windroars: (hitsugaya; megane taichou)
Wind ([personal profile] windroars) wrote2011-05-23 10:10 pm

Fanfiction || Dead Man Walking 08

Title: Dead Man Walking
Fandom: Bleach
Main Character: Hitsugaya Toushirou/Shimizu Kouryuu
Rating: PG-13
Genre: General/Adventure/Suspense/Mystery
Warnings: Sporadic gore, language, author's inability to stay consistent with a single genre
Timeline: This story follows the manga's timeline. It takes place after the war with Aizen has begun.
Summary: Hitsugaya's disappearance left Seireitei with plenty of unanswered questions, but when a boy identical to the supposedly late taichou appears on Earth, to what lengths will everyone go to find out why? And when the answer does come, will it be too late?


~*~

“Oh, Spirit fall like rain on my thirsty soul
Oh, sweet erosion, break me and make me whole”

-Erosion, Switchfoot


~*~

Chapter Eight

The New Oldies

~*~


“What does this have to do with anything?”

When Kouryuu looked up for his answer, he nearly had a heart attack.

Urahara’s home – floor, walls, ceiling, furnishings, everything – had completely vanished. Nyoko-kun, Matsumoto, Urahara, and the other two; none of them were anywhere to be seen. Surrounding him was nothing but an endless white plain. A cold endless white plain.

But before he could even begin to wonder what was happening, the whole place seemed to quake and a deafening roar rattled his entire body. He whirled around to see something that shouldn’t have ever graced story books, let alone reality. A giant, angry dragon of ice thrashed through the surrounding snow, and then, of all things, it spoke.

YOU DO NOT BELONG HERE.

He instantly recognized the voice, the shivers overcoming his small frame having nothing to do with the weather. It was the voice that he had heard just before that redheaded delinquent saved him. “H-How…?” He couldn’t hear his own voice over the sudden winds and the dragon’s roars; he could barely stand upright, let alone hear. But disbelief was beginning to make way for panic, and he couldn’t stay quiet. “This… This is impossible! Where are we?! What’s going on?!”

HOW DARE YOU! DO NOT PRESUME YOU MAY COME TO MY REALM AND APPLY YOUR RULES!

What the hell was that supposed to mean? None of this made any sense! “Where am I?! What’s-”

SILENCE! Kouryuu quickly shut his mouth. YOU ARE IN MY WORLD WITHIN MY BLADE. YOU STOLE MY RIGHTFUL PLACE WITHIN MY PARTNER’S MIND. YOU HAVE NO RIGHT TO DEMAND ANYTHING OF ME!

“I-I did what?!”

COWARD! YOU HIDE BEHIND MY PARTNER IN FEAR OF NOTHING BUT YOUR OWN REFLECTION! The dragon slammed its tail down, making the ground shake mercilessly. BE GONE!

Kouryuu was just about ready to wet his pants. Nothing made sense; everything was wrong. Just hours after almost being eaten by a damn monster, he was being yelled at by a dragon! Where was the punch line?! When was everyone going to come out of hiding and have a good laugh?! “I’m not hiding from anything!” he shouted at the top of his lungs, his voice hoarse with exertion and the effort it took to hold back tears. “I don’t know who your partner is! Please tell me what the hell is going on!”

YOU DO NOT UNDERSTAND ONLY BECAUSE YOU DO NOT WISH TO UNDERSTAND. YOU ARE UNWORTHY.

Unworthy. Unworthy? Who cared, dammit?! What did worthiness have to do with anything?! “Nyoko-kun almost died because of me, and no one will tell me why! Even if I could leave, I wouldn’t! Not until I get some answers!”

The thunderous, ear-splitting roar that followed toppled him over in its intensity. If he had thought the dragon was angry before, than it was murderous now. WHAT COULD POSSIBLY ENTITLE YOU TO SUCH ANSWERS?! YOU KNOW NOTHING! SO AFRAID OF THE TRUTH THAT YOU HIDE IT AWAY EVEN FROM YOURSELF! YOU DO NOT DESERVE THOSE ANSWERS, CHILD!

“I am not a child!” he shouted so loudly he surprised even himself. “I am-!”

And suddenly, the dragon stilled. If Kouryuu had been paying any attention, he would have been sure the monstrous creature was smirking. YOU ARE WHAT?

But Kouryuu couldn’t answer. His eyes were wide as he stared into nothing at all, his mouth still hanging open. He was afraid. The dragon was right. He was deathly afraid. So, so afraid of what he might have said if he hadn’t stopped; so, so afraid of the name that was on the tip of his tongue. Because it wasn’t his name, and he didn’t know why. “I … I don’t know.”

THAT IS BECAUSE YOU DO NOT KNOW ME.

His voice was quiet now, the sound once again swallowed by the chilling winds, but somehow the dragon still seemed to hear. “Then how … how do I change that?”

YOU ARE PREPARED TO ACCEPT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF YOUR STATION? YOU ARE PREPARED TO ACCEPT MY WORLD AND MY RULES AS YOUR OWN?

What was the point in resisting anymore? What was the point of trying to pretend everything was normal, that somehow when it was all over everything would go back to the way it was before? He was never going to win, and he already knew that nothing could take back everything he’d seen. “Yes.”

But rather than the answer he’d expected, Kouryuu received an angry, guttural roar. ARE YOU PREPARED?

“Ye-!” he tried, but this time he was interrupted before he even managed to finish.

ARE YOU?!

“No!”

He shouted without thinking, without caring. The impossible smirk was back on the dragon’s mouth, and Kouryuu could only watch helplessly as his echoing voice cracked the ice beneath his feet, plummeting him into the freezing waters he hadn’t even known were there.

AND YOU NEVER WILL BE….

The frigid temperature of the water had him instantly in shock, and when he opened his mouth to yell in surprise, he hacked up a lung, leaving him with no reserve of air. By the time he gained back enough of his mind to try to swim upward, the hole in the ice had already mended itself, a thick sheet of nothing keeping him from the air he so desperately needed.

He pounded and pounded against the roof of ice, not knowing what else to do. Surely that damn dragon could break through some ice! So why wasn’t it? Why was he still down here dying? The panic that had never truly left seated itself deep within his mind, and he hit harder and harder, faster and faster, even knowing that the effort was futile. He needed to get out of here! He had to go back! He didn’t want to die! Tears streamed unnoticed into the water around him as he wore himself out just trying to stay near the surface.

Then he saw it. Blurred from the thickness of the ice, the face of the dragon looked down at him from above. Its mouth was moving, but it was impossible to hear what it was saying through the sheet of ice or the rushing of the water. It was just going to watch him drown, he realized. It was just going to sit there talking to no one as he died cold and alone in a place he didn’t understand.

A hitch of his breath, and he lost more precious air. He didn’t have anymore. The dragon was still talking. The same thing over and over, he realized as he watched the moving jaws, the same movements again and again.

The edges of his vision were fading to black. He didn’t notice. He couldn’t think; he couldn’t comprehend anything. He was just there, and that mouth just kept moving. Stretch horizontally, round into a circle, flatten slightly, stretch vertically, pucker, pause. Without even realizing it, he began to imitate the movements with his own lips, only just keeping his mouth closed enough to keep out the water. Stretch horizontally, round into a circle, flatten slightly, stretch vertically, pucker, pause. He was sinking, the vision of the dragon through the ice shrinking as he lost the strength to keep pumping his limbs. Everything was focused on those minute lip movements. Stretch horizontally, round into a circle, flatten slightly, stretch vertically, pucker, pause.

Hy Ou Rin Ma Ru.

The voice was so small at first he almost didn’t hear.

Hy Ou Rin Ma Ru.

Where was it coming from? He couldn’t hear anything outside. Ah. That must mean it was coming from inside then.

Hyourinmaru.

Ha ha. What a funny thing to say.

Hyourinmaru.

Hey now, if he linked the syllables with the lip movements, they matched. What a weird coincidence. Was that what the dragon was trying to say?

HYOURINMARU.

‘Ice ring?’ Huh. It really suited him.

HYOURINMARU!

Kouryuu’s eyes burst open in realization. One second he saw the big, red eyes and the sadistic, toothy smirk, and the next all hell broke loose as Hyourinmaru dove through the ice. The world shook as the water exploded into an otherworldly geyser around the dragon’s sleek frame, and he opened his jaws wide. He only had a second to comprehend what Hyourinmaru was doing. Then he was being swallowed as the ice dragon flew up into the skies above.

And they were one.

~*~


Urahara Shoten was eerily quiet after Matsumoto Rangiku shared her story. Expressions were carefully blank, but inner thoughts ranged from shocked and appalled to confused and terrified. Despite the awkwardness, there was one question on everyone’s mind, and Kurosaki was the only one who could bring himself to ask out loud.

“You don’t know … what happened to him after that?”

Matsumoto sighed, a heavy, drawn out sigh that clearly said she’d been hoping no one would ask. “I didn’t even regain consciousness until almost a month later. Urahara didn’t exactly have Unohana-taichou at his beck and call, and I guess he wanted to keep it secret. You know, so he wouldn’t have to deal with Seireitei law and the balance. Urahara came to the scene later. Apparently Taichou carried me and tried to escape, but Aizen and … and Gin took him and left me there. They left Hyourinmaru too.”

She let loose a hollow laugh. “It was like they were sending me a message. ‘He’s not coming back.’ And he didn’t. Even when I found him again, nearly half a year later … he never came back.”

“Don’t say that!” Rukia insisted, hands clenched into fists. Only when she had Matsumoto’s full attention did she continue. “You never know what will happen! The fact that we’re all here is proof! Up until today, we thought you were dead! For all we know, he could walk through that door any minute now!”

“Kouryuu!”

Everyone whirled around to stare at Nyoko, who was now holding Kouryuu upright solely by his armpits. He was soaking wet, shivering violently, and gulping down air as if it might disappear at any moment. Hyourinmaru clattered to the floor, and the sound brought everyone in the room to their senses.

Matsumoto bolted forward to help Nyoko, kneeling on the floor and setting his back against her legs as the high school girl rubbed her hands quickly against his hands and arms to try to create friction. Kurosaki and Rukia ran to the bathroom for towels.

When he opened his eyes, blinking rapidly as he tried to figure out where he was, the first face he locked onto was Matsumoto herself. Everything about her betrayed her surprise when the young boy suddenly grabbed her shihakushou in a tight grip. “H-Hyou… Hyourinmaru… Hyourinmaru says, ‘Thanks.’” Shock gave way for a wide smile. “H-He said even an annoying brat like me is better company than you.”

The smile disappeared, and she promptly swatted him upside the head.

“M-Matsumoto-taichou! This isn’t the time!” Rukia hastily intervened as she hurried back into the room, Kurosaki Ichigo in toe. “Is he okay?”

“He’s fine. He learned Hyourinmaru’s name. It worked,” the former fukutaichou of the Tenth Division assured, her voice breathy as if even she couldn’t believe it. She grabbed a towel out of the petite shinigami’s hands and immediately began drying his hair.

“Does that mean … he’s Hitsugaya-taichou again?”

“No.”

Everyone’s attention returned to Kouryuu once more. He pushed himself up so that he was sitting without support. His breathing was still uneven, but he seemed to be calming down. Despite his condition though, he still managed an angry, resentful scowl.

“I’m not him.”

“Che. Of course not,” Matsumoto easily chided, ruffling his still damp hair. “They just don’t get it yet, you know? You’ve gotta be patient and let them adjust. You may look like him, but you’re completely different, right? You’re Shimizu Kouryuu.” Kouryuu blinked up at her blankly as if seeing something he hadn’t seen in her before. “Ha ha, even Hyourinmaru thinks so. He called you an annoying brat, didn’t he?”

“Ah!” The muffled sound of towels hitting the floor brought a multitude of searching eyes to rest on Kurosaki Ichigo.

“Ichigo?” Rukia demanded, sounding as if she wasn’t sure she actually wanted to hear the cause of the young man’s lapse.

“Why don’t we ask Hyourinmaru what happened? Zanpakutou spirits are part of a shinigami or something, right? Like Zangetsu and me. So wouldn’t Hyourinmaru know what happened to Toushirou better than anyone? Kouryuu can ask him what’s up,” the substitute shinigami offered.

“Er… He-”

But before Kouryuu could say anything more, Nyoko intervened, an eruption of emotion after everything that had happened finally hit her in one, unbearable punch to the stomach. “What are you all talking about now? Just stop it! You’re so obsessed over this Toushirou guy that you don’t care what happens to Kouryuu as long as you get him back!” she accused, eyes wild in mixed worry, anxiety, and confusion. “Do you even know what happened to him?! How’d he get so wet? Is he okay? No! All you want to know is how you can use him again!”

“N-Nyoko-chan!” Matsumoto tried to calm the girl down, reaching to grab her flailing arms. But the one to still the frantic girl wasn’t Matsumoto, it was Kouryuu himself.

“It’s okay, Nyoko-kun. I don’t want to be fussed over,” he huffed, pulling himself to his feet to prove that he didn’t need it either. “The situation is … kind of complicated. Besides I don’t have to do anything to answer their stupid question.”

He turned to the three others in the room, and the confidence he’d had when speaking with Nyoko wavered slightly. For just a moment, he looked like the vulnerable, confused, soaking wet child he was. The moment didn’t last long. “Hyourinmaru knew you’d want to ask something like that, and he told me that he wasn’t going to tell you anything.”

“Why not?” Ichigo demanded.

Kouryuu stared the other boy down. “He said that if you knew what happened, you’d hate him for it.”

“Wait up,” Matsumoto Rangiku raised a skeptic brow. “He just insulted me, and now he’s worried we’ll hate him? Since when has Hyourinmaru cared what anyone thought about him?”

“Not Hyourinmaru. Hitsugaya,” the boy clarified coldly.

It took a moment for the room to comprehend this new information.

“Taichou didn’t want us to know…?” Matsumoto’s voice was taut as if her throat had suddenly gone dry. She couldn’t move an inch. “What could he possibly have done that he’d think…? No way. I’d never…”

“Damn it! Where’s Aizen when you need him?” Kurosaki growled. “What I’d give to just punch his lights out and make him tell us what the hell’s going on!”

The substitute shinigami’s unexpected outburst broke the sudden hold over Matsumoto, and she relaxed her tense muscles, offering him an amused snort. “Well, you could always try, but be warned, when I went for it, he twisted my wrist, laughed at my struggling, and asked me to share some tea with him.”

Kurosaki countered with a sheepish chuckle. “Yeah, just wishful thinking, you know? The war’s been on hold for months because he and Ichimaru just up and disappeared. Kinda like you and Toushirou only… Wait.”

Rukia was slightly quicker on the uptake. “You met Aizen? He’s here?” she yelled, incredulous. “And you had tea with him?!”

“What else was I supposed to do? He still had a hold on my broken wrist.”

“Where is he?!”

Matsumoto shrugged, pointing over her shoulder. “He lives down the street a ways in a big apartment complex.”

“Hey, when you say Aizen, do you mean Aizen Sousuke?” Kouryuu frowned, sharing a disbelieving glance with Nyoko. When the others nodded, none of them could comprehend why the two middle school students were suddenly doubling over in fits of laughter. The sight of Hitsugaya laughing like that was enough to throw anyone off, but who in their right mind would laugh over Aizen? They received their answer in the worst possible way. “I can’t believe you’re talking about him like he’s some demon or something!” Kouryuu managed between laughing fits. “He teaches Literature at Mashiba Middle School! We’re in his class!”

“Well, crap,” Ichigo blinked in shock.

No one could agree more.