see the fight? Usually, it was the 11th Division that was the first on the scene, ready to join any brawl and make it rowdier. If they weren't there managing the fight, they were certainly there starting it.

Yet, here we have Kida Rini, with her short, bright red hair bound in a tiny ponytail, running up the steps, almost last. Well, you see, Kida Rini is not what one would call a very organized person. In fact, her side of the small officers' quarters which she shared with Kobashigawa Hinagiku, feel free to read neat freak, was a complete mess and often forced her roommate to go on a cleaning spree. This said something, as they had only been roommates for a few months.

It had taken a lot out of Rini to let go of her friend and colleague, Hinagiku, as the girl was a participant in today's fights, and attempt to organize most of the event herself. True, Matsushita Koichi did help. Well, as much as someone like him can. It had taken her all morning to convince the 12th Division 3rd Seat, Akon, to lend them some of their Squad's manpower for managing and organizational purposes. Suddenly, that morning at around 6am, Rini had realized why Hinagiku had asked for some fifty or so Academy volunteers. When all of the two hundred officers are scheduled to fight that day or the next, none of them are really eager to do any work.

Rini jumped down a couple of steps, hurrying to one of the empty spots of the top seats in the bleachers. After sitting down and listening to Koichi's booming voice commenting on Yamamoto-soutaicho's presence, which earned him a death glare from the aforementioned man, the 15th Seat let out an annoyed sound and jumped up once again, realizing that her view was terrible. She rushed down the steps further, until she found herself somewhere in the middle. By then, their 7th Seat was announcing the favored winners of today's A block match, a list of last names and their specialties in battle. Rini would be dishonest if she told you that she wasn't annoyed at all by the fact that her friend's name hadn't been mentioned.

She plopped down into another uncomfortable seat, wiping some sweat off of her brow. Despite the light rain in the morning, the day was heating up and she'd been using her Shunpo to get around the camp for a few hours already. Rini looked down at the arena, watching as men and women alike spilled from the gates and towards each other on the blow of the whistle. She looked for a small, black haired figure with a colorful scarf, but couldn't find her.

"What is that idiot doing?" Murmured the Seated officer, her elbows resting on her knees, as she bent forward and bit the nail of her thumb nervously. "Don't tell me she chickened out." She growled to herself, remembering all the hours that she'd put into Hinagiku's workouts. After all, the petite girl had come to her some weeks ago with a peculiar fire in her eyes, begging the superior officer to teach her how to use her Shunpo better in battle. And how could one resist a fight in the 11th Division? Rini had welcomed the challenge.

Finally, from the gate on the opposite side, ran out a small form, the colorful scarf whipping about her neck, her hand gripping her Asauchi tightly. Rini smirked, straightening and leaning back into her seat. She watched as the figure, clearly Hinagiku, tripped on nothing in particular, falling flat on her face just before she reached the main brawl, which was well on its way to carnage by then.

"That idiot!" Rini exclaimed, closing her eyes, her hand coming up to slap her forehead.

"I believe that she is just nervous." Called out a voice next to her, causing the officer to look up with a glare. There weren't many people who addressed her as freely as that. She took in the girl standing beside her seat, in the walkway. She was petite, yet, filled out, with an immaculately clean shihakushō and perfectly combed hair. Her skin was pale and her face had a tiny amount of makeup, accenting her noble features. "That's just like Hina-chan, don't you think?~" Smiled the unfamiliar girl at her, clearly not reading the atmosphere. Rini glanced back down to see her friend picking herself up and rubbing her knees.

"No… Not really." She replied to the meddlesome girl with irritation. "Hinagiku isn't clumsy." Rini practically growled out.

"Oh, I meant no offense." Said the girl back, still smiling serenely. "I understand that you've recently become acquaintances? I've known Hina-chan for ages!~ It's only natural that I know her better." The Shinigami nodded slightly to Rini and then sat down, perfectly, her legs crossed at her ankles, pulled underneath her seat. Rini suddenly felt very self-conscious, as her legs were long, much longer than this girl's, sprawled out in a convenient and rather boyish style.

"Whatever." She replied, turning back to the match just in time to see Hinagiku rush into the crowd. Though, Rini did pull her legs under her chair then, gritting her teeth.


Her knees stung.

Hinagiku righted herself, brushing off the small amount of dirt from her shihakushō and she pushed her hair back from her face. A stray Kidō flew her way and she ducked to avoid the ray of blue lightning. The forty-something officers in front of her were brawling like nobody's business and Hinagiku was strangely reminded of female servants at her Grandmother's estate, each battling for the right to dress the Lady of the House. With a small sigh, she gave a smile, her body instantly relaxing at the image. She went even further, seeing the men in decorated and embroidered silk kimonos, with obi colors signifying their position and duties, just as the women would wear. Then, with a small, completely relaxed laugh, Hinagiku grasped the hilt of her Asauchi.

Just as she was about to run forward again a single drop of cool water landed on her cheekbone, slowly sliding down her face. She looked up, seeing the clouds gathering and moved to the right, just in time to avoid a stray Bakudō spell. Then, still looking up, Hinagiku closed her eyes.

One. Two. Three. Breathe. Step. A drop landed on her cheek once more, sliding down and another landed on her hand at the hilt of her Asauchi an instant later. She stepped forward. Look without eyes. The faint, comforting smell of lavender wafted to her nose and she could see, even in the darkness the pale purple smoke rising from her on body. From her hands, from her feet and from her Asauchi. It sparkled and swirled in on itself around her.

The next drop that fell towards her hand from the skies never hit the ground. It was sliced in two, the almost invisible motion of the katana sending the halves flying left and right. And Hinagiku walked forwards once more, without a rush in her step, her breathing calm, her head empty, her stomach settled and her eyes closed.

She didn't need to feel nervous. This was just a fight. And fighting is what she'd spent minutes and hours and days and weeks and months and years and decades perfecting. She was a Shinigami. Even more, she was a Shinigami of the 11th Division. She was a part of the Zaraki Kenpachi Squad. She knew their motto well.

Fight strong. Have no fear. Never retreat. Never be defeated.

You lose you die.

You die you lose.

I won't lose.

I won't die.

I'm in the Zaraki Kenpachi Squad.

We don't lose.

Not many people saw the tiny Shinigami enter the brawl, her eyes closed and her hand steady on her Asauchi, as Koichi was a bit too busy commenting one of the favored members of Ikkaku's section, who'd been apparently predicted to become a Seated Officer. Not that it mattered to Hinagiku, really. She was in a world of her own. In a slow, motionless world of information. There was no sound. No gravity. There was only her, her mind and her sword.

And she knew all of these men like the back of her hand.

Her sword sung.


That's all folks!

Please don't kill me for not revealing Hina's Zanpakutō yet! She just isn't ready for it…

A question for my lovely readers:

Would you enjoy some spin-off one shots? As I do have a couple of ideas that I can't really fit in the timeline...

Chapter Text

Welcome to another chapter of Daisy!


Thank you everybody who left kudos and commented on Daisy! You guys keep me writing :)
If you have any ideas for spin-offs which you would like to see explored – do tell me about them! I'm always there on the PM :D


Thank you Sassifrass for being a wonderful Beta and bearing with my insane writing habits xD


OCs appearing:

Couple of unknown, relatively new Shinigami (no specific Division mentioned)

Mentioned:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku

Matsushita Koichi


I know it's long, but I couldn't resist:

A question:
So girls wonder how boys feel when they're in love? Do they get butterflies? Do they have you on their mind 24/7? Do they wait for you to come online for hours? Do they smile at random times at the thought of you? Do they miss you all the time? Do they think about the smallest things you say?

We boys don't get butterflies, we get fireworks. We don't have you on our mind 24/7, but we do have you on our hearts. Often, yes we wait for you to go online, sometimes simply even just being online makes our heart skip a beat, even if we don't talk. Whenever you talk to us, our face forms that half-smile; it means we are happy but are trying our hardest to not show it, and fail at hiding it. We do miss you all the time; granted, we'd spend all our time with you if possible. We don't think of the smallest things you say, we think of every word you say, panicking at every single word, trying to define what it really means, to read between the lines. But wait there's more.

We would love you in a million ways. And once we start loving you there is no going back for us. No matter how hard we try we will always love a girl that has touched us. Us boys when in love will think of that girl first thing in the morning, and think of that girl last before we sleep at night. Whenever we see a couple, our thoughts immediately jump to that girl, and imagine that the couple was us. Every single detail about her is loved; the way she walks, talks, speaks. The sound of her voice. Her laughter. The sparkle in her eyes. Her shy smile. The way she dresses. That cute face she makes when she's asleep. And the way she says our name that our hearts just explode with mirth, a simple act that no-one else can replicate.

A boy in love with a girl is no simple thing, though ladies stereotype us guys as simple. A man in love is not simple. No. He will be unpredictable. He will be persistent, stubborn, and given the circumstances, if it means carrying you from one side of the world to the other to win your heart, a man in love would. He will be a martyr, giving his all and asking for almost none. He will show you how to appreciate the beauty of the world in a thousand ways, and then he will tell you how much he appreciates your beauty in a million ways.

A man in love is no simple thing.


Chapter 14: Tournament IV: Absent

It is cold.

My world is frozen. I thrive in the cold. It is cool, calm and deadly, like me. It is mine. Mine to own. Mine to possess. Mine to rule. I like to wait in the frozen landscape, stalking the prey. They stand no chance against me. I know that. But, the hunt is the part of the game.

I am impatient.

It is a strange mixture of the two which I feel often. Perhaps it is the other part of my soul calling to me.

He is impatient.

He thinks that he is not, but he is. I would know. I know him inside and out. He, too, likes to wait and stalk the prey. Perhaps that is me… I do not know where he ends and I begin.

We are one.

But this time, I hope that he will wait and enjoy his hunt.


The Court of Pure Souls, more commonly known as Seireitei, the capital of the World of Souls, was known as the epitome of prosperity, grace, and order. Shinigami were looked at as prodigies, special Souls, and the best among the best of the inhabitants of Soul Society. It was inside the Seireitei that everything had a procedure, a rule and a proper way of being done.

You've misplaced your waraji? They have a procedure! You are to report it to your Squad superior, one of the twenty officers with numbers assigned to their names: The so-called Seated Officers. They would have you fill out paperwork for that. Then, after they've signed it, the paperwork gets passed on further up, to the Lieutenant of the Captain, so that the top of the Division is aware of the lost item. After that, with their signature, there is a form given to the shoeless Shinigami, who fills it out with information on his feet and his identity. That way, a new set of waraji gets ordered. How? Well, this same paperwork needs to go with the Shinigami's sign to his superior Seated Officer. After that, it goes to the Lieutenant or Captain, who needs to approve the expense and sign the report for the accounting Squad. And then, that order is sent to the appropriate Rukongai district, where the item is made.

But, this isn't the end of this road of paper. After the waraji are made, they need to be sent into the Division and given to the appropriate Shinigami. The paperwork is pretty much the same here, as well. Many signatures later, the Shinigami will have his footwear once more. And just imagine, what if the waraji aren't the right size?

Well, now that you have a clear picture of just how much paperwork there is in a Captain's everyday life, it really shouldn't surprise you that Hitsugaya Tōshirō, the prodigy of the last century, was in his office, again, reading over a humongous pile of papers. Now, if you asked him, at any given time, to summarize the job of a Captain to you, his answer would probably be something along the lines of: 'There's some bankai and a lot of paperwork. Also, finding and disposing of sake.' Though, if you asked him what a job of a 3rd Seat in his Division was, he'd probably give you an answer such as: 'Some shikai and a lot of paperwork. Also, finding and disposing of sake.' Hence, we're safe to assume that not all of the Captains in the Gotei 13 had such an adventurous everyday life, like Hitsugaya Tōshirō.

"Ahhh." Sighed the white haired Captain, leaning back in his chair a bit. His head hit the back perfectly, as the standard issue seat was a bit too tall for his short stature. He'd never think of complaining about it, though. He wasn't short for Kami's sake. He was simply… himself.

Tōshirō glared at the large stack of papers, his eyes falling onto the other two piles on the desk in the middle of the room. His Lieutenant, Matsumoto Rangiku, had vanished once again. Then again, he thought to himself, it is the Tournament. As useless as Matsumoto was at times, she was invaluable to the Division. She was not only smart but had a certain air about her which made everyone in their Squad want to please her. Tōshirō supposed that that was good, as she was the other side of his cold and collected coin. She was the charisma to his authority. That way, there was balance.

Except in paperwork.

Even a few decades ago, when he'd managed to climb the ladder up to the 3rd Seat of the 10th Division, Matsumoto had been known for her carelessness. And, really, Captain Shiba had never reminded her to do her paperwork either. Rather, he'd given it all to Tōshirō, his own included. The white haired Captain was rather thankful now for that, even though it had almost killed him a couple of times in the past, as he had been more than ready to assume the vacant position of the head of the Division a decade or so ago.

Tōshirō sipped his tea, glancing back at the pile on his desk. The Division barracks were empty. The offices as well. He had allowed leave to all of the members of his Division who had requested it. After all, there was a Tournament going on. At that thought, Tōshirō felt his ears heat up and then, his cheeks redden. He couldn't believe that he had been so careless. True, he'd had a lot on his mind yesterday. But, not that much. And, he had already been affected by the weather since the morning, but, still, not that much. He should've noticed the heat. The sun. He should've known.

And he'd allowed himself to be taken care of by an unseated Shinigami of another Division.

Frankly, that didn't bother him that much. He liked Kobashigawa Hinagiku as much as he liked any of his other subordinates. But, what bothered him was that he'd shown his weakness to anyone who'd been paying attention, and so freely. Captain Commander Yamamoto had taken him aside when Tōshirō had made Captain and told him to be careful when and how he exposes his Zanpakutō and its abilities. It was already well-known that he had the most powerful ice-water type Zanpakutō. He'd freely released it a number of times during his years in the 10th Division. But, now he was a Captain. And, a Captain behaved with a certain amount of restraint and respect. He was to be looked up to.

And he'd gone and almost fainted because of a little sun.

The fact that it had been Kobashigawa Hinagiku that had taken care of him during that time of hazy thoughts and numb fingers didn't bother him at all. No, it didn't. It was a matter of pride. He had lost face as a Captain.

Tōshirō sighed and dropped his head into his hands, elbows leaning on his desk. Who was he kidding? He had been so embarrassed that Matsumoto had dared to call him out on it. He could still recall the mortifying scene when she'd come to pick him up. She'd wandered into the tent, reeking of sake, where he was laying down on a futon, inspecting his hands curiously. She'd wobbled over, smelling like men's aftershave, a clear sign that she'd been hanging out with Hisagi Shūhei, as he was the only Lieutenant that smelled like that, and attempted to encourage him to get up.

Then, he had to go and make a fool of himself.

He'd showed her his hand, mind hazy, and asked if she noticed anything different. Matsumoto, of course, had shaken her head in a cute, drunken way, sending her perfectly styled locks flying everywhere, and then grabbed his hand, saying how it was so small. That had been an intro to his trouble. He'd laughed along with her, saying how hers was smaller.

A short, drunken, debate later, Matsumoto had managed to connect that he wasn't talking about her hand, but another woman's hand, which had, as you can probably predict, escalated the madness and somehow turned his evening into a very explicit conversation about sexual relations. Not the first attempt at the 'birds and the bees' which she'd given him, and obviously not the last. Tōshirō was, frankly, quite glad that his thoughts had been so hazy, because he couldn't recall all the details.

Unfortunately, he knew that Matsumoto could. She'd made sure that he did, just that morning.

"Damn." Cursed the Captain as his eyes landed on the clock on his wall, which was telling him that it was well past noon. He'd told himself that he would be done with his work at noon, so that he could finish Matsumoto's by the afternoon, so that he could go and get some amanattō at the Tournament camp. He was pretty sure he'd seen a stall there the day before. It was a pretty rare opportunity, after all, as the only store that sold amanattō was more than a little outside of his daily routine.

Tōshirō's eyes landed on his hand, which had grabbed his pen once more, and he inspected his fingers for a moment. He didn't have particularly strong or big hands. If you compared him to someone like Zaraki, he resembled a child a bit too much for his liking. If you compared him to Kuchiki, he was a bit too small, once more, and had too much meat on his hands. If compared to- no. Why was he comparing himself to other Captains?

He could still remember how his hands looked compared to hers.

That was memory very vivid in his mind. It had haunted him through his morning routine, and every time he'd looked at his hands, he'd remembered her small, pale ones, soft, gently touching his fingers, like she was terrified that he'd smite her at any given moment. Her touch was like a touch of silk on one's skin, merely a brush, and he'd found himself wondering, why? Was she that scared? Truly, he was her superior, her better, but wasn't he some form of an acquaintance, as well? And yet, she seemed so scared.

Her hand had been cool.

Matsumoto was always warm. He'd grown used to the temperature of the boisterous woman, as she'd hugged him numerous times, touched him whenever she liked and pulled him here and there, when she desired. Her touch was gentle, yes, and soft, truly, but always warm. And Kobashigawa's… Hers was cool. He'd found himself deciding that he liked Kobashigawa's touch better.

Better than Momo's even. Though, he preferred Rangiku touching him over Momo touching him. Momo's touch had always made him self-conscious. Aware of the fact that she was a girl and that he was, quite painfully obviously, a man. But, as gentle, hesitant and lady-like as Momo's brush of her fingers on his shoulder or on his hair was, it was so different from Kobashigawa's. Kobashigawa's was like a soft flutter of a butterfly's wings, almost making him reach out and seek more contact.

Which he disliked. He didn't enjoy physical contact all that much and he didn't plan on changing his ways anytime soon.

With another sigh, Tōshirō grabbed his pen, his eyes going to the clock for the last time. It was well past two in the afternoon.

She was fighting.

The door to his office slammed open in a telltale way, causing Tōshirō to give a small frown. He hadn't even felt his Lieutenant approach. Either he had been too caught up in his thoughts or she was getting better at controlling her reiatsu.

"Matsumoto." He greeted her in a flat tone, taking in her flushed cheeks and rather disheveled appearance. He hoped that she'd simply need using Shunpo to get to the offices.

"Taicho!" Remarked the woman as if she'd noticed him just then. She grinned, her perfect teeth shining. Obviously, she'd done something wrong. "I didn't notice you there." She mumbled, shuffling into the office. As she passed him, Tōshirō caught a whiff of her perfume. It had a distinct smell of strawberries coupled with something overly sweet, causing him to wiggle his nose in hopes of getting rid of the smell. No such luck, as always. Matsumoto, in the meantime, rather predictably, plopped down on the lone couch in the office, ignoring the humongous pile of work on her desk. "How come you aren't watching the matches, taicho?" Asked the woman once she settled down.

Tōshirō, who'd resumed his work, answered without looking up from the report in front of him. "Not interested." He said, his eyes skimming through the names and actions of different Shinigami under his command.

"Oh?~" Cooed Matsumoto, turning on the couch so that she wasn't looking at him upside-down any longer. "You didn't want to see Hina-chan fighting?"

"Hina-chan?" Tōshirō raised an eyebrow. Matsumoto's smile grew.

"Yep! Isn't that a cute nickname?" His Lieutenant proved once again to him why her Zanpakutō was a feline. She looked like a cat who'd drunk her milk, eaten the fish and was now thinking of grabbing the canary from the cage as well. "I get why you'd think that she wouldn't like it, Hina-chan is very shy, after all."

"I guess." Damn. Tōshirō immediately thought. Matsumoto's smile had reached impossible proportions now, still looking strangely attractive on her beautiful face. She'd gotten him to answer to her. He knew, from experience, that this wasn't going to end well. He hated it when Matsumoto got like this.

"Ooho!~" Replied the Lieutenant, getting up and going to her desk in silence. Tōshirō kept writing his name on the documents from the 8th Division, certain that Ise Nanao had been as meticulous as always in her work. He was waiting for the other shoe to drop. Though, nothing happened. Matsumoto got to her desk, flipping the first document over and reading it over in her usual, leisurely pace.

For the next few hours, no one spoke. Tōshirō would be lying if he told you that he'd been comfortable that day. Usually, he enjoyed working in peace and quiet. Yes, even during those unbearably hot days in the summer. And he liked them even more if Matsumoto was there with him, obviously feeling like doing a good deed, finishing her own work. Tōshirō had learned a long time ago that his Lieutenant was a peculiar woman, and he wouldn't have her any other way. If you asked him to explain why, and wouldn't he like someone less chatty and more hardworking, Tōshirō'd tell you that Matsumoto was perfect for the 10th Division, even when she was attempting to write her name on the wrong piece of paper, completely drunk.


It was well in the evening, somewhere past eight o'clock, that Tōshirō finally closed his final folder. With a sigh, he looked up, noticing that, once again, Matsumoto's desk was empty. He smiled, a rare thing indeed, and placed his elbow on the desk, resting his cheek in his hand. Truly, he would never be bored with that woman. Just when he thought that he had her all figured out, she'd go and surprise him.

He'd had trouble concentrating that afternoon. His mind had kept going to the fights currently happening at the 13th Division training grounds and he couldn't help but flare his reiatsu from time to time, just to feel out the current status of the participants. He didn't know too many members of the Division in question, but, he could tell exactly how strong who was and just how well they were doing in the match from his seat at the office desk.

Strangely, he'd kept glancing at those purple peonies right outside his window as well.

Tōshirō got up, stretching his neck as he did, and hearing it pop. Obviously, all the sitting behind his desk wasn't doing him any good. He needed to find a mission to onto and fast. He'd never doubted his own skill with the sword, but he knew that it was an art to be practiced, not a relic to be kept in a drawer. He rolled his shoulders back, hoping to relieve some of the tension in his back, as well, but he didn't have any luck there, as usual. He would have to visit Unohana again. Or visit the 11th Division's dojo. They would have the same effect.

With another sigh, the young Captain grabbed his katana and the single folder which he would be taking home and stepped out of his office, shutting the door. He normally wasn't one for taking his work home, but this was an exception. He simply had no idea who to hand this mission over to. It was too important to be done by someone unseated, and yet, too simple to be done by a Shinigami of status.

The halls of the 10th Division offices and barracks were deserted. The night was warm and the stars were bright, making it simple for Tōshirō to find his way, not that he needed them, really. Back when he'd arrived at the Division, decades ago, Isshin had made him play that game. The Captain would blindfold him and then force him to do his duties that way, without his eyes. Tōshirō could still remember the laughter of the Division members watching him slam into walls and then attempt to collect his dignity while picking up the dropped folders. He'd progressed quickly back then. Perhaps, Isshin had pushed him because he'd known just how much further Tōshirō could go.

The young Captain smiled to himself, sitting on the wooden patio and grabbing his waraji. He missed his old Captain at times. All things considered, the crazy Shiba had been a legendary leader. Tōshirō hoped to someday reach the same level of respect in his Division. The young Captain walked slowly down the path, heading out of his Division and towards the quarters which he'd been able to acquire a decade or so ago, when he'd been promoted. It was nice, being able to leave his job behind at the office. And then again, it was lonely, leaving his subordinates in the barracks. Sometimes, he even missed the snoring.

As Tōshirō walked, letting his thoughts wander, an unfamiliar reiatsu flared to his right. He zoned in on it, on pure instinct, attempting to identify it. Quickly, he realized that it was just two Shinigami patrolling their section. A sudden mischievousness overcame him and he smirked to himself, quickly shrugging off his Captain's haori and folding it. His back felt cold somehow, without it, bare.

But, his curiosity was simply too much.

Placing the folder on top of his haori in his arms, the young Captain rounded the corner, almost colliding with the two tall men who were casually chatting.

"And did you see that guy? That was nuts, what he did!" One of them exclaimed, face a little flushed from all the sake he'd drunk. The other guy was nodding enthusiastically. Tōshirō tried to place the faces, but for the love of the Soul King, he couldn't even guess their Division, much less position. He supposed that that was the bane of Seireitei: there were simply too many Shinigami.

"I always knew that those brutes from the 11th were crazy… But to use Kidō to heat your Asauchi is unheard of." Commented the second speaker with considerably less slur.

"Hey, sorry." Tōshirō addressed the men, making his tone as unimposing as possible, an incredibly difficult feat after his years as a high ranked officer. "I couldn't make it to the match, too much paperwork to do. Was it any good?" He asked as soon as the Shinigami looked at him. Obviously, he'd made the correct kind of hopeful face, as the first, obviously drunk, speaker grinned happily at him.

"I know how that feels, bro." Said the man, nodding. Tōshirō had to actually bite his tongue not to correct him about the informal way of addressing a Captain. "Our Captain's a slave driver, as well. Saitō, finish that report. Saitō, bring me some tea. Saitō, check on the new recruits! He should have more respect for us who've been here a long time, don't you agree?"

Tōshirō didn't react to that, except a small nod, as he wondered who exactly was this officer's Captain. Thankfully, the small nod was just enough for the drunken Shinigami. He launched into his latest tale of trouble, as his Captain tasked him with an unfair mission. For a moment, Tōshirō wondered if his own officers thought the same when he sent them a mission through paperwork channels.

"Geez, Saito, you're boring the poor recruit half to death." Exclaimed the other Shinigami, pushing his comrade's shoulder lightly. "There was a good relay of the game on the radio, didn't you pick it up?" Asked the man, trying to focus on the shorter Captain's face through his inebriated state. Tōshirō shook his head lightly, filing away the information for later. He hadn't known that they even hada Shinigami radio. Then again, he wasn't really involved in the whole 'socializing' part. Matsumoto would know. Soul King knew that she had read every single issue of the Seireitei Communication Monthly and probably owned them, as well. Tōshirō wasn't a big fan of the Seireitei Tsūshin, though. No matter how much his Lieutenant tried to get him to read it or write a column for it. He didn't have the time for that nonsense.

"Man, your Captain must really be a slave driver if he won't even let you listen to the matches…" Commented the drunker of the two, shaking his head. Tōshirō nodded his head and shrugged his shoulders.

"Can't really argue with him." He commented slyly, smirking. He truly couldn't argue with himself, after all. He had learned a long time ago that his will was pretty much set in stone. When he decided on something, he would do it, no matter the cost. Maybe that had something to do with the dragon in his Zanpakutō? He wasn't sure…

"No worries, mate." Commented the drunken one, causing Tōshirō to raise a single eyebrow at the overly-familiar manner of speech. "You can listen to the repeat broadcast tonight. Get your fill of the action." He kept nodding and then took a swig from the bottle in his hands.

"Apparently the Shinigami who couldn't attend or listen to the match petitioned the 9th Division to allow two broadcasts." Explained the more sober one. "It's on channel 11.5 and it will start at 10pm tonight. It's the short version, but you can get the gist if the action. That guy, Matsuhito, I think, from the 11th, did a pretty good job with the relay. Damn funny."

"Matsushita?" Wondered the Captain.

"Yeah, difficult name to remember." Said the more sober Shinigami, nodding. "He is pretty good at analyzing the match, though. Broke down all the abilities and the moves for the new recruits. He was commenting at more than four fights at once!"

"I see." Nodded Tōshirō, intrigued. He knew Matsushita Koichi, the 7th Seat of the 11th Division mostly from paperwork. The man was efficient with his missions and did a great job keeping up with all the paperwork. The ten people underneath him always did their work meticulously well. Then again, that might have something to do with the fact that Kobashigawa Hinagiku was directly under him. Tōshirō tuned out the Shinigami in front of him, as the man rambled on about the amazing fights which he'd seen that day, his mind instead spinning around the fact that Hinagiku, in fact, influenced all the good paperwork that passed his desk.

"Interesting." He commented with a small smile on his face.

"Right?" Added the drunk guy, grinning. "To be able to use a sword like that?! It's nuts!"

"Thank you for your help." Tōshirō finally said, breaking from his thoughts and gave a nod to the two men. As he was turning, he heard a small gasp behind him.

"Hey, little dude, wher' you're going?" The drunken guy kept talking. "I'm just getting to the best- ooof!"

"Shut up, Saito!" Shushed the more sober of the two. "Tha- that katana is!"

"What?" Asked the drunken Shinigami, and Tōshirō could practically feel him squinting.

"It's Hyorinmaru! The most powerful ice-water Zanpakutō in the Seireitei!" So, they'd studied up on Zanpakutōs, like good students, mused Tōshirō with a grin. He'd been flattered when his katana had made the 'Unique Zanpakutōs and their abilities' handbook. It was a teaching tool at the Shin'ō Academy and one should be honored to hold place on the list. Though, he must admit that he hadn't been entirely honest during his interview about the abilities of his sword. Those were a battle secret, after all.

"The Hyo-what?"

"Captain Hitsugaya Tōshirō's katana!" Finally exclaimed the less inebriated Shinigami, causing the other to gasp and then cough in absolute shock. But, by the time they'd both recovered, Tōshirō was long gone with a single Shunpo step.

He had a match to listen to, after all.

All for now folks!

How did you like it? :D

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome to the end of the previous cliffhanger!


I'm looking forward to hearing what you guys think of the chapter :D


Thank you Sassifrass for being a wonderful Beta and bearing with my insane writing habits :D You're the best!


OCs appearing in this chapter are:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11th)

Matsushita Koichi (11th)

Kida Rini (11th)

Mentioned:

Kusunoki Akio (7 th )

Tanaka (11th)

Suzuki (11th)

Sawa Chiharu (11th)


And finally, some inspiration:

"I hope you weren't looking to me to be the voice of reason. I keep to a strict diet of ill-advised enthusiasm and heartfelt regret." – Sturmhond (Leigh Bardugo)


Chapter 15: Tournament V: Legacy

It is dark.

It is always dark. However, I bear with it. I understand that it takes time. It all takes time. I am patient. I am calm. I bear with anything that comes my way. I will hold out.

Thump.

It feels like touching a live wire.

Thump thump.

I burn.

It is near.

I will hold out.

I smile, slipping down into my seated position, my nimble hands folding a piece of small paper. It will be a dragon this time. My little origami dragon.

And he will roar.

A smile slips onto my face. A wide grin promising that this wound will be more than a papercut. I burn for blood. I yearn for a battle.

And I will win.


Silence greeted him, as always. Tōshirō pushed the door of his home open with a sigh, turning on the lights. As Captains and Lieutenants had been allowed housing outside of the barracks, he had gladly taken up that offer. Though, he wasn't really sure why he had done it. He spent more nights than he would like to admit sleeping either at his desk or on the couch in his office.

Not to mention that the place was empty. He had lived in a few homes before this, so he would know. When he had first arrived at Rukongai, as a Soul, he'd lived in a house with his grandmother. That had been a lively place, full of children at any given moment, laughter, yelling and generally, it had been a mess. Tōshirō had gone back there, some ten or so years ago, when he'd been made Captain, to ask his grandmother if she would consider moving to his new housing outside of the capital. It was back then that he'd seen just how bad the condition of his grandmother's house was. When he was a child, he'd never noticed the peeling paint, the rotten planks, the holes in the roof or the lack of everyday things which every household should own. He'd simply been happy there, with Momo, his grandmother, and a number of children who kept coming and going.

His grandmother, had, of course, refused his request to move into the new housing. He was a grown man now, she'd told him. He needed to live on his own, take care of his own and be his own person. She'd asked him how in the world could he do that if he had her, an old, weak woman, to take care of as well. Tōshirō, had, of course, thought of the whole thing as nonsense. He didn't spend a lot of time in his official home. She would be able to do with the house as she wished, just like before. And, as reluctant as the young Captain was to admit it, he would greatly enjoy having a house full of children to come back to. They were loud, true, often annoying, yes, but quite honest and incredibly imaginative, which would undoubtedly brighten his day. Alas, his grandmother was happier staying in her own home, though she had accepted his help with repairs and he had managed to slip some of his salary into her 'savings chest'. When he'd talked about it with Momo, he'd learned that she did the same thing, too. The girl had gone all red in the face, thinking that he was accusing her.

Tōshirō chuckled to himself, remembering that conversation. The young Captain turned on the lights, dropping the files he'd brought home onto the table in his living room and then he headed for the small storage space which he'd organized. His thoughts drifted to the other home he'd had. The one at the Shin'ō Academy. It had been a small room, shared with two other people, but he'd loved it. Not that he'd ever admit that, of course.

Tōshirō had a great memory. Not exactly eidetic, but still, a great one. He could recall almost every detail of that room at the Academy. The plain white walls. The bunk beds pushed against them. The small nightstand, turned fridge. The closet in the corner, messily filled with clothes from three different people. The desk on the opposite side, pushed against the wall, as well, where a small dent had been made in their first year during a drunken scramble. Oh, he could remember just how much the three of them had fought over that desk. It had been all too insane. And in the end, Tōshirō had usually been the one to leave and head for the library. He'd spent more time in the library, with the older students, then in his room.

And his roommates. He could remember them, too. Kusunoki Akio had been a tall, slender youth with dark hair and dark eyes. Really, you could lose him in the crowd, as their other roommate liked to joke. Then again, you could always easily find him if you listened for his laughter. Kusunoki had had the loudest, most ridiculous laughter in their year, no, probably their generation, and you could always hear him laughing about one thing or the other. He'd ended up in the 7th Division, as far as Tōshirō knew. Well, he hadn't really had the chance to look his former roommate up. Perhaps it was his fault. Then again, they hadn't really parted on the best of terms.

Tōshirō bent down, pulling out one of the boxes from the bottom of his storage shelves. He read the label. 'Barracks' it said, so he pushed it back inside. He switched to the other one. 'Matsumoto'. This was the one he had been looking for. He opened the lid, browsing through the numerous sake bottles, both half empty and completely full, finally reaching the item on the very bottom of the box. A small mechanical gadget he had confiscated from his Lieutenant over a year ago. She'd been listening to the darn thing while he had been attempting to do both his and her workload. No surprise, he'd made her do both under his supervision, radio confiscated. He'd known that it would come in handy.

Walking back to the table in his living room, Tōshirō plugged in the small device, uncoiling the cable as far as it could go, and placing it on the wooden surface. Then, he seated himself on the small pillow, opening the first file as the usual announcements of the day came from the device. The 9th Division did their work thoroughly, he had to admit. They had informed him of the weather, upcoming events and important promotions throughout the Divisions in the last couple of months, as well as the next couple of weeks in the span of half an hour he'd been listening to the channel.

Finally, as he was finishing the tenth report on his pile, a man's voice came from the machine, announcing the beginning of the 11th Division program. Tōshirō reached over, turning up the volume on the radio. He went back to writing out the details of the mission which happened at least two months ago, all the while cursing Matsumoto in his head. She'd buried more than one file in another pile, only for him to find it months later and have to apologize to another Captain for the negligence.

"-name is Matsushita Koichi, current seventh and future fourth Seat of the 11th Division and I will be your host for the day. But, let me first begin by introducing our judges for today! We brought the best of the best, who will be able to tell you just how good these brawls –errr- I mean fights, are!" Came a male voice from the radio, introducing in a rather charismatic manner. Tōshirō attempted to place a face to it, but, he really couldn't. He could barely recall the faces of his own non-Seated officers, much less the lower Seats of other Divisions. After all, they changed a bit too often with all the dangerous missions and exchanges between different Squads. "First and foremost, we have Captain Sōsuke Aizen, a prodigy from his Academy days and one of the Shinigami to quickly rise in ranks. If my memory serves me correctly, the previous Lieutenant of the Fifth Division and now the Captain of the same Division, right?"

"Thank you very much for the kind introduction, Koichi-kun." Aizen's voice came from the radio as well, and Tōshirō was certain that he could hear a smile in the words. "I will do my best to judge as impartially as possible."

"Thank you, Captain!" Koichi replied with a chuckle. "Now, for our second judge, a woman known far and wide, trained by the infamous God of Flash, master martial artist, and commander of the Onmitsukidō, it is my utmost pleasure to welcome Captain Suì Fēng!" Tōshirō smiled at the introduction, well-aware that the woman in question was probably frowning and glaring at the seventh Seat from her spot.

"Get on with it." She growled finally, causing a roar of applause to come from the crowd, even louder than the previous cheer which Aizen had received.

Koichi nervously chuckled into his microphone. "Of course, sir, I mean ma'am! Anyways!" He managed to save himself. "Let me introduce our final judge of the day, the wonderful Lieutenant of the 3rd Division, famous for his variety of skills which include kenjutsu, Kidō and, Kaidō, our very own Izuru Kira!"

"It is my pleasure to be here, Matsushita-san." Came a voice unfamiliar to the 10th Division Captain. He couldn't recall this man, Kira, either, whom Koichi had just introduced. Then again, he couldn't recall all of the Lieutenants at all times. He was familiar with the Captains from the meetings, though. Tōshirō shook his head, making a mental promise to study the officer registration ledger further.

"And now, I will give you all the rundown of the rules, shall I?" Koichi continued and Tōshirō found himself dropping his pen in favor of listening to the radio with his full attention. "They will be a bit different from yesterday. While releasing your Zanpakutō is still forbidden, this time, real swords will be used. So, every Shinigami whom you see on that field will be actually fighting for their life with their Asauchi. Kidō is allowed as well, so, be sure to keep your heads down in case of a stray shot! And finally, without further ado, let us open the gates!"

But, Koichi didn't stop there. "Let me remind you that after this day we will have forty people who will be fighting in the finals for a Seated position, so, we wish all of them the best of luck!" Then, Tōshirō tuned out the rambling Shinigami who gave brief stats of the arena which had been set up for the fights of that day. The Captain grabbed his pen instead, writing his signature on the report.

"And here is the first clash of the swords! Those two eager men are Tanaka and Suzuki. If you haven't heard of them, you aren't familiar with the 11th Division brawlers in the restaurant district. Those two have caused more trouble than any of us combined. But, still, they manage to have splendid swordsmanship! Captain Aizen, would you like to share your thoughts with us?"

"Thank you, Koichi-kun." Replied the Captain. "It is true that their kenjutsu is on another level entirely, considering that they aren't Seated members of the Division yet. Also, it doesn't show that they have been brawling, at all. Splendid, controlled usage of their Asauchi in single combat." Aizen commented in his calm voice. "But, that was a splendid Kidō on that side of the arena, as well. Very well-aimed and effective."

"Yes, indeed!" Koichi agreed. "That was Sawa on that side, at the gate B, striking with a well-aimed Shakkahō into the crowd behind her. That sent quite a few Shinigami into the water. Let me remind you, that if any of the contestants fall into the water canal around the arena, they are disqualified from the competition for good." Tōshirō found himself just staring at his report once more, pen still and words on the page forgotten. He shook his head and attempted to read the first sentence once more. "But, a bit more information on the magnificent woman, Sawa Chiharu? She is one of the rare women in the 11th Division and a specialist in Hadō and Bakudō, as you have seen. Though, she prefers using her Asauchi at any given moment, as you can see now, while she slashes her way through the crowd. She is a definite favorite to receive a Seat number next to her name this year. On the other hand, if you are planning on asking this beauty out, let me tell you that she is fond of red roses and chocolate with almonds. Though, you might want to watch out for her brother, the 11th Seat of the 8th Division, as he will definitely chase you down for attempting to tap this 36-24-36 wonder!"

"Koichi!" A female voice was heard and a slap sounded out over the microphone, making Tōshirō chuckle. He had forgotten about his paper once again. He switched his focus back onto the report in front of him and read through the first sentence again.

"My apologies for this blatant attack on my person by the lovely Kida Rini, our 15th Seat. I would never dare to not call you beautiful, as well." Another slap sounded out before Koichi continued in a rather pained-sounding voice. "Captain Suì Fēng, any opinions you would like to share?"

But, Tōshirō didn't really hear the comment of the female Captain. Instead of attempting to read through the report in front of him, he finally let go of the pen and closed his eyes. With a single deep breath, he focused, mapping out the arena using the description given by Koichi earlier and beginning to imagine the fight. As the commentary continued, this time the 7th Seat getting a bit deeper into the actual fighting methods going on in the field, Tōshirō could see everything.

As soon as Hinagiku's name was mentioned, though, some time into the fight, his concentration broke.

"Indeed, Koichi-kun." Aizen spoke. "It is quite rare to see someone using this style and form nowadays. Kobashigawa-kun is using the quickdraw technique, which allows for fast, almost invisible, slashes with the Asauchi." The Captain further analyzed. "Quite a difficult and useful thing to know, however, I fear that it isn't too effective in these types of fights, as you can see."

Tōshirō grit his teeth as Koichi agreed, explaining how Hinagiku had been pinned down by the edge of the arena. Then, he went off to comment on another part of the fight, where a group was using tactical strategies in order to defeat a large number of scattered opponents. The commentary went on, not once mentioning Hinagiku's name until the end of the broadcast. It was as they started announcing the names of the competitors who would be participating in the semi-finals the next day that Tōshirō actually perked up, paying more attention. And then, something sounded inside the machine, like a metallic cough, before the sound went out.

"Damnit!" Tōshirō slammed his fist on the table, reaching over to attempt to fix the machine. However, after forty-five minutes of tinkering with the gadget, he finally gave up. Glancing at his clock, he noted the time: one thirty in the morning. With a sigh, the young Captain realized that he would have a long, stressful, sleepless night.

He turned back to the report on his desk, the one which had been there since the beginning of the broadcast, and re-read the first sentence for the nth time.


Hinagiku rose sore and tired the next morning. Her eyes ached, like she hadn't slept in a while and her head felt like it was swimming. However, she knew that she had to pull it together. After all, there was still a fight to be had that day.

The petite Shinigami stood from her bed, walking to the mirror on Rini's side of the room. She allowed her simple, purple yukata to slip off her shoulders and onto the floor and stared. There was a large cut on her side, just above her hip, where a stray sword had caught her yesterday. She didn't even remember who'd held it. She only remembered the steel biting into her flesh at some point, making her flinch and jump away.

A large bruise on her collarbone would likely prove painful today, but not bothersome while fighting. She'd gotten that one after she'd completed one of her quickdraw slashes, when her blade was in its sheath at her side. Hinagiku sighed, realizing that she would need another way to protect herself in the middle of her technique. As effective as it was in a one-on-one, it was her weakness in a battle against a large number.

She bent down and grabbed her yukata, hissing when she stretched her back. She turned around, looking over her shoulder to see the damage. Sure enough, there was a burn there from a well-placed Kidō spell. And those were only the larger injuries, not mentioning the numerous bruises, scratches, and cuts all over her body.

But, none of them were too severe to stop her from fighting today.

"You look worse for wear, Hina-chan." Commented a male voice from the door, making her squeak and hide behind the fabric of her kimono. She turned, wide-eyed, to find Koichi leaning on the doorframe and looking at the mirror behind her. With another squeak, she realized that he could still see her nude back in the reflection. Hinagiku fumbled and then finally jumped into Rini's bed, hiding under the covers. "No need to be so embarrassed." The Seated Officer gave her a grin. "Nothing I haven't seen before."

"W-what are you doing here?!" Hinagiku finally found her voice, in a rather high pitch, face as red as a tomato.

"Ah, right." Koichi pushed off the doorframe, nodding to himself. "We're starting to set up the arena and I wanted to check in with you. Also, we need the lists of participants, have you got them?" He casually strolled into the room, heading towards the mirror and opening the nightstand beside it, sifting through the contents absent-mindedly.

"Right." Hinagiku cleared her throat, focusing on the matters at hand and attempting to forget her embarrassment. "Today we are setting up the Three Levels, aren't we? Are there more hands needed? Materials?" She didn't dare rise from the sheets, though.

"Nah." Koichi replied. "We're all good. You be ready for your fight." He grinned, lean fingers pulling out a black piece of lacy underwear from the drawer. "Daaaaaaamn." He commented, turning them around. "Rini's got a bit of a sexy side, doesn't she?" Hinagiku was out of the bed before even she knew it, shamelessly using a small amount of reiatsu to fly across the room and snatch the underwear from Koichi's hand.

"If that is all, Matsushita-dono, I will require privacy to get ready." She seethed from her position above him, for once, as he had crouched next to the nightstand. "You will find all the necessary documentation for today in the labeled folder on the desk in the 4th Seat's office, as you had been informed a dozen times before."

"Alright, alright." Koichi stood, laughing. "I'll make myself scarce." He headed for the door, leaving Hinagiku fuming in silence. He stopped for a second before leaving, his forefinger in the air and turned around. "Ah! You really should get that burn looked at, Paper. Seems nasty." And then, with a small gust of wind, he was gone. Hinagiku grumbled, tossing Rini's sexy lingerie back into its drawer and slamming it shut before she stopped still. He'd mentioned her burn. The Kidō burn right above her behind.

He'd seen her butt.

For the first time in a while, Hinagiku screamed out in frustration.


She wasn't sure why, but the roar of the crowd at the stadium wasn't as deafening nor as threatening as the last time. She had her consent paper gripped in her hand, promising that she would obey all the rules set by the committee. Funny, she'd thought up half of them. Of course she would obey them. She liked rules.

Her hand trembled as she set it on the hilt of her Asauchi, this time not with fear, but with anticipation. Her blood was boiling, hot in her veins, preparing her. This time, she would figure it out. She would find a way to both defend and attack at the same time.

A Seated position was so close that she could taste it.

Today, the top forty contestants from the fights the day before would battle it out to enter the last round of the Tournament. If they managed to be one of the eighteen winners today, tomorrow, they would get a chance to challenge the current holders of the Seats for their positions. She gripped her consent paper even tighter, crinkling it.

Blades. Kidō. Shikai.

All included, all allowed. Undoubtedly, it will be a bloodbath. She didn't want to only watch it. She wanted to be in it. She could see some of the Shinigami from her Division doing their pre-battle rituals. Tanaka, one of the infamous brawlers, was combing his hair back, slicking it with gel, like he always did before a fight. On the other hand, Suzuki, his arch enemy and partner in brawling crime, was sitting in a meditative position, eyes closed. They were definitely people to watch out for.

She spotted the new recruit from the Academy, whom she'd suggested be invited into their Division, Nakajima Shin, hopping up and down in the corner, nervously getting ready for the fight. With a small smile, she turned around and headed for the officer at the door. She handed over her consent paper and then faced the entrance.

No backing down.

We don't lose.


This time, the fight had been different. Hinagiku's mind had been clear once she'd entered the arena, on the middle floor of the three levels, and she'd been able to sabotage the Shinigami next to her with a simple Bakudō spell. She'd wasted no time running down the stairs.

When designing the Three Levels Arena, she'd thought of it this way, the newest recruits would enter on the lowest level, while the most experienced would enter on the highest. And, while she wasn't cruel, she wasn't naïve either. She would eliminate the weakest links first.

Hinagiku could tell that the young Shinigami whom she had met on his way up the steps was shocked to see someone rushing down them, but he'd quickly directed his katana into an attacking stance and slashed at her. But, it was slow. For her, it was all too slow. Her training with Rini had made her nimble and quick, slippery like an eel.

She jumped, a small amount of reiatsu pushed into her toes, and landed on the tip of his extended sword, it buckled a bit, but he managed to hold her weight.

Iai: Backslash!

Her katana sung from the advantageous position and Hinagiku slammed the blunt back into the officer's biceps in a lighting fast motion. Re-sheathing her sword, she let go of the whole katana, proceeding to slam the sheath into the young Shinigami's head. His eyes lolled back and he fell to the side, unconscious.

With a grin similar to her Captain's, Hinagiku flew down the stairs once more.

The rest of the newer recruits had gone down in a similar fashion. They had been fighting among each other in a terribly focused battle once she'd reached the bottom, which had made it easy for the petite, quick girl to rush between them, using a mixture of Kidō and quickdraw kenjutsu to knock them out. Then, as she was nearing the end of the rather short crowd of newcomers, a metallic sound rang out as her blade was deflected to the side. Hinagiku grinned.

Boy, could she pick them.

Nakajima Shin was standing there, a frown on his face, eyebrows terribly furrowed, as he recoiled from the strength of her slash. Hinagiku dug her heels in, stopping her relentless Shunpo for the first time since she'd reached level three. She turned to the boy, her smirk never leaving her face.

"Take care of him." Hideki's voice whispered into her ear. "Take care of my brother." He told her, hand gripping hers over her Asauchi.

"Oh, I will." She replied in her Kansai accent, the smile widening. It wasn't a welcoming smile that one would see when entering any other Division. It wasn't the kind greeting that people were used to. It was the signature smirk which you could see on any member of the 11th Division at some point in their career. It was a smile which told you that they were out for blood and that they would enjoy it greatly.

"Hello, Shin-bo."

That's all folks! I promise that I won't leave you in the dark for too long about the things which happen next xD


Anyways, I've been obsessing over the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows which follows it, so, if anyone wants to chat about it, I welcome them with open arms on the PM! :D This is one of the reasons why I've been such a slowpoke about writing this chapter and publishing it :P

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome to yet another chapter with a cliffhanger!


I'm looking forward to reading the reviews!


Thank you Sassifrass for being a wonderful Beta and arguing with me (a little) about my crazy ideas of plain fighting :P


OCs appearing:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11th)

Kida Rini (11th)

Nakajima Shin (11 th ?)

Nakajima Hideki (10 th  - deceased)

Kobashigawa Setsuko (mentioned)

Ichirō (Husband of Kobashigawa Setsuko, mentioned)


This chapter's words of inspiration are:

We men are fascinated by the things we don't really understand. It gives us something to think and talk about: like females, they drive us nuts.

- Criss Jami


Chapter 16: Tournament VI: Walls of memories

It is dark. Dark, but not silent. I can hear it. In the distance. There is a clash of swords, the smell of steel and sweat and the rush of battle. But, that isn't all. There is more there.

I can feel it.

The rush of blood in her veins and the stiffness of her shoulders. I can hear her breath and I can feel her thoughts. I know her desires and I know her goals.

My hands grip the paper in front of me, crumpling it.

Let me fight for you.

Let me do battle.

Let me promise.

No fear.

No retreat.

No defeat.

I.

Will.

Win.

For you. Only for you. I will win for you.

Come and find me.

Come and meet me.

Listen to my voice.

Now.


In.

And out.

Her breathing came steady, practiced as if she hadn't been jumping about with her feet full of reiatsu.

In.

And out.

The subtle metallic sound, barely hearable to a normal ear, followed with her breathing.

In.

And out.

Quickdraw. She had practiced it since the first time she'd seen a katana. She'd practiced it at home, with a small letter opener she'd stolen from her Grandmother's desk. She'd practiced it at the garden with her mother's 'borrowed' scissors. She'd practiced it with a wooden sword at the Academy. She'd practiced it with her Asauchi, from the first day she'd laid hands on it.

In.

And out.

The theory of the quickdraw wasn't in the actual speed of the hand. It wasn't in the strength of a body. It wasn't in the flick of the wrist. No. It was all in the sheath. The feel of the blade pressed tightly in its snug cover as she dragged it in an angle outwards. And then, once it sprung free… It flew. It was in all in the motion. In the practice of the muscles. In the determination of the user.

And if she had one thing, she had determination.

You will get nowhere with a half of your heart, my little daisy. Her mother had told her. We all need that other half, to make something complete. It is only complete when it is whole. She'd never done anything half-heartedly. She put everything she had into everything she did. And if she failed, that was alright. She'd done everything in her power to achieve her goals.

But, this was different.

The Asauchi in her hands felt weightless and the breath in her lungs was the only thing she could hear clearly. In the background, somewhere, there was the song of metal clashing against metal. But, it wasn't important. There was only one thing to do now.

Breathe.

In.

And out.

Her katana flew even faster this time, with more force, as she grit her teeth. She switched her footing, changing the grip on her sword in an instant, allowing the blade to slide against her opponents. She could hear him panting. He was tired. He didn't have rhythm. He lacked discipline. He lacked technique.

He lacked practice.

With a cheery giggle, Hinagiku slid her foot between his and slammed a kick into his leg, breaking his balance. The boy fell, eyes wide, to his knees. The figure behind him stood tall, calm, with almost a pensive look on his face. But, the boy did his best to hold onto their clashed, pushing against one another, swords.

Determination.

She could hear her mother's voice through the numbness of her own mind, making her tilt her head to the side in order to inspect her opponent better. True. He had determination. She switched the grip on her katana once again, their swords singing together with the change of force. With her left hand free, Hinagiku grabbed the sheath from her hip and swung it in a wide arc.

A deafening hit rang out as it slammed against the newbie's head.

He hadn't even seen it coming, unlike his brother.

Hideki was smiling.

Discipline. Practice. Experience. He lacked so, so much and yet, he made the blood in her very veins boil at the sight of his furrowed eyebrows.

"Ya' have guts, I'll give ya' tha', Shin-bo." As soon as she saw the surprise on his face, she changed the pace of their fight. Suddenly, they were the only ones standing in the arena once more.

Pull back, give him space.

The boy jumped to his feet, rushing at her with a yell. With a smirk, Hinagiku ducked, reiatsu thick in her toes, as she rushed forward. Then, she was behind him, her sheath at her hip, katana safely inside it. She gave him a real smile this time, encouraging him despite his shocked and terrified expression. Her knees bent, katana leveled with the ground in a parallel position, right hand at the tsuka and left holding the sheath still.

"Try 'gain next week!" Hinagiku commented cheerily. Hideki was watching her from the stairs, now. And she took a breath.

In.

And out.

Iai: One slice!

She didn't feel the draw. She didn't feel the telltale release of the force once the katana was out of the sheath. She didn't feel the moment it sliced through his flesh. She didn't hear his scream. She didn't feel the practiced extra swish through the air when she shook the blood off the blade. She didn't hear the katana hum as she re-sheathed it. She didn't feel anything.

It was done.

With a wide smirk on her face and a calm inside of her she hadn't felt in a while, Hinagiku stepped around the beaten Shinigami of the third level and headed for the stairs. She took a deep breath, sucked it as far as it could go and her smile widened, if that was possible.

She could smell the battle.

The scent of sweat, steel, and blood.

And finally, finally, she felt at home.

"It's time to leave." She whispered to the shadow of her fear and the illusion of the man she'd seen murdered vanished. All that was left was the sight of her fallen enemies.


Tōshirō had arrived on time, as usual, if not a little early. He'd bumped into a couple of officers from his Division on his way to the large bleachers, but, he'd ended up sitting alone, like he preferred. This way, he had a chance to actually watch the match, instead of having to participate in conversation. Captain Kuchiki had surprised him at one point, sitting next to him silently and then starting a short conversation regarding the missing reports from last week. Curse Matsumoto, Tōshirō thought, with a promise to send someone over with them as soon as the Tournament was over.

As well-thought out as it was, the whole ordeal was messing up his entire Division. They should all consider themselves truly lucky if Zaraki didn't demand a Tournament like this each month, though. Once a year, they could probably handle the paperwork and the damages. More often and Seireitei would descend into chaos. He didn't envy Hinagiku one bit, as she would undoubtedly be the one cleaning up after her Captain's mess.

Speaking of the girl, Tōshirō mused, leaning back to see the arena better. They had left the water in the pool on the bottom, probably to catch the participants who went flying off the rings. Speaking of those. If Matsumoto had been impressed by the arena last time, he wondered what she'd say about this one.

It was a huge contraption of three rings, each at a different height. As far as he could see, they had been connected with slim, railing-less staircases, allowing the participants to go between levels. The lowest ring, closest to the water, was a simple round platform. The next one, about four meters above the first one had a hole in the middle, allowing the spectators to watch both areas of the arena at the same time. The last one, the highest, was higher above the rest, at least ten or even twenty meters, as Tōshirō estimated and it looked like a nasty climb. It was the widest, and there was no chance that an unseated Shinigami would be able to jump across the hole in the middle in order to get to their prey on the other side.

Tōshirō smirked, nodding his head. Whoever had designed these was a true sadist. Not only were they aiming to weed out the officers with a fear of heights, but they were leaving enough room for the fights to be individual, unlike the previous brawls. This truly was a work of art. Well, one that the 11th Division would enjoy.

He opened the pamphlet which he'd been handed upon entry, taking in the names of the participants and the short descriptions of their stats. Easily enough, he found Hinagiku's picture. She was staring blankly at him from the page, almost like she was ready to salute or something. But, that was the kind of stiffness and propriety he'd come to enjoy in the girl. As respectable and rule-obeying as she was, Tōshirō didn't doubt that she would surprise them all with something unconventional. Yet, rule abiding. He chuckled to himself, focusing on her picture again. The violet eyes stared up at him in a stern, but respectful gaze.

She looks so different from judge Kobashigawa, the Captain realized.

With a shake of his head, he banished those thoughts from his head. The judge had nothing to do with this. But, she did. This was her granddaughter. She was Kobashigawa Hinagiku. But, she was nothing like the judge. And yet, she was everything like the woman.

Tōshirō stared at the pamphlet for a moment longer. No, he decided. She was nothing like the judge. A single look at her eyes could tell you that. Hinagiku was nothing like her grandmother.

The young Captain was torn from his internal struggles as the booming voice of the 7th Seat welcomed all spectators to another match of the 11th Division's Tournament. He briefly introduced the judges, explained the rules and gave a 101 on the arena, before giving the signal for a start. Tōshirō leaned forward in his seat, trying to get the best vantage point.

Little black shapes rushed out and into the rings, pouring one over the other.

The insanity had begun.

Tōshirō's eyes darted back and forth from one participant to the other, looking for the telltale colorful scarf. He found his target rather quickly. His eyes narrowed, watching her movement carefully. The small shape of a slight girl in a black shihakushō had burst from the stairs in between the second and the third ring and she'd made her way through the crowd of newbies easily enough. Tōshirō focused on her, and only her, tuning out everything else which was happening at the stadium.

She was good.

He noted this as he watched her continually draw her blade. The quickdraw technique which she was using with practiced ease would give any officer unaccustomed to it blisters and undoubtedly a sore arm. Not to mention that the fingers of her hands had to be incredibly strong for a feat such as that. But, in comparison to the top ring, where the most ferocious and most experienced fighters were out for blood she was painfully average.

The Captain found himself praying that she wouldn't reach the top ring, as he wasn't sure what he'd do if she got on the wrong end of one of those brutal slices of the numerous Asauchi.

What was he thinking?

What he would do?

Tōshirō shook his head, straightening his back in his seat. Hinagiku was a Shinigami. She was an officer in the military, trained for fighting and hardened from battle. He wouldn't do anything. Of course, he wouldn't. She needed this. She needed every second of this. She needed it to be strong. She needed it to be better. She needed it to survive.

And yet, he knew that he would fly down there to stop a sword if it came too close to her.

Tōshirō cursed under his breath, grabbing the fabric of his hakama in a tight grip. He needed to ground himself. He needed purchase. He needed control.

"Taicho?" A surprised, familiar voice sounded next to him through a haze of his own panic. He'd almost lost control. The cheers and shouts coming from all around the bleachers were suddenly deafening in his ears and his eyes left the tiny form on the bottom of the arena, which was struggling with another participant, in order to look at his Lieutenant.

"Matsumoto." He gave her a nod, putting a well-practiced mask into place. By the smirk on her face, she hadn't been fooled. Though, the busty woman didn't mention it and instead plopped down in the seat next to him.

"Didn't think you would come to the match today, Taicho." She commented, eyes darting to the arena. Tōshirō allowed himself to glance down, right where he had seen the object of his lack of control last. She was gone. "Is there someone who's piqued your interest?"

"A few." Tōshirō ripped his eyes away from the arena to look at his Lieutenant, fighting with himself not to look for that familiar, colorful scarf on any of the rings. Instead, he focused on Matsumoto. She had been looking at him in a way which made him quite uncomfortable. Though, whether she knew what he had been thinking of mere moments before her arrival or not, Tōshirō didn't know. Matsumoto was as unreadable as always.

"Hmmmm." She agreed, her eyes straying to the rings now. But, Tōshirō didn't look away. He couldn't. If he did look back down, no matter how good he was at hiding his emotions, she would know. Matsumoto had known him for too long not to notice.

When the hell had this happened?

Tōshirō took a breath, cleared his mind and focused on the icy presence inside of him. Hyorinmaru was a welcome, familiar cool, in both mind and body. But, even that deep inside, so close to the very core of his Soul, he could feel the unease, the urge, and the promise. To protect.

Tōshirō chuckled, allowing his eyes to finally return to the rings of the arena. Why was he surprised about this kind of a feeling? After all, at his core, he was a dragon. And if a dragon does anything, he protects his property. Surprisingly, the mousy officer of another Division had become a part of that.

He leaned his head to the side, his arm coming to hold his chin as he smiled at the officers below, fighting for their place in the Division. Tōshirō relaxed and found the object of his interest with ease. The colorful scarf was whipping in the wind as the slight girl rushed up the stairs and towards the highest ring of the arena.

"Her." He finally said, making Matsumoto hum in question. She took a moment to follow his gaze and locate the person his eyes were following intently.

"Taicho!" Exclaimed the Lieutenant. "You must be joking!" She squinted. "Sure, she has good technique, but she's too stiff!" Another clash of swords below and Matsumoto huffed. "That was a completely unnecessary movement! She's all over the place!"

"Matsumoto." Warned Tōshirō, but there was no force behind his words. She was right. Hinagiku was all over the place and she was too stiff. But, there was something there. There was something beneath the surface. Perhaps, if she let go. Perhaps, if there was someone to simply peel the layer of propriety off of her… Then… Then she would show everyone exactly what she could do. "Who knows." He finally settled for. "Zaraki wouldn't give her, anyway."

"Since when do you care about what Zaraki-taicho wants?" Matsumoto asked, tilting her head to the side.

"Only if it would prevent me from doing what I want." Tōshirō remarked. He watched the figure in the arena, slashing her way through her opponents. "Tch. Her shoulders are too stiff." He finally admitted to his Lieutenant. Matsumoto hummed in agreement, obviously happy that her Captain was seeing sense. Though, he eyes didn't leave the small form of the Shinigami jumping about.

She carefully watched as the girl chose her footing, switching the bursts of her reiatsu in her toes. "Ouch." Matsumoto winced as a katana made contact with the poor girl's stomach. She obviously hadn't seen it coming, being a tad too engrossed in her other fight. She was built for duels and definitely not for brawls, like the rest of the Zaraki Squad.

Matsumoto glanced at her Captain, watching the way his eyes had narrowed in concentration. She could feel his own reiatsu oozing out of him. After all, that was how she'd found him in the stands. No one had dared to sit near him because of the sheer power of the aura. Well, that and his award-winning personality. She focused back on the match with a small smile on her lips. Her Captain would definitely be an interesting one to pay attention to in the next few weeks. After all, it wasn't every day that the stoic Hitsugaya Tōshirō had his mind full of an unseated officer.

"Eh?" Matsumoto exclaimed, eyes narrowing now. The small black shape of her Captain's obsession was gone. "Where'd she go?" She murmured, her eyes scouring the top ring of the arena. "You're joking!" The busty Lieutenant finally exclaimed when she found the colorful scarf. The small Shinigami stood in between both of her opponents, fighting on two sides at once. She'd forgone the quickdraw from the sheath, her signature move. Instead she was using the enemy Asauchi as a base, fighting in an almost relaxed manner. The Lieutenant squinted, as if unsure what she was seeing was right. The petite Shinigami was moving like a completely different officer, with fluidity in her fighting style which hadn't been there earlier. Even from her spot on the bleachers, Matsumoto could see the wide smirk on the girl's face which somehow didn't suit her. It was too vicious. Too lethal. Too bloodthirsty. Too Zaraki… And then, it was gone. "Captain, is tha-" But, she didn't finish, because the look on his face told her everything. His eyes had that kind of sparkle, like when a child would find a piece of candy or an old lady would see some money on the street.

"Alright, I give up." Laughed the Lieutenant, throwing her hands up. She looked back at the arena. "You can keep your stiff girl a secret." Her Captain finally let out a chuckle, giving her a glance, before his eyes went back to the field.

"I plan to." He replied and their conversation ended. Neither of them commented when the said Shinigami's shoulders tensed once again, remaining that way until the end of the brawl. Surprisingly, the busty Lieutenant didn't bring up the topic of the girl with the bright colored scarf once again that day.


Hinagiku hissed while sinking into the bath. She could practically feel the water getting into the raw wounds from her day at the arena. With a pained huff, she attempted to relax, letting her head fall back to the edge of the bath. Though, there was no helping it. With the two fights being completely back to back, she was sore and bruised all over. One Asauchi had even caught her across her stomach when she'd been paying a bit too much attention to her current opponent. Now, that wound stung.

"If Grandmother could see me now." Hinagiku whispered to the ceiling with a huff of a laugh. The mere thought of her Grandmother even hearing of the state of Hinagiku's precious body being damaged would send the woman into a fit of rage. Well, more like a fit of lecture. The petite Shinigami could still remember the first time that had happened.

It had been over thirty years ago, now, when she'd just started her Academy training. She'd barely begun using her Asauchi when she'd had a small mishap during training with another student. Word had somehow gotten to her Grandmother, who had stormed into the tiny Academy infirmary with a blank expression. But, Hinagiku could remember the way the woman's lips had pressed into a tight, tiny line, fury raging in her eyes.

"At least you have not disfigured your facial features yet, granddaughter." The stern woman had told her icily, before leaving. The next day, Hinagiku's sparring partner from that day had been summoned by Central 46 and the girl couldn't really remember seeing much of him later. As for her, she'd received remedial classes at her Grandmother's estate, concerning the pureness and cleanliness of a woman's body before a marriage. In other words, a clear instruction for her to avoid scars at all costs.

Hinagiku pushed herself up and out of the bath, forcing the memories away from her thoughts. She had never had a good relationship with her Grandmother. The woman was stern and proper, and all too much self-confident. It was as if the Soul King himself had come to Seireitei to give her her wisdom so that she could spread it. Or, at least Kobashigawa Setsuko thought so.

For Hinagiku, it was quite the opposite.

She'd never really fit into her Grandmother's plan. Kobashigawa Setsuko had been the woman to raise their name into respect by becoming a member of the Central 46. She had been the one to form a powerful marriage with her husband, Ichirō, even going as far as refusing to surrender her last name. It had been a scandal, back in the day, and quite well-known. Who was a woman to refuse to take on her husband's last name?

However, in the end, Kobashigawa Setsuko had persisted. She had been a formidable councilwoman of the Central 46 back then and she had already been well-known by her own last name. And then, ages later, her marriage was blessed with a baby girl. Hinagiku's mother. Oh, how many plans had the judge had for her daughter. After all, there had been numerous suitable male suitors being born into noble families at that time. She had been so certain, back then, that her daughter would be the first to marry into true aristocracy.

But, things hadn't exactly gone according to plan.

The rebellious Kobashigawa gene was a bit too strong and unpredictable in Hinagiku's mother. And, as proper and ladylike as she was, charming all of her suitors, she had had her eyes only on one man. Hinagiku's father had been a gardener from the outskirts of Rukongai. A country bumpkin with an unusual accent and a complete opposite to what her Grandmother had had in mind as her daughter's match. However, a single night of passion had been enough to wreck all of Kobashigawa Setsuko's plans of greatness and power for her family name.

Hinagiku had always reminded her Grandmother of who exactly her daughter had chosen as the perfect suitor. And, that had never truly boded well for the young Shinigami. After her mother's untimely death she had been left at her Grandmother's mercy. And Kobashigawa Setsuko had seen a ray of hope in her old age. She had seen a new chance.

If she could only groom this child.

Then, perhaps, there was still a chance for greatness.

And then, Hinagiku had gone and shown her own Kobashigawa will and enrolled herself into the Shin'ō Academy.

After that, there had really been no point in attempting to please her Grandmother. The woman had shown her resentment openly, cold as ice. She was, after all, a judge of the Central 46. She wouldn't be humiliated by being associated with a lowly Shinigami. Even after all the training which Hinagiku had had, she couldn't rise in rank. If she had made a Seat, perhaps her Grandmother would've been pleased. Or, perhaps a Lieutenant's or even a Captain's position would've been more to the woman's liking. The way she was now, she was no good.

Hinagiku let out a small sigh, trying to chase those thoughts away from her head. It seemed that at times like these, when she was all bruised and battered, her Grandmother's words would come and haunt her. That was one of the reasons why she liked to keep herself busy. If she was busy, she wouldn't be able to think. If she didn't have the time to let her thoughts wander, they wouldn't go back to all of those cold gazes and all of those harsh words.

With yet another sigh, the petite girl wrapped her wounds tightly, before dressing into a simple white kimono and heading out of the baths.


Why were there so many steps?

She seemed to be going down, down and then down some more. She had never liked going up, but this was a bit too much of descending for her. She could only imagine how the climb back upwards would be. Probably tiring. Her mouth was likely going to go dry and she would need to rush to the kitchenette at the barracks and get a couple of mouthfuls of water right away.

Why was she going down?

Well, there was something there that she needed. She couldn't quite remember what, but she was sure that once she reached the end of these thrice-damned stairs that she would remember. After all, she had a great memory. She could list her meals back at least four weeks. Every meal. For every day. That was a great way to practice your memory. At least, that's what the books said.

Where is the bottom, though?

She couldn't see that far down. Obviously, someone needed to turn on the lights in here. It was really, really dark. As in, she could see perhaps one or two steps in front of her and nothing else. She was certain that there were walls on either side of her, because she could feel the presence of a barrier, but she couldn't really see them. Perhaps it was only her imagination.

Should she reach out and check?

No. The answer was as clear in her mind in a second as the bad feeling which rose in her belly at the idea. That was alright, she could do without the lights. Well, as long as she could see where she was going, right? She needed a plan and a schedule. By the Soul King, she hoped that she wouldn't be late. She was already running a bit late.

Wasn't she?

She wasn't sure. But, she did have that feeling in the pit of her stomach which told her that she could hurry up a bit if she wanted to. After all, they weren't going to wait for her the whole day. Yes, she would do exactly that.

But, where exactly was she going?

The girl stopped. She didn't know, she realized. She had no idea where these stairs led, just that they went down. There was a dread in her stomach, the kind that she often got before a big, dangerous mission and the girl bit her lip.

Should she turn back?

That didn't feel right. Going back didn't feel right. She needed to go on. Something inside of her was telling her to keep walking. To always keep walking forward and to never stop. There was no sense in stopping or going back, only in moving forwards. She agreed with that. One could only learn from the past. There was nothing else to it.

But, what would be on the end?

A distant memory came to her, kind of like a dream. Or, a dream of a dream. It was of a woman with a kind voice and very soft, long hair that smelled of gardenias. The woman wasn't letting her look at the end of the book. Instead, she was reminding her to read the whole story, from the beginning to the end.

"It's not about the end, my little daisy. It's about the journey."

And the girl stepped down, into the darkness, into the unknown, and into the first day of the rest of her journey.


That's all for now folks!
Hope that you've enjoyed the ride :)

Chapter Text

You guys know the drill, here are some wise words of inspiration:

Loyalty means I am down with you whether you are wrong or right, but I will tell you when you are wrong and help you get it right.

-Anonymous


Chapter 17: Tournament VII: World

It is dark. Here, where I dwell. But, I've learned to adapt to this darkness. It is now an old friend.

But, I cannot wait for the day when the light will shine once more. I yearn for it. I wish to feel it once more. I wish to see once more. I wish to be free once more.

Step. Step.

Here she comes.

Step. Step.

She's walking towards me.

Step. Step.

And we shall perform katame-no-sakazuki.

Step. Step.

And if we die, to the death I shall follow you.


Hinagiku had always had trouble dealing with nerves. She could still remember the incident from her mother's funeral, where she had managed to upchuck her tiny breakfast into the bushes in front of the whole household. Luckily, back then, she'd been just a little girl and nobody had thought much of it, beyond that fact that she'd been overwhelmed with grief. However, now, in front of this door, she had no excuses.

For the nth time, she brushed her uniform to perfection, pulling on the sash even tighter so that her kosode would stay securely closed. It was unnecessary and she could feel it digging into her waist, but she did so anyways. She couldn't feel her fingers anymore.

This wasn't just a fight, after all.

She was standing in front of the door which could finally lead her to her future. After decades in a Division she loved and protected. After years of working until the dead hours of the night in the office hoping for some semblance of recognition. After hours and hours on end of rubbing her eyes underneath her reading glasses and feeling glad for doing one small piece of work for her Captain. That day was the day she'd never dreamt of. It was the time when she finally had a chance to go out there, into the arena, and fight for her own spot at the top.

This was her fight of a lifetime.

Her left hand was clutching the hilt of her katana now, tracing the daisies on the wrapping gently, as had become her habit. But, while her face and breaths were calm, inside her was a storm. Hinagiku was staring at the door in front of her and suddenly it seemed way too big for her.

With a strangled sob, almost like a gasp for air, the young Shinigami stepped back from it, turning around with her eyes screwed shut. You can do nothing right. Her Grandmother's stern words echoed in her mind for the thousandth time that day. You are ruining everything I have built with every single step you take. Hinagiku could practically see the woman now, a cold look in her eyes. Her Grandmother had never shown anger openly. But, she would get that one cold look in her eyes whenever she was feeling enraged.

Then, I won't step forward again.

Another hacked gasp for air came from her lungs and Hinagiku almost fell to her knees. However, a strong arm grasped her elbow, pulling her up.

"What the hell are you doing?" Kida Rini stood there, looking down on her with a scowl on her pretty face. The left corner of her mouth was twisted upwards, like it always was when she disapproved of something.

"I-I-I can't." Hinagiku finally managed to gasp out. "I'm going to withdraw." She told her fellow officer and friend. At the idea of not going through the huge door, the feeling in her legs slowly returned and her fingers didn't seem all that cold. In fact, even her empty stomach, a wise precaution, had stopped giving its acrobatic performance.

"Grit your teeth." Rini instructed in an authoritative tone. Hinagiku was about to ask why, but she listened on base instinct, cursing the military training for once. Rini's hand came from a wide arc, leaving a terrible stinging sensation in Hinagiku's cheek. "Awake yet?"

Her friend had slapped her.

Hinagiku managed to suck in a breath, finally, and she blinked a couple of times, trying to gather her bearings. However, Rini had never been a patient woman. Before the smaller Shinigami knew what was happening, she felt a symmetrical stinging sensation in her other cheek. She blinked once more.

"Tch." Rini commented, swinging her arm wide once more. However, this time, Hinagiku's hand shot up, her forearm slamming into her friend's one and holding it at bay. "Finally." Rini groaned, seeing the furious look in Hinagiku's eyes. "Now, go give 'em some 11th Division lovin'." The 15th Seat imitated her friend's accent with a happy grin, causing her to finally smile.

"You are aware, Rini-dono, that you cannot solve all of the problems in life with a beat down?" Hinagiku asked with a sigh, her arm leaning in a relaxed manner over her Asauchi. Rini laughed.

"I can damned well try." The woman replied. Then, her eyes widening in recognition, she pulled something out of her kosode. "I swung by the office before coming here. This was on the 4th Seat's desk, addressed to you." She handed over a paper box.

"I'm thankful." Hinagiku replied with a small nod of her head. "It must've been troublesome bringing it here." She had begun to open the box, when her friend spoke once more.

"Not at all." Rini grinned, used to the shorter girl's formality. She turned to leave, before tossing over her shoulder. "And, Hina." The Shinigami in question looked up, surprised to see the bloodthirsty look on Rini's rather attractive face. "If we meet in the maze, don't you dare go easy on me."

"Not at all." Echoed Hinagiku with a small smile.


The doors opened before her and Hinagiku rushed forward. A small box made out of paper had been left in the corner of the doorway, where she'd sworn to return for it. In there lay a note with a few words in a simple, yet elegant handwriting.

Relax your shoulders and,

On the paper, there had been a single flower. A white carnation. Hinagiku ran into the maze she'd helped design, not knowing where she would end up. Her footsteps echoed and she could hear no commentator yelling in her ear. After all, Koichi was in there, with her, ready to defend his title. Everything was deathly silent, breaths held in, as the crowd watched the participants run around the maze. They were waiting for a clash between Shinigami.

and, good luck.

The meaning of the flower had been singular, as it had been carefully chosen. Hinagiku had allowed her mind to briefly run through the list of people who could've given her such advice and been familiar with the meaning of the plant. Tomoka, she had settled upon. If her friend was telling her to relax, then obviously she needed to. The noblewoman had always been better than her at the Academy, after all.

Hinagiku forced her mind to empty itself as she heard the first clash of the swords somewhere to her left. The crowd exploded in cheers. Then, a charge of power almost knocked her off her feet and she was slammed into the wall.

The first Zanpakutō of the day had been unleashed.


Kida Rini had never had the problem with fighting. In fact, she'd always excelled in the physical aspects of being a Shinigami. Using her fists had come easily, due to her origins from the outskirts of Rukongai. Wielding a blade had been a tad more difficult, but she'd managed to perfect it. Kidō had been a pain, so she'd mostly forgone it. Bakudō had also been problematic, but she'd passed the class. Kaidō, she hadn't even attempted. Altogether, she'd known for a long time where her place would be.

Right here.

Her waraji made almost no sound as she flew across the wooden floor of the arena. It had been set up as a giant maze, which altogether looked like a terrifying western house. It had been a monster of her own design, not Hinagiku's. She'd gotten the inspiration from a mission of hers in Gense. There had been a big screen in a building, where you had to pay to enter, and then, you could watch people who weren't there do something on that screen. He'd called it the cinema and he'd shown her something called a horror movie. It had been in a big, old, Victorian house. Altogether, positively terrifying. Yet, she hadn't shown her fear or surprise, only her wonder and awe of the invention. It was certainly different from the video conference which the 12th Division used.

So, when Hinagiku had begun talking about a maze of sorts where the top contestants for the Seated positions would battle, Rini suggested a horror mansion. It had been a fleeting joke, now turned into a thrilling reality as she raced through its corridors. This time, she would be the man with something called a shotgun who would kill the ghost.

She was going to the top this time.

The familiar sound of a sword being drawn had Rini freeze in her tracks. She skidded a bit, holding her breath carefully, so that they wouldn't hear her panting. She calmed down her heart and lungs, telling her eager Zanpakutō to wait just a moment longer. Her back pressed against the wooden wall, listening carefully for the sounds of the other Shinigami.

Rini considered herself lucky.

Not like Madarame Ikkaku, whose axe had obviously been dunked into honey somewhere, but still, fairly lucky. However, she knew that she didn't have that kind of fortune on her side. Considering the strength of some of the people in the maze, and the fact that there were thirty-six of them in the arena, she was bound to meet someone stronger than her soon enough. However, Rini wasn't prepared to give up. She was definitely going to the top this time.

The redhead stood still, waiting, listening to the sounds of the Shinigami on the other side of the wall. There was a crossroads right in front of her, with the options of left or right. She wanted to know if this man, the one behind the wall, would be coming up in her way in a moment.

Then, a battle cry sounded, shortly followed by a scream.

She easily recognized the voice of the yell. On the left side of the wall was Madarame Ikkaku in the flesh. She grit her teeth, eyes narrowing. She knew that if she faced that monster she wouldn't be reaching the top. Heck, she might even never leave the blasted maze. With a single glare and a silent curse of her fortune, Rini blew the stray strand of hair from her eyes in a silent huff.

Then, she ran.

Rini knew that if she spiked her reiatsu their 3rd Seat would follow her like a bloodhound on a rampage. Hence, she ran without any help, only relying on her stamina. Thankfully, years of being chased about Rukongai had her in quite a form. Not to mention that since she'd joined the Gotei 13 Captain Zaraki had had her training every single day. Soon enough, she was almost at the end of the path to her right, as far as possible from the monster of a man behind her.

With a sigh, Rini allowed her senses to lose focus of him and instead, scout the area around her. She couldn't feel anything, so, she chose a random path on the next crossroads. She really hoped that she wouldn't end up matched against Hinagiku. With their promise not to hold back standing, she knew that she would slice down any chance of a Seat for the girl in a second.

In was funny, really.

Kida Rini had entered the Division years after Hinagiku, yet, she'd risen in rank fairly quickly. But, the funniest thing was the fact that she hadn't even known that the short girl existed until recently. Contrary to what one might think after catching a glimpse of judge Kobashigawa, Hinagiku was a meek, almost shy presence, hidden among the rules and guidelines of the Division. She preferred solitude and was mostly exempt from group outings – as they usually ended in brawls.

Rini could remember seeing the petite girl from time to time at their favorite restaurant. It was only after hours, when there wasn't a lot of work leftover, that the Paper would join them in their celebration. The 15th Seat could recall her vaguely only because the small thing had managed to consume a surprising amount of strawberry sundaes in a short amount of time.

Now, the situation was different.

Rini couldn't really think of another day at the office or a mission without the comforting, calm presence of their favorite paper pusher. She'd never been good at making friends, especially not with girls. She was considered crude and disrespectful most of the time. Perhaps that had made her fit into the 11th Division so well. But, even the other female officers in the Squad had never paid any mind to Rini. She preferred sparring with the men in the dōjō, anyways. These days, though, she found herself looking forward to a nice cup of tea with her roommate after a hard day's work.

With a smile, Rini turned the corner.

There was an unsuspecting man standing there, and she slowed down. Calmly, she walked up behind him, smirk growing on her face. She let out a single puff of air towards the back of his neck, making him yelp and jump up. However, the fight was over in an instant and the inexperienced Shinigami laid on the floor, unconscious, a bump sure to grow on his head the next day.

Hide and seek had always been a favorite game of hers.

Rini continued on her way, footsteps still silent, but this time, she chanced a small amount of reiatsu, propelling her forward faster. She mused on the topic of her friend. While she really hoped that Hinagiku would achieve the status of a Seat that day, Rini was also aware of her friend's faults. It had been noticeable during their spars, and obvious when she had watched the petite girl's earlier battles.

Hinagiku was too focused on the rules.

There was no improvisation in her movements, no wildness. She didn't know how to let go and simply enjoy the fight. Instead, she would hold herself properly at all times, tight rein on her reiatsu and a steel grip on the by-the-book movements. Cruel as it may seem, Rini knew that this would be the girl's downfall.

After all, how could one learn to relax? Especially if they were told to do so.

Shaking her head in dismissal of her troubled thoughts, Rini stopped in her tracks for the second time that day. Sweat slowly poured down her face from using her Shunpo and the blistering heat, and she hadn't even fought a battle yet. However, she could feel it. A familiar presence was coming closer and closer. Then, a man burst behind the corner. Rini couldn't help the grin that formed on her face in delight.

Aramaki Makizō stood in front of her in his full, mustached, glory.

"Kida." He clicked his tongue at her.

"Aramaki." She grinned, blood boiling in her veins. He was simply a few Seats above her. He was the 12th Seat. She was the 15th. This time, today, she would end him and send him back to the beginning. It was time for her to shine. She would finally go to the top. She was ready.

"I don't enjoy fighting women, but I don't have anything against it." The man shrugged, drawing his katana. He stepped to the left, slowly, sizing her up. Rini chuckled briefly.

"I remember you trembling at the sight of Yachiru-fukutaicho." She chided, following his footsteps. The dance of the battle had begun. And, she wasn't about to lose.

Their swords clashed.


Hinagiku's back slammed into the wooden wall, causing it to rattle under the sheer force. The air from her lungs was expelled and she gasped for a second, her knees stinging from the hard impact of her body landing clumsily onto the floor. She gasped and wheezed for another second, trying to get the black spots to clear from her vision.

But, there was no time.

The sword of her opponent came down and she moved just in time. The man had sliced through the wall planks, his katana getting stuck in the material. Hinagiku scrambled to her feet, holding her sword tightly as she wheezed. There were still black spots swimming about wherever she looked, but they weren't so bad. She could see well enough.

Suzuki Kazuo was her opponent.

He was a fairly tall man, towering over her short form, with icy gray eyes that always seemed a bit too narrow for his long face. He usually looked like he was squinting while peering down his long nose at you proudly. His hair was long, as well, almost reaching the middle of his back, and it was always in a neat ponytail. Though, all summed up, he was a rather handsome man, objectively. Rini had thought so. However, for Hinagiku, his hobby was the complete deal-breaker.

Suzuki Kazuo loved fighting.

Despite the clearly Buddhist meditation beads around his wrist, the man's name could be found within almost every single brawl report. When assigned an individual mission, he was the perfect soldier. His reports held no incidents. However, as soon as you paired him up with his partner in crime, Tanaka Jirō, you had a long report to fill out. The two always managed to get into some sort of trouble together.

Has Hinagiku pointed this out to the Captain?

Numerous times. In fact, she'd blatantly suggested that he separate the two Shinigami in order to lower the cost of their mission expenses. However, Kenpachi had outright laughed and commented how he liked his Division lively. Put them together, Paper. He'd chided her. They're good pals. Then, he'd signed the papers she'd brought and proceeded to drink without a care in the world. Useless to mention, the costs of the missions hadn't gone down at all, like Yamamoto-soutaicho had asked.

But, right now, Hinagiku wasn't planning a mission.

The girl grit her teeth and sheathed her katana. Suzuki, as reckless and eager as he was, had great skill as a Shinigami and practice as a brawler. She needed to gather her strength and deliver one, decisive strike. Otherwise, she would be surely overwhelmed by the man's sheer physical strength and experience. Though, as her vision slowly cleared and the girl waited for the Shinigami to wrench his sword out of the wall, she felt her body go numb in a second. And then, her vision went completely black.

A single light lit, just above her.

Hinagiku blinked, finding herself in a familiar place of her dream. She was standing in the darkness, nothing around her. But, she knew what was in front. There were steps, surely. Without looking down, without checking, without being cautious for once, Hinagiku stepped forward, the words from Tomoka's note ringing in her mind. Relax your shoulders and good luck.

And Hinagiku flew down the stairs at an incredible speed.

It didn't matter that she was rushing into the dark. It didn't matter because it wasn't the unknown. It was her dark. She understood now. She'd realized. She knew exactly where she was going. She knew exactly where she was. Her breath caught in her throat and her hands trembled in excitement. Finally, her foot slammed onto the floor, signaling that she'd found the last step.

Hinagiku stopped, panting a bit, and turned around in a circle, looking. However, it was pitch black everywhere around her. She couldn't see anything. There was no light. There was nothing. It was empty. With her gut twisting in disappointment, Hinagiku turned back towards the stairs, trying to find them with her foot.

However, there was nothing there.

The stairs were gone. The small Shinigami gripped her Asauchi to herself and took a deep breath. There was no going back now. There was only one way out of this mess.

Step forward.

Breathe.

And for the umpteenth time, she listened to the thick Shinigami manual that had been seared into her head and walked forwards on her shaky legs. She walked for a seemingly hours, yet, she knew that it was mere minutes. Then, as she realized she was getting nowhere, Hinagiku stopped and took another deep, calming breath. If she was where she thought she was, then, nothing was as it seemed. Everything was an illusion. She needed to look into her own mind and to find the answers.

Yet, her mind was drawing a blank for once.

With a shaky laugh, the girl allowed herself another deep breath. It was ironic really. She'd begged her Zanpakutō so many times to take her into the inner world of their minds and tell her its name. Figures that the blasted sword would choose now, in the middle of the most important fight of her life, to take her into this maze of illusions.

Hinagiku took another deep breath.

She felt calmer now. Her hands had stopped shaking and her legs weren't as numb. Then, she realized. She'd been smelling that familiar, almost nostalgic scent around her the whole time.

"Old books." Hinagiku whispered. She took another deep breath without moving and smiled. "And gardenias."

"I planted them for you especially." A feminine voice said from somewhere in the darkness. Hinagiku didn't search for the person, knowing that there was no use. It was too dark. Instead, she closed her eyes and took another breath. "Do you like them?" The voice was somehow vulnerable and it seemed to come from everywhere.

"I love them." Hinagiku replied in a small whisper, surprised at herself at how her normal accent came out, instead of the refined speech her Grandmother had schooled into her. "How do they grow here, without sunlight?" A few moments passed, but there was no answer. Hinagiku didn't show the gnawing fear in her blood, but she asked another question instead. "I would love to see them, if you would turn on the light?" An annoyed click of a tongue was heard.

"I cannot do that." Replied the distorted voice. "I am but a resident here. You are the master." Then, there was another moment of silence. "You are my master." The voice seemed closer now.

"Then, how do I turn on the light?" Hinagiku asked, still not opening her eyes. If this creature coveted the darkness and wouldn't let itself be seen, she wouldn't frighten it, no matter how much its sneaking about frightened her. "Is there a word? Or something I must do? A switch, perhaps?" The Shinigami asked.

The voice in the dark laughed, a clear, bell-like sound that jumped off the sheer magnitude of the space. Suddenly, Hinagiku realized just how big the room she was in was.

"How to turn on the light, she asks?" Laughed the voice, now clearly in front of the Shinigami. "What do you think, master?" Now, it was sneering, angry. "Have I made enough cranes? Have I wished enough wishes?" Hinagiku trembled at the anger, but held her ground, keeping her eyes tightly shut.

She was terrified.

Silence ruled for a moment before soft shifting was heard, almost like a flutter of thousands of paper wings. A soft caress passed Hinagiku's cheek and she almost flinched. However, she remembered everything that her Zanjutsu instructor had told her back at the Academy. Stand your ground. Be firm. This is your Zanpakutō. They are your Soul. They are you, in essence. Yet, this fickle… almost violent thing living in the dark… It didn't seem like her at all.

She loved light, after all.

"I've waited long to serve you, Kobashigawa Hinagiku." The voice seemed almost pained now, all the previous rage gone from its tone. "I would do anything for you, Kobashigawa Hinagiku." Another caress passed her cheek. "Won't you call out my name and use me as your own?"

"Then." Hinagiku opened her eyes, finally catching the glimpse of the seemingly distorted voice. There were purple eyes there, shining from the darkness, much like her own. She managed to see a small amount of armor there, almost like from the old days. The eyes, however, they were surprised, curious even, like they had been amused entirely by the whole ordeal. Hinagiku's, in contrast, held a certain conviction. She was determined, for perhaps, the first time in her life. She could feel her blood boiling. "Swear yer loyalty ta me." Her voice was strong and authoritative, not leaving any room for discussion.

"As you wish, master." The purple eyes vanished for a moment, as the creature bowed. And Hinagiku finally caught a glimpse of armor. A paper was extended to the petite Shinigami and she reached for it, reading through the perfectly written kanji in blood red ink. It was a contract, swearing loyalty to her. This thing, from the darkness, it was swearing its life to her. This monster. "I will exchange sakazuki with you."

Her monster.

"Hadō #2. Kaji." Hinagiku recited, a small flame focusing on the tip of her fingers. It burned the paper in her hands in an instant, despite the small amount of reiatsu the Shinigami had pushed into it. As the ashes fell down gloved hands extended a pure red cup forward, catching them. Hinagiku glimpsed forearm guards before the flame from her fingers went out. A sound of something liquid being poured briefly rang throughout the gigantic room and then, Hinagiku felt the cup being pressed into her hands.

"I will swear loyalty to you, Kobashigawa Hinagiku." The voice told her, the violet eyes connecting with her own in same determination. "I will fight strong. I will have no fear. I will never retreat. I will know no defeat." The shape in the darkness pulled the cup up, so that Hinagiku was feeding it the drink. It smelled strongly of sake. "We lose, we die. We die, we lose. We won't lose and we won't die." The violet-eyed creature drank once again. "And if we die, to the death I shall follow you." And the creature finished its sake. "This is my oath. Do you accept it?"

Hinagiku didn't even need to find her voice. Her response was almost automatic. "I do." And the creature filled the cup again. This time, it raised it to Hinagiku's lips, its violet eyes almost hungry.

"Swear to me." It demanded.

"I, Kobashigawa Hinagiku, the first of my name, accept your oath." Hinagiku drank, her painful endurance training for behaving like a lady the only thing keeping her from flinching at the taste. She really didn't understand why her Captain enjoyed sake so much. "I will fight together with you. Strong. Without fear. Without retreat. Without defeat." She drank once more. "And if death comes, I shall guide you through it." She drank once more, the cup finally becoming empty.

"And now, you shall have your light."

The sudden brightness had Hinagiku squinting, but, she managed to see her Zanpakutō, finally. It was a tall creature, clad in samurai armor, with a katana strapped to its hip. Its face was completely covered, the only thing visible were the two curious, yet seemingly vicious purple eyes. Though, there was a certain gentleness and grace to the figure as it lowered to its knees, bending down among the thousands of cranes lying on the floor in the most formal dogeza Hinagiku had ever seen. It raised the red cup, almost like an offering, before lowering it down to the floor in front of it. Then, it slowly sat back, one hand going to the hilt of its sword.

"Let us fight, master." The voice called, clearly and without any distortion. "Call my name."

The bright flash of light slowly faded along with the figure of her Zanpakutō and Hinagiku found herself looking at the form of Suzuki Kazuo once more. He struggled for a moment with his own katana, before pulling it out of the wall planks. Then, he turned to her with a wide smirk on his handsome face.

"No offense, Paper, but I'm taking that Seat." He bragged in almost a cheery voice. Hinagiku grit her teeth as she was reminded of her battle-battered body and she lowered herself into an almost crouch. Her Asauchi leveled in parallel to the ground and she sheathed the blade, switching her grip accordingly. Then, with a small smirk on her face, she whispered just enough for the three of them to hear.

"Orime (Fold), Kamisenshi." Seeing the frightened way Suzuki's eyes widened at the burst of her reiatsu, Hinagiku took the chance and drew her katana as quickly as her hurting body allowed.

There was a flash of bright light.

"W-what happened?" Suzuki stammered, katana raised up in defense. He looked about only to see the shocked face of his opponent.

Hinagiku stood there, her body in perfect position for a powerful quickdraw, holding her tsuka very threateningly in front of her. Her eyes were wide, staring incredulously at the sword. The blade was gone. The damn thing had sworn loyalty to her and now its blade was gone. Her mind was screaming at her and she felt her face go completely red in pure embarrassment.

"Do you want another try, Paper?" Suzuki teased, raising his own Asauchi to his shoulder in a relaxed manner. There was a smile on his face now. He was barely holding in his laughter and everybody looking could see it.

"Y-you'll regret that sentence." Hinagiku stammered plugging the tsuka back into the sheath. Once more, she gathered her reiatsu and called out for her Zanpakutō. A blinding light flashed as she drew her sword at top speed, again, bladeless.

Suzuki snapped.

He was laughing so hard that he had to put his hand to the previously destroyed wall in order to stay upright. "You've got to be joking!" He was repeating over and over, tears in the corners of his eyes. Hinagiku, though, she felt her face flaming even more, if that was possible. She gripped the empty sheath as hard as she could, cursing the Zanpakutō in her head.

Then, with an extra hard squeeze, everything went black.

Suzuki and the whole corridor were covered in pitch black ink, which had come out in a blast from the girl's sheath. He spluttered for a moment, letting out a colorful string of curses as the liquid streamed everywhere. But, when he looked up to find his opponent, Hinagiku was gone.

"Where did she-" He began looking around, spotting a pair of waraji approaching him quickly through the air. Suzuki's gaze followed them upwards, only to meet the end of Hinagiku's sheath.

"I told you that you would regret that sentence." She huffed, pushing his unconscious body away with a satisfied smile.


Thoughts?
I hope that the Zanpakutō satisfied your expectations :D

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome back!


Hey hey! Welcome everyone to another (painfully) slow update which I'm infamous foooor! Regardless, thank you everyone for the kudos, hits and wonderful comments! Especially winterwonderwhat and Hikari_Tenshi!


Thank you Sassifrass for putting up with my erratic writing schedule and correcting my random British spelling. You're the best beta anyone could wish for :D


OCs appearing:

Kobashigawa Hinagiku (11th)

Kida Rini (11th)

Matsushita Koichi (11th)

Takagawa Yuuko (9th)

Nakajima Shin (11th)

Watanabe Akihiko - Babyface (11th)

Tsutsui Tomoka (10th)


And a few words of wisdom before we get to it:

Just because it didn't last forever, doesn't mean it wasn't worth your while.

-Unknown


Chapter 18: The Aftermath

It is dark.

And rightfully so.

I'd failed.

There are no excuses. There are no takebacks. I'd failed her. I'd given her my name and my blade and in the end, I'd failed her.

It should stay dark forever.


She finished inputting the last couple of words of her report into the computer before letting out a small sigh. It had been a fairly slow day and there had been a number of papers to register into the impressive system of the Seireishokairō designed by their own 12th Division. The petite Shinigami gathered her papers, now fully digitized and put them all together in one big pile. She gently hit the lower edge against the surface of the table, aligning them perfectly with one another. Then, she placed them in a folder. While her memory was still fresh, she pulled out a tiny metallic brush filled with permanent ink, another invention of their 12th Division, supposedly modeled by a similar thing in Gense called a marker, and wrote down the mission numbers.

With another small sigh, Kobashigawa Hinagiku took off her reading glasses and then stretched her arms out, as far as they could go. Her spine let out a small pop, as if it was happy to be out of the stiff position, as well. The petite Shinigami then entered her name right in front of her supervisor's, Tsubokura Rin's. With another couple of quick movements of her fingers across the keyboard, all of the reports were sent, ready to be reviewed. The Shinigami placed her glasses into the sleeve of her kosode and then stood, pushing her chair back in.

Struggling with the pile of folders had become a specialty of hers, though, that day was different. The Tournament of the 11th Division, which felt ages away, had caused a pileup in paperwork. And, despite a week having passed since the end of the whole ordeal, Hinagiku was still dealing with numerous filing issues and expenses from the fights. Not to mention that the whole Division had been in an uproar after they'd heard the Captain's Seating decision. Though none of them had complained, there were still murmurs. Finally, the man himself had addressed the Division, telling them to 'go ahead and challenge the Seat for their spot if they thought they could win'. Hinagiku hadn't really expected anything less unconventional from her Captain. Though, those words had brought an end to the discontent. Some members had applied for a transfer. Some Shinigami had submitted their applications to enter the 11th Division. Life went on.

Hinagiku placed the last folder into its proper spot at the library and smiled to herself. Filing had always filled her with a sense of fulfillment. Like, she'd done a great job. The petite Shinigami headed back to the desk with the computer for the last time that day. She logged off and shut the machine off, gathering her belongings quickly. It was only the genius brush and a couple of folders she would need to bring back to the Division. They still needed her Captain's signature and then, she would have to instruct someone to carry them to other Divisions.

Hinagiku climbed the stairs up to the main floor of the Seireishokairō, reaching the front desk. Behind it sat Takagawa Yuuko, the busty librarian of the 9th Division. Her nose was immersed in a book, as usual. And, by the half nude man with suspiciously shiny skin on the front cover, Hinagiku would bet that the book wasn't one that she would voluntarily read. It was definitely one of those romance novels, which Tsutsui Tomoka, her old Academy acquaintance, had snuck into their dorm room by the dozen. The contents, which the girl had read out loud to her roommates, were positively sinful.

"Kobashigawa Hinagiku of the 11th Division, checking out." Hinagiku said, gaining Yuuko's attention with her polite bow. The woman looked up from her book, blinking a couple of times, as if returning to reality. Then, she frowned.

"That's no good, Hina-chan!" Yuuko whined. "You need to properly include your title in a formal introduction, now." The woman was smiling wide, and her grin grew even further when the petite Shinigami blushed profusely. "Won't you try again? I'll pretend I didn't hear you!" And the woman re-opened her, book, seemingly immersed in it once more. Hinagiku took a shaky breath, the heat still on her cheeks, before she spoke up.

"Kobashigawa Hinagiku, 19th Seat of the 11th Division, checking out." She managed to school her voice into an unemotional tone, but she still couldn't suppress the smile on her face, which grew at the title. Yuuko squealed, dropping her romance novel and jumping up with a grin.

"Congratulations!" The busty librarian exclaimed, reaching over the counter to pat the Shinigami on the head, ruffling her already messy hair. As soon as the woman turned to grab Hinagiku's katana, the petite girl attempted to tame her locks once more. But, to no avail. The wavy hair stood as it wanted, like it always had. Though, the girl managed to push it completely out of her eyes. "Here you go, Hina-chan!" Yuuko offered the katana to her. "Send my regards to Kobashigawa-sama and come again soon!"

Hinagiku bowed her head as she left the Seireishokairō, attempting to hide her red face.


Despite the fact that the 11th Division was nowhere near the Seireishokairō, Hinagiku made it back in record time. Since the medical team, in fact, Yamada Hanatarō, had cleared her for duty, almost two days after the end of the Tournament, the small Shinigami had been practicing her basics. The medic had made her promise to take it easy, which meant no combat whatsoever, but, he hadn't mentioned Shunpo at all. So, Hinagiku had been honing her skills at every possible corner.

As soon as she neared the barracks she heard the telltale battle cry of their, still, 3rd Seat, Madarame Ikkaku. Once she cleared the gate she saw the man, well, bandage-wrapped beast, pushing away three newly recruited Shinigami. Hinagiku noted that Nakajima Shin was sitting in the nearby crowd, watching the man's every move with focus. He had a pure white bandage wrapped around his torso, where she had delivered her final attack during their match, eliminating him from the competition.

She hadn't spoken to him yet.

Hinagiku took the coward's way out, heading for the, undoubtedly vacant, offices instead of talking to their new recruit. The summer was ending, yet, the weather was still nice. So, most of the rowdy Shinigami of the 11th Division were in the front 'yard' of their barracks, where Ikkaku was giving his usual lesson in manners. There were always a few groups lounging about and commenting on different techniques and fighting tactics, looking at the everyday spectacle. And the rest of the officers, they could be found in the back of the barracks, actually doing their jobs. Hinagiku took off her waraji among the numerous, bigger ones, and stepped onto the wooden floor of the patio. She headed down the winding corridors of offices, knowing the path by heart already, and she finally arrived at the inner yard of the barracks.

She let out a content sigh, taking in the almost peaceful sight. The inner yard had been built long before Captain Zaraki had taken over the Division, clearly by a woman's hand. The offices were planned out in such a way that they circled in a rectangle around a small pond and garden in the traditional style. This was the place where an officer could head out to in order to meditate, if they so wished. With the fish in the pond and the tiny bridge among the meticulously cared for bonsai trees, it almost made you forget which Division you were in. Then, you would see an occasional officer snoring away in this small piece of paradise and you would laugh to yourself, remembering that this was the Zaraki Kenpachi Squad.

Hinagiku made the small circle around the garden, ignoring the couple of men who were clearly gambling and drinking sake in the early afternoon, and she went to her office. She had been surprised when she'd heard the results of the Tournament finals. Despite the fact that she'd managed to survive the battles, she had been far from the best of them. Though, if there was one thing that she hadn't complained about, it was the office.

She shared a small space with three other people. The 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th Seat were stuck together in a stuffy room with large filing cabinets and piles of paperwork. In the first two days in her new office, the small Shinigami had completely flipped. Her OCD wouldn't allow for the room to stay in that state of mess, hence, she'd pushed both herself and her new office-mates to finish their overdue papers. After that she'd done a small bit of redecorating, using her own salary. Rini had been rather disapproving of that, but, it wasn't like Hinagiku had anything else to use her pay on.

Now, the office looked completely different. The wooden floor had been scrubbed and polished, a new tatami over it, and the walls had been re-painted. The large, old filing cabinets had been replaced with new ones, which took much less space while holding more paperwork. Hinagiku had personally labeled them carefully, so that her colleagues wouldn't have any trouble sorting through their work. There were four desks, in mahogany, each in one corner of the room. Hinagiku had asked her colleagues if they wanted traditional ones, where one would kneel to write, or the new style, tall ones. In the end, all four of them had gone to the store, buying one tall desk each. They were fairly simple, yet, the small amount of carving made them interesting to the eye. Hinagiku, as expected, didn't care much for the carvings. No, she'd chosen her desk based on the number, size, and usability of its drawers.

"Hey, Hina." Watanabe Akihiko smiled dazzlingly at her as she entered their shared office. "How are you feeling today?" He asked with that same smile not leaving his face.

"I'm very well. Thank you for asking, Watanabe-dono." Hinagiku bowed to him politely, proceeding to her desk. She hadn't seen him earlier at the office, so, he must've just come in. By the size of the ice in the tea in front of him, she was almost certain that he had.

Watanabe Akihiko was a fairly short man with boyish features. He had light, sand-colored hair that sometimes seemed golden in a trick of the light, and a bright smile on his face almost constantly. His eyes were large for a man, making him almost look feminine, and a deep brown color of chocolate. He'd entered their Division about a decade ago, slowly climbing up in rank. Finally, he'd made it to the Seated positions last year and this Tournament, he'd managed to defend his spot. This was their Division's 18th Seat, more famously known as Babyface.

"We were planning on going to a bar after work today to celebrate our Seats, will you join us?" Akihiko didn't stop asking questions, swirling the ice around his glass with a flick of his wrist. "You don't have to drink if you don't want to." His smile widened.

"I will certainly consider it." Hinagiku politely bowed to him before sitting at her own desk. "Thank you for the thoughtful invitation, Watanabe-dono." And then, she proceeded to go over the mail which had come in on her desk during her absence. Soon, Akihiko left his chair, in favor of sitting on the edge of the patio outside. Hinagiku glanced at his desk, frowning at the fact that he hadn't gotten any work done yet.

With a sigh, she chose to ignore the urge to reprimand her superior officer, an unthinkable thing for the short Shinigami, and she grabbed her letter opener. There were a couple of letters on her desk, one probably informing her of her new duties as a Seated officer and one undoubtedly congratulating her on the position and offering off-base accommodations. She wouldn't accept the latter, though. She took out her reading glasses and began her work.

Hinagiku quickly sorted through the mail, placing the appropriate reports into the right folders, and then putting them in her own filing cabinet. A small smile made it onto her face as she worked, happy with how organized the items were. She'd always had a simple satisfaction with order. And frankly, that was one thing Hinagiku didn't blame her Grandmother for teaching her. Her smile faded into a sad frown as she realized that one of the missions hadn't gone well during the week before the Tournament. A couple of young Shinigami had passed away.

Hinagiku immediately placed that task at the top of her list. She needed to inform the families and to organize the proper burial of the bodies. Though, after that, her next envelope had her smiling already. It wasn't a letter per se, as it stood out with its bulky packaging from the rest of the mail. It was longer than the rest of her letters, too. After making sure that Watanabe was still busy outside, she slowly opened it.

A single, orange rose bud lay there.

Hinagiku frowned. Desire? The meaning of the flower was pretty clear. Though, what did Tomoka want from her? Besides, the flower was a bit too romantic for any kind of desire other than sexual being expressed. Just what-? Hinagiku almost slapped her forehead. Enthusiasm. She gave a small smile at the clever way of expressing that message.

I'm proud of you.

Smiling widely, Hinagiku continued going through her letter heap, but not after she placed the rose bud into her mug for tea, now full of water. She'd have to thank her friend for the trouble.

"No way!" The girl exclaimed in her original, accented way of speech in disbelief as she read through her new duties as a Seated officer. "I ain't doin' this!" She allowed her forehead to touch the surface of her desk in defeat. She was now regretting fighting so hard for her position.

"What won't you be doing, Hinagiku?" A familiar voice asked from the doorway and Hinagiku turned her head to the side, showing her saddened face to her friend. "I don't think that you'll be able to stay away from the work, anyway." Kida Rini grinned, showing all of her pearly whites and almost closing her eyes in delight.

"I don' want ta work with a team!" Hinagiku wailed, all of her politeness gone for once. She didn't even notice the shocked look on Watanabe Akihiko, Babyface's, face. He rose from his bow to the superior officer that had just arrived, staring incredulously at his co-worker for her lack of politeness. "Can I jus' quit now?"

Rini laughed, holding both onto the doorway and her stomach. "You're crazy, girl, I'll give you that." She walked over, pushing herself up onto Watanabe's desk and making herself comfortable there. "All Seats work with teams. At the least, you will be in charge of ten people. Me, I was working with a team of eleven Shinigami, composed of both newbies and experienced officers. Now, we'll see what the Captain will assign to me." Rini went silent, carefully watching her friend's increasingly worried look.

"Kill me." Hinagiku finally settled upon and lowered her head back down to her desk. Babyface still seemed to be recovering from the shock of Hinagiku's accent and familiarity with a high-ranked officer.


If you asked Hinagiku how she'd ended up in this situation, she couldn't quite tell you. She had been minding her own business, finishing the old Seat's paperwork, when Rini had burst into her office for the fifth time that day. Hinagiku was considering getting her friend a chair of her own, since she kept sitting on Watanabe's desk and making him lose his wits.

"After all, you can't really ask a superior officer to get their perfectly proportioned behind off your desk, can you?" As he had put it after the fourth time Rini had left. But, the last time the woman had burst in, she'd dragged Hinagiku off behind her, mumbling something about a celebration.

Which brings us to Hinagiku's current predicament.

She had been persuaded, feel free to read forced, into one of Rini's own outfits, a pair of shorts and a fairly revealing shirt from Gense. The outfit would've looked good, at least from her objective perspective, if worn by any other person. Even Ikkaku would've worn it better. But, for Hinagiku, it was not only terribly alien, but horribly revealing. She was used to wearing either her shihakushō or a proper kimono. Gense clothing was breezy and left a bit too little to the imagination. Not like she had anything to show. Everything was small, she'd thought, glancing at Rini's V-neck shirt that showed her cleavage nicely.

Koichi had had a blast, seeing them walking together towards the local bar.

"Yowza!" He's commented, causing Hinagiku's brows to furrow in confusion. Though, Rini had obviously understood the strange phrase, as she'd given him a look that was possibly the coldest glare in existence.

"Do not ever speak to me again." She'd said with clear distaste on her face. The sheer awkwardness of the two lines spoken had had Hinagiku fidgeting, feeling like a third wheel to their moment of animosity. She'd actually politely excused herself, heading for a dark corner in order to shift the tight bandages around her torso a little. When she'd returned, the situation had been as frosty as when she'd left. Unfortunately.

But, this all brought us to this moment.

Hinagiku was sitting across from Aramaki Makizō, the recently appointed 10th Seat, a mountain of plates in front the both of them. She was moving her spoon in what probably seemed like a replica of her signature quickdraw as she shoveled as much strawberry and caramel sundae into her mouth as she could, while remaining polite. Though, she knew that there was nothing polite or dignified about an all-you-can-eat battle. Her opponent, on the other hand, was having a bit of trouble with his banana sundaes, as he seemed to have swallowed too early.

His small break for a glass of water allowed her a speedy victory.

Hinagiku slammed her spoon onto the table, all manners forgotten as she jumped up in joy. "I'm finished!" A bell sounded from the side, and suddenly, everyone, except the green-looking Aramaki, was cheering and clinking their alcohol-filled glasses once more. Hinagiku laughed as Koichi clapped her on the back rather roughly, before he hung a medal around her neck. She raised it, laughing even harder at the sheer ridiculousness of it.

The Great Eater of Desserts. It read in large, bold golden letters that shimmered as she turned it around. But, Hinagiku didn't care about how ridiculous the medal looked, or, how silly she probably seemed while wearing it in borrowed, overly tight clothes from Gense. She was laughing hard despite all of her wounds, because, that night, her life was good. She was living the dream of an officer in Seireitei.

"Eater of Deserts, eh?" Rini smiled, plopping down next to her. The redhead's cheeks were tinted with a blush, and Hinagiku didn't even need to look at her glass to know that it was sake.

"The Great Eater of Deserts." Corrected the petite Shinigami with a huge grin, ignoring the way her battle wounds ached and how her stomach felt a bit too full because of the sheer number of sundaes she'd consumed.

"Forgive me for my indiscretion, Your Greatness." And the two girls dissolved into a fit of giggles once again. Then, Rini suddenly went stiff as a board, her eyes somehow losing their shine and she looked away from the spot somewhere on the other side of the bar. "I'm not feeling too good." She told her friend. "Will you be alright if I turn in for the night?" The redhead looked desperate to get out of there.

"Of course." Hinagiku didn't ask. Knowing Rini, the bold and open woman that she was, this had to be something fairly troubling if she was willing to bottle it up like that. So, Hinagiku would give her time and hopefully, it will be worth it. "Do you need me to see you off home?"

"Psh." Rini waved her away. "Stay. Enjoy." The officer said. She drank the rest of her glass in one big gulp and gave her friend a wicked grin. "Don't you be getting too close with any of the boys now, alright?" Rini laughed at the shocked look on her friend's face, getting up and leaving with a small wave.

After that, Hinagiku had been mostly left to her own devices. Koichi had checked in with her from time to time, always offering her a drink. The girl had had half a mind to refuse it, as it had undoubtedly been alcoholic. Her friend from the Academy, Tomoka, had shown up at some point with her friends, waving Hinagiku over to their table. There, the noblewoman had given her one of her 'I knew you could do it' speeches, which had thrown Hinagiku for a loop. Even Yuuko, the librarian from the Seireishokairō, had crossed the bar at some point to congratulate her.

Alas, all good things must come to an end.

After sitting with her Division for the better part of the evening and early morning, mostly observing them, Hinagiku felt her stomach churning. A single look at Koichi, who seemed a tad sheepish, told her exactly what had happened. He'd managed to slip her some alcohol while she'd been distracted. But, the alcohol wasn't the problem. She'd tasted sake plenty of times. No, it was the alcohol mixed with the sheer amount of strawberry-caramel sundaes.

Hinagiku excused herself, retiring for the evening.

She'd barely made it outside of the bar, before she had to grip the wall, the sundaes climbing up and down all over her insides. She'd known that the eating competition had been a bad idea, but she hadn't thought that this would've been the result. Now, there were two ways that this victory of hers could go, and she didn't like either outcome.

"Kobashigawa?"

Hinagiku took a deep breath, straightening her back, and remembering all of her teachings on how to be a Lady. No matter how uncomfortable or how much it hurt, one must remain calm and serene looking. She placed a smile on her face, like a painter painted it on a picture, and raised her head.

Captain Hitsugaya Tōshirō, the prodigy of the Gotei 13, was standing in front of her at the worst possible time.

"Hitsugaya-do-taicho." She managed to remember halfway to address him by his title, as he preferred. "Is there anything I can do for you?" Hinagiku politely inquired, taking in the sight of him outside of his uniform. A casual, summer yukata for men looked great on him, especially with its dark details, which accented his light colored hair and eyes.

"I just wanted to congratulate you on your new position." He offered a small smile and Hinagiku saw the way his weight shifted. He'd switched from the formal, military position of attention to a more relaxed stance, where more pressure was on a single leg. "How are you finding the duties of the 19th Seat?"

"I must say that it has been an extraordinary honor and privilege to be allowed the position." Hinagiku's stomach was doing jumps once more, and, for once, it had nothing to do with the handsome Captain in front of her. "I feel the most comfortable with the administrative part of the job, I must confess." She could taste sake in her mouth.

"Ah, I see." The young Captain nodded. "You will be handling a team, won't you?" Hitsugaya's eyes left her form for a mere second, taking in the people who were walking into the bar, before darting back to her.

"Yes, so far, I believe that I will be working with six people." Hinagiku confirmed. "I should be getting their portfolios within the week." The taste of strawberries and caramel was strong on her tongue now.

"That sounds like a handful." The Captain nodded. "If you need any- Oi, Kobashi-"

But, it was done.

Hinagiku couldn't control it anymore and the strawberry and caramel sundaes, in all of their half-digested glory, came tumbling out of her mouth and straight onto the Captain's shoes. She was pretty sure that the sake had left her system, as well, as she could feel the burn of her cheeks in sheer embarrassment.

Though, the Captain hadn't recoiled or anything. In fact, it was his reaction that had surprised her the most. His feet had vanished from her line of vision and a moment later, two strong, yet gentle, hands were pulling her hair back from her face. His long fingers, calloused by years of using his katana, rested on her forehead and she immediately felt the cooling reiatsu helping her nausea.

"Get it all out." Hitsugaya's tone was soft and quiet, almost a whisper, right next to her ear. If Hinagiku hadn't been dying from both embarrassment and the vomiting, she probably would've blushed at the sheer intimacy of the moment. "You're alright." He told her once more in the same tone, which did nothing to help with her predicament. The sundaes were still coming out and she was feeling more embarrassed by the second.

Finally, they stopped.

Hinagiku dry heaved for a moment, not sure if there would be an encore of her performance. Though, it seemed like her stomach was finally completely empty. She reached for the sleeve of her kosode, where she usually kept a tissue at hand, along with her reading glasses, only to realize that she wasn't in uniform. Her eyes burned with tears of complete shame and sheer self-consciousness. She was a complete mess.

She had just hurled on a Captain's shoes.

"Are you alright to wait here for a moment?" Hitsugaya asked, his voice still calming in her ear, but to Hinagiku, it was like a door to even more embarrassment, if that was possible. She gave a small nod, wishing that he would just go away already. And, when she felt his cool hands leave her forehead and release her hair, she didn't raise her head. "I will just go get some water and tissues from the bar. Wait here." And his cool reiatsu vanished from behind her. But, Hinagiku didn't wait around for the man to return. She pushed as much reiatsu into her toes as she could muster.

In an instant, she was gone.


And that's it!

I hope that the end of the Tournament wasn't overly anti-climactic, but I really needed some regular Hinagiku-pace to return to the story :D


 

Chapter Text

Hello and welcome to the new chapter of Daisy!


I hope that you have all had time to rest during the summer. I've been a bit lazy with updating this one, but, it's definitely a precious one for me. I'm looking forward to hearing your thoughts on it. Thank you for all who are following the story! I hope to hear from you in the comments!


Thank you Sassifrass for correcting my silly British spelling and keeping my spirits up about writing this to the end.


OCs appearing in this chapter – I hope you know them by now!


A small bit of wisdom:

No one ever fell in love gracefully.

-Connie Brockway


Chapter 19: A small lavender package

Captain Tōshirō Hitsugaya stood in the shop, his sharp eyes narrowed at the shelf full of goods as he read the names and prices. To any passing Shinigami he would've looked like a Captain having a particularly terrible day. Which, let's be honest, wasn't out of ordinary for Tōshirō. But, what they didn't know was that he was also running through a list in his head. He was comparing. Tōshirō was recalling the numerous books on alternative medicine and its uses in restoring reiatsu, healing wounds and generally, helping a Soul get better. He was searching for the perfect one.

Finally, he gave a sigh and reached up, straining a bit to take two small packages from different sections. He turned them over in his hands, deciding that they seemed fresh enough, and went to pay. The woman at the counter was fairly nice, not recognizing him, but knowing his status due to his uniform and she'd thanked him for his service as a Shinigami.

"Would you like me to wrap that up for you?" She asked when he'd already counted the kan he needed, but Tōshirō nodded anyways, taking out his wallet once more.

"If it's not too much trouble, wrap it in something lavender colored?" He asked. And soon, he was walking out of that shop, a palm-sized lavender box in his pocket seemingly tons heavy. That very same, troublesome, and quite ordinary, box, had proceeded to steal away his attention during the workday. A report filled out here, a glance at the box on his desk there. He was lucky that his Lieutenant had made herself scarce, as was usual during a normal, calm working day, or else she would've attacked the box immediately.

There were some things which did not escape the attention of Matsumoto Rangiku. Handsome men, for example. Free sake would be another one. Every single one of Tōshirō's slip-ups would definitely be her favorite. Luckily, she wasn't there. In fact, her pile of work had been partially abandoned since the day of the big celebration. Partially only since Tōshirō had been taking a few files off the top when he'd had the time.

"Tsutsui Tomoka, 8th Seat, requesting entrance!" A cheery voice called from the door and Tōshirō found himself deliberating if he should grab the box and hide it in his drawer or pretend to be absent from the office. Unfortunately, his bubbly 8th Seat didn't allow him the time to make that decision. The doors opened and the beautiful girl poked her head in, looking around. She squeaked a bit when she saw him sitting at his desk. "Taicho! Why didn't you tell me you were there~?" She whined in an almost perfect replica of Matsumoto.

Tōshirō chanced a glance at the lavender box in panic.

He cleared his throat. "I didn't hear you, Tsutsui." The Captain fibbed easily. "Matsumoto has me buried in paperwork again." This sentence came even easier, as it was the complete and total truth. "Did you need anything?" The noblewoman entered his shared office, carrying a tray.

"I was fetching some tea for my office and decided to see if the Captain wanted some." She smiled at him in a way that made him mildly uncomfortable. He had never really understood women. Well, Momo, he had understood perfectly. She was obsessed with a couple of things: Aizen, becoming a great Shinigami, her childhood nickname never being heard in Seireitei, Aizen, being in the 5th Division, and… did he mention Aizen? With a comparison to Momo, every other woman was more than just complicated. And, Tsutsui Tomoka was a noble of high social standing even among the aristocracy. That spelled trouble with a capital T if Tōshirō knew anything.

"I'll take some." He decided to play along, as usual. It was better not to rile the beast. He could still remember their days back at the Academy. He'd just started when Tomoka was finishing her classes. But, that hadn't prevented her from following him almost everywhere. Not in person, of course. It would always be some other girl, giggling behind him and noting down random things. Tōshirō had actually had to switch up his routine just to prevent her from learning his 'favorites'. And after all that trouble, they'd still ended up in the same squad under Captain Shiba at some point.

But, Tōshirō knew that Tomoka wasn't a bad person in essence.

She was simply… intense.

"Here you go, taicho~" His 8th Seat exclaimed cheerily, obviously happy that she had gotten her way. Again. "Oh! What a pretty gift!" Crap. Tōshirō almost dropped the cup of tea from his hands, his eyes finding the object of the trouble on his desk instantly. "Did you get something, taicho?" Tomoka's eyes were twinkling with interest now.

"No." Tōshirō replied, sipping his tea as calmly as possible. If he didn't give anything away, like that the box was precious, she would obviously lose interest in it… Right?

"Then, what is it, taicho?" Tomoka lowered the tray with another couple of teacups on his desk and reached for the box with her delicate fingers. She raised it, obviously aware of the intense look coming from her Captain, but didn't flip it over. Instead, she smelled it carefully, smiling slightly. "Oh! It's tea!" She took another sniff, her head tilting in a rather cute manner. "It should be~… ginger root and…" She took another whiff. "Licorice root~?" Then, for a moment, she had a thinking face on. "Do you know someone who's pregnant, taicho?"

This time, Tōshirō definitely did spit out his tea.

"What?!" He was painfully aware of the redness on his face. "No! No, I don't!" Tomoka's gaze was still pensive, now a little curious, too, and the young Captain quickly masked his embarrassment. "A friend was ill, that's all." Then, he frowned, grabbing his pen once more. "It's none of your business, Tsutsui. Don't you have reports to fill?" At the guilty look passing her face, he further furrowed his eyebrows. "How are we doing with the training of the newcomers?" She winced. "And what about the missions in the outskirts of Rukongai? Have you assigned teams yet?"

"I will do that right away, Hitsugaya-taicho." She lowered the box back down and gave a polite and sophisticated bow to him, before grabbing her tray and leaving his office. She'd reverted back to the noblewoman he'd met a long time ago at the Academy, no cute lilt in her voice. Tōshirō sighed, raking his hand over his face and through his hair.

He'd regressed in his socialization with Division members again.


"I was in the neighborhood… No…" Tōshirō shook his head, and then whispered to himself again. "I wanted to make sure that you were alright… No." Another shake of his head. His hand came up on pure reflex, going over his eyes, rubbing them to ease the pressure he was feeling and then raking through his hair. "I wanted to… Argh!" Tōshirō groaned and gave up, stopping in his tracks. He was painfully aware of the redness on his face. It had been so much easier last night. He'd prepared. He'd practiced. He'd had an outcome for each and every scenario. Preparation is half the battle won, his Academy teacher had taught him. And the wise old Soul had been completely right.

This had simply been a bad idea.

The Captain decided and turned around, heading back for his barracks. The lavender box in his pocket burned.

"Ooh!" A deep voice exclaimed in mild amusement. Tōshirō could detect a hint of absolute sarcasm at the surprise, beneath the bloodthirsty excitement. "Where are you heading, Hitsugaya?" His irritation at the blatant disrespect had him fuming, not to mention that this couldn't've been a worse time to get caught by this man.

"Back to the office." He turned, turquoise eyes clashing in a glare against the, more than mildly, excited glance of the 11th Division Captain. "I have more work to do and I don't doubt that you do, as well, Zaraki."

"Now, now, Hitsugaya-taicho." The giant of a man grinned. "If you've come all this way, what kind of a man would I be if I didn't offer my hospitality?" His eyes were glowing golden with his reiatsu, which was gushing out of him in ecstatic waves. Unfortunately, Tōshirō knew how this would end and he didn't like the outcome one bit. "Why don't we have a drink and then a friendly spar, eh? Demonstrate the power of the Captains to the newbies?" There it was. But, before Tōshirō could think of an excuse, the giant man had him under his arm, in a tight grip, pulling him to the 11th Division grounds with an excited grin. "You have a fever or something?" Kenpachi asked, inspecting the smaller Captain's face carefully. Before he could stop his mouth, Tōshirō spoke.

"I'm feeling perfectly fine."

"Great." Grinned Kenpachi.

And so the daily adventures of Hitsugaya Tōshirō continued.


He ducked.

Shamelessly.

There came a time in life, once or twice, when you simply had to forgo any kind of code of honor, chivalry or dignity, and run. No, not for your life. Simply, to prevent the behemoth of destruction which would undoubtedly follow the clash.

And, Tōshirō was facing one such situation.

It wasn't that he couldn't take on the Captain of the 11th Division. No. He could definitely take Zaraki. Though, there was a chance that the whole barracks and offices of the 11th Division would be destroyed in the 'friendly spar'.

Let's just be clear here that there had been absolutely nothing friendly about it.

Zaraki had taken him back to the Division grounds, pulling him onto the patio and offering drinks. In the end, after a number of cups of sake had been consumed by the other Captain, Tōshirō had accepted a cup of tea. He was painfully aware during their short conversation about the upcoming joint-Division missions that the 3rd Seat was staring at him rather hungrily. Like he was some sort of prey. In fact, most of the Division was chancing looks at him, some at his eyes and some at his katana. Tōshirō knew that he wouldn't be getting out of there without a fight.

And then, Zaraki had decided to have their friendly spar.

He'd stood, calling to Tōshirō and stepped out to the green lawn in the front. Immediately, the 3rd Seat had cleared out, taking the bunch of Shinigami he had been giving a beat down to with him. Tōshirō had stood, and once he began to say how he was leaving, Zaraki had swung.

The first slash of the sword had Tōshirō's cup in half, liquid spilling over his fingers.

The second swing of Zaraki's sword he'd parried, the skies rumbling with their power, and using the huge man's momentum to fling him towards a wall. And then, with as much dignity as possible, Tōshirō had given a small nod to the flying Captain and vanished in a single Shunpo.

And Zaraki had stood seconds later, grinning as wildly as before, the nimble escape settling off his most primal instincts.

The chase was on.

And, this was how you would find the youngest of the Captains in the Gotei 13 ducking behind a corner of the 11th Division offices, eyes wide and hands ready to grip his Zanpakutō. He'd focused in on Zaraki's reiatsu fairly easily, as the man made no attempt to disguise his presence, and then, he'd simply done his best to avoid it. Though, therein lay the problem.

He was focusing on the Captain.

And obviously, not on the exit.

A hand shot out, grabbing his arm and pulling him to the side. Tōshirō's other arm shot for his Zanpakutō at his back, eyes narrowing and ready to strike. Though, he could still feel Zaraki at least two corridors away.

"Forgive my intrusion, Hitsugaya-taicho." Smiled the person who'd pulled him to the side. It was a fairly tall man, with shoulder length hair and striking, feminine features. "But, it doesn't seem like you're participating in this game of tag of your own volition."

"Zaraki is difficult to refuse." Panted Tōshirō, a bit winded from the chase. The feminine man's smile widened.

"Then, allow me." He pulled the Captain down the side corridor, taking a couple of turns through random, empty offices which Tōshirō wasn't really paying attention to. Finally, the man stopped, pointing forwards. Tōshirō forced himself to focus less on the wild reiatsu somewhere behind them, from which direction he could hear the booming laughter of the 11th Division Captain, and more on the man next to him. "Simply continue down this corridor and take the first right, you will reach the meditation garden. After that, make a full circle around and exit at the offices of the 15th Seat. You will be right at the exit towards the 12th Division there, though, I don't recommend visiting the barracks."

"Thank you." Tōshirō nodded, mentally mapping out the plan. He really needed to learn Zaraki's Division by heart. "But, I don't understand..." His curiosity won over and he glanced at the man beside him

"Forcing a man into battle... It's just not beautiful." Replied the unusual member of the 11th Division. Heck, Tōshirō thought, they were all rather unusual. "I suppose that I'll go get some booze for the Captain... He isn't going to be happy..." And the man left Tōshirō alone in the corridor.

"Strange man..." The young Captain mused. Though, as he felt a flare of Zaraki's reiatsu, he pushed a tiny bit of his own into his feet and flew forward, right into the meditation garden. He hadn't been there before. Though, it seemed fairly sophisticated for the 11th Division. Tōshirō glanced around, noting that there were number plates in front of each office. He headed towards the 15th.

"It's not a big deal! Would you stop making such a fuss, please!" He froze at the voice. The lavender package in his kosode burned once more. Now, that was a tone he'd never heard her take.

"What do you mean it's not a big deal, Koba?" A male voice replied, incredulous. "You're going to be getting married soon!" Tōshirō had been stabbed before. In fact, he'd been punched, kicked, shot with Kidō and a variety of other forms of hurt. But, these words had positively gutted him. He had to grab onto the nearest railing in order to stay upright.

"No! For Soul King's sake! This is just a ceremony which signifies that I'm of marrying age." Hinagiku's voice was quieter now and he actually moved toward the door, wanting to hear as much as possible. Tōshirō pushed his reiatsu down, not wanting to be detected. "If I have any say in it, I won't be getting married for a long time yet."

Was he eavesdropping?

He was thankful to whatever deity was watching over at the moment that Matsumoto had no way of seeing this.

"But, there have been offers, right?" A female voice piped up now, sounding curious. "Isn't that how that fancy society of your works?" As he moved his ear even closer to the paper of the shoji door, Tōshirō was reminded of his childhood, and how all the kids from the house would listen in on the 'adult' conversations that his grandmother would have. Those hadn't been too interesting, as they had mostly revolved around rent or neighborhood gossip. No, it had been the excitement of possibly getting caught which had driven them to do the same thing over and over, even if they sometimes got sent alone to the corner. This time, it was different, though. He wanted to know exactly what would be said next.

Just who in the world would Kobashigawa Hinagiku be marrying?

"Leave her alone, would you? You vultures…" There was another man, with a fairly even voice speaking. There were sounds of movement from inside, before… "It's too hot in here, not to mention the tension. I'm opening the door." In a moment of panic, Tōshirō straightened, raising his hand in a knocking motion. His heart was beating wildly in his chest from both the chase and the fact that he, a Captain, had almost gotten caught eavesdropping. "Hitsugaya-taicho!" The man who'd opened the door offered a low bow immediately. Tōshirō counted to three in his head before looking away from the officer. He found the office mostly clean and tidy, to his surprise. But, a kind of force pulled his eyes towards a pair of familiar, purple ones. They were staring back at him in absolute shock and mortification.

"Kobashigawa." He addressed the young woman, not enjoying the way she jumped up from her chair, bowing immediately. "There's no need for that." He waved the bow off and she reluctantly straightened, not meeting his eye. He could see the way her cheeks were burning red. "Could I have a moment?" Tōshirō asked. He saw the way the other officers exchanged looks, ranging everything from astonishment to sly, suggestive nods.

"Yes, sir." Kobashigawa replied in a formal tone. Still keeping her eyes down, she threw some mail into a desk drawer and locked it. Then, she followed him out of her office. As soon as she closed the doors behind her, they both heard poorly disguised whispering.

"I'm afraid I've caused you trouble with your co-workers." Tōshirō sighed, looking at her apologetically as they started walking towards the office of the 15th Seat. He wished that she would raise her head.

"Not at all, sir." She was being too formal. For once, he didn't like the fact that he was a Captain. He wished that he was an officer, same as her, able to look at her in an equal manner. Able to have her look at him without fear of repercussions. But, alas, her gaze was still fixed on her shoes. Well, he would have to change that.

"I hope that you're not still thinking of the last time we saw each other." Tōshirō smiled, remembering her hasty escape. The response was instant. Hinagiku's head shot up, face redder than he'd ever seen it, eyes wide. He realized that any further teasing would probably have her in tears. "Before you say anything-" Tōshirō raised his hand to stop her, undoubtedly soon to come, awkward apology. "I have to remind you that I work with Matsumoto. If you have ever seen her drink, I'll have you know that she has embarrassed herself more times than I can count in worse ways." He offered a small, gentle smile at her shocked, still red, face. She still seemed like she wanted nothing more than for the earth to open right then and there and swallow here. "I hope that you'll accept this and take care of yourself."

The troublesome lavender parcel made it from the sleeve of his Shihakushō towards her. When Hinagiku didn't react, Tōshirō gently grasped her hand, pulling it up and placing the box into her palm. For a moment, they stood still in front of the 15th Seat's office. The smell of waning summer was in the gentle breeze which moved the ends of Hinagiku's messy hair. And, for once, Tōshirō shamelessly swore to himself that she was probably the most beautiful thing he'd ever seen. With her pale face covered with a blush and purple eyes zeroed onto his small token of attention in both astonishment and curiosity, she was absolutely perfect.

And he was certain that he was in deep trouble.

"I-" She stammered. "Ginger and licorice root?" Hinagiku asked after opening the lid. She inspected the bag of leaves inside and smiled at him warmly. Perhaps he preferred this to her being embarrassed. "Thank you." Then, she seemed to remember who he was and corrected herself. "Thank you for your kindness, Hitsugaya-do-taicho." For a moment, they stood in complete silence. He liked to think that she was comfortable. He most certainly was.

"Would you join me for a game of shogi sometime?" He found his mouth asking without his permission. She seemed to think it over, biting her lower lip in the corner. For goodness sake, what was he doing? She was the granddaughter and heir-by-law to Kobashigawa Setsuko. She had no business playing shogi games and drinking tea with him. She would soon be getting married to a rich noble who would make her retire from her duties as a Shinigami and become a proper wife.

But, he couldn't imagine Kobashigawa Hinagiku as a homemaker.

"If it's not too much trouble, I would greatly enjoy that." Her voice shook him from his thoughts. Tōshirō nodded to her. She seemed hesitant for a moment, fiddling with the present he'd given her. Then, she finally spoke in a small voice. "I'm terribly sorry about the-" Her voice got so quiet that he couldn't hear her anymore.

"I'm not sure what you're talking about." Tōshirō offered a knowing rise of his eyebrows when she looked up with her cheeks going red once more. "But, I have some time tomorrow after official duty hours for the shogi game, if you're free?"

"I am." Hinagiku replied, eyes going back to the lavender box.

"Then, shall we meet at my office?" He suggested. "I've got a board." Hinagiku gave a nod and opened her mouth to reply, but they were interrupted by a loud cry of something that can only be described as absolute joy.

"Hitsugaya!" Zaraki Kenpachi was running towards them at full speed, a wide smile on his face. "I was worried that you'd left!"

"I told you we'd find him, Ken-chan!" Piped in the usual companion of the positively terrifying man, his Lieutenant, from the massive shoulder. Tōshirō didn't doubt that Kenpachi not appearing earlier than this had everything to do with the small girl guiding him in the absolute opposite direction. He grit his teeth, flaring his reiatsu and reaching for Hyōrinmaru at his back. This was not going to be pretty. But, he couldn't very well run away in front of Kobashigawa. He could practically feel his personal budget being drained by every step which the bloodthirsty Captain took towards him.

"T-taicho…" Hinagiku spoke, but it fell on deaf ears. He was running towards them.

"I'll be taking my leave now, Kobashigawa. Tomorrow, after hours." Tōshirō nodded, opting to save both his budget and dignity.

"Hitsuga-ah." The Shinigami fell to her knees as the Captain next to her responded in kind to her own, releasing his reiatsu. Tōshirō tried to keep it off of her as much as he could, but at this proximity, there wasn't much that he could do. The best thing would be putting some distance between them.

Tōshirō moved in an instant.

He stepped forwards, katana sliding out of its sheath. It parried Zaraki's first slice and deflected the next one. He could feel his fingers going numb and his wrist hurting from the sheer force of the hits. Luckily, Tōshirō managed to sidestep the third charge by waiting for the last possible second, sending Zaraki into the meditation garden.

And with a single Shunpo, Tōshirō wasn't in the middle of the 11th Division barracks.

As he flew through the air, before his toes touched the roof of the office building, he glanced back. To his surprise, Hinagiku was on her feet, heading towards her Captain with a frown. She'd actually managed to stand up and withstand his and Zaraki's reiatsu. As the Shinigami helped her Captain up, Tōshirō stepped onto the roof and pushed off once more, this time vanishing from the view of the bloodthirsty man. He was glad that Zaraki had caught him, despite the mess which that visit had created. If he hadn't, Tōshirō would never have even entered the 11th Division offices. Now, he was privy to important information. Kobashigawa Hinagiku would be getting married soon, like most of the aristocracy. And, knowing her grandmother, she wouldn't have much choice in the husband department.

Yet, despite that, he couldn't stop himself from grinning silly at the thought of them playing shogi the following evening.


I'm still figuring out how I want to post these omakes and everything on AO3, so bear with me please hahahaha

On the other hand, expect some Daisy drabbles on the side soon! Stay tuned :D

Omake:

Hinagiku stood in her shared room, staring at the offending letter on the nightstand. She'd known that this was coming. She'd always known that her Grandmother would announce her of marrying age and attempt to find the perfect husband for her. But, she'd never imagined that it would be so soon. It wasn't that she had anyone in her life. It was simply that she didn't want to be controlled any longer. That was why she'd chosen the path of Shinigami and fought hard for it. Even a judge of the Central 46 couldn't directly influence an officer of the Gotei 13.

But, she'd underestimated her Grandmother.

There was absolutely no feeling similar to the one she'd felt when she'd seen the envelope in her mail. She knew that seal well. It was a small river, painted sky-blue and a red traditional bridge over it. Bright red. It was the symbol of the Kobashigawa household. And she knew what that meant.

The beautiful red bridge of the Kobashigawa seal had popped the bubble of happiness she had been high on since the announcement of her Seat. The feeling of dread had built up in her stomach, shortly followed by a blow to the chest as she read the contents. A prominent Shinigami of the Gotei 13 would be the perfect trophy wife for any eager nobleman. Her Grandmother had found another way to slam on the chains of their family onto Hinagiku's wrists. Despite her co-workers' jokes and teasings, the marriage wouldn't be an opportunity. It would be a sentence.

For the first time in years, Hinagiku hung her head and cried in utter despair.

Chapter Text

Hello hello and yes, I am actually updating! What a shocker xD Though, I've been trying to get over a heartbreak, so I've been a bit out of it… I think I'm doing better now xD


I'm happy to take all of your advice to heart and try and improve, please tell me if there's anything I can do better while writing. Anyways, I won't annoy too much with a long AN anymore. Let me give my thanks:

To my lovely beta who lets me annoy her on Facebook about my chapters and future plans – Sassifrass.

To everyone who has reviewed this story – you guys make me type like a maniac.

To everyone who has favorited, followed, given kudos, bookmarked etc. this story – every email ping from FFN makes me smile wide.

Enjoy!


I don't know why I'm so afraid to lose you when you're not even mine. - Nurilla Iryani


Chapter 20: One step forward then two steps back

Kobashigawa Hinagiku was one of those people. She would simply open her eyes, blink twice and rise from her bed like it was nothing. She didn't have that familiar moment of complete haziness just after waking up. No, that was for regular people. And Hinagiku was anything but ordinary.

Her Grandmother had trained her well, after all. Rising early and being prepared for the day in advance was one of the first lessons she'd gotten. Her Grandmother had always told her that they may not be nobility by blood, however, they would always be ladies by presentation. And this had been drilled into Hinagiku's body and mind since she was a young child, despite her mother's protests. You rise early and take as much time as you need for your preparations.

So, opening her eyes in the darkness at some point and blinking a few times to focus the blank ceiling was nothing new to Kobashigawa Hinagiku. In fact, it was a familiar routine. She rose in a single motion, a small yawn making its way past her lips, and she threw a glance towards her roommate's bed. Rini was sleeping soundly, as usual. When Hinagiku lowered her bare feet to the cool wooden floor and made her bed in the dark, she felt the familiar presence of her wild hair on her head. It shifted back and forth with the movements of her head like some sort of a mane. Hinagiku grinned at the thought, completely silent.

She went about her morning routine completely void of sound, as usual. She grabbed her toiletries and a clean shihakushō, heading out. The door to her room slid easily to the side, making no noise. The cold air hit her like a blade thrust through her stomach. It was icy outside. Hinagiku didn't turn back to grab her socks, instead sliding bare feet into her geta. They were something her Grandmother had insisted that she take with her to the barracks, even though there would be no chance to wear them properly. But, there was no winning an argument against her Grandmother, Hinagiku knew.

The mist clung in the air, cool as ice, making the foggy autumn morning seem even more ominous. But, to the current 19th Seat of the 11th Division that didn't seem like a bad omen at all. Despite the fact that she couldn't feel her toes in minutes and that her hands started trembling where they gripped her fresh change of clothes, she went about her routine. She showered and tamed her hair, as much as it could be tamed, in record time. When she went back to her room, Rini was still sleeping, as usual. Hinagiku scrawled a note, her fingers a bit clumsy due to cold, a familiar feeling of eagerness in her chest, leaving her subordinate to her rest. It was time to head to the office.

She was the first one in, as usual. The slight Shinigami opened the doors and the windows of her shared office, allowing the stale air which had gathered during the night to escape. She turned on the lights, as it was still dark outside, and proceeded to make herself some strong tea. Hinagiku knew that she would need it. First, she would need something to warm up her hands. And then, she wouldn't definitely need something to boost her system into staying awake. There was a stack of unfinished paperwork on her desk which had been left behind from the day before. It would be the first thing on her agenda after she got her tea ready.

So, Hinagiku closed the windows and the office door, turned on the small heater in the corner, and settled in her chair with a warm cup of tea, ready to start her work. She couldn't tell how much time had passed before the doors opened again, as she tended to get overly immersed in her work. But, when the shogi slid to the side, bright yellow light spilled into the dimly lit office. Watanabe Akihiko stood at the entrance, yawning widely.

"Morning, Hina." He greeted in his usual, overly familiar, manner. "By the Soul King, how do you manage to come in so early?" Babyface asked, opening the blinds of their office windows and turning off the lights. Hinagiku could tell that he was at least partially work-oriented that morning. Perhaps he would even do something, for a change.

"I rise early, Watanabe-dono." The girl replied offering a small smile. "Tea?" She asked, pointing towards the small electronic kettle in the corner of their office. It had been brought back from Gense some time ago by their recently promoted 6th Seat, Koichi. He'd actually broken the limit of legal items a Shinigami could bring into Seireitei when he'd delivered a whole shipment of electronic kettles to supply their Division. That hadn't been a happy day at the 11th due to the sheer amount of additional paperwork and claims and taxes they'd had to fill out. Though, with every office owning a kettle of their own, it had been beyond worth the trouble. Now, however, they had unwanted visitors camping in their offices from time to time.

"Please." Babyface agreed with a lazy grin on his face. As Hinagiku got up to prepare a cup of tea for him, she wondered why he seemed to look similar to a fox when he did that. There was just something about the way his mouth stretched, pulling his lips into a thin line and then crooked up on one end that made her cautious around Akihiko. Though, Rini had assured her that Babyface was harmless. Hinagiku, on the other hand, believed that more was brewing under that smirk than he would ever allow them to see.

"Waiting for mail?" Babyface asked after an hour or so of silence. Hinagiku looked up from her papers to see that he was still sipping his tea casually, ignoring a fairly large pile of work on his desk. She truly wished that he would get around to doing some of it.

"It's essential to my day's work." The girl retorted, hoping to avoid the teasing. There was one thing which all the members of the 11th Division seemed to share: their love of teasing other fellow officers. She thought that it was only Koichi and Yumichika, but she'd been surprised by almost everyone. Even their Captain offered a suspiciously knowing glance from time to time.

But, the question was why Hinagiku was being teased about her daily mail. She appeared to be receiving notes from a secret admirer since the Tournament. At first, she'd thought that they were messages from her Grandmother, as they were all coded by the language of flowers. And next, she'd suspected Tomoka. But, that was false, as well. And, after that, Hinagiku had thought that it may be a potential suitor. After reading the messages and decoding them for the last few weeks, she was quite intrigued by the sender. She was hoping to meet them soon, if that was possible. And, usually, with each mail there arrived a message for her. After she read it, she would leave her reply on the windowsill of her office, only to find it gone the next morning. It was quite the topic around the Division and the favorite teasing material when anyone saw their 19th Seat.

"I'm certain that it's essential." Babyface smirked, but didn't comment otherwise. The same grin rested on his face when Hinagiku looked up from her finished report. He looked positively smug.

"I will take my leave in order to deliver these reports on time, Watanabe-dono." As the female Shinigami gathered the reports into one folder she could hear her colleague snort with suppressed laughter before shuffling his own papers about his desk. "If you go through my mail again, I will know." Hinagiku offered a parting sentence with an icy tone, her violet eyes coldly fixing on her colleague. Babyface simply shrugged his shoulders, the same grin on his face.

Hinagiku didn't doubt that he would go through her mail and, again, attempt to decode the message in the flowers sent with their other colleagues.


Hinagiku was glad that she'd chosen her winter uniform that morning. It was made of thicker material than the summer one, layered, in order to keep the officers warm. The collar of the shihakushō was made of wool, rough against the skin of her neck. Except on the side. There, she couldn't feel the constant rubbing of the material on her skin because of scar tissue. The side of her neck held an ugly reminder of her mother's death, as always. She had covered it with one of the scarves she always wore as a concealing method. Still, the reminder was always there, even when out of sight for other people.

Hinagiku stepped the last Shunpo before walking the rest of the way to the 10th Division, a little short of breath. Her folder was considerably thinner in her arms, as she only had a few papers left. And they were all for Captain Hitsugaya. A small smile made its way onto her face at the thought. It had been a few weeks since the incident they had both decided never to mention again. And, much to her joy, that single invitation to a shogi game had opened up a topic for further competitions. As neither the Captain nor she liked to lose, they would always somehow end up with a promise of another game to be played.

At some point, their conversation had strayed from the formal talk of strategy and analysis of the shogi. Hinagiku could remember every single word of their conversation. He had asked her about her tea preferences. And, she'd then returned the question. Soon, they were planning to visit one of his favorite restaurants and move their weekly shogi battle there. After all, the Captain had insisted how Hinagiku simply had to try the Western food being made by the cooks there.

However, that still hadn't happened.

A mission had come up for her, the first one since she'd been promoted, and she'd had to apologize and move the meeting. Next time, the Captain had been buried in work and only had the time for one game, despite the fact that Hinagiku had filled out some of Matsumoto-fukutaicho's reports. Though, all in all, Hinagiku wasn't disappointed. She enjoyed every second she got to spend with her superior. He wasn't only knowledgeable on the topics of the job of Shinigami. Captain Hitsugaya talked about Gense, about culture, about the mysteries of the universe and about the miracles nobody could explain. And Hinagiku found his intellect impossibly intoxicating.

She slipped off her waraji and auto-routed towards the Captain's office on memory alone. The small trick he'd taught her about reiatsu told her that there was one person inside. It was like closing your eyes and then trying to grasp with your hand in the darkness for another being. Those with battle experience could easily tell you where a person's energy was concentrated. That was why Hinagiku confidently called out, without any hesitation.

"19th Seat of the 11th Division requesting permission to enter." Her voice was clear, not trembling one bit, despite the cool air of the corridor. The 10th Division needed some more heating indoors, she decided. Their hallways were much warmer, after all.

"Come in, Kobashigawa." Or, perhaps the cool interior had something to do with their Captain being irritated. Hinagiku opened the door giving a courteous bow. However, the room was empty sans the Captain who'd welcomed her in. "What do you want?" His voice cut through the air like ice. He wasn't in a good mood for some reason. And, if Hinagiku knew anything, it was not to poke the dragon when he got like this.

"These are the reports from the last joined mission, Hitsugaya-taicho." She approached his desk, but didn't put anything on it, afraid to mess up his sorting. "I was also hoping to request a team for another joined mission for the upcoming week, if you could spare the officers?" It took a moment before the Captain's pen stopped moving and he sighed, pushing away from the desk. There were bags under his eyes and he seemed a bit disheveled. Which, if you knew Hitsugaya Tōshirō, was an extremely bad sign.

"Give them to me." His hand extended halfway over the desk and Hinagiku obliged. She was careful to avoid looking him in the eyes. There was something about them which left her brain not really connecting to her mouth. Either she'd say something silly or she'd do something ludicrous. For example, she'd ended up asking him if he'd ever dated within the Shinigami ranks during his service one time. It had been an uncomfortable situation all-round.

But in her haste to avoid the mind-numbing gaze, Hinagiku brushed her fingers against the Captain's as he took the papers from her. She immediately looked up and their eyes met. She knew what was happening. She knew, yet, she was powerless to stop it. The Captain's eyes took away all function from her brain, freezing her in her spot. He gave her a small nod and looked away, focusing on the reports she'd handed to him, yet she remained the same. Hinagiku stood there, frozen in place, waiting for this mysterious skill to vanish and release her.

"Kobashigawa, how many do you need?" The Captain's voice made her jump a bit.

"How many… do I need?" She slowly asked.

"Men." This time, his eyes didn't freeze her. There were times like that, too. It was like he had some sort of a magic spell he could turn on and off depending on when he needed her frozen and speechless. Or, as it appeared, brainless. "How many of my men do you need for the mission?" He had this look of expectancy on his face. "Kobashigawa, are you alright? Do you have a fever?" Hinagiku realized in complete mortification that her face had gone red.

A Lady never blushes on purpose.

It was like flipping a switch. Hinagiku hadn't done it in a long time. In fact, since she had first started attending the Academy she hadn't done it. But, now, facing this kind of embarrassment, it was a reflex of sorts.

Breath in.

Breath out.

Release.

Flip the switch.

She blinked and instantly felt her body relax. From the anxious way she'd been standing, her back straightened, her arms lost the tension in them and her face muscles moved into the place of that perfectly schooled mask. She knew, even without looking in the mirror, that she was offering a small, perfectly polite smile and that her eyes were shining with kindness. She offered the smallest of bows in apology, as she had not been listening.

"Five, if it does not trouble you to spare them, Hitsugaya-dono." She noticed how his eyes widened slightly at her low tone, perfectly polite, with excellent diction and enunciation. "I hope that it is not too much trouble, sir."

"Any Seat requirements I should take into consideration?" Captain Hitsugaya wasn't looking at her anymore. He was going over the reports, adding a few words here and there and signing pages. But, it wasn't his fault. It was hers. She always did this. Whenever Hinagiku pulled back, so did he. When she seemed ready to run, he would slide back into their dynamics of a Captain and officer relationship easily. And it would comfort her. Yet, it would also vex her. The fact that he was a Captain and she was a measly 19th Seat vexed her. She was nothing, and she knew it.

"It would be preferential if you could spare an officer at a reiatsu level of a 17th Seat or below. If this is not possible, there are measures which can be taken to ensure the success of the mission regardless." The words were leaving her mouth and with each one Hinagiku could see the change in the man before her. He became less of a friend she'd gotten used to spending her free time with playing shogi and more of a Captain that he was.

"Alright." Captain Hitsugaya spoke. He didn't look up at her. "I'll deliver a list of names to you by noon tomorrow." He didn't look up at her.

"Thank you very much, Hitsugaya-taicho." Hinagiku bowed formally, at her waist, perfectly. Then, she left without waiting for his response. As she was leaving the 10th Squad barracks she felt her fists tighten so that her small nails left crescent marks on the inner side of her palms. She stopped for a second at the gates and looked up, the grey clouds of the late autumn greeting her with the exact same mood.

"Damn it." She whispered so that only she could hear as the first drops of the downpour pelted on her face.


"What the fuck happened to you?" Rini greeted Hinagiku with a small frown from behind her desk. It was a rare occasion when one could find the officer actually working. "You look like a mouse that's been flushed down the toilet more than once."

"I feel like a mouse that's been flushed down the toilet more than once." Hinagiku plopped down on the couch of her friend's office, happy that the other colleague sharing the space was absent. Considering the weather and their Division, she would bet that they were at the dojo.

"Spill." Rini commanded. "Imma keep writing, though." She continued scrawling on the papers. "Spill everything." For a few moments, everything was quiet and the only sound was the downpour of rain outside.

"It isn't appropriate for a Captain and an officer to play shogi together in a casual setting, isn't it?" She finally asked in a low voice. Rini popped her head on her palm, a thinking expression on her face.

"Is playing shogi your metaphor for the horizontal tango?" She asked finally.

"I wasn't aware that tango could be danced horizontally." Hinagiku frowned. "Is it some form of a midair suspended sport in Gense?" Rini almost burst out laughing, her eyebrows shooting up into her hairline.

"Of course it is. Also, it's a competitive sport." Rini smiled a bit too innocently for Hinagiku's liking. "The more partners you change, the more points you get!" Her forefinger went up, as if she were teaching a class. "Not to mention that you have to be really good at it and know a few secret moves, you know." Rini waggled her eyebrows and Hinagiku started wondering what the woman was talking about. She was pretty certain that horizontal tango wasn't possible, after all. Rini was definitely pulling her leg again.

"I see." Hinagiku cleverly dismissed the topic with a short, but stern, glance at her friend. Rini didn't stop grinning, but she changed the subject, as well.

"So, why is it not appropriate for the Captain to play shogi with you?" Hinagiku frowned, but didn't comment on the blatant way her friend had gone from hypothetical to the actual.

"I'm just an officer." She mumbled. "And I'm not even a good Shinigami." She didn't see her friend raise an eyebrow, an incredulous expression on her face. "The Captain keeps me for the paperwork." Hinagiku managed to mumble before dropping her gaze down to her hands, which were trembling and still wet.

"Are you done?" Rini asked her, a sharp tone in her voice. After a small nod from her friend, she continued. "Yes, you're a measly officer. Yes, you're just the 19th Seat. Yes, you aren't particularly good at being a Shinigami." Hinagiku's vision swum. "But, Hitsugaya isn't asking you to be his officer or to fight with him as a Shinigami." Hinagiku looked up to see Rini positively fuming at her desk. "He's asking you, Kobashigawa Hinagiku, the woman, to play shogi with him. To play a simple strategy game with a man called Hitsugaya Tōshirō." Rini grabbed her pen again and began scrawling on her reports. "So who gives a flying fuck if he's a Captain or not."

And honestly, Hinagiku had nothing to reply to that.


"So, these are the packets which will tell you everything you need to know about the mission and your teammates." Hinagiku spoke in a slightly nasal voice, handing out sealed manila envelopes to her team. The rain she'd walked in yesterday had her a bit woozy and she could swear that she had a small fever. "Read them carefully. Are there any questions now?" She stopped in front of the group and sat down at the head seat. They were in the second dojo, which was normally called the assembly room. It had been planned as the space where the Captain could address his Division with ease. There was a head seat and numerous other pillow seats for the officers. However, the 11th Division had turned this space into a spare dojo. Just in case their official one got damaged, overcrowded or the mixture of two. As this space was almost always vacant, Hinagiku had turned it into the meeting room for her team.

"Is this a joined mission with another Division?" Asked Suzuki Kazuo from the back. He was leaning to the side, looking slightly bored. However, his narrow, grey eyes kept glancing at the man in the front of the group, Tanaka Jirō, his buddy in crime. Hinagiku had cursed the day she'd been born when she'd read their names together as assigned to her Squad.

"Yes." She replied to his question. "However, it will bear no influence on the mission itself." Hinagiku fixed the man with a glare. "Will it?"

"'Course not, boss." Suzuki drawled from the back with a shrug. He grinned and nodded at Tanaka in the first row. The man in question returned his smirk. Instantly, Hinagiku knew that this mission, the easy one she'd completely planned out, wasn't going to be easy at all.

"Which Division, boss?" Tanaka Jirō asked this time. Hinagiku was a hundred percent certain in that moment that she needed to choose the highest ranked officers whom Captain Hitsugaya had recommended. Otherwise, the 10th Division members would die on that mission from friendly fire.

"Tenth." She replied with another stern look.

"When do we leave?" Nakajima Shin piped up from the middle of the group with an even, professional tone. If it were appropriate, Hinagiku would kiss him right then and there for rescuing her from the wolves. After all, at his professional tone, most of the group had stopped looking from Suzuki to Tanaka waiting for the first blow to strike.

"Tonight, as soon as the 10th Division members join us." Hinagiku replied. She looked over the group once more, noting their expressions. Some seemed anxious to get out into the field again. The lack of missions after the Tournament had left them hungry for action. The few members who hadn't seen battle yet seemed either frightened or had schooled their faces to neutral expressions. Yet, Hinagiku could tell that most of them were scared. She had been, too, back in the day. But, most of her Squad looked ready to fight, which brought a small smile on her face. She inhaled a deep breath and her voice took on a commanding tone.

"The breakdown of the strategy is the following." The room became completely quiet and every pair of eyes focused on her. "Sawa, you're leading team one. Tanaka, team two. Suzuki will have team three and Kudō will have the last team." When Tanaka opened his mouth to object being separated from his brawl friend, Hinagiku put a single finger up, silencing him. "The final team being formed will be communications and base. While we will be functioning in teams and using Jigokuchō to communicate remember that we are a single Squad, even with the addition of the 10th Division. Our goal is complete the mission and keep Rukongai safe." Her eyes narrowed and her voice got stronger. "I have five rules and those who don't follow them will be re-assigned to clean-up duty effective immediately." There was silence. Not even breathing could be heard in the room.

"Rule one: don't bother sucking up." The people in the group exchanged glances, but nobody spoke. "I already hate you and you are at the positive bottom of the food chain in this Division." Tanaka opened his mouth again. "Rule number two." He shut his mouth. "What I say, goes. The only person who can change the order I've given you is the Captain. And, the Captain doesn't care about sucking up either. Rule number three: There is no emergency big enough to bother me or any of the higher-ups while I'm sleeping or on break." This time nobody tried to interrupt her. "Which brings me to rule number four: If you decide that there is such an emergency there better not be any casualties when I get there. There had better be no mess which I need to involve the Captain in, either. Questions?" There was silence again.

"The fifth rule is: your paperwork needs to be turned in in a timely fashion. Understood?"

"Yes, 19th Seat Kobashigawa!" The group chorused.


That's all for now folks!

Thank you very much for reading and I hoped that you've enjoyed it. I will be looking forward to hearing what you think.


Omake:

"How did it go?" Rini asked with a grin as soon as Hinagiku entered their room. The Shinigami in question sneezed. Rini tossed her a tissue, still eagerly looking at her. Hinagiku blew her nose and then plopped down, tossing a folder onto her bed next to her.

"I think that they realized that those weren't my rules." Rini raised an eyebrow.

"Who cares?" She eagerly jumped up, tossed the folder onto her bed and then plopped down next to Hinagiku who was lying down by then. "Those are the rules which have been passed down the generations of Seated officers of the 11th Division! Who cares if the words don't suit your pretty mouth."

"I do." Grumbled Hinagiku in the same nasal tone. She sneezed again. "I think I've got a cold." She whined and turned to the side.

"Well, rest up." Rini tossed the covers over her friend. "I'll wake you in half an hour or so. That's when the 10th said they'll be here, right?"

"Right." Hinagiku agreed and closed her eyes. Before the darkness of sleep overtook her, she heard Rini complain.

"You didn't have to add the paperwork rule…" The voice slowly faded. "Should've just kept it as the 'you'd better die before you lose a fight' rule. Silly Paper…"

Chapter Text

My thanks goes out to the wonderful people who have reviewed and everyone who has put this story in their alerts and favorites! Especially the lovely Lupe55 for the continuous support :D


Also, my wonderful beta, Sassifrass, who is still bearing with me – you rock!


Some new OCs in this chapter, I hope that you will like them and are managing to keep up with all the new additions! Nakajima Shin makes an appearance, too. Idk why, but I like him a lot, even if he was meant to be a little OC in the beginning. What about you guys? Who would you like to see more of?


A little wisdom:

Respect for ourselves guides our morals, respect for others guides our manners.
-Laurence Sterne


Chapter 21: All the things she did (Respect)

Having your pillow snatched out from under your head and then slammed over it was not a nice sensation at all. But, he'd gotten used to it. After all, that was a common greeting anyone sleeping in the 11th Division barracks could expect from their fellow officers. They had warned him that the 11th was a loose cannon. They had told him how the Captain was off the charts crazy and didn't value anything but power. They'd explained to him about the menace of the Lieutenant who ran across Seireitei making trouble wherever she touched ground. They had even mentioned the Division members who were always picking a fight left and right, with any other Squad and any other Seat. The higher ranked the better.

He'd nodded and taken in all the information.

And then, he'd dived headfirst into the sea full of sharks.

The blood on the waves bothered him, of course. In the first week after his entrance, it had all seemed like a feeding frenzy full of ripped limbs and silent screams. Everyone's eyes promised violence like he hadn't seen before. But, it was after his placement, during the second week, when he'd won his spot in the Tournament, that he realized that this wasn't a gam of sharks tearing apart their victim. No, these sharks were a gam through and through. They circled each other in a well-practiced dance, everyone knew their place, everyone knew where the other was going, and there were no head-on collisions.

Sure enough, there was blood on the water. But, this blood never came from the sharks. Instead, the blood was from the prey which had dared to swim in the waters that didn't belong to them. Defending their territory, the sharks had been merciless.

And Nakajima Shin wasn't prey any longer. He'd joined the waters. Quickly, he'd learned the dance. And now, he was just trying to figure out where the other sharks were going.

Unfortunately for him, though, they were going on a mission.

Hence, his pillow was snatched from beneath his head and slammed over his face mercilessly. He woke immediately, after all who wouldn't, and he blinked owlishly and the man standing over him. His roommate, whose name he still couldn't recall, gave him a shit eating grin and pointed over his shoulder to the clock.

"You're gonna be late, boy." Sniggered the veteran. "And for your first mission, too." Needless to say, Shin was up and ready in seconds. In fact, he was still holding his socks and waraji when he arrived at the meeting spot.

The group was already there when he stopped running, breathless. Most of the Shinigami had some form of a bag slung over their shoulders, too. Shin silently cursed himself for not pre-thinking this mission. In the packet, it had been specified that the length of the assignment would be from five to ten days. Though, he hadn't thought to pack anything.

His head swum for a second and he recognized this as the arrival of their commanding officer, Kobashigawa Hinagiku. She had quite a bit of reiatsu and wasn't shy about flaring it to tell them that she was arriving. After all, the first few meetings he had completely mistaken her for a new recruit, like him. But, during the Tournament, she'd proven him wrong. The mousy girl from the meetings, who would hand papers out to everyone and jot down notes furiously had become one of the sharks from the Division. He could still remember the calm look in her eerie purple eyes, almost akin to sentiment, as she told him to try and climb to her spot. Now, she was his superior. And, he most definitely knew it.

Shin followed the short Shinigami with his eyes as she walked soundlessly through the small group, checking out each and every member. Their gazes locked for a mere second and Shin would swear that he saw that same look of almost sadness in her eyes. The girl gave him a small nod and then walked to the front of the group. Just as he was getting antsy and beginning to yawn a tad more frequently, another group arrived at the meeting point. There were three people there, two men and one woman.

She was at the front, leading them. Shin would've focused on her hair, as it was running down her back in perfect waves and shimmering, but his eyes got distracted by the impressive cleavage which moved with every step she took. Behind her ran a man with his hair cut so short it was almost non-existent. His eyes were small and Shin wasn't quite certain where he was looking at. And the last person was a well-built man with rather wide eyes. He seemed to be biting his cheek from the inside, hence Shin decided that the man had to be anxious.

The group approached and Kobashigawa greeted them politely with a bow and a few soft-spoken words. Shin got a bit curious and started moving forward. He slid around his Squadmates and tuned in to the faraway conversation. However, one sentence caught his ear before he could come close enough to hear his superior.

"What the heck is she doing here?" Shin looked to his left to see Tanaka frowning.

"She?" He couldn't stop his mouth from asking. The two brawlers looked over to him, then glanced at each other.

"That blonde, the one with the huge rack, that's Matsumoto-fukutaicho." Tanaka told him. However, his face changed into an incredulous expression when Shin obviously didn't show any recognition of the name.

"She is the Lieutenant of the 10th Division, under Hitsugaya Tōshirō." Suzuki spoke this time, in a much more even voice. "Jirō, you need to go easy on the new ones." He reprimanded his partner in crime.

"But, why is it weird that she's here?" Shin asked. The look on Tanaka's face became even more incredulous, if that were possible.

"Go easy on the new ones, Kazuo?" The man asked, looking at his friend. "This one's obviously just a bad nut."

"Do you think that the second most powerful person in a Division should be sent on a routine hollow extermination mission?" A female voice asked from behind Shin and he whirled about to see the only woman in their Squad. He couldn't recall her name, however. Instead, he focused on the question and then shrugged. It was a bit strange that there was a really powerful person coming with them, wasn't it?

"Routine extermination is cleanup for the common folk, like us." Tanaka spoke. "No need for a princess like Matsumoto Rangiku to even look at the mission files. So, here's my question, why'd Hitsugaya give us her?"

"Perhaps Kobashigawa really is sleeping with him." The woman in the group commented. Shin felt his cheeks redden, but kept quiet.

"No way." Tanaka rebutted. "That stuck up bitch?" He pointed at their superior who was still talking with the Lieutenant with his head. "She couldn't land someone as good as Hitsugaya."

"Well, you know what they say about her types…" The woman in the group smirked.

"Stop discussing such crude topics." Suzuki interjected, much to Shin's relief. "It doesn't matter how we got Matsumoto. The questions is why did we get her."


Tōshirō rubbed his eyes and looked over the papers on his desk one more time. All of his single digit Seats were away now, except for Tsutsui. She'd been assigned to recruit orientation, filing and other Division barrack-centric duties, as usual. He rubbed his eyes again, letting out a sigh. In all honesty, Tōshirō wanted to assign a mission to the noblewoman. However, if he did that, he could already hear the yelling which he would receive from Yamamoto-soutaicho. And, that was without mentioning the undoubted budget cuts, pull-back of certain privileges and general trouble which would follow as a blowback from the nobles. If he were anyone else, Tōshirō would've sent the girl off to another Division, much like the other Captains had done. But, he was no coward when faced with a challenge.

"Damn it." Tōshirō cursed and signed the document assigning Tsutsui to another two weeks of recruit orientation and training planning. He wasn't ready to tackle that behemoth yet.

"And what shall I do with you?" The young Captain murmured to himself, looking at another name on the paper. He began shuffling people around, making sure than each of the necessary duties was covered. Well, everything except the Captain and Lieutenant duties. Those, he would need to figure out how to do himself. There were times when Tōshirō wished that cloning was possible. Because, he really could use another one of himself right about now.

Sending Matsumoto off on a mission wasn't a good strategic idea. After all, it left him swimming in duties, almost drowning. However, it was the only way he could calm his mind. Kobashigawa Hinagiku had become an enigma since he'd met her, all of those months back, in the hospital room of the 4th Division. A part of her seemed to always occupy his mind, in one way or the other. And, usually, Tōshirō could compartmentalize very well. In fact, some days he managed to barely think of her. That is, until he glanced at the peonies outside of his window. He believed that part of that was the frustration of every step forward with her being followed by two steps back. For once, he was losing his patience slowly. But, he had steeled himself to give her room. Whenever she stepped back, so would he, giving her the space she wanted. He would give it, even if it brought him to hours of muddled thoughts throughout the day.

However, ever since she'd requested officers from him for a joined mission yesterday, his mind had been going from one bad outcome to a worse one. He didn't know why. Tōshirō had never been too worried for his officers or any of the other Divisions. He knew how to analyze the missions based on provided intel and then assign them to the right personnel. He knew how to do his job. Except, when Kobashigawa Hinagiku was concerned. Tōshirō didn't know how to do his job when her name was written on a piece of paper in front of him.

After all, the last big mission she'd gone on, he'd lost men, Zaraki'd lost men and she had almost died. But, she had healed and she had learned from that experience. It had been a mistake in intel, too. There was little chance that such an occurrence would repeat, wasn't there? But, Tōshirō wasn't ready to take that chance, in the end.

Hence, he'd called in his Lieutenant and assigned her the mission which was usually given to new recruits. Matsumoto had given him a look, but said nothing. They'd known each other for a long time, after all. She didn't have to say anything except raise her eyebrows and twist her lips to the side in a familiar fashion of clear displeasure. But, she hadn't complained and she'd gone on the mission. Tōshirō, though, knew that she was simply waiting for a good opportunity to tease him about his overprotectiveness. If there was one thing which never escaped Matsumoto Rangiku, it was him and women together.

By the Soul King, she'd given him grief. After he'd first joined the Division she had attempted to set him up with each and every available Shinigami of the opposite sex. A training session here, a mission there, a group outing invitation or a cleverly organized intel gathering. He'd suffered through them all. But, after Tōshirō got past his admiration for the woman's abilities as a Shinigami and slight fear due to her aggressive antics, he'd realized that Matsumoto Rangiku was a child. She had one toy she played with until exhaustion. And then, when the object got old and lost its shine, she'd simply continue onto her next target of opportunity.

Needless to say, Tōshirō had decided that patience is a virtue he would force himself to posses around Matsumoto.

Otherwise, he would probably behead her.

With another sigh, Tōshirō glanced at the clock, realizing the time. He picked himself and his work up, filing it away into his desk. It was time for sleep. Work would still be waiting for him tomorrow.

As he was leaving his barracks, he realized that he had just thought something quite Matsumoto-like. The cursed woman was rubbing off on him.


Kida Rini shifted in her chair, seeking a more comfortable position. Well, not in her chair per se. The man across from her gave her another look which spoke in volumes. She, though, ignored him pointedly. After all, she was about ten Seats above his station to judge. She could do whatever she wanted and all he could do was keep his mouth shut. She moved once more and sighed, finally finding the perfect position.

Rini had to give it to Hinagiku, the girl knew how to choose a comfortable chair. Though, the trouble was that Rini wasn't used to sitting for such long periods of time. She was used to being on the battlefield. She was used to swinging about her katana and grinning whenever it got stuck on something hard. She was used to slamming new recruits on the mat and giving them a smirk and a pat on the back to try beating her again. Kida Rini was a woman made for battle, and everything else was a waste of time.

However, occasionally, she settled in a chair and scrawled her name onto a few papers from the mountain of work which was usually piled up on her desk. Though, this was not such an occasion. This wasn't her desk. These weren't her reports. This wasn't her chair. And this most certainly wasn't her colleague giving her an obvious stink eye.

The doors to the office slammed open and in came a breathless Shinigami. He glanced about, and addressed Rini, completely ignoring the other officer in the room.

"Kida." The man panted, sweat dripping down his face and neck. Obviously, he'd come straight from the dōjō. "How much?" He crashed into the room, heading for the red headed woman. She offered him a smirk akin to a hungry wild animal.

"Depends." Rini purred. "Reports, missions, dailies, intel, what do you need Sanzo?" She flipped open a book on her right and tilted her head, pen at the ready.

"Reports for the week and mission summaries for the next. Also, my old intel reports and dailies are due next week." Sanzo leaned on the desk, trying to get a glimpse of the contents of the black book Rini was jotting something down in.

"Hmm." The woman hummed, angling the book in a way the other Shinigami couldn't see anything. "Due dates?"

"This Friday for the reports, ten of them." Sanzo began. "Three more reports for next week. I have mission summaries due the week after next, at least five and also the old dailies and intel reports. And-"

"Well, you'd better be able to cough up some hard cash then, Sanzo." Rini interrupted. "Otherwise, you'll be facing the Captain, you know?" Sanzo's face told you that he was torn between parting from the money he obviously treasured and facing the Captain's sword, which was a common way to force Division members into paperwork. Kenpachi, after all, often told his subordinates that they should play if they aren't planning on working. And, his kind of games were a bit on the aggressive side.

"How much?" The Shinigami broke down.

"That will be 100 per report for this week, also 70 for those due the next. Mission summaries are 120 each. And, dailies are charged per hour, which is 90. Intel reports are 300 per report." Rini listed. Then, she began calculating. "So, in total, that should be… 1000 and 210, then 600, 270 and 1200. Your total is 3280. I take cash only, half in advance." Sanzo's eyes widened and he stood there, jaw slack.

"Y-you've calculated that wrong!" He defended. However, now, Rini turned the book towards him, showing the calculations. "You're overcharging that!" He pointed his finger at the writing, causing Rini to pull back her book.

"If you don't need it…"

"Damn you! You're an evil woman, Kida." Sanzo's face changed color for the third time in the last fifteen minutes. "Do you know that?"

"Oh, I know that." Rini nodded happily. "Will you be purchasing the services or?" Sanzo began sifting through the pockets of his shihakushō, looking for the money. "Alright then." Rini turned around, to the board she'd drawn on the recently painted wall. She jotted down the name, due dates and type of paperwork which needed to be done on the impromptu calendar. "There you go. All scheduled."

"Here you go, devil woman." Sanzo slammed money on the table, frowning, his hand and shoulders twitching in displeasure.

"Thank you very much for your business, Sanzo-kun." Rini was smiling in an obviously fake, sugary manner. "Please, deliver all the papers here by the end of the day if you're planning on having them finished." She didn't even flinch at the scathing parting glare he gave her before slamming the door behind him. "Come again!" Rini yelled out giddily.

The doors opened again and Koichi's messy hair popped in, amber eyes scanning the room. "Why's this the most popular office today?" He spotted Rini. "Slumming it in lower Seat duties, Kida?"

"Keep your nose out of things which don't concern you if you plan on it staying on your face, Matsushita." Growled the redhead. She fixed him with a look that spoke volumes. The air in the office changed as the two high-ranked Seats stared each other down. Babyface, who was sitting at his desk, gasped for breath as reiatsu overpowered him completely.

"Watch yourself, 9th Seat Rini."

"Or what, 6th Seat Matsushita?"

"Or we'll take this outside."

"Let's." Rini grinned, her eyes battle thirsty. "I dare you. Take me for a spin, Matsushita." Koichi grinned and then began laughing. The air in the office became much lighter and Babyface managed to breathe again.

"I would, Kida, but you're not really my type. Rude and crass." He shrugged. "She's gonna kill you for doing this, I hope you're aware." The man gave her a pointed look. Rini shrugged. There was a moment of silence before Koichi threw his arms up and left, closing the door behind him.

"Asshole." Rini commented, opening the black book again. She didn't notice the sly, fox-like smirk on Babyface's face which disappeared in seconds.


Matsumoto was filing her nails. She blew on them gently to get rid of the white nail dust and then extended her hand, looking at her fine work. Perfectly in order, she smiled.

"Are you certain that I shouldn't be helping out?" The Lieutenant tilted her head back, asking the Shinigami who stood next to the table, putting pins into the map and jotting down notes based on the communication Jigkuchō brought. For the third time that day, at least, the man offered her an easy grin.

"Please don't worry yourself unnecessarily, Matsumoto-fukutaicho." His voice was on the rough side, and he would've seemed like quite the intimidating member of the 11th Division with his hulking frame had the woman not met him on a number of occasions already. Uehara Shō was one of the Shinigami who had been as devoted to the Kenpachi Squad as any other member. He had stated out in the 8th Division, before quickly switching to the 11th after a single joint mission. Since then, he had remained an unranked officer, despite having his Shikai released already. However, that was a normal occurrence with that Division. Plenty of the unseated officers had their Shikai and could probably de-seat the double digits of other Divisions. Though, they still stayed loyal to their Captain. "Paper has a good plan going, I'm certain." His deep rumble was reassuring as he stopped for a second to listen to a new message. Then, he put another pin on the map. "She is, after all, one of the smartest members of our Division. I don't doubt her for a second."

"Mmmm." Matsumoto hummed, watching him carefully. Shō seemed peaceful at his current position in the group, despite the Zanpakuto strapped securely to his hip. Clearly, he had expected to be engaged in the battle. For him to obey the orders he'd been given, despite the fact that they were leaving him behind battle lines, it was close to unthinkable. Perhaps she had underestimated the little Shinigami her Captain had become so focused on in the last months. "If you say so, Shō-kun." She smiled at him, looking for the telltale blush which always spread up his neck and to his ears.

Then, a small tap sounded from the top of the tent they were in. It was followed by another and then yet one more. Soon, rain was drumming against the ceiling and Matsumoto began to feel glad that Shō hadn't allowed her to leave in search of other Division members.

The flap to the tent opened and in came a soaked officer of the 11th Division. He looked around with his narrow eyes and nodded to her. Then, he headed towards Shō.

"Team three checking in. We've finished all cleanup in the area." The Shinigami spoke. Shō gave him a once over.

"Alright, any injuries?" He jotted something on a nearby paper he was keeping and then circled an area on the map.

"Nothing of importance." Shrugged the Shinigami offhandedly. Matsumoto pursed her lips at the blatant disrespect the Shinigami was showing. "There was a Hollow with some kind of a needle thing on its fingers. We got a few stab wounds, but they missed vitals." The man turned to leave. "We the first ones back?"

"Yes. But, I expect that team two will be returning soon, as well. They're almost done." Shō replied. "You should go dry off before Paper returns."

"Wait, she's out?" The Shinigami stopped, turning, narrow eyes wide in shock. "That pompous little noble miss is actually in the field? And in this weather!?" He laughed airily. "I'd pay to see that." The Shinigami wheezed. Shō simply gave a small frown, but didn't comment.

"Kobashigawa-san left just after the teams did." Matsumoto spoke, her voice serious. She fixed the soaked Shinigami with her 'Lieutenant look'. "Your squad leader has been diligently working on keeping you on track and safe during this mission. You ought to show some respect."

"Of course, Matsumoto-fukutaicho." The man bowed in a fairly informal manner. But, the tone of his voice clearly told her that he held no more respect for his superior than he had earlier.

"Dismissed." Matsumoto shooed him away. She turned to Shō as soon as the flap of the tent closed. "What's going on, Shō-kun?" The large Shinigami made himself busy for a few moments by arranging paperwork and new messages before replying. If it were anyone else, Matsumoto was certain that he would've blown off the question.

"Paper has been our paper-pusher for as long as most people in the Division can remember." Shō quietly spoke. "It's tough to respect someone who has spent the last thirty or so years urging you to finish paperwork as a combatant in the field." He turned to Matsumoto. "In all honesty, there's quite a bit of talk in the unseated part of the Division about her abilities and current position." He gave her a pointed look. "If you'll excuse my bluntness, and her connection to your Captain."

"Oh." Matsumoto's eyes widened for a second and then she laughed. "There is absolutely no way that they are sleeping together, if that's what you're implying, Shō-kun."

"I wasn't implying anything, Matsumoto-fukutaicho, only answering your question." Shō gave a more formal bow before turning back to his work. Matsumoto picked up her nail file again, switching to the other hand. Her head was full of thoughts, however. Sure enough, it was impossible that her Captain had managed to get himself into a relationship without her know-so. And, especially with the meek Kobashigawa from the 11th Division. Though, Matsumoto couldn't deny that there was potential there. She would definitely need to spend some more time in the office from now on. Her lips formed a small smile at the thought as she continued filing her nails to perfection.


I'm quite in love with how this chapter turned out. Except Rini, what the hell are you doing girl?

Interesting fact: Rini was supposed to be named Ringo at the beginning, but I changed it just before posting the first chapter xD


Omake:

He sat down at his desk and stared ahead for a while. Women were complicated. He had always known that. Well, it wasn't like he had had much experience in the department, either. Sure enough, he knew quite a few of them, but he had never been privy to the inner workings of their minds. And, whenever he'd gotten an opinion from one, it hadn't been something he'd been expecting. So, women were complicated.

Courting, even more so.

He was no expert at it. He didn't know the first thing about courting a mysterious creature of the opposite sex. He knew enough to recognize the way his eyes would lock onto the figure he was curious about, though. He knew enough to tell that a budding interest he had wasn't of the innocent sort. He knew that the way his heart would beat faster at the mention of her name or Division was a clear show of a crush.

Courting, it had been the obvious answer.

He hadn't expected her to reply. He hadn't expected her to write him a letter back. He had expected her to miss the hidden meaning of his message in the few flowers he'd sent. He hadn't expected her to be announced to the society as someone seeking a suitable match in marriage. He hadn't been expecting it to go this far.

But, he couldn't stop.

The inner workings of her mind had been exposed to him in her shy and tentative letters, offering her thoughts on various matters. He hadn't expected to receive insight into her troubles and joys. Yet, she'd granted him that privilege. Was there really a way to stop now?

A single bright yellow daffodil sat next to his blank paper. He'd chosen it when he'd gotten word of her first long mission in a while. He wanted to wish her a good new beginning. An eternal life doing what she loved. He wanted to offer his support with chivalry. Her neat handwriting stood on the page next to his blank one. She'd written about her friendship with a superior officer which has been troubling her mind. She'd told him about her Squad being uncooperative ever since her promotion. She'd told him of her worries and good wishes for him.

There was really no way he could stop writing now, even if it was wrong.

After all, he wanted to know more about the mysterious female creature which was Kobashigawa Hinagiku.

He wasn't ready to let go of this privilege yet.


That's all folks!


You guys voted for KobaHitsu drabbles and I'm your humble servant. Keep an eye out for updates of the spin-off which is up as a part of the Daisy series :D


In the meantime, I'm looking forward to your feedback if you choose to leave it. I hope that you do :D

Chapter Text

Hello my KobaHitsu family! I hope that everyone is enjoying the story, as well as the drabbles on the side :)


In the meantime, my thanks goes out to everyone who's left kudos, bookmarked and especially to those who've reviewed! Reviews make me write faster :)


Finally, here's some food for thought:

I love a great conspiracy story. Who doesn't?
- Homaro Cantu

Enjoy!


Chapter 22: Pieces of the puzzle

Hinagiku stood completely still.

Actually, she sat. She had made herself at home in one of the abandoned houses of the Rukongai where they were executing their three-day mission. She had sat crisscross and allowed for her mind to completely empty of everything. That was just what she needed, after all. Her back and forth with Captain Hitsugaya had her brain turned into a complete worry machine. Now, she was empty. She had let everything simply flow to the back and she was thinking of nothing. That was the only way she could keep track of them, after all.

With her position perfectly in the center of her team and after they'd fanned out she could feel every single one of them. Each flare of their reiatsu was like a movement of the map in her head. She could feel their slices when they killed Hollows. She could feel their sloppy Shunpo steps when they headed for the next one. She knew every single movement, as if it were only a shogi game in front of her. And, so far, she was quite happy with how it was going, seeing as it was the last day of their extermination.

Nothing unexpected had happened.

And, she'd been waiting for it. Hinagiku hadn't forgotten Nakajima Hideki after his apparition had left her. No. She'd poured over the reports in the Seireishokairō even more. Giant Hollows weren't a common occurrence in regular missions. Most of the time, scouts brought back the reports of their massive reiatsu easily and Seated members of the Divisions dealt with them. She hadn't forgotten the incident from just a few months ago.

How could she?

The bloody massacre of their team still haunted her nightmares. While she didn't have a constant replay of Hideki dying right in front of her, she dreamt of other things. Her Zanpakutō flying into a separate direction. The wound on her leg being split apart by an unseen attack from the same Giant Hollow. The weight of Saji's body on her shoulders as she dragged him to safety.

There was no getting rid of those.

It had taken her weeks to admit to Captain Unohana that she had nightmares. Normal, the healer had called them. Completely normal. How could dreaming of something like that be normal? But, Hinagiku was a logical person. She'd processed the information given, listened to the advice of long meditation, and they were getting better. More than often she dreamt of unfinished reports rather than gruesome battles. She was on the road to recovery.

But not on the road to forgetting.

Rationalizing was her way of coping. And, that was what she'd done. Her search for answers had taken her through various Captains' reports, which was a punishable penalty in Seireitei. It didn't stop her. Simply, it had made her more careful. She'd noticed a pattern of Divisions having those sorts of incidents occur and, this time, she had staged it so perfectly. If someone was out there, planning those attacks, she would confirm the pattern today. And then, she would hunt down the mastermind.

The Zaraki Kenpachi Squad shied from nothing.

Hence, Hinagiku had settled herself in the center of the operation, waiting. This time, she wouldn't be a deer caught in headlights. This time, she would fight back. This time, she would have no losses on her hands. She was ready. Yet, nothing out of the ordinary had happened yet. Maybe she'd made a mistake in the pattern. Maybe joint missions weren't the target. Maybe there was something else.

Biting her lip, her palm on her Zanpakutō which lay across her lap completely still and cold from anxiety. She was terrified. What if it showed? What if she wasn't strong enough? The giant reiatsu of Matsumoto fukutaicho sat calm and content in the makeshift base of operations. They were safe. If anything, the fukutaicho could jump in.

Hitsugaya-taicho had actually lent her his second-in-command. Didn't he trust in Hinagiku's abilities? Didn't he believe that she'd gotten stronger? Were all of those words of praise just that, empty words of praise and encouragement? Regardless, Hinagiku was grateful. If anything, she had a behemoth backing her up against a Giant Hollow.

A reiatsu signature to her left flared and then slowly mellowed out. Tanaka Jirō's team was having trouble. Hinagiku focused in on their area, but it was only four Hollows which surrounded them. Four normal Hollows. Regardless, she stood. If they were having trouble, she would lend a hand.

With a Shunpo, she was up in the air. The rain outside of the old home was pelting down hard. Her shihakushō was soaked before she even took her second Shunpo step. With the next one, she was careful, so that she wouldn't slip off the roof. It broke from the force of her reiatsu, but she was already flying once more. She reached the group in trouble in mere seconds.

Tanaka was struggling with one of the four Hollows, fending off its attacks, with the rest of the team behind him, trying to stay safe. One of them had a nasty slash across their leg and another cradled an arm in a telltale way. It was definitely broken. They weren't using any Kidō or Bakudō but trying to win with pure Kenjutsu. It was the weakness of their Division, Hinagiku supposed. She would have to work on that with them, despite her own lack of skill.

Her next Shunpo took her right behind the attacking Hollow. She expected it to turn and lash out at her, but it didn't. With a small frown, she executed a simple draw and re-sheathe technique, killing it with one attack. The Hollow didn't even notice her. It sprouted out blood from the three wounds the katana slice had inflicted and fell forward in a heap. Tanaka didn't even have shock on his face, just relief. Hinagiku didn't spare him another glance, but turned the other way, towards three more enemies.

This time, they came at her together. With a Shunpo step, she was in between them. She bent her knees, positioned her katana parallel to the ground and focused some of her reiatsu into the sword.

Iai: One slice.

The Hollows fell to the ground, blood pooling around Hinagiku's feet. They had been slow. Slow, stupid and hadn't even gotten a scratch on her. Were they getting weaker? What had she been so afraid of? Why had she worried? Why had Tanaka almost gotten his team killed? But, those were the questions she could mull over later. She pushed them to the back of her mind.

"Call for medical support, Tanaka-dono." She told him in a low and even voice, slowly turning. Tanaka was now supporting the Shinigami with a wound on his leg. He looked angry. She hadn't doubted his skill. She hadn't doubted him at all. He had nothing to be angry about. Why was he angry?

Hinagiku allowed her mind to empty once more, focusing on the other teams. They were mostly finishing up their Hollows and returning to base. No Giant Hollows had appeared. Though, there was a group of smaller ones gathering to the South. And, she hadn't sent out any Shinigami there. She would have to take care of them on her own.

"Stay safe." And she took another Shunpo step, heading South.


By the time Hinagiku returned to their makeshift camp she was out of breath and completely soaked. She pulled the opening of the tent to the side and entered. Inside, there were Uehara Shō and Matsumoto fukutaicho. When Hinagiku entered, they stopped chatting and looked at her. Matsumoto was lounging on one of the chairs they'd brought with them and Shō had made himself comfortable on the table where the map was positioned.

"All done?" He asked her, grabbing one of the towels and tossing it at her. Hinagiku caught it, rubbing her hair with it quickly and making it even messier.

"There was a group to the South I needed to exterminate." She told him and he positioned pins on the map accordingly. Then, he noted the fight in a ledger, as well. "Eight regular Hollows, all exterminated."

"Well, I believe that we're done here?" Matsumoto noted in an easygoing tone and stood. She blew some nail dust off of her shihakushō and offered the two Shinigami a smile. "I'll be off if you don't need me anymore?"

"Thank you very much for coming, Matsumoto-fukutaicho." Hinagiku bowed formally, towel clutched in her hands. Matsumoto ruffled her hair as she passed, leaving the tent.

"It wasn't a hassle, little Hinagiku." The fukutaicho grinned. "I enjoyed swapping stories with Shō-kun here." She pulled the tent opening to leave. "Who knew the 11th had so much gossip to share!" And then, she vanished with a Shunpo. Hinagiku took a deep breath and then plopped down into Matsumoto's chair. She pushed her hair back and took another deep breath.

"Everyone returned safely?"

"Jirō called for med support on the field. His team was taken to the 4th immediately." Shō replied, looking over the ledger. "Otherwise, everyone else finished nicely and without major injuries. I sent them to pack and head home."

"Good." Hinagiku said, then she relaxed, head lolling back to the headrest. "Good." She whispered to herself.

"How is your Grandmother doing, Kobashigawa-san?" Shō asked conversationally, packing up the map slowly. "Driving you crazy with the eligibility party?"

Hinagiku groaned. "Please don't ever call it that." Shō laughed. An eligibility coming out event was made as a gathering of nobles. It was organized whenever a member of the aristocracy came of marrying age or was decided ready for courting and it was the perfect event for husband and wife hunting. All the important, unattached people would attend, looking for their future spouse. Hinagiku's Grandmother had actually met her husband during one of them. And, now that Hinagiku was of marrying age, she was expected to host one and attend all the other available ones. A hassle, in her eyes, since she didn't plan on marrying for a long time to come.

"I remember mine." Shō kept talking in a lighthearted manner. "I was so nervous that I managed to spill a drink all over the first Lady to approach me." He laughed. Eligibility parties were well-known for the shenanigans which ensued during them. Most of the time, it was the host who embarrassed themselves thoroughly during it. And, Shō's experience was nothing new and quite mellow. Hinagiku had heard stories which made her more than nervous about her own. "I'm certain that you have nothing to worry about, Kobashigawa-san. You're the most graceful person I know."

Hingiku laughed, her mind giving her a hazy flashback to hurling on Captain Hitsugaya's shoes. "I wouldn't be so certain, Uehara-dono." But, she wasn't about to tell him of her blunder. No, that story would go no further than the two unlucky participants if she had anything to say about it. Before she could add anything, however, a flare of reiatsu caught her attention. "Did you feel that, Uehara-dono?" She asked, turning her head towards the source and focusing. There was a flicker of residue power, but nothing else. It had vanished.

"Feel what?" The man asked, turning as well. He narrowed his eyes, focusing. "Doesn't seem like anything, Kobashigawa-san." They both stood still, waiting, for a few more moments. "Shall we go check regardless? I'd feel bad if we missed a Hollow or two on our cleanup." He reached for his katana on the table and strapped it to his waist. Hinagiku didn't move. There had been something there. Something familiar, yet, foreign.

"Stay here and erect a barrier around the tent." She chose to put safety first. "If I don't return in the next fifteen minutes, call Matsumoto-fukutaicho back." Her eyes narrowed and reiatsu seeping out in nervous waves Hinagiku stepped out of the tent. It was still pouring outside. The clouds were dark, making the small lights lit in each home her only way of seeing. Despite the low visibility, Hinagiku walked forward. She'd never been one to shy away from darkness in a fight. That had been one of Kenpachi's first lessons for new recruits. She could still remember it as if it had happened yesterday.

Their new Captain had gathered them all, about twenty or so recruits, into the dōjō. Then, he'd commanded all lights be turned off and all windows shut tight. In a pitch black room he'd slightly flared his reiatsu and told them to come at him. Hinagiku could still remember the way he hadn't drawn his katana, but slammed her against one of the other recruits knocking them both out. She'd woken up in the comfortable bed of the 4th Division a few hours later with a nasty concussion and a bruise across her face. At least, she'd been lucky. There had been plenty of broken bones and pulled muscles that day.

Though, the lesson had been clear enough. A Shinigami had to adapt to their surroundings and never falter. So, faced with rain and dark, Hinagiku was a seasoned warrior without fear. She quickly found the spot of the reiatsu flare. It was a dead-end street with abandoned houses. With a sigh, she set out to search them all. One after the other, they proved empty. Finally, she stood for a moment longer in the street. Nothing but the sound of drops on the dirt road could be heard.

A false alarm, then.

Hinagiku turned, heading back for the small headquarters they'd set up. She sensed it before she felt it. Something which wanted her blood splattered across the alley was coming her way. Her Zanpakutō sang as she drew it, without turning, in a quick motion and re-sheathed once again. An inhuman screech resounded the area.

She'd been right.

Whirling around, ready for battle, Hinagiku came face to face with the source of the reiatsu. It was a Giant Hollow with a translucent body, only its large claws visible. They glinted in the dim lights, showing her the way. She followed the trail of blood her previous slash had inflicted, slicing again from her sheath. Once, twice, three times before the beast vanished with a scream.

Hinagiku stood still, katana in sheath and hand ready at the hilt. This one wasn't getting away. She wouldn't let it leave alive. And, she'd been right. The set of circumstances were just as she'd guessed them to be. The Giant Hollow was targeting small groups of Shinigami with high social standing on joint missions. Where it had gotten the information of their formation and their movements, she didn't know. But, she'd worry about that later. Now, she had fifteen minutes to kill the beast and return to camp.

As the claws glinted once again Hinagiku drew her Zanpakutō.


"What is this?" The petite Shinigami asked, finally dry and in her office. There were a number of papers, almost like billing requests, on her desk. She flipped through them, seeing that they all designated the paperwork which had to be completed at a certain due date.

"Just a bit of work." Rini grinned from Hinagiku's chair, arms behind her head. The office had cleared almost suspiciously quick when the petite Shinigami had entered, leaving only her and Rini there. While Hinagiku's colleagues had come to terms that she was good friends with the upper Seat, they still weren't comfortable with the fact that two girls would hang out at the office, chatting casually about this and that. And, since Babyface had been present for Rini's mischief during Hinagiku's absence, the word had spread like wildfire. Hence, they all expected one form of blowup or another.

"These are receipts for finishing Division paperwork?" Hinagiku again asked. Her hands hurt from gripping her Zanpakutō earlier in battle. Her head was pounding where she'd slammed it against the floor in a moment of carelessness. Her legs hurt from all the Shunpo she'd been using. She just wanted to jot down the basics of the mission and finish the paperwork tomorrow. But, she apparently had a mountain of work more.

"Indeed, they are." Rini confirmed.

"While I was on a mission… you've been… charging people for my paperwork writing skills?" She was in shock, to be honest. If she'd expected this from someone it would be Babyface. Or, maybe Suzuki or Tanaka. She expected this kind of thing from someone who wasn't her friend. From someone she had her guard up against. But, for Rini, there was only soft flesh to strike, which she had.

"October seventh, eleven thirty." Rini said in an aloof tone. But, when Hinagiku looked up from the papers she saw those fammiliar eyes narrowed at her, fixing her with a predator's glare. The reiatsu in the room didn't rise. The killing intent did. If she got the answer to Rini's question wrong, she would die, there and then. "October twentieth, noon. November third, five forty-five. And so on." Rini's voice gave nothing away. "I have twenty dates and times, right here." She pointed at the side of her head. "Twenty dates and times which are an anomaly to my entry schedule to the Daiseireishokairō." Hinagiku felt her heartbeat speed up and her hands go cold. "What the fuck were you doing using my code to enter, Kobashigawa Hinagiku?"

Rini didn't yell. She didn't shout or growl. Her voice was perfectly cool, calm with nothing to go together with the feeling in the room. Yet, from the way she sat, from the way she narrowed her eyes and the way her Zanpakutō leaned casually onto the desk, Hinagiku knew that Rini was ready to pounce at any second. The petite Shinigami let out a sigh and moved away from her desk. She noticed that Rini seemed to be surprised by that behavior, but didn't offer any further explanation. She needed to get her thoughts in order.

Hinagiku checked that nobody was in front of the door, listening, or at the window, before she walked to Babyface's desk and hopped up, relieving her sore legs. She tossed the receipts to the side, smoothing her hair back in a tired motion.

She had to tell Rini.

"I was afraid to tell you." Hinagiku looked up to see Rini's face pensive. She was waiting for more information. "I didn't believe that you were involved, but I think that whoever is, is of noble blood." Rini's eyes widened in shock. "Someone's been using common, everyday cleanup missions as covers for assassination."

"What?" Rini hissed. She had jumped up from Hinagiku's chair and rushed for the door, then the window. With a hand held up to stop her friend from talking the redhead formed a few handseals to focus her reiatsu. Then, she chanted the long version of the enchantment for the Box Cage, a defensive technique of Kidō. Hinagiku saw the small, blue box-like shape form in front of Rini and then expand across the room, enveloping all the items inside, Hinagiku and finally settled along the walls. "Now, tell me more." Rini's face was serious when she turned. Her voice resounded in the room, as if it were getting bounced back by the blue box along the walls.

"Is it soundproof?" Hinagiku asked.

"Used for top secret information meetings if you haven't got a got spot." Rini nodded.

"I never knew." The petite Shinigami frowned. Perhaps she should've paid more attention to her Kidō lessons. She'd always thought them unnecessary. Rini waved her hand.

"Forget the box, I'll tell you all about it later." She hopped onto Hinagiku's table, facing the other girl. "Tell me about these missions."

Telling Rini had been nothing like telling Tomoka. While both had been impulsive, definitely unwise decisions, Hinagiku could feel the difference. Tomoka had been outraged and shocked, but hadn't had a single thought to act against the hidden plot. Rini, on the other hand, had listened carefully to the story, hands on her face and elbows on her knees, completely focused in silence. Hinagiku had told her about her initial suspicion that the mission which she'd been on in the summer had been an assassination attempt of the 10th Division's 7th Seat. And, she'd spilled more from there.

Hinagiku spoke of her silent investigation, careful not to ruffle any feathers or set off any red lights. How her closeness to Captain Hitsugaya had allowed her a few moments alone in the Captain's section of the Seireishokairō. How she'd found multiple reports of missions gone awry and Shinigami dying of Giant Hollow attacks. How she'd managed to get all of this without crossing lines. And, in the end, how she needed the information of all the missions, which could only be obtained at the Daiseireishokairō. She'd used their Captain's code, and after realizing that he would never visit the place in his right mind, she'd switched to using Rini's, the only other familiar to her. She apologized, profusely, but Rini's face was impassive. The upper Seat motioned for her to continue. So, Hinagiku talked more. She told her of the list of names of the deceased officers she'd accumulated. Of comparing Divisions and joint missions and realizing that most incidents occurred during 10th and 11th Squad's cooperation. Of staging a similar expedition and being correct. Of the Giant Hollow which had tried to kill both her and Uehara. And finally, her conclusion that whoever was staging these faulty missions was aiming for nobles in the Gosei 13 witch significant power to their name.

Rini stayed quiet for a long time after Hinagiku finished explaining. Their talk had taken a few hours out of the night and the sun was peeking above the horizon when Rini finally looked up, her face basked in a golden glow. She shook her head, huffed and then pushed the few strands which had gotten loose from her ponytail back. The golden rays played on her skin, still, unaware of the seriousness of the situation.

"You did well changing the code to mine." Rini finally said. "If anyone asks, it was my work which you had been completing for me, understood?" It was an order with no room for friendly disobedience. An order from her upper Seat.

"Yes, Rini-dono." Hinagiku nodded.

"These nobles… do you have a list of potential targets?" The Seated Officer asked, her tone still grave, almost tired.

"I only managed to assume correctly that either me, through the work of my Grandmother, or Uehara-dono, due to his father's high social standing, would be possible targets." Hinagiku explained. "It was a lucky guess, truth be told."

"And a lucky win." Rini told her, whipping her with a glare. "What would you have done if the Giant Hollow had been too strong? If it had killed both you and Uehara? What about your Squad?" Rini hopped up from the table, going towards Hinagiku. "What were you thinking, Hina?" The redhead whispered harshly, her hands coming to Hinagiku's shoulders. "Huh?!"

"I arranged for letters to be sent out to the people I trust upon my death, explaining my suspicions." Hinagiku fixed Rini with a glare of her own. "You were among those names."

"Oh, by the Spirit King, I can't handle you sometimes!" Rini threw her arms up, walking away. She began pacing around the office. "None of this would matter if you were dead, you imbecile!" Hinagiku's eyes opened wide and she bit her lip to keep from laughing. Being called an imbecile was a definite first and it brought an onslaught of giggles from her stomach which she struggled to keep at bay. Perhaps the stress of the conversation and the exhaustion from the mission had impaired her mind. "Now, we need to figure out how to get to the bottom of this fucker." Rini turned to her friend. "Are you laughing?" She asked with a raised eyebrow.

And Hinagiku couldn't help it.

She erupted in a fit of giggles, explaining Rini about their cause through uncontrollable laughter. The upper Seat merely shrugged, told her friend that she was crazy, and went back to the chair behind Hinagiku's desk. She sank down in it, waiting for her friend to finish laughing.

"If we're going to solve this, whatever the fuck it is, you're going to share all the info you've got with me." Rini demanded. Hinagiku agreed with a nod, lighthearted for the first time since she'd begun her investigation. "Does anyone else know?"

"Tsutsui Tomoka of the 10th Division knows that I'm suspicious about the accident on my mission, but no other details." Hinagiku replied.

"Let's aim not to involve her for as long as possible." Rini decided. She then pointed to the receipts. "And this is your punishment for not trusting me." She grinned. "I'll lend you a hand and maybe even share the cash 30-70 if you're good."

"I demand at least 60-40 as I will be doing most of the work." Hinagiku hopped down from the desk, gathering the receipts and stuffing them in her first drawer. She would get to them tomorrow.

"40-60 my favor." Rini argued as she followed her friend out of the office, the Kidō vanishing in a myriad of translucent blue pieces, like glass, as they exited.

"70-30 then." Hinagiku deadpanned.

"Like hell!" Rini argued back. The whole way to their joint room was filled with debates regarding their cash split.


Hope you guys enjoyed!


Omake:

A letter, she'd told him. She'd told him that the girl liked letters. He'd never been too good at writing. He knew how to choose the best poems and enjoy them. He knew how to appreciate the artistry in words. But, he'd never been good at writing any himself. So, he chose the coward's way. He chose a poem which reminded him of her. And he wrote:

I admire from afar
Your charm and your grace
Only from afar, I will admire
For we have not shared but two words
I do not know you and you do not know I
Though I feel like I know you in some indescribable way
A way in which is unspoken
A way in only admirers may know
It will go no further than admiring
But, sometimes I like to dream
Dream that one day, we should meet
Dream that one day, I may admire
Not from afar but up close
Not only admire the beauty I see
But the faults I know you have
I want to admire all of you
But that is only a dream
So, for now
I will admire from afar
I will see what I see
And dream what I dream.

Hinagiku-san, I humbly hope to have a chance of speaking with you in person during your eligibility celebrations.
Your admirer

He then closed the envelope and placed it carefully onto the string which came with the bouquet of white and lavender heathers. With her upbringing he was certain that she would know of his wishes from the flowers. That she would know he thought her a person most worthy of his admiration and his hopes for the fulfillment of his dreams. With reluctant hands, the man took the bouquet from the table and stood.

It was a time to gamble everything he had.


Now, I'm done. The poem in the end is by Rosie Wisniewski. I hope that you guys enjoyed and I'll be looking forward to your feedback on the chapter!

Again, if anyone wants to beta for Daisy, let me know :)

Chapter Text

Welcome to another chapter of Daisy!


First and foremost: We have a blog now! Check it out at kobahitsu dot tumblr dot com. There will be a lot of aesthetics, info about the story and historical references which I use when writing there :) Also, I welcome you guys to ask anything you're interested in! Questions to OCs are an option, as well :D


I would like to thank everyone who's followed, favorited and reviewed the story in the meantime. Also, huuuuuuuuge thanks to my new beta amazonannielove, who is a Godsent. Thank you for your wonderful work on the story, as well as all the work on the blog which you're put in :D


Here's some food for thought:

Cowards falter, but danger is often overcome by those who nobly dare. - Queen Elizabeth II


Chapter 23: Love, Duty, and Shogi

A paper fell to the floor, making Hinagiku curse under her breath. She didn't leave her seat, though. Instead, she kept writing. Her fingers hurt like hell at that point and her head was pounding. But she felt blissfully at peace, with her mind only filled with information about the different missions inside of her own Division. There was a reason why Hinagiku loved paperwork, after all. As soon as she placed her glasses over her eyes her vision would clear up, just a little bit, but enough to set her in a certain kind of mood. It was a safe space, without any bothersome thoughts, intrusions, or memories from her past. There were no flashbacks, no sentences repeating in her head annoyingly, or people coming after her with swords, traditions, or troubles. She was free. Paperwork was her door to bliss.

So, as Hinagiku worked through the large pile of reports, summaries, and dailies that Rini had piled on her desk she smiled a little, not even noticing the obvious discomfort her small body felt from sitting there for hours. She was in another dimension. People came into the office and left it. Some even spoke to her, but she didn't care. She didn't hear and didn't mind while she had that kind of clear vision of the letters. She was on another plane of existence and there was only her, the mission, and the pen and paper. She was completely free.

"Damn, girl! You're still at it?" Rini entered the shared office with a small awkward swagger to her step. Her red hair was slick with sweat and stuck to her neck in a way Hinagiku knew annoyed her, cheeks slightly flushed. She'd spent the afternoon in the Division's dojo, defending her Seat from eager challengers and teaching the new recruits some fresh moves. "She out of it again?"

"She's been out of it for the last ten hours," confirmed the 17th Seat, Sakamoto Katsuo. He was a tall man, with dark hair always slicked back with copious amounts of gel and dangerous looking black eyes. Rini was pretty certain that his Shikai had something to do with poison, but she wasn't certain. All that she knew about Katsuo was that he came into the dōjō each day to rush at their 3rd Seat with a bloodthirsty first strike, only to get knocked onto his ass.

"Katsuo," the woman greeted. "You swimming in those?" Rini grinned at him. There were papers all around the 17th Seat's desk, messily organized in piles which seemed to endlessly multiply with each of her visits. He was by far the messiest of the four officers sharing the space, and Hinagiku never stopped talking about that.

"Barely have my nose above them," he returned with a shrug and a small laugh. "That one's a beast when it comes to paperwork, though." Katsuo pointed at Hinagiku with his chin. "She hasn't gone for a pee break in the last six or so hours, you know?"

"Oh, I know how she gets," Rini laughed. Then, the woman walked over to her friend's desk and placed her Zanpakutō over the papers, successfully breaking Hinagiku's concentration. "Well, hello there."

"Good afternoon, Rini-dono."

"Evening."

"Good evening, Rini-dono," Hinagiku repeated, a small smile playing at her lips. "Was the training to your satisfaction?"

"Everything hurts. In the best way," Rini shot back. She tilted her head to the side. "Do you want to head out for a roll in the dirt before you need to get to your evening appointment?"

"Please stop making it sound like some kind of promiscuous thing, if you would," Hinagiku sighed. Though, she slid off her glasses, rubbed her eyes, and packed everything up. The petite Shinigami was ready in a few moments, grabbing her own Zanpakutō and tossing Rini hers. "Let's give it a go."

"Oh, man, I want to see this." Katsuo was up on his feet, too. He followed the two girls into the inside of their barracks. He soon found a nice spot on a pillow on the edge of the walkway from where he could see the whole traditional garden easily. The two female Shinigami slipped on their waraji and entered the area, instantly clearing the couple of new recruits who had been running drills.

"I'll give you the lead, if you want?" Rini cockily remarked.

"My pleasure," Hinagiku grinned right back, walking a few more steps into the space, before she deemed it satisfactory. Then, she turned, fixing her friend with a hungry gaze. It wasn't too often that a double-digit Seat got a chance to challenge a single-digit to a friendly spar. After all, most fights within the 11th Division were for their positions. So this was an anomaly that everyone would definitely gather to watch.

"Whenever you're ready," Rini nodded. Hinagiku didn't bother voicing the start of their spar. She simply rushed forward. Her katana slice, straight from the sheath, was stopped by Rini's bare hand. The 9th Seat had caught the hilt, slamming the Zanpakutō back into its sheath with a grin, enjoying the irritation on Hinagiku's face. "You do know that you need to draw to have a swordfight, right?" Sneered the redhead.

"I will take your advice to heart." Hinagiku kept her voice even, despite the telltale rush of blood in her veins. She moved, pulling back, which had Rini stumbling forward. With a switch of her weight between legs Hinagiku turned, unsheathing on the side where Rini wasn't expecting. While it did leave her back to her opponent, it had been the right choice of moves. The 9th Seat was forced to duck down and avoid the sharp slice, rolling onto the ground and ending up in a crouch, hand at her own katana hilt. "You do know that you need to draw to have a swordfight, right?" Hinagiku offered with a straight face, making her friend laugh.

Their next clash rang throughout the garden with a sound of metal meeting metal. Hinagiku was shorter and lighter, being at a clear disadvantage in the struggle of strength. Soon enough, she was being pushed backwards by both Rini's Zanpakutō and her grin that spelled trouble.

"C'mon, Hina. You can do better than that," sneered the redhead as she won the struggle, pushing her opponent away. She followed through with a few quick strikes that Hinagiku awkwardly blocked. The short Shinigami flared her reiatsu in response, focusing on a well-aimed strike as soon as she got her footing. Then, the two were clashing it out, moving from one side of the garden to the other with a few easy Shunpo.

"Are they fighting for the Seat?" Nakajima Shin asked one of the spectators, coming to the front to be able to see the two women easier.

"Not that I know," replied a Shinigami from the front.

"A formal challenge wasn't issued. It's just a spar," Katsuo piped up from his seat, eyes wide to catch each of the quick slices between the two Shinigami. "Come sit here, newbie," he waved the young Shinigami over. "Make sure to see everything, alright?"

"Thank you very much," replied Shin, squeezing into the small space that the 17th Seat had opened for him. He looked back up at the two, taking everything in. The two women were flying around the garden, no clear victor in sight. While Rini was definitely the physically stronger and more battle experienced one, Hinagiku was quick and smart when it came to using her surroundings. She had managed to win their scuffle on the bridge, pushing Rini into the water below with a swift sweep of the 9th Seat's legs. Though, the 19th Seat lost the struggle on the other side of the garden soon enough, not expecting Rini to fling water into her eyes and then knock the Zanpakutō out of her hands.

"Ouch," Katsuo commented, hissing.

"What's wrong?" Shin asked.

"Kobashigawa let go of her katana," the 17th Seat replied. "You never do that. It's over." He nodded, brushing off his hakama and getting up. But, a collective gasp of the crowd made him turn around. Now, Hinagiku's kosode was off, and she was heading for her katana with a quick Shunpo.

"That's dirty, Hina!" Rini gave chase as soon as she got disentangled from the black garment, Zanpakutō at the ready. But, by the time she reached the petite officer, she was faced with a blade and a grin. "Alright, then." Rini stopped short in her tracks and rolled her shoulders. A wave of reiatsu washed across the spectators, making some of them gasp for breath and fall to their knees. Something crashed into the wall behind Shin, a whoosh of air making him close his eyes. When he looked again, there was only the 9th Seat Rini in the garden, Zanpakutō back in its sheath with a wide grin. "Bye bye!" she waved in his direction cheekily. Shin looked behind him to see his superior officer picking herself up from the debris.

"No!" Hinagiku shouted and he was certain that she would fly back with a Shunpo to continue the fight. But instead the short woman turned to the obvious hole in the wall of one of the offices which had exposed the mountain of papers on each of the four desks inside. "The bills!" Half of the spectators groaned and the rest laughed.

Clearly, the scuffle was over. Victor: Kida Rini.


"Seriously, I didn't mean to," Rini apologized for the fifth time to her grumbling friend who was filling out a report. "I thought you'd brace it better," the 9th Seat sighed.

"Sign." Hinagiku didn't react, instead pushing the billing report over to her friend.

"Here." Rini scrawled her name. "I'm serious, though, Hina." She tentatively looked over at the small girl. Hinagiku took a second to place the billing report into one of her folders and then she stood, waving the apology off.

"I know," said the girl. "It's alright, I promise. I'm just in a bit of a hurry." A glance to the clock on the wall of her office sent panic running through Hinagiku's eyes. "Not anymore, apparently," she sighed.

"Late for your date?" Rini asked.

"Very much so," Hinagiku confirmed with a slight frown at her friend's wording.

"Let's hit the showers, then." Rini hurried out.


Tōshirō glanced at the clock on the wall of his office before cursing under his breath. He quickly scrawled his name on the last few reports and jumped up, making certain to lock the drawers of his desk behind him. He was late. Knowing Hinagiku, she definitely wouldn't be and he couldn't have her getting there before him. So he simply shrugged off his haori and tossed it over his chair. Smoothing down his shihakushō he decided that that would have to do.

As soon as his feet were in his waraji he broke into a Shunpo. It took him ten steps to get where he wanted, right in front of the restaurant just outside the Seireitei limits. Tōshirō stopped, looking around. There was no telltale messy head of short dark curls. Perhaps she was already inside. The young Captain ducked into the restaurant, looking around. He couldn't see the girl.

"Welcome back, Hitsugaya-taicho. Table for one?" the serving girl at the entrance greeted him. He didn't look up, eyes still going over the patrons of the restaurant.

"Two," he replied when he didn't find Hinagiku on his second sweep of the place. "My companion should be coming shortly."

"Oh, you're dining with Momo-san tonight?" the server seemed eager for the gossip. "I'll be sure to send her right over. If you would follow me." She was moving into the restaurant before he could correct her. When they arrived at the table, Tōshirō sat down and spoke up, making the server stop before she could walk away.

"My companion is a short girl with black wavy hair," he said. Now this got the server's complete attention. Tōshirō was well aware of her glee and only slightly uncomfortable under her focused gaze and happy grin. "If you could send her over, that would be perfect." After receiving a nod, he added, "and if asking for a shogi board isn't too much trouble?"

"Not at all, we will have one over in a second." And she was gone.

Tōshirō looked around, making himself comfortable. The seat he'd gotten was a different one from his usual spot. While it was still near the window it didn't give him a clear view of the main street. Instead, he was looking out into the back garden filled with lanterns and colorful flowers. A romantic spot, he supposed.

Wait, was this a date?

He was fairly certain that it wasn't. When he'd asked Hinagiku to visit the restaurant with him it had been a spur of the moment decision. He simply wanted her to get a chance to try the Western food that they offered. They'd offhandedly set a time and date and he hadn't really thought much about it since. But now, sitting at the table for two with a view of the lit-up garden behind him, Tōshirō was having doubts.

His hand flew to his hair in a nervous motion, fingers raking through. If this was a date, he was horribly underdressed. At least it was formal, he told himself. But, it was the get-up which Hinagiku saw him in every day. Matsumoto had explained to him after his first failed blind date, which she had set up, how wearing non-work clothes was a must. So on the next 'arranged outing', where Tōshirō was mysteriously left behind with a lone woman from the 5th Division at the bar, he made certain to wear a semi-formal kimono. His lieutenant had been beside herself with joy, despite the failed date.

Now, she would definitely be ashamed and positively freaking out. More importantly, he was freaking out. Tōshirō looked at the entrance, seeing that Hinagiku still wasn't there. She was late. Not just a bit late, but seriously tardy. And Hinagiku wasn't the type of person to be late. Tōshirō forced his mind not to imagine the obvious possibility- Zaraki yelling 'come on, come on, come on' and rushing at the tiny Hinagiku with his jagged blade. Instead, he focused on making himself as date-presentable as he best could under the circumstances. He checked that his shihakushō was properly tied, no creases or leftovers of his hurried lunch on the kosode. He even allowed his hands to slip under his armpits to make certain that he hadn't sweated during the day.

"Hitsugaya-do- taicho." Damn all the Gods that weren't on his side that evening. Tōshirō hurriedly set his hands into his lap, face flushing at being caught with his hands under his armpits. "Forgive my tardiness." Tōshirō looked up and all air left his lungs, like he'd been punched.

This was definitely a date.

Kobashigawa Hinagiku was wearing a traditional formal kimono that went from black at the bottom, to dark purple in the middle, and finally lavender at the top of her collar, accenting the odd color of her eyes beautifully. There was a pattern of white flowers across it, broken in half by a dark purple obi, which he recognized as gardenias. Fitting, as he also smelled the scent of those blossoms as she got closer to the table. Her hair was still wet at the ends, the wavy locks a little limp. Though, with the single white bow which pulled her longer bangs to the side of her head, it looked perfect. There was a plain black scarf around her neck, circling it once before falling to the side in a thin line. It made his eyes focus on the slim line which went up from the subtle cleavage her kimono showed off to the delicate edge of her face. He apparently had a thing for feminine necks.

Tōshirō couldn't breathe.

"My associate, Rini, had me spar with her and we ended up causing a bit of damage to the wall of one of the offices," the girl explained in a nervous tone. "The incident and billing report unfortunately took more time than I anticipated it would. My deepest apologies for my tardiness. It's inexcusable." Tōshirō's brain finally caught up with her nervous apology and he put one hand up.

"It's perfectly fine, Kobashigawa," he assured her, hurriedly putting his hand back down when he remembered his earlier embarrassment. "I wasn't waiting for long. Please, sit." When she moved Tōshirō jumped up, hurrying to pull out her chair and help her get settled.

"Thank you," was the timid reply he got. The blush on Hinagiku's cheeks slightly eased his discomfort. She was feeling awkward, too. He could do this.

"Good evening." As soon as he was back in his seat, there was a waiter next to their table. Tōshirō slightly glared at him for interrupting. "If I may take your order?" The young man didn't seem to notice the obvious displeasure of the Captain in front of him. It took a moment for Tōshirō to gain some air back into his lungs and get his mouth functioning properly. Luckily, that happened while Hinagiku was inquiring about different meals and their ingredients. He quickly added his own input, receiving a smile from the woman on the other side of the table.

Judging by the way she'd done it, not moving anything except her eyes towards him and tilting her lips upwards, she'd done it unconsciously. The soft blush that spread across her face seconds later confirmed it. But it was after the waiter had gone away that Tōshirō's real trouble began. His mind went blank and his mouth became completely dry. He was certain that this was a date now. And he had arrived in his shihakushō. And Hinagiku looked positively breathtaking. And his mind had gone blank.

Those purple eyes were looking at him, analyzing.

"Your haori," Hinagiku remarked, like a light bulb had turned on in her head. Then she looked down immediately, blushing. "Forgive my rudeness." Ah, that was familiar. That he knew how to deal with.

"Kobashigawa." Her eyes flew up again, fixing on him from underneath her eyelashes. "It's fine," Tōshirō managed to give her a small smile, which she returned. "What were you saying?"

"I thought that something was odd," she hesitantly started, making him furrow his eyebrows. "It was your haori, Hitsugaya-taicho. I'm not used to seeing you wear your shihakushō without it." At this, Tōshirō chuckled. Perhaps he'd done something right, after all.

"I try to have it on at all times." What are you saying, his mind screamed. "I get mistaken for a new recruit otherwise." His mouth was only partially connected to his brain, apparently.

"Impossible," Hinagiku's eyes were wide. Apparently, it was alright if his brain took a quick break. "I mean, Hitsugaya-dono, you wield the most powerful Ice-Water type Zanpakutō and are the youngest Captain in… certainly over the last thirty years!"

"Ever, actually," Tōshirō helpfully supplied.

"Exactly." He loved the fact that she'd become so upset over his case of mistaken identity that she'd let go of her usual politeness. "They should know your face even without seeing a haori. I knew it long before I was put in charge of external paperwork, after all. It's a matter of respect," the woman huffed, irritated.

"That's quite new," Tōshirō commented, giving a small nod. "I don't believe I've ever seen you annoyed with something before." Hinagiku bit her bottom lip for a second, as if debating whether to answer or not.

"I'm a Kobashigawa," she told him, as if that explained everything. "I'm not meant to get irritated." Tōshirō felt his fingers clench at the way she said that. Not meant to. Tsutsui Tomoka had been in his service long enough for him to know exactly what Hinagiku wanted to say. Tomoka was a promising Shinigami whose talents kept being stifled by the rules of the aristocracy. While she may not have the same pressure that Hinagiku had had laid down on her, Tōshirō had noticed some things. Her tea making skills, her social skills, the way she positioned herself when speaking, and the way she prettied herself up. Tsutsui Tomoka had been groomed to be the perfect wife for a nobleman. Her Shinigami status was a mere high-value attribute, to show that her children would likely inherit her reiatsu strength.

"Not here." Hinagiku looked at him again, eyes wide in shock. "When you're with me, I don't care about your last name, Koba-Hinagiku." Her face took on an interesting shade of red at his blatant switch to her first name. Heck, Tōshirō was pretty certain that his own face was rather warm. "So feel free to get irritated all you want. You can't be worse than Matsumoto and I already handle her with expert skill." At this, the girl in front of him finally laughed.

"Was that supposed to be a compliment?" she asked through an onset of uncontrollable giggles. Tōshirō sheepishly shrugged.

"I'd like to think so." He was certain that he wouldn't be forgetting her expression just then any time soon. Hinagiku had a small smile playing on her lips still, and one of her hands had gone up to wipe a small tear from laughing too much at the corner of her eye. And at that moment, she'd made his mouth go dry again with a single look.

But before Hinagiku could reply, the waiter came back. He placed their meals in front of them, along with a shogi board on the side, and wished them a good meal. Hinagiku lit up when she saw the board and gave him an appreciative look from underneath her eyelashes.

The rest of their dinner was filled with easy conversation and shogi.


"Suzuki-san, Tanaka-san, we're supposed to gather for a meeting," Shin called out to the two brawlers in the middle of the dōjō. They were too busy to reply, however, as Ikkaku was rushing at them with his Zanpakutō at the ready. Shin winced when the 3rd Seat finally sent all six of his opponents flying, one by one. Then the bald warrior stood tall, twirling his katana and sheathing it.

"Suzuki, Tanaka, get lost," he told them in a bored tone. "You're not doing anything new, so you might as well have Paper berate you about late reports."

"But, Ikkaku-san!" Tanaka struggled to his feet.

"Out! Before I get serious about giving you a butt whipping!" Ikkaku turned to the two brawlers, eyes wide. Soon enough, they were running out the dōjō, slipping their waraji on. Shin hurried to catch up to them. From there, he directed them towards the meeting space in the nearby dōjō. The three were the last ones to enter, settling down on a few random pillows close to the door.

"Thank you for gathering so quickly," Hinagiku began from her spot at the front of the group. "I promise not to take too much time for talking, as we will be running a few drills." There was an anxious silence in the room. "From our last mission I gathered which skills could be improved, for the sake of raising your combat abilities." She told them.

"You gonna train us, boss?" Tanaka piped up with a wide grin. Hinagiku's eyes focused on him.

"Yes." When he opened his mouth again, she didn't hold back. Reiatsu flared in the room, making a few of them gasp. Shin gripped the pillow under him by the edges, forcing himself to stay alert and conscious. "Is there a problem?" their superior asked in an icy tone. It was familiar somehow, like they'd heard it before. But, not from her.

"What can you teach us that we don't already know?" Tanaka's reiatsu rose as well, meeting Hinagiku's head on. It was a bold challenge to someone of her rank, obvious to every Shinigami in the room. But the 19th Seat didn't back down or reply meekly by pulling away as she usually did. Instead, a small smile appeared on her face and she stood up from her seat.

"Why don't you try and find out?"


That's all for now folks!

I hope that you all enjoyed the new content :D I have to thank my reviewers once more, because you guys keep me writing :D Shoutout to Hikari_Tenshi, MadokaTanizaki and Vulvarity!


Omake:

Hinagiku stood in front of the huge gates of her childhood home. They were dark green with black details on the sides, spreading from an iron frame. At least four meters high, they were quite daunting to look at. In the middle of the two sides of the gates there was a familiar insignia. A sky-blue river running under a red bridge. The whole picture together looked like a circle, with the bridge and the bottom of the river being its edges. As Hinagiku was musing about the seal and where it had come from, it cracked in the middle, before splitting perfectly in half. The giant doors opened towards the compound, showing her the entrance to the Kobashigawa estate.

"Welcome back, Hinagiku-sama!" three women greeted her from her left, but Hinagiku didn't acknowledge them. She knew the game. They were spies her Grandmother had sent to record every single one of her steps inside the compound. Her flock of tattletale birds.

The doors slammed closed behind the small woman, making the hair at the nape of her neck stand up. The first courtyard looked fairly familiar, with large green areas and busy servants rushing about. There was a patch of flowers here and there which hadn't been there before. Also, it appeared that her Grandmother had dug up the koi pond and added a small veranda in its place. Pity, Hinagiku had liked that koi pond. At least a tiny stream still wound its way around the garden.

"This way, Hinagiku-sama," the first of the three women said, stepping closer and bowing low. Now Hinagiku looked at them. She needed to remember their faces quickly, in order to defend herself easily later. So, like her mother taught her when she'd been young, she gave them nicknames. Kitty, for her yellowish, feline eyes, Owl, for those shocked wide blue eyes and that small mouth in a constant 'o', and Bunny, with her scared eyes that kept going to the floor.

Hinagiku followed after Kitty, tuning out her monologue as she went.

It was time for a battle without her Zanpakutō.


Now, I'm really done :D Remember, reviews keep me writing and I will be looking forward to hearing from you guys on the new KobaHitsu blog :D


On the other hand, if any of you guys are Fullmetal Achemist fans, check out: L'alchimiste et l'Apothicaire by Gloria Patri :D Lovely work :)