The moon was full and high in the sky. Crickets were chirping softly and the night was silent as Miyako sat alone, high up in a tree. The leaves were relatively thick, but moonlight still shone through and exposed areas of her black shinigami robe. Her dark hair fell down the sides of her shoulders and her long bangs were swept over her left eye. She gripped the hilt of her soul slayer even though she didn't need to; she wasn't expecting any sort of fight tonight, but the air felt different. Ever since the Bount race invaded Soul Society, she felt a slight disturbance of spirit power. Something was familiar about it all, even though she had never known a Bount in her entire life. She, amongst her 11th squad comrades, had been dispatched to keep watch over various areas of Seireitei, the Court of Pure Souls, in case a Bount would happen to come along the way. No Death God could tell where a Bount was, or when it would pass by, because they could hide their spirit power incredibly well. To make matters worse, Bounts had a different type of spirit power – it was a mix of human and something else entirely, so Death Gods could not detect it. Miyako couldn't understand why her Captain would set them loose on so elusive an enemy, especially since he was normally the one to barge in, soul slayer ready, no questions asked. Instead, they were all sitting around Seireitei, idle, waiting for a Bount to randomly show up. It was incredibly boring.
Nevertheless, Miyako took advantage of the order and sat alone to think. She knew that the woods would be a good spot to keep watch, but she also knew that most of the 11th squad was still in the main city of Soul Society. The woods were usually covered by the 2nd division, and she knew that Captain Soi Fon got irritated if other squads snuck around their territory. Miyako was more or less out in the woods deliberately. She wanted to be alone, and she wanted to know why she felt the strange presence of a familiar…even old…reiatsu. It was a well-hidden spirit power, but it bothered her nonetheless. She would only feel slight twinges in the air once in awhile, but it was never anything major. When she did feel it, however, she knew that whoever it was, he was moving. He would use his spirit power only slightly to sweep through the area quickly, then it would vanish again. Miyako traced it into the woods, but now the spirit power was gone, so she sat patiently in the tree, admiring the moonlight.
Miyako was the only female in the 11th squad, which was notorious for their over-zealous manner in fighting. Needless to say, the entire squad consisted of men except for Miyako and the lieutenant. Captain Zaraki didn't even care who made up his squad, as long as they all followed the same creed: always treat each battle as if you're fighting the last battle of your life. There is no quitting, and there is no losing. Either one would be the equivalent to death. If word reached Zaraki about any of his residents giving up or running away, he would personally kill them himself. He virtually lacked any sort of compassion, save for his love of fighting, and he barely even knew the names of his squad residents, let alone his third, fourth, and fifth seats. The only one he remotely cared about was his little lieutenant.
Zaraki's lieutenant was Yachiru Kusajishi, a tiny little girl with short blonde hair that was dyed pink. Lieutenant Kusajishi looked only to be about four years old, but her spirit power was completely off the charts. It was rumored that Zaraki had raised her himself, which made sense from her innate sense of power and skill in battle. Miyako had never personally seen the lieutenant fight, but she had felt her incredible spirit power, which was enough to know better than to ask questions. The lieutenant was always perched on Zaraki's shoulders, riding piggy-back, wherever he went. She hardly gave orders, but tagged along and watched events unfold as Zaraki would go off and do his own thing. Usually, he would try to pick fights himself, and since the Bount arrived, he and the lieutenant had disappeared once again, leaving the third seat in charge of the squad.
Ikkaku Madarame was third in command and very strict. He always shaved his head and had red tattoos "painted" near his eyes to give himself a sinister look. Like all 11th squad members, he loved to fight and was bored otherwise. He also had a sharp mind and was never caught off guard. Only when Ichigo Kurosaki first invaded Soul Society (who was then thought to be an enemy) was Ikkaku beaten, but the entire 11th squad knew that Ikkaku had put up an incredible fight. The only reason that Captain Zaraki didn't punish Ikkaku for losing was because he had been beaten by Ichigo himself. Ever since, Ikkaku and the Captain trained harder and challenged Ichigo constantly for a rematch.
Miyako was technically the fourth in command, as she had earned the label of fourth seat, but officially it was Yumichika Ayasegawa who held the fourth in command. Yumichika, being a very odd and vain person, did not accept fourth seat because he claimed that the number four was "ugly," and instead opted for fifth seat. He was first in line for promotion, and Miyako the second, so even though she is known to be fourth seat, she allows Yumichika to give orders over her. Miyako could hardly stand Yumichika because of his selfishness and narcissism, but for some reason Ikkaku got along with him fine, even though they seemed to be direct opposites of each other. Miyako would constantly make fun of Yumichika's style, especially in the way he'd "dress up" his face with two long feathers attached to his eyelashes and he would comb his chin-length hair until completely smooth, but Ikkaku would say nothing. Even the Captain showed his obvious revulsion in Yumichika's feminine and haughty manner, but he allowed Yumichika in his squad because of his tremendous power. Yumichika's greatest weapon in battle was taking the enemy by complete surprise, which was no question as to why. One glance at Yumichika, and his opponent would automatically underestimate him, and Yumichika would take full advantage of it. Nobody knew what the first stage of Yumichika's soul slayer was, because he would never reveal it, stating that it was "too ugly." Not even the Captain knew how he defeated enemies in battle, and Yumichika refused to spar others unless when ordered to, not wanting to wrinkle or soil his shinigami robe – or especially ruin his hair. As a result, Miyako would spar Ikkaku on occasions, and she would challenge subordinates in the squad to practice fighting.
The leaves in the tree rustled only slightly from the soft breeze and Miyako sat back and let out a sigh. She began to think of the words spoken to hear nearly two hundred years ago.
How can you defend him, Miyako? Have you no sense of justice at all? Seireitei is warped and blood has been spilt because of the ridiculous system our leaders have set in place! Even the Captains sit idle as this atrocity is allowed to happen! No…I will no longer accept Soul Society as my home. I am sad for you, Miyako. You are weak! Following the Captains around like a dog, just like all the other Death Gods...you disgust me. Mark my words, blood will be spilled again, and it will be at the hands of your own beloved Captains.
Miyako shuddered as she thought of those haunting words. What's worse is that it came true – three of their Captains had conspired and murdered for their own personal gain, right under everyone's noses. Captains Sosuke Aizen of the 5th squad, Gin Ichimaru of the 3rd, and Kaname Tosen of the 9th. They had abandoned Soul Society in search of a higher power in Hueco Mundo, the giant Hollow World, and killed countless Death Gods in the process, including one of Miyako's friends, Momo Hinamori. Miyako was more of a bully towards Momo, simply because of Miyako's habits learned from the 11th division. She was rougher, meaner, and more foul-mouthed than Momo, but they stuck together nonetheless because it was rare for females to move up in rank. Momo was stronger in the kido magic attacks than Miyako, who used force more than magic, so Momo moved up to lieutenant long before Miyako even moved to sixth seat.
The Death God women were more likely to move up in rank in the 4th division, which was primarily skilled in the healing arts. Because healing came more naturally to females instead of males, there were more of them in the 4th division. Rangiku Matsumoto, a lieutenant in the 10th squad, was older and stronger than Miyako or Momo and bonded easier with the men than she did with the women. Nanao Ise was the second woman to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant, but she often complained of her position because her Captain, Shunsui Kyoraku of the 8th division, was a total scoundrel and womanizer. Isane Kotetsu was lieutenant of the 4th division and spent most of her time amongst the healing squad. The fourth was Momo Hinamori in the 5th division under Aizen, and the fifth and last woman to be promoted to the rank of lieutenant was Nemu Kurotsuchi of the 12th squad, but she was incredibly quiet and hardly ever came out into Seireitei on her own. She was constantly incredibly busy with her squad and Captain Mayuri Kurotsuchi. Because she worked primarily in research and development, other Death Gods hardly saw her, and they avoided her Captain almost completely because of the bazaar transformation he allowed himself to succumb to; mostly from his own research. Captain Soi Fon of the 3rd division was incredibly strict as well as intimidating and also controlled her own special ninja team, so she hardly ever made time to "bond" with other women. Lieutenant Matsumoto spent more time with her Captain and her squad simply because he kept her busy, but Momo and Miyako usually hung out with Nanao. The three girls had the same hair color but differed on almost everything else ranging from looks to attitude. Nanao was the tallest of the three and was very bookish. Her complexion was very plain, but she was still pretty. She always wore her hair pinned up and she would never be without her glasses. Momo was the shortest, skinniest, and nicest. She was also incredibly shy and had a very soft voice. Her hair would be tied up in a bun and she always smiled. Miyako was an average height and she left her long hair down and usually unkempt. Her long bangs would sweep down over her face, but she didn't care, and she always looked sinister and serious, constantly trying to pick a fight – a bad habit after staying in 11th squad for so long. Out of the three girls, her features were the most beautiful; she had a sharp jawline, dark eyes, and long eyelashes, but had a very short temper and a cynical attitude.
Even though Miyako constantly teased the others, she was secretly glad to have other women as her comrades. Being surrounded by men constantly in her division got a little nerve-wracking at times, and they would occasionally take advantage of the fact that she was the only woman. Even though she held fourth seat and commanded a lot of respect, men were still men, and there was usually a random idiot spouting nonsense at her. Lieutenant Rangiku Matsumoto received the same kind of attention from her 10th squad, but they weren't as aggressive towards her and she didn't seem to mind. If anything, she probably encouraged it.
After Momo's death, it was a slap in the face to all Seireitei. They were all betrayed. The Central 46 had been completely obliterated, and Rukia Kuchiki, a Death God from 13th squad, was nearly wrongfully executed. After fighting so hard against Ichigo Kurosaki, 11th squad especially – Captain Zaraki and Ikkaku were nearly killed – there were so many unnecessary injuries and fights. Behind the scenes of it all, Aizen was making his move, and he had used his own lieutenant, Momo, as his puppet.
All Momo ever did was respect you, Miyako cursed Aizen bitterly. Maybe even love you. And now she's dead because she trusted you. She closed her eyes and sighed as she thought of Momo.
Seireitei was brought to its knees the day Aizen, Tosen, and Ichimaru left for Hueco Mundo. Izuru Kira, the 3rd squad lieutenant, felt incredibly responsible for Momo's murder because he had unwittingly helped his own Captain in the ruse. Shuhei Hisagi, the 9th squad lieutenant and a good friend of Miyako's, was even imprisoned for a short while because he had fought against Yumichika as Captain Zaraki fought against Tosen. The entire court had been in such an uproar that Death Gods were fighting amongst themselves, not knowing who to trust, not knowing who was really good or evil. When Nanao and Miyako heard the devastating news of the mass murder, they mourned for Momo together and vowed to avenge her as well as the other lost Death Gods, but nobody took Momo's death as hard as Captain Hitsugaya of the 10th squad. He was the youngest Captain - younger than Momo - and even grew up with her in Rukongai. The Captain was so devastated that Lieutenant Matsumoto confided in Miyako and Nanao that she didn't know what to do. He stopped giving her orders. He stopped talking. It continued for weeks on end until, finally, he recovered from his own injuries and there was talk of the Bount force suddenly growing in the human world. He immediately took on the task to help with investigations and sent Lieutenant Matsumoto out immediately, along with Lieutenants Kira and Hisagi, who felt just as lost. The Bount mission gave them something to fight for once again.
Mark my words, blood will be spilled again, and it will be at the hands of your own beloved Captains.
Miyako gripped her soul slayer again, out of habit, and took a deep breath.
You were right, she thought. I wonder if you were right about me, too. I hardly raised a finger to help Momo. Ikkaku. Captain Zaraki.
I am sad for you, Miyako. You are weak!
"Your name suits you well," a deep voice echoed through the forest and jarred Miyako from her thoughts. "Sitting up there, alone, in the moonlight. What do you plan to accomplish out here?"
Miyako looked around. It was completely dark out and she couldn't see who was talking, but she knew the voice.
"Why are you out here?" she asked the voice in annoyance.
"You're not even going to address me as Lieutenant?"
Miyako looked over the branch she was nestled in and peered down at the ground. The voice was coming from down below, but she didn't see anything.
"Captain Kuchiki didn't have any orders to give you, did he?" she said flatly.
"He sees the Bount as a pest infestation, nothing more. I'm out here because I thought I felt a familiar reiatsu. I guess I wasn't wrong. You must've felt it, too."
Miyako didn't reply.
"A spirit force I hadn't felt since way back when I was in the 11th squad with you."
"It's probably nothing," Miyako lied.
"Probably not," the voice said, "but if it isn't, then what are you doing all the way out here? Captain Soi Fon would be pissed if she knew you were out here in her squad's territory."
"Lieutenant Abarai," she said in exasperation, "please leave so I can go back to patrolling."
"Aha! Now you're starting to learn your place."
Miyako rolled her eyes and sighed loudly.
"You aren't still upset that I left 11th squad, are you?" the lieutenant pressed.
"You didn't leave 11th squad; it was a promotion, and I do not envy you for that. You deserve it, as well as my congratulations."
There was a pause, and Miyako assumed that the lieutenant was basking in glory. She rolled her eyes again.
"Why would I be upset, anyway?"
Lieutenant Abarai stretched and let out a groan. "You miss my good looks."
"Or perhaps because you wanted that promotion yourself, to be closer to Captain Kuchiki?"
Miyako snapped to attention and curled her lip.
"How dare you!"
There was a soft chuckle down below.
Byakuya Kuchiki was the Captain of the 6th squad and a noble son of the Kuchiki family. He was an incredibly quiet, stoic man who almost never appeared amongst the Seireitei residents unless necessary. He was also very proud and bound his life to his duty of Captain and obeyed every single rule. It was true that Miyako thought him a very handsome man, but he also used to have a wife, who died unexpectedly from illness. It was over a hundred years ago, but he had changed after that. Nobody had ever seen him with a smile on his face, and he was known to be rigid and cold to others, yet Miyako looked up to him as an exceptional role-model. However, she believed that all residents of Soul Society should look up to their superiors with respect and pride. To insinuate something so forthright as the lieutenant had…outrageous! That she would even think to get closer to Captain Kuchiki simply because of how she perceived him…Lieutenant Abarai was out of line, and he knew it.
"Captain Kuchiki is an upstanding member of the Gotei Thirteen and an honorable nobleman!" Miyako snapped. "I wouldn't make such assumptions, if I were you!"
"I know what he is," the lieutenant said in a tired voice, "I'm reminded every day of my life. I was just making fun of you. Everyone in 11th squad knows you've got a crush on the guy."
Miyako opened her mouth in utter disbelief. "What? I do not!"
"Your face turns pink every time he walks by."
Miyako had counted every time the Captain had walked near her. Only twice. It was so rare to see his face that she always looked away. It seemed insolent to look him in the eye. She felt her teeth grind together at the lieutenant's presumptions.
The lieutenant chuckled again. Miyako realized that he was trying to tease her into a heated argument, and she decided to give him a taste of his own medicine.
"So? Everyone in Seireitei knows how you feel about his sister, Rukia."
In an instant, Miyako heard a slight gasping sound as he sucked in some air from the surprise. Even though she couldn't see him, she peered over the tree branch and grinned down into the darkness.
"Wh…what are you talking about?" he spouted.
Miyako couldn't help but laugh. "This substitute Death God, Ichigo Kurosaki, must really be quite a character, because she can't get enough of him! She's always going back to the human world!"
Her statement was out of line as well, because she knew it was wrong to speak of Rukia so disrespectfully. Rukia held no rank in the 13th squad, but she was Captain Kuchiki's younger sister, and she had nearly died from the false execution orders given five months earlier. However, she felt it was an even exchange to the lieutenant, especially since he started it first.
Down below, there was no response. Only silence.
"Even now, I'm sure you're out here training to outdo him, and he's not even a real Death God!" Miyako added.
There was a soft growl that emerged from the darkness. Miyako smiled maliciously and pushed even further.
"Why aren't you at the Kuchiki house, looking after Rukia? Didn't her soul get damaged from her last fight with a Bount? I'm surprised you aren't tending to her every need."
As anticipated, Miyako heard the distinct shing of a soul slayer being unsheathed, and she happily met the invitation. She quickly leaped off the tree branch and pulled out her own soul slayer. She landed hard on the ground and her sword met with lieutenant Abarai's soul slayer. She was grinning from ear to ear and pushed her blade down onto his, and he stared back at her, gritting his teeth in anger.
Lieutenant Renji Abarai was only promoted to 6th squad seven months ago, and he now served under Captain Kuchiki. He was originally a member of 11th squad and would have had fourth seat, but instead he was unexpectedly promoted to lieutenant, and Miyako got fourth seat instead. Renji had skipped three ranks in his promotion, which was pretty rare and it surprised the residents of 11th squad. Miyako, however, knew better. His only ambition was to exceed the power of Captain Kuchiki, no matter what the cost. He spent countless years training, day and night, to increase his spirit power and his skill at fighting, and Miyako was one of his sparring partners. Even though she wasn't training for any specific promotion, she enjoyed the challenge that Renji presented and they both eventually moved up in rank. Miyako didn't consider Renji a friend, however; she thought him as a bit of a simpleton. He always charged mindlessly into battle first without thinking, he had a smart mouth, and he would brag. Miyako considered all those things to be foolish aspects to have as a warrior, especially one spawned from the slums of Rukongai, but she also harbored a slight envy for him. How it was possible that someone like Renji, a street rat without any sort of self-control, could get promoted to second seat was beyond her understanding. This envy was mixed with a little respect as well, because if he could manage to get promoted under Captain Kuchiki, then the others must have definitely thought Renji worthy of the position. He was a very handsome man, also, in his own punky, jerk way. His hair, which was almost a dark blood-red, was pulled back into a short ponytail at the top of his head, and he wore a white headband that tied on the side. After each promotion he received, he would display it by getting black tattoos scrawled across his chest, back, and arms. When he was promoted within ten seats of lieutenant, he ran out of room on his torso for any more tattoos, and the sides of his face and neck were now covered in dark black designs.
"You've grown soft, Renji," Miyako teased. "Your time in 6th squad was obviously ill-spent, as it seems you've lost the ways of 11th squad."
"You'll learn soon that I have not," Renji retorted. "I'm always quick to answer a challenge, and I don't like how you were speaking to me just now."
Miyako pouted and laughed. "Aww, Lieutenant Abarai, did I hurt your feelings?"
Renji swung his soul slayer at Miyako and she blocked it, laughing. They were locked in a swift sword fight, reminiscent of their spars together, and neither one backed down. Miyako rebounded off of tree trunks and Renji would leap into the air, position himself on a branch, and dive at her to gain speed. A normal human would never be able to see this fight – they were moving much too fast, as a blade on an airplane can be seen only for a split second.
"You'd do well to remember how to address me," Renji growled. He grinned slightly.
"Oh? You shouldn't run your mouth so much," Miyako replied. "I don't think much of those who brag about their rank."
Renji laughed. "Brag? So what if I do? I think I've earned it!"
Miyako swung her soul slayer at Renji, who blocked it. Tiny sparks flew as the metal blades scraped against each other and she jumped back.
"Just because you've earned it doesn't mean you should flaunt it every chance you get!" she yelled at him.
"So you are jealous!" Renji gave her a wide grin.
Miyako put a hand on her hip. "Stubborn as ever."
Renji surged forward. "Stronger than ever!"
Miyako quickly blocked his strike again and dipped down to kick his legs out from under him. Renji was completely off guard and landed flat on his back. Miyako leaned over and looked at his surprised face.
"Have you honestly forgotten everything since you left 11th squad?"
Renji narrowed his eyes at her. "That's a dirty trick that only you still perform."
"You, of all people, should have seen that coming."
Renji stood up, brushed himself off, and sheathed his soul slayer. "I was going easy on you."
Miyako curled her lip. "Don't insult me."
Renji was about to retort when something in the air made them both swiftly turn around and stare into the dark woods.
"What…?" he asked.
"Someone's spirit force," Miyako whispered.
"It was close."
"I don't feel it anymore, though. Do you?"
Renji shook his head and pulled out what looked like large blue sunglasses. He put them on and jumped into a high tree branch. Miyako followed him and watched him as he scanned the woods.
"Where did you get those?"
"As soon as I got promoted, Captain Kuchiki told me to pick some up from 12th division. We needed it in order to…"
Renji trailed off and lifted the glasses, placing them on his head. Miyako examined him.
"To find Rukia in the human world and arrest her."
Miyako remained silent. She forgot that it was Captain Kuchiki and Renji who were assigned to retrieve Rukia from the human world. The order seemed rather cruel in making her half-brother and her best friend arrest her. It was right after Renji's promotion, too, so the order must have been hard on him. The sad look on Renji's face would've originally tempted Miyako tease him even more, but the whole issue had began because of Aizen, which had a deep impact amongst everyone in Seireitei, so instead she decided to change the subject quickly.
"Did you see anything out there?"
Renji shook his head. "No. Whoever it was, they've completely disappeared. But…" he glanced at Miyako. "It was the same spirit force I felt earlier that led me out here."
Miyako avoided his gaze.
"Miyako, do you want to tell me what's really going on? You never told me why you're out here."
Miyako glanced at Renji and he appeared concerned, which was a first. She had known him to be a loud-mouthed ass while he was in the 11th squad.
"Nothing you need to know, Lieutenant."
Renji narrowed his eyes and grinned slightly. "So it's like that, then?"
Before she could reply, she heard a high-pitched voice down below.
"Oooooh! Hiyeee! Ken-ken, it's Miya-ya! Hiyeeee, Miya-ya!"
Miyako froze. It was Lieutenant Kusajishi. She and Renji looked down to see the lieutenant happily perched on Captain Zaraki's back. She was staring up at them with a large smile on her face, waving.
Miyako jumped down and landed in front of the Captain, who was staring straight ahead into the woods and paid her and Renji no heed, until the lieutenant kept making a fuss. He glanced at her with his good eye and looked up at Renji.
"Ken-ken! Miya-ya has arrived at the scene before us!" Lieutenant Kusajishi beamed. "Did you feel the spirit force as well, Miya-ya?"
Miyako looked surprised. "Yes, Lieutenant Kusajishi," she replied. "It keeps coming and going, but it's the same spirit force and it appears to have gone that way."
The lieutenant pouted. "Miya-ya, don't talk to me so formally! I told you before to call me Yachiru!"
Miyako cleared her throat. "But…miss Lieutenant Kusajishi…"
"Yachiru!" the lieutenant put her hands on her hips and frowned.
"Excuse me…er…Yachiru…" Miyako stuttered quietly.
"That's better, isn't it, Ken-ken?" the lieutenant hopped on Captain Zaraki's shoulder, but he wasn't paying attention. He was still staring into the woods and looked troubled.
"Ken-ken?" the lieutenant started poking him in the head.
The Captain rolled his eye and growled, "What?"
"Miya-ya found the spirit force too!"
The Captain glanced at Miyako again and was about to say something when the lieutenant squealed, "Ooooooh! Renji's up there, too! Hiyeeee, Ren-ren!"
Renji raised an eyebrow and nodded at the tiny lieutenant.
"We miss you, Ren-ren! Why don't you come back to the 11th squad?"
"Hey, brat, shut up for a second!" the Captain barked.
"Ken-ken gets irritated when he can't fight," lieutenant Kusajishi whispered to Miyako.
"You two, go back to Seireitei," the Captain ordered. "The shift's over. Nothing's out here."
Renji jumped down from his post and stood alongside Miyako. Miyako nodded and headed off towards Seireitei, Renji behind her. As they left, Miyako turned and glanced back at the Captain, who was still staring into the dark woods. Lieutenant Kusajishi was waving to them, yelling "Bye-byeeeee, Miya-ya! Biyeeee, Ren-ren! See you later!"
With that, the Captain walked slowly into the dark woods in the opposite direction.
"What's up with Captain Zaraki?" Renji asked as they ran. "He seemed distracted."
"You know the Captain," Miyako replied. "Always the first to be on the scene, measuring enemies up. Ever since the Bount arrived, he and the lieutenant have been on the prowl."
Renji shook his head. "Something's going on. This strange spirit power that keeps popping up…it can't be just coincidence. Do you see any of the other Captains even remotely worried about this invasion?"
Miyako remained silent. It was true that the Captains hardly did anything to fight off the Bount. The Bount had not yet made their move, and it was almost impossible to track them. Still, a Bount would never stand a chance against a Captain. As Renji had said before, Captain Kuchiki didn't even bother taking any action against the Bount, and none of the squads had received any kind of official order from the General.
"Captain Zaraki just wants a bit of fun," Miyako finally replied. "He's always looking for a challenge."
"Ichigo Kurosaki would present a better challenge than the Bount," Renji argued back. "Captain Zaraki wouldn't take the time out of his day to squash a bug." He glanced at Miyako. "And you," he added, "seemed to be bothered by this spirit force as well."
Miyako didn't respond.
"This has personal written all over it," Renji said.
Miyako set her jaw and kept running towards the main court of Seireitei, Renji beside her. They didn't speak again of the matter, and parted ways once they reached the court.