Hey friends and fans, Kairomaru is bringing you another Force of Souls Chapter! In Soul Society, Rukia gets a visit from an old friend and her family. Meanwhile, in Karakura, the training continues as Tatsuki learns to use Mōsho's power. Orihime needs to connect with her Zanpakutō sooner, rather than later if she wants to have any chance in the Soul Society.
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Chapter 22 – Friend and Family, Princess of Rejection
We reach out with our hands
Brush away the clouds and pierce the sky
To grab the moon and Mars
But we still can't reach the truth
In Squad Thirteen's compound, deep within the complex and behind many locked doors, existed a detention block. It was rarely used at all, but for the first time in many, many years, there was a person sitting on a lone chair within one of the large cells. Clad in a pure white yukata, Rukia could only look at the wall in front of her, or occasionally stare up at the single window in the room.
"You should eat, Rukia." A man's voice spoke up from the door to the detention block. He had red hair, tattoos above his eyebrows and down either side of his neck, and wore the standard Shinigami Shihakushō. Around his left arm was a bronze badge that denoted him as a Lieutenant of the Sixth Squad. "You'll starve before your execution."
"Was that an attempt at humor, Renji?" Rukia looked over her shoulder at her old friend. It had been a bit of a surprise to find out that she'd be executed, but she was doing her best to make peace with it. 'As long as Ichigo, Orihime, and Tatsuki are safe….then I'm fine with this.'
"No, you idiot." Renji sighed heavily at her. "I never thought something like this would happen." They'd known each other since they were children in the Rukongai. When they'd developed enough Reiryoku to be noticed by the Shinigami and were offered to be enrolled into the Shinōreijutsuin, both had jumped on the chance.
It was less than a full year into their schooling that Rukia had been collected by the Noble Kuchiki Clan. Apparently, the wife of the Clan Head was actually Rukia's older sister, Hisana, who had been forced to abandon Rukia as an infant. The older sister had never forgiven herself for it and had begged her husband to take Rukia in when she'd heard that Rukia had joined the Academy. From what little Rukia had told him after the fact, the reunion had been full of tears and apologies from her older sister. After a time though, things had settled between them comfortably and a happy family life had formed.
From that meeting, and their long years of friendship, Renji was also taken in by the Kuchiki Clan. He was raised by one of the smaller vassal houses to the Great Noble House, and had support and a stable life where he could occasionally spar, practice, chat, and just hang out with Rukia. The two had gone from friends to feeling like family, and both had graduated to become Shinigami without issue.
Now…so many years later…and they were in this situation.
"I see that your promotion to Lieutenant is official now." Rukia gave him a small smile as she looked at the badge on his arm.
"Yeah…" Renji would normally be jokingly rubbing his new position in her face, but with what was going on now, even his accomplishment left a bitter taste in his mouth. "I had hoped that Captain Kuchiki would've spoken up against your punishment."
"He will not." Rukia looked back at the wall. "We must uphold the law. If we don't, then why would anyone else follow it?" She repeated the words that he had spoken to her before. It was part of an oath that he'd sworn shortly after her sister had died. There was no chance that he'd tarnish Hisana's memory or the pride of the Kuchiki Clan by using his authority for his own selfishness.
"Renji, leave." Another man spoke up as he entered the detention block. He had slate gray eyes and long black hair, which he kept up in intricate white headpieces called kenseikan which symbolized his nobility as the head of the Kuchiki Clan, wearing three on top of his head and another two on the right side. In addition to the standard Shinigami Shihakushō, he wore the white haori of a Captain over it, along with a white scarf of immeasurable quality. This was Kuchiki Byakuya, the Twenty-Eighth Head of the Great Noble Kuchiki Clan of Soul Society.
"Yes, Captain Kuchiki." Renji bowed and left the room without looking back, and not looking at his Captain's face either. He closed the door behind him, knowing that Byakuya would want privacy for whatever he was about to say to Rukia.
"Brother." Rukia stood from her chair and turned to face Byakuya before giving him a respectful bow.
"Rukia." Byakuya's flat tone was the same he used with everyone outside of his immediate family. "Why did you break the law?"
"To save souls." Rukia replied simply, not looking away from his eyes.
"Do you believe that the ends justify the means?" Byakuya questioned her, his tone still steady and unbothered.
"I believe that what I did was right." Rukia stated with complete surety.
"I see." Byakuya still didn't show a hint of emotion on his face.
"Brother…" Rukia's tone changed, now that the formal questions seemed to be done. "How is Kōten?" She asked, hopeful that her nephew was happy and not being burdened with the knowledge of her impending execution.
Kuchiki Kōten was the only child of Byakuya and Hisana. Named after the sunset sky that he'd been born under, he was the pride and joy of the Kuchiki Clan. He was kind to his family, while maintaining the air of a proper noble when necessary. Like his parents, he had long black hair, and he possessed an interesting mix of his parents' eye colors, being a gray-purple color.
Kōten only had a little knowledge of Hisana, his mother having passed away from sickness when he was still an infant. But he'd seen her pictures in Byakuya's care, and been told stories about her from his father as well. The heir to the Kuchiki Clan, much like his father, possessed an incredible amount of Reiryoku even at his young age. There was innate power and talent within young Kōten and the Clan couldn't wait to see just how he'd grow in the future.
"He is well." Byakuya's voice softened noticeably as some warmth filled it. "I'm having this information kept from him, for his own sake."
"I'm glad." Rukia smiled softly, just happy that her young nephew wouldn't have to know about her execution. He was a kind boy and the news would hurt him more than Rukia could imagine. "I hope his training has been progressing."
"It has; he possesses quite a bit of talent and a strong work ethic. His lessons are going well and he'll be granted an Asauchi within the coming year." Byakuya had a small smile on his face as he spoke of his son. "This is the last time we will be able to speak, Rukia." His tone saddened as he looked at her, so very similar to his late wife.
"I know, brother." Rukia sighed softly. "I still believe that I did the right thing. I don't regret my choice nor my actions. If execution is the price for that, so be it." Her violet eyes were firm and unwavering.
"Very well," Byakuya nodded to her before he turned away and walked towards the door. "The next time we see each other will be at your execution."
"Yes." Rukia gave Byakuya another bow and only straightened up to her full height again after the door closed behind her brother-in-law. "I will never regret my choices." She moved back towards the lone chair in her cell and sat down again. "I wonder how you would've handled all of this, Lieutenant Kaien?" She looked up at the sole window and to what little of the sky she could see.
"Begin." Yoruichi instructed Tatsuki, the black cat watching the girl closely.
"Right." Tatsuki unsheathed her Zanpakutō and held the wakizashi in front of her. "Ignite, Mōsho!" The blade erupted in swirling flames that surrounded Tatsuki for a moment. When they dispersed it revealed the form of Tatsuki's Shikai. On her shins were suneate in black with orange-yellow colors, mimicking flames and smoke. On her arms were han kote in matching colors, covering her fists and forearms.
"A gauntlet and greaves type with a fire element." Yoruichi remarked while Ichigo and Orihime were already praising Tatsuki now that the fire was gone.
"An interesting combination." Urahara agreed with a grin. "Both the Melee and Elemental subtypes in one." The shopkeeper had seen plenty of Zanpakutō in his time, but this one was certainly different; it didn't have a blade of any kind now. For the type to completely change and lose even the blade was somewhat rare when it came to Zanpakutō.
"Hurry up with your little friends, we're burning daylight!" Kensei barked at Chad, the gentle giant having gone to congratulate Tatsuki on her new achievement along with Ichigo and Orihime.
"I suppose we should get back to training." Tessai nodded, motioning for Orihime to come with him. The orangette happily kissed Tatsuki's cheek before rushing after her Kidō teacher.
"Break time is over, Kurosaki-kun, time for more sparring!" Urahara waved the teen over with his paper fan, a bright grin on his face.
"Ugh…" Ichigo grimaced, really wanting to knock that stupid look off of Urahara's face. He also kissed Tatsuki's cheek before heading off after the shopkeeper.
"Now it's just us." Yoruichi remarked with the cat equivalent of a grin. "Show me how much you know about using your new Shikai."
"Right!" Tatsuki blurred forward and her fist impacted the large rock that Yoruichi had been sitting on a fraction of a second ago. The stone exploded into a blast of flames, scorching it black almost instantly.
"I see, you blast fire onto anything your Zanpakutō comes into contact with." Yoruichi analyzed from a few meters to Tatsuki's left.
"Hup!" Tatsuki used Shunpo to close the distance and then brought her leg around for a devastating axe kick. Yoruichi was long gone before Tatsuki's heel smashed the ground. The following explosion made the black cat happy that it didn't just sidestep.
"Range varies based on how you use it. Interesting." Yoruichi vanished and reappeared on Tatsuki's shoulder. "But your defense doesn't seem to increase at all."
"Says you!" Tatsuki smirked and her entire body went up in a towering inferno that burned the area around her black in a several meter diameter.
"Oh? My fur almost got burned." Yoruichi mentioned, looking over the jet-black fur carefully.
"You think you're funny, huh?!" Tatsuki blitzed forward in a trail of fire, her Shunpo bolstered by the flames blasting off of her feet. "Kyah!" Her fist pulverized the boulder that Yoruichi had stood on, the gravel it was reduced to scorched black in seconds as it flew away from the point of impact.
"Oh! You were much faster that time!" Yoruichi praised Tatsuki with a smile, or the cat equivalent at any rate.
"Damn it." Tatsuki looked over at Yoruichi's new location. "I swear I'm going to get you today!"
"You'll have to try much harder then." Yoruichi's claws raked across Tatsuki's left cheek before the Martial Artist realized that the black cat had moved.
"Ow! Damn it!" Tatsuki once more erupted into a blaze of flames defensively, but Yoruichi was already long gone. "Fuck, those scratches sting." She grumbled from within her flames. "It's a good thing Orihime is learning those Healing Kidō now."
-Jinzen Practice ~ That Night-
The three young Shinigami all sat with their Zanpakutō across their laps. In front of them was Urahara, his cane sword unsheathed and lying across his own lap as well.
Ichigo was speaking with Shingetsu, eager to understand more about his power and how it could be applied to knock Urahara for a loop. Shingetsu only chuckled and spoke to Ichigo about the nature of their power. Gravity was a fundamental force and the more Ichigo understood it, the better he'd be able to make use of their power in battle.
Tatsuki was within the dojo of her Jinzen World, speaking to Mōsho while they sparred. The Zanpakutō spirit more than happy to point out all of the flaws in Tatsuki's use of their power during her sparring with Yoruichi. The fact that each lesson was punctuated by Tatsuki getting thrown, taken down, kicked, or slapped upside the head was less than appreciated though.
It was Orihime, however, that was making her biggest progress this evening.
-Orihime's Jinzen World-
"Hello?" Orihime called out as she walked through a field of flowers. If she knew more about plants, she'd recognize that most of them were from various species of the hibiscus plant. "Where are you?" The airhead was in full force as she walked around, calling out as if she was looking for a friend among the flowers.
"Heh heh heh. You're always so silly." A woman giggled, nearly glomping Orihime from behind.
"There you are!" Orihime smiled brightly as she hugged her Zanpakutō spirit warmly.
"Of course, where else would I be?" The spirit tilted her head cutely.
Orihime's Zanpakutō spirit was a young woman, maybe mid-twenties, with long, flowing pink hair, bright green eyes, and a bubbly personality to match the orangette's. She was dressed in an odd customized version of a yukata, with the long and baggy sleeves, but it was short, only going down to her upper thighs. Her legs were covered in hakama-like pants, and the whole outfit was white with various colorful flowers all over it.
"You're so cute!" Orihime hugged the woman with a cheer, even though the Zanpakutō spirit clearly looked older than her.
"Right?!" The spirit laughed brightly. "Hey, hey, can you hear my name yet? It's - - -!"
"Mou…" Orihime pouted cutely. "I still couldn't hear it." She still only heard a static-like sound when her Zanpakutō tried to give her name.
"Orihime…" The spirit pouted at the orangette. "You have to listen better!"
"I'm trying, I promise!" Orihime looked at the other girl while waving her hands in front of her.
"You have to listen if you want to hear!" The spirit said for what had to be the hundredth time by now. "Don't you understand me?"
"But I am listening…" Orihime sighed at the lack of progress as she sat down in the flower field. "I don't know why I can't hear you."
"Are you sure you don't know why?" The woman sat down across from Orihime amongst the flowers. She touched one of them gently, only for it to turn into a cute fairy that flew away before disappearing back into the flowers. "I'm trying to be honest with you, you know?"
Orihime could only look at the beautiful flowers around her as she tried to understand why she couldn't hear her Zanpakutō's name. They got along great, and Orihime thought they'd made great progress since the first time they'd ever met. They took walks around the flower field, chatted about anything and everything, and sometimes just played around. She just didn't know why she couldn't hear the spirit's name.
"Hey…" The Zanpakutō leaned in to look at Orihime's face. "Are you ignoring me? I'll stop being nice to you if you ignore me!"
"I'm not ignoring you! I promise!" Orihime shook her head back and forth so rapidly her long, orange hair flew about wildly.
"Hahahahaha! You're so silly Orihime!" The woman laughed beautifully. "Hah~" She got her laughter under control. "But you still don't get it. You can't hear me if you're not honest with me."
"B-But…I am?" Orihime looked blankly at her Zanpakutō.
"Are you?" The pinkette tilted her head. "The thing is, you can't hear me because you're rejecting me."
"Rejecting you?" Orihime looked perplexed. "But I love you to pieces."
"But I am you," The spirit looked at Orihime with a sad smile. "Don't you understand?"
Orihime blinked, looking at the spirit in confusion for a long moment. She hated seeing the sadness on her Zanpakutō's face and in those green eyes. "I was told that you are another part of me…but I don't understand which part."
"Think about what Ichigo and Tatsuki told you about their Zanpakutō, and how they were finally able to hear the names of their swords." The pink-haired spirit requested, hoping that the intelligent mind that Orihime possessed despite her airheaded nature would finally open this block between them.
"Okay, I'll try." Orihime nodded to the spirit before she focused on what she'd learned from Tatsuki and Ichigo's experiences.
Tatsuki had admitted that she felt guilty about not being able to help Ichigo when he'd lost his mother as a child. That she'd locked that shame and guilt away and ignored it, creating her tough personality that could handle anything to try and make up for what she perceived as her greatest failure in life, so far. Tatsuki had never asked for help, nor accepted help, for anything after that, and it had blocked her from hearing her Zanpakutō's name.
Ichigo was different. He couldn't hear his Zanpakutō's name at all. Not even when his life had been in danger from the Huge Hollow or the Menos Grande. It was never about his strength at all. But when Urahara had threatened his life, and Ichigo had run away, something had changed in him. He admitted that he was afraid, he was afraid to die, afraid to lose, and afraid of having someone he loved taken from him again because he wasn't strong enough to protect them. Only after admitting to his fear, was he able to hear Shingetsu's name.
'But I'm not guilty or afraid…so what's blocking us?' Orihime pondered and looked at her Zanpakutō for a moment and then around the flower field as if to try and get some kind of clue.
"Truth is blocked by lies…" Her Zanpakutō spirit spoke to her when their eyes met again. "…including the ones we tell ourselves."
"Lies?" Orihime looked at the spirit confused.
"You cannot lie about your own nature." The Zanpakutō shook her head. "To deny part of yourself is to deny me."
"B-but…I'm not denying anything." Orihime replied, leaning forward a bit.
"So, you can't bring yourself to kill without remorse?" The pinkette woman pressed Orihime, leaning forward as well. "You can't dislike things? Can't reject anything? Can't be angry or selfish about something just because it's how you feel?" She touched one of the hibiscus flowers, sending it flying upwards until it changed into a familiar shape. A six-pointed blue flower that was identical to the hairpins that Orihime wore almost every day.
"NO!" Orihime shook her head and looked down at the grassy ground. "That's not…I…it's not the same…"
"You gained enough connection to come here and meet me when you killed that Octopus Hollow that threatened your friends from school." The Zanpakutō informed Orihime. "Because you dropped the lie for a moment to kill that Hollow without any thought about it or how it would feel, you made a connection to me."
"That's different…" Orihime buried her face into her arms. "I'm not really like that." She denied and her Zanpakutō looked hurt.
"Aren't you?" The woman asked softly. "What's wrong with being angry? Isn't it okay to feel negatively about things you don't like?"
"But…I hurt him that day…and it was over something so stupid…and then…and then Sora was gone." Orihime felt the tears fall, but couldn't do anything to stop them. "If I had just accepted his gift with a smile, then he wouldn't have felt so bad when he left for work that day."
"You cannot bear the burden of all the negativity around you." The spirit shook her head. "Not when you bottle it all up inside and drown this place with it."
"What?" Orihime lifted her head and now noticed that the once sunny sky was covered in thick, dark clouds. A chilling wind began to blow through the flower field as well, making Orihime shiver.
"It's okay to show your anger and displeasure, Orihime." The pinkette assured her. "No one is going to die just because you say you don't like something, or because you say how you really feel, even if it's negative." The Zanpakutō gave Orihime a small smile. "I hate when this place becomes like this. I hate the cold, and the rain, and the flood that submerges all of the flowers. Don't you dislike things too?"
"I…I don't like it when people think I'm stupid." Orihime spoke quietly.
"And what else?" The spirit urged her to continue.
"I don't like it when people say I'm a bad cook and that my food is disgusting." Orihime spoke a bit louder this time.
"Keep going!" The woman smiled at Orihime brightly.
"I hate it when people make fun of my hair! I hate it when Chizuru talks badly about my relationship with Tatsuki and Ichigo!" Orihime raised her voice. "I hate it when Michiru says Ichigo is scary when she's never even spoken to him!" Orihime was nearly shouting as she stood up quickly. "I hate it when people stare at me like I'm some kind of bimbo just because I have big boobs! I HATE THAT I JUST ACCEPT ALL OF THE DAY-TO-DAY THINGS THAT OTHERS COMPLAIN ABOUT FREELY!" She was yelling now, but it felt so good to finally get this off her chest.
"Yeah!" The spirit shot to her feet with a loud cheer. "Reject all of those gaping idiots! Tell your friends to shut the hell up about your relationship! Don't let people think you're some dumb bimbo just because of how you look and your sweet personality!"
"Yeah!" Orihime raised her fists in front of her chest.
"Yeah!" Her Zanpakutō did the same.
"YEAH! FUCK ALL OF THEM AND THEIR BULLSHIT!" Orihime screamed out her feelings.
"YEAH!" The pinkette woman jumped for joy as the cold wind stopped and the dark clouds were blasted away all at once.
"Hah…hah…hah…" Orihime panted after letting out her true feelings for the first time in years. "That…that felt…great!" She beamed brightly, hugging her Zanpakutō with a bubbly laugh full of joy and relief.
"You did great, Orihime!" The woman squeezed her tight before pulling back to smile brightly at Orihime. "Shun Shun Rikka."
"Hmm?" Orihime blinked before her eyes widened. "Your name! I CAN HEAR YOUR NAME!"
"You can!" Shun Shun Rikka picked Orihime up by the waist and spun her around gleefully. "You finally accepted yourself and your true feelings! Now you can use our power!"
"What is our power?" Orihime questioned as she was set back on her feet. The bright eyes and bouncing on her heels made her look like an excited child.
"Rejection!" Shun Shun Rikka beamed at Orihime, holding up her right hand with a 'peace' sign.
"Eh?" Orihime tilted her head.
"You lied to yourself for years, and accepted everything that came your way, even if you didn't like it." Shun Shun Rikka reminded Orihime. "But that's the complete opposite of our power! We reject what we don't like or don't want!"
"We do?" Orihime looked adorable with a blank look on her face.
"Yep!" Shun Shun Rikka giggled and three of the flowers from the field turned into cute fairies before flying between them. A triangular orange barrier formed between Orihime and her Zanpakutō. "Three links rejects everything outside!" The shield faded as the fairies flew away. Shun Shun Rikka reached down and ripped up a few of the flowers and tossed them in the air. "Two links rejects anything inside!" Two more fairies flew from the field and an orange dome shield formed over the still airborne flowers.
"Ooh!" Orihime gasped as before her eyes the flowers fell back to the ground and reattached to their stems as if nothing had ever happened to them.
"And…one link rejects everything." Shun Shun Rikka declared, a stern look overtook her face as a single fairy flew up from the flowers. A point of the spirit's finger and the little fairy turned into a streak of orange light and rocketed forward.
"EH?!" Orihime exclaimed in absolute shock when an entire swathe of the flower field was cut down by the single fairy, the orange energy had widened like a massive blade as it flew ever forward, cutting down everything in its path.
"Reject the outside, reject inside, and reject everything! That is our power, Orihime!" Shun Shun Rikka smiled brighter than the sun above at Orihime.
"You're awesome!" Orihime glomped her Zanpakutō with a beautiful laugh.
"Right?" Shun Shun Rikka giggled as the two rolled about the flowers together.
"I can't wait to show everyone!" Orihime sat up, completely covered in flowers and small leaves. "Defending, healing, attacking…you can do everything!"
"Well, it's not really-" Shun Shun Rikka began to speak before noticing that Orihime was waving goodbye before the orangette completely disappeared from her Jinzen World. "Hah…well, I'll tell you later." The pinkette woman laughed as she brushed herself off from their roll about the flowers. "Oh yeah…I need to fix that." Shun Shun Rikka looked at the huge bare patch in the flower field. "Two links it is!" An equally massive dome of orange energy appeared to cover the bare spot and the destroyed flowers were restored in a matter of seconds.
"I DID IT!" Orihime cheered loudly, disrupting the other three from their own Jinzen meditation.
"Hime…this is quiet time…" Tatsuki teased her girlfriend with a grin.
"You did it?" Ichigo focused on the message, rather than the outburst. "That's great, Orihime." He leaned over to kiss her cheek.
"So, Inoue-san, what kind of Zanpakutō do you have?" Urahara chuckled, his folding fan covering the lower part of his face.
"Her name's Shun Shun Rikka!" Orihime began with a happy smile that nearly lit up the room by itself.
Urahara had no idea just how much his scientific mind was about to be engaged as Orihime started explaining the abilities of her Shikai.
Rukia has a short talk with Renji and then Byakuya while in her cell.
But what's this? Byakuya and Hisana had a child together before she passed!
Kuchiki K ōten, the heir of the Noble Kuchiki Clan! Rukia's nephew! As one would expect from a Kuchiki, he's got talent and power in spades! He's already being taught how to control and refine it by Byakuya too, because the Nobility rarely if ever go to the Shinōreijutsuin! They learn from home and excel under the tutelage of their family!
A family can bring about a great change in a person, and Byakuya is no exception. The birth of his son and an extra few years with Hisana has made him a warmer man towards Rukia and his immediate family. Plus, Rukia actually got to meet and know her older sister too! Not so strange to see the Kuchiki Clan has changed a bit from Canon because of these changes in the past, right?
Tatsuki activates her Shikai for the first time! Mōsho hybridizes Melee Type and Elemental Type Zanpakutō for rather devastating results in the hands of a Martial Artist like Tatsuki!
But she's still not quite fast enough to catch up to Yoruichi! Kek!
Orihime finally got to the root of her own disconnect with her Zanpakutō! She needed to stop lying to herself about her own nature. She can get mad, not like things, and even act violently if the situation calls for it! She doesn't have to just accept everything with a fake smile. Her power is rejection, after all!
Being able to just scream out your real feelings about all the stuff that pisses you off can be fucking therapeutic!
What happens now that the four have all unlocked the next level of their power?
Keep reading to find out!
Until I get your reviews, later!