Disclaimer – I do not own Bleach. This fanfic is a sequel to Softly Snowing. The fanfics focus more on OC characters then canon characters. While it wouldn't be a bad idea to read the first fanfic, I'll hopefully set it up in the first chapter so that the reader doesn't have too.

Softly Snowing II
Academy Years
~Keeping a Self Promise~

Kamoku Hana glanced out of her house, her brown eyes taking in the snow melting on the ground. She stepped out, slipping on her sandals and headed tout, being careful not to step in potential mud holes. Today came yet another day to head off towards school, yet her mind focused on something else. The events happened roughly forty years ago, but in truth she lost track of the time as any one did in the Rukongai.

Walking through the small village located in the first district of Junrinan. She wore a kimono died pink, no elaborate design on said kimono. She found herself ready for spring, but also ready for another adventure. No, she was finally ready for an adventure that she had been planning for over that long period of time to take place. Stepping through the streets, she knew she would be talking to the small school teacher about her plans.

As she passed by the pub, she could swear she could hear her brother Nashini, the eldest in the family yelling drunkenly about something. She really did not wish to know, simply because her brother ended up being a pain to deal with when he was in this state of mind. It also came about that his bravado during such times tended to mean he let something slip about someone which would later on cause of fight of some kind.

As she walked, she passed by where another of her brothers sat working in a stall as an apprentice to the local candy maker. This ended up bringing in quite a bit of money to the family, something her friends were a little jealous of. Her brother waved to her as she passed and the shop owner waved her over. "Hana-chan! Are you off to school today."

At that, the prepubescent female walked over, tripping in her sandals and then standing up. She smiled at the man. "Yes... I am off to school today."

"Your sister..." the man turned to Shirezu, smiling as he did so. "Your sister will make a lovely bride some day."

"She's no different from the other girls." The middle male child shook his head at this statement. "She's got stiff competition from the other girls."

"I hear though, the Terunori boy has his eyes set on your sister." The man let out a booming laugh.

"I don't think it is polite to talk about marriage prospects in front of the females." Her brother shook his head. "Pay him no mind."

"Last time I checked, Mitsuyo-chan and Ren-chan both have their hearts set on Terunori-san." Hana titled her head.

"So, you're being nice to your two friends?" The man laughed aloud. "You are such a sweet heart, Hana-chan." He then pulled out two bags of candy and tossed them to Hana. "Here is a treat for you."

"You won't make money if you give away treats constantly to the children." Her brother sighed.

"I only give out a few a day. And anyways, I always have the Shiba clan members checking out my business and buying up loads of candy, among other people else where. My candy is popular. Enough said." The man then nodded his head at Hana. "You give the other bag to Hita. Shirezu's worried due to his twin being in one of his darker moods again."

"Hita-chan?" Hana blinked twice. "When I'm around him, he always is positive."

"Don't worry about what he says. Get yourself to school so you don't upset sensei with your being late." Her brother stated. Shirezu then turned to the man he was apprenticed to and said something, the look on his face saying he was in fact upset about something. Hana simply continued on her way, finally coming to the classroom, a one room school building.

Stepping up, she found that she tripped on the stairs, hitting her knee hard on the wooden floor. She simply though stood up and walked over to her seat, ready to work on the daily lessons. Ren and Mitsuyo hurried over her, using her as middle ground for their conversation regarding a certain boy they both liked. Hana in truth found herself still clueless about certain things.

"I love how his blue eyes are like the sky." Mitsuyo piped up, a smile plastered on her face as she let out a giggle for some reason or another. "That is the best part."

"No it isn't. You're wrong." Ren muttered. "The best part is his hair. I'ts got a lovely curl too it."

This of course started an argument, which caused both to turn to Hana. "What do you think is the best thing about him?"

At this, Hana blinked a couple of times and she paused to think for a bit of time. In truth, she couldn't think of anything nice about said boy, due to the fact that he tended to boast about his achievements when he was around her. She also didn't see what the point about talking about his looks were either, she simply lacked interest in him. She however finally spoke up. "He thinks he's best at everything."

At that, the other two girls went off, agreeing with each other again. Ren spoke up first. "Well, yes. I forgot that he was the best at everything he does."

"Soccer, academics... and he's a gentleman." Both girls suddenly batted their eyelids, letting out a deep sigh as they clutched their hearts, not acting at all lady like about the matter.

"I said he thinks he's the best at everything he does." Hana shook her head in dismay due to the fact that her two friends simply didn't listen to her."

This time though, they did listen. Mitsuyo nodded her head. "You're right Hana. Inaba-kun isn't as smart as you."

"You get the top praises from the teacher." Ren smiled at her friend. "Nobody we know of could do better then you."

At that, Hana paused for a few seconds. "I can think of someone. Actually, I've seen him play soccer once and he is actually better then Inaba-kun."

"Who?" Ren asked.

Mitsuyo let out a laugh. "This wouldn't happen to be Shirezu onii-san would it?"

"No." The brown haired female then said it outright. "I was thinking of Hitsugaya Toshiro."

"Hitsugaya..." The red head of the two paused, her eyes blinking.

"You know." Mitsuyo sighed, her finger reaching up to curl her hair. "That white haired brat that used to hang around here before Hinamori Momo went off to the academy. Whatever happened to him?"

"I heard he joined he academy." Hana stated, smiling at the two.

"Oh, come on." Ren let out a laugh. "I can't believe that he of all people would end up in the academy." They were about to say something more, but the teacher then came in. Ren whispered towards her. "No way that he could be better at soccer then Inaba-kun. Everyone talks about how dumb he was. He didn't want to be anyone's friends, so why even bother thinking about him." The blond nodded her head in agreement. Hana choose to disagree.

ƸΨƷ

Eventually, the time for a break for lunch came and the teacher dismissed the students out into the yard around the small school house, though in truth there really was no place for any of the children to play without becoming messy, however, the smaller ones didn't care. Hana normally would have gone and sat with the older girls, with not many being older then her now, however, she needed to speak to her teacher about something.

She remembered back in her head how she had never really spoken much to Hitsugaya Toshiro, only to have the one time she had felt the fear of talking to him going away, and the chance to ask him to be her friend suddenly turn on her when she found out from his granny he had joined the academy and became a shinigami.

Mentally she kicked herself for not having spoken to him about said things sooner, however, she decided rather quickly that instead of regretting what she did, she would make it so that she could eventually ask him to be her friend. This meant though, going to the academy for testing. She couldn't help but bite her lip as a lot of feelings welled up in her chest.

The female teacher motioned her to come. "You wished to speak to me about something?"

"I am wanting to join the academy." Hana stated.

The teacher frowned at this, then spoke up. "I personally think your temperament is wrong."

"I really want to go though." The female stated.

"This seems kind of strange coming from you." The teacher took a deep breath. "The best way to put it is, you have spiritual pressure, but you've ignored all conversation about the academy up until now. You've shown no interest. Is there some reason you want to join? I mean, you aren't wanting to join because you want the power and prestige. I'll also say you don't need to join due to having trouble controlling your reiatsu."

"Some people aren't able to control their rietsu?" Hana blinked a couple of times. "I've never heard of that before."

"I lost one students for that reason, you might say." The teacher let out a small laugh. "They've done quite well for themselves though, so I can't help but be proud as their sensai. What is your reason for wanting to join?"

Hana's voice dropped to a whisper. "I know that Hitsugaya Toshiro went and joined the academy and the only way I'll be able to see him again and ask him to be my friend is if I join the academy."

"Hitsugaya Tai... Toshiro?" The sensei paused. "Well, the irony of that and this conversation. I wouldn't go about telling people that the reason you are joining is because of him. Though... this wouldn't happen to be because you've heard of what happened to him?"

"He didn't get hurt did he?" Hana's mouth twisted up, not wanting to hear that such a thing had occurred.

"No... it's something else that Hinamori and he asked me not to talk about to the other villagers. I think it goes back to the fact he feels he is disliked here... among other things." The teacher shook her head. "You honestly want to be that child's friend?"

"He didn't seem like a mean and cruel person like everyone made him out to be." Hana let out a laugh.

"I have to wonder if you really would be able to make friends with him. He is not easy to get along with." The teacher stated, placing a hand on her chin.

"You mean you think like the villagers that there is something wrong with him?" The small female frowned at this.

"No. It's just that he doesn't make friends easily and he doesn't socialize well with others. It isn't that he is mean, or cruel... it is more of he keeps to himself and... well, that is a private matter I am sure he wouldn't want me talking to you about."

"I still want to try." Hana stated. "I am going to the testing in a weeks time and I really need something to tell my parents. They won't accept that I am going after him. They'll think I'm crazy. Mitsuyo-chan and Ren-chan think I am crazy enough saying he did go and join te academy."

"Well, here is an idea." The teacher still seemed rather shaken about the prospect.

ƸΨƷ

After class, Hana walked back to her home and found Hita, Shirezu's twin, sitting in the doorway. She pulled out the small bag of candy and handed it too him. She then sat down on the other side of him. "I want to tell you first, and tell you the whole story before I even tell mama and papa, along with Shirizu and Nashini."

"It isn't a marriage proposal?" Hita asked, giving her a weak smile, digging into the bag of candy. "What I wouldn't give Hana, to have a chance to have the freedom the rest of you have. Mother and father still think I'm sickly."

"Well, aren't you?" The small female leaned against the door-frame. "And no. It isn't a marriage proposal. I don't see why anyone would be interested in me. I decided I am going to be joining the academy, Hita."

At that, her brother's face paled. "So you're leaving me, us?"

"I'll come back during break just like Hinamori-san did." Hana titled her head as her brother winced at hearing that name. "It's my turn to do something with my life. I want to be useful too."

"That isn't what my problem is. Do you even understand how dangerous being a shinigami is?" Hita glanced at the top of the door-frame.

"You don't think I'm cut out for being one, do you?" The small female turned pouting.

"You're a pacifist. Not as much as I am, as you can stand up to Nashini, unlike myself. However... Hana, you don't like hurting people." Her brother reached out and ruffled the top of her brown hair.

"I've never had reason to hurt someone." The small female stated firmly. "I know that it isn't going to be easy, but... the thing is." At that, she paused, and then she spoke up. "Don't tell mother and father, but I want to go to the academy so I can meet up with Toshiro-kun again."

"You happen to like him, don't you... like I like Hinamori-san." Hita leaned forward.

"Yeah, I want to be friends with him. I feel guilty for some reason because I waited so long to ask him to be friends, and then he was gone. Promise you won't tell?" Hana smiled sweetly at him.

"Anything for my dear sister." Hita smiled. He then waited with her for the rest of the family to return. However, something about her brother seemed off. Her mother began to prepare the food, which was needed by both Hana and Hita as they had reiatsu, though their parents mistook her brother's need as some sort of illness.

Nashini came home, rather drunk, dropping his coin onto the table, only to have his father speak up. "You didn't put all of it down, did you? How much did you spend on sake?"

"I'm the one who earned the money." The male stated. Shirezu came in then just as their mother placed the food on the table.

"Terunori-san stopped by the stall asking how you were doing, Hana." Her brother sat down at the table and they said thanks for the food.

Hana reached out for a small piece of food. "I don't understand why. We see each other during school."

"But for how long. You and the others your age are around the age that you are going to start thinking about starting your own lives, finding a trade if possible, or getting married." Her father stated, continuing to eat.

"Terunori-san would possibly be one of the best catches." Her mother had a dreamy look in her eyes. "His family is connected."

"Actually, I was thinking of joining the academy." Hana stated, the bold statement catching her parents off guard, though her brothers had become used to her being more outspoken.

Despite knowing her to be more outspoken, Nashini spoke up. "You... become a shinigami. As if."

"I have reiatsu." Hana stated firmly. "Plus, I have more options when it comes to marriage if I go through the academy, right? Even more if I am able to become a shinigami?"

"Yes... yes. Whore yourself out like that Hinamori girl." The eldest spoke out. "Being a shinigami is mans business, not that of a girl."

At that, Hita got up and left the table. "I don't feel good, so I am going to go lie down."

The head of the family though had Kurt words for his son. "There are a great deal of female shinigami who happen to be well thought of. It is not only the business of men. Also, while that boy that lived with Hinamori is likely not to amount to anything, Word has it she has really amounted to something. So do not speak ill of her."

"Still..." Shirezu spoke up, concern in his voice. "Becoming a shinigami... there is a chance something will happen to you before you do get married. What then?"

At that, Hana's mother spoke up, her voice soft. "Simply having a shinigami from our family would be something to be proud of, so I don't see a problem with it. If Hana can make it, she can make it. I wish her luck with the tests that are coming up." At that, the small female smiled, things going the way she wanted them too.