OMG OMG!! I never thought I would do this. The first chapter to my second fanfic, another ByaRuki fic!!! This is all Kuchiki Manu's fault (if you are reading this, you're solely responsible if I fail my oral presentation in front of my Professor on Wednesday)... coz she encouraged me to get my second fanfic (which I had abandoned for a while) out and running, and before I knew it, I spent 3 hours refining the first chapter to my story. I better stop it here.

LOL...but this goes out to you, Kuchiki Manu... thanks for lighting the ByaRuki fire back in me. :)

And here it goes...Chapter 1 of my second fanfic... It's a new story, with a new and much more lengthy plot...and with much more characters. Hope you enjoy it. I'm trying to write in a different style, but if it is no good, then please give me feedback. (just don't be so harsh with me *smiles*) And of course review if you like it (I have to start supressing my hunger for :) Chapter 2 might not materialize in a while... :D

Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach, but I wished I did... at least rights to a certain character called Byakuya.

WARNING: Clear mentions of IchiRuki...I know, I know... it's too early for that... but what better way to get a love started than a threat right? ;)

Footsteps thundered across the smooth path as a pair of legs worked quickly to overcome the neverending distance.

The black hair whipped about her face, accentuating the violet eyes, now narrowed in concentration… and panic.

Her breaths were coming out ragged but she didn't care.

Kuchiki Rukia was going to be late.

'Damn it. Why do I always have to be like this?'

It wasn't her fault. Things always happened to Rukia, when she least expected it. When she was just being nice and minding her own business, something would come bang and hit her up, turning her peaceful little world upside down.

Today, it had been Renji.

Rukia was writing her daily report for her Thirteenth Division Captain Jushiro Ukitake, as usual. She was working fast, because Captain Ukitake had promised her free rein on the division training grounds later in the evening. Rukia was excited. She always was, whenever action was concerned and paperwork was taken down to a minimal.

And then she had heard hurried footsteps. She looked up in time to see a very flustered and sweaty Renji appear at the office doorway.

"RUKIA!!" He shouted.

His expression and tone immediately brought Rukia to an alert state. She had already gotten used to this, when people came and made exclaimations like that. Something had happened. And it was never good.

"What happened??" She quickly got up and walked to her childhood best friend from the Rukongai.

"You… you…" Renji was struggling to get out the words but he was choking on his own gasping breaths.

"Calm down. What is it?" Rukia tried to make her voice steady, but Renji was starting to worry her.

Renji looked at her and took a painfully deep breath before he continued, "Rukia, you are due in the Shinigami Captains' meeting hall today."


Rukia shook her head, certain she had heard wrong. She, Rukia? Involved in the Captains' meeting today?

"I- I didn't know anything about this. Are you sure?"

"Of course you wouldn't. Captain Yamamoto sent a message directly to Kuchiki tai-chou two days ago to inform him of it and asked to pass the message to you. And I was given the task to do it…" Renji took several more deep breaths.

Rukia looked at Renji in wide-eyed surprise. Then she quickly glanced at the clock in the office.

Her heart stopped. The meeting was to start in three minutes! She turned back to Renji, anger and frustration instantly mirrored in her eyes.

"And you tell me… just MINUTES before the meeting!!!??" Her voice rose in a shout.

"I… well," Renji scratched his head. "Don't look at me like that!! The note got lost in my desk, and well, you know how it is with my desk… I just saw it and I immediately rushed here!!"

Rukia was so angry, she could feel herself swell in size. "Well, maybe you could save someone's life and clean up that damned desk of yours sometime!!!"

"A simple word of thanks would have sufficed!"

"Yeah well, I'm sorry if I had to say thanks LATE as it's three minutes…" Rukia looked back at the clock.

Shit. Two minutes.

She dodged past Renji and ran to the door. She would save the punches for later. "I'm not done with you!!!" she shouted as she exited the office.

She could have sworn she heard Renji laugh.

Now, as she ran, Rukia thought back on what Renji had told her. General Yamamoto had sent a personal message to Nii-sama to ask her to come to the meeting? What matter of such importance would require her attendance? And in a Captains' meeting?

She stiffened suddenly. Were they going to punish her? Did she even do something wrong? Rukia flashed back on her past week. No, she was certain. She had had a normal and routine week, nothing out of the ordinary. No breaking the rules. And even if she did, certainly a simple matter of punishing an unseated officer did not require all the Captains to be present, particularly the Captain General himself?

But as she thought so, there was a time in her life in which a relatively trivial act to save a human boy's life had landed her a death sentence. And that sentence had been meted out by all members of the Central 46 Chambers, though this later proved a terrible ploy by the traitorous Aizen Sosuke.

Things were always unexpected here in Soul Society.

She gritted her teeth and ran on, trying to smother the fear and anxiety now threatening to overwhelm her. Not only did she not know what was going to befall her in the meeting, she was going to be absolutely late for it. In front of all the Captains. In front of the Captain General Yamamoto, whom few had the ability to look him right in the eye without suffering huge shock from his reiatsu. In front of her own Captain Ukitake, whose division name she carried as a member.

'In front of Nii-sama,' she realized with a dismayed start.

Kuchiki Byakuya, Captain of Sixth Division and her adoptive older brother (or rather brother-in-law) who priced the rules and his noble family pride above everything else. Nii-sama would definitely not like it if she was late, even if it was being late to her own death sentence. To him, the image of the royal Kuchiki family can never be brought down, not even by a notch. And those who did so are bound to be in serious, if not deadly, trouble.

Her brother, Byakuya. Rukia now knew why she was so afraid of making it late to this meeting. She would rather deal with Captain Yamamoto and Captain Ukitake but not Byakuya. She held very deep respect and admiration for him, but his mere presence often terrified her. So much so that she would be completely speechless and blank in her thoughts whenever they were talking (which in itself, was a rare occurrence). She often wondered if he thought she was stupid and useless. She hated being anything other than something positive in front of him, but her luck was never there in this case.

She knew the big sacrifice Byakuya had to make to adopt her into his noble family, when she was just a lowly girl from the Rukongai (even if to fulfill his promise to Hisana, her sister and his deceased wife). She wanted to prove to him that adopting her was not a mistake. And having such a formidable adoptive brother meant that she felt all sorts of inferiority complexes and she knew she had to strive to live up to the expectations of outsiders. But so far, all Byakuya did was to rescue her, witness her running off and breaking rules, rescue her again, listen to her routine reports of failures in her work, and rescue her some more. If only-


The pain shot through her so hard Rukia winced and fell back.

Without her realizing it, Rukia had reached the Shinigami Captains' meeting hall. Heck, she had actually ran headlong into the door itself. Not only that, she had shouted out loud in pain and she knew from the silence inside the hall behind sealed doors that the Captains had all heard it.

Suddenly, the doors began to creak open. Rukia jumped back and looked at the tall form materializing before her. She stared back into the amused eyes of Captain Shunsui Kyoraku, as he opened the doors with his trademark grin and outfit, complete with his pink flowered kimono.

"Ahh… Rukia-chan. What better way to come in than with a bang, right?" His grin got bigger, and Rukia ducked her head down to hide her embarrassment as she followed him into the hall.

Rukia had never been in here before. The hall covered a wide expanse, though it was only used to house less than fifteen people for a meeting once every week. But the empty spaces and white walls served the ominous atmosphere emphasizing the superiority and power of the Captains from the normal residents of Soul Society. Rukia felt dwarfed by it all as she walked quietly behind Captain Kyoraku. There, she could see all Captains were present from the corner of her eye. And they were all looking at her, as she passed each of them.

Her own Thirteenth Division Captain Ukitake, who smiled at his young subordinate and his long-time best friend.

The freakish Kurotsuchi Mayuri and his endless scary experiments.

Eleventh Division Captain Zaraki Kenpachi, with his eyepatch.

White-haired prodigy Tōshirō Hitsugaya.

Eighth Division Captain Kyoraku, as he resumed his place after giving her a friendly wink.

Sajin Komamura, Seventh Division Captain.

Sixth… she lifted her eyes slightly to look at her brother. Byakuya stood there, impressive as always. His back straight, the white kenseikan holding his hair, a symbol of the pure nobility in his blood, the twin white handguards at his wrist, and his features smooth and unreadable. As always. He was looking right at her, but made no acknowledgement towards her. As always.

Rukia gulped and quickly movied her gaze past Byakuya ('He must be furious!') to Captain Retsu Unohana, who gave her an encouraging smile.

The steadfast Second Division Captain, Soi Fon, and…

Rukia bowed her head.

"Kuchiki Rukia."

Rukia looked up slowly from her position before Captain General Genryūsai Shigekuni Yamamoto. He must be supressing his enormous reiatsu for her sake, as she could look him in the eye without actually crumbling to her knees.

"I… My deepest apologies for being late, Captain Yamamoto. The message was… delayed in reaching me."

"Ah, there is no need for apologies, Rukia. You are here already and that is what matters." Captain Yamamoto waved his hand dismissively.

"You must be wondering why you were called to a Shinigami Captains' meeting."

"If Captain Yamamoto would be so kind as to brief me…"

"Certainly. We might have a mission on hand, Rukia. And that is where you come in."

Rukia looked up in surprise. Mission?

"There have been a rise in the number of Hollow attacks in a certain place down in the real world. A worrying number, as I might go so far to say. The Shinigamis patrolling nearby that particular town have reported that there is at least thirty Hollow attacks a day…"

"THIRTY??" Rukia put in, horrified. From what she could remember, down in the real world they usually put up with one or two in a day.

"Yes, thirty. And the numbers increase after sunset. We don't know if a portal has been opened nearby that town or if its history of abundant spirit particles have attracted this many Hollows. We also don't know if this is some sort of trick or part of an elaborate plan by something sinister. There have been reported fluctuations of reiatsu around the area, with very high levels detected that could not have been Hollows."

Rukia already knew why she was called here. She felt her heart warmed at the familiarity.

"Karakura town." It was a statement, as it came out of Rukia's mouth.

Captain Yamamoto nodded. "As such, the substitute Shinigami down there…" His expression twitched a little, and Rukia knew he hadn't quite forgotten the fiasco that particular substitute Shinigami and his friends had brought with them when they came to rescue her. "… has been rather co-operative and efficient. He has been holding up the defence remarkably well by himself."

'Ichigo,' Rukia thought with a burst of pride.

"However, we find that he might be in need of more assistance and I would rather someone who had…" Captain Yamamoto paused. "… certain acquaintances with him to offer him help from Soul Society."

Rukia nodded. She had been sent down to Karakura town with a team before to help Ichigo during the Arrancar attack.

"I would rather you go down this time, than Abarai Renji. However, if the situation gets out of hand, I will send him down with reinforcements."

Rukia nodded.

"However, there is one other thing."

Rukia looked up in surprise.

Captain Yamamoto had been looking at something, or rather someone, in the line of Captains but he withdrew his gaze to look back at her.

"You have been offered the 3rd seat in a certain division, in which this seat is one rung lower than that of the lieutenant."

Rukia's eyes widened in surprise.

"However, if you were to choose this position, you must immediately remain in that Division for your pre-position training, as requested by the Division Captain. Thus, you cannot take on this mission and I believe the next best person for it would be Abarai Renji."

'Pre-position training? By the Division Captain's request?'

Captain Yamamoto looked at Rukia and answered the question in her eyes.

"That Division, Rukia… is the Sixth Division."

Rukia could not help it. She gasped out loud and reflexively turned to look at Byakuya, who was looking right back at her impassively.

She quickly turned back to General Yamamoto.

"So, what will be your choice, Rukia? I believe you are the best person for this mission but if you choose the seated position, which you are free to do so, I will have Abarai Renji take your place."

Rukia wasn't really listening to the Captain General. Thoughts were running so fast through her head she was surprised everyone did not hear her head whirring. Byakuya? Nii-sama? He had requested for her to be placed in his division? Countless emotions flooded Rukia at the same time. Wonder, confusion, hope, worry, panic, uncertainty… she felt them all at once.

And then she knew. Byakuya had always known Rukia wanted to be a seated officer, as he had been the very person to dash her dreams of being so. And now, a mission in the real world had come up. He must not have wanted her to undertake it, and so he had set a bait in the form of the work Rukia had always longed for in the Shinigami. One rung lower than that of the lieutenant…

She closed her eyes. She might never have the chance to get a position as a seated officer, Byakuya would make sure of this. On the other hand, this mission

She was always the person to handle matters on Karakura town, having spent her entirety of time in the real world there. And seeing Ichigo again. Rukia couldn't stop the smile that threatened to appear on her features at the thought. He must be expecting her. She herself was excited to see him, it had been a long time since she had last worked with him. She wondered how he was doing. And sleeping in her little closet again. Rukia's heart warmed again at the thought. And going to school to see Orihime, Sado and Ishida.

'Focus,' Rukia gave herself a mental shake. 'You're supposed to be there on a mission, not to have fun. There will be danger…"


Rukia knew Byakuya probably did not want her to put herself in more danger. She appreciated her brother's concern for her like that, but sometimes she felt that it suffocated her. Because of this, she could not hone her abilities to the best of their potential. She did not blame Byakuya. He probably had promised her sister to take care of her, and he was very well following along the lines of doing so. But just this once

One rung lower than that of the lieutenant…

Every pair of eyes was focused on Rukia. Every breath in the room seemed to hang in the moment. Waiting for her decision.

Rukia looked down at her feet, and listened to her heart beat.

And decided to listen to what it was telling her.

She lifted her eyes confidently to General Yamamoto.

"I will go on the mission."

Fifteen minutes ago…

"Captain General, is there no way to change this?"

"Kuchiki-taichou, I want the best possible person to go on this mission."

"And there is no possibility that the person cannot be my lieutenant?"

"I have mentioned it to you, Kuchiki tai-chou, when I gave you the message two days ago that I feel Kuchiki Rukia would be the best on our side to communicate with Kurosaki Ichigo."

Kuchiki Byakuya felt a ripple of impatience, despite his calm façade. Why do people always have to correlate his sister with the Kurosaki lad? Byakuya would normally not have minded it any other day, but this time they wanted to send Rukia on a mission into the real world. Alone. And not on any day trip mission. This problem might take months to resolve. Byakuya wasn't going to let Rukia stay in the real world for such a long period of time. Especially not with that Kurosaki lad. He did not feel good letting his sister go under the protection of Kurosaki Ichigo, no matter how powerful he might appear to be. And it was dangerous. Byakuya strongly doubted there were only Hollows involved in the attacks in the real world.

Byakuya had tried to dissuade the oldest Captain of it and to take his lieutenant Renji as a replacement instead for the past two days. Apparently, it was not working. Since when had General Yamamoto taken such a great liking to Rukia? Byakuya didn't know. People had always taken to Rukia instantly when they spent a moment or two in her presence. She was what the commoners commented on when it came to the humanity of the Kuchiki noble family. Byakuya did not know. He did not spend his time with her. Did not know her.

But one thing he did know about her. And that was she had a tendency to rush headlong into danger. Or rather danger would rush right at her. Byakuya had tried his best to keep her out of harm's way. And this time, he was just going to have to try harder. When brief persuasion did not work, he "misplaced" the note asking Rukia to go to the meeting which had been sitting right on top of Renji's desk, to the bottom-most stack of papers, where it was gobbled up by the mess of documents. And he knew his absent-minded lieutenant probably wouldn't discover it till later.

He had hoped General Yamamoto would recognize the irresponsible nature Rukia sometimes carried with her, and would decide against sending her as the Shinigami representative. He had hoped wrong. The Captains had spent the next five minutes waiting for Rukia to arrive.

However, before that, Byakuya had already foreseen this and he had decided to play his last card.

"You proposed what?"

"I would like to request for Rukia to be moved to my division."

Captain Yamamoto had raised his eyebrows but Byakuya stood his ground. When the Captain General heard the entirety of his proposal, Byakuya had seen the laughter and challenge reflected in the old and experienced leader's eyes.

"We shall see then."

And now Kuchiki Byakuya watched the internal conflict going on inside Rukia. He could see every bit of it written on those familiar features of her face. After decades of living in the Kuchiki noble mansion, she still did not catch on the importance of concealing true emotions and feelings.

Had he judged her correctly? Would her desire for a position, for the true acknowledgement of her abilities (which Byakuya knew he had robbed from her, even if for her own safety) overcome her desire to go to the real world?

Byakuya looked at her calmly, as opposed to some Captains, who were practically holding their breaths for her decision.

He saw Rukia lower her head slightly and look back up with defiance.

Would she?

Will she?

"I will go on the mission."

Byakuya hid the shock and surprise behind his emotionless grey eyes as General Yamamoto smiled.

Byakuya walked slowly back to his Sixth Division office after the meeting. General Yamamoto had dismissed Rukia after briefing her on the arrangements of the trip, which would take place next week, before resuming the meeting on the usual happenings in Soul Society. Rukia had practically ran out of the meeting hall, taking extra care to avoid Byakuya's hard gaze on her.

'So she chose to go on the mission, rather than taking up the position she so desired. And in my own division.'

Did she really want to go to the real world all that much?

Byakuya was disturbed by her decision today, and he did not know why. He did not like this feeling. Was it because he was worried she was putting herself in danger… again? Or was it because she had acted in a way that he had not expected her to? Was it because it was one of those rare times his judgement had actually failed him? Or... was it because she had… practically forsaken him and Soul Society for another place… or perhaps another person?

Byakuya flashed on a particular event in the past. On a particular night, in an alien place, as the dark clouds and smell of rain threatened to overwhelm the sky. As his lieutenant had his sister trapped in an iron grip around her neck, as she had struggled to run to the orange-haired boy whose Shinigami powers and, almost his own life, had been destroyed by Byakuya moments ago with a few simple Flash steps and a hit to the precise point in the body. Byakuya remembered the unbearable despair and regret in Rukia's eyes as she had vaulted towards the fallen lad. He remembered the words he had spoken to her that night.

"So you cannot bear to not go to this boy's side."

Byakuya closed his eyes.

I see.

That's it for Chapter 1. And I'm so dead on Wednesday. Oh well, things I would do for XD

If anyone of you found this any good (though it might only be a preliminary introduction to the story), it would already justify me writing this anyway today. :)