It comes to my attention that this knowledge is backed up in the Libraries for each Soul Society - which means that Ukitake has probably read this: I know he has spent time in the library back home.
Just when Yrie is about to begin the duel with Midnight, Lance comes over and pulls him aside. After a few minutes, Yrie comes back and bows slightly in apology.
It also comes to our attention that there is a cure for his disease, but it is known to cause insanity. My heart sinks; I know that Uki would rather be in his right state of mind and sick instead of hurting people and staying alive. Either way, Le'Brian and I are off to speak to Shara - who turns out to be Yrie's captain. He welcomes us inside without a word, and we follow him.
Opening a secret wall, he gestures downstairs as though to say "after you". Le'Brian does this as well, and the gesture war goes on until I shake my head with arms crossed, pushing past the both of them.
We come to a wall that is 4 feet thick and clear: Shara inside of it prepping two surgery tables. Le'Brian knocks to get her attention, to no avail. However, he is undeterred and makes the doorknob glow with a light spell. At this point, Yrie, who had settled cross-legged in the corner either to nap or meditate, it's hard to tell, comes over to point out an intercom, which Le'Brian then pushes.
"Captain Douremon We'd like to have a word with you."
"Okay two things. First, never call me that again. Second, turn off the lights."
"Captain, what would you prefer to be called?"
With a nod, she continues with "Just wait here, Lance will be here shortly."
"We just spoke with Lance, we're here to talk to you in particular"
"It involves your research."
"Yes, I've been told"
"Lance - he called ahead." She then gestures to Yrie, "Go get the samples I showed you last week." When he returns, there are two vials in his hand filled with opaque green goo.
"Have you abandoned the research strain that caused Brazil to happen?" I say slowly, making sure to word it proper.
"Yes, I did."
"I can certainly see why, however, do you feel that there are any alternatives given what you have already learned?"
"Everything I've tried, everything I've tried, has led me back to one answer. It's a solution, but it's dangerous."
"Have you considered looking into fixing the side-effect?" Le'Brian
"Yes, I have."
"The results always end up worse. It just gets worse the more I try to fix it."
"Do you recommend anything?"
"Incineration?" she says jokingly, and I try to hide my horror at the thought.
Try as I might, her reply is "Calm down little one; I'm here to make sure that doesn't happen." eliciting a shy smile of appreciation from me.
"Short of a cure, have you discovered any treatment options to lessen the pain?" Aka
"Have you found the cause of it?"
"It's not a cure, and yes we know the cause. You can call it patch."
"When a soul is reborn, every once in a while, there are complications. Usually these complications kill the soul, but some are strong enough to survive and cope."
"I see...so what are these then?" I gesture to the vials.
"It's the patch." My countenance instantly fills up with hope, despite that she sounded disgusted.
"What's wrong? You seem disgusted." While Yrie is still transitioning through the airlock, she reverses it while he is walking out with them.
"Set the tube down." She tells him. "Put your hand up against the glass; tell me what you feel." Nervous as I am, I do what she asks as she has my trust. It's strange how quickly I give that out....
It feels like...a fake soul, more like a mod-soul, though without any intelligence. I recoil slightly, but slowly, my face grown pale and confused. Being careful not to sound accusatory, I turn to her and ask, voice trembling, "How...did this come to be?"
"Oh, stuff like this is created all the time."
"Every Soul Society. It's like a blank body."
"So, is it alive?"
"That would depend on your definition of alive? Think of it this way: in the human world, they have transplanted kidneys. It's a replacement, like a clone of the kidney."
Trying to word my sentence properly, "Were these taken...." getting frustrated.
"I'm going to stop you right there. They weren't taken from anything, I created them."
"Out of what?" LB
"Reishi; spirit pressure. Honestly, I'm surprised Lance hasn't tell you all of this."
"Lance...doesn't tell us a lot of things." Aka
"You just haven't seen him drunk,"
"There's a reason for that."
"Lance got tired of everyone throwing their problems at him, so, he started looking into them before they could come up."
"Boy got problems." - LB
Suddenly, we felt Lance behind all of us; we have no idea how long he's been there. I have nothing to fear, and my posture shows this.
"So, you mentioned that I keep secrets. What do you want to know?" Le'Brian asked about the 4th day prior to Lance's graduation of the academy. When Lance replies that he was just in class, Le'Brian brings up the rumor he heard about the school blowing up.
"Was that..a part of the curriculum?"
Lance chuckles, and says, "Oh that. Acutally, yes. My Bankai was a little...more powerful than I thought. I can control it very well, but it was..larger than I thought." Then he gets up and goes to the intercom, saying, "Okay, Ukitake will be here shortly." My face lights up, regardless that I try to hide it. Lance turns to me and says, "Unfortunately, he'll probably be asleep when he gets here. He'll have to be asleep for the procedure. I look visibly worried. "Master Roshi has put a barrier around the building. No one is allowed to leave."
"I wouldn't anyway."
Le'Brian mentions that he wants to be here so that he can fix it if anything goes wrong.
"As I always have been, I will stay at his bedside." I proclaim, straitening my posture. Lance reaches into his Shihakusho, pulling out a Hell Butterfly. Yrie then takes it and places it down on the examination table. Suddenly, a flash of blinding light appears, and in pops Ukitake, fast asleep on the examining table.
My heart leaps - skips a beat, as it always does near my Captain. I press my fingers up against the glass, peering at him, heart thundering. I looked up, slightly fearful and timid, locking eyes with Shara, "Is it safe?"
"Honestly, no. But that's why he's here." she pointed at Le'Brian. "Your friend can help."
"Did Ukitake volunteer for this?"
"Oh, yes. We even notified his head captain. I've actually had conversations about this procedure with him"
My eyes start to water. A smile filters onto my face. Oh, sneaky Ukitake. Please be okay. I realize I'm holding my breath.
Lance then tries to shepherd Le'Brian into the room, though Le'Brian shakes him off and storms into the room of his own free will. Lance then pulls out a mask, a labcoat, and gloves. He apologizes and thanks Le'Brian for this. I mouth 'thank you', before resuming praying to Boccob.
Le'Brian begins tapping Ukitake with Jikan - the same staff that is being used to heal us occasionally. Le'Brian has the thought that if he times it within a second of when Shara tells him to, we can save the scenario; information told to him via Kord. Shara is patching up Ukitake's soul, assuring me that he will not change after the procedure. I was waiting with baited breath during the whole procedure, Amai popping her head out occasionally to watch. I pet her anxiously
"I apologize if I've been standoffish, but that you: for helping him."
As Shara is leaving, she mentions to me, "He will need a rest after a couple of days, but he will be just fine and never have to deal with health problems ever again. And I mean that, ever again." Breathless, I gasped a thank you.
Lances goes up and hugs Le'Brian and Shara, lifting them off the ground with a hug. "Okay, that's it, we're all going drinking. I'm paying. We need to celebrate this."
While this is happening, I tried to slip away to Ukitake's side, to which Lance's comment is "Nice try but we have to go celebrate your boyfriend's recovery."
I can't even begin to try and hide the blush spreading like wildfire across my features, standing like a deer in headlights; frozen, jaw dropped. I stand like this dumbly for a few seconds, before recovering enough to say, "I - you. You have your own ways of celebrating, and I have mine."
"Yeah, but after seeing you hold your breath that whole time, I think it might help."
I smile softly at him, a genuine smile, to try and ensure that I am okay, shaking my head curtly. "I'm okay. Not a big drinker." and start to make my way towards the table. turn my head back to them and say "I'll catch up later." when Lance and Le'Brian put up protest - proclamations that I am a fun drunk and Lance tells me that there will be alcohol in my room, and threatens that the next time he sees me, I better be trashed. This seems to sate them, as they take their leave, albeit reluctantly.
As they are leaving, Shara mentions to Yrie that I can't go into the room quite yet. It still needs to be sanitized. "I'll wait." With the news that it will be several days, I stay for a while to watch him, smiling and shaking my head. After a while, I come to the bar.
Everyone is at the party, partying all night. Every time they kick Krillen out, there is a strange dinging noise. I enter one such occasion, where Krillen, 1st squad Lt., is blasting through the door. Oh boy, this is going to be a long night.
I abstain from the drinking, despite Lance's assertions to "drink, drink, drink, drink, drink!", although he assumes that I am. I order tea, and although the bartender, Giriko Kutsuzawa, admits after I ask that it has alcohol in it. Screw it, time to celebrate. And I begin to down the tea. Amai pops her head out of my Shihakusho occasionally, scaring one of the bar maids who shrieks, "Hollow!"
The next morning, I only have a slight hangover due to the alcoholic tea. Had I drank less, I would not have one at all. To my surprise, I can't remember the night before. I begin to freak out about how much paperwork I skimped on, how bad I was at upholding my duties. I make myself a cup of tea to calm down, realizing I don't have that much; doubling and triple checking that that's all. Lance, still drunk, stops by.
"Captain." I acknowledge with a terse nod of my head, blocking entrance to my room.
"Hiii. Poster" as he holds his hands out. I blush again and glance at the one already on my wall.
"Cause we know how well that goes!" I say, snatching it.
"That was a really fun fourth of July. I'm still surprised he celebrated that with me." as he was leaving.
Confused, hesitating, I shout after him, "Wait, who!?" With no as he staggers off, I close the door and open the poster. It's a shirtless, drunken Ukitake, posing in just swim trunks. I stare at it for a little while, blushing. Regardless that I get a gushing bloody nose and am thoroughly preoccupied for a few minutes, stuffing it under my bed, embarrassed, before I leave, locking up my room as normal.
Shortly after, Lance shows up in the Library, saying to Le'Brian, "I really just need a quiet place to hang out maybe read something, so I figured I'd come here, hide in a corner."
Smiling devilishly, "YES THIS IS A QUIET PLACE! GO RIGHT UP THE STAIRS AND TO THE LEFT! WE HAVE CHAIRS!" Le'Brian shouts, although Lance barely hears it.
"THANK YOUU!" he booms back, following the directions.
That night, I decide to confront Lance with my concerns with Midnight.
"There are some things I'm not willing to share due to privacy, but go ahead an ask your question." Lance responds.
"I have noticed that when a Hollow is slain, his sword will sometimes appear to eat it. This unnerves me. I want to be assured that he is upholding the balance of hollows and the code of the Soul Reapers if I am to trust and work with him in a productive manner." I express.
"Midnight is not actually eating souls. It is nothing to think too much of or worry about."
"Good to hear. Too much?" to which he just nods. "It's not Midnight I'm necessarily worried about."
"Oh? Then who are you worried about?"
"Well, Zanpaktous often have minds of their own. I might be worried about his sword." I confess in my paranoia.
"I will admit his Zapaktous are extremely unique, but that's what they are. Zanpaktous." Lance replies, clearly dodging the question.
"Should I worry that they are upsetting the balance? I want to know that I can trust him and his methods." I continue to press.
"You don't need to worry about the balance; the balance is pretty strong. They may be eating souls, but it's not a big enough of an imbalance to worry about." Lance admits (Bwahahaha, thank you Story!). With a curt nod and bow, I take my leave, backing away.
"Thank you Captain, you've addressed my concerns."
Shortly after I leave, I hear a loud crash - as I assume Lance is breaking something with his head, followed by "God damn it!"
Unsure what to do with, or how to feel about, this information, I go about my business with my typical meditation techniques, thinking on my feelings for the matter. He is on our side - for good. He is a team mate. And with the mass production of hollows lately, the balance does even out. For now, there is no problem. I will keep it to myself, as I understand Lance would appreciate it more that way and even if it isn't home, I owe allegiance to my commanding officer.
The next day, as I am leaving visiting Ukitake that morning to go shopping, Le'Brian joins me. This day was rather uneventful, as I begin to read my books. Finally, I am let in to Ukitake's bedside, holding his hand and watching over him as I was accustomed to. This went on for the next day as well, same routine - paperwork, reading, Koi, Ukitake. I began to feel very homestick; Japan will always be my home. Each day, I would leave tea for him on the off chance he recovered quickly.
The peace doesn't last long, as right in the morning as I make my way towards the koi fish after my morning paperwork and visiting with Ukitake, we hear a very loud noise and see a column falling from the sky; sounds like a giant explosion. Naturally, Le'Brian and I automatically start running towards the source of the sound. As we arrive, there are already quite a few captains on the scene: Lance and Roshi the main two.
Lance is attempting to throw the pillar, and Roshi is directing him. There is a flash of light, and an Angel comes out with books. I remember that Angels reside in the Royal Palace.
"Hey, that's a mid-level...guy." Le'Brian remarks. "We should probably go talk to him."
"Well, I guess the jig is up. I guess you can put down the pillar." Roshi comments.
"Eh...whatever." Lance replies, chucking it behind him anyway.
"Well that's interesting, that wasn't in the report." the angel comments, looking at Midnight. Instantly, my interest is piqued, and I look at him curiously.
"My name is Sierra and I'm here to fix s**t." the female angel announces.
"Uh, yeah yeah yeah, that's because nobody up there really cares. So, flying monkey, what do you want?" Lance mocks; it's very obvious he doesn't like Angels. Meanwhile, Roshi is in the corner snickering.
"Having met actual flying monkeys, you're closer than I am." Sierra comments towards Lance, who promptly compliments her on the insult.
"Good comeback. One problem, flying monkeys are much more useful than you."came the sneer.
"Do you want to see how useful I am?" She raises her eyebrows, pointing at Le'Brian and he is now silenced. Lance laughs, then punches Sierra, even though Le'Brian wasn't able to set her on fire. Xue and Midnight are laughing, eating popcorn, and I am burying my face in my hands at the stupidity of the situation; how immature can people.
"I didn't say you were useless, I just said you weren't useful."
"Can a flying monkey silence him?"
Due to the punch, Sierra goes flying a fair distance. By this point, I begin to walk away, fed up with the whole situation and childishness of people upon first meetings. Meanwhile, Taydra's captain comes up and dispells the silence on Le'Brian. Roshi comes over, "I think all these kids should calm down and take a step back, don't you think Le'Brian?" Trying to be nonchalant.
"I don't know, I kinda want to put this jerk in their place."
"So then shall I rephrase that?" Roshi, eyebrows raised, exclaims as a clear warning.
"No, I think I got the gist of it." Le'Brian sneers.
"We are going to settle this later." Le'Brian growls out.
"Seriously, why are you here?"
"To fix stuff?"
"If you don't know what's wrong, then why are you in the position you're in? I know there's a problem because you're reporting it to us."
Roshi has a regrettable countenance at this point. "People like you are only sent for specific reasons."
"I don't know that I'm supposed to disclose those reasons in public." She remarks. Roshi then pulls her aside, and is told the reason.
I suppose royalty does tend to think more highly of themselves than they should - but disrespecting the head captain like that - insulting our society! My rage began to lap at the fringes of my chest, and my pace quickens. I hear lots of laughing for some reasons. Enough secrets. Le'Brian starts to follow, quickly followed by Lance. When they catch up, Lance offers us a ride. I ignore him flat-out.
"I'm walking just because I need to walk. I figure that the guys upstairs or just unaware, or idiots or whatever. I'm starting to realize that their underlings are sort of..more or less..."
"Full of themselves, is the word I was going for." Le'Brian points up.
"Actually, due to the trajectory, it didn't come from above us. It came from Boccob."
I stop, irritated. Fists clenching, I walk away, even faster.
"She's probably still worked up over....I'm willing to bet she won't be fully comfortable until Ukitake is walking again."
"Oh, you didn't hear? He is up again. Probably back at his Soul Society by now."
"What? I was just there....nice to know he didn't think of me..." my heart begins to sink, anger and confusion, the last part said in an undertone.
"Yeah, it was strange. As soon as he woke up, a hell butterfly appeared and he raced off. He looked really nervous, got an urgent call...you should be on edge..."
Sierra is quickly upon us, and she looks at Le'Brian, "Sorry; it was a rough ride and it's annoying being here. I haven't been here in a long time." I still ignore her. Le'Brian looks at Lance, and tries to read in his mannerism whether he should accept the apology or not. Lance turns out not to care very much. He asks himself what Nylia would do, coming to the conclusion that she would forgive him.
"Yes, I suppose the world of peasants would be pretty annoying." I remark, storming off again, growing tired of being insulted, downgraded, everyone thinking so highly of themselves and...This was strange, am I usually this angry? Where is this coming from? Bottom line is Le'Brian is my comrade, and did nothing wrong. She is in our realm now - she needs to respect us. Regardless that she apologized, it defeated the purpose in the high-strung way she did it.
I start heading towards the Koi fish, trying to clear my mind and calm down.
"I apologize for trying to light you on fire."
"No harm no foul: I shall not try to take any hostile, offensive actions against you. Lance was supposed to be the target, but I knew I couldn't take him down. yet."
"Uh...sorry about that. Which is strange, I shouldn't be apologizing for not letting you hurt me." Lance comments. "On the bright side, it helped you. Otherwise, I would have drawn."
"Thank you, appreciate that. So, what's in the book?" Le'Brian spoke to Sierra, accepting of her apology.
Sierra then explains that this book will teach him his true-name, opening the first page. She details that it will allow her to cast spells and help us more effectively.
"So, we are a team, and I have been ordered not to tell you why I am here. Basically, I am here to be on missions with you guys. I apologize I can't tell you more." she elaborates. "I request that everybody reads from the book at some point so that I can cast more effectively. Especially if you Zanpaktou gets destroyed in its Shikai form or lower, the next round I can fix it having known your personal true-name. I can also scry where you are once a day, and send you messages three times a day." She then goes on that she has plans to visit my room later to apologize.
"I'm going to stop you right there. Her room is her room and you really don't need to be bothering her there. She's really busy. Now, if you would like to find her and give her some time to calm down, koi pond. Anyway, do you need to be shown to your room?" Le'Brian cuts in.
She did consider it, and then accepted, as she could use the rest.
At the koi pond, my mind calms as I'm calming and tending to the fish. This always makes me miss Ukitake...Ukitake! How could I forget!? Racing off without a word to follow him. Nobody guards there to stop me at the gate, but Le'Brian halts me; he assumed I would do this. He lets me know that I could get in trouble for going after him and going through without permission. When things like that happen and urgent calls happen, it affects multiple Soul Societies.
"We had planned to speak to him anyway and I would like to know what's going on." My face grows hard.
"Yeah, so would I. Apparently that's going to have to wait. The safest spot for these documents seems to be in my pocket. I don't like carrying that crap around. But it's this or try to feed it to poor little Amai, again and again and again. I'd rather have given it to Ukitake."
"If it is something this big, someone here has to know."
"I suspect it's Lance - but I don't think he actually knew..."
"Then I'll get permission. The Soul Societies should stand together. Thank you for looking out for me." And off to Lance I go. Le'Brian requests that I ask permission for him to go too.
Midnight goes to speak to Roshi about it after hearing my feelings.
"All I hear is that something unusual is going on over there, so they're calling back all of their fighters, primary combat personnel: a yellow alert." Is all Roshi admits to knowing. Naturally, we are always in combat, so this is the status quo for us, especially as we lose the most people.
"Hi. What can I do for you?"
"We would like permission to leave the Soul Society to check up on Ukitake; we are concerned for his well-being. Do you have a compelling reason for us not to?" Le'brian starts.
"More than that, it's about the Japanese Soul Society. If something that urgent is happening there, I feel like everybody should be well-informed." I elaborate; this goes beyond my petting feelings.
"I'm trying to stay on top of it, but I can't allow that since we march out tomorrow." he winces, "I've already told you too much - don't tell anyone I told you that."
"Told us what?" I ask
"Thank you. But no, I can't allow that; there isn't enough time."
"We won't be long." I press.
"It takes longer than that to get there. I'm sorry."
"I might be able to catch up with him."
Lance shakes his head, "I'm sorry. On the bright side, Ukitake is much healthier and stronger now, so he can fight better. If anything does go down, he will be a lot better off than he was before, and even then he was pretty well-off."
"Not the issue. There are other matters I feel need looking into with the state of urgency. Thank you anyway." I remark with a sigh and respectful bow, backing out of the room with a slight salute. He waves to me in conclusion. I begin to head off to my room in silence, leaving Lance and Le'Brian with a feeling that I am manic passive-aggressive, and far too polite.
The next afternoon, after my paperwork, I still long for the comforts of home and make my way to the koi pond to tend to them, bringing my books with me in a hope of reading some more. I tend to them for a little while, before Sierra approaches opposite the pond with a small bow, going on to say "Squad 12 Lt., Akamori Yuki: I fully apologize for my actions and my comments yesterday. It is not the people here that I find annoying; I don't like fighting and being on assignment, I would rather be researching. I am the Prince of Magic's #2's, #2 researcher. I have no problem with any of you; I just had a rough day and I wanted to apologize for my manners; I'm usually better at them. I hold any disciple of my Prince in High Regard."She confesses.
Naturally, due to the similarities in our greetings and cultures, she has my full attention; I am starting to warm up to her given the interaction. I give her a kind of soft, sympathetic smile, "I think we all have those days; yesterday was terse for me as well; I'm not sure I can fully explain my emotions. I appreciate the apology; thank you, Sierra. Always nice to meet a patron of Boccob." with a curt nod, "No hard feelings, then?"
"No hard feelings and there is no reason to explain; I fully understand as well." She then goes on to relay the information about the book to me, to which I agree to graciously with appreciation. We somehow get on the subject of Amai, and she offers to research her for me, to which I agree. Before we can socialize more and get more in depth about Boccob, Hell Butterflies appear to summon us.
We quickly race off to HQ. We are given a detailed report: We will be attacking the lair of the same man that is creating all of these mutated Hollows. We don't know his true identity, but we do know he has a specific symbol on him; a . As far as they can tell, he is not one of the Espada; in fact, he isn't really an Arrancar as far as we can tell.
We are then all assigned groups: none of the captains are joining any of the assigned teams, which is strange for this Soul Society. As I feel it would be overstepping my authority to vocally ask, I have a questioning look on my face. Lance notices, walking over casually and whispering to me not to worry too much about it; it is about to be explained.
Everybody will have a specific job. All Lieutenants except for a specific few will be assaulting the complex. Because they are sure all the Espada will be rushing to his aid, all the Captains will be put on defense. The only three that aren't are Krillen, Alice, and Grom, who will be with the captains. Our team and Nylia's old team (as she is now a Captain) will be assaulting the complex, with a few added members, while the Captains run interceptions.
Before we head through the gates, Midnight is talking to Xue and two winged females. They feel like his Ravens Shi and Jinsei, and his ravens are not soaring around him. As we pass, I smile at Jinsei and nod a greeting to both of them; this is very normal and I've seen Zanpaktous take form before. Jinsei waves, Midnight nods as well, and Shi turns her back.
It looks like a giant plateau, we know the entrances, and there is a dead forest surrounding it with a swamp. The location is in Hueco Mundo; we will be traveling for most of the journey with the other team and the Captains; halfway to the complex, still in the swamp. We notice that Alice is making a sign once we get to the start of the forest. "Creepy Swamp Place of Death. Free Cakes." is what it reads. Sierra then takes it upon herself to write the truename of the sign.
It is about this time that we stop and wonder who is watching the Soul Society. It comes to our conclusion that Amai is currently a mod soul. A little perturbed by this, we turn to Lance, "Laaance. Why is Amai not here?"
"You mean that..pet...dog..."
"Yes." Le'Brian finishes.
"Thank you for not making me go any farther than that. She came over and said she wanted to watch the Soul Society."
"She can talk!" I proclaim happily, and Lance walks away with the comment that she was usually more talkative than that once we discuss that we haven't heard her speak before, and how curious that was.