Dedicated to Byakuxhisa4eva. Happy belated birthday!
He looked so sad, so forlorn, that Hisana wanted to reach out and embrace him, to comfort him. But then, what would he say to seeing her there?
She too stared up at the plum blossoms. Today was the anniversary of the day when she had died. She had specifically asked Unohana to transfer her on this day. It felt special, her coming back to him on the day she had left.
50 years. Today made it 51 years.
51 years since she's seen his loving smile, directed at her, 51 years since he had whispered sweet words to her with his deep soothing voice, 51 years since she had felt his embrace.
She slowly moved forward.
Hisana began to walk back toward the fourth. She thought that Byakuya might have gone there to get his wounds treated. From the reiatsu in the air, she could sense many battles that were still being fought. She saw the ryoka heading toward the Soukyoku, but ignored them. Right now, she wanted to find out where Byakuya and Rukia were.
Something caught her eye. She gazed over the rooftops of the buildings, and saw two black-clad figures and one with a white haori. She recognized the shock of white hair. It was Hitsugaya Toushirou, child prodigy of the Gotei 13. He seemed to be pursuing the lieutenant of the third, Kira Izuru. Following him was his lieutenant, Matsumoto Rangiku.
Something felt wrong. The boy's face suddenly contorted with rage, and he sped off without a backward glance in the other direction.
Hisana watched in shock as the two lieutenants suddenly started battling. She couldn't understand it. Why were they there? And why were they fighting? She wanted to move away, yet somehow, she was rooted to the spot. She watched as Matsumoto came out triumphant, knocking Kira to the ground. Yet their moment of triumph was short-lived.
"Taichou!" she suddenly cried out in anguish. Hisana was confused, because her captain was nowhere in sight. Without missing a beat, Matsumoto shunpoed away, across the buildings toward the Soukyoku.
There was a noise like a wounded animal. Hisana turned to see Kira, his face in shock and his body trembling. "But…but he promised that he wouldn't hurt her!"
Something was definitely wrong here. Hisana deliberated for a second, and then began to move back the way she'd come.
She was only halfway there when something shunpoed past her, moving at speeds she hadn't fathomed possible. Her eyes widened in shock as she recognized the reiatsu and felt the haori of the sixth division captain slap against her. Wind left in the wake of Byakuya's shunpo ruffled her hair, and she stood for a moment, confused. He too was rushing toward the Soukyoku.
What was going on?
And then, other shinigami were going that way. Some running, some shunpoing. She joined them. There was a nervous murmur of voices vibrating through the throng.
"The captains betrayed us?"
"I heard he tried to kill his lieutenant and the tenth captain!"
"They're at the Soukyoku!"
Hisana felt her heart clench in shock. Who could it be that has done this?
The shinigami rushed up the Soukyoku. Hisana emerged onto the giant precipice, and nearly gagged with shock. She saw Renji, lying on his back, his body ravaged and bleeding. She saw Ichigo, lying on his front, nearly severed in half, his blood pouring about him. She saw Komamura lying in a heap, wounded all over his body. She saw Rukia, shaking madly, still wearing her execution kimono, which was stained with blood. Yet she didn't look wounded. Her hands were twisted in a bloodied haori, a haori belonging to none other than Kuchiki Byakuya.
Up close, he looked terrible. His face was awfully pale, and his blood was flowing out of him profusely. It was what had stained Rukia's kimono. He was on his knees, and though he was leaning against Rukia for support, he still looked like he would topple over.
She barely registered the fact that Aizen, Tousen, and Ichimaru were standing there. Matsumoto, who had a fierce look upon her face, was restraining Ichimaru. Hisagi was holding Tousen back. Aizen was standing calmly, with two swords at his neck, held by Soi Fon, and a dark-skinned woman whom she vaguely knew to be Shihoin Yoruichi.
Hisana knew this should surprise her. Aizen was supposed to be dead. And why was everyone staring at them with such contempt?
Yet it barely held concern to her. At the moment, what plagued her attention was the fact that Byakuya was bleeding to death right before her. She twisted her hands, longing to go forward and help him. She scarcely registered the talk around her. But from it, she gathered that Aizen, Ichimaru, and Tousen were the traitors, and having deceived them all.
There were gasps, and she drew a breath involuntarily in shock, staring as the sky was ripped open. Leering eyes of hollows gazed at them with evil intent. They were the most fearful hollows she had ever seen. "Menos Grande!" Soi Fon yelled. Yet as she yelled, and the hollows began to descend, something else began to appear from behind the hollows.
Soi Fon and Yoruichi suddenly let go of their captive as a bright light shone upon him. The source of the light seemed to be from the rip in the sky. A beam engulfed Tousen and Ichimaru as well. The three began to rise. There were excited murmurs at this. Some shinigami moved to go forward, but a cry from the head captain stopped them.
There was a crash, and Hisana gasped as Komamura's form suddenly rose. She could feel the air tremble as he roared at Tousen. She watched, transfixed as the three captains rose into the menos' midst, and Aizen's words rang in their minds. "From now on, I will stand atop the Heavens. Goodbye, shinigami. And goodbye, young ryoka. You were interesting for a human."
There was silence for a second, while everyone was reveling in shock still at what had passed. But then, Rukia suddenly cried out, "Nii-sama!"
Hisana felt cold at her words, and turned back toward the two. Byakuya had toppled over, seeming unable to remain upright. The instincts of a healer and need to see Byakuya safe caused Hisana to spring forward without hesitation. She willed herself to be calm when she arrived at the two, and spoke in a low voice to Rukia. "Please let him go, Kuchiki Rukia. I need to see to his wounds."
Her movement triggered motion in the other officers gathered. Immediately, they began to rush into motion, taking care of the injured, yelling orders to each other.
Rukia stared at her. Hisana sensed her trying to see beyond the bangs that covered her face and distorted her image, but she nodded and relinquished her hold on Byakuya.
Hisana gently lowered the injured captain. She felt her heart pounding at the close contact, and a sort of pain at seeing him like this. His breath came in ragged gasps, and his skin was clammy.
"It's because of me," Rukia murmured, almost as if sensing Hisana's question. "Ichimaru was going to kill me. He took the blow for me."
Hisana started in surprise. It took all her willpower to focus on setting Byakuya down and beginning to heal him. She raised her voice slightly, trying to keep it monotone, so Byakuya may not have any chance of recognizing it. "I need help."
Other officers came toward her. Iemura was shouting instructions. "Squads two and three, help see to Kuchiki-taichou. Squads seventh and ten, assist the eleventh and thirteenth with Komamura-taichou. Abarai-fukutaichou has received stage six treatment. Squads eight and nine, prepare for transport. We have to set up a air-cleansing barrier to help the treatment!"
His instructions continued, but Hisana tuned it out. It held no importance to her. She frowned in concentration and moved her hands over Byakuya's wounds, reconnecting the torn tissues to stem the bleeding. She fervently wished for Unohana to be here, so that she can take a look at his wounds.
"Nii-sama!" Rukia cried out in distress and impatience. Hisana felt Byakuya try to speak, but he was still in too much to pain form words. She doubled her own efforts.
She wasn't quite aware of other things going on around her, and so she started in surprise when she suddenly felt the familiar reiatsu of her captain and heard her words. She looked up as Unohana strode toward her. A faint knowing smile was upon Unohana's lips as she met Hisana's eyes despite her tired and rather sorrowful expression. Hisana bowed and shifted away for Unohana to take over.
"Kuchiki-taichou, you were reckless," Unohana spoke. Byakuya murmured something, and even Hisana, who was so close, could not understand. But Unohana did, and her eyes widened. Then she looked up, her eyes searching, and resting upon Rukia. "Kuchiki Rukia, please come here. Kuchiki-taichou is asking for you."
The girl looked up in surprise. Hisana also started in surprise, but willed herself to remain calm. Rukia walked over and carefully knelt by the fallen captain.
"Rukia," the captain spoke, and every word seemed to cause him tremendous effort. "Are you there?"
His hand reached out, for he was in too much pain to turn. Rukia took his hand. "I am, Nii-sama."
Byakuya winced as he forced himself to turn and meet her eyes. "There's something I want to tell you."
Hisana wondered what it could be. She didn't understand why her heart suddenly started pounding, and why her hands began to shake. What could be wrong? Perhaps she should move away and not listen…
"One spring morning, fifty years ago, before the first plum blossoms bloomed, I lost my wife."
Hisana froze, and felt as if a bucket of ice-cold water had just been pored over her head. She felt a chill rush through her body, and couldn't move. She could feel Unohana's concerned gaze upon her, but she didn't turn. Her eyes were fixed upon Byakuya. He promised…he wouldn't…
"I know, I'm sorry," Rukia said. "Lady Hisana…"
Hisana felt a twinge tug at her heart at the way Rukia addressed her. "I was told that I was adopted into the Kuchiki family because I looked like her."
"That's right," Byakuya said, panting slightly from the effort. "I instructed everyone to lie to you."
Rukia's head was not the only one that snapped up in shock. Hisana's heart was pounding a steady bass drum's beat, faster, and faster. Her fingers clasped, and she stared blatantly into Byakuya's face, hoping, willing him nod to say the words that will condemn her. But Byakuya had his gaze solely on Rukia, and could not see Hisana's imploring gaze.
Please don't say it. Please don't say it…
"…your older sister, Rukia."
It was too late. The words, the oh-so-cruel words had left Byakuya's lips. Hisana felt as if she had been physically struck across the face, and closed her eyes in pain. Why, Byakuya-sama? Why are you betraying me?
Byakuya continued the tale, the tale that Hisana knew all too well due to the many nights of running it through her mind. "Hisana and you passed from the human world, and she and you were sent to Inuzuri in Rukongai. It is, as you know, one of the worst districts. Life was hard for her while caring for you, and so she abandoned you, and ran."
Hisana felt pain rip through her heart. She could see it clearly as Byakuya spoke, her looking longingly at the soft bundle, and forcing herself to turn away and run as fast as she could. Why was Byakuya making her live this all over again?
"Hisana never forgave herself. After becoming my wife, she searched for you every day."
Everyone on the hill was listening. Most had never heard this tale. Rukia was frozen in shock. Hisana was frozen in despair. Unohana gave her a sympathetic look, for the woman could only imagine the agony Hisana was in right then. Why, Byakuya-sama? The words were like a mantra repeating constantly in her head. She felt pain and anger rise up, and her hands were clenched so tightly that her nails dug into her palms. He had promised not to tell her. Did he no longer care?
"And in our fifth year together…" here, Byakuya trailed off, and his eyes closed in pain. Hisana's did too, for she was overcome with emotion and memory, the feeling of the fever, and her weak hand in his strong ones, her pleading words for him to find her sister, find her and protect her. But he wouldn't have know her anguish then, wouldn't have known her furious regret.
All she left him with were her parting words. "These last five years I have spent with you, have been like a beautiful dream…Byakuya-sama…"
"She became sick…and died on that morning…I promised to continue her search, find her sister, and protect her…"
It was like she had died again. The emptiness, the despair. Hisana knew it all too real. But what was cruel about it this time was that her heart was still beating mockingly within her ribcage, as if flaunting the fact that she was alive, and had to suffer in her face.
"I found you, a year later. I brought you into the Kuchiki Family," Byakuya was speaking again, and despite her unwillingness to hear anymore, Hisana listened. This part of the tale, she had never heard. If only she had lived one more year! She would have seen Rukia…
"Marrying someone from Rukongai was against our laws. Many in the family resisted. They said it would sully our reputation. I had already broken the law when I took Hisana for my wife."
Hisana knew this, and this had been one of the greatest reasons that she had been grateful for Byakuya. He had saved her from the terrible life in Rukongai, despite her poor background, and loved her. But then, if he had, why was he hurting her so?
"That is why after I took you in, I swore on my parents' graves that I would never again break the law. I swore that from that day on, I would uphold he law, whatever the cost."
Hisana drew in a sharp intake of breath. The whole hill had grown silent. Her mouth had gone dry. Could this be it? The reason for his suppose of the execution, for everything he's done…was this the reason?
"When you were condemned, I didn't know what to do. Honor the oath I made to my parents, or the promise I made to Hisana? What was I to do?"
Byakuya paused here, and his eyes shifted to where the orange haired Ryoka was being healed by his companion, a girl with long sunset colored hair. "Kurosaki Ichigo I thank you."
His eyes shifted back to Rukia. He raised his hand, fresh pain in his eyes. "Rukia…"
Rukia stared at Byakuya, her eyes wide, and her body trembling. She took his hand shakily. "Forgive me…" Byakuya breathed out. Rukia's face twisted slightly in grief, and she began to cry silently.
Hisana wasn't aware that her eyes were wet too. She wasn't aware of the tears that had slid down her face, and dropped upon her clasped hands. She took a slow breath, trying to steady herself. So that was the reason. Everything made sense now. How could she remain angry with Byakuya? All this time, he had been hurting so much, and he had always kept her promise in mind. He had gone through all those lengths to keep her promise, and in the end, proved it by keeping Rukia safe with his own body. She felt torn. She would never be able to repay him for his kindness.
Byakuya's eyes closed, and his hand went limp. For a moment, Hisana panicked, but Unohana sent her a reassuring smile, and mouthed "he is all right." Hisana nodded, and stood, bending over as she did to wipe her eyes. She approached the fallen captain. "Kuchiki Rukia," she said, her voice low so she wouldn't have to reveal how constricted her throat was. "We need to move him."
Rukia looked up at her, and Hisana registered that this was the first time she had been so close to her. She almost cursed her tears for making her vision blurry so she couldn't have a better look at her, though she could just see how much Rukia resembled her.
But then again, the tears were for Rukia. For Rukia, and for Byakuya.
She felt as if she could read his mind. He was thinking about that day, she knew. The day when she had left this world. Hisana could hear his grief in his slow breaths, and see it in the stiffness of his posture. She saw him flinch slightly for a moment.
She opened her mouth. It was time to cure him of his grief.
It was wrong of her. She shouldn't be in this room. She shouldn't be slacking off when there were other patients to be treated, despite the time of the night. Most of the shinigami were making recoveries. She was relieved to find that Aizen attack on the tenth division captain and his lieutenant hadn't killed them. However, Hinamori Momo had sunk into a coma, and Hitsugaya Toushirou had grown uncommunicative ever since he managed to pull through. It seemed that the wounds left by Aizen's betrayal wasn't going to be erased easily.
She had been told at last, told of everything that had happened. Aizen had planned Rukia's execution, and faked his own death. He had killed the Central 46. He had set everything up, and he was the reason for all the turmoil.
It was wrong of her not to care for that though. Right now, she only cared for one thing.
She moved slowly to the bedside of the patient. The man was weak, and drifted in between sleep and consciousness. Unohana said that it was expected, as he really pushed his body in order to save Rukia, and Ichimaru's attack almost killed him.
Moonlight broke through the dim room, lighting it up. His bed was by the window, and the light lit up his face. He looked peaceful, and despite his bandages, perfect in the moonlight.
She knelt by his bed, staring into his face. Her soft lips curved up in a smile as she watched the rise and fall of his chest. "They say that you need to spread salt on a wound before it heals. I guess that is what you've done for me, Byakuya-sama. You have helped Rukia see the truth, and yet not make Hisana seem like a bad person. I am so grateful to you, Byakuya-sama. I wish that you could have found happiness. I hope that you will still have a chance to find happiness. You deserve it, Byakuya-sama, even if I am not the one to be able to give it too you. I can only wish you happiness."
She reached out. She couldn't help it, and her finger gently brushed Byakuya's cheek, and traced his jaw line. The touch was as gentle as a kitten's breath, but Byakuya stirred slightly. She drew back in shock, but he merely turned his face toward her, and the ghost of a smile seemed to touch his lips.
Hisana smiled. "Sweet dreams…Byakuya-sama. Even after all these years, I have always loved you…"
Her eyelids felt heavy, and she was unaware of her head hitting the soft sheets. She did not stir until a hand touched her should and gently shook her.
She jerked awake, blinking in the unexpected brightness of daylight and Unohana's smiling face. "Did you have a good night's sleep? It must have been uncomfortable on the floor. But then again, most always sleep best beside their beloved."
She felt her face heat up, and fought to keep the blush down. "Forgive me for my rudeness!" she said, standing up and bowing. She swayed slightly from the head rush, and Unohana steadied her. "You should be apologizing to Kuchiki-taichou, but then, if he had known, I do not think he would have minded. But I need you to check up on Hitsugaya-taichou, so if you please…"
"Of course!" Hisana said, giving up her war on her blush and only hoping that it would die down before anyone else saw. She gave one last look at Byakuya. The fleeting glimpse showed that he was stirring slightly. She hurried to leave.
As she stepped out of the room, she heard Unohana speak. "Good morning, Kuchiki-taichou. I'm glad that you are awake. How did you sleep last night? "
Hisana wondered if the red would ever leave her face.
Over the next few days, she helped nurse Byakuya back to health, always remaining cautious. At first, he still seemed torn and in pain. But slowly, she watched as he began to heal, and resume his old demeanor.
And so, she watched from afar again. She watched as Soul Society rebuilt themselves, and struggled to regain their power and pride. She watched as other shinigami healed, and trained to grow strong. She watched as the hurt ones struggled to close their wounds, both emotional and physical.
Byakuya seemed to have recovered very well. The revelation to Rukia seemed to have made him shed a massive burden, and for him to become open. Hisana saw his demeanor shift. He was still stoic most of the time, but she caught him smiling once or twice, directly at Rukia. Hisana would smile with him, happy that he was recovering from old wounds.
She was greatly amused when she first noticed the stoic captain actually spending time with other captains. She had seen him drinking tea with Ukitake, or even conversing with Kyouraku (though, she didn't know if it could be called that, as it looked more like Kyouraku annoying him). She was greatly amused when she heard that Byakuya had become more social.
"I don't believe he really ever socialized again after your death," Unohana said. "But now, he seems to have relaxed slightly. I think it was the fact he had finally been able to shed some of the burden of the past."
"I'm glad," Hisana replied. "I hated how I was the one who caused him all those burdens in the first place."
Unohana gave her a look. "You know what is the best way to remove the last of his burdens, don't you? He is still grieving for you."
Hisana closed her eyes. "I know…but…I'm not ready. I am a coward, and I am afraid to face him. I guess I fear that he doesn't love me anymore, and that it would only be another burden to him. I prefer to try and ensure his happiness from afar."
Unohana sighed. "He isn't one to speak of his feelings, but I think you should have more faith in him."
"I don't know…" Hisana said, lowering her eyes. Unohana sighed again. "It is your choice in the end. But please believe me when I say that I think that the only way for both of you to recover from the past."
Hisana never answered her, but the words remained in her mind. It remained as she watched Byakuya get ready to leave for the mission to Hueco Mundo (she was almost relieved, for she had heard that Rukia had gone there earlier, and felt more at ease if Byakuya might be there to protect her). She wondered if she should have told him. There was a chance that they'd never meet again.
When she was informed that the remaining captains would be now stationed in the fake Karakura town, she felt deeply uneasy. This marked, she was sure, the beginning of the final confrontation.
It was a horrible feeling, remaining behind, not knowing what happened. She could sense her fellow shinigami growing restless. For Hisana, there was barely a moment when neither Rukia nor Byakuya was on her mind. She couldn't concentrate at all.
And then, the world was falling apart, and the whole of soul society was shaking. There were whispered rumors that Aizen was doing something and breaking down the barriers between the worlds. She accompanied Ise Nanao on the mission to Rukongai to where the majority of hollows were congregating. There were whispers even as they fought that Aizen had breached the Soul Society's protection, and was fighting within Soul Society at this very moment. All the officers were deeply worried as they felt all the conflicting reiatsu in other parts of Soul Society, but they focused on their task as best they could, their priority being to keep the Rukongai citizens safe. The only thing going on in her mind as she helped her fellows slay hollows was that the shinigami couldn't have lost. Rukia couldn't have fallen. He couldn't have been defeated, couldn't be…
And then, it was still. She waited with baited breath along with the others. Waiting to see what had happened, waiting to see the survivors, waiting for someone to tell them that they may return. Her fingers were twisted in worry. She could feel the tension, thick enough to slice through with a knife, settling among the shinigami. They waited in silence, and she could feel each just about to burst with anxiety. Any moment now, someone would appear, and they would either soothe them, or condemn them.
And then, suddenly, a shinigami appeared, telling them they should return immediately. They rushed back, Hisana heading straight for her division. Yet before she had made much progress, she felt fast approaching reiatsu directly behind her, and from the speed of its approach, she knew that it was best to get out of the way. She threw herself to the side, and saw Ukitake rush by her, carrying someone in his arms. She felt her heart clench slightly at the sight of the wounded shinigami in his arms. Ukitake was also quite disheveled. She felt her worry spike.
It was eased ever so slightly a moment later, however, when Unohana and Byakuya appeared, following Ukitake closely. Byakuya was bleeding from several places, and his haori was missing, the black, exposed shihakushou stained dark with blood. But over all, he looked whole, and she let out a small breath of relief. She teetered on the edge of following the captains, before turning and going through the way they came, to help the other shinigami.
She knew she'd never forget the events that day. The battlefield, littered with bodies and the whole town ravaged to nothing but rubble. Soul Society was damaged greatly as well, with many dead here as well, and buildings also reduced to dust. But there were no signs of the Arrancars left, and as she watched Rukia look up into the sky and laugh lightheartedly with her friends that had survived, Hisana felt her tense face muscles relax, and she smiled.
The war was over.
And it was a time of peace and recovery. The months that followed rushed about in a blur. Hisana was very busy, tending to the wounded, and helping rebuild Soul Society. Slowly, as the place recovered from Aizen's attack, she began to feel that at last, she can settle happily and peacefully.
That is, until Unohana gave her to proposal of transferring to the Sixth Division as a fifth seat. She knew that the woman felt it high time that her secret was revealed. Her words of months ago came back to Hisana as she faced the woman, their eyes meeting. She could sense Unohana asking a question, demanding whether she agreed yet that it was the best course of action.
Hisana had looked away. She didn't know what to do. A part of her longed for it. She longed for Byakuya to know that she was there, and know of how grateful she was to him. She longed for him to know how much she still loved him.
And yet she was afraid. She was afraid that he'd be upset by her return, and feel burdened. She had a deep fear within her that he no longer cared for her, that he would push her away, and blame her for all his troubles. The thought haunted her for many nights.
But as each day passed, the desire, and burning need, for him to know increased. It began to take over all her thoughts. She knew that if he knew, it was basically guaranteed that Rukia would find out too, but the thought of being able to be near him, to speak to him as Hisana, not a mere officer of the fourth, took over her being.
She had longed for his nearness, for his voice, for his eyes upon her. It had been so long…She wasn't even aware she had these desires. But Unohana's suggestion had taken hold of her. Try as she may, she couldn't deny that every fiber of her being wanted this.
And so, on this day, just when the first plum blossoms were about to bloom, she made her move. It was time to pick things up from when she last spoke to him as Hisana.
These last five years that I have spent with you…have been like a beautiful dream…
She saw him freeze. Her own breath caught in her throat. This was the first time that she'd called out so clearly, and with the same voice she had used with him when she was last alive. "Byakuya-sama…" she called again, caressing the word. How good it felt upon her tongue. She had wanted to call out for so long.
He seemed to have frozen. His hands clenched at his sides. Hisana frowned for a moment, wondering if it was too much for him, and decided to backtrack a little.
"Please, Byakuya-sama, allow a new officer introduce herself…" her voice was still much too intimate. She needed to drop the old way of address. At least, until after he realizes that she was real.
Slowly, the stoic man before her revolved on the spot. His eyes locked immediately with Hisana's, and Hisana felt a thrill rush through her as the eyes she knew so well looked directly at her for the first time in years. For a moment, she felt lost to their grey depths. She saw his widen in astonishment, and for a moment, his face paled. His usually so well controlled expression displayed only shock and disbelief.
She gathered herself. Now was not the time to be getting lost in her own world. "Forgive me for intruding, Kuchiki-taichou. I am Unohana-taichou's former tenth seat, and was just today transferred to you division to fill the spot of fifth seat," she spoke again, though reverting to a more polite, businesslike manner.
She knew that he was already stunned, but she could not hold back the words that would surely add to his shock. "My name is Kuchiki Hisana."
She was surprised that the name came to her so easily. She hadn't ever uttered that name since being reincarnated. Only in her mind did she do so. It was a relief to finally be able to use it.
Byakuya's face was still a shocked mask. "Hisana…are you really…Hisana?" he asked, his voice strained, and barely audible.
Hisana smiled. She could understand his disbelief. She knew that if she were in his position, she wouldn't be quite as calm. "Yes, it's me, Byakuya-sama. It is Hisana standing in front of you. The same Hisana that you so kindly took in and took as your wife. The same Hisana that burdened you, and was made so happy by you. The same Hisana that died from sickness 50 years ago, before the first plum blossoms bloomed…"
He was clearly still in disbelief. "It can't be…Hisana is dead…Are you…are you really…real?"
Hisana wanted to laugh. Of course she was. Her heart was beating, and she could feel her cheeks flushed with warm life. To prove it, she reached out and caught his hand. A jolt went through her as she felt the familiar large strong fingers, and she brought them to her own face until he could feel her warmth. "Yes, Byakuya-sama. I am real. This is not an illusion."
She watched, smiling broadly as his mouth opened in stunned disbelief. It was almost as if he feared to believe. Finally, he whispered, "Hisana…how…"
Sensing that she should probably relieve him of his confusion. "I owe you an explanation," she began, but stopped. She bowed her head slightly, thinking, hesitating to tell her story, fearing his reaction. But then, he was her captain now. Even if it displeased him, she is obliged to tell him, so that she may clear up his confusion and he will be able to work with her.
"50 years ago, I became sick suddenly and died as your wife," she began. She felt a twinge of sadness tug at her heart, but continued on without hesitation. "I was sent to the human world, living as a simple girl. Yet, it seems as if my sins here were not yet forgiven. I was born sick and weak. When I was only twenty, I became deathly ill, and died once again."
She lifted her head slightly and saw Byakuya narrow his eyes. He looked as if he were upset that she had died again, and felt touched. She gave him a small smile.
"It wasn't that bad, dying again. I felt as if it was an end for my pain. I ended up, strangely enough, back in Inuzuri. This time, though, I was strong. It seemed that fate and deemed me punished enough, and was giving me a chance to start over again. Yet, there was a glitch. Being there, for some reason, I started remembering things…things that I didn't understand. I remembered Byakuya-sama, and Rukia, yet the names were a mystery for me."
And if came back to her, those first months of confusion, wondering again and again what the significance of those names were. As she spoke, she felt as if she were reliving her past again, floating on through all her memories.
"I had been there a few years when one day, I met a couple of shinigami," her browed furrowed slightly. "They told me that I resembled a "Kuchiki Rukia" and that I had reiatsu. Somehow, seeing them, and hearing the name "Kuchiki" triggered me to remember more things. They suggested that I attend the shinigami academy. I accepted.
"My time at the academy was enjoyable, though I still kept getting strange flashes of memory. I didn't know my last name, even though I thought it might be Kuchiki, so they just labeled me by "Inuzuri". It was at the academy that I first laid eyes on Byakuya-sama again."
She looked up, remembering that first time that she had seen him again. Though it was only from a distance, she still felt awed by his presence. Byakuya, however, looked confused. Hisana cocked her head. "Perhaps Byakuya-sama does not remember. You came to visit the academy one day, though it was to see the headmaster. Hisana saw Byakuya-sama…and remembered more things…"
Byakuya nodded, but a troubled look had come over his face. He did not say anything, however, and Hisana continued.
"By the time I graduated, I had a general idea of my past life, and remembered everything that was important, except for the details. I applied to the fourth division, so as to make sure Byakuya-sama wouldn't notice me. However, Unohana-taichou recognized me. She found out that I somehow knew my past, and has been helping me keep my cover. Yamamoto-soutaichou also knew, naturally. I stayed hidden in fourth division for the last twenty years. Just recently, I managed to achieve shikai, and was accepted as tenth seat, because Unohana-taichou had no higher positions to offer."
Byakuya suddenly drew back from her, a look of complete utter horror dawning upon his face. Hisana was confused for a moment, and hurt by his sudden actions. What had she said that offended him so? She thought for a moment, and then realized. Byakuya must have recognized the fact that if she had been around for the last twenty years, she must have also been present for Rukia's execution.
The pain of that time came back to her again, but she fought to control her feelings. Pushing down the bile that seemed to have rose to her throat, she continued, as if unaware of Byakuya's sudden realization.
"I wanted to watch over my sister from afar this time. I was so worried when she disappeared in the human world, and relieved that Byakuya-sama had brought her back. Yet after…she was sentenced to be executed."
She didn't look at him as she spoke. She was afraid that if she looked into his eyes, she'd become overwhelmed, and be unable to finish her story. Her throat felt constricted as she spoke, and her pain all came rushing back at her. She forced herself to continue speaking, however, to keep telling the tale.
"I was so torn. I was only a tenth seat. I could do nothing to stop the execution! My sister, my only sister, whom I abandoned once, was going to be executed right before me, and I wasn't doing anything about it. It felt like abandoning her again. I hoped that Byakuya-sama would say something to stop it…but he didn't. In fact, he was with the law, and would fight anyone who disobeyed it."
Her voice was soft. She couldn't help but let a little of the disappointment and anguish she had felt because of Byakuya's actions color her words. It was simply too much to try and hide it. Fighting to compose her face this time, she assumed an expression not unlike the one Byakuya always wore, completely blank and emotionless. It helped her, and she looked up into his face, unable to stand the feeling of not knowing what his expression was. His face was contorted slightly in pain, and his eyes begging her to stop. But she couldn't stop. If she stopped, he'd never know the truth. If she stopped, she might never have to courage to start again.
"And then the ryoka invasion threw us all into turmoil. All the while Rukia's execution date kept moving up. Not long after, a captain was "killed". "I think I nearly went insane in that time. There was so much confusion, and people were in danger all the time. I feared that the people I loved would get hurt.
"And then, it was the day of the execution. I had not come out of my room the whole day. I couldn't bear to even get out of bed. I was lost, unable to do anything. Yet suddenly, there was a huge explosion of reiatsu, and I learnt from some shinigami that Byakuya-sama was battling the ryoka on Soukyoku hill. The ryoka that was here, it was rumored, to save Rukia. I was afraid as I watched your battle from afar. I began to run toward the Soukyoku, and saw the end of your battle. I knew you were safe, but I still felt a strange fear."
She paused again, collecting her thoughts. She remembered the relief she had felt at seeing Byakuya, alive and whole. But then she thought of what happened next.
"The battle was over before I made it. I felt Byakuya-sama's reiatsu, and knew that he'd survived. Kurosaki Ichigo had survived as well. Yet, there was something strange going on still. I remember seeing Hitsugaya-taichou chasing after Kira-fukutaichou along with his own lieutenant when he suddenly turned and went the other way. Matsumoto-fukutaichou stayed and battled Kira-fukutaichou. She won with her shikai, yet just after, she suddenly looked horrified. Kira-fukutaichou also had the same expression, and Matsumoto-fukutaichou began to shunpo toward the Soukyoku. I decided to follow then, and when I arrived, I found Aizen, Tousen, and Ichimaru, Kurosaki-Ichigo nearly severed in half, Abarai-fukutaichou severely wounded, the rest of the Ryoka, most of the captains, and Rukia, covered in blood, yet it wasn't her own. And she was standing over Byakuya-sama, with a horrified light in her eyes. I was so shocked. Byakuya-sama looked wounded so badly. I'd never seen him so utterly defeated before. I was so shocked that I didn't even register the oddness of Aizen, who should have been dead, being there.
"I learnt from the words said that Aizen was a traitor, and later learnt that it was he who was behind Rukia's execution. Byakuya-sama was wounded trying to save Rukia. And then, as I tended to Byakuya-sama, I heard him tell Rukia the story…our story…"
She felt Byakuya step back even further. Once again, she considered stopping. She couldn't bear the way he was staring at her in horror and treating her with fear. "I…did not see you…" he forced out in a strangled voice.
"I had grown my hair and kept my head lowered. No one recognized me," she explained blandly. Her voice caught in her throat, and she could feel it growing quieter with every word, as if every word was slowly killing it. "It had hurt. Byakuya-sama recounting the tale…the tale I had asked not to be told…I wondered why you would betray me that way. I had thought Byakuya-sama cared for me enough to keep his promise, or at least his honor would hold him to it."
Hisana could barely form the words. Her voice had utterly died by this point, and all she could manage was a whisper. But still, Byakuya heard her. "Hisana…I…"
She couldn't control herself. She couldn't, wouldn't let Byakuya utter the apology she knew was upon his lips. No, she didn't deserve to be apologized to, not after what Byakuya had done for her. She reached out, and placed a finger upon his lips, silencing him. She felt a jolt of electricity at the contact, and her heart started beating extremely fast.
"I realized after…that Byakuya-sama had cared for me." Hisana raised her head, and tears welled up in her big, blue-violet eyes and a smile broke upon her face. "Byakuya-sama took me in and made me his wife. Byakuya-sama was with me to my last moment, and even vowed to fulfill my last request. Byakuya-sama had been in so much pain because of my request, and he's tried to keep it for the last fifty years. Yet he had also made another vow, to his parents. He had been in pain, trying to balance my request with his other vow. And in the end, he had protected my sister with his own body. He only told Rukia the story, to explain himself, and at the same time, to set right the mistake I had made. Byakuya-sama had fixed my sins. He has found Rukia, he has protected her, and he has fixed my grave mistake, and after all these years, still remembers me. I am so sorry for all the burdens I've caused. I am forever indebted to you, Byakuya-sama," the young woman bowed fully to Byakuya, a gesture of eternal gratitude.
Yet Byakuya did not looked appeased. If anything, he looked even more tortured than he'd been seconds ago. "Hisana…no…I'm sorry. I broke my promise. I tried to do everything I could, and yet…I had made many mistakes. I should be the one who is bowing to you, and begging for forgiveness. Even now, the guilt of that incident makes me want to kill myself. I had failed. Hisana, I..." Byakuya dropped to one knee in shame, his head bowed in penitence. "I can never atone for my sins."
Hisana's eyes widened in horror at his actions. Her body screamed in rejection at it. Without hesitation, she dropped down beside the poor man, and tears spilled down her cheeks. Hesitantly, she reached out, and tilted his head to face her. She was surprised at her boldness, but pushed that surprise down. She had more important things to deal with.
"No… no, Byakuya-sama. Never bow to me. Never. I do not blame you one bit. I understand everything. Just the fact that Byakuya-sama feels remorseful is more than enough to make up for everything. All this time…you have been trying to make my dreams come true, and succeeded!"
Byakuya shook his head. "That is not nearly enough. I can never atone for my mistakes…don't humor me, Hisana. Don't pretend you are not angry with me."
Hisana bit her lip. "It's true that I was upset at first. But after hearing your words on the Soukyoku, how can I possibly blame you? You have kept my promise in mind all these years, and had tried to fulfill it to the best of your ability. You had saved Rukia from death, and have protected her ever since. That is more than I can ever ask for. I can never repay your kindness. Every day after that incident, I helped tend Byakuya-sama back to health, and watched from afar to see that he is okay. I have seen you smile again recently, and it has made me so happy to know that you are happy, because it was I who took away your smile. Please do not think it too bold of me, but…all these years…I've never stopped caring. Perhaps that is the reason that I cannot blame you, because I have never stopped loving you."
She blushed as she said that, wondering if she'd said too much. She berated herself for not being able to control her words and let them slip. Byakuya's eyes widened in surprise. "You've never…stopped…?"
Hisana sighed again. She decided that since the damage was already done, she might as well tell him everything. She would deal with the pain later.
"Byakuya-sama's name was he first one that I remembered. I have always cared. I could never hate you, because of all the kindness you have shown me, and all the love you have given me. I have always loved you, Byakuya-sama. I can never repay you for your kindness and love, and could only wish you to be happy. Because I love Byakuya-sama, I hoped that you could find someone to love…even if that someone was not me. I just wanted you to be happy."
Byakuya frowned at her words. "You thought that I might love someone else after you died? You thought I would just take another wife? Did I seem like that kind of a man?"
"If it made Byakuya-sama happy," Hisana replied, not meeting his eyes. The words were sharp in her throat and a thorn in her heart, but she forced herself to say them. "I had everything I asked for of Byakuya-sama. What more dare I ask? I wanted Byakuya-sama to fall in love and marry someone else who can make him happy, but Byakuya-sama had always been a proud and honorable man, and-"
"No. It is not for my pride and honor that I didn't remarry," Byakuya suddenly said. Hisana was confused. Did he just say what she thought he said? Against her will, the smallest bit of hope began to rise within her, especially as Byakuya placed a hand against her cheek. Her heart sped again at the contact. "Did you think that for one moment, even after your death, that I would stop loving you? Hisana, you are my first, and only love, no matter what burdens and pain that you may cause. I will always love you."
Tears gathered again in Hisana's beautiful eyes and flowed down her cheeks, and she placed a hand over his larger ones. She could not believe her ears. She must be dreaming, and yet, she could feel Byakuya's warm hand against her skin, pointing out that this wasn't a dream. "I…I had hoped that Byakuya-sama still cared…but I didn't bring myself to believe it. I wasn't ready to face the pain if he didn't love me anymore…but all this time, I couldn't help wishing, hoping that Byakuya-sama still loved me…"
"You needn't have doubted me," Byakuya said, and reached out and pulled her body closer to him. "I told you once that I will always love only you, and it will never change."
Hisana was sure that her heart was about to break through her chest with the way it was pounding. She felt blood rush to her cheeks and a storm of emotions envelope her being. She felt herself melt in Byakuya's strong, warm embrace right now. It was too good to be real. Happiness was beginning to course through her. And yet, it was his words that brought her the most joy of all.
"Byakuya-sama…I…I can't tell you how much that means to me. The fact that Byakuya-sama still loves me, that by itself makes up for any mistake of the past," she spoke into his shoulder, and wrapped her arms around his neck as he locked her into his firm embrace. She buried her face into his soft scarf, breathing in his scent. "Thank you. You have made me…the happiest person in the world. Thank you…"
Her thanks was cut off as she suddenly found herself silenced by soft lips that pressed against hers. Her heart sped up and pounded, and she felt heat shoot through her veins. She felt light, and almost as if her body had evaporated, and she was only a supernova of intense emotion. It was a feeling that she hadn't felt for over fifty years.
Once again, she did not see the first flowers blooming. She was too lost in the explosion of emotion and colors induced by the kiss. They were much more beautiful than the blossoms could hope to be. Besides, there would be many years after to see them bloom. Many years to watch them bloom, together with her beloved.
It had been fifty years; fifty years of sorrow, pain, and only fleeting glimpses.
It had been fifty years, and finally, two hearts were reunited.
I know I sort of rushed the part where Aizen was leaving, and the war, but I didn't think details on those parts were really vital for this story. I would go way overboard with the word count, as I'm so infamous for doing among my friends. of course, I think that I still went overboard.
I'm terribly sorry for taking so long to update. I was too busy to write anything for the last months. The story is based of Chapter 11 of my other story, "After the End" which focuses on my version of the end of the war, and therefore, some scenes might differ from what happened in the manga. I hope that it's fine.
This story is FINISHED! Thank you for all who revied and supported me through this. I'm so proud to say that I have completed my first ever Byakuhisa story! If you'd be so kind, please leave a kind review to tell me if you liked it.