Bleach Fan Fiction ❯ The Subsequent Frontier ( Chapter 28 )

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

Tite Kubo owns Bleach. I just borrowed the characters. I did create Atonomatsuri (the bird) and Piecrust aka Flower (the jerk).
The Subsequent Frontier
“Rules about tattoos? I didn’t know there could be rules about anything like that,” Ayasegawa said leaning over to look. After a few seconds he was seated behind the desk, reading the proposal with intense interest.
Relieved he didn’t have to read the damn thing, Zaraki watched as Madarame looked over the furniture. Even if it wasn’t going to be returned to the office it would be useful to know where the bugs had been planted. It was satisfying to believe he would now be able to talk without being overheard. If anyone had eavesdropped on his conversations with Atonomatsuri he’d have to kill them. There was only one person who may have and killing Kurotsuchi would be a pleasure, but would also mean he’d had to explain his reasons. For now, he’d stick to the plan.
The cabinet was now unlocked and Madarame was looking inside. “Hey, Captain, there’s still some sake and stuff in here. Can I have some?”
“No. You’re supposed to be checking the thing for any problems. Are there any?” The request did not surprise Zaraki. It amused him that Madarame would use any excuse to try to raid the cabinet and it was too early to start drinking.
“Um, yeah. I do see a problem, a big one,” Madarame said, drawing his head out of the aperture. “It looks like you’ve got woodworm.”
Zaraki felt his brows contact in anger. The bloody Clown had ruined the only piece of furniture he liked.
“I mean, it really does have woodworm,” Madarame said. “See the holes? I’m not sure if they’re still active. We can fumigate it if you want, but it might be better to chuck it.”
Zaraki considered the article of furniture. He liked it, and didn’t give a damn if it was full of holes, as long as the infestation was over. “No, I want to keep it. Could you find that rum we talked about? Hey Yachiru, did you get your important items out of the office? You know, the ones we mentioned earlier,” he prompted his assistant captain. If the lollies were found during the redecoration he knew they’d be eaten.
“Oooh, you’re right Ken-chan. Thanks for reminding me,” she said as she dashed into the office, returning with a sack almost as large as she, which she took to her quarters.
Madarame located the rum which he handed to his Captain and then looked over the other pieces of furniture indicating to Zaraki that more than one had an additional, unwanted feature. Working together, they pried the listening devices from the furniture and crushed them under their feet.
“I hope someone was listening while we did that,” Zaraki stated grimly. “How long do you think they were there?”
“Some time, I’d guess from the discolouration around them. I’ll check the new stuff when it comes. Maybe I’ll do a sweep of the office once a week, just to make sure. If the guy’s done it once, he’ll probably do it again,” Madarame stated with disgust. “I think I might go and help Captain Unohana with her renovation tomorrow.” The meaning in his words was obvious.
“Ken-chan, should we tell other Captain’s? If the Clown Captain is checking up on you, maybe he wants to check up on everyone,” Yachiru said very quickly. Her brows were drawn together and he saw a spark of temper in her eyes.
“Mmmm. Yeah. Maybe I’ll mention it to the Old Man. Yachiru, could you go and tell Captain Fon. She might be interested, as it could be seen as interfering with her job,” Zaraki said slowly. Hell, if he could make trouble for the Clown Captain, he would, but again he remembered he was trying not to draw any attention to himself. “Or you could ask Captain Fon to tell Yamamoto if she finds anything in her office. That might give her a reason to get the Old Man to accompany her when she goes to talk to Kurotsuchi.”
“Good idea, Ken-chan,” she grinned up at him. “Don’t do anything exciting while I’m gone. Do you think Captain Fun will have any sweets?”
“Don’t call her that, she won’t like it. I’ll get you some sweets, though I don’t think you need more,” Madarame offered.
“You can’t tell me what to do, Baldy. Only Ken-chan is allowed to do that,” Yachiru pouted.
Zaraki felt a smile spread over his face at the nickname. Captain Fun. He was pretty sure Soi wouldn’t like that. “I agree with Madarame. Call her Captain Fon and be polite.”
Yachiru nodded and skipped off.
Ayasegawa cleared his throat loudly, attempting to gain attention. “Captain, I have a bad feeling about this proposal.”
Furrowing his brow for a moment, Zaraki wondered what he meant. What proposal was the guy talking about? Then he noticed that his fifth seat was holding the 200 page document in his hand, looking very grave.
“It’s a stroke of luck that Ikkaku was concentrating when he read this part and mentioned the tattoos. I believe that whoever wrote it, deliberately made it boring so that it would not be read,” Ayasegawa continued. His face was grave and he didn’t even smooth his hand over his hair such was his disquiet.
“Huh? I nearly fell asleep until I saw the mention of tattoos and the new requirement for them.” Ikkaku was no longer examining the furniture but was sitting on his heels as he spoke. “Why, what else is in there?”
“The title which is: The Subsequent Frontier: An Official Proposal to Moderate the Clothing Standards of Shinigami in order to Present a Uniform Appearance. Conformity to provide Stability in the face of changing demands and needs; gives a mild idea what this is about and it’s not only dress standards. Most of the important stuff is buried in the middle. I started there because that’s where Ikkaku found the rules about tattoos.” He turned to Madarame, “I can tell you skipped the first hundred pages and having skimmed them you didn’t miss anything important,” he accused his friend who just smiled guiltily and shrugged. “There’s mention of appropriate hairstyles, adornment and the proposal that all female Shinigami wear skirts,” Ayasegawa did not look too disappointed at the last suggestion.
“I’d like that. Does it specify a length?” Madarame said. “I think your girlfriend looks good in the skirt and I’d like to see Ran in something short….” he faltered as he received a scathing look from his friend.
“She’s not my girlfriend and I’m sure Captain Fon and Captain Unohana would not appreciate being told how to dress. Nor would any female Shinigami. The skirts are to be either above or just below the knee. There are a few other regulations which remove the basic unisex style. But that’s not the worst part,” he told Madarame very sternly, but his eyes had a slightly faraway look.
“Okay, can the suspense. What’s the worst part,” Zaraki asked impatiently. He could imagine the reaction of Soi and Retsu if they were informed that they would have to wear skirts. Whoever wrote this must either have a death wish or hoped that it would be signed without anyone reading the document. Even if it was passed, who would be stupid enough to try to enforce the rules?
“No feathered ornamentation may be worn by any Shinigami,” Ayasegawa wailed, his pain at this idea evident to anyone who could hear him. He appeared really upset and blew his nose in his usual delicate manner.
“Why’s that important?” Zaraki began and then looked at his 5th seat. “Oh, yeah, well. Ur, anything else?”
“Captain’s coats are not to be tattered or ripped in any manner, nor are male Shinigami allowed to wear kimonos; no Shinigami may now have a visible tattoo if he or she wishes to gain any rank higher than 10th seat; no bells to be worn on the hair; all long hair to be braided at the back of the head or otherwise confined; any bald person is required to wear a hat; no training wheels on zanpaku-to’s but makeup is allowed,’ was the sniffily reply. “And there’s more. I’m only outlining some of the changes.”
Bemused, Zaraki glanced at the document. The ideas were stupid. No one would agree to all these changes. There had to be something else. “Who wrote it?”
Madarame grabbed the sheaf of papers and looked at the back. “It came from the Research division, stating that analysis proves that these changes will provide a better working environment and more efficient running of the Seireitei.”
“The Clown Captain,” Ayasegawa almost shrieked in annoyance.
“That damn Kurotsuchi,” Zaraki growled. The man was making personal attacks again. He noticed his hair and his coat were targeted along with many other Captains distinctive dress. What was the guy playing at?
“But he’s not stupid enough to think anyone would agree to this,” Madarame said, reflectively as he waved the document up and down.
“Who’s not stupid?” Yachiru said appearing with a pile of papers in her hand. “Someone gave me these to give you Ken-chan. Captain Fun found a bug. She’s not happy, her face got creased and her eyes became really fierce.”
Taking the papers from his assistant captain, he glanced at them. “Kurotsuchi’s not stupid. I think I begin to understand,” he said. “This is the revised proposal. It’s shorter, only 20 pages rather than 200 and I bet it’s easier to read. Here, Madarame, you agreed to do the paperwork. Read it and let me know what changes were made.”
“I’ll set some of the layabouts to work painting your office,” the 5th seat said. His face had a spot of colour in each cheek indicating his anger at the document he had read. Flouncing off he muttered darkly, under his breath, about people who could not recognise true beauty when it was in front of them.
“So, Captain Fon is not happy with the Clown Captain either. Strange how unpopular he is becoming,” grinning widely Zaraki patted Yachiru on the shoulder. “Good job, Yachiru. You wouldn’t want to wear a skirt as part of your uniform, would you?”
She made a face. “No. It would make me feel silly and self conscious. Is that what that paper’s about?”
“Some of it,” Zaraki sat in his chair and gave his assistant captain a brief outline of some of the suggestions.
She did not seem happy to hear any of them. “I suppose he’ll put a limit on lollies next.”
“Possibly. Maybe he does think he’s in line to be the next Captain General.” The chair was not comfortable and he was glad that it had to be replaced. “”Madarame, hand me that stuff about requisitioning furniture.” Taking the information he looked at it and with Yachiru’s help began to fill in the items he thought he required.
“Don’t forget a bookshelf, comfortable visitor’s chairs, and a screen, Captain,” Ayasegawa’s voice said over his shoulder as he looked at the list. “I’m supervising the painting, but it doesn’t mean I have to get dirty.”
“What do I want a screen for?” He didn’t have a screen now, and he’d never missed it.
“Because it would make the room more beautiful; especially if you spent some money on it. A screen adds something to a room,” the pleading note in the voice was unexpected.
“Yeah, more clutter and a place for people to hide.” Zaraki thought about it. Did he want a screen? Would he even notice it after the first week? It seemed a weird sort of thing to have in an office and there was enough strange stuff happening in his life.
“I think a screen would be nice Ken-chan,” Yachiru added her vote to the request. She beamed at him and giggled slightly.
“You’d hide your sweets behind it, or sleep behind it or hide behind it and eat your sweets,” Madarame accused Yachiru.
It was an accurate assessment. As her stash of sweets became larger, she had more difficulty finding a hiding spot. The last stash had been hidden behind the curtain, but the bulge had drawn Zaraki’s attention one day when he was trying to avoid doing some work. He’d expected to find someone crouching behind the curtain, waiting to attack him, and it was an anti-climax to find only sugary foes secreted behind the fabric.
“Order a screen then. I don’t want to be bothered with details. Here, finish filling this in and I’ll sign it. I was only doing it while I waited for Madarame to finish reading that damned document.” He handed the paper over, pleased not to fill in another form.
“I’ll choose something appropriate,” Ayasegawa said clasping his hands together in pleasure, the paper crumpling from the pressure. “Manly, but not reeking of testosterone. No dead animals, maybe a nice inlaid landscape with the mountains and rivers and some clouds and rain.”
Madarame sighed slightly, and glancing across at the man Zaraki noticed that a grimace of disbelief was plastered over his face. “What it is?” he demanded harshly, a sense of foreboding shadowing his question.
“I think we better discuss this elsewhere,” Madarame said looking around. “I’m not sure you want everyone to hear this,” was the reply, voiced in an undertone.
“Okay, let’s go back to my quarters and you can check them for bugs while we’re there.” Zaraki realised the sense in the suggestion to move the discussion, but felt unwilling to go to another tea shop.
On their arrival Madarame and Ayasegawa made a quick survey of his quarters and found a few bugs while Yachiru watched intently. Madarame also appeared to find something else which he quickly destroyed before Zaraki could see it. In this instance the 11th Division Captain decided he did not want to know. He had an idea but did not wish to have it confirmed. For all he knew those were standard in all Captains’ quarters.
“Madarame, I think we might send an anonymous note to all captains and assistant captains to check their quarters. Don’t you think?”
Nodding Madarame indicated he understood that his captain had seen his surreptitious removal and destruction of the camera. “Yep. Yumichika, how about you draft one up in that disguised writing you use.”
“Why do I always end up doing this stuff,” the 5th seat complained, but began to quickly write a note in very plain characters.
“Now, tell me about this proposal,” losing patience with his temper unstable, at the recognition of his lack of privacy, Zaraki’s voice was angry.
“This guy is cunning. It’s not a revised proposal. It makes reference to the primary document, but indirectly. If you only read this and agreed to the very fuzzy references you would be basically agreeing to the original scheme.” Madarame was not happy and scowled at the paper.
“It would all make sense if he issued a final version. I think he’s doing a softening up process, Ken-chan,” again Yachiru reminded them of her sharp intelligence.
“What do you mean, kid?” She had seen something they had not noticed and if she was worried, it meant they should all be concerned.
“It’s like this Ken-chan. If anyone bothered to read the original, they would reject the proposal. The Clown Captain will know there are some Captains who will read the thing closely, like Snowy and Frosty and they will probably not agree. Clowny may have guessed that, and would not have targeted them directly. The second version blurs the first version, appearing to soften it, but it keeps its teeth. Both would get rejected.” Yachiru stopped and bit her lip as she picked up the 200 pages, weighing it in her hand. “Go in hard, make excessive demands and then, eventually, suggest a small but important change. After the first two versions, the next seems reasonable by comparison and might gain some support. If he’s really tricky, he will issue more than just one additional version. Eventually he’ll only suggest the change that won’t affect too many people, like no training wheels on zanpaku-to’s.”
“I know that game. If the first change gets passed, then you gradually add more, one by one, building on the original alteration. The biggest reaction is always against the first suggestion. Once you accept one, it makes the way clear for the others that follow. Yeah, that makes sense, but how did you work it out?” He knew Yachiru was clever but this was a devious tactic, one beloved of politicians in the human world.
“How do you think I get things through in the Shinigami’s Women’s Association?” Yachiru asked innocently.
Zaraki stared at her, the corners of his mouth twitching. He didn’t think it was a good idea, but the laughter overwhelmed him. “Tricky? I think the toad could learn a few things from you, or maybe he already has. His daughter, she attends these meetings, doesn’t she?”
His assistant captain nodded. “Sits quietly; does everything I tell her. She pays attention and watches.”
Madarame walked behind Zaraki, making certain his captain was between him and the assistant captain before he commented “In other words, you gave the idea to Kurotsuchi.”
Yachiru launched herself at the 3rd seat, intending harm, but Zaraki caught her before she got close enough. “Don’t attack the guy because he’s right,” he said as he put her on her feet.
Her large eyes were lifted to his and she looked shocked. “You think so too, Ken-chan?” She seemed genuinely distressed at the thought.
“But it doesn’t matter, assistant captain. You know the method,” Ayasegawa said his face alight with excitement. “If you weren’t here, we would still be wondering and trying to plumb the depths of the problem. He may have used your tactic, but you know how to counter it.”
Zaraki silently thanked the be-feathered man. If he had said anything further he knew he’d probably have hurt Yachiru, and he hated doing that. She wouldn’t say anything but her face would change and her chirpiness would evaporate. It would take a few days and many sweets to restore her usual attitude and he already had enough attitude problems with the oversized, irritating budgie.
Grinning broadly, her good humour restored, Yachiru patted Ayasegawa on the arm. “Pretty Boy, you are so right. See Baldy, I’m the solution, not the problem. You’re just a problem.” Her giggle at Madarame’s scowl relaxed the slightly tense atmosphere.
“Yeah, but I’m your problem aren’t I? You are my senior officer,” his face wore a wry expression and Yachiru softened.
“Yes, Baldy, and I’d rather you as a problem than Piecrust Flower, or should that be Flower Piecrust or Flour Piecrust. Oh, I could call him F.P. for short,” she mused.
“Don’t. That might be misunderstood. I think Piecrust is the better name. I’ll gut anyone who called me KZ. Ichimaru only just got away with calling me Captain 11,” Zaraki spoke with decision. Giving initials to people made them seem important and they often gained inflated egos as a result. Some idiots insisted that everyone called them by those initials. Aside from that, he could think of a few words that could be substituted for both letters and while they would be funny, it might be bad for morale.
“Your assistant captain is clever KZ. It’s obvious she is not related to you. When are you going to polish me? You bought the polish and the cloth and I yearn to be clean,” interrupted the less than dulcet tones of Atonomatsuri.
“You want me to fillet you, you pathetic poultry. I’ll polish you when I decide and if you call me KZ again you’ll be summoned. Yeah, summoned when I’m in the pits of Hell and want something to roast over the fire,” the bird had overstepped the mark this time. He was not some pretentious jerk who wanted to be known by his initials.
“How can you go to Hell, Kenny boy? You’re a Shinigami and not a Hollow, well not anymore,” Atonomatsuri sounded strangely perky and Zaraki immediately felt a sense of foreboding. “Unless you plan to become a Hollow again, but maybe not. So how do you plan to go to Hell? That is not an option for you. And one thing more….”
Grudgingly he interrupted, “Yeah, yeah, yeah. Which piece of information that I already know are you going to repeat? If it’s about you and the pain palaver, don’t. I know all about your blasted emotions and my mind and the other facts you decide to unwillingly tell me. When you decide to tell me something I want to know I’ll listen. Until then…”
“Until you need my help tomorrow you mean. I can see this whole operation going wrong, Kenny Boy. Someone may get hurt, someone may even die,” Atonomatsuri sounded sombre; the tone change alerted him that on this occasion she might be serious.
“With any luck it will be you. If Madarame wasn’t injured I’d ask him to do the lucky dance to make sure. What are bloody whining about anyway? It was your idea. What buggy idea is twisting your already twisted mind? Are you feeling the effects of adage overload?” The payback scheme had already been set up and he didn’t want to change all the preparations. It had seemed like everything was coming into his grasp to make the plan succeed and he didn’t want to wait.
“You still haven’t got the items you ordered. Caveat emptor: Let the buyer beware,” she reminded him, distracting him from her earlier comment.
“That’s where you’re wrong, Tweety. They’re here. It would be dumb to have them delivered to my office because I knew the office was being redecorated. I got a note about it. Sometimes I think you are a bigger moron than you say I am.” For once he felt like he had the upper hand in the interchange. If the vulture could give him stupid names he would return the insult. He had seen the chair and the coat when he entered. They were concealed under a sheet.
“Tweety! Vultures do not tweet. Why would you call me something like that? I’m not a canary. I am a bird of noble heritage and your zanpaku-to, not some foundering fledgling, nor a hunk of mindless metal” The shock and anger in Atonomatsuri’s voice was one of the most pleasing sounds he’d heard all day.
“You call me KZ again and I will call you Tweety. Yeah, and ease up on the Kenny boy. It gets easier to annoy you each time. I think you’d be easier to deal with if you were a canary. At least you wouldn’t be pink,” if he had the upper hand, he may as well take advantage of it.
“Canaries are inferior. I would not be mellow if I was yellow. You think you’re clever now, do you Kenny? It’s all because of me; I made you smarter. It’s a pity I can’t make you better looking, but it’s not always possible to make a silk purse out of a sows ear or a Kenny into anything other than a violent beast.” The tone did not convey the normal confidence that the bird assumed when trying to claim her superiority.
“Anyway, what were you nattering on about, someone might die. How could anyone die? It’s all been sorted. Soi is now angry at being bugged and she has a valid excuse to get the old man to go with her. Madarame is injured, but…. Blast; there’s one thing I hadn’t thought about. How do I get the scumbag to encounter Madarame? He only leaves 12th Division for Captain’s meetings or when he’s skulking around hiding in the walls. He likes to be safe within his little empire.” Without this part taken care of the plan would fail, but he still had one final card he could play.
“Ayasegawa, exactly how close are you with Kurotsuchi’s daughter,” he demanded in the voice he used when he wanted a direct answer.
His 5th seat swung around to face him, his visage reflecting his confusion at the question. “We’ve talked, I told you before. I’m not sleeping with her.”
“But would she do something if you asked her nicely?” This was the make or break point of the plan.
“I don’t know.” He hesitated as he stroked his hair thoughtfully. “Perhaps. It depends what I ask.”
“Can she keep a secret? Would she do something without needing a reason?” Zaraki wanted the answer now. Why was the guy taking so much time to provide the information? Didn’t he know how important this might be?
“If you take the right tone with her, she’ll do nearly anything you tell her to,” Yachiru said confidently, nodding her head. “I could do it if you’re too scared to talk to her, Pretty Boy.”
“No you won’t. I’ll ask her. If you let me go to see her now Captain, I could take that dol….. Unwanted item as a present for her. What am I asking her to do?” Ayasegawa’s quick rejection of Yachiru’s help proved something to his Captain, who decided not to comment.
“Just ask her to get her father to take a walk.” A realisation struck him and he paused. “Ask her to get him to go outside tonight at about 10.00. Madarame, I think we have to change the plan and do this tonight. Leaving it any longer may be dangerous.”
“Yes, Captain. I want to get this over with. If we leave it any longer I might let my loathing of the guy get the better of me.” Madarame nodded.
“Yachiru, you’re fast and I trust you. Tell Retsu and Captain Fon what’s happening. We won’t get much sleep tonight, but that’s too bad. Are we agreed?”
His three subordinates nodded and Zaraki sighed. Another busy afternoon and night ahead of him with no chance of taking a nap. Blast!
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Author’s Note:
Yes the title of this chapter is a joke. I couldn’t resist it.
So many questions about Piecrust and other characters. There is more than one reason that Piecrust was placed in 11th Division. I’m getting there. I want to get the issue of payback sorted out before I write about the other things. Heck, I want to see if Zaraki can fight using Atonomatsuri in her new form and what happens with the bets.
I must admit I abducted the rule for skirts from Volume 3 of Fullmetal Alchemist but I thought miniskirts was going too far. When I read that suggestion by Roy, and the support it received from the male officers, it cracked me up. I will hold the idea to ransom unless you review this chapter. I can imagine what would happen if someone told Soi what to wear. Heh heh heh. That would be fun. How long would it take to collect all the pieces of the poor Shinigami?
MS (Does this mean I’m a pretentious jerk?)
Captain Frosty and the Crimson Kamikaze
Fighting Nemu