Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach. This is just fanfiction.
Author's Notes: This is a short piece written using a prompt my sister gave me, written in about an hour. The prompt was 'pomegranate'.
[ BLOODY RUBIES ]
Nemu stood on the balcony facing out over Seiretei and Rukongai. She kept lifting her hand to her mouth, tilting her head back, then straightening and dropping her hand back to the railing again.
Mayuri had no idea what she was doing. Perhaps a malfunction…?
He walked closer.
"Nemu, what are you doing?"
She twitched at being caught unawares and turned to face her creator, revealing a small bowl perched on the balcony railing behind her.
He peered into the bowl. She had been eating rubies? A quick flicker of observant eyes noticed that Nemu's fingertips and lips were stained red.
"What is this, Nemu?"
She had the grace to look abashed. "I know it is not what you normally feed me, taichou…"
"I know it isn't, Nemu," he spoke over her briskly. 'My question was, what is it? I already know what it isn't."
She lowered her gaze to her feet. "They are pomegranate seeds, Kurotsuchi-taichou. Whenever Kuchiki-fukutaichou visits the human world, I ask her to bring me a pomegranate fruit."
"They are seeds? Why are you eating only the seeds, Nemu?" He decided to ignore for now the fact that she was doing things without informing him first.
"Only the seeds are edible, taichou."
Mayuri looked more closely at the contents of the bowl.
"That is interesting – usually one avoids eating the seeds in favour of the fruit's flesh."
"The pomegranate is an interesting fruit, sir."
Mayuri's golden eyes flicked back to his creation. "What else is interesting about this fruit?" he asked.
Nemu picked up one of the rubies and rolled it between her fingers.
"There is a story in human mythology. In the story, there is the goddess of the earth, Demeter, and her daughter, Persephone." She paused, constructing the events of the story in her head. This didn't take long; Mayuri had designed her to be intelligent as well as obedient.
"Persephone was a beautiful young woman, and she loved beautiful things. One day she was walking alone in a field, picking flowers. She saw a lovely narcissus and bent to pluck it, but it held to the ground more tightly than she had expected, so she pulled harder. She pulled and pulled until all of a sudden the ground opened up and Hades, the god of the underworld, which we would call hell, rose up from the earth riding his chariot and abducted her.
"In the underworld Hades offered Persephone a pomegranate seed, which she ate.
"In the meantime, Demeter was looking for her daughter because she had not seen her for some time. When she eventually discovered where she had gone, she made it to the underworld just in time to see her daughter partake of the fruit Hades had given her."
Nemu lifted the glistening ruby in her hand until it was held just inside her mouth, and squeezed it between her fingertips until it burst. A few droplets of blood-red juice splattered on her fingers, and she licked them away.
"The pomegranate is the fruit of the dead in Greek mythology. Having partaken of this fruit, Persephone was bound to Hades and the underworld for three months of every year, and to be apart from her mother for that time. As you know, it takes great sacrifice to get to hell if you shouldn't be there.
"During those months, Persephone ruled the underworld alongside Hades while her mother Demeter pined for her daughter. Demeter is the earth goddess, and while she is sad, the earth suffers. When mother and daughter are apart, the earth grows barren and cold, and this is winter. When they are reunited, Demeter's joy blesses the earth and flowers bloom again. The ancient Greeks explained the seasons in this way."
Mayuri disgested this information. Silly human stories.
"Would you like to try, taichou?" Nemu offered. "They're nice and sweet…"
No doubt this was her way of apologising for ingesting food he had not authorised. He took a seed from the bowl.
"Like this," Nemu said, and demonstrated bursting the juice again.
He lifted the seed, encased inside its own ruby-red gem, and burst it inside his mouth. He sucked his fingers clean and crunched the seed between his teeth. The taste reminded him of red grapes, which he allowed Nemu to eat from time to time, luckily for her. Her punishment would not be too severe…perhaps he would get her to re-organise the labs' extensive stock cupboard, instead of the other thing he had had in mind.
He might have to instruct Nemu to buy a crate of pomegranates on occasion.