Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ Simple Questions ( Chapter 53 )

[ 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).  I make no money from this work.  However, writing it makes me laugh.

Simple Questions

« Fighting moves? » The question in the voice was apparent to anyone listening.  

What was wrong?  He’d asked a simple question in simple language.  There could be nothing confusing in the request for the man to show his Captain the fighting moves he knew.  No matter how much he protested or shirked, Piecrust had attended training session in 11th Division to improve his fighting moves.  That was what training was all about. Not only to strengthen the body, but also to make each member a fighter worthy of being in the strongest Division in the Seireitei.  

« Did Yachiru hit your head too hard?  Fighting moves.  When you fight, you move! You tried to fight Madarame and Ayasegawa and me, at least they might have been fighting moves, » Zaraki didn’t try to keep the impatience out of his voice.  The moves the guy had used were weak at best.

The man was pale.  Partially healed wounds stood out starkly, red, purple and pink against the cream colour of his skin, but the question seemed to make him almost ashen.  Opening his mouth he cleared his throat and then appeared to be attempting to speak, but only a high pitched squawk issued forth.  

« Have you been giving the guy speech lessons? » Zaraki asked dryly of Atonomatsuri.

« The man can’t see the spirit of his own zanpakuto, let alone me, Kenny boy.  Why would I give anyone lessons when my whole attention and intelligence is dedicated to your improvement. »

« Me?  Improve?  Yeah, and you’re just the bird to show me how. »  Tiring of the conversation with the vulture he tried another conversation tactic with his subordinate.

« Think, fool.  Fighting moves.  What ones do you know?  Show me?  It’s not hard. »

Piecrusts eyelashes fluttered as he closed his eyes and he seemed to sway as he stood there.  Zaraki wondered if he was still too unwell to be here, but Retsu wouldn’t have let him participate if he was too injured.  She might not like the guy and have a few issues about his appearance in the changing room when she was preparing to bathe, but unlike most women, she showed common sense and put her own concerns to one side.  If she didn’t, they might be looking for another new Captain: this time for 12th Division considering the way the man had treated her.

It seemed odd.  When he’d first come out, Piecrust seemed different; determined and almost like a person who would be able to participate fully in the challenge.  After a few short exchanges of words he was back to being a waste of reiatsu, or even less useful than normal.  Zaraki almost preferred the false bravado and misplaced assurance as it showed more spirit than the man was displaying now.  

« Fighting moves, » Zaraki urged, his impatience flaring higher than normal.  There should be some consistency, not this wavering around changing from one attitude to another with barely a breath and a refusal to answer simple questions.  Did the man have a question phobia?

Piecrust wavered even further and reached out a hand as if trying to find some support.  Zaraki grabbed it and pulled the man close glaring down into his face.  Trying not to rip his arm off, he hissed down at the man, « What fighting moves do you know? »

A shudder ran through his subordinate as the question was asked and he started to pant harshly.  This man was supposed to help him win a challenge and he seemed to be having trouble breathing.   Pity it wasn’t a permanent problem.

Stung with impatience, Zaraki shook him and thundered, « What the Hell is wrong with you, idiot? »  

Instead of answering the man slumped in his grasp, leaning fully on Zaraki who pushed him away, not wishing for the close physical contact.  Without the support, Piecrust fell to the ground.  

The blond guy with the glasses from 4th Division, Zaraki couldn’t be bothered remembering his name, ran over to the still figure and held his wrist and then tried to open an eye.  When he’d finished his weird ritual he stood and addressed Nemu, not even glancing at Zaraki.  « Yuki Hisutanga has fainted. »

He heard some of the observers titter at the information, but they quickly quietened.  No one should be able to find that funny.  Embarrassing, annoying and dumb, yes.  Funny, no.  At least not for him.
This made teaching the guy a new fighting move in an hour problematic.  If he was unconscious he couldn’t learn anything even if Zaraki knew what move he might be able to comprehend.  Why had he fainted?  He’d reacted badly each time the word fighting had been mentioned.  It made him recall an earlier conversation he’d had with Piecrust when he was trying to teach him how to fight.  Something about the idiot being afraid of fighting.  At the time Zaraki had been using the insult to goad him into trying to fight.  It had worked, to a small extent.  The moves he’d seen the guy demonstrate at the time couldn’t be the full extent of his abilities.  He’d made a piddling effort to fight back, but had he seemed a little scared?

There couldn’t be anything to it.  Anyone who chose to join 11th Division couldn’t be afraid of fighting.  Yet, the reason he was in 11th Division was because he was the son of the former Captain.  Was this a form of punishment for killing the man?  Putting his son under the command of the one who had fought and killed him?  Had the guy even chosen to join 11th Division?  Was he given a choice?  Sure, he’d said he chose to join and begged to remain, or at least refused to leave.  Not that Zaraki had any choice now in getting rid of the man thanks to the Old Man.  Until now he thought he’d had enough bad luck having Moustaches in his Division, but he was a real Shinigami compared to this pathetic piece of debris.

Maybe he’d be good at filing.  Trusting him to complete paperwork would be foolish, and the only real damage he could do with that job was to misfile the papers or inflict life threatening paper cuts. Moving the filing to another building on the edges of Division 11 would keep him out of Zaraki’s sight and be beneficial to both of them and limit the paper cuts to himself.  Of course it would mean he couldn’t teach him to fight, but if the man acquired at least one useful skill, it was better than his current lack of competence.  The original thought to use him as Hollow bait wouldn’t work.  While he had enough reiatsu to become a Shinigami, there was no guarantee that any Hollow might be attracted.  

« Can the man be awakened? » Ise asked.

Looking down contemplatively, Zaraki doubted the possibility.  Even if he could be woken, he might faint again.  It wasn’t fear of fighting.  It must be fear of his Captain that made him faint, which was only to be expected.  Many people feared him because he didn’t accept their standards and rules.  Being taught a move by a man who’d defeated him without much effort had made the man fearful and scared of being shown to be incompetent in front of such a large group of Shinigami.  If he failed, he’d never be able to live down the shame.  Each person who witnessed the event would tell others.  This must be the reason for the fear and the collapse.  His ego couldn’t take the imagined ridicule.

« I doubt it.  The man isn’t responding to….. »

A large shower of water from Zaraki’s left poured over Piecrust and the 4th Division officer.  The blond man who had been speaking before he was drenched with water, shook his head, wiping the streaming water from his face, his mouth open ready to express his opinion of the incident, while Piecrust stirred and opened his eyes.

« Why did you do that? » The blond man asked with a mixture of deference and anger.

Madarame stood grinning, the bowl from which the water had issued in his hands.  « Wakey, wakey, Flower.  Time to rise and learn. »

Zaraki tried to suppress the laugh, but gave in quickly, joining the others who had found amusement in the incident.  Both men targeted by Madarame, were now standing, water dripping from their clothes, hair and noses.  The 4th Division officer, Iemura, that was his name, was trying to rid himself of the water by wringing his clothes, and wiping his face with his sleeve, while Piecrust looked bewildered, lost and scared.

Scared again.  Was he scared of water?  Did he think he’d melt? That wasn’t possible as he’d invaded the women’s bath house which had resulted in his most recent injuries.  

« Yuki Hisutanga, are you well enough to continue? » Ise was standing a few metres from the man, obviously unwilling to get close enough to get wet from Iemura’s attempts to get dry.

Piecrust swallowed and glanced nervously at his Captain and then Madarame.  « No.  I feel sick. »

« You don’t look sick.  If you make me lose this, Piecrust, you’ll be confined to your quart…. » Zaraki broke of as a hopeful look began to cross the man’s face.  « You’ll be personally trained by Assistant Captain Yachiru, without supervision, » he finished.

There could be no mistaking the effect of the threat.  The man not only flinched, he shook and seemed again ready to faint.

« What is your problem? »  

Zaraki wanted to know the answer, but he hadn’t asked the question, nor had Ise.  Madarame had discarded his more usual laid back approach, which seemed to happen frequently with Piecrust than anyone else, and had his face close to the man of whom he was asking the question.  The tension was evident in his shoulders and the laughing man who’d thrown the water seemed to have vanished.  

Instead of a Shinigami he had a liability.  One that seemed to affect his senior officers with anger and a seeming desire to either hurt or kill him.  Piecrust wasn’t any use to anyone.

« I don’t have a problem, » he paused and then shook his head.   » I do have a problem.  You’re all trying to kill me! » Piecrust’s voice wavered and rose in pitch, nearly cracking on the last word.

Not even trying to resist, Zaraki rolled his eyes and shook his head in disbelief.  The man thought they were trying to kill him?  It was sheer garbage!  Anyone marked for death by a member of the 11th Division wouldn’t be standing there making stupid accusations….aside from Ichigo and his friends.  He had to be fair and exclude them from the generalisation.  The person marked for death, would be, well, dead.  No longer a problem to anyone.

Piecrust was nothing like the Ryoka.  Madarame had wanted to kill him the first time he’d drawn his attention, but killing new arrivals, fun while it lasted, caused problems.  Retrospect indicated it had been a bad choice not to do so, but they had to live with the current situation.  

« Why would anyone want to kill the comic relief? » was the simple answer Madarame posed.  

A small silence was followed by loud laughter.  The onlookers hooted and catcalled at Piecrust while a few member of 11th Division stood, their hands on their zanpakuto’s.  

« Shut up, Pie… Hitsutanga. »   This had gone too far.  Some of the crowd laughed, others were ready to take him at his word and kill him, or so it appeared.  « No one wants to dirty their blade with your skin.  It would be a waste of effort, as it’s be easy enough to snap your neck with my thumb. »

The man reeled back at the words, reaching out his hands as if to fend off a potential attack.  « No.  That would be an ignoble death. »

« I said I could, not I would.  Blast!  I’d sooner try to explain the finer points of bloody Go to a tortoise than talk to you and I don’t know how to play Go. » Zaraki knew he sounded frustrated which was fine with him because he was.  If other people knew, that was okay by him as well.  Why hide the fact a person irritated you to Hell and back?  

« I know how to play Go. »  Piecrust seemed proud to admit this.  How dumb could one man be?

« I don’t give a flying frig if you can play Go! »  

Piecrust looked offended.  « I’m quite good at Go.  I’ve won a few times. »

Zaraki sighed in exasperation.  They were so far off the topic of fighting skills it was hard to trace how they got there.  Deciding to try once more he said slowly and loudly, « Show me the fighting moves you know. »

He saw a blur and heard a distinctive thud.  Piecrust had fainted again.

Staring at the prone body he wondered if he should kick him conscious.  It might not help wake the man up, but it would make him feel better to get rid of some of  the building frustration.  The challenge was a farce.  Then he thought of something.  « Ise, is this time counted toward the hour? »

Her brow furrowed.  « I will have to check with the judges, » she said after scanning the rules.  « Fainting is not specifically mentioned.  Excuse me, please. »  After a slight bow she walked to the table where the judges sat and conferred with them in a low voice.

« It can’t be counted, » Atonomatsuri assured him.  « It would be against all reason.  If you wait, there will come nectar – like fair weather. » The bird paused and then coughed gently.  « You may not see the value in what I say now, but later it will be proven true. »

She was right.  He didn’t see any sense in waiting for nectar in this situation.  Anyway, nectar was like honey, wasn’t it?  Sweets were okay, but he preferred savoury food, not sweets drenched in honey or sugar syrup. And the weather was fine.  Not raining, not too hot.  A couple of clouds in the sky.  Did she have  a problem with the weather now?

If she was right about the lack of sense to her adage, could she be right about the time not being counted?  He kept his eyes fixed on the judging senior officers and there appeared to be a disagreement brewing.  It was clear, even from where he was standing, Hitsugaya was disagreeing with Iba and Ukitake.  The three judges who had presided over his win at staying awake had obviously been chosen originally for this challenge, but had substituted when too much time had passed.  Had the lack of sleep made the kid captain whiny and uncooperative because he needed a nap?

« He’s a very good officer and Captain of his Division is Toshiro Hitsugaya.  Tries to improve his abilities, does his paperwork and talks nicely to his zanpakuto, » Atonomatsuri chided him, making him realise he’s been muttering comments under his breath.

It didn’t matter what the bird said about other people.  It didn’t affect what was happening and he could see Hitsugaya was shaking his head with determination as Ukitake talked to him.  Hitsugaya seemed to state his case and Ukitake again spoke at length.  Ise waited, her arms resting at her sides, appearing uninterested in the outcome while the discussion continued.

Shifting his weight he stared at the Captains, trying to work out if they would come to a conclusion soon, or if the debate would be lengthy.  Every time he started a new challenge there was delay and problems.  No one seemed prepared for questions or anything out of the ordinary but were prepared to argue and waste time.  That was the problem with this place.  When he wanted to waste time he was told he was lazy.  When other people made him wait, they had all the excuses and treated him like he was being unreasonable to have expectations.   

Hitsugaya was shaking his head again and had crossed his arms across his chest while lowering his chin slightly.  The kid was being stubborn and refusing to give way on whatever it was. Ise spoke once more and the 13th Division captain and the Assistant Captain of 7th Divsion looked at the 10th Division Captain who resolutely shook his head in answer to a further question.  Ukitake shrugged and spread his hands as if he could nothing more. Iba stroked his moustache and said nothing further while Ise nodded and turned and walked swiftly toward Zaraki.

« This time will be counted toward the challenge.  An hour was allocated for each of you and three quarters of the time has now passed, » Ise refused to meet his gaze as she spoke.  From this it seemed she was not happy with the decision, or possibly she was.  It didn’t matter.

Instead of feeling anger, resignation consumed him.  The whole bloody, frigging, stupid, wretched challenges, the remaining ones of the stipulated eleven, stretched before him like a dark tunnel, exposing him to ridicule and exposure that he didn’t wish for, or require.  He hated feeling resigned to anything.  Giving in was not an option.  Drawing back his foot and kicked out at the ground, ‘accidentally’ kicking Piecrust in the side.  Why waste a good thought or a possible action.  15 minutes to try and teach the twit a fighting move.  He’d try his damndest.

« Wake up, » he ordered with little hope the guy would pay any attention or wake up.  « Get another bowl of water, » he told Madarame as an afterthought.  It worked once.  It might work again.

The shower of water only caught Piecrust this time and he rolled onto his side and coughed, water running from his nose and mouth.  « You are trying to kill me, by drowning me. »

« If I wanted to drown you, I’d hold your head in the bowl and where’s the fun in that? » Madarame said as he grimaced at the man.  « Get up, stop fainting and show our Captain your fighting moves.  Get to it. »

« No, » Piecrust moaned.  

Moaned?  One of his Division members was moaning about being told to show his fighting moves.  Most of them would be proud to show off their abilities, but then Piecrust had to be different.  His suspicion of the man’s fear of being mocked was growing slowly stronger.

« Don’t make me.  Please, Captain.  Not here.  Not now, » Piecrust whispered.  

The sound was quiet and Zaraki had to bend close to hear him.  

He struggled with the desire to drag the man to his feet and shake him again.  It would make him look  bad in front of this number of people and confirm many stories that were told of him.  Did it matter?  Then again, the Old Man wouldn’t like it and there might be an issue from his earlier shaking and the recent kick.  Was it fair he couldn’t treat his subordinates the way they deserved?  What could the Old Man do that was worse than this stupidity he was forced to undergo?  Put him in a cell again?  At least he’d be able to sleep and not be the constant centre of attention.  No more challenges, no more stupid polishing of silver, playing bloody guessing games or whatever things were planned for the future.  Most welcome of them all was not having to stand next to the Clown Captain every day, hearing his voice complain about whatever insult or slight he imagined he’d been dealt.  Hope flared and failed.  Money was being made, people were being entertained and it was a way to distract everyone from the defeat at the hand of the Ryoka, the departure of the traitors and the coming war.  Training everyone might be a better plan, however he wasn’t in charge. His input might not be welcome.

Asking the man to show him was as futile as trying to stop the bird using adages.  Instead he’d take the initiative and ask specific questions.  It might take time, but it was the only choice he had unless he was prepared to accept failure before the time was up.  

« Here and now.  It has to be here and now.  Ah, bugger this.  Do you know how to feint? » As soon as he asked, he knew he’d made a mistake.  The man had proven he could faint, at least twice in the last three quarters of an hour.  « Forget that. »  

Feinting was a relatively easy move to learn.  He had to select something the man might not know, but wasn’t quite so basic.  A defensive move was best but the man could block, not well, but Zaraki remembered seeing him do so.  A better blocking move that could be taught in fifteen minutes? There weren’t any.  Frantically his mind began to search through all the moves he knew.  

« Can you roll? »  A roll was pretty basic, effective to dodge a blade, but basic. Not every person liked to use them.

« I can. » Piecrust asserted.

A movement behind the man drew Zaraki’s attention to Madarame who was shaking his head.  « No, you can’t.  I’ve asked you to roll during training and you failed each time. »

« Right, you’re learning to roll; now.  Don’t bother opening your mouth to bleat out your complaints.  We have 10 minutes. »

Zaraki went and retrieved one long and one short wooden sword, handing the short one to Piecrust.  There wasn’t much point in giving him a sword anyway if he was learning to roll, but perhaps it might make him feel a little more comfortable to have something in his hand. « The short sword will make you work harder.  Each time I try to hit you, roll.  Understand? »

The man paled, opened his mouth, swallowed and then slowly nodded.  Zaraki carefully not televising his moves, thrust his sword at Piecrust and whacked him on the side of the head.  

« You could have ducked that, jerk. »

Moving back he pushed his sword without intent at the man who ducked but didn’t roll. He didn’t frigging roll!  « I said roll, damn it! »

He paced away from, disgusted at the inability to follow simple instructions.  Suddenly he rushed at the standing Shinigami who looked around as if trying to find a way to escape.  Zaraki didn’t even try to hit him.  Instead he stood close, crowding him as he bent down.  « Roll. »  

Stepping back, Zaraki plunged the sword toward his stomach.  The man moved back, but again didn’t roll, earning a sound punch which made him double over, gasping for air.  He retched and clutched at his belly almost falling to his knees.  

« Five minutes remaining, Captain. » Ise’s voice reminded him again how little chance he had of succeeding.

« Keep trying, Kenny,  Never say die, » was the chirpy advice from Atonomatsuri, which he chose to ignore.  

« Roll, » a sharp thrust to the left, which brought forth another squawk.

« Roll! » a glancing blow at the groin, bringing the man to his knees and causing tears to leak from his eyes.

« Roll, » and the man did.  He rolled into a ball and stayed like that, refusing to get up or respond to Zaraki’s commands.  

« Not that kind of roll.  What sort of stooge are you? Why can’t you follow simple commands? » Zaraki yelled, inserting the toe of his sandal into the man’s side.  « What sort of Shinigami are you? »

« Time’s up, Captain. » Ise was standing next to him.  As usual her voice didn’t indicate her emotion, but her words brought him a realisation of failure.  His failure.

For some reason Atonomatsuri didn’t give her opinion which was the only good thing that emerged from this fiasco.
« You may not have lost the challenge, Captain, » Madarame assured him.  « Kurotsuchi might fail too. »

« Yeah.  But he won’t have a subordinate like Piecrust.  He’ll have someone who can listen, think and act, » Zaraki said in a heavy voice, not caring that the cowering man could hear him.  « Maybe someone who even knows how to follow orders. »

Noticing his Captain’s irritation, Madarame grabbed Piecrust by the feet and dragged him away.  Seeing the man disappear from sight didn’t help much.  The sting of loss bit sharply.  He hated flipping losing.  Loss was something he didn’t tolerate and now everyone had witnessed his failure.  

« Please follow this Shinigami.  The result will be released once the challenge is complete. » The request was one he knew was a disguised order and shrugged before he followed the black robed figure out of the sunlight and the noise into the darkness and relative quiet of the building behind it.  
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