vesperh asked me to listen to something a little more modern. Here's a story about Ukitake preparing for war that came out of a Pat Metheny song.
A Song About Thinking
Disclaimer: Kubo Tite created Bleach.
Description: Assuring me that Shinji would approve, my friend Rebecca gave me some modern jazz prompts to Bleach-drabble. This fic was born out of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k2yUaRNgN7M and “Ukitake--preparations for war.”
Jazz: “Above the Treetops” from the Secret Story CD by Pat Metheny.
for cal_reflector because he’s a good friend in bad times
Every man is born dying, whether into the Living World or into Soul Society.
Flesh and blood are reminders of the soul’s weaknesses. The body is but an expression of the soul--not the soul’s mirror image but its voice.
Captain Ukitake Jushirou placed a damp cloth over his eyes, nose, and mouth and breathed in a candy-sweet scent of medicines. The preparation had been stinging his nasal passages less since Dai-senpai had taught him, only days ago, how to cut the shankhapushpi with cinnamon. Amazing how much difference a molecule’s variation of technique could make in the product. The fourth division representative who’d brought the new remedy to headquarters had been thorough, patient, expert in showing Ukitake how make his nightly balm, but when Captain Unohana came, the restorative aroma of the herbs was doubled. Animated by her very presence, strengthened by her soul’s voice.
If only her fingers could press the cloth against his face every night and every morning.
Ukitake exhaled a hard breath through the sweet herbs. It was almost a laugh.
A woman in his bed would do wonders for his soul but wouldn’t cure his body.
“Wear the cloth as long as you can stand it,” she had said. “Don’t fall asleep with it. And please, eat better. I see nothing but candy-wrappers in this room.”
Dai-senpai and two other captains were awaiting former Captain Urahara’s preparations for the passage that would take them to Hueco Mundo. Ukitake had only ever seen glimpses of that world as the sky tore and monsters emerged from it. Imagining Captain Unohana in that den of chaos was like imagining Peacetime Herself walking through War.
Still holding the cloth against his face, Ukitake sat up. He knew full well the spiritual benefits of ritual and preparation, the prosaic pleasure of tying the hakama-himo so the bow was symmetrical only to have the fabric sliced through and bloodied a half-hour later. He knew he needed to stay in his quarters until called for; he knew that there was nothing else he could do but steady his heart for the upcoming battle.
The cloth slid off his face, puddled at his crotch.
Officers would die in this battle; there had never been such a confrontation between the forces of Soul Society and those of another world.
He would prepare dinner. Yes, a dinner like one the fourth division would serve, with steamed vegetables. He would pour a beer, one like Sentarou would offer, and find that basket of okashi that Kiyone had given him for Happy Thursday, a holiday she’d invented yesterday. He already knew could neither eat the dinner, nor drink the beer nor partake of the snacks, but he might pretend to take a taste or two as a tribute to Dai-senpai.
Ukitake began to look for his fish frying pan.
He had seen Shinigami felled by the Quincy during the Purge in the Living World, seen Shinigami eaten by Hollow. He’d seen his friend and lieutenant Shiba Kaien crumble into a heap of skin and clothes--into a wan shell empty of soul while the blood from his good heart was still warm on Rukia’s face.
That was the way, there was no other way. To live one had to die.
The basket of rice crackers was in cutlery drawer. Oh what was this? Chocolate. Kiyone had added a box of chocolate milk balls to her gift. Ukitake opened the box and popped a few into his mouth.
He would be the only representative from his division. His power, no matter how short-lived should he fall ill in midst of fighting, was part of the mighty arm of justice of Soul Society, the Gotei 13. He would be facing former comrades--Aizen, Tousen, Ichimaru. He would be raising his weapons to slay them the way he would prey, no deliberation, aiming for the throat the way one killed Hollow and other monsters.
Before he ascended into that other world, before he fell into the horrible throat of the Hollow dimension, Aizen had said that the throne of God was empty.
Was there any zanpakutou strong enough to cleanse Aizen’s soul? Could Ukitake’s zanpakutou cutting like clear water across Aizen’s jugular take back those words?
The smell of broiled fish filled the kitchen and undecipherable voices moved like half-remembered songs on the periphery of Ukitake’s consciousness. The feeling was a little like dreaming one had fallen asleep but knowing one was awake. Or listening to a song that inspired thinking instead of feeling.
All Ukitake could do was pray for the rightness of his choices. He prayed as white fish flesh in yellow oil turned from white to pink to brown in his favorite frying pan. The rightness of his choices. Choices made with a respect for Death, a love of life, and a belief in transformations from better to better to better.
The fish-spices smelled soothing to his cough-tortured throat.
Things went from better to better to better. That’s why there was Death. That’s why men fought wars.