Inopportune – Always There Chapter 14

author: Peppermint Kiss

posted: 3-15-08

disclaimer: I only own Maki and Kimi, and the plot. KT owns the rest.

I know I haven't posted in forever, and I'm sorry! I was soooo busy and I was suffering from writer's block, too. But I churned out this whole chapter in one night! Whoo! Welcome to all old and new fans, and I hope you enjoy this chapter as much as I enjoyed writing it :3

"Yusaburu!" Maki shouted. "Raiko!" (1)

Rukia leapt back instinctively as the crackling aura that had been ominously growing around Maki suddenly blossomed into one gigantic boom. She swore that her hair stood up on the end as a searing, bright lightning bolt issued out of Maki's zanpakuto (at that time, Rukia didn't notice that the lightning bolt was Maki's zanpakuto) and rushed by her face in a blur of white light and crackling electricity.

Her hand gripped even more tightly onto Sode no Shirayuki, and Rukia drew breath to shout out the second dance, tsugi no mai, hakuren, hoping that if Maki wanted a spar, Rukia would give her a spar, dammit.

But before Rukia could even shout out the first syllable of her shikai, Maki's lightning bolt slammed into a tree in a bright explosion of light. The light faded, and Rukia expected smoke to ensue from the collision of wood and fiery heat, but surprisingly, there wasn't any. Shocked, Rukia peered at the thick tree trunk, and found no burn marks, nor charred bark.

Instead, there was a single long, vicious, cut across the old tree's trunk, and it looked like the lethal cut a freshly-sharpened zanpakuto could make. Rukia slowly turned around from her inspection and stared hard at Maki, wondering what exactly this shinigami's zanpakuto was.

As Rukia met Maki's smug green eyes, the rogue lightning bolt that was quite possibly Maki's zanpakuto materialized again at her side and Rukia watched it warily.

"Don't even bother pulling out that little ribbon of your sword," Maki proclaimed haughtily. "It won't work on my Raiko."

Rukia didn't want to show that she was definitely unsettled by Maki's odd zanpakuto, but she was also curious to learn more. Carefully trying to manipulate Maki with her proud personality, Rukia said with a quirk of a smile, "It's an interesting sword."

"Of course it is," Maki replied with a sneer, falling into Rukia's trap. "My zanpakuto transforms into this lightning bolt which I can control with my hands to go wherever. I can also gather electricity from the clouds to boost my reiatsu, since my zanpakuto is lightning, after all."

"And what about that little trick with the tree just then?" Rukia asked casually, letting Maki play the braggart up as much as she wanted.

"Oh, that's just my shikai," Maki said dismissively. "Raiko can cut anything and everything like a real, large zanpakuto." Her eyes gleamed. "The next part of my shikai, or maybe my bankai, can maybe use electricity just like in real lightning."

"How extraordinary," Rukia mumbled under her breath. She suddenly realized with a sinking feeling that this was probably why Maki was being tutored, for the time being (or so Rukia hoped), under Byakuya. It was because the new shinigami's shikai was extraordinarily like the shikai of Byakuya's chire, Senbonzakura, in the fact that Maki's zanpakuto transformed and she could freely move it around with her hands and perhaps even her mind, although Maki hadn't mentioned that yet.

Maki smirked and tossed her hair back confidently. "Now that you've seen Raiko, what say to you that we really start this spar? I want to see how long your scrap of a ribbon can hold up against Raiko's prowess."

Rukia's last thought before the adrenaline of a battle (a spar, a spar, Rukia chided herself) washed over her was that Maki was extraordinarily arrogant.

Byakuya had finished lecturing half of the sixth division on how to best use their shikai when stuck in a bad situation against the enemy, and while the eager shinigami put their new skills to use, Byakuya banished the sakura petals (courtesy of Senbonzakura) that he had been using as a demonstration before wandering off over the hills of the training area.

He wondered where Murano-san had gone, and thought that he really must tell her one day to stop torturing Rukia so. It had been hammered into his mind a long time ago, growing up in the Kuchiki household, that one must always be polite and courteous to strangers and guests, and Byakuya considered Murano-san and Satushi-san as guests, since they didn't originate from Seireitei or the surrounding area. This being so, Byakuya had tried to hold off on enforcing a few rules on Murano-san's behavior (he wondered what had caused her to be so haughty in the first place because it was rather chilling; it was like dealing with what he was like in the past, after Hisana's death and before his marriage to Rukia) but after Rukia had ranted to him for the past few days, Byakuya saw that what Murano-san was doing to Rukia was perhaps a bit too much.

Speaking of Rukia, Byakuya continued to worry that Rukia thought that he was going to get stolen away from her by Murano-san. He had made it explicitly clear to Murano-san on the very first day, in a flat, blunt tone, that he was married, and nothing would change that. However, this didn't seem to deter Murano-san, and Byakuya suffered from her (quite bad) flirting attempts several times a day, but each time he batted them off with dull, monotone answers.

He had wanted to have a good talk with Rukia and explain to her what was really happening (despite what Rukia thought was really happening), but the recent chaos in Seireitei as the Gotei 13 geared up to defend against Aizen's upcoming attacks from Hueco Mundo kept both Byakuya and Rukia busy. Byakuya had thought that since the Sixth and the Thirteenth Division got paired together, he could pull aside Rukia and quickly outline the situation for her, but unfortunately, that opportunity hadn't happened yet.

Now, as Byakuya strolled through the fields and meadows that covered the vast training grounds allotted for the Sixth and Thirteenth Divisions, he nodded approvingly as small clusters of shinigami from both divisions bobbed their head in submission or greeting, while other more enthusiastic and friendly shinigami called out a cheerful greeting despite the heavy gloom that hung over most of Seireitei as everyone started to realize that it was now time for heavy warfare in order to fend off Aizen's formidable forces.

In a small patch of meadow near the woods, Byakuya watched from a distance as Renji and Satushi-san worked together on their zanpakutos, before Satushi-san clapped in wonder as Renji unveiled Zabimaru's bankai. Byakuya raised his left eyebrow as he noticed a flaw in the snakelike structure that formed Zabimaru's bankai, and he started forward to tell Renji of it, but halted when Renji grinned goofily at something Satushi-san said and strode forward to kiss her tenderly on the cheek, an action that Satushi-san returned by passionately kissing him on the mouth.

Byakuya repressed a long-suffering sigh, and made quick mental notes to scold Renji for carrying on an affair with Satushi-san (Seireitei was now practically a wartime zone for a reason, and Renji's head was needed to think of clever strategies and quick tactics, not to plan dates with Satushi-san) and for Renji to fix that flaw in Zabimaru's bankai.

However, Byakuya, being the romantic he was (a fact only Rukia knew, and she would tease him mercilessly about it, despite his vehement denial), left Renji and Satushi-san to their make-out session, knowing that even in desperate times of war (Aizen's Espada, Arrancar, and Hollow forces far outnumbered Seireitei's meager shinigami troops in a ratio of almost 3 to 1), it was essential that people got the most out of the fleeting happy moments they could grab.

Byakuya continued on his walk, striding with a confident air through scrubby brush, and hearing the distant sounds of yelling that indicated a spar was going on, because Byakuya would be notified immediately if Aizen's forces penetrated the protective sphere around Seireitei.

Suddenly, a crystalline column of jagged ice shot up out of the trees and into the air, and Byakuya, from his quick mental calculations, deduced that since Hitsugaya's Tenth Division training grounds were too far away for the ice shikai to be his Hyourinmaru, only one other ice zanpakuto user could be in a possible spar right now: Rukia.

Byakuya also knew that Rukia commanded enough respect, being the fukutaichou of the Thirteenth Division, that only two people would dare to spar with her, after she announced quite clearly that she would rather be alone today, to work on her bankai, to the whole assembled group earlier that morning – Ukitake, or Murano-san.

It couldn't be Ukitake because Byakuya's old mentor was probably too indolent today to bother drawing out his zanpakuto for a spar. The last Byakuya had seen of the Thirteenth Division taichou, Ukitake had been meandering along a small brook, humming about flowers and flowerpots in general.

Then it could only be one person. Byakuya's heart raced as he cast a network of his reiatsu and identified Rukia's reiatsu emanating from Sode no Shirayuki, but also the familiar crackling reiatsu of Murano-san's Raiko.

Byakuya knew that Murano-san had great stores of reiatsu within her body the first day she had strutted into his office. However, he had to teach her stubborn, rebellious, character for weeks to teach her how to properly harness appropriate amounts of reiatsu for what she needed done, instead of pouring out all of her reiatsu at once.

He didn't want to know what Murano-san was capable of if she was provoked enough to open up all of her reiatsu stores.

Byakuya harnessed spiritual power to his feet, and shunpoed in the blink of an eye to the clearing where the "spar" was taking place. Many trees held long, jagged scars, courtesy of Murano-san's Raiko, while the ground the two shinigami were fiercely dueling on was coated with a glistening sheen of ice that didn't melt under the sun, from Rukia's Sode no Shirayuki.

Rukia darted around the clearing, appearing on one tree, then behind a bush, agilely fending off Murano-san's various attacks. Byakuya swelled with pride as he noticed that her shunpo had visibly improved, before his mind dropped back down into the dark pit of worry as a shield of ice sent up by Sode no Shirayuki barely deflected the bolt of lightning that personified Murano-san's Raiko.

Murano-san's Raiko was persistent, however, and it doggedly followed Rukia as she shunpoed away in a dizzying whirl of white ribbon and flying black shihakusho. Rukia lost her footing on a tree branch and recovered it one second too late, just in time for Murano-san to flick her wrist and allow her Raiko to pursue Rukia, and Byakuya watched in impending horror as the dangerously pulsing bolt of lightning neared Rukia…

However, Rukia's mind was quick, and she reflexively brought up Sode no Shirayuki to meet Murano-san's Raiko head-on, and Byakuya knew this was a defensive move that Rukia only pulled out in dire situations, because to use the third dance to repair Sode no Shirayuki required a good part of her reiatsu.

A stunning flash of light and a horrible grating sound ensued as the two zanpakutos, one in metal form (and the white ribbon still circled protectively around Sode no Shirayuki) and the other morphed into a formidable lightning bolt, battled for dominance. Eventually, Byakuya sensed that Rukia's reiatsu was waning and she gave forth one last burst, expelling Murano-san's Raiko a good distance away, but at the price of having Sode no Shirayuki splinter into several shards of ice and rain down onto the ground below.

Murano-san laughed at Rukia and Byakuya seethed from his position behind her. Rukia, not having noticed Byakuya, busied herself with repairing her broken zanpakuto, and Murano-san quickly stopped laughing when Rukia righted herself, Sode no Shirayuki thrust out in front of her, as good as new.

"Don't laugh yet, Maki-san," Rukia announced sweetly. "This 'spar' of yours isn't over yet." And with that, she leapt into the air in a blur, admirably disappearing from even Byakuya's sharp eyes.

Murano-san's reiatsu suddenly swelled to unnatural levels as the lightning bolt that was Raiko grew larger as more reiatsu was channeled to it. Byakuya panicked slightly as he realized that Murano-san was unleashing the hidden stores of reiatsu that he had told her to never, ever use unless it was a matter of life or death – but he figured that Murano-san wouldn't listen to him very closely.

Byakuya knew that Rukia's reiatsu was low and quickly ebbing away, and he knew that it was high time to intervene rather than just helplessly watch. What happened to the brave, all-powerful Kuchiki-taichou of the Sixth Division?

Murano-san and Rukia were both too preoccupied to notice Byakuya's inconspicuous entrance into the clearing, except for the slightest swish of a white haori. He drew out Senbonzakura, the sleek metal of his zanpakuto reflecting the sunlight, and whispered two words: "Chire, Senbonzakura."

-to be continued…-

(1) Yusaburu means "jolt" and Raiko means "lightning". Fitting, ne? ;)

A/N: Yay! I had a lot of fun writing this chapter. I'm so glad that Byakuya's point of view was explained and written out, because I've been waiting to do that for a long time.

Well, other than that, there isn't much. I know a lot of you have complained that Maki is a bitch, and yes, she's supposed to be that way, but there's a lot behind her that you don't know yet. Just wait and see ;)

Oh, and let me know what you think about Renji and Kimi's romance. I think it's a nice little side story.

I will try to update soon, but based on my schedule…who knows? Anyways, review!!