Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach or its Characters. Bleach © Kubo Tite.
A/N: Another special thanks to –xSilver-Wingsx- for Beta Reading this chapter~!
The Shihouin manor seems so far right now, I sighed to myself while leaving the main office. The time was already past 10 pm, and my right wrist feels sore from writing. Not to mention my dry, red eyes. I wandered around the 13th division headquarter grounds, debating on whether to go back to the manor on the other side of Seireitei to rest or to stay at the lodgings here. Even with the speed of Shunpo, it is quite a long distance. I walked to the Hell Butterfly room to send off a message: 'I will be staying at the 13th division lodge overnight.'
The cafeteria on grounds is an all hours one. Because shinigami stationed here have different shifts full time, and need to eat whenever they get a break. Tonight's dinner was beef curry with rice. Yay? I shouldn't expect the same quality food here compared to the food at the Shihouin manor. My stomach welcomed the food regardless, though it did take me a full half hour just to finish the large serving. Hmm, I still don't know where the 'ladies only' bathhouse is. There's nothing but men present in the cafeteria, there's no way I could ask them.
I'll just find it on my own then. As I was walking through the endless hallways, I recalled that one time I walked in on Byakuya while he was using one of the baths. Ah… those body lines. No, Hisana, you shouldn't be thinking about such a perverted thing when your division really needs your leadership and guidance! Still lost on the very big division grounds, I walked by Shitaya Yuji, who's still the 15th seated officer. His red hair seemed to be a little longer than when I first met him.
"Good evening, Shitaya-san," I said with a small head bow.
"Kazehana-kun, you're still on the grounds?" He asked me with a bored expression. He's not interested at all in what I'm going to say!
"Yes, I'm going to be staying in the lodge after I find the ladies' onsen." I tried to sound upbeat.
"You don't even know where that is?" He narrowed his eyes at me coldly.
"No, I never had to use it before," I said while shaking my head. "I was planning on wandering until I smelled some steam."
"And what if you walk in on some men?" He raised the tension in his voice.
I blushed heavily for a moment before saying, "I would apologize!"
"…Right. Well, I think I would like to protect the privacy of those guys, so I'll just show you the way. But you better not forget it." There was something about the disdain in his voice that reminded me that Shitaya did not like me. It's like that with some of the other seated members and Kizaki has only warmed up to me in the past month or so.
Sometimes, I just can't ignore how much I've been resented. I don't care much for the endless amount of women that despise me because of my closeness with Byakuya. But for the people in my own division to continue to resent me is something that bothers me. I'm aware that a majority think of me as a 'child' based on my age, but they need to recognize that living and breathing humans age and mature at a much faster rate. I mean, I could have gotten married by now if I was still living. I could have been ready for my first child by this month.
I can't hold their ignorance against them, especially if they were born in the Soul Society and know nothing about a human's life. But it doesn't give them the freedom to blatantly judge me by my age and circumstances.
I couldn't hold back my sigh. Thinking about the lack of respect people and the distain some people actually have for me is depressing! What can I do to get my division members to like me?
'How about, not being an idiot who can only work hard?'' Rei's voice was snide.
"Shut up, Rei!" I snarled loudly.
"Huh?" Shitaya stopped his pace to look for the 'Rei' I was speaking to.
"My zanpakuto is being weird right now. It can hear all of my thoughts and sometimes, it replies to some of them." I frowned while making minimal eye contact with him.
"What did your zanpakuto say to you?"
"It's classified information." I smiled falsely.
"But you would tell Vice Captain Kuchiki Byakuya what your zanpakuto said?"
"Tell him what Rei says?" I frowned as much as my face could frown.
I paused while Shitaya shrugged and continued walking. I thought about some of the things that Rei has said. All of her little comments here and there. And her repeating some of the seriously perverted things that Yoruichi-san has said.
"Tell him? There are some things that I will never tell Vice Captain Kuchiki," I said while chuckling loudly.
"Never tell him what?" A familiar voice asked.
Under a clear autumn night sky, I realized two things: one, Shitaya led me to the private outdoor Men's bathhouse, and two, Byakuya heard my "I'll never tell the Vice Captain, tehehe" comment very clearly!
Obviously, I didn't know what to say first. It was either going to be, 'Shitaya! You ass!' or 'Byakuya-kun, what are you doing here? This is the ladies' onsen!' Though there's no way I could even fool him about that. It looks like Byakuya has already finished taking his bath. He wore his white kimono loosely on his muscular body; exposing him from waist to chest. Just the sight of him caused me to instinctively tuck my hair behind my ear.
"Don't tell me that…" Byakuya's face started to redden as he pulled on the open part of his kimono, "Hisana-chan came here to peek again."
"I'm not here to peek at you! The last time I got lost and it was an accident. I apologized! Besides, don't you think that we are even on that?" I spoke forcefully. Byakuya's smooth white skin was already pink from the bath he took, but he seemed to gain even more color! "I'm looking for the womens' only bathhouse since I'm going to staying on grounds overnight. Shitaya-san told me he would lead me there, but instead he's led me here."
"The bathhouse for women is further ahead," Shitaya pointed in a random direction.
"I'd rather have our 3rd seat take her bath as soon as possible so she can rest. I'll lead her rest of the way." Byakuya seemed to return to his normal, serene state.
"Very well then, Vice Captain Kuchiki." Shitaya didn't hide the fact that he seemed a little annoyed.
Just as Shitaya was walking away, Byakuya added, "And, if you see any other of seated officers, please inform them that there will be a meeting tomorrow morning at 9."
The red haired man only nodded before walking off into the night. I could tell by Byakuya's energetic eyes that he was curious about something. And his eyes are naturally dull and uninterested looking most of the time. Is he going to ask me about what I meant by, 'I'll never tell the Vice Captain' comment? No, he isn't that bold. But Byakuya does tend to pry. He'll probably ask Yoruichi-san once she's released from the Hell Shinigami's custody. She might say something embarrassing about me, or she just might completely fabricate something just for her own amusement.
I think I should tell him, or at least hint that there are things that he shouldn't hear.
"About what I was saying earlier," I started to speak while following Byakuya down a garden path.
His body seemed to stiffen a little.
"I was telling Shitaya that my zanpakuto makes inappropriate comments all of the time and that I couldn't possibly repeat some of the things that Rei said."
Byakuya kept walking silently.
"And Shitaya-san assumed that I would tell you anything that Rei says. And I told him he was wrong. And that there are some things I'd never tell you about that. I mean, I really doubt that you want to know what Rei said about you and your bodylines. I mean, totally perverted stuff ah-ha-ha."
"I do want to know what your zanpakuto says about me."
"No, you don't."
"A zanpakuto's thoughts, strengths and personality are a mirror of the owner."
"Yeah, a mirror, the image is backwards."
He smirked widely, "Is that so? Are your own thoughts about me only pure?"
"I want to say, 'as pure as snow', but I have bad memories with snow, because I bled to death on snow... at least I think I bled to death. It could have been the poison arrows that did the trick. But it's not like I would have survived even if I wasn't hit by those arrows. The way was I slashed in the stomach while I was fighting caused some of my intestines to spill out. I remember staggering into an empty part of forest near the battle, vainly trying to tuck them back in with my fingers. And I fell face down on the snow, bleeding and in a lot of pain. It was so cold, but I didn't go numb, I didn't have the strength to move or even scream. Dying like that was terrible."
Byakuya only stared sadly at my face.
"So I want to say that my thoughts are much more pure than snow. Snow can be easily corrupted by footsteps or urination, or in my case, a bleeding corpse whose guts were oozing out. I am the woman whose thoughts are purer than that."
"Hisana, do you know where the lodging is on grounds?"
"Yeah, that eastern section… area of the division."
"There are special dormitories that are reserved only for seated officers. There is a room available for the 3rd seated officer at all times. Toyoguchi used to reside there."
"His items have been removed from the room soon after his passing. A few of the items have been passed onto other division members, according to his wishes."
"He had a will?"
"Serving as a Shinigami is a dangerous occupation. Of course he had a will."
"Maybe I should write up my will, even though I don't have much to pass on myself."
"What would it say?"
"Everything to Kazehana Rukia."
He stood near the entrance of the 'Womens' Only' bathhouse.
"I'll wait until you're finished."
"I'm sure I can find the room on my own. I don't want Byakuya-kun to trouble himself."
"You're room is next to mine." He smiled almost devilishly. What is HE planning?!
"Well, better get myself washed up then."
In the bath, I thought about the ever increasing scandal that is occurring between me and Byakuya. More resentment would come pouring in, and more disdain from Seireitei's unmarried shinigami women's association. Or whatever it's called.
Byakuya was now leading me to the dorm that is reserved for seated officers. And he was very right about his large room being located next to my room. And my room seemed to be half the size of his. And to my horror, the rooms were conjoined! What kind of setup is this, exactly?
"Why is there a door that connects your room with mine?"
"I am not present very often at the lodge, so I had a door installed that Toyoguchi could use."
"And that's why there's no lock?"
"Why would a lock be necessary?" He asked innocently.
"For me!" I squealed loudly.
"I won't vulgarly invade your privacy if that's what you believe." He sighed quickly.
"Well, I'm pretty tired from today." I stretched while yawning.
"And I'm going to change into sleepwear now." I crossed my arms tightly.
He nodded again.
"So shoo, scoot." I shooed him away and out of my room.
"I'll be back." He promised with a creepy looking stare that struck fear inside of me. Byakuya-kun, are you really that kind of villain?
I changed quickly into an oversized powder blue kimono. It was a man's kimono and a foot of the fabric was draped across the floor. I frowned at my reflection in the mirror. Wearing a kimono this big makes me look like a child! My face is still so girlish. My nose is too small. My eyes are too big. My lips aren't full enough. And my chest? Laughable!
I pulled out the futon from the closet and the single blanket and pillow that went with it. First of all, the futon that Toyoguchi left was disgusting! It had stains and lots of wear and tear! The blanket was just as pathetic with an equal amount of food and blood stains. And the pillow? I want to stop touching this. I discarded it on the floor. This is terrible! I thought Toyoguchi was well liked in the division before he died. And this is how he slept at night? Ugh, this is absolutely vile!
I kicked Toyoguchi's old pillow across the room and it conveniently rested at Byakuya's feet.
"What are you-?"
"It's smelly and gross." I scowled harshly at the 'sleeping items'.
Byakuya only stared at the discarded items as I laid face down on the floor.
"I don't need it." I said defiantly.
"Hisana-chan," Byakuya said while knelling down beside me, "you can sleep in my room if you want. My futon and other items are clean."
"That's not what I was hinting at all," I spoke under my breath. "I was hoping if you could tell me where to find laundry place where I can get a fresh futon and blanket. I would be fine with that."
"It should be fine enough for you to sleep next to me. And it is the 4th division that covers the laundering of clothing and other items; it would be too far for you to walk at this late hour." He listed the reasons why sharing a futon with him was the better idea.
"Come on," He said in a gentle sounding voice.
There's only one problem with sharing a futon with Byakuya. We're completely unsupervised! Before, in the past, there was always someone around to interrupt and stand in between us. But at this moment, there's no Yoruichi that will slide open the doors suddenly, no pesky Kuchiki Ryusuke jumping at us, not even a little Urahara poking his nose into our business. We are truly alone and responsible for our future actions. And I'm really afraid of 'going too far' with him. I'm really concerned because Byakuya tends to stare at me with such angst in his eyes. As if he wanted to have everything for me. When he looks at me like that, it frightens me.
Reluctantly, I rose to my feet and followed him into his room.
"I'm really tired." I said from behind him.
"You must be. I see you have been working hard lately," he commented.
"Yes, I have." I did my best to disguise my nervousness.
The very moment I laid down and pulled the blanket over me, he kissed me on the lips. It wasn't a short peck, but it wasn't a long passionate kiss either.
When he pulled himself away, I said, "Byakuya-kun?"
"Hmm?" he hummed.
"Good night," I said while placing one finger on his lips.
He smiled underneath my touch while he mouthed, 'Good night'.