This story is a work of fanfiction. As such, it owes a great debt to the creators of the characters used herein: Rumiko Takahashi and Tite Kubo.
An Unsuitable Person
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Ok, ok, I know. The delays are inexcusable for such a short — or should I say tiny — chapters, with Chapter 9 in Russian out weeks ago. But just FYI I translate only in the subway, en route to work and back, and that ain't really a load of time. Plus, there were a lot of holidays lately, not to mention me often catching cold and thus working from home. Just be glad I found energy to continue this fic at all, after a year-long pause. Or was it a bit longer?
(Where the fate tests the stuff the Tendou sisters are made of)
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“You are spoiling us rotten,” pressed Urahara casting a sideways glance at his gorged, blissful companions. Even Ururu... He internally shuddered. This had to be stopped now. “How selfless of you, to feed us with such delicacies. Is there a way we could repay you for your kindness?”
“Anti-Hollow weapons. Anti-Hollow techniques.” Ukyou stated unflinchingly, blunt as hammer.
“Ara...” Urahara looked shocked. “Have you truly desire to get even deeper into the conflict you hate so much...?” His eyes in the shadow under the brim of his hat glinted dangerously. “Careful, you could find later that you have no way back. If you even have it now.”
“I ain't got no choice!” Ukyou gritted her teeth. “Akane-chan is already neck-deep in this. And I know my Ran-chan, he'll surely go to her aid. With that damned Shampoo hanging on him. Nooo, I got only one way, the same they go. I won't let my Ran-chan go to another... So, master, give me anti-Hollow spatula and all techniques you care to spare. I, for my part, will feed you with okonomiyaki such good, you'll just bite your fingers off!” She smiled, but there was something so... unstable in her eyes.
“Ah, very well,” agreed Urahara well remembering the rule to never put oneself between the obsessed and the object of their obsession. “Let's see what we could do with your spatula. You are some sort of Quincy, if I'm not mistaken?”
“After all,” he thought cynically while listening to her heated rebuff, “this escapade of theirs could lead to the outcome I seek. There's no harm in trying.
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“No, this won't do at all,” thought Rukia. “But what is distracting her?”
Akane sat cross-legged in the center of the dojo floor, meditating. Well, trying to meditate. Too many things bothered her now, but first off them Ranma. Why haven't he returned yet? And that news report about the collapsed mountain...
She opened her eyes, shook herself awake, then sat still again trying to find that cold. That disgusting, slimy cold that makes your skin crawl...
She started, opening her eyes again and letting out a sigh of frustration. Her thoughts swirled and swarmed, killing all hope to even reach the meditative state, not to say reach the inner self. The worry for her fiance, the worry about her rivals, it was all tangled, crying for attention. If she could just freeze it all into immobility.
Freeze it all...? So what, did she have to chill her heart out to reach that inner world? To become like Yuki-onna who mercilessly takes the warmth and life from the travelers who lose their way in a blizzard?
Akane shuddered, then stubbornly waved all thoughts away, concentrating. She won't give up that easily.
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“Are you sure you want to dispose with swords?” asked Cologne, her voice harsh.
Shampoo just tightened her grip on the staff. “I are sure, Sensei. Wu are big like elephant, their arms long. I need a long weapon. A weapon that allows to defend at range and helps to jump away.”
“Hmm?” Cologne didn't relent. “Wouldn't it be easier to shorten their arms? Say, with a sword?”
“No, Sensei.” Shampoo was firm in her resolve. “Arms could be dealt with with a staff if I aim at the joints. That are even better, restricting their movement. To keep where is safe is more important. Rukia-sensei tell: Akane cut one arm off, step close, Wu slam her with his other arm. Rukia-sensei barely able to heal Akane back.”
“Well...” Cologne's voice gained even harsher tone. “If that's your final decision... Well done, great-granddaughter!” The old hag beamed a smile. “You can use your head, after all!”
“Huh...? Granny...?” Shampoo felt totally confused from this unexpected reaction.
“Come, let's gut our chest of village heirlooms ,” Cologne said hopping upstairs to her room. “Leave this staff here, I have something better for you. It's not the legendary staff of the monkey king but It'll do finely against the soul eating things.
Shampoo followed her great-grandmother, leaving the wooden staff in a corner.
* * *
Keeping her calm, Akane slowly let a relaxed breath out, then opened her eyes toward that endless blue expanse. The familiar patchwork of ice fields still floating high above was barely visible in the frosty haze, the sun lost in a huge halo blurred across the sky.
Keeping her calm, she breathed in, letting the cold inside. It reached her very heart, pricking her lungs like icy pinpricks. Only gods knew what it cost her to reach this place — reaching the very bottom of the Soul of Ice, freezing all her feelings, it seemed to her, to the absolute zero... Akane let a breath out, noting absently that there was not a whiff of vapor coming out her mouth. Carefully avoiding looking down she turned around. Wasn't she here to do something? Her thoughts seeping sluggishly through the wall of icy indifference. Ah, yes. Of course. She had to ask the name of her zampakuto, to...
Her snow twin's gaze pierced her with an unbearable horror that chilled her to the bone. Not the ambient frost nor the puny cold she managed to achieve were comparable to that... She felt herself staring into the eyes of an force of nature, the blizzard itself that takes the lives of the unwary with that same absolute indifference and implacability. Not a shadow of emotion marred her snow copy's features, its dull icy eyes looking unblinkingly at its living original still warm despite all her efforts.
Unable to withstand this gaze anymore Akane shuddered, stumbling back. The flash of emotion broke the fragile magic allowing her to stand amidst the sky, and she dropped like a stone. The frosty air bit into her exposed skin, she tried to cover her face, just to hit the dojo floor with the back of her head.
“Well?” inquired Rukia. “As I see, you were at least partly successful.”
Akane rolled into a kneeling position finding the floor for a meter or so around her covered with a thin, rapidly thawing layer of hoar-frost.
“I failed,” she admitted with a sigh. “I got there, but... I thought I've mastered the Soul of Ice, but she...” Akane shuddered. “The cold coming from her was so overwhelming, and I... I just lost my courage. Then I fell, again.” She drooped. “I still think I'm unworthy.”
“Don't you dare to despair!” chastised her Rukia. “True, it will be hard. But you will train, train and train more. You'll gain the respect of your zampakuto...”
Rukia's phone had a shrill beeping fit. Akane would swear the Hollows were doing it on purpose, choosing the moment for their attack just when Rukia was giving one important speech or another.
“Here and now!” exclaimed Rukia, startling Akane. “Go!” She grabbed Kai thrusting her towards Akane.
“I would never...” growled Akane slipping to the well worn grove.
“No! Please, don't!” screeched Kai feeling the flaring battle aura with all her fabric hide.
“Come on! We don't have time!” Rukia thrust the yelling, kicking Kai at Akane's face.
“Wh... What...” mumbled Akane faltering in her angry rant.
“Do it! Mouth-to-mouth!”
“No, please no! Help meeee!”
“Whaaat?! Are you saying I have to kiss her?!!”
“Don't be stupid! How else would you pass the Soul Candy?”
“Don't give me to her! I'll even defeat the hollow by myself!”
“I'm not a some kind of pervert!!!”
A loud crash sounded from the house, followed by Nabiki's pained cry cut alarmingly short. Akane stiffened, paling rapidly.
“I told you!” growled Rukia slamming the silent Kai into her face. “Here and now!”
Pulling her sword out Akane dashed out of the dojo leaving the stunned Kai in her body to sit on the floor. Rukia as always failed to catch up to her, running as best as she could while shouting out advices to be careful.
The long-suffered sliding doors lay in ruin, the family room thoroughly trashed, most of it occupied by a disgusting cross-breed of a skeleton and a giant ape who cornered Kasumi, clattering its teeth at her, its mask very skull-like. Akane rushed to help her sister but stumbled onto the... onto the second Kasumi laying lifelessly among the rubble.
Also, here were two Nabikis, at the wall near the broken TV.
And the Hollow... It wasn't just snapping and clattering its teeth, it was also mumbling something... “Ka... Ka... Kasumi-san, how unexpected to meet you here!”
Akane felt sick. Swallowing the swelling tears, fighting the rising nausea she didn't even hear the clang of her sword falling out of her listless hand.
“Akane!!!” Rukia ran onto the scene. “Don't... What's wrong?”
“To...” Akane grunted, it wasn't clear if she was choking on tears or trying to suppress an urge to vomit. “To...fu-sensei... Ka... Kasumi-oneechan... Nabiki-oneechan...” She sniffed.
Rukia cast a quick glance around the scene of developing tragedy. “Don't zone out on me! Their chains of fate aren't broken, they could still be returned into their bodies...! Come on, get yourself together!” She handed Akane her sword.
Akane grabbed the handle like a life-line, squeezing it in a totally wrong hold. “To..Tofu-sensei... why...”
Seeing that her substitute trainee won't be of any use, Rukia tried to attack the Hollow with the fourth level kidou, “White Lightning,” only to find that no, her strength hasn't returned yet. The Hollow swirled around poking her with one finger in the same lightning-fast motion. Rukia stumbled, jumped hastily away... Then the shocking realization hit her: her right arm hung numb and listless, completely unresponsive!
Consciousness was slowly returning. Unsure what hit her and what to expect, Nabiki cautiously cracked one eye open. She barely held herself from jumping up with a shout. Their home saw many critters, but this one topped them all. Even the flying minotaur Tarou would look warm and fuzzy in comparison. Whom this ass felt urge to challenge? Ranma's not here, Genma is away for more than a week now, father has a business meeting till evening... And who should fight this thing? Akane?
Nabiki moved a little, but was stopped by a sharp pain in her chest. She felt very exposed and vulnerable: that usual, unfounded feeling of her own invulnerability, it didn't survive the hit slamming her against the wall. Nope, it didn't survive at all. Nabiki have always been a reckless girl. She enjoyed risking, enjoyed teasing the fate. She was a master of bluff. Nothing ever happened to her, in no small part thanks to her intuitive sense when to make herself scarce and her excellent running ability. When Ranma came, things turned even more fun. Masterfully putting the oaf under the heat was an excellent sport, his attempts to wriggle out of a tight spot were always amusing.
This time he wasn't here.
Nabiki contemplated if she should run for it or it's better to make sure she didn't have anything broken before making any moves... Or would it be safer to lay where she was? The monster moved sharply, freeing the room which allowed to see two more people. Akane, clad in a black kendo garb, and the shell-shocked Kasumi who just stood there like a statue, her hands clasped at her mouth.
Shooing away someone she couldn't see, the monster turned around, moving back into the room, advancing on Kasumi. Akane, surprisingly, didn't move to protect her big sister. She just stood there with a sword. She's too busy crying! suddenly noticed Nabiki. What the hell is going on? The monster grabbed Kasumi with its large hands bringing her closer to his white, skull-like mask and its clattering teeth. A clanking sound made her notice the chain attached to her elder sister's chest. Wait! He tries to eat her! Come on, little sister, do something! Nabiki was wery afraid for her elder sister: the danger was real this time. Should she distract the thing? But no, her own hide felt exceptionally dear to her now. Nabiki cast a side glance at the hole in the place of the outer wall. Com'on, there must be someone else to help!
“Ka... Kasumi-san,” hissed the skeletal ape, breathing of madness thick in its voice. “I was idolizing you... But you never noticed me. You came only to borrow a book or two... Oh no, Kasumi-san,” His voice steadied, gaining at the same time psychotic undertones. “You were always so kind to me... You brought me dinner when I missed it...” He brought her closer. “But you never, ever noticed my suffering!”
“To..Tofu-sensei,” Akane sniffed invisibly, hidden behind the monster's bulk.
Wait! Nabiki thought feeling a rising horror. That's Tofu? How did he turn into this thing...? Did he stumble onto the Spring of drowned voodoo shaman riding King-Kong?
“Come on, Akane! Get a hold on yourself! The Hollows first devour the souls of those who were dear to them when they were still alive!” A diminutive girl ran into the room through the hole, Nabiki identified her as Akane's classmate. The girl discharged some flashy technique into the mostrified Tofu's left elbow. Alas, it had no effect. The monster turned, freeing that arm by holding Kasumi in his right one, then made a lightning fast poke with his huge finger. The girl was thrown out like a rag doll, and didn't return.
“Kasumi!” The monster brought the eldest sister close to his muzzle, his burning glare aimed at her continuing on right at Nabiki, to the later's distress. “You were so blind in your kindness! You never made effort to look deeper! Never tried to see the real me!” Nabiki bit her tongue trying hard not to shudder. The doctor's eyes were so hungry. “You never had enough kindness to spare for me! Everything you had you gave to others.” His glare intensified becoming even more terrifying. “Nothing will distract you anymore! You'll be always with me!” The skull-like mask jaws parted revealing the razor sharpness of its flat, porcelain-white teeth. “Ka... Kasumi...”
Nabiki shut her eyes tight, unable to watch.
She felt sick.
“Tofu-kun...” Hearing Kasumi's sad voice Nabiki opened her eyes in shock. Akane stood still in a finishing pose, the outstretched sword in her trembling hands telling about a completed cutting strike. Half of the mask broke off revealing doctor's face contorted with heartache.
“Kasumi-chan...” He sighed carefully letting her down. “I'm so sorry... Could you ever forgive me?”
“Tofu-kun...!” Kasumi stepped closer touching his human face with her hand. “I... I'm the one who should ask forgiveness. I could be so clueless sometimes...”
“Don't cry. If someone is at fault here it's... But that't not important anymore. Promise me you'll find a good husband who would appreciate your kindness, all right?
“That's a promise?” He smiled.
“I... I will...” Kasumi let her hand drop, stepping back. “I promise.”
He turned to Akane: “Do it, Akane-chan.”
“Huh? What?” she asked hiccuping and swallowing tears.
“It's told that the sword of a Shinigami purifies the soul from corruption. I couldn't hold any longer, I feel it. Please, go on. Send me where you must.”
Akane tightened her grip on the sword, she sniffed, she hesitated and just couldn't find it in herself to cut him.
“You need to be more decisive, Akane-chan,” Tofu chastised her. Then he touched her with one finger and the sword clanged onto the floor dropping from her suddenly limp hand. “I couldn't stay any longer.” He thrust the zampakuto into his chest and started quickly dissolving into spirit particles. “Bring him to me,” He turned to Kasumi. “When we meet again let me get to know him, all right?”
The sword clattered on the floor falling out of the empty now place.
“Now both are gushing tears like spigots showing they really are their father's daughters.” Exerting a dire effort of will Nabiki managed to squash the feeling rising in her heart. “I. Won't. Hurt. Ever.” She practically growled at herself. “I won't drip snot like those two simpletons! I will think how I can profit from this!”
A sharp pain in her chest derailed her thoughts. Nabiki turned her head in alarm making sure she didn't have any life-threatening wounds. She froze in stunned disbelief looking at the chain attached to the hook sticking out her breast-bone. What the heck? She tugged at the chain but immediately let it go as a sharp pain pierced her through. She gingerly fingered the hook finding it sticking out through a small round hole framed with a metallic ring with six additional studs around it, all embedded into her body right through the clothing. There was a gap between the hook and the ring, but she could see nothing inside, not even blood as one could expect, just a pitch-black darkness. A very disturbing find.
A second Akane peeked into the room through the hole: “Are you all right?” She hesitated seeing the sisters distraught state. “Sorry to disturb you but Rukia is upset there. You see, the Hollow managed to immobilize her with some sort of shiatsu technique but she says we must return those two in their bodies as soon as possible, then brainwash them.”
It seems Nabiki was the only one who managed to catch her words. The black-clad Akane trudged blindly away sobbing, stumbling and muttering “Tofu-sensei!”. The second Akane followed her with eyes full of both frustration and fear, then pulled back out. Nabiki's only company left was Kasumi.
“How should I clean this mess?” muttered the eldest sister trying to fall into her usual and comfortable routine. She bent down trying to dig through the wreckage but her fingers just passed through it not moving a splinter. Making a heavy sigh, Kasumi went to some other spot, her chain clanking occasionally. Nabiki has just noticed the second Kasumi laying on the floor partially covered with wreckage. She added two and two and immediately disliked the result. So all this time they were dead? Glancing around she found her own body right at her feet. Whoops. The pieces started rapidly coming together: first, Rukia said that the “hollow” — should she assume it's a name for this particular kind of monsters? — first devours the souls of those dear to it when it was still alive. So the loony doctor was already dead from the start? And it was his soul that mutated into that thing?
Secondly, Akane has been called a Shinigami, an Death Angel. Not accounting for the fact that they didn't ever have a katana in their house. They just didn't own an ancestral sword, only the ancestral armor suits, spears and bows... Nabiki remembered herself ridiculing her younger sister for all these ghost stories. She smiled bitterly. What a brutal irony of fate.
But there was something else, something far more important... That's it! A similar hole in their house and the yard torn up by Ryouga whom she remembered clearly but who just couldn't be there that day, he was far away wherever Ranma was. Coupled with the second Akane's casual mentioning of brainwashing, there could be only one, very unpleasant conclusion. Their whole family was deep in something ugly. Soon they will brainwash her and she'll continue to live in blissful ignorance of the dangerous games going too close for her comfort.
That thought made Nabiki angry. Really angry. She glanced around finding only Kasumi sitting forlornly beside her body. When she was sure there was no one else around, Nabiki went to investigate her own one. She winced seeing a scraped ear and an impressive lump on the back of its head. Well, it could have been much worse.
Her attempt to overturn the prone body naturally didn't bring any fruit. Nabiki smiled with sarcasm. But of course, if the spirits could move things around, there would be a neverending stream of incidents with things flying around... On the other hand, the monster managed to total their living room. How? He wasn't a spirit, after all? Or there was some trick involved...? She grit her teeth. So many questions and the best answer she could hope for was a hit on the back of her head with a hefty memory-erasing stick. And she'll be a happy idiot again.
Touching her own body felt mightily weird, and that's mildly speaking. Neither hot nor cold, it both sucked her hand in and pushed it away. Carefully pulling the free length of the chain closer — disturbing the hook produced excruciating pain — Nabiki pressed herself to the body as best as she could. Nothing useful came out of that, she just slid off as if the body was a slippery inflatable bag. Then she laid down straight on top of the body using all her weight to press onto it. Does the soul have a weight, she thought before things started becoming too weird for her comfort. The disturbing sensations rose making Nabiki want to yell as she felt herself distorting, swirling... Then there was a jolt and the blinding pain from the hooks touching each other.
Coming to, the first thing Nabiki felt was the pain in the back of her head and the abraded ear. Not Kasumi's soul nor the chain were visible. She wanted to check if the hook really disappeared but at this moment Akane entered the room — or was it someone else in her little sister's guise? — accompanied by the limping Rukia. Walking up to Kasumi, they busily lifted something invisible putting it down on top of Kasumi's body and began some manipulations she couldn't see clearly with her eyes opened just a crack. Then the diminutive girl brought something small to her elder sister's face, there was a poof accompanied by a small cloud of colored smoke. There is it! Nabiki tensed doing her best to look unconscious. Maybe...
Rukia turned to look at her, then gave the small object to the assumed Akane: “That one too, just to be sure.”
“Aw, crap!” mentally growled Nabiki gritting her teeth.
~~ End of Chapter 8 ~~
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Thanks for C&C to:
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Last correction: February 27, 2010
Chapter 8: his form and abilities are totally different, but the hollow closely follows the fate of Inoue Orihime's big brother. The events of this chapter mirror chapters 4 to 6 of the first Bleach volume.
I was absent-minded enough that I mixed in a part of the anime canon. But frankly, it fits so well that I feel no desire to remove it (an rewrite this whole chapter from scratch).
Обсудить сам фанфик или его перевод можно на нашем форуме (но на форуме нужно зарегистрироваться ^^
Это не сложно ^_^)
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