The three days are up. Urahara and Yoruichi chide each other into revealing whether they fulfilled their promise.
"You feel it, don't you, Benihime?" he asked his purring sword, caressing her with one hand whilst massaging her pommel with the other. "That's right. I kept my word."
The sword shook in his indignity, blade blushing with indignity.
"Ouch. What do you mean that's not what you meant? I'll have you know there are ways of communicating beyond gashing and cut--"
An unnaturally rapid gust sent his lecture spinning. It was all he could do to keep his hat from flying. Glancing artfully left and right, he felt only marginally silly whispering, "What is it, girl? Someone's spirit force?"
"Kisuke," greeted a voice.
His expression slacked with dopey bemusement as he regarded Benihime with wide-eyed wonder. "Was that you? By Jove, you can actually talk! Manifestation is truly amazing!"
Smack swished a hand.
"Get a grip." Yoruichi dusted his hat and tipped it playfully on her head.
"Oh, it's just you. Didn't realize your animal form would be so stark. I don't suppose you're some species of elephant?"
"Nah, reckon pachyderm skin's too crackly. Unbecoming, really, of the future Mobile Unit covert ops commander. Besides, too obstreperous. We must be as innocuous as petals on a pond."
"And as incapable?" he taunted risibly. "Alright then, miss pond-petal, let's see it! I'm dying of anticipation!"
"Really? You sure look goofy as ever to me."
"Bankai can do that to someone. Bankai, Yoru. In three days!"
"Don't I deserve some praise?" she crossed her arms and pouted. "shapeshifting isn't any easier than Bankai, ya know."
"Says the stodgy old zanpakutou-less lady. Stop being such a tease. You've got everyone on the edge of their seats!"
"If you insist..." Yoruichi shed her ceremonial Shihouin robes and cast them forgotten to the gales. "But be warned: what you are about to witness may may shock and unhinge you. Squeamish brains, turn away now."
"Thanks for the disclaimer," he said, "but somehow I think I'll manage."
"Says the senile old guileless gentleman who couldn't keep up with my shunpo when I was a beginner."
"Not my fault you nobles are so effete you practically float."
"So now it's personal?" Urahara glimpsed only a trace of an afterimage before she vaulted over his shoulders. "Alright, wise guy, I dare you to catch me!"
With a single turn of the head she shrank into the shadows and out of sight.
The roar of the chase whooshed in her wake, and Benihime needed no coaxing to swell to shikai. Kisuke had excellent night vision, so normally he'd be able to catch her in the corner of his eyes... but she must have been traveling so fast her footfalls didn't even touch ground. He stood absolutely frozen, attuned to any noise that might blip on his reiatsu radar. No use; he couldn't pick her up at all. She must have rocketed to dizzying speeds... But if she had achieved such incredibly tremendous shunpo, his mind's eye would be outlining the texture of at least some of her spirit; there was no way she could hide her spirit force running so fast... Wait. What if she was as dead still as he was, and merely giving him the impression she was moving? Sounded like a maneuver he might come up with, he mused.
"What's this?" taunted the baritone he'd mistaken for Benihime earlier. "Mr. Urahara can't live up to his legend? So disappointing!"
"You gonna do something, or am I going to have to mark an X for you? There are other friends I could be hanging with."
"How about five hundred? The scores of loyal retainers who bow to my every command."
"Because they're obligated to. I'm a true friend. You know I spat on dharma the minute I ran away from home."
"And if you had to crash at my place and mooch off my stuff before storming off on your righteous crusade, then so be it!"
"Won't argue with you there."
"Shut up and bankai," she tetched.
"Moody much? Alright, hold onto my hat, Yoru: this might get a little rough."
"Isn't your precious sword the one you should be consoling? Its owner doesn't know a cue to start fighting from a sign to just surrender already. I still have your hat."
"Unlike certain people who attempt to make up for their crippling lack of charisma with incessant trash talk, my sweet,
swordsmen need to concentrate and assess, lest they rush headlong into traps."
"Good point," it admitted.
"Just give me a sec to steel my nerves and... ah."
He spilled like an inkpot onto a vast sea of threads. The training field became a dark ripple, and he was the catalyst at it center, channeling life's subtle circle. His muscles seized with peals of torrential energy. He was one with himself, and that, really, was all it took.
"Dude, you look high."
"That you can see my face at all indicates you're close."
"I can throw my voice, Kisuke," she sighed. "Give me some credit."
"You were saying?"
"Huh? Right, right. Brace yourself, Yoru, 'cause you're in for a treat!"
Kisuke cleared his throat, coughed a bit, gripped his sword, struck the limestone and keened BANKAI!
Yoruichi defense curled inside Urahara's hat, but her twitching feline ears betrayed snippets of mellifluous music, a personal orchestra that cradled her with warmth. Despite herself, she peeked underneath the rim of her safety net at the stultifying spectacle, which turned out to be hazy white, with pretty wreaths and tender bubbles.
His kindness bounced in her head with the benevolence of a thousand gods, shoving meaningless worries into a nethervoid that come to think of it probably didn't even exist, because bad things simply didn't happen anymore. Everything was beautiful and nothing hurt.
"Aww, you're a cute little kitty, aren't you? Not what I would've expected... but hey, not here to judge."
Her benefactor drifted dreamily in the clouds, sheets of everlasting light trickling softly down. The world was a wonderful rainbow and he a harbinger of happiness, misty and patient and pleased she was coming!
"Only a few more feet... That's it... come to papa..."
It was true! Mere seconds until the moment he would encompass and erase her worries, nary a second now...
Down swooped Benihime, macabre talons clinking death at every turn. But... Huh? She didn't understand... it was dawning darker and darker... there was red everywhere, her perfect world splotched with blood, but it wasn't possible, the great good warm man was sitting sinisterly by while chains and rust secluded her vision, was she afraid, everything was unreal, callous, choking, little paws scrabbling in vain, the end.
Urahara's shop door slammed shut, the bell jingled feebly and the sign flipped CLOSED of its own accord. Yoruichi rasped in his arms, and he echoed her pant for pant.
"Tessai! Tuck her in!"
A bespectacled old man dropped like an anchor from a wooden hatch in the ceiling with his collapsible bed in his arms. It wasn't exactly what Urahara had in mind, but he was grateful anyway. There was no time to lose. He struggled against tangles of beads (why had he bought such novelty nonsense?), narrowly dashing to the stove through gadgets and garbage he'd neglected to sort. Thank God-Ururu had already put the kettle to boil for him. Now which of these herbs did she normally administer? Gah, think, dammit,, Yoru's in danger and you're still catching your breath...
"She has awakened," yelled Tessai.
"Who, Ururu? It's no wonder, with all this racket. Ask her what she uses to make the tea restorative!"
Urahara left the pot to the stupid fire and doubled back, hand on hat and on heart. What was he thinking, they weren't dealing with some silly cold, this was, well, serious business! Oh no, there she was, struggling against Tessai, sputtering something while he treated her to the Many Wonders of Gastrointestinal Medicine. If he didn't act fast he'd have been the one that... that--
"LET ME GO! I'M GONNA KILL HIM!"
Aww. She was only breasting against Tessai to rip off his head. She was going to be fine.
"Remind me never to do that again," he apologized darting behind strategically placed rubbish to avoid her wrath. "I didn't expect my bankai's inveigling effect to be that much more pronounced in animals. On the bright side," he raised, hoping to lighten up the situation, "I'm glad you were the first one to see Joukai Benihime in action. Otherwise ya wouldn'ta been around to relay the experience."
Urahara smiled for effect, rubbing her hand in his. Yoruichi shot him a look that wished him deader than words could express. Tessai helped her steep into a steaming tub of water.
"Sure you don't need a warm towel or something?"
"Just... find my robes," she managed, refusing to look in his direction.
"I'll get right to it." Urahara sneaked a quick glance at her through the crack of the door just before the wind cut him off: "friend."
The sun's reflection skipped across the dimwater as if the rapids were dragging it to its doom. A woman was swinging in a nearby hammock, and a man with a hat spaced out against a tree. The atmosphere was overall relaxed. There was something about the river that made Yoruichi reflect back through the centuries.
He pocketed his sunglasses, polished his pipe, and gave her his undivided attention. "Yeah?"
"Remember the first time you unleashed bankai?"
"I remember the aftermath. Had to live in the cupboard for a month. And it was in my house."
"Was I that angry?"
Kisuke shook his head. "It was my fault."
"If you say so," she shrugged, "then I don't feel bad about it."
"But it was partially also your fault."
"Wanna fight about it?"
A nod and a grin, and they were off.
Two silhouettes sparred in the distance, causing an enormous commotion where a river once ran. Tessai prepared their picnic regardless; they were bound to be bloodied when they came back. After all, some things never changed.