Hello to my lovelies that have decided to read my sequel! I have a lot in store for it and I am beyond excited to begin writing it. I will keep it short and sweet, I promise, and then you can get to reading. In this chapter, peace still covers the Soul Society and you get to see our dear characters going about what would be considered a normal day. I even introduce a few new characters in this chapter, two of which are simply adorable. Now, enjoy the first chapter of Lost Warriors!
It was amazing to think that peace had fallen over the Soul Society for a solid two years, especially since the havoc caused by the existence of the Substitute Soul Reaper seemed to throw every world out of balance. I personally believed that this peace wouldn't last very long and it was only a matter of time before all hell broke loose again. However, I didn't like to dwell on such things because I wanted nothing more than to laze about in the Seireitei compared to fighting in a hellish war environment against my will. It had been over a hundred years since I had been able to see the Seireitei so tranquil and I would do everything that I could to protect that, even if that meant giving up my life again.
It was around dawn in the Soul Society when I decided to crawl out from my blanket cave in Squad 5 and since it was too early for any of my subordinates or lieutenant to even be awake, I decided on a whim that I would go somewhere to catch the sunrise. Lately, this had become a bit of a tradition for me and so I strapped my Zanpakuto to my back with the silver and sapphire chain after getting dressed in my dragon kimono and captain's haori before leaving my quarters altogether. I would always pick a different place each time, but for some reason I wanted to go up to the Sokyoku Hill because it was at a higher altitude in comparison to some of the other spots. I flash stepped along until I finally made it to my destination, allowing the wind to lightly move my long blue black hair that I left hanging down my back and waiting for the sun's first rays of light to hit me. I didn't have long to wait and soon enough I had to narrow my dark chocolate brown eyes to slits as I looked down at the Seireitei. Everything was bathed in the gentle pink glow from the sun and I felt a smile slowly beginning to form on my lips while my Zanpakuto spirit finally woke up, hearing him grumble sleepily in my mind as he told me good morning.
"I just knew that I would find you up here," a voice said to me and I turned my head to look out of the corner of my eye, catching sight of the familiar snowy haired captain as he watched me. His hair was a bit longer than normal and his bangs hung over his left eye prominently. The familiar green scarf that he kept around his neck was caught in the breeze and was gently whipping around in the air behind him. "You were a bit too engrossed in observing the sunrise or you would have sensed me before I made it this close. That's quite unlike you."
"I knew you were there," I told him with a smirk. "I didn't need to sense you to know that you would just follow me wherever I went, kind of like an adoring puppy."
"That's uncalled for," he warned me as he walked over to stand at my side. "You and I both know that I'm much better than a puppy."
"I don't know about that, Shiro," I said with a laugh. "Puppies don't make nearly as much noise as you do. They also act apologetic when they get caught doing things they shouldn't."
"I was only following you to make sure that you were all right," he stated simply. "You stayed at your Squad overnight even though it was your turn to come back to my quarters for sleep. You said it yourself after we married that we would alternate between places every so often."
"Sorry about that," I said as I cringed a little. "I did promise that I would be back last night. I was just caught up in the paperwork that we had left. It's been two years since I returned back from my hundred year sabbatical in the Human World and there are times when this aspect of captaincy is difficult for me to get back into the habit of things."
"Are you sure that it's not because you went out to catch the sunset last night as well?" he asked me as he grabbed a lock of my hair before rolling it between his thumb and forefinger. "I know that you've been doing that lately, although I'm not quite certain about the reasoning behind it. You never did this sort of thing before."
"I don't really understand it myself," I told him softly. "Lately, something has been compelling me to do this and I can't pinpoint where it's coming from. I'm sure that one day I'll find out why."
He chuckled a little and I looked over at him with a frown before he finally said, "I've never seen you act so calm, Imayru. Usually you'll just be impatient and force the answers to bend to your will. Perhaps you've finally grown up."
"Well, I do look like a twenty year old now," I said indignantly. "You're finally tall enough so that you don't look like a little kid. I don't know when that happened exactly, but I find it funny."
"Oh, shut up," he said with a sigh. "You're worse than Rangiku or Momo. I at least look to be in the eighteen year old range now."
"Yes, but I can get away with being worse than them," I told him with a bright smile that was infectious enough that he began to smirk. "I'm your wife, remember? I can be as much of a terror as possible without you saying anything about it."
"There's the immature Imayru I remember," he laughed slightly.
He wrapped an arm around my shoulders and I leaned my body against his, both of us just watching the sun rise up a little further before deciding that it was time for us to go our separate ways for the day. I promised that I would come back to Squad 10 after all of my work was complete and he nodded before flash stepping away. I soon followed suit and headed towards the training grounds allotted for Squad 5. There were a few trainees that had recently joined and I would go watch them spar with each other, giving them advice when needed or correcting their stances if I caught a slight mistake. When I arrived there, I flash stepped to my lieutenant's side and gave her a fright when she finally noticed my presence.
"Captain, you scared me!" she exclaimed, her hand on her chest as if that would stop her fluttering heart.
"Sorry about that, sister," I told her with a tiny laugh. "How are the little ones doing?"
"Still not so little, you know," she said, smiling a bit at my choice of words. "They are working hard to improve their techniques and a few look closer to gaining their Shikai for their Zanpakuto."
"That's good to hear," I said happily as I watched them practice fighting with each other. "You're doing an excellent job at training them, Momo. I'm glad that I chose you to help them out."
"You could have just asked the 3rd Seat to do this," she told me.
"Yes, but you were looking a bit exhausted and bored from all the paperwork we were doing," I said. "This is just a break for you and then the 3rd Seat can take over for you in a week. Sound fair?"
"That it does," she said. "By the way, I saw Toshiro looking for you earlier in your office. Did he ever find you?"
"He did exactly as I was watching the sunrise from Sokyoku Hill," I said simply.
"You always seem to disappear at dawn and dusk. Why is that?"
"No clue but I'm certain that I'll find out one of these days."
"Wow, that's a really mature answer for you," she teased.
"I can be mature when I need to be," I huffed. "You all make it sound like I'm the most immature captain out of them all!"
"If anything, you are the brightest in terms of the light in your soul," she stated. "Now, I'm sure that the trainees would like for you to go inspect their fighting forms, so go be the good captain that we all know you are."
I gave her a grin before descending upon the training grounds, allowing the lightest of waves of spiritual pressure to announce my presence to them but not enough so I wouldn't crush them to the ground within a split second. They stopped what they were doing and turned in my direction, bowing respectfully before saying, "Welcome back, Lady Imayru."
"Thank you," I said with a nod of acknowledgement. "I see that you all started without me. Let's see how far you've progressed since the time you've joined Squad 5. We'll start off with ten minutes of sparring with a partner and then I'll test your strengths one-on-one with my Zanpakuto, Tatsuya."
I could see the light of excitement in their eyes before they returned to their training, their energy picking up with my presence. They were always enthusiastic whenever it came to fighting against me, but I had to hold back immensely whenever this occurred. I tried to limit their exposure to training with me, not because I didn't respect them or like being around them but rather because I could severely injure or kill them if I wasn't extremely careful. I couldn't bear the thought of hurting my trainees like that, so I would usually stay on the sidelines with them and give them pointers, only fighting with them when they wanted to see their progress.
A hundred years ago, I had been abducted by an Adjuchas class Menos Grande and dragged into Hueco Mundo. For a solid year, it kept injecting me with what I had surmised on my own to be a toxin until I managed to escape from there with the assistance of Tatsuya. He took over my body when it looked like escape was impossible and set off our light in an intense blast like that of a supernova. When I returned to the Soul Society, a week had passed after falling into a coma and I woke up only to discover that I couldn't hear Tatsuya in my mind anymore, as if he had been destroyed in Hueco Mundo. Not only that, but my Zanpakuto had been locked in its Shikai, taking on the form of a large falchion. I couldn't use any power until I was challenged by a foolish member of my Squad for my captaincy. He pushed me too far and I brought out power I didn't know I had, one in the form of dark fire that had been the opposite of what I possessed previously. After that incident, I rescinded my position as captain and left to lead a taskforce in the Human World, refusing to return back to the Seireitei for a hundred years and hurting everyone I cared about in the process.
When I finally thought to return to the Soul Society, I had been greeted by an angry Toshiro and lead to the Head Captain, who immediately asked me to fill in a captain's position since three had defected to Hueco Mundo. I took on Squad 5, hiding in the shadows since my skin burst into flames whenever I went into the light and keeping the secret of my impending death from those I cared about. I was almost settled back into the routine of being a captain again when I sensed the presence of one of the traitors, specifically Aizen. I gave chase in the cover of night, Toshiro and two others attempting to catch me before I caught up to Aizen, but they failed when Aizen managed to capture me before they could get to me first. He took me to a laboratory hidden in a mountain and informed me of how it was his fault that I had been abducted by the Hollow, that he had created a serum meant to kill my mind and force Tatsuya to take over my body so Aizen could use him to take over the Soul Society. Soon after that, Toshiro found me and tried to rescue me but we were caught by Aizen. I felt Tatsuya take over long enough to kill the traitor and then collapsed.
After recovering from that ordeal and discovering that Tatsuya had a taste for blood that he took out on Toshiro, I learned from Ichigo Kurosaki how to take control from Tatsuya before he could take over my body in an attempt to protect me, soon figuring out how to sync up with him. Not long after that, Toshiro and I finally decided that we would get married like we had promised when we were young kids, only to have Aizen ruin things when I found out that I had only killed his double. He forced me to take the rest of the serum and I was pushed aside by Tatsuya. The only thing that saved me was Toshiro, who managed to call me back to him and take my control back. I found a way to kill Aizen, but only after he stabbed Toshiro through the heart. I almost lost him that day and I took him to Squad 4 in the nick of time to have him healed. I tried to hide back in the Human World for my failure to protect him, but he convinced me to go back to the Soul Society with him.
Later, I found out that my fight with my past had only just begun in the form of an Espada that Aizen had also experimented on. His name was Zayn Drabek and he was the Quinto Espada in Aizen's army, also notifying me of the fact that he considered Aizen to be like his father. We clashed over and over again, him trying to take me back to Las Noches with him to make me his mate, and he found a way to get me to go there of my own free will. He took Toshiro hostage and left with him for Hueco Mundo, informing me that he would kill my husband within a week if I didn't appear before him under that time limit. I formed an army from all the captains, lieutenants, and Ichigo, along with his friends, before we all made it to Las Noches.
We took Toshiro back and I stayed behind to fight with Zayn so I could put an end to everything. I managed to take my light back after a fight that I was slowly losing and evened the odds just enough before we fought to the death in my Bankai and his Segunda Etapa. I just barely won and nearly died when I made it back to the Seireitei, Toshiro carrying me to the hospital in Squad 4 and nearly having to watch my soul fade from existence right then and there. I lived on after that, but no one was told that I had survived because I had nearly destroyed the Soul Society while coming back from Las Noches with the force of my spiritual pressure. Head Captain Yamamoto had a plan to kill me to save the Soul Society if a permanent limiter couldn't be placed on me. Thankfully, one was created just for the occasion and I could go about my business normally.
I shook my head and went back to focusing on what was before me with a vague smile on my face. I had six trainees, two females and four males. One of their number was a younger boy that reminded me a bit of Toshiro because of his age and he often fought with another boy that was a few years older. The rest of them were close to Momo's age and fought fiercely with each other, regardless of the fact that they were only training. I approached the two girls that were fighting first and observed their practice.
"Aemi Nagamine, your stance is a bit too rigid. You need to loosen up a little or your opponent will only take advantage of the openings you leave," I told one of the girls. She had long blonde hair that she kept pinned up while she trained and a fierce look of determination in her violet eyes. The other girl that happened to be her best friend, which you never saw one without the other, had short dark hair and light blue eyes that looked a bit nervous. "Mariya Hirai, you hesitate for a second before you strike. If this was a real battle, your enemy would use that second to kill you. Try not to falter and just believe in yourself."
Both girls nodded and adjusted before I moved on to the next group, the one with the large males fighting against each other like there was no tomorrow. Both of them towered over me and I was of average height, a fact that only annoyed me since I hated being shorter than others. The one with short black hair and silver eyes, a trainee that always kept giving me strange glances whenever he thought I wasn't paying attention, shifted his gaze to me and nearly was slashed to ribbons by his buddy, a guy with dark eyes and red hair that reminded me of Renji. "Focus, Seigo Anzai," I told him with a sigh of exasperation. "If you wish to keep your head on your shoulders, then I suggest you stop watching me and pay more attention to your opponent. By the way, Yuukin Noda, your form is sloppy today. That's not like you at all. Had you been in tip top shape like normal, I'm afraid that Seigo here would be just a head shorter."
I heard a snort of laughter from Yuukin and he took my advice to heart while Seigo scowled yet did as he was told. I moved on to my last group and watched the smaller boys fighting each other. They were the ones that showed the most improvement and it was hard not to smile whenever I observe their fighting. One boy had shaggy black hair and tawny eyes and the other had reddish-brown hair with brown eyes. Now that I thought on it more, the first reminded me even more of Toshiro because of the look in his eyes and the other was like Ichigo. Both of them sent off waves of resolve that far outweighed the other trainees. I tilted my head to the side while watching and caught one tiny mistake for each of them.
I looked over at the dark haired boy and said, "Kitsune Seta, bend your knees just a little more. Same goes for you, Gingka Oshima. Other than that, all of you are doing well." I walked over to the center of the training grounds before turning to face my trainees, pulling Tatsuya from its chain while everyone stopped fighting. I gave them an amused grin before saying, "Now… which one of you wishes to fight me first?"
I wasn't surprised when I saw Kitsune take an eager step forward, bowing to me quickly before I gave him a nod to come closer. Right after he had joined Squad 5, he once told me how he received his name and I felt like I identified with it a little more than anyone else. When he was very young and first arrived in the Soul Society, he became lost in the woods outside one of the districts of Rukon. Luckily, a family of foxes took him in and fed him for years. The residents of that district, whenever they saw him on the outskirts of the forest, began to call him Kitsune because he was never seen without at least one fox by his side. I remembered chuckling and telling him my story of my beginnings, especially how I was referred to as the Lost Girl of the 1st District. He must have heard my story before because his eyes widened and he had a look of awe on his face. Ever since then, he was extremely eager to become like me. I already had a feeling I knew which form his Zanpakuto spirit would take, however I wouldn't spoil the fun for him when that day came that he learned the name of his Zanpakuto.
I fought with every single one of them, making sure to hold back my attacks, and when we were finished I let them have the day off. They all scattered like the wind except for Kitsune and Gingka, who stayed behind and gave each other conspiratorial looks. "What are you two kids up to today?" I asked them, raising an eyebrow when they began to look even more suspicious. I had once caught them following me around but allowed them to carry on as if they had gotten away with it.
"Nothing much, Lady Imayru," Kitsune spoke up for both of them. "We'll probably just wander about the Seireitei and explore some other places we haven't seen yet."
"This wandering wouldn't have anything to do with following me around, now would it?" I asked them and watched as they paled for a split second before going back to normal.
"N-never! We wouldn't do that in a million years!" Gingka said sheepishly. I thought he might take off in embarrassment when he seemed to look past me at something. "Hey, look! It's Captain Hitsugaya of Squad 10!"
Both boys ran past me and over to Toshiro as I turned around to look at the scene before me. Toshiro had one of his rare smiles on his face, one that only I saw on a frequent basis, and he greeted the kids as they bounced around near him. He was yet another captain that they both looked up to and they saw him often enough due to the fact that he and I were married. I think he had taken a liking to them as well and it was great to see him like that.
"Hello, Captain Hitsugaya!" they both exclaimed, giving him a respectful bow.
"Hello to you as well, Kitsune and Gingka," he told them, reaching up to place a hand on their heads to ruffle their hair affectionately. "Have the two of you been getting plenty of rest? You both look an inch or two taller."
"Or you're just getting shorter," I said as I crossed my arms, giving him an amused smirk.
"You only say that because you secretly hope to be taller than me again," he told me with a grin. "I know you have a little person complex a mile wide."
"Says the person who used to be shorter than everyone else," I said under my breath, laughing when he glared a little at me. "I thought that I wouldn't get to see you until later tonight."
"That would have been true had I not finished up my paperwork earlier than expected," he said as both Kitsune and Gingka took off somewhere. "Even Rangiku managed to be helpful for once. I have a feeling it is because she plans on drinking with Renji and Izuru later tonight."
"We could go drinking with them if you'd like," I said teasingly as I walked closer to him. "I'm sure that it won't be as bad this time."
"No way," he said flatly. "Due to the fact that you practically have fire burning through your veins, you don't get drunk and then you laugh at anyone else who is. I still remember how you and Ichigo were entertained with our antics."
"At least I was kind enough to help you out with your hangover the next morning," I told him. "So if you don't want to go drinking, what would you like to do with our free time?"
He thought about it for a second, tilting his head to the side in the process before finally saying, "I think I have an idea. Follow me."
After I put Tatsuya back in its chain, he flash stepped away and I followed after him. We headed off in the direction of the west and before long I began to piece together what he could possibly be thinking about. It didn't take long before we reached a large hill that looked down at the West Rukon District, more specifically the 1st District. I felt a slow warmth spreading through my soul, which happened every time I looked at this place, as I remembered all the memories associated with this place. It hadn't been pleasant in the beginning, especially back when I was the Lost Girl, but after finding the three people I considered to be my family at the time it became a much better place to me. Toshiro took me by the hand and led me down the path toward the 1st District. It had been a long time since we had been anywhere near here and he must have figured that it was about time.
"Remember when Momo and I first found you out in the forest?" he asked me, looking over at me to gaze into my eyes.
"It's kind of hard to forget that moment, Shiro," I said flatly, smiling vaguely.
"I don't think you ever heard our side of the story before," he told me as he slid his fingers between mine. "We had been enjoying the spring festival when Momo happened to look over at the forest. She told me to quit chasing after the bigger kids with a stick and to look at the edge of the tree line. I thought that she must have been seeing things and that was when I caught sight of a girl. She was hauntingly beautiful and I could see from where I was standing that she had these feral eyes. She looked like she might have been more of an animal that took the shape of a human soul. But in those eyes you could see the depths of loneliness. Before I knew it, a few people passed in front of us and she was gone."
I couldn't say that I wasn't intrigued by his story and so I tried to be cool as I asked, "So what happened next from your point of view?"
I could see his smile before he turned back to watching where he was going, leading us through the district itself until we reached its edge. "Well, we walked further into the festival for a while because Momo said that it was a one in million chance of seeing the Lost Girl and the odds were even worse to try and find her. We tried to enjoy the rest of the festival but I just kept thinking about nothing but the Lost Girl. It was around the time that the fireworks stopped that I thought I could hear the faint screams of anguish coming from the forest. I took off towards the forest with Momo chasing after me and we found the source of the screaming. We found you. Why were you screaming that night?"
"I did that every year when the spring festival came around," I told him. "My senses were hypersensitive and the fireworks hurt my ears. Not only that, but my curiosity got the better of me and I went to watch the spring festival for the first time, so I was close enough for the fireworks to hurt me even more."
"Good to know that you were just as curious as you are now," he said flatly. "Why was that the first year you decided to observe the spring festival?"
"I really have no idea," I told him, laughing a little. "It was just on a whim. I'm glad I did it though. Now I have everything I could ever want."
We kept walking until we reached another path that led a few hundred feet into the woods. There were a few stone arches that adorned the path and I looked on in silence before Toshiro posed another question. "What about your memories from when you were alive?" he asked me softly. "Even I remember my life in the Human World and how I died. I remember that my biological family died a long time ago and so I had to live with Granny while we were alive. Don't you want to remember your true family?"
"Shiro, my true family is here with me now," I said with a wan smile. "I don't need to know the identities of those I'm related to by blood. Even if I did know them, it's not like I would be able to find them anyway because all of the Rukon Districts are so huge. I really don't mind it."
He leaned over to kiss the top of my head before whispering, "If that's what you believe, then I support it all the way."
Before we knew it, the house we had stayed in for so many years came into view. Near the front of the house was a rather large garden that was filled with exotic flowers on one half and vegetables on the other. Standing in the middle of the garden was an older lady that had more gray hair than brown, hunched over slightly as she poured water lovingly onto her plants. She was about as short as Toshiro used to be before he joined the academy with me and looked up at us when she heard our quiet footsteps, her blue green eyes becoming watery when she realized who we were.
"Toshiro and Imayru," she said with a happy smile as tears began to run down her wrinkled face. "It's been so long since I've seen the two of you together."
"It really has been," I said quietly while smiling, shivering a little as I began to cry as well. "I'm sorry we never visited often enough after becoming Soul Reapers, even more so when we became captains."
Toshiro wrapped an arm around my shoulders to stop my shaking and finally spoke up. "I'm sorry, too. What kind of grandson doesn't even visit his grandmother much?"
"It's perfectly all right," she told us as she walked in our direction. "Just seeing you now makes up for it. I'm glad that you're both safe and happy, which is all that matters to me. I heard from Momo that the two of you are married. I wished that I could be there to see it for myself. Will you give this old lady the honor of having two captains over for dinner?"
"Of course," Toshiro and I both said simultaneously before following her inside.
She must have been cooking something already and she quickly adjusted it to accommodate her two guests. I tried to help her make dinner after setting out a few bowls for us, but she shooed me out of the kitchen and told me to go sit down with Toshiro at the table. I pouted slightly but did as I was told, especially since I knew the woman wasn't above hitting any of us with a wooden spoon if we disobeyed. Toshiro chuckled to himself and we didn't have long to wait until she brought out a pot of soup. She poured soup for us all so that we could eat, spending the rest of the time talking about our lives. Before long, I had a sense that we needed to go because it was almost dusk and I needed to watch the sun set. We gave Granny a hug before she kicked us out of the house so that we could get back to the Seireitei. As we headed back into the 1st District, we waved at her and she gave us joyous smiles before we made it completely out of view of her.
"It's nice visiting with Granny," Toshiro said as we approached the hill that overlooked the 1st District. "I think we should definitely do it more often. I don't want for her to be lonely."
"Sounds like a plan," I told him happily before running up the hill and turning around at the top to watch the sun sink down, throwing off shades of crimson and orange.
"You even do this at dusk," he said, more to himself than to me. "This is just a curious event that I want to know more about."
"Good luck with that," I said sarcastically as I watched the sun. For some reason unbeknownst to me, I could feel a sudden melancholy fall over me for a couple seconds before I shook it off. When the sun went down, I turned back to Toshiro. "Let's head back now. We can hang out in your quarters before going to sleep."
He nodded and we flash stepped back to the Seireitei, yet I could still sense my confusion over why I felt saddened over the sunset.