Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ Misplaced Power ( Chapter 54 )
There was food and drink on a table in the room. He ignored it. An hour before he knew if he’d lost. Damn Piecrust! The man was a joke, except there was no humour to be found in the situation. Once this was over he intended to find out what was going on. Refusing to roll! Fainting when asked about fighting moves? There would be a reckoning.
It was pointless thinking about it. He was trapped in the situation and had no method of getting out of it until a winner was acknowledged. The tedium of being stuck alone in a room with nothing to do for an hour was bad, but worse was facing the idea of completing all the challenges.
Yet, the most horrible of all to contemplate was that the Clown Captain might win. Winning would proclaim his innocence, even when Zaraki knew he was guilty, to some extent.
« Plan. Decide how to win each challenge, » the bird told him.
Instead of listening to her advice or entering into yet another pointless discussion, he lay on the floor and shut his eyes. An hour’s sleep was preferable to thinking or listening to the bird jabber.
« Sleep won’t solve anything, » Atonomatsuri said, but he ignored her.
Sleep didn’t have to solve anything. It only had to come.
He must have slept because there seemed to be a firm hand shaking his shoulder and his eyes were reluctant to open.
« I’m awake, » was his response. « Stop touching me. »
Sitting he opened his eyes to behold the Old Man standing in front of him. « You failed to teach Hisutanga anything. »
He felt like glaring, so he did. Failed to teach the man! The man was a failure and anyone who came in contact with him seemed infected with the taint. « He refused to learn. »
The old man shook his head. What? This was ridiculous. Piecrust had been no help to him. Refusing to roll, provide information and not even admit that he’d done anything wrong. The Captain-General wouldn’t tolerate that from any of his Captains, so why did he expect Zaraki might even let it pass in one of his subordinates?
« He can learn, » Yamamoto told him, « but it is up to the teacher to make the lesson valuable. »
« Great, the Old Man is starting to talk like the bird, » Zaraki thought. « As if one wasn’t enough. »
A loud ‘Harrumph’ and cough indicated the bird’s displeasure at his comparison.
« The fool kept fainting and wouldn’t tell me anything. How was he a fair choice? Anyone else might have tried. » Anyone else might have not only have tried but succeeded. Who had chosen Piecrust and why? Did they want him to fail?
Yamamoto shook his head. « You fail to see the problems he is facing. »
Piecrust had a problem? Surely he meant Piecrust was the problem. And why was it important for him to deal with the problem, be it Piecrust or whatever was biting his backside, now? There would be time for that later, when he wasn’t involved in some stupid set of challenges which were more like kid’s games, or some of them were. The maze was pretty childish as was the guessing competition.
« The problem he is facing is he’s alive and useless, » Zaraki hit back with his words. « Send him out of the Seireitei. I don’t care who his father was or what plans you have for him. »
The Old Man looked grave. Zaraki knew he was going to tell him that it wasn’t possible and probably spout on about honour and tradition. « He is a Shinigami and has to learn how to behave like one. »
Yeah, true, but why make it his problem? He voiced his thoughts aloud to his superior officer, not caring much about the response. There was no point in pretending he was happy, or prepared to accept the situation.
There was a pause after he asked the question, as he expected. There was little chance he’d get a response that satisfied him but this time he wasn’t going to just accept the situation. He wanted answers and good reasons why he shouldn’t kill the jerk the next time he saw him. Until now he’d been denying his anger at the last challenge, trying to use sleep as a way of avoiding the building hostility.
« Captain Kenpachi Zaraki, the Kenpachi, the strongest fighter within the Seireitei, with one exception. I have told you he is your responsibility and you are once more trying to deny that responsibility. Do you wish to try your strength against mine? »
His first reaction was to accept. Fighting the Captain Commander had been a long term wish, to try his strength and skill against the man who founded this place, created the Academy. Since Piecrust had been forced on him, the urge to fight this man had only increased. He wanted to defeat him and force him to expel Yuki from the ranks of the Shinigami and back into Soul Society where he might be of some use, collecting garbage, or propping up a sagging building. More likely the guy would be propped up at some bar, bragging about his time as a Shinigami.
Even better would be permission to rid the world of the man, permanently. The seed from which he’d sprung was contaminated and it was better that the man be prevented from breeding. There was the chance he might have already inflicted his spawn on the world but Zaraki could deal with that problem, if it arose.
Repeating this conversation made him believe not all torture was physical. Every attempt to rid his Division of the crumbs that blended together made Piecrust only proved time and again that it was necessary to break him. Attempting to break the Old Man was not going to work.
Was Piecrust already broken? It’d explain what happened during the challenge.
It wasn’t possible. No one broke so quickly and easily. Not if they had courage, backbone and even a little common sense.
Grimly, he laughed. « The man has no spine, bravery or sense. »
« He is your Shinigami. » The Old Man was as stubborn as ever but Zaraki noticed there was no denial.
« I don’t want him. »
« You will keep him and train him. »
« No. »
« I order you. »
That stung. « I refuse. » He’d said it. One of the few times he’d defied the Old Man and it felt good.
« You do not have that right. As you Commanding Officer I hold the ultimate authority. See sense, Captain Zaraki. »
« He means it Kenny. Have you ever known him to back down? » As usual the bird was siding against him. Did every Shinigami have this problem with their zanpakuto’s? Or if he managed to bankai would she become nicer? It was as likely as Piecrust learning his zanpakuto’s name.
He felt his teeth clench and did nothing to stop them. « Understand me, Captain. In matters of discipline I am not interested in the rights of others. Do as you are instructed. I refuse to make idle threats. »
« Yeah. I know. » That was the thing that stuck in his throat. Either he put up with a talentless jerk, wasted time trying to train him or he might lose his captaincy. Did he care so much about keeping it now? « Can’t this wait? Until after this stupi… these challenges are over? Or the dweeb falls over and stabs himself to death on some chopsticks? »
A squawk of laughter greeted his words. At least he amused the vulture even if it didn’t make the Old Man change his mind or smile.
Aside from the laughter in his head, there was silence.
« While these challenges are continuing you cannot lose sight of your responsibilities. The man is your responsibility and his training is part of it. You will not be permitted to overlook him, now or later, » Yamamoto sounded adamant.
Zaraki sighed loudly. Trying to keep focused on the weird crap he was meant to do and being pestered by the Old Man grated on him. « Okay. I give up my Captaincy. Make someone else responsible for training the jerk! »
The words were uttered in the heat of anger and he it wasn’t his wish to give up his current relatively easy life, but Piecrust was becoming too much of an issue. If the Old Man was prepared to lay down the law about this, then he didn’t want any part of it. Attempting to train someone with little talent and interest because his superior insisted, didn’t suit him. It was time to assert his independence.
« The consequences of giving up your Captaincy will not be to your taste, Captain Zaraki. »
Consequences? Yeah, of course. He had to be killed by his successor. Damn, he’d forgotten that minor point. While he wanted to get away from Piecrust, death seemed to be too much to trade off.
« Don’t die, Zaraki. If you die, I die, » Atonomatsuri sounded worried.
« Thought you wanted both of us to die, » he shot back.
« We’ve reached an understanding since then. I want to see you learn to appreciate me. » Her words nearly made him gag.
An understanding was a strange way to describe their turbulent interactions. She baited him and insulted him all the while spouting those bloody adages while he ignored, insulted and got alternatively frustrated and infuriated with her. Sometimes she spoke sense. Often she interrupted his thoughts and peace.
« You’d miss me? » She didn’t sound certain.
« I’d be completely dead and wouldn’t miss anything. »
Missing the bird might prove to be the one thing to turn him onto the idea of dying.
« If you choose this path, then be aware that Yuki Hisutanga will be the only Shinigami permitted to challenge you for the position of Captain of the 11th Division. »
Holy Hell! Did the Old Man mean it? Was he going to press it that far? Destroy the reputation of both the title Kenpachi, the strongest fighter in the Seireitei, and the 11th Division by giving it to the hands of Piecrust? It would take seconds for him to make a hash of the command and make his Division rank lower than 4th Division. Even if Madarame, Ayasegawa and Yachiru remained, which he doubted, how could they function under the man? It would be a matter of days before one of them tired of the twit and forced a battle to take command. Not that Piecrust posed any threat.
« He would be permitted to hold the position for 6 months before anyone could challenge him for the command. »
This was going too frigging far. Protecting the man from his incompetency and letting him destroy the one thing in which Zaraki felt some pride. If Zaraki were dead, Madarame might finally accept his responsibility and accept a Captain’s position and take Ayasegawa as his Assistant Captain, if he didn’t try to kill the jerk. They’d both do well with power and not allow it to corrupt them or make them posers like the damned Clown Captain and they didn’t have the pretensions of Captain Frosty. They’d have the support of Iba, Abarai, Retsu and possibly Ukitake. But Yachiru: what would happen to her? She’d already tried to kill Piecrust, more than once, and the insult of having him as her Captain might be enough to make her try even harder.
« Anyone attempting to kill Hisutanga before the 6 months have passed will either be executed or sentenced to life time confinement to the Maggots Nest. »
Yachiru sentenced to death or to live out her youth in a place more suited to him! Anything else he might have accepted but his damned sentimentality wouldn’t let him permit his friend to suffer due to the perversity of his Commanding Officer.
It almost seemed like he was reading his thoughts. Raising his eyebrows he opened his mouth to ask.
« I’m not reading your mind, Captain Zaraki. Simply predicting the way your mind is working through the problems I am setting you. It is simple logic. You have proven fear of death doesn’t dissuade you from taking any action, but you care about the status of your Division and the people within it. »
« You’re manipulating me. » The facts were clear.
« I am merely taking advantage of the situation and forcing it to serve my purpose. My duty is clear. »
« Care to tell me why? Yeah, I killed Piecrust’s father, but so what? The man was an evil scourge to kids, which you were careful to hide. » Previous requests had gone unanswered but this time he was going to push it as far as possible.
Through tight lips Yamamoto said, « Yuki Hisutanga was one of the victims of his father but doesn’t remember. The trauma he suffered has affected him and I’ve been advised a strong father figure is essential for him to develop. »
A strong father figure? The Old Man expected him to be a father figure to a fool? Why was it his responsibility? The story was changing. He didn’t get the impression he’d been lied to previously, but some facts had been withheld or not fully explained, or sidestepped. Maybe the Old Man had told him some things that weren’t true to protect some information, but now it seemed he was going to reveal the real reason. This was unusual tactics from his commanding officer who normally directed and expected immediate obedience, but now more information was forthcoming which changed the situation dramatically. There had to be more behind the interest in Piecrust, and this time he was going to push it, but waited for the words he knew were coming.
« Your relationship with Yachiru made you the logical choice. Despite the violence of your nature, you put aside many of your inclinations to care for the baby and then the child. Then there is the matter of your performing an act of recompense for the murder of the man’s father. »
« Murder? Sounds like something Tosen would say. I killed the man in a fair fight according to the rules. » He hated the reasons given as to why he was chosen. Every retort he thought of sounded like an excuse. The trap had been expertly woven; the net didn’t have a hole big enough for him to break through. The cords used to weave it were stronger than steel.
« Why is it your responsibility? So what? He’s the son of a former Captain! Big flipping deal. »
« His mother is my second cousin’s niece. »
Family! That was the real reason. All the other reasons were convenient. At least the jerk wasn’t the Old Man’s illegitimate son because that would have been too uncomfortable.
« I didn’t know about the relationship until she left her husband. I have no interest in any people in the Seireitei unless they are Shinigami. »
Too many freaking coincidences. « Didn’t your second cousin tell you? »
Yamamoto shook his head firmly. « Family are not important, or should not matter in the Seireitei. »
« But this matters to you. »
« I was the man’s commander and didn’t know about his perversion. As a Commanding officer I failed. » The man spat out the words, obviously angered by the admission. “If you tell any living being about this, the flames of Ryujin Jakka will engulf you.”
« What about the other children? Do they get ignored? »
Yamamoto’s eyes shot open and he glared at Zaraki, pinpoint flames dancing in the pupils of his eyes. »None of your business! »
A small smile twisted Zaraki’s mouth. « Family does matter. » It felt good to confront his Commanding Officer with his unspoken references. He didn’t remember his family, but now had a new one.
« He is the last of those who were abused to be assisted. The others adapted well, but he hasn’t responded to any treatment. He doesn’t remember. The man has the firm belief his problems can be directly related to other people’s jealousy and the actions they take against him. »
Zaraki’s guts ached as he understood the meaning behind the demands. Yamamoto was trying to address the problem discretely and had succeeded in all but one case. It was hard to do good deeds in secret and not be misunderstood by any person who was not aware of all the facts. The man was being noble but didn’t want anyone else to find out. What was so bad about trying to help others?
« I’d hoped you might see some promise and train him. None of his teachers gave me any encouragement. » The tone flatly indicated a simple but unpalatable statement of fact. The admission obviously grated on the Old Man.
It was too easy to believe the words. « Did you get him into the Academy? » He wanted the truth.
« No, he qualified, barely, but he did qualify to join and passed, at the bottom of the year. »
Yamamoto voice lowered with each word he spoke. His discomfort at revealing any of this was highly noticeable.
« You should have told me. »
A hard, cold laugh and then nothing.
He thought of saying something, but decided to wait. Pushing at the Captain-General never got anywhere unless it got him into trouble.
Minutes passed and he still waited. Impatience flared as the time passed, but he tried to remain calm and repress his desire for acknowledgement or see some indication of possible regret.
« You were the logical choice. When you take an interest in one of your subordinates, they end up doing great things. Look at Renji Abarai! »
A compliment? The old man never handed out compliments, only criticism and anyway, it was misplaced. « Madarame helped Abarai. »
The close scrutiny to which he was subjected made him shift uncomfortably.
« Your third seat listens to your orders, even the unspoken ones. »
What the hell? He’d never said anything to Madarame about Abarai, except to mention the guy might require some help settling in and suggested he show him the ropes. After being thrown out by Aizen, Zaraki didn’t want to make the man develop a rational fear of Captains and kept away from him as much as possible. Madarame had done well and encouraged the guy, helping him get over the screwed up suggestions Aizen had implanted.
Quickly he dismissed the recollections, lifting and dropping his shoulders quickly. « Nothing to do with me. Madarame wanted to help out a guy in trouble. »
« Hisutanga has potential, » before Zaraki could say anything in response, he held up his hand and continued. « Not a vast amount, but some. »
At least he’d dropped the subject of Abarai.
Now it was Zaraki’s turn to give a bitter laugh. « Potential? Never seen any sign of it. ».
« Were you looking? »
The harsh crack of the question made him pause. New recruits? He’d not really taken the time to observe them, thinking to give more responsibility to Madarame by letting him take charge. What little he had observed wasn’t much as he was only considering their fighting skills and Piecrust had shown no aptitude.
« The man is not a fighter.
« No. »
Even the Old Man agreed he wasn’t a fighter? Then why was he putting him through all this garbage? Misplaced family feeling or his usual stubborn insistence of his rules being paramount?
« Then why…. »
« He could be a promising fighter. All he needs is some encouragement. »
« That’s not what you said earlier. » He’d already admitted Piecrust wasn’t a fighter and then suggested he could be. Was he purposely trying to be confusing, or hiding something?
A startling thought crossed his mind and he spoke before he could censor his words. « He’s not good at kido. That can’t be it. Fighting, kido… » His mind was working fast. « Kendo. Not frigging likely. He’s got no charisma, so that can’t be it. The only thing he could lead is a new born puppy; a mentally challenged new born puppy, who was blind. »
« Captain Zaraki, may I remind you he is in your charge. »
Without meaning to Zaraki snarled. « Yeah, my charge but I can’t do anything with him. Can’t get rid of him, can’t teach him, and can’t even kill the fool. And now you’re hinting at some imagined potential. Get to the point.”
There was no mistaking he’d hit a nerve. Yamamoto didn’t flinch, but he did take a noticeably deep breath. “See it as a challenge,” the Old Man finally said. “The hardest one you might ever face.”
The meaning was clear. “You don’t think I can do it.”
“Until now there has been no evidence you’re trying.”
“Because I haven’t.”
The nod he received made him realise the whole conversation had been leading to this point. His superior was wily and manipulative, but he worked toward achieving a result.
Why? He’d made the admission before, but was it the tone of conciliation he used? Conciliation? Hell! Was he accepting he had to try to help Piecrust? Previously there had been half hearted acceptance, but this was possibly the first time he meant it.
Raising an eyebrow, he frowned heavily. “I can’t teach him anything if I’m not Captain of 11th Division.”
“It never crossed my mind to replace you. Insubordinate you may be and you overlook a large amount of the duties required of a captain, but no one has ever managed to inspire the Division and make the bunch of grunts into a cohesive unit.”
Another compliment? This was getting more disturbing. Compliments from a person he respected threw him off centre and made it difficult to remember his legitimate problems with the situation.
“You were the one who made the suggestion about finding a new captain for your Division, but it is unacceptable to me.”
Thinking it through, there were a few conditions he might state which could release him from this task, but if they didn’t he’d have to train the pain. “I’ll try to make something more than a pig’s ear out of him on a few conditions: he only answers to me: you tell him he has to obey my orders without argument or hesitation and you can’t interfere.”
A tiny shift in the man’s posture gave him a clue about incidents and conversations of which he was unaware, but now was not the time to ask the question.
“If he’s an 11th Division Shinigami, then he has to start acting like one and not faint or cry, or go running home to Mummy.”
Again a slight shift provided some confirmation.
Yamamoto cleared his throat. “Agreed. He will answer only to you or your deputies. There will be no further communication between him and his family until you provide your agreement.”
Confirmation. Piecrust had been attempting to manipulate the situation, not directly but in using his mother and her possible influence over Yamamoto. It was a touch more subtle than Zaraki expected of him, but using people to sway others left a bad taste in his mouth. From the reactions of the Shinigami who knew him he wasn’t terribly successful, but given time, inclination and the honing of his abilities, he might rely upon his ability to manipulate others.
Was the Old Man hinting that the powers contained within Hitsutanga’s zanpakuto similar to those wielded so treacherously by Aizen? That if the man bothered to learn the name of his zanpakuto and use it as a proper weapon instead of a stick, the power might corrupt him? He had little character, not much backbone and couldn’t hold his own in a fight, but if he had access to that kind of power, without the right discipline and training he might turn out worse than of the traitors who had already emerged. Villains with weak characters and low standards were more annoying than those who showed cunning and appeared to be exempt from the common sense practised by the logical kind.
« How do you know? I thought no one knew the potential power of a blade except the rightful owner. You didn’t even know about Aizen. » The question had to be asked. If they knew the power of the zanpakuto, then Aizen would never have managed to hoodwink everyone for so long.
The Old Man coughed and looked at the ground for a moment. Then raising his head he spoke quietly. « 12th Division secretly developed a method of assessing the potential power of zanpakuto’s. It can only be used on Shinigami who have not formed a close bond with their blade and has only been in use since the latest graduation from the Academy. »
Too many things seemed to be developed secretly. Now he knew all the reasons he’d been landed with the jerk and had to train him. Even though the reasons were good, it still stuck in his craw he’d been forced to work with the guy.
« I want it in writing. A letter sent to Piecrust telling him to obey my orders without question. I have to have the right to discipline him as I see fit and he’s to be banned from 4th Division. Every time he goes there I get grief from Captain Unohana. » A slight exaggeration, but Piecrust had been using 4th Division as a way of getting away from trouble.
Captain Yamamoto nodded. « I will also concede to you request regarding the challenges. They take precedence over Hisutanga, but once they are complete you will have to provide me with a report at the end of every week and a demonstration of his improvement within a month. »
There was a pause and Zaraki quietly breathed a sigh of relief. Yes, the challenges were a pain in the neck, but preferable to working with the fool. Now he wished they might last longer.
He was drawn back to the discussion by a quiet cough and the Old Man added, « By the way, he is to be commanded not to work on learning his zanpakuto’s name. The excuse will be he has to learn to handle a blade before he becomes friends with it. Train him with wooden or bamboo blades. Keep his interaction with his zanpakuto to a minimum. »
« What sort of power does that zanpakuto have, Kenny? I never thought I’d hear the Commander General issue this sort of order. » Atonomatsuri sounded very curious and slightly worried.
« I don’t know, nor do I want to find out. He hasn’t shown any interest in it yet and he’s lazier than I am. Maybe it won’t be a problem. »
« Maybe. » The bird didn’t sound too certain and seemed to pick up on his own feelings.
« He will be kept in confinement and away from his zanpakuto until the end of the challenges as punishment for the bath house incident. That may placate some of the affected parties. »
This at least removed the niggling concern he’d begun to form that the jerk might learn something about his blade. All the same, the time after the challenges didn’t promise to be any fun. The one relief was Yachiru wouldn’t try to kill him again for bugging her, or for his bigger sin of simply existing.
A loud knock was followed by the entrance of Assistant Captain Choujiro Sasakibe. « The time is up for the challenge. Captain Zaraki, would you please accompany me so the winner may be announced? »
« Yeah, whatever, » Zaraki said. He pushed all other thoughts from his head. If Kurotsuchi won he’d be in a bad mood and want revenge against the person responsible. Now the Captain-General had given his assurance that he’d be in complete charge of the man, there might be some interesting ways to show Piecrust the gratitude he deserved, while training him. The first thing he needed to learn was his actions were his responsibility and he would have to suffer any consequences. Cleaning 11th Division’s latrines for a week might be a good start.
With a grim smile on his face he followed the man and faced the judges table, hope almost fading when he saw the smug look on the Clown Captain’s face. All he needed now was to hear his loss confirmed.
This chapter was delayed by another overseas trip and is dedicated to Tequila Man for persisting in his attempts to remove the incorrectly posted version of this story successfully and finally from Bleachflame.