Hello there. To whichever long-term reader who still checks up on Demons, I'm truly humbled. You waited, and waited, and waited for more than a YEAR for this chapter.
Life has been busy for me, a lot of good and bad things – but I had some free time lately so I decided to write out the next chapter for Demons. A year is a very long update time for a fanfiction – but as I have said many times before, fanfiction has grown insignificant to me as the years pass and I barely write it anymore. My intention remains to complete this story though, and I will be changing the storyline perspective to allow me to complete it even faster than I had already planned to (reason being I am afraid I would end up not finishing it if taken more time). More will be mentioned in the ending author's note on this.
That being said, I thank each and everyone of you who has been kind enough to leave a review for me, or drop me a comment on this story – you guys are wonderful… trust me when I say I am really humbled by the amount of love and interest in this fanfiction. Know that your interest is what keeps this story going.
I would also like to mention here that I have developed interest in one of the three big series in Shonen Jump – I have previously been into Bleach and Naruto… and now have completely jumped ship (pardon the pun) to One Piece. It is by far better than Bleach, in my opinion… and I won't say much about it until it has finished serializing to compare with Naruto. If you haven't caught on this series, do give it a try (I was very late catching onto it) – it's a very interesting series. I also developed a liking for a certain pairing ship on this series too… if you can guess which. I may even be writing a oneshot on this soon, by inspiration.
So enough about the rambling… and here's the updated chapter, I hope you like it.
NOTE: I have changed Byakuya's age to six hundred years due to the logic of a review left by a reader commenting regarding the impossibility of events in two thousand years . I agree, and the change has been made throughout the fic.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own Bleach or its characters, but I own this plot.
The dashing young man stood in front of the reflective glass of the ornate mirror, checking his reflection as he slowly fixed his grey tie. His wedding suit was a custom-designed Brioni black tuxedo, and he wore an expensive white shirt and a light grey vest underneath it. The suit accentuated his broad shoulders and buttoned perfectly at the waistline.
Everything was expensive, and everything was flawless. He was determined not to let anything ruin the day.
The unfazed expression of Kuchiki Byakuya belied the fast pounding of his heart, and the unbelievably surreal feeling that he was finally going to marry Rukia today.
The ghost of a smile flitted across the Incubus's lips as he recalled their very first meeting in the ice snack shop. She had remained every bit as brave and feisty as she had back then, standing straight and demanding an apology from him that he had not bothered to give. And then they had met fatefully at Aiko's, and he had chosen to properly look at her, those wide fearful beautiful eyes as they lay in bed together... and he had fallen into a trap. He had fallen in love for the first time after living for hundreds of years... and he knew it after realizing that his relentless pursuing of her had been too intense for playful fun, and that he actually deeply cared for the young human girl.
It didn't matter that her mortality was in question, or that she was unable to bear him heirs. It didn't matter that she was descended from the Kiyowara clan... he would have her even if she be anything else, just as she had fiercely declared to him in the church that she would accept him for anything he was.
"Kuchiki Rukia." The Incubus slowly spoke the name on his lips, spoke them aloud for the very first time. The name sounded perfect, his family name sounded perfect on her, as she was for him.
Byakuya finished fixing his tie and checked his reflection once more in the mirror. There was not one hair out of place, and the image on the glass reflected a flawless, suave and handsome young man in his wedding suit. Byakuya lifted the silver Shorty 40 pistol from the table and tucked it into his breast pocket, before exiting the room.
"Rukia, y-you are drop-dead gorgeous!"
Rukia smiled bemusedly, amused at her best friend's reaction as she gaped at her. "I am still the same person, Nel." She reached out and poked her friend, who jumped away laughing.
"Byakuya is going to have a heart-attack when he sees you!" Nel smiled as she moved around adjusting Rukia's bridal gown. "Has he seen you in this yet?"
Rukia shook her head. "Madam Kabuki insisted it to be a secret until the wedding day."
"She must be real confident in her skills then." Nel smiled.
"I once wore one of her designs. She is a maestro."
"Of course she is. Look at you now!" Nel stepped back and gazed happily at Rukia. "I can't believe you are getting married today." A happy smile curled Nel's lips as she stared at her closest friend. Nel had been so happy when Byakuya and Rukia had gotten back together after the former had been caught kissing another woman. Shinji and the rest were still wary of Byakuya, but Nel's instinct told her that it was a misunderstanding of sorts, because she had seen for herself how Byakuya treated Rukia, the way he looked and touched her was nothing short of pure love. Rukia would not elaborate further on what happened, so Nel was just happy enough to bask in the happiness and bliss of her friend's upcoming marriage.
Rukia stared at her reflection in the mirror. She touched the bridal veil now fixed at the back of her head, it was made of silk tulle with an embroidered white crystal trim. Madam Kabuki had personally handmade the veil herself, intricately sewing each piece of crystal into the edge of the tulle, giving a soft but beautiful glittering edge to the veil. 'It fits the name of this piece of mine,' she had said.
Rukia felt her heart pound fast, she was nervous, anxious. In an hour, she would be walking down the aisle to be married to Byakuya. Kuchiki Byakuya, the billionaire heir owner of the Azaris hotel chains and successful entrepreneur and businessman. Kuchiki Byakuya, leader of the secret Kuchiki clan of demons, the most powerful clan on Earth for many millennia.
Kuchiki Byakuya, the man she loved. Only this one mattered.
Rukia had been afraid of what was to happen down the road after their marriage. Would she be able to bear him a child in future? They told her that demons and humans could procreate during rare moments of Sacred Exchanges, she herself was a product of demon-human heritage. But it would be very rare, and Rukia had long decided that if she failed, she would have Byakuya father a child by another. Whether by artificial means or otherwise, she would accept it readily when the time came. She understood her shortcomings, and did not wish the clan to die with him nor for him to lose power of the clan. For she believed him to be a great leader, he was cold and ruthless to many, but she knew how precious his family and clan members were to him. When the time comes, he would listen to her, she would make him listen. And then... there would be the many years ahead of them, years that she did not know at all how many left would be shared by the two of them. She didn't know... but she still said yes when he proposed. She could have said no, but Rukia was tired of running and hiding from all the things they could have together... just because she was afraid.
He loved her, and she him... and she wanted only to spend the rest of her life with him. So she would... and when it ended, she would have lived all her happy years with him by then.
There would be no regrets.
Rukia smiled again and took a deep breath. Her heart was still pounding, but now from a mixture of happiness, excitement and flustered anxiety. She took the edges of the beautiful bridal veil and slowly but surely lowered it over her head.
"WHAT THE HELLl!" Renji jumped back in shock and stared at a smug Matsumoto who now stood beside him in front of the mirror.
"You were so busy reveling in your reflection that you did not even notice me approach you. You vain demon."
"Because it's a GENTLEMAN'S bathroom!" Renji practically shouted at the gleeful Succubus. His indignant voice echoed across the empty tiled restroom.
"Yeah yeah, I figured that out when I saw the sign as I walked in." Matsumoto flipped her hair and stood next to the Incubus to check her reflection in the mirror. "Don't you think this bridesmaid dress is just adorable? It's really not my style at all!" The Succubus looked down happily at her pale cream-coloured strapped satin dress which fell to her feet.
Renji shrugged and ignored her, continuing to fix his tie. He was wearing a light grey suit contrasted with a dark red tie. "And how did you worm your way into becoming one of Rukia's bridesmaids?"
Matsumoto waved her arms dramatically. "I just asked the little dear what I could do to help her for the upcoming wedding, and she threw her arms around me and asked me to be her bridesmaid."
"Now don't you look dashing?" Matsumoto grinned, peering at Renji's reflection as she stood next to him. "Byakuya's one and only best man."
"He doesn't have any other man," Renji replied. "And ignore how wrong that sounded."
"No, he doesn't," Matsumoto agreed as she turned back to her reflection. "What I actually meant to say was... friend." A smile played on her lips slightly.
Byakuya's best friend.
Renji stopped and turned to Matsumoto. She returned his gaze, smiling.
We both are.
"You know, it is due largely on both our parts that this wedding is even taking place." Matsumoto laughed airily as she ran her fingers through the luxurious curls of her hair.
Renji smirked. "I know. The priest doesn't even deserve the honour to christen their wedding, that should be both our job."
Their laughter rang clear off the tiles.
"But anyway," Matsumoto looked over at Renji's shoulders, her gaze appraising. "Your shoulders appear broader than usual."
Renji rolled his eyes. "Don't act stupid, you know the reason why." At this, the Incubus opened his coat to reveal double shoulder gun holsters, a pair of pistols strapped to each side. "I have got another two at my back too."
"You are overdoing it." Matsumoto put out a slim leg and lifted her long skirt to reveal a black pistol strapped to a leg holster.
"You can't have too many guns." Renji buttoned his coat up once more. "And I took the liberty of stashing a bazooka at the priest altar. It's lying vertical in a hidden compartment at the right side of the altar, just beneath the Bible."
"You WHAT?" Matsumoto's eyes were wide.
Renji grinned evilly. "Don't look at me. I'm pretty sure Byakuya himself would have some missile hidden up his groom pants or something. He'd come prepared, after all... he's finally marrying Rukia today."
Matsumoto had to smile. "You are probably right."
The wedding was held in a private posh mansion in the heart of Tokyo, with a priest to oversee the wedding vows. The entire Kuchiki clan was present (except for Lord Ginrei), with special invitations sent out to the Schiffer clan and close business partners. Journalists were barred from the event, and elite guards were stationed at every perimeter of the mansion.
The mansion was a huge grand white structure sitting in the middle of a green landscape of manicured lawns and tall trees. The mansion was made up of two levels, with grand pillars surrounding the front of the entrance. The exchange of wedding vows would take place in the main ballroom hall, where a traditional altar had been set up and rows of seats arranged on both sides of the hall. The special interior team had also modified the ballroom with stained glass windows at the front and on both hall sides, giving off the appearance of a church.
Guests had started arriving toward late afternoon, and now waiters and waitresses flitted in and amongst the elite figures of the business and socialite world, carrying silver platters of fine appetizers.
"It's such a beautiful day, don't you think, Nanao-chan?" A deep voice spoke, as a man clad in a pink-flowered shirt and black coat stood next to a strict-looking woman with her black hair held up in an intricate bun.
"I have to agree, Kyoraku-sama." Ise Nanao nodded, pushing her glasses higher up on her nose as she watched the bright sun shine onto the green grass. "This is so different from the cancelled wedding with Hisana-san, there was too much tension then. Everything here and now seems so pristine, and peaceful." They both watched as a bird flew by, skimming the silver edges of the water with its wing.
"It looks like nothing can ruin Byakuya and Rukia-san's big day." Kyoraku Shunsui smiled.
"So, are you disappointed that you are not Byakuya's bride for the second time round?" The effeminate man with brightly-coloured eyelash extensions smiled. "Soifon?"
The woman with shoulder-length hair standing across him shook her head. "Not particularly. I do not know what Rukia sees in that cold monster." She took a sip of red wine from the flute glass she was holding.
Ayasegawa Yumichika smiled as he adjusted the mint green feathers he had fashioned into his hair. "Well, I have heard that he is as gentle as a lamb when he's with her. Even though…" The Incubus thoughtfully touched his slender neck, where pale telltale marks still lingered on both sides. "… he's still a lion in front of everyone else."
"Are you still sore over the fact that he choked you during that dinner party? That was such a long time ago… you are such a pansy!" A bald man with red markings over the corner of his eyes laughed. "Although if Rukia fails to continue Byakuya's bloodline, wouldn't that mean that you would be the next chosen to bear his heirs, Soifon?"
"I do not wish to pursue my ambitions to covet the main family anymore… it's tiring." Soifon shook her head. "And isn't that the reason why Lord Ginrei is so against the new Kuchiki lady? He is not present today, is he?"
The two Incubi looked around and shook their heads. "Seems that way. And so is Yamamoto-sama."
"But they have earned a great ally in Unohana-sama." Soifon took another sip of her drink. "She has fully accepted them… and I heard she has resumed her relationship with the human she previously abandoned, who so fatefully happens to be Rukia's father."
"Small world, indeed." Yumichika nodded.
"Oh well. The matters of the main family no longer concern me. They will now be someone else's trouble." Soifon smiled for the first time and raised her goblet to clink it with her peers.
Many paces away, Kurosaki Ichigo stuck his hands in his pockets, feeling a little more than uncomfortable at the luxuries around him. He was wearing a formal suit for the occasion but it only made him feel more suffocated. Grimmjow, Shinji and Sado looked as uncomfortable as he felt, only Ishida seemed to achieve the smooth formal appearance of the socialites around them.
It was difficult for him to picture how Rukia could fit in to all this, but something told him Rukia wasn't about to change... she was going to change the things around her. She had that remarkable effect on people, and probably that was why the Kuchiki billionaire had fallen in love with her in the first place.
Ichigo remembered his short talk with Byakuya at Rukia's house, and felt the heaviness in his heart slowly diminish.
You will be happy, Rukia.
"HOI!" A sharp tap on his shoulder made Ichigo turn around, Hiyori was looking at him. "What are you spacing out for? Too many beautiful ladies in here?"
"But definitely not the one currently in front of him," Shinji whispered. Hiyori whirled around with a murderous glare but her long bridesmaid dress prevented her from kicking out at her friend, as she would have done any other day.
"Aren't you supposed to be with Rukia, prepping for the big walk?" Shinji raised his eyebrows at her. Like Ichigo, he was also dressed in a dark blue formal suit.
"Yes... but one of the side buttons of my dress fell out so Orihime went to get a spare one," Hiyori huffed. "The maid-of-honour, Nel, is tending to our blushing bride as we speak." She smiled. "She's looking drop-dead gorgeous, guys. Don't be jealous of Kuchiki Byakuya when Rukia walks down the aisle."
The rest of Rukia's gang smiled expectantly.
"But where is that Orihime? What's taking her so long?" Hiyori frowned.
Orihime trotted down the long corridor, a button clutched in her right hand. She was going to have to speed up, the wedding was due to start in half an hour. But as she started to pick up her skirt, the button slipped from her hand to the floor and rolled away. "Oh no!" Orihime started to run after the button, her heels tapping lightly against the marble as she rushed forward.
The button bounced once and then rolled over to a pair of polished black shoes.
Orihime's eyes widened as the figure stooped low and picked up the button with long pale fingers.
"Oh, thank God! I..." Orihime stopped as the figure turned to her.
She had never seen eyes as green as his, and they seemed almost luminescent and glowing as they looked at her. The tall stranger in front of her had jet-black hair falling in strands over both sides of his pale face, his eyes were strangely lined in black, further enhancing the bright green of his eyes. He seemed almost gaunt, yet there was a dark charisma about him as he approached her.
He walked forward, his shoes clicking against the marble and stopped before her, holding out his pale right hand.
"Oh, arigato!" Orihime smiled and gratefully retrieved the button sitting on the palm of his hand. "Emm... mister?"
"My name will not be of any importance."
"O-Oh." Orihime's eyes widened at the strange reply. "Regardless, thank you very much!" She picked up her long skirt with one hand. "I have to go now!"
As she dashed off, she had the strange feeling that she was being watched. Before she rounded the corner, Orihime turned around… and caught the sight of glowing green eyes fixed on her before the stranger turned away and walked in the opposite direction.
"Careful now, Rukia, you are walking too fast!" Nel chided Rukia, but her best friend was not listening to her. Her gaze was fixed ahead, determinedly on the figure in front of her.
Her breath was coming in gasps out of her mouth but Rukia paid no heed. She willed her steps forward and hasty, refusing to let the pain from the delicate white stilettos slow her. She soon came to a stop in front of the figure, who was dressed in a white suit.
And then there it was… that smile Rukia had grown up with, the smile that had saved her from hell when she was only a small child, the smile she had first seen when she had woken up from the accident with a teddy bear by her side.
The smile when she had looked upon her father for the very first time.
"You look very beautiful… Rukia." Ukitake Jushiro lifted a hand and touched her cheek under the veil. Rukia closed her eyes, as she savoured the touch of the most precious man in her life. "Look at my daughter, my precious daughter."
Rukia smiled, and suddenly the tears appeared in her eyes. She swallowed, and tried to blink them away. Nothing worked.
"No more bunny sweets." Her father smiled at her. "My little girl is all grown up now."
"Please… have them ready always." Rukia felt her throat tighten at the words, and heard her voice catch slightly. "I will come back frequently for them."
Ukitake chuckled softly, and then Rukia threw herself into her father's warm embrace in spite of the protests of her entourage behind her.
"Rukia-san! Please watch your dress!"
"Otousan…" Rukia's voice trembled. "I… I owe you everything… everything I am, and everything I have today. I…" Her arms tightened around her father. "… thank you very much for bringing me into your life!" She felt the tears finally spill over, but Rukia made no attempt to stop them. "I can… can never repay-"
Ukitake smiled. "The best repayment you can give me… is to be the happiest you will ever be. Happy, safe, and healthy." He hugged her gently to not dislodge her veil. Slowly, he released his daughter and smiled. "Now, no more crying. I will have a bowl of bunny sweets on the dining room table ready."
Rukia laughed through her tears, as the bridesmaids and makeup assistants started to fuss over her.
I love you, Otousan.
Byakuya stood at the front of the hall, his gaze trained on the huge oak doors at the end of the hall. These oak doors hid his future wife behind them, and it was mere minutes before the time was upon them to open. The Incubus could feel his heart racing despite his placid and unaffected façade, that it was near time to solemnize his union to his soulmate. His clan members were all present, along with close business partners (demons and humans alike) and Rukia's family and friends.
Ginrei had notified him that he would not be present, and Byakuya accepted the decision readily. His grandfather had not made any last-ditch attempt to prevent the marriage so far, only offering a single wish of congratulations. While Ginrei may not approve, it was a stalemate for now.
The priest stood behind him at the altar, and Byakuya could feel Renji fidgeting slightly to his left. The bridesmaids, Rukia's human friends and Rangiku, were standing in a line to his right. Unohana sat on the front row, smiling proudly, an empty seat that was soon to be Ukitake's, next to her.
Byakuya kept his posture straight, his hands by his side, waiting. He had chosen not to wear gloves today, in contrast to his last failed wedding. This time, he wanted his hands bare, because he wanted to be able to hold her properly with his skin touching hers.
Properly, as his wife.
The musical toll of the bell overhead suddenly broke through the quiet, marking the beginning of the wedding.
The oak doors began to creak heavily and then they started to swing open slowly, pushed by the Kuchiki guards on either side. Byakuya caught sight of a small group, and then a single flash of white and silver…
… and then there she was.
Rukia stood at the doorway, her left hand draped over her father's right. A glittering veil covered her bowed head, and as she stepped slowly into the brightly lit hall, there were gasps from all those present in the church as they stood up to welcome the bridal procession.
Byakuya stood, his gaze fixed on Rukia, seeing her as if for the very first time.
"Have I ever told you that you wore my last creation like it was made for you?" Madam Kabuki spoke, and Rukia was somehow surprised the pins in her mouth didn't fall out as she speak, or worse, be swallowed.
"I… don't think so," Rukia replied. The charisma of the old designer Succubus always overwhelmed her.
"Well, this one is made for you… so you will wear it proudly… and beautifully. When you walk down the hall that day, history will be made." Madam Kabuki smoothed the wedding skirt with a flourish and stood back. "Wonderful… no imperfections," she murmured, almost to herself.
Rukia did not know what to say. But then she remembered something, and spoke. "So, may I know the name?"
"What name?" Madam Kabuki was busy returning the pins to a metal box.
"Your dresses. I realize they all have names… so this one must have one too."
"Reine des glaces."
"I… beg your pardon?" Rukia asked. The words sounded foreign to her.
"The dress name." Madam Kabuki smiled proudly. "It is called Reine des glaces. The Queen of Ice… as you are."
The light in the hall reflected off the pure white wedding dress as Rukia slowly stepped into the hall. Her dress was made of expensive white satin gazar and was strapless. The bodice was form-fitting at the waist, before flaring into a full mermaid skirt at the knees. The bodice itself was a wondrous sight to behold, it was embroidered with platinum thread and set with many white gems and precious stones. While the dress was strapless, Madam Kabuki had sewn an intricate design of white gemstones as gossamer-like sleeves. They hung delicately over Rukia's shoulders in three glittering loops, each one lower than the first and as the bride walked; the jewels captured the light and sparkled, mimicking the appearance of white snow on her bare shoulders.
Reine des glaces.
The Queen of Ice.
Everyone watched in silence and awe as Rukia walked down the aisle to the altar, Ukitake by her side. Her head was bowed, but her steps were sure and confident.
They reached the front of the altar, and Ukitake smiled at Byakuya before offering Rukia's hand to the handsome young man, who bowed politely. The groom then gently took the bride's hand over his arm and they took the last few steps together to the front of the altar, where the priest waited. Ukitake walked to the seat next to Unohana and took her hand, and the guests present settled into their seats.
The priest looked left and right, before clearing his throat slightly to begin the ceremony. "Dearly beloved friends, we are gathered here today to witness the joining of Kuchiki Byakuya and Ukitake Rukia in matrimony…"
Abarai Renji let his eyes wander through the hall as the priest droned on in his perfectly memorized officiant speech. Why did they decorate this hall to look like a church? It was stifling to Renji, as all religious and holy things were. And then the Incubus remembered, yes, there were human business partners present and so the image of a perfect Christian wedding had to be kept up. Though he suspected Byakuya probably would have gone through with this either way, his boss was always so sentimental where it concerned Rukia.
The Incubus's eyes roamed the tall walls of the hall, noting the large windows and the central roof. He had done this routine many times earlier in the week, checking the perimeter and the building escape routes in case of an unexpected attack.
The news of Kuchiki Byakuya's marriage had spread like wildfire across the demon community, and the clan had tried to keep the identity of the bride as secret as possible. Eventually she would be known with time, but Byakuya had ordered that no information of her identity be leaked to outsiders. The Kuchiki clan leader had also ordered for secret guards to be stationed constantly outside the Ukitake residence for Ukitake Jushiro's safety but there was little need, as Unohana was moving in with him soon and was more than capable of protecting him.
There would be no slip-ups this time.
Renji's eyes followed the pillars down to the hall and settled on the line of bridesmaids. Rukia had some pretty curvy friends indeed, there was the busty Neliel, and then a sweet-looking and equally busty brown-haired girl. Behind them, Renji caught Matsumoto's eye and she was frowning at him.
'Pay attention,' she mouthed at him.
He only jerked his head slightly toward the altar and mouthed back. 'Ba… zoo… ka.' The Incubus grinned evilly and turned to the front, where the priest was still speaking.
Byakuya stood across from Rukia, her hand in his. He couldn't take his eyes off her, even as the priest read the official speech. She had looked up once they had reached the altar, a beautiful smile playing upon her lips tempting him to smile back at her, to just lift up the veil immediately and claim her as his.
"And now, for the wedding vows." The priest announced. He nodded to Byakuya, smiling.
"I, Kuchiki Byakuya now take you, Ukitake Rukia to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; from this day forward until…" Byakuya stopped.
The priest looked up. Did the groom forget the end of the usual vow? It happens sometimes, through his years of officiating weddings, one of the partners would sometimes slip up or become too nervous or overwhelmed with emotion.
But then the bridegroom continued.
"I do not know if Death will come earlier for me or you, I know you worry." Rukia's eyes widened at Byakuya's words as he veered from the vow. "Cease your worries when you awake tomorrow as my wife by my side. Know that you will awake everyday for a very long time by my side, for I will love you unconditionally to the end of time. I can live to the end of time, and know that not even Hell can take me down… so be prepared to be with me forever."
The priest appeared flustered by the sudden new words, words he had never heard before.
Renji struggled to smother his laughter. Trust that bastard to twist the wedding vow, of all things.
But Rukia's smile only got wider as she listened to the end of the vow and when she looked up at Byakuya again, her eyes shone with happy tears. "I, Ukitake Rukia, take you, Kuchiki Byakuya, to be my husband, my friend, my partner and my only love from this day onward. I offer you my vow to be your faithful partner in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad, in joy and in sorrow. I promise to love you unconditionally…"
She too stopped then, and the priest looked between the couple now, his expression confused.
"… and to cast away my worries and insecurities. I promise to love you unconditionally through the obstacles we may face together, even if they be impossible… and I vow to cherish you for as long as we may both live. With this, I give you my hand, my heart, my love for all time."
Rukia felt Byakuya's hand tighten on hers, as the tiny hints of a smile crossed his lips.
The priest cleared his throat again, now looking slightly uncomfortable. "Kuchiki Byakuya, do you take Ukitake Rukia to be your lawfully wedded wife? Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and protect her, holding only unto her?"
"I do." Byakuya's voice was deep and steadfast. He never took his gaze away from Rukia.
The priest turned to Rukia. "Ukitake Rukia, do you take Kuchiki Byakuya to be your lawfully wedded husband? Do you promise to love, honour, cherish and protect him, holding only unto him?"
"I do." Rukia smiled.
The priest nodded. "And now, we shall witness the exchanging of the wedding rings. Please."
Renji, smirking widely, walked forward and stood in front of Byakuya and Rukia's clasped hands. The red-haired Incubus smartly produced a dark red satin box from his pocket and snapped it open, pausing long enough so that the priest could clearly visualize the ring designs. The discomfort in the priest's expression increased as he saw the unconventional silver rings, each with two snakes entwining in the middle with red rubies for eyes.
The ring of his demon forefathers, the one Byakuya had used to propose to Rukia with.
Byakuya took up the smaller ring and gently slid it over Rukia's left ring finger, and she repeated the gesture with the bigger ring. Renji smiled widely at the uncomfortable priest and bowed, before returning to his place behind Byakuya.
The priest cleared his throat for the third time, and continued. "And with this exchanging of holy vows and rings, I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may now-
A sudden loud bang echoed off the hall as the oak doors flew open. A single figure stood in the doorway, a tall muscular man with dark skin and yellow eyes. The guards outside were slumped, beaten.
The response was immediate.
Byakuya's eyes were cold as he moved quickly in front of Rukia, drawing his pistol out at the altar.
"It's so annoying, there's always something to interrupt you two!" Renji shouted as he grabbed his pair of pistols from underneath his coat and moved beside Byakuya.
Matsumoto sprang out from behind the bridesmaids as they screamed, drawing her own gun.
An armed person from each row of seats jumped out onto the aisle, revealing the elite guards planted innocently amongst the guests as additional security. Pistols cocked, rifles aimed.
"Kuchiki Byakuya, for the extermination of my clan, I have come to kill you!"
"Zommari Leroux. You are not welcome here. Come another day to try." Byakuya's voice was cold. The Incubus could feel Rukia moving out from behind him, but he continued to shield her.
"Then I will kill your wife!" The dark-skinned Incubus shot forward.
At these words, Byakuya's reflex was instantaneous.
The loud gunshot rang out in the wedding hall before anyone could react. The bulky body of Zommari Leroux collapsed to the floor heavily, his yellow eyes wide. There were some screams and shouts, but Byakuya silently pocketed his pistol and turned to his guards.
"Remove him from these grounds." The cold eyes were frosty. "And then eliminate him."
"Hai!" The guards bowed and quickly moved to carry out the order.
"Weapons down," Byakuya spoke and his clan members returned to their original positions with clean efficiency. Matsumoto cheekily winked to a shell-shocked Hiyori as she walked back to her position. Renji stood behind Byakuya once again. Rukia's group of friends all wore flabbergasted expressions, as all the human guests were stunned.
"Father, if you may continue." Byakuya spoke to the priest as he stood opposite Rukia once more.
The priest was frozen, a shining sheen of sweat now covering his forehead. He appeared to be in a daze, and Byakuya's eyes started to narrow slightly in annoyance.
"Ah, I am so sorry, Father priest." Rukia broke the silence. "Byakuya here… well, he's in the triad." She latched on the only logical reason she could think of.
Her voice jolted the priest and he nodded dumbly, looking very shaken.
Rukia turned back to her husband, shooting him as much of a glowering glare as she could manage. It didn't seem to have the intended effect as Byakuya raised his eyebrows slightly, subtle hints of amusement dancing in his grey eyes.
Oh, so he was amused. And this demon was the one who told her to be inconspicuous! He had told her that everything would be laid low, and he had practically brought a whole warship with him here today!
Now even the priest was almost scared to death!
Byakuya found himself much too distracted by the sight of his wife's pretty lips, which she had tried to direct into an angry thin line at him. The Incubus found it an internal struggle not to smile, he wondered how he had gone for so long without marrying this wonderful woman right away.
"Ehem… y-you may kiss the bride now." The priest nodded.
And then he was stepping forward a step to her, and it felt to Byakuya as if he were stepping toward a new lifetime, a better lifetime. His hand reached up and the Incubus slowly lifted the glittering veil off Rukia's front and even though she tried to stay her angry expression, his little wife was already smiling.
Byakuya felt that enormous warmth in his chest, that glowing pride that only came with several lifetime achievements across his several hundred years of lifespan.
Her bright violet eyes locked on his, and her pretty pink lips curled into an enticing smile. And that blush, that irresistible blush on her cheeks…
The Incubus moved forward and using one hand, tilted his wife's face upward. Their gazes locked, and he leaned his head closer down to hers. He didn't have to move far as she leaned forward to cover the distance, and their lips met in a gentle kiss of promise and bliss, of their new union. The warmth of her lips further pushed Byakuya to drown in them, and his other hand snaked around her waist, pulling her closer against him and locking her in his embrace.
The hall exploded into applause and whistles.
The cheers were deafening in the hall as the newly married couple stepped down from the front of the hall and began to walk to the doors together. They had stopped at the front to bow to Ukitake, the bride's father who only beamed and put his hands together to join in the applause.
And then Byakuya turned to Renji. "Abarai."
Renji puffed his chest out. "No need to thank-"
"I was merely going to point out that your tie is crooked."
"Oh." The red-haired Incubus glanced down and started to fix the piece of cloth. Matsumoto chuckled as she stepped up beside her friends.
Byakuya watched silently as Renji finished fixing his tie. "And arigato. You have my gratitude for everything. Abarai, Matsumoto."
Rukia smiled. "Arigato, Rangiku-san. Renji-san."
The two demons only beamed happily at the couple.
"Don't mention it, you two." The Succubus winked. "Go on now."
"Yeah, and make babies." Renji threw back his head and laughed loudly, causing the priest behind them to shiver slightly.
The couple turned away from the front and started to walk down the aisles. Rukia smiled at her friends along the way, and they joined the whistles of the crowd.
But Rukia was not able to resist the question. "What did you shoot at him?" She whispered softly to Byakuya as they walked down the aisle, hearing cheers from the guests on all sides of the hall.
"Is that what we are going to be talking about as we leave here as husband and wife?" Byakuya's deep voice was amused. "My enemies?"
One look from Rukia told him she wasn't going to budge from the subject until he told her. She continued to whisper at him. "Normal bullets cannot kill a demon. And a demon would not be so foolish as to come on his Purification Period to kill his enemy. So the bullet must have incapacitated him somehow without killing him."
"You are correct." Byakuya nodded at some of his business guests as he walked along. "It was not a normal bullet."
"Ohh." Rukia's beautiful violet eyes were filled with intrigue.
"Unohana made a holiday trip with your father to Nepal a few weeks ago, do you remember? It was a part holiday, but another reason for the outing was to source for the organic material Aizen used against our clan during your kidnapping."
Rukia's eyes were wide now. "Blindweed." The images of a weakened Byakuya in a long-ago warehouse flashed into Rukia's mind.
"The very same." Byakuya spoke as they continued down the aisle. "The plant is not native to Japan, so I had it brought back in massive quantities. We produced a purified derivative of the plant, and I had them infused into modern weapons, and they apparently are very effective in incapacitating opponents of our kind."
"That is great!" Rukia smiled widely.
"I am surprised you caught on the nature of the bullet. You learn fast." Byakuya leaned toward Rukia as he held her hand in his. "Should I be expecting more surprises from you tonight?"
Blushing, Rukia opened her mouth to protest at him but just then a shower of confetti caught her unawares. The doors opened to bright warm sunlight as the enormous bells tolled again somewhere ahead, and the glittery paper rained down on them like colourful rain. Rukia could not help it, she laughed out… in joy, in happiness, in all the good things to come. Byakuya turned to her then and before she could realize it, his hands curled around her in an embrace.
"Byakuya, we already-"
"You should prepare yourself." Byakuya's voice was low. "There will be a lifetime of this."
He kissed her again, then and there at the doors of their wedding hall, his lips as gentle as his hands were on hers. Someone, Renji probably, was hooting loudly in the distance but the sound all but disappeared from Byakuya and Rukia's world.
Their new world, as husband and wife.
"Bastard." Renji huffed as he walked toward one of the smaller white pavilions situated in the mansion garden. The guests were still milling about the mansion, enjoying the grand feast the Kuchiki clan had prepared for the wedding.
"What happened?" Matsumoto laughed as she sipped her champagne. "Oh, apparently you failed."
Renji dropped into the chair opposite hers and accepted the glass that she offered him. "I can't believe he managed to outrun my Murcielago! I thought I was tailing him decently, and then all of a sudden he just shot off! I swear, that guy must have sabotaged my precious car!"
"You think Byakuya would run any chance of letting anyone know where he and Rukia would be spending their first days as a married couple?" Matsumoto laughed airily. "Now pay up, because it's obvious I won our bet."
"Don't be so sure yet. What have you got?" Renji raised his eyebrows.
The Succubus smirked, and then she produced a small silver button from her dress which she had kept tucked near her left breast.
"Ohh… don't tell me…" Renji's eyes were shining now. "… you bugged Rukia?"
"There's no harm in that, is there?" Matsumoto placed the button on the table.
"Of course not!" Renji was now cackling evilly. "When did you do it?"
"Before they left, I slipped the other half of this bug onto her wedding gown bodice. There's too many precious stones on her gown, they won't notice."
"Alright!" Renji nodded in approval.
"Shhh… I want to hear their conversation…" Matsumoto leaned over as she pressed a tiny trigger over the silver button. Renji leaned forward as well, his expression filled with anticipation.
There was faint static for a while and then they heard Rukia's voice from the button.
"Um, hi, Rangiku-san. It's Rukia. Er, well, Byakuya said-
"We do not wish to be disturbed." Byakuya's cold voice abruptly cut through. Renji jumped back in fright.
"So yeah. I am really sorry about this. Er, we will see you soon." There was a sound like ice cracking and then the voices abruptly ended, and the static commenced.
"SHE DIDN'T JUST FREEZE MY BUG DEVICE! THAT'S EXPENSIVE!" Matsumoto screeched loudly, causing a few guests to look up in alarm.
Renji was already laughing. "Looks like nobody will be paying nobody. We both failed to tail the newlyweds and find out their secret haven."
"I guess." Matsumoto grouched as she leaned back in her chair, tucking away the silver button.
The two demons gazed out over the green landscape of the mansion for a while, just taking in the sight in front of them… of the people milling about in peaceful chatter, the slowly-swaying trees at the rustle of a breeze.
"You think we did the right thing?"
Renji looked at Matsumoto. She wasn't looking at him, but seemingly staring at the serene scenery in front of them.
"Getting them together? Yeah. It is the right thing, and will always be the right thing to do."
"I think so too." Matsumoto smiled. "I think the future will be an interesting one… for them… and for all of us."
Rukia looked up in awe over the high white marble walls of the enormous cavern of a bathing hall. There was a huge pool in the center, and water spouted or poured from marble statues of cherubs, angels, dragons and heavenly birds. But there were also statues of gargoyles, reapers and serpents, and Rukia looked up at them affectionately as she did with the rest of the collection, seemingly amused at her husband's choice of decoration.
Rukia had realized their intended destination as soon as she caught sight of the blue sea as their car sped along the coast highway.
The place only Byakuya and herself knew about.
His sanctuary, the place he seeked whenever he needed the quiet… and the place he loved to draw in. The place he had once brought her to after a disastrous family dinner, cementing his feelings to her in intense words and a night unlike any other.
He had somehow renovated the seaside lavish bungalow, there were spaces she hadn't realized were there before as he led her into the house. There were only two assistants (an Incubus and Succubus) working for the day and Rukia suspected that Byakuya had arranged it so.
He had led her down one long marbled hallway, and stopped before a set of heavy white doors with gold-lined knobs. "It has been a long day and as much as I would love to keep having you wear the beautiful dress…" His fingers touched her lightly at the waist. "… you need to refresh yourself and rest. Your bath has been prepared by Kimiko here." The short-haired Succubs smiled brightly, and Rukia briefly wondered about her age. "Kimiko, see to it that Lady Rukia is comfortable."
"Where are you going?" Rukia asked before Byakuya turned away. Kimiko smiled slyly, flustering Rukia immediately as she realized how needy she had sounded.
Byakuya let a small smile lift his lips as he gazed at his wife. "Have no worry. I will be having my own bath." He gestured toward a set of doors just across from hers. "We will meet shortly for dinner."
Kimiko bowed. "Please, Lady Rukia. Let me escort you into your bathroom."
Bathroom was an understatement. The place could have housed a hundred at least, and was luxury at its finest. Rukia had quickly corrected the lovely Kimiko, requesting that she be called by her name only, something that surprised the Succubus. She had invited Kimiko to bathe with her too but the latter had declined and noticing Rukia's self conscious nature at being observed, excused herself from the bathroom.
So now the new bride was alone in the bathroom, and Rukia had dared herself to undress and step into the warm clear water of the bath pool. The water was lovely, warm with a scent of herb and flowers ('Did Kimiko put some scented bath oils in here?'), and it immediately helped Rukia relax and sooth her tension.
Was she tensed after finally marrying Byakuya? Not for herself, no. But perhaps for Byakuya. He had committed himself to her now, and she hoped she would not disappoint him as a life partner, as a wife. She wanted to be there for him always, please him, do everything to make him happy.
Rukia took a deep breath and plunged into the warm water. She took a few strokes in the pool for a bit and then settled over the marble stairs leading down into the pool, still feeling a little strange that she had swam practically naked in a bathing pool for the first time. As she scrubbed herself, Rukia suddenly felt an inexplicable urge to see Byakuya.
Why had he arranged that they were to take separate baths? Was he afraid that she would be overwhelmed? They were married now, she didn't want to be separated from him.
Rukia speedily bathed herself and once she was ready, she dried and wrapped herself in one of the dry white fluffy towels she had found in an ornate storage cupboard in the corner. Kimiko still had not returned, and Rukia did not know where her new clothes were supposed to be. The flustered bride spent the next minutes searching the entire bath hall, failing to find anything decent to drape herself with.
But I want to see Byakuya.
Securing the ends of the towel around her body, Rukia tiptoed to the bath hall doors and slid them open. There was no one in sight.
She looked across the hallway, where a similar set of gold knobs secured the way to Byakuya's bathing halls. Rukia looked left and right, and making her decision, dashed across the hallway and opened the doors, quickly ducking through them.
A hovering white mist immediately obscured her vision as she stepped into the similar white marble hall. Rukia followed the sound of the flowing water and inched closer to the bathing pool. Here, the mist slowly lifted and the familiar statues greeted her, much the same as the ones in her bath.
And leaning against the edge of the pool, his back to her, was the figure she had sought out in the first place. The muscles in his upper back were bare and glistened with fresh drops of water, tapering down to a firm waist just below the water.
"Byakuya!" Rukia called out before she could stop herself.
Her husband turned immediately at her voice, his grey eyes wide. "Rukia? What is the matter?" His deep voice was laced with concern and he made to rise from the pool but Rukia hurried forward, stopping him.
"No no, it's nothing! I just… felt a little lonely in the bath." Now she felt somewhat childish. Byakuya gazed at her, as he stood in the water.
Rukia walked over in her towel, and sat on the marble, dipping her feet in the water. "Kimiko doesn't know, so don't reprimand her. I had her leave me for a bit of private time, and then I suddenly wanted to see you."
Byakuya moved over to where she sat, the water swirling about as he reached her. Then he turned so his back pressed against her legs under the water and rested his head in her lap. "Ah, so my wife misses me."
Rukia chuckled as she played with Byakuya's wet hair. "A little. And I was wondering why you had us take baths in two separate places."
"Yes. And therein lies the current problem."
"What problem?" Rukia looked down at him in surprised but his head was gone from her lap. Before she could comprehend what was happening, she felt a powerful but gentle tug on her left leg and a pulling at her waist… causing her to immediately slide into the warm water with a splash.
"AHH!" Rukia swallowed a mouthful of scented water then and there, and she spluttered up at a chuckling Byakuya, who now had his arms wrapped around her as they stood together in the pool.
"What was that for?" Rukia glared up.
"I arranged the separate baths…" Byakuya spoke, gazing at her. She felt his arms tighten around her as he pushed her gently back against the wall of the bathing pool. "... because I believe you needed the rest. If we were to bathe together, I would not be able to… resist."
The Incubus kissed her against the wall, his mouth wet and hot against hers. Rukia moaned softly as his tongue teased hers, and her legs abruptly weakened. He had always had this effect on her whenever he kissed her, and it was no different this time around. Byakuya's breathing was heavy, and his mouth left hers to kiss her nose, her ear, her neck.
"What does the lion do…" Byakuya murmured huskily as he licked a single water droplet below Rukia's ear. "… when the lamb so willingly steps into its lair?"
Rukia moaned again as her husband sucked eagerly on her neck. He pulled back to gaze at her, and his eyes were half-lidded, a shade darker with lust. "Feast."
With a single swift motion of his hand, he swept the already soaked towel from Rukia's body, letting it float away in the water. And then he was moving dangerously lower, his mouth skimming over Rukia's chest to reach her exposed breasts. His tongue skimmed, stroked, tantalized. Rukia threw her head back in pleasure as Byakuya sucked on her left breast hungrily, timing the sensation with his thumb strokes over the other nipple.
"Ahhh!" Rukia could feel the heat in her body stirring in response to Byakuya's touches and kisses, and it was driving her crazy. Her legs had already lifted of their own accord to straddle her husband, keeping him with her. Feeling the need to do something, she ran her hands feverishly over Byakuya's chest and abdomen, feeling him grunt in approval. Not satisfied, she ground her hips slowly and then surely in rhythm against him.
"Ru… kia…" Byakuya groaned lowly as he released her breast. He was already hard, and she was making the pain intensify with her seductive rolling of hips. "Stop… that…"
"You don't like it?" Her voice was breathy, and she grinded her hips again in unbearably slow circles. God. This little vixen. Byakuya was finding it a huge struggle not to sink himself into her right then and there.
"I… do…!" Byakuya murmured loudly, his voice ending on a sudden intake of breath as he felt her hand suddenly grip his hard penis. Her hands and fingers moved, pumping him at a pace, overwhelming him with the sudden wave of pleasure. She leaned forward, biting lightly on his ear. "Who's the lamb?" She whispered, trailing a line of lingering kisses down his neck.
His hand found hers underwater and he stilled her tantalizing touch. No, not yet. Not just yet. He wasn't about to finish this way.
The Incubus moved forward, grasping one of her outer thigh as he positioned himself before her. And then he thrust once into her, Rukia moaned and wrapped her arms around his neck as she slid up against the wall. A second thrust, and Byakuya moved forward, smothering moans between their lips. And in the kiss, they performed the Sacred Exchange. His thrusts soon quickened at a regular pace, and the water began to slosh around their bodies as they worked to the climax. Rukia met his thrusts equally, drowning in the heat and pleasure as she slid up and down the wall. The rhythmic splashing of water and breathy moans of pleasure echoed off the marble walls of the bathing hall.
"B-Byakuya…" Byakuya's thrusts grew erratic as he reached his peak. Rukia's legs tightened around him as she felt hers incoming… and then the pleasure washed over them both in white hot waves and they surrendered to the bliss together. He grunted loudly in pleasure, shuddering as he came, releasing into her. They stood against the wall of the pool, the water now lapping softly against them as they slowly caught their breath together.
And then Rukia looked up at Byakuya, her eyes wide. "Oh no! Our dinner!"
Dinner, as it turned out, was delayed for two hours due to the session in the bath. Kimiko and her colleague, Saito, had painstakingly kept the food warming at slow heat, much to Rukia's embarrassed gratitude. Byakuya, as he always was, appeared indifferent.
They served dinner out on a large polished table set on the second-floor balcony of their bedroom. The food was homely and rustic, and tall candles joined the dishes with glasses of sweet wine. Byakuya watched his wife most of the time, stopping now and again to pick something off the plate into his mouth. More often than not, he would reach across to take her hand into his, their wedding rings glinting in the light of the candles.
Rukia thought the night could not get any better.
And it did… as the food was cleared away and the assistants departed, leaving only them to the bedroom. Byakuya carefully closed the white balcony glass doors, slowly blocking out the chill of the salty sea breeze. Tall candles glowed warmly in the room, mounted on tall ornate stands on the tables and drawers. Rukia sat on the bed, the same one she had awoken many months ago in Byakuya's room after the night of the Kuchiki clan dinner. The Victorian-styled bed was massive with a decorative white bed canopy overhead and carved bedposts.
Byakuya was by her side instantly and then they were kissing, one mouth warm against the other, stopping only for intakes of breath in between the bliss. But there was something she had to do first and so-
Her husband stopped, his breath caressing the skin of her face as he gazed at her. "Hmm?"
"There's something I would like to show you." Rukia's smile this time was a little teasing.
"What is it?" Byakuya murmured, softly kissing the side of her face.
Rukia smiled, and she pushed back a little from her husband. As Byakuya watched in surprise, Rukia slowly started to rise from her knees on the bed, to stand on the bouncy mattress.
"Rukia, what are you do-
Byakuya's grey eyes widened.
Rukia stood before the Incubus, her feet planted firmly on the bed but her smile a little shy, a little uncertain. A pair of pale grey wings, so pale they were almost white, protruded from her back. "I… managed to materialize them a few weeks ago, but I decided not to tell anybody. It took me a while to control them, but I wanted you to be the first to see it." Rukia clasped her hands in front of her. "They are, well, they are not as majestic as your black ones and they are not even fully black probably because I am not a pure demon but-
Rukia felt his pull on her hand, powerful yet gentle and she fell forward into his embrace. Byakuya closed his arms tenderly around her, as his hand stroked a single wing.
"They are beautiful… just like an angel's wings."
Rukia's eyes widened at Byakuya's deep voice, and then she smiled into his chest. The wings slowly dissolved under his touch, and he reached for his wife then, pushing her back into the pillows on the bed.
"Mrs. Kuchiki, are you ready for tonight?" Byakuya's grey eyes locked intensely upon Rukia's violet ones.
"Mrs. Kuchiki." Rukia smiled. "I like that title."
"You should like it…" Byakuya murmured as he leaned downward. "Because you will be having it forever."
Rukia caressed his right cheek. "Really?"
"Hai. Your husband promises you forever."
His lips met hers then in a tender passionate kiss, speaking of hundreds of years' worth of longing, love and bliss… and the promise for hundreds more to come.
I hope you liked the chapter. It's been a while since I have last wrote fanfiction, and it feels a bit rusty.
So now Demons has been running for 7 years. 7 years is a very long time and a lot has changed. I can't even grasp the style in which I wrote lemons the last time, that's how differently I see things now. I did one anyway, because I know plenty of readers were waiting for it... I received many PMs and reviews about the upcoming honeymoon lemon that I couldn't help but be amused.
Now about my writing fanfiction. I have finally come to the stage that I can honestly admit that I feel zero passion for writing Bleach fanfiction. Time is also another factor, and the series ended and not on a very good note. All those didn't help. I did not write at all till the end of this year.
I don't know which is the best out of these two options... to continue the story despite no longer having any desire to do so, or to stop it right here and close it incomplete.
I chose what I consider the lesser of the two evils... I will continue it even if I no longer hold a strong torch for this piece anymore. I will cut it very short though, shorter than I had earlier planned. You can't ask me to love ByaRuki the same way I loved it 7 years ago. It will always be a fond pairing for me but I don't think I write them as eagerly as I do like the last time.
But as a reader and when I follow a story, I would want the author to close it... no matter how good or bad they do it. If not, as good as the story is.. it will always be empty to me as an incomplete piece. I don't like that feeling so I don't wish to do so for readers. Let's not begin for the other incomplete stories... they are still in their initial story phases and have already been on hiatus for too long. I politely request that you do not ask for updates for the other stories as I will be leaving them like that, and NONE of my stories will be put up for adoption at present time.
In finishing Demons, I am targeting maybe three or four epilogue chapters to bring my story full circle and will be written from one character's view for each chapter. I have given it much thought and I think that is the best style to compact the story in a few chapters - and I hope it turns out nicely when I write. So this essentially makes this chapter you have just read - the default final chapter of Demons before the epilogue chapters begin. I apologize for the shocking plan, but I think it is necessary if I were to manage finishing Demons.
Demons was meant to be much longer with many subplots. Did you notice the Ulquiorra-Orihime little meetcute moment? They were supposed to have a romantic extension in the later plot which would later impact the Kuchiki-Ulquiorra pact. I have taken that plot out, but I left their first meeting in because I just think they are cute.
Ukitake and Unohana also were supposed to have a subplot of their own but I have also taken that out.
I plan for the coming epilogue chapters to give the major aspects of the story a resolution, and to give this story the ending I had planned for from the beginning.
After I'm finished with Demons, you can throw whatever criticism you want at me. Frankly speaking, I will take them readily with a grain of salt. I am not as immature as I was years ago, and no longer hold these feedback as an obsession of my life (like back then when I was pretty much a jobless carefree student).
I welcome the feedback regardless, a reader who takes the time to leave something for an author after reading the story is a reader beloved.
An early Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you all.