Disclaimer: Bleach and all related concepts belong to Tite Kubo. I own nothing save this plot and my characters, Soroki Yoriena, Soroki Minako and Kaguya.


Autumn Fire
A Soroki Yoriena and Hirako Shinji Novel

Chapter VI
The Hidden

By Shadow Countess

~.~.~.~

No matter how hard you try to forget, no matter how hard you try to hide, the truth is never gone for real. It is always there, hiding, lurking, in the shadows, until it leaps out to deal its blow. A blow that is always fatal.

~.~.~.~

With each passing moment, the sun shifted another inch downwards, towards the horizons. Fiery streams of sunlight colored the skies and clouds red, yellow and orange. The scene up above was so magnificent, so rich and pure, and so unlike the lands below, than it drew many away from reality.

Despondent eyes of silvery green flickered to cast a brief glance at the heavens. Night was fallng; it was time for her to head home, or risk facing her mother's wrath. Thin shoulders slumped; a sigh of resignation sounded. Even though the outsides of East Rukongai's Seventy-Eighth District was filled with danger and prowling murderers, she preferred it to the hell she had for a home. Outside, she could defend herself, killing if necessary, but at home, she was helpless. Completely at her mother's mercy. No matter how much she yearned, she could not plunge a dagger into the older woman and end her pathetic excuse of a life.

Bony fingers curled into fists that she pressed to her side. She knew she had enough reiatsu to become a shinigami, for she was constantly hungry, but no one from the slums had ever passed the entrance examinations and stepped into Seireitei. No one.

And she was no different, was she?

~.~.~.~

A few months back, her uncontrolled, wildly fluctuating reiatsu had attracted several hollows that were rampaging nearby. They had hunted her, and it was only the timely appearance of two shinigamis that had saved her life. Shihouin Yoruichi had taken her in as her student, and had provided her with a set of weapons to train with.

Many a times, the rich heir had offered to bring her mother and her away from the ghettos to the Shihouin Estate, but Yoriena would always mumble an excuse and turn her down. After all, under no circumstances would Minako agree to live with shinigamis—she detested them with a passion. Neither would she let her daughter leave. Hence, every other day, Yoruichi's shunpo practice would bring her to the lower district where she would train both Soifon and Yoriena. On several occasions, she was accompanied by her fellow shinigamis, namely Hirako Shinji and Urahara Kisuke.

Still, Yoriena knew it was only a matter of time before she steeled her heart, squared her shoulders, and abandoned her mother for a new life, one without burdens and pain, in Seireitei. She just need time.

"Mother, I'm home," she called out cautiously, stepping past the threshold into the shack. Nose wrinkled ever so slightly at the overwhelming stench of cheap sake. Shivers crawled down her flesh when she spotted a spider scurrying down a wall. She hated spiders.

"Come here right now." Soroki Minako had been from the upper districts before moving to the squatters, and hence, she spoke well.

Thin brows frowned uneasily. Usually, by this time of the day, the older woman would be too drunk to do anything, let alone form a coherent sentence, so why was she sober this time round? And she was talking to her. Minako never spoke to her, preferring to leave her alone so long she was back in time to prepare dinner.

Yes, mother." She crossed the dirt-covered floor carefully, taking care to avoid the spots where the wood had rotted through, and stopped before Minako.

"Where were you today?"

A pause. "Working," was the reply. Nervous eyes were lowered to the ground, occasionally flitting upwards to peek past her lashes, at her mother. Wordlessly, she handed over a small, ragged pouch that contained a few thousand yens—allowance from Yoruichi.

The next sentence froze her blood; her heart tripped in its beats.

"And the shinigamis I saw you with?" Minako spat. "They gave you this, didn't they?" She shifted from her kneeling stance to lean towards her seven-year-old daughter, greenish gray eyes aflamed with anger and malice.

"I...They were asking for directions," Yoriena replied meekly, her mind buzzing.

Minako barked a harsh, derisive laugh. "And decided to teach you swordplay and buy you lunch?"

A chill of fear seized and spread through her. Her heart thumped faster than ever, yet emptiness weighed at her chest.

"You were stalking me," she managed, trying to mask horror with anger and defiance.

A snort. "Stalking you? Why should I? I was merely following information Kaguya gave me."

Yoriena snapped, seething silently. Kaguya, again. That bitch. The two of them were once best friends, but ever since Kaguya found out that unlike her, Yoriena possessed reiatsu, everything had changed. She had done her utmost best to get Yoriena into trouble, not caring that her methods were the epitome of underhandedness. Whatever friendship and promises they had shared had dissipated in the wind that blew.

"What have I told you about shinigamis? They're a bunch of idiots with fucked up heads—"

"They're not," Yoriena interjected coldly, momentary frustration clouding her senses and covering her fears. "They're nice, nicer than you've ever been!" The shinigamis, those with the fucked up heads, were the only ones who had treated her kindly, as a person.

"Shut the fuck up!"

The next moment found her on the ground with a spinning head and ears that rang loudly as a slap sent her reeling. Lips twisted into a grimace at the salty tinge of metal that flooded her mouth: She had hit her jaw on a bit of protruding wood and bit her tongue.

With painful slowness, Yoriena hefted herself into a sitting position, her tiny frame hunched. One hand was balled into a fist while the other pressed against her aching jaw and smarting cheek.

"Look," she snapped wearily. "Just let me go. I'll earn more in Seireitei and give you more. Isn't that what you want? More money?"

"Like you'll ever return."

"I will!"

"You filthy, lying bitch!" Another hit. "Look, you lil' bitch," Minako whispered sibilantly, "you're not allowed to leave this house. Ever!"

Silver-touched eyes of green fluttered close, both from pain and annoyance—she hated being called a bitch. "You can't stop me," Yoriena retorted against her better sense. "I'll just run away."

When she opened her eyes moments later upon hearing a smash shake the room, she regretted caving in to the sudden impulse that had gripped her, regretted listening to the devil that had manipulated her mind. If her mother had been angry, she was totally deranged now: Minako's eyes were dark and animalistic with wild fury, and her lips were contorted into a ferocious snarl. In one hand was an empty bottle of sake while the other gripped a stake of rough wood.

"Watch me."

Insane fear clawed at her, and when Yoriena got scared, she got mean. Really mean.

Reiatsu poured out from the restrains she had kept it under and enveloped the duo. Eyes were drawn wide with a mixture of shock, horror and slight thrill at what she was doing—she was actually defying Minako.

And then, the brief spell of elation passed as suddenly as it had come.

Another surge of reiatsu pulsed through the air, colliding with hers, and Yoriena felt herself being forced under. Tentacles of energy groped at her, wound around her neck, and squeezed all air out of her lungs. She spluttered desperately, clawed at the invisible, and aimed a few frantic kicks at her mother, but all was in vain. It was simply too strong.

She was driven half wild with terror. She couldn't breathe, couldn't move, couldn't retaliate. No matter how hard she struggled, her spiritual powers were too weak to overcome her mother's. All advantages she thought she had due to her shinigami training was lost, for, unknown to her, her mother too was one.

"You think they're so wonderful?" came the hostile hiss. Hands clenched the front of Yoriena's shirt and pulled her upwards. "If it wasn't for them, we wouldn't be living here today!" she spat, and flung her daughter away while reining in her reiatsu.

Yoriena crashed onto the ground, coughing and gasping. Beads of perspiration gathered on her forehead and slid down the contours of her gaunt features.

"You're a shinigami," she gasped softly. "Why didn't you tell me?"

"Tell you?" A shrill laugh, bordered with hints of hysteria, echoed through the room. "Why should? Why should I tell you anything? WHY SHOULD I?"

Yoriena had barely registered her mother's next move when the stake was driven into her body, wrenched out, and plunged in once more. Lips parted to call out a scream of acute agony when a gush of blood cut her off. Searing pain ripped through her petite frame. She trembled, waves of convulsion rolling off her.

Numbed, she pushed through the pain and got onto her knees. Her palms dug into the crumbling ground as she crawled towards the ground on all fours. Yet, moments before the tips of her fingers brushed against the wooden curb, a pair of hands seized her long mane of auburn and pulled her upwards.

Her neck was forced backwards, arched at an impossible angle. A pair of lips ghosted the lobes of her ears as a voice hissed. "You'll never become a shinigami. Never."

With that, her head was slammed into the filth and wood, smashing against the door frame with a sickening crack. Yoriena cried out in pain, but to no avail. Again and again, she hit the wood until a crash against the jutted edge knocked her out, blood pouring down her pale, lifeless face.

Minako cried. In victory.


Summary for Chapter VII

The truth, as many know, is not always welcomed. And when she found about about the truth behind her plight, Yoriena did not welcome it. Even though they implored for her to understand, even though her heart wanted her to forgive them. Because they had hurt her, had lied to her, had betrayed her.

She hated them so.


Authoress' Note: To be continued…

Shadow Countess has returned, finally, after months of hibernation, but to be honest, I'm hating my comeback. Or whatever you call it. Months of not writing has turned my writing skills, or lack thereof, rusty, and has dried my river of inspiration. When I stopped months ago, the river was teeming with odd, random plot bunnies, but now, there's nothing. Not even a lone cricket. I'm hoping it'll return soon, and that the future chapters ain't so icky. Though the next one is just as bad (it's written, and waiting for the final round of editing ;)

Anyways, feel free do point out my mistakes and offer me pointers wherever you see fit. No…Please do, because I've forgotten all that I've learned, and returned as a beginner. Heh ^^ To my new readers, welcome! To the world of wackiness and insanity and craziness and out-of-character-ness that Yoriena and Shinji dominate. To my old readers, welcome back! To the world of wackiness and insanity and craziness and out-of-character-ness that Yoriena and Shinji dominate. I'm glad you're still around. Happy~

Also, I've figured it's not humanly possible to like your own comeback, no matter how long you've waited for it, just like it's not humanly possible to not like Heo Youngsaeng's. Let it go, let it go, let it go~ Or SS501's, for that matter. Although they haven't had one. Yet. But they will. They can get together and sing a remix of Mary Had A Little Lamb, and it'll still be the best song I've ever heard. After all their other songs, that is. Loves~

And I'm sorry that this is such a short chapter, but take it as a starter for the greater things to come. That, and I need to warm up ^^ Do wait for me, and Yoriena and Shinji, but for now, ciao!~

(Why do I always like my Authoress' Note more than the story itself? And. If you want to know why I've disappeared for so long, it's on my profile page ^_~ )