windroars: (hitsugaya; cool cat)
Wind ([personal profile] windroars) wrote2012-01-23 11:01 pm

Fanfiction || The Narcissus 04

Title: The Narcissus
Fandom: Bleach
Main Characters: Hitsugaya Toushirou, Matsumoto Rangiku
Rating: R
Genre: General/Alternate Universe/Adventure/Suspense/Romance
Warnings: Historical inaccuracy, violence, some language, sexual abuse, and undetailed sexual scenes (both consensual and non-consensual)
Timeline: The Narcissus takes place in a fictional corner of the world around the late 1600s and early 1700s, when the golden age of piracy is beginning to wane. It centers around three particular countries that are entangled in rocky alliances with each other after a war that left a bad taste in a lot of people's mouths.
Summary: Rangiku Matsumoto is thrust into unwilling captaincy when former captain Gin Ichimaru is captured by the royal navy. In a moment of drunken desperation, she drags her crew down with her to kidnap a prince and force a trade. But who is this boy by the prince's side, and why can't she tell what he's thinking?


~*~

Chapter Four

Believers and Deserters

~*~


The rusted cell was dark and damp, not the ideal environment for two, soaking wet prisoners. But at least the be-hatted man had had enough decency to offer them some blankets to protect against the biting cold. Yamada had wrapped his entire body in the coarse cloth, still shivering from the exposure. Hitsugaya, in contrast, was up and about, analyzing the strengths and weaknesses of their newest cage. It didn’t have many weaknesses. And even if it had, he didn’t have the resources to exploit any of them. Despite all of his bravado, he was utterly helpless. And Yamada’s loud shivering wasn’t helping in the slightest.

His scowl more than prominent upon his lips, he took the blanket he had draped around his shoulders and tossed it at the freezing prince. Yamada looked from the blanket to Hitsugaya and back to the blanket before finally accepting the gift in silence. He could see the goose bumps climbing up the servant’s arms but refused to bring it up. He knew Hitsugaya better than that. The silence continued for a while longer, with both captives returning to their prior thoughts until Yamada finally gained the courage to speak up.

“Um... Hitsugaya?” he hesitantly began, and when Hitsugaya didn’t immediately tell him to be quiet, he continued. “Do you think they’ll figure it out?”

“Figure what out?”

“That you lied.”

The two grew quiet once more, Hitsugaya staring fixedly at the bars in the exact opposite direction of his companion. “I suppose it’s inevitable,” he affirmed, his tone cold and unaffected. “But it doesn’t matter. I wasn’t expecting something like this to consume us. I should have considered it, but there’s nothing I can do now.”

“Do you think they’ll be... mad?”

Hitsugaya whirled around to face Yamada, teal eyes flashing with incredulity. “Don’t tell me you feel guilty for lying to a couple of greedy pirates!” he spat. “Who cares what they think? Whether I lied or not doesn’t change our situation or theirs. They killed all of those men just to get to us; don’t you dare forget that. They don’t deserve your guilt.”

“We’ve killed people too,” the prince replied darkly, sinking his chin deeper into the blankets.

“It’s not the same,” Hitsugaya quickly assured.

“How is it any different?”

“They don’t know what the hell they’re doing. They have no idea what they’re up against. They just do whatever the hell they want and think that everything will end in their favor,” the servant growled, clenching his fist before turning his attention back to the bars to signal the end of their discussion.

“And they don’t feel any guilt for you to deserve.”

~*~


Renji Abarai trudged across the deck, searching over people’s heads for a certain, striped bucket hat. He had never been able to find Urahara when he needed him, and it looked like today would be no different. Just when he was about to chuck it all and ask Yoruichi instead, however, was when the man finally decided to show himself. Annoying prick. Renji barely caught sight of the bobbing hat ducking down below deck and, with a resigned sigh, took off after it.

“Yo, Urahara!” he shouted, just as the man rounded a corner. “I’ve got a question.”

“I know.” Renji jumped, both in surprise and in an attempt not to run the man over, seeing as he had apparently decided that stopping right around the corner would be a good idea. “I just wanted to make you work for it, eh?” His smug grin was not helping Renji’s temper at all. “You want to know why little Princey has a different surname than his daddy, right?”

Renji frowned. “How’d you know?”

“Because Rangiku asked me the same exact question four and a half hours ago. Congratulations. That is the difference in your intelligences,” Urahara chimed, oblivious to Renji’s failing efforts at staying calm.

“So answer the stupid question then.”

“Well, if you must know,” he smirked, switching easily to know-it-all lecture mode, “you’ll have to understand a bit of Hueco Mundo’s culture. The kingdom’s economy is a war economy; it thrives off of the sales war offers it. But with war comes a need for soldiers and therefore a need for propaganda. King Aizen is quite serious about such things, as were his predecessors. And so, to promote a pride in serving the militia, an extremely important tradition was put in place.” Urahara’s habit of beating around the bush was definitely something Renji did not approve of, but for once he wasn’t complaining. It was strange, thinking about the enemy as if they weren’t really the enemy, analyzing them to figure out why they made the cruel decisions they did. It reminded him of what Rangiku had scolded him about the night before. “A coming-of-age ceremony, if you will,” the blonde continued. “When a child is born in Hueco Mundo, he is christened solely with a first name. Only when he enters the military on his sixteenth birthday is he allowed to choose a surname for himself. It signifies the fact that he is finally his own person. Ironic, isn’t it? As soon as they gain an identity, they must sell it to their country. And the prince is no exception.”

They had started to walk again, resuming the path Kisuke had taken up before Renji had stopped him. “Sounds stupid,” the red head grunted, keeping to himself his doubts that the scrawny prince could have ever served in the military. “They’re all too blind to see they’re being used.”

“I don’t think so.” Renji frowned at Urahara’s far-away expression. “Isn’t the search for one’s identity a journey we all strive to complete? They’re just more willing to sacrifice for it. Whether through a career path, a philosophy, or a partner, the search for an identity is their life’s work. But that is what I most admire about them; so often they find themselves through the eyes of a companion. It’s why they take loyalty and trust so seriously.”

“And it’s why they want to kill us,” came the skeptical reply.

“Well, yes,” Urahara offered a wry grin as they finally reached his study. “We are not loyal, and so we do not deserve to live. But you already know that much, eh, Renji?” His grin only widened as he reached for the door. “Or is that Lieutenant Abarai?

“Are you two gonna stand out there philosophizing all day, or are you gonna get in here and help us out?”

“Coming, Yoruichi, my love!” he called out in a nauseatingly sweet voice before finally entering the room, Renji in tow. Within the familiar quarters riddled with books, maps, and towers of handwritten records sat a very impatient Rangiku, a rather amused Yoruichi, and a slightly harrowed Shuuhei. Urahara’s smirk did nothing for the captain, but Yoruichi’s amusement seemed to increase tenfold as he flounced overdramatically toward the map-laden desk. “And how may this humble navigator be of service?”

“Humble. Right,” Renji scowled, the sarcasm more than apparent in his voice.

“We have a choice between two possible routes, but we can’t agree on one,” Shuuhei interrupted. “This is supposed to be your job, is it not?”

“Very well then,” the blond man nodded. “So. Would you rather die by Loyal or by sea?”

Shuuhei frowned. “You haven’t even looked at the map. What’re you talking about?”

“Why, dear Shuuhei, I’m hurt,” he pouted, looking nothing of the sort. “I’ve long since memorized all the maps and routes. This is supposed to be my job, is it not?”

“Of course it is,” Yoruichi smirked, speaking up in an attempt to preserve what was left of Shuuhei’s dignity. “Which is why you’re here. But-”

“Why don’t you stop gloating and help us choose a route?” Rangiku finished.

“That’s what I was trying to do,” Kisuke whined. “Look, what are the two routes?”

Shuuhei let out a defeated sigh before grabbing a quill and outlining the paths along the map; even he couldn’t argue with Urahara for long. The problem was that no matter how right you knew you were, Urahara was always more so. Why else would Ichimaru have chosen him? “Alright. The first route, the one Shihouin and I agree on, is the less direct route. It’s longer because it traces the coast upward and goes around Seireitei entirely before heading south for Hueco Mundo. It would take more time and we would encounter more ships, but it’s still safer than the other choice. The second route cuts straight through the currents below Seireitei and heads directly to Resurección, their largest port. There won’t be any interference from other ships, but there’s a reason no one sails there. The area is known for its intense, spontaneous storms, and we can shoot at ships.” He shot a purposeful glare at Rangiku at his last statement, but she seemed to be the only one who didn’t notice.

“Time is the most important factor right now,” she snarled. “If we stop to consider any others, we waste it. Who knows what they’ve done to him? And what they will do when he doesn’t give them anything they want!”

“And so it all comes down to this: Would you rather die by Loyal or by sea?” Kisuke repeated, his triumphant smirk almost too much for Renji to bear.

“By sea,” the lady captain replied without hesitation.

“By sea,” Yoruichi grew a grin to match the navigator’s.

“By sea,” Renji added firmly, just for good measure.

“By sea,” finally grumbled the grudging, dark-haired man, an exasperated sigh upon his lips at having been outdone once again. “I’ll be damned if I let some Loyal be the one to off me. Fine. But if we do die, I blame you all.”

“Hey, I didn’t say anything,” Urahara chuckled. “You’re the one who agreed.” But at Shuuhei’s return scowl, he suddenly remembered something. “Oy, weren’t you in charge of preparing the prisoners’ food?”

“Well, I was,” Shuu muttered, still not happy with the blonde, “but then Kuchiki told me to help here. Said he’d do it himself.”

“What?” Renji balked.

“Yeah, I know. I guess he wanted to talk to them or something. Doesn’t sound like him at all, does it?”

“Is he still in the kitchens?”

“Should be.”

And with that, he left, leaving Shuuhei to grumble about how everyone was going insane.

Rangiku looked at the vacant doorway with interest. “Does Byakuya think... they might know something?”

“I doubt it’s as simple as that,” Kisuke smirked. “But then, it may be something even simpler.”

~*~


Hitsugaya and Hanatarou watched silently as Byakuya Kuchiki approached the crisscrossed metal that separated him from the two prisoners, Renji following him with a tray of dry food. The captives sat together in a corner, obviously having been engaged in a heated discussion that cut off the moment Kuchiki entered. The prince’s dark eyes wandered to the food tray, lips parting slightly to make way for a parched tongue. Hitsugaya, however, was staring at Kuchiki intently, ignoring Abarai altogether. “I don’t recognize you,” he finally iterated, his voice cold. “I take it you were among those who boarded my ship and murdered my men.”

Kuchiki was silent as he took the tray from Renji, unlocked a small slit in the iron, and slid the tray into the cell before sitting cross-legged before them. He watched as Hanatarou looked hesitantly at his companion before crawling over to the tray and sniffing a loaf of bread. With a huff Hitsugaya followed, sitting himself directly in front of Kuchiki and picking up one of the mugs filled with murky water.

Kuchiki eyed the boy before him for a moment longer before finally speaking. “You, even though you claim the ship and men who died upon it as your own, your first and only thought was of escape. You did not go down with your vessel as any other man in your position would have done; you ran away.”

“Don’t speak of my position as if you know it,” came the deep throated reply. “I had to protect the prince; above all, he at least must survive.”

“So that is your excuse?”

“That is my purpose.”

Hanatarou Yamada turned anxiously from Hitsugaya to Kuchiki and back to Hitsugaya, munching away at the bread in his hand as if his life depended on it. He noticed the man Matsumoto had introduced as Renji Abarai doing much the same, frowning at the conversation that excluded him. He didn’t like this person very much; every subtle insult made him wince.

“The sole purpose of the Loyal is to serve Hueco Mundo’s king.” Kuchiki’s eyes never left the boy’s own teal.

“And protecting the life of his son is not serving him?” At Kuchiki’s silence, his lips curved into an even deeper scowl. “I see you’ve had the pleasure of making our esteemed ruler’s acquaintance.”

“You speak of your king’s esteem with sarcasm.”

“You have no right to criticize, pirate,” Hitsugaya spat in return. “You speaking of loyalty and purpose to me is a damnable hypocrisy.”

“Kuchiki,” Abarai spoke up for the first time, glaring at Hitsugaya through the cell’s bars, “why the hell are you listening to this ba- What’s wrong with you?”

The moment Renji had opened his mouth, Hanatarou had dropped the cup he had been drinking from, its contents pooling around the broken shards. “Did you say... Kuchiki?” he barely managed, eyes wide and staring at the pale, dark haired man before him with a new understanding.

Kuchiki’s brow rose ever so slightly as Renji’s scowl grew. “What of it?”

Hitsugaya cut in once again, preventing Hanatarou from answering. “The Kuchiki clan, one of the four noble families of Seireitei who serve in the king’s court.” His voice was even colder than it had been before, and Hanatarou whirled around to face him instead. Oh, no. This would not end well. “So you’re not only a hypocrite, you’re a traitor.”

Renji moved in to swing at the young man through the bars, but to everyone’s surprise, Hanatarou acted first. “Hitsugaya!” he shouted hoarsely, red-faced in his anger. “You can’t talk to him like that! He’s-!”

“I know what he is!” Hitsugaya hissed before jerking his head back to their visitors, raising himself as tall as he could in order to look down on them with as much superiority as he could muster. “He’s a pathetic nobleman who left his family and sold his soul to the government! And when that didn’t work out for him, he defected to some sad pirate crew so that he wouldn’t have to come crying home a failure!”

Hanatarou didn’t know what to do. Sure, Hitsugaya was always irritated, but this was different. This was a rage Hanatarou had rarely witnessed. And though he doubted yelling and insulting the nobleman would do any good, he could understand why Hitsugaya wanted to. He had never thought he’d meet this man, the man who-

“I don’t deny it.”

“What?!” Renji burst when he heard the unaffected words leave Kuchiki’s lips. But Kuchiki only continued to stare Hitsugaya down, despite the fact that the prisoner was now standing.

“I served longer than was required and gained a high rank for my efforts. Abarai was my direct subordinate. I served for the betterment of Seireitei, and I willingly obeyed every order. It was too long before I realized that some orders should never be followed, and so when I finally understood, I had already done too much to return home and forget. But if my chosen path brands me as a hypocrite and traitor, then what, pray tell, are you?”

Hitsugaya’s voice was strained as he glared down at Kuchiki, the hatred he felt obvious within every syllable. “I am the blood-stained blade that your kind raises when you don’t want to dirty your precious, untainted hands.”

“I see.” Kuchiki was quiet for a moment as he once again opened the metal slit and slid the tray back out of the cell. Handing it back to Abarai, he turned to them one last time. “Your despisal of my person defies language in its intensity. I shall not return.”

“No, you won’t,” came the unexpected reply, and Kuchiki paused against his will. “You never planned to, did you?”

Hanatarou sighed as they left without saying more. “Hitsugaya...”

“I won’t tell these people the truth, but I won’t pretend for them either.”

The prince pouted but said nothing. What was there to say?

~*~


“What was that?” Abarai demanded, frowning at his stoic superior.

“That boy isn’t who he says he is.”

“What?”

Byakuya’s apathetic mask remained despite the fact that his mind was churning at impossible speeds. That boy’s words refused to leave him be. Every word, every phrase, every glint in those icy eyes held a depth within them that did not breach the surface. It was beyond frustrating.

“I am the blood-stained blade that your kind raises when you don’t want to dirty your precious, untainted hands.”

“No, you won’t. You never planned to, did you?”


“They’re hiding something,” he replied.

“Who isn’t?”

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