Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ Pieces of a Scar ( Chapter 35 )

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

Tite Kubo owns Bleach. I just borrowed the characters. I do own Atonomatsuri (the bird) and Piecrust (the jerk).
Pieces of a Scar
The sound of the door opening prevented him from replying to the bird’s comment. He knew that she meant there was something happening of which he was unaware, but didn’t have a chance to ask the question and receive the inevitable, unhelpful reply.
“Ken-chan! I heard you were here so I came right away. Baldy’s awake and he’s grumpy. No one will give him sake or ramen. They keep taking his temperature and make him swallow medicine, or they poke him and prod him and check his stiches. He wants to come and visit and so does Pretty Boy,” Yachiru bounced into the room, smiling happily at her Captain.
He was pleased to see her smiling at him after hearing about the events in the bath house but she could be hiding her feelings? He thought about visitors before he answered. At least the ones she mentioned would be people who knew him and wouldn’t ask idiotic questions. Ayasegawa and Yachiru could update Madarame about the revelations of the morning, if they hadn’t done so already.
“Sure,” he answered. It would help pass the time and he felt like company. Then he noticed smudges of dried red and blue paint on Yachiru’s cheek and the sleeve of her uniform and many streaks in her hair. “Have you been helping paint the office?”
Her eyes round with astonishment, she looked at Zaraki. “How did you guess?”
Smiling at her he gestured to her uniform and she looked down and giggled. “It’s nearly finished. You’ll be able to use your office tomorrow. I’m making Pretty Boy paint my room afterwards. It will be pink and black with some white. He glowered at me when I told him and said that you wanted him to paint your room. You don’t mind if he paints my room first, do you Ken-chan?”
“No Yachiru. You can sleep in my quarters while your room is painted as long as you don’t decide to wake me up at two in the morning because you’ve had a dream, or want ice-cream,” he said as he remembered some of the strange things that she might do.
“I don’t eat ice-cream in the middle of the night. I eat chocolate,” she replied. “I’ll have to bring my ear plugs,” she said reflectively.
“Because you snore Ken-chan. If you drink too much sake you snore really, really loud,” she said the words quietly but he could sense the truth in the unpleasant statement. “It keeps me awake.”
He glared at her. He was his own man and he didn’t need some kid to talk to him about his drinking or sleeping habits. Then he remembered she wasn’t really a kid and she was invariably truthful with her observations about him. Would a few days without alcohol really be a problem? There was a very good chance that he wouldn’t be given anything to drink in this place, which Madarame was already complaining about. It might work as long, as those damned dreams didn’t return. She wasn’t asking much, was she? He’d compromise, still drink, but moderate it. “Okay, okay. I won’t drink too much when you stay over. Does that make you happy?”
She nodded. “I want to sleep in the same room as you Ken-chan, like we used to do. You can tell me a story and I can tell you jokes before we go to sleep.”
A small smile tugged the corners of his mouth. He recalled those days so clearly when she was young and so curious about the world. Every time he told her a story he had to stop often to answer the questions that bubbled out of her mouth.
“What’s a dragon? Why are princesses so stupid? Why does she expect someone else to rescue her? Do we have a king? Can I be a prince when I grow up? I want to be a prince, not a princess.” So many questions about the stories and later about life.
As she turned and was about to leave the room, he remembered what had happened earlier which was the indirect cause of his forced visit to 4th Division. “Yachiru, sit down.” He used that special tone which made the statement sound like an order; one he would not allow to be disobeyed. Also he was still not happy about being bossed around by another interfering female. The scrofulous vulture seemed to believe that she had complete justification in telling him what to do and the way his assistant captain tried to convince him to do things her way. This time he would make the decisions.
Yachiru turned and looked at him, her mouth dropping open with surprise at his tone, but sat on a chair near the bed. Frowning slightly she shifted in her seat and then pulled her legs up and sat cross legged as she gazed at him intently. “You’re not going to ask me about Piecrust, are you Ken-chan? He was rude to Chesty and me. Captain Fun was very cross. Did you know Lolly had undone her plait? I like her better without the plait, but she says it keeps her hair neat. Do you think I should grow my hair Ken-chan and then I can plait it, or you can learn how to do plaits? Maybe you could plait your hair too.”
The wash of her words flooded his ears and for a moment he wanted to tell her that he had enough trouble dealing with his own hair, let alone learning how to plait hers. But before he answered, he paused slightly and then appreciated exactly what she was doing. Often, in the past, she had distracted him by beginning to talk about a problem she was trying to avoid and then going onto another subject. It was usually highly effective because he normally didn’t want to talk about whatever it was either. This time he knew he had to find out what had happened and her attempted sidetrack wouldn’t work.
“No. Close the door,” he told her and she did so. She appeared to understand that this matter was serious and once the door was secured she sat on the bed, close to him so they could talk without being overheard.
“When he is recovered, Piecrust will be subject to a disciplinary hearing about what happened earlier and I have to defend him, though I don’t think there is any defence. You have to help me by telling me what happened. I’m only getting half the story of what Piecrust did and I need you to tell me everything you can remember.” Keeping his voice low, he injected a note of authority.
Biting her lip she raised her large eyes until they met his. Her gaze dropped slightly as she noticed his expression but then a cunning smile crossed her face. “He’s in bad trouble isn’t he? I’ll tell if you tell me what happened to your foot. Everyone here knows that Captain Casanova helped you get here and that you stopped swearing once he started to help. Did you really try to punch Dizzy Izzy? I don’t believe it.”
Who was Dizzy Izzy? Then he guessed that she as playing with Assistant Captain Ise’s name. Dizzy Izzy didn’t suit her. And Captain Casanova? He wondered what Kyoraku would think of that title.
Directing his attention to her question he speculated if it mattered if he told Yachiru that he had a few problems to sort out with Atonomatsuri. He wouldn’t tell her the reason. No one else must know who fathered Piecrust, especially the idiot himself.
“You tell first. Come on, kid.”
“Well, Lolly said she’d help wash my hair because of..,” she faltered slightly.
“Because of the paint?” It seemed an obvious reason.
Touching her hair she made a face as her hand encountered the tacky patches of paint. “Yes. Anyway, we went to the bathhouse and I took off my shoes and socks. Chesty was already there and was undressing. Lolly had taken off her Captain’s coat and was undoing her plait when Captain Fun came in talking about how difficult it was to prepare a case in such a short time. She wanted to have a bath so she could relax after all the work. Chesty was unhappy with the Crimson Kamikaze for some reason. I think he was goofing off and her Captain insisted she had to work. I think Captain Frosty was annoying her as well because she said something about humourless nobles. Then she said she wanted a bath because much she hated being in the same room as the Clown Captain and it made her feel dirty to be near him”
Zaraki nodded. He didn’t like being near Kurotsuchi either. Being trapped in a room trying to work out a defence with Hitsugaya, Abarai and Kuchiki wouldn’t be pleasant. Having the added detraction of having Kurotsuchi there as well would make him want to kill someone. Kuchiki could be such a joyless son of a gun even on his good days. But then he’d be helpful in developing a defence. Maybe, if he approached him correctly, he might help with Piecrust’s defence. Given their past history he wasn’t sure if the 6th Division Captain would be prepared to help unless he felt he owed the other party. He’d get Madarame to talk to Renji to see if he had any ideas, but that would have to wait.
“Because Clowny wouldn’t stop nattering, or complaining, they eventually decided to have a break. That was why Chesty was there. Captain Fun said that Captain Lucky and she had worked out the prosecution already because there was so much evidence. Then she began to talk about how she wished Yoruichi would come to the hearing. She’s sure she would be interested, but I don’t see why.”
Zaraki nodded. There must have been a chat fest in the bath house.  Soi’s adoration for her former captain didn’t seem to fade, and he wondered what she was doing with the doll he’d given her made in Yoruichi’s image. An image of her hugging the doll close disturbed him. She should move on and form other friendships and then he felt a slight touch of unreality.  He wasn’t going to start giving other people advice.  “Who’s Captain Lucky?”
“I’m not really happy with that name. Lucky because of the number 13, of course. I could call him Baker, because of Baker’s Dozen, but Lucky will do for now.”
She was straying from the point again, but he had asked the question so he couldn’t really blame her. He didn’t think Ukitake would like being called `Lucky’. It might be a little cruel if he considered the history of 13th Division and the health of the captain. He remembered the time he had tried to persuade Yachiru not to call Yamamoto `Odin’ after she’d read some book she’d `borrowed’ from Ukitake. He knew that the old man wouldn’t like it and it had been very hard to convince her. Pointing out that he had two eyes, not one, and that he didn’t have ravens (or was it crows?) flying around him didn’t seem to make an impression. At the same time she had called Zaraki `Thor’ and she had referred to Ichimaru as `Loki’. Thinking that this was becoming annoying, Zaraki had carefully removed the book from her room and returned it to its rightful owner, hoping that its absence would cause her to lose the notion. Since then she often changed her mind about what she would call the old man.
Now he wanted to dig further. “Then?” he prompted her.
“I was taking off my sash when the door slammed open and Piecrust came in. He was very unsteady on his feet and he almost fell over a few times. He really smelled bad, Ken-chan, like that man, that Captain,” she fell quiet and then blinked a few times as if dismissing her memories. “He wasn’t making a lot of sense. He was looking at Chesty with a creepy smile on his face and I think he was dribbling. The he said something really rude to her and she looked very upset and I felt bad. I didn’t have my shoes or socks on and I didn’t want him to see my feet.”
So far her story was matching Retsu’s and he nodded, encouraging her to continue. He wondered what the jerk had said, but decided not to ask. Why Yachiru felt bad was something he’d ask later because it seemed important.
“Then he told me he’d wait until I grew up. Ken-chan! That man suggested I might let him touch me when I was older! I wanted to be sick on him. Then he looked at Lolly and told her he liked older women because they were more experienced and as she worked on healing people she was sure to be good in the sack. Then he suggested she might like to get together with him and Chesty for some fun. I couldn’t let him insult Lolly. She’s my friend,” the genuine feeling in Yachiru’s voice convinced him that the insult to Retsu was a major factor that had caused the attack.
No one else had mentioned that comment. Piecrust had really made a fool of himself. So far he had managed to estrange senior officers of three Divisions. This might affect Zaraki’s relationship with them and while he didn’t know the 10th Division assistant captain well, he respected and liked Soi and Retsu.
“I like Chesty too. She’s funny and makes good jokes,” Yachiru said reflectively.
“I thought she was a bit of a fool,” Zaraki said slowly. He’d often wondered if that assistant captain had been promoted because of her appearance.
Yachiru shook her head. “No, she likes people, well men, to think she’s a bit of an idiot. It means they expect less of her and she doesn’t have to work too hard.” The grin that appeared on her face showed her admiration.
“That explains why Hitsugaya hasn’t replaced her,” he said thoughtfully and was glad that he knew Yachiru’s abilities. She might shirk work regularly but when she decided to help her astute mind would often find important things. He was sure if she wanted she could do the paperwork as well, but that particular argument had been lost years ago. “Now I think of it, I wondered why he insisted she help him with preparing the defence.”
“That’s because you’re paying more attention Kenny. Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers,” the vulture said in his mind.
“Flowers, again?” he snorted. “Maybe all the pollen has made a honeycomb of your mind.”
Thinking about if further he was grateful that Retsu was still talking to him but as for Soi; he’d to talk to her later after he gave her some time to cool down. Zaraki became increasingly curious about what Piecrust had said to the 10th Division assistant captain. Now that other comment had been disclosed the one he’d said to her must have been even worse. But why had no one else mentioned the comment the fool had made to Retsu?
“Because Yachiru attacked him immediately and the attack was a distraction. Retsu wouldn’t tell you because she found the comment intensely embarrassing as she is a modest woman. Where’s your head at, Kenny? Aren’t you thinking it through?” Atonomatsuri’s surly tone echoed through his mind and he knew she was right. Soi wouldn’t have mentioned it out of respect for the 4th Division Captain. These women stuck together.
“Then what happened?” He had noticed that he had to prompt her which was unusual as Yachiru usually rattled off all the information. She had remained quiet while he had been distracted by Atonomatsuri and it indicated that she was reluctant to continue.
“I put on my shoes and socks and tried to kill him.” The answer was hesitant and Yachiru seemed to be concentrating on a sweet that she was unwrapping. As far as he could recall he had never seen her take so long to place a lolly in her mouth.
“You tried to kill him?” he repeated trying to urge her to continue. Piecrust should be dead if Yachiru was really trying. She was being very reticent and trying to get her to talk was making him feel less indulgent than normal.
Yachiru nodded slowly but emphatically. “Of course I did Ken-chan! He smelt of drink and treated me like I was a little kid. The smell made my eyes water so it was hard to focus. He was rude to Chesty and Lolly and I like them. They’re nice to me and he never has been. I sort of thought he reminded me of someone when he came in, but I couldn’t work out who it was and I don’t want to think about him. He was so slow, but he kept lurching out of the way, but I think most of it was an accident. If Chesty hadn’t got in the way he’d be dead. I know why she did it, but I wish she hadn’t.” Her voice sounded wistful.
Piecrust reminded her of someone? Damn. The smell of rum and the implied disdain might have been enough for her to recall their previous captain and she had already mentioned him because of the smell of rum. He had to defect her attention so she wouldn’t make that connection. “The jerk probably reminds you of some of the other idiots we’ve trained. The ones you had to defeat to get their respect,” he interjected quickly.
“Maybe,” she paused and finally placed the sweet in her mouth. Raising her eyes earnestly to Zaraki she pleaded, “Ken-chan, can we get rid of him? Would you ask Long Eyebrows to move him on? Send him back to the Academy for more training or something?” The beseeching look on her face made him wish he could combined with his growing dislike for the man.
“I tried talking to Yamamoto today and got nowhere, kid. I tried but now I have to train the jerk, personally. To make it pleasant for me, I’ve decided to train you at the same time. But you have to stop trying to kill the guy. I know you want to, and no one would miss him, but the old guy wants me to work with him. Something about a special ability,” he didn’t want to say anything more.
“To annoy people? Is that his special ability because he really annoyed Lolly and she usually doesn’t get annoyed with people; I mean except you, and the Clown Captain, when he’s being particularly dumb. Why do we have to keep Piecrust?” Yachiru seemed too distressed over the need to keep the man. Was there something else there, perhaps a perception of who he reminded her of, or was there something else she hadn’t disclosed?
He tried to laugh at her comment. “Yeah, I thought the same thing about his special ability, but I don’t think that’s it. How could he annoy a Hollow?” As he heard his mouth form the word he instantly regretted uttering them. The revelation about his previous existence had tainted his life. Now even a comment he’d have made without thinking made everything seem different. As he was a former Hollow and the idiot managed to annoy him that meant he would probably annoy Hollows. But did that work? He wasn’t a Hollow anymore, he was no longer a thing that lived without morals or thought, damn it.
Rejecting that particular thought pattern he thought about Piecrust’s ability to annoy even the most even tempered people he knew. Heck; the man could probably irritate fish if he tried.
Thinking about the situation he knew there was one way to get this moving a little. He’d ask Ayasegawa to talk to some of the most observant members of the Division to see if Piecrust had any friends and if so he’d talk to them to find out if the guy had any redeeming features. That was something he should do soon. They might know more about his skills and possibly provide a lead on that special ability, but from what Yamamoto said Piecrust didn’t even know what it was. Irritating people couldn’t be a desired skill, could it?
“Okay, Ken-chan,” she sighed sadly. “I want to get more training and if you have to train that person I want to help you. How long do you have to train him for? And do I have to help in preparing for the hearing against him?”
“No, because you’ll be helping Retsu and Soi. And I have to train the jerk until he can fight,” Zaraki responded knowing that it might take some time.
A small giggle escaped Yachiru’s mouth and he looked at her, startled that she found anything about the situation amusing.
“Until he can fight what? Win a battle against a moth? Does he have to be able to defend himself against a kitten?  Or does he actually have to fight?”
An unwilling smile formed on Zaraki’s face at her pointed comments. “We’ll start with simple stuff. Maybe make sure he can handle a piece of paper without getting a paper cut and then expand his training from there,” he rejoined.
Yachiru frowned and shook her head sternly. “I don’t know if he’ll ever be ready for that.”
Zaraki laughed loudly at her solemn tone and expression and then became serious. “I don’t know why the old man wants me to train him. I learnt to fight long before we got to the Academy. How do I teach something that I learnt on my own? And why do you want me to train you? You managed to pass those Kendo classes, but they were wasted on me. What can I teach you that you don’t know?”
Observing him closely his assistant captain shrugged. “No one except Ichi beat you, and that was because he cheated. You’re really strong Ken-chan, but it’s not just that. When you fight you’re never scared and you enjoy it so much. I want to be like that. I know Baldy and Pretty Boy like fighting almost as much as you do, but you seem to like it more.” She shook her head and then waved a hand dismissively as if trying to make the words disappear. “I can’t explain it Ken-chan. I think it’s because one day I want you to enjoy watching me fight as much as I enjoy watching you.”
He made a small noise of disagreement. “If I’m not being forced to train, you know I prefer to fight rather than watch.”
“But you watched Captain Frosty fight the Crimson Kamikaze,’ she protested. “And Baldy fight….”
“I didn’t have a choice,’ he broke in before she could continue to list all the fights in which he hadn’t been able to participate. He didn’t want to hear about it and he was feeling the need for a good mindless brawl against a competent opponent where he didn’t need to worry about the consequences. All his recent battles hadn’t ended well and while he longed for a real challenge he didn’t see it happening any time soon. Fighting against the bird didn’t count because she talked too much as they fought and tended to put him off balance, not by her abilities, but her words.
Nodding, Yachiru got to her feet. “If I think of anything else I’ll tell you Ken-chan but I don’t want to talk about it anymore just now. I’ll go and get Pretty Boy and Baldy,” she said quietly before she left.
`You hurt her feelings, you idiot,” Atonomatsuri hissed in his mind.
“No, I didn’t. And I don’t want your opinion,” Zaraki barked at her. He’d felt a flare of guilt at the way Yachiru had left the room but it was important he was honest with her.
He glared at the wall, willing all those unwanted emotions and thoughts to leave him alone. Wisely the bird kept silent as his face darkened into a scowl. Hearing footsteps approach he tried to shake away those last elements of doubt and watched the door avidly. The more people to distract him, the less he would be forced to rely upon the resources of his mind to entertain him and there was a chance that the big mouthed vulture would decide to lecture him on his faults if he had company. Then he silently admitted that wasn’t true, but the more distractions around him, the easier it was to ignore her voice unless she felt particularly strongly about what she needed to say.
“You’re not angry with me, Kenny. You’re just using me as a scapegoat. Do not blame God for having created the tiger, but thank him for not having given it wings,” The bird said with a sweeter tone than normal.
Hearing the stupid adage made Zaraki groan. What did she mean by that particular string of words? “So are you a tiger or a goat with wings? Can I choose, because I`d chose the goat.”
“I should have expected some mindless sort of retort from you. Why blame me? You know more than you did before…” she began to defend her actions but Zaraki’s foot was smarting and he lashed out, at least in words.
“Blame you? I blame you for what you did with those fetid talons. First you go on that I have to train and then you make it impossible by stabbing those things through my foot. Why is it so damn important I train and learn to use you before this bloody hearing? You keep hinting that you know some of the future. Tell me or stop being so damned mysterious.”
There was a brief but heavy silence and he could almost hear her take in the breath she would use to reply.
“Don’t bother. Don’t want to hear it, bird. I don’t want to hear another tweet escaping from your throat today,” by now he was yelling. He didn’t give a damn if anyone heard.
“But, Captain. I don’t tweet. Sometimes my voice is so delightful that people cannot decide which is more beautiful, my voice or my face,” Ayasegawa said quickly, humour evident in his voice.
Zaraki opened his eyes which he hadn’t realised he’d shut and noticed that he was no longer alone in the room. Coughing slightly with surprise he noticed his friends exchange quick looks and nod to each other before Yachiru shut the door firmly after looking up and down the corridor.
“Hey, Yumichika, quick thinking. Sometimes you use whatever is in that, allegedly, pretty head of yours,” Madarame said pounding his friend on the back with his uninjured arm.
“I had to say something. With all those rumours the Clown Captain’s been spreading we’ve got to be careful,” his friend replied grimly. The smile he’d been wearing slipped off his face. “Especially if certain things are revealed at the hearing tomorrow.”
Yachiru had climbed onto the bed and bounced excitedly, jarring Zaraki’s foot and making him shift a little. “Stop jumping around, Yachiru.”
“But I want to see Clowny get into trouble; I mean more trouble Ken-chan. I know Captain Fun and Captain Lucky will bring that man down and he won’t be a Captain anymore. I wonder who will replace him,” she said thoughtfully and then looked at Madarame closely.
Noticing her observation, the man began to shake his head and then laughed. “Not me. Never me.”
“Or me either,” simpered Ayasegawa prettily.
Overlooking the by-play, Zaraki focused on what his 5th seat had said. “What do you mean? Disclosed at the hearing? Did Nemu say anything about it?”
Nodding Ayasegawa pressed his lips together tightly. “The captain had compiled a dossier on each captain within the Seireitei. Nemu has seen yours and it’s bad, Captain.”
“I’m not on trial so it won’t be an issue,” Zaraki said. Even as he spoke he felt a slight tug of concern. What information could the devious creep have uncovered?
“From what Nemu said her father plans to turn this around and make it into a trial for your fitness to remain as captain,” he was told.
Madarame, Zaraki and Yachiru looked at each other, confused. This hearing was meant to investigate Kurotsuchi’s acts of treason and behaviour in planting the bug in the living quarters. How could it be used for anything else?

Author’s Note:
The music I listened to for inspiration this chapter was `Vulture Culture’ by KillTV, an Australian band. Can you guess what made me buy the CD? As a bonus this group actually wrote a song about Noam Chomsky! Wicked. (If you don’t know who he is, you should.)
A minor cliff hanger this time. The next chapter will be the commencement of the hearing (or so the plan goes). According to the normal way my plans work out it may not happen.
Please review.  Otherwise I don’t see the point on updating the story.
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