It began with confusion. Air strikes had leveled two city blocks of Karakura Town. Half-blinded by the reddish streaks blotting out the sunlight, she stumbled back, the Gikongan slipping through her lax fingers. No one had expected this. Anything but this. Rukia heard the screams of the Karakura Town populace and turned even as she met the amber eyes of her friend, sometimes annoyance, Ichigo Kurosaki. He had run up, faster than his other nakama, Chad, Orihime and Uryu, pushing his glasses further up his sharp nose. Above them, Rukia dared raise her eyes to the streaming smoke slowly filling the sky.
Dark shapes had appeared on the horizon, strange shapes like large-winged birds...fighter craft, gleaming black like the hardest adamantine. Their low whining buzz filled her with incomprehensible terror.
The world was being invaded and yet her puny mind couldn't seek its source. They had appeared out of nowhere and everywhere at once. From space...the recesses of her brain whispered. Rukia could've laughed at the folly of her thoughts, space invaders? Aliens! Even Urahara would likely have a more rational explanation.
Then, she saw him.
A tall striding figure garbed entirely in black from the deep cowl-like hood where the gleam of metal – a mask – hid the face, to the heavy soldier boots sending deep thrums into the earth with each footstep. There were others with him, clad in white armor with heavy helmets of white with black visors for eyes and other markings of a mouth. They carried white and black rifles, discharging – energy bursts – at nearby civilians who ran screaming, some who weren't as lucky, simply slumped, collapsing into a heap in the streets.
Unthinkingly, Rukia ran forward, forgetting herself. Forgetting everything but the fierce desire to do something. One noticed her, firing a strangely charged energy shot from the muzzle of the rifle. Rukia swiped her hand forward, calling up a shield of kido to deflect the blast. The energy bolt collided against Danku, dissipating with a sizzling burst upon contact. Quickly, while the soldier was stilled stunned by her deflection, she summoned a crackling burst of lightning, stunning him dead in the street.
"A Force user!" Someone shouted, voice muffled through the helmet. Instantly, the soldiers resumed a defensive position, aiming their rifles at her. The word, though meaningless to her, seemed to have caught the attention of their leader. The black clad officer turned slowly to face her. Rukia felt the penetration of his gaze through the mask pass through her like an electrical shock. She shuddered, glaring even without the momentary comfort of Sode no Shirayuki, she thought to challenge him.
Words came to her lips, the incantation chanted swifty channeled energy to her palms. Seconds before the full blast was released, a blur raced past her. Ichigo had one-upped her, he had transformed into his Shinigami robes, charging forward with Zangetsu released. Her eyes widened as she saw what he planned to do. Breaking off in the midst of her incantation, she shouted out to him, "Ichigo, no! Stop!" But, he never heard her, focused only on protecting the people of his hometown.
The white soldiers tensed but held their ground. Rukia stared wildly from them to the coalescing of dark energy at the wide blade edge shaded black. There was something wrong – she could feel a darker, grittier energy igniting with a powerful swoosh beyond Ichigo's skyrocketing reiatsu.
A flash of red as a narrow beam of light deflected the reiatsu-based attack. Rukia felt the instant shockwave ripple the air as the slicing moon's light washed over Ichigo's astonished face before colliding into his body, sending him skidding back up the boulevard. Rukia lowered the arms she had thrown up over her face, flinging caution to the winds as she ran toward him.
Only to freeze as if encountering a solid wall.
Frozen as if with her own Juhaku. She found the thought horrifying. Only her eyes moved, but oh Kami she could still hear. Orihime shouting Ichigo's name stuttering off into a scream. The soldiers were anything but inefficient. Firing around her, never at her by some silent command of the officer in black.
He wanted her to suffer.
Prolong her torture by suspending her there feet from reaching Ichigo, who never stirred only breathed in shallow breaths.
Save me, she thought fervently, casting aside a warrior's pride.
Through will alone, she twisted her head to the side, watching the cloaked figure's approach.
In a fleeting moment that she remembered for the rest of her life, she had known true fear.
The more than strange red blade made of crackling red energy cast shadow above Ichigo's body. She twisted her head back as the shout burbled past her lips.
"Ah, you've awakened."
The voice was deep, clinical without the slightest trace of emotion. Rukia glimpsed metal, felt restraints, growling deep in her throat. So she had come to...but where were Ichigo and the others? Frustratingly, she couldn't sense them anywhere near, nothing, not the slightest trace of reiatsu from even the Shinigami stationed in the town. The hollow ring of bootsteps drew her eyes upward where once again she was arrested by the magnetism present behind the masked man's gaze. A human, she thought, surprised to feel an energy not so very different from reiatsu hovering around his aura.
It was gritty, stifling, cloaking him entirely in its rampant darkness. Rukia could swear she could almost see it, hovering at the edges of her vision.
"Who are you, girl?
"Who are you?" She countered with a smirk. Her hands might've been bound, her fingers waggled against the restraints, fetters kept her ankles in place. Sode no Shirayuki cautioned patience in her mind.
"First Knight of the Knights of Ren," intoned he almost bored.
"Well...well. Rukia Kuchiki, senior highschooler."
"A Terran...," a murmur as if it confirmed his suspicions.
Rukia suppressed the shudder deep inside her, refusing to show weakness as his hand lifted from his side, encased in a thick leather-like material. She had heard of the word Terran, whispers of other galaxies where intelligent life went on without knowledge of their galaxy. Her Taichou had once lent her a book with a wink to let her know it had been acquired illegally from Urahara. In it were stories of an old Republic, knights called Jedi who were sworn to protect the peace, then the rising of an empire ruled by a former knight who dared call himself Emperor. Rebellion then fitful peace. Distant snatches of text flickered in her mind, strange words – the Force – came back to her. Rukia withdrew from her own thoughts long enough to feel the rush of darkness invade her mind. The First Knight's hand rested inches above her face, seeming to pull her deeper – deeper –
The rush of images continued.
Joking with Ichigo and his friends.
Deeper until a whimper choked in her throat.
He probed into the layer of her psyche where Kaien's memory resided. Rukia felt the tears smart her eyes, stunned into immobility, everything within her cried at the ruthless tearing up of her most treasured memories.
Kaien's face flashed before her mind's eye, then she thrust back with all her pent up rage, slamming up mental walls that she'd used once to bury her emotions deep inside where no one could ever touch them. Swiftly, the intruder pulled back, hand falling to his side. He had not been as forcibly rejected as she'd hoped as she breathed hard. Sweat clung the collar of her yellow summer dress to the back of her neck. She felt the caked blood clinging to her skin and was repulsed by it.
"So much pain...,"
A thought spoken.
"There were others with far more potential than you."
Yes, she thought boldly. There were far more powerful Soul Reapers than she. Ichigo for starters. But, he had used the past tense. She stiffened as realization was slow to come.
"I can sense your relief however strike it from your breast. Nothing remains now of the world you called Earth."
Rukia's eyes widened, she strained against the fetters binding her. "What! You lie!"
"I shall not lie to you...," a pause; the darkness pulsating around his tall form fluctuated – flickering a soft grey at the edges. "Not now, not ever." Producing a small tablet similar to one she had seen Ishida use; he tapped in a few commands drawing a ...holograph, small, blue-tinted that played atop the surface. Rukia watched, fascinated as she'd never seen or imagined anything like it. Her fascination soon turned to stark horror as all the cities of the world, ones she had never visited only in forgotten dreams, turned to ash. The view changed to a malevolently charged beam focused from a distant place in the spatial axis of the galaxy. It pierced through all in its wake, plunging deep into the surface of earth then no more. Nothing but a distant rumbling as the surface of the planet erupted from its core.
She saw the moon dissolve, watched the remaining planets become sucked into the burning heat of the sun as the light of the earth nova'd into a singular brightness flaring once then vanishing into a binary.
The holofeed ended.
Her mind still couldn't wraparound the fact that everything was gone.
"Yes...yet you remain."
Her throat felt dry, sandpaper had scraped her insides with loss.
"What for?" The Gikokgan was gone. Urahara..., she couldn't even think.
"That remains to be seen." And with those last cryptic words, the Knight of Ren turned in a swirl of black cloak., disappearing through the door.
The girl was different.
The eyes he had seen flash dangerously in defiance of their invasion...he had been intrigued. The power she had demonstrated had not been the Force as some of those with lesser intelligence had claimed. It was ...something else. He had seen it in her memories, incantations, words he needed a transgalatic language processor to understand.
She was not also who she claimed.
Death, he mused. In human form.
Survival of the soul had been discarded as trivial yet with living proof before him, this could not be ignored.
She had been left for quite some time.
In that space of time, she had drifted through her memories. Each one seemed more precious than the last. Summer days, petty fights that brought a rueful twist to her lips. Held up by the restraints, she could scarcely sleep, burying the exhaustion emotional or otherwise deep inside.
Thinking rationally, she realized her options were very little. Wherever she was...she could feel the occasional jolt rocketing the floor, thrumming metallic sounds from the walls...she thought it was a spaceship. Flying...through space?! Sensing the approach of a familiar presence, her eyes darted to the door across from her, watching narrowly as the portal revolved back silently to admit the same black cloaked figure.
"What was that?" She asked sharply, feeling the propulsion forward peter out into a smooth glide. Bemused, he observed her reactions. "We've exited Hyperspace, entering the Andromedan system. We'll be landing soon to conduct a brief survey of the planet's surface."
So the invaders were at it again.
"I see," Rukia murmured, deliberately blanking her mind. "Will it be destroyed?"
"If the conditions prove inhospitable to future colonization...yes."
"Why was...," earth. Home.
"That was not my order to make. It was a decision based on the hostility of the other eight planets within your solar system. Life could not be supported even beyond the Kuiper Belt." She looked surprised at his use of the Terran word, then thought he must've plucked it directly from her memories of studying Astronomy.
"You say...earth, but what was the word in your," she struggled to define the military class from which he so obviously belonged. "World?"
He paused the length of a heartbeat probably considering the information superfluous. "Terra."
Yes, it fit.
Terra Familiaris. She had entered Terra Incognita.
Rukia stuck her chin out, swallowing past the constricting sensation in her chest. "What is to be done with me now?" Now that you read my mind, now that you've trawled the dregs of my existence. She had thought she had no more to give, no more other than the blackening rage simmering in her heart.
But, she was wrong.
"The Supreme Leader has shown an interest in you. He has the foresight to recognize you are no ordinary Terran rather something else."
"And if I am?" She dared to sneer.
He seemed to consider her petite form radiating promised violence should she ever get the chance to enact it. Something he glimpsed there was familiar. She could almost feel the formation of a smile behind the mask. "We shall see."
She was taken to a set of rooms unlocked by keypad. The interior was metal walls, a bedroom, dark bedding with a splash of crimson. The door opposite the bedstead, led to something called a 'fresher, other useful compartments opened into narrow shoots for laundry. There were few adornments on the bare walls, a bookcase held books in another language but she was presented with a datapad to help her with the syntax of their language. On the clock at the requisite meal times, an autobot or droid entered carrying a tray of food from another world. A small loaf...something greenish that tasted like steak. She received no rice, no pickled vegetables or anything which she had been accustomed to.
It was strange at that, that she could find it in herself to consume enough to keep herself from wholesale starvation.
To while away the hours, she began half-hearted translation on works detailing the history of the empire. The Fall of the Jedi was of particular interest to her in that their coda reminded her vaguely of Seireitei's oath. She read until her eyes blurred, until the words jumbled together in her mind. Then for want of sound in her isolation, began practicing the common tongue. Conversations. The difficulties in getting her Japanese tongue to pronounce rrrs without rolling them into Ls. She could recite timelines of history. Memorized tracts of poetry from the days of the old Republic kept stored in the empire's meticulous records.
Occasionally, she felt the jump to hyperspeed, sensed the ship traversing the great emptiness beyond the confining walls. But it wasn't empty. Space as they knew it was full of hyperlines, worlds, entire systems with habitable planets.
Hours became days, days became years.
On the outside, Rukia aged none in the artificial body. Her knowledge of history had grown along with a vague understanding of the Force, that omnipresent energy that they believed existed in every little thing. It was not so unlike reishii, usable for attacks by users from the Dark side. Silently, she bided her time, learning precious patience for the day when he would come for her.
He would – she knew – because she was different. She could be an asset when they came upon a system whose might hadn't been contested before. There would always be war; peace was eternally fleeting. Rukia didn't pretend to understand the Force or if she could even wield it. She could sense it however, and...see it.
She waited – waiting –
The path was a long one through the deeper bowels of the ship. Two troopers stood guard, saluting abruptly upon his approach. "The prisoner?"
"Is well. Would you like to view a report of her recent vitals?"
"No, that won't be necessary."
So she had not rotted away.
He came upon her meditating, locked in the trance-like state reminiscent of the long dead Jedi order. "You...,"
"Come with me." it was no request. It was an order. She climbed to her feet elegantly, the folds of her loose robe fell in pleats down to the black leggings encasing her slim legs. Her hair had grown longer, falling midway down her back. The same stubborn bang hung between her eyes. If Rukia had access to a mirror. She would've seen Hisana in her face. The impetuosity of youth wasn't gone, buried still far deeper beneath the facade of a warrior.
The Knight of Ren led her past the troopers who said nothing, dropping their hasty salutes the moment the dark Knight's back was turned. They walked on for some time, meeting little but a few officers who saluted in respect.
Then as if motion had loosened his tongue, he began speaking in quiet, reserved tones.
"Five years since the destruction of the Milky Way system, pockets of resistance begun appearing in the Mephus System. Our refueling station in the Andromedan system was one of their targets."
Rukia said nothing, struggling with her shorter stride to keep up.
"The base was held but the damage toll was great. In the reports it was said that figures wielding magical swords and manipulating energy much the same as yourself were among the rebel fighters."
Rukia's heart skipped a beat. Could it be...they were looking for her? Seireitei in its other dimension would be protected from the raids on other worlds. "Why tell me this?" Had Byakuya sought her out? After his vow to keep her safe had been broken numerous times?
"It was not my choice. The order was from the Supreme Leader himself. Consider yourself spared a worse fate of retaliation."
"I still don't see what this...," she started to huff.
"I have been Master for sometime now without apprentice. Given the changing tide within the galaxy, you would appear a logical choice."
"Users of the Force are few," she murmured, slowly understanding the way his mind worked.
"None," he said quite calmly. "Have ever broken free of my hold."
Painful memories flashed through her mind's eye. The hole punched through Ichigo's chest with little blood, the heat of the searing blade cauterizing the wound even as it severed the boy's ties to the world. She let herself feel curiosity for the blade, knew he felt it as well.
"You would have a room in place of a cell."
She recognized a challenge when one was presented. "That cell was awfully boring."
Basic sword forms were something she knew. She demonstrated them as guilelessly as an open book. The Knight observed them all without comment. The set of forms he adhered to, she glimpsed much later in a display of raw power.
Whirling. Slashing. Much like a solitary dance all its own. Rukia practiced them in her room with a long curved piece of wood. There were other weapons whose forms were modeled in less dangerous environs. Staffs, polearms, spears, broadswords and the bokken with which she practiced with.
Though, she was tried out on different weaponry, she always returned to the sword. The Knight noticed, but with many things, kept his own counsel. The sword was similar in respects to his primary weapon, the lightsaber which she learned about its origins in a specific book on their history during the old Republic.
They were often alone in the massive training hall located to the east of her quarters. Sometimes she thought it was to prevent her from utilizing the vast amounts of kido she'd carefully stored in case an opportunity presented itself. Proficient as she was in the energy form, Rukia was well-aware of the foolhardiness of such an action.
Even if she could steal away to the hangar deck how could she pilot a spacecraft to another planet? Earth, the living world...no longer existed.
Intently, she studied a holographic star chart in the shape of a spherical galaxy within the Common room adjacent to the training hall. Touchable points expanded nearby stars the Finalizer passed near. Entire galaxies became rushing dots on a map, undulating as she ran her fingertips over the shimmering surface.
There's nowhere to go...,
Soul Society would've considered her lost in the destruction of the planet for surely they would've realized something on a catastrophic level had happened once the massive influx of souls arrived on their doorstep.
So much death, she thought, reading up on the destruction years back of the Hosnian System, stronghold of the new Republic that had sprung up from the ashes of the empire. Even as a representative of death, her sorrow knew no bounds. The First Order were conquerors, more than that, they were monstrous in their ideals. None were left to oppose them after the bombing of D'qar, headquarters of the Resistance.
It was there in those files within her datapad that she found a curious thing.
Among the listed casulties (they were efficient if not thorough in cataloguing their enemies) a young woman's face peered out through the years. Skin dusky from years of sunlight, freckles smattered her cheek, steady brown eyes and wispy brown hair curled around her face, escaping from her peculiar hairstyle of three buns.
The interior energies surrounding the occupants of the ship fluctuated.
She sensed the disturbance growing, looking up with startled eyes. But, she was alone...no...the pulse was still there, fluttering like a living thing. Calling to her...,
Rukia unfolded her legs, slipping from the chair. Leaving the datapad behind, she crossed the room to the door that opened at her touch. The hallway was empty, no sign of the troopers that occasionally passed through in groups of two or three. Rukia followed the lure of the pulse, feeling not quite like herself and yet almost the same, the trance she fell into when her mind and thoughts were mirrored by her released Zanpaku-to.
Down a corridor, into another.
Her step wavered from side to side.
Before a set of sealed doors, she came to a stop.
These proved as unresistant to her touch as her own door.
They revolved back to reveal an inner darkness unlit by anything except rushlights illuminating a pedestal. Rukia's eyes snapped to the first object, a reptilian-like mask, twisted and scarred, a ruinous hunk of metal. Familiar somehow..., then to the other beside it. A long shaft of warped metal silver in color. Innately, she recognized it for what it was even as her senses awakened, screaming at her to leave.
Heedless, Rukia extended her hand toward it, wrapping her fingers around the hilt, finding purchase in the hand guard. She lifted it up, hearing the rustle of cloth, the slight shift of weight as she spun bringing the weapon up. But there was no responding hum, no crackle of contained energy emitted from the saber. Instead, the red glow of a blade with a fiery crossguard swung and sparked against her wrist. Rukia leapt aside, the blade grazing her skin left a burning trail. The hilt bounced away harmlessly.
Wordlessly they stared upon one another.
"Rey's...," she didn't know why she said it.
The masked figure before her flinched.
The gesture so small she could almost believe she hadn't seen it if not felt in the murderous aura surrounded him. She started forward heedless of the danger. "It was hers, wasn't it?!" Something deep inside her whispered it was important. Something had called to her from the young woman's face, a connection had resounded within the Force. The lightsaber had been damaged, she could only imagine during the battle that had cost the young woman her life.
"You...," he stalked toward her, powering the saber off. Rukia held her ground, glaring at him, daring him with her eyes to strike her down.
His hand shot out, twisting. Her eyes widened as the Force surrounded her, lifting her bodily up. Rukia's feet left the ground, in midair she struggled as something unseen wrapped around her throat, strangling her. The Knight continued his advance, tightening his grip. Rukia gasped, her airwaves closing up. Helpless tears leaked from her eyes as her thoughts slowed to a crawl. Seconds passed. The darkness filling her sight gave way to a figure – a woman –
"She cannot be brought to the dark side."
A hideous man, ancient, scarred, presence looming over the kneeling figure of a cloaked man.
Red and blue sabers crossed.
The young woman's face was a snarl of fury. She fought like a tigress, fierce, unrelenting. Then, the moment of misstep and the slice of a blade across her body. The Knight bereft of his helmet slashed again, disconnecting the saber from her hand. The blue blade danced in the air, its light fading as the woman fell to the ground no longer supported by indomitable will.
A new feeling cut the contention swirling in the air.
The Knight stood over the ruined form of the woman, head bowed to the fallen opponent.
The image faded.
The pressure on her throat eased.
"You...," Rukia's voice rasped on the simple words. "...killed her...," but you're still trying to sever the pain inside. His hand opened up; she dropped to the floor like a stone. "Get out." He hissed starting for her once again. Rukia lifted one hand to her throat, her watery eyes taking in his tall form approaching and with something like fear, she scrambled to her feet, taking flight through the open door.
Behind her, she heard the hum of a lightsaber igniting along with the enraged scream of a wounded animal.
Alone once more, Rukia had time to process the images she had seen. They had been in his mind she was sure as he Force-choked her. Even though years had passed, she'd been able to sense the underlying emotion, the rawness of the wound that the woman's death had caused in his soul.
She applied healing kido to her throat, massaging feeling into the sore muscles.
Only time would tell when she could use her newfound knowledge to gain an edge.
"See what you can make of it."
She sat in the Common room resting after a training bout with spherical shooters.
The colorless crystal rested in his gloved palm.
She looked from it to his masked face far above her.
"It's dead." It has no...power.
She took it, feeling the rough planes of its surface. When she looked up again, the Knight had disappeared.
Rukia turned the stone over in her hands, the more she did, the more the image of ice came to mind. Clear, beautiful, fragile. Winter. Snow. Sleeves of white snow dancing and then the longing for the weapon she hadn't held in so long.
She never knew how long it had taken. Memories were sparse in her mind nor did she know where the components came from. A hilt, reflectors, cross-guard styled after a katana, the crystal in its center contained, charged by an otherworldly power. For the first time in years, she felt Sode no Shirayuki's palpable presence unite with her when she looked down upon the weapon she had created.
It shouldn't be – not in an artificial body – The thrum of pride sang through her blood as she raised the lightsaber, igniting it with a clean, pure whoosh.
The blade lit with a glow not unlike frost in starlight. Bathed in its white light, Rukia allowed a rare grin to cross her face. She didn't even mind the presence lingering at a distance, watching, absorbing the sight of the weapon created from the remnants of her lightsaber.
Reminiscent of the freshly driven snow from the ice world of Starkiller Base.
Backed by the strength of the woman who hadn't shattered from years of captivity.
He found himself intrigued
She smiled down at her handiwork, flushed with pride.
Then, stepped into the traditional footwork for Form I.
She should hate him for everything.
The galaxy in ruins.
Stale air from the filtration unit; she thinks she's forgotten what it's like to feel the sunlight on her face, the wind tousle her hair.
He sparred with her so she wouldn't fall out of practice.
Both warriors in their own right, he accepted her bow before the elegant motions of Makashi.
Somehow it's easier to forget a little bit of her hatred when the ship docked in a world she didn't remember the name of. A verdant world thick with foliage, fields of color. The ship had left off troopers on other worlds for shore leave; the lessening of guards meant she was allowed to venture from the ship for a few hours. Rukia cherished such moments, feeling the breeze, watching the sunset over an alien world. It was as near to earth as her memories dictated.
Disappointment flavored his thoughts. The woman couldn't control the Force. She could feel its presence, see it even as he flung divots of energy at her, deflecting them with some studied ease much the same he would if fired at with a blaster rifle. But she was not a Force user. The realization stung him something fierce yet as time passed, he watched her strength grow in lightsaber form. There was little doubt in his mind that she would someday surpass his own skill.
On the floor, she was a sight to behold. Petite, icy with a deadly calmness that masked a simmering beast behind dispassionate violet eyes - he could scarcely contain his eagerness for the next time they sparred.
His blade sung with sorrow, sometimes with the darker tint of smothered rage. She had become proficient enough in the seven Forms as to pose a challenge for the Knight. Preferring the svelte elegance of Form II, Rukia danced where others had fumbled, simply evading the Knight's wild swings.
It had been no holds bar test of strengths; one that she was determined to win. For she had a question to ask that was her right.
The woman smiled when she disarmed him for the first time. Reviewing his memories of the fight during a later period, he couldn't see where he had gone wrong other than his distraction upon admiring her footwork. A combination of defense paired with offensive lunges, she had been perfectly light on her feet; a dancer so unlike the unbridled fury of Rey at her height of prowess.
She had powered off her saber, clipping it to her belt. She wouldn't look at him at first, her glance straying to the weapon between them.
"What is your name?"
Such a simple question. He'd had many names. But, the one that defined him continuously had become as feared throughout the galaxy as his late grandfather's. "Kylo Ren."
"Ren," she says trying the name out, somehow she still smiled.
The only person ever to smile upon hearing his name.
"Who was she?" Rukia asked when the Finalizer docked to receive tribute from a subdued planet. They stood in the control tower overlooking the center hangar. TIE fighters gleamed black chrome below. Officers of the First Order manned the consoles, keeping everything running without a hitch. "Questions such as those aren't meant to be answered." He said perfunctorily as if the matter was cleared.
In the depths of her robe, Rukia slipped her hand down, lightly touching the saber hilt strapped to her belt. This wasn't the place, she thought, receiving a nod of acknowledgement from Hux, the redhaired General had been present from afar though spoke none to the First Knight.
"Who was she?"
"None of your concern."
She ignited the lightsaber in the space of a heartbeat, the white glow dispelled the shadows pooling beneath her. "Think you, fool, that I'll ever stop asking?" Her hardened gaze took in the measure of his form. The pain you feel, it'll never stop. Ichigo had been much the same, stubborn, powerful, refusing to let her in. Rukia had hated him for his stubbornness but knew much of it came from his own suffering.
Ren gazed at her then drew his own lightsaber. They clashed against one another in a hail of white and red sparks. Through the latent energy coursing around them, Rukia let flow her own feelings, her lack of judgment, hoping he'd sense it.
Together in their intertwined dance, she and Sode no Shirayuki, though the latter remained an invisible but soothing presence of winter, were unstoppable. Rukia shone as a Goddess, polished, deadly with her constant switch of Forms, gliding in and out of one to the other until he, former apprentice of the Supreme Leader, was driven down to defense.
Ren breathed hard, dripping blood from a myriad of cuts on his arms and legs. The last blow had sheared his mask in half, the force of it tearing the lightsaber from his hands.
Like a merciless Goddess of old, Rukia stood over him, her blade poised to the edge of his throat. The man before her knelt, dark curls spilled nearly to his shoulders framing a long oval face with eyes of burning intensity. An old scar traced itself across his face where he had been burned with the same crystal that sung for his blood even now.
"Why did you kill her?" Rukia asked with a bite of steel to her voice.
"Orders." The word was simple, silky in undertone stained with the undercurrent of jealousy, feelings of inadequacy. Once he had failed Supreme Leader Snoke, twice he had believed Rey would succeed him as apprentice and more than that, he...,
There were many things he could say and none of them came close to the whole truth.
She was a scavenger, Padawan to the last Jedi Master, Force-Sensitive, all too human. The only other thing he'd kept from her aside from the broken lightsaber had been her braid cut from her head seconds after death.
"No, Rukia." He declaimed after the words had long ceased flowing. "I am not what you believe I am."
Then, the woman who was a Shinigami in the guise of a human powered down her lightsaber, returning it to her belt. "Neither am I." In her great capacity to forgive, she had seen the necessity of action, the cruel heartlessness of war. Whether human or alien from another world, she...,
- extended his lightsaber to him.
"I felt your feelings once," Rukia murmured, almost hesitant as his larger fingers closed over hers. He pulled himself up, keeping a hold of their tenuous connection. She blinked as the words came with difficulty, feeling her heart thump heavily in her chest. "It went beyond orders. You sought your death at her hands as atonement."
But it was true. Rukia felt the Force, that mysterious energy surrounding them, pulse gently in response. It was not hers to control but her own senses long attuned to otherworldly energies, recognized its implicit power.
...you didn't want to take her life rather save her from a worse fate.
But, she...had she...foreseen the slow destruction of his soul with her demise? The thought was a startling one that Rukia felt oddly resonant with everything she had learned so far.
Then as if the moment had never happened, their hands slipped apart. But, the memory of the light pressure of his fingertips covering hers lingered long in her mind.
If there had been rumors, she would've known how to deal with them. In the past, bloody noses, black eyes, people sent flying, but there were none. Only silence. Only the calm before a storm. Ren was absent as of late, marshalling forces, enforcing the relative peace beneath the Supreme Leader's ironhand as skirmishes erupted across formerly subservient planets.
It was guerilla warfare as she best understood it, reading a report sent out on the data stream. She would never have admitted it to a single soul nor even to her long dead nakama, but he existed in her mind, presence filling her silence, unspeakable dread, unshakeable devotion to a cause and still the passion she had sensed behind his lightsaber smoldered through her defenses.
She wondered when she'd be called – if ever, what she'd do – how she'd feel when it came to cutting down innocent men and women. More than ever, she despised her own confusion, intent on working it out through training and battle meditation. Once through increasingly hostile airspace between planetary systems, TIE fighters had been sent out to engage the enemy.
Many believed it was the return of the Resistance though the leaders deaths had been confirmed through various channels. Rukia kept her own counsel, uncertain of where she stood other than as a glorified prisoner aboard ship.
Then, the Finalizer received a distress call from Ocellus, a world located on the outer rim long held as a base after the destruction of Starkiller. Alerts rang throughout the intercom system, warning of impending battle. She was on her way from training when troopers rushed past her, their talk as mixture of excited babble from the common tongue and words interspersed with Turasin.
Dazed and excited at the same time at the thought of battle, she ventured near the control room. The sharp voice of the General reached her ears as he barked out commands; she understood his haste moments later when a massive jolt struck the underside of the ship. The floors rocked, the ceiling pitched and she fell forward onto her knees.
Once the lights flickered off then on again in the blink of an eye.
Somewhere close, men shouted out damage reports that made little sense to her.
Above the chaos, the General demanded they escape to hyperspace.
Still on her knees, Rukia braced herself for the inevitable jolt, the rushing forward of the craft jumping light years to another galaxy system. She had never gotten used to the feeling, despising the sickening lurch in her stomach.
When they emerged above Ocellus, they entered a war zone. Small spacecraft evaded seeker fire from below, while larger X-wings flew in formation unleashing a hailstorm of bombs upon the base located in a cavernous gorge.
Hux called for air support, ordering a volley of return fire. Rukia had heard enough, running as fast as her legs could carry her, she ran for the hangar where several TIE fighters were already departing. Among them, she had glimpsed a smaller pod meant for surface landings when stealth was needed. Sneaking aboard it, she flung caution to the winds, punching the auto pilot feature as she went back outside the pod slashing at the chain restraints tying it down to the hangar floor. Then, back on with a slam to the touchpad beside the ramp. The entire craft wobbled dangerously, lifting up in unison with a crackling response from the control tower.
"Return, I repeat, return at once and cease flying operations! You are not cleared for flight –"
Don't I know it?
Rukia ran back to the console, throwing herself into the pilot's seat. Wide-eyed she took in the sight of the multi-flashing lights, the thrum of the engine as it lifted off, jetting out to catch the tail end of the last TIE fighter entering space. Rukia shot out of the launch bay, her view of space a dizzying array of laser fire and the high pitched whine of engines performing evasive maneuvers.
Why am I doing this..., she gritted her teeth as each jolt jarred her spine. The view changing as she began an arcing path down to the world's surface. Ocellus from above had appeared as a brown sphere, desert-like in color. At the last second before descent, she shut her eyes tightly as gravity plunged her down to the surface far below.
Seconds only had passed before she leveled out, propulsion thrusters buoying her up to land unevenly upon a rocky plateau. "Landing system disengaged," the pod's AI informed. Rukia took a deep breath, shuddering with nausea. Somehow, she managed to unbuckle herself before slamming the pod bay's door open.
She ran from the ship unheeded by troopers, unnoticed by anyone fighting in the surrounding hills. The terrain was barren rock dotted with a few sparse trees. Deep in the canyon gorge ahead she sensed the call of the Force, felt in from the very center of her being urging her on. Ren was there. It was the same as when the broken lightsaber had called to her with Rey's name. It sang through her blood, the fight still dormant within her. Rukia found the path down, carelessly ignoring the sheer cliff side as she began her descent to the massive archway opening into a flight deck built into the side of the mountain.
Farther in and the pull became stronger, she was nearly there -
The scent of cherry blossoms cut through her senses like a knife.
No, she thought. Anything but this, and she didn't know who she pleaded with. The Kami who never existed for her prayers or the Force that had drawn her to witness the end.
Byakuya stood at the end of the corridor, white haori pinned over his breast with a mark of sorrow denoting his loss. Her eyes darted from his half-forgotten face to the coldness radiating from his aura.
Ren stepped between them, one gloved hand guarding. So he knew. From her surface thoughts he knew of their kinship. Rukia scowled behind her face mask, angry at herself for revealing her hand all too soon.
"Step aside," Byakuya intoned quietly. "My fight isn't with you."
"Yet, invader, it concerns me. You seek to address a Knight of my order," Ren's voice cane through the modulator thickened. "When they answer to me alone."
She watched breathless as Byakuya drew his katana, a sword modeled after Senbonzakura strengthened for use in a Gigai by a synthetic crystal embedded in the haft.
An expert swordsman in the ancient ways, Byakuya was a formidable opponent in his own right; but Ren was in a class his own.
They couldn't be allowed to cross blades.
She couldn't watch another person she loved be cut down by a monster like Kylo Ren.
The lightsaber would cleave through a lesser weapon like water.
Unthinkingly, she charged forward, speed at her favor. Reaching up one-handed, she tossed aside the silver marked mask, sending it skittering off the edge into the abyss. The white saber clove through the darkness, crackling in her two handed grip as she landed gracelessly, thrusting it forward through the Knight's back, piercing his heart. For seconds she breathed noisily through her mouth, sweat dripped from her face, her arms shook from holding the weapon at such an angle.
Fleeting thoughts passed between them.
So many lost.
Tears dripped down her face.
"Let it end," he whispered, twisting, wrenching his muscles, rending asunder flesh on her blade swinging mightily across. The red glow of his lightsaber flared briefly over her face, searing her eyelids with its violent crimson hue. Sparks flew from the collision as the stronger saber cut through the weaker white blade. Rukia shuddered, the scream of her sword spirit echoing in her mindscape. Deep within the cylindrical hilts, the kyber crystals shattered.
Red and white coalescing as they fell into each other's arms.
Somewhere in the chaos, Byakuya shouted her name. Rukia thought of so many things. She thought of a hot summer's day when fate had taken a hold of her life once more. Ichigo's grin. Orihime laughing with Tatsuki. Uryu's sewing needles flashing in and out of Kon's side. Then, she thought of herself, dying all over again and the boy the Knight had once been, who was not a Sith nor a Jedi, but something else in between.
The light consumed them until nothing was left.
Byakuya escaped from the epicenter with precious few minutes left. His comlink buzzed with a dozen voices shouting for retreat. As one, the remaining X-wings resumed formation, rising as one from the atmosphere. The silver disk of the Millennium Falcon waited beyond the break of alien trees; unaccustomed to expressing rampant emotion, Byakuya collapsed inside, feeling the tremor of the ship preparing for hyperspeed. The disconsolate wail of the hirsute creature piloting from the cockpit, reached his ears distantly.
Yes, he mused, the one he had come to save had been lost. But even as the Resistance's victory became complete with the implosion of Ocellus, he remembered Rukia's face as she lied in the arms of her enemy.
He had never seen her so at peace...
Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach or Star Wars.
AN: I'm not sure if I'm happy with this one, but anyway, thanks for reading. No flames. Reviews are love.