Standard disclaimers apply.

"Children in Soul Society have this peculiar way of sprouting some 50 inches overnight. Don't you think so?" Yumichika closed his eyes, lifted his face, and took a deep breath of some non-existent scent: "Like: after a cold night of drizzling rain – spring bamboos."

"…Will you cut that out?" Ikkaku held his saucer with two fingers, the other three sticking out like feathers on a peacock, and poured the sake down his throat. Up where they were sitting they could hear noise occasionally drifting by and almost-see the brightly lit festival grounds: it was the Tanabata celebrations in the 1st District of South Rukongai, and all the lovebirds in Seireitei either booked time off months in advance or just plain ditched.

"What do you suppose they're doing right now?" Yumichika studied at the reflection of the moon before slowly rolling the liquor onto his tongue, all grace and posture. Damn turd drinks like a girl, Ikkaku snorted in his mind. "Beats me. Probably lost somewhere on the way?"

Yumichika grinned, and the sake rippled as Ikkaku's laugh ringed through the night.


"I hear baldy laughing at us~!" Yachiru's cheerful voice could've scared someone to death, in this pitch-black and dead-silent…space. The bells on Kenpachi's hair jingled and echoed faintly; the pair, however, was untouchable to fear.

"Yeah, yeah, tell me something new. Like, where the hell are we!?" Kenpachi barked in about an arm's reach. A few decades ago Yachiru had decided, with much effort from the Shinigami Women's Association, to slip off from Kenpachi's back; to compensate for the loss of her presence she had named her Ken-chan's zanpakutou after her. Men of the 11th Division now greet Kenpachi with "Captain! Our Very Honourable Vice Captain-Sama!", and then to Yachiru, "Our Very Honorable Vice Captain-Sama!" Ikkaku apparently found this hilarious, and stuck with "Captain, Our Very Honourable Vice Captain-Sama," and "twirp," despite her being almost as tall as him now and earning daily retribution as a result.

"Ken-chan being lost is not new at all…" Yachiru laughed her little devil-laugh.

This conversation never gets old. "It was your directions that got us here in the first place!"

"Aw. It's okay, Ken-chan. Everybody makes mistakes, you know. Here, look what I have!" With a click her face began to glow – it was no longer one that belonged to a child, yet somehow it retained all her pink bubbly cheeriness. A little fire danced in her hands.

"What is that?" Kenpachi reached out to grab the little flame. It went out before he got there.

Another click, and the light came on again. "It's a – faucet. Ichi gave it to me. We used it to roast koi and to set Bya-chan's hair on fire…" She handed it to Kenpachi.

"That's a lighter, dumbass."

"How shameful, Ken-chan. You should learn your words right already." She looked around the cave they were in by the light Kenpachi held out. "Say, Ken-chan…"

"I know."

Somehow the unrefined stone walls seemed familiar; the cool, still air, the crunch under Kenpachi's feet and the flame in his hands, each other's scent – Yachiru subconsciously leaned a little closer to Kenpachi – One's memories begin to blur after so many hundreds of years, blood spattering, swords swinging, ecstasy – yet something was rushing back to Yachiru, something quiet and peaceful, of a star-lit night and a mist veiling her face and a breeze with a sweetness she couldn't quite place –

"Ah, this place…I know where this is!" Yachiru caught Kenpachi's hand and dashed forward. The lighter blinked behind her, smiling, teasing.

In the blink of an eye they were out of the passage and entered some sort of a ravine, where all the stars in the world seemed to have gathered in the foot-wide strip of opening overhead. Yachiru and Kenpachi hopped on in the dark, rocky bottom, pebbles clattering under their feet. Within minutes, the ravine came to an abrupt end and gave way to a large opening; crickets chirped somewhere far away and a water source ding-donged in some obscure cave and, as if a heavy velveteen was being lifted, the moon moved out of a cloud and shone silver-white on the cliff they stood facing –

It was a half-painted, half-chiseled mural of Avalokiteśvara from eons ago: neither man nor woman, with a prominent red Ajna between his eyes, holding a kind gaze and a benevolent smile. Instead of a lotus, he held a blooming red flower in his left hand, and stroked a beast with his right; the menacing eyes of the beast gleamed green in the moonlight and gazed intently at the flower in the God's hand. Its fangs were bared and ferocious, its hind legs bent, its front legs reaching out, apparently wanting to pluck the red blossom yet doomed to never reach it…

They were here once before, hundreds of years ago, after a bloodbath with one gang or another – who could keep track of them over so many years? – and Kenpachi found himself once again curving his lips into a sneer. He never believed in God, but this is rich: what an arrogant bastard of a flower, what an idiot beast to get himself frozen in time and in space, and what a hypocrite of a kannon who supposedly embodies the compassion of all Buddhas, where's his compassion now? Still sneering, Kenpachi gripped the hilt of Our Very Honourable Vice Captain-Sama (ridiculous name) and was about to rid the wall of the bodhisattva once and for all –

"Ken-chan, look!"

The silly little pink-head stood in mid-air and pointed to the mural, almost-glowing in the moonlight. Her head was cocked to one side and her mischievous smile was capable of turning whatever Kenpachi was feeling at that moment into blind content. Behind her, without a care for the meticulous details on the mural, she had drawn a great smiley on the rose and huge spikes of hair on the beast. Kenpachi returned his gaze to the girl; she held her hands behind her and shrugged at him. With the tiniest flutter of his heart Kenpachi found himself directly in front of Yachiru, long fingers encircling her waist. She watched his Adam's apple roll as he husked: "What're you doing?"

Yachiru giggled, hooked her arms and legs around Kenpachi, and licked his lips.


A/N: Hope this made you smile. :)

Avalokiteśvara is the bodhisattva who deferred his own Buddhahood, vowing to help all beings into nirvana. A bodhisattva is one who achieved enlightenment. The Ajna is the chakra on their forehead. Kannon is an endearing (at least that's what I thought) name the Japanese gave to Avalokiteśvara. Thank you Wikipedia :P.