A/N: Hi, everyone! Thanks for the wonderful welcome back!!! It looks like I'll be posting a new chapter every 5 to 10 days until we're finished. We've got a long way to go yet unless Tite Kubo issues a restraining order since I don't own Bleach.
I love this chapter!! I hope you do too. It's the first chapter of the trial which at this point runs through chapter 48. After you read, go to Dolphin Whisperer's website to see a picture drawn especially for this chapter. (Take out the spaces) http:// bcollie9 .deviant art. com /art /Komamuras- Declaration- 115426140
Please don't hate Shunsui too much. He just doesn't get it, but believe me, he will.
"So how was your date with Shuuhei?" Rangiku nudged the dark haired woman with her elbow as they took their seats in the vice captain's gallery of the large hall. "Did you have a good time? Do you think you'll go out with him again?"
Captain General Yamamoto had called a special meeting for all captains and vice captains. Rumors were swirling. Some, like Marechiyo Oomaeda, believed that the captain general would announce plans about the new festival that the Court Guard squads were working on in an effort to appease the powerful Oomaeda family, whose last festival had been ruined by five overzealous Shinigami.
Others, like Captain Kuchiki, believed that the captain general would be addressing pest control for the containment of those five annoying pests that had been plaguing the Seireitei. Those who knew about the arrests guessed correctly that a hearing would soon commence to punish the five offenders of the peace. While not everyone agreed, most felt that some punishment was necessary, if only to restore order and keep others in line.
Only one person besides the captain general knew for certain that most of the shenanigans would now be commencing behind the scenes in a carefully thought-out plot to punish the mastermind behind it all. She sat quietly next to her chatty blond neighbor.
"The date was fine, thank you," said Nanao, staring straight ahead. She sat with Rangiku, Momo Hinamori, and Isane in the gallery, a row of balcony seats reserved for vice captains.
The area was small with a low ceiling, tucked like an after-thought high into a back corner of the larger room. A waist-high railing made of solid panels contained the area, with a staircase off to the side leading down to the main floor of the meeting room.
The balcony seemed oddly empty without Hisagi, Kira, and Renji there. Usually, for no particular reason, the men sat with the men and the women sat with the women, although Nemu was under strict orders to keep away from Matsumoto. Tetsuzaemon Iba was the only male in the balcony today, unless one counted Marechiyo Oomaeda. Iba and Oomaeda came from different worlds. Cordial only, they had nothing to say to each other, so they didn't.
Today, Iba sat closer to the women than usual. Without the other males around, he was the only suitable male in the gallery, and he was hoping that the women would be falling all over him by the end of the meeting.
He hadn't counted on Yachiru actually falling on him. The girl had attached herself to his shoulders the moment she realized that he was tall enough to reach the low ceiling. Prodding Iba like a rider on a horse, Yachiru forced him to stand again and again, causing her to bonk her head on the low ceiling. "Ouch!" As Iba sat down, she'd poke him again. "Do that again, so I can catch the stars and birdies. Ouch! Ooo, almost got one. Where's my sword thingie? Do that again."
Sitting in his usual spot, Oomaeda found himself peppered with questions about his physique from a very curious Nemu who had chosen the seat next to him. "Do the extra chins help keep your head straight on your neck? How do you get that thing around your middle to flop over your obi like that? I'm sure my captain could fix that. How do you feel about waxing? Do you know where Brazil is?" Marechiyo looked around for relief, but found none. He'd even be willing to talk to Iba if it would get rid of Nemu.
The captains were lined up in two rows of chairs on the main floor. SoiFon, Unohana, Kuchiki, Komamura were on the left side; Kyouraku, Hitsugaya, Zaraki, Kurotsuchi and Ukitake were on the other. It was unusual for them to be seated, but then this was no ordinary meeting. Yama-Jii had called it on short notice. It served as an omen that the session would be a long one.
"Fine, thank you?" complained Matsumoto to the reticent Nanao. "That's all you have to say? Give a girl a little nibble, Nanao. Did you kiss Shuuhei? Better yet, did you nibble him?" Momo snickered at Rangiku's forwardness, but the woman always seemed to get her answers.
Nanao was tired. Her meeting with Yama-Jii had lasted into the wee hours of the morning. To start setting the trap that they had planned, she had had to report for work duty in the morning and had to act perky and happy when all she really wanted to do was sleep. She was tired, but she had no desire to give up any information about her date to the nosy woman. Playing a game of cat and mouse with Rangiku would be tricky. "That's none of your business," Nanao said flatly. Picking a bright color in the row of captains, she focused hard on it. Unfortunately, the spot she chose to focus on was the purple collar of Mayuri Kurotsuchi who was busy picking at his teeth with his disturbingly long fingernail.
"I beg to differ!" The blond folded her arms over her ample chest. "I helped you get ready, remember? I've stood by you through it all, remember? I've supported you and trained you in the ways of men, and I've watched you grow into a desirable woman, even if you did insist on wearing more clothes than a mountain climbing Sherpa. I … " she looked at Isane. "We made you, Nanao, now give it up. Did you give it up to Hisagi or not?"
"I told you. It's none of your business."
"That's so not fair," pouted Rangiku, stamping a foot. "It just about killed me, but I honored your request and didn't follow you on your date last night. You owe me!"
"Me, too," said Momo. "Have you ever tried to hog-tie someone with really big boobs? And I mean, like, massive tsunami breasts." She gestured with her hands. "We didn't have enough rope!"
"I'm sorry," Nanao said softly, mindful of her discussion with Yama-Jii, "but I just can't talk about it, other than we had a really nice time. That will have to be enough information for you, Rangiku."
The blond hunkered down in her chair, her lip stuck out in serious pout. Staring straight ahead, she muttered under her breath, "If you were a man, I bet you'd tell me what I want to know. You just wait until I get my hands on Shuuhei. He'll tell me everything, Miss Snotty Pants."
"Really, Rangiku!" erupted Isane. "They ate chocolate truffles and caviar by candlelight at a romantic restaurant. Then Shuuhei took her to a hill overlooking the Rukongai on a white horse. Lit only by moonlight, they made mad, passionate love under a tall oak tree until they fell asleep. Awakened at the morning's dawn by a pair of love birds, he fed her wild strawberries and fresh cream for breakfast and was arrested while gallantly defending her honor from a band of ruffians outlaws. There! Are you satisfied now?"
A big grin appeared on the blonde's face as she perked up. "See? Now, was that so hard?"
"But, that's not what …" Protesting, Nanao turned in confusion to Isane for help.
Isane grabbed her arm. "Do you want her to pout for the rest of this meeting? She wants details, Nanao. They don't have to accurate, as long as they're details for her to fanaticize about. See how happy she is now?" Nanao conceded that Isane had a point.
Rangiku smiled into the distance. Giving a happy little sigh, she tucked her arm around Tetsuzaemon Iba's elbow and placed her head on his shoulder. She looked up at him and said, "Strawberries for breakfast. How romantic."
"Uh, sure," Iba replied, trying to figure out where he could get strawberries. The man smiled widely and snorted. Rather pleased by the unexpected, but hoped-for, affection and the prospect of a romantic breakfast with Rangiku, he looking around, hoping to be seen by other male Shinigami. If only Kira, Hisagi and the others could see him now. Oomaeda didn't count, unless he knew where to get strawberries.
A voice called from below. "Matsumoto, you're not wet laundry, and he's not a clothesline! Quit hanging on him!"
"Yes, Captain!" Rangiku immediately untucked herself from the man, which she had been planning to do anyway, since Yachiru had been kicking her from her position on Iba's head.
Iba smiled broadly at the attention from Rangiku. "I didn't mind, Captain Hitsugaya."
"Lieutenant," reprimanded his own Captain Komamura with a growl, "this isn't a brothel. Refrain yourself from your dalliances with questionable women and remember where you are."
Looking across the hall at Komamura, Hitsugaya sputtered, "Are you calling my vice captain a … a … a woman of the evening?"
"It appears as if I did, considering the way she has thrown herself at my vice captain. You should teach her some restraint." Komamura crossed his arms over his chest and grunted.
Rising from his seat, Hitsugaya changed his mind and settled back in his chair on top of a corner of Captain Kyouraku's pink kimono. He talked in a strained, yet controlled, voice. "Restraint she has, but if you call her that one more time, I may not be able to restrain myself."
"Are you threatening me, Toshiro?"
"If the shoe fits, chew it, Sajin." He crossed both legs and arms in disgust, the top leg kicking the air angrily. Kyouraku pulled the kimono out from under him, but he ignored it.
Komamura pointed a finger at the smaller captain. "I demand that you tell your subordinate to leave mine alone."
"I didn't realize your family tree included pointers, Sajin. English Setter?"
Brushing the wrinkles out of his kimono, Shunsui Kyouraku said playfully, "Captain Komamura, you sly dog, do I hear a touch of jealousy in your voice? Possessiveness of one's vice captain is so unbecoming." He stretched his legs lazily, brushing against Hitsugaya's in a nudge.
"Mind your own business, Kyouraku," barked Komamura.
"Captain Kyouraku, please." Hitsugaya touched his arm, partly as a warning. "This is between the honorable Captain Furball and myself." The two warring captains stared at each other across the hall.
"Yes, Kyouraku," said Komamura. "The leprechaun and I seem to have some unfinished business."
Hitsugaya's face turned red. "Lepre… This isn't finished, not by a long shot."
"No, indeed, Captain, it isn't. I wouldn't want to short change you. You obviously enjoy these little talks and I wouldn't want you to feel slighted."
"Very funny. Keep it up, Komamura. You're already in my dog house with your tail between your legs."
"Personally," he glanced at Matsumoto, "I have an affinity for bitches, but I don't like them hanging off my lieutenant."
"Oh, I hope Yachiru didn't hear that word," said Kyouraku, quietly. "Right, Kenpachi? There might be some 'splainin' to do. Damn it, Jushiro, you've got me doing it now. I hate Lucy." 1
Ukitake, in a desperate attempt to stay out of the conversation, studied the back corner of the room. He mused about the fascinating blend of positive and negative space with the light juxtaposed from behind the dark outline of a chair like a postmodern objet d'art. Fascinating, simply fascinating.
"Hey, will you guys shaddup?" Kenpachi Zaraki spoke up, towering over Toshiro by leaning in from his other side. "Hitsugaya, walk yer dog. Komamura, curb yer boy."
"Oh, grow some eyebrows, Kenpachi! He started it." Hitsugaya pushed Kenpachi out of his face and pointed at Komamura.
As Komamura glared at the diminutive captain, Matsumoto called over the railing, "It's okay, Captain. I've been called worse."
He shot a warning back at Komamura. "It's not okay, Matsumoto. You are my vice captain, and I'm the only one allowed to call you names!"
"I was referring to females of my persuasion," sneered the much larger captain. "Whatever are you talking about, Whelp?"
"That does it!" An irate Kenpachi stood up and stomped across the room towards Komamura. "There's an impressionable young person in the room." He pointed towards Yachiru just as Iba took her for another bonk on the ceiling. "And I don't think it's necessary for her to hear you yammering about bitches. 'Bitches' this. 'Bitches' that. How many times do you have to say the word 'bitches' to get your point across, Sajin? You like bitches; he doesn't, so stop talking about bitches or I'll give you something to really bitch about."
Komamura rose halfway out of his chair. "It is perfectly acceptable language in my social circle, Zaraki, so if you don't like it, don't say it yourself! Now sit down before I knock you down. This is between the whelp and me."
"You gonna take that, boy?" asked Kenpachi as he descended roughly into his chair.
"At least, he didn't call you a runt," smiled Kyouraku.
"I resent that, Sajin! I am not a whelp or a runt, you … you … you lumberjack!"
Komamura pounded his fists on his thighs. "I would never wear plaid!!"
Bored by the sheer childishness of his comrades and ready to dole out his justice against Abarai, Captain Kuchiki said calmly, "Gentlemen, please. Surely this can wait. We're all tense because of lack of battle, but that's no reason to act like less than civilized men." He glanced at Komamura. "Or boys with pets."
Komamura growled low in his throat.
"We'll settle this elsewhere." Hitsugaya glared icily at the snouted captain.
"Agreed!" Komamura's fur bristled under his uniform. It was annoying since the hairs got caught in the fabric, but if he had anything to say about it, Hitsugaya would learn not to pet a rabid dog.
Rangiku turned towards Nanao. "Isn't the captain cute, the way he always sticks up for me? He yells and yells and yells, but in the end, he always sticks up for me."
"It must be nice," sighed Nanao, looking at her pink-robed captain who was starting to nod off and was badly in need of a shave. In spite of herself, she hated to see him looking so disheveled, but she couldn't trust herself to hold a razor to his neck right now without causing major damage to a vital artery, since all her captain seemed to be doing lately was inciting trouble.
"Let's get on with this, shall we?" Byakuya sniffed.
"What's a matter, Pustule Pete?" mocked Kenpachi. "Got ants in your pants?"
"I should have gone a round with you in the ring, Kenpachi, instead of wasting my time on Abarai." He put a finger to his lip in thought. "Oh, that's right, you'd have to catch me first."
"A wrestling match! Photo op! I'll take the pictures!" laughed SoiFon, directly challenging the regal captain. "Not exactly stripper shots from a bridal shower, but maybe I can sell a few cheap thrills to the Byakuya Kuchiki fan club."
Leaning forward over Unohana, he responded by grabbing one of SoiFon's pigtails. He threatened, "You will hand over those pictures, Captain SoiFon."
She elbowed his arm which flew up, barely missing Unohana's chin. SoiFon replied with a wicked gleam, "Wrestle you for 'em, Kuchiki."
"I do not wrestle women, even though your gender is debatable." He yanked her hair causing SoiFon to land in Unohana's lap.
"Please," said the medic with a light laugh, "I'm not worth of the two of you fighting over me. Kindly go back to your corners and stay there ... or else."
"My apologies, Retsu," said Kuchiki. "Be warned. Captain SoiFon might need your services soon."
"Not before you do, your royal snootiness! I'll push your snooty, aristocratic nose so far down your throat, you'll be breathing out of your…"
"Hey, wait your turn, Soy Bean," yelled Kenpachi. "I get a crack at him first." He reached around Mayuri Kurotsuchi and slapped Ukitake hard on the leg. "Hey, I'll get him worn down for you, then you can finish him off."
Jushiro demurred. "That's awfully kind of you, Kenpachi, but I have no beef with Captain Kuchiki."
"Hell, I don't either, unless you count that I can't stand the guy. It'll be fun to beat on him just for the heck of it, don't you think?" grinned the man. His eye patch tended to flip up a bit whenever he smiled broadly, revealing a few rows of little gnawing teeth. He patted it back in place, after a nod of approval from a curious Kurotsuchi.
Byakuya checked out his well-manicured nails. "To use a rather trite expression, you and whose army?"
"Me, me, and …" Kenpachi paused dramatically, "oh, yea, me."
"It's all right, Captain. I can patch you back up," smiled Unohana.
"And I can regenerate any limb that's necessary," added Mayuri Kurotsuchi, "although it might not be human."
"Oh, dear, Shunsui," sighed Ukitake to himself, looking down the row to where Shunsui sat with his hat tipped over his face. "Look at the problems you've caused."
Shunsui answered with a heavy snore.
1.) Refers to "I Love Lucy," iconic TV show with Lucille Ball and Desi Arnez.
Don't forget to see the picture of our favorite furry captain.