~Dedicated to Byaruki-ness~
Byakuya strode slowly through the halls, his feet gliding gracefully across the polished wood, his silvery white scarf billowing softly behind him. Byakuya painted the picture of perfection, everything about him was flawless, even the stray strands of hair falling across his eyes from his kenseikan. Perfect.
As a member of the most important royal family in all of Soul Society, the Kuchiki clan, and indeed the head, Byakuya had worked decades to be where he was now. His authoritative air, the unreadable expression, the immovable principles he held; they were all cultivated to help him hold the Kuchiki leadership and to keep the royal name pure and untainted.
However, there had been instances in the past where he had betrayed and ultimately smeared upon that name. To be exact, two instances. One was when he had taken in his wife, Hisana from the Rukongai into his family. He clearly remembered the hostility and shock in his family members' objections. They were so harsh and unforgiving. And yet, when he thought of Hisana's soft eyes and her gentle smile, he was willing to take the words thrown at him a million times more. He was willing to take a thousand daggers into his body and still marry her. He wanted her. He loved her. All he wished was to spend his life with her forever. And so he overrode his family's objection and married her. Five years was all his heaven lasted. He had discovered his soulmate only to lose her, when Hisana succumbed to a long illness in the fifth year of their marriage. That day, the day the first sakura bloomed, was the day something died in Kuchiki Byakuya.
'Focus,' Byakuya shook himself, and continued on his way to his Sixth Division office. He did not want to be looking lost in thought; he, the formidable head of the Kuchiki family.
Byakuya reached his office and looked into the room. He noted the empty desk that was Renji Abarai's, his harebrained lieutenant with a ridiculous shade of red for his hair. As Byakuya wondered what Renji was doing when he was supposed to be occupied with his usual duty report, he heard fast footsteps approaching.
"What is it?" He turned.
"Tai-chou, your grandfather, Kuchiki Ginrei has sent a message to you. He requests all Kuchiki members to be in the Kuchiki hall by six today. All Kuchiki members."
Byakuya looked at the messenger in mild surprise. His grandfather must have an important announcement to make. He did not usually send messages to the Shinigami headquarters, preferring to discuss matters with Byakuya after he got home. And there was that intentional stress on 'All Kuchiki members' at the end. His grandfather wanted him and Rukia to be present. 'Why?' Byakuya wondered.
"I understand. You may withdraw."
"Hai, Kuchiki tai-chou."
"Yes, Kuchiki tai-chou?"
"Have you seen Abarai?"
"Lieutenant Abarai, tai-chou? I heard he's gone to the Thirteenth Division office." The officer allowed a small knowing smile to form before quickly rearranging his face into a more serious façade upon Byakuya's gaze.
Byakuya tried not to sigh out loud. Renji Abarai and Thirteenth Division. These two words can only be found together when there is another person involved. Rukia. Renji often waltzed off to the Thirteenth Division to pick a fight with Rukia or pester her on something completely irrelevant. He knew the hint of feelings his lieutenant probably harbored for his sister but he wasn't so sure she did (and speaking of that, he as a brother wouldn't be so accommodating as well). He had heard his sister complaining about Abarai's antics just the day before, not to him though. Rukia never complained about anything to him, never made a sound about anything. She knew the importance of the peace and seriousness the Kuchiki family head priced about everything else. So she played the very quiet and composed small-sister role, though Byakuya knew for certain the act was killing the true rebel inside of her. Each time they had a conversation, he could see Rukia (though he cannot be too sure, he had never looked properly at her before) straining herself and dying to leave the formal talk. He also knew she was afraid of him, by the way she loved looking at edges of his robes brushing his shoes rather than his face. Byakuya wasn't complaining though, he rarely looked at her himself.
Byakuya allowed himself several minutes before moving out of the office. It was nearing six anyway and he had completed all his duties for today. He would go and have a word with Renji, and then fetch Rukia.
As he made his way to the Thirteenth Division headquarters, he allowed his mind to drift again. Rukia. The second instance he went against the Kuchiki family's name. He had made a promise to Hisana on her deathbed to find the sister she had abandoned and to care for the girl. He had spent only one year searching after Hisana's death and he found her then. Almost like it was fated.
He remembered the day clearly. He was making his usual round in the Shinigami Academy, and he was prepared to go home after a tiring and uneventful day. He had paused by the door of the second-ranked class of the academy as his eyes swept the class. He did not rely on name registers to find that sister as he figured he probably wouldn't know the name anyway even if it presented itself right in front of his eyes. So he decided to count on his sight, knowing he would recognize a hint of Hisana in the girl he was looking for. He didn't need to try hard. Nobody would need to.
When he saw her, it was all he took not to shout out Hisana's name when he saw her. At first, he thought he had indeed saw his Hisana, and a bright hope had burned suddenly in his cold heart. She had looked exactly like Hisana; the same build, the same eyes, the same hair. He had stood there observing her for a very long time and she never noticed. As he observed her more, he saw the subtle differences. Hisana's sister possessed a grit and strength Hisana never had (probably from the hard life Byakuya guessed she had) and a more serious expression in contrast to Hisana's usual smile. And she was definitely not gentle as his Hisana; he saw her shouting at a red-haired boy and smacking his arm repeatedly.
He made the necessary arrangements the very next day to adopt her into the Kuchiki family, meeting hostile outbursts once again from his family members. But again, he prevailed but vowed never to break the rules again.
Byakuya looked up and noticed the wooden signboard mounted high on the entrance. Without realizing it, he had arrived at Thirteenth Division headquarters. He stepped in, tracking Rukia by her reiatsu.
'Ukitake keeps his garden tended well,' Byakuya noted as he passed the trees and terraces on the way. 'Only few people knew the importance of tranquility and peace for the soul.'
Then he heard the noises and looked ahead.
"Mai, sode no shirayuki."
He saw her sweep her hand across her pale white sword, producing a shower of glittering snow from her movement. Saw her stab the ground five times with her sword producing four pillars of revolving ice particles from them. Saw her face contort with concentration, as her hair flew about her and her purplish eyes narrowed. Byakuya had never seen Rukia practice with her Zanpakutou. He stayed silent and observed her every movement, the second time he ever did. And like the first time, she did not notice.
He saw the huge flash of white as she shot a gigantic ice wave toward the thick red poles situated at the furthest end of the garden. The wave exploded and cold air rushed in every direction in a dazzling haze of white. As the icy fog slowly lifted, Rukia ran over to the poles to examine them. Out of the five, four of them were encased in solid ice.
"Ahhh, you missed by a little!!" Renji shouted in frustration, like he had been the one to miss the sole pillar with his own Zabimaru.
Rukia lowered her Zanpakutou, disappointed. She turned around. "I guess I just have to practice a bit m-…. Nii-sama???"
Her eyes widened in surprise, and Renji nearly fell off the high rock he was perched on. "Tai-chou!!!"
Byakuya stepped forward, from where he had been standing
'How long had he been watching?' Rukia wondered, nervous. It didn't matter. Byakuya did not even glance at her, nor did he comment on her training.
"Abarai, what are you doing here?"
"Tai-chou, I- I was here helping Rukia practice."
"Is your duty report complete?"
Rukia saw Renji's eyes widened as he remembered. "Oh, Tai-chou!!! I… FORGOT!!!"
"Do it now and put it on my table. I shall review it tomorrow."
He turned to Rukia. "Rukia. If you have successfully completed your duties, I believe we can go home now."
He saw her questioning look and gave her the explanation. "Lord Ginrei requested a meeting with all Kuchiki members at six. I believe it includes me, and you."
Rukia's face was still filled with questions but when Byakuya turned to go, she fell into step behind him dutifully. They walked off, leaving Renji flustered at his lack of memory and the long workload ahead of him.
The journey home was silent. Rukia, as usual, walked side by side with Byakuya but left a slight distance between their pace so Byakuya was leading. She always did. Rukia wondered what was going on at the Kuchiki residence. And she wondered how long had he been watching her as she had practiced just now. Long enough to watch her being a klutz, apparently. 'Which is probably why he's not commenting on my performance,' Ruki thought miserably.
'Why did he have to watch me when I am at my worst?'
Rukia always had an unfulfilled dream to make her brother proud of her. She wanted to try her best as a Shinigami and have Byakuya witness her success. She had always wanted something from her brother and she knew it to be acceptance. A sign that he accepted her. And maybe even… cared for her. And she wasn't going to deny it, she craved for that. Someone to care for her like a family. She did not know if he really did. Most of the time he asked her about her duty, and she hated reporting any failures to him. He did not look at her, he never asked her how her day was, or her feelings. It was all about duty, work, and duty.
Yet, at certain times, she always found him near her when danger was about. Like when she woke up and saw him bleeding badly with his captain haori on the ground, having defeated Zommari who had tried to attack her. Like when she woke up and saw him after being seriously injured by the female Bount, Yoshi. She always seemed to be waking up from danger to see his face the first thing her eyes opened. He had appeared at rare moments like this, but most of the time, he was just distant and formal with her.
They walked on in silence.
"Byakuya." The old voice withered away by age but still showing the depth of wisdom and experience of lifetimes from holding the positions Byakuya now occupied, spoke.
Byakuya stopped walking, so did Rukia. "Grandfather."
"Come." Ginrei Kuchiki was no longer the strong and youthful Shinigami captain nor the Kuchiki leader he used to be, but his authority was evident in his tone. Byakuya nodded and entered the hall. He paused at the threshold of the gathering hall as Ginrei stepped in front of Rukia.
"Rukia, I would like you to stay outside for now. You will be called in later."
Rukia nodded, puzzled. She was called, but she was going in later? It did not make any sense. Unless…unless the meeting concerned her? Countless negative thoughts flooded her mind. Did she do anything wrong? Anything that had brought down the Kuchiki name? Were they going to kick her out? She had made sure to follow the rules, didn't she? Would something concerning her required all members of the royal Kuchiki members present? She looked at her brother's receding back, as he walked to the front of the hall. She could have sworn he had turned slightly to look at her as his grandfather had halt her entry but that moment had passed. He continued his steps past the members of his honoured family. The doors closed behind him, effectively ending Rukia's sight of her cold brother.
"Pardon?" Byakuya's ash grey eyes were penetrating.
"Byakuya, you heard me." Ginrei put the ends of his fingers together, as he observed his beloved grandson. "We, all members of the Kuchiki clan," he motioned with his hands at all the men and women now seated in the hall, whose eyes were all focused on the one Byakuya, "we believe it's time you remarry."
Byakuya allowed a moment to let the shock and tension pass internally through him, his expression on the front ever calm and unwavering. "I believe a matter of such nature is very much unnecessary."
"But all of us do not. As the head of the family, it is important for you, Byakuya to cultivate that image. The image of a family. A man is never complete without a woman behind him. We all would want for you to have that. All in all, we just want you to be happy." Ginrei's love for his only grandson was evident in his voice, and Byakuya struggled to tell him he was fine like that, when he was not. But no marriage was going to make this right. And the only way to make him right was gone a long time ago.
"I - There is no need for that. And even if it were to be so, am I going to go for meetings with your potential candidates? Because if it is, I regrettably have my Shinigami duties as a Captain as you all very well know."
"Ah well yes, Byakuya, the meetings… as for that, we might be able to find another way-" Ginrei trailed off as his glance ticked far off to the door of the hall, before quickly coming back to his grandson.
Byakuya had caught the involuntary gesture, and he felt his blood turn into ice water in his veins. No.
"No." He said as firm as his commanding deep voice could manage, but he somehow felt his tone wobble a little.
"I will be honest with you, Byakuya. When you took her in, I did not object as much as the others." Ginrei looked into the faces of the hall, and several bowed their heads. "It was because I wanted to give both of you a chance, perhaps to discover something together off on your own."
"No. She is my sister."
"She is Hisana's sister."
"She looks very much like Hisana, does she not? Do you not think so? Not even once?" Ginrei raised his eyebrows at his increasingly flustered grandson.
"She is not Hisana."
Byakuya knew his strong front was cracking slowly in front of his grandfather, and he knew his grandfather had caught onto it. He hated himself for that. Quickly, he stood up. "Nobody is to mention this to Rukia. Do I make myself clear?" His tone was a bit more firm and commanding than usual. He strode across the hall, his grandfather staring behind him.
When the door creaked, Rukia jumped to her feet. "Nii-sama!"
"Rukia, you may go to your room now."
"Nii-sama, but ……"
"You may withdraw now."
Rukia started to say more but she stopped at Byakuya's fierce expression. She rarely saw him like this, his eyes burning yet his expression carefully concealed.
"Yes, Nii-sama. Good night." She walked off quickly to her room. Byakuya closed the door.
Byakuya sat in his bedroom that night, thinking. Thinking of the defeat he suffered just hours earlier.
A chance, to discover something together on your own.
She is my sister.
She looks very much like Hisana, does she not? Do you not think so? Not even once?
Did you not think so? Not even once? The ultimate line that had made him crumble and stutter like a child. He felt so exposed in front of that question, in front of his grandfather, in front of members of his clan. Because of course he did. Not once. Not twice. It was impossible not to. They looked so much like each other. So much it hurts. It pained Byakuya so much to see the living specimen of his desires and despair walking around in his mansion all day. A face engraved in his heart projected onto another person, a living person who lived and breathed in his house. So near, but never close enough to touch. It was the only one reason he averted his eyes from her. Because she was not Hisana. She was never his, to begin with. He was in love with Hisana, and she is not Hisana.
She is not Hisana.
He did not want to marry another. It was not that he was thinking about the woman's sake, that he would not touch her nor love her. It was because he was not willing to share his bed, share his space, or even his time with any woman he was going to marry. Nobody was ever going to own his heart. Nobody but Hisana.
'Hisana,' he thought, and felt the familiar sear of pain he felt almost every night as he laid into his huge, empty bed alone at night. So comfortable, but so devoid of her warmth. Forever. Byakuya closed his eyes, as he slowly dropped off into a troubled sleep.
Note: This is the first time I'm writing a fanfic, and this is the very first chapter. I've done a couple now and I will upload them soon. I hoped I made this one good enough (the action hasn't really started yet *wink*). Reviews are very much welcomed, as are the feedbacks!! I might need to brush up on my writing and English so I would really love the help and advice. :)