XVII- Remembering Days, Remembering Moments
To reminisce with my old friends, a chance to share some memories, and play our songs again.
She was beautiful.
Her hair was done up, with intricate accessories; white tiny pearls and sparkling diamante. It suited her well, he thought. Then again, anything would suit her. His physique fitted her frame seamlessly; their fingers interlaced between each other's perfectly, their hands clasped tightly, his hand cupping the curve of her back as he held her close. That white dress elegantly contouring her body swished fluidly as he spun her around the floor. But more than just her garment, she was beautiful — her laugh twinkled, her eyes sparkled, her skin glowed.
No, she was more than beautiful, she was angelic.
She was his.
And this was their world, just the two of them — and just for this moment, there was absolutely no one else. This moment was theirs, and nothing was going to break it. He leaned forward and kissed her on the forehead, and she giggled as the tingling warmth spread across her whole body.
"Haaaaaaaah," Tatsuki sighed loudly, cupping her face with both her hands, eyeing the newlywed couple with contented eyes. "Just look at the two of them — they're so in love with each other. Right, Rukia?"
Rukia laughed, covering her mouth with her hand delicately. She couldn't deny it — Orihime and Uryuu looked like they were made for each other. The Princess and the Archer. Would there ever be a better love story than that? And in this simple ceremony, they have already exchanged vows to be with each other. Rukia can't help but to sigh in happiness for her friend.
"I'm so happy for her," she said.
"Yeah," Tatsuki agreed. "She deserves the best, that Orihime. And it looks like she got it." Tatsuki smiled. Feeling happy for her best friend felt like a gross understatement; she was elated for her. She glanced at the two once more, her lips curved up in a soft smile. "But you know what would be way better though?" Rukia looked at Tatsuki, her eyes curious. Tatsuki groaned and tugged on the hem of her dress. "If we didn't have to wear these godforsaken dresses. They're so poofy, I feel like a purple puff pastry!"
Rukia laughed. Their bridesmaid dresses were far from being…. nice-looking, (if she put it nicely) but she didn't particularly mind. Tatsuki did, though. She's been smoothing the skirt of the dress again and again.
"But you ladies look pretty in them anyway," interjected Keigo, who appeared behind Tatsuki with Mizuiro.
"Go away Keigo," said Tatsuki, pushing the guy away, "No one wants to hear you attempt to flirt. It's even worse than watching Ishida making such lovey dovey eyes to Orihime, it's so gross."
"Oh, come oooonnnnnn. Don't be such a meanie!" whined Keigo.
Keigo decided to throw his arms across Tatsuki's shoulder, and she yelled at him, pushing him away. Thank god this was a public event, if it wasn't, Rukia was pretty sure that Tatsuki might have body-slammed him to the ground already. Mizuiro laughed, while she suppressed a smile.
Ah… All this; it felt so familiar.
I sat on one of the chairs at the round banquet table, with a drink in my hand. Weddings were… really not my thing, but this was Inoue we were talking about. She has been pestering you to drag me into coming to this wedding since… since forever. And really, between trying to avoid discussions and having to listen to your constant whining about coming here, it was just so much easier to shut up and agree to come.
I'm starting to regret saying yes though; there really wasn't much I can do other than watch people.
A burst of laughter emerged from your direction. I eyed you and the rest of my ex-classmates, Keigo, Mizuiro, and Tatsuki. All of you were talking about something; I was too far away to hear the details, but the body language was enough to show me how close you were to them. They were so familiar with you, joking around, poking fun, asking questions — it was like you were an old friend to them.
Then again, I guess you actually are their old friend. They do know you. They… remember you after all. Huh. I took a gulp from my drink again. I wonder, for a moment, what you were like back in high school. Were you popular? Were you book-smart? What was I to you during that time? Just a classmate? Just a friend? Were we… close?
I have no idea.
Chad came by and sat next to me. He didn't say anything — the guy hardly ever does — but I saw a hint of mirth behind his smile. "...what," I deadpanned, though I really didn't want to know what he was thinking. As I hoped, Chad didn't say a word but instead he glanced at you, then back to me, and the hint of a smile broke out to be even more apparent.
Whatever it was that he's thinking, nope, I wasn't going to entertain him. "Whatever," I mumbled, taking another swig of the juice in my hand. It was a great thing that Chad was such a man with few words, so it was easy to shake him off.
Keigo, however wasn't as quiet. (I couldn't even bear to hope that would ever happen) He came barreling over and noisily clapped me on the back. "Ichigo, you bastard! You never told me that you were still with Rukia-chan!" I choked on my drink, and coughed hoarsely, trying to avoid having juice in my windpipe.
"Yeah, Ichigo," Tatsuki said, sitting herself down on the chair in front of me, smoothing down her bridesmaid dress. "I never actually thought high school romances would actually last. And yet, there's Orihime and Ishida; and then more surprisingly — you and Rukia. What gives?"
I coughed, trying to avert her eyes. This was… slightly uncomfortable. I would very much prefer to sit here alone and watch people rather than answer their burning questions, thank you very much. "I'm not answering. Go ask Rukia — geez. Where is she anyway?"
Tatsuki waved her hand in dismissal, and said, "She got a text just now and went outside. Said it's from a work colleague, or someone." Tatsuki leaned forward against the round banquet table, her eyes sparkling bright with interest. "But you're not escaping our questions, Ichigo. What happened? Dish. You were with that Hazuki person."
"Haruki," I corrected. I didn't know why he felt the need to correct her, but, I did.
"Haruki, yeah. Anyway, and now you just show up and it is so obvious that you're back with Rukia. Dish all the details, Kurosaki. Leave no point behind."
Leave no point behind? If only I knew all the details myself, I would tell them, really. But all I knew was some shards of seemingly unconnected memories, and what good would that do? I don't even know the full story myself.
But knowing Tatsuki and her persuasiveness, I knew I just had to give an answer, or I could never leave this place in one piece.
"She just… she just reappeared. That's all," I said, and watched the rest of them groan in dissatisfaction.
Well, that was true, wasn't it?
Rukia stepped out of the chapel and into the summer air. Evening crickets played their nightly orchestra. Warm breeze blew through her hair and her purple dress. She looked up into the skies and saw brilliant stars winking back at her. It was summer again. It was summer. Nearly one year ago, she came to Karakura again and stepped back into his life after seven years of separation. Had it been easy? Far from it, but she was glad she's here now.
She was so, so glad.
Rukia flipped open her phone and reread the text message she received: "Come out. Need to talk. — R." A smile reappeared on her lips. It's been three months since she last saw Renji, and she would admit it only to herself, but she missed him.
Rukia stepped into the garden behind the chapel and waited for her friend. Soon enough, she felt a change in the atmosphere. But this— it felt… different. This wasn't Renji, this was —
She stood up from her seat and found herself staring back into the aloof eyes of her brother. He was in his usual garb; the captain uniform, the pure white scarf — all of those made him even more… unapproachable. Plus, his aura made her feel as distant as ever; cold, like all of this were purely business. In a way, she guessed it was. She guessed that he came bearing news.
"Rukia," he stated her name, like it was merely the title of another document to be approved. "The committee has decided, and the decision has been finalized." Ah, so her intuitions were right. She knew exactly whey he was here. She nodded to him, ready to hear the news. "Your exile from Soul Society has come into action. From this day on, you cannot step into Soul Society, nor can anyone bring you there. This decision is final and permanent." Byakuya stated all of that in one fluid speech, flawless and not a tone out of place. Everything was maintained in a matter-of-fact way, just like the day he brought news of her execution. Purely business.
She knew this was coming, and she thought that it might come as a relief to her — it meant that she could stay here on earth, with Ichigo. But instead an overwhelming feeling of… void overcame her. She could no longer go to Soul Society. The thought just occurred to her, like boulders crashing down onto her head, and for a moment, she was just… stunned with the idea.
She could not see her taichou, or Hanatarou, or Hinamori, or the maids in the Kuchiki mansion that she has become familiar with, or… or… or anyone anymore. Renji could still come and visit, but the rest would be too busy to come and take a visit to Earth just to see her, wouldn't they? Her eyes fell to her shoes as the train of thought continued on its tracks. She couldn't see the breathtaking landscapes of Soul Society anymore — the forest where they practice kidou, the koi pond in the Kuchiki mansion, the old house in Rukongai. She couldn't taste the food there anymore — the chitose ame that old Kurayama sold near distict 52 of Rukongai especially.
She could no longer go to Soul Society.
Rukia exhaled. She closed her eyes, and then looked up and into Byakuya's eyes. She nodded curtly once more. "I understand, nii-sama."
But she herself had chosen this, and she was okay with it.
She will be okay.
She saw him give a brief acknowledging nod. And Rukia expected that he would leave after delivering the news, but to her surprise, he spoke up again.
"That boy… is he treating you well?"
And that question surprised her even more. She never thought that he would ask about her wellbeing. She always thought that he felt nothing but scorn for her — she does not remember a time where he has ever looked at her like this, almost… almost kind. And this question itself also proved otherwise. He doesn't show it, but maybe… he does care, she thought. She cleared her throat before answering. Her speech stumbled, but her words were true, "H-he does. He treats me well."
He nodded again, as if acknowledging her answer. His expression doesn't change, but his tone did. Just slightly, very slightly, but it did.
"And are you happy here, Rukia?"
This time her voice did not waver. She knows the answer to this.
"Yes, nii-sama. I am."
She smiled. She didn't have to lie to him this time.
A/N: Tying up all the plot holes before the next chapter :] And if my writing plans are executed as planned, the next chapter will be the final chapter!
Thank you so much to those who have stuck with me for this long. God, I just realized that this fic took nearly 5 years to complete. (I'm sorry, I'm a horrible updater) But yes! After this, it'll finalllyyyyy be complete!