Disclaimer: I don't own anything related to Bleach, just my original story plot and original characters.


Control

The late October winds were merciless as they blew. Tinged with an icy chill in the air, the winter gales swept clouds of dust across the scars of the desolate wasteland, as if it were trying desperately to cover up any evidence of devastation that the disaster left behind. The graveyard to many unfortunate souls, formerly recognized as Takayanagi International Airport, was littered with scattered plane wreckage and scorched debris that once formed part of the airport's facilities. The air was polluted with the thick smell of smoke from the blazing fires that had razed the area to the ground, as well as the unmistakable scent of human decay that lingered from the half devoured corpses.

Standing alone at the epicenter of the explosion, Hakai observed the horrific scene with mild amusement in his dark pupils.

So in my absence, the world still refuses to face reality?

He had heard about the fabricated stories the media broadcasted to the world about how the carnage that took place almost a decade ago was actually an act of terrorism, an act done by human hands no less, and found their absurdity to be quite comical. Even when indisputable evidence of otherworldly presences presented itself on a silver platter, human beings would only stubbornly continue to apply their limited reasoning to justify what they could not explain and dare call it the truth in order to hide their own ignorance. But instead, it proved the exact opposite to those who were aware of the true world around them.

Hakai stared at the palm of his hand, and was unsurprised by the lack of power that flowed through it. He was currently as weak as the humans he looked down on, and in realising how ironic it was, he laughed bitterly.

Though the situation may be pathetic, it cannot be helped. I still need much more time.

Accomplishing his ambition would be no small feat, that much he was certain. The preparation had to be absolutely perfect and the necessary time taken to cultivate his fruit was crucial in order to ensure the best possible outcome. Hakai also anticipated that there would be opposition; those foolish enough to stand in the way, though that was of little concern. He would welcome these so-called "challengers" with open arms and gladly reduce their existences into nothing more than mere afterthoughts. The stage was set and his "actors"–his loyal followers, actually– were prepared for him to raise the curtain to begin a performance unlike any other.

"Now, my marionettes in human form, will you be able cut yourselves loose from the strings that bind you, or will you dance endlessly to the tune of the Devil's infectious melody?"

Filled with great anticipation for the coming storm, Hakai vanished from the abandoned airport, the sounds of his maniacal laughter echoing across the desolate landscape.

–The play will soon begin.

I, Who shall dream,

Am the Harbinger of Destruction...

.

.

.

"...atakiri... Katakiri-kun!"

He jumped at the sound of his name suddenly being called and immediately after, he felt the backlash of being in a deep slumber for so long as his mind was blanketed by a thick fog. He tried blinking away the grogginess that plagued him, and gradually he became aware of the world around him. At first he couldn't remember where he was, how he arrived there or what he was doing, but as he took in the familiar scenery of the many adolescents seated around him, dressed in all too familiar red blazers, he realized where he was.

Katakiri Kyousuke, through the strands of raven hair that hung before his eyes, lazily lifted his head to acknowledge the person in grey that had appeared in front of his desk, staring at him with ghostly pale, blue eyes behind thin spectacles.

The man appeared to be his early thirties, the signs of his age shown by the almost noticeable wrinkles forming on his face. His neatly cut and combed white hair that went no further than his ears and the ugly scar that ran across the bridge of his nose were the man's most distinguishable features. He stood with the composure of a solider, and his strict adherence to the dress code contributed to the air professionalism he carried as he served as one of the teachers at Samejima Academy.

"Is there a problem, Murasame-sensei?"

The question seemed to surprise the white haired teacher as his sharp eyebrows rose ever so slightly.

"A problem?" Murasame Sasuke repeated in his monotonous voice. "Katakiri-kun, in case you have forgotten, this is a test. You should not be sleeping. Or are you telling me that you have managed to complete all the problems and still found enough time to doze off?"

Slightly confused by his teacher's words, the raven-haired student looked around the classroom and saw the serious facial expressions of his classmates as their pencils furiously attacked their sheets of paper. His eyes then wandered to the round clock that hung in front of the classroom that was incessantly ticking away.

"Better get moving, Katakiri-kun. You have two minutes left."

Once the stoic teacher said those parting words, he restarted his patrol around the classroom.

With a listless expression, Kyousuke looked down at his own answer sheet. There were numerous blank spaces on the paper, far more than there were answered, and with time he had left there was no chance of achieving a decent score on the test.

Even if I did manage to do well, would it really matter in the end...?

A tired sigh escaped from his mouth as he rested his chin in the palm of his hand and Kyousuke's eyes shifted back to the clock in front of the classroom. The needle was still continuing its habitual revolution, proving true to the phrase, "time waits for no man".

No, I can't think like that. Maintaining appearances is actually important right now, so I'll make sure to fix this.

As his teacher predicted, two minutes later a bell rang, signaling the end of the test period.

Huge sighs of relief were heard throughout the classroom and the heavy atmosphere that clouded over just about disappeared. It was lunch time, so once the test papers were handed in, students quickly exited the classroom, not wanting to stay inside another minute longer.

"Oh man, I thought I was gonna die, like seriously bros!" A male student with greasy, blonde hair announced to his group of similar looking companions.

"You said it, Okimura! When Murasame sets a test, you got no choice but to clench yo' ass cheeks, son. Shit, it's over and my ass still hurts. What about you, Izawa?"

"Nuh-uh, no good. Might as well drop out of school and become a pornstar, hehe. At least you're getting paid to be screwed."

The group of deliquents paused and gave their portly member a very suspicious look.

"But you're a guy..."

"And?"

That response was more than enough to make the gang not-so-subtly take a step backwards from their suspicious memeber.

The chatter around the hallways of the school was like any other typical high school. The conversations that took place ranged from mundane topics such as who was dating who to new upcoming bands and idols or whatever the latest rumour in Samejima Academy was, as well as the petty gossip that floated around.

"Hey, hey, you know Orimoto from class 3-C?" A girl with crudely dyed hair whispered amongst her circle.

"Eh? Mia-chan, are you talking about that glasses-wearing bitch?" A girl filing her obscenely long nails asked which spurred a chorus of nasally laughter from the group of girls.

"Yeah, yeah, that's her! I heard that she's got a crush on Takumi-senpai!"

"That thing has a crush on the Captain of Baseball team? Gross!"

"I know right?!"

"Don't worry, I have an idea on how to put miss four-eyes back in her place. Here's the plan: first we..."

After sending a few quick text messages to his various contacts, Kyousuke exited the classroom and entered the busy halls of Samejima. On his way through, he passed by several groups of students hanging around who acknowledged him with either a friendly wave or actually made the effort of engaging him with needless small talk, the latter usually done by those higher up in the social hierarchy in order to make sure they remained relevant in case they needed a favour. "Social leeches" is what he mentally dubbed them. Although they were annoying, they were useful for propelling his reputation.

"Katakiri-kun~! Over here~!"

He was also on the receiving end of the flirtatious winks and smiles, courtesy of the more forward girls in his grade. Though he would never reciprocate their one-sided feelings, the raven-haired student would return their greetings by flashing his signature friendly smile, earning squeals of excitement from the group girls for his troubles.

Another group of students tried to catch his attention as he crossed their path. Anyone with a working set of eyes could immediately tell that these students weren't anybody special. They were just plain, ordinary people with nothing noteworthy about them. They were the type whose names and faces were easily forgotten- nobodies, as they were referred to in general. Individually, they were already treated as if they didn't have much of a presence to begin with, so maybe in banding together they had hoped to change their situation a little, if only to be acknowledged as a unit at the very least.

Wealth. Talent. Appeal; without at least one of these factors, the value as a human being is virtually zero. I don't need dead weight.

Kyousuke strode past the group, not sparing so much a single glance in their direction, and carried on as if he didn't see anything.

Witnessing it himself, he learned first hand just how warped the state of the world was. To start off, the preachings of how all human lives were equal was absolute bullshit. There would always be someone raised on a higher pedestal than someone else. Always.

A basic example would be a hostage situation. Say, two people were taken hostage and the condition was that only one of them could be saved. One was the heir to a billion yen business franchise, the other a poor saint who devotes their time to spreading goodwill to others. The outcome of who will be saved is obvious, but the reason why is what's interesting. The excuse will be that there wasn't any other choice, that saving one would be better than nothing, so saving the heir was a fair decision, right?

Wrong. The choice was already predetermined the moment they were born.

If it was fair, in order to choose between the two, why wasn't a coin tossed to decide which one would be saved? If their lives were truly equal, the chance to save one should be just as equal, right? But it wasn't. The heir was saved because his value as an individual was greater than the poor saint who had nothing to offer.

The contradiction was obvious, yet people still shamelessly preached equality of human life as if it were the truth. If that wasn't evidence of how ludicrous the world was, what would be? Yes, some might say his treatment of those students was his way of placing himself on a higher pedestal than them, that it was arrogant.

Those same people would also be known as hypocrites.

Even if no one else wanted to say it out loud, it didn't change the undeniable fact that there was no such thing as people with equal value.

"Senpai~!"

Kyousuke was about halfway across the hall when he heard the familiar voice calling out to him. He stopped and when he looked back, he met the sight of a energetic girl skipping towards him, her ribbons and black skirt bouncing as she did so. If he remembered correctly, her name was...

"...Hikasa?"

"Yes?"

Her shoulder-length, dark brown hair, decorated with a frilly red ribbon, bounced when she came to a stop, and Seishirou Hikasa tilted her head to the side with a puzzled look.

"Why do you look so confused, Kyoubaka-senpai? You were supposed wait for me so we could go eat lunch together, remember? Did you not get enough sleep or something?"

He cringed inwardly at her nickname for him.

"Something like that..." He muttered under his breath

That's right... We do eat together, don't we? He figured his mind was still in the midst of processing everything.

When Kyousuke remained silent, Hikasa let out an exasperated sigh.

"You're hopeless as usual, Senpai. I can't believe you were going to lunch without waiting for your cute and lovable kouhai who has been like a rock for you, supporting you through thick and thin, but alas has never been properly appreciated. You should take responsibility and treat this amazing kouhai!" She said with a sly smile.

"I don't mind. Where is she?"

"Isn't that a little mean, Senpai?!"

"And extorting someone isn't?"

Hikasa put on a thoughtful face as she played with the ribbons in her hair. "Hmm... well, since it's Kyoubaka-senpai, it should be all right."

"Hey..."

"Please~?" She pleaded with her big, round ocean-blue eyes looking directly into his own amber ones.

Kyousuke couldn't help but roll his eyes and smile in spite of himself. He had met the girl three years ago, during his last year of middle school when he was... struggling through the more difficult phases of his life. Unlike most people, over time he established genuine connection of some kind with Hikasa. It was a connection he couldn't exactly put into words, but a genuine one nonetheless. And though their meeting had happened some time ago, he could still vividly recall the details of that particularly warm summer night when he spoke to Hikasa for the very first time- It was another reminder of how truly broken the world was.

He sighed.

"...Okay, fine. I give up. I'll get you something to eat, all right?"

"Really?!"

Hikasa asked, seemingly re-energized, and Kyousuke couldn't help but take a step back in surprise.

"Y-yeah, but let's hurry up. I'm sure the others are wondering where we are by now."

"Then let us be off!" Hikasa declared enthusiastically as she pulled Kyousuke by the arm.

Again, Kyousuke sighed. Although this one was a mix of content and resignation. With the way things were progressing, he could feel himself starting to settle into the usual pace of his school lifestyle. Until now, the days would seem to pass in a blur, making it feel as if the only things he did was wake up, work, and rest. Any interaction or events that may have happened in-between those periods were completely lost on him, so for the first time in a while he felt like he was in control again.

With Hikasa leading the way, Kyousuke set off to the school store to purchase the lunch that his spoiled kouhai had managed to con out of him.


As expected, the temperature was a bit chilly due to the seasonal transition. Soon after successfully purchasing the yakisoba bread from the school store, Kyousuke and Hikasa made their way to their usual hang out spot on top of the school roof, and upon arriving they encountered an occupant of the space.

Acknowledging their arrival was a caramel-blonde haired girl who was gracefully seated on one of the only wooden benches on the roof, reading a thick novel. With her back perfectly straight and golden, braided hair flowing over her shoulder, the girl's warm, brown eyes looked up to meet the approaching pair and she smiled softly.

"Good morning, Seishirou-san. And to you too, Katakiri-kun."

Although her voice was reserved and the greeting was plain, there was an elegant and charming quality about the manner in which she spoke that managed to captivate whoever happened to be listening. Kirisaki Meguri, the name of the enchanting figure currently occupying the bench, wore a serene expression as she closed the novel she was engrossed in moments ago. From her radiant, porcelain skin that was without blemish to her outstandingly, perfect body proportions followed by her gentle expression, one could be forgiven for mistaking her to be an expertly, crafted doll.

"Morning, Kirisaki-san," Kyousuke greeted, smiling at Kirisaki in return.

"Mmmowingkiwisakisenhai!" Hikasa incoherently greeted, her mouth so stuffed with bread that the she was launching bits of bread as she spoke.

Kirisaki skillfully avoided the crumbs launched in her direction without moving from her spot, still smiling as if nothing had happened.

"You seem very lively this morning, Seishirou-san. Did something good happen to you?"

"Yep! Kyoubaka I mean, Kyousuke-senpai treated me to lunch today!" She cheerfully said once had finished gulping down the bread.

"Hey, come on, Hikasa. Don't call me that so carelessly. At this rate, the entire school will know that stupid nickname," he grumbled.

A beautiful laugh escaped from Kirisaki's lips.

"Please excuse me," she said in-between her giggles. "Your reputation means a lot to you, doesn't it, Katakiri-kun?"

"Of course," he replied, slightly annoyed. "The better your reputation is, the better your chances are to be recognised and form the vital connections necessary for your own success later in life. Do you think the Prime Minster was some loner nobody growing up who randomly decided one day he wanted to lead a country? This isn't a game, you know. Actually, aren't you in a similar situation?"

She laughed again.

"You are quite right, Katakiri-kun. As the next head of the Kirisaki family, I have to acquire important connections myself. In the end, no man is an island." Kirisaki's voice softened as she gently traced soft fingertips over her paperback novel. "And connections that outlive their usefulness become no more than dead weight..."

"What do you mean, Kirisaki-senpai?" Hikasa asked innocently.

Kirisaki shook her head and then spoke in a more cheery voice.

"Oh it's nothing. I was just recalling the words someone had once told me, please don't worry about it, Seishirou-san."

"O-oh, okay."

"Shall we enjoy the rest of our break, then?" Kyousuke watched her say with a practiced smile.

Kirisaki Meguri was the first-born daughter of the prestigious Kirisaki family who managed one of the most successful computer companies in Japan, Kirisaki Industries. He met the blonde during his first year of high school when they had been assigned to the same homeroom class and the first thing he discovered was that, despite her appearance, she was deceivingly perceptive. Within a few minutes into a conversation, she could discern if a person harboured any ulterior motives, and since she was the heir to Kirisaki Industries, many people approached her with the intent to get close to her for her family ties. As a result she kept her distance and often sat alone.

She caught him staring at her. "What's wrong, Katakiri-kun? Is something troubling you?"

Unfortunately for her, she wasn't perceptive enough to see through his own well crafted facade.

Once he had discovered that Kirisaki Meguri was the heir to one of the most prospering companies in Japan, he made quick plans to have himself transferred to her class, all with the intention of getting closer to her so he could make use of her in the future. And since he had paid careful attention on how not to act from the people who approached her first, he slowly gained her trust and it blossomed into what it was today. It wasn't easy though. There were times when she tended to be well guarded and almost see right through him when he spoke about certain things, but as she demonstrated earlier when she had quoted him, he learned that the best approach was to subtly slip his words when she lowered her guard. In time without her realizing it, he would use Kirisaki Meguri to help further his own interests.

It wasn't like he had anything against Kirisaki. In fact, he enjoyed the blonde girl's company to the point he would actively meet up with her when he had the time, ulterior motives aside. However, his own goals would always come first, and if necessary, he wouldn't hesitate to ruin her life in the process.

He showed her a reassuring smile.

"No, nothing at all."


As lunch came to an end, Hikasa and Kirisaki made their way to their next classes while he remained behind on the roof with the excuse that he wanted to enjoy the fresh air a little longer. He waited approximately five minutes just to make sure that wouldn't be interrupted by anybody before he pulled out the black cellphone from the inside of his blazer.

He unlocked the phone and scrolled through his contact list. When found the contact labelled Kougeki Company, he pressed the call button and put the phone to his ear. Almost immediately, the line connected and the familiar voice sounded through the speaker.

"Are you alone?"

"Yeah. I've got ten minutes before I have to go."

"Then I'll get right to it," she began. "A man named Matou Haruto, cultist member of The Sages of the Abyss, has managed obtain certain materials vital to Reika-sama's experiments. You will retrieve them undamaged."

When she mentioned the name of the cult, he thought back to what he was told about them. From his knowledge, they were a group of religious fanatics, who worshipped an ancient demon god, believed to hidden in depths of the ocean somewhere in the world. Though their base of operations was in Takayanagi City, nobody ever paid them any attention. They more of an annoyance than anything else, recruiting members through pyramid schemes and other false promises.

"How would they have managed to obtain something Rei I mean, my mother wants?" He didn't know whether he caught himself in time or not, but if he didn't, she didn't address it.

"Recently, The Sages of the Abyss have been gaining a surprisingly large amount of support. Apparently, they are being backed by a benefactor of sorts. It's likely that they happened to stumble across it through their chain of new established networks."

Kyousuke raised an eyebrow. "So, what exactly does Matou have in his possession?"

"Reika-sama did not inform about the contents specifics, but she says that they should be carried inside a suitcase," she replied.

He found it a little strange that he wasn't being told what he would be retrieving, but didn't think about it too much. After all, it wasn't his place to question orders.

"And what should I do with Matou?"

"His death will serve as warning to others that Reika-sama's reach is infinite." She answered without hesitation.

"Understood."

"I will send you the address of the hotel Matou is staying at soon. Until then, make sure your preparations are in order. I highly doubt Matou would leave something of value unprotected." As usual, without any pleasantries, the woman ended the call after she saying what needed to, and he was suddenly left alone with his thoughts.

"...I'm going kill someone again, huh?" He muttered absent-mindedly.

He didn't have a problem taking a life. Numbed by the many years of experience, he had become so used to it that he felt it was second nature. That fact that he didn't have to think about it anymore proved how far gone he was. But it was better that way. If he wasn't, he wouldn't be able to even think about making his ambition a reality.

The only way to oppose evil is with an even more overpowering evil.

He wasn't in the mood to go back to class, so he decided that he might as well leave early to prepare for tonight's job.

As he was about open the door, he felt an unnaturally cold sensation shoot through his spine, immediately raising his alertness to the extreme. He whipped around, already positioned in a defensive stance to defend himself from the presence that had somehow managed to appear behind without warning .

Strangely, nothing was there. The presence he felt had also disappeared, as if it had never made itself known to begin with. For a while, he remained on guard, searching for any spiritual pressure that remotely stood out while his eyes also thoroughly scanned the rooftop.

A trickle of sweat ran down the side of his face.

Despite waiting for what felt like an hour, the unknown presence did not make another appearance. The tension left his body as he relaxed his stance, though he remained vigilant. There was no telling when whatever had showed up would return. It may have been for a split second, but the power he felt from the presence was no laughing matter. It was so powerful, he was sure that, without his sword, he would most definitely lose.

Begrudgingly, he decided to leave the rooftop, knowing that there would be no point in staying any longer. Whatever he felt at that time was most likely long gone by now. However, he would be sure to be on his guard for the rest of the day now that he knew someone was out there.


"Haa... that was pretty close," she sighed in relief.

The girl, who had been observing him from the moment he walked through the door, stepped out from the shadow created by the wooden bench, fiercely gripping the handle of the old suitcase she carried. Her scarlet eyes stared at the door with fixation as she felt the sinister spiritual pressure get further and further away as it continued to descend into the lower levels of the school. Unable to suppress her bloodlust at that moment, she had almost given herself away. Fortunately, she managed to mask it at the very last second.

"That boy is the closest suspect I've had since coming here. I can't have him running away before I've even said hello."

She was almost certain that he was the one she had been searching for. His spiritual pressure was virtually identical to the man who opened Pandora's Box on that day, but she felt there was still something missing. Whatever it was, it remained the only thing that prevented her from acting on her impulses at that time.

What initially lead her to him was when she had sensed the same kind of spiritual pressure appear at the ruins of the airport earlier this morning when she was patrolling the city. It went without saying that the presence had vanished before she could get to it in time. But now, she had a somewhat of a lead and she wasn't going to allow it to slip away from her.

She ran her fingers through her hair and sighed. "In any case, I'll continue to keep a close eye on him until a development happens. Rushing wouldn't help anything right now."

She slipped back into the shadows and decided to continue her observation for the time being.


Authour Note: Thank you to all those who took the time to read and review this story, especially TheSolitaireMystery who continues to support my work. If you're by any chance a fan of both Bleach and the Persona series, please don't hesitate to check out TheSolitaireMystery's amazing crossover fanfic Danse Macabre. I assure you that it is worth the read.

If I've made any grammatical errors and/or mistakes in writing this story, please don't hesitate to point them out.

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