October 17th, 2010 (05:21 PM).
This is a little side-project that I've been working on in between chapters of my masterpiece, Wolves Don't Howl Alone. It is indeed a Bleach fanfic, although I did my best to not retell anything from the actual plot. Instead, this timeline runs parallel to some of the later story arcs. The main characters are non-canon and I limited canon characters to supporting roles at best. Also, keep in mind that while 12 chapters are ready to go, I reserve the right to review and edit them to my heart's desire before posting them. Got any feedback for me? VM it. So...Yeah.
The Legal Stuff:
Because I enjoy living lawsuit-free, I am obligated to inform you that I do not own Bleach and I am not taking credit for anything that Kubo Tite created. I am merely reshaping it to entertain you. Man, I hope that works. Anyways...
Bleach: Secondary Operations Unit
Even though she was only the messenger, Megumi felt the burden of one who has been banished simply by holding the scroll. Sure, it had been a direct order from Captain Yamamoto, but the guilt of carrying a letter to an outcast was almost too much to bare. That, along with how uncomfortable her gigai felt and how dull this town looked, was dangerously close to her personal breaking point. Good thing the pay for doing this was triple what she usually got.
Why would an ex-shinigami live in Rock Valley, anyway? This place had to be the most average town in the universe. There were no random brawls in the streets, no drinking contests, no cleaning of any swords. Hell, these people didn’t even have swords. Megumi’s eyes shot from waistline to waistline as she walked – oh, the walking! How did these people manage without flash steps?! – but was disappointed by a total lack of weaponry.
Sure, she had heard stories of Earth from those who had actually been, but the odds of a simple paper-pusher such as herself making a trip were long. Not to push me out of the cradle or anything, she thought bitterly. No, having to deliver a serious message to a dangerous outcast was the perfect first step.
What was on the scroll, anyway? Megumi had attempted to read it on several occasions, but it was written in English. Did Captains always write high-priority messages in a different language? Maybe it was their way of keeping nosy little officers out of serious affairs that did not concern them.
A light flickered in the back of her mind; What if it DID concern them? What if, in her very hand, was a secret plan that would stop Aizen’s campaign in its tracks and assure safety to the entire universe? And she got to deliver it! And, on top of that, she was the first person to witness the savior of her people! The excitement in her gut was beginning to build again!
Yes, this was the street. Megumi checked the number on the nearest iron-box-on-a-stick. A white metal 10 was plastered on the side of it. No, this wasn’t it. The letter was supposed to go to the residency at number 5...
“Eight...Seven...Six...” Each number came out as a barely-audible breath, merely to keep her on track. The suspense was building. If this house was 6, then the next would be –
“Is that it?”
Number 5, Manticore Way was...ordinary. No white stone pillars, no eery gargoyle guardians perched on the roof, no dead trees lining a narrow stone path up to the door. No, it looked like a simple white house with a small green lawn and a porch that housed a single chair. An ordinary-looking cat was basking in the sunlight that shone on the single step leading to the door. Could a dangerous outcast really reside in such a place?
Looks can be deceiving, the little voice in the back of her mind reminded her. Just because he looks like he leads a normal human life does not mean that he was a normal shinigami.
Reinvigorated by the words of her cautious side, Megumi made her way up the stone path. The cat on the porch lifted its head and followed her with its eyes until she was directly in front of it. Megumi stared into its deep yellow eyes and saw it give some kind of shrugging motion before moving over to a chair to resume its nap. It gave no sign of interest in its guest fumbling with a scroll, nor did it care about her silent praying before she knocked once.
“You may enter,” a voice chimed as her knuckle hit the door.
The front door led to one large sitting room that was occupied by a single man. He sat at a table in the center, his eyes fully focused on a – Hollow mask?! Yes, there was no mistaking it! Similar masks lined the walls and were stacked neatly on the floor, but he seemed to be used to them. Megumi was not. It was like entering a barbarian’s den and being greeted by piles and piles of skulls.
“Good to see that they are teaching you what a Hollow looks like,” the man murmured as he brought the tip of a brush across the mask in front of him. He blew lightly on it and held it up to admire his own work. “Yep, this one is a keeper. Now, would you please stop doing that and sit down?”
Megumi tore her eyes away from the mask’s frightening features and realized that her forehead was covered in sweat and she was hyperventilating. Taking the stranger’s – no, the outcast’s. Remember that he is an outcast, the voice in her mind urged her – advice, she sat across the table from him. Masks of all shapes and sizes were scattered across it and she found herself looking at anything and everything to keep her eyes occupied. Unfortunately, he was the only thing in the room that did not have to do with Hollows. He was also much more dangerous than any Hollow could ever be, but she exterminated that thought before forcing eye contact with him.
“Stop looking at me like that.” She obeyed almost immediately and forced her gaze upon one of the masks. It looked so real, so lifelike, so obviously created by a person who had witnessed the real thing on more than one occasion.
“What are they for?” she asked in a hoarse whisper. Her finger ran timidly across the dull white paint of the nearest mask. It felt smoother than it looked.
“Just a hobby,” the man replied with a shrug as he rinsed his brush off in a cup of water. “They sell well at craft fairs and make good novelty items for them.”
“Them?” Megumi asked blankly.
“Humans.” Oh, that’s right. She was a shinigami, not a human. That deserved a mental slap on the head. “So what can I do for you, darling?”
“I, ah, have this letter addressed to Mr. Jakuchu Vega. Is he, um...you?”
The man nodded and pulled a scroll from the sleeve of his shirt. Megumi gave him a short nod of understanding before reaching in her pocket to grab the – Wait, where did it go?! Oh no, this was bad! If Captain Yamamoto heard about this, she was probably going to be put to death, or even worse! She could be banished! Then what would she do? Sit in a room painting masks all day–? Oh, wait, he had it.
“I see. Thank you.” The man – Jakuchu? Or did he go by Vega? – rolled the scroll back up and placed it back in his sleeve. “You may take your leave now.”
Megumi stood and headed for the door without so much as a bow. It shut silently behind her except for the soft click that completed her mission. With one last look at the cat, who seemed so out of place at a maniac’s house, she headed back towards the street with a pace just shy of running. No doubt that the idiots back at the office would get a kick out of this.
October 18th, 2010 (12:33 PM).
This is exactly as I remember it, JV noted grimly as he casually strolled through the Twelfth Division. The ease of accessing such a place was only matched by that which accessing his former home held. All he needed to do was flash the summons scroll and watch the gate open.
“...turning green yet?” JV spun on his heels and watched a group of shinigami push a stretcher with haste from one building to another. A body was on it, but the identity was masked by a blue sheet covering it. One of the shinigami lifted the sheet and for a split second JV thought he saw fins, but the sheet fell again just as they entered their destination.
And so the meandering continued. Twelfth Division had always been fun to explore, and their newest Captain made it even more interesting. During his travels JV saw a rat-sized flea, experimental firetraps that incinerated a metal dummy, and three of the Division’s bulkiest members attempting to wrestle down a bear-shaped creature with purple fur and moose antlers.
“...and remember to send the antitoxin this time,” someone commanded from the doorway of one of the nearer research labs. JV shifted his gaze from the bear, who was just about to swat one of its captors with a thick paw, to the doorway. He gasped audibly and instantly wished for somewhere, anywhere, to hide.
Even if JV had not been familiar with certain people around Seireitei, he still would have been able to spot the white clothing of a Captain from a good ten miles away. Those clothes, mixed with that unforgettable mask and the girl scribbling notes down behind him, told a story that went back about eighty years. It was as if his fears had mated with his insecurities, and the offspring donned a mask of his deceit.
“You.” The word escaped the other’s mouth with the force of an insult, and yet it bore the weight of an order. “Who are you and who gave you access to these grounds?”
Here he stood, mere feet from one of the most dangerous and psychotic Captains, and JV still could not suppress a smile. Not the kind that warmed peoples’ hearts, but the kind that always seemed to dust off old memories that had been locked up for a reason. So he didn’t remember, did he? Well, JV couldn’t have that. Maybe a brief flash of the past would clear his memory a little.
“Terribly sorry, Captain,” he said in his most polite tone as he bowed. “I came here to see if you could help me modify Aika–“
”Aika?” Yep, that had done it.
JV rose and watched humorously as Mayuri-taichou eyed his zanpakutou for the longest of minutes. His facial expression was unreadable, unlike the clueless girl by his side. Could she possibly be the results of Project Nemu, or was she real? No, the chances of Mayuri-taichou appointing a real person to a position so close to him were nonexistent. He simply wouldn’t take the risk.
“Aika, you say?” The Captain’s eyes traveled from JV’s sheath to his face, where they finally showed some sign of registry. “Ah, yes. Nemu, take this man with you and wait for my return.”
“No need,” JV said lightly as the girl gave a deep bow to her Captain. Mayuri took no notice of the action, which seemed to radiate respect. “I was simply killing time until an engagement. I will stop by when it’s over.”
“Please do. We have much to catch up on.” And with that, Mayuri was gone. His Vice-Captain wasted no time in getting on with her schedule, which reminded JV to do the same. Now, where was he supposed to go?
How odd, JV thought to himself as he paced along the length of the hallway. Instead of a normal meeting place, or even a Captain’s quarters, the meeting was to be held on the Fourth Division combat training grounds. Even weirder than that was the fact that Fourth Division had a combat training ground in the first place.
If the hallway was any indication as to the state of the rest of the building, then they either cleaned it obsessively or never used it. The latter was a shame, really. JV had always found the battleground to be the perfect place to unwind after a hard day of work. If they didn’t use theirs, then what did they do to relieve stress? Certainly not drinking or smoking – with their knowledge on how it affected the body, it would be impossible to even look at a jug of wine. Besides, Unohana-taichou would not allow her underlings to do such things.
Speaking of Unohana-taichou, was she still around? What about the other Captains? There had to have been changes, especially to Eleventh Division and their bloody inter-squad feud to be top dog. Looking back at when he had left, JV had wonder if all of those officers who had suddenly left found replacements at the time. They probably did, but he didn’t really care. All Eighth Division had to do was make a promotion, and the Captain had shown no trouble in doing that.
Oh, right. Shunsui-taichou was going to be at the meeting. There was no doubt in JV’s mind that he was still alive, a Captain, and on the other side of those doors that he kept looking at. The odds of Shunsui-taichou getting demoted was slim. The odds of him dying in battle were even slimmer.
JV glanced at the doors again, this time with his stomach full of a rather active group of butterflies. Nothing. He turned to pace back down the hallway.
“The Captains are ready for you,” a voice droned from behind him as he recounted the 72 panels that made up the wall to his side. Whoever spoke did not wait for a response as the doors shut a moment later.
Drawing the scroll from his pocket and courage from the deepest section of his soul, JV flung the doors open and stepped out to meet his superiors once again.
October 19th, 2010 (02:42 PM).
JV had been right in his assumptions regarding the building; It had never been used. Each and every inch of the training area was in the same shape as it had been when it had been built. The only difference between then and now were the thirteen – no, fourteen – people seated at an out-of-place table towards the far end. Ten of them wore Captain’s haoris, three of them standard issue shinigami uniforms, and one a simple apron that belonged to something outside of the Gotei 13. The stranger was rather bulky, with a thick mustache and a pair of glasses that somehow made him look even more intimidating.
There was a heavy silence that seemed out of place on a battlefield as each Captain assessed the man standing before them. JV clutched the scroll in his hand even tighter; Their surprise showed that they had been given just as much information as he had. The silence continued until one the Captains, whose tattered clothing and proudly displayed scars obviously dictated him as leader of Eleventh Division, spoke up.
“Alright, who the hell is he?”
A couple of other Captains, as well as the three Vice-Captains, murmured their own variations of the question. With the exceptions of Yamamoto, Shunsui, Unohana, and Mayuri, no one seemed to know who JV was. Even Ukitake, one of the oldest Captains, could not recognize him.
“Jakuchu Vega, unranked officer formerly of the Eighth Division,” JV bowed as deeply as he could, attempting to recreate the sincere respect that Nemu girl had showed earlier.
“That only raises more questions,” one of the Captains, a white-haired child, muttered to himself. He opened his mouth to continue, but Yamamoto held up a hand to silence him.
“I propose a trade,” the old man offered. “We exchange information before proceeding. I would like us all to be on the same page, if you do not mind.”
“Not at all,” JV bowed again, this time a little more casually. “I am prepared to answer any and all questions that you have.”
“Who the hell are you?” that loudmouth Eleventh Division Captain boomed again. Yamamoto silenced him as well with a simple gesture.
“What rank did you hold prior to being dismissed?” the Vice-Captain with the tattooed cheek demanded.
“Third seat,” JV replied. He fired off his question without breaking eye contact. “Why are only ten of the Captains present?”
There was a widespread uncomfortable shuffling, the least of which was performed by the aristocratic Captain and the most of which came from the female Vice-Captain. Even the burly man to the side was looking away. Eventually, Yamamoto spoke up again.
“Sousuke Aizen, Kaname Tousen, and Ichimaru Gin betrayed us after Aizen obtained something of importance. They now rest behind a vast army in the depths of Hueco Mundo.” That answer seemed to lower the nerves in the room. JV nodded along with everyone else and made a mental note to find out more later.
“How long have you been in exile?” Everyone turned to face the fancy aristocratic Captain, whose eyes were closed in what looked like an attempt to not dignify the guest with eye contact.
Aika glanced nervously into the distance. A storm was brewing out there. It disappointed her when the weather changed so swiftly, but it was always best to just go along with it.
“Exile?! How dare you assume that I was exiled!” JV unsheathed his zanpakutou in one swift motion. The blade sang happily as he held it to his own throat. “Harmonize, Aika!“
The katana disappeared as JV pulled it through his neck. A metallic growth exploded from his right arm, covering it from shoulder to finger in metal. His fingers, now razor-sharp claws that could make a Hollow’s pale in comparison, flexed as they got used to this forgotten sensation. Yes, this felt so...right.
“Byakuya, he was dismissed eighty years ago. Jakuchu, please do not attempt to fight Byakuya.” Everyone, JV included, turned in surprise to Shunsui. He tilted his hat up and glared at Byakuya with as much seriousness as he could muster. The noble shinigami opened his eyes and set his sights on JV for the first time.
“Indeed. I believe that it is his turn now.” Everybody turned back to JV.
“Alright.” JV flexed his claw and watched Byakuya out of the corner of his eye. That one will be trouble down the line. “Who is our major enemy at this point?”
“That would be the former Fifth Division Captain, Sousuke Aizen.” Another shudder that seemed to ripple through the Captains. The white-haired child from before sat up.
“How did you retain your powers after such a prolonged use of a gigai?”
“I had...” JV paused to count off the gigais on his fingers. “Eight of them. Not to mention frequent training outside of them just in case I should ever return.”
There was another lingering silence as JV tried to think of a question. What was the status on the war with Aizen? Who were the new Captains that had been appointed in the last century? Were the Vice-Captains going to be promoted in this desperate time? No, none of those would work. They were all a little too straightforward. Besides, the answers may come when the meeting actually begins. Speaking of which...
“Are we done yet?”
The Captains looked from one to another as if telepathically trying to reach a conclusion. Yamamoto started saying something, but that child Captain cut him off.
“I have two more.” A few Captains seemed a little frustrated at this, so he added, “And then we can continue. First, what type of zanpakutou is that? It looks like you’re wearing it, but in comparison to the other arm they look to be the same size. Could it be a bakkoto?”
Soft whispering scattered throughout the Captains.
“No, no, Aika is perfectly legal,” Mayuri yawned from his seat. Captain Hitsugaya turned to him, trying to conceal how he did not understand. It didn’t work. Mayuri continued. “In some cases, the bond between a shinigami and zanpakutou will progress beyond that of partners and the two will physically merge. That claw is not just a weapon, but a part of him simply because of his love for it. It looks parasitic, but its makeup is mainly mechanical. Any biological links left in it belong to him, not the weapon.”
For the first time in the gathering, JV wished that he could be anywhere but there. No matter where he looked or what he thought of, he could feel those eyes burning their labels of ‘freak’ into him. A few looked as though they were still convinced that it was a bakkoto, and that was even worse than the judgement. And yet Aika was humming happily at his side, completely unaware that they were staring at her. Yes, she had the right idea. Just ignore them, and eventually they’ll stop.
“Interesting.” Oh, no. Ignoring visuals was one thing, but auditory was so much more difficult. And it was the fox-like Captain speaking? This was going to be impossible. “A symbiotic relationship that extends beyond the battlefield. He trusts his weapon to help him in his time of need, and his weapon trusts him to care for it and use it appropriately. So simple, yet he is the only person I have ever seen to achieve this.”
JV’s light blush turned scarlet. It was one thing to have the higher-ups judging him, but their approval seemed like a whole different animal. It was like comparing an everyday horse to a unicorn, and he was glad to see that at least one unicorn existed.
“My second question,” the youngest Captain continued after he’d seen enough of the claw, “is in regards to your, ah...absence for the past century.”
“I can explain that too if you would finally approve that meeting I requested,” Mayuri offered before stifling another yawn. Hitsugaya seemed repulsed by the very idea of a secret meeting without the security of other Captains. Aika gave JV a mental nudge forward.
“No, I shall explain.” The claw sighed in content as JV picked an appropriate place to begin the story:
“I lived a typical life in Eleventh Division for the bulk of my service. That is to say, I fought, drank, and trained daily for a little under a hundred years. During said years, I tried in vain to communicate to my zanpakutou. It refused to talk back. At the time I didn’t understand – Why was it not happy with what made me happy?
“That all changed one day when I sat near Shunsui-taichou in my favorite bar. I could hear him behind me and quickly inferred that we were polar opposites and – I mean no disrespect, Captain – I hated him. That is, until I got drunk and poured out said hate to him in a wimpy, crying mess. I can’t say what he thought of me, but it must have been positive because he had me transferred to Eighth Division the next day. From there on, he – and once again, excuse my bluntness, Captain – took me under his wing.”
“No, no, you’re perfectly fine,” Shunsui smiled as he pulled his hat down enough to mask his eyes in shadow. All that was left was that big, goofy smile underneath. JV continued.
“It was as if he knew what my zanpakutou wanted; Not a battle maniac, but a gentleman. I was given lessons in the finer things in life, such as simple manners and various forms of art, until Aika began speaking to me. Now, at the time she was a simple gauntlet. This parasitic bond did not start forming until I began using what the Captain taught me in everyday situations.
“Needless to say, my bond with Aika gave me the power to move up to the Third Seat. By the time I had attained that rank, most members from other Divisions thought of me as nothing but a pansy whose strength was owed to the ‘power of love.’ I was the joke of Seireitei, so I went to Kisuke Urahara to see what he could do to...repel this effect.
“We barely scratched the surface when he disappeared. Luckily, Mayuri-taichou agreed to help me shortly after. We went twenty years without success until, one day, one of the biomechanical implants in Aika malfunctioned and I accidentally destroyed most of Sixth Division. I was asked to leave and I lived peacefully on Earth until I was asked to return.”
“The former Sixth Division Captain held no grudge against you, so I suppose that I should not either,” Byakuya spoke in his overly-calm tone. It still felt like an insult.
“Wait, so this kid’s dangerous?” The Eleventh Division Captain’s one exposed eye widened a little. “I won’t believe it until I see it.”
“I’m up for that,” JV growled. The old Eleventh Division part of his mind was beginning to wake up, and it wanted a good fight to make up for the past century.
“All in due time,” Yamamoto said with a wave of his hand. “First, we must attend to the matters at hand. After that, I do not care what you do as long as I do not have to formally hear about it.”
Oh, right. The matters at hand. The entire reason that JV had left his happy little life for. Yes, it was about time to end their childish discussion and move on to the grown-up issues.
October 19th, 2010 (07:26 PM).
The Weak Grow Powerful
“So why am I here?” JV demanded for what felt like the millionth time, even though it was the first he had vocally done so. “Surely any problems requiring my help could be dealt with by an enlisted Captain-level shinigami?”
“You refer to yourself as one of Captain level?” Byakuya asked in his soft-accusation voice. JV answered with a hollow laugh.
“Well, yeah. I was Third Seat eighty years ago, and I’ve done very little other than train since then. I figure that I’ve grown pretty strong in that time.”
“And that is why we would like you to help us,” Yamamoto said before anyone else could speak out of turn. JV remained just as skeptical as before.
“There are currently...” JV used his fingers to do some subtraction. “Twenty-three seats of power within the Gotei 13. Are you saying that you can’t spare a single one of them to do whatever you want me to do?”
“That is exactly what I’m saying.”
JV started to draw a mental diagram. If all of the Captains were too busy to do this task, then that meant that Aizen was faring better than he had given him credit for. That also meant that this task had to do with something outside of fighting him. On a more personal note, it also meant that he was the strongest dismissed shinigami in the world! Yay!
“To get straight to the point,” Yamamoto began, glancing around at the other Captains as if daring them to delay him any longer, “Aizen and his Arrancar are very picky about those in their ranks. If an Arrancar is too weak or not completely trustworthy, then he either banishes them or has someone kill them. The banished ones, along with the ones that the stronger Arrancar deem as unworthy, are reduced back to their savage instincts.
“However, these creatures are not fools. Granted, they are not brilliant either, but some of them are smart enough to know that their strength lies in numbers. When large groups of Arrancar begin organizing under the watchful eyes of the leaders they appointed, we cannot afford to turn a blind eye to them.”
“But wouldn’t they just revolt against Aizen?” JV asked – no, hoped. Yamamoto shook his head and an anvil crushed the last of his hope.
“In recent times, the main goal of every individual Arrancar has been to please Aizen. His brainwashing has fixated their minds on the simple fact that we are the enemy. If attacking us will help them gain favor with him, then they shall do so until they die.”
“And this is where I come in,” JV guessed.
Alright, so they wanted him to single-handedly eradicate every exiled Arrancar. JV was still a little fuzzy as to what an Arrancar actually was – back in the day, Gillians were the main prey – but it sounded as if it was some powerful branch of Hollow, probably beyond the Menos level. Maybe they had swords or something. Just the thought of a Hollow with a blade made JV want to explode in unexplainable laughter.
“How would I go about doing this?” he asked as he burned the last image of a Hollow with a weapon in his head. “I’m assuming that there will be a good number of enemies, and no matter how strong I am, I am but only one man.”
“The original plan involved a team of ex-shinigami,” Yamamoto admitted hesitantly. The other Captains around him looked like this was the first they had heard of such a plan. “However, very few shinigami leave us whilst alive, and even fewer are willing to remain in contact. I suppose that we should consider ourselves lucky that you’re willing to start your career with us anew.”
That had done it. It had taken a level of self-restraint far beyond what JV normally used to walk up to the people who had dismissed him and offered to hear them out. Hell, he was even considering helping them until he heard that he, JV, a former up-and-coming power within the Gotei 13 who had been left in the dark after something out of his control, would have to ‘start anew.’ That meant that, if he agreed to join, his days would be filled with saving their sorry asses and his nights would be spent doing menial office work that hadn’t concerned him in nearly a century.
The grass rustled softly as Aika suddenly became alert and turned her nose to the wind. The storm had arrived.
“Anew?! You have the guts to attempt to reenlist me and place me in combat against an entire army, but you say that I must do so from the bottom step of the ladder?! Yes, and while we’re at it, we can let the people I share my rank with be my backup! Just imagine me leading a group of Academy dropouts to pull your asses out of the fire in your moment of need! Oh, and after that, we can promote said dropouts to Captains! What you propose is ridiculous – no, it’s downright IDIOTIC! If you want my help, I expect to be compensated with the authority of at LEAST a Third Seat!”
Despite his speech being explosive, rude, insulting, and ending with him in a panting rage, JV still felt that he hadn’t gotten through. Sure, it had piqued the interest of a few Captains and made a couple more want to execute him for such insubordination, but the overall mood of the room didn’t change that much. Yamamoto, who seemed as if he had been expecting it, took a second to form an answer.
“I am afraid that we cannot promote you to Third Seat in any Division on account of the position being filled thirteen times over.” JV turned to leave, but the eldest Captain spoke again. “However, if the Captains take a vote on the matter and it ends in your favor, a Secondary Operations Unit could be established.”
“How do you propose we do such a thing?” Byakuya turned to make eye contact with the First Division Captain. “The Gotei 13 already has an entire Division dedicated to frontal assault. Besides, an organization with a hierarchy based on power, like our guest wishes for, would be nothing more than a fourteenth Division.”
“Not necessarily,” Unohana said softly from her seat. Everyone, including that beast of an Eleventh Division Captain, turned to hear what she had to say. “If this unit is formed, it will hardly be the individual body of power that Kuchiki-taichou suggested. Instead, it would be a group of people from the various Divisions under the supervision of Jakuchu-kun.”
“Inter-Division cooperation would raise morale,” Hitsugaya admitted slowly.
“I don’t see the problem here,” Kenpachi growled, his eye trained on Byakuya. “Let him have his little unit or Division or whatever the hell you want to call it. Personally, I like the gutsy little punk.”
“So, shall we have a verbal vote for the benefit of our guest?” There was a murmur of general approval down the table.
“All in favor of establishing the Secondary Operations Unit as a cooperative effort between the Gotei 13?” Twelve voices mixed together to form one loud ‘Aye’.
“All opposed to –?”
“The majority rules. The Secondary Operations Unit shall be established, effective immediately. Now, let us discuss the specifics.”
JV took a step back and watched the Captains argue over the tiny details. It would be far too presumptuous of him to start making demands regarding his power. No, those demands were best left for the Captains to decide on.
“First and foremost, the SOU needs a base of operations and a barracks.”
”A barracks became available on my grounds last week,” Mayuri offered with a suspicious grin. “All I need to do is vaccinate them against those nasty little flesh-eating bacteria that have taken up residence –“
”Not a chance,” Komamura stated firmly. “They shall operate out of a Seventh Division barracks, and I grant them full use of our training facilities as they see fit.”
“Thank you, Captain.” JV bowed to Komamura, who gave him a short nod in response.
“Next, we must come to a conclusion regarding the temporary transfer of shinigami to the SOU.”
No one spoke for a few moments. Hitsugaya closed his eyes in an attempt to think clearly. Byakuya did the same, although JV suspected for the purpose of sleep.
“The Captains must give their written approval of a transfer for documentation. The SOU leader must also document a written acceptance of the shinigami,” Hitsugaya said after a while. It sounded like something too complicated for someone of his age, but JV felt a newfound respect for the child. He was worthy of being a Captain, at least on the intellectual level.
“Yes, that shall do. Now then, shall we address the level of authority that the SOU leader gets?”
JV did a better job at masking his excitement than he thought he could. All it took was the resolution to remain completely still with a neutral facial expression. It was easy in theory, but his entire body wanted to shiver in anticipation. This was the big deciding argument!
“That of a Captain.” Byakuya's eyes snapped open as he turned to Shunsui, half-expecting to see that goofy smile he always wore when he was not serious. It was nowhere to be found.
“Surely you do not honestly think that?”
“Of course I do,” Shunsui shrugged. He tilted his hat back a little. “One in a position of power must be able to keep those underneath him in check. Besides, it’s only temporary.”
“Very well,” Byakuya said in his coldest voice yet. “He shall get to play ‘Captain’ until his purpose is served.”
On her island, Aika felt the second part of the storm hit. As violent as the downpour was, it was also much needed. She had seen a pretty bad drought recently.
“You think I am here to play?” JV demanded through clenched teeth. His clawless hand balled into a fist. “What makes you so sure that I could not kill you and take your rank from you?”
“The kid’s got the right idea,” roared Kenpachi from his seat.
“If you seek a Captain’s test, then why not reveal your bankai and claim your new position legitimately?” Byakuya nodded to the claw attached to JV’s arm. “I am assuming that there is more than that? Unless you haven’t achieved bankai yet...”
“Bankai?” JV forced out a laugh. “Fine. Today I shall claim my title, and tomorrow I shall claim yours.”
“Tessai, if you would do as we discussed earlier?” Yamamoto asked softly. The big, silent man to the side nodded and performed a series of complex hand motions that erected a barrier to protect the building around them.
“I have heard of your zanpakutou,” JV continued, completely unaware as the walls and ceiling began to emit a faint yellow light. “Senbonzakura, correct? Your own bankai consists of pink petals?”
“Do not insult that which you do not understand.”
“Fine. I shall show you what a true bankai is.” JV clasped his hand with his claw and held them close to his face. His eyes closed as if in silent prayer.
Aika, I am afraid that I must call upon you. Shall we? Aika purred in agreement.
“Bankai! Kouryuuha Aika!”
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