- Rough Draft
- Work in Progress
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Action Adventure
“The last thing I heard/was you whispering goodbye/and then I heard you flatline!” ~Chorus from Not Gonna Die by Skillet
Hitsugaya Toushirou barely registered the fact that two of the Military Corps guards were physically herding him. Numbness seemed to claim everything around him as he kept thinking about what had just happened. He shivered slightly, remembering the ruthlessness of so many voices demanding a fight. A fight he’d already refused. A fight he never wanted.
Why had Kusaka done that? Didn’t he know that Hitsugaya would have never fought him? Didn’t he trust in their friendship? Why? Why? Why?
The two guards finished leading the newest shinigami out of the Central 46 chambers and towards the gate. Both could tell that the young boy was quickly heading into shock. Completing the duties set forth by the Central 46 wasn’t always glorious. Sometimes it could break even the strongest of hearts. As it seems to have broken this one. It had been a messy, but necessary business and Central 46 had declared the matter over.
They led him out of the last gate and slightly to one side. Helping him into a seated position, they looked at each other. Their orders were to simply leave the boy at the front gate and return to their duties. But to leave a child alone and in shock, even a new-made shinigami child, grated against everything they stood for and had accomplished. Looking over at the gate guards, they determined that the guards would be more focused on preventing intruders than on keeping an eye on one shinigami child. Silent communication between the two reached a compromise. The one close to going off duty for the day would linger nearby until someone came to find young Hitsugaya Toushirou. The other would cover if their commander disapproved. The one remaining behind nodded at the gate guards before disappearing, receiving curt acknowledgement in return.
It was less than half an hour before the remaining guard spotted a very familiar shinigami coming towards Central 46. Matsumoto Rangiku, fukutaichou of the Tenth Squad, had a confused look on her face. It appeared that she had no idea why she was coming but that something had called her here. Waiting until Matsumoto began to carry Hitsugaya Toushirou away before leaving, the guard watched their interactions with a great deal of interest.
Matsumoto Rangiku knew something was desperately wrong, she just couldn’t seem to figure out what. When she found out she was heading for Central 46, she began to panic. Sheer force of will kept her from running. Until she saw the seated figure beside the gates to Central 46. She broke out into a run, kneeling before the white-haired child she remembered from Rukongai.
“Toushirou?” she called, reaching out towards him. He didn’t seem to hear her. In fact, he was shivering. That was extremely odd for a child whose spiritual powers were so strongly aligned with ice. She brushed one hand against his cheek, feeling how frozen it was.
Tipping his head up, she looked into wide, vacant eyes.
She tapped his cheek. And again, harder. He still failed to respond.
Looking around, she saw no one, not even a gate guard. She assumed there was someone there, someone alway watched the gate, but for some reason they refused to show themselves. Leaving a boy alone was one thing. Leaving the gates to the Central 46 unguarded was another thing entirely.
Determined, she scooped the boy up and began to use shunpo to speed across rooftops. While it was heavily discouraged to either use shunpo or rooftops to get anywhere in Seireitei, emergencies were readily accepted. Given Toushirou’s condition, Rangiku wanted him in Fourth Squad’s care as soon as possible. She doubted anyone would argue with her about it.
She landed in front of Fourth Squad and was quickly ushered inside. She refused to relinquish Toushirou to anyone in Fourth. Despite assurances that they could deal with the shock, Matsumoto could not make herself let go of the child. Especially after she overheard unseated officers of the squad talking about how strange it was that the Academy medical team weren’t handling the matter themselves.
She had allowed them to lead her into a private treatment room, her position as a Fukutaichou having demanded it. Wrapping both of them up in the blankets on the bed, she curled tightly around the child. She could feel the sticky cold sweat that had broken out on his skin and the tears he shed against her shihakusho. Running one hand through his hair, she murmured soothing words that she knew he couldn’t hear.
Unohana Retsu heard a quiet knock on the door. Looking up from her paperwork, she was surprised to see one of her unseated officers. The poor boy looked extremely nervous to be interrupting her.
“Yes? Is there a problem?” she asked, putting down her pen and smiling gently at him.
“Forgive me, Taichou. Tenth Squad’s Matsumoto-fukutaichou is here with an Academy student,” he began nervously.
“Oh dear. Is there a problem?”
“We can’t tell, Taichou. Matsumoto-fukutaichou refuses to let him go.”
“Refuses? Please explain,” Unohana demanded gently, already standing. The unseated officer gulped.
“She let us put her in a private room after they arrived. But no one has been able to get in the room without being glared at.”
The unseated officer gulped again before forcing himself to continue. “She’s wrapped both of them up in the blankets and seems to be … I dunno … Coddling him.” Unohana hmmed in understanding, causing her unseated officer to jerk in surprise.
“You… know what’s going on, Taichou?” he asked. Unohana simply continued to smile at him.
“Perhaps. Please show me where Matsumoto-fukutaichou is,” she ordered. “I will handle the matter myself.” The unseated officer bowed and quickly shuffled out of the room, his taichou following behind him.
Unohana’s hands were folded into her sleeves as she glided behind her very nervous unseated officer. She remembered now that he was from the last batch of graduating Academy students nearly a year ago. Just new enough to have heard the rumors and nowhere near experienced enough to know how true those rumors were or were not.
Upon reaching the private room he indicated, she glided past him, softening her smile slightly as she entered and closing the door behind her. She was unsurprised to see that Matsumoto-fukutaichou looked up with a glare before realizing who she was glaring at. The boy in Matsumoto-fukutaichou’s lap didn’t even react.
“…Sorry Unohana-taichou,” Matsumoto-fukutaichou apologized, no longer glaring. Unohana, whose attention was now primarily on the boy merely nodded in acknowledgement.
“Who is this young man you have brought in with you, Matsumoto-fukutaichou?” she asked softly, carefully approaching the bed in a non-threatening manner, ensuring her aura radiated none of her displeasure. She was surprised to see Matsumoto-fukutaichou relax as she approached. She was even more surprised to see the boy uncurl a bit and nearly turn towards her.
“This is Toushirou. I… don’t know his last name, actually.”
“I met him in Rukongai. His reiatsu was powerful enough that it was affecting the real world and nearly killed his grandmother. I convinced him to enter the Academy,” Matsumoto-fukutaichou looks down again at her charge, who was staring off to the side with tears streaming down his cheeks.
“What happened to cause you to bring him here rather than let the Academy medics handle the situation?” Unohana asked, truly curious. The Academy medics all came from within her division and were often some of the brightest medically-inclined minds available to the Gotei 13.
“…” Matsumoto-fukutaichou looked up at Unohana. “He was at the gates to the entrance of the chambers of the Central 46.”
“Central 46?” Unohana was confused. What could an Academy student be doing at the chambers of the Central 46? Matsumoto-fukutaichou nodded, eyes grim.
“How did you find him?” Unohana continued. She watched as Matsumoto-fukutaichou shook her head in confusion.
“I don’t know why I was heading there. No. That’s not true. I knew something was wrong. Horribly wrong. I… had to follow that feeling. When I saw Toushirou….” Here, Matsumoto-fukutaichou stopped. Unohana easily understood the frustration, anger, and even fear that Matsumoto-fukutaichou was now radiating. Her smile turned wry. Pulling over one of the western-style chairs, she sat directly in front of Matsumoto-fukutaichou.
“You have familial bonds, do you not?” Unohana asked.
“One. Hinamori Momo of Fifth Squad,” Matsumoto-fukutaichou replied, confusion seeping into her tone.
“You have never had a reaction to her being injured?” Unohana asked gently. Matsumoto-fukutaichou shook her head, orange hair brushing the top of the injured boy’s white hair. “Never?” Unohana asked, slightly surprised.
“I’ve been unsettled when she got injured or concerned about something when it turns out she was sick, but nothing like this…” Suddenly Matsumoto-fukutaichou’s head snapped up to stare Unohana right in the eyes. “Are you saying I have a familial bond with him?!”
“It is the most likely explanation, given the desperation you felt before finding him. A very close familial bond, given his condition and the strength of your response. Do you truly only know of Hinamori-san?” Unohana asked.
“I don’t know of any others,” Matsumoto-fukutaichou stated, now irritated. Unohana shook her head, projecting a calming aura.
“I am not accusing you of keeping such information from me, Matsumoto-fukutaichou. It is simply unusual for someone of your rank to have so few ties. As you know, Central 46 holds familial soul bonds of equal importance to a romantic soul bond. They balance out the stress of being a member of the Gotei 13. As a fukutaichou, we would expect you to have several very close bonds, not one fairly weak familial bond with an unseated officer like Hinamori-san.” Matsumoto grunted gently.
“Now, as to your young Toushirou-san here, whatever happened obviously caused him to go into shock. You have absolutely done the right thing in bringing him here. Given where you found him, I will personally handle his case. Please wait here while I gather the necessary supplies. I will also ensure no one else enters the room and inform your taichou of your absence from Tenth Squad for the time being.” Matsumoto-fukutaichou swallowed obviously, her body relaxing as she accepted what Unohana was saying.
Unohana stood and stepped out of the room. Seeing Isane-san waiting just outside of the door, she smiled slightly. Isane-san, seeing her taichou exit the room, bowed slightly.
“Isane-san,” Unohana began, “please get me the supplies for aura cleansing, treating severe shock, and the following forms: an absence from duty form, request for meeting with the Central 46 form, and the new patient packet. I would also like Tenth Squad Matsumoto-fukutaichou’s file. Thank you.” Isane-san’s eyes widened in surprise but, as Unohana knew she would, immediately rushed off, tapping the arms of several unseated officers as she passed by them. Given the way Isane-san was running, the tapped officers reacted instantly and followed without comment. Unohana reentered the room, heading to a closet for more blankets.
By the time Toushirou-san was handled just over an hour later, Unohana had received a response from the chambers of the Central 46. She was granted a meeting with the Central 46 at the beginning of the hour of the rooster. Sighing at the now somewhat archaic timekeeping still used by the Central 46, Unohana spent the time reviewing what she needed to discuss with them.
Matsumoto-fukutaichou’s file was extremely thin for a fukutaichou, which Unohana had already expected. Outside of the familial cousin-level soul bond with young Fifth Squad unseated officer Hinamori Momo, there was only her consummated romantic soul bond with Fifth Squad’s fukutaichou Ichimaru Gin. However, looking at the medical notes, it appeared that there were some problems with the romantic bond since Matsumoto-fukutaichou had been treated for neglect at least half a dozen times in the past several decades. Something to keep an eye on.
Pondering everything she had learned so far today, Unohana hummed gently and reached into her desk. The left-hand drawer had a secret compartment, which she opened with a gentle flare of her reiatsu in a specific pattern. The compartment held a stamp which she pressed first into red ink and then stamped the front of Matsumoto-fukutaichou’s file as well as the new file for the young Toushirou-san. Carefully cleaning the stamp off and replacing it into the secret compartment, Unohana began filling in young Toushirou-san’s information.
Under familial soul bonds, Unohana entered Matsumoto-fukutaichou’s information and then her own. The pull to help the fey Academy student was strong enough that there was no doubt in Unohana’s mind that she was developing a strong bond with the child herself.
Most of the identifying information for his file remained blank. Thankfully, the medical emergency that had caused him to enter Fourth’s care would prevent any issues on that front as Unohana had not yet had a chance to request the information from the Academy medics. She suspected Isane-san had reached out to the group but not yet received a response. Otherwise, her fukutaichou would have brought the information in.
At that thought, as if summoned, there was a knock on Unohana’s office door. Sensing that it was truly her fukutaichou, Unohana relaxed her grip on the spells guarding the office.
“Come in,” she called without raising her voice. Isane-san entered, bowing slightly before entering. Unohana quickly reset the spells to full strength once Isane-san had closed the door. Isane-san did not react at sensing the strength of those spells.
“Taichou, I have reached out to the Academy medics about the boy Matsumoto-fukutaichou brought in. The physical description registered an immediate response before I could even get around to mentioning his name. He is Hitsugaya Toushirou, first year student, genius, prodigy, and soon-to-be graduate. I have the report here in my hand but it appears that today was the first day that he manifested his zanpakutou’s spirit and learned his name. Before they could conduct the post-manifestation physical on him, he was brought to the chambers of the Central 46.” She brought the slim file to Unohana’s desk, sliding it over to her taichou.
Not even two hours later, Unohana stood in the amphitheater of the judgment chambers of the Central 46, staring down the forty sages and six judges drawn from the supposed cream of Soul Society’s community. She radiated disapproval even as she continued to smile politely. Several sages shifted nervously in their seats, feeling that she looked down on them, despite their physical positions above her.
“What is your request, Unohana-taichou?” asked one of the judges.
“I currently have in my care a young Academy student, Hitsugaya Toushirou. He was brought to Fourth Squad by Tenth Squad’s Matsumoto-fukutaichou in a state of extreme shock. She states that she felt something was wrong and found him at the gates approaching the chambers of the Central 46. Upon obtaining his file from the Academy medics, I learn that he has not yet had his post-manifestation physical.”
“Your point, Unohana-taichou?” asked one of the older female sages. Unohana turned to look at that specific sage, aura intensifying even as she smiled sweetly.
“My patient is not even ten years old, physically. Shock at the levels he displayed upon coming under my personal care could easily kill him. To have a child that young manifest his zanpakutou is a severe stress on his body. Why would the honored Central 46 prevent him from receiving his post-manifestation physical and leave him in such horrible shock at their very gates instead of assuring that he reached medical care?”
“Our decisions are final, Unohana-taichou,” another sage began. The man quickly wilted when faced with Unohana’s growing aura of doom.
“I did not ask that you reverse a decision, honored sage-sama. I asked what caused my personal patient’s current condition. How can I properly treat the child without such information?” Unohana asked pointedly. She was growing frustrated by the lack of answers. As they continued to refuse to speak about the situation, Unohana took in a deep breath and her aura grew. As a healer – as the most powerful healer amongst the shinigami – she knew how to express her displeasure completely non-verbally. Within minutes, many in the chamber were sweating at the frightening aura.
The only female judge cleared her throat, drawing Unohana’s attention. “Hitsugaya Toushirou manifested the zanpakutou Hyourinmaru. He was not the only one. Another Academy student also manifested Hyourinmaru. Per laws set in place in ancient times, both students were immediately brought before us for judgment. No two shinigami may ever wield the same zanpakutou. It was the decision of our august body to find the true wielder of Hyourinmaru and we had the students fight.” Everyone within the chambers noticed as killing intent began to leak into Unohana’s aura, overpowering even the oldest of them.
“You had two students fight each other simply because they manifested the same spirit? Forgive me, this is only my opinion, but could a decision not be made a different way?”
The female judge shook her head. “Our laws demand strict obedience from us all. We determined Hitsugaya Toushirou to be Hyourinmaru’s true wielder.” When the judge stopped there, Unohana raised a genteel eyebrow.
“May I ask what happened to the other student?” she asked pointedly.
“He was eliminated,” spoke a sage. Every member of the Central 46 and no few of the Military Corps guards in the room flinched as Unohana’s reiatsu flared. Many forgot how dangerous a healer’s reiatsu could truly be.
“And the relationship between my patient and this eliminated student?” she asked softly, smile still present but eyes glaring.
“Unimportant,” claimed one of the sages. Unohana’s smile began to disappear. In its place appeared pursed lips.
The killing intent ratcheted up until one of the youngest sages suddenly broke, “It is said that they were very close friends.”
“I see…” Unohana finally replied. She began to smile again, though the gentleness of the smile was barely skin-deep. She bowed deeply. “I thank the Central 46 for their time. I must return to my patient. I will, of course, submit his paperwork for familial bonds and register his mark when it appears.” She glided out of the chambers though every single person in the room knew beyond a doubt that she was furious.
Later that week, Unohana sought an audience with Yamamoto-soutaichou.
As he sat reading the file she had completed on her new patient, she closed her eyes and stood waiting patiently.
“Why is it you wished to speak with me over a matter Central 46 themselves have declared to be closed?” he asked. Her eyes opened and she stared straight into the old man’s eyes. He could see her irritation at the situation.
“Hitsugaya-san has been under my care for nearly five days, Soutaichou-sama. He shows no improvement despite the constant presence of Tenth Squad’s Matsumoto-fukutaichou. His official graduation occurs in eight days. I am concerned about his squad placement and his health. It is like the death of the other young man caused the destruction of a very strong familial bond. Matsumoto-fukutaichou was able to find him quickly and get him into my care only due to her own strong familial bond with him. Her instincts to wait until I could personally oversee Hitsugaya-san’s care were correct as the addition of my own bond with him likely saved his life.”
“He had not yet been approached by a squad,” Yamamoto-soutaichou admitted. “Despite his status as a prodigy, there were doubts that he would manage to graduate in a year.” Unohana pursed her lips. “Having said that, you are obviously correct to be concerned about the situation.” This was not a false admission from the soutaichou. He thought a bit, clearly working through the situation. During this time, Unohana kept her hands folded in the haori of her shihakusho. Occasionally, Yamamoto-soutaichou referenced a section of Hitsugaya-san’s records.
Finally, he looked up at Fourth Squad’s Taichou. “This is my decision. Given his close familial bond with Matsumoto-fukutaichou, he is to be placed with the Tenth Squad. I believe they are missing a twelfth seat, are they not?”
At Unohana’s nod, he continued.
“Very well. Hitsugaya Toushirou will officially graduate in eight days and enter Tenth Squad as their twelfth seat. Until such time as he has recovered to your satisfaction, he will remain under your care, with all possible aid made available to him. A careful eye will be kept on the boy until further notice.”
Unohana bowed deeply before leaving the Soutaichou’s office and heading back to her young patient.