Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

Chapter 8: Twin Souls: Tactics

Thanks to incandescens's Imitate the Action of a Duck, as well as her beta'ing and amazing editor-fu. This would not nearly be as tight as it is without her efforts.

Thanks to azardarkstar for asking the military questions. I'd been thinking about how the military worked up to this point, but the questions helped me focus.

Title: Tactics
Arc: Twin Souls
Fandom: Bleach
Characters: Ukitake/Kyouraku/Yamamoto
Rating: PG-13
Word Count: 4738 -- it got away from me a little. I'll blame Shunsui. He's easy to blame.
Warning: Very mild yaoi.
Summary: Yamamoto teaches tactics his way.
Disclaimer: I don't own or make money off of Bleach. It's all fictional. Really.

Two weeks later, Jyuushiro finally acknowledged that he was worried.

Shunsui had, finally, asked for some help on getting to the unconnected classes on time. The connected classes, starting from the early morning ones, were easy enough. They both realized that Shunsui didn’t have the time sense to get to classes after a break of nearly any kind. He just got interested in things.

Things like going skinny dipping at the lake. Like stealing underwear from the girls’ dorms. Like sneaking in jugs of sake and wine for all the Academy folk that could drink. Like taking apart and putting together one of the practice battering rams in the other dorm’s cafeteria. Little things like that.

When Shunsui got that look in his eye, Jyuushiro learned, fairly quickly, to not get in his way and to try and figure out a way to get out of the mess they inevitably got into. In fact, they invited a couple of their classmates along as well, and learned more about Abe-kun, Sato Saburou, and Kenshin than they'd known before. That had been pretty good. The ram would have been impossible to carry without them.

But he did get Shunsui to agree that if Jyuushiro said it was class time, it was class time, so that had worked out. Even if the skinny dipping episode had had… consequences… with Aunt Reiko and the Seiretai Ladies Sketching Society's impromptu lake-viewing party, he could live with that.

But that wasn’t what worried him.

What worried him was that after all the escapades, all the studies, all the homework, all the punishment laps, and all the detention, Shunsui would take a bath and just go to sleep. Shunsui's reiatsu now spread through the small dorm room like a lazy cat before the fire. Jyuushiro's had grown as well, and they shared their space and their at-rest reiatsu like their air. So they slept in their own futons and all was quiet.

Too quiet for Jyuushiro, because he wondered how his roommate would take celibacy. He'd never seen Shunsui come in every night and just go to sleep like that, before. And he assumed that Shunsui had... well... gotten some... every night he'd been gone, or something, or at least with more frequency than any other guy in the dorms.

So he watched and worried and in his head he had this image of having to lock his roommate in a supply closet with three or four girls just to take him off his edge.

Ahh… that would be a worry for another day. Shunsui seemed to be doing just fine, and he was sleeping peacefully.

“Good afternoon, my students,” Yamamoto-sama greeted his students as he walked into the classroom.

Yamamoto-sama held the Tactics and Strategy class in one of the four lecture auditoriums for the school. It was a huge room, with tiered seats nearly three stories up from the lecture floor. The seats all had desks before them. The open floor of the demonstration and lecture area was large, smooth, and open. Jyuushiro wondered why they held such a huge room for only six students and a lecturer.

All six of them were in the front row. Shiba Kenshin sat between Jyuushiro and Shunsui. Beautiful Kuchiki Kaoru leaned gracefully at a desk next to dark, smiling Ito Kali. Kali was a cousin to the Clan Shihouin and it showed in her dark skin, though her hair was black and her eyes as green as spring leaves. Ryuu Hayato slouched a few seats away, watching all from under hooded eyes. There was no one from the Hatsuzora clan that Jyuushiro could see; but, from what little Jyuushiro knew of Clan and Family politics, they hadn’t actively participated in supporting the Academy, yet.

“Good afternoon, Yamamoto-sama,” everyone chorused, politely.

"Since, in the past few weeks we have covered the definitions and differences between strategy and tactics, today we will start our first series on specific tactics against Hollows as practiced by the military organizations within Soul Society," Yamamoto-sama intoned from behind the podium.

A hand went up. Yamamoto-sama blinked and then nodded, "Yes?"

Kali tilted her head as her hand came back down. She asked, "Sir, what military organizations? I know that there are countless bands of solders hired by the various Houses and Clans. They all come together under your war banner when we have need of great forces, but on the most part, they're completely independent, no?"

Yamamoto-sama nodded graciously, "You are correct. However, the five major houses, and all the houses related to them, constitute over three-quarters of all the fighting forces within all of Soul Society. Each with their own specializations, but they are organizations, nonetheless. They all approach Hollows in their own way, according to their own manner of combat. For you to be fully prepared, we will introduce you to all the different tactics and techniques used for cleansing the Hollows found in all of Soul Society."

A box next to Yamamoto-sama's podium was stacked high with books. Yamamoto-sama started passing out the books. Each student received seven books: five with the names of the major clans, one with the title "Common Tactics", and another labeled, "General Information About Hollows".

"Are we going to knock them over by throwing books at them?" Hayato grumbled.

Shunsui snickered. Jyuushiro could only give him a look, with Kenshin between them.

Yamamoto-sama raised an eyebrow and said, "Kyouraku-kun and Ryuu-kun. Since you do not feel these tomes are valuable in learning how to destroy Hollows, let us see how you do without them. Come up here. Daisuke-san, would you please bring in the demonstration materials?"

Jyuushiro was surprised to see the old guard from the whipping. He couldn't be part of the city's general guard if he was here helping Yamamoto-sama teach. Who was he?

The old man simply bowed to Yamamoto-sama in acknowledgement of his request, and headed out a door and down a hallway to the left of the podium.

Shunsui looked nonchalant. Hayato looked angry. Both students walked up to Yamamoto-sama. He pointed them toward his left, in the direction of the hallway Daisuke had gone down. "Over there. You should draw your zanpakuto." They both looked at him in surprise. "Draw. Now."

They both drew uncertainly. Bare blades in a classroom?

Then there was a bellow from the hallway, and crashing, and the sudden rise of two unfamiliar reiatsu. One was hungry, angry, and somehow wrong and bitter with the tang of iron, of blood. The other, more powerful, reiatsu smelled, tasted, felt like green spring trees and grasses and sunshine. Then there was the crack of a whip. Jyuushiro flinched at the sound and saw Shunsui flinch as well.

"Tactic number one," Yamamoto-sama intoned. "Be ready with your weapon and your reiatsu when you face a Hollow."

Both young men focused their reiatsu at his prompting. Jyuushiro could hear the familiar bone-rasping howl at the back of Shunsui's reiatsu. Hayato's was sharp and cold and high, tasting of thin air and sharp sun.

A white mask appeared in the doorway. The creature stopped at the suddenly open space. There was a shouted order, and then again that hiss and crack. And the Hollow, for it could be nothing else, bolted into the classroom. Its claws tore at the floor, and it charged the two young men.

"Tactic number twenty-two: When you have greater numbers, use that to your advantage by not offering an easy target of all of you grouped together." Yamamoto-sama flowed to the side as the Hollow charged. Shunsui swore and jumped to the other side. Hayato frowned and did a quick shunpo step that took him almost to the edge of the demonstration area.

The Hollow chose the closest and least threatening of its targets, which was Shunsui. It scrabbled at the wooded floor as it tried to turn fast enough to get a good bite at Shunsui. Chunks of splintered wood flew in all directions. Shunsui managed to deflect the teeth and snap of jaws with his sword, but was knocked sliding by the weight and momentum of that bony head.

Hayato muttered a kido spell and snapped off a shot when the Hollow stopped to bellow angrily. The fire kido splashed against the Hollow, making it scream in anger. The spell burned a hole in the Hollow's shoulder, but where it splashed against the mask, there was only a scorch mark.

"Ah... Tactic number five: Kido is good for distracting a Hollow, but it cannot cleanse a Hollow. Only zanpakuto are capable of cleansing a Hollow. All else is but distraction."

Kali sniffed, and then disappeared in a flash step. She came up right in front of the Hollow. Unfortunately, Hayato had already unleashed another spell. The lightning spell slammed into Kali's back, knocking her down almost on top of the Hollow's claws.

"Tactic number thirteen: Communicate your intentions before interfering with a Hollow cleansing already in progress."

Shunsui snarled, pivoted, and grabbed Kali up before the Hollow's jaws closed on her. He tried to move away, but the Hollow was faster. It swiped at the two of them with its claws, batted them both up into the air, on a flat, fast trajectory towards the seats and desks.

Jyuushiro reacted. He shunpo'ed up, and tried his best to deflect them back to the demonstration floor. The desks and chairs were sturdy and angular, falling on them would be far more painful than slamming into the smooth floor and sliding. He managed to turn the flying ball of arms, legs, and bodies, but ended up on the bottom of the pile when they all slammed into the floor.

Jyuushiro could hear the Hollow scream, but he couldn't see a thing. Kali and Shunsui scrambled off of him. He rolled to the side just in time to see Hayato leap from where he'd been standing. Zanpakuto in both hands, Hayato took a trajectory that had him high above the Hollow's head and mask. He kiai'ed and swung, using the momentum of his fall along with the strength in his body to cut the Hollow's mask and head all in one fell stroke. The black body and white mask crumbled away.

"Tactic number four: Attack Hollows from above in order to use your fall as well as your strength to cut all the way through," Yamamoto-sama said. "Well done, Ryuu-kun. Did your uncle teach you that motion?"

"Yes, sir. He had me practice it several times in the last few weeks. I hadn't realized exactly what it was for, before, it seemed far too extreme to use against my classmates." Hayato trotted over to where the other three were, "Ito-kun... are you..."

Kali shrugged, "I'm fine. Thanks to Kyouraku-kun, I'm still in one piece." Blood dripped from a rip along her shoulder, and she looked at it ruefully, "This was from falling on the thing... I'm now sorry I interfered." She laughed. "I guess I learned that tactic the hard way. Kyouraku-kun, how are you?"

Shunsui had claw marks along his ribs that ran red as well. He touched them thoughtfully, wincing a bit. "All right, I guess, just cuts and bruises. It didn't get through my ribs. It could have been worse if we'd fallen on the desks. Thank you, Jyuushiro. Yamamoto-sama, I think I now see the... value... of reading."

Yamamoto-sama chuckled. "Good. I am glad you have seen the light. Assignments for next week include the first five chapters of the general knowledge book. The information about Hollows will be good background for the other books and why the other tactics work. So. I wish for you to ponder a question. What strategies did you exercise in your concerted attack on the Hollow? Did you have any? And, if so, what were they?"

Everyone stood silent for a while.

Kali ventured, "I don't think we had any, sir. Not really."

"Well... not unless, 'Cleanse the Hollow' is a strategy," Hayato said, half laughing.

"Why would that not be a strategy?" Yamamoto-sama said.

Hayato's eyes widened, "It's too simple, sir."

"Is that not why you both drew your zanpakuto? Why you tried to use your kido spells? Why Ito-kun jumped in? When so many actions stem from a single idea, why does that not make a strategy?" Yamamoto-sama looked around the class. "Are there others?"

"Not get killed?" Shunsui said dubiously.

"What actions stem from that concept?" Yamamoto-sama asked.

"My dodging. My pulling out Ito-kun. Jyuushiro knocking us back from the desk area, sir?" Shunsui asked the last as if he were sure he was wrong.

Yamamoto-sama nodded. "Exactly. Sometimes the simplest statements make the clearest strategies. All actions can stem from them. The simplest strategy for ridding Soul Society of the menace of Hollows might be stated as: 'Find the Hollows and cleanse them.' If I have an entire army and simply give them all that order as their direction, then they can all do their best to create methods, or tactics, in which they can carry that overall goal out. Different organizations, different people will all come up with ways in which they can best carry that out. That is the reason for a strategy, so that everyone will be heading in the same direction, even if how they get there will differ on what resources they have."

"But, Yamamoto-sama, you cannot direct an army with something that loose," Kaoru finally said, a frown creasing his beautiful face. "How would they know where to move? What to do? Having different companies just trying to kill Hollows, they might get in each other's way."

"Those are tactics. To move an army, a company, a division, are all simply how to get to the goal. If two companies did run into each other and knew that their main objective was to cleanse the Hollows, implying that all human contact would be among allies, then they would not hurt each other and might work together on the overall objective. Their captains could coordinate how to spread themselves out and do their work," Yamamoto-sama said. "Do you see the difference?"

Kaoru shook his head, "I'm not sure I get it, sir. Moving an army is such a big thing. How can it be the same as just jumping above a Hollow?"

Jyuushiro started in, "Moving an army is how. Jumping a Hollow is how as well. I think strategy provides a why to any action. At least, that's what I see as the difference between the two."

Yamamoto-sama nodded at Jyuushiro. Then turned back to Kaoru, "Does that explain it to you?"

Kaoru nodded, "Yes, sir. I think so."

Kali frowned, "What I don't get, though, is why, if there is something that simple, it's so hard for everyone to control Hollows? What are people using as a strategy today?"

Yamamoto-sama looked at his students, "Would anyone care to answer Ito-kun?"

Everyone thought very hard. It was Shunsui who finally said, "Well... I think the Clans and Families are using the strategy of 'Protect ourselves and just ourselves.' Which includes protecting their rights, their privileges, their people, and their standing, and doesn't actually focus on ridding everyone of the menace of Hollows. In fact," he paused as if weighing whether or not to say it at all, "in fact, some warlords use the Hollow menace as a means to controlling their own people."

Kaoru's eyes narrowed, "Can you back that accusation up, Kyouraku-kun?"

"It's not an accusation, Kuchiki-kun, it's an observation," Jyuushiro said quietly.

"Unless you have something you're feeling guilty about?" Shunsui asked, smiling gently.

Kaoru gave a dismissive flick of his hand.

"What else would stem from such a strategy?" Yamamoto-sama asked.

"Are you saying he's correct, sir?" Hayato asked incredulously.

Kali tsked. "Well, think about it. We see that the Hollows aren't being addressed. So obviously no one has received direct orders to just kill Hollows."

"But it's not 'Keep Hollows alive so that people are scared enough to come to us', is it?" Hayato asked.

"No, Kyuu-kun," Yamamoto-sama said, "I do not believe that that is the stated strategy of any of the various organizations in Soul Society, but how many of you have received any kind of strategy from your Clan heads or the leaders of your forces?"

There was an uneasy silence.

"So. You are here to learn about the possibilities of these ideas. That is a start," Yamamoto-sama sighed. "Daisuke-san, would you please bring the medics in? We should see to these wounded." He bowed gently to them all, "That was well done, my students. You have obtained the main objectives of this lesson."

Daisuke came in with the second medical team, headed up by taciturn Sasaki Osamu. Sasaki-san tsked and eyed the damage to the floors as well. He stalked up to Kali and Shunsui, and set three of his interns working on Kali, but he took care of Shunsui's wounds himself. The reiatsu healing took care of closing off the bleeding and the worst of the damage, but he put bandages over what was left as protection.

Once Yamamoto-sama saw that everything was well in the hands of the medical personnel, he said, "I have a meeting I must attend. I shall see you all next week. Thank you very much."

"Thank you, sensei," all the students said and everyone bowed before he left.

Everyone stayed while the two injured ones got tended. Jyuushiro was not too surprised, as Kaoru was very concerned for Kali. Hayato, who would otherwise have been most likely to leave, stayed because he had in essence injured them. And Jyuushiro himself and Kenshin were used to sticking with Shunsui. So they were all connected. Hm... Jyuushiro considered.

"Shunsui, do you know of a good place we could all have a good dinner and some drinks?" Jyuushiro asked.

Everyone looked at him. Shunsui looked up from where Sasaki-san was binding up his ribs. He looked a little pale, but smiled at the question. "Certainly. Close, cheap and plentiful and tasty, if you like, the Red Boar does a pretty good okonomiyaki with good beer."

"Everyone up for that? It might be a good place to talk about... well... all this." Jyuushiro waved a hand at the splintered floor still splattered with a faint spray of blood. "And I'm starving."

"You're always starving," Kenshin said, chuckling. "But I'm in."

Kali chuckled, "Well, I could always use something to replace the blood loss."

"Then I shall come as well," Kaoru said quietly.

Jyuushiro walked up to Hayato who folded his arms. "You're very welcome, too, Ryuu-kun. I'd love to learn more about that finishing move you did."

Hayato's head went back in surprise. "Uhm... oh. Sure. I'll come, too." He frowned, "And I'll pay for everyone's meals, 'cause I screwed up with the kido shot."

Kali laughed, "It wasn't you. I jumped in without saying anything, do you remember that tactic? I will, now, for sure. So I'll pay half, too. Okay... so everyone dump stuff in their rooms and meet at the Red Boar for dinner?"

"Aye!" They all streamed out, and headed their own ways with their new books. Bathed, changed, and unburdened by books, they all met again at the Red Boar.

Jyuushiro had a simple, plain gray over-kimono with narrow, black obi. Kenshin chose brown with a brocade pattern like the cracks in dry earth. Hayato's over-kimono was black with the crest of his family on each sleeve. The cloth, though, was sheer, and sometimes the mountain scene on the underside of the sleeves of his juban shone through the severe black of the covering cloth.

Shunsui had cheerfully thrown caution to the winds. Jyuushiro had helped him with his quick sponge bath, in order to keep the water off his bandages. Jyuushiro also had to help him on with his choice in clothing. While Shunsui had two under-kimono on, they were cream and sea green, with an over-kimono that was purple. He had thrown a haori over that as well, which had wings of purple and gold with daffodils and irises all over it. The gold obi fluttered with dragonflies, but even then Jyuushiro thought it was better than the pink one Shunsui had initially attempted to put on.

Kali giggled outright when she saw Shunsui in all his gaudy color. "Kyouraku-kun, where did you get those?"

"I had them made," Shunsui said with a smile. "I saw the fabric and had to have them. You, Ito-chan, are utterly breathtaking."

She was dressed in a furisode of palest gold that highlighted her darkness. Bells and butterflies fluttered amid peonies all along the lower edges and up the sleeves. Long, silver grass stems flowed from shoulder to ground and the whole was cut by a bow-tied obi dyed in shibori style that lent the cloth the sheen and ripple of a flowing stream.

She gave Shunsui a gentle bow. "Thank you, Kyouraku-kun."

Kaoru had simply worn a plain black outer kimono, again with the crests of the Kuchiki clan. Severe in its plainness, it contrasted against his silk white skin and fine features all the better.

"Shall we?" he asked, and brushed aside the curtain.

The chef's greeting was quite energetic at seeing this very finely dressed party come into his establishment, and he showed them to a table very, very promptly. Everyone knelt about the cooking grill, and promptly ordered meals and plenty of beer, spurred on by the amazing smells.

After all the reiatsu use in the afternoon, everyone tucked into their food and the whole table was silent for a good fifteen minutes. Then they all started talking at once. Jyuushiro just ate and enjoyed watching Shunsui shine as he drank and laughed and teased both Kaoru and Kali until they blushed.

Over the table, Shunsui met Jyuushiro's eyes. For the first time since Jyuushiro had chased him up into a tree, Shunsui quirked that curl of a smile at him. Jyuushiro grinned back, unabashed, and returned to his meal feeling somehow lighter. Eventually Jyuushiro turned away from his food, and started to draw out Hayato, first on the technique, and then on stories about his uncle, the teacher of the martial arts classes. Hayato responded well to Jyuushiro's opening with stories about a mountain champaign fought on ice and rock.

With the judicious application of more beer, everyone relaxed and talked about their insane afternoon. After much discussion and, to Jyuushiro's relief, no fighting, everyone finally agreed that Yamamoto's Tactics and Strategy class might be the most... interesting one they'd ever encountered.

"It's the first time we've actually been made to use something practical to deal with a Hollow," Hayato said thoughtfully.

Kaoru studied the golden depths of his beer. "And I am sure that it will not be our last."

Everyone nodded, silent for just that moment, and then they moved on. On to Shunsui's tailor, where to find the best yakitori, what color Kuchiki-sama's eyes really were, and on and on into the night.

When everyone staggered out into the cool night air, they headed their separate ways. Jyuushiro was under Shunsui's arm, supporting him with some difficulty, but careful of his bandaged side.

Mournfully, Shunsui said, "Welp... shooo mush for da outcast plan... they're too nice ta stay too mad at... shpecially that lovely Kali-chan. She's so beuuuooootiful..."

"She is, isn't she?" Jyuushiro had only drunk one beer for four or five of Shunsui's, a long-time habit when on a short budget.

"Kaoru'sh not bad, either," Shunsui muttered "A little too... tight for my tashtes, though..."

Jyuushiro had to laugh at that. "Probably for mine, too. Though... there is something tempting about being able to touch what's under that calm."

Shunsui stopped, perforce stopping Jyuushiro as well. "You've got... tastes... that way?"

Jyuushiro felt his cheeks blaze with a blush. "What? That kiss in the infirmary wasn't enough to tell you something?"

"All that told me was that you're willing to comfort a friend after a nightmare," Shunsui said. "And you never... followed up on it."

That was when Jyuushiro noticed that Shunsui wasn't slurring anymore. What was he, superhuman, five beers and not actually drunk unless he felt like it? In the very back of his head was a little voice saying, You know, this might be the answer to that celibacy thing that was bothering you earlier. But...

Jyuushiro sighed, "No... I don't usually have tastes that way. I like girls, they're nice. They don't beat you up when you disagree with them. When they're smart they're really, really smart. When they're powerful they're beautiful and the other way around, too. They're romantic, and they really are good at care-giving. Besides they talk..."

"I talk." Even in the dark the pout was evident. "And I wasn't saying you had to give up girls. I don't intend to. I fully agree with your assessment."

Jyuushiro digested that for a bit. "Okay. Girls are still in, but it's not like you've talked about this kinda stuff since the infirmary. And, besides, I said usually," Jyuushiro said, feeling a bit like he was stepping into a hole, not knowing where it was going to drop him.

"Meaning..." Shunsui said with all due caution.

Jyuushiro sighed, "Meaning if you really want to go down this path, you're going to have to take it slow with me. I don't usually do this. But I think I might want to with you. Eventually, though, not while you're still hurt and... I'm going to have to know you better."

"Hmmm... that's fair enough," Shunsui said, but the arm draped around Jyuushiro was bringing him around to the front of the larger man.

"Shunsui...." Jyuushiro said with warning in his voice.

"I love it when you're tough with me," Shunsui said, half-laughing. "May I please have a kiss, sir? Just a kiss..."

Irritated and aroused, Jyuushiro slid his hands up in to Shunsui's short hair and he brought Shunsui's face down to his. He tightened his grip on that curly, dark, so smooth hair, and felt Shunsui's breath hitch. Shunsui's jaw was wider than any girl's, muscled and rough with unshaven stubble. When Jyuushiro tasted those mobile lips again, they now tasted of beer and brown okonomiyaki sauce, sweet and salt and meaty. This time Shunsui kissed him back, and it was unlike anything he'd ever done before. The smooth power of the man shook him. Those arms enfolded him, the same ones that had kept him so safe when he was coughing.

Jyuushiro trembled when the kiss ended. His eyes closed, hands cupping the back of Shunsui's head.

"Gods... " Shunsui growled the word, low and throaty. "You want me to take this slow?"

"Yes..." Jyuushiro said faintly. "Please. This is already pretty overwhelming." He staggered a little, when Shunsui's grip loosened. "Sorry..."

"It's okay," Shunsui said quietly. "You're well worth waiting for." He sighed, "Let's get our sorry asses home. I'm going to drop pretty soon."

"It's been a busy day," Jyuushiro agreed, and was relieved to get that belly laugh from Shunsui.

Together, leaning on each other, they walked to their room. And, once there, they got into separate futons and fell into an exhausted sleep, reiatsus mingling in the night.

>>Next Chapter>>

Author's Notes
In the series, everyone's head goes up and they go, "Oy! That's so-and-so's reiatsu." So I figure they're all identifiable and all unique, so I just have Jyuushiro and Shinsui using the words and emotions they come up with for how they sense reiatsus. It's a bit like writing about tastes and flavors and scents when those things invoke memory as much as similarity.

History Reference: Here's a really nice early Japanese history quick reference. At least they had iron, rice, and fishing. But I've indulged in the technologies available to these folks, everything from the swords themselves to the dyeing techniques to the food to the porcelain and the paper. Soul Society seems more technologically advanced than the living world, so I'll just leave it at that.
Tags: bleach, fanfic

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