"We should just elope."
Yoruichi suggested as she suddenly appeared by Byakuya's side while the man was sitting alone on top of the roof of the Kuchiki Mansion. Already used to her way of popping up without a prior notice, Lord Kuchiki didn't show a sign that he was surprised by her sudden appearance. However, since he didn't expect to her to show up there in the middle of the night, he looked up and asked, "Pardon?"
"I said we should just elope," the lady repeated herself before she sat down beside to him on the roof.
Lord Kuchiki had no idea why his betrothed suggested that idea to him then when it wouldn't make much difference, and the lady didn't show a sign of discomfort when they discussed the wedding that would be held in the next day with their family during the engagement dinner.
"I think it is a little too late to change the plan now that it was announced throughout the city," the captain of the Sixth Division noted. "Not to mention, the royal guard has dropped by earlier to deliver a bottle of sake along with a wedding present as congratulations from the King"
Yoruichi widened her eyes slightly. "News sure travels fast."
"Have you told your friends in the living world about the wedding, by the way?"
"Well, I called Kisuke's shop, but he wasn't there, so I left a message with Tessai instead," Yoruichi replied, "I'm sure he'll pass it along to everyone. It's a shame they won't be able to come since it's such a short notice."
Byakuya took a moment to think before he suggested, "We can send them the photos."
Yoruichi nodded. "That's a good idea."
"By the way, may I ask you why you are here at this time?" Lord Kuchiki finally asked.
"To ask you to elope with me?" the lady offered lightly.
"Seriously, Yoruichi," the nobleman sighed. "Didn't you mention before dinner that you were exhausted and wanted to take a rest as soon as possible?"
"Yes, I did," the purple-haired lady said before she shifted her position slightly to sit in a more relaxed post. "But it turned out I couldn't sleep no matter how much I tried, so I figure I'd just drop by to see if you're still up."
Somehow Byakuya suspected that the lady omitted to say that if he were not, she would make it so that he was anyway, yet he chose not to voice that suspicion and simply asked, "Nervous?"
The lady was about to deny, but once she realized that her betrothed probably had the same feeling since she didn't have to drag him out of his bed to keep her company, she shrugged.
"Yeah, a little, I guess," she admitted. "It's not that I don't want to marry you, Byakuya, but I don't think I'm mentally prepared for it yet."
"Well, everything happens rather fast."
Yoruichi smiled and turned her eyes to the sky.
"To be honest with you, Byakuya, I don't think I'd be ready even if I had more time to prepare my heart," the lady confessed. "Maybe this is why my family insisted on having a wedding right after the Swayamvara – because they know there's a chance I'd run away if I had too much time to think about it."
"Is that why you proposed that we should elope earlier?" Byakuya wondered.
Yoruichi laughed. "Yeah. I mean, the more time I had to think about it, the more nervous I became."
"Why, Yoruichi? Is it because you can't picture spending the rest of your life with me?"
Lady Shihōin turned to watch her intended for a moment, realizing that while he sounded rather nonchalant about the subject, he was rather concerned.
"No. It's quite the contrary, actually. I'm having cold feet because I can picture it," she said, and before he had to ask, she explained, "I mean, think about it. You know how we weren't exactly the most obedient kids in Seireitei, so what if our children turned out to be just like us?"
Lord Kuchiki chuckled. "It might not be as bad as you think."
Yoruichi grimaced. "Are you saying that it could be worse?"
The black-haired noble shook his head and turned his gaze back to the stars.
"There's no need to be so pessimistic, Yoruichi," he said. "We don't turn out too bad, do we?"
The lady chuckled softly before she gave him a certain look as she said, "I don't, but you do."
Knowing that Yoruichi would always hold what happened at the race over his head for the rest of their lives and that he deserved it, Byakuya turned to look into her eyes as he said, "I promise you that was the last time I'd ever cheat."
"Oh, it'd better be," Yoruichi replied. Although her tone was light, he could tell she was serious when she added, "Because I wouldn't forgive you if there were another time."
With that said, the lady turned away from her betrothed and watched the star, relaxed in his quiet company. Byakuya gazed at her for another moment before he smiled slightly to himself and turned his eyes to the sky as well.
"Say, Byakuya," the lady spoke once a long moment had passed, "we haven't watched the stars together like this since that time at the Sōkyoku Hill, have we?"
"No, we haven't," Byakuya replied before he turned slightly to look at her with a raised eyebrow. "Why, Yoruichi. Do you want to use me as a human backrest again?"
To the question, the golden-eyed lady smiled impishly before she shifted her position slightly.
"No," she said, then she leaned comfortably against the nobleman's shoulder. "I only intend to use you as a headrest."
Lord Kuchiki chuckled but he voiced no complaint as he also shifted slightly so they both could sit in a more comfortable position.
"You make a good pillow," she commented lightly, closing her eyes. There was no denying that the feeling that she had then was different from when she used him as her backrest those hundred years back. Back then, all she felt was smugness from riling him up; however, now it was warmth and comfort.
After noticing how she had been quiet for a long time and sensing the way the rhythm of her breathing had changed, Byakuya could tell the lady's conscious was drifting afar. He moved his head slightly so he could see her face, and he believed he was right when he saw her leaning on him with her eyes closed.
"You'd better not fall asleep now, Yoruichi," he whispered, "or there's no guarantee what I would do."
Taking a deep breath but not opening her eyes, the shape-shifter responded with, "Oh, but I trust you won't do anything to dishonor me, will you?"
If Lord Kuchiki had uttered his reply, Lady Shihōin did not really know what he really said. All she knew was that she felt at ease in his company, and before long, she fell into a dreamless sleep.
Yoruichi had no idea what really happened afterward, but she woke up in the next morning in a guestroom of the Kuchiki Mansion with her loyal attendant at her side. Although Aya didn't put it that bluntly, the head of the Shihōin family could tell she had unintentionally caused a lot of trouble to several people that night.
From the attendant's words, her family had already formed a search party and would have sent it out if it hadn't been for the fact that Lord Kuchiki had gone over to the Shihōin Manor to inform them that Yoruichi had fallen asleep at his house, so they didn't have to worry about her disappearance. Even so, Takahiro still sent Aya over to stay there with Yoruichi, (though Lady Shihōin suspected it was to make sure that she would not run off and cause a rift between the Clan Shihōin and the Clan Kuchiki rather than to ensure her safety at the place.)
And while the lady-in-waiting insisted that it wasn't a trouble to her at all, Lady Shihōin didn't think the kimono makers, make-up artists and hairdressers would say the same to her, as for some reasons, it was decided that in order to save the time, Yoruichi would be getting ready for the wedding at the Kuchiki House instead of at her own.
Even if they were not happy by a sudden change of plan, those people were professional enough not to complain and simply helped Yoruichi dress.
The hairdressers were the first to start their work. As it took rather long time for the hairdressers to put Lady Shihōin's hairs up in a traditional bunkin-takashimada style, the lady had almost fallen back asleep. However, she was prevented from doing so by the fact that the hairdressers didn't show much mercy when they pulled her hair to different directions and put tons hairsprays and hair gels, not to mention bunch of hair ties to keep it in style.
After their hairdressers finished up their work by sticking golden kanzashi hairpins and combs into places, the make-up artists took over, although they had finished their job rather quickly since they only had to put light make-up on the lady's face.
When it was the kimono makers' turn to help Yoruichi's to her kakeshita, a white wedding kimono, there was a knock on the door, making them nervous for a second, as they were still in the middle of tying a white maru obi around the lady's waist.
"Come in. I'm almost done."
As Yoruichi's permission was heard, the fusuma door was slid to the side to reveal Rukia who was clad in an elegant pink flower-patterned furisode kimono with a dark blue obi sash. The girl was not alone, however, since she also escorted Lady Kuchiki, who wrapped herself neatly in a black kimono that had five small Kuchiki family's crests printed on the chest, sleeves and back. Although the kimono only had blossoms pattern under the waistline, said pattern was still exquisite and went along well with a yellowish brown obi the lady wore.
"Oh...good morning," Yoruichi greeted with a slight bow of her head while trying to keep as still as she could, for the kimono makers were still busy tying up her obi. "Is it time to go to the temple already?"
"No, it's not. There's still around an hour left before we need to head out," Kimiko replied with a gentle smile. "I'm simply here because I didn't have a chance to speak to you in private during yesterday's banquet, and I believed you might be too busy afterward."
"Well, it was rather difficult to say anything when our families were busy 'discussing' all petty details of the marriage arrangement," Yoruichi commented, remembering how the elders of both families insisted her and Byakuya to live in their estates after the wedding then fighting over which family name their child would use, for Yoruichi and Byakuya would both keep their respective names. "So what is it that you wish to speak to me about, Kimiko-dono?"
"We are about to become a family, so please just call me 'obaa-san' like Byakuya-sama does."
"If you insist, Kimiko-do..." Yoruichi paused and then corrected herself, "I mean, obaa-san."
By the time the two ladies were exchanging words, the kimono makers had finished with the last knots on Yoruichi's obi and moved to bring a shiromuku, a pure white robe, down from its hanger and helped Yoruichi put it on. They quickly adjusted the heavy white cloak before they put a white Hakoseko pouch and a kaiken dagger in the fold of the lady's kimono as a final touch. Then they quickly packed their equipments, and quietly took their leave.
Realizing that Kimiko might want to speak to Yoruichi in private, Rukia decided to leave the room as well.
"I'll be waiting for you outside, obaa-sama."
With that, the girl bowed down once again and left the room, closing the door behind.
Kimiko smiled warmly at her future granddaughter-in-law before she finally answered her prior question.
"I came here to give you my congratulations," the gray-haired lady said. "I was very happy when I was informed that Byakuya-sama had won yesterday's race and you had agreed to be his wife."
Since Lady Shihōin didn't quite know how to reply to that sentence, she simply waited for the elderly lady to continue, which Kimiko did after she pulled a small box that was wrapped beautifully in rice paper and handed it over to her.
"Therefore, I want to give you this present. I know it isn't much, but please accept it."
Yoruichi looked at the box before she said, "Thank you, Kimiko-d...obaa-san, but you really don't have to give me anything."
"Oh, but I want to," the lady remarked. "It was the least I could do to welcome you to the family."
"Well, you put it that way then I suppose I can't refuse. Thank you again," Yoruichi said before she accepted the present from the elderly lady.
Kimiko gave the younger lady a warm smile.
"Actually, I am the one who should be grateful," said Kimiko. "I've been rather worried about Byakuya-sama because it's been a long time since he last opened his heart to anyone, so now that he chooses to do so with you, and you have accepted him, I could rest easy."
The purple-haired lady smiled in return. "You really don't have to thank me for that, obaa-san."
"Of course, I have to," Byakuya's grandmother insisted. "As much as I love him, I still have to say Byakuya-sama isn't the easiest man to be with. He could be very stubborn, hotheaded and self-centered at times."
"Well, he is, but he also has his good points, and it's not like I don't have any flaws myself," Yoruichi said truthfully. "He'll also have to put up with me as well."
Lady Kuchiki gave her future granddaughter-in-law a reassuring smile.
"I believe the two of you will be able to create a good balance somehow, but if you should have any troubles in the future, you can always come to talk to me for advice."
"Thank you, obaa-san."
Once again, Lady Kuchiki smiled. "Now let's finish with your wedding dress."
With that said, Kimiko headed to the dresser where the kimono maker left a white wataboshi hood. The elderly lady then picked it up with both of her hands and asked, "May I?"
Knowing the lady's meaning, Yoruichi bent herself slightly so the elderly woman could help her put on the hood to cover her head.
Meanwhile, Lord Kuchiki was alone in a room where his late wife's shrine was set, burning some incense for the deceased lady. He was clad in a black kimono that had the Kuchiki family crests on the back, chest and shoulders with a gray striped hakama and a black haori that also had his family crests with a white haori fastener. Although he didn't put on the famous scarf and the pair of gloves he always wore with his shinigami uniform, Byakuya still wore his hair in the same fashion with the kenseikan hair clip.
What he thought while he watched the incense burn would remain a mystery, but he stood quietly there until he felt a presence in front of the room. Knowing the presence too well, he didn't need to turn around to tell that it was Yoruichi who was standing by the threshold, yet he turned anyway.
Once he laid his eyes on her, he froze for a second, making Yoruichi furrow her brows slightly and looked down at herself.
"Do I look weird?"
Broken from the trance, Byakuya shook his head and gave Yoruichi a warm smile.
"No, you look beautiful, Yoruichi," he replied. "Are you coming to get me to the temple?"
"No. There's still a few minutes left before we have to head out," Yoruichi said, and since her husband-to-be didn't walk out of the room to greet her, she decided to join him in the room. Once she the fading picture of the woman who held a lot of resemblances to Rukia in the shrine, she could only draw a conclusion that it was Byakuya's former wife, Hisana. "So you came to pay your late wife respect?"
"Yes," he replied. "I have to tell her that we're getting married today."
Yoruichi nodded to show her agreement. "Since I'm here then perhaps, I should do so as well."
Hearing the lady's wish, Byakuya turned to offer Yoruichi some incense, which she burned and placed in the burner.
They silently watched the incense burn for a long moment before Lady Shihōin turned to look at Lord Kuchiki and saw the way he stared at the picture of his late wife. Thus, she turned her eyes back to the fading photograph and said, "What kind of person was she?"
That question made the head of the Clan Kuchiki turned his gray eyes to his betrothed before he turned them back to the picture.
"She was a gentle person. Modest. Soft-spoken. A type you would want to protect and cherish."
Yoruichi acknowledged the reply with a nod and a remark, "You must have loved her a lot."
Lord Kuchiki could not tell what type of response Lady Shihōin was expecting, so he decided to give her an honest one.
"Hisana touched my life in many ways. Even though our time together was short, it was something that I will always treasure."
The lady nodded in understanding. "Well, she was an important part of your life, and she deserves a place in your heart."
Byakuya smiled at the picture of Hisana before he finally closed the door of the shrine. Leaving his hands on the door, he stated, "I still love her."
Letting go of the door, Lord Kuchiki turned to his bride-to-be.
"However," he continued, looking into Yoruichi's golden eyes, "she was in the past. And just because I still love her doesn't mean that I don't love you with all I am now."
Yoruichi blushed slightly at his words, before she replied, "I know."
Giving at his future wife a tender smile, Byakuya proffered her his hand and asked, "Shall we?"
Yoruichi didn't hesitate to place her hand in his. Hand in hand, they walked out of the room so they could join the people of their families and head to the temple where the wedding ceremony would be held.
The wedding procession began from when the Kuchiki and the Shihōin families met at the gate of the Grand Temple and headed for the ceremonial shrine that was located in the east. The procession was led by a priest in a white robe and black pants with a high black hat, followed by two Miko maidens in a white kimono and red hakama. Byakuya and Yoruichi walked side by side and followed them to the location of the shrine with their families walking after them.
There were many inspectors waiting on the side to catch a glimpse of the procession and the bride and the groom. While some looked excited and happy, some were having a very dejected look, which reminded Byakuya pretty much of the way some people looked when he accepted the Swayamvara. He felt bad for them for a moment, since they could have won that bet. It made him wonder slightly what would happen if those people should find out the truth. However, he soon brushed that thought aside, for he knew that his so-called victory would continue to be a small stain in his pride for the rest of his life whether other people knew how he obtained it or not.
After a while, Lord Kuchiki, his bride and their families finally arrived at the shrine. The two Miko – shrine maidens – gestured them to be seated in front of the shrine while the members of the Kuchiki and Shihōin families went to sit on the left and right side, respectively, facing one another.
Since only close relatives were invited to the wedding ceremony, the only person outside the Kuchiki and the Shihōin families was Hisagi Shūhei, for he was hired there as a photographer.
The ceremony was rather simple with the priest performing a purification ritual for the bride and the groom, Byakuya and Yoruichi read their wedding vows then exchanged drinks from nuptial cups in a ceremony known as san-san-kudo, in order to seal their vows.
Since Byakuya mentioned to her that the King had given them some sake, Yoruichi believed said sake was used in this part of the ceremony.
A tradition gagaku musical accompaniment was played in the background when the Miko approached to Byakuya and poured him a sake in the smallest nuptial cup, which he took three sips and returned it to them so they could refill that cup and serve to Yoruichi who did the same. After that, the Miko poured sake into a medium cup and served it to Yoruichi first, so the lady took three sips and returned the cup, which was later refilled and served to Byakuya, who did likewise. Then the biggest cup was filled and served to Byakuya, who repeated the same ritual and returned it to the maiden, so she could refill the cup and hand it to Yoruichi to take her three final sips.
Once they finished the ceremony, they went to offer sacred evergreen twigs to the shrine and went back to their seat and waited for the Miko to serve sake to the members of their families that were attending the ceremony so both families could drink together, signifying that the union was not only between the bride and the groom, but also between their families as well.
After everything was done, the families exchanged a few words before they all headed out of the shrine to take a picture together.
While it might have happened in a short notice, it was still expected that the Shihōin-Kuchiki wedding reception wouldn't be anything less than spectacular. Thus, the women that planned to attend had spent their days seaching their closet for the best clothes, so they would look their most beautiful in the affair. Most men, however, opted to wear shihakushō, for men formal kimono weren't that much different from the shinigami uniform, and they weren't as worried about looking presentable as women.
Fireworks were displayed in the night sky while Rukia and Renji, who were asked to help at the register, were very busy running around to welcome and showing all the guests to their table after they signed their names in a guest book.
Inside the city hall, many guests had already arrived. Since it was yet time for the food to be served all the guests that were there early could only be drinking while enjoying the traditional music that was performed in the background by a musical group; using koto, a thirteen-stringed instrument; samisen, a three-stringed instrument; and shakuhashi, a Japanese end-blown flute.
The elder Shihōins and Kuchikis were sitting together at the VIP table. If appearance alone wasn't enough for anyone to tell which family those elderly were from, then they could be tell apart by the family crests that was printed on the formal kimono they were all wearing to the reception.
The table that got most attention, however, was the second VIP table where the captains of the Gotei 13 were seated. Except for Yamamoto, all other captains had already arrived to the party. Their lieutenants, however, were seated in another table nearby.
"This is certainly a beautiful affair," Unohana noted as she looked around the room. "I can't recall when I last attended a reception this big."
"Since Kaien and Miyako, perhaps, senpai?" Ukitake offered. His eyes seemed a little sad when he referred to his deceased subordinates.
"There's no need to talk about the past," Kyōraku interjected. Despite the occasion, the captain of the Eighth Division still refused to get rid of his straw hat and pink haori. "Let's enjoy the moment. Who knows how long it will take until there's another wedding?"
"Oh, it won't be long," Kurotsuchi Mayuri said from his seat, making everyone wondered just what kind of scheme the mad scientist was cooking.
However, it was Zaraki Kenpachi who wasn't afraid to voice his question. "What the hell are you planning to do again, Kurotsuchi? Or are you going to take responsibility and marry Ōmaeda? I heard he's still singing your name at the Fourth Division."
The captain of the Twelfth Division growled at the captain of the Eleventh Division before he replied, "Don't spout nonsense, Zaraki Kenpachi. Who would marry that stupid pig? I'm just going to release my new invention to the market."
Hitsugaya gave Mayuri a weary look.
"I really hate to ask, but what are you going to release, Kurotsuchi?"
"Well, it seems there are many single people in Seireitei. I figure it might be because their loves are usually one-sided, but that can easily be solved with my new product 'Cupid Elixir.' One drop of it on your target, and he or she will become your love slave for the rest of his or her lives."
Knowing about that infamous love potion's recipe, Komamura glared at Mayuri.
"No dogs must be harmed to make that potion of yours, Kurotsuchi, or we'll have to talk again."
"Nah, that formula was too expensive to put into mass production," Mayuri state. "I've already found a cheaper formula, and it's work just as good as the first one, if not better."
Komamura furrowed his brows before he decided he would be better off without knowing what was in that potion Mayuri was planing to release to the market.
"I plan to sell it at fifty kans a bottle," the freaky captain continued. "Of course, since it still needs some promotion, I'm willing to give a free sample to all of you."
In his last sentence, Mayuri seemed to be looking at Soifon who had been oozing out a hostile aura since she found out that she had to be in the same table with Zaraki and Kurotsuchi. However, his offer didn't seem to help her feel any friendlier towards him at all.
"What are you implying, Kurotsuchi? That I'm so unattractive I have to stoop to using your love potion?"
Zaraki chuckled at the end of Soifon's question, making her turned her dead glare toward him as well.
Sensing that there could be another ugly fight, which would probably give her more work at healing people, Unohana decided it was time she interrupted.
"Now, now, this is an auspicious day, so let's not fight," the captain of the Fourth Division spoke in a gentle tone, yet it seemed to be enough to make every captain behave, at least for a moment.
"For conversation's sake, say if I was interested," Zaraki remarked, "what's the catch?"
"The catch?" Mayuri returned. "There is no catch. It will definitely work."
Recalling the scientist's unfortunate events, Kyōraku rubbed his chin and asked, "Even with someone who isn't really our target?"
"Everyone should know that every potion must be used with care."
Beginning to get the captain of the Twelfth Division's drift, Zaraki asked again, "And how much do you plan to sell an antidote?"
Mayuri had an evil toothy grin on his face when he said, "Oh, not much, only five hundred thousand kans a bottle."
The captains weren't really sure if they should say Mayuri's plan was ingenious or disturbing, but they could tell that if said potion was really out in the market, they could be prepared for another headache.
By the time the bride and the groom finally showed up on a stage to greet and express their gratitude to the guests for coming to celebrate their wedding, General Yamamoto had already arrived to the reception.
Byakuya was still wearing the same attire as he did in the morning whereas Yoruichi had already changed out of the shiromuku and put on a reddish gold uchikake that had elaborate pattern brocaded on it along with fine silver and gold embroideries instead. Her hair was still in the same fashion as in the morning, although the white hood was already taken off since after the ceremony.
After they had both expressed their gratitude to the guests, Kūkaku, who was given the task of the Master of Ceremonies, asked the guests to give a speech, starting from the Kuchiki and Shihōin elders, followed by General Yamamoto and Captain Unohana. Then it was pretty much whoever wanted to go up to the stage.
While Byakuya wasn't surprised that Soifon would take her turn right after Unohana was done, he had to be surprised when the woman simply wished Yoruichi happiness and went back to the table without so much as giving him a threat. It was like an anticlimax, but in a way, Byakuya believed Soifon might have decided to save those words for later instead of saying it in front of her former master and making the lady angry.
After they had heard some heartfelt blessings from several guests, Byakuya and Yoruichi suddenly looked worried when the captain of the Eighth Division lazily got up from his seat, stretched himself a bit then headed for the stage.
"Ah, well, since I'm already here, I'll say something too," Kyōraku said to Kūkaku who handed him the microphone.
Everyone's attention was on the captain in pink haori, wondering what the man would say, since they all knew how he had 'special feelings' for the bride.
"First of all, Byakuya-kun," Kyōraku said, eying the younger captain in a mocked anger. "You're one lucky dog."
The remark made the guests laughed a bit while the groom knew he would probably have a headache soon.
"Second of all, Yoruichi-chan," the captain said, his tone much sweeter than when he spoke to Byakuya. "If you're not happy with your marriage, you know where to find me."
Byakuya rubbed his temple while Yoruichi laughed at the captain's words.
Shaking her head, she replied, "Thank you, Kyōraku, but I don't think I'll take up your offer."
The captain feigned a disappointed look.
"Oh, well," he sighed dramatically. "If you say so, then I wish you two have a happy life together."
"Thank you," Byakuya and Yoruichi said at the same time.
Kyōraku then turned to hand the microphone back to Kūkaku, but then he turned to the newlyweds as though he just recalled something important.
"Oh, and Byakuya-kun," Kyōraku said. Although he didn't speak into the microphone, his voice still got into it, so everyone could hear what he said. "Be sure to make a lot of babies."
With that, he gave Byakuya a wink and left while Lord Kuchiki had a strange expression on his face as he mentally facepalmed.
Meanwhile, Kūkaku laughed before she resumed her duty as the MC.
"Alright then. Does anyone else want to come up here to say something?" Kūkaku asked. Seeing that nobody else moved, she continued, "Well then, I'd also like to propose a toast to the newlyweds."
On a cue, a waiter came up to the stage with a cup of sake in a tray. Kūkaku picked up the cup and raised it to her head level.
"To these gorgeous people, may you live as long as you want and never want as long as you live. Kanpai!"
The guests who were already standing up also shouted 'kanpai' before they all drank their drinks and sat down.
"Alright then," Kūkaku continued after the toast. "Now the bride and the groom will come down from the stage to greet you at your table and take a picture with you shortly. In the meantime, enjoy your meal, and if you're up for it, everyone is welcome to come up here and sing a karaoke."
Almost as soon as the word, karaoke was spoken, Kūkaku saw a flash of pink coming up to the stage, and before she realized it, Kyōraku had taken the microphone from her hand.
"I'll have the first song," said the captain.
Byakuya and Yoruichi exchanged a look of horror, but to their relieves, Kyōraku wasn't as drunk as he had been when he came to serenade Yoruichi. Thus, his singing wasn't as inharmonious or as off-key as that time.
From the other table where most of the lieutenants were sitting, Yachiru got up and danced around to the song Kyōraku was singing.
"This looks like fun," the pink-haired lieutenant said. "I'm going up to the stage to join Shun-Shun."
With that, Yachiru rushed off before anyone could stop her.
At the same table, Rukia had a somewhat troubled look on her face, though from the way her attention was paid to her brother and his new wife instead of to what was happening on the stage, Renji could only think it had nothing to do with a weird duet from the pink pair.
"So what's wrong, Rukia?" Renji asked between his bites. Even though he cared about her trouble, Renji still didn't stop eating. After all, it had been a while since he got to eat such a fine cuisine, so he wanted to eat as much as he could. "Are you worried that your status in your house will change now that taichō is remarried?"
"Well, if nii-sama married someone else, then maybe, but it's Yoruichi-sama, so no," Rukia replied honestly. Her eyes had yet to leave the happy couple. "It's just that I've just realized something."
"What is that?"
Rukia was still eying how the newlyweds walking to greet the guests in each table while holding each other's hand with their fingers interlaced.
"Well, it's just that my shunpo lesson with Yoruichi-sama is very likely to be postponed for another while. That's all."
Away from the noisy city hall where many shinigami enjoying themselves in the reception, a suspicious figure in a black cloak was sneaking around near the city's gate. Said figure was holding a middle-sized box with both of his hands while he looked around as though to find a direction.
"Hey, you! What are you doing?"
The figure startled. He didn't think he would be spotted, much less by a rank and file shinigami who was doing his patrol duty.
"Ah..." he cried before he turned to give the shinigami a sheepish look while touching the back of his neck. "I was ordered to deliver a gift to Kuchiki-taichō, but I haven't been in the city for quite some time, so I got lost."
The shinigami nodded before he took a scrutinizing look at the suspicious man before him. Deeming the man looked harmless enough with that light skin and light blond hair, the shinigami sighed.
"If you're looking for Kuchiki-taichō, you'd better go to the city hall."
"The city hall?"
"Yeah, that's where his wedding reception is taking place."
The man in a black coat blinked. "A wedding?"
The shinigami eyed the man in front of him again before he asked, "Wait a minute. How come you didn't know about this? You're here to deliver his wedding present, aren't you?"
The man blinked and scratched the back of his head nervously before he replied, "Actually, I was told to deliver him a lucky charm for his Swayamvara race."
The shinigami rolled his eyes.
"The race was yesterday. Kuchiki-taichō won and they had already got married this morning. Now they're having a reception at the city hall. Where have you been, man?"
The man in a black cloak looked genuinely surprised. "You mean I'm late?"
"Well, it looks that way, pal, but if you don't believe me you can go see it for yourself. Or you don't know where the city hall is as well?"
"Ah...if it's the city hall, then I know how to find it. Thank you for your help, shinigami-san."
"Don't mention it," the shinigami said before he waved his hand as though to say it was nothing before he continued on his patrol, leaving the blond-haired man in a dark cloak to his own device.
Once he saw that the shinigami had gone, the man sighed.
"Now that was a close one, Kisuke," he said to himself, once again feeling grateful that he only ran into a rookie, so the shinigami couldn't identify him as the former captain of the Twelfth Division, Urahara Kisuke. "It's a good thing he doesn't know you."
Looking around and making sure no one else was in the area, he flash-stepped his way to the city hall so he could confirm what the shinigami had told him with his own eyes.
After he arrived to his destination, Urahara hid himself in the shadow lest he was seen by anyone, although, judging from the way sake bottles were passing around, he doubted anyone would be sober enough to recognize him, except the bride and the groom who were walking hand in hand to greet their guests at their tables.
"So they really are married," he muttered before he eyed at the box in his hand and opened it to reveal a pair of shoes. "Look like these are no longer needed. What a shame! I really put so much time and energy into them, but they won't even be put to use."
Even though he said it that way, there was no sign of disappointment in his eyes. If anything, Urahara even looked more smug than usual.
"Oh well, they look happy, so that should be enough," Urahara said. "No need to let Byakuya-san know that the shoes got mixed up in the shop and what he got was just normal ones."
Looking at the newlyweds again, the man sighed.
"Ah...too bad I can't go in and congratulate them while I still have this with me."
He continued to watch them from that spot for another moment and couldn't help smiling at how Yoruichi was smiling broadly while her husband had a slight smile on his lips.
Now that everything ended with a good result, it was time for him to head back home to Karakura Town and started a new scientific project. There would be another chance for his invention to be used, hopefully not by himself to run away from Yoruichi when she tried to gut him should she found out about how he agreed to help Byakuya even though it meant selling her out just because he had a sympathy for the man and thought inventing speed-enhancing shoes would be an interesting project, or from Byakuya who found out he gave the man the wrong shoes.
Wishing them a happy marriage from afar, Urahara turned and flash-stepped away.
And with this chapter, Swayamvara is (finally) complete.
Please accept my gratitude for your continuous support. I'm very grateful for all reviews, alerts, favorite, c2, and I'm also thankful for those who simply dropped by to read quietly in the shadow. As I mentioned a couple of times before, I never thought that this story would ever get this much reception from the readers, so thank you all for making it possible.
I'm sorry to announce, however, that this is the last ByaYoru story you will see from me. It was good while it lasted, but I'm not creative enough to keep coming up with new ideas for the same pairing, so I guess it's time for me to move on. I'm not planning to leave Bleach just yet, so we might still see each other around, maybe with our roles reversed.
Reviews are still appreciated, so please don't hesitate to let me know what you like or dislike about this story so I can improve my writing in the future. Once again, thank you and best wishes to you all.