Second in the "Bitter Medicine" Series. Hope you enjoy!
Byakuya Kuchiki cursed the events of the day. In fact, for a minute he just laid there, a string of profanity streaming from his lips. The mission was suppose to be easy. It was suppose to be a simple hollow destruction. The hollow had been detected as powerful enough to need a captain to take care of it, but not powerful enough to cause said captain any actual trouble. When told the assignment had been given to him, he opted to go alone, declining his lieutenant's offer to come and assist. He told himself that Abarai would have just gotten in the way.
Now he was regretting that decision. He had arrived to find, not just a hollow, but an arrancar. Not an espada, but a powerful one nonetheless. Perhaps things would have ended differently for him if he had not made one of the most fatal mistakes one could make in battle. He underestimated his opponent.
He tried to get through the battle with only his shikai. At first it seemed he would be victorious, but once the arrancar revealed his resurrecion, the tides quickly turned. Even after unleashing his bankai, Byakuya took many hits. As the battle ended, both fighters were severely wounded. The only difference was the 6th division captain survived. Staggering and dizzy from blood-loss, he quickly tried to make his way back to soul society. Unfortunately, before he could make it, the noble passed out, his injuries finally taking their full affect.
Which brings us to the present. Byakuya had awoken, still wounded but very much alive, in the back of some alley. He bit back a groan as he picked himself up, attempting to at least retain his normal dignity as he figured out where he was. Glancing at his reflection in a puddle on the ground, he realized it was pointless. To put it lightly, he was a mess.
During his battle with the arrancar, his captains coat had been slashed so badly, it had eventually fallen to the ground in tatters. This left him in the normal, black shinigami uniform, which was torn, dirty and bloody, hardly even recognizable anymore. His signature headpiece lay shattered next to him, his long black hair free to fall in his face, matted and tangled. His skin was paler than usual and bruised in many places, not to mention the numerous spots of dried blood.
Byakuya barely even looked like Byakuya anymore and it made him quite distressed. A small part of him felt relief at his decision not to wear his family scarf on this mission. Little miracles, right?
Clutching his side and limping slightly, he made his way carefully out of the alley. He considered trying some healing kido, but he was not very good at it, and his reiatsu was still very low. Quickly surveying his surroundings, he immediately realized where he was. He was in Rukongai. Judging by the shady looks of, well, everything, he guess it was one of the lower districts. Just his luck. Making his way over to one of the stands on the side of the street, the vendor looked him up and down before fixing him with a look of disdain, something the captain was not use to.
"Excuse me, can you tell me where I am?"
The other man scoffed slightly, as if thinking Byakuya stupid for not knowing. "Rukongai, 78th district."
Byakuya blinked. 78th? He had ended up that far from his destination? Somewhere in the back of his mind, a little voice pointed out that the 78th district was where not only his adopted sister, but his lieutenant grew up.
Ignoring this information, he cursed his situation again. He didn't know if it was broken or not, but either way his leg was hurt and he was in no shape to use flash step, or even move to the full extent that a normal shinigami could. He turned back to the vender.
"What is the quickest way to Seireitei?"
The man snorted, not even looking at Byakuya. "Walk!"
The 6th division captain was slightly startled. He was not use to such blatant disrespect. Narrowing his eyes, he snapped back. "I am Byakuya Kuchiki, 6th division captain of the Gotei 13. There must be another way to Seireitei."
Without even hesitating, the vender simply laughed at him, not even bothering to answer. Byakuya overheard him say to his assistant, "I tell ya, there are some real crazies around here!"
If he was honest with himself, he could not really blame the man for his reaction. After all, he most certainly did not resemble a member of the Gotei 13, let alone a captain. Scowling, he began limping down the street. There had to be some way back. He reached into his pocket, but was not surprised to find his phone missing. His battle with the arrancar had been intense, and something was bound to fall out of his pockets at some point. Still, this left him with almost no options.
He spent the day wandering through the district, not enjoying a single minute. Most of the villagers did not even spare him a second glance. At one point, he had sighed with relief as he had managed to stumble upon a stand that sold medicine and bandages. However, he was promptly turned away when it was found that he had no money on him. He tried to tell them who he was, but none believed him. Despite his frustration at everything, even he could see the irony of it. He was one of the richest nobles in Soul Society, and he was being turned away by some shady merchant in 78th Rukongai because he had no money. Laughable, really.
Eventually, Byakuya felt so tired, he had no choice but to move to the side of the road and sit in the dirt, back against one of the decaying buildings. He looked around him. He could not help but feel slightly dismayed at seeing so many people living like this. He watched as groups of starving children tried their best to scrap together what they had to survive, stealing what they needed and enduring the punishments if they failed or were caught. The tiny voice kept popping up, making him see his lieutenant everywhere he turned, making him feel quite unnerved. Hearing a commotion, he turned his head in time to see a young boy being shoved to the ground by a passing villager.
"Watch where you're going, you stupid mutt!"
Something in the man's words struck a cord with Byakuya, and it took him a moment to realize what it was…
Byakuya rounded a corner, accidentally bumping into a tall man in an academy uniform. He recognized the boy as Renji Abarai. The noble had seen his newly adopted sister spending much of her time with the red-head, although was glad to notice the two spending less time together since Rukia had entered his family. The thought of a Kuchiki, even an adopted one, associating with someone so low-class made him cringe. The little voice in the back of his mind called him a hypocrite, since he himself had married someone "low-class", but his rule-abiding side, enhanced since his recent vow to himself, smothered it.
Renji looked startled for a moment at the sight of the captain, but quickly shook it off. "Sorry. Late to class."
Byakuya scoffed slightly, muttering under his breath as the boy passed him, "Mutt…" Despite the fact that he never looked back, Byakuya knew Renji's reaction. He had felt the boy's head snap back to stare at him. Had felt his anger and hatred and… hurt, build up. He had felt his resolve to become stronger and defeat him grow even more. But Byakuya did not concern himself with it, convinced that he was weak. Convinced that the boy's fangs would never reach him…
The little voice, ever persistent, was back. Poking and prodding at his conscious until he felt just a little bad about his comment so long ago, especially as he saw such similar emotions on the face of the small boy in front of him. He wondered if that was what Renji had looked like that day.
The boy stood and growled something back at the man, trying to look tough despite his size and age. He looked like he would be about 11 or 12 physically, pretty scrawny, with messy blue-black hair that was longer in the front than the back. His eyes widened as the man in the street slapped the boy harshly across the face, furious that the boy had dared talk back to him. Byakuya stood shakily and, as fast as he could on an injured leg, made his way over to the pair.
The shinigami stood between the child and the adult. "Is there a problem here?"
Confused at first, the man eventually just scoffed before walking away in a huff, mumbling about the all the riffraff in the area. Turning around, he found the boy glaring at the ground, small hands clenched at his sides.
"You didn't have to do that. I can take care of myself!"
"Hm." Byakuya looked at the boy, expressionless as always.
The boy however, couldn't help but look up in curiosity. "Why did you help, anyway?"
Byakuya shrugged, immediately regretting it as his whole body still ached. He turned limping back to his spot on the side of the road. Halfway there, he turned back to the boy. "Well, are just going to stand there or are you going to return the favor?"
Jumping slightly, the boy scowled, but came over and helped the injured man sit down none the less. "Thank you, boy."
Said boy scowled again. "I have a name you know! I'm Shinta!"
Rolling his eyes slightly, Byakuya replied. "Fine. Thank you, Shinta."
Nodding in satisfaction, Shinta sat down next to, yet still somewhat away from, the shinigami. After a few moments of silence, the boy spoke again firmly. "I didn't need your help."
"Sure you didn't."
Shinta glared at the obvious sarcasm. "I didn't! Everyone here thinks I'm weak cause I'm a kid, and everyone else think I'm weak cause I got stuck living in the 78th district." He scoffed. "One time some noble jerks were passing through, transporting something or whatever. You should have seen the way they were treating everyone, acting like they were so much better then all of us." Byakuya flinched slightly, but Shinta continued. "And all the adults got so upset about it, they took it out on everyone younger than them! Everyone thinks I'm weak, but I'm not."
The two fell into silence once more, Shinta having finished his venting to a random stranger. Byakuya looked around again. He could not imagine living here, especially as a child. He remembered growing up, enduring all the pressures of upholding his family name, but never having to question whether he would have food or shelter or warmth. He never had to deal with disrespect or a lack of compassion. Turning back to Shinta, he realized something…
"I believe you."
The boys head snapped up sharply, surprise and disbelief written all over his face.
"I believe you. I think you have to be strong to live in a place like this. And maybe people who haven't experienced the things you have don't understand that, but it doesn't make you weak."
Shinta tilted his head to the side, mulling over the older man's words.
"I suppose you're right but…" Byakuya waited patiently for the boy to continue and when he did, his voice was laced with strong determination. "…I'm still going to get stronger. I going to become strong enough so that no one can look down on me again! I'm going to be so strong, even those noble bastards wont be able to turn their noses up at me!"
It might as well have been his lieutenant speaking the words, as it was his voice the captain heard. The little voice sighed with satisfaction at having finally gotten through the captain's thick head.
And speak of the Devil…
Byakuya looked up so see none other than Renji Abarai running up to him. He glanced to the side, but was not surprised to find Shinta long gone, no doubt scared away by the appearance of the large, tattooed shinigami. Returning his gaze to his lieutenant, Byakuya stood shakily, quickly receiving a hand from Renji.
"Abarai. How did you find me?"
"We heard news that your mission had gone wrong and you had disappeared. 12th division figured out you were in Rukongai and a search party was deployed. I took 78th district since I'm familiar with it." The red-head looked his captain up and down. "We should get you to the 4th squad, you look like you've lost a lot of blood." After receiving a nod of approval, Renji placed Byakuya's arm around his shoulder, flash stepping them both back to Seireitei.
Later that night, Renji visited Byakuya at the 4th squad barracks to give his report for the day and get any final statements. As he was leaving, he was surprised to hear his captain stop him.
Turning around, he gave the Kuchiki a questioning look. He was even more surprised by what the man said next.
"You've done well, Abarai. You've become... a very strong lieutenant."
Eyes wide from shock, it took Renji a moment to respond. "Th-thank you captain." Byakuya smiled slightly to himself as his lieutenant left the room grinning with pride and accomplishment, a promise made to himself so long ago finally fulfilled. The 6th division captain wondered if perhaps, he might one day have a young man named Shinta in his squad. If so, he silently vowed that it would not take nearly as long to see that look on the boy's face as it did for Renji. He would make sure of it.
The little voice was practically giddy with joy.
And there you have it! Please review with positive comments, negative comments, or suggestions for characters to add to the series. Also, if you go to my profile under the "Bitter Medicine" section, I explain that this story was written more for myself then anything and my feelings on it. Either way, thanks for reading and hope you enjoyed! ~~~BFMS~~~