Here it is, chapter 13. It is my longest so far. My laptop lives again, thankfully, so I was able to deliver it.

This chapter is dedicated to Maria N. I told you it would not take so long! ;)

Japanese terms/costumes mentioned:

Miyamairi (Newborn infant's shrine visit) – on the 31st day after a child is born, he/she is taken to a Shinto shrine for the first shrine visit. This is called miyamairi. Miyamairi used to be an important event by which the child became a parishioner of a Shinto shrine as its first step toward becoming a member of society. However, it tends to be practiced only formally. The child is presented by their grandmother, since the mother is considered impure until that day.

And in case you have forgotten:

Kanzashi: hair ornament

Omiai: social gathering where unattached individuals are introduced to each other to consider the possibility of marriage, usually with the help of a host and in the presence of the family.



Byakuya watched as the sun went down, coloring the Kuchiki Estate in shades of orange. He sighed, remembering the unpleasant conversation he'd had with his great uncle earlier – it had regrettably put him in a very delicate situation. It was most unfortunate that Rukia had witnessed it all, for now he would have to include that among the topics to discuss with her later.

He had planned their talking session to be as simple and fast as possible – there was no reason to impose more words than necessary. He would merely explain his plan and try to make her comfortable with the situation at hand until they could solve it permanently. Now, however, the comfortable part at least would be highly unlikely as it was, and once again he regretted his hasty decision.


Rukia looked happily at Mieko.

"I believe we are finished," she concluded, and the girl smiled and nodded in agreement.

All her belongings had been properly moved to 'their' bedroom, Rukia considered, looking around. She hoped he would not mind how they had arranged them. Now the only thing missing was for her to feel comfortable with it, but she had no idea of how to get used with the alien concept of sharing a bedroom and sleeping in her brother's—no, in her husband's bedroom. Not for now.

Still looking at her things, that composed a strange view in his bedroom, she heard a knock on the door.

"Rukia-sama, dinner is ready," she heard a servant's voice calling from the outside.

"Thank you," she replied, and after a brief glance at Mieko she left, heading towards the dining room.


Rukia followed the corridor, but just as she turned around a corner she came face-to-face with Michiko. The elder stopped, noticing her presence.

"Ah, Rukia-dono, I am glad we met," the woman started in a business-like voice. "I actually needed to talk to you about--" she was interrupted by Rukia, who narrowed her eyes as she spoke:

"You. You knew it and you did not tell me." Rukia accused her. The shame of having dressed up like Hisana on her wedding was still fresh in her mind, as well as Byakuya's displeasure, and Rukia glared at the woman. The mere idea of it and its implications on everyone's mind… 'Argh!' Rukia cringed inwardly, remembering Yasumoto's biting words in the previous night.

"I have no idea what you're on about, child," the elder replied with feigned innocence.

"You know perfectly well what I'm talking about. You knew Hisana had used that kimono and you deliberately chose not to tell me! Why?" Rukia demanded, her anger rising.

Michiko chuckled, amused at the girl's naiveté. "You never asked!" she pointed out in a mockery tone, a smirk on her face.

Rukia glared at her, distaste shown in her features.

Assuming a serious expression, the old woman retorted with harsh words: "Do not misunderstand me, girl. I did what I did for this family's sake and I do not regret it."

She passed by Rukia, moving away, but stopped briefly, and added dismissively:

"And even so, apparently that was not enough, according to what I've heard. You need to try harder if you want to be worthy of this family and your new position."

Rukia looked at her retreating back, her face flushed from both anger and embarrassment.

It seemed Fujiwara-sama had shared the earlier conversation with her, Rukia concluded, displeased. The fact that Michiko had implied she had been rejected bothered her greatly; even more so because… that was probably true. She didn't know his reasons, but that was certainly how she felt. He had sent her away. Granted, that was completely according to their agreement, but it did not help much on how she felt.

'You need to try harder if you want to be worthy of this family and your new position.'

The woman's last words echoed in her mind, as she took the other direction and continued her way to the dining room.

Rukia blushed slightly at the implication. That was not why they married, that was not what they had agreed...

'Is that what you think my brother expected when he entrusted you with the leadership of this family?' It was Fujiwara-sama's voice in her head this time. She knew she had put Byakuya in a difficult situation.

'What should I do?' she sighed, before entering the dining room.


Byakuya was waiting for her there. Even if that was expected, her heart skipped a beat at the sight of him and a hint of anxiety stirred in her chest.

"Good evening, Byakuya-sama," she bowed slightly and took her usual seat next to him, still feeling that odd stirring in her stomach that seemed to assault her whenever he was around.

"Good evening, Rukia," he replied calmly, looking at her.

Gosh, he had a beautiful voice, she couldn't help but notice. That part was definitely not product of the alcohol in the previous night.

All the thoughts swirling in her head would not help her act less nervous around him, so she tried her best to avoid them.

The servants had started to bring the dishes and she cursed their presence – there were so many things that she needed to discuss with him; but she couldn't very well do that with so many spectators. And she had a role to play.

"May I serve you, my Lord?" she asked offering a hand to receive his bowl, and he kindly nodded in acceptance.

They started to eat in silence as usual, and Rukia couldn't help but feel too aware of his presence, his strong reiatsu filling the room, even when concealed. She glanced briefly at him, admiring his beautiful, composed figure, but quickly averted her eyes and focused on her meal. After a few moments, he spoke:

"We have an appointment tomorrow."

She raised her eyes, waiting for him to continue it.

"Do you remember my cousin Atiko, who married into the Kasumiōji family? I am not sure if you are acquainted."

"I... remember I missed her marriage some years ago." It had been one of those social gatherings she had asked him to be spared of in the past.

He nodded and explained:

"She gave birth to her first son recently. They sent us an apology letter for not attending our wedding, since she was still in her impurity period."

"I see," she replied undisturbed, pretending she had understood everything he mentioned.

"Tomorrow their son will be presented at the shrine, though, and as my wife you are expected to accompany me."

That was probably him saying there would be no excuses this time.

"Of course," she returned to eating in silence as usual, but this time, Rukia noticed his eyes on her. She realized he had finished his meal and was waiting for her, so she stopped eating soon after - she wasn't feeling particularly hungry anyway.

Noticing it, he asked:

"Are you finished?"

"Yes," she replied, not meeting his eyes.

"Let's retire then," he ordered, his tone low and husky.

She simply nodded, hiding the nervousness in her voice, and waited for him to stand up. As soon as he did it, she followed him, always one step behind, towards 'their' bedroom.

The halls were empty and silent and each step she took tightened the little knot of tension in her heart.


He entered the chamber first and waited for her. She stepped inside and closed the door behind her, looking back at him expectantly.

The tension in the air could almost be cut with a knife.

"Have a seat," Byakuya offered, but except from his desk on the other side of the room Rukia knew there was only the futon nearby. She reluctantly sat in a corner of it and kept looking at him, remembering the previous night with conflicting feelings.

"I see you moved your things as I instructed you?" He asked unmoving, his eyes briefly examining the room around and then focusing back on her.

"Yes. We had to rearrange a few things. I hope you do not mind," she replied, her answer echoing in the quietness of the room.

'Could this situation get any more awkward?' She questioned herself. Rukia wondered if he felt as uneasy as she did, but his body language denoted nothing, as usual, and she envied him for a moment.

"Rukia, this is your bedroom from now on, so you should treat it as such."

She simply nodded in acknowledgement. That would take a little to get used to, like so many other things lately.

Without further ado, he started with the topic she feared, his tone devoid of any emotion:

"I apologize for the conversation you witnessed earlier."

She stared at the polished wooden floor, remembering Fujiwara's words that morning, and her moral dilemma in the past hours assaulted her mind for a second, but she focused on his words instead.

"Yesterday, I deemed appropriate to give you more time to adapt to your current situation, but I did not foresee the consequences of such an act. My apologies if it only further distressed you."

Rukia looked at him, flabbergasted - it was not common for him to admit mistakes so blatantly. She knew he was a very proud man, and worse, one that hardly made any mistakes. Even in this cold tone, she was glad for those words.

Her mind also registered that he had just justified his 'rejection' on the previous night with his concern for her.

Rukia sighed contently. So he had not exactly rejected her. He was still cold, and simply following their agreement, but even if it did not change anything between them, she still felt slightly better after hearing that. Reminded that an answer was expected, she replied:

"I was aware that it would be necessary for me to move here eventually," she pointed out shyly, and after a few seconds, she added in the same serious tone: "And I know Byakuya-sama only had the best intentions at heart, so I appreciate it."


Byakuya felt slightly guilty at hearing those words. He had not lied, but he was glad that she had believed his half-truth. He couldn't possibly reveal his true reason for sending her back to her bedroom in the previous night.

"I am sorry as well," Byakuya heard her continuing in a more circumspect tone, not meeting his eyes. "I believe I put you in a difficult situation with this marriage ordeal." He saw a blush in her cheeks, but her eyes darkened with concern, as if she was struggling with a difficult decision. After a few seconds, she added slowly: "I am thankful for what you are doing, but… "

But? He looked at her and frowned at what he saw - shoulders tense, her gaze on the ground. She continued, trying to grasp words:

"I mean, I know of your… duties… to the family, I… I understand if… I-I mean, I know that… it is also my dut--"

"Rukia," he interrupted her. He could not let her finish those words. "Do not let Fujiwara's speech compel you. The duty is mine to fulfill. What we discussed that night when your marriage was brought up is still valid."

She looked at him with a confused expression. He clarified:

"I understand that the conditions I proposed were the reason why you accepted my offer and I am not a man to go back on my word once given. You just need to behave as my wife for public eyes, and they will conclude after a while that you cannot bear my children. Then they will ask for the annulment of this marriage and you will be free."

There, he said it, her freedom pass. Did it have to be this hard?


Rukia looked at him, perplexed. So this was his plan. An annulment.

She would be free. Free. For some reason the word had lost its meaning – she no longer wished for it so much as she had before. Instead, it brought a weight to her heart.

It was clear that he saw this as her wish still. But was it really? Maybe some days ago, yes, but now, if she were honest to herself, she was actually rather… disappointed. And a little sad.

"And you?" She asked, not entirely sure of what she meant with that question.

"I will fulfill my duty to the clan and marry again," Byakuya declared with detachment.

He would… marry again?

Rukia felt struck by those words. They made absolute sense, and yet… she felt completely repulsed by them. He was clearly not happy with this arrange, but she doubted he would ever be happy about any other woman that was not her sister. She, however… she was undeniably jealous at the thought of another by his side. In her place.

Jealousy. That was preposterous, ridiculous. But in truth, this plan of his bothered her. She wanted him to be happy, and she wanted to be happy as well, and maybe… maybe she was really falling for him. As frightening and crazy as it was.

"You will have to endure this for a while, though. Unfortunately it could not be avoided, and for that I apologize," he concluded in his most noble tone, causing a distinct feeling of melting in her heart.

"Byakuya-sama," she said, looking deeply, meaningfully into his dark grey eyes. "I am not my sister. I never asked for your protection. I really appreciate all you did for me, but you do not owe me an apology."

Byakuya had his eyes fixed on her, and under his cold cover she could distinguish surprise in them. It brought her an undeniable feeling of satisfaction. Concluding their conversation had ended, she added:

"Now if you'll excuse me," she bowed and went to gather some nightclothes, heading to the bathroom.

She had to be going insane, she thought, a towel in her hands and a smile on her face, leaving a very puzzled Byakuya behind.


Rukia was seating on the futon, waiting for him to leave the bathroom. All the confidence she had felt some minutes ago was slowly vanishing and she was reminded of the night before, when she stood there in the same fashion, waiting for him. This time, however, she would really stay. They would really share a bed. She, and her ex-brother, current husband, the epitome of perfection, the cold Kuchiki Byakuya. The absurdity, the awkwardness of it was getting to her again.

Even if she had spent the afternoon there, moving her things, the bedroom was still undeniably his – everything about it reminded her of him: the sparse and expensive furniture, the paintings… she could even feel a pleasant and faint musky scent that, now she knew, belonged to him.

It was one thing to be there with Mieko, but… it was another to be there, alone, with him. She had never shared a bed with a man. Well, she had slept next to Renji on those cold nights of her childhood, but this was completely different. Her confusing feelings towards him were definitely not helping on the matter, and she decided to avoid those thoughts for the sake of her sanity.

She wasn't prepared for the image she saw when he emerged from the bathroom moments later and much casually moved towards the bed where she sat. She stood up immediately, an automatic response to his presence, and gaped at him, a look of pure astonishment on her face, as her eyes traveled through his figure.

No scarf, no hand guards, and plain night robes instead of the formal kimono he wore at home or his usual captain's haori. He had discarded his kenseikan and his beautiful hair fell freely around his shoulders. Her heart skipped a beat at that handsome and foreign vision. He almost looked... human. Except for the drop-dead gorgeous part. It was like looking at another person, though. Instead of the pristine, immaculate image of Kuchiki Byakuya, a real man of flesh and bone. Who would have guessed? Certainly not her, despite the obviousness of it.

He must have taken her surprise for consternation, as he hurried to say:

"There is no need for fear, Rukia. Please try to rest." He spoke in a soothing tone, clearly unfazed by her reluctance.

She noticed she was still standing and staring at him and flushed at her silly reaction. The redness in her cheeks intensified as she approached and joined him on the bed in silence. Her heart was beating hastily and she disguised her reactions and tried to act as naturally as she could.

Rukia exhaled a soundless sigh, trying to relax as she laid her head on the pillow, pulling the covers over her. How was she supposed to sleep, when her body was tingling entirely, remarkably aware of his presence so close to her?

She should turn to the other side and ignore it, she knew, but curiosity got the best of her, as she was still very much intrigued by his apparent humanity, so she turned slightly to his side instead and closed her eyes, hoping to peek briefly at him once again.

She waited for a few moments, pretending to sleep, then opened her eyes briefly, but was startled by an unexpected sight: piercing grey eyes were staring intently at her.

As soon as their gazes met, he broke contact and turned to the other side, saying:

"Good night, Rukia," and the light went off.

"Good night", she answered breathlessly in the dark.


He looked at her sleeping form, now partially hidden in the darkness of the room, but still fresh in his mind.

They looked even more similar in the dark. It felt weird to have again a woman on his bed after so many years. And yet, one with those same features. The short dark hair that would probably feel smooth in his hand, the fair skin that would smell fragrantly sweet, the delicate lips that would feel so soft…

But this was not Hisana, as she had well stated not long ago. No, Hisana would not look at him in the eye and tell him she did not need his protection. Not that it was true for either of them. Rukia did need his protection, whether she thought so or not. But what had she meant by those words?

He smiled briefly at her petite form, occupying his bed, entering his life. Even if for a while, it felt good to have her by his side, under his eyes. It was as if her mere presence filled a void that had now nearly become a part of him. A peaceful, soothing feeling. It was also comforting to have her around – it felt easier to protect her from this close.

Even if it meant doing so from himself as well.


Faint sunlight passed through the gaps of the window as Rukia woke up the next morning and looked dazedly around.

Right, she was in his bedroom. The place next to her was glaringly empty, but she quickly noticed what had brought her from her sleep: he had just come out of the bathroom. To her dismay, he was already completely dressed, the impeccable image of the noble captain of the Sixth Division again: captain's haori over his shinigami uniform, hand guards, scarf, kenseikan properly placed in his hair.

"Good morning," he greeted her in his usual serious tone.

"Eh... Good morning" she answered, going into a sitting position and pulling the covers with her.

"I expect you to be ready at seven when I get home," he informed her.

Rukia blinked at those words, then remembered – shrine, cousin, new-born… right.

"Yes," she simply answered.

"You can stay longer in bed if you so want. It is early still," he offered.

She was indeed feeling sleepy, so she simply nodded. Did he usually sleep so little? Those words reminded her she did not need to go to her division that day or anytime soon, and therefore, had nothing better to do with her time. The thought was unnerving, but she decided she would deal with it after another hour of sleep at least…


The day had indeed been boring as she predicted. Rukia had thought about going to her division countless times, but had decided against it for many reasons. The whole marriage to her brother was still a source of gossip, she was sure, and her presence would certainly raise questions. Her captain would probably refuse going against Byakuya's orders for her, not to mention the problem it would cause with the elders and Byakuya himself, if she were to disobey a direct command.

Therefore, she sulked the whole day, bothered that her life had been reduced to that of a trophy-wife. While choosing the appropriate kimono for the occasion in a still very sullen mood, she came to a decision.

She would try to convince him, she had to, otherwise she would go crazy with boredom. She would try her best.

The thought solely brightened her mood and she called Mieko for help. She would be the impeccable image of the Kuchiki Lady when Byakuya arrived.


Later that evening, Rukia was perfectly dressed in a gorgeous green kimono of flowery details in purple and gold. A beautiful and glittery purple kanzashi in the format of a flower adorned her hair, properly done in a bun.

As soon as Byakuya entered their bedroom surprise flickered in his eyes. Quickly disguised of course, but Rukia didn't miss it. Good. She heard him saying:

"Please expect me at the dining room, I will meet you shortly."

She nodded and left the room.

After a brief meal, they departed for the shrine. It was going to be on the Kasumiōji's family shrine, from what she understood. She was slightly nervous to go on a social event so soon, but somehow his presence by her side calmed her feelings.

As they arrived, Byakuya offered his hand for her to help her out of the wagon and she was glad to have chosen a warm kimono as the cold air of the night hit her face, contrasting with the warmness of his hand. There was a big and beautiful full moon in the sky that night.

The couple elegantly entered the temple and was greeted by many faces that Rukia not quite recognized. She was sure she had met the majority of them on her wedding two nights ago, though, so she summoned her best Kuchiki façade and greeted them all respectfully and distantly as expected, praying she wouldn't do anything wrong.

It didn't take long until the ceremony started and she saw Michiko-dono entering the temple with a baby on her arms. She frowned slightly at the image and Byakuya must have noticed it, for he commented:

"The paternal grandmother is deceased, so the child is taken by the other grandmother."

Rukia blinked at his remark. It was not usual for him to be in such a conversational mood. He was probably bored, she concluded, grinning to herself in amusement.

So Atiko was Michiko's daughter. Maybe that was what the elder had wanted to speak to Rukia about before their slight… disagreement in the previous night. She decided she wouldn't tell Byakuya about it unless necessary.

Rukia peeked inside the baby's cover on Michiko's arms and noticed it was not, in fact, a son, but a cute blonde baby girl. Byakuya had probably been misinformed about it.

She wondered how frequent it was for him to attend this kind of social event. He was probably a busy man, with his duties as a captain, his training as a shinigami and his appointments as leader of the Kuchiki clan to fulfill. That was probably why he was never at home.

It seemed like a boring life, and she wondered for how long it had been like that.

"I assume Byakuya-sama witnessed many of these ceremonies?" she tried to start a conversation, encouraged by his willingness to talk.

It was not a wasted attempt.

"I have attended these since my parents died. My grandfather demanded my presence whenever he was representing the family. He made sure I was prepared to shoulder the duties of my station in every way."

"You were a child still, right?" she asked carefully about his parent passing. He simply nodded briefly.

Yeah, it seemed like a boring, duty-filled life indeed. Rukia knew Byakuya had assumed the head of the clan after his grandfather's death and how the man was an important figure in his life, especially without his parents. She imagined a young Byakuya, bored as hell with these social events, learning to be an image instead of a man, and working hard to impress his grandfather as a shinigami, and felt bad for him.

Even in this rich environment, so unlike her past, his childhood did not seem to have been a rose garden.

The ceremony was brief and soon they moved to a small reception. Rukia saw Michiko and the baby in a gathered circle, sided by her daughter and her son-in-law, who seemed very happy. Atiko had dark hair but seemed to have inherited Michiko-dono's features and light blue eyes that matched her kimono that night. Her husband had a kind face and was as blond as his little girl.

Byakuya started towards them and Rukia followed him, hoping the elder would not bring up their discussion in the previous night.

"Congratulations," he offered to the trio, and she imitated him. "I am sure the Kasumiōji clan is delighted with their princess," he added, looking at the baby with a kind face.

"Yes, we are," the father answered, proud.

"Now you two should be the next to have this happiness, we hope," Atiko commented cheerfully.

Rukia was hoping the subject would not be brought up, but, tough luck, Michiko-dono had not forgotten it:

"Yes, Rukia-dono, when do you plan to give my granddaughter some cousins to play with?" she added in a playful, yet malicious way.

Rukia felt a familiar burning sensation in her cheek and tried to control it.

"Uh, hopefully soon," she answered, embarrassedly. "Hopefully soon," she repeated in a more steady voice, trying to smile at them without meeting their eyes.

Byakuya noted her discomfort and commented:

"Well, congratulations again. We will leave you to share the happiness with the other guests," he added and gracefully bowed slightly, waiting for Rukia to do the same.

She did so and took the arm he offered her. After a few steps, she whispered:

"Thank you."

Rukia saw him nodding by her side.

"Would you care for some refreshments?" he asked. She knew he was only offering a change on the subject but agreed nonetheless.

Rukia served herself, but the subject was still on her mind, so after some minutes she asked him thoughtfully:

"Do you want them? Children?"

She noticed his eyes on her, showing a hint of surprise. She quickly realized by his reluctance that her question could be understood like an offering, so she amended hastily:

"I-I mean, in your previous marriage, did you…?" she corrected, blushing a little.

His features relaxed slightly.

"Yes, I wanted them," he answered, pensive. "But your sister was not very healthy. Hisana had two miscarriages," he revealed, and Rukia thought she heard a tinge of sadness in his voice.

Rukia felt sad for him, imagining the family he could have by now. She would be the aunt of his kids, if that had happened. Imagine the turns Fate takes sometimes…

Suddenly a thought occured to her. If Hisana had problems, would that mean she would have too? She immediately realized where his plan had come from. It would be easy for the elders to believe she had the same problem. Had they asked for an annulment in the past?

Lost in thoughts that she wouldn't dare to share, she didn't notice the presence of Yasumoto, approaching them.

"Good evening, Byakuya-sama, Rukia-dono."

The couple greeted him back.

"Byakuya-sama, I need to speak with you. About the Central 46 meeting tomorrow," the elder said in a whispered tone. They were far away from the crowd, so no one would be able to hear it either way.

The elder turned to Rukia.

"Rukia-dono, would you excuse us for a moment? This subject is classified."

Byakuya looked at his uncle, then nodded at her.

"Yes, of course, excuse me. I will be outside," she informed, still curious about the topic. She didn't know much about Soul Society ruling so she slowed her pace in hopes she could hear something.

"Regarding our influence…" was all she could figure out from Yasumoto whispered voice before she was too far away, heading for the balcony. Rukia got closer to one of the beverage tables and got a cup of what she assumed was sake – her empty hands felt slightly uncomfortable at that moment – and headed outside.

The balcony was high and she could see a beautiful garden and the empty streets of Seireitei not far away. The full moon was bright and shiny in the starred sky - it was a beautiful view.

She was feeling cold, however, and her thoughts drifted to the cup on her hands. She smelled the liquid, and decided to taste a little of it. She almost spilled it all as she heard a familiar voice behind her.


She looked back and blinked at the chest of a tall young man, very close to her. Raising her eyes, she met dark grey ones – very much like Byakuya's - looking intently at her. However, as their eyes met he smiled, a kind yet playful smirk that she sure would hardly be found on her husband's features.

"How have you been this evening?" She heard him saying in a pleasant tone.

"Eisei-dono," she acknowledged, giving a step back, while still looking at the blond man in surprise. Her mind noted he had made her a question.

"I am doing very well, thank you. How about yourself?" she asked back politely.

"Very well indeed. It is nice to meet you in here," he answered, eyeing her, and soon added: "And it seems you liked my gift, I am pleased."

Rukia followed his gaze on her hair and remembered, blushing slightly, that she was indeed using- unintentionally - the kanzashi he had given her some time ago.

"It suits you very well," he observed.

"Thank you," she replied, feeling a little calmer, even if still embarrassed.

Eisei moved forward, stopping by her side on the balcony and contemplating the view she was enjoying before his arrival.

"A beautiful night, isn't it?" He asked, not looking at her.

"Yes," she agreed, following his gaze, and then looking back at the man, who had put some distance between them, making her more at ease. He was a handsome man, even if his presence unfazed her for some reason, and the fine-tailored clothes he was wearing only served in accentuating his charm. Rukia wondered where her reluctance towards him had come from. In truth, he had only tried to be nice to her since they were properly introduced. Maybe they had just started it wrong, she concluded, feeling slightly guilty.

"It was a beautiful ceremony too. I am sure Atiko and Keiji are very happy to finally have their first heir," he commented, still looking at the garden.

"They seem very happy indeed," she agreed simply.

"It is worrisome for a clan to not have an heir for so long," he added seriously. After a few seconds he looked back at her, and she suddenly felt a pinprick of awareness under his scrutiny – Rukia could almost swear there was something predatory in his gaze, but quickly dismissed the thought, looking back at the garden.

She spotted a beautiful girl walking in their direction. Her hair was of a very light blonde, and even though Rukia was sure they never met, the girl reminded her of one of the guests in the omiai they had promoted not long ago. The girl clearly had noticed them as well, and as she got closer she smiled and bowed slightly before heading to the door under their balcony.

"That was Hoshiko-dono. Atiko's sister-in-law," he offered, adding afterwards, "We were engaged about two years ago."

Despite her common sense, curiosity got the best of her and Rukia asked:

"What happened?"

He seemed glad with her question as he replied:

"I decided to break it up. She is the youngest child, third in succession, and the family decided it was not an advantageous marriage."

"I see," she added reluctantly. It was always about that, Rukia considered, thinking about the complicated noble life. It seemed to be like that for all noble families.

"Besides, to be honest, I hate blondes," he confessed in a playful tone, moving away from the edge of the balcony. "I am much more fond of brunettes instead," he added, with a mischievous smile, his eyes meeting hers for a very brief moment, and quickly moving away. Rukia gaped at him speechless. He bowed and turned to leave. "Have a pleasant night, Rukia-dono."

Rukia watched his retreating figure and noticed he crossed Byakuya in his path, who gave his cousin a less-than-friendly stare and then continued in her direction.

"We are leaving," he informed her in a cold tone. Rukia simply nodded and followed him.


Rukia looked at Byakuya and back at the images passing outside the wagon's window. His conversational disposition seemed to be gone, she could almost tell he was in a surly mood. That was very unfortunate, since she still needed to make an important request of him that night.



And that's it for now, dears. Uff, fourteen pages, I think I deserve some reviews, right? lol

Take care!