Guess what? Once again I'm not dead - yet. Just had a bad time. A very, very, very bad time - never felt so lousy in my whole existence.
Info about the story:
writing status: Chapter 12. Uhm. Is the story dead...? Actually yes...T.T I'm really sorry, but I'm working on a collection of short stories that I want to be published. Oh, not online. I mean "real" publishing...
reviews received: 80 - it really surprised me, I mean it. This story has been dead for such a long time that I didn't expect it to be still liked...thanks!
hits: more than11.600...thanks a lot...really...
Dedications: to my last reviewers, who still followed this story even after such a long hiatus...especially to 321noeoen123, since her review gave me the ...uhm...courage to update at least this chapter.
VERY IMPORTANT, PLEASE READ BELOW
Alright, scary questions...
will you continue it? I don't know. Editing this chapter made me understand that my style changed a lot, so I'm a bit wary about continuing...what if the style will feel different? I need your help and your feedback to decide. Anyway, it should come out about 20 chapters long - maybe 21. So it means other 8 months to complete the writing, I'm really slow and really busy. Is it worth it? Your choice.
CHAPTER EIGHT: MOONLIGHT SHADOWS
Four days after.
The post-party – the evening.
The good thing in Soul Society was that the weather was nearly the same every day of the year. Seasons were alternating in there as well, that was true, but, honestly, apart from certain flowers and plants, there wasn't that much of a gap between winter and, for example, spring or even summer.
Old folks – basically Yamamoto-taichou and a few elders in the Kuchiki clan – used to narrate a tale about nature willingly submitting to the Shinigami's overwhelming reiatsu and allowing them the privilege to be raised up from mortals even in wearing always the same clothes, without being bothered by the trivial moods of the climate.
Most likely, as Rukia thought, it were the Shinigami to adapt their uniforms to the weather and to thank good nature for that underserved gift.
Oh, well, "almost thank", at least, given that she had yet to find out who the Hell had been dumb enough to design for them black outfits when the average temperature was always around 25 degrees.
'That's just plainly stupid' she mused as she rolled over on her comfortable futon 'And it's too hot with this kimono'
Rukia slightly tugged at her clothes.
Yup, it was very hot.
Especially if you were used to wear a simple, short skirt and a light shirt just until the previous day.
Not that she liked occidental clothes too much, truth to be told. But her orange-haired gentleman kept on vigorously pushing her into that (by hiding every traditional piece of cloth around the room, for example), so, in the end, she became more and more used to that way of dressing. Not as much as Ichigo made a custom out of taking advantage of every inch of her newly exposed skin, though.
'Mmmmhhh…Ichigo…I wonder if he's doing fine. Today it's Saturday, he's supposed to help his father in the clinic…mmmmmhh…' the girl closed her eyes and rolled again, laying down on her stomach 'Too bad I'm not there…I already got more than used to his being all cuddly-cuddly after coming back from his little work…mmmhhh…'
Rukia dumbly smiled to herself and crossed her arms under her chin for support.
'I saw him just once with the white coat…but I think it kinda fits him…mmmm…actually quite a lot, to be honest…he should study medicine… He's definitely cut out to be a doctor. Not to mention how nice it would be to be his nurse' she grinned 'in every sense…'
It wasn't like they lacked originality in "certain matters", however – definitely not, given that they had tried half a billion of ways and shades to "do it" since the very moment she had lost her virginity to Ichigo.
Yes, despite her 153 years, 6 months, 5 days and the tons of chances she would have had to consume that crucial moment while being in Soul Society – chances going from finding a naked and smashed Renji in her bed back when they lived together, to being left completely alone in the Division headquarters with that God of Sex named Kaien-dono in the middle of a far too inviting storm – she had managed (or, probably, simply happened) to preserve her virginity until she had been sent to Earth.
Or, more precisely, until a hot August afternoon, when she chose to kick off all her older brother's recommendations about being careful to safeguard for a hypothetical husband the "most important and valuable good a woman possesses" and , instead, decided to try and see how hard Ichigo's bed could squeak with the right amount of pressure – which, she had gathered then, was quite a lot.
The girl rolled over again, as if to look for the familiar sound of her lover's mattress under her back, slightly sighing when she heard nothing but the rustle of the smooth fabric of her kimono against the silky sheets.
She had been in Soul Society for more or less 24 hours and she was already tired of the environment and longing to kiss her orange-haired Shinigami.
Alright, maybe all the events of the previous evening didn't help, either.
Truth to be told, discovering your best friend is actually in love with you never helps, probably. Unless you're madly in love with him as well and were just waiting for the right turn of the events, that is.
In any case, it was definitely not helpful when said friend organized a party just to confess it all to you and you're stably dating the only person he would keenly skin alive on the spot.
'Oh gawd…what a mess…' she sunk her head in the soft blankets 'What a big, big, big mess….'
Especially because Abarai Renji had tried to kiss her against a wall – and she had run away like a hunted prey.
Oh well, if in the very end he didn't even get offended, why should she mind?
And she was sure he wasn't upset. To be honest, he looked rather…happy? during the last hours of the party.
Unlike her brother who continuously seemed to be sitting on an electric chair.
Right, Kuchiki Byakuya-sama had never been the party-addicted kind of person, let alone when it came to grant his presence in such a trivial and meaningless occasion. But, Rukia had gathered, there seemed to be something else in Nii-sama, something other than his typical iciness and aloofness that usually kept him at least 10 km away from every form of amusement whatsoever. Something that, probably, had something to do with the existence of a certain Abarai Renji, privileged beneficiary of half of Byakuya's glares.
They worked together, it was true, and her brother wasn't exactly the less accurate of men, but still, there had to be something serious to make such a noble man look at him as if his glares could make him flare on the spot and reduce him to smoking ashes.
'The only rational hypothesis is that Renji must have done a gigantic mess to piss him off that much…'
And the problem was that, when it came to loud-mouthed, chaotic, cyclonic Abarai Renji, the possibility of a disarray wasn't that baseless.
In the end, wasn't it Abarai Renji himself who had talked half of the Eleventh Division into taking a day off duty just to visit a brothel?
But the option of the brothel wasn't that founded, in that specific case.
If red-head committed such an "immoral crime" in the sacred Division of the moralistic, stick-in-he-mud, rules-keeper Kuchiki Byakuya , he would be executed on the spot by a scattering cloud of cherry petals and his corpse used to feed the strange beings Korotsuchi Mayuri was breeding in the depths of his lab.
What was then?
Something to do with paperwork?
A failed mission?
Top-secrets documents revealed?
'Oh man…that's tricky…'
And she didn't even have her orange-haired piglet to cheer her up.
'Karakura town is so freaking far…and phoning would be so expensive…'
Rukia sighed dejectedly and covered her eyes with her arm, her lips emitting a low moan and…
And a voice in the back of her head thrilled
'But your brother is rich enough he could buy half of the Sereitei if he wanted to…mmmhhh…'
She flung herself at the small, old-fashioned phone placed on her nightstand and immediately dialled the international-switchboard number. As she waited to be connected with the requested locality, every second seemed to be an eternity.
'Oh come on…come on, come on, come on! If it takes this long to Karakura town, just how much would it take to Hueco mundo?!'
Ichigo's voice came suddenly, in a mumbled and slurry mess of vowels and consonants
The girl smiled happily to herself to celebrate the success of her small plan
"Hi, Ichigo…that's Rukia here…"
A second of silence on the other end of the phone
"Huh…? Rukia…? What's wrong?" an indistinct noise of rustling and sweeping followed the orange-head's statement.
"Wrong? Nothing. Just wanted to hear you…."
She fought a bit against the short wire of the telephone but, in the end, she successfully managed to place it on the mattress and lay down again on her back, her head comfortably huddled in a soft pillow.
"Hear me?" a tiny squeaking sound indicated her he sat down on the bed "Already tired of being back home? I thought you graduated shinigami despised our mortal soil…"
Rukia sighed deeply. Why, why, why did he always have to make her long for a bit of romanticism?
"I just wanted to hear my boyfriend. Is that wrong?"
"No, not really. Will you just give me the time to slip into a pair of clean boxers or are you already hot enough you can't even wait a few, few minutes?"
"ICHIGO!" the dark-haired shinigami wailed, her blush so evident you could practically touch it "WHAT THE HELL WERE YOU DOING?"
"Ooohhhh…what do you think I was doing, hentai-Rukia-chan?"
Her eyes widened "STOP THAT! YOU SAID YOU WERE….YOU ARE…JUST WEARING YOUR NATIVE OUTFIT!"
Another small pause "Is Byakuya around? You're not used to…round talk the concepts. Not at all."
And, even if they were kilometres and even dimensions apart she could swear on her noble pride he was grinning.
"You should call him "Kuchiki-taichou" or at least "Kuchiki-san" you know…And , by the way, I'm not the one in an embarrassing position right now…"
"Oh….you're not? Too bad…" another indistinct sound of rustling "What are you wearing?"
"I'm all wrapped up in a freaking thick kimono…and it's hot here, you know…"
"Hot…? How much hot…?"
The girl bit back a gasp as she heard his mischievous and somewhat sexy voice
"Quite a bit"
Her own tone came out shaky but definitely better than what she expected. And since their relationship was based on small victories and small revenges, it was still a great conquer, wasn't it?
"Ooooh…you'd envy me, then, if I told you I just came out of a refreshing, rinsing shower…"
Rukia's mind distractedly sent her nice, nice images of half-naked, wet and sexy Ichigo. She shook her head and dusted them off.
"Yup, I do…the concept of taking a bath alone and in peace it's something unachievable in a house full of far-too-careful servants…" her voice took high pitches as she mimicked the tone of said people " 'Do you need soap Kuchiki-san?' 'Is the water hot/cold/scented enough?' and so on, and on and on…"
"That really sucks….my chocolate…"
That was new. Definitely new.
"Of course…You said you're….wrapped in your kimono, right? My duty then is to unwrap you until I reach the prize, isn't it… my chocolate?"
The black-haired shinigami squeaked again
"ICHIGO! JUST HOW CAN YOU ALWAYS..?"
"Think about … that? Well, you should have learned by now that I am a healthy 16-years-old boy…"
"Almost 17, by now"
"That's not the point. Besides, you left for Soul Society without…fulfilling your promises. This must count as something, huh?"
"It was YOU who fell asleep, you freaking jerk!"
"Oh, well, those phone calls were taking you ages, you know?"
"Ages? You should be there when I call Kotetsu-san or Matsumoto-san!"
"That's not the point, once again"
"And what's the point, then?"
"That I wanted you there and then"
This time Rukia blushed again
Abarai Renji looked up at the water pouring on his face.
No, luckily he was done trying to fix that hideous leaking pipes – and he had managed to find the problem just three mere seconds before resorting to Zabimaru's BanKai – but, as soon as he got home, he had discovered that, evidently, though he was sick tired of water for at least three months, he still needed some sort of shower to remove the smell of stinking fish from his skin.
He gave a last rewash to his hair and then headed out, nothing but a small towel loosely wrapped around his waist. If Kuchiki-taichou had known this sort of things, he would have regretted not having installed small cameras in Renji's house when, soon after the "great betrayal", he had had the opportunity because of "security purposes".
Anyway, luckily for his heart's health, Renji was happily unaware of it.
He moved to his bedroom and sprawled on the mattress, a lousy hairbrush tangled in his messy locks as he called down half of the Saints of Heaven with every new knot on his way down.
Man, he was gonna cut them short sooner or later.
Sharp scissors and a ton of hair-gel, and he would be spared from this painful ritual every time he got a freaking shower.
'Meh, but girls like it long, ya know that'
he tossed his head forwards and curtains fell on his eyes as he brushed his hair in front of his face.
Yeah, girls like it long.
Actually girls always liked it long, in any case.
And Rukia was a girl.
And, for instance, he was Zabimaru's master (though many idiots in Soul Society had always thought the other way around).
And we know swords' size is based on the power of its owner.
And , in case you all didn't notice, Zabimaru could be a Huge, Long, Strong – all with capitals, obviously – Hard- or maybe that wasn't exactly his Zampaktou, now, was it?
Although, evidently, the size of the blade did have something to so with the size of the….errr…."thingie".
'Mmm, whatever. In any freakin' case Rukia'll be more interested in that than in Zabi anyway…' he nearly joygasmed in smugness ' She'd be SO satisfied and thankful…mmmmmhhh…'
He dumbly smiled to himself, metaphorically patting his head the way you do with an obedient and good dog.
At least until those nice, mental pats turned into hard whacks and slaps when his mind distractedly sent him the thought of Zangetsu's measures.
And that wasn't even in BanKai-mode.
When this mental association led him to remember his beloved actually lived at that jerk's, he started to furiously brush and pull his long, bright-red locks, as if he was fighting against that walking orange once again.
And only ending up making his hair electric and puffing up around his head providing the angry-lion-mane effect he so hated.
"GAAAAAAAAAAH!" he loudly growled and sent his poor, innocent hairbrush smashing against a wall.
The so-called "existential questions" came to his mind again.
'Why him?! Why that freaking orange! With all the good-looking men in Soul Society!' he slammed his head against the pillow and hardly bit on it.
The blurry, alcohol-dazed memories of the previous evening started to flow again in his mind.
The accident with her blue kimono, her sweet smile, her velvety tongue when it slipped inside of his mouth and kissed him so deeply and still tenderly…
Abarai Renji sighed and snuggled deeper in the mattress.
Why did she kiss him if she was in a relationship with that freaking IchiHollow?
Thinking about that, the possibilities were two: either she was drunk out of her mind or she didn't love that misplaced item of fruit that much.
But, considering that it was such a long time since Rukia last got smashed and that, by now, Kuchiki-taichou's horror for everything alcoholic had infected her as well, the only real chance left was the second one.
'Appealing, indeed appealing'
The matter was figuring out the best way to make her confess, then.
And, possibly, quite quickly, given that his beloved Rukia was supposed to go back to Earth in a few days.
'I could announce again my love to her using Soul Society's radio, mmmmm'
Yup, that idea looked rather nice.
If the radio station actually wasn't inside the Twelfth Division headquarters.
And, sorry for Rukia or whoever else in this spinning world, but he wouldn't step foot in that freaking place.
Not even if they gave him a conspicuous pay-raise and the promise Kuchiki-taichou himself would serve him meals in bed for an entire week.
It wasn't like he had strange fantasies on his taichou, obviously, but can you imagine how satisfying if would be?
Priceless, absolutely priceless.
Shaking the funny – really funny – vision of his Captain dressed up in a black-and-white maid uniform, his mind went back to thinking about how the Hell he could make Rukia spill it all out and seal this goddamned long story with a happy ending – one that, of course, wouldn't include the misplaced orange.
'Ok…radio was excluded, declaring and kissing? Been there, done that…what else, what else? Paint the front-door of her house with hearts!'
Too bad "her house", those days around, tended to coincide with his cruel, cruel Taichou's…
In the end, every other idea but the radio looked rather lousy, or too outstanding (how was she supposed to react in finding her room and the all the way to her division filled with lilies and roses? Not to mention the sudden raise in the allergies-rate around Soul Society), or simply unrealizable.
Every other idea but the radio, that was.
But still, he firmly had no idea to reduce his safety distance from the Twelfth Division whatsoever.
'Meh, that sucks, she likes music so much…music and songs, yeah…'
Renji rolled on his back and stared at the ceiling.
Yeah, songs and music.
How the Hell was he supposed to provide her with "songs and music" if- wait, wait, wait.
The red-haired boy smirked evilly.
'I'll sing for her myself, right?'
The smirk broadened into a wide grin
'A serenade. A nice, romantic serenade! That's what she needs!'
He jumped off the bed and rushed to the door.
However, as soon as he reached the steps, a chilly breeze caressed his body, revealing a new, upcoming problem.
Maybe he'd better get dressed before actually heading out…
The pale glow of the moonbeams silently shone on the polished stones of the traditional garden and on the wooden porch, staining everything under its touch with whitish pools of light.
A lonely man was sitting on a bench, a purely white nightly kimono wrapped around his thin body and nicely contrasting with his long, raven hair.
Kuchiki-taichou was looking up at the sky, his vision only slightly inconvenienced by a branch of a blossomed cherry tree.
He faintly smiled to himself.
From his perspective, those gracious flowers on the black, starry background of the nightly firmament looked like a painting.
The worse part of the day was now luckily over, together with his supreme anger, utter touchiness, complete bad mood and so on. Byakuya leaned over and took again in his hands the finely chiselled, ceramic cup containing his vanilla-scented tea.
He sipped a small bit of the content and sighed deeply in the fresh nightly air.
The moment of the day was perfect. A pale, glowing moon up in the black sky, a neat, fragrant kimono on his clean, bath-softened skin and such a delicious tea to savour.
And obviously, the fact he could freely think about his fukutaichou and imagine every sort of adventure with him, without fearing that someone could surprise him spacing out.
He had acted very annoyingly during the past 8 hours at work.
Every single action he made was only and solely focussed on finding the worse features of Renji's character, drag them out, amplify them and make them explode with abundance of shards.
If his revenge wasn't bloody and painful, what was the point in taking it?
Probably the fact that a light wedge of guilt had needled his conscience when Renji had exited the bathrooms completely drenched in unclean water, hair untied and dripping, and his whole body smelling so much like a fishmonger that flies were starting to flutter around him.
And, the more he tried to tell himself that it couldn't possibly be his fault – and that the whole incident was to blame on the pipes, on the bad work the plumber had made and possibly even on the bad habits his subordinates must have when going to "relieve their natural needs" (bad enough to damage the drain system), the more Renji looked to him like a poor beggar ended up on the street because of his selfishness and needing money, and clean clothes, and a bath – and he was so willing to welcome the poor needful boy in his own bathtub, right?
Ooooh. So right.
'I wonder if he likes lavender-scented water as well…but maybe he's more the cinnamon type of guy. A strong perfume for a strong man…'
Kuchiki Byakuya's whole bathing process was something everyone else would have described as the most tedious and meticulous thing they've ever seen.
The most traditional cleaning ritual was in his private rooms, going from a delicate rubbing with a silken cloth to a gentle massage with oils and unguents – not to forget the special attention he dedicated to his hair, brushing it at least one hundred times and applying flax seeds ointments on the whole length.
Common people would think of it as the aristocratic whim of a spoiled nobleman, but, as he preferred to put the matter, it wasn't casual if his skin was as soft as a baby's and his locks always glowing and soft even after the wildest of the battles.
And then, try and wear Kenseikaans if your hair isn't perfectly smooth and flowing.
However, what could possibly earn him the label of "spoiled man" for real, was probably his custom to have his personal servant, Kyoko, massage his back and legs for at least one hour before slipping into the hot, lavender-scented water of the pool. That girl's skills in always hitting the right spots and pressing away the tension from his body were amazing. Her hands must have had some hidden bliss to make those massages so enjoyable.
Though, probably, they weren't as good as Renji's limbs on his skin would be.
Kuchiki-taichou hissed out a breath and took another sip of the hot liquid. Renji's hands on his body. That was daydreaming – even if it was night.
'And what about making back-massaging a new task for my fukutaichou? In the end, Ukitake regularly receives such services from his third seats. Why not me?'
Because he wasn't as sick as Ukitake Juushirou was.
Or, to put it better still, he wasn't sick in the way Ukitake Juushirou was.
What an unfortunate thing in that specific situation.
To say it in the same way Renji himself would have, he was truly a "sucker for massages".
Byakuya sighed and sipped the last mouthfuls of tea, placing the white cup back on the wooden tray.
How long could he still go on like that?
How long could he still stutter and hide his feelings for Renji?
In the last few days not only his situation hadn't improved at all, but, if possible, it had got even worse.
'Kuchiki Byakuya you should really drop your illusions. There's really no hope left after he mistook you for your adopted sister while you were kissing him…'
Yes, he had kissed him for real.
No matter how many times he tried to pinch his own skin to shake off those memories, they still were firmly planted into his mind, indicating that, for once, it wasn't just one of his usual fantasies.
And, even if he made sure to constantly plague himself with the thought the name Renji whispered after that wonderful kiss wasn't his, that experience surely didn't go unnoticed in the depths of his already strained psyche – the sudden increase of his moments of spacing out was the unmistakable proof of it.
Honestly, he didn't even really put some real effort in stopping those episodes, the few seconds when his tongue was inside Renji's mouth playing again and again in his head as a song set on repeat.
No, Kuchiki Byakuya-Taichou had reached his limit and couldn't take it anymore.
He needed either to stop or to look for someone's help. And, even if at a shallow analysis stopping seemed to be the wisest solution, considering how obsessed he now was, that option was out of questions.
But, even asking for help wasn't as simple as it sounded.
Not for him, at least.
Who was he supposed to rely onto?
It wasn't like he could grab the first being he bumped into and declare his love for his fukutaichou, was it?
Besides, it was perfectly known that, when it came to matters specifically concerning love-bounds, it was safer to go for women.
But was there a woman he could trust enough to reveal his secret?
His mind immediately thought of Hisana, but just to double-slap his ego three seconds later, both for his lack of respect towards her figure and the fact she actually died decades before.
Kuchiki-taichou sighed and turned again his face to the stars, inhaling deeply.
Wasn't there anyone he could count on as much as he could with his deceased wife?
'None of my servants is trustworthy enough for such a task. And neither my officers are' he let out a pained breath 'but still, there must be someone. With all the people I kn-'
And then, suddenly, the solution hit him.
The right girl, the probable bliss for all his problems appeared in his head.
A faint smile flashed on his face for a second as he lifted up from his bench and started walking back to the manor.
Without letting his mind room for second thoughts, he headed for Rukia's rooms.
To be continued...
What's going to happen next? Will Byakuya make it? What's on Renji's mind, this time?
Try and guess by leaving a review.
Next chapter up, I don't know when "Serenade, sweet serenade"