Chapter 4: Badasses

(LOL, Hope you enjoy this one! I don't think Byakuya was amused...)

Byakuya stifled a groan of discontent as Kisuke's hell butterfly flitted into the King's Gardens and winged its way towards where the noble sat, looking down into the rippling waters of the healing pool and thinking back to how things had been before his coming to the spirit dimension. He remembered feeling generally content with his life. Kuchiki Manor and the gardens it boasted were lovely, and the attendants and staff there had worked for the family since before Byakuya's birth. Yes, his surroundings had been beautiful, and he had enjoyed his daily walks, and the pleasant routine of walking to the sixth division and spending days in the squad office, alongside Renji and the others there. Working with the other taichous had been enjoyable as well, except, perhaps, for the taichous of the eleventh and twelfth divisions, who had managed to work their way under his skin now and again...sometimes to the point of some amount of violence, in Zaraki taichou's case.

But as much as his life had been pleasant and enjoyable before, coming to the spirit dimension had been eye opening. The entire spirit realm had a gently surreal feel to it. The scenery was beyond lovely, and his position near the king gave him full access to the shockingly immense, King's Library and the most beautiful gardens that existed anywhere. Mostly, his life was serene.

But there was something that Kuchiki Byakuya very much missed...something that couldn't be replaced.

Or rather, someone.

He thought back to his two sessions in Kisuke's simulator, frowning at the general experience, but sweetly replaying in his mind the appearances of Abarai Renji in his simulations. It was like old times, having Renji appear with the intent of 'saving' him, even when rescue was unnecessary. But necessary or not, Renji's dedication to him had been touching. It was as though, after working out their substantial issues regarding Rukia, they had fallen into an easy, comfortable relationship. Byakuya had always believed their friendship to be deeply pleasant, but certainly something he could make himself live without if he had to.

But the reality of doing so had left him feeling oddly lonely.

"He wasn't a lover...nor a potential lover. He never sought that with me, nor I with him," the noble mused aloud.

He imagined that part of the deep connection that had formed grew out of the time he spent grooming the younger man to become a taichou. At the beginning, he hadn't even cared about doing so, but in their battle over Rukia's fate, Renji had earned his respect, and thus gained his attention. And after that, they had both worked to see that Renji reached his goal of breaking his taichou's sword.

Byakuya smiled warmly, as he remembered with a deep feeling of pride, the day Renji had achieved that goal. He felt the clash of their full reiatsu, the dizzying impact as they connected, and then, the feeling of falling and being caught gently in Renji's shocked arms as they watched the separated portion of Senbonzakura slice into the ground. In all of his life, he had never worn a smile like the one he had worn at that moment. And moving to the spirit dimension hadn't changed that at all.

"Kuchiki taichou, we are ready now for the next simulation, said Kisuke's voice, rising up out of the hell butterfly and interrupting his thoughts.

Sighing in annoyance, he rose and walked back to the palace, then made his way to Kisuke's laboratory.

"I hope that this is nothing like the last simulation," the noble said sternly, "I cannot believe that you allowed my own sister to participate..."

"Yeah, sorry about that," Kisuke said ruefully, "but it would have been wrong to exclude her because, you know, she isn't blood related."

"I am aware of that," said the noble, "I also hope that Aizen Sousuke won't be making another appearance. He begins to wear on me."

"Yeah, I think I have that taken care of," the inventor assured him.

"Let us hope so."

"Okay, so if you'll step into the simulator..."

"I will likely regret it," noted Byakuya, "But very well."

Shaking his head unhappily, he entered the simulator and sat down.

I hope this isn't anything like the ones before...but knowing Urahara-san as I do, and knowing Senpai is scheming along with him, I had best not indulge in wishful thinking. Hmmm, I may have to begin bringing my sword into these fantasies...

His vision went dark for a moment, then he felt a sense of disorientation.

Light slowly returned, and Byakuya found himself in a lovely pine forest that bordered a tranquil, open meadow. He scanned the area with his senses and picked up some reiatsu traces.

Apparently, this suitor prefers me not to know he or she is coming.

He let out a soft breath and turned towards the meadow.

I tire of games. I will make myself easy to find...

He heard soft voices and paused.

"I think he's over there," said a low voice he recognized as Madarame Ikkaku's

One of Zaraki's subordinates? Byakuya mused, Though he is powerful, so not a complete waste of time. But those men tend to be barbarians.

"And he looks lovely, ne?" said Yumichika, "So...we all chase him down and then what? The one who captures him wins? Is that it?"

"No," said Zaraki, "This is a hunt, remember? So, the one who does the most damage or kills him gets to keep him."

He heard a wicked laugh and sensed hollow reiatsu. Peeking through the trees, he spotted Zaraki and his two subordinates standing with several others, including a blue haired hollow that he thought must be an Espada, another hollow with long black hair and a patch over one eye, Off to the side stood a lone woman with very large breasts, short hair and odd bandages around her wrists.

"Sh-shiba Kukaku?" he whispered, "What is this? They gathered the most violent people in the three worlds and...?"

"There he is!" yelled Grimmjow, drawing his weapon and activating his resurreccion, "That little bitch is mine!"

"Out of the way," snarled Noiitora, "Or I'll fucking kill you again!"

"Not if I kill you first!" Ikkaku shouted, swinging his weapon and knocking the Espada aside.

"Nnnnnngah!" howled Noiitora, "I'll destroy you for that, shinigami!"

"Just try!" Ikkaku yelled, blocking his attack and launching one of his own.

Yumichika laughed and moved to watch them.

"Oh, I think watching these two go at it will be way more fun than trying to chase down some boring noble who isn't close to being as pretty as me."

"Ugh..." groaned Byakuya, slipping into the trees and watching Grimmjow and Zaraki run through the forest, knocking down trees and blasting rocks out of their way. He started to walk away, but was nearly blown off his feet as a cero blazed through the forest, blasting a path through the trees.

"What in kami's name...?" Byakuya gasped.

"IT'S YOU AGAIN, YOU LITTLE MAGGOT!" howled a gigantic, rumbling voice.

"You must be kidding me, Urahara-san," Byakuya sighed, "These men are beastly!"

He turned as the huge hollow that he and Zaraki had fought in Hueco Mundo appeared and fired another heavy blast in this direction. He flash stepped clear, but was taken to the ground by the large breasted woman he had seen before. He struggled for a moment, his face uncomfortably pressed into her considerable cleavage.

This wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't someone I do not particularly like...

He started to snap at her, but paused as Zaraki passed over them and ran towards Yammy.

"Oh boy!" he cried, "You didn't die before. Are you ready for some fun?"

"Urrrrrrgh!" growled Yammy, "You're that other shinigami bug! You make me MAD!"

Byakuya watched as the two began to fight, then looked up at Shiba Kukaku.

"So," he said resignedly, "If the game is to capture or kill me, why have you not done anything?"

Kukaku laughed.

"What? You think I'm like those bastards there, Kuchiki Byakuya? Our noble house may have been outcast, but I haven't forgotten the code by which we live. And besides, Yoruichi was unsure how you would fare in here with these beasts, so she had me join them, so that I could help you escape them."

He pulled free of her and stood.

"I assure you," he said haughtily, "I do not need help fending off these ruffians. Most likely, they will just kill each other, and I can walk away unharmed. But if I have to fight, I am more than capable of doing so on my own."

"Huh!" Kukaku huffed, "No gratitude, ne? I told her you'd just tell me to get lost..."

"You were right," Byakuya said shortly, "Goodbye, Shiba Kukaku."

He had taken no more than about three steps when a green tendril wrapped around his ankle and the stunned noble was upended and hoisted into the air, upside down.

It had to be right in front of her...

Kukaku's laughter rang loudly through the area, making the snared noble flinch. He sensed the approaching reiatsu of several of his 'suitors.'

Oh, this is not good...

A knife twirled through the air and cut the green tendril where it wrapped around the branch above the suspended noble. Byakuya felt himself begin to fall and flash stepped, trying to ignore Kukaku as she cackled madly again and flash stepped forward to catch him.

No! Not in this lifetime!

He flash stepped clear of her, then watched with stunned eyes as the group of suitors pursuing him bore down on her. Kukaku flash stepped clear as the others crashed headlong into each other. She shook her head in disgust as the reiatsu exploded around them, and the group was expelled violently in all directions.

"Idiots!" Kukaku said, rolling her eyes.

She glanced back at Byakuya.

"Still don't think you need help, Kuchiki?" she asked, narrowing her eyes.

"Of course not," Byakuya said, frowning, "I told you..."

He broke off as Noiitora appeared suddenly beside him and slashed at him. He managed to narrowly escape decapitation, but felt a stinging sensation on his shoulder and scented blood. Blue fire erupted from Byakuya's hands, throwing Noiitora head over heels. Byakuya turned to escape, but barely caught Zaraki's sword as it swung in his direction.

"What in kami's name are you doing?" he asked the other taichou, "You cannot tell me that you want my hand in marriage! We never could stand each other. What are you doing here?"

Zaraki laughed.

"What does it look like I'm doing?" he asked sarcastically, "I'm having fun!"

Zaraki's sword flashed and more blood leaked onto Byakuya's skin. He flash stepped away from Zaraki, but founnd himself being stalked by the now catlike Grimmjow.

It never ends!

"Where are you going, sweetheart?" growled Grimmjow, "You want me to lick that blood off for you?"

Byakuya answered with twin blasts of blue fire. He turned and fired a second twin lotus blast, then another as Noiitora's blade slashed across his back. An arm wrapped around his waist, and he loosed a sigh of relief.

"Renji...I..." He stopped as he met Aizen Sousuke's amused eyes.

"Sorry to disappoint you," he said, smirking.

He landed well away from the marauding fighters, and Aizen shook his head and sighed.

"Is this what Urahara Kisuke thinks you want in a mate, Byakuya?" he asked, "I think you can do better than that."

"Ah," said the noble, "So you want me to escape their molestation just to have to endure yours..."

"Endure?" Aizen said, frowning, "Byakuya, you cut me to the core. How can you be so cruel? You know how I feel about you. You need only say the word and I will take you away from all of this."

Byakuya's expression saddened.

"What is it, Byakuya? You and I have gone on for years, pretending. I admit that I have fallen head over heels for you."

"I am aware of that," the noble said, reaching up to touch his face and accepting a gentle kiss, "But, you still wish to kill the king. And I am the king's defender."

"That does complicate things," said Aizen, "So perhaps I'll just abduct you again!"

He curled an arm around Byakuya's waist and flash stepped towards a garganta.

"S-sousuke! Sousuke, stop this!" Byakuya cried, "I am...I have to...Sousuke!"

"You again!" yelled Renji's voice, "Get your slimy hands off of him!"

The skeletal snake slammed into Aizen, sending both Byakuya and him crashing to the ground.

"S-sorry Taichou!" called Renji, sending another blast in Aizen's direction.

Byakuya picked himself up off the ground and dusted himself off as the skeletal snake continued to assault the leader of the hollows. The noble started to speak to the redhead, to give him an earful for nearly killing him, but was distracted from it as the hubbub that Renji had created, drew the attention of the brawling fighters.

"Oh gods," moaned Byakuya, dodging a haze of incoming kido fire, then flash stepping clear of several slashing swords, "Not this again!"

"I have your back, Taichou," Renji assured him.

"Please do try not to impale me as you protect me," the noble said dryly.

"That's not nice," Renji chuckled, sending the skeletal snake after Byakuya's suitors.

He and Byakuya flash stepped away and found a quiet clearing within the forest. Byakuya turned to face the redhead. Renji studied him for a moment and shook his head.

"You need some healing," he commented, "Sit down and I'll take care of that."

Byakuya sat down and waited calmly as Renji looked him over, and began to heal the damage that the ruffian suitors had caused.

"You're a mess, Taichou," Renji commented, "You need to find a better way to get a husband. You're gonna get killed when if you keep this up!"

Byakuya met his eyes cautiously.

"I never wanted to do this in the first place," he explained, "I only accepted because it seemed to please his majesty."

Renji leaned closer, focusing his healing power on a deep gash in Byakuya's arm.

"I think after this, you might want to just tell him that you don't want a mate. This is too damned dangerous!"

Byakuya gave him the ghost of a smile.

"But...what if I actually do want to find someone?" he asked softly, "What if doing this has made me realize that...there is someone who..."

He broke off as the image of Renji flickered and began to disappear.

"Renji, don't leave," he said, reaching for the redhead.

"Sorry Taichou!" Renji called out as he began to disappear, "Signal's being disrupt..."

"Renji!" he called out again as his former fukutaichou disappeared.

Byakuya felt anger boil up inside him and raised his reiatsu. The air around him crackled with his power.

"Urahara-san, let me out of this place!" he demanded, "This is insane!

Kisuke's voice sounded, but Byakuya could not see him.

"Sorry Byakuya-san. Technical difficulties. I'll have you out in a few minutes."

"You will let me out now, or I will destroy this infernal trap!" Byakuya said, finally losing his temper, "The men in here are insane! How could you think for a moment that I would want any of them for a mate!"

He was taken off his feet in the midst of his next sentence by Shiba Kukaku, who knocked him down and nearly smothered him with her breasts again. And in that moment, the usually cool noble almost came unglued.

"KISUKE!" he roared in a voice that harkened back to his earlier, less refined days, "YOU BASTARD, LET ME OUT OF HERE!"

He was practically breathing fire as the group of crazed fighters encircled him and began to close in.

"Good going," said Kukaku, wryly, "I think you told them all exactly where to find us..."

"KISUKE!" Byakuya yelled again.

"All right, all right, don't bust anything!" the inventor said in an anxious tone.

Byakuya felt the tingling sensation and return to darkness that accompanied his return to the simulator. He burst out of the device, grabbed Kisuke by the front of his shirt and forced him back against the wall.

"I'll have no more of this! This is insane! Don't you dare put me in that contraption again!"

"Aww, don't be so angry," said Kisuke, "I promise. The next simulation will be much better. I don't know who let those guys all in there together. I'll make sure it doesn't happen again."

"It had better not, or I will kill you," Byakuya snapped, flash stepping away.

"Whew!" Kisuke said, watching him go, "He's quite a handful! No wonder he can't find a mate..."