Story: Cat Paws and Bee Wings (all chapters)

Authors: bleeding.blade

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Chapter 1

[Author's notes:

PREFACE: The first time I thought of the idea for this story, I almost ended up throwing it away. While I'd always loved the thought of Yoruichi and Soi Fon getting together, I had a devil of a time trying to figure out how to do it "plausibly". After all, how do you bring two proud and obstinate characters with opposing personalities together, especially when they have a hundred years' worth of baggage between them? The result of my attempt, as presented in the fiction below, is something I hope you find convincing as well as satisfying.

WARNINGS: The story takes place five years after the Soul Society Rescue Arc of the anime series BUT assumes a somewhat divergent storyline from the Bount and Arrancar Arcs.  Specifically, it assumes the same chain of events as in the anime up to Episode 57 (so watch out for spoilers), then goes on a different tangent from the anime's storyline from there.

NOTES: To increase the story's authentic flavor, I used the Japanese terms for Soul Society designations whenever possible. Readers requiring the English translations and explanations can easily find them in the chapter notes (thank you Wikipedia!).

DISCLAIMER: The characters of Bleach are the creations of Tite Kubo and various associated publishers and producers and are therefore not my property


She had appeared one night, out of nowhere, asking for refuge. They had looked at her delicate face and her slender build and had recognized her strength. Then they had seen her jaded eyes and her scarred hands and had realized her fragility. They had taken her in and she had stayed and served for four years.

Now she had found peace. And for that reason, the time had come for her to go.

They found her in her room, eyes closed in meditation, palms open in the ritual gesture of contemplation. The scars had given way to calluses. Her eyes, when they opened, looked at them with serenity. She knew the day had come.

They blessed her at the gate. She knew no words to contain her thanks, so had bowed deeply to them instead, grateful hands over grateful heart. Then turning around, Fon Shaolin, lastly known as Soi Fon, had taken her first step back toward her abandoned life.


One year later...

Shihouin Yoruichi gasped in pain as a shuriken thudded into her left shoulder. She had been fleeing for days, and even her prodigious stamina was beginning to fail her. Centuries' worth of skill and experience could only last so long against an implacable, unflagging enemy. Even as she paused in her flight to pick them off one by one, the Hollows' numbers continued to grow and their distance to narrow. All her known comrades were elsewhere, engaged in their own deadly battles. Whether she survived or not, she would have to do it alone. She winced as she dug the spiked plate out of her flesh, then increased her speed as another hail of the deadly metal stars showered past her.

Her flash steps quickly took her through the forest. When she broke into the clearing and saw the cliff face, she knew she had been cornered. Staring at the rock wall, she calculated her options. She found only one, and it didn't guarantee her survival. At least the explosion she intended to create would severely reduce the enemy's numbers.

Turning around, Yoruichi lifted her right arm, pulses of energy beginning to swirl in the familiar pattern. If she died in the ensuing attack, she would die without having ever mastered the technique. It was one small regret to add to a long list of big ones. Yoruichi stepped forward and extended her hand -

- and ended up covering her face as a fully unleashed shunkō decimated the entire mass of Hollows in front of her and most of the rock face behind her. The shockwave threw her back against the cliff base, the impact dropping her to her knees. She staggered to her feet, blinking against the blindness wrought by the lightning flash. Out of the haze, a slender hand steadied her, and a quiet voice, unheard for five years, asked:

"Are you alright, Yoruichi-sama?"

Yoruichi's head snapped up in surprise.

"Soi Fon...?"


Yoruichi woke up with a groan, wincing as she finally felt the full extent of the injuries she had ignored for days. Looking down, she found that her wounds had been bandaged as she'd slept. Her head had been pillowed on an unfamiliar coat. As she sat up, she found a pair of midnight-blue eyes staring at her with gentle concern.

"Are you feeling better now, Yoruichi-sama?"

Yoruichi nodded. The last thing she remembered, before unconsciousness had fully claimed her, was the younger woman catching her in her arms. They had been fleeing the last remaining Hollows, Yoruichi already too weak to engage in further battle.

"What happened...after I collapsed?"

"I carried you and ran until I was sure they couldn't follow. We're safe here, at least for now, so you should try to get a few more moments' rest."

The younger woman leant back, resting on her haunches. Under the bright morning sunlight, Yoruichi got her first good look at the woman she hadn't seen - and all the Shinigami had thought dead - for over five years. Soi Fon's hair had grown out to a single length, the bangs and twin braids gone, the latter replaced by a single ponytail worn low and loose. It made the younger woman's features more feminine, and if it were possible, even more delicate. But the biggest change was in her eyes. They radiated a calm tranquility so different from the fiery intensity of old. And right then, the tranquility in those eyes was shaded by a tinge of apology.

"I'm sorry about the blast yesterday. I split the wave of the attack so you wouldn't be harmed, but I failed to take account of the shockwaves."

The memory of yesterday's attack at the cliff face returned with full force. Yoruichi frowned.

"You split the wave...of a shunkō blast?" If what Soi Fon was saying was true, then she had exercised a mastery of the technique that not even Yoruichi had thought possible.

Soi Fon nodded, misunderstanding the slant of the older woman's question. "It was the fastest way I could think of to get rid of the Hollows. In any case," the younger woman added, rising gracefully to her feet, "I think it's best if we move on."

Yoruichi nodded. There were questions she wanted to ask the younger woman, but they could wait until they were both in the safety of Urahara's shop.

[End notes:

Shunkō is a highly dangerous technique that combines hakuda (hand-to-hand combat) with kidō (demon arts). It concentrates high-pressure kidō energy around the body, especially around the shoulder and back, allowing the wielder to fire the energy at opponents. It can also be used to neutralize an opponent's attack. Shunkō was invented by Shihouin Yoruichi (and rediscovered by Soi Fon independently), though Yoruichi does admit in Episode 56 of the series that she has not yet mastered it.

Shinigami is the Japanese term for "death gods"; in the English dub of the series they are known as Soul Reapers.


Chapter 2

It was her instinct for self-preservation that had brought Soi Fon to the monastery. After that first devastating reunion with Yoruichi, she had realized that everything she had believed in had failed her. Strength, duty, honor, love, revenge - they had all crumbled to dust the day she had looked, begging and weeping, into Yoruichi's eyes, only to find pity and regret.  They were all that she had known; all that her world in Soul Society could contain. So she had left, exploiting the chaos of Aizen's betrayal and her skills as the commander-in-chief of the Onmitsukidō to fake an untimely demise. She had then fled into the mortal world, looking for an elusive, fleeting thing for which she had no name. And finally, years later, when she'd found it, the monks had smiled at her and given her its name. It was the most powerful thing she had ever known, the one thing with which she intended to reclaim her life.

It was called peace.


She had learned it at the feet of an old monk. While sweeping the courtyard, she had wrestled with her broom in the same way she had wrestled with her life, her love, her pain, her self-loathing and her hate. He had asked her to sit next to him in the sun, and that was how it had begun. It was like no other training she had ever undergone.

Remember little one, he had told her one day, people suffer because they want things to be other than they are. For a long time, she had not understood. She had not been raised to understand the concept of surrender.

And then one day, she did. With painful clarity, she saw the long endless train of her life: the interminable stretches of wanting and struggling, broken only by brief periods of tremulous joy that had only led, in turn, to more wanting and struggling. She had striven to be stronger, had labored for Yoruichi's love; and when she had believed that she had failed at both, she had ended up hating herself and Yoruichi. Suffering lies in wanting what is not or cannot be.

So Soi Fon had discovered acceptance...and the peace that came with it. She was not as strong as she wanted to be. The woman she loved possibly did not love her back. It was simply the way things were. And for the first time in her life, Soi Fon decided that the way things were was...okay. It had been a profoundly transforming realization.

So when she discovered, weeks after her epiphany, that she could control the shunkō effortlessly, run the flash step twice as fast, and mark her hōmonka in half the time, she had laughed at the irony. She had eventually found an explanation in one of the old monk's teachings. When you no longer carry the burden of suffering, all your strength can go to wielding your gifts.

It wasn't very long after that that they had let her go.


The year after she had left the monastery she had spent wandering.  There was so little she had known about the mortal world - the world she had been duty-bound to protect. She dispatched Hollows when she could, when she was sure she could evade detection. But primarily she learned.

It happened almost by accident, the encounter that had eventually led her to rescue Yoruichi. For months she had noticed the steady increase in Hollow activity. Then one day, the dam had broken and countless battles had ensued. She knew better than to stay in the city during such times. The risk was higher that she would run into the Shinigami. So she had headed for the wilderness - and found traces of a familiar kidō. On an instinct, she had followed the trail of spirit energy, and had intervened, just in time, to save Yoruichi from the white-masked horde.

And while Yoruichi had slept, Soi Fon had bid a silent farewell to her wanderings. The last five years had been a happy respite - one she would have preferred to have gone on for longer. However, rescuing the older woman had been a sign. It was time for her to take her second step back toward the life she had left behind.

[End notes:

Onmitsukidō is the Japanese term for Soul Society's Special Forces (also known as the Secret Mobile Unit or Covert Ops). In the anime series' current timeline, it is run by Soi Fon, who succeeded Shihouin Yoruichi after the latter left Soul Society a hundred years previously. 

The hōmonka is the butterfly symbol that appears on a victim's skin when stabbed by the initial release of Soi Fon's zanpakutō or Soul Slayer (called Suzumebachi). If the opponent is stabbed in the same location twice, the victim dies immediately. The hōmonka is maintained by Soi Fon's will and will remain on the victim's skin unless she removes it.

Kidō is the Japanese term for the Shinigami's demon arts or sorcery. It is used for various purposes such as healing, attacking, binding and restraining.


Chapter 3

Urahara Kisuke wasn't surprised when Yoruichi arrived at his shop several days after the battles had begun. While everyone else had fretted and worried, he had been certain the purple-haired woman would eventually return.

What had ended up surprising him (and he took great pride in never being startled) was the figure that had walked in the door with Yoruichi. It had been more than a century since he had last seen her, but there was no mistaking the younger woman. After all, Soi Fon had practically been Yoruichi's shadow in those decades long past.

The second surprise of the evening followed shortly after the first. Soi Fon had looked up at Urahara, had nodded at him, and had said his name with complete civility. "Urahara-san. It's been quite a while." It was not the greeting he had anticipated from the younger woman. From what he had known of her, he had expected cold fury - if not outright hatred - for his role in Yoruichi's exile. He had tipped his hat at her in mute response.

"We can talk tomorrow, Kisuke. Right now, Soi Fon and I could use some food and rest."

Urahara nodded. The questions could wait a little while longer.


Later that evening, Yoruichi awoke and found the sleeping mat next to hers empty. Looking up, she found Soi Fon sitting by the windowsill, polishing a small rectangular object. Soi Fon's head tilted towards her; in the dark, she caught a flash of the younger woman's smile. The voice that carried through the dark was gentle.

"You should get some more sleep, Yoruichi-sama. Your body needs it to heal."

Yoruichi stood up and settled herself closer to the younger woman. "It's hard to sleep again after having slept so much."

Soi Fon chuckled. "Maybe this will help." She put the harmonica to her lips; the first bars of a famous French ballad began to play.

Yoruichi lifted an eyebrow. Since yesterday, there had been no end to the surprises coming from the younger woman.

"And who taught you to play that?"

Soi Fon paused the melody briefly. "A street musician." Then she resumed, slowing the tempo to a wistful lullaby.

"Street musician, huh?" Yoruichi smiled at the response and closed her eyes. Falling asleep again wasn't as hard as she'd thought...


Soi Fon looked down at the face cradled in her lap. She remembered another moonlit night like this, ages ago, when Yoruichi had fallen asleep in her arms. They had made a promise then, one they hadn't been able to keep. She felt the old, familiar rush of pain and sadness, but allowed the emotions to wash over her. She had learned that as long as she didn't struggle against her feelings, no matter how unpleasant, they eventually passed.

Besides, there was joy to be found here too, along with the hurt and the sorrow. She found it in stroking Yoruichi's hair and in listening to the sound of the older woman's breathing. Tomorrow, the old distance would reassert itself. But then again, there was always a chance that tomorrow would never come. What Soi Fon had was the present, and what she had in the present was good.

Chapter 4

Yoruichi woke up to an empty room, blinking in the sunlight streaming through the partly-opened window. She yawned and stretched, cat-like, then padded (cat-like as well) to the main room of Urahara's shop.

The blonde man answered her unspoken question with a sideways tilt of his head. "She went down to the cavern earlier this morning. She asked me to let you sleep in."

Yoruichi nodded, unsurprised. Places of training had always exercised a strange magnetism on Soi Fon. It probably had to do with how the girl had been raised.


Inside the darkness, there was silence. Inside the darkness, there was the quiet shore. She was the shore, and the visiting sea brought her many things. They came in waves: her fears, her joys, her anxieties, her desires. She let them come, let them touch her vast expanse, knowing that they would only stay awhile; knowing that they would eventually retreat, eventually fade, like all things did. Like even she would, vast expanse that she was, each wave stealing a grain of sand, eroding her (the quiet shore) bit by bit; her consciousness and her mortality merely the last grains of an infinite beach. The waves came and went, came and went, swarming and retreating, lapping and leaving, until the shore and the stillness became one.

And when she had become the stillness, she let the silence expand -  let it take her upward and forward, until poised at the very brink, she surrendered herself to motion.


Yoruichi gazed, entranced, at the fluid artistry before her eyes. As a member of the Shinigami's highest nobility, she had been raised to appreciate the classical arts of music, poetry and dance. All of them came to mind as she watched Soi Fon move, blindfolded, through the various forms. Centuries of military command had accustomed her to the sight of fighters training. She had seen the lethal dance countless times; had watched an endless number of battling warriors, their intent to main and hurt and kill etched into their grim, implacable faces. Fighting, in all her long life, had been about strength, survival, victory and prestige.

But she had never seen the martial arts as meditation, had never seen it as a discipline for its own sake - until she had entered the chamber and seen Soi Fon in her trance-like state, a moving blur of grace and economy.

Yoruichi smiled - and launched herself toward the back of the shifting form. Soi Fon whirled around, deflecting the older woman's kick with crossed wrists. All of Yoruichi's attacks ended the same way, Soi Fon easily dodging, blocking and parrying the thrusts and strikes. She didn't counterattack, apparently content to maintain a defensive stance. Yoruichi increased her speed, the punches and kicks coming in a faster and faster flurry, until they blended into a near-simultaneous assault from all sides - the hallmark offensive of the Goddess of Flash. And Soi Fon countered every single attack, each of her movements unhurried in their speed, controlled in their intensity. Finally, Yoruichi marshaled the strongest of her demon arts, flashes of white light pulsing at her fingertips (she had never had the chance to use the technique in close combat...) and, as time slowed to the space between heartbeats, thrust her glowing hand toward Soi Fon's delicate, exposed neck...

When the dust settled, Yoruichi saw that Soi Fon had trapped her attacking hand between two slender fingers. The sparks around the younger woman's hand told Yoruichi that she had released just enough of the shunkō to nullify Yoruichi's attack. The younger woman's breathing was even, although her loosely tied hair ribbon had slipped off sometime during the fight. With her other hand, Yoruichi reached out and tugged Soi Fon's blindfold free. Dark sapphire eyes gazed into golden yellow ones. Underneath the delicate cheekbones, Yoruichi could see a flush that had not appeared in all of their combat.

Soi Fon was the first to speak. "It's been a long time since we've trained together, Yoruichi-sama."

The older woman nodded with a faint smile. "It seems there's nothing left for me to teach you." She gently pulled her hand free of the younger woman's two-fingered grasp. "Why didn't you attack me?"

Soi Fon looked at Yoruichi with a hint of her old seriousness. "I broke my promise to protect you once, by raising a hand against you. I'd rather not break it again. Even if it is just training." The younger woman bent down to pick up her ribbon. Then tilting her head, she gracefully tied the raven locks tumbling down to her waist. Yoruichi had never seen Soi Fon make such an unconsciously feminine gesture. She found the sight more erotic than she had imagined. Gazing at the younger woman, Yoruichi said:

"You've changed, Soi Fon."

Soi Fon glanced briefly toward the older woman. "Well, shit happens, Yoruichi-sama."

Yoruichi couldn't help it. She burst out laughing. And, after a few moments, so did Soi Fon.

Chapter 5

The days passed peacefully, the Hollows apparently preoccupied with regrouping. Yoruichi allowed herself to heal, retaining her human form to allow the bandages to stay in place. Soi Fon stayed by her side most of the time, entertaining the older woman with the most eccentric repertoire of music she had ever heard (on the harmonica or otherwise). In so many ways, it reminded Yoruichi of the days when she and Soi Fon had been endlessly together. But the Soi Fon that sat with her now was an almost completely different person from the Soi Fon that had been with her then, and that she had encountered once since.

The way the younger woman bore herself now, for instance. The old Soi Fon had either carried herself with the hunched subservience of the Guundanchō's personal escort, or, the haughty stance of the Shinigami's 2nd Division Captain and Onmitsukidō Commander-in-Chief. Now, she simply stood erect, straight and pliant as a bamboo sapling. And the way she addressed Yoruichi had changed as well. Her tone was respectful, as it had always been, but no longer deferential or reverential. Yoruichi didn't know if the changes pleased her, amused her, or disappointed her. It was probably a mixture of all three.


Yoruichi was bored. It had been weeks since the last Hollow attack. Ichigo and his friends had never returned to the shop. According to Urahara, they had gone straight to Soul Society after their battles at the Goteijūsantai's request. Yoruichi glanced at the figure on the window sill.

"Hey, Soi Fon, why don't we go out for a walk? This boredom will kill me, even if you can't."

Soi Fon raised an eyebrow at the last remark. She knew it was a teasing reference to their by-now-daily training routine. In some ways, Yoruichi was still the stronger fighter (there was a reason she was a legend amongst the Shinigami after all), but Soi Fon's skills had grown surpassingly close to that of the older woman. Still, she had never gone on the offensive - at least not when it was against Yoruichi.

The older woman called from somewhere in the shop. "Well, are you coming or not?"

"I'm coming," Soi Fon called back. It had been a while since she had roamed the city. 


They were walking back to Urahara's shop, Soi Fon carrying a single bag. They had been wandering in the shopping district when a display of yukata had caught the younger woman's eye.

"You've never tried wearing one of these, have you?" Yoruichi had asked. When Soi Fon shook her head, the older woman had promptly gone into the shop and bought one with a floral blue design. "It'll be interesting to see you in something else besides combat gear." Yoruichi had explained. "At the very least," she had smirked, "it'll be amusing."

But it wasn't hilarity that Yoruichi felt when she entered the room later that night and found an entrancingly perplexed Soi Fon trying to tie her yukata's obi. The azure fabric had brought out the indigo of the younger woman's eyes while heightening the flush on her cheeks. She had removed her hair ribbon as well, and her raven black locks cascaded over the obi half tied around her slender waist. It occurred to Yoruichi that her former protégé was an exceedingly lovely young woman.

"Here, you tie it like this..."

Soi Fon felt arms encircle her waist, hands reaching for the edges of her sash. "You have to wrap it around one or more times...just underneath your breasts..." The hands caressed her sides, lips nearly brushing her ear. Soi Fon closed her eyes and shuddered.

Yoruichi felt the slender body tremble underneath her hands. She finished tying the obi and tugged the ends of the bow much harder than necessary, pulling the pliant body against her own. One hand curved possessively around the narrow waist; the other brushed the raven hair off the nape of an ivory neck. Yoruichi brought her face close to the exposed skin and breathed deeply.

She remembered the last time she had held the slim form in her arms like this. Only then, it had been to teach a much younger Soi Fon how to wield a sword. She slipped her hand underneath a loose sleeve and allowed a fingernail to trace the length of the now-grown woman's sword arm. Over the taut muscles, the skin felt bewitchingly soft.

Soi Fon tried to control the trembling in her limbs. Five years of meditating had not prepared her for Yoruichi's tender violence. She felt the older woman spin her around and slam her against the wall, the desire in the golden eyes suddenly frightening in their intensity. She wondered bleakly if a lifetime of annihilation was worth the ecstasy of a single night, and at the moment that Yoruichi's mouth began to descend on hers, decided that the answer was no.

"Don't, Yoruichi-sama." It was the quiet dignity in the refusal that made Yoruichi release the younger woman.

Narrowed golden eyes stared hard at blue unflinching ones.

"Why?" was all Yoruichi asked.

Soi Fon drew the edges of her kimono close. In a voice that carried pain, regret and steady resolve, she said:

"Because, Yoruichi-sama, I deserve more than this."

Yoruichi's quiet voice stopped her at the threshold.

"More than a goddess, Soi Fon?"

Soi Fon paused. "No, not more than a goddess, Yoruichi-sama. Just a goddess that stays." Then she had left.

[End notes:

Guundanchō is the Japanese term used to designate the corps commanders of Soul Society's five Onmitsukidō divisions. Prior to leaving Soul Society, Shihouin Yoruichi was both the Sōshireikan (commander-in-chief) of the Onmitsukidō, as well as the Guundanchō (corps commander) of the Keigun (the Executive Militia and highest division of the Onmitsukidō).

The Goteijūsantai, or Gotei 13, is the organization that most Shinigami join. It is split into thirteen divisions, each with its own captain (taichō) and lieutenant (fukutaichō). In the series, Soi Fon is the Captain of the 2nd Division of the Goteijūsantai (as well as the current commander-in-chief of the Onmitsukidō).

The yukata is a casual type of Japanese kimono commonly worn during fireworks displays, bon-odori festivals and other summer events. It is usually worn with an obi (belt) and a geta (a type of thonged wooden sandal).


Chapter 6

When Yoruichi woke up the next morning, she found all traces of Soi Fon gone. She found the yukata folded neatly in a corner, the note on top simply reading: Thank you, Yoruichi-sama, but I doubt this will be suitable where I'm going.

Yoruichi cursed. For some reason, when it came to Soi Fon, all her plans ended up backfiring.


All her long life Shihouin Yoruichi had yearned for freedom. She had been born into a double-walled prison, caged first by her nobility, and later on by her talent. She had only known loneliness, though she hadn't known its name.  

And then one day, a child had surprised her. It had been so long since she had encountered anyone capable of blocking her attack. She had asked the child her name and had remembered it. And later, when the child had become a woman, she had asked for them to be together.

Like her, Soi Fon had been a prisoner - though in a far more vicious cage. She had been trapped by her lineage and by her own prodigious talent - and further shackled by an inability to perceive her own strength. It had pained Yoruichi to watch the younger woman's self-doubt, in the same way that it had pained her to endure the younger woman's adulation. It was lonely to be revered; it was simply another bar in her prison.

But she had loved the child all the same, and had tried to soothe her frenzied anguish. But her growing kindness had only served to fuel Soi Fon's loathing of herself and her adoration of her princess. 

So when Kisuke had told her of his exile, she had thought that leaving with him was the perfect solution. She would taste freedom at last. And freed of the blinding presence of her goddess, perhaps Soi Fon would finally perceive her own worth. 

She had never considered her departure as breaking their moonlit promise. In the long span of her lifetime, what was a century or two, but a moment, an instant, a breathless space between two thudding heartbeats?  She had been certain, then, that they would be reunited; that in her absence, Soi Fon would grow to be her equal, return to her someday as her equal, and stand by her side, always, as her equal.

So when she had returned to Soul Society after the agonizingly long pause of a hundred years, and found her gentle Soi Fon mercilessly crushing the windpipe of a Shinigami officer, she had felt an overwhelming despair. weren't supposed to grow strong like this. This isn't strength. Soi Fon, what have you done to yourself? Grief and disappointment had bubbled into contempt, and the rage that she should have directed toward herself she had directed at the younger woman. And when the dust had settled, and Soi Fon had lain broken at her feet, she had felt the full extent of her own failure. You've grown strong, Soi Fon, she had whispered, the half-truth concealing the pain and regret in her heart. 

When she heard later on that Soi Fon had died, she had not believed it. She had prayed instead that wherever her former protégé had gone, she would find the strength to recover from the hundred-year-long damage that Yoruichi had inflicted. 

Then five years later, the younger woman had reappeared. She had become everything that Yoruichi had ever hoped she would be - and more. And now she had left, possibly heading toward a real death. Yoruichi felt her resolve harden. She had postponed it for a while, but the time had come for her to finally fulfill her promise.

Chapter 7

Soi Fon ran through the wilderness, vanishing in her flash steps from one shadowed tree to another. Against the quiet shore of her mind, the waves of pain continued to beat unabated. She suspected that they would beat unabated for a very long time, and that it would be a wave of grief that would finally wash away her last remaining particle.

She planned to rest first in the wilderness before returning to the Shinigami. If, by chance, they allowed her to use her skill to regain her place, she wanted to be ready. And if not, well, she had to ready herself for that possibility too.

She was near the forest's edge when she felt the presence closing in on her. Knowing the futility of running when it was the Goddess of Flash in pursuit, she stopped.  A moment later, Yoruichi materialized in front of her.

"Don't go, Soi Fon," Yoruichi said simply.

The midnight-blue eyes that gazed back at the older woman were filled with an infinite weariness. "I can't stay, Yoruichi-sama. You know why."

Again, with perfect calmness, Yoruichi replied, "I won't let you leave."

They stared at each other. The forest quieted to a hush as time slowed to the space between broken heartbeats.

Soi Fon was the first to move. Her opponent was the Goddess of Flash, but perhaps her desire for self-preservation would allow her to prevail.  Soi Fon spun where she stood - and ran.

She managed to stay ahead of Yoruichi for several miles, but knew that the older woman would catch up eventually. She had no intention of fighting her former mentor, but had no intention of being caught either. Her only chance of escape lay in confusing the older woman long enough to vanish into the surrounding woods. It was another lesson she had learned in meditation. Once the self and the stillness become one, the self vanishes and cannot be found. Soi Fon had no doubt that she could conceal herself effectively provided she got the chance.

She never got it. Instinct made her raise her arms in time to block a flashing orange streak. The ensuing battle was like all her recent training sessions with Yoruichi, only amplified a hundred-fold. Immediately, she felt the calmness descend, allowing her to deflect and dodge the flurry of punches and kicks. Still, the violence of the attacks left their mark, the evaded slashes and blocked strikes leaving cuts and bruises on her tender skin. And still she refused to counterattack.

It was only when she saw Yoruichi raise both her arms, the energy instantly shredding the material over the older woman's shoulders, that she realized that a choice had to be made. Time stopped as Yoruichi leapt, the pulses around her hands mushrooming into a gigantic ball of glowing, flashing light. Soi Fon closed her eyes, and surrendered herself to the stillness.

Chapter 8

When the dust and dirt and grit had cleared, Yoruichi found herself on one knee, her outstretched hands hanging inches from Soi Fon's bowed head. In the narrow space between her palms and the younger woman's raven locks was Soi Fon's left hand, traces of the nullifying kidō still pulsing across the open palm. In her right hand the younger woman carried Suzumebachi, the stinger pointed towards Yoruichi's exposed flank, where already a hōmonka had flowered into full bloom.

"Why?" the bowed head whispered.  "Why do you always make me break my promises to you? A hundred years ago, you made it impossible for me to stay by your side. Today, you made it impossible for me to protect you."

Yoruichi closed her eyes at the sound of the younger woman's pain. Gently, she tipped the bowed head upwards and brushed away the falling tears.

"Soi Fon, would you break a promise for a day, if it meant being able to keep it for an eternity?"

Soi Fon only looked at her, pain and bewilderment evident in the indigo eyes.

"You weren't the only one who suffered, little bee. How do you think I felt, waiting all these years?"

"You didn't have to wait." Soi Fon whispered. "I was there the whole time. I loved you that entire time."

"You didn't love me, Soi Fon, you worshipped me. There's a difference. I didn't want the love of a servant. I wanted the love of an equal."

Soi Fon looked away. "What makes you think I'm your equal now? What have I done to make you believe that I've grown that much?"

"The fact that you were willing to walk away. The fact that you weren't willing to compromise on what you believed you deserved."

They stared at each other then. Yoruichi knew that she had no right to expect Soi Fon to believe her, not after that first massive betrayal. So she waited, hardly breathing, for the younger woman's response.

Moments passed before Soi Fon finally smiled a small, shaky smile. "If I'd known, Yoruichi-sama, that playing hard-to-get was all it took, I would have tried it a hundred years ago."

Yoruichi laughed, golden eyes shining with gratitude and relief. "Some things, Soi Fon, can only be learned in the mortal world."

Rising to her feet, she extended her hand towards the younger woman. Soi Fon allowed herself to be pulled up - and suddenly found herself caught in the older woman's fierce embrace. "I will make it up to you, little bee." With a sigh containing all the pent-up longing of a hundred years, Soi Fon leaned into Yoruichi's embrace. After a few moments, she pushed herself away, and with a mischievous glint in her eye, told the older woman:

"I think I'll leave the hōmonka on your ribs for now, Yoruichi-sama. Just in case you change your mind."

Yoruichi grinned and ruffled the younger woman's head. "It'll take more than a tiny sting to skin a cat, little bee. Come on, let's head back home." Then with her trademark smirk, she added over her shoulder. "And don't worry, I'll run slowly enough so you can keep pace."

Soi Fon only smiled. Without the burden of suffering, all your strength can go to wielding your gifts. It was only a matter of time. And she and Yoruichi had all the time in the world. Together.

[End notes:

Suzumebachi is the name of Soi Fon's zanpakutō or Soul Slayer. In its sealed form, it resembles a normal katana with a hilt similar to that of a Chinese dao. In its initial release, it shrinks to a stinger that is worn on the middle finger of Soi Fon's right hand. Stabs by Suzumebachi create symbols on the victim's skin called hōmonka (see Chapter 2 notes); if stabbed in the same location twice, the victim dies.

So that's the end of the story - or at least the end of this part of the story. While I was greatly tempted to increase the physical interaction between Yoruichi and Soi Fon, I felt that doing so would have been "rushing" both characters. I probably will write a one-shot sequel in the near future to explore this aspect of their relationship, so be on the look-out for that one :0).

And of course, please do feel free to share your comments, reviews and feedback. They'd be much appreciated ;0).


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