The air is getting heavier in the 6th squad for some days now. When I happen to walk through a room, murmurs disappear, eyes search for the ground, groups split up. I should have known, those so-called shinigami are more eager to spread rumors than to do their job... I slam the door of the office behind me.
« Ohayo, Taichou !! » The too cheerful voice should drive me even more mad : the whole problem began precisely because of it.
« Ohayo gozaimasu, Fukutaichou. » But actually I feel better thanks to that voice. And the great smile coming with it... Like every time since last week, i feel tempted to throw away my nobility and all the work. But a so undignified reaction will not happen, not any more. I hold back a sigh and close my mind to these unwanted thoughts. The man in front of me probably sees it, and a light in his eyes switches off. I will turn it on again later... For now, resigned, he submits the morning reports to me, and goes back to his desk.
It's half past ten, and I already think about what i'm going to do for him tonight, to apologize for my coldness. And to release my own frustration, too. Ideas run through my head and a plan is drawing in my mind, while I keep working, my eyes locked on the letters I just wrote. My attention is drawn by a sigh from the opposite corner of the room ; I look up at an exhausted daydreaming Renji. The shadow of a smile disappears from my lips even before it could print on. The noisy redheaded shinigami doesn't have my skill to part his mind and do two things at a time, giving the impression to be always hardworking ...
It's almost lunchtime. Our desks finally freed from the urgent papers, I allow a feverish Renji to go « look after the men on the training grounds », in order to let off steam. I would need fresh air too, but as soon as I'm outside, I'm reminded of the others' behaviour. Turning the hallway corner, I even feel as if someone was sneaking into our office, probably seeking for some evidence about the rumors ... But my pride keeps me from going back, it would only inforce their thoughts.
Before I reach the door of the mess of the officers(1), I'm sure I'm followed. By a young shinigami who works hard on hiding his reiatsu, inducing a regular flow, like a light which would be flicking in the night... Having a hard time looking indifferent, I retain a sigh and sit at an empty table, certain that no one would dare to come.
« Hey, Taichou ! Aaaaargh, I'm starving... Ow, did you know that... » Dilly dallying, my lieutnant sits down in front of me with his natural discretion. For about half an hour, he talks about how the young soldiers are doing ; about the animated evening in the 13th squad where Matsumoto Rangiku and Hitsugaya Taichou were also ; about the silly idea of a party planned for this week-end that followed in our division to keep up with the 13th. I dont even dare to look up to frown at him, scared that I might cross the eyes of those surrounding us, already mumuring our names ...
I still can't figure out how a shinigami who has been working – and doing it well – for almost fifty years can be that oblivious : he never talked to me for anything else than work, and suddenly he's eating with me like a friend and telling me stories which concern him as less as me ! I begin to think he might do it on purpose, to show off with me ; Renji uses to dislike keeping secrets from his friends, and about half the Seireitei belongs more or less to this group. But he kows how reluctant I am towards these things, it even was one of the conditions to our ... deal. I still can't define the situation clearly myself, so to think about giving it to those greedy dogs, it's unbearable.
And now, I find myself being asked to go with him to that creepy party on Saturday. I hardly swallow. Wooden katana fights, little theater shows, I can deal with that, but I heard someone talking about karaoke and ice rinks... I don' t even want to know what they are. What would I do there ?! Without having said a single word since I entered the mess, I stand up and head back to the Gotei13 offices. Renji hasn't finish eating, he won't follow me.
Well, maybe he will. He has taken as much food as his hands could contain, and leaped behind me, trying to speak despite his full mouth. I walk faster, he speeds up too. People smile almost openly when we pass by, and I almost run ; it's obviously not enough to make my lieutenant give up, but at least it will excuse my reddish cheeks... And then I'm at the office. Once I cross the door, Renji will stop his plea, he knows the rule : it's the end of my break.
One week has passed, but he doesn't want to give up. Why is that event so important to him ? I guess he would take it as the acknowledgment of our relationship. He never stops talking about it ; I've clearly said « no » many times, but he seems to think I'm a girl(2)... And for the sixth time this week, I find myself at the door of the office, Renji begging behind me. I 'm about to cross the door once again, but he prevents me from entering by blocking the way, breathing a bit fast. Far much louder than is needed when he's less than one meter from me, he asks me to go there with him.
I won't go.
I open my mouth to make it clear one more time : « Ii... » The door suddenly opens in his back and two shinigamis appear, looking ashamed, and run away without a word. « ...yo(3)... ».
My eyes widen just like his smile. The strange attitude of the two men has dragged my attention away and my tongue has slipped. But the tatooed shinigami isn't going to let me correct myself. He flees in the hallway, shouting back at me the time and place for the meeting. I keep for myself the sigh that comes in my chest.
Is he really thinking I will go ??????
I've been waiting at the place for twenty minutes already, and still no Renji. Feeling uneased because of the surprised or amused smiles of my men, who enter the house one after the other. I silently thank the rule that forbids the shinigamis to wear anything else but the uniform inside these walls ; at least I'm not ridiculous.
« Aaaah, Taichou, sorry for being late ! » The lieutnant appears out of nowhere, right in front of me. I'm about to decline the invitation and go straight home, but an unexpected voice startles me.
« Nii-sama ! So that was true ?! I just come back from the human world, I couldn' t believe Urahara-san ! Since Renji didn't tell me anything, I... »
« Rukia, will you shut up ! » Renji shouts « It's supposed to be a secret, I was struggling to keep it, so you... »
« It's enough, Renji » I enter the noisy house before them, closing my eyes briefly from exasperation. « From the way you acted the whole week, our relationship isn't a secret to anyone anymore ! »
Then I notice the loud silence. I look up.
Every shinigami from the 6th is there, in front of the stage I don't remember having climb on. Upon their heads hangs a huge sign celebrating « a hundred years of commanding ». My heart skips a beat.
Behind my shoulder, Renji murmurs, his teeth clenched not to burst out laughing : « What I was having a hard time to do was to harass you until you would agree to come, without making you suspicious, and giving out the secret of the party dedicated to you, Taichou... »
The words slowly print on my mind, as well as Rukia's stunned expression, reflected in every face in front of us.
« Nii-sama ? You... your relationship ??!!! »
This time I can't hold back a sigh of despair.
Notes : (1) i'm the daughter of a military officer, so it's the word that came to my mind, but if you think about a better one ...
(2) it's a well-known fact (among the men) that when girls say « no », they mean « maybe, if you insist a bit more » :p
(3) « iie » means « no », but « iyo » is « ok »