Hello everyone. So it's been four months since the last update but I am finally bringing the newest Demons chapter here today. :) I thank you all for your patience and interest in the story.
I would like to thank all the users who reviewed the last Chapter 41, thank you very much: Kuchiki Kay, kagxsesshy4life, Guest, jofig525, sleeplygirl, Kuchiki24, trinity456, dRakj-jKarD, LadyKuchiki4709, trngmy, Shihoin-hime, Deliberatee, marii, Guest, Lilian Violet, ReckoningDay, majrob, elfan, crazykenz, Emily, Katerina Ane, Rei Eien, Arpita, .havens, Black Orqid, JoTerry, mengtoreality, Julimouto, Guest, Guest, migleskun, Guest, tokiko76, AnatomyAddicted (previously AnatomyAddict XD), Hakuteiken, Meenathequeen, EmoHeadEshny, Cavisze, Guest, Adalie Delacroix, Tifanny91, Guest, Rabsrabs, Guest, nostalgiahurtdepression, Guest, Lee, Imyourfriend, ICHIKA BLADE, mbravesgirl7, Thestarsinthesky, kiti4life and Please. And also to those who have reviewed the other chapters in between, know that I read them all. All your reviews motivate me greatly.
I have several things to address in an extremely lengthy Author's Note at the end of this update, they primarily concern my feelings regarding a recent plagiarizing incident and the ending of the Bleach manga.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Bleach series, that belongs to Kubo Tite. I own this story and plot.
There will be use of some Japanese terms in this chapter, I hope I did them correctly.
*yuino: A traditional Japanese engagement ceremony usually held some time before the actual wedding, in which families of the bride and groom exchange gifts and symbols for the couple.
*shugi-bukuro: A decorative Japanese gift envelope usually containing money given on special occasions.
I hope you will enjoy the latest chapter.
It was yet another massacre by the Kuchiki clan, under the cover of darkness. The clan targeted this time was the Granz clan, an old clan specializing in poisons and secret research and an enemy of the Kuchiki clan in turf wars. Byakuya had caught wind that the Granz clan would be performing the Kokutai ritual that particular night, supposedly re-enhanced with potions and concoctions for a vast amount of power to channel to their leader. That would mean that the night would be vulnerable for all of the Granz clan members including their current leader, Szayelaporro Granz, a known poison expert and researcher. It was an opportunity too good to pass up for Byakuya.
The Kuchiki clan had attacked once night had fallen, and broke into the mansion. Byakuya had practiced caution beforehand, all of his attacking squad members carried a vial of all-purpose antidote created by Unohana Retsu specially for the attack mission. They had run into the first line of defense and cleared it within minutes, leaving only dead bodies behind. The squad then split into three ranks and Byakuya entered the final rank alongside Abarai, Matsumoto and his other five best fighters. This team targeted the leader's main wing and was met with much resistance by the elite guards. Byakuya confronted Yylfordt Granz, the clan leader's brother and finished him off with a sword blow to the head.
Jabbing the antidote into his body, Byakuya then engaged Szayelaporro, the Granz clan leader. The enemy Incubus was a queer bespectacled figure with pink hair and purple markings over his left eye. The fight had been brief, Byakuya never did believe that a "scientist" could wield a blade properly. However, Szayelaporro had readied a variety of poison traps laid over his room and managed to let off poison smoke screens and multiple booby traps. Byakuya was able to counter them off.
Except for a single small dagger to his left shoulder.
It had split his skin open in a shallow wound before Byakuya had extracted it in anger. He had then dragged Szayelaporro through the poison halls and made the Granz clan leader consume all the poisons there, before finishing him off a with a lethal blade to the heart.
Byakuya's eyes opened slowly, and the Incubus took in the familiar colour of his bedroom wallpaper and the black sheets of his giant king-sized bed.
Of course it wasn't a dream, or a nightmare.
It was reality, and the pain in his left shoulder was a less than comfortable reminder.
He had been injured in the mission last night, though he had been successful in wiping out yet another enemy clan. Needless to say, his clan members had fussed over him when they had regrouped, but the Incubus had waved off their concerns and returned to his apartment suite. He had then fallen asleep with the throbbing pain in his shoulder.
Now the Incubus sat up in bed, and then he started to ponder on how best to break the news to Rukia. He had not called her yesterday after the mission was completed, she surely had been worried sick.
The sharp pain diverted Byakuya's attention back to his left shoulder. It seemed that the pain had only gotten worse throughout the night. Byakuya flexed his left hand slightly and the action immediately sent a large bolt of pain to his shoulder, a pain that would have made any living man cry. But the Incubus only frowned.
It appeared that the injury was more serious that he had first thought.
A sudden beeping in the room turned Byakuya's attention to the silver panel by his bedside. The Incubus reached over with his well-functioning hand and pressed the button on the panel.
"Byakuya, it is me, Unohana."
It was good timing, Byakuya mused as he pressed another button to unlock the gate outside. He would have to ask her to take a look at the wound today. Byakuya moved to get out of bed, but the heavy aches in his body seized him immediately.
The Incubus frowned. Such inconvenience.
A sharp knock sounded on his bedroom door, and Byakuya suppressed a sigh as he settled himself back into bed. "Come in."
The door opened and Unohana walked in, followed by Renji and Matsumoto.
"He can't even walk?" Renji blurted out before he could stop himself. Matsumoto elbowed him in the side, as Byakuya's eyes froze over in coldness.
Unohana, however, walked up to his bedside. "Byakuya, I attempted to research the poison yesterday despite your claims that you were going to be fine. I was afraid that the wound would fester." She eyed Byakuya's left shoulder with much concern. "However, try as I might, I was unable to make much headway on the information… so I had to bring your case to the other doctor in the clan." Unohana nodded, keeping her expression placid.
Renji stiffened, and he shot a worried look at his clan leader. Byakuya, if he felt anything at all, was expressionless.
Approaching footsteps thudded closer to the door, muffled by the rich carpet and then a sharp knock cut through the silence.
"Come in." Byakuya ordered coldly.
The door opened, revealing a queer man dressed in a white robe and a strange headdress. The headrdess was gold and lined the entirety of his facial outline, finally protruding out from his chin like an artificial golden beard. His cheeks were powdered white and the rest of his face painted black, while his blue hair was styled in two waves framing the side of the gold headdress, giving much of a Pharaoh crown effect.
"Kurotsuchi Mayuri." Byakuya's voice was deep.
Kurotsuchi Mayuri was a senior member of the Kuchiki clan, having being inducted into the clan by Ginrei as a physician long before Byakuya's time as the leader. He was infamous, both for his extensive knowledge of poisons and the rumoured unethical experiments that he kept top-secret in the underground labs of Azaris.
"My, oh my. If it is not the great Kuchiki Byakuya, taken down by some poison." The white-faced man smiled widely, displaying a set of strange golden teeth.
Byakuya kept silent, as Kurotsuchi proceeded to check his wound without question.
"You should have brought me along for the attack, Byakuya-san, especially when you knew that the enemy clan specialized in poisons. I could have offered you protection… in exchange for my collecting certain spoils from the war for, ah, experimentation purposes."
Byakuya's grey eyes narrowed, but he chose to say nothing.
The older Incubus scrutinized the wound with his golden eyes for a bit, keeping silent. After five minutes, he straightened up and bared his equally golden teeth in a maniacal smile. "I know just what you need." Kurotsuchi unzipped a black bag he had brought with him and retrieved a single vial filled with greenish liquid from a pouch. He took up a needle-fitted syringe and aspirated the contents into the syringe.
Renji and Matsumoto stepped defensively to Byakuya, as Kurotsuchi turned to him with the syringe.
"Is that really necessary?" Kurotsuchi cocked his eyebrows upward. "Are we not from the same clan?"
"Our apologies, Kurotsuchi-sensei. But your reputation makes it somewhat necessary." Matsumoto spoke up. Renji nodded grimly. "May we humbly request that one of us be injected first with the drug?"
Kurotsuchi scoffed. "And waste my precious medicine?"
"Fall back, both of you." Byakuya's deep voice cut through the room. Renji and Matsumoto turned back to look at their leader and when he did not say anything else, they bowed and took a step backward.
"Well then…" Kurotsuchi bared his teeth and took up the syringe. He approached Byakuya and took a seat at the clan leader's bedside, before steadily jabbing the needle into Byakuya's right arm.
"Well, the good news is you are not going to die." Kurotsuchi's voice was one of glee. "But you might find yourself quite burdened for one or two days."
"How so?" Byakuya's voice was deep.
"Well, I have neutralized the poison with my own antidote but your body will still react to the after-effects for a maximum of forty-eight hours. You will be running a slight fever, and experience quite the ache in your muscles. Just a few issues, you should be able to take it well." The eccentric Incubus waved his hand dismissively. "Oh, and you might experience quite a hike in your, ah, libido as well."
Byakuya's grey eyes narrowed, but he did not say anything.
"That is alright, Byakuya. You get enough rest, and I will take over Azaris for a few days." Unohana nodded with a smile.
A persistent, almost brisk knock suddenly cut through the room. Byakuya's head jerked up in irritation, but then his cold grey eyes widened in surprise as he heard the voice.
"Byakuya? Are you in there?"
The Incubus swiftly looked up at his subordinates, his cold expression mildly accusing. Had someone contacted Rukia somehow?
Renji's shoulders twitched once, and Byakuya's gaze immediately zeroed in on his red-haired assistant.
"Hey…" Renji shrugged helplessly. "Can you blame me? She's bound to find out anyway… and besides, from what Kurotsuchi-sensei said, you are going to need someone to take care of you for one or two days."
"I can take care of myself." Byakuya's voice was cold.
He was unable to resist her voice, and Byakuya spoke up. "Come in."
Renji and Matsumoto exchanged knowing smiles, the tone of their clan leader had softened considerably.
"Byakuya, I-… Oh." Rukia's wide frantic eyes took in the group of demons standing around Byakuya's bed.
"It's alright, Rukia. We were just leaving." Matsumoto smiled as she walked over to the young girl. "We leave Byakuya in your hands." The Succubus winked, and then she exited the room with Renji.
"Ah, the natural cure… they are said to be more potent than any medicine anyway," Kurotsuchi eyed Rukia appraisingly with his scary eyes, then he lifted his suitcase and walked out of the room, followed by a smiling Unohana.
Rukia bowed and then watched the bedroom door close, before hurrying over to Byakuya's bedside. "What happened? Are you alright?" Her beautiful violet eyes were big with concern. "Renji called me, saying that you got injured during the mission yesterday!"
Byakuya could not help but smile. "I am alright, Rukia, do not worry." His hand lifted to gently touch the side of Rukia's face. "I just sustained a minor injury caused by a poisoned dagger, it is not life-threatening."
Rukia's tense expression relaxed slightly, though her eyes still mirrored concern.
Byakuya could not help himself.
His right arm lifted to curl around Rukia, before bringing her close to him in an embrace. He felt her lean her head gently into his chest. Byakuya closed his eyes, savouring the feel of his lover in his arms.
Her close proximity was causing his heartbeat to spike every few seconds and her scent was starting to intoxicate him, Byakuya could already feel his body reacting strongly to Rukia. He did not want her to stay away, but Byakuya was worried that he might hurt Rukia if he lost control.
Curse Kurotsuchi and his strange medicine.
Byakuya pulled back abruptly and released Rukia.
"Byakuya?" Rukia's voice was mildly confused.
Byakuya smiled slightly. "It would be best if you put some distance between the both of us."
Rukia's brows furrowed suddenly. "Why is that?"
The Incubus leaned back against the pillow and sighed quietly. "Kurotsuchi injected me with a cure just now, just before you arrived. The cure will cause me to experience several side-effects, one of which includes a heightened sexual drive for one to two days."
Rukia gasped before she could stop herself.
Byakuya gave her a soft smile. "There is no reason to fear. I would not hurt you. But if you preferred, I could see you again in a few days-
Her curt reply surprised him.
"I am going to stay here and take care of you for a while." Rukia's eyes were resolute. "I am not leaving."
The Incubus's grey eyes softened as he looked upon his beloved.
Rukia went about Byakuya's suite all day, cooking and cleaning up. The Incubus was made to stay in bed, but Rukia brought him his contracts and reports as he requested for them. That evening, she changed his shoulder bandages and cooked him some soup.
"It's chicken and radish soup, with herbal roots. One of Otousan's traditional recipes for healing." Rukia put the bowl down on Byakuya's bedside table and helped him sit up. "I don't know how the physiology of your kind differ from mine, but let's hope it works similar." She smiled.
Rukia picked up the bowl and spoon. "I will feed you. It's difficult to use your left arm, isn't it?"
Byakuya obliged without much protest, keeping his grey eyes intently on Rukia as she fed him the soup.
"How is it?" Rukia queried as he finished the soup easily.
"Delicious," Byakuya replied.
"Liar. I tasted it just now. It was bitter as hell."
"That is strange. It tasted sweet to me."
Feeling a blush coming on, Rukia hurriedly excused herself from Byakuya's bedside on the pretext of cooking dinner. She then spent the next hour cooking in the kitchen and remembered to include many protein dishes, as she knew that Incubi derived much of their energy from meat sources. Rukia served him dinner in bed and at his insistence, ate together with him by his bedside. After dinner, she tucked him easily into bed.
Rukia smiled slightly at her fiance. "It's not often that I get to take care of you. It's always the other way around."
Rukia's eyes widened slightly.
"You have no idea how much I depend on you, in so many ways," Byakuya spoke.
Rukia smiled softly. "Then I guess it is a win-win situation." She pulled the black covers up over Byakuya's chest. "Good night." She started to rise from the bed. Byakuya had insisted that she use the room next door to sleep, in order to keep some distance from him at night.
"I would like a goodnight kiss."
Rukia chuckled. "Okay. Left cheek."
She leaned toward Byakuya, who dutifully turned his head to the right.
At the last second as she leaned in close, the Incubus abruptly turned his head so that their lips met instead. Before Rukia barely had time to react to his cheeky trick, Byakuya reached his right hand up to gently cup the side of her face as he kissed her. He tilted his head upward, his lips dominantly pressing against her own with passion. Rukia kissed him back, a soft moan escaping her when Byakuya's tongue slipped into her mouth to taste her.
She felt her balance shift as Byakuya broke the kiss and suddenly flipped her over, pinning her below him on the bed. Rukia looked up in surprise, her eyes widening as she realized that his grey eyes had melted over into silver. "Bya-"
The words were cut off as he immediately captured her lips in an openmouthed kiss. His mouth moved over hers... dominant, hot and demanding. Rukia moaned again as their tongues twisted together and then Byakuya was quickly moving his lips down her neck, leaving a trail of fire on her skin. His right hand hurriedly pulled the sleeve of her blouse lower, even as he sucked urgently on her neck. As the cloth slid away exposing her shoulder, Byakuya moved his mouth downward to the bare skin there, marking and biting it.
Rukia breathed hard, she could feel her body hum in pleasure to Byakuya's touches and kisses, and the warmth was slowly moving between her thighs. Byakuya was suddenly so passionate, so rushed, so... needy. It was different, but it didn't make the pleasure any lesser for Rukia. She gasped, however, when Byakuya aggressively grinded his hips against hers.
Suddenly, her lover stilled. His breathing was still rushed but then he took a deep breath and slowly lifted his head to look at Rukia.
"Did I frighten you?" Byakuya's voice was gentle, even as his eyes shone silver.
Rukia shook her head, her eyes wide.
"I am sorry." Slowly, Byakuya readjusted her blouse to cover her shoulder.
"No, it's okay-"
"Did Kurotsuchi think I would lose control?" Byakuya's voice was almost quiet. "I would never…" He softly stroked Rukia's left cheek with his right hand. "… never hurt you. Or take you forcefully."
Byakuya smiled and then slowly got up from the bed. He offered his fully-functioning right hand to Rukia and pulled her gently up from the bed. "I will take a shower now." He leaned forward and kissed Rukia on the forehead. "Good night, I will see you tomorrow."
Byakuya leaned against the wall of his shower stall, as the cold water ran down his body. His right hand was fisted against the smooth wall, his left one hanging uselessly by his side.
Byakuya, you idiot.
He had almost lost control in the bedroom just now, and had almost ravished Rukia. The effects of Kurotsuchi's drug had been very strong. All day long, Rukia's scent had hovered over him like an enticing mist and Byakuya had to bully his concentration into work to try and ignore the desire within his body. This desire tripled whenever she came near to feed him or change his bandages, but Byakuya had been able to keep it under control.
But then his mistake had been the request for a goodnight kiss. He had impulsively kissed her on the mouth and when she had moaned in response, his self-control evaporated in a second. He had her under him in the next, desperate to kiss and touch her like a wild animal...
Byakuya sighed and put his head to the wall. He hoped Rukia hadn't been too frightened. It was her gasp that had brought him back to his senses, when he realized that he might have been forcing himself upon her. He was going to have to apologize to her later, no, tomorrow. It would be too dangerous to approach her again tonight, not when the smell and touch of her skin was all too fresh in his mind-
Byakuya stilled as he suddenly felt a gentle hand lay itself upon his back. He had been so preoccupied in his thoughts that he had not realized that Rukia herself had entered the bathroom and was now standing behind him.
"I will be finished in a while." Byakuya kept his voice carefully measured, his heart pounding. He did not turn around, as the shower water pattered down over his body. "You can go to bed first."
"It's alright." Rukia's voice was soft.
And then she embraced him from behind.
Byakuya froze, as his clouded mind immediately processed their proximity, and Rukia's now soaked clothes melding to him like a second skin. The Incubus's right hand fisted again against the wall, as he struggled to maintain self-control.
"Rukia… I…" Byakuya warily turned to look at his lover.
Rukia was smiling at him, her beautiful violet eyes big and luminous and so, so entrancing. Her clothes were drenched from the shower, and he could just make out her black bra and panties through the now semi-transparent shirt and shorts.
"It's okay." She slowly hooked a hand over Byakuya's neck and carefully brought him closer to her. "I know you won't hurt me."
His breathing had already become laboured, and the greys of his irises had turned completely to silver again.
His initial advances in the bedroom had caught her off guard, but Rukia wasn't scared. Byakuya was an Incubus, and this was all instinctual. He had quickly retreated into the bathroom after his gentle words, and she knew that he was only holding himself back so he wouldn't hurt her. Rukia had made up her mind and followed him into the bathroom.
Byakuya was resisting, but she wasn't going to make it difficult for him anymore.
"I know you won't hurt me," she spoke softly.
Byakuya seemed to hesitate as they drew closer to each other, as if he wasn't sure if it was the best thing they should do. Her clothes were already completely soaked from the shower but Rukia firmly pressed herself into her lover's arms and boldly kissed his lips.
The effect was instantaneous.
She felt Byakuya instantly respond, deepening the kiss as his hands reached up to cup her face and pull her against him. The kiss grew heated, and then his hands were urgently moving down and tearing the soaked blouse from her body. His mouth latched onto her neck, as his hands easily freed the lingerie from her body. Rukia sucked in her breath as Byakuya's right hand immediately closed around a single bare breast, and his thumb rubbed small erotic circles over the nipple. Rukia cried out in pleasure as Byakuya's mouth replaced his hand, and he sucked persistently on her breast. Her hands looped around his neck and her head slowly tilted back in abandon as she gave herself over to him.
"Hmmm?" Byakuya's voice was husky as his mouth moved down her body, trailing bites and kisses all over her skin. Byakuya was far gone, he was not going to hold himself back tonight. He was going to make love to his Rukia, over and over again. As many times in this shower, if needed.
Soon she was straddling him, and he had pushed her against the shower wall. Byakuya kept his silver-eyed gaze on Rukia and in a single motion, he buried himself inside of her. Rukia's hands clawed at his back in pleasure as his thrusts intensified, their skins slapping against each other. Byakuya did not know if he was hurting her, if he was holding her too tightly, but her sounds of pleasure egged him on and made him helpless to the passion and desire.
They performed the Sacred Exchange again in the bathroom as they moved urgently against each other, the air thick with loud moans and scents of their skin. They had climaxed together then but it wasn't enough. They had dried and dressed themselves in the bathroom, and Byakuya easily carried Rukia back to bed, using his uninjured arm. Her luminous seductive eyes had pulled him right in, and he had made love to her again and then a few times in between the sheets. But Byakuya was still a much more powerful demon than Rukia was, and she had slowly fell off to sleep in Byakuya's arms, her hands around his neck.
Was this what Kurotsuchi had planned from the beginning?
Byakuya watched Rukia carefully as she slept next to him, occasionally playing with her hair. He had checked her body for telltale bruises, as he had been worried that he had hurt her in the midst of heightened passion. She did not seem physically hurt and was sleeping soundly and Byakuya finally allowed himself to drift off in peace with her in his arms.
The next morning found Byakuya and Rukia sleeping soundly in each other's arms. Byakuya was the first to awake, but he made no move to disentangle himself from the embrace, instead preferring to watch Rukia sleeping in his arms. Half an hour later, she began to stir.
"Good morning." Byakuya greeted her with a gentle kiss on the forehead.
"Oh... good morning." Rukia got up in bed. As she shook the sleep from her eyes, she immediately focused on his left shoulder. "How is your shoulder?" Rukia was worried, Byakuya had been very physical last night.
Byakuya flexed his left arm and then smiled. "It is good." The pain in his left shoulder had markedly diminished.
"Did I hurt you last night?"
Rukia shook her head, smiling.
"Good." Byakuya smiled, and then his hands reached out and snatched her back into his arms. He pulled her back into bed, and easily threw the covers around both of them.
"Byakuya…" Rukia protested. "I have to go cook your breakfast."
The Incubus's arms only tightened around his beloved. "This is much better for my health. Breakfast can wait." Byakuya hooked his chin over the top of Rukia's head, inhaling the shampoo scent from her hair. "I feel much better already."
"I am glad." Rukia smiled as she nuzzled her face into his chest.
"Of course I have to be better," Byakuya spoke thoughtfully. "Our engagement dinner at Azaris is due in three days."
The silver Porsche zoomed neatly into the single parking spot near the elevator. The driver door slid open and Byakuya stepped out, straightening his formal suit. He immediately moved over to the passenger side and opened the door, extending his hand to a surprised Rukia.
"You didn't have to do that." Rukia took his hand regardless, smiling at him in amusement. Hand-in-hand, the couple slowly walked toward the basement elevator. Rukia tried not to show it but her heartbeat was starting to climb steadily, and her palms were most than a little sweaty. Self-consciously, she smoothed out the skirt of her dark red dress.
"Are you nervous?" Byakuya's deep voice cut through her anxiety.
She could never fool him.
"A little." Rukia admitted, trying to smile at her fiance even as her heart beat started to mimic a galloping horse in open fields. The elevators door slid open and they got in. Byakuya pressed his thumb to the scanning panel, before he pressed the button for the thirty-ninth floor.
"Welcome, Mister Kuchiki. Have a nice day." The professional female voice greeted them.
Byakuya turned to Rukia, as the elevator started to ascend. "With me by your side, no harm will come to you." Byakuya brushed the stubborn bang gently from Rukia's forehead. "Even though you apparently are very capable of taking care of yourself... judging by the development of your ice shields."
Rukia's eyes widened as her head shot up in surprise. Byakuya's eyes held a knowing look as he looked at her.
"I… How do you… know?" Rukia was unable to keep the expression of guilt from her face.
"I stalk you," Byakuya simply replied, reaching out and catching a strand of Rukia's hair between his fingers.
Rukia frowned. "Have you been sending Rangiku or Renji to spy on me during my training?"
Byakuya cocked his head to one side, his expression carefully devoid of emotion. "If it involves you, Rukia, I personally come to do the spying."
Rukia chuckled. "There's too much of suspicion in our relationship."
"There's too much of everything in our relationship," Byakuya murmured as he started to pull his lover close.
The soft bell of the elevator announced their arrival on the intended floor, and Byakuya took a step back from Rukia. The young woman took a deep breath, trying to calm herself for what was to come.
Byakuya said nothing, but stepped forward and took her hand into his reassuringly. His fingers laced themselves around hers and he gave her hand an affectionate squeeze.
The couple then walked out into the foyer of the grand ballroom of Azaris.
Tonight was Byakuya and Rukia's engagement dinner over on the Kuchiki clan's side, and the formal announcement of Byakuya's upcoming marriage. Huge golden lanterns glowed around the entrance and along the walls of the ballroom, and a giant chandelier in the center hung from the wide ceiling. Elegant tall white pillars lined each intricate wall, and a polished dance floor stood in the middle of the ballroom. Rukia had been here before during the Azaris celebratory dinner, but she found herself swept away again by the beauty of the place.
Rukia's face immediately relaxed into a happy smile as she heard the familiar voice. "Rangiku! Renji!"
The Succubus threw her arms around Rukia in a hug. "Welcome to our family!" She stood back and put her hands on her hips. "So what do you think? I got all dressed up for your engagement dinner." Not one to dress by the norm, the Succubus was wearing a form-fitting one-shoulder metallic silver dress.
"You look like you are going to a freakin' club, not a formal dinner." Renji rolled his eyes as he stepped up beside his colleague.
As both of them started bickering, Rukia had to laugh. "I think you look gorgeous, Rangiku! Don't listen to Renji."
"And you look absolutely beautiful." Matsumoto gestured to Rukia's dark red strapped dress. The full skirt fell to just above Rukia's knees. Byakuya had worn a dark formal suit, pairing his dark red tie to Rukia's outfit.
"Arigato." Rukia smiled.
"Unohana-sensei." Byakuya greeted and Rukia turned around to see Unohana walking toward them, dressed in a light blue knee-length ribbed dress.
"Unohana-sensei." Rukia smiled and the Succubus returned the gesture.
"You look beautiful, Rukia." Unohana spoke. "Finally, you both are at your engagement dinner." Unohana smiled fondly at both Byakuya and Rukia. "You have no idea how happy this makes me."
"Arigato, Sensei," Byakuya replied.
"Your father would have loved to attend this dinner, Rukia." Unohana turned to Rukia. "But I will be taking a video to show him, so he won't feel left out," she whispered softly and Rukia chuckled. "You will be great, Rukia." In a surprising gesture, Unohana gently smoothed Rukia's hair from her cheek.
"It is time." A clan member approached and bowed to Byakuya, gesturing to the front of the ballroom.
Rukia took a deep breath. Suddenly, she was aware that every single person in the ballroom was now staring at her and the noise had deadened down to nothingness. Rukia heard the enormous doors slide close behind them, sealing the ballroom shut. As was customary with the clan dinners and functions, there would be no human waiters inside allowed until dinnertime.
The gnawing feeling immediately returned to Rukia's stomach.
"It's alright, Rukia." Matsumoto smiled and winked. Rukia tried to smile back, but she wasn't sure if it was convincing enough.
"Go show them, girl." Renji nodded and he grinned.
"Come." Rukia heard Byakuya speak, and he led her toward the front of the ballroom. The cold mask was back on his face but as they slowly walked forward, she felt him squeeze her hand reassuringly.
The walk felt like the longest Rukia had ever walked in her entire life. She tried to focus on the front of the ballroom, at some interesting item such as the carving on the wall or the glowing lanterns but she was unable to. More than once, she caught the eyes of those standing on the side... and their expressions were nothing like Rangiku's or Renji's. Mostly, she saw confused expressions and frowning brows. Rukia had to look away and concentrate on not stumbling over the carpet.
When they finally reached the front stage, Byakuya turned and took a step forward to address his clan members.
"Good evening, treasured clan members. I thank you for finding it in your time to come here today to the dinner. It is held in celebration to my engagement to Ukitake Rukia, who will soon become the Lady of the Kuchiki clan."
Rukia felt her heart start to seize. Lady?
"I am sure you all have heard of her. Many months ago, I spoke of her when i mobilized our fighter squad to wipe out Aizen and his men and to take her back."
Rukia's eyes widened. Byakuya had told his entire clan about her... before he came to rescue her from Aizen?
"I told all of you back then that I intended to make her my lifetime partner. And as my good fortune would have it, I am one step closer to finally having her now."
The crowd was silent.
"I am sure many of you are bothered by how similar she looks to Kiyowara Hisana. Rukia is... half-Succubus, half-human and has background in the Kiyowara clan."
A roar immediately filled the hall as the guests processed this revelation and started to whisper amongst themselves. Rukia felt her heart race in her throat.
"I had initially intended to let Rukia go, believing that our difference was too great. I almost married another as a diversion, you all were there. You all know the story. You know that Rukia truly is the one I want by my side." Byakuya's voice hardened. "I love her, and I desire her as my lifetime mate. And if we cannot reach forever, then this right here is more than I ever could have wanted."
Byakuya spoke the last words with his gaze on Rukia, and she felt her breath leave her as she met his eyes.
And... when there is no more me to love?
Would it not be better if you were to leave me now, at least it will not hurt as much in the long run? It would not be better.
The moment I laid eyes on you as you sat in that room in Aiko's, there was no turning back for me.
We can be so happy.
And if we cannot reach forever, then this right here is more than I ever could have wanted.
Byakuya broke their gaze and turned back to the crowd. "Most of you do not know her personally as of yet, but I believe all of you will get to know her soon. Ritsu, you requested to me that you hope to get to know Rukia when you agreed to join the rescue squad to fight Aizen. I have brought her here with me today."
A smiling young man nodded in the crowd and bowed to a surprised Rukia, who bowed back immediately.
Byakuya's grey eyes hardened slightly, even though his expression remained stoic. "I know some of you do not appreciate this union. So if you find that you cannot and will not accept her into our clan, even in the slightest… then do walk away from my clan now of your own free will, without any hard feelings. I have no intention to personally throw you out... yet."
Rukia's eyes widened in shock as murmurs rippled through the crowd. What was Byakuya saying? Was he asking his clan members to leave the clan now? Today, on his engagement dinner?
There was some movement on the right of the hall and a middle-aged looking woman stepped out. "I do not understand you, my Lord. With all due respect, I do not believe that your decision to marry the girl is right. She may have demon blood within her, but she is not part of us. Is she used to the clan wars, does she have knowledge of the inner workings of a Succubus? She is not even as old as a newborn Succubus!"
A slow murmur of assent rose through the crowd.
An Incubus slowly stepped out on the left. "My Lord Byakuya, I have to say I agree with her. We are not even sure if she will be able to live beyond a normal human lifespan! Is she going to take the Lady title, hold it for a meager number of years and then leave it forever empty?"
Another rumble of noise went through the guests.
"Those fucking demons are planted here by Ginrei-sama!" Renji gritted out to Matsumoto as he stood next to his female colleague. "Aren't they? I have never seen that Succubus at the office, I bet she works at Ginrei-sama's mansion!"
Matsumoto nodded warily, as she looked at the front of the ballroom where Byakuya and Rukia was standing. "This is no good." The Succubus frowned. "It only takes one bad egg to drive the negativity into everyone else. Ginrei-sama can be so cunning, and he isn't even here."
"Let's do it." Renji flexed his right fist.
"Do what?" Matsumoto grabbed his arm.
"Punch them out. You take that bitch down there, and I will handle the bastard on the left."
"And cause a ruckus at Byakuya and Rukia's dinner? You are out of your mind!"
"Just wait." Matsumoto did not release her hold on Renji's arm. "Byakuya knows that Ginrei-sama has planted some of his own men here, and that is why he has decided to confront them all out right now so they won't be able to influence others during the dinner. He intends to throw them all out now, and then they won't be able to return to Ginrei as part of the clan anymore anyway. It is a battle of wits and loyalty."
"But look at those around us!" Renji jerked his head around the noisy murmuring crowd. "They are already starting to question Rukia's worth!"
Matsumoto bit her lip, unsure of what to say for the first time.
Byakuya's eyes narrowed at the pair of demons before him. "Then you will find that it is well within your rights to leave now... and never return. But know that when you walk beyond these doors now, you will never be acknowledged as part of the clan... at any Kuchiki headquarters."
That includes Grandfather's estate.
Byakuya had been observing the hall as Rukia had chattered along with Matsumoto and Abarai and he had noticed a fair few of faces that had always been absent from the clan functions. Yet they were Kuchiki clan members and he was quick to realize that they belonged to Grandfather's wing mansion. The young Incubus knew then why they were there, and their subsequent target.
He was going to force them into a corner, and see if they went through with the orders.
But as Byakuya looked at the rest of the guests, he knew the damage was already done. Some of his office subordinates were already displaying confusion and uncertainty on their facial expressions. As the Incubus watched, the Succubus started to walk toward the door, slowly and deliberately.
"Please rethink your decision, my Lord!" She spoke as she took a few steps across the ballroom.
The Incubus who had followed her echoed her sentiment. "Please rethink your decision, my Lord!"
More demons inched toward the traitorous pair uncertainly, and Byakuya felt the anger fill his veins.
The slow murmur began to grow amongst the guests as they moved around uneasily, as if restless in reaching a decision.
Suddenly an honest voice cut through Byakuya's thoughts... and the commotion.
The words left Rukia's lips as she stepped forward at Byakuya's side. The guests immediately fell silent and all the eyes once again shifted toward her. But there was no time for Rukia to feel self-conscious or uncertain, she had heard the words thrown at Byakuya and herself. Rukia had seen Byakuya's hands fisted at his side until they turned white. He was all but controlling his anger and Rukia did not wish for him to take it out on his clan members any longer.
"I do not understand." Rukia spoke. "Is it worth leaving the clan you had lived with for decades or centuries... for something, or rather someone who you only know at face value? Yes, I am not used to clan wars, I never grew up in one. I grew up in an orphanage. I do not fight unless I need to." Rukia smiled. "And I do not know for how long I will hold the Lady title and frankly I think that title is too high-sounding, just Rukia will do."
Rukia took a deep breath. She did not look at Byakuya, she did not know how he was taking all of this.
"If you are looking for a normal person,... I am not one." Rukia slowly bent down so both her knees touched the carpeted floor. She touched the fingertips of both her hands to the carpet. There was a cracking sound and then huge jagged ice shards exploded out of the ground, trailing from Rukia's hands down the stage through the dance floor and stopped right before the ballroom doors. The initial Succubus who was going to walk toward the door yelped and jumped out of the way.
There were gasps of shock and surprise from the crowd of demons.
"But if you are looking for a noble demon by blood... then I am not one as well." Rukia smiled as she stood up again.
She kept her gaze on the guests. "I am not asking for acceptance yet… I only merely wish for your blessings for this marriage. It would be strange for me to walk down the aisle knowing that for me to do so, many walked down this hall and out the door. I honestly do not wish for that."
A hushed silence fell upon the crowd of demons.
There was a sudden eruption of hearty laughter at the front of the crowd. It was Kyoraku Shunsui, and Rukia recognized him as the pink-robed senior Incubus she had met at the Azaris dinner before. He was laughing and then he started to clap. "Wonderfully said, Rukia-chan! Wonderful!"
Rukia's eyes widened in surprise. Before she could react, she heard Renji laugh and then he too joined Kyoraku in clapping. Rangiku was already beaming and clapping her hands together excitedly. Byakuya's secretary, Hisagi Shuhei clapped and whistled; and Ritsu was already jumping up and down with excitement. At the far back, the scary Kurotsuchi Mayuri put his hands together in a curious clap, an action mimicked by a beautiful Succubus with green eyes and long hair tied into a braid, standing next to him . A few rows down, a handsome Incubus with spiky white hair and turquoise eyes started to clap as well.
Rukia stepped back in surprise as the entire hall slowly exploded in thunderous applause for her.
Rukia paled as she stared at the expensive polished wood in the middle of the ballroom, now smashed into half by the jagged piece of ice. Could it get it any worse? She obviously still had to learn how to control her powers, she had only wanted to create a thin trail of ice just now. But somehow the ice had exploded forcefully up from the ground, destroying everything in its path.
She was still in shock as she followed Byakuya down from the stage and to the balcony in the back. She had glanced once at Byakuya's face but his expression remained devoid of emotion and his back posture straight. Was he angry? Shocked? Offended by her spontaneous address to his clan? Rukia did not speak until it was just both of them alone on the balcony.
"I am sorry I broke the dance floor." Rukia's voice was miserable when she finally spoke.
For a moment, she thought she heard a soft snort in response. Before she could comprehend properly what it was she had heard, a deep chuckle escaped from Byakuya's lips.
Rukia's eyes widened. Byakuya was laughing at her!
"Are you laughing at me?" Rukia's voice was incredulous.
Byakuya stopped but then the mischievous twinkle still lit his grey eyes, and Rukia found them more alluring than ever. "I believe it was the best speech that had ever been given in my clan. The damage to the ballroom was worth it."
Rukia cringed in response.
Byakuya reached out and pulled her to him, again chuckling softly. He rested his chin on the top of her head. "What do I do without you, Rukia?"
Matsumoto's voice cut the comfortable silence. "Hey, stop with the lovey-dovey stuff, you two. There are many people demanding to meet Rukia out here!" The Succubus's voice shone with happiness. "And that was so awesome, Rukia! Oh, here comes Renji!"
"HAHAHAHAHA!" Renji's loud laughter was enough to make Rukia blush in embarrassment. "You are the bomb, Rukia! Like, literally you went out with a bang, right?" Renji dropped his voice in a conspirational whisper. "Actually, you should have made the ice strike that bitch in the butt, that would totally serve her right..."
Rukia thought she would die out of shame right there and then.
She stood to the side of the banquet table, feeling slightly self-conscious. Rukia smoothed her dress slightly, but her eyes followed the movement of the immortal beings around her. They were all beautiful, whether Incubus or Succubus, and they moved with such an air of elegance. Some of them caught her eye and most either smiled or nodded politely or otherwise turned their head and moved away. Rukia smiled sincerely regardless of the response she received.
The banquet table was lined with a grand selection of food; from traditional Japanese food to expensive Western cuisines. Rukia had had a bite to eat just now, Byakuya had left her side to engage in a serious conversation with a group of clan members. He had been reluctant when his subordinate came up to request a word, and Rukia knew that he secretly feared that the same thing would happen again - that it was merely a fake diversion so that his clan members could descend upon Rukia and drive her away from him.
But she placed a reassuring hand onto his arm and smiled. It is alright. I am not that weak as previously.
So Byakuya had then left, and Rukia was left to entertain herself in the midst of the demons. She had been introduced to many of Byakuya's clan members (including an excited Ritsu), it was getting difficult to recall their names and faces. Most of them had been very friendly or enthusiastic, and Rukia was more than happy to mingle with them. It was quite interesting the way these beings carried themselves, and Rukia could hardly believe that a young beautiful woman standing nearby sipping her drink was probably over a hundred years old.
"Good evening, Miss Rukia."
Rukia jumped slightly, and looked up. An old man with a bald head and a long beard stood in front of her and bowed slightly. A large cross-shaped scar ran down his right forehead. Rukia gaped but then she remembered her manners and quickly returned the bow.
"I am Lord Ginrei's right hand man, Yamamoto Genryūsai." The elder Incubus introduced himself. Rukia immediately froze, but then the old man smiled and his strict expression relaxed. "This is the very first time we have come face-to-face... but I have met you before when you were a little girl."
Rukia's eyes widened.
"I carried you with my very own hands to the orphanage that became your home for some years." Yamamoto smiled. "It has been a difficult road for you, and no less remarkable."
Yamamoto moved a bit closer in front of Rukia, and she was unable to stop herself from stiffening slightly. This unconscious reaction did not unnoticed. "Have no fear, I am not here to antagonize you on behalf of Lord Ginrei. I am merely here to talk to you."
"I apologize," Rukia spoke.
"That is alright. I understand how frightening our lot can be most of the time, and hostility from a clan that perceives you as foreign is not something one would want to go through." Yamamoto picked up a glass of wine on the side of the table. "That was a wonderful speech you gave back then, and a very very clever display of your power. You cleared the negativity from everyone's mind in an instant."
Rukia shook her head. "I just... I don't know, I just acted on instinct."
"The instinct of a Succubus." Yamamoto smiled. "Times are changing now… Miss Rukia. The old ways of the Incubi are slowly being pushed over for more novel, less stringent ways of living. I have lived through the rule of Lord Ginrei, Lord Sojun and now Byakuya... and the evolving difference is very much significant. And I have to say, not only is Byakuya the most powerful head the Kuchiki clan ever had... he may actually turn out to be the best head."
Rukia felt her heart swell slightly with pride.
"I believe you will survive in our world, Miss Rukia. Especially given that you possess bloodline powers of the clan you were descended from, which is very rare even in pure-blooded demons. That makes you a valuable commodity… even in the reluctant eyes of one Kuchiki Ginrei." Yamamoto took a sip of wine, almost thoughtfully. "Pardon the manipulative way I had phrased my statement, but you will find that it holds true. The stronger the demon is, the more precious he or she will be to the clan." The old Incubus turned to Rukia. "Though we already know Lord Byakuya loves you not for that."
The old Incubus walked forward, further away from the chattering crowd and the banquet table. Rukia easily followed by his side.
"Your love story with Lord Byakuya is remarkable, Miss Rukia… it can even count so much as a legend in times to come…" Yamamoto allowed a thin smile to grace his lips. "Just like your parents. They did not have a very good ending… and we don't know what yours will finally be. But even on its own, your tale is certainly one to be told." Yamamoto lowered his glass of wine as if to toast Rukia, and then took another drink from it.
Rukia took a deep breath. She did not know this Incubus well at all, but she took the plunge nevertheless. "What…" Rukia deliberated. "What will happen to the clan should I… fail to produce an heir?" She had never spoken of these worries out loud, and especially not to Byakuya. But here with this wise Incubus who did not seem harsh with his words and almost kind, she could not help the question.
"What will happen?" Yamamoto echoed her question. "The Kuchiki clan is extensive, Miss Rukia. Lord Byakuya is not the only Incubus belonging to this clan, though he certainly is the leader and belongs to the head family. This head family can change… depending on circumstances. Who is the most powerful, who has the most influence… and who is able to continue the line."
Rukia's eyes widened.
"You need not worry, Miss Rukia. The Kuchiki clan will not end even if Lord Byakuya has no heirs… but only that the future leader will not be descended directly from himself. I believe that is what Lord Ginrei is trying to prevent, and the main reason why you may be feeling much animosity from him. The clan is a whole on its own, but there are politics within each family… and rivalries exist between members to attain the most resources, luxuries and pride even if they be blood brothers."
Rukia nodded, her eyes wide.
"But do not stress yourself, Miss Rukia. What will happen… will happen." Yamamoto nodded. "Or shall we say, in terms of a layperson, as God wills it to be?"
Yamamoto approached the balcony with Rukia, where the vast expanse of the city lights blinked in the night. "We both know Lord Byakuya will never lay with another woman, and it is pointless to ask him to even if it be for the good of the clan." The Incubus turned to Rukia. "So cherish your time together, be happy and all will come as it will. After all, a love like this comes only once in a lifetime."
Rukia slowly smiled, as the ease of Yamamoto's words warmed her heart like glowing fire embers. "Arigato… Yamamoto-sama."
Sudden footsteps announced the arrival of Byakuya. A cold mask was upon his face as he approached them, and Rukia once again wondered with amusement how different he was when he was with her.
"Yamamoto-sensei." Byakuya bowed slightly.
"Byakuya." Yamamoto smiled. "I shall return Rukia to you."
Rukia smiled. "Arigato, Yamamoto-sensei."
Yamamoto nodded once and he walked off into the hall.
Byakuya took Rukia's arm and hooked it around his own. "What wonderful tales was Yamamoto-sensei telling you?"
Rukia chuckled. "I thought you were going to think that he was threatening me."
"Of course he was not. You were smiling so happily in his company."
Rukia quirked her eyebrow upward. "Is that a bad thing?" When Byakuya did not answer, the realization hit Rukia. "Are you jealous?"
The honesty in Byakuya's curt answer was too much for Rukia. The laughter spilled from her lips before she could stop herself, and it rang clear and loud in the balcony. Several of the guests nearby looked up and Rukia clapped a hand to her mouth in embarrassment.
"Do not... stop." Byakuya stepped closer and took her hand from her mouth. "Your laugh is something I desire to hear for always." He tugged on that hand, pulling Rukia closer to him.
She smiled and tenderly brushed the hair from his left eye."I love you... Byakuya," Rukia whispered softly.
Byakuya's eyes widened, and then his hands started to wrap around Rukia tightly.
"B-Byakuya?" When he pulled her against him close, Rukia started to worry. "Byakuya... people are looking!"
"There is no way I will not kiss you after what you just told me." Byakuya spoke in his deep voice, his grey eyes piercing and intense.
The gentle kiss cut Rukia's words off effectively and as Byakuya's arms tightened around her, Rukia forgot why she was struggling in the first place.
"Good night." Rukia waved behind the locked glass door of her flower shop.
Byakuya had driven her home after the dinner at Azaris and despite his insistence to accompany her in her bedroom, Rukia had persuaded him to go back to his apartment suite to get some rest.
She watched his Porsche drive off before turning back and walking down the hallway to unlock the inner door to the house. No sooner had she reached the hallway, she heard a sharp rap on the glass door outside. Frowning, Rukia headed out front once more. Had Byakuya forgotten something?
Her violet eyes widened.
There was a luxury car parked right outside the entrance of her flower shop, but it was not Byakuya's usual silver one. This one was all sleek black, matching the suit of the man standing outside the glass door.
Rukia felt her heart thud in her rib cage. She considered running back into the house, and she briefly wondered if he would break the glass door to get to her. But as soon as the thought appeared, it vanished in the next second. Why was she planning to run away? Certainly there was no need to, they had already talked it over, even if they could never agree.
This man was dangerous, Rukia knew. He could kill her, he could do anything, he was powerful. But her hand that reached out was steady as it unlocked the glass door and pulled it open.
"Good evening. If I may?" Kuchiki Ginrei nodded as he stepped into Amor Florals for the very first time.
Kuchiki Ginrei strode into the dimly lit flower shop as the glass door closed behind him. His three bodyguards stood outside, facing the shop. Rukia recognized one of them as Aido, the personal guard who was present on the day of the attack on the Kuchiki mansion. Ginrei had apparently employed two additional personal guards in place of the dead spy Jiro.
"I apologize for not attending the engagement dinner. I found it not quite to my taste... especially to see my grandson devote himself to a fleeting, temporary love."
Rukia clasped her hands together as Ginrei looked about the small flower shop, almost with an air of curiosity.
"What brings you here at such a late hour, Gramps?"
"I had one of the guards tail you and Byakuya home. Of course we did it as discreetly as we could, there is no need for Byakuya to be involved in this. I merely wanted to have a word with you again. Did you have fun at the dinner?"
Rukia's eyes widened.
Ginrei inspected a single chrysanthemum in a holding vase. "I expected my clan members to have been more resistant toward the idea of having a half-human Lady of the clan. But it seems many of the members have softened over the years under the lenient rule of my grandson. My spies tell me that you had the majority of support from the clan, wiping out their doubts with a spontaneous magic ice show. I must say, your trump cards are better than mine."
"Allow me to ask you a few questions, child." Ginrei turned to face Rukia. "Can you live with Byakuya till the end of his life?"
Rukia hesitated, and then she looked up. "No."
"Can you bear him children?"
Rukia took a deep breath. "I do not know."
"I must admit that I saw some potential use in your powers that day during the attack on the mansion. I thought to myself that they might serve a good tool in defense for my grandson. Though, it seems that my expectations may have been misplaced. Your powers, even if they hold promise, have clearly weakened your physical state. You might not even survive before reaching full capacity as a Succubus."
Ginrei walked forward a step. "I will not accept you into the family, let us be clear for now. I will not accept you as a worthy mate for Byakuya, someone who cannot live to his lifetime nor bear him children, and may well be the downfall of the clan. As determined as you and Byakuya are about this marriage, do know that I am equally against it." Ginrei started to turn away. "There is nothing I can say to deter my hardheaded grandson. I cannot kill you for now, as Byakuya certainly has anticipated that and doing so would only turn him against me."
Ginrei turned and walked toward the entrance of the flower shop. His personal guards moved to the car immediately.
"One day, I am going to win you over."
The quiet words halted the old Incubus as he was at the doorway.
Ginrei turned slightly to see Rukia standing in the middle of her flower shop. But her facial expression was anything but hostile, her eyes bright and a hopeful smile now playing upon the lips of the young woman.
"One day, you are going to accept me for who I am!"
Rukia did not know if she had shocked or angered the old Incubus with her words. Ginrei stood in the shadow of the doorway for a long time, but did not say anything. Without another word or even a glance back, he pulled open the door and walked to his car.
Rukia watched him, still breathing a little hard.
The Incubus abruptly stopped as his bodyguard opened the car door for him. "There is no need for concern. I promised that I would not lay a finger on her, did I not... Byakuya?"
Rukia's eyes widened in shock, and then she gasped as a dark figure moved out from the corner of her flower shop. Byakuya walked forward into the light of Amor Florals, in front of Rukia. Before she could even comprehend that he had secretly been in her shop all along, Byakuya spoke.
"Grandfather, was this necessary?"
"It is. You heard what I had to say, it applies to the both of you. I do not accept this union." Ginrei did not even turn around. "Though I have to commend you on your tracking skills, Byakuya... I see that many of your abilities now far outstrip my own. But with age... comes better judgement. Know that, Byakuya."
Byakuya did not say a word as Ginrei's car roared away from the curb.
He slowly turned to look at a wide-eyed Rukia.
"You were here all along?"
Byakuya nodded, a faint smile now curling his lips. "I noticed that Grandfather was tailing us the moment we left Azaris."
"And you didn't tell me." Rukia frowned slightly.
"There was no need to. He was going to make his presence known to you either way."
"At least I could have prepared what to say to him." Rukia fretted. "I think I sounded somewhat rude just now."
"And I think you sounded magnificent just now. Just like you did at dinner."
Rukia's eyes widened and she looked up at her fiance. Byakuya was gazing at her, and the intensity in his grey eyes was enough to cause a blush to colour her cheeks. "W-What?"
"Arigato." Byakuya's deep voice was uncharacteristically soft as he reached out and gently embraced Rukia in the flower shop. Rukia closed her eyes, a small happy smile curling her lips.
"Now... may I stay over?" Byakuya's voice was husky in her ear.
The two weeks passed quickly, almost as if the clocks were working twice their speed. One week before the wedding date, a small yuino was held at the Ukitake residence. Byakuya had insisted for the traditional betrothal ceremony, despite Ukitake waving it off. As Ginrei was not likely to present, Byakuya arrived with clan members closest as family - Unohana, Renji and Matsumoto. Rukia had worn a traditional kimono that day, a dark blue colour lined with pale pink motifs of sakura. The kimono was hers and wasn't expensive but as she sat with her hands folded over her lap and a smile upon her lips, Byakuya thought her the most beautiful he had ever seen her.
The Incubus had brought many fine gifts with him, even if Ukitake had protested against it. He had brought along expensive lacquered glasses of sake, and many boxes of expensive fruit and textile. Byakuya had also brought along a shugi-bukuro tied with gold and silver thread. Unbeknownst to all of them, the seemingly flat envelope contained a check and a single title deed to a new house.
Ukitake had prepared assorted gift boxes of expensive dried clams, squid, fish, seaweed and also a single box of double white fans for prosperity. He had also prepared the Tomoshiraga, a traditional white thread symbolizing old age in marriage.
The exchange of gifts was done as Byakuya and Ukitake faced each other, with their respective family members sitting behind them. And then there was-
"Ginpaku Kazahana no Uzuginu. The heirloom scarf of my forefathers, made from wind silk. There is not one maestro alive who can weave this material anymore." Byakuya had brought forward a breathtaking pale silver scarf before presenting it to Ukitake.
"And the symbol of our clan." Renji nodded proudly as he sat behind Byakuya. "It flows through one's touch as a wind's breath. We are... well, quite good with wind, you know? I mean-"
Matsumoto sucked in her breath and jabbed Renji painfully in his side to stop his rambling. Rukia smothered her soft chuckle behind the sleeves of her kimono, as she sat behind Ukitake. The cold side glance from Byakuya was enough to silence the redhaired Incubus immediately.
Ukitake had smiled. "I will receive everything, on condition that I return the scarf to you this very day. There is no need for an old man such as myself to hold such a precious artifact."
"Otousan, you are giving me the most valuable possession. What I am giving you in return does not even come close."
Ukitake had shook his head slightly, but the smile stayed. "Byakuya, I will receive the good will behind the heirloom. But I have to insist that I return it to you, and will accept everything else."
"Rukia is my beloved daughter, and I hope you will make her happy and take care of her in my place from now on. That is a father's best wish come true."
Rukia bowed her head slightly behind her father. "Otousan, you are talking as if you are never going to see me again." Rukia's voice, though soft, was thick and everyone in the room knew she was holding back the tickle of tears in her throat.
Ukitake smiled at Byakuya. "You see, always my little girl. Hai hai, I was just making some formal betrothal speech." He chuckled at his young daughter.
"Arigato, Otousan." Byakuya bowed. "I will take care of Rukia to the best of my abilities."
The last week flew by again, and then it was finally the eve of the wedding. There were many preparations to be done throughout the last month, Byakuya had left the technicalities of the wedding planning to Renji and Matsumoto but he had chosen the venue, the food catering and the guest list. Of course, the Incubus was more interested in the post-wedding events and he had been planning it meticulously by himself. Rukia, on the other hand, had been caught up with the preparations herself, preferring to personally prepare the door gifts alongside the staff and make the invitation cards as well.
Now Byakuya watch the neon lights wash over the dance floor in rainbow colours as a wild crowd gyrated to the loud music. Byakuya's male colleagues had decided to take him out tonight for a final bachelor night, and the Incubus had relented. After all, he could not see Rukia tonight as per the old tradition of the groom not seeing the bride one day before the wedding.
"One last fling, Byakuya? I promise I won't tell Rukia, my lips are sealed." Abarai Renji grinned wickedly at his cold superior as he sat beside him at the counter. "You know what they say… men will be men." He eyed the group of scantily-clad women with much appreciation. Byakuya's secretary, Hisagi Shuhei had also come along to the bar accompanied by Kira Izuru, Ayasegawa Yumichika and Madarame Ikkaku.
"Perhaps it has escaped your notice, Abarai, but we are not simply men." Byakuya's voice was emotionless as his eyes swept the bar with indifference. The women around the bar cast him seductive looks but he ignored all of them.
"You are looking forward to your wedding night, aren't you? You sly one!" Renji laughed loudly. "Rukia's in for the night of her life tomorrow, isn't she?"
Byakuya ignored his assistant, tuning the other Incubus out.
Byakuya felt his heartbeat triple as he thought of the next twenty-four hours… that under the following night sky, he would finally have her as his, properly his. The image of a breathy, flushed Rukia underneath him as they lay together in his bed flashed into Byakuya's mind. And then there would be the mornings after, where she would always be found in his bed sleeping and nowhere else, they would be living together as man and wife. It was all Byakuya could do not to instantly drive to her house and demand to marry her right away.
"If someone told me five years ago that Kuchiki Byakuya would be sipping wine in this spot on his bachelor party on the eve of his wedding today, I would have laughed myself silly." Renji chuckled. "But really though, Byakuya. You and Rukia better make some good-looking babies and show Ginrei-sama. You guys have been through the mill... you both deserve some good." Renji's serious tone made Byakuya turn to him, but the red-haired Incubus only scratched his head and broke into a laugh. "So, is there any last-minute task I have to attend to pertaining to the wedding?"
Byakuya sipped the contents of his glass. "You are going to be the best man."
"W-WHAT?" Renji's mouth dropped open.
Byakuya frowned. "I never did like repeating myself." Byakuya placed the glass elegantly down on the counter, and then he looked at Renji. "The best man is usually the groom's closest confidante, the one friend."
Byakuya, get your ass back to Tokyo... right now.
Byakuya, I would like you to know that I think you are a dumbass.
Abarai, I owe you my gratitude.
Renji's eyes widened and then he turned to look at the crowd, mumbling the words. "Fine. Seeing as you have almost no friends, I will do it."
The ghost of a smile flickered across Byakuya's lips.
"But how could you tell me on the eve of the event? I could have had a tailored suit done beforehand, and outshine you at your wedding!" Renji started to grouch as Byakuya's phone rang. The Incubus picked it up and looked at the caller listed. Immediately, he stood up from the counter and headed for the door.
Once he was well out of earshot of the crowd of partygoers, Byakuya picked up the call. "Rukia."
Rukia smiled as she heard his deep voice. She stared out at her bedroom balcony door, half-expecting to see a tall, handsome figure standing there with smoldering grey eyes. "Byakuya, how's the party?"
"It is alright." Byakuya replied. "How is yours?"
"You better not be kissing anybody, Kuchiki Byakuya!" Rangiku's loud voice rang through the phone, followed by Nel's laughter. The girls had apparently gone over to Rukia's house for their own sleepover.
"Sorry," Rukia chuckled as she spoke. "But... you better don't be kissing any of those women anyway." Her voice was teasing.
Byakuya's voice was deep. "We both know who I would like to kiss tonight."
"Are you nervous about tomorrow?" Byakuya asked. He did not need to hear the reply, the Incubus already knew that she was.
"A little." Rukia admitted. "You know I am not used to huge important events."
"Just keep your eyes on me tomorrow, and everything will be fine."
Rukia smiled into the phone.
"And don't disappear tomorrow."
Rukia's eyes widened at Byakuya's words. He had said the words almost simply but underneath the emotionless tone, she heard the insecurity and fear that the Incubus never allowed himself to show anyone.
"I won't." Rukia gripped the phone tight in her hand. Suddenly, she wished she could see him, despite the superstition. "You better be prepared to marry me." A small smile slowly curved the petite girl's lips.
"I have been prepared for a thousand years."
Rukia laughed softly. "Good night, Byakuya."
"Good night… my little wife."
Rukia's eyes widened at Byakuya's soft voice, but then the line had already cut off.
Outside the bar, Byakuya replaced the phone into his coat pocket, his handsome face turned up to the night sky and hints of a rare smile dancing upon his thin lips.
And so ends the latest Demons chapter, it is a prelude to the wedding. I decided to write out the clan dinner, it was previously stated as held earlier before the family one at Rukia's house. If you check back Chapter 41, I have corrected it. I felt that the clan dinner was crucial toward Byakuya and Rukia's wedding, where they face the clan together and know that not all sides accept them. And of course, there's Ginrei.
Hope you enjoyed the chapter.
So here comes the super long Author's Note nobody wants to read. Feel free to skip it as needed.
Last month, two readers notified me of Demons being completely plagiarized in two different sites (Archive of Our Own and AsianFanfics) by the same person, a user going by the name of JiminnieBenBen.
So I did some scouting and lo and behold, it was true. Story title was changed and the characters' names… but every single chapter content was identical down to the words and even the chapter titles.
The readers complimented her greatly on the "story", she thanked them and said she will continue to "work" harder, this was her first time posting on the site and that she was really nervous about it. I didn't know if I was more amused or angry to see such shameless replies.
I then left posts on her "copycat work" on both sites, of which one she deleted immediately. So as she had no problems copying this story and passing it off as her own on other sites and then covering up when the REAL author comes calling, I also do not have much problems making her username public here.
Respect begets respect, disrespect begets disrespect.
She has been dealt with accordingly by both sites after I submitted reports on the stories, so we shall leave it at that. Her entire account along with the story has been terminated, whether by herself or by Archive of Our Own. Her account on AsianFF is intact, but the copycat work has been removed by the mods.
I am saying all this, just to let readers know how authors feel when they see their stories copied somewhere else, and go through this whole plagiarising issue.
The same thing happened a few years ago on India Forums, likewise a reader notified me then and I sorted the thing out and reported the story after giving the thief some fierce words of my own.
Yes, I say thief. Plagiarising is a huge offence, especially to REAL authors. Authors who create their own work from scratch, using their imagination and happily sharing it with others without taking anything tangible back in return.
Not one of the plagiarisers apologized to me when they were caught, but then again it is not like common thieves apologize to the ones they stole from. Of course this is the Net, and my work is not world-famous that everyone knows of it, I cannot arrest anyone anyway.
To this JiminnieBenBen (I assume you are reading because you'd watch this story carefully, I know.) and every other person who has plagiarized stories that are not your own, you are a DISGRACE to the genuine fanfiction community and the fandom you support.
You don't have much self-worth, respect or talent… I just don't know which is lesser out of the three.
I assume you plagiarise because you want the easy way out, you want the views, the favourites, the comments but you can't be bothered to work for it. So you take the easy way out, you steal and pass off someone's work as your own, hoping nobody in your fandom ever read Bleach fanfics of a lesser-known pairing such as ByaRuki.
Like I said in my post to you, I expect an apology from you but it doesn't matter whether I get it or not. I did not get it anyway, and you easily deleted the comment I posted on your fake story within a day of my posting it.
So ThiefBenBen, good luck learning how to write, and I hope you someday post up your own work. (I highly doubt all your other stories are your own)
Yes my words are harsh, but it comes with the anger of having seen my story up there, word-for-word, just copied with the copycat nonchalantly taking credit for all of it to unknowing readers.
Also, I would like to clarify regarding a certain account on Archive of Our Own, Evenstarr. A reader notified me of this user having posted Demons up as well. That person is actually MYSELF, it is my own account on Archive of Our Own. I was trying the interface of that site, as many users recommended AO3 to me. So far I have only uploaded two stories from here onto that site, and might do more in future.
BLEACH ENDING (SPOILER!)
So Bleach ended, and I would be lying if I said I did not see the kind of ending coming. It disappointed me greatly and as Bleach was the first Japanese manga series I had started with, it came with quite a bitter feeling in the mouth.
I could not help comparing the full-circle way the Naruto series had ended, and the way Kubo's had, in complete broken-down twists and turns that did not make much sense. Which was such a shame, given that it was so promising in the first few arcs. The mangaka had tried his best, somehow I feel that external hands were involved in this (though it could just be my bias), that the story was rushed to hit a deadline and that this was no longer the story he wanted to tell.
I also fully expected Ichigo to end up with Orihime at the end, once this final arc got underway. It was too easy to know the direction it was headed, what with the suddenly random Ichigo-Orihime moments thrown in that somehow felt superficial considering they didn't really have much heart-to-heart in the first place. Of course for this to happen, Kubo had completely made the Ichigo-Rukia bond nonexistent and played up more of the Renji-Rukia moments. It all felt forced and abrupt. And it was such a shame for me, given how the Ichigo-Rukia bond was what made Bleach special in the first place. The moment in the rain when he collapsed on her... when the rain stopped... when she told him he could tell her about his mother whenever he was ready... their confrontation at the Sokyoku... when he lost his powers and could no longer see her again... those crucial moments were all wasted.
Once the plot started making less sense in the final arc (and this started at the Fullbring arc) and the fights were quickly shortened with no flashback to potentially great characters and the main characters slowly lost their uniqueness, it was a doomed series. I decided then that I was just going to visualize the Bleach series as up to the Hueco Mundo arc and leave it at that. It was Bleach glory up to that point.
Also, just another IchiRuki bias, but I think an adult Ishida would have had such a sexy romance with Orihime. XD
But anyway Bleach has ended and I accept that. It could have ended better but it didn't and I accept the ending as well.
And of course, I would like to thank you all for still keeping up with Demons, whichever of you still are. I understand that the updates are coming in worse than a snail's pace but there is nothing I can do about it. Suffice to say I am a working adult with long working hours and studying on top of that, not to forget the housing, car loans and the usual expenditure. I will continue to update whenever I have free time for writing, and I thank you all for the patience and lasting interest.
Actually, I do feel secretly worried that Demons might turn out like the Bleach manga, that the ending would not flesh out as well as I want it to, given that I have started cutting out significant plotlines in favour to finish the story earlier. The writing looks different here and there (I do sometimes re-read Demons too, you know XD) as it has been ongoing for some years now, things happen here and there and my writing changes at times. Despite this, I will try my best and hopefully get to finish it as intended. I look forward to any feedback you can give me for improvement.
And lastly, do kindly review this chapter for me and tell me what you think about it. Believe me, nothing motivates authors better than reviews. :)