Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ Bitter ( Chapter 6 )

[ T - Teen: Not suitable for readers under 13 ]

Tite Kubo owns Bleach. I just borrowed the characters.
I do own Atonomatsuri. Not the word, the character in this chapter.
Zaraki talks to his zanpaku-to a few days after his conversation with Retsu. Procrastination is the thief of time. Warning: adages ahead. Some of the adages are misquoted for fun. Some mild swearing. Hey, it’s Zaraki. You expect him to always be polite?
Please review. It won’t take long. Maybe even less time than reading this.
Someone once told him that the road to hell was paved with good intentions. Why the person told him this, he did not know, nor did he care. The phrase came to his mind every so often recently.
Good intentions. Did he even have good intentions? What did good intentions mean? If you jumped in a river with the good intention of saving a drowning person and then you drowned, would you go to hell? The good intention was there, but you’d failed. That was too philosophical. All this thinking was bad.
He had intended to talk to his zanpaku-to, but days had passed and he didn’t have the time. He’d had some new recruits join his division and he had to fight them to see if they provided any challenge or if they belonged in his division. As usual he’d been disappointed. One or two of them had to be taken to 4th Division for healing and he’d been loath to visit them there. He knew Retsu would ask what had happened with his zanpaku-to and he didn’t want to explain his lack of action. Why did they give him weak cadets? He only wanted the strong ones.
The paperwork was being completed by Yumichika after a mini tantrum.
Why do I always get the boring jobs? Why can‘t Yachiru do it? She‘s your assistant captain, Yumichika whined.
Do you want to suggest it to her? Go on, I dare you, as long as I can watch, Zaraki suggested. I want some fun and that might be fun.
Yumichika paled. Um, wouldn‘t it be better coming from you? I mean she respects you and you are her commander and, and… Yumichika was floundering, almost perspiring, looking for the words that might convince Zaraki. He knew he was failing.
Zaraki grinned wolfishly. Yachiru suggested you do the paperwork. I wouldn‘t ask her to do it. I want the papers in a readable condition. She hates paperwork more than I do. You don‘t want me to tell her that you wanted her to do the paperwork, do you? That might be even more fun that you suggesting it to her. Yeah, I‘ll go and tell her, Zaraki started to walk away.
No, don‘t, Yumichika shrilled. I‘ll do the paperwork if you don‘t make me do it next time.
Can‘t promise that, now can I? Just do the paperwork. Remember, I let you fight Hisagi. I think this is just a bit of payback. After all, I am your captain and you respect me, Zaraki was firm, but amused.
Yumichika knew he was beaten. He surveyed the paperwork. It would take days, maybe even a week.
I‘ll do the paperwork, Captain, he sullenly agreed. Will you request that no one interrupts me? And may I have extra sake, to help me concentrate?
Can‘t promise about the interruptions. You are in my office; people come in here all the time. And you can have extra sake…when the paperwork is complete. You can‘t be drunk when you do paperwork; it doesn‘t help concentration, Zaraki responded still grinning. He loved to win, even an argument with a subordinate.
Zaraki left Yumichika in the office. Yumichika was muttering under his breath about the chocolate and jam stains and `sake scrooges.
For the next few days, every so often Zaraki would walk through his office to find Yumichika primping or working. Every time he caught him primping, he‘d make Yumichika come out and spar. At least he provided a challenge and wasn‘t as weak as the new recruits. Not up to Zaraki‘s level, of course, but at least it provided some entertainment. He told Yumichika that it was for his own good. He needed to stretch after all the reading and writing.
Zaraki realised he was bored. Annoying Yumichika and sparring with the new recruits was just an excuse. He knew he had been making excuses not to talk to his zanpaku-to. There was no reason to pretend. He tried not to lie to himself. Too many people lied. He preferred honesty and violence; the two went well together.
“Anticipation is the thief of time,” he thought. Hell, where was he getting all these adages from? He didn’t even remember hearing that one before. What a stupid idea, anticipation being a thief. Who thought up these things anyway and why was he even thinking them?
“Procrastination is the thief of time,” the words suddenly burst into his mind. Another moronic adage which was a slight variation on the previous one. He needed to stop thinking so much. It was obviously having some strange side effects. Now he was thinking in adages. Next he would be wearing fluffy slippers and mumbling to himself, or worse, enjoying paperwork. Zaraki shuddered slightly.
He scratched his head, then the scar on his chest. He was bored and it was time. He went in search of a place that would be quiet and he could be undisturbed. That morning he’d asked Yachiru to make sure Yumichika continued to work. That might keep her occupied. It would certainly irritate the hell out of Yumichika. He smiled at the images his mind produced. Yeah, that should keep them both occupied.
He arrived at the first place he thought would be deserted but found a group of 3rd Division shinigami gambling. He quickly left before anyone saw him. With Ichimaru gone the division was losing discipline. They needed a new captain, quickly. Izuru tried to keep the division in order but without authority, it seemed that he was failing. 3rd Division seemed to lose heart with the discovery that their captain was a traitor. They needed someone who would keep them so busy that they had no time for thinking, or gambling. He should raise it with the old man. 9th Division was faring better because Hisagi bore the authority well. “Maybe the old man should make him a captain”, Zaraki mused.
Zaraki strode quickly to the next area he thought would provide privacy. It was being used as the venue for an impromptu drinking contest. Zaraki briefly thought of joining the game. Talking to his zanpaku-to could wait.
“There is no time like the present. Strike while the iron is hot.” Two adages surfaced in his mind. It was getting worse. Two at once. Maybe he should go and see Retsu. These adages were not normal. It didn’t even sound like his internal voice saying them. He thought about paperwork, just to see if he had suffered a complete personality change but found he still hated paperwork. That was something, at least. Maybe he should try to talk to his zanpaku-to now. At least he’d know if it would work.
Zaraki arrived at the third and final place he thought would be empty and was glad to see it was deserted. He quickly secured the door and stood uncertain of his next action. Should he sit or stand? Should he apologise first? Call it by name? Take his zanpaku-to out of it’s sheathe?
It was not like him to be indecisive, except about the direction of reiatsu. The adages, the thinking, the defeat by Ichigo, the betrayal by 3 Captains, the failure to get a proper response from his zanpaku-to, had all affected him, had shaken his confidence. Not that anyone would notice a change. He was Zaraki Kenpachi, Captain of the 11th Division. He led the strongest division. He was the strongest captain. Well he wasn’t sure about Byakuya. The man never accepted his challenges and Zaraki had not witnessed the fight between him and Ichigo. He lost to Ichigo as well, so it was hard to tell how good a fighter Byakuya was.
Zaraki knew many shinigami prayed to get into the 11th Division. That was how he had planned it. He wanted the strong fighters. Zaraki was a success. He had fought and defeated so many and would once more. He would talk to his zanpaku-to, now.
He quickly thought of the advice Retsu provided. Apologise often, call it by name, and don’t insult it further. Easy, he could do that. The apology was something he still resisted, but if it was necessary, he would do it.
“Urrr, Atonomatsuri. I am Kenpachi Zaraki and you are my zanpaku-to. I have been told that I have insulted you. I apologise,” Zaraki scowled and swallowed. The taste of the apology was bad. It was worse than the first time he apologised. Apologies did not become any easier. “I know you are not a simple tool. You are one of the noble zanpaku-to’s. A weapon without peer. A necessary companion and support for a shinigami.” That sounded okay, sickening, but okay and he had abased himself pretty thoroughly last time. He’d furtively listened to some of the other shinigami talk to their zanpaku-to’s unobserved in the last few days so he could get some ideas. Some of them used even more flattery. Luckily no one was around to hear him.
“Atonomatsuri, for every time I have insulted you, or ignored you, I apologise.” Damn that foul taste in his mouth, again. “I want to get to know you, to talk with you. I think we can be stronger together. We can become stronger than any other shinigami and zanpaku-to. Let’s work together. We can defeat any threat and keep the Seireitei safe from all invaders. I know you will be one of the strongest zanpaku-to’s because you have lasted this long without being summoned. Please, talk to me.” The “please” didn’t taste any better than the apology. “Let’s explore our strengths together. I need you. I want to be stronger.” He hated the way he sounded. It was wrong for him to speak this way. He was becoming as flowery as Kyouraku’s coat.
Zaraki waited. Nothing. He waited a little longer. Still no response. He was getting angry. He’d abased himself, again, for no return.
“Hell, I’m sorry. You want me to beg? Zaraki does not beg. I’m not doing this again. Final chance. If you don’t talk now I’ll just keep using you the way I always have. Now, talk to me, damn it. You are my zanpaku-to. Talk to me, now,” Zaraki was rapidly becoming frustrated as well as angry. Why had he even thought that this would work?
“Patience is a virtue,” a voice said.
Another adage. Wait. That sounded like it came from behind him. Zaraki spun around and saw …
What he saw he didn’t like. It looked like a vulture. A pink and black vulture. But the vulture appeared whole one minute and decomposing the next. The eyes of the vulture weren’t normal. One was like a broken clock face that had stopped on 12. The other eye was a clock face with the hands spinning fast around the dial. Around the neck of the vulture was a chain made of small animal and bird skulls. Zaraki thought that their eye sockets also contained clock faces, but he didn’t want to get close enough to find out. Not that he was scared, just disgusted. The vulture was half his height and he wasn’t sure at that size if it would be able to fly.
Zaraki wondered how the weird looking vulture had entered the building. It was too big to have crawled under the door. He looked up at the ceiling, but there were no holes through which it might have flown. Slowly he realised that this might be the manifestation of his zanpaku-to: Atonomatsuri. He remembered the warning that Retsu had given him. She was right. Briefly he wondered how she knew. Even the warning did not prepare him.
“Speech is silver. Silence is golden,” the vulture said.
“Are you Atonomatsuri?” Zaraki decided to make certain.
“Are you Zaraki?” Atonomatsuri replied with a mocking tone.
“Of course I’m Zaraki. I introduced myself when I called Atonomatsuri,” Zaraki found this conversation annoying.
“I’m Atonomatsuri. Your noble zanpaku-to. A weapon without peer. Zaraki, you’re full of it. What a stupid thing to say,” Atonomatsuri sniggered slightly. It was not a pleasant sound. “I have been talking to you since you talked to Retsu. Listen and you will hear. Pay attention and you will learn. Seek and ye shall find.”
Zaraki groaned. The bird was mocking him with his own words. Worse it was spouting more adages. The adages that kept coming to his mind were his zanpaku-to talking to him. While he felt relief that he wasn’t sick or insane, he was irritated. If the zanpaku-to could talk directly to his mind he might hear even more adages. Zaraki detested adages.
“Do you have to keep saying those stupid things?” he asked.
Atonomatsuri cocked its head to one side. “Stupid things? Enlighten me about the stupid things I say. I am what I am.”
“Those adages, the sayings, proverbs, axioms, maxims, clichés, mottos, platitudes, the stupid generalisations. I hate them. They are fillers to hide what people are really thinking. They support dishonesty,” Zaraki grated. He’d surprised himself with the list of names for the thing he hated. Where had that come from?
“Swallowed a thesaurus did you, Zaraki? Or maybe you hate adages and learnt some of the names for them so you could appear clever. You left out a few like aphorisms, saws, dictums, truisms, chestnuts and epigrams. You aren’t clever. You’re stupid and violent. You should have talked to me earlier. Three feeble attempts and one was just out of pique at being beaten. Anyway, adages are part of life, just like death and taxes.” It looked like Atonomatsuri was grinning.
Zaraki was taken aback. The bird was insulting him again. How could a vulture grin? But it wasn’t a vulture. A zanpaku-to did not have to abide by normal physical laws.
“So, you said you want to get to know me. Let me see. I’m older than you think, I’m female, love the colour pink and I love adages. I hate you Zaraki. You put me through so much pain. I was screaming and you didn’t hear me, or you ignored me. Even Zangetsu and Ichigo could hear my screams but you were deaf to me. Now you need my help and you apologise. I loved hearing you abase yourself. It amused me to hear the great and powerful Kenpachi Zaraki, Captain of the 11th Division, say flowery words that he didn’t really mean. You really came up with some gems. Who the hell were you quoting, because you sure as Hades didn’t write the script.” She paused and looked at him with no visible expression.
“I memorised every word you said. It was funny while it lasted, but it’s not enough. It doesn’t redeem you. You were dishonest, Zaraki. You pride yourself on your honesty and you were dishonest when you talked to me. Lying to me and you. Adages are not the only way to hide the way people think. Words are just tools. You decide their meaning. A bad day’s work. Honesty is the best policy.” Atonomatsuri seemed to take pleasure in Zaraki’s wince at another adage.
“Of course I appeared to you, but only after you were honest and started to lose your temper,” she continued. “Finally you threatened me, as I anticipated. You love threats. I appeared to you because I need the chance to be summoned. It will relieve my suffering, but I want you to suffer, just like you’ve made me suffer. I’ll work with you, when I feel like it, but I don’t trust you Zaraki. I advise you not to trust me. Trust has to be earned as does respect. I don’t respect you, either. I’ll repay you for all the pain and suffering you caused me. If you want a friend, look elsewhere. To have a friend you have to be a friend.” Atonomatsuri said with a shake of her head.
Zaraki felt his head begin to ache as he scowled at the vulture. It was worse than he originally thought. A decomposing pink and black female vulture with a love of adages who could communicate directly to his mind. Pink was definitely not a soothing colour. Atonomatsuri hated him and wanted to punish him. He didn’t like her much either. Too late. He’d waited too long. This wasn’t going to work.
Author‘s Note:
I had to end it there. I’ve got to rethink Atonomatsuri. The adages were not planned, nor the diatribe, or the hatred, or the revenge, or the pinkness. I tried to rewrite her, but the diatribe became more intense and bitter. I’d planned Atonomatsuri’s character before writing this chapter, but as I wrote she changed. Atonomatsuri was actually going to alternate between sweet, nasty and flirtatious. Maybe she will develop some sweetness later, but I doubt it. Bankai, for Zaraki, will not be easy.
When I remembered that both Zangetsu and Ichigo could hear Zaraki’s zanpaku-to screaming, while they battled Zaraki, it was obvious Atonomatsuri must hate Zaraki, unless she is a masochist.
If you think Zaraki is OOC, he was trying to do something he had failed at before. If he really wants something he would be prepared to compromise, a bit.
Standing Behind