Bleach concept and all readily recognized characters belong to Kubo-sensei; therefore, I have no claim over them.
And this is it, people, a chapter story I've promised (though I can't quite recall to whom.) To be honest with you guys, my life is very busy nowadays with work and study (which is also why I only published one-shots lately), so I can't promise a regular update. I can promise though, that I'd update within July 11. In the meantime, please give me your feedback. Hopefully, I'll see you in the next installment.
Shihōin Yoruichi heard her own voice slipping out of her mouth before her brain could even process what she just said.
She should have known that a family council was never a good thing, especially after she had disappeared and left her responsibilities as the head of the clan behind for so long. While she always told herself that she would return to her family and redeem herself to them once the war was over, she still wondered if she should change her mind and stay in the human world where she would be free from all burdens she had to bear as a head of a prestigious noble house.
However, it appeared to be too late for her to have a second thought now that she was sitting in a meeting with the elders of her family who had the power to twist her fate to however they pleased and were not afraid to abuse it.
"I may have promised to redeem myself for abandoning my duties and bring our family's name back to its former glory, but I'm certain that I haven't agreed to get married to anyone."
"Does it mean that you would run away from your duties again, Yoruichi-sama?"
The question came from another end of the table, but Yoruichi didn't need to turn her eyes to see who had uttered that question. She had heard that calm and polite tone often enough to recognize whose voice it was, and it belonged to Suzuki Daisuke, the man who had been an adviser to the clan since the previous head of the family.
"If I were to run away, I wouldn't be sitting here right now, would I, Daisuke-san?"
"True enough," the elderly man said. "Then in this case, I can only assume that you do not fully understand the importance of your getting married."
"I do understand that you want me to be married to some random nobleman that you chose in order to use his family's influences to help strengthen ours," Yoruichi said in an unruffled tone although deep down she was anything but that. "But I do not need to rely on a man to restore our family's stature!"
"And I did not say that you do," the old man noted smoothly. "You've proven yourself enough when you became a commander-in-chief of the Secret Mobile Corps and later a captain of the Second Division. Nevertheless, you cannot reproduce by yourself, and this family needs an heir."
"I won't die so soon."
"Very little in life is guaranteed, Yoruichi-sama," Daisuke remarked calmly. "And forgive me for saying this, but you're not getting any younger. You've already reached your prime, so if you do not consider getting married now, you might never—"
"Wait a minute. Reached my prime?" Yoruichi repeated incredulously. "I'm not even three hundred yet!"
"Yet is the keyword," the old man returned, "so how long do plan to postpone this, Yoruichi-sama? Whether you like it or not, making sure that the clan will not end in your generation is one of your duties as the twenty-second head of the clan and you know it."
"Don't tell me what my duties are, Daisuke," Yoruichi stated in a warning tone. The omission of an honorific reflected how much the elderly man had frustrated her at that moment. "I know exactly what they are."
"Then for the first time in the century, act like you do."
Yoruichi glared at Daisuke for a moment. Anger was evident in her blazing gold eyes. However, she suppressed it within the next couple of seconds.
"There are more important things for me to do right now than finding myself a husband," she said flatly. "One of those things is reclaiming what used to be ours, which is the control over the Onmitsukidō. That alone will consume most of my time already. So for the last time, Daisuke-san, I do not have time for this."
The old adviser let out a weary sigh but chose not to say any other words, for he did not want to argue with the much younger lady who had the right to remove him from his position as the clan's adviser whenever she wished.
After having listened to the exchange between the head of the clan and one of the most respected advisers for a moment, another elder decided to speak up.
"You do not need to search for a husband by yourself, Yoruichi-sama."
Yoruichi looked up and saw that it was her great-uncle, Shihōin Takahiro, who spoke the sentence.
"Since the announcement of your return to Soul Society, there have been at least five marriage proposals from different noblemen," the man continued. "They were descended from good noble houses and are shinigami with promising futures, yet all of them are willing to drop their names and use ours if chosen as your future husband."
The lady pursed her lips and furrowed her brows for a moment as though she was in a deep thought.
"Are those five nobles my only options?"
"You should be glad that there are options at all, Yoruichi-sama," Takahiro said. "Normally, noblewomen do not have any says in this matter and have to agree to be wedded to whoever her family has chosen for her. However, we do not wish to force your hand unless it becomes truly necessary, so I must ask you to make a decision before we make one for you."
Yoruichi closed her eyes and sighed, knowing that it would be hard for her to talk herself out of the arrangement. However, that didn't mean that she didn't wish to delay the inevitable fate.
"Just tell me, Takahiro-ojii-san," Yoruichi said after taking a moment to think, "these five noblemen, do any of them stand out from the others?"
"No, Yoruichi-sama, they are of same caliber."
The answer from Takahiro made his grandniece smile smugly.
"If that's the case, I don't think I can choose one without offending the others," said the former captain of the Second Division. "It wouldn't be wise to have conflicts with other noble houses at this time; so if they were all I can choose from, I suppose I'm down to one option, which is marrying them all at the same time."
All of the elders in the room almost choked on their tea at Yoruichi's suggestion.
A smug gleam flashed behind the lady's golden eyes before she continued in a mock innocent, "If none of you have any objections and they all agree to this, of course."
Takahiro had some veins popping on his forehead while listening to the woman who was his great-niece. He should have known she would come up with something unorthodox to bail herself out of the marriage arrangement.
"If I were not afraid that our family's reputation would be crushed by this absurd suggestion, I would agree to it just to see whether you would dare to do what you have said, Yoruichi-sama," Takahiro spoke, obviously not amused. "However, this is not something you should joke about."
Yoruichi let out a soft sigh.
"If you want me to be serious, Takahiro-ojii-san, I honestly don't care for a husband right now," the purple-haired lady remarked. "As I said earlier, there are more important things to be done."
"Then we shall—"
"However," Yoruichi said, cutting her elder off, "since it seems that I have no say in this matter, I will marry anyone this council deems suitable, but under one condition."
"I don't care who the man is, where he comes from, what he looks like or why he wishes to marry me; but if he were to be a father of my children, at the very least, he should have my respect."
"And how will he earn your respect, may I ask?"
There was a pregnant pause before Yoruichi replied, "He has to beat me in a shunpo race."
At the end of Yoruichi's sentence, the once silent room was filled with the sound of the elders' mumbles as they debated the head of the Shihōin Clan's condition. It took several minutes for the discussion to end, and it was Daisuke who was chosen to announce whether the council would accept Yoruichi's condition or simply force her hand.
"A shunpo race, Yoruichi-sama?" the clan adviser asked.
"Yes, a shunpo race," the lady confirmed, putting on a calm façade even though she couldn't help holding her breath while waiting for what the old adviser would say next.
"I see," the old adviser muttered. "If that's what you wish, Yoruichi-sama, then this council agrees."
* Just in case you're wondering about the title, it's in Sanskrit literally means an act of choosing by oneself. Swayamvara is an ancient India's form of marriage in which a woman selects a man (of her liking or through a contest) from a number of suitors to be her husband.