What is a Name but a Reflection of One's Self?
Hayashi Amaya, 11th Division
Yuzuki Masato, 11th Division
Yuzuki Masato, 11th Division
Once again the weariness that Hayashi felt hit her. The group trudged through the alabaster sand, trying desperately to reunite with the rest of the Eleventh before they were left behind. The wound in Amaya’s stomach had finally stopped bleeding, but the woman was still dripping blood. Each step left splatters and footprints of the crimson liquid, some of it was hers and some her victims. Amaya couldn’t think of anything she wouldn’t do for a shower at the moment. Luckily the hollow resistance had been minimal up to this point; it had given Amaya some time to reclaim her face and hair from the clutches of the war.
Moving with Ogami’s squad had been a blessing, until the force of exhaustion swept over her. Focusing on the pain from the wound in her stomach had been the only reason the woman had kept up with the group. The few cadets who had returned with her were near the back of the group. They walked with even less strength than she did, often tripping on the remains of hollows, or slipping in the sand.
Neither Hayashi, nor the cadets spoke as they moved, each of them lost in their thoughts. Amaya was hoping that Raury, Hikaru, and Katsurou were alive at the moment, and were nearing the fourth division. Amaya also was wondering about Claire, and her connection to Masato. She hoped upon their return she would find out exactly how Masato knew her. And what did she mean when she had said “Masato never wanted a part of my body”?
Crossing a ridge of the endless sand, the group finally set their eyes upon the front of the Eleventh Division, and the rest of the Shinigami who were attacking with them. Sighing in relief, Amaya’s pace quickened. Just the sight of the Division rejuvenated her somewhat. To see them doing well, and not falling apart, was something Amaya relieved a worry she felt.
Using her ability to sense other beings she searched for Masato, who was an easy target to find. He was a bright figure among the weaker beings around him. Walking at a quickened pace, she led the few Cadets remaining to the man.
The resident warrior-king stood above a pile of severed limbs, looking over a work that was presumably his. Setsumei Amaji's golden blade was stained with crimson, but Masato wiped the stain off with a small section of his shihakushou. With a distant gaze, Masato looked to the south - what was happening? Faust's reiatsu was suffocating the air, and the Hollows crowed in fear.
This distracted him enough to allow Hayashi to close the distance easily without being noticed. Masato was frowning when she arrived, a small frown as the 11th pushed ever southwards. Eventually her presence demanded his attention, and as if he had just been woken up Masato shook his head slightly and looked at Hayashi.
She was wounded.
"Hisuke." A man at Masato's side stiffened, "Wrap Hayashi's wound."
The man blinked a few times before seeing the blood-stained woman. Immediately she was on her back and the man was ripping his own sleeve off to put pressure on the wound.
"Captain." Ogami Ittou spoke first, "Sakurasou Katsurou has been rescued, and is now in the 4th with Raury Feynbrand and another Cadet named...Hikaru, was it?"
Ittou turned to another Cadet, who nodded, "Casualties were about three fourths of the squad. One abductor stayed behind to guard Katsurou while the rest of the squad attempted to flank us. They are no longer a concern."
Masato nodded at this, "Well done, Daigoseki."
"Something else, Yuzuki-taichou." Ogami paused, "...the abductor was an acquaintance of yours. Katsurou was able to drive her off."
Ogami spoke as if he didn't know what he was saying - which was true. Masato's frame went rigid for a moment before he turned southwards once more. The haori flared suddenly, as if it could feel Masato's distress and was attempting to cover him like a blanket. After a few moments of silence it abandoned its quest and Masato looked at Amaya.
"...then the squad is lucky they survived." Caught in nostalgia, Masato didn't even realize his left hand had touched the hand guard that covered his left eye socket. His detatched gaze re-focused on Amaya's bloody body and he frowned.
How he remembered the bite of Trishula.
"Return to the front, Ogami-kun." Masato nodded.
"Sir." Ogami nodded to his squad, who all departed to the deathly screams to the south. Masato, Hayashi and Hisuke remained as the Acting Captain spoke.
"I sent you against a foe ten million times stronger than you and you survived. Is it luck?" Masato craned his neck backwards, "...regardless, I suppose a congratulations on defying death is in order."
Lying on her back for the first time since they had come to this forsaken world, Amaya finally managed to rest for a moment. Listening to the reports given she smiled slightly, as the man wrapped her wound. As the man applied pressure to the wound Amaya gasped slightly, trying to restrain the obvious sense of pleasure she felt in front of the Captain.
As he looked down on her, Amaya realized this may be the first time the Captain was seeing her tattoos, he probably wouldn’t comment, or even care, but still the woman felt somewhat exposed. Masato’s hand was touching his eye patch, and he seemed clearly distracted with the memory of Claire, which put her a little more at ease.
“Thanks…” Amaya hadn’t been expecting congratulations, scolding maybe, or just indifference. He had indicated that he knew she was more powerful… “Captain, Claire indicated things… about you… How did you know her? Did you know she was who we’d be fighting?”
"There was always the possibility you might meet her on the battlefield, as there is the distinct possibility that in your tenure as a shinigami you will face the Hollow dubbed Hivemind by Soul Society." Masato addressed the easier question first, "Or perhaps more like the possibility that one day you will become Captain Commander of the Gotei 13. That possibility was perhaps only heightened by the fact I know you well enough to send you on a mission I wouldn't give to many people.
"Claire was the fiance to my...perhaps 'best friend' is the word? Former, that is. In any case, he died protecting me. Claire's misgivings and regrets, I believe, gave birth to a Hollow." Masato steeled his voice, "She is wanted for abandoning the Gotei 13, conspiracy to murder a seated officer of the 11th Division and...for assault against the Vice Captain of the 11th Division."
Kigiku gleamed in the darkness.
"She was the one person with whom I suffered after Naoko's death." Masato said, "...and then she took my eye and my peace of mind with regards to anyone I thought I knew. Although, to be honest, Leon didn't help with that either."
Holy shit, this went deeper than I could ever have guessed. And that name again, Leon, just how powerful was the man? It seemed like just about everyone knew him, but her. Why is he telling me all of this, does he actually trust me now, is he starting to respect me?
Hayashi looked the man in his single eye, trying to imagine what he looked like with the other. She wanted to stand up, and get close to the man; she wanted him to be the one she spoke to about all of this.
“Thank you Masato, for trusting me with that mission. I never meant to bring up such a painful subjECT!!!”
As she had spoke the words, before she could continue with anything else she had to say, the man had pushed on the wound in her stomach, with such incredible pressure Amaya lost control of her response. Moaning and twisting, she pushed her body back into the hands of the man. The reaction made the man pull away, but Amaya grabbed him with her scarred right arm, and held him tight.
Another moan escaped her lips; Claire had given her such a unique gift, and just trying to hold back her reaction around Masato had intensified it. After a second she had control again, at least enough to whisper.
“Sorry Masato, I couldn’t control myself. The pain was too…intense.”
What had she just done…
The Acting Captain arced an eyebrow - despite this, his overall reaction was unreadable. After a moment of contemplation the eyebrow returned to its normal perch and Masato spoke again.
"It wasn't you who brought it up. Claire forced herself back into my realm. Katsurou ensured she will not do so lightly." The Acting Captain's eye glimmered with something before there was a blur in his outline - had he just...shivered?
"I do see that you lugged yourself over here instead of opting to recieve care from the 4th. I hope you did not forget my order, Hayashi. I would be...most displeased if you were one of the corpses that I treaded upon."
The odd wording seemed purposeful, but there was little time to debate the choice - suddenly, a Hollow errupted upwards from the sand. It had lay in ambush for how many years, how many eons? For what length of time had it lay its trap, for what eternity had it slumbered? And then, in an instant, Masato had severed its many heads from its body. There was a breif image of stillness before the Hollow's masked body erupted in blood and the desert winds responded by kicking up sand.
"...for surviving the encounter with Claire, I'll tell you something good." Masato's one eye was looking down upon the fading corpse of the Hollow, "This realm is the basis for the world we know. Hollows are impulsive creatures that act upon the base impulses that threaten to consume us. Strong as you are, show but a moment of weakness and you will be swallowed. Is that not so like our own world? Is not the court a terrible place?
"We haven't fallen far from the tree, Hayashi. See the Hollows squirm, consume, screech and writhe. What is their goal? What do they accomplish?" Masato remained impassive and exhaled.
"After all of this is done, I want you to tell me what emotion churns in you when you think of this realm."
Thank god, he didn’t notice… or care. Claire’s words had infiltrated Amaya mind, whispering constantly in the back of her thoughts. Did he want her? Had he sent her on a suicide mission? Shaking her head she focused on the words her Captain spoke. He still wanted her to live… a fact that confused her. What did Masato want?
The man finished wrapping her wounds, and with a deep grin, Amaya stood up again. Facing Masato, and feeling his Reiatsu at this moment was incredible. It was as terrifying as it had been the time they had fought. But the pain she felt alleviated most of the fear, and allowed her to keep her composure.
“Masato, I’m ready to fight. This scratch is nothing more than fuel for me. Once this is over, you will know the emotions I felt while fighting here.”
Masato frowned slightly.
“...it's not the fighting I care about.” the Acting Captain turned away.
“I wonder if you are like Tetsuo.” it was strong statement, coming from the man who had stripped Tetsuo of all things that humans had, “Hayashi...when all of your foes have fallen, what will you do?”
Like Tetsuo? What the hell does he think of me…?
Amaya glared at the man. He could probably kill he with a single slice of his Zanpkutou, cut her apart with the golden blade. But to accuse…even suggest her of being someone who cared for nothing but the fight. She didn’t deserve that, even from someone as powerful as Masato. Hadn’t she saved the life of Katsurou? Hadn’t she just saved the Western Front and spoken to him about keeping his men alive?
How was this the one man she trusted?
“Captain, what the hell do you think I am? Can you really believe that I’m inhuman, living only for the fight? When all of our foes lay at our feet, I’m following you home, where I am going to buy Raury-san the drink I owe him. I’m going to mourn the loss of the cadets who served under me, and I’m washing my hair more times than I can count.
“Don’t ever suggest that I’m like Tetsuo, don’t ever even think it. One of these days maybe you’ll want to learn who I really am. But until then you should know, I am nothing like him.”
She was flustered, and her face was red, barely visible beneath the layers of caked blood. Claire’s influence she was sure, but it was too late to take the words back now, and she was too insulted to back down.
Surprised, Masato turned back around.
I'm following you home.
Hayashi had been the second, after only Sakurasou Katsurou, to convey such a strong sentiment. He regarded her for a moment, clearly confused by the woman.
“Your jewelry is caked in blood. You take obvious pleasure from pain. Foes tremble before you and many look to you for strength. You yourself are shrouded in a crimson veil. What am I to think? I cannot read minds, Hayashi Amaya - I am not Leon Valiente Simeon. I have but the image you present to me to scrutinize.
“Personally...I think you are a person identifying yourself as a woman, but who is searching frantically for a platform to stand on in a society where there is no distinction. You are the one separating yourself from 'the others'. You are in a male-dominated society that exemplifies almost everything wrong with our race, but one that is universally accepting if you can simply hold a sword. Your beauty leads me to believe that you could have almost anything you wanted in Rukongai...given a certain price. What is dignity before riches? Are you the pearls or are you the swine? Either way you are in a place that you do not understand. But is it the place or do you not understand yourself? Or perhaps you are not comfortable with what you have become.
“Regardless, you are someone who has an answer to a question not many here understand. But remember, Hayashi, that I used the word 'all'. When you stand at the highest peak in existence and all your foes – future, past and present – are vanquished...what is left? Especially when you have found that anyone who holds a sword is your foe?” There was a great distance to Masato's voice as he spoke...as if he spoke not about Hayashi but instead about another.
...all of our foes...
Masato stood awkwardly for a moment before sighing.
“...thanks for saving Katsurou. In truth, his greatest strength is in my peace of mind.” Masato turned to the south.
“Stay near the back for now. When a new crack opens up, they'll need a commander, won't they? Dainijyuuseki-san.”
Masato lingered for but a moment longer before disappearing. There were still many of his own foes to fell today.
[ 2555 ]
Dainijyuuseki - 20th Seated Officer
Dainijyuuseki - 20th Seated Officer