Chapter VII: Confrontations

"Kuchiki Byakuya. We have come across the most surprising information." The head elder stated with blunt coldness, glaring at the figure standing at the center of the floor.

Kuchiki Byakuya did not miss this, and replied in kind, with a glare many times more frosty than the elders. "It seems I am not the only one that has come across surprising information."

"But this is absurd!" The elder spluttered, angrily waving a sheet of paper that was the court summons at Byakuya, "Why would you do such a thing for a matter of such petty importance?!"

Byakuya felt a searing rage shoot through his heart, and his eyes lit up with fury; the elder backed away hesitantly and looked towards his companions for support – they all adverted their gaze.

"How dare you," Byakuya said, his voice low and accusing, that seemed to shoot daggers at the one who dared say such a thing. "How dare you say that Hisana's importance is but 'petty' – that she is to be thrown away like trash."

"And is trash," the same elder boldly declared, but voice hesitated even as he said it, eyes avoiding Byakuya's furious gaze.

"Perhaps you have forgotten your place," Byakuya hissed, hand shifting towards Senbonzakura's hilt; the elders flinched, "Even deceased, she is still Lady of the Kuchiki House, and holds a rank far higher than your own – a rank far highers than any other noble in Seireitei but myself."

His long, tapered fingers grasped the hilt of his zanpaku-to, drawing the shining blade from it's sheath noiselessly. Glowing pink petals soon drifted about the room, gently brushing against the elder's thin neck, caressing the skin.

The wielder of the blades stepped forward slightly, with eyes hard and full of barely concealed hatred. The entire room held it breath; beads of sweat began to form on the offenders temple, but still, no one said a word.

"I suggest that you do not anger me by saying such things," said Byakuya, his deep voice completely emotionless, "Not unless you do not want that head of yours..." The small, lethal blades pressed deeper into wrinkled flesh.

No one breathed.

Then, the trance seemed to break, as if someone had snapped, and Byakuya recalled the bits of his blade, and sheathed his sword. He turned on his heel to leave the room, no sparing any of those in the room a second glance. His scarf fluttered elegantly behind them.

"I will see you in a month."

"We cannot let this happen! What will become of us if this trial goes through? Should we lose, we willl be shamed for eternity!"

"Our name will be forever tainted with suspicion – we will perhaps even be killed."

"Byakuya-sama – Lord Kuchiki – is indeed a formidable foe when he sets his mind to it," All eyes turned to the head elder as he spoke out. "However, we cannot let the Kuchiki name fall into such shame."

"There comes a time for a legal case, when even the greatest lawyer cannot win."

He closed his heavy eyelids over tired eyes. "I have already set our defense into motion."

"Perhaps for once, the law will work in our favour."

Three weeks later...

"What? How could this be?! There's no way..."

Sanosuke flipped through his notes with increasing haste, eyes wide and mind in a state of complete surprise. He examined the small vial of clear liquid – the liquid from the blue bottle that he had been researching for the past three weeks – and carefully reread all his notes.

"This...this is amazing." In a daze, he leaned back into his chair, letting his notes fall to the floor. Then, he snapped out of his note-induced trance, re-engergized with a new vigor he hadn't had in years.

"I must contact Kuchiki-sama!" He hurried to the door of his small lab to call one of the many guards that had been posted around his residence, to tell them to contact their Lord at once!

"I wouldn't do that, Endo Sanosuke." A smooth voice said, cutting through the chemically flooded air, "It would be most unwise."

He turned around in flashed, his hand on the silver door nob. "Who- Who's there?"

A tall, black figure stepped calmly out of the shadows. "Now," His voice was like a drug, a fear-inducing drug; it seemed to paralyse all who heard it, casting a shadow of evil over him. "Why don't you tell me what you've discovered? You can surely share this information with me too?"

"N-no!" His own voice came out in stutters, and his throat felt like it had closed over. "Stay away from me! I-I won't tell you anything!"

"Now, now," the voice admonished, "Let's not be so hasty. You wouldn't want me to hurt your little girl, would you?"

A second figure emerged form the shadows, his large hand held tightly over the mouth of a small girl. Chiyo, Sanosuke realized with a mixture of dread and horror.

"Smart girl," the first one grinned, revealing a mouth full of sharp, glinting teeth, "Not to run. Things could have gotten...messy. But I do like to see the red, red blood of a child..." He walked over and ran a long finger down Chiyo's pale cheek. Her eyes were wide with horror; a small cut formed where he had touched her. "Such a nice color...it would look nicer on your floor, wouldn't it, doctor?" A small dagger suddenly appeared and was held under her trembling throat.

"Stop!" Sanosuke cried out desperately, his voice surprisingly intact and firm. "I'll...I'll give you what you want. Just don't hurt her. Please."

The man in black widened his grin. "I thought you might see it my way, doctor..."

Aya strolled through the streets of the shopping district absently, a large basket hanging off her arm and and haori drawn tightly around her thin frame. There was an unnatural chill in the air that day, and the sky was swarming with dark clouds, foretelling a storm to come.

"I should head back," Aya murmured to herself, quickening her pace, "Kayako-san will be wanting the groceries soon."

Her chocolate eyes hastened a look at the nearby clock tower, gasping when she noticed the time, then took off a run down the sparesly populated street. She was expected back half and hour ago! Kayako-san was going to be so mad at her...

She skidded to a halt beside an dark alleyway, shrouded in shadows and mystery. But she had been down that route many, many times before; it would get her back on the Kuchiki estate in half the time the regular route did.

Her mind clouded with urgency instead of common sense, completely disregarding the danger that the action would impose, Aya dashed down the dark alleyway, hair and dust flying behind her.

She turned another corner, and hurried forward in her haste.

If she had looked her behind her she would have noticed the dark shadow trailing her from behind; silent and dark, with the stealth of a member of the Secret Remote Force.

Aya stopped abruptly as she hit a dead end. Had she, somehow in her haste, turned a wrong corner? She twirled around, intending on retracing her steps, and came face to chest with a solid, black, figure.

"Too late to turn back now," the low voice murmured in her ear; a flash of silver glinted in the darkness.

It was the last thing she saw before she felt a pressure at the back of her neck, and her world went black.

Jidanbo had had a very uneventful day. There was nothing going on these days, and with the Winter War long over, his life was but an endless cycle of wake up, guard the gate, sleep. Wake up, guard the gate, sleep. Day after day, week after week, month after month.

He raised his eyes towards the clouds in the sky. Oh, how he wished he could be like them, so light, and carefree, without a care in the world.

"Excuse me, Gatekeeper." A soft voice interrupted his thoughts. He squinted at his feet, down at a small figure clothed in a hooded brown cloak that had obviously seen better days.

"Yes," Jidanbo grunted, annoyed at being interrupted in this thoughts, "What d'you want?"

"I am searching for Kuchiki Byakuya," It was a female, judging from the soft, lilting tone of her voice, and the delicate hands that peeked out from the coarse cloth. "I can find him behind those gates, can I not?"

"Sorry, miss," said the gatekeeper, "I can't let anyone pass without permission from the Seireitei. Here to join the Academy, maybe, miss?"

A small, pained smile appeared on her lips. "No...I am just searching for something I have no right to keep."

"I'll see what I can do," the giant offered, "What's your name?"

The same delicate hands raised the large hood of her covering off her head of ebony locks. Large blue-violet gazed sadly at him.

"My name," the woman murmured, folding her hands delicately over her heart. "is Hisana."

To be continued...

A/N: To be honest, when I first planned out this story, it wasn't supposed to be like this...but I was hit with an epiphany a little while ago, and I kinda like this ending better - so I'm going to go see where it goes.

One last update before Spring Break is over, since I'm heading back to school tomorrow morning! I'm not sure whether I should be happy or sad. Point is, once the work starts piling up again, updates will probably have longer time periodsin between, so I'm trying to write as much of it out as I still can. :)