Kurohyou Keikan

Lost in the Trees and Rain

It had started out as a nervous excuse.

Kisuke had been barely five when he died and floated up out of a lake in soul society. He'd had horrible nightmares after figuring out exactly where he was and what it meant.

Innocent enough the dream started with the boy alone in the middle of a jungle wilderness, only the billions of stars for light, no moon. There was nothing but plants and trees. No animal life...but there were still frightening sounds and they soon sent Kisuke running into the thick trees and muted blackness.

They weren't frightening enough to wake him in the night with more than a gasp or spasm of his body. Sometimes Tessai would be awake-but groggy-and he would mumble a concerned question.

Tessai always slipped off to sleep again before Kisuke had to admit his fears of noises in the night. Not noises here, in the dark of the forests of soul society with innocent animal souls as cause.

The despair that soon gripped him at night, when sleep was imminent he hid tears from Tessai. He knew he was younger but his caretaker was only a few years older than he.

It seemed after this behavior started a monstrous storm hit the jungle of his dreams making it even more terrifying to be stumbling blindly through.

Lost.

He was so lost in the dense jungle he began to wake up screaming for help. Tessai couldn't be avoided and eventually found out about the nightmares.

"You dream?" Tessai asked awed and amazed.

Up until that point it had always been young Kisuke in awe and amazement-don't forget full of jealousy-about his friend's gifts. The quiet pressure that settled over them when they were close. Some of the almost magical things he did with his power. They soon became so spectacular with practice that Kisuke's second sight became paltry in comparison.

Every night he dreamt of being lost in the dark jungle, sometimes it was raining, making Kisuke's dour moods worse. They usually woke him up and depending on the time of night he would either start breakfast or try to sleep again, with no dreams to disturb his shallow rest.

After a year and a half of living in the soul society, most nights plagued by this dream, something changed. His second eyesight had done nothing to help him as he tried to penetrate the night with it. There was no life here other than him.

A shape appeared in the distance, small and low to the ground, but only with perspective-it was pretty far away. Kisuke's curiosity had immediately sparked because the energy that seemed contained under the skin of Tessai seemed to make up the shape entirely.

Every night it was there, he gained ground every night only to lose it while he was awake. Tessai noticed the difference since the small boy was now quite irritable when he was shaken awake after sleeping through the night, and often grumbling about being allowed to sleep in.

The shape never grew clearer. Kisuke had been sure if he could gain just a little more on it the shape would tell him what he chased.

It went on like this for a long time. He never gained more ground, the legs of his dream body got longer and ate up more jungle floor, but the shape stayed out of sight.

Over the years of dreaming he found his emotions affected the jungle, mostly when he began dreading sleep again, the endless chase through the trees. He learned that the rain sympathized and the more depressed he was the fatter the drops, the more frustrated and upset the harder they fell.

That night they made camp outside the Seireitei wall in the woodlands, only a few hours' journey from the Eastern Gate and the Shihoin palace and its cat (Kisuke had started referring to it as "Koneko-sama," or "Shihōin-koneko").

That night the shape in his dreams was gone. The jungle was dark again. The stars were a bit more piercing and the canopy thinner as Kisuke ran the direction he'd been traveling, trying his best to go in a straight line.

Paw prints.

"Heh," Kisuke snorted and knelt down to compare his extended hand to the glowing print. "Not a koneko..." Way too big.

The prints turned sharply and he followed them instead through the jungle just as easily. He didn't know how long he'd been following but by now he was running. Tessai might wake him soon, what if the tracks faded while he was awake?

The rapt attention on the paw prints blotted out all else until they vanished. No shape, nothing but soft rose marble under his bare feet. Kisuke's head fell back on his shoulders as he gazed around at his new surroundings.

The room was so large Kisuke's startled gasp echoed in it. There were only three walls-all of pale gold marble-that all abruptly but elegantly ended as if intended at the jungle. Leaves and parts of trees hung over the marble floor the veins running through it a gold that complemented the walls.

For a moment Kisuke lounged on a long ruby red upholstered chaise the pillows almost making him want to sleep...In a dream.

While he moved from chair, to ottoman, to pile of pillows Kisuke's mind was still speeding. He wanted to follow the prints back the way he'd come and see if he could find the real trail after the shape.

This beautiful place wasn't just this one room; he could see two doors on adjacent walls. He'd have to leave a trail that could hope to linger, maybe there would be something inside the palace he could leave bits of behind.

So that meant a little of one curiosity-to keep it at bay-then the pursuit of the other curiosity, while still keeping this palace of mysteries in the back of his mind as he sought out his shape.

It seemed that neither were destined to be satisfied as he approached one of the doors Tessai woke him up after letting him sleep an extra hour. Since Kisuke wasn't particular to the idea of leaving his dreams or putting distance between the Shihōin-koneko and himself, his mood wasn't dreary as his friend had expected.

And after dreaming of the impressive palace room...Kisuke awoke with a gasp and a dramatic clasp of his hands to Tessai's shoulders. "We have to find a way into the Shihōin palace!"

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