Summary: In the Commonwealth of Karakura, an innocent young woman is on trial for the murder of her sister. Ichigo Kurosaki, rookie inspector for the Metropolitan Police, feels duty-bound to investigate the case. What he doesn't know yet is that he's about to come face-to-face with the sordid, unscrupulous side of his beloved archipelago.

Details: subtle IchiRuki, with hints of other pairings in the later chapters. Approximately 15 chapters and 26,000 words long. Fic will be updated every week, so stay tuned.

Written as part of the Alternative Universe challenge with Adam Epp. Read his fic, "Dreams and Fears," if you wish to compare. We were working on this at the same time. You can find his stories via my Favorite Authors page.

disclaimer: All Bleach names are the creation of Kubo Tite.


by Laurie Bunter

Prologue: 200 Cherry Blossom Lane, Seireitei

The light in the sick room shifted as the moonlight filtered in through the window. The air stirred. A shadow seemed to move across the highly polished parquet floorboards.

Byakuya Kuchiki considered the tableau.

The room was in its usual condition of disarray: his eyes absentmindedly swept over the glass medicine cabinet left ajar, the overflowing trash bin at the foot of the bed, even the discarded acupuncture needles on its metal tray and the half-empty bottle of rubbing alcohol beside it.

He did not expect to come home to this. His wife, dead, covered beneath a white cotton sheet; his wife, aliveā€¦ her deep violet eyes haunted, almost guilty.

Byakuya Kuchiki blinked. His Hisana was dead. The woman clutching her hand, refusing to move away from her body, was only her carbon copy. It was her younger sister, Rukia.

The man had many cares on his mind: the real estate deal that fell through today, for instance. There was that urgent call from a source that asked him to investigate one of his business partners; he brushed it off as corporate paranoia. There were dozens of angry leaseholders demanding to speak to him personally. These things hassled him as the fading condition of his wife lurked in the back of his head. Byakuya almost forgot that he now had a sister-in-law, someone who had just exchanged her assumed last name to take his own. It was Hisana's wish, and he always honored Hisana's wishes.

Now, however, their only common link was gone. He could no longer do exactly what Hisana asked of him.

"I'm so very sorry, Nii-sama."

Strange how her voice choked, Byakuya thought listlessly. He resisted the urge to comfort his sister-in-law. He felt awkward showing Rukia any tenderness. Instead, he waved her away to station himself by his wife's bed. "You've done enough," he said. "Please go."

Reluctantly, Rukia let go of Hisana's hand. She got up from the floor and turned to the door.

"The police will be here soon," he added. "Better know what to tell them when they make the initial report."

"The police?" Rukia echoed, dumbstruck.

Byakuya turned away, and lifted the sheet covering his wife's face. "Yes, the police. I called them as soon as I found out. You will be taken into custody soon."

His back was turned towards her, but Rukia could see that he was about to kiss her sister's pale lips.

Rukia's face slowly drained of color.

She ran down the hallway, just in time to see the housemaid let in two uniformed inspectors into the house. One of them looked vaguely familiar.

A shadow fell across her path. It was Byakuya's grandfather, Ginrei, who leaned heavily on his cane. "My dear child," he said, his head bowed in apology. "This was not my idea at all."

The blood flooding in Rukia's heart turned to snow.