The Winter War had left a mark of destruction and despair throughout the lands. Only those kingdoms with great strength and power were able to survive the devastation, and even then, they struggled to maintain peace and order. Many of the poor villages were destroyed or burned to ashes, leaving those who survived no where to go. The hardest to fall was the western lands, with nearly its entire military power depleted and several of its lands taken over by other kingdoms. In order to alleviate the fear that many of the people felt, the king that ruled the western front proclaimed for all those who survived to be moved to the central kingdom which was held neutral amongst the feuding sides.

In the midst of the chaos, a small group congregated in one of the western villages, intent on overthrowing the kingdom that was slowly taking over their lands. In fear of this retaliation, the kings of the eastern front sent a notice out to arrest and execute anyone that was suspected of conspiracy amongst them.



Chapter 1: There is no such thing as a fairy tale ending…

"And they lived happily ever after."

Rukia crinkled her nose as she read the last sentence before closing the aged book in her hands. She fingered the old bindings, her eyes staring blankly at the cover. The rain slowly pattered on the windowpane beside her, causing her attention to be drawn momentarily there. She pressed her hand against the window as she watched with a bored expression at the people running past the window to their homes. The early spring rain had begun two days ago and had yet to let up. The sky rumbled as thunder and lightning illuminated the ashen clouds, forewarning an impending storm.

Rukia was about to return to her book when her attention was suddenly drawn to a figure that was running straight for the house. She quickly disentangled herself from the warm blanket that had covered her and ran to the door. The man entered and immediately began to peel away the soaked coat that he was wearing. Rukia grabbed it and hurried to put it near the fireplace to dry as he settled down wearily in a chair nearby.

She turned and found him breathing steadily, wondering if he had fallen asleep. But not a moment passed before he pulled himself up more in the chair and took off his hat. He seemed so deep in thought, and Rukia wondered if he had even noticed her presence at all. Sighing gently, she made her way and began pouring water in the tea kettle.

"Rukia, you are reading these books again?"

Rukia stopped and turned to face the man, her cheeks flushing slightly when she noticed he was holding the book she had been absorbed in before he came. "I was bored, Kisuke-san, and this book was the only one I could find..."

Urahara smiled warmly and opened the book, flipping through the pages. "You have nothing to be embarrassed about. I am not scolding you, Rukia. I was just amused that you still hold such interest in fairy tales."

She nodded sheepishly and turned back to the tea she was preparing for him. "It's just, so different from our world. So different…" she said quietly, causing him to look up at her as she brought the tea to him. She sat down at the foot of the table, and looked towards the window as he poured the tea into the cups for both of them. She took hers silently and sipped it, only looking back when she heard Urahara clear his throat.

"What was the book about?"

She blushed slightly. "It is about a young princess who is kidnapped by an evil warlock. She is finally saved by a handsome prince and lives happily ever after. Such rubbish."

Urahara's brow rose, noting the sadness that lingered in her eyes. He sighed deeply, placing the cup on the table as he surveyed her. He remembered the night he had found her on his doorstep. It had been when the war first began to sweep through the lands. She was no more then a few months old, but he could never find who had left her there. She had known nothing but the pain and horrors that surfaced as innocent people lost their homes and lives due to the selfishness of some. She was only a mere age of ten, and yet, the chaos that ensued had made her seem so much older.

His thoughts were broken suddenly when he heard a small scrap against the table and looked down to see Rukia picking up her empty cup. She walked over to the small sink, and gently began to wash it. "Kisuke-san?"

"Hm?"

"Can such things happen? Not with such things as warlocks or magic, but to find happiness like that?"

She heard a soft sigh as the man got up, walking over to his bag. "Happiness…has become a fleeting hope, has it not? But you know what, Rukia? Though I cannot comfort you with the thought that your life will end as the fairy tale book you are reading, if you work hard and believe in yourself, you will be able to live a life that you will be happy with."

Rukia watched curiously as he pulled out an aged box from the bag and motioned for her to come. Her eyes widened when she saw him pull out a locket from the box, and put it into her tiny hands. It was a small, yet beautifully crafted jewelry. In the middle was a small sapphire gem that sparkled under the light.

"Is this for me?" she asked happily.

He nodded, a smile on his face when he saw her face glow with excitement. "It is your birthday gift. You have been a good girl and have done all of your chores and taken care of this house. This is my way of saying thank you for everything you have done."

Rukia's lavender eyes twinkled happily and she quickly put the locket on. "Thank you so much!"

He chuckled lightly as she ran to her room to admire the small trinket around her neck. Yet the moment she was out of view, the smile vanished slowly.

His eyes wandered wearily to the window and then to the door, wondering how long would it be before he would be found. He walked to the back of the house, and bent down to push the rug that lay in the middle of the room out of the way. Underneath it was a small trap door that led to the basement of the house. No one, not even Rukia, knew of its existence, for which Urahara was glad. It would put her in danger if she were to ever know about it.

He knew they would have to move soon, since it became more apparent that he could not stay hidden for too long. It was only a matter of when. The sound of footsteps caused him to quickly place the rug back on the trap door and turn to find Rukia walking in.

"What is it, Rukia?" he asked as she edged curiously around him to see what he was doing.

She bit her lip and looked at him with concern. He always had a gentle, kind look on his face whenever she was there. But now it was masked behind a frightened, worried expression. On seeing Rukia getting nervous, Urahara quickly smiled and put his hand on her shoulder. "It is your bed time, Rukia. You should get some sleep. We are moving in a few days and we must prepare to leave starting tomorrow."

Rukia's eyes widened. "Moving? But we just got here a month ago…"

She felt the hold on her shoulder tighten slightly, and the man looking at her wearily. "I know, child, but things have come up. It is not safe to be here. Please understand."

Rukia nodded and Urahara smiled. "Thank you. Now go to bed."

He watched as she walked slowly to her room, looking back once. When he was sure she had left, he turned back to the trap door in front of him. He quickly opened it and stepped inside.

The room glowed dimly with the aid of the small candle in his hand. He walked through the darkened room, shifting through the piles of paperwork that littered the room. He finally approached one particular pile and began throwing it out of the way, finally finding a few scraps of paper at the very bottom.

After a moment of deliberation, he placed the flame of the candle below the paper, watching as years of work was destroyed by just a flicker. He was about to pick up another set of papers when a pounding sound upstairs caused him to throw the papers quickly and run up to the front room. Rukia was already opening the door to her room, rubbing her sleepy eyes as she stared groggily at Urahara, who placed his finger against his mouth. Rukia's eyes widened as the pounding on the front door grew louder. A familiar gruff voice soon called out for Urahara, and he immediately unlatched the locks on the door, opening it as a large figure hurried in.

"Tessai-san!" Rukia squeaked, a smile appearing on her face.

The man looked over to her, and she was surprised to see him completely panic stricken as he turned to Urahara.

"They are here," he whispered urgently, causing Urahara to purse his lip.

"How many?" he asked quietly.

Tessai quickly tensed. "Several. They are very serious in arresting you, Uraraha-san. It will be a miracle if we are to get away. They are being led by him."

Urahara took a sharp intake of breath and muttered a curse. "They cannot find it, Tessai. We must hurry, now!"

"Please, Rukia, come! You must hide right now!"

Without another moment's pause, Urahara turned and ran to Rukia, taking her hand quickly and pulled her towards the trap door. He quickly opened the door and turned to find her backing away, shaking.

"Kisuke-san, what's going on," she stuttered, her lips trembling.

The sudden pounding of the front door again caused both of them to jump and they could hear Tessai running in.

Urahara ran over to Rukia, quickly kneeling before her as he took her hand. "I'm sorry I wasn't able to tell you before. Rukia, there are some bad people after me right now, and I don't want anything to happen to you. I need you to hide in the basement. It's safe," he added hastily as Rukia shook her head furiously. "Please, you have to trust me. Quickly, before they come inside!"

Small beads of tears streamed down her face as Urahara helped her gently down the stairs. She looked at him again, and his heart ached at seeing her frightened expression. "I will come back for you, I promise," he assured her. "Also, Rukia, whatever you do, protect that pendant I gave you. Do not let anyone else know anything about it, especially that I gave it to you. Do you understand?"

"But, Kisuke-san…" Rukia was now sobbing as she clung onto his cloak.

The pounding grew louder, and they could hear shouts outside as something began to ram into the door.

Urahara breathed heavily as he looked sadly at Rukia. "Please…trust me, Rukia. I will come back for you once this is over, I promise. Until it is safe, stay here."

He held her hand for a second longer before shutting the door, frustration overtaking him as he continued to hear her soft sobs. "I'm so sorry, Rukia," he whispered, before turning to Tessai, who was trying to bar the doors.

"I can't hold them off much longer…" he grumbled as more force was used on the doors.

Urahara looked once more at the trap door before hurrying over to Tessai. "Whatever happens, Tessai, we need to move them away from here. I don't want Rukia to get hurt in this."

Tessai nodded, noting the lingering look Urahara continued to give to the back room. "Don't worry, we won't let anything happen to her."

---

The room was so dark. Rukia breathed deeply, waving her hands around to help guide her slowly down the remaining stairs. Her entire body was shaking, and she quickly sat down on the last step before she lost her balance. She listened to the pounding continue as she tried to divert her attention from the darkness that enveloped her. The pounding suddenly stopped as the door finally was forced open. The room was now filled with men shouting and she could hear the heavy thuds of their shoes against the aged wooden floor. She held her breath, the sweat of her forehead beginning to mix with her tear stricken face. She waited, her eyes shut tightly as she prayed this was just all a dream.

'Kisuke-san said he will come for me. He will come for me.'

The sound of the voices was slowly beginning to calm, until the house became completely silent. It didn't seem like anyone was there, but she knew she should wait until Urahara returned. The minutes soon turned into an hour, and though she had adjusted to the darkness, she still stayed close to the door with her eyes shut tightly. It was then that she heard someone walking back inside the house. Her heart beat furiously as the steps walked closer to the trap door, wondering if it was Urahara. She quickly ran to a table near the door and hid, just in case.

The door opened with a loud jolt, and Rukia whimpered lightly when she heard someone begin to descend the stairs. Even though she could not see who it was, she knew immediately it was neither Urahara nor Tessai; they would have certainly called for her by now. She covered her mouth to stop the sobs from coming, hearing the steps moving around the room. The room slowly began to illuminate from the candle they brought with them. She watched the pair of feet walk around the various tables that spread throughout the room, but quickly turned when she heard another pair of steps running down the stairs.

"Ichimaru-dono, we searched everywhere. It seems Urahara Kisuke has escaped."

"Is that so?"

Rukia felt a shiver run up her spine at the voice from the other man as he continued speaking to the others that had entered.

"It's not in the house anyways. He must have taken it with him if he knew we were coming. Take what was ordered from here and burn the house down afterwards." Ichimaru drawled.

Rukia's eyes widened as she shifted slightly from her crouched position. Her eyes warily looked at the exit, which was so close, yet guarded by one of the men.

She saw the man named Ichimaru that had frightened her begin to walk towards the door, and knew she would have to get out the moment he left.

"Oh, by the way, on your way out, do be sure to bring along our little guest that is playing hide and seek from us over there."

Rukia gasped as she heard some muttering and a pair of feet coming towards her. Her scream pierced the entire house as a pair of hands grabbed her and yanked her out.

To be Continued...


A/N: Welcome to Wilting Rose, my newest fic centered around my all time favorite character not just for Bleach, but all of anime, Kuchiki Rukia. I hope you enjoyed this chapter and I hope to continue this. Though it is a Rukia centric fic, there will be slight bit of RenRuki, but eventually it will be an entirely IchiRuki fic. You have been warned hehe. Thank you for reading!

---