Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ Standing Behind ( Chapter 7 )

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

Tite Kubo owns Bleach. I just borrowed the characters, except Atonomatsuri who is my creation..
The insults continue, as do the adages.
Standing Behind
“You’ve become quiet, Zaraki. Cat got your tongue? Overwhelmed by your good fortune? I’m so lucky to have a good looking shinigami; not. What are you thinking, with that crappy eye patch and ridiculous hairstyle? What’s with the bells? Have you got some weird sexual fetish that requires them? Are you trying to look like a clown? Appearance maketh the man. All your appearance does is make you look like a bad impersonation of a captain. At least Aizen looked and acted like a captain,” Atonomatsuri snorted maliciously.
Zaraki shut his eyes. He could at least block out the sight of the pestilent bird.
“There are none so blind as they who will not see,” said Atonomatsuri. “Zaraki, I’m talking to you. Don’t you have anything to say to me?”
She waited for a reply and received none.
“Zaraki, acknowledge me. Talking comes by nature; silence by wisdom, except in your case, there is no wisdom. Silence is the safest course for any man to adopt who distrusts himself. Do you distrust yourself Zaraki? No, you can’t tell me that,” her voice oozed sarcasm. “I thought you trusted only yourself. You don’t trust Yachiru; otherwise you would have told her what you were doing. I think that’s sad. She doesn’t keep secrets from you. Poor, innocent Yachiru who acts so childlike, to have a father figure like you,” Atonomatsuri again awaited a response and was peeved when Zaraki kept his eyes closed.
“Why couldn’t I have been assigned to a sane Shinigami? I had to get the psychopath. A man who kills for pleasure and has no more thought in his head than how to become more powerful. A man more feared than loved and more ridiculed than feared. Hatred is as blind as love. One day you will die, Zaraki and on that day I will rejoice, especially if I am the instrument of your destruction. Death comes as the end, Kenny,” she stopped with a squawk as Zaraki moved close to her.
Zaraki had heard enough. He was surprised at the depth of his anger at Atonomatsuri. Every word the filthy bird said seemed to bite into his brain. Maybe some of the words were true, but he didn’t have to admit that to anyone but himself.
He pushed his face as close to the beak as he thought was safe and growled, “Shut up! Stop your stupid, friggin’ beak from flapping, you decaying freak.”
Atonomatsuri quickly moved away from Zaraki. She puffed up her feathers and glared at Zaraki who returned her glare. He found the glare from the clock face eyes disconcerting, but was heartily sick of her conversation.
“Okay we’re stuck with each other. I’ve heard enough of your words. You were in pain, so what? The world is pain. Living is pain. I don’t care about your pain, or your feelings,” Zaraki’s voice was increasing in volume.
Atonomatsuri opened her beak as if she were about to speak, but Zaraki kept talking.
“Do you think anyone would want to have a repulsive object like you as their zanpaku-to? I don’t,” Zaraki yelled.
Atonomatsuri shut her beak with a clack.
“So you hate me. Too, friggin’ bad. You don’t trust me or respect me. Do I care? Why do you even think I’d bloody care? So you want to kill me? Go ahead. Try,” as he spoke Zaraki drew his zanpaku-to from it’s sheathe.
“It’s too early to try for Bankai, Zaraki,” shrieked Atonomatsuri as she evaded the first swing of the blade.
“You can’t kill me with me, Zaraki. Be logical,” she squawked as he swung at her again, much closer this time.
Zaraki started to laugh. “Fun. A challenge,” he said as he swung the blade again.
This time Atonomatsuri did not duck but caught the blade in her beak. Zaraki tried to tug it free but she held on tenaciously.
“Let go of my blade,” Zaraki growled.
Atonomatsuri shook her head. Zaraki tried to put his foot on her head to get enough leverage to remove the blade, but she moved, evading his foot and keeping the blade steady. Zaraki hopped, following her, trying to put his foot on her head. She moved again. They glared at each other again. Zaraki tried a third time to place his foot on her head. Again she moved causing him to hop after her. This went on each of the two stubborn creatures refused to be the loser. Finally, Zaraki began to laugh. He placed his foot on the floor and then kicked the other foot at Atonomatsuri’s head. As his foot connected with her skull, Atonomatsuri, surprised, let go of the blade which was the outcome Zaraki had planned.
He sheathed his blade and looked at Atonomatsuri. Atonomatsuri was shaking her head and opening and shutting her beak.
“You bastard, Zaraki,” Atonomatsuri shrilled.
“Probably,” his grin was feral. “Can’t deny it. Don’t know, don’t care. Do you want to play again?”
Atonomatsuri stood still as is she was considering her next move. Suddenly she vanished.
Zaraki jumped, swearing as he felt a beak clamp around his leg from behind. He felt the skin tear as Atonomatsuri gained purchase. He drew his zanpaku-to and managed to hit her on the side of the beak. The blade rebounded causing a shock to run up the handle. Zaraki tried another swing but Atonomatsuri had vanished again. Zaraki quickly looked at his leg.
“Not too much damage. I’ll have to replace my hakama again, he thought as he observed the shredded mess. He felt a wave of air as the beak attempted to bite the hand holding the zanpaku-to. Zaraki had been expecting this.
“The disappearing trick will only work once on me,” he thought. He had listened to some of what the bird had said. He didn’t trust her. He rapidly moved out of the way and fell onto his back as she materialized under his feet. He tried to rise but was it was too late.
Atonomatsuri quickly moved onto his chest, her beak only inches from his unprotected eye.
“So you’re going to blind me, are you?” observed Zaraki with interest. “I can cope with that, if I can still fight. Tosen didn’t let it stop him, though he could never be the fighter I am.” As he spoke he grabbed at Atonomatsuri’s throat. He was disgusted at the thought of touching her, but would was determined not to lose. At his touch, she shrieked and vanished again.
As he got to his feet, Zaraki gradually became aware that he was no longer in the room he had started his conversation with Atonomatsuri. He was somewhere other. A place he had not seen before. It appeared as if he was standing under the night sky on a dead planet. Dead suns and fragments of stars spun through space above his head. Broken clocks, shattered swords, toys ripped apart, an assortment of strange objects were littered everywhere. He saw a copy of The Art of War by Sun Tzu, lying face down, ripped in half. Not far away was a torn copy of The Conquest of Gaul by Julius Caesar. Every item he saw was broken, torn or destroyed. Nothing was whole or complete.
He shook his head. It didn’t matter where he was. Scenery didn’t influence him. He listened to see if he could hear the approach of Atonomatsuri. She appeared in front of him.
“You’re in my world now, Zaraki. No one else can hear us or see us. You have even less control here than anywhere else. I am the master of all I survey. As ye sow, so shall ye reap. Are you prepared to reap the whirlwind, Kenny? You cannot leave here unless I permit. I have control. Surrender yourself to me, Zaraki,” Atonomatsuri appeared gleeful in her power.
“You call me a fool, you deranged excuse for a zanpaku-to? Why should I surrender to you? You haven’t won. So, I can’t leave here unless you permit? You permit! Ha! I wouldn’t ask an abomination to permit me to do anything.” Zaraki drew his blade. “Let’s dance.”
Atonomatsuri cocked her head. “I thought Retsu told you to be polite to me and praise me. All you are doing is insulting me. I’ll keep you here Kenny, until your will is broken. Until you scream as I screamed…”
“I’ve heard it all before. You’re repeating yourself. Pain, screaming, whatever. Damn, you’re boring. Come on you putrid carcass. You want to fight me? You want me to die? Then fight me,” Zaraki slashed at her. This time he would watch for her tricks.
She vanished again. Zaraki whirled to find her doing a flying dive at his back. He parried her beak with his blade and again she vanished.
“You’re not a very honest, fighter, Atonomatsuri,” Zaraki yelled.
With a jolt she appeared before him. She appeared astonished and squawked loudly.
Taking advantage of her surprise Zaraki swing his blade and made contact with her torso. At the time she was phased to decay mode and the blade hit her bones with a grating sound. She disappeared again with a hiss.
“Come and fight me, you poor excuse for a zanpaku-to. Stop playing games,” Zaraki called.
There was movement to his right. Dropping his zanpaku-to, he let her beak strike him in the side and grabbed it with one hand, his other reaching for her throat. The beak was quickly withdrawn and Atonomatsuri vanished again.
Zaraki picked up his zanpaku-to. He hated this sort of fighting. It wasn’t honest. It wasn’t real fighting.
“Atonomatsuri, come and fight me properly,” Zaraki roared.
Suddenly she appeared before him again, stunned. He quickly sliced into her side with his zanpaku-to, cutting the flesh which bled red liquid one minute and wriggling maggots the next as she phased from whole to decomposing.
The pain appeared to rouse her, as she shrieked, possibly with pain, and vanished.
Zaraki thought about it, quickly. Twice he had said her name and she appeared, apparently surprised. Time to test out his guess.
“Come fight me…,” his next word was cut off as he felt a violent blow in his back and heard the sound of tearing material. The pain of the beak entering his back and nearly piercing his liver, distracted him for a second. He quickly turned, but she had vanished.
Time to try, again.
“Stand here and fight me, zanpaku-to to shinigami. Let’s see who will be the master and who will be dead,” he snarled. He quickly dodged her, as she tried to phase in where he was standing. He grabbed at her but was too late.
“A useful skill,” he mused. “Too often, I am too late to catch her.”
This would be the real test.
“Atonomatsuri,” he called.
She appeared in front of him again, looking unhappy. He did not try to attack, just watched. As expected she began to vanish and he repeated her name aloud. The vanishing was reversed.
She sighed. “Damn, I thought it would take you a lot longer to work that out. The beginning of wisdom is to call things by their right names. Never underestimate the opposition, even if it is Zaraki.” She shook her head.
“So, I say your name and you appear. Useful. If I keep chanting your name I can fight you properly,” Zaraki observed with a malicious grin on his face. He wiped his hand on his coat where the blood from his side had smeared. It made the grip slippery and he wanted no mistakes. He strengthened his grip on the zanpaku-to and readied to fight.
He feinted to her left. She dodged and started to vanish.
“Atonomatsuri,” he hissed quickly.
She moved out of the path of the blade, spinning round and slashing at his ankle with her beak. He dodged quickly, but was too late to stop the beak from piercing the skin. She followed up her advantage attacking the other leg, higher up the thigh, but she was too late to miss the sweep of his blade as he cut at her wing. Blood and maggots oozed from the wound.
She became airborne and flew at his fact, her beak directed at his unprotected eye. He moved quickly but too late to prevent his cheek from being sliced open. The blood ran down into his mouth and chin. The taste of his blood roused the berserker who lurked just below the surface.
They joined battle. For each injury Atonomatsuri inflicted, she was too late to prevent a similar injury to herself. The same happened for Zaraki. They fought on, neither gaining the advantage, but each too intent on winning to stop. Soon they were both bleeding from numerous wounds.
“Give up, Kenny?” puffed Atonomatsuri.
“No, it’s just getting interesting. You’re breathing heavily. I didn’t know a zanpaku-to could be so out of shape,” he observed a cruel glitter in his eye while stabbing at her face.
“That’s because you never summoned me,” she squealed moving her head and receiving a gash in the forehead. The blood started running into her eyes. She blinked to try to regain her full sight.
“There you go, whining again,” Zaraki said as he managed to dodge her attack at his knee. “Missed me, try again,” he commanded.
Atonomatsuri stood still. “No,” was her reply. Her head drooped.
“A single word reply. Aren’t you feeling well,” Zaraki sneered.
“No,” was all Atonomatsuri said.
Zaraki pierced her wing with his sword. She didn’t move, didn’t die, just bled and sighed. Zaraki stabbed her again. Again, no response, except a sigh.
“Why aren’t you fighting back?” Zaraki demanded. “It’s no fun fighting an inanimate object.”
“Because it’s futile,” she responded as she squatted down, her body hunched. “You can keep hitting me, if you need to, Kenny. I won’t fight back. If it helps your inflated ego to keep attacking, then do so. Haven’t you worked it out yet?”
Zaraki paused and scratched his chin getting blood over his fingers in the process.
“What? That I need my opponent to fight back in order enjoy a fight? Yeah, I’ve known that for a long time,” he said reflectively. Why was that important?
“Not that! Thinking is the essence of wisdom. Think, Kenny. Lost time is never found again,” was her response as she rubbed her face with a wing. “In the name, truth.”
Zaraki frowned. “What are you jabbering about? Those stupid adages don’t help.”
“Do you want me to draw you a diagram? You can be so thick sometimes. What one does, one becomes,” Atonomatsuri yawned.
“You’re talking in riddles and they’re not funny,” Zaraki nudged her with his toe. “Come on, explain clearly. If I’m so thick, tell me.”
“My name, idiot. My name,” she responded.
Zaraki thought, tapping his zanpaku-to against his leg as he did so.. “Her name is Atonomatsuri. Atonomatsuri? So what? Atonomatsuri, it’s just a word. But when I finally got a response when I asked her name she said `too late”. I thought it was too late to try to use her power. Retsu suggested the name Atonomatsuri and that means `too late”.”
“So you’re called too late,” he said. Then he started thinking aloud. “When we were fighting I thought I could dodge you, but I was just too late. The same happened with you, because…..,” his voice trailed away.
“Finally you understand,” Atonomatsuri mocked. “Here I was preparing to wait another decade or so. Why did it take you so long? I know I’ve called you thick. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. It’s because you were fighting me with me. Your zanpaku-to holds my power so things happened too late. I was fighting part of my own power which sometimes made me act too late. That is part of my power. Just a tiny part,” Atonomatsuri’s voice sounded sleepy.
“Don’t go to sleep yet. We haven’t finished fighting,” Zaraki said.
“I must sleep. I am wounded and need to rest. It has been too long since I have been able to move freely. I need rest and time to heal. It shouldn’t take more than a few hours. I’ll explain more, once I’ve rested, things you need to know. Zaraki, come a little closer, please,” Atonomatsuri asked.
“Why should I?” Zaraki asked.
“I have something I need to tell you,” Atonomatsuri said.
“It’s not like anyone is going to overhear,” Zaraki mocked. “We’re alone here, or so you said.”
“Okay, I have some thing I need to show you. It’s another part of my power. You have to be close to see it,” she yawned.
“I don’t trust you. Why should I get closer?” Zaraki asked.
Atonomatsuri got to her feet and lunged at Zaraki with a speed that surprised him. He tried to avoid her, but was again too late. She quickly stuck out her tongue and stabbed him with the barb concealed on the end. He recoiled.
“Don’t worry,” she said yawning. “It won’t kill you, just make you sleep. It will kill anyone else, but as long as you own my zanpaku-to, you will be safe from that poison. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. We haven’t finished here yet and I don’t want you getting bored while I sleep,” Atonomatsuri said.
Her words did not provide any assurance to Zaraki. Her words became faint and hard to hear, as he collapsed to the floor.
“I don’t trust her. I don’t want to die like this,” Zaraki raged to himself as unconsciousness or death overcame him.
Author’s Note:
Hope you like it. The title of this chapter is taken from the poem at the beginning of volume 2 of the Bleach manga.
By the way Atonomatsuri is not completely honest. She told lies to Zaraki in this chapter and the previous one. These will be explored in the next chapter. I thought I would mention it if any one noticed the inaccuracies in her comments.
Yes there will be another chapter. Is Zaraki dead? Is Atonomatsuri really sleepy? I‘m not telling! It might spoil the suspense.
Thank you to yuwa for the reviews so far. Your comments are appreciated.
Who Falls?