Author's Note: Hi! Long time, no see, readers! Come on! Two months isn't that bad! Right? Anyway, I really don't have much to say in this one. I have no excuse this time... well maybe because I've been playing Professor Layton and whatnot, but anyway, bleh. I don't want to bore you anymore. So please enjoy the story! And remember, please review! REVIEW! REVIEW! REVIEW! REVIEW!REVIEW! REVIEW!REVIEW! REVIEW! I don't say this enough, but I cherish every single review that you guys send me! I also love every single one of you! So please REVIEW! I love you and so does Aneko! Until next time! Byez~!
Can I Go On? (A Byakuya Kuchiki Love Story)
Book Two, Chapter Eleven
Escape from Happiness
Ukitake walked briskly through the hallways of the Squad 6 barracks, while two lower-ranked shinigami followed in equal pace. His expression was hard and serious for the job that he had been given. The time had finally arrived. Captain Kuchiki was to stand trial in front of the Central 46 council and Captain Ukitake was to deliver him. He quickly glanced behind him to one of his appointed subordinates and saw, in his hands, a pair of restraints. He shook his head at the sight of them.
Ukitake continued to walk through the many halls towards the incarceration cells where the so-called criminal was located. Although he seemed calm on the surface, his mind was racing at an unfathomable pace.
This isn't going to end well. I already heard that Aneko's instructor already told Central 46 her statement. I don't even know what happened. God… how can things become so screwed up so fast? Aneko can't even defend herself against Byakuya because she is still with Lady Unohana and her squad. She's too hurt. Oh what am I talking about? What will happen to Byakuya? Will they take in account for his flawless record as an exemplary captain? Maybe his family name will soften his punishment? Wait! Aneko is also under the protection of the Mayako name. I know Lady Horoko won't stand to see Aneko walk away from a brawl in that condition without compensation. She's even in the Central 46! Damn it! What can I do? What can I do?
Ukitake's unsettled mind continued to race as they finally arrived at the cells. There were several shinigami standing guard and whispering among each other, no doubt about what had happened. Ukitake, unable to stand for rumors to be spread about his student, cleared his throat loudly, making all the guards stand at attention. As he scanned the guards, he saw a small girl that he recognized from his squad. She had jet black hair and big, sad, purple eyes. It was Byakuya's little sister, Rukia.
Ukitake looked at her with wide eyes and shook his head. She shouldn't be here, but he knew one cannot hold a worried sibling back, adopted or not. From the back, a tall, bulky shinigami walked forward with a set of keys attached to the waistband of his shihakusho. Ukitake nodded at him and then followed him through the door that led to all the cells. They continued to walk until they reached the very last cell.
Ukitake peered in and saw Byakuya's back. He was sitting on a wooden chair, the only thing that was given to him in the cell, in silence. As usual, he was sitting with perfect posture, but Ukitake's eyes narrowed. He was looking down… at his hands. Ukitake continued to watch in silence as the bulky shinigami unlocked the cell door.
As the loud noise of the door creaking open broke the silence, Byakuya lifted his head and casually slipped something into his sleeve, unbeknownst that Ukitake was still watching, taking note of the gesture. Byakuya turned to look at Ukitake with emotionless eyes.
"It's time, Byakuya. The Central 46 Council would like to see you." Ukitake said, seriously.
Without saying a word, Byakuya stood up and walked towards the door, but before he exited the cell, he stopped and held his wrists out.
He's still one for procedure… even at a time like this… Ukitake thought.
Ukitake turned to one of the subordinate shinigami that had the restraints and nodded to him. He quickly went about locking both Byakuya's hands in place and handing the other cord to his partner. Byakuya looked down and tested the tightness that wrapped around his wrists. His eyes narrowed, but it wasn't long before he regained his unreadable expression.
The lower-ranked shinigami stepped back as Byakuya walked out of the cell. The bulky shinigami closed the door behind Byakuya and, being that he was from Squad 6, he bowed lowly to his captain, out of respect. Byakuya didn't even acknowledge the bow as he turned to Ukitake, who sighed.
Ukitake stepped forward, beside Byakuya, as everyone watched him intently. Byakuya's eyes widened only so slightly as Ukitake began to search his person… especially his sleeves.
"Sorry, Byakuya. It's only procedure." Ukitake reassured him, noticing his eyes.
Suddenly, Ukitake felt something small and solid in one of Byakuya's sleeves. He looked down as he took out the peculiar object.
The room was dark and the air was still. Byakuya stood in a bright spotlight in the middle of this gloomy room. He could only see a few silhouettes move around in the background and hear the mumbling voices of men. The feeling of many pairs of eyes bore through his being harshly, but he kept his composure in check, just what was expected of the stoic captain of Squad 6.
He stood there quietly, shifting his gaze to the two shinigami that stood a little more forward on each side of him. They had accompanied him out of the Division 6 cells and to where he was now… the Central 46 trial room.
To think, a captain incarcerated in his own division's prison. When word got around that the great Captain Kuchiki had broken the rules, most of his subordinates were in a state of shock. Even his lieutenant couldn't believe his ear or eyes, even when he heard the report and saw his captain sitting on the lone wooden chair in the middle of the cell.
It was a joke, right? No. It wasn't. He was now there, standing in silence, for his crimes against Aneko Mayako. It was his time to face the Central 46 for his actions. It was time for him to face the consequences. Never in his life would he imagine that he would stand before the council in such conditions and in… restraints.
Byakuya looked down and twisted his wrists ever so slightly in the wooden handcuffs, making the cord that was attached to its side pull slightly. The shinigami, who was holding the other end of the cord, glanced over at the great captain with a look of worry in his eyes. However, the next second, he looked back forward to the council, awaiting orders. Byakuya sighed and continued to wait until a voice shattered the stifling silence.
"Captain Byakuya Kuchiki of Squadron 6, you have been brought here today before the council to address your crimes against the shinigami student and noble child, Aneko Mayako. How do you plea?" The voice sounded loudly.
Byakuya looked up from his spot, but because of the spotlight, he could not see who had spoken to him. His slate grey eyes scanned the shadows in front of him and took a deep breath in.
"Guilty. Of all charges." His pale lips moved, sounding off each syllable and letter.
There was a frenzy of whispering after he spoke those words. Byakuya's eyes continued to shift, trying to catch any hint of a decision, but their voices were too jumbled for him to make out anything significant. He sighed once more and continued.
"I will not deny my actions against Aneko Mayako nor will I stand here to grovel for pardon. I am fully prepared to accept any consequence that befits my situation." Byakuya said, but then took in another deep breath, "Even if it means the termination of my position as captain."
The council gasped and yet another frenzy of whispering occurred once more. Byakuya sighed and closed his eyes. It was awhile before the council was settled down by a stern female voice.
"Oh, please, Captain Kuchiki. We would appreciate if you stopped the overdramatic performance for the council. I deal enough with that in the chambers when the council is only among themselves. We don't need an outsider to bring it in as well. Termination is not even an option right now."
"It's Lady Horoko…" Byakuya heard one of the guarding shinigami whisper.
He simply sighed and continued to listen to the conversation among the council members.
"Councilman Mayako, you're late." A deep male voice said, sternly.
"Forgive me for my tardiness. I was over at the hospital to check on Ms. Aneko's condition and find out Captain Unohana's ruling. It turns out she's going to pull through. Of course, she will be required physical therapy and a lot of rest, but she'll still pull through. So that levitates Captain Kuchiki's punishment quite a lot, don't you agree?"
There was silence and Lady Horoko continued her report.
"To add to the good news, I have discussed it with both Ms. Aneko and the teacher that was in charge of the training exercise again and both have agreed not to press charges."
"But he still went out of line. He purposely drew his sword against an unarmed student at the academy. He also released his zanpakuto when no instruction to do so was given. No war time order was given to any shinigami during the time of the battle. He blatantly broke the number one rule of restraint that is given to all the shinigami in the Gotei 13." A male voice broke out, interrupting Lady Horoko.
"He also drew his sword in contempt. He fought to kill. We cannot oversee that." Another voice grunted from the right side.
"Nor can we ignore the fact that Captain Kuchiki has been an upstanding member of the Gotei 13 and can always rely on him especially to uphold the law no matter the circumstance. That is what he is known for throughout the force." Another council member argued.
"Besides, it wasn't as if Captain Kuchiki was not goaded on. Ms. Aneko purposely provoked him to draw his sword. It is not entirely his fault." Lady Horoko added.
"Oh, so should we also punish your heir as well, Lady Horoko? Is that what you are insinuating?" One of the council members snapped. "She's already in enough trouble as is. And now that we are on the topic of that sniveling little brat, I say we banish Ms. Aneko rather than punish one of the finest captains in the Gotei 13."
"Hold your tongue, councilman! You have no right to place that vote down in front of the accused!" Lady Horoko snapped back with equal disgust in her voice.
Byakuya heard a deep voice from the center of the room speak out, "That is enough. Lady Horoko, it seems you are unbiased to the decision, but you are still lucky that you are not excused from this particular trial, because of your connection with Ms. Aneko. So if you would like to continue to sit through this, I would suggest you keep silent before I change my mind. Is this Captain Kuchiki's first offense?"
Lady Horoko cleared her throat, the sound of pages being flipped through as she did, before saying, "Yes sir. Our records show of no previous acts by the captain. This would be his first major offense."
There was silence. Nothing stirred in the trial room as the head counselor shifted in his chair. Byakuya sensed that they had come to a decision. With his grey eyes piercing straight ahead into the darkness, he kept his calm composure, awaiting an answer. There were a few coughs, then more silence, before the deep voice spoke once more.
"After reviewing the severity of your crime against your behavior in the Gotei 13, I have come to a decision as to what your punishment will be, Captain Byakuya Kuchiki. After much consideration, your punishment is of the following…"
"Onee-chan! Stop cheating! It's not fair!" Etsu shrilled in annoyance.
Aneko laughed loudly, patting the little girl on the head gently. She placed down her hand of cards on the bed sheet and stretched out, yawning widely. Unlike her usual flamboyant kimono or the standard shinigami uniform, the young Mayako donned the hospital's white yukata that was wrapped around her elegant pale body… not that it could be seen or anything under all the bandage.
"Etsu, aren't you bored of this game already?" Aneko sighed, scratching the back of her head. "We've played it a million times already. I do need my rest, too, my dear."
"No way! I have to win at least once!" Etsu whined, taking Aneko's hand of cards and reshuffling them in the pile.
Aneko giggled and leaned over to kiss Etsu on the forehead. It had already been two weeks since she was admitted into the hospital from the whole Kuchiki incident and although that time would be more than sufficient enough for any wounds under the care of Lady Unohana to heal completely, Aneko was still covered in multiple bandages that still needed to be replaced every now and then. Everything but her face was completely covered to conceal the millions of cuts and deep wounds that Aneko inflicted from the battle. Although not all the wounds were cut deep to leave a fatal impression, most of them did slice and sever the nerves needed to move. This alone left Aneko almost paralyzed in bed. To top it off, the amount of spiritual energy she had left was depressing.
Aneko sighed and smiled, looking out her open window. She was quite aware of her horrible position, but she felt as if she need not allow many to hear of it. The only ones informed were all of her nurses, Lady Unohana, Captain Kyoraku, and Lady Horoko. Why make others worry when she was going to be healed anyway?
Aneko sighed, but then felt a pang of pain shoot through her right arm. She flinched biting her bottom lips hard.
"Etsu, can you please call one of the attending nurses here? I think it's about time I needed my pain medication."
"Yes, Onee-chan. I'll be right back."
However, Etsu didn't even get a chance to jump off the bed when Kanji came barging through the door to the room. He was wearing his normal shihakusho underneath the standard Division 12 lab coat. In one hand was a packed lunch and the other, a bouquet of daisies. Aneko gave him a small smile at the sight of the daisies, but then she flinched at the loudness of his voice.
"Aneko! Are you awake?"
Aneko let out an exasperated sigh as she said, "If I had been sleeping, that would've woken me up either way."
"Sorry, love." Kanji chuckled, walking over to her bedside, leaning down and kissing her on the lips lovingly.
As he straightened back up, he blushed a little and said, "I'll never get tired of that, you know."
Aneko gave him a small smile and looked back at the flowers, "Are those for me?"
Kanji laughed and placed the flowers on her lap, "Yup. I went into the Rukongai just for them. You like them?"
"What a sweet gesture. Thank you."
"Your welcome." Kanji said, happily, watching the love of his life lift the bouquet up to her nose and smell them.
"Kanji-kun, did you bring me anything?" Etsu said, sweetly, tugging at his lab robe and in turn, popping him out of his daydream of Aneko.
He looked at the small girl and laughed, even louder, "Of course, I did. I brought all of us a healthy lunch today. We can eat together… just like a happy family."
Aneko's eyes flicked open wide as he said the word, 'family.' She peered over the bouquet of daisies, watching Kanji drag over a chair from the side of the room to her bedside.
Godammit… here he goes again… Aneko thought, sighing.
I told you he wouldn't let that go… A soft voice responded. He really wants to start a family with you and with all these hints, he's hoping you'll catch on.
Aneko let out a chuckle, glancing over to a small white crystal butterfly that landed on the windowsill. I don't know how it works in your world, Monshirochou, but a guy has to propose first before even thinking about that.
You know, he's thinking about it… Don't lie to yourself. Monshirochou said, in a mocking manner, before her butterfly form melted away.
Aneko sighed. She still had enough spiritual energy to communicate with her zanpakuto, but releasing her was another story.
"Aneko, what do you want? You want the fish dish or the vegetable dish?" Kanji asked, watching her intently.
"Aneko, you must really get some more food in your system. More than vegetables." Kanji sighed, handing her the vegetable bento box.
"Then why do you make me a vegetable dish every day?"
"Because I know you won't eat the fish…" Kanji said, frowning.
Aneko smirked. "I never said I would not eat the fish. You're the one who gives me an option."
Aneko broke her chopsticks and took a bite out of the rice square, before saying. "Your option of fish or vegetable? I choose vegetable because I prefer vegetable over fish."
"Then if I made you a fish dish, you'd eat it, right?"
"Then tomorrow, I'll make you a fish dish." Kanji said, grinning widely.
"But I want vegetable…" Aneko said, nonchalantly.
Kanji scratched his head and pouted at Aneko, who looked at him with a small smile. She leaned forward and placed her hand on his. She squeezed it tightly and looked into his eyes.
"Thank you for your lunches." Aneko whispered, quietly, before sitting back in her bed and continuing her lunch.
Kanji blushed and looked at her with wide eyes. He gave her one of those goofy grins and chuckled, like a little embarrassed schoolboy. He began to eat his own food.
It wasn't long until someone entered the room with a friendly hello, "Well, I didn't expect to see a party in here."
Kanji, Etsu, and Aneko turned and saw Lady Unohana standing there at the doorway with her lieutenant.
"Good afternoon, Captain Unohana." Aneko said, politely. "How are you doing, today?"
"I should be asking you that question, Aneko." She giggled. "But I'm doing quite well. Thank you. I'm not as busy as I thought I would be. Isane, can you give me Aneko's charts?"
"Yes ma'am." Isane said, happily, as she took out a folder from a box on the wall.
Taking the folder from Isane, Unohana leafed through the pages and scanned the progress that was written on the sheets.
"How's the pain, Aneko?" She asked as she continued to scan.
"Bearable. The medication works well, but when they wear off, it's a horrible feeling.
"And the wounds? Can you move properly without opening any of them up?"
"Most of the wounds. My chest wounds are a bit harder to keep intact, but I manage during physical therapy."
"And how's that going for you? The physical therapy I mean…"
"I can walk the length of the hospital without help, but with a lot of pain included. I haven't tried to flash-stepping yet, though."
"I doubt you can… with your spiritual energy."
"It's increased a tad bit. Monshirochou still contacts me here and there…"
"That's good. I'm glad Byakuya's blades didn't cut off any of pathways to your hakusui, the source of your spiritual energy, nor did he cut off the saketsu, the booster. You'll be able to regain your spiritual energy in no time then." Unohana sighed, closing the folder. "But I'm glad you're feeling better."
"We have your pain medication as well. I'm sorry if it was late." Isane said, politely, placing a tray of pills and water on Aneko's bedside table.
"It's alright. The pain isn't that bad yet. Thank you." Aneko sighed, happily, immediately taking the pills and drinking the water in one gulp.
"If that's all, I'll leave you all to your lunch." Unohana said, with a small smile.
She turned to go, but before she could leave the room, Aneko stopped her.
"Captain Unohana… any word on Captain Kuchiki?"
Unohana turned to her with wide eyes. Kanji stopped his chopsticks that were holding a small fish midway from the bento to his open mouth. His eyes were wide. Everyone in the room looked at Aneko.
After a bit of thought, Unohana shook her head with a smile and said, "No, Aneko. There's no major news about Byakuya. He's still under house arrest for another two weeks. That and continuing his duty as Captain. I hear his lieutenant still has his zanpakuto under his possession."
"Oh." Aneko said with a sigh.
Kanji took a bite out of the fish and with a frustrating tone, he said, "I can't believe he only got one month house arrest and probation. He should have had a bigger punishment, but what can you do? He's an aristocrat."
"Kanji!" Aneko snapped. "Hold your tongue. Aren't you forgetting I'm an aristocrat, too."
"Yeah… by adoption."
"What the hell is that suppose to mean?"
"Aneko, it doesn't count. You aren't coddled and babied because of your blood or family name, which the council is clearly doing for him."
Aneko rolled her eyes, the conversation between her and Kyoraku flashing briefly in her mind, before saying, "Didn't you ever think that it may have something to do with Byakuya actually being one of the best and strongest captains in the Gotei 13?"
"It's a possibility… I guess." Kanji said, his brow furrowing as he looked at Aneko. "But what the fuck do you care? Why are you trying to defend him when he almost took your life, huh?"
Aneko blinked at Kanji, out of fury, and shook her head. "I'm not going to justify that with an answer."
"Why not?" Kanji snapped, placing his bento box on Aneko's empty pill tray. "Why the fuck shouldn't I, who is your boyfriend by the way, ask why you are trying to protect the jackass who almost killed you? Do I have to remind you why you're here, Aneko?"
"Oh my…" Unohana sighed, signaling to Isane.
Isane nodded and walked over to pick up Etsu, along with her bento box. She walked over to Unohana, who smiled sweetly at the little girl.
"This isn't going to be a good place for you to stay, dear. Why don't you keep Isane and I company in my office? We'll eat lunch together." Unohana said, in a kind voice.
Etsu looked back at Aneko, who was still arguing with Kanji, and nodded. Unohana smiled and patted the small girl on the head. She then turned and walked out of the room, Isane following close behind.
"Now look what you did." Aneko sighed. "Are you happy now?"
"No. I'm not actually. I don't understand how you can forgive that man so fucking easily."
"Can you please stop cursing, Kanji? Or is your mouth too crude for you to stop?"
"Well I see my mouth isn't too crude for you to kiss, so no I don't think I want to stop."
"Oh, stop it! You're being immature."
"Aneko, just tell me. Why you still care for that heartless man? I don't understand you!"
"You wouldn't understand, Kanji."
"Kanji, just. Drop. It!" Aneko shouted, sounding out each word.
Kanji watch as Aneko placed her bento box down on her lap and turned to look out her window. It was a cloudy and depressing day. It looked like it was going to rain. He sighed and continued to look at her, his eyes slowly going down. He traced her face structure to her tiny chin, down her slender neck, but stopped at the base. He scratched the back of his head.
"You're not wearing that pretty necklace you always wear."
Aneko flinched at the sound of his calm voice, but sighed, "I must have lost it or misplaced it somewhere."
"Your neck is so empty without it."
Aneko turned to him and saw sadness in his eyes. She looked down at her chest and touched the area where the cherry blossom pendant sat before she lost it. She had realized that her necklace was missing the first day of physical therapy. Aneko had reached for it when the pain was too tremendous for her. She soon collapsed afterwards. Aneko sighed.
"Yeah… I had noticed it was gone a long time ago. I knew you were going to be depressed it was gone, so I…"
Kanji looked up and saw Aneko staring at him. Her big purple eyes bearing into his. He was paralyzed by her beautiful stare. After awhile, her brow furrowed and gave him a confused look.
"What? What's wrong?"
"Nothing. It's just your eyes." Kanji sputtered, embarrassed.
"It's not your fault." Kanji whispered, as he began to get something out of his pocket. "Anyway, as I was saying, I got yo—"
Suddenly, there was a knock on the door behind them. Aneko looked up as Kanji sighed deeply and turned around to see who knocked. It was Isane.
"Sorry to interrupt, Ms. Aneko."
"It's fine. Sorry about the fighting…"
"It's okay. It was nice to have Etsu as company for lunch." Isane giggled, as Etsu walked back into the room with an empty bento box and a lollipop.
Aneko returned Etsu's smile as she showed her the lollipop.
"Anyway, there's someone here to see you, Aneko. I'll let her in, okay?"
"Oh… okay." Aneko said, in surprise.
Isane walked out and turned to someone outside the door. She smiled widely and nodded her head.
"That's weird. I wasn't expecting anyone to visit. Only you two. And Lady Horoko usually picks up Etsu at night." Aneko said.
Kanji sighed and looked up at the clock. He then stood up and placed the chair back in its place.
"I have to return to the Squad 12 barracks now. Captain Kurotsuchi has me doing inventory today."
"Okay. Be careful."
Kanji nodded his head and leaned down to kiss Aneko on the lips, but as he did, she slightly turned her head so he caught the corner of her mouth. Kanji stood back up and looked at her with wide shocked eyes, but she was still deep in thought as to who would want to visit her. He frowned. Then a small feminine voice was heard from the door.
"Miss Aneko Mayako?"
Aneko, Kanji, and Etsu looked up to where the voice came from. Kanji gave out a small gasp. Standing at the doorway in front of Isane was Byakuya's little sister, Rukia Kuchiki.