He promised to protect her.
He promised to get her back.
He promised to he save her.
Rukia, the three men in her life, and the three promises they made for her.
One unexpected marriage proposal, and events begin to unfurl…
Note: Bleach belongs to Kubo Tite.
Chapter 1: Byakuya's Promise and His Decision
The door closed heavily behind him and it's echoes loomed large and deafening through the great stone hall. Kuchiki Byakuya strode forward and his scarf bellowed proudly behind him, a temporal white trail in the midst of towering archaic pillars and twisted shadows that danced upon the washed out grey floor.
From the windows, sunlight streamed feebly into the hallway and dissipated into the darkness. In the foreboding silence that hung heavy in the air, his light and swift footsteps cut through the stillness of the hall like a sharp blade.
This was the Great Hall of the Kuchiki clan and it bore the attributes of the family well.
Proud. Solemn. Empty.
Kuchiki Byakuya did not like this place. He respected it of course, as any proud Kuchiki member would, but he had no fond memories of it. Far from it.
This would be the fourth time since he had first answered to his name here, summoned by the elders of the Kuchiki clan, more than a century ago. On that day, his father died. On that day, he became the twenty-eighthhead of the Kuchiki clan.
His subsequent meetings with the elders were no pleasant memories either. He broke laws, and he made history. Twice. With a heavy heart, he wondered if there would be a third today. A faint line made its way between his proudly arched brows, briefly marring his perfectly dispassionate face before the usual unfathomable expression returned.
"Byakuya, we will do away with formalities today and be forthcoming with you. This concerns Kuchiki Rukia." A pregnant pause hung in the air as the speaking Kuchiki elder gazed intently upon Byakuya, who remained silent. He cleared his throat and restated his sentence. This time, his words were thick with meaning.
"Not Kuchiki Rukia. Rukia, to be more precise."
"And what of Rukia, may I enquire?" Byakuya's voice was cold and cutting.
The elder's eyes narrowed. Byakuya is no imbecile! He knows exactly what the council has in mind!
But two can play the game…
"The Council has unanimously decided. The approval of Rukia's adoption into the Kuchiki clan is to be revoked. The Kuchiki name will be taken from her and all kinship is to be severed. She is to leave the Kuchiki manor immediately. However, by the grace of this Council, she has until nightfall." The elder's eyes bore down upon the head of the house, "Is that to be understood? Byakuya."
The captain of the sixth division returned the gaze impassively. "And on what grounds were this decision made?"
"On grounds that we are all familiar with, Byakuya." The speaking elder tapped his finger impatiently "That Rukongai child had brought nothing but shame to the clan. We will no longer stand by and watch her bring further shame to this family."
The council immediately erupted into a chorus of agreement.
"A stray child bearing the name of the Great Kuchiki House is a disgrace!"
"To be sure, I have never thought that I would live to see a Kuchiki name on the death row calls!"
"...Betrayer of Seireitei…transferring powers to a mere human…"
"…In cahoots with the ryoka who had half of Seireitei in crumbles!"
"It seems that…" Byakuya's voice was dangerously quiet. The Council's eyes were on him again, and the hall fell to a dead silence.
"It seems that, I have to personally look into the intelligence and information unit that supports this council."
"Clearly, the unit is not performing. The information that this Council has at hand is terribly outdated and incorrect." Byakuya's haughty eyes swept across the council table, "Allow me to refresh your memories. Rukia was the victim of Aizen Sousuke's plot. The ryoka whom you spoke of with contempt has been recognised by Gotei 13 as the saviour of Seireitei, the key to our victory in the Winter War and the very reason why all of you are still safely seated in your council seats instead of becoming food to Aizen's minions in Huenco Mundo."
A slight murmur arose from the council table as reprimanding glances were directed upon the lone figure who stood proud and unfaltering before them. As expected, Kuchiki Byakuya was being difficult to handle. The council representative sighed. Though he had said that formalities would be waived in this meeting, it had been nothing but cold, furtive formalities from the start. He darted glances at the other council members, they nodded their heads curtly.
This is it. The council's grace ends here.
"Byakuya, your decision to adopt that child as your sister… It was to fufill Hisana's death wish, was it not? Rukia, is the sister of your dead wife."
It was a statement, not a question.
"The council sees no reason why we should accede to your wife's death wish and adopt yet another stray into the family."
"I can give you one reason, if you have forgotten…" Byakuya's voice was noticeably strained and his eyes were burning with anger. "Hisana is my wife and that makes her part of the Kuchiki."
"She has ceased to be a Kuchiki the moment she is dead."
Byakuya's eyes widened at the sudden intrusion of that familiar authoritative voice. From the corner of his eyes, he watched warily as a bent figure emerged from the shadows, revealing a peculiar looking old man. The intruder seemed to be very old, so old that he seemed ancient. His body was bent over and he leaned heavily against his ivory walking stick, which was grasped firmly in his right hand. His long hair and beard, white as snow, unbound but well kempt framed his wrinkled, weatherworn face. His eyes were an enigma; two white orbs, misted, pupil-less, and blind.
Byakuya loathed them. Those misted pools that saw and knew everything.
The old man made his way towards the council table, the sharp thudding sound of his walking stick echoed rhythmically with his footsteps.
"Ra- Ranken-sama!" Immediately, the Council was on their feet and the representative was already out of his seat, offering it in deference. The old man in question briefly nodded in acknowledgement and took his seat. The rest followed.
Ranken, the oldest living member of the Kuchiki clan, highly respected and very much feared. Having outlived five Kuchiki heads and stood as adviser to four, including Byakuya's father, he wielded immense influence in the clan and was more than often, the driving force behind certain events. Since the death of the previous Kuchiki head, he seemed to have washed his hands off the clan's matters, retiring to the background and rarely appeared for any family functions.
But he is here… His presence had worried Byakuya enough to bring forth an unmistakable frown upon face. Ranken….
"I will speak for this council and you will listen, Byakuya-bo."
Byakuya's hands curled into a fist, but he remained silent.
"The council's grace and mercy have their limits. Our clan has laws, laws that governed and prospered this house for thousand of years. But you have wilfully broke them with your decision to marry a mere commoner and adopting a Rukongai stray." His eyes, pallid and cold held their gaze upon Byakuya. The captain stared back in defiance and flinched. The white orbs, supposedly blind and dead, were making him nauseous. The white mist were vivid and alive, pools that would draw you in, flood your mind and drown you.
Byakuya's reiatsu flared instinctively and he pulled his gaze away. He could feel a single sweat drop making its way down his spine as he willed himself to calm down.
If the old man had noticed the burning reiatsu emitting from Byakuya, he must have ignored it. "The adoption was a grace from the council, Byakuya. Because that child bears a strong resemblance to your dead wife, and we sympathised with your loss. Did Hisana forget that she was a beneficiary of our clan and was in no position to demand anything from us?"
Byakuya knew this day would come. When his father died, he knew he would have to fight to uphold the laws of his clans. When Hisana married him, he knew she would leave him one day. When he adopted Rukia…
He always knew. He knew what was right and what was wrong. He knew which path would lead to what consequences. He knew black from white. He knew boundaries.
"You have given her fifty years. You have shielded her and protected her. You have kept your promise to your dead wife. Take it as parting gift for Hisana, the Kuchiki clan has no more obligations to her. That child must leave."
Byakuya closed his eyes…
"Byakuya-sama… please find my sister." Hisana pleaded as she struggled to draw in air into her frail lungs. "And when you find her, please don't tell her I am her sister."
Byakuya gently clasped her hand, his hands engulfing her delicate, tiny one. "Hisana, don't speak, you need rest."
"No, please, Byakuya-sama. Somehow, please protect my sister with your power." Her eyes were distant and sorrowful as she thought about her baby sister. Those large innocent violet eyes that watched her leave… "I have abandoned my sister…"
She shook her head anxiously and pain shot through her chest. She knew her time is coming; she had to have his promise. "I don't have the right to be called her sister… So please, Byakuya-sama, I wish that she could call you brother."
"Look, Hisana," He gripped her hand tightly, anxious to summon her departing living will. "The first spring flower…"
Her eyes never left him. She wanted him to be the last thing she sees before she leaves, but the tears were blurring up her vision. His fingers gently brushed them away and she caught his hand. It settled on her right cheek in a soft caress.
"I'm sorry that I am selfish to the very end, I'm sorry that I could not return the love that you had given me. The five years with you were like a dream…."
"Hisana…" Byakuya could see the light fading from her eyes.
"Byakuya –sama, please protect my sister…"
"I will save her!"
Byakuya turned and gazed at the orange-haired boy before him, "If we don't obey the laws, then who will?"
Resolute brown eyes met his. "If I am in your position, I think I would still fight the law!"
Hisana, I am sorry… I…
Byakuya opened his eyes. "Very well…"
A smile tugged at the corners of the council representative's lips as he heaved a sigh of relief. Finally…
"As the council dictates, Rukia will have the Kuchiki name taken away from her and she will cease to be a Kuchiki the moment the decision is made official… However-"
Byakuya took a step forward; his eyes cold and hardened, swept across the council, and settled upon the old man. His reiatsu flared and he could feel the usually composed Senbonzakura trembling with excitement in its sheathe.
"Rukia will not NOT leave the manor."
"She would stay and carry the name of Kuchiki, as my wife."
Hisana… I am sorry. I promised to protect her.
"What impudence! Byakuya!" The council representative bellowed and slammed his fist on the table.
Byakuya ignored his outburst and coolly pressured him back into his seat with a slight pressure from his reiatsu. "I understand your decision to retract the decision to adopt Rukia…"
The clan had often seen itself as the benefactor of Hisana because they perceived that they had granted all a Rukongai woman can ask for: noble status, wealth and luxurious comforts, by accepting their marriage. But they have never accepted her as family. It was no wonder why the elders considered her request insolent and ungrateful. Adoption, for the nobles were not prohibited. On the contrary, it was common practice for childless families to adopt. But Rukia was not male nor was she of noble blood. She was from Rukongai. In the eyes of the elders, Rukia was… useless to the clan when adopted. For the clan to accept her, she must be of some use… as Hisana was thought of to have.
"… and I will abide by it. But I see no valid reason why I should not have her as my wife. Surely, the head of this clan has a degree of freedom in choosing his own bride?"
"She was from Rukongai…"
"I believe that we have been through that, council representative." Byakuya's voice was harsh and cutting. "Countlessly."
"Ranken-sama! Please do something about this! This is madness!"
So Byakuya, you have resorted to this… The old man rose to his feet.
"Byakuya, is this your proposal?"
There was a slight pause. "Very well. Accepted."
"SILENCE!" He bellowed and slammed his ivory stick, the impact creating fissures through the stone ground. "The proposal is accepted. The decision is final. Council dismissed!"
Byakuya turned and headed for the door.
He paused in his footsteps, and inclined his head.
"I will send a messenger to the child."
"It… would be appreciated." With that, the Kuchiki head swept back his robes and strode forward to the door.
"Keep to your side of the bargain, boy." Byakuya was however, already at the door and seemingly had not heard the old man's words.
Ranken's blind eyes gazed steadily into the air. He knew. He knew Byakuya heard him.
First chapter up! My first attempt at a Bleach fanfic so please be nice to me! Yoroshiku ne! It was meant to be a ByakuyaXRukia story, when the story first popped out in my head. But somehow along the way… haha… Ichigo and Renji butted in and wanted attention. (That sneaky Ichigo…) So for now, pairings will be undecided till my zanpakutou er no, I mean my muse takes her pick. Enjoy!
(I'm doing this during my exam. Sometimes I think I am crazy.)