Disclaimer: Bleach and all associated characters, settings, concepts, etc. within this story do not belong to me.
Summary: During the zanpakuto rebellion, some shinigami report seeing a strange lupine sword spirit amongst the rebels. At first, its appearance is dismissed as belonging to a lower ranked shinigami...until it accidentally knocks Kenpachi Zaraki through a wall and survives the resulting counterattack.
Warning: Angsty prologue chapter. We're going back to the beginning, people.
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Coyote Starrk was surrounded by darkness on all sides, floating on a sea of nothing as his last connection to the world of the Hollows dissolved along with what was left of his body.
He could still feel the pain of his mask shattering, as blood flowed from the single, devastating wound through his neck and head (he hadn't even seen the Other move…) but worse than that, far worse, was Lilynette. If he'd still had eyes, he would have screwed them closed in pain. They had…he'd seen...
He'd seen her blood stain the sand, cracked mask and lifeless pink eyes reflecting the light of Hueco Mundo's moon, before the surprise attack that dealt him a fatal blow. They'd attacked her first, to keep him occupied and distracted while they sprung their trap.
Even as he relived the horror in his mind, he could feel the memories dissolving away, just as his body had. It was some sort of comfort, he supposed, to finally be dead. He wouldn't have to remember for much longer. Whoever he would become, it would not be Coyote Starrk, horrifically powerful Vasto Lorde and aspect of loneliness and solitude. He wouldn't be alone, he wouldn't even be a hollow…he'd be just another ordinary soul.
He relaxed even further, not even trying to hold on to his life and power. He could feel the tides of energy around him, pulling at and reforming his soul even as his previous self started to fade. His reiatsu was being siphoned away, and he saw no reason to struggle or resist. He didn't want to exist anymore…why would he? He was alone…
It wasn't a call, exactly…his body and voice were gone…but he and Lilynette were two halves of one soul, and would always be able to find each other. He knew she was there, but…
He could feel her presence in the darkness, but it wasn't close and he suddenly felt the need to find her, hold her, know she was okay.
(Even though she wasn't, would never be again.)
For the first time, he struggled against the inexorable tide of death, drawing on his vast energy reserves and scant will to live.
Scared…she sounded terrified. He redoubled his efforts, slowly pulling away from the feeling of comfort and oblivion, feeling his way back to being Starrk.
I'm coming. Where are you?
Like a beacon in the dark, he followed her bright presence. If the vast dark energies could be compared to an ocean, then he was swimming against the current and, through sheer raw power and perseverance, making headway. The memories, so blessedly close to being gone forever, re-solidified in his mind the further he traveled from where the 'tides' had been pushing him.
(If he'd been human, he would have been fighting back to his dying body, fighting to live.)
Finally, energy almost fully expended, he found her. Their spirits twined around each other, in relief and greeting, but it was short-lived. Even here, Starrk could feel death dragging them onwards and, target reached, he relaxed once again to let it take him.
When she felt it, Lilynette twisted against him, seeking protection. Uncertain and confused by her reaction, Starrk curled around her slowly and extended a tentative, wordless query.
I-I don't want to be dead, Starrk…What's going to happen? Will we recombine? Is…who will…will I…
Finally, he understood. With his passive nature, he was more than willing to accept whatever was to come (it couldn't be any worse than what they'd left behind). But Lilynette had always been more aggressive and proactive. When they originally split from one hollow into two arrancar, he received the power but she received the will to fight and live.
If they were reborn physically separate, it wouldn't be an issue, but if they recombined then one would become the principal soul and the other would either cease to exist, or become trapped within the mind of the other. Between the two of them, Starrk had always been the dominant personality by virtue of his power. Lilynette was worried that she would become imprisoned within his mind, forced into inactivity or nothingness.
For a long moment, he curled around her and soothed her fear, even as he felt the tides pulling at his soul, trying to force them apart. He wanted the peace that would come with rebirth, but not if it was at Lilynette's expense. A memory of dull pink eyes and bright red blood staining white sand flashed through his mind, causing a stab of guilt. He'd already failed her once; he wouldn't do it again.
There are many qualities that made Starrk the most powerful hollow in Hueco Mundo. His raw abilities were one aspect, as were his intelligence, experience, and age, but the most important skill he possessed was his ability to analyze, both situations and reiatsu. He could sense an attack, figure out its nature, its target, its destructive power, and any possible variations in half a second, and react appropriately before the second was complete. His ability to remain calm, even in the most dire of situations, complemented the analysis and allowed him to exercise it regardless of the situation, and to apply the exact amount of power necessary to counter.
In that moment, while in the process of moving on to a new life, Starrk reached out and analyzed the tides of energy, looking for some way, any way to ensure Lilynette's rebirth.
What he found was that Death was slowly dissolving them, siphoning off their energy. Instead of accepting it as inevitable (as he had before), this time he followed the reiatsu and discovered that both sets were combining into one soul, one person. Lilynette's concerns were founded; as one creature, Starrk would be in control. He could see the shape of the reiatsu forming, creating the being they had once been. But they were dead, what could he do?
She knew that, he realized, that was why she was so scared. It wasn't a future she wanted, but she couldn't fight it. Starrk curled around her tightly and felt out the energy, sensing how it was tugging at Lilynette, how it was affecting him, the shape of what had been and what would be. He analyzed, considered, and made a decision.
He would not fail her again.
Lilynette. Hold on.
Starrk? What are you-?
With one massive wrench, like slamming open the floodgates within his soul, Starrk suddenly expelled all of the energy he had left, ripping through the tides around them and blasting both of them free for a bare second. As soon as they were loose, he twisted, forcing their energy patterns into the opposite tides and pushing Lilynette into the primary position.
He didn't answer.
Exhausted, he fell back, letting go of her as the tides returned with a howling vengeance, pulling the ex-hollows apart once again and re-structuring their reiatsu even more quickly now that Starrk's defenses were down.
This time, it was Lilynette fighting towards Starrk, but she simply wasn't strong enough. She was getting what she'd wanted…but at what cost? Would her partner be trapped, locked within? Or would he cease to exist altogether?
The last thing he sensed before falling into blissful unconsciousness was the younger, weaker soul surrounding him, being formed into a new person even as he was compressed and condensed, forced into a tiny, hidden part of her Being.
The young girl woke up slowly, squinting her eyes open in confusion and then irritation. The bright light hurt and something about it felt foreign and strange. With a low sigh, she sat up against the tree trunk she'd been lying against and ran one hand through her hair. She was wearing the peasant-clothes that most souls bore when they appeared in Rukongai and she stared at them with blank incomprehension.
For a moment she was overcome with a sense of wrongness – Wasn't someone supposed to be there? Where was he (who?)? Why did it feel odd to rub at her left eye? Was there something missing from her head? Why did her stomach feel strange?
A sudden pang of hunger jolted her from her musings and she shook her head rapidly, disturbed. They were questions she couldn't answer. A scowl grew on her face as she realized she didn't know anything, not even her name – her memories were completely blank, as if she'd just sprung into existence.
The growling of an empty stomach drew her mind away from the matter and convinced her that finding food would be a much better pastime. Dismissing the lack of memories (they couldn't be that important, right?), she set out in search of people, taking in the lush green surroundings of West Rukongai's 62nd District with an awestruck expression that she did not know was strange.
Deep in the back of her mind, a powerful, forgotten presence lay dormant; sleeping off the soul deep exhaustion of one who had attempted to subvert death's will…and succeeded.
Poor Starrk and Lilynette…
But the cycle of rebirth must begin with the end of a previous life.
I wanted to make it clear that, even though Starrk bears the majority of their abilities, Lilynette is the one with a desire to actually live and ambition to grow and succeed. Starrk would have welcomed oblivion while Lilynette was willing to fight to avoid it. If he had been in the driver's seat, I doubt they would ever get to Seireitei (he would be more likely to nap beneath the trees and scrounge for food in his free time). Of course, that's barring any extenuating circumstances – it's possible he would be head-hunted for his power and abilities. [And, for this fic, I wanted them to make their own way to Seireitei XD]
And…this was another 'pre-fic' chapter. The next one will be a real chapter, I promise. I was going to apologize for its shortness, but then it stopped being short (it's about 1500 words longer than I thought it would be). Though I guess it's clear now why I wanted to start with a preview, rather than the actual prologue… (the preview is far more in tone with the rest of the fic).
This isn't my favorite chapter, but I think that's because it was so confusing. I prefer chapters that focus on character interactions and dialogue. However, the information is necessary for the fic so…I'll just have to pack the stuff I like into later installments. :)
It'll be a couple chapters until we get to Seireitei and the shinigami, but everything before that is important to understand the situation Lilynette and Starrk are in.
One question I've been asked several times is when this occurs in the Bleach storyline: does it happen after Shunsui 'killed them' in Karakura? Outside of continuity? In an AU?
My answer is that the bulk of the story will occur during the same time as the zanpakuto rebellion arc: after the traitors left for Hueco Mundo but before the Karakura battle and technically outside of continuity (insomuch as the zanpakuto arc was). This chapter occurred prior to that by a short amount of time (6 months -1 year).
Another question that I'm sure will be asked, so I will address it pre-emptively, is: How did Starrk and Lilynette die? Wasn't he the most powerful hollow in Hueco Mundo? Who killed them?
My answer is that I've already given you quite a few hints as to the identity of the one responsible for their deaths. Anything else would be a spoiler. (But don't worry if you haven't guessed, this won't be the last time the issue is brought up.)
Final question that I'm not sure I clarified enough: Does Starrk remember anything?
My answer: Yes; due to his interference in the 'process', he remembers everything. However, Lilynette has complete amnesia
Please Review & let me know what you think!
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