Akuen

DISCLAIMER: NO OWN.

Sometimes, it is in the back of a man
Who works hard to feed his family.

Sometimes, it is in the arms of a person
Who is fighting for his freedom.

Sometimes, it is in the will power of a person
Who is fending off an addiction.

Sometimes, it is in the spirit of a mother
Who will not give up on her dying child.

Sometimes, it is in the character of a person
Who acts honorably in the midst of dishonorable people.

Sometimes, it is in the soul of a person
Who continues to pray even though he believes God has forsaken him.

Sometimes, it is in the heart of a person
Who loves but is not loved.

"Strength" by G. Rynk

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Chapter 3: Trouble Brewing

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The world was cold.

The trees were ice sculptures, the lake frozen deep to the core, the ground covered in frost and powdered snow. The sky, like usual, was a midnight black, faint diamond-like stars twinkling delicately across the dark canvas. An unbelievably large azure moon shined and sparkled, a shimmering mist of fog and ice particles floating around the air-buoyant object. The light blue rays brought out the beauty in every cold and frigid object; when the moon shined, everything seemed to come to life, everything was perfect and beautiful.

Except for him.

Long hair lazily swaying with the cool breeze, the man thrust forward into a low, wide sweep; arms artistically positioned away from his sides, a long sword gleaming against the moon's gaze. A quick tap of his foot, the man whirled himself around in a three hundred and sixty-degree mid-swipe before effortlessly jumping into a roundhouse kick. His elegant fighting kimono of silks and linens flapped gently in the surrounding area.

Narrowed, electric blue eyes were for once out of focus, thinking beyond his training motions.

Three thousand, nine hundred and sixty-seven…Three thousand, nine hundred and sixty-eight…

The man, in a series of complicated footsteps and maneuvers, moved backward, parrying an invisible opponent. His tall, lean body swerving to an unheard melody as he gracefully moved about, cutting in elegant trails into the ankle-high snow. Strong wrist twirling, the man flipped his sword around his wrist before thrusting it into the frozen tundra, and used the hilt as a pivot after hoisting himself from the ground and into movements reminiscent of a gymnast on the horse. With fingertips glowing a pure white, the man called out into the eerily quiet world of snow and ice,

"Hadou 63: Raikouhou!"

The entire area was lit up in pure white energy, the spiritual energy crackling.

Flipping backwards in the air, the man grabbed the hilt of the sword and wrenched it from the ground before setting himself in the basic position of kendo and moving backwards once again in complicated moves of defense, cold thin lips frozen in a thin, severe line.

Three thousand, nine hundred and sixty-nine…Three thousand, nine hundred and seventy…

For all of its pretenses that the world of cold and its immortal, unchanging beauty was nothing but infinite perfection, the man knew better, had finally accepted after thousands of millennia, that the world he had resided in since his creation was perfect…but empty.

Only she could make this plane complete.

-

-

Caribbean blue eyes smiled affectionately at the small, departing figure now making her way hurriedly back home. At Kaien's hip, the zanpaktou thrummed with affection as both sword and master watched the Kuchiki princess hurry along home, her short black hair bouncing with her steps. When disappearing from his sight, Kaien turned around and slowly made his way back to his office where, without a doubt, will be large stacks of paperwork waiting for him to sort out reports and sign official documents.

"Mou!" the man whined childishly, "I hate paperwork! Why did I agree to become Ukitake's fukutaichou again?!"

Grumbling under his breath, Kaien nonchalantly nodded back greetings from enthusiastic, but equally tired subordinates. Walking up to the steps of the walkway, Kaien paused to take off his sandals before making his way onto the walkway, fists stuffed down deeply in his pockets. As he made his way to his office, Kaien allowed a pleased grin to ghost his lips, thinking about today's training session with Kuchiki.

Every time she fell back down she came right back up, face filled with frustration and anger, but strong, unfaltering determination. Kuchiki had worked her hardest, even when she knew it was going to be pointless. She never gave up trying, never complained about the abnormal change of difficulty from their training of just learning the basics (that she hadn't learned from the Academy) to full-out battle brawl. Instead, Kuchiki had accepted it without a blink of an eye, never questioned. Instead, her eyes had grown hard, lips thinned, and battle stance all ready in place, her sword held out firmly before her.

A thoughtful expression crossed Kaien's face as he thought back to the first night he saw her.

The little Kuchiki dodged to the side, evading the downward swipe from the seated officer before her; her eyes slightly grew wide as the impact of the sword touching the ground cracked the tundra. Billowing air wrapped around the two fighters from the force of the blow. Biting her lip, Rukia swung as hard as she could at the man, only to have him whip out his sword and parry it. The vibrations coursed up and down her arms, creating shivers down her spine. Gritting her teeth and tightening her hands around the hilt, Rukia held firm and didn't move an inch.

Suddenly, the man before her gathered strength behind his arms and shoved her away from him, Rukia held in a small yelp as she flew backwards, but managed to stay on her feet and bring her katana up in order to intercept another strike from the man. Unable to hold up anymore from the constant pressure, Rukia moved slightly to the side, shocking the man as he suddenly rushed forward. Jumping up, Rukia roundhouse kicked him in the back, sending him crashing to the grassy floor. Chest ballooning, Rukia placed her sword before her, not allowing herself to let her guard down as the man, growling in embarrassment as his fellow colleagues within the division laughed and teased at him for his face plant, got back up to his feet in a flash.

Soon, the two were exchanging blows.

Left, right, left, right, left, right, stand still – hilt locked upon hilt, break apart then charge forward, left, right, left, right, diagonal sweep, downward sweep meets upward sweep, thrust forward, parry.

Sweat gently coursed down her face as Rukia, arms trembling, met swing for swing. The man before her looking nothing else but a raging bull, his skin flushed an angry red, eyes half-crazed with self-disgust at not ending the match sooner than as expected.

"Seems like little Kuchiki is holding her own, eh? Vayashi-sensei?" Kaien grinned at the man beside him.

Vayashi allowed his cool, magenta eyes to follow Rukia's movements, making mental notes on the mistakes she made. He took a small sip of his jasmine tea before responding,

"So as it seems, Shiba-fukutaichou. Kuchiki-san is doing far better than she normally does."

"Oi! What's with the formalities, Vayashi-sensei?! You know I hate it when you call me that!"

The man scowled at the fuming, Caribbean blue-eyed male. "Then why do you persistently call me sensei? You know that I hate my past pupils calling me that. Makes me feel old…"

The two men glared at the other, before chuckling in similar truce. They both turned to find Rukia accidentally slipping on the grass as their seventh seat pushed forward relentlessly. Before her bottom made impact with the ground, Rukia grasped onto the seated officer's parted legs and swooped in between them, rolling and sliding on the other side of him and back to her feet. She rushed forward with a thrust. A loud 'clang' entered through the training area.

"Anything that I should know about her, Vayashi?" Kaien watched the impossibly small girl that only stood up to their seventh seated officer's mid-stomach. Her amethyst eyes glowed with weariness and fatigue. Kaien gave a soft, sympathetic smile. For a newbie who only had two years of schooling, the runt was doing pretty well. He looked at the timer to find it nearing fifteen minutes.

Vayashi gave a small, fond smile at the small girl before replying, "Rukia has always been an arduous learner, Kaien-dono. Her advantages lie in kidou and hand-to-hand. Her zanjutsu had always been mediocre, but she tries. Back at the Academy, Rukia always came to me for help with her swordsmanship after school."

"Where did she come from?"

Vayashi's eyes darkened, "She came from Rukongai with another, a young man by the name of Abarai Renji."

Kaien blinked in surprise. He looked at the girl with skepticism.

"Really? Rukongai? I kind of find it hard to believe…"

"Just look at her knuckles, she has the same scars as the others."

Kaien narrowed his eyes, searching. He looked at her hands when she and the seated officer met again in a stalemate. Sure enough, a collection of layered scars, scars from fist fights, decorated her knuckles. They were pale, yet still noticeable when paid attention to.

The ache of pity grew larger within the fukutaichou as he tried to imagine how a little girl such as her was able to grow up in Rukongai, "What district," he whispered.

"The seventy-eighth district, Inuzuri."

"Are you fucking kidding me?!" Kaien gasped, eyes wide. "That's one of the roughest places in Soul Society! How in the hell did she survive?"

Vayashi gave a sigh, "Kaien-dono, I learned to never question "why" and just let it be. Besides, I don't think I want to know how she survived. It must have been a pretty lonely existence."

"You're telling me…"

Kaien glanced at the clock. The match was nearing eighteen minutes.

"Kaien-dono." Kaien glanced at the serious looking, blonde-haired man.

"Hai?"

"Please look after her. Rukia is still very naïve despite of her upbringing. She's the type who hates to be given the easy way out. I know for certain that being adopted into the Kuchiki family, being forced from the Academy and into the Gotei 13 without any real education, is killing her and her pride. She's the kind who has lived her life in the toughest situations, survived by working hard and doing her best. I will bet you a million yen here and now that Rukia feels that she doesn't deserve to be here in the Gotei 13. She had to hear it from the noble students in the Academy every day that she didn't even deserve to be in the Academy, let alone the Gotei 13. I might be asking of the impossible from you, Kaien-dono…but please, try to make her understand that she does belong here."

"The match is now concluded!" cried one of the judges.

Kaien and Vayashi looked up to find Rukia kneeling on the grass, shoulders slumped in exhaustion and sweat trailing down her face before dripping off of her chin and onto the forest floor. Her large amethyst eyes were filled with self-disgust and pity, yet reluctant acceptance as she shakily grabbed her katana and sheathed it away. Shakily standing up, Rukia bowed low to the man before her in gratitude.

Rukia bit her lip and turned to the judges who were whispering amongst each other. Eventually, with the clearing now unbearably quiet, the head judge, an elderly shinigami from the Central 46, cleared his throat and announced,

"Kuchiki Rukia, we have analyzed your efficiency in shunpo (Rukia flinched at that disaster), hand-to-hand combat, kidou, and now zanjutsu. It is utterly evident that you are behind in your teachings in shunpo and hand-to-hand combat – taking in to consideration of your early graduation from the Shinigami Academy upon your adoption into the Kuchiki family, we have come to the conclusion that although your kidou is far above acceptable, you still have yet a lot to learn before you gain a seated position. Thank you for your cooperation today. That will be all."

Kaien watched as the Kuchiki princess took in a deep breath before schooling her features from any emotion and instead to a familiar stoic expression. She bowed forward once again, causing her hair to cover her eyes.

"Arigatou gozaimasu for taking the time to examine me."

Slowly, everyone began to depart from the clearing. Kaien looked up to find Vayashi already standing, his expression showing no shock from the official decision given. Bidding a solemn goodbye, Vayashi walked away, his magenta eyes echoing with pity for the girl still breathing heavily from where she stood, in the center of the clearing.

Kaien narrowed his eyes at the floor as he made his way closer to his office door.

She had changed so much from the meek mouse she had once been two years ago. Her fighting style had been mediocre and straightforward with no room for improvement. Anyone who had fought her before until now, would have been able to quickly devise a strategy to take her down. But now…Kaien thought back to their training session earlier that day and rubbed his chin thoughtfully. He had first been teaching the midget the basics all over again, Shiba style. From thrusting to blocking to evading, Kaien had taught Rukia the fighting style of the renowned Shiba clan. In truth, he was teaching her the way he had been taught how to fight from the tutors his father had set up for him when he was young, many centuries ago. But recently, she had been deviating from his style of fighting. No longer did she use his tactics without question – instead, she had begun to invent her own style of fighting, one he had never seen used before: such as using her katana as a pole in order to swing her body.

Wiping her eyes briefly to clean the sweat from her forehead and face, Rukia reached down and grabbed the hilt of her katana. Shifting her body into an offensive stance with one foot pointed at Kaien and in front of the other, Rukia pointed the tip of her blade at him.

"HAI!"

Sprinting forward, Rukia's eyes hardened. I WON'T GIVE UP!

When she got close enough within range of his katana, Rukia momentarily surprised Kaien by ducking, plunging her blade into the grassy tundra. Using the hilt as a pivot, Rukia swung her body horizontally at Kaien in a full-body roundhouse. Ducking low to the ground, Kaien evaded her attack, her feet just barely brushing against the tips of the strands on his head.

Furthermore, the "perfect princess" was becoming a loudmouth, especially when she was alone with him, Kiyone, Sentaro, and Miyako and there were no spectators around to witness her "disgusting, commoner displays" as the Kuchiki Elders would have proclaimed. But truthfully, now that he thought about it, Kaien looked at the handle of his door with an uncharacteristic expression of deep-thought, never minding the fact that he was just absently standing in the hallway where anyone could see him.

Was Kuchiki really changing herself the longer she stayed within the division?

Or had she always been this way…and was finally opening herself up to them?

I've known her for a couple years now…He rubbed the back of his head. I know everything there is to know about her fighting style, her progress within her studies, and of her duties to the division. I know where she came from and I know how her life was at the Academy, and I know that she evades going to the Kuchiki Manor as much as humanly possible…but do I really know her as a person? What was she like back then? And is it any different than how she is now?

Making a mental note to snoop around about her later, Kaien pouted and opened the door, clenching his eyes tightly in order to stall the inevitability of having to sign mountains of paperwork before going home to annoying siblings (with their experimentations on the newly invented concept of fireworks – Kaien damned the person who created the colorful explosions, even though he did take in entertainment from them every once and a while) and his beautiful, lovely wife.

With a rush, Kaien slammed open the shoji door and hesitantly gazed at the state of his office.

And blanched in surprise and mild (but ever growing and unstable) irritation.

Kiyone and Sentaro, seated on opposite sides of his large and stately and official-looking desk, were currently slumped against said surface, blissfully ignorant of the spirit world around them and instead had smiles pasted on their faces, enjoying the dreams they were currently victim to.

Dozens of piled papers surrounded the desk with neat, but distinctly two different writing styles.

For a moment, Kaien allowed his scowling face to relax. Eyes softening at his obviously dead-beat tired subordinates, Kaien couldn't help but feel grateful for the annoying and overbearing co-fourth seats for doing the paperwork that was originally his to do. He smiled and thought for a moment, that maybe, he would go easy on them and send them right on to the division barracks.

That was until he saw them drooling on unfinished documents that required a signature AND stamp from both Ukitake AND himself.

"YOU FUCKING IDIOTS!"

"ITAI!" they both cried out in shock and pain, their hands grasping their throbbing and aching skulls. Face flushed angrily, Kaien grabbed the scruff of their collars and despite Kiyone's yelp and Sentaro's indignant shrieks, managed to bellow out over their racket.

"WHAT IN GOD'S SAKES ARE YOU DOING IN MY OFFICE, YA MORONS!"

"ANSWER HIM, SENTARO, FOR HE IS OBVIOUSLY TALKING TO YOU!" Kiyone hissed. Sentaro felt his eye twitch.

"STUPID DUMBASS, HE SAID MORONS AS IN PLURAL!"

"WHO ARE YA CALLIN' DUMBASS, YOU DUMBASS!"

"YOU OBVIOUSLY YA TWIT!"

"Oh! I understand why you're so upset!" Kiyone crooned with a smirk absolutely dripping with smugness. "You finally realized that I did the most paperwork and thus am the best subordinate! Come on, stinky buffoon, no one likes a sore loser."

Sentaro struggled to wrap his hands around Kiyone's neck where he could hope to snap it in half. Kaien was making that feat unbelievably hard.

"Shut up the both of you!" Kaien roared, his unstable temperament hitting the roof. The noise coming from the office sent many shinigami in the hall outside scurrying away in hopes of keeping the attention away from them and onto the unlucky fourth seats.

"I AM THE BEST SUBORDINATE WIHTIN THIS DIVISION!" crowed Sentaro.

"NO YOU'RE NOT! I AM! UKITAKE-TAICHOU OBVIOUSLY FAVORS ME ABOVE YOU!"

"THE ONLY REASON YOU'RE HERE IS BECAUSE OF YOUR SISTER, KOTETSU! HE ONLY AGREED TO HAVE YOU IN HIS SQUAD BECAUSE HE PITIED YOU!"

"I'M HERE BECAUSE I AM CAPABLE, UNLIKE A DIRTY MONKEY LIKE YOU WHO SLEEPS ON THE JOB!"

"IN CASE YOU HAVE FORGOTTEN, YOU FELL ASLEEP TOO!"

"NONSENSE! I WAS ONLY RESTING MY EYES!"

"AND DROOLING ON THE DOCUMENTS?"

"WHICH YOU'VE DONE AS WELL!"

Kaien slammed the door shut with a sigh. His head throbbed with an impossibly huge migraine, his ears throbbing from their yells. Digging his hands deep into his pockets, Kaien walked away.

Fuck the office, fuck his room. The imbeciles could have it if they wanted it so badly.

I still have to see to those stupid forms though. He inwardly whined.

GGGGGGRRRRRRRIiniinnnnnnGGGGGhhUUURRINnnnnnnggg….

"Damn," Kaien glanced at his rumbling stomach, "how can I still be hungry??"

Shrugging his shoulders, Kaien made a mental note about the papers. The sudden thought of home where Koganehiko and Shiruganehiko would be more than willing to cook up a midnight snack for him sent Kaien skipping while merrily humming a tune under his breath. The situation with his office, with two clowns currently trying to kill one another and stain his floors with their blood, was completely wiped from his mind.

"Konnichiwa, Kaien-dono!" chirped a passing young woman. Kaien looked over his shoulder to find the girl smiling at him, her cheeks flushed and green eyes sparkling. He gave a slight smile.

"Konnichiwa, Fuyu! Don't stay up too late, ya hear! It would be bad for others to find out I have subordinates working harder than me!" he joked lightly. He gazed at her curiously as she laughed a little bit longer than usual. Shrugging his shoulders, Kaien continued hopping away, blissfully ignorant of the strange and enquiring gazes of lower-ranked shinigami.

Akinowa Fuyu gazed after her fukutaichou, her bright green eyes darkening. Lifting a hand, she gently resettled her chic, fashionably styled glasses and tucked a stray black hair behind her ear.

"It's a shame," she hummed to herself, turning and walking away, "I hardly ever get to see Kaien-dono these days."

Her footsteps were light as she padded away to her small, insignificant ninth-seat office within the barracks. Her long black hair swayed side to side with her movements. Opening the shoji door when reaching her destination, Fuyu firmly closed it behind her and made way to her desk that was pushed alongside the wall. She squeezed through the cabinets packed in tightly within her quarters. Settling down at her desk, the young woman placed the stack of manila folders before her. With a light smirk, she threaded through the thick pile with her manicured fingertips. She tugged out a thin folder that was slightly different from the others. There was a message stamped across the front, in red: CLASSIFIED INFORMATION – AUTHORIZED PERSONEL ONLY!

She flipped it open to glance at the slightly smiling face that owned a familiar pair of amethyst orbs.

"You are becoming quite the nuisance…Kuchiki Rukia."

-

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3 Weeks Later…

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Rukia could barely hold in her excitement.

After weeks of searching, weeks of interrogation, weeks of sleepless night, tough training sessions and meditation, she had finally found the answer.

The petite shinigami momentarily released an excited giggle before schooling her features once again into an expression of placid serenity. She could feel her body tremble ever the slightest in happiness as she sat in the lotus blossom position on her bed. Short black tresses swayed slightly with the light cool breeze prying its way into her room from the open shoji panel before her. The calming chirps from the morning larks coincided with the rustling of leaves out in the garden. The large fountain outside the walkway gurgled and rushed with crystal water, the rising sun making the liquid sparkle.

Behind her eyelids, Rukia walked softly within an eternal black darkness, her footsteps echoing ever the slightest in the dark abyss as she traveled. Stretching out her senses, Rukia continued forward calmly. Like the guide that a friend had lent to her had said, she felt the familiar tug in her navel signaling where she needed to go in order to reach her inner world. The surrounding air around her slowly and gradually became cooler and biting to her skin, causing goosebumps to dance up and down her arms; a sort of chill raced down her spine.

Physically on her bed, Rukia contained the urge to squeal in triumph as she closed in on her target. She mentally patted herself on the back as she tried to imagine the shocked expression her zanpaktou would be unable to quell. He won't feel so high and mighty and mysterious-like when he realized that she got to their world by herself rather than him allowing her in. That would show that cocky male who he was dealing with. Nobody messed with Kuchiki Rukia, former resident of Inuzuri.

The closer she walked, the faster the air grew frigid with ice. Soon, Rukia could see her breath crystallize before her face. Frostbite slowly formed on the hilt of her katana. Far off in the distance, Rukia saw a very faint, but distinct light on the invisible horizon. A grin splitting on her face, Rukia rushed forward, her arms pumping and legs moving as fast as they can.

After countless hours of meditation and reading that book…after all of the failures…I'm gonna make it!

Frost covered the invisible black ground. Tall, white, ice-covered trees became more distinct. Multiple rolling hills of glistening snow could barely be seen. An azure moon sparkled in the suddenly midnight blue sky.

Rukia gradually slowed to a stop, her chest ballooning and face flushed. Her breath escaped her in small, crystallized puffs. Looking down at the floor, Rukia found that the ground was covered in powdered snow and ice.

Just one step…and I'll be in…

With a triumphant whoop, Rukia jumped forward.

"I'M FINALLY H – HUH!?"

Her moment shattered before her feet managed to graze even a fleck of white.

All of a sudden, a large invisible hand roughly grabbed the back of her collar. At the same time, another hand, tightened into a stone-hard fist, slammed into her stomach. Choking on her spit, Rukia lunged forward slightly from the impact. Eyes large and out of focus and brain scrambling to understand what the hell was going on, Rukia found herself pulled backwards.

Eyes snapping open, Rukia felt her body jerked off of the bed and onto the ground, face first.

"…O-Ow…" she whimpered; her body automatically curled inward with her knees to her chest at the unexpected throbbing of her stomach.

"That…t-t-that wasn't s-supposed to happen…" she stuttered.

Wincing, Rukia sat up, her hands clenching her stomach.

"What the hell!"

Lunging forward to the low table near her, Rukia plucked a hard-covered, medium-thick book from amongst the dozens of scratch paper filled with her drawings. She eagerly flipped through the papyrus until landing on the page she needed.

CHAPTER 3: THE STEPS TO CONNECTION

For every person capable of spiritual energy, one ultimately has a zanpaktou (as stated in the previous chapter). The only problem is having the potential and the determination to complete the connection and bridge the gap between the user and the zanpaktou spirit. In order to stabilize and strengthen the connection between a person and his/her zanpaktou, one must reach a common standing with his/her zanpaktou.

That common standing is, of course, the Inner World. The Inner World is the individual's spiritual subconscious, the area of the brain that takes up ninety percent of our thought capacity. The subconscious, as of yet, is still quite a mystery to scientists in both the spiritual and living, physical world. Recent studies have shown, however, that each person's spiritual world lies within our subconscious thoughts and is, in fact, the replica of ourselves. The Inner World reflects our personalities, our feelings, our beliefs, and our ambitions. The zanpaktou lies within the Inner World, living within that space in our mind the moment the beings with the potential to have spirit energy is born and lies there until the holder is fully aware of such Inner World.

This chapter holds the steps to reaching that common ground, the Inner World. Follow the steps and you will achieve success!

(P.S. – Do not be discouraged if not successful first try. It takes great concentration, focus, and will to complete the bridge from the conscious mind to the subconscious.)

1. It is utterly significant and important to have Nature play a part in your surroundings.

Rukia thought that the wind and the sounds outside was good enough.

2. Seclude yourself in a closed-off surrounding by at least twenty feet.

Leaping from her sitting position, Rukia glanced outside the walkway and across her room to look into the hallway inside the mansion to find that her markers and the guards she had set up were still in place. When they were, Rukia closed the shoji door and continued on.

3. Drink chamomile tea to calm the senses and relax the mind.

4. To relax the body and clear the mind, do warm up exercises for approximately half an hour.

5. When in position, make sure to balance the sheath on top of her head (a symbol of absolute trust between wielder and the zanpaktou).

Rukia glanced at the floor to find her sheath lying underneath the table.

"So that's where I went wrong!"

Placing the book on her table, Rukia eagerly grabbed the sheath and went back into position. She blatantly ignored the screaming muscles in her lower back as she painfully sat as straight as possible in order to keep the sheath steadied on her head.

Rukia momentarily glared at the space before her. "YOSH! It'll work for sure, this time!"

An hour later, Rukia moaned into the hard, wooden floor, her stomach pulsing uncomfortably.

"NANI!?" she wailed in despair. "Why won't it work!?"

Snatching the innocent book, Rukia glared holes into the guide. "This is my seventh time trying! It surely can't be this hard just to reach my inner world! Who the hell wrote this anyway…" she grumbled under her breath. Eyes narrowed, the Kuchiki flipped to the back of the book to look at the publications.

Her actions stilled and the blood mysteriously washed away from her face.

The publication of this guide and its contents belong solely to its chief creator and publisher, Madarame Ikkaku, the third seat, and the editor, Ayasegawa Yumichika, the fifth seat within the Eleventh Division headed by the strongest taichou of all Seireitei: Zaraki Kenpachi!

(P.S. – THIS GUIDE HOLDS 100 PERCENT CHANCE OF FAILURE! GOT YA, RUKIA-CHAN!)

In the corner was a small drawing of a certain bald-headed man and his feminine, beauty-obsessed counterpart.

It was too much for her to handle.

"YOU'VE GOT TO BE FUCKING KIDDING ME!?" her scream, without a doubt, awoke all of the inhabitants of the Kuchiki Estate.

Rukia savagely tore the guide apart with her bare hands, her teeth gritted harshly.

"I'M GOING TO KILL THEM!"

-

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Within the Eleven Division barracks in his hammock, a certain shiny, bald-headed man awoke from his slumber with an undignified snort. Yawning widely, Ikkaku stretched and rubbed away sleep's grasp from his eyes. Scratching his head and looking out the window to find that it was sunrise, Ikkaku idly wondered why he woke up so early, considering the fact that he had gotten himself wasted the night prior.

However, a sudden chill ran down the man's spine. All of a sudden, the third seat felt his sixth sense, the "killing" sense, going off the haywire. With a large and insane grin, Ikkaku leaped up into a standing position in his hammock, causing it to sink and hit the unfortunate face of the man below him.

"ORA, ORA!" he shrieked, viciously awakening all of the slumbering men within the barracks. "I can't wait to battle the holder of such hatred! Extend, Houzukimaru!"

"SHUT THE FUCK UP, YA BASTARD!" grunted a man close by. The statement followed with more crude comments from surrounding men.

Ikkaku's excited grin suddenly wreaked with malicious intent. His left eye twitched.

"Come again?"

Much, much too early for the inhabitants of Seireitei, the Eleventh Division barracks exploded into an uproar of cussing, fists, and sword fights.

In her futon within the fourth division, Unohana Retsu-yontaichou glared at the ceiling of her bedroom with uncharacteristic hatred for the normally kind and sweet taichou.

How dare they wake me up this early…

-

-

Rukia calmly waltzed away from the Eleventh Division barracks, although the tension in her shoulders belied the anger still fuming away underneath the stoic placidity. Those imbeciles had taken advantage of her in her time of need for their own sick amusement. Going to such lengths of fooling her with a well-thought out guide that only a true wielder who had all ready established their link with their zanpaktou would have noticed for a scam right away was far beyond average, even for them.

To think that she had followed every single damn word they wrote, to think that she hadn't actually questioned the reason WHY they had gone out of their way to go to the LIBRARY to find her a book, hadn't even thought of what their usually mediocre minds would have created, and to think she hadn't at least thought to look for the validity of its content before foolishly and hard-headedly following every word. It shamed her, truly it did.

Rukia scowled. At least a swift kick to the center of their universe had rectified as to WHO was the laughing stock.

Assholes, the both of them.

Well, at least she wouldn't get in trouble with Zaraki-taichou. He had only laughed when unexpectedly walking in when she had delivered their punishment.

It still sucked though; she was back to where she began.

Sighing, she placed a hand on the hilt of her zanpaktou and gazed at it with a contemplative expression.

What do I do now?

Rukia glanced up at the sky to still find it early. The sun had yet to fully stop touching the horizon. Calculating how much time she had left before heading back to the Thirteenth Division for another day of work, Rukia concluded that she had at least two hours before time to go back. Just enough time to train a little. As she walked through Seireitei to the Thirteenth Division's training grounds, Rukia thought back to the guide and how close she had been to touching her inner world. It was so heartbreaking to feel so close and yet so far apart from her zanpaktou.

Why wouldn't it connect with her? Why wouldn't it acknowledge her? Was there something she was supposed to do? What? What? What?

She couldn't believe she was having such a hard time with her zanpaktou; how did people like Ikkaku, Yumichika, and Matsumoto-fukutaichou achieve communication with their zanpaktou? Neither of them looked to be the serious, meditation type; none of them had the patience, the drive, and for Yumichika's argument, the will to overstress and cause wrinkles. So how did they connect with their zanpaktou?

Reaching the clearing, she pulled out her zanpaktou. The blade shined briefly against the sun as she angled it away from her, parts of her face reflecting back at her from its surface. Rukia's eyes widened as she saw another person's reflection flash within her blade as well.

"Nani…?"

Rukia whirled around, heart thumping loudly. She blinked when finding no one there. Rukia frowned. Wasn't there someone there? Or was she just being paranoid? Shaking her head, Rukia turned back to where she was facing. Spreading her legs, Rukia lowered herself into the beginning position of kendo with her sword held within both of her hands. Closing her eyes briefly, Rukia allowed Kaien-dono's calm, smooth voice instruct her how to move her body, instructing how much force to use and how her body needed to familiarize with her actions. With a small, half step, she lunged forward with a small "hah" and a sharp, downward sweep. Quickly, she stepped back with her feet moving in synch and gave another small "hah" and a downward swipe. She repeated the process, allowing her arms to move up and down, her back straight and uncomfortable. She stood onto the balls of her feet.

However, Rukia quickly dropped her arms and stance with a pain-filled grunt. She absently rubbed the ache in her shoulders and inwardly pondered why Kaien-dono's exercises were now so much harder to get through. In the beginning they had been a mild irritation, but now they were a full-blown pain in the ass. It was like her whole body was rebelling against the movements, like as if she was supposed to move in some other way. There was absolutely nothing wrong with Kaien-dono's style of fighting; he had looked so majestic, so in control and so strong with the way he fought the way he did. And Rukia wasn't stupid, she knew that the basics that he was teaching her, weren't the same ones used within the Shinigami Academy. He was teaching her HIS style, his moves. But why were they so hard?

Uncertainly, she glanced at her katana and almost felt a pulse in the center of her navel, pulling her to do something…but what?

Closing her eyes, Rukia made a silent decision. Grasping the hilt firmly with both hands, she relaxed her body and finally followed the tiny voice she thought she could hear from time to time, whispering gently into her ear with instructions and hints.

And slowly, Rukia unknowingly began to find her way.

-

-

A pair of electric blue eyes smiled with a sense of warmth they hadn't known for millennia.

"She's learning."


Author's Note:

I'm so sorry it took so long! To tell you guys the truth, I would have had this out THREE DAYS after the last chapter I had uploaded when I got the stupid idea that "hey, I need to store this on my USB so that I still have it incase my laptop crashes!" and what do ya know, my stupid USB didn't upload my third chapter of Akuen AND a lot of my anime pictures that I had saved. So I essentially lost my fifteen-sixteen pages of writing and pictures that I loved. Insert sarcastic, happy face.

After gathering some will, I decided to give it another try after fruitless search for my chapter. After nearly ten pages of writing, I decided to go to bed, woke up the next morning to try again, only to find that my computer froze and had to restart and for some reason, erased the file again.

This was my third and hopefully LAST try at this chapter. YOSH!

Sorry that this chapter wasn't exciting as it SHOULD have been. I had initially intentioned for Rukia to finally learn Sode no Shirayuki's name, but uh, my fingers started typing away with a whole new concept of getting Rukia to learn her zanpaktou's name. So HOPEFULLY it will be in the next chapter. But at least I gave you guys some Kaien, right?? Me encanta Kaien! lol

THANKS YOU GUYS SO MUCH FOR THE REVIEWS! SQUEE!

And I laughed at one of the reviewers who mentioned (cough cough) that polygamy is so much better. I totally agree (insert blush) but, sadly, Byakuya and Kaien are both hard-headed independent MEN so they won't share Rukia, , pity.

Until next time!