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Memories of Agony: The Rescue of a Rival

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This article, Memories of Agony: The Rescue of a Rival, is property of Achrones150.

This article, Memories of Agony: The Rescue of a Rival, is property of Darknesslover5000.

The Melody

Aoi was sleeping next to Kyuui, her breathing light and slow. The sun began to creep in through the windows.

Slowly, and quietly, their door opened with a small creaking of the hinges. In the open crack, the face of their red-eyed grandmother peeked out to study them for a moment. There was no doubt the two were still knocked out, asleep as a fallen log. Without a word, she turned and silently shut the door behind her.

She herself was wearing a morning attire: a bedrobe, with her hair tied up in a loose bun/ponytail. Her feet were bare, trekking the cold floor as easily as a mouse would. Her eyes, although she was clearly awake, held the effects of her own grogginess due to waking up early. Her mind said she was a morning person... but her body, apparently, not so much.

The house was peaceful, and as the sunlight became brighter upstairs, Aoi rolled over on top of her sister and resumed her light slow breathing. Downstairs, Ahatake was out like a light, oblivious to his wife's prowling of the house, snoring lightly.

"I guess I could start cooking before the riot arrives..." The woman muttered to herself, reaching the bottom of the massive stairwell. In a matter of several seconds, she had entered into the grounds that were the Kurosaki manor kitchen. She flexed her fingers, preparing herself for some heavy duty work...

Upstairs, Kyuui was beginning to stir from her uneventful slumber, slowly opening her own eyes to the reality of day. But, she was surprised to see her sister straddling her, head resting on her chest. She couldn't help but smile softly - she looked so adorable...

Aoi did not stir, however, and continued to sleep, not knowing her "pillow" was now awake.

"Aoi..."

Slowly reaching up with one hand, she shook Aoi's back gently, but still with enough force to jog her out of her own sleep. "You can get off me now..." She said gently, almost in a tone that a kind mother would use.

Aoi's eyes opened slowly, revealing her purple iris's. She looked at the slightly blurry figure of Kyuui and smiled. "Morning Onee-chan."

"Morning." The white-haired girl replied, releasing her grip from Aoi's back. "But..." Although the smile was still onto her face, she tossed her head back onto the pillow and made a motion with her eyes, as if rolling them. "You're kind of crushing me with your weight..."

Aoi's eyes widened and she looked slightly frantic. "S..sorry Onee-chan!" She cried and rolled off of her sister onto her side of the bed.

With the weight now off of her waist, Kyuui sat up straight, although wincing a bit. "It's all right..." She assured, reaching over to scratch one side of her bed-ridden hair. She looked a bit sheepish at the reaction. "I didn't mean for you to panic..."

Aoi appeared not to have heard her, she was busy putting in her contacts. After blinking, she turned and her sister came into full view. "It's all right." She replied, smiling. "Just like Grandpa, I overreact." She leaned in and kissed her sister. Then she got up. "I'm going to use the shower, unless you want to first?"

"That's fine." Kyuui replied, the smile fading into a more casual look. She looked a bit complaining of her bed-ridden hair, attempting to make it look smooth as possible with her hands. "We both get to use it, no matter who's first."

"Alright." Aoi smiled and walked towards thier bathroom and closed the door with a small click!.

As soon as she was out of sight, Kyuui started reaching her hands towards the nearest drawer in order to scuffle around for a hairbrush. It was times like this that she cursed herself for being a neat freak, but the thought of one thing out of place always irked her.... which meant that Aoi wouldn't be using that brush for a while...

As the water ran, Aoi's voice could be heard over it, clear and melodic. "Bit by bit My heart is charmed, With that dazzling smile, Let's flee from the endless darkness Hold my hand..."

"Huh?"

That caught Kyuui's surprised attention immediately. She shut the drawer she was looking in for a moment and climbed out of bed, revealing nothing but her sleeping pajamas. She tip-toed over to the door that Aoi had closed behind her and listened closely, curiosity getting the better of her.

The voice continued, clear as crystal. It seemed Aoi had inherited her Grandmother;s singing ability, like Midoriko. "You see, when I met you, I remembered the view which I had treasured when I was a child, Won't you dance with me , It's a winding road of light and shadows Even now, you're dreaming of him?, There are times when it seemed like I wanted to turn back but, Holding love, courage, and pride, I shall fight.."

It was so beautiful.

The voice of Kyuui sister seemed to catch her heart in its clutches like a newborn infant. Unconciously, she raised a hand to place it on her bosom where her heart would be, the pulse having raised considerably. The lyrics seemed to mesmerize her, putting all other thoughts aside and pulled her into listening to the melody.

"Bit by Bit My heart is charmed, A piece of hope in this world, Anyone surely wants to have eternity in his hands, Even if you pretend not to mind at all, Hey I love you, Let's flee from the endless darkness Hold your hand.." The water stopped, along with the melody and after a moment the doorknob turned.

"Uh--"

Suddenly having been caught off guard, Kyuui's eyes widened, and she let out a startled yelp at the sound of the doorknob turning. In an attempt to pretend like she didn't hear anything, she sat herself on the bed, her legs crossed in a ladylike fashion and hanging off of the edge. She was inspecting her fingernails by the time the other girl came out of the bathroom, pausing to look up. "You done?"

Aoi's hair was sopping wet and dripping out onto the carpet. She had her towel completely wrapped around her. "Did you enjoy the singing, Onee-chan?" She asked, a sly smile on her face as she turned towards the wardrobe.

So she did find out.

The red blush creeped onto Kyuui's face once again, and she turned her gaze towards the side in sudden interest at the wall. "I...I have no idea what you're talking about." She managed to say with dignity.

"Onee-chan," Aoi fought the urge to laugh. "I know you by now. And don't insult my ability to detect spiritual pressure, especially yours."

"Gah--!" That dignity had been immediately shattered, and Kyuui looked at her sister with a stunned expression. Then, she raised her hands up in mock surrender, sighing heavily. "Oh, all right." She muttered, her tone one of humor. "You got me..."

Aoi began extracting a black dress from the depths of the closet, along with matching black undergarment. "Onee-chan, you can go shower now." She said pointedly.

Without a word, Kyuui turned, lifted herself off the bed, and walked into the bathroom. The door shut behind her quietly, and soon after, the sound of running water could be heard coming from the shower head.

Aoi threw off the towel, and it hit the ground without making a noise. She began to put on her clothes, and after she had finished, which took no longer than two minutes, she began to tie her hair into twin tails.

"Aoi!" The sound of Kyuui's voice was heard once again. "How's it been so far? You know, with your Zanpakuto?" Her curiosity was once again exposed to her sister.

"Pretty Good actually." Aoi called back, her finger's fumbling on the bow. "The spirit's are still hard to control, but their coming along fine. I'm working on my final move actually. But that ones a surprise."

"You mean the poison one?" A light chuckle could be heard as an addition to Kyuui's reply.

"Oddly enough, this one isn't poison at all." Aoi replied back.

"What is it, then?"

"I said it's a surprise, Onee-chan. You'll just have to wait." Aoi replied, laughing. "Keep asking and I'll come in there and tickle you to death."

Kyuui gasped in mock horror. "You wouldn't!" She protested.

Aoi grinned. "I would." She said, tying the last bow and looking in a mirror, admiring her handiwork.

The shower-head promptly turned off, and it was no sooner that the white-haired girl herself had opened up and stepped through the doorway. She had come out in the same manner that Aoi had: in a towel. "Well, too bad." She said smugly. "I'm not going to let you!"

Aoi expression changed into one of disappointment. "Awww..." She groaned. "You came out with a towel on!"

A puzzled expression came across the white-haired girl's face. "Is that bad? I didn't want myself to get cold entering this roo--" Then, as realization dawned in her head, she squinted her eyes shut, grinned widely, and playfully shoved Aoi away. "Ah! You perverted little girl!"

Aoi started to laugh. "I'll leave so my dear Onee-chan can change." She laughed and walked out the door. Dawn had broken and the sun was still rising. It did not seem like anyone else was awake. Or so she thought. A delectable aroma was wafting upstairs. "Who's cooking?" Aoi wondered as she bounded down the stairs, almost flying. "Anyone down here?" She called out.

"Me!"

The sound of her grandmother's voice came from the kitchen. In the dining room, however, the smell of fresh breakfast food could be inhaled through the noise from where Aoi was standing.

Aoi moved into the kitchen where she saw Tereya busy at the stove. In that instant she came up with wild, very dangerous idea. She moved quickly with the speed of a cheetah and the agile prowess of a panther. She tackled Tereya to the floor. "Mornin' Grandma." She said cheerfully her twintails bouncing.

She hit the floor hard, arm shot with pain when it landed. Had she not been in her morning mood, it wouldn't have phased her as much. But now, it felt like a dozen needles had been stuck into her arm, which wasn't helped by the fact that it was pinned down. Her other arm, however, was raised up and pressed against the girl's neck. It wasn't sooner that a bright red glow began to form in that palm. Tereya's eyes had now gained the frightening color of black and yellow, and she was smiling darkly.

"Morning, Aoi..."

BOOM!

No sooner than that, a vicious explosion rocked the manor.

Aoi's hair was disheveled by the blast, her dress slightly frayed but otherwise she was unharmed. "Grandma why did you do that?" She whined.

Now with free room to get up, Tereya allowed herself to stand and dust herself off. "Excuse me for being tackled like a football player." She retorted sarcastically, passing a sidelong glare at the girl. "Anyone else awake?"

Aoi got up and wrapped her arms around Tereya. "I didn't mean to tackle you I mean to hug you Grandma." She said sweetly. "And Onee-chan is awake."

"Oh, stop with the sentimental shit and go sit at the table..." Tereya muttered, rolling her eyes. But she made no move to push the girl off of her, nor did she return the hug. "That is, if you're going to eat at all..."

Aoi released her grandmother and muttered something that Tereya could not here, though the words "rape" and "sleep" were audible.

"Whatever it is you're thinking, brat..." Tereya thought, with an amused smile. "You're gonna be very disappointed..."

It was then that Kyuui herself came down from the stairwell, dressed in her common attire. Her white hair, much to her delight, was in its regular, smooth, and flowing state. "Good morning, grandma." She said politely. Tereya only responded with a slight "hmph" of acknowledgement before turning back to finishing her kitchen work.

Aoi walked up to Kyuui and planted a kiss on her cheek. "Should we sit down, Onee-chan?" She asked, gesturing to the table.

"Of course..." Kyuui did a curtsy before walking over to sit in one of the chairs. Tereya couldn't help but roll her eyes at the antics of politeness.

"Aha-jii should be down soon." Aoi yawned. "Tereya-baa, is he awake yet?" Her voice was slightly cold when she spoke to her grandmother.

"Nope. The guy's as awake as a dead log." Tereya replied smoothly, flexing her fingers in and out to work out the strain. "And I really don't feel like getting out the blowhorn."

There was a small laugh from up on the stairs. They looked up and Ahatake was standing there grinning broadly. "I love proving you wrong Tereya." He said, jumping down from the stairs. "Aoi..what happened to you?" He asked, staring at his favorite granddaughter, who has not yet fixed her dress or straightened her hair.

"Tereya-baa attacked me." She said miserably. "All 'cuz I accidentally tackled her."

"Oh, quit your bitching." Tereya said bluntly, folding her arms across her chest and snorting. "Just be glad you're still alive and not blown to smithereens."

"I wanted to hug you and you try to blast me to Mars!" Aoi shrieked.

"And yet you tackled me first. You all should know by now I'm not one to be thrown around so easily in the mornings."

"Child abuser!"

"Just shut the hell up and eat."

"Be nicer, Titzilla." Aoi replied scathingly.

"Oh, so kind of you to notice." Tereya retorted in a rather sarcastic manner. "Makes me feel a whole lot better when someone points out my breast size--"

That was when Kyuui decided to step in, raising her hands up in front of both of them. "Stop it!" She said firmly. "We don't need this arguing at this time of day!"

Aoi was about to open her mouth, but since she didn't want to make Kyuui mad, she closed it and began to eat, but threw cold glares at Tereya the whole time.

This wasn't unnoticed by the grandmother, even as she sat down in her own chair. Her skeptical eyes had passed over to the cold ones of Aoi. She was almost tempted to fire a smart-ass remark, but kept her mouth shut about it. Kyuui was right - the arguing was going to give her a headache.

Ahatake sighed. Apparently Tereya's anger management regimen was NOT going so well. "At least we're all quiet now." He sighed, looking out at the morning sky.

"Speaking of which, where's the Arrancar widow?" Tereya said amiably, pausing to look around.

"Sleeping I assume." Ahatake replied. "She and Mido both. It's still early you know."

The woman chuckled humorlessly. "With the fresh hole I made in the wall, I thought they'd be wide and awake." It was then that the gaping hole in the wall Tereya's Cero had made for Aoi was seen, leaking smoke from the brim.

"Sorry Aha-jii." Aoi muttered and she truly looked it.

Ahatake smiled. "It's alright, Aoi. We'll blame Tereya since it was her fault."

Aoi's face brightened.

A smirk came across Tereya's face, and in an almost comical manner she looked away. Her hand waved dismissively. "Oh, dear, I'm such a bad girl!" She said in humorous sarcasm, before turning back. "But, don't worry about it. Repairs won't be that much of a big deal..."

Aoi looked liked she wanted to thrust her chopsticks down her grandmothers throat, but she controlled the urge and the rest of the meal was eaten in silence.

Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, Tereya set down her untensils, having finished her breakfast. "All right, I'm done." She announced, grabbing the plate and placing it into the respective sink. "You all know what to do. Put your plates into the sink for me to wash later."

Aoi walked around the table, collecting everyones dishes and dropped them in the sink. She walked down and sat close to Kyuui, laying her head on her shoulder. "So what now?" She asked.

As Tereya walked out of view, Kyuui turned her head to rest on Aoi's. "I guess we should go outside for a little while." She suggested, putting on a cheerful smile. "It's just too nice a day to waste!"

"Yeah." Aoi said, her eyes glistening. "And I'll show off the specters I'm practicing."

"That's the spirit!"

"I still ain't showing you my surprise move." She said seriously. "It would cause you too much misery." She grabbed the sheath or her blade, which she had stopped hiding in an umbrella.

Her own mood fading for a moment, Kyuui nodded. "I see..." She murmured, folding her arms across her chest. "Well, I don't mind if you don't..."

Aoi sensed her disappointment. "Don't worry." Aoi said as they exited the Manor. "This move will be enough for you." She released her Zanpakuto after muttering it's phrase. She gripped her two blades in her hand. "You better not be scared of something like this." She said sharply. "Having nightmares and clutching me in the middle of the night. Wait...actually that sounds like a good idea. Tell me when you're ready."

Despite her words, Kyuui's eyes fell onto her sister intently, watching with a manner that a school student would have. Her hands clasped frontwards into the lady-like fashion that she was famous for.

She raised both blades and uttered only one word. "Inmetsukihaku.." Black, wispy smoke began issuing from her blade and whirled around her. It quickly formed into ghostly skeletal-like creatures, and when they opened their mouths, they emitted screams like humans being tortured. "Beauties aren't they?" Aoi asked cheerfully, as the specters circled around them.

That was not what the white-haired sibling was thinking.

Her hands immediately flew to her ears to block out the hideous screams that erupted from the skeleton throats. Her eyes shut, refusing to look at the horrendous visages of the newly transformed blades. "Ugh...turn it back!" She pleaded.

The figures returned to smoke and were absorbed by Aoi's blades. "I knew you couldn't handle it."

"Sh...shut up..."

Aoi put her arm around Kyuui. "I wasn't teasing you, you know." She said gently. "But I knew I shouldn't have shown you that. Which is precisely why I won't show you my other move."

"Fair enough..." Kyuui relented, her hand reaching to grip the one around her. "I'm not in the mood to see it anymore, now..."

Aoi laughed at the exact moment Ahatake walked outside. "Hey Kids." He called out.

"Aha-jii." Aoi said, looking up. "What is it?"

"I just wanted to know if you two would be interested in...accompanying me somewhere."

"Where?" Kyuui's voice was etched in curiousity, and she turned her gaze towards her grandfather eagerly. "Aoi and I're ready to go somewhere!"

"We're going to rescue Ryuka." Ahatake said cheerfully. "If you want to come get ready."

"I wanna come!" Aoi said immediately. "It sounds fun."

Around the corner, Tereya just happened to be leaning against the wall, a lit cigarette in her mouth. For the moment, she was out of their direct sight... but all they had to do was turn around. And she wasn't trying hard to mask herself...

Ahatake stretched. "Tereya do you want to come?" He asked lazily.

"If it's a good enough excuse..." Was the simple reply. "I'll need something to keep me from dying of boredom until I go back to the kitchen again..."

A black butterfly floated around Ahatake as he opened the Senkaimon. "We seem to be using this thing alot lately." He muttered as he stepped through the opening door into the mist.

Silently, the white-haired granddaughter along with her grandmother stepped into the doors that would take them once again to the Soul Society. Their footsteps seem to make no sound as they entered the portal, quieted by their own varying apprehension.

Aoi walked next to Kyuui, looking excited. "If all goes well, you may actually get to see my new move after all." She said brightly. "I won't use it on you of course.."

"Whatever it is..." Kyuui murmured, in a bit of reluctance. "Let's hope it's not as horrible as I think it is."

"As long as you don't get in range of it." She said smiling.

Up ahead, Tereya's voice was directing itself towards her husband in a conversational tone and manner. "So, do you even know where the Lieutenant is?" She asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Nope." Ahatake said cheerfully. "We're just gonna wing it."

WHAM!

Tereya's leg connected hard with Ahatake's back in a furious kick, with enough force to knock him on his face. "So, basically, we're going on a wild fucking goose chase." She said darkly, an eerie and irritated smile on her expression. "Just super..."

"You didn't have to come, you know." Ahatake pointed out.

"Too late for that."

"So stop your bitching." Ahatake said lightly as they began to get closer to the exit.

At recognition of her own words, Tereya couldn't help but chuckle. The man was getting smarter, after all...

The exit began to open and they steeped out into the crisp, autumn air.

Infiltration

For the first time in their walk, Tereya seemed to act more serene after stepping into the bowels of Soul Society once more. For once, she regretted what she said earlier: the aura that was produced around her was more than enough to calm her senses. She took in a deep breath and exhaled in a manner of resolution, then continued to follow her husband.

Behind her, Kyuui couldn't help but smile slightly. At least, she wasn't completely cold to the society...

Aoi placed a reached out and grabbed Kyuui's hand. She pulled her along. "C'mon before we get left behind!"

"C...coming...!" The white-haired girl was snapped out of her trance immediately, but she allowed herself to be pulled along.

Ahatake yawned. "So what do we do now?" He asked, inhaling deeply.

"That's a stupid question." Tereya chided, looking over at him as she folded her arms across her chest. "We start searching for the guy, if he's anywhere near."

"Aww..." Ahatake groaned. "I wanted to try some Onion Buns from the Junrinan district."

"Aha-jii, we didn't come here for buns." Aoi replied sharply.

"Here you complain about my smoking habits, and you're just eating yourself to diabetes." Tereya shot, looking away out of annoyance. "Maybe I should just watch how you eat, hm?"

Ahatake gave a dry chuckle and they walked on. "Pity that kid doesn't put up signs giving people directions to wherever the hell he is."

"Maybe we should try sensing him?"

"Alright." Ahatake said, and he stopped, closing his eyes and began searching for familiar spiritual pressure. Aoi, not letting go of Kyuui's hand, followed suit.

Tereya and Kyuui were not too far behind, immediately following their leads in the sensing. All of them were narrowed in concentration, hoping for some scrap of the man's reiatsu that they could use as a lead...

Ahatake felt a slight twinge of spiritual pressure...somewhere to the far left..but it was so distant. He couldn't tell who it belonged to. "Do you guys feel that?"

"Mhm." Tereya grunted. "A click of spiritual energy to the west of us. I think it's him... it's giving off a bit of a dark aura to it..."

"True.." Ahatake replied, opening his eyes. "But it could be something worse."

Tereya merely smirked, one hand of her Zanpakuto. "You said we were gonna 'wing it', right? How about we go over there and check it out?"

"Not like we have anything better to do." Ahatake. "C'mon kids! Road trip!" And he took off, leaving them in his dust.

Tereya herself was not far behind, her speed able to easily catch up to him. This time, Kyuui managed to catch on more quickly, eyes widening for a split second before she kicked into her own speed to catch up.

Aoi ran after her, keeping even pace with her sister. "Are you excited?" She asked.

"A little tense..." The girl admitted, face giving off a weak smile. Her hair whipped behind her, allowing her expression to be seen. "What about you?"

"Excited." She replied, grinning. "I want to test out my new move."

Of course. Where she would be tense, Aoi would be excited. Where she would be hesitant, Aoi would be fully confident. She should've expected such from her own sister, after all. Yet, Kyuui kept on that weak smile as she trekked forward. "Good to hear..." She replied quietly.


S&R

Ahatake was running full throttle. The wind whipping on his face, he ducked a few tree branches. How exactly he was going to handle this he did not know. Maybe he'd just knock Ryuka out and drag him back to Kyashi. The idea was tempting and almost made him laugh.

At the speed he was going, he was ultimately closing the distance between himself and the presence in front of them. The stronger it became, the more apparent it was that the source was none other than Ryuka Injiki.

Ahatake grinned. This day would turn out to be fun after all.

Ryuka himself was not moving.

He seemed to be dead, sitting under the shade of a tree like a vagabond. His long, black hair was strung over his eyes and face, hiding what would've been a blank expression. He showed no signs of vitality or movement, chest barely rising. In reality, however, his mind was riddled with thoughts of the battle with the Zanpakuto.

Aoi began to speed up. She did not want to miss it. Grabbing her sister's hand tighter, she took off at her quickest.

What was those shocking memories? Who was that other person that looked so much like the enemy he had fought? The feeling of recogition was too strong to shake off, overwhelming his entire mind. He didn't know either of them, and yet, he felt like he had a connection with them before...

Groaning, he reached up to grip the sides of his head in frustration. Oh, why did it have to be so complicated?

Ahatake spotted the man sitting under the tree. "OI! RYUK!" He called out loudly, causing several birds to depart from the ares.

At the mention of his name, Ryuka immediately snapped up to look up into the man that called him. His blank eyes widened in surprise - it was the man that he had saw personally summon the Hollow out to fight him! They narrowed immediately, and he slowly stood up, his body tensing. His hand gripped the hilt of his own Zanpakuto at the sight of Ahatake's fellow family members coming over to his side.

Ahatake skidded to a stop right in front of him, a cheerful smile on his face. "Finding you was hella easier than I thought."

All reason was shot from his mind at that moment.

Ryuka's hand, acting on instinct, had formed itself into a spear, thrust, and plowed right through the man's stomach. Those blank eyes had narrowed as he felt the blood soak partially into his sin, allowing him to feel the warmth of the one that he had just heavily injured. His expression was nothing but absolute coldness, one signaling an intent of murder.

At that moment, Tereya's eyes widened out of surprise, and Kyuui reeled back out of shock and horror.

Ahatake fell onto the ground, a hole in his gut and blood pouring profusely from it.

Aoi's eyes widened. "What the...Aha-jii!"

SCREECH!

At that moment, Ryuka's figure promptly disappeared from their view, leaving Ahatake alone for the moment. It was a sudden display of speed that shocked the grandmother, and in that frantic moment, her hand reached for her own Zanpakuto in order to unsheathe it.

But she was too late.

She couldn't even make a move, a searing pain tearing through her left shoulder and stopping at the upper torso. A geyser of her own blood erupted in a rainbow-shaped fountain of red. She couldn't even bring herself to scream, her body failing her before she could react in any way. Like her husband, she fell to the ground and lay in a pool of her own blood.

Ryuka loomed over the fallen woman for a moment, but his eyes were now focused on the two left. His Zanpakuto ready for two final blows, he walked steadily towards them, his blade gleaming with the blood of the fallen.

"Onee-chan, get back!" Aoi ordered. "This dude is out of his mind!" She quickly and quietly unsheathed her blades and hissed the release command. Gripping both blades on one hand and without a word summoned her specters. There were at least 100 of the skeletal-creatures, flying around. When they opened their mouths, their voice was strangely feminine and familiar, screaming in pain.

He did not recognize them.

But those screams were so loud, so pained, so painful, they were impossible to resist. The agony exploded full-force within Ryuka's mind, and his Zanpakuto hand clenched the hilt so very tightly, to the point of constricting the blood vessels within his own hand. His other one was clutched at his ear, pained grunts escaping his mouth as he staggered back from them.

It was a good thing Kyuui had covered her own ears.

"Uncle Echo would be proud." Aoi grinned as her specters hovers over Tereya and Ahatake, and their wounds began to heal, while the remaining specters swarmed around Ryuka, their screams so like Kyashi's echoing in his ears.

But what had horrified Ryuka was the very images in his own mind. Hallucination? Illusion? Maybe he was being blinded by his own pain. But, even as he tried so desperately in order to force out the agonizing sounds, he was met with the image of the voice's owner.

A blonde woman.

There were only flashes, but he could see them clearer than anyone ever could. Her hands were on her head, her eyes were shut, and she was acting in the same manner that he was. Only, instead of simply grunting, she was out-right screaming, expression contorted to one of pleading agony. Her screams matched the ones that were being fired at him by the skeleton-like apparitions. There were tears of blood coming from her eyes, as if she had just been stabbed through them.

Oh, God, someone make it stop...!!!

The specters gave one last shriek and vanished.

"Shit..." Aoi thought. "I forgot they don't last long.."

But the damage had been done.

The Injiki's face, having been stoic before the release of Aoi's Zanpakuto, was now contorted to nothing but fear and panic, even as the shrieks were abruptly silenced. Abruptly, he took his hand off of his ear, took one last look at the two standing Kurosaki...

...and broke into a run, with nothing but his speed behind him. His sword was clutching in his bleeding hand, still as tight as ever. He didn't care where he was going... he just wanted to get away from that strange man... those two children... and that woman.

Especially her.

Aoi decided she couldn't let him get away. "Onee-chan.." She whispered. "Stay here waith Ojii-chan and Obaa-chan. I'm going after Injiki." She gripped her blades tight. "Wish me luck."

"You're going after him?!" Kyuui protested, dropping her hands from her ears. "You just saw what he did to Tereya-baa and Ahatake-jii, he'll do the same thing to you!"

"He's panicking." Aoi replied quickly. "I have one move that may..turn him back to normal, which we can only hope is a good thing. You have to trust me!"

For a moment, Kyuui was silent, contemplating the options. Then, she looked down, sighed heavily, leaned over, and caught Aoi's lips in a chaste kiss. "Don't get yourself into too much trouble..." She said, backing away and walking over to the fallen Tereya and Ahatake.

"I'll come back alive." She promised and took off after the man.

Pursuit

As Ryuka ran, sweat flew off of his body and behind him. His black hair whipped behind him furiously, his expression of fear easily seen. There was no thoughts of exhaustion or the use of his Flash Step that crossed his mind - he simply ran with his own natural speed. But no matter how much he tried, he couldn't run away from the image of the woman he had formerly knew.

He couldn't even sense the presence that was behind him, so lost in his thoughts...

"Hey Injiki!!!" Aoi's voice was distant but it was obvious she was catching up. "Injiki!"

The girl who had summoned those horrible apparitions was now pursuing him. But he refused to stop his blind running, the instinct of a frightened animal coursing through his nerves.

"C'mon now!" She called out. "I just have something I want you to see!"

He had to drive her away.

Turning around for a brief second and stopping, Ryuka raised his index finger and middle finger together in a point in Aoi's direction. The bright light of building spiritual energy was forming at the fingertips, until it formed that deadly orb that the Hollow was known for. He waited for a split second...

Then, he fired, releasing that powerful energy into one fearsome blast.

"Cero???" Aoi gasped, and she quickly fired her own to avoid the brunt of the damage. "Hey!! What do you think you're doing???"

No sooner had she finished that sentence that another one was sent her way. But Ryuka was now running backwards as he did so, making sure that his eyes were on her the whole time.

Aoi dodged them all with the skill of an acrobat. "Will you effing stop???" She growled, shooting Bala at him.

Abruptly, he switched tactics.

He reversed direction, dodging the Bala and turning to close the distance between himself and his pursuer, until they were inches apart. His hand was pulled back, forming what was to be a point-blank attack of the energy blast this time...

"Hell no!" Aoi exclaimed, vanishing before the beam was launched and appearing five feet behind Ryuka. "Hey.." She whispered. "Over here."

Memory Rosary

"Go...away...!!"

Was that his own voice? He could barely tell anymore. His quivering mouth had moved, and he had felt something escape his throat. Did he actually hear his voice... or was it another hallucination?

Aoi plunged both blades into Ryuka's heart, yet they caused no visible wound or pain. "Shinenju.. Prepare to relive your worst memories..even if you have forgotten them...I will unlock them for you." She turned both blades like keys...

His eyes widened in shock, realization dawning in them. Frantically, he tried to shove her off in an attempt to keep her from unlocking those horrible images. He did not want to see anymore of hallucination... he didn't want any part of it...

But it was far too late.

Aoi stood completely still, not letting go of her blades. The shock should restore him to normal. If not..she was dead.

Flashes of images went through his mind. It was like watching a movie.

The first was himself crossing swords with the strange man, only this time fighting with a different-looking sword than he had now. Both looked quite vengeful at the other even as they fought, in what seemed like attempts to kill each other. The word "Ahatake" flashed through his mind, and what had spoken it seemed like his own voice.

Then, his vision grew partially dark, and he could see through his own eyes again. However, everything seemed a bit blurrier. His hands were aroun But, once again, he could see the form of the blonde woman, his hands having found themselves onto the midsection of her body. She was once again screaming, her sounds coming in bursts from the throat. However, these shouts held no fear, no pain, and no agony. From their tone, it seemed more out of excitement, pleasure, and adrenaline. It was almost as if she was needing him at that very moment.

Had he needed her in that very same way?

He didn't get much chance to ponder it out, before his vision flashed one more time. "Ahatake" was now standing alone over a makeshift dirt grave, which was open for the corpse to see. Out of his body once more, Ryuka could clearly see who it was - long black hair, a Shinigami uniform, and what looked like a scar that had cut through his chest.

That was when it all came crashing back down into his head.

He remembered.

The blades were forced out of him and Aoi forced back. She got to her feet. Had it it worked?

"...Kurosaki..."

As he fell to his knees, the deadness in his eyes lost their influence and buried under the surface. His sword fell to his side, his breathing hard and steady. Yet, whatever panic he had somehow vanished from his person, calmness returning to his soul once more.

"Injiki.." Aoi said gently, walking over to him. "You're back."

"I don't know who you are, kid..." He whispered hoarsely, struggling to get back up on his feet. "But... that was really something you did...." His vision hazy, he blinked a few times in an attempt to regain control of it.

"I'm Ahatake's granddaughter." Aoi replied cheerfully. "You nearly killed Ojii-chan back there."

"That makes two times, I guess...." The Injiki said amiably, raising himself up to dust himself off. He coughed a few times, as well - his voice felt incredibly sore after being dormant for so long. "Where are they now?"

"I healed them." She told him. "They're back with Onee-chan. Can you walk?"

"Yeah..."

Aoi looked at him intently. "Wierd...you don't seem like the jackass Ojii-chan said you used to be.. You seem like a good person.."

That made Ryuka scowl slightly, one of his eyebrows raised considerably. "Times had changed from then. A few years ago, we would've been at each other's throats... but now, it's nothing but water under the bridge." He replied calmly.

Aoi smiled. "You seem to be in a bad mood...but we have something that will cheer you up. Soon as we get her anyway.."

A chuckle was his reply, along with the question of "Her?"

"Kyashi-san." Aoi replied simply. "But we'll never tell."

At the name, his eyes widened. Of course! This whole mess had caused her presence to be temporarily forgotten. "Then we'd better get to the other Kurosaki right away..." He said immediately. "After all this time, she must've been worrying herself to death..."

Aoi merely chuckled as they reached the spot where Kyuui and the adults were. "Onee-chan! Told you I'd make it back alive."

"Thank God...." From the two on the ground, Kyuui looked up in an eager smile at her sister. But it vanished the moment they focused on Ryuka. It made him wince slightly. "Is he...?"

"He's my pet." Aoi said jokingly, a large smile on her face.

It dropped any tense feelings Kyuui had, and she burst out laughing. "Oh, thank goodness... I had a feeling you'd come through for us..." She said between her giggles. Ryuka himself couldn't help but raise an eyebrow slightly and smile, for the scene was quite touching.

"Pity Kyashi ain't here." Aoi sighed sitting down. "She could see we have her husband back. We need something like those "Dark Marks" from that Harry Potter series."

"I can take care of that." The man replied, putting on a smirk and raising his hands up. "I know where to look if I have to find 'er... Her dad's pressure really helps."

"Alright." Aoi said cheerfully. "Let's see then...hm " -she looked at Ahatake and Tereya- "should we wake them?"

Reluctantly, Kyuui looked over at the two, a soft frown on her face. "Grandma wouldn't be too happy if she saw Injiki-san immediately..." She reminded.

"True." Aoi consented. "I say we throw her in the trash and come back for her later."

Different reactions came from Ryuka and Kyuui; the Lieutenant let out an amused chuckle, while Kyuui gasped in horror, fixing her sister with a glare. "Aoi!" She snapped.

"I haven't forgotten how mean she was this morning." Aoi replied icily. "Now I suggest we let Ryuka do his part, and contact his wife."

"In that case, I'll have to leave." Ryuka muttered, back off for a bit. "I don't exactly have a remote communicator with me..."

"Hm..." Aoi thought for a moment. "I have a solution to that." She said, and from her blade summoned one of the specters, slightly more calm than it had been earlier, and merely floating around the three. "Take this one with you, and when you need to tell us something send it back."

"I'm going to assume if you run into Kyashi before I do, you're going to give one to her, right?"

"Hm.." Aoi thought for a moment. "Seeing as we don't intend to move from this spot, I'd simply send a specter to you calling you back, unless you like us to search as well."

"All right, then..." Ryuka motioned to the spector with a wave of his hand. "Let's go!" Abruptly, he vanished with the skeleton in tow.

"You coming, Onee-chan?" Aoi asked. "Or you gonna stay and watch the adults?"

"I'll stay here." Kyuui said evenly, looking back at Tereya and Ahatake. "Someone's gotta explain the situation when they wake up...unless you're staying as well."

"I would stay, but even if I did we couldn't do what I'd want to stay for." Aoi chuckled. She summoned one last specter. "If Kyashi comes here, send this one to me. Ok?"

"Right!"

Aoi gave her sister a quick kiss, and vanished as quickly as Ryuka, leaving Kyuui standing alone with the adults and creepy specter.

Quickly, Kyuui flexed her fingers and sighed. It was going to be one hell of an explanation they were going to wake up to...

The End

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