Countless attendants busied themselves amid the stalls of Central 46's assembly hall, their varied and brightly colored robes proudly displaying markings of heritage and clan. The display of such wealth and personal pride in these once sombre halls of rule would have been unthinkable just a year before, yet none thought of that, now.
Today was an extraordinary day in a remarkable year.
It was barely eight months ago that the halls had run red with the blood of Soul Society's wisest, when the traitor Sousuke Aizen had made his bid at marring history with his unprecedented crime. Few had thought that the blow he'd landed would so easily be mended then, and that so many would prove eager to take on the role of anonymous avatars of justice.
Yet, as Sereitei still reeled in shock, the noble clans had descended from their remote residences, and offered their sincere assistance in rebuilding Central 46's numbers and authority. Preserving the continuity of government was the crux, in the aftermath of the massacre, thus the offer had been accepted, and none had truly pondered how able or qualified the clan elders were, in ruling a world from which they had been serenely absent for centuries. None had even questioned why, after millennia of observed separation, the clans had rediscovered their interest in the lower courts of heaven; within months, as the Gotei braced for its Winter War, a new set of unquestionably wise legislators had been selected, and Sereitei had pushed on, with the certainty of its invulnerability and full faith in the endless patience of time.
Today, the chambers sparkled with color as the newly elected delegates, the head families of the clans and their many servants shuffled about, and took their final seats. But six hours before, a hell butterfly had arrived, bringing news of the fact that after weeks of ceaseless harassment, the traitor had taken refuge in the human world, abandoning his Hueco Mundo citadel and falling into Sereitei's trap.
Victory was at hand, and it demanded celebration.
Setting up a hero's welcome in such a brief respite had been no easy task – the decorations that the Katsumi-Oji family had ordered did not make a pleasantly balanced backdrop to the colourful feast that the Kyoraku had prepared, while the minstrels that the Shihouin had commissioned had yet to find a single tune that the Kuchiki versifiers could put words to at such short notice. Still, as the hours went by, the minor disagreements could not erase sly smiles of shared, perfect irony, for as the clans stood gathered, ready to celebrate the outcome of a war fought with swords, all knew that the true celebration they would share was of the outcome of another war, one of time, patience, and enduring tradition over foolish, untested ideals.
Of course, a few inglorious whispers still dared suggest that the clans' involvement in the day to day ruling of Sereitei was a throw back to the days which had preceded the last kingdom wars, and that Central's impartiality would become no more than a legend, as the clans regained political power to yield against each other.
Such whispers were naught but ungrateful claptrap, the clans agreed. The Shinigami of the Gotei had had erred: they had sought to separate ancient wealth and political clout from military strength and judicial power; they'd allowed untested Rukongai-born who possessed spiritual power to enter Sereitei, with no question of their loyalties. It had only been a matter of time until their foolish behaviour turned against them - in the end, with the Gotei's attention called elsewhere, the embarrassment over the ryoka invasion and Yamamoto's inability of raising a clear successor, the Shinigami should have thought themselves fortunate, and perhaps, rather than spreading whispers, they should have taken a quiet moment to contemplate upon the cyclical irony of the fact that the very man who'd broken clan rule over the court of pure souls had been forced to reinstate it.
The time for such realisations was not yet on hand, however, and none of the clans wished to rush it. Their personal glory already had been secured, and exercising it fully could wait. For now, it was glory for all.
All motion ceased, as a senkei gate unexpectedly appeared in the center of the chamber. The musicians and speakers cuttingly eyed each other, while the dignitaries hurriedly touched up their ceremonial outfits and muttered about military men not understanding common courtesies like giving a more specific time of arrival.
But as the doorway fully materialized, there was a confusing difference that only a privileged few could have caught. Instead of the simple silk and polished cherry wood door which normally appeared when one travelled to the human realm, the gateway was an unexpectedly magnificent double doorway made of embossed rosewood with crimson panels embroidered in gold. Before the few who'd recognized the passageway to the Spirit King's world could even turn their heads to exchange glances, time's endless patience ran out.
A march swelled up to the rise of the imperial music director's hands like the first rays of the sun ascending mountain slopes, stately and grand, climbing swiftly to majesty…
…then, awkwardly falling flat as Ichimaru Gin casually strolled out of the doorway, his blood drenched, drawn sword at his side. Most of the delegates did not know the man by sight, and recognition dawned upon them slowly, not eased by the fact that for some unfathomable reason, the man was in the process of awkwardly pulling on a freshly pressed uniform of a vice-captain for the 1st Division.
Those who did recognize him stood to flee.
In the shocked stillness that followed, Ichimaru Gin continued to grin from ear to ear, and slowly sheathed his sword, causing a few droplets of blood to fall to the marble floor. None moved, and, after a further moment of consideration, the silver haired man probably realised that the burden of breaking the silence lied squarely with him.
'Boy!' Gin happily chirped with a short clap of his hands, 'have I got a surprise fo' you!'
Good evening all, and welcome to the brave new world :)