Chapter 31: Heart and Soul
Recommended Song: "Affirmation" by Savage Garden
Shinji never thought a week could be so torturous
the days felt like the longest of his entire life. Ever since Mari had been found out and Yamamoto had made the decision to allow them to see each other (once a week), Shinji had been anxiously waiting for that day to come.
He actually put a lot more thought into it than he should have
At days he would sit at his desk, a monthly calendar in front of him, trying to plan it so that he would somehow choose the longest day of the week. All the while Momo would watch him with a teasing smile, shaking her head.
Finally, he just decided to meet her on a Saturday, figuring that would be the day where they could spend the most time together.
The days went by agonizingly slow, yet Saturday finally came. Momo's jaw dropped in shock when her taichō walked into the office early. He wasn't as bad as Kyōraku-taichō, but Shinji did like to take his time
she would always hear his jazz records play from the floor above and it would last at least half an hour before he decided to grace her with his presence.
"Mornin', Momo-chan," Shinji greeted, ruffling her hair.
Momo pouted angrily and fixed her hair. "What has you so chipper? All this week you've been acting so grouchy and impatient
" she then said, smiling. "You're going to be visiting Mari-chan today, aren't you?"
"Yep," he replied, flashing her a grin. He was unable to mask his enthusiasm. "I just wanted ta come in ta make sure ya have everythin' under control."
Momo looked at him for a moment before rolling her eyes. "Taichō, you're only going to be gone for a day," she told him. "I don't think I'll lose control while you're away."
"Well, Nanao was only gone for a couple of hours," Shinji began, "and when she got back, the Eighth was a wreck. But I trust ya, Momo-chan." The Fifth Division wasn't known for their all-day and all-night partying like the Eighth was.
"Well, I'm glad you do!" Momo laughed. "Tell Mari I said 'hi!' She's a really cute girl."
Shinji chuckled, "Actually, Mari was jealous of ya
she thought somethin' was goin' on between us."
Momo's eyebrows went up in surprise. "Really? Ew! You and me, taichō?"
"Hey!" he cried, flabbergasted. "What am I, unattractive?"
Momo threw her hands up in defense, shaking her head quickly. "Oh no, I didn't mean it like that! It's just, well
oh, I don't know," she stammered, blushing, and averted her eyes.
Shinji watched her in surprise, though then grinned. "Oh, ya got someone on yer mind, Momo-chan?" he teased. "Who's tha lucky fella, huh?"
"Taichō!" she cried, and began pushing him out the door. "J-Just
get out of here already!"
"Alright, I'll see ya later than, Momo-chan." He began walking over to where the gate was, though stopped when he passed Unohana Retsu along the way. His heart stopped when he felt a certain Reiatsu coming off of her
Unohana," he merely greeted.
"Oh, Hirako-san," Unohana returned warmly. She was always so courteous and addressed everyone politely, even if they were a comrade or sometimes, even an enemy. "I have just come back from the Nest of Maggots." As if she didn't already know that he could tell. "I was making a routinely check on Aizen-san's injuries. He's healing just fine."
Shinji's mouth was set into a grim line, a feeling of bitterness and guilt washing over him
it was his fault that Unohana was forced to treat a traitor's wounds
if it were up to Shinji, he would just let the bastard rot and bleed to death, but the sotaichō had ordered for him to be healed. "Sorry, Unohana," he said softly.
She smiled up at him, though he could see that it was almost forced, masking pain. She didn't like what she was doing either. "I will see you soon, Hirako-san," she said. "Enjoy your time with your loved one."
He nodded and went through the main gate, a Hell Butterfly guiding him through the Senkaimon. It wasn't long until he had arrived in the World of the Living, and his first stop was to pick up a gigai at the Urahara Shoten.
"Forgot how uncomfortable this shit is," he groaned, when he changed into his gigai. He glanced at Kisuke and asked, "Say, Kisuke, ya got any more of those phones?"
The shopkeeper looked at his comrade with keen gray eyes and lifted up his bucket hat. "But of course!" He sifted through some boxes and pulled out two small phones. They appeared just like regular cell phones, although these were specially designed to allow a person in Soul Society and the Human World to communicate.
"Thanks," Shinji said, placing them in his pocket.
He left the shop and was about to head over to Mari's house, though he paused and pursed his lips. Perhaps he should make a stop at the Visored warehouse first.
When he arrived, he was easily able to slip through the orange barrier put up by Hachi. He felt the spiritual pressures of his fellow Visored in the underground area and trotted down the steps. When he got to the last one, everyone looked at him, surprised.
FUCK!" he cried, when a certain someone greeted him with a kick to the face.
"It's about time you visited us, dumbass," Hiyori snorted, crossing her arms over her small chest.
"Damn it, Hiyori!" Shinji cried, sitting up and covering his now bloody nose. "I already got Soi Fon up there kickin' my ass for me, so ya don't have ta worry about that!"
"Tch, no one can kick you like I can!" she retorted haughtily. She turned on her heel and jumped onto the couch, mindlessly watching whatever TV show was on the screen.
"So what brings you down here, Shinji?" Lisa asked curiously, looking up from her swimsuit magazine.
"I'm here to see Mari."
Again he was met with surprised eyes. "Really
?" Love pondered, scratching his head. "Did you sneak out?"
"Nope," Shinji smirked. "Mari snuck in." He began to explain how Yoruichi and Urahara helped Mari sneak into Soul Society, disguising her as a student, though she was caught. However, instead of being imprisoned or executed, the sotaichō decided to allow the relationship and that Shinji was allowed to visit once a week.
"Wow," Mashiro breathed, blinking her bright hazel eyes. "She has guts!"
Hachi nodded in agreement. "I never would have assumed that Mari-san would do something so bold and daring."
"So anyway!" Mashiro chirped, pouncing on Shinji's shoulder, shaking him slightly. "How's Kensei doing, huh? Does that meanie miss me? Does he ever talk about me? And what about Rose? What do you guys do?"
She continued to pester him with pointless questions until Shinji finally said he had to leave. "I'll see ya guys next week," he said.
After he left, the Visored looked at one another. "Is one week enough for him?" Lisa asked, furrowing her brow.
"Not if she's letting him screw her it isn't," Hiyori snorted, reaching down into a bag of cheese puffs, stuffing the junk food into her mouth.
One thing they knew about the blonde Visored was that he was forever horny, and poor Mari would now forever be his victim.
Shinji then arrived at Mari's house, and as he looked at the structure, he couldn't help but smile at all of the memories that were here
and now, there would be many more to come. He couldn't hold in his excitement, as there was a bounce to his step as he trotted up the steps and rang the doorbell. He whistled a happy jazz tune as he waited for someone to answer the door.
After a few moments, the door was opened to reveal Lucille. Shinji grinned, though her eyes were as big as saucers.
Shinji threw his hands up in the air and exclaimed, "Mommy!"
Lucille merely stared at him for half a second before slamming the door in his face.
What tha fuck? Shinji thought, confused. He knocked again. She must be joking with him
she did have that playful attitude
but the look on her face and in her eyes
"Hey, Luce, lemme in!" he then demanded, rapping on the door a little harder.
Lucille finally opened it and Shinji was taken aback when her icy blue eyes narrowed into slits. "How can you even show your face around here, huh?" she hissed. "You've really got some nerve, Shinji."
"What tha hell are ya talkin' about
? I came ta see Mari."
"Oh, is that so? Has she become exciting for you again, hmm? You break my little girl's heart, leave her, and then come back expecting her to jump back into your arms?" She shook her head, tears at her eyes. "You men are all the same."
Shinji's eyes grew soft. He now understood why she was so upset. "Look," he breathed softly, running a hand through his hair. "I'm sorry. I know I'm a fuckin' idiot, but I wanna do whatever I can ta make it up ta her. I
I don't deserve her. I know that. But if she's willin' ta have me, then yes, goddamn it, I'm gonna take her. So where is she?"
"Find her yourself," she responded quietly, shutting the door again, though this time, with less force. Shinji could still sense her anger though.
Shinji sighed, thinking that it would be harder to earn the forgiveness of Mari's mother than Mari herself. He lifted his head, sensing Mari's spiritual pressure and followed the path, leading to the dance studio. He peered through the large glass windows, though couldn't see much, as the lights were dimmed. He grew slightly worried, as the memory of Tsukishima attacking her came to mind, and quickly opened the door, walking inside.
He looked around, and didn't see anyone, and was about to call out her name when his eyes trailed up, widening when he saw Mari hanging from long lengths of silk, engaged in a strange, yet graceful dance.
" he breathed, mesmerized. He watched her for a few minutes and saw just how engrossed she was in her dance, how free and graceful she was
truly in her element.
It took her a while, but Mari finally noticed Shinji. She gasped in surprised and lowered herself toward him, though she was still hanging upside down. She smiled brightly at him and her face was mere centimeters from hers, their noses almost touching.
"Hey, I think I know you!" she giggled. He chuckled in response and placed his hand on the back of her head, digging his fingers into her curls as he pulled her in for a kiss. Mari's eyes widened and her face immediately turned bright red
at first she found it strange to kiss while she was upside down, though the feelings of his lips on hers distracted her from the thought and she responded eagerly.
Shinji pulled away with a groan, ending the kiss before he was tempted to do anything else. Mari lowered herself onto the ground, dressed in a pale pink fully-body unitard. Shinji eyed her curves closely, much to his girlfriend's embarrassment.
"Shinji!" she scolded, snapping her fingers in front of his face. He snapped out of it and she rolled her eyes, and pulled up a purple skirt, hoping that would stop him from staring. She then threw her arms around his wait, hugging him tightly. "I didn't know you were coming! But I'm so happy!"
He returned the embrace and pulled out a phone. "Here."
Mari looked at it curiously. "What is it?"
"I gave this ta Hiyori and tha others so they could talk ta me
now here's one for you."
Marise broke into a wide smile and eagerly took the phone, happy that she would now be able to talk with him over the phone during the times they couldn't see each other.
"Let's go home!" she exclaimed, taking his hand. "I want to bake you something
think of it as a
welcome home present? To celebrate your first day back!" She turned around and tugged on his hand, though he remained where he was. She looked at him curiously and tilted her head to the side. "
I don't think I'm welcome there, Mari," he said quietly.
"What? Why not?"
He shook his head and shrugged, pulling hand out of Mari's and stuffing both of them in his pockets. "I stopped by there before comin' here
yer mom, she slammed tha door in my face. She hates me Mari, for leavin' ya."
Mari's eyes widened and she remembered the moments after he left, when she cried to her mother.
Marise opened the door to her home, and walked into the kitchen with the intent of drowning her sorrows in ice cream. Unfortunately, her mother was inside preparing dinner, and nearly dropped her bowl in surprise when she looked up to find her daughter in tears.
"Mari, baby," she gasped. "What happened? What's wrong?"
With a watery smile, she answered, "Shinji
just like all the other boys, Mama. He left me."
Lucille stood frozen, at a loss for words. Mari just went past her mother and upstairs to her room. The door wasn't slammed, there was no outburst or screaming like Lucille would normally expect when a guy would leave her.
But then again, Lucille knew that Mari never truly felt anything for any of them. Shinji, on the other hand
she loved him.
Mari bit her lower lip and lowered her eyes to the ground, disheartened by the sad memory
she was so broken back then, and now she was fixed, though still fragile, still so vulnerable. She huffed in slight annoyance and looked back up at Shinji, pulling his hands out of his pockets and taking them into hers. "But everything is okay now!" she exclaimed. "Mama is just one who holds a grudge for a long time, but she'll get over it! You two were so close before, so I'm sure everything will go back to normal soon."
She grew surprised when he pulled a hand from hers to caress her cheek. "But what about you, Mari?" he asked. "Have you gotten over it?"
She placed her hand over his. Silence fell over the room as Mari collected her thoughts, trying to choose her words carefully. "I
I was mad at you for a long time," she admitted softly. "I even thought I hated you, but
" She shook her head. "I could never
I was being selfish. I wanted you to be with me." She looked up at him, her eyes shining. "I still want you to be with me."
"I'm here, Mari," he whispered, leaning in to kiss her forehead. He then kissed her cheeks, her lips several times, and then trailed kisses along her jaw and down her neck. Mari's breath hitched in her throat and her heart fluttered as he suddenly pulled her to him, his hands roaming over her body, caressing each dip and curve.
" she whimpered, trying to push him away, as she was quickly growing hot. He reluctantly pulled away and looked down at her with lust-filled brown eyes. "L-Let's go home!"
He kissed her once more and murmured, "Alright. But ya know I ain't leavin' until I get my fill. Or until ya get yers, I should say," he corrected, grinning wickedly.
"YOU'RE SO VULGAR!"
Mari opened the door to her home and walked inside, but looked to see that Shinji had not come in. "Shinji!" she hissed, tapping her foot on the ground impatiently. "Get inside!"
Shinji did as he was told, though was cautious, as he was afraid he might be pelted with eggs or something.
Taro, now six years old, walked into the living room and his brown eyes widened when he saw Shinij. "Shinji-nii-chan!" he exclaimed, running to the Visored.
"Hey, it's my lil' man, Taro! But damn ya've gotten big!" he exclaimed, lifting Taro off the ground. He then yelped in pain when Mari pinched him. "What was that for?"
"Don't curse in front of him! You'll pass on your Yankī habits!"
"Onee-chan missed you so much, Shinji-nii," Taro said.
"Wh-what? Taro, stop it!" Mari cried, embarrassed.
"Oh, did she
?" Shinji asked, grinning.
"Yep, she even looked sad when watching Lupin or eating ice cream!"
"That's it, you little heathen!" Mari barked, pulling Taro off of Shinji. "Don't tell such embarrassing things!" she scolded, wagging her finger at him. Shinji watched the humorous scene, amused, though his smile fell and he soon felt guilty. He hadn't realized just how much pain he had put her through.
Ryu then walked in and when he saw Shinji, he just appeared impassive as usual and casually waved, as though Shinji had never even been gone.
Next came in obaa-san, and her eyebrows went up in surprise when she saw Shinji. She went up to him, and exclaimed, "Well, you've gotten bigger!" Shinji raised an eyebrow, as he hadn't gotten any taller, but he then noticed that she was looking at his lower half. He turned bright red, which was rare for him, and covered his crotch area. "What tha hell?" he cried.
"What?" Coco shrugged. "It was just noticeable."
"Obaa-san!" Mari screeched. "Please, stop embarrassing me!" She took Shinji's hand and led him into the kitchen. At that moment they passed Soichiro, who was wiping his hands on a dirty rag after working on a car. "Oh, hey
" he greeted Shinji, shocked. "Did you leave
"It's just once a week," Shinji explained, and Soichiro nodded. He honestly didn't think the sotaichō would be so generous.
Mari began to pull out things from drawers and the cupboards. "What are ya doin'?" Shinji asked.
She beamed up at him and exclaimed, "I'm making a pie for my Shinji-pie!"
"Oh, this'll be interestin' ta watch," Shinji chuckled. Mari puffed her cheeks out in annoyance and told him to bring in the bowl of apples from the dining table.
When he went to grab the bowl, Lucille passed by and gasped. "Mari!" she then shrieked, storming into the kitchen, dragging Shinji by his tie along with her. "What the hell is he doing here?"
Marise looked at her mother, her deep blue eyes hard. "Shinji and I are making a pie," she said simply.
"How can you
" Lucille stuttered, perplexed. "After all that
you know he
"Mama!" Mari pleaded, pulling Shinji away from her mother. "I've already forgiven Shinji, why can't you?" She then hid behind his back and said with a blush, "I
I love him!"
Shinji became lightheaded with happiness and he wondered if he would ever get used to her saying that, as quiet as she became when she did.
Lucille let out an inaudible sigh and looked at Shinji, who became a little stiff under her sharp gaze. "Well
" she murmured. "You are the only person who's just right for her. And I'm glad she lost her virginity to you rather than to a brainless teenager."
Mari shrieked at the top of her lungs, "I-I-Is it that obvious?" And Shinji shifted in his spot, feeling slightly awkward. "Get out, Mama!" she cried, pushing her mother out of the kitchen. "OUT, OUT, OUT!"
Shinji and Mari then started making the pie, with Shinji peeling the apples and Mari preparing the crust.
"Huh," Shinji said, impressed as he watched her make the pie. "It looks like ya've actually gotten better at this."
Mari pouted. "Why are you surprised? I'm a very good student when I'm interested in the lesson!"
"Ohhh, so that's why ya learn so fast in bed," he responded, grinning.
"I! HATE! YOU!" she shrieked, flicking flour at him. He laughed and did the same to her and pretty soon they were both coated in white flour.
"Now look what you did!" she whined, after placing the pie in the oven. "I'm a mess!"
"We could just take a shower together again," he said suggestively, slipping his hand up her skirt. She grabbed bug spray off of the counter and sprayed it into his eyes.
"WHAT THA FUCK, MARI?" he shouted in pain.
"I-It's force of habit!" Mari defended, panicking. "Please don't be angry with me!"
He glared at her through bloodshot eyes, though when he saw her adorable pout and watery eyes, he sighed heavily, and went over to the sink to wash his eyes.
"Hmm, what should we do while the pie is baking?" Mari wondered. Shinji turned his head from the sink and Mari quickly told him, "D-Don't answer that!"
"Ya know me so well, Mari-chan," he laughed.
"Oh, that's onee-chan when she was little?" Came a voice from the living room. "She was kinda chubby!"
"Eh?" Mari gasped, running into the other room, with Shinji walking behind her. She saw herself on the TV and her eyes widened.
Taro turned around and grinned. "Oh, hey, onee-chan."
"Taro, what are you doing?" she snapped.
"I was looking through these videos," he explained, showing all of the videotapes strewn across the floor with a swoop of his hand, "Mama said she recorded an old episode of Doraemon, but
onee-chan is on the TV instead! That's you, right?" he asked, getting up and pointing at a small, chubby girl with short blonde curls, golden cheeks, and bright blue eyes.
" Shinji breathed. "Mari as a kid! Ya were really cute." He took a seat on the couch to watch, though Mari tried to turn it off.
"N-No!" she cried, embarrassed. "I thought I destroyed all the ones like this!"
"Geez, Mari, what's tha big deal?" Shinji asked, grabbing her wrist and pulling her to sit next to him. "I wanna watch."
"I don't want Shinji to see me when I was fat!" she sobbed, bursting into tears.
"Mari, ya looked like ya were five. It ain't a big deal."
But to Mari, it was a very big deal. She began to tell him of a memory during her childhood, one that would impact her self-esteem.
Marise was playing in the sandbox with her Hello Kitty set, which included a bright pink bucket, shovel, and accessories that allowed her to make various shapes. One was in the shape of Hello Kitty's head, then her bow, and the others were ice cream cones.
A couple of boys her age ran by and one yanked her Popsicle from her, which was in the shape of Hello Kitty's head.
"Chubby Mari can't take this from us!" he chortled. "You're too slow!"
" Mari cried, standing up. "Give it back!" Tears streamed down her plump cheeks as she sobbed, "I-I'm not chubby
"Aww, isn't she adorable?" A woman said, pinching her cheeks. "Just look at those chubby cheeks!
No! No, no, no! Mari thought, shaking her head furiously, running from the woman and to her mother, who was sitting on the park bench. I don't want to be seen as fatty Mari!
She finished her story, wiping some tears from her eyes, and Shinji merely stared at her, flabbergasted. "Mari
" he began. "They were all just teasin' ya! Ya know how lil' boys always pick on the girls they like
I'm pretty sure they didn't mean ta hurt ya."
they did," she mumbled. Shinji pulled her against him and he turned up the volume, but not before he murmured into her hair, "I'll always think Mari is cute."
Mari blushed and reluctantly watched the video, which was of a picnic with a five-year-old Marise sitting at the table, eating a huge bowl of ice cream, topped with the works. She was dressed in a hot pink dress covered in pink polka dots and wore a pink headband with the bow on the side. She gasped at the comment the girl next to her made and turned to the camera, asking, "Mama, Weiwa said I was fat! Is it twue?"
By the end of the video, Shinji was laughing so hard tears were at his eyes.
"Why are making fun of me?" she whimpered, shaking him slightly.
"Because ya were so damn cute! I didn't know ya used ta be obsessed with Hello Kitty. And now ya tell everyone ya hate it?"
"Hmph! Th-The video is a lie!" she huffed, crossing her arms and looking away. She heard the beep of her timer and squealed, "The pie is done!" And took Shinji to the kitchen, pulling it out of the oven.
"Hey, it smells pretty good," he commented, nodding approvingly. Mari cut a slice and put it on a plate, and then reached into the freezer for a tub of vanilla ice cream. She placed a scoop on the slice and held out the plate to Shinji.
"Here, try it!"
Shinji blinked, surprised, as he thought she had made the plate for herself
before she would always pour for herself and usually forgot about him. Had she really changed during the time he was gone?
He took a bite and chewed. "Hmm, it's pretty
" He froze, and Mari panicked.
tastes kinda funny
Mari tried a bite and gasped, her hands flying to her mouth. "Oh! I think I accidentally put curry powder in the place of the cinnamon!" she burst into tears. "I ruined it! I'm the worst baker ever! You're probably wishing you had never come down here
no! You probably wish you never met me in the first place!"
"No, no!" Shinji quickly said. "It doesn't taste bad, it
has an exotic twist ta it! Only a chef who could think outside the box could make somethin' like this."
Marise sniffled, "Y-You really mean it?"
"Of course, muffin."
"Good! Then finish all of it!"
Shinji eyed the pie warily and forced himself to eat the rest.
Afterward, Mari insisted that he stay for dinner.
you makin' it?" he asked, wincing, as the pie hadn't settled too well with his stomach.
"No, Mama is, why?"
He let out an inward sigh of relief. "Ah, no reason. But sure, I'll stay!"
Mari pouted at him and they sat at the dinner table. Unfortunately for Shinji, Lucille was still a little cold to him. He sighed, figuring that it would take some time before she would warm up to him again.
After dinner, they all sat around the coffee table in the living room for a game of Mah Jong, where it was Soichiro, Coco, Mari, and Shinji who were playing while the rest watched.
"Mari, stop tryin' ta peek at my tiles! Yer terrible at bein' sneaky."
"Shinji is an awful boyfriend! You should let me win!"
"Then ya would whine and complain about me doin' that!"
"You might as well stop trying now, Shinji," Soichiro chuckled. "There's no way to make her happy."
"Papa is so cruel!" Mari cried. "You should be on my side!"
Marise somehow won and Shinji dragged her upstairs to her room, finally happy to be able to spend some time alone with her.
She couldn't deny that she missed being in his arms, though things quickly became heated. "Sh-Shinji
" she panted, pulling away from his lips when his hands snuck up her shirt. She shook her head. "We can't do this while everyone is home!"
"Then let's go ta a love hotel," he suggested, burying his face in her neck.
"No way!" Mari screeched, pushing him away. She poked him in the chest. "Such a place was invented for sleazy businessmen to take their mistresses! A-And we can't do it unless you
" She mumbled the last part.
"What? I can't hear ya." She mumbled it again and he rolled his eyes. "Geez, Mari, speak up! I'm old and can't hear." Finally, Mari dragged Shinji up to the attic and pulled out the old Christmas tree, though specifically ripped off the string of condoms.
"Th-This!" she cried, holding it out to him. Her face turned bright red. "You have to use this!"
Shinji wrinkled his nose at it and swatted it out of her hands. "Hell no! Those things are such a pain in tha ass
I can't feel ya if I'm wearin' it!"
"HOW CAN YOU SAY SUCH A THING OUT LOUD?" Mari screeched, clutching her head, as though she couldn't even fathom just how perverted he was. "We have to," she urged. "Otherwise
" She averted her eyes, fear taking over her. "What if
what if the sotaichō was right? And then if something bad happens and that scary guy
" she shuddered, unable to even say his name.
"Hey, Mari," he murmured, pulling her to him. "It's alright. Ya don't have ta worry about that bastard. I'll be damned if I let anyone touch ya."
She nodded against his chest, feeling a little calmer, though was still trembling slightly. They stayed like that for a few moments until Shinji sighed against her hair, running his fingers through her curls.
"It's my time ta leave," he admitted reluctantly.
Mari pulled away, unable to hide her sadness. "Oh
"But hey," he reminded her, grasping her chin between his fingers, tilting her face upward so her eyes met his. "Use tha phone and call me until I see ya again."
She nodded and they left the attic and went outside. "Shinji, come next Thursday!" she said. "That's when I have my cooking classes."
He chuckled and leaned down to kiss her. "Alright." She watched as he headed back to Urahara's shop to drop off the gigai and go through their Senkaimon.
Mari went back inside to escape the cool breeze and went up to her room. She changed into her long pink nightgown and laid on her stomach on her bed, and stared at her new phone. She bit her lower lip and looked at the clock. It had been about an hour since he left
She wondered if he made it up there yet. Mari felt stupid, yet she flipped open her phone and dialed his number.
Mari's eyes widened when she heard his voice. It actually worked! "Sh-Shinji?"
She could hear his chuckle on the other end and felt slightly guilty, as he sounded groggy. She had probably woken him up. "Hey, muffin. Didn't think ya'd miss me already."
"I-I was just testing it out! Go back to sleep!" she huffed.
"I love you," she said timidly, her cheeks burning.
She swore she could feel his grin as he said, "Love ya too, Mari."
During the days they were apart, Mari and Shinji frequently talked with one another over the phone, however, they also had their own lives apart from each other.
Shinji still performed his duties as a captain, and while most days were pretty mundane, some were exciting, but that was only when he would join Kyōraku and the others for a drink. (Although he never let the Asami incident occur again, avoiding that bar in general.) It felt good to spend time and make friends aside from the Visored, who he still frequently talked to. (Though sooner or later he would go deaf from Hiyori yelling in his ear, claiming that was the equivalent of her whacking him with her sandal.)
Momo and Shinji became closer and one day as they worked quietly in their office, she asked, "Taichō
can I ask about your Shikai?" She became a little sulky, her shoulders slouching. "I was one of the only ones who didn't get to see it! Everyone said it was so cool
" Now that she came to trust Shinji more, the healing process over her former captain was occurring much quicker, and she could even talk about those days with ease, without feeling deep pain and sadness.
Shinji shrugged. "That was one of tha few times I used it
I never really had ta used it before." While Shinji excelled in all fields of Shinigami abilities, he wasn't boastful about his strength or itching to fight like Zaraki, but rather, he only preferred to show his true strength when the situation called for it. Still, he quelled Momo's curiously by explaining the intricacies of his Shikai, which she found to be fascinating.
He was also feeling a lot better now that Unohana no longer had to tend to Aizen's wounds, as they had fully healed
for the most part. He was forbidden to visit Nest of Maggots unless escorted by at least half a dozen guards. (Which he thought was a little extreme, but it wasn't as if he had much say anyway.)
Back in the World of the Living, Mari had her normal routine of attending classes at the community college, working as a maid waitress, teaching dance at the studio, and practice cooking at home. She only went to her cooking classes once a week, and was excited to have Shinji as her partner, since Orihime had a previous engagement and wouldn't be able to attend.
As Mari was sitting in one of the lecture halls, taping her pen against her lips, she really wasn't concentrating on the assignment in front of her. Instead, her thoughts drifted to what Thursday would be like
she really enjoyed making the pie with him, however, as she continued to imagine, she grew
a little insecure.
Here she was, doing frivolous things such as cooking, while Shinji was up in Soul Society, working to keep the balance between two worlds. He had such a heavy weight upon his shoulders, and Mari had no idea what such a responsibility felt like.
She now grew a little disheartened and insecure at the fact that she was still weak
just because Xcution was gone, it didn't mean her Fullbring ability had disappeared. Even when she had tried to bury her revolver a few months ago, it was still apart of her, along with the power that came along with it.
"Asahina!" her professor scolded, snapping his fingers in front of her.
?" Marise blinked, pulled out of her daze.
"Focus on your work, not fantasies."
Mari lowered her eyes to her worksheet and pursed her lips.
she hadn't been in her fantasy world in a long time.
Marise took her break from work and sat outside at one of the tables, the umbrella cooling her and shading from the bright sun. She felt so scandalous being seen in public in such a uniform
Honami-san had gone way too far this time!
Mari turned her head to see Orihime walking up the sidewalk. The redhead took a seat at the table, a bag of bread in hand. She must have just gotten off work from Aunt Fifi's bakery.
hey," Mari greeted absentmindedly. Her thoughts were still clouded with her lack of using her Fullbring.
"You seem like you've got something on your mind. Want to talk about it?"
Mari pursed her lips. Before she would never even dream to tell anything about herself to anyone, especially not to Inoue Orihime. As the months went on, however, she found herself growing closer to the girl, which was nice, yet annoying at the same time. "It's just
" she began softly. "It's been months since I've used my Fullbring. I don't want Shinji to think I'm weak, that I can't protect myself. I don't want him to worry about me while he's up there."
Orihime nodded. She understood exactly how Mari felt. That was why she had gone to train with Rukia, so she wouldn't feel useless, so Kurosaki-kun wouldn't always have to run and save her. She wanted to be less of a burden to those she cared about. "Say, Mari, why don't you train with me then?" Orihime suggested. "I'm sure Urahara-san will let us use his underground arena!"
Mari remembered Orihime's powers from when she had healed her after the dreadful concert, and she had to admit, she was curious to know more. Marise nodded and promised to meet Orihime at the Urahara Shoten after she got off work.
"Well, good to see you again, Mari-san!" Urahara cheerfully greeted, waving his fan in front of his face. "Orihime told me about your concerns."
Yoruichi walked in, in her cat form, and said in her deep male voice, "We also heard that you were caught in Soul Society."
Mari gulped and clung to the hem of her dress. "U-um, well, yes, but
I don't think I got you in trouble!"
Urahara laughed, "Don't worry, nothing we do could make them see us in a better light, right, Yoruichi?" The cat nodded and Mari let out a sigh of relief.
However, her blue eyes then narrowed at Yoruichi. "While I was up there I discovered some photos of me
care to explain, Yoruichi-san?"
I've gotta go
clean my fur," she responded, sauntering away.
"No!" Mari screeched. "You have to make it up to me! Those were so embarrassing!" Before she could chase after the cat, Urahara placed a hand on her shoulder.
"You can deal with her later," he chuckled, placing his hat more firmly atop his sandy head. "Orihime-san is waiting downstairs."
Marise followed the shopkeeper down the steps and looked around, thinking that it looked just like the underground area at the Visored warehouse. She cringed a little when she saw Orihime warming up, doing stretches. She's still a dork! Mari thought.
"Ah, you're here!" Orihime exclaimed, turning around. She smiled at Mari. "Let's get started."
Mari bit her lower lip, and pulled out the sleek revolver from its gunholder, which was tied around her thigh. She held the weapon in her hand, feeling the weight and sleek silver of it. "Right
" she murmured.
Orihime pulled out her blue hairclips, where they were pinned to her shirt, and summoned her Shun Shun Rikka. Marise was now able to see them up close this time. There were six little fairies, and they floated around Orihime.
Mari held out her own weapon and pulled the soul out if it, allowing the blade to appear out of the gun.
"Come on, Mari, don't hold back!" Orihime shouted, standing ready.
I was about to say the same to you
! Mari didn't think Orihime could hurt a fly with her kind and peaceful nature. However, she ran forward and lifted her gunblade, prepared to swing it at Orihime.
"Santen Kesshun!" Orihime cried. Hingaku, Lily, and Baigon formed a triangle in front of Orihime, creating a bright shield, which effectively blocked Mari's attack.
The shield barely cracked, as Mari hadn't used that much force. She hadn't expected this. However, she pulled back and began firing Reiatsu bullets, though Orihime continued to block each of them using Santen Kesshun.
She's tougher than I thought!
"Mari, is this the extent of your Fullbring?" Orihime asked. Her curiosity was immediately piqued when she saw such a weapon
she didn't expect a girl like Marise to wield such an intimidating gunblade
she noticed the words shimmering on the silver blades, disappearing and coming back again under the light. Reality, fantasy, true, and lie
there was also a red ribbon that floated around it, the same one that Mari wore on her finger.
The blonde shook her head.
"Then I'd like to see more!"
" Mari came to a halt and held her blade tightly. "Alice was sitting next to her sister, who was reading, though it was very boring
Out of nowhere came a white rabbit, who began chanting, "I'm late, I'm late! So very, very late!"
?" Orihime began, furrowing her brows in confusion. However, her brown eyes widened when she saw the blade on Mari's gun transform into a key. Debris from the dirt beneath them whirled around, blocking view of everything.
"Get ready, Orihime," Mari said, pushing her key through the door. "You're about to enter the LaLa Land." She pushed the door open and Orihime opened her mouth to scream as she was sucked through the opening. Mari, remained silent and impassive as she followed behind, the red door shutting close behind them.
They seemed to fall down forever, just as Alice had in the fairy tale. Finally, Orihime reached the ground, and gasped when she looked around her. How did she end up in a castle? And where had Mari gone?
"Wh-what is this?" she cried, looking down at herself. She was dressed in a poofy black and red dress, and in her hand she held a gold scepter. "Ts-Tsubaki
" she began, looking at the small, stubborn fairy. "Do you know what's happening?"
"I knew you shouldn't have fought this girl!" he said gruffly. "Why don't you listen to me, stupid woman?"
"I wonder where Mari-chan is
" Orihime lifted her skirt and flitted down the steps. She went through the large gate and walked across a bridge. "Oh, Mari-chan!" she exclaimed.
Marise looked exactly like the character Alice, which Orihime found quite amusing. She wore the same blue dress, white tights, and black Mary Jane shoes, her blonde curls pushed back by a black headband.
"This is my Fullbring," Mari said, holding out her arms as she showed the entire world around her. "Castles in the Air."
incredible!" Orihime was fascinated by Mari's power, just as her Shun Shun Rikka impressed and surprised Marise.
"Oh, I must be the Red Queen!" Orihime then exclaimed. "This is a really amazing ability, Mari!"
Marise couldn't help but beam at being praised. Using Bringer's Light, she charged at Orihime, lifting her gunblade once more.
Orihime's eyes widened, caught off guard, and she ran out of the way. "Eep!"
"What are you doing?" Tsubaki screeched, pulling on her hair. "Use us, you idiot!"
"I-I'm sorry, I wasn't thinking!" Orihime stammered.
"Huh?" Orihime turned around and her eyes widened in seeing a row of cards dressed as knights. They were all kneeling, waiting for her order. "Oh, um, well
One of them lifted their head. "We will take care of this intruder! Please sit and rest."
" Her hair flew threw the wind as the guards rushed forward, prepared to attack the blonde intruder.
"H-hey!" Mari cried, using her sword to block the attack of a guard. "Orihime, call off these dummies!"
"I never called them on!" Orihime defended, becoming skittish. What was she to do?
"Oh, just hush already!" Mari huffed, slicing through the card with her blade. There was no blood, but the guard simply fell to the ground, cut in two.
The other men gasped at the sight of their fallen comrade, and turned to glare at Mari.
" Mari began, blinking. "Waaah!" she cried, when they all pounced on her.
"Mari! Mari!" Orihime cried worriedly, trying to find her friend through the cards. But she was completely engulfed by the guards!
"That's it!" Mari screeched. "And they all lived Happily Ever After!"
Everything began swirling around them again, images becoming distorted, colors twisted together. Orihime felt as light as a feather as she felt herself being lifted, and when the smoke cleared, she was surprised to find they were back in the Urahara Shoten. "Oh, so this is how you end your Fullbring?" She couldn't help but smile, remembering how Riruka sneezed on an object to turn it back to normal.
" Marise sighed, placing the gun back in its holder. She let out a shriek when Tsubaki pounded her head.
"You're even stupider than that other stupid girl!" he cried, kicking her in the head. "Locking us up in an unknown world
this wasn't a real fight!"
"Hey, quit it!" Mari whined, running around to try and get rid of him.
Orihime watched and broke out into laughter at the humorous scene.
Marise turned and glared at the fairy. Although he didn't seem to like her, Mari was glad to have trained with Orihime, as she learned a lot.
After that, when Mari would hear a Hollow nearby, instead of ignoring it as she would before, she would go after it, strengthening her skills slowly as the days went on.
She wanted to become stronger for Shinji.
To Be Continued