10 Machinations

"And why would I do that?" replied Ohta.

Adopting a faint smile, Urahara replied, "The pay might not be as great as plundering a bunch of gangs, but I can provide you with knowledge and information that can't be found anywhere else. I can also grant you access to spiritual items and training facilities that will allow you to hone your power without fear of discovery."

"And let you spy on me?" asked Ohta. "Hard pass."

"We've been spying on you for years," countered Kisuke, fanning himself as he added, "And we're not the only ones. Coming under my umbrella will at least prevent external parties from keeping an eye on you."

"Maybe, but there's a difference between being spied on and 'letting' yourself be spied on," contended Ohta. "Unless you have something more substantial to offer, my answer remains the same. Hard pass."

"At least hear me out," replied Kisuke, explaining, "I'm not asking you to tend the shop or run errands for me. All I really need for you to do is hone your power and stay out of the way of Kurosaki Ichigo's training. If things continue as they are, both he and Kuchiki Rukia are going to die."

"Continue," said Ohta, crossing his arms, curious to hear what Kisuke would say next.

"I'm not sure how much she has explained, but Ms. Kuchiki transferring her powers to a human is a capital offense," explained Kisuke. "I can't say with certainty when they'll arrive, but it's only a matter of time before Soul Society dispatches a Hunter or Execution squad to capture Rukia and take her back to be tried. If Ichigo's power is lacking at the time, he'll die."

"You say that like it's a pressing concern, but aren't you the ones who set the stage?" asked Ohta. "It sounds to me like you simply don't want me interfering in your plans."

"You're right on the second part but wrong on the first," asserted Kisuke. "I 'do' have a plan I'm working on, but I'm not the one that set the stage for Ms. Kuchiki transferring her power to Ichigo. I'm trying to bait out and stop the guy who set her up."

"I'm sure you are," replied Ohta, unconvinced. However, as both Kisuke and Yoruichi gave him the distinct impression he shouldn't fuck with them, he subsequently appended, "Just tell me, specifically, what you want from me."

"It's simple, really," replied Kisuke. "You're free to interact with them and deal with the Hollows appearing in and around Karakura Town, but don't get in the way of Ms. Kuchiki training Ichigo. The more you interfere, the more likely both of them will die."

"So, you want me to feign ignorance?" asked Ohta. "It's pretty obvious that washboard brat has been 'programmed.' You want me to play along and pretend I haven't noticed her brainwashing?"

"At least for the time being," replied Kisuke, explaining, "Until the person responsible for her brainwashing has been exposed, all you're doing by interfering is making things worse. The best thing you can do right now is consolidate your power and prepare for the mission to rescue Ms. Kuchiki and stay her execution. If that sounds too perilous, I suggest distancing yourself from this matter entirely."

"Man, I really hate people like you..." said Ohta, psychic energy exuding from his body naturally.

Though he couldn't see the tri-colored haze around Ohta's body, Kisuke could sense his aura increasing, causing tensions within the storefront to become tense to the point of palpable. Off to the side, Yoruichi narrowed his eyes in preparation, but Kisuke deterred him with a subtle shake of his head, confident that Ohta wouldn't attack. He might have if he was a truly heroic or selfless individual, but after observing Ohta for nearly ten years, Kisuke knew he was more of an opportunist than anything.

Matching Kisuke's expectations, Ohta gradually suppressed his aura, shaking his head and turning around as he said, "Whatever. I'll see how things play out and decide for myself how to handle things. If it seems like too much trouble, I'll just skip town."

"You're free to do so, but I would advise against it," replied Kisuke. "The world has become a dangerous place for High-Spec humans like yourself. Karakura Town is a sort of 'blind spot,' so if you venture too far, you'll draw the attention of secret societies and organizations the world over. Even if you seal away and never use your powers, someone will eventually track you down."

"How ominous," replied Ohta, looking over his shoulder and adopting a fearless smile as he added, "But until they track me down, I can't know for certain if you're telling the truth. People who allow themselves to be reined by news and information they haven't corroborated are no better than sheep. If someone wants to capture or try to experiment on me, they better be prepared for a fight..."

Adopting a smile of his own, Kisuke mused, "Well, with conviction like that, I'm sure you'll be fine just about anywhere. Just remember, if you ever find yourself on a dissection table being experimented on by a man with yellow teeth, blue hair, and black and white face paint, I 'did' try to warn you..."

"Noted," responded Ohta, exiting the store without looking back. He was curious about the man Kisuke was referring to, but his instincts told him the more he interacted with the ashen-haired man, the deeper he would fall into his schemes. Thus, while he failed to acquire the information he came searching for, Ohta departed without hesitation, fairly certain that any information he obtained from the man would be severely skewed to serve his ends...

Observing Ohta's departure, Kisuke and Yoruichi remained silent for several seconds before the latter questioned, "So, what do you think? Is he a threat?

"Oh, most definitely," replied Kisuke. "However, unless he can concretely determine that opposing us benefits him, he won't risk baring his fangs at us directly. This first encounter was probably to feel us out and see if we would threaten or try to strongarm him into doing our bidding. Now, just as he said, he'll most likely observe the situation and see how it plays out before deciding whether or not he wants to get involved further."

"Do you think he'll join the team to rescue Kuchiki?" asked Yoruichi. "If so, what ramifications might that have? We still don't know the limitations and scope of his power."

Instead of answering Yoruichi's questions outright, Urahara looked to his longtime companion and asked, "Can I entrust this matter to you?" with a serious glimmer in his eyes.

"You want me to get in the way of him and Kuchiki...?" asked Yoruichi.

"If they're left alone, there's a good chance an incident like what occurred this morning will happen again," said Kisuke. "If you can win his trust and separate him from Kuchiki, she'll have an easier time grooming Ichigo into the weapon we need him to be..."

"That doesn't sound particularly difficult," replied Yoruichi. "But are you sure this is the wisest course of action? It could backfire spectacularly."

"I'm confident in your skills as the former Captain of the Onmitsukidō," asserted Kisuke, adding, "The most important thing is that everything proceeds according to the plan. We won't get another chance at this..."

"Which is why it would have been better to scout or get rid of him years ago," said Yoruichi. "Now, even if we 'do' kill him, it could come back to bite us once Ichigo and his friends discover the truth..."

Adopting a sad smile, Kisuke muttered, "Sorry...but even if his power is a threat, every child has the right to life, right? It's too late to go back and change things. Even if I could, pulling Ohta to our side wouldn't be at the top things I'd like to fix..."

Exhaling a sigh, Yoruichi remarked, "You're getting old..." before leaping down and promptly exiting the store...




After reaching his apartment on foot, Ohta intended to check on Rukia but couldn't sense her in her room. That being the case, he entered his own and took a long, relaxing bath instead of a shower. School started at 8:30 AM, so with more than two hours to prepare, he took his sweet time, only getting out once the water had become lukewarm.

"I was starting to think you had drowned," commented a familiar voice, drawing Ohta's attention to the black cat lying atop his bed.

Raising his brows, Ohta asked, "I'm guessing you're the 'insurance' to keep me from messing things up?"

"Something like that," replied Yoruichi. "More importantly, I'm going to be teaching you how to battle against Shinigami. Unlike Kisuke, I don't really care about the nature and origin of your power. If you're going to continue meddling, you should at least possess the knowledge to disguise yourself and be useful."

"Disguise myself? What do you mean...?" asked Ohta.

"I was listening when Rukia commented on how your power should allow you to mimic the abilities of a Shinigami," revealed Yourichi. "If that's true, I can teach you how to fight like and counter the abilities of any Shinigami you happen to encounter in the future. Better still, I can teach you to hide your presence and detect surveillance and spiritual probes. I imagine that would prove fairly useful if you choose to run away in the future."

"You're not wrong..." replied Ohta. Even now, he couldn't sense so much as a trace of Yoruichi's presence. The same could be said of Urahara but to a different extent. In his case, he exuded the aura of an ordinary human despite simultaneously giving the impression he was a monster...

Understanding that he wouldn't simply be able to chase Yoruichi away, Ohta pondered for a moment before replying, "Fine. But don't expect me to interpret what you say as gospel. I'll see what you have to teach and decide for myself if I should adapt it to my skill set."

"Fair enough," replied Yoruichi. "But if you 'do' decide to learn what I have to teach, I won't tolerate a half-assed resolve. You will give it your all, or you will die. Not to myself, perhaps, but definitely to the Execution Corps."

Adopting a dauntless smile, Ohta mused, "I'm quaking in my non-existent boots."

"Let's hope you can maintain that level of bravado when you encounter your first Captain," remarked Yoruichi. "The more likely scenario is that you shit yourself. If not before you die, then certainly afterward."

"Assuming they're an actual threat," retorted Ohta. "I'm not sure of the ranking system of Shinigami, but Rukia attested to being a Lieutenant. I'll concede that she was pretty light on her feet, but if push came to shove, I'm confident I could have defeated her."

"The Rukia you saw was limited to 20% of her spirit power and hadn't released her Zanpakuto," attested Yoruichi. "If she had, she would have been at least ten times as powerful as you observed. Beyond that, even the weakest Captains are at least five to tens times stronger, faster, and more skilled than their corresponding Lieutenants. And that's in their base form."

"Sounds convoluted..." replied Ohta. However, if Yoruichi's words were true, he had been underestimating the power of Shinigami by using Rukia as a basis. He didn't know what a Zanpakuto(Soul-Cutter Sword) was, but the name implied it had something to do with her weapon. If 'releasing' it truly made her ten times as powerful, that meant her strength with her 'Limiter' removed was fifty times what he had observed. If the weakest Captain was five to ten times as strong as that, he was dealing with foes 250-500x as powerful as someone whose initial movements he had been unable to follow...

"Looks like you're finally starting to understand how out of your depth you are," noted Yoruichi. "It might be difficult for you to imagine right now, but the leader of the Thirteen Court Guardian Squads, Captain Commander Yamamoto Genryūsai Shigekuni, possesses a fire-type Zanpakuto whose flames burn as hot as the Sun. Your power is exceptional, especially for one so young, but it must be refined if you want to establish yourself at the pinnacle of this world. Against monsters that have lived for thousands of yours, all your arrogance will get you is killed."

Punctuating his words, Yoruichi rose from the bed, leaping onto the floor as he said, "Once you return from school, I'll give you a demonstration of what a Shinigami is capable of. You can decide for yourself how you want to progress from there."

Before Ohta could respond, Yoruichi stepped 'through' his wall, creating a shadow that lingered for a moment before abruptly disappearing like the image of an old television being shut off. In his wake, Ohta stared blankly at the spot he had departed before shaking his head, discarding the towel around his waist, and changing into his school uniform...




(A/N: Power Scaling in anime is pretty heinous xD...)

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