Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ Rock, Paper, Scissors ( Chapter 52 )
Leaving the room he thought of as a cell, Zaraki stayed silent, waiting for the older man to speak. There was nothing he could think of which could be considered a common interest and he had trouble imagining what the senior Captain wanted to discuss.
Ukitake cleared his throat and Zaraki waited for him to say something, but the wait was in vain. They continued walking. Should he ask? He didn’t want to, as that might seem like a sign of weakness, or even worse, interest. Let the man take his time and he’d eventually say what was on his mind.
« I have heard a rumour, Captain Zaraki, » Ukitake said in a low voice.
« Yeah, there’s always rumours in this place, » Zaraki replied wondering when the man would get to the point.
They walked a few more steps. The man cleared his throat again. Maybe he was going to cough or he felt unwell. Whatever it was, Zaraki wished he’d stop rearranging his phlegm and get to the point. After last night and the early awakening, he didn’t have much patience with slow delivery or waiting for anything. Why was patience given such a good reputation? He had no time for it.
« The rumour is about your 5th seat and Captain Kurotsuchi’s daughter, Nemu. » The man appeared embarrassed to mention the subject. « They appear to be romantically involved and I felt it only fair you were informed. »
Zaraki didn’t even try to stop the laugh. That was the problem? Ayasegawa’s friendship with Nemu? It was possible a Shinigami had seen them together, added one to five, thrown in a healthy dash of the birds and the bees and created a scandal. It was great how people jumped to conclusions or decided that every friendship between a man and a woman involved sex.
« You find the rumour amusing? » Ukitake didn’t try to hide his shock.
« They’re friends. Just friends and I know about it, » he replied. Then he added, « Yachiru is going to help her. The girl needs a person who she can look up to. »
Ukitake cleared his throat again, but couldn’t prevent a laugh. « Nemu looking up to your Assistant Captain? » He ceased laughing and then nodded. « There is no truth to the rumour? »
Zaraki considered his answer. There was a small amount of truth in the rumour if you substituted the word ‘friends’ for ‘romantically involved’. All the same, the reason for the friendship, and his 5th seat’s firm denial of any tender feelings for the woman, aside from pity, was not for him to disclose. « No romance. Hey, Ukitake, next you’ll be telling me I’ve got a thing about the girl. How likely is that? »
His fellow captain chucked slightly. « Unlikely. I heard one rumour which linked me with Assistant Captain Nanao Ise. »
This moved Zaraki to laugh again. The woman seemed intent of controlling the life of her own captain and he couldn’t see her wishing to control another man as well.
« Needless to say, there is no truth in the rumour. » Ukitake seemed slightly embarrassed by the tale.
« Why are rumours usually about romance or stupid stuff like that? » It seemed a reasonable question.
Ukitake, tugged slightly at his coat and shook his head. « I don’t know. Probably because people prefer to believe the most improbable stories as it makes life more interesting. »
For some reason, the explanation didn’t satisfy Zaraki. There had to be a better motive for talking about other’s love lives. He’d never been interested as it seemed to be a side issue, rather than a fact that defined the person and their place in the world.
« Rumours. Ignore them. They never help anyone and are mostly untrue, » Zaraki felt forced to comment.
The nod he received in reply confirmed his belief the man shared some of his views. The discussion had taken up the time required to walk to the area. He was not thinking of it as an arena rather than any other place as he felt he was performing rather than participating in a challenge. At least each one completed meant he was closer to the end and closer to winning. He’d win, eventually; he strongly believed he would beat the Clown Captain.
« Failure teaches success, Kenny. » Atonomatsuri seemed to enjoy saying those words to him.
« Thanks for the kind words, » he replied, his voice dripping with sarcasm. « It’s great knowing I have your support. »
« I am being supportive. If you lose sight of the truth, then you become complacent and don’t try hard enough, » she replied swiftly. « You’ve been so lazy, sleeping during the day, neglecting the paperwork, ignoring the people under your command and everything else. Until you finally began to talk to me, you were almost smug with how your life was progressing. » The bird’s tone was sharp and she appeared irritated, for a change.
« Yeah. Life was more enjoyable before, » was his quick reply. Sure, it might annoy the bird, but she didn’t seem to worry about annoying him. Hearing those words spoken made him wonder if life had been more enjoyable before. It had been quieter and he’d had fewer friends; there had been more time to sleep and no stupid challenges that took over his days; but he’d also been depressed. He’d hated admitting it, but being beaten by the kid, depressed him. It was his fault he’d decided to learn the name of his zanpakuto! Next time they met he’d show Ichigo was real fighting was like!
« No, it wasn’t. You only say that to hurt my feelings. You were bored. All play and no work makes Kenny a dull boy. » The strident note in the birds voice should have alerted him to the impending argument, but he didn’t care.
Atonomatsuri would fight with him about any imagined slight or perceived mistake. The challenges seemed to make her ability to turn anything into an insult against her stronger than before. Maybe it was another of her special powers. If so, he wondered if there was a way of disabling it.
« Life was easy. » She couldn’t deny that. Life had been easy, or at least he’d taken it easy, and didn’t worry about responsibility.
« You were asleep most of the time, » she pointed out.
What was her problem? He’s slept a lot, brawled when he felt like it, had fun. She was so damn critical of everything he did. It was almost like she felt he owed her something and what it was he didn’t want to know. The cost would be extortionate.
« What’s so great about being awake? » he quickly replied and then cursed as he noticed he’d rhymed. Maybe she wouldn’t notice. Yeah, and maybe the Clown Captain was a caring, sharing person who only wanted the best for everyone.
« Quite the poet, Kenny boy, but you’re missing the point. You weren’t living, you were simply existing until you began talking to me. Long sleep makes a bare back. »
Another bloody adage. What did it mean? Bare back from sleeping?
Before he could reply, he noticed Ukitake bowing slightly to him. « Good luck with the challenge, Captain Zaraki. I have been very interested in how you have handled each one with more patience than I expected. You’ve surprised me. »
Was it a compliment? It didn’t matter because it distracted Atonomatsuri from their conversation, but only to make another sarky comment. « Patience? You? I never thought I’d hear anyone say that about you, unless it had an ‘im’ in front of it. »
The bird was trying to be clever and it only made him sigh deeply.
Refusing to reply he looked around, noticing the packed audience, the blue of the sky with a few clouds scudding across it. Yamamoto, standing, leaning on his stick and looking as if he were asleep. The weather was perfect for an all out battle. Not too hot or too cold, bright, a fresh breeze with a slight chill factor and the crisp air of changing seasons. Instead of enjoying the weather by hitting someone, he was stuck here. In front of him stood the Clown Captain who appeared to be scowling at Ise while her expression revealed none of her thoughts. Ukitake moved to take his place at the judges table and proved one theory Zaraki had partially formed. Hopefully this challenge didn’t include wearing an apron.
« Yeah. Whatever you say, » was his offhand reply. He had more important things to concern him than defending against repeated insults.
Ise had noticed his arrival and announced, « We will commence the next challenge. This one requires patience, » Zaraki groaned at the word, « skill and persistence. »
« Three things you lack. » Atonomatsuri seemed pleased. Maybe she was hoping he’d lose so she could have another matter to constantly
Why wouldn’t the vulture let up? Deciding to ignore her, he instead listened to the additional instructions provided. Instead of information, Ise asked a question.
« Do you know how to play ‘Rock, Paper, Scissors’, Captain Kurotsuchi? »
The man stared at Ise; the frown on his face was noticeable.
Was this the challenge? Something so simple that could be finished in a matter of minutes, depending on the number of times the game was played? The game was a matter of luck, so why did Ise talk about skill and patience? The seated audience stirred as if disappointed. Not a prolonged form of torture for their entertainment this time. Something simple and ordinary. It was a relief.
Rather than wait to hear the Clown Captain’s response, Zaraki replied. « I know how to play it. »
« She wasn’t asking you, Zaraki. Though I shouldn’t expect manners from you. Yes, I know how to play that child’s game, though why it is relevant, I don’t know. »
« She’ll tell us, fool, if you shut up. » Why try to be nice? The man was almost as insulting as Atonomatsuri, and there was no reason to take crap from either of them.
« You dare speak to me like….. »
« I don’t give a damn what you’re going to say. Shut your mouth or I’ll shut it for you. » Did he think Zaraki would back down or be scared of him? Was he living in a fool’s paradise?
« Great display of patience, Kenny. »
Didn’t she know when to keep out of it? Did she want him to punch the man? He heard a few yells of encouragement from the people watching. It seemed they enjoyed the idea of witnessing a fight between two captains more than watching them play a game. While he liked the idea of a fight, he didn’t think Kurotsuchi would offer much of a challenge, but the man deserved some punishment. If he said another word, Zaraki would punch him directly in the mouth and enjoy the feeling of his fist crunching through the teeth. If he broke enough, the 12th Division Captain might not be able to talk. His hands curled into fists and he adjusted his weight so that most of it rested on the balls of his feet. One more word. That was all it would take.
« Captains! Remember you are meant to set the standards for the rest of the Shinigami. » Yamamoto had appeared again without Zaraki noticing, but considering he was distracted by both Kurotsuchi and Atonomatsuri, it didn’t surprise him.
« Yeah. Set standards, » he muttered. Being a Captain had good points, but this wasn’t one of them. He’d begun enjoying the idea of shattering the Clown Captain’s teeth and now he had to pretend to be a model of decorum. What fun was there in that? He heard a few loud sighs from the watching Shinigami, indicating some of them didn’t welcome the intervention.
Kurotsuchi turned to the Captain-General. « The man is threatening me. I demand he forfeits the challenge. »
The cool look delivered by Yamamoto quelled any further comments before he added, « The challenge has not yet been announced. »
Zaraki frowned. Wasn’t the challenge the children’s game?
Yamamoto addressed Ise. « Continue Assistant Captain. Time passes and the challenge needs to be completed. »
Clearing her throat with a gentle cough, Ise spoke clearly and firmly. « The Captain who wins the first three will be the victor. You must announce your decision aloud. »
Did that mean this was the challenge? Rock, paper, scissors. From what he knew of the man, he was certain Kurotsuchi would choose paper or scissors. Zaraki’s natural inclination was to avoid paper, but his preference might work against him.
« Begin, » Ise ordered.
« Rock, » Zaraki said as he held out his fist.
« Paper, » Kurotsuchi’s smile was smug.
« One win for the 12th Division Captain. Continue. »
The small cheer from 12th Division Shinigamis quickly ceased as they were hushed by the others.
« Rock. »
Kurotsuchi’s face was still creased into a smile until he noticed Zaraki’s flat hand. « Paper. »
The expression of disbelief suited his face more than the smile.
« One each, » Ise said. « Continue. »
The cheer that greeted the announcement of Zaraki’s win was louder, but again faded speedily.
Zaraki observed Kurotsuchi, considering what he would choose. Now he knew that Zaraki would choose paper he might reassess his strategy.
« Scissors. »
« Paper? » The statement turned into a question as Kurotsuchi glared at Zaraki’s fingers.
He’d won two, but there was still one more to win. Once this challenge was over, he hoped they could move onto the next one, fast.
« Captain Zaraki is leading. Continue, » Ise urged. She showed considerable interest in the outcome.
A muffled roar of approval was the response to the announcement and he heard Yachiru yell encouraging words.
This time he was certain rock would win. « Rock. »
« Paper, » crowed Kurotsuchi.
The win had restored that damned superior smile to his face and once more Zaraki was influenced by a desire to break his teeth. The next time might give him a chance to win, or end up with him losing. He hated the idea of this man beating him for any reason.
« Got it wrong, Kenny. »
« Yeah. Thanks for bloody pointing it out. I might have bloody missed it otherwise. » Bloody bird. Bloody smiling clown. Bloody stupid children’s game.
« Equal. Two each. Once more for the win, » Ise sounded excited. Was her position of being in charge making her lose her normal reserve?
Zaraki and Kurotsuchi spoke at the nearly the same time, with the 12th Division Captain being slightly quicker. « Scissors. »
« Paper. » Why had he chosen paper?
Blast. He’d lost. He’d chosen paper when he should have chosen rock and rock when he should have chosen paper. The loss of this one meant they had to do the whole damned 11 challenges and life wouldn’t return to normal anytime soon. He didn’t want to see the face wearing the smile so he kept his eyes fixed on Ise, waiting for her to announce his defeat. More importantly he tried to block out any potential noise in his head. Sarcastic observations from Atonomatsuri might make him violent. No, might encourage him to act on the vicious impulses he felt surging through his blood.
« Captain Kurotsuchi has won. »
Zaraki thought he heard a few groans and scattered applause. Enthusiasm seemed to be lacking at the announcement of the victory. Nothing to do now. He’d lost and had to live with what followed.
« It means you can choose if you go first or second. » Ise was calm and any excitement he thought he’d noticed had vanished. She was as usual, calm, collected and slightly detached.
« What? » He hadn’t meant to ask, but her statement didn’t make any sense.
« What do you mean? I won the challenge, didn’t I? » Kurotsuchi blustered, his chest puffed out. The man was a bad loser, but an even worse winner.
This time Zaraki did look at the man, witnessing the glow of victory fade slightly from his face.
Ise looked through her glasses steadily. « The game was simply a method of providing one of you with the choice of being first or second. It was certainly not a challenge. »
« What? I didn’t win a challenge? I get to chose to go first or second in what? Explain yourself, » the quiver of anger was evident in his voice. He continued to talk but Zaraki decided there was little point in listening to his complaints.
Remaining calm in this situation was impossible. Okay, it might be possible, but he didn’t see the point. Kurotsuchi was acting like an imbecile, squealing on and on about his rights and his demand that his victory be acknowledged as winning a challenge. What was the point of arguing? He hadn’t won any of his previous arguments and it was unlikely he’d win this one as well.
Reaching out he grabbed the man’s nose and twisted it. « Shut up moron! Arguing won’t help. If you kept your freaking opinions to yourself we might have finished this days ago, but you’ve always got to moan. I’m so damned sick of hearing you whine. »
He heard muffled laughter from the people watching, but disregarded the noise. If he acknowledged the laughter it might increase and cause the situation to degenerate.
« Oooowwww. Bastard. Stinking ruffian. Release my nose, immediately. How dare you treat me like this! » the strangled voice of the 12th Division Captain didn’t impress him at all. Did he discern tears gathering in the man’s eyes? Surely not.
He’d thought of grabbing him by the throat, but the desire to strangle the man might have proved overwhelming. Punching him in the mouth would have been satisfying, but there was no telling what sort of weird stuff might be present in Kurotsuchi’s blood and while he liked watching blood flow, he’d prefer it if it was at a distance with this man. Grabbing the nose made the man look as ridiculous as he acted.
« I’ll let go if you keep quiet, » Zaraki told him as he twisted his nose further.
The man’s eyes widened and he nodded with poor grace. Satisfied, Zaraki released his hold and turned to face Ise. « Now tell the Assistant Captain if you want to go first or second. »
« Second. » Kurotsuchi’s hand was cupping his nose protectively as his reddened eyes glared at Zaraki maliciously.
« Please follow Akon, Captain Kurotsuchi, » Ise politely instructed.
« Why? » he asked, quickly.
« If you watch you would gain an advantage which would be unfair to Captain Zaraki, » was the reasonable explanation.
Instead of protesting as expected, a furtive look crossed the man’s face. « All watching and listening devices have been removed, » was the quiet reminder almost as if Ise knew exactly what the 12th Division Captain was thinking. « The aim of the challenge is to keep everything fair and open, otherwise we have proven nothing. »
Turning on his heel, the 12th Division captain followed his subordinate. Ise waited a few minutes after he was no longer in sight. Taking a deep breath, she said, « The challenge is to train a Shinigami, from your division, in either learning a new fighting move or the manner in which he or she may learn the name of their zanpakuto. »
Zaraki decided to ignore the amusement this announcement caused in the crowd. He knew his zanpakuto’s name. If they had a problem with that, he didn’t care. Fighting was what he was best at.
« Do I get to choose the Shinigami? » He could think of a few people he wouldn’t mind working with and even more he didn’t want to deal with, let alone train.
« No. The Shinigami has already been selected. »
He thought carefully. Learning the name of his zanpakuto had taken years, mainly because he hadn’t been trying. The challenge seemed carefully weighed to make him choose the fighting move and he didn’t see a way around it. One thing that concerned him was which Shinigami was chosen? At least it couldn’t be Piecrust as he was still injured. Teaching Piecrust anything might take years, or eternity.
« How long do I have? »
« An hour. »
One hour to teach a new fighting move. He didn’t think it was possible for anyone to learn the name of the spirit of the zanpakuto in one hour, unless they’d been trying already and he was pretty sure that while his Division followed his command, they’d only had a few days to start. And saying all the sickening things aloud might cause more amusement than necessary. There was only one choice.
« Fighting move. »
There was a small cheer from the spectators. Ise nodded without any show of surprise. Probably everyone expected him to make that choice, but what else could he do? Set himself up to fail and humiliate his Division? Hell, now he was thinking like Kuchiki. Next he might talk about family honour which would prove he’d lost it.
A gesture from Ise and a Shinigami was led into the arena. The gasps from the watchers nearly covered the loud groan as Zaraki saw who he was meant to train. It was impossible! It was cruel! It was the worst possible choice.
Piecrust was the Shinigami from his Division he was meant to train. Was the challenge specially designed for him to fail? The man didn’t listen, had little skill and an over-inflated opinion of his abilities. Training him not to trip over his zanpakuto would be hard enough and that couldn’t even be classed as a fighting move.
The man moved stiffly, but appeared to have recovered from most of his injuries. Great. He’s whine the whole time and be unable to move easily. This whole thing stank. He’d been set up to fail. He could teach fighting moves to anyone who had the aptitude or the interest, but everything he’d seen of Piecrust indicated he had neither. Even normally his agility was less than required.
Squaring his shoulders, Zaraki walked up to his subordinate and grabbing him by the arm, began to speak to him in a low voice. « You do exactly as I say. Follow every instruction or I’ll ask my Assistant Captain to show me how much she can make you squeal and run around. »
The shudder the threat produced did not go unnoticed. Yachiru had possibly done the one thing to the Shinigami that no other person had managed. Proven that any person, no matter their size or age could be a formidable opponent, if they had the skill and training. Zaraki wondered if she regretted permitting others to witness her fighting skills as she did capitalise on how others treated her as a child. Then again, these were women who belonged to the Women’s Shinigami Society where she had managed to oust Ise as leader when it suited her.
« I will try my best, Captain Zaraki, » Piecrust said without the normal arrogance or condescension in his voice.
He heard Atonomatsuri gasp which mirrored his own shock. « He’s going to try? He is? »
Ignoring her comments he looked down at the man, glaring at him fiercely. « You do that. »
« The challenge calls for using your own zanpakutos, » Ise instructed them. « Any injuries will be treated at the end of the hour, not before. Death of the trainee is not permitted, nor is removal of any limbs. »
« That’d be right. Banning all the good stuff, » muttered Zaraki. If he’d killed the guy in front of these witnesses while taking part in a challenge, everyone would have believed it a simple mistake. In other words he had to teach the guy without damaging him. It seemed like most of his senior officers had received the opportunity to hurt him and he was being denied his own chance.
« Hey, Ise. Can I ask what moves he does know? »
Ise raised one eyebrow. « He belongs to your Division, Captain Zaraki. You should be aware of his abilities and know which moves might suit him best. However, I will ask the judges. »
She went toward the table where Captain Ukitake sat with Soi’s Assistant Captain, he could never remember his name, and Abarai. He was pleased to see his former subordinate being given some authority and he seemed to be taking the situation seriously. After the embarrassment he’d suffered at the hands of his Captain recently all because of a stupid bet with Madarame…. A stupid bet. What was the next part of the stupid bet? Zaraki had a bad feeling he didn’t want to find out the answer to the question any time soon.
The judges conferred briefly and nodded. Ise walked back and said, « You may ask him which moves he does know so that it will not be possible to accuse you of cheating by teaching a move he already knows. »
Nodding, Zaraki turned to Piecrust. « What fighting moves do you know? Show me. » It would be quicker to watch the man do them, rather than listen to an explanation that might prove long and confusing.
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Hands up those who expected Piecrust to be the lucky Shinigami selected? Okay, any guesses who created this challenge? It seems pretty obvious to me, but as I wrote it, there might be an unfair advantage.