"Brother, recently there is a lot of talking about the war in Europe. " Rukia cut her meat to small pieces on the gilt, porcelain plate, while Byakuya chose the thirty-year old wine for the dinner on the other side of the table.
There were only the two of them, since she remembered.
Mostly they ate in silence, but occasionally exchanged a few sentences during meals, concerning politics, her trainings or Byakuya's job. Nothing too personal.
"I've been wondering… how long do you think it will last? It should be finished by the end of the year, am I right?" Since the moment she had wished good luck to Ichigo, she felt really happy. The separation was exactly what she needed. She will have a wonderful time for self training and he would not distract her anymore; what was more, if everything goes well, she'll get the main role in the spectacle and perform it around New Year's Eve. That would be fantastic.
She could even send Ichigo an invitation, so that he could see how much she improved during the time he was gone.
Fine, she never liked his presence, but from time to time he gave her some good advices; not about the technique of course, because he knew nothing about that, but somehow he could help her to get into the right emotion during practice.
Now when she finally got rid of him, she could appreciate it.
Not that she already missed him; Rukia was really far away from that.
Kuchikis were never attached to anybody.
Rukia wanted to see his face after he watches the play with her in the main role, people throwing flowers at the scene…
"This is highly doubtful." From the colorful imagination of the after-spectacle party, ripped her out her brother's emotionless voice.
"Sooner?" She continued to cut the meat. "Hanataro, tell the cook that the meat is delicious tonight. It's simply melting in my mouth." Rukia nodded gently to the servant and sent him a weak smile.
"Later. It will probably last a few years and frankly speaking, I'm really worried about the influence it will take on us…"
"Wait, what do you mean a few years? Is it really that serious?" Rukia put the fork and knife away and concentrated fully on her brother. She never thought it could last longer than a few months.
"Oh, yes. Very serious in my opinion. Germany has a very strong leader, and I have a bad feeling that he won't stop at the neighbor's lands. He must have planned something wider, the costs of armours speak for themselves… On the other hand there is also Russia… for a few years there are massive disappearances, it is a very strong country as well… It might turn into a world-wide war, a crisis we have never seen yet…" Byakuya kept talking about it like he was speaking about the weather, while Rukia's eyes became bigger with every word. "There are thousands of casualties so far, I don't want to think about the loss we will sustain in the nearest time; these ten thousands we're sending tomorrow is only the beginning... Of course if it's about our wealth, you can be sure that I'm having everything under control."
Rukia listened to that short lecture and every word made her chest tighten, making it difficult to breathe in the beautiful evening dress she wore for the supper.
She needed to know more.
"About causalities… what numbers are we talking about?" She held her emotions balanced, but something told her she won't be able to stay that way for a long time.
"There are acts stating they are thousands… but people say that counting those from the time before the actual start of the war… there could be billions."
"Billions…? For… for how long?"
"Three- Five years. But why are you so interested in the war all of sudden, you never liked politics to begin with. I've heard from Sode no Shirayuki that you're getting better with every practice."
"Yes… she says that I might be ready for the performance s-soon." Rukia replied mechanically, but the information she has just possessed flowed in her mind over and over again and she could not think about anything more, than of her goodbye to Ichigo this afternoon.
She had told him it's good he's going to war…
…as if she wished him death.
Thousands, millions of people just… disappeared and he was going there.
Counted in those ten thousand people who were just the beginning.
Who were sent to die.
"… you selfish girl."
She hasn't even once thought what would happen if he goes to Europe.
She has seen only the possibilities of more intense training.
Suddenly it struck her.
He knew her so well.
He even smiled at how selfish and carefree she was.
"Rukia?" Suddenly she heard her brother's voice a bit louder than usually.
"Excuse me, brother, I'm not feeling very well. I think I've had too much of that delicious food. I should have eaten less. I'm really ashamed." Rukia removed the tissue from her knees, wanting to go to her room and think quietly about everything once again.
Her heart was beating fast, as if something horrible was about to happen.
"Ladies are not supposed to eat a lot. Especially the ones training ballet. Have that in mind next time, sister."
"I'm deeply sorry, brother, and promise it won't happen again. Now, if you excuse me, I'm going to rest."
"Should I sent someone to keep you company?"
"No thank you for your concern. I'll go straight to the bed. Good night."
Rukia walked slowly trough the dining room lit with candles, watching for her posture, but the moment she was entered the staircase, she lifted up the lower edge of the dress, took off the shoes and ran to her room.
She was anxious, the terrible news were circling around her head, she just couldn't get rid of the persistent thoughts.
Many casualties, disappearances, situation getting worse, more serious…
…and above all, Ichigo Kurosaki in the middle of this mess.
Nobody knew when, or if he's going to come back alive.
And she has just told him that's it good for him to go.
How selfish of her, how foolish!
What if those were the last words he would ever hear from her?
The thought itself was to horrible to finish it.
He couldn't die.
But then her lively imagination showed her a picture of his orange hair soaked in blood, as the bullet made its way from the temple….
She thought of the times she had to kick him out from the training hall with force, be it with kicking his bottom, dragging him by the ear or any other unlady-like manner, how her brother would call it; how many times had she cursed him, threw stones at the tree he sat… how many times had he cornered her with that smirk of his, how he had come to her so close, so that she could feel him beside… so that she knew he was always there, always with her…
And how he looked at her dancing; yes, he was right with this as well. She wanted him to look, she wanted him to tell her how much he liked it; his opinion mattered, even though she was too stupid to appreciate it.
Rukia fell on the bed in the clean pajamas and felt the overwhelming weight of her thoughts, as if someone lifted up the curtain on the scene and she saw the well-known spectacle for the first time…
The realization came gradually, the pieces clicked together like a puzzle.
She fidgeted in her bed for long hours, when finally she managed to fall into a restless sleep.
However when she woke up, she knew what she had to do, or rather where she had to go.
She had to see him.
Rukia walked through the huge sea of people, who gathered on the harbor, to wave goodbye their brave boys, who went to the war; she saw flags, medical supplies, soldiers, who talked to their families… who were saying goodbye.
All of them were wearing beautiful, navy blue uniforms with golden buttons, the hats in the same color and long shoes that made them look more distinguished.
And of course, for Rukia's misfortune, identical.
The sky seemed to not approve their departure, because it was heavy and grey, as if the great storm would start right after they get on the ship.
The ship, that will take them to the hell; be it whether on the sea, or at the destination of their journey.
Rukia got up early, very early, and the only thing she was doing before coming here, was to check the forecasts for the war, the recent statistics and news she found in the newspapers.
She felt torn apart; between her own pride- which told her it was inappropriate to go to a place like this, to mix with the crowd, which consisted mostly of the poorest citizens of Karakura- and her heart, which told her during the latest night that Ichigo Kurosaki wasn't somebody who could be replaced so easily.
The Rukia Kuchiki from two days ago would laugh at that thought, but the Rukia, who was walking frantically, pushing people away, to find that only one person, struggling she could never see again- that Rukia was not sure about anything in her life anymore.
She felt like some hurricane went through her brain and wrecked havoc in there, making her usually organized and confident self, very unstable and full of sorrow.
She wanted to see him only to tell him that she's gonna miss him and that she finally understood everything.
Her long, dark coat wasn't helping her, when she was pressing between the people; the wind was howling above and the crows were , cawing noisily, outshouting the human voice.
How the hell could she find him, when all the soldiers were wearing the same thing? His orange hair won't help this time, because it will be hidden under the hat, and in that rumor there's no chance she'll hear his voice.
Rukia Kuchiki clenched her fists harder and rushed forward; nothing would stop her.
Suddenly she heard the howling coming from the ship and that sound froze her.
She lacked of time.
Her pace quickened, the short, comfortable heels on her feet also gave a muffled sound, as they touched the asphalt with every step, and she kept looking around.
She moved quickly in the ship's direction, hoping to find him nearby.
After she had touched the line that separated friends and family from the soldiers, who gathered in groups on the other side, she finally noticed the person she was looking for.
"Ichigo!" Rukia shouted as loudly as she could, but the noise around her made it impossible for him to hear it.
"Ichigo!" She repeated, even stronger.
Hell no, I am seeing you, you won't get on that damn ship without talking to me first.
"ICHIGO!" She tried once again, but it was hopeless. He had already threw his luggage on his back, waved to somebody in the opposite direction and moved onwards, arm in arm with some guy with glasses on.
Rukia observed helplessly as he was distancing himself from her.
I won't allow you.
She lifted the line a little and slid underneath. The moment she was on the other side, she started to run.
Rukia noticed that some people were pointing at her, but she couldn't care less in that particular moment.
It was the only chance.
She won't be able to repeat this, like she did during rehearsal. This was the final act.
"ICHIGO!" She screamed once again, still running towards him, and he twitched.
"ICHIGO!" Just a little bit closer…
Ichigo turned around, because he could swear that he heard somebody calling him.
Well, more exactly it was Rukia's voice he heard, but that was not possible, since she was either eating dinner with her brother or practicing ballet on that hour.
So when he saw her, running towards him, with that long black coat and the raven hair disheveled, as if she was a dark princess coming to take away his life, not paying any attention at people who whispered and pointed at her, he couldn't do much more than stand in one place and observe the whole scene.
Was she really calling him?
Or is he that much of a coward, that he's hallucinating, even though he hadn't even put his foot on the ship?
"Ichigo!" She finally reached him and her small hand caught the front of his navy uniform, her head bent down, so that he couldn't see her face. There was something heartbreaking in that gesture, that he wanted to catch that hand and warm it up in his own.
"Rukia? What are you doing in a place like this? Shouldn't you be on your rehearsal at the moment?"
"No." She replied shortly and looked at him with those huge and cold, glossy eyes. They were filled with o much emotion. "I'm so sorry. I… I want to apologize to you properly, but there is no time." She looked uncertainly at the soldiers that were entering the ship.
"I'm sorry for being so stupid and telling you it's good for you to go to a war. I'm sorry for being such a bitch to you. "Ichigo's eyes widened as he heard Rukia Kuchiki, the woman with perfect manners, cursing in public, and it was not because he pissed her off. "I'm sorry for many things I don't have time to tell you, but most of all I'm sorry that I never tried to listen to you and what I want to say is…" A single tear slid down her cheek, but she wiped it away quickly."… that I'm gonna miss you and I want you back. Alive… you stupid idiot." She smiled weakly as she added the last word, hoping that could cheer them up a little, but was there anything that could cheer a man up in the face of death?
"Rukia… are you ok?" Ichigo didn't know what to say, heck, he didn't know what to think.
Was it really Rukia Kuchiki or her substitute?
"I'm perfectly fine."
"Normally, I would ask 'what the hell got into you? But today…" He looked down at the hand that still gripped his uniform, and now shook slightly. After a little hesitation, he put his on top of hers.
"It's ok." Ichigo sighed and prepared himself for the speech. He was aware how little time he had, but this has to be done.
"Listen to me carefully, Rukia." Somehow he felt himself holding her hand as if it was the only source of air.
For the first and the last time.
"I'm going on that ship, but that doesn't mean I'm gonna die. Hell, it's damn hard to make me dead, I swear that some people have already tried and finished up pretty bad." He saw a shadow of a smile on her face and kept going to the harder part.
"From now on, I am simply starting a new life and you have to deal with it. It's best for you if you keep doing what you were doing up to today; you never needed me to anything, I was just your stalker as you used to say." He smiled towards her as sincerely as he could. "Stalking has just ended, so… as you said, keep practicing and maybe someday… I'm gonna see you on the big stage…"
"Stop talking bullshit like you didn't know what was awaiting you there." Now the demon Rukia has awakened; the black hair were around her face, her cold eyes sent flames at him and her hand wasn't in his anymore; she hit his chest with fist, not as lightly as he would have preferred. "You know it, and I know it. So just…" For a moment she lacked words, looking at him angrily, her eyes narrowed, mouth opened, as if somebody took away her voice.
"Crap." She closed her mouth and stared at him.
Then she just clenched her hand around his uniform once again and pulled him down harshly for a quick and fierce kiss.
"I want you back, do you hear me?" She whispered, when Ichigo couldn't register what exactly was happening. All he knew was that he held her waist and looked into those eyes, deep as a sea he was going to sail.
"You told me once that I was selfish… I am, so I must get what I want. And I want you." She brushed his mouth once again, and this time Ichigo took the initiative, not paying attention to screams from all around. He just held her cheeks tightly and kissed, not caring about being too sensitive, they didn't have time for that.
"I have to go." He said between two last kisses, feeling really hard to let go of that small body, which have suddenly become so valuable.
Or it always was.
"I know." She made a step back, so that they couldn't touch each other anymore. "Go." The intensity of her sight could melt an ice mountain; there was everything; passion, determination, sorrow, desperation and… goodbye.
Ichigo dug his hand in the pocket and pulled out the his mother's small carillon he took secretly with himself.
"Take this." He pushed it into her small palm and ran to join the last men who entered the ship. He didn't want to look back.
So that he wouldn't do something stupid like staying behind.
"Seems like we are taking a lover boy with us…" Somebody threw a sarcastic comment in his direction after he finally entered the board, but he didn't care. In any other situation he would teach the brat a lesson but at the moment, he only cared about finding some good place by the window .
He glanced through the glass and saw Rukia's small, black figure standing in the place he left her, alone, in front of the crowd which was held behind the lines. The wind jerking her coat and hair as she looked at the ship.
"I'll be back." He thought and watched as the coast was getting further and further, and finally turned into nothing more than a thin line.
Rukia stood in the same place he left her for a very long time, even though she could not see the ship anymore.
There wasn't many people behind her by now, but the crows still circled above her head. She felt one small droplet of rain on her head and realized that there was not much time until the downpour starts.
The heavy grey color turned into almost black, as if reflecting her mood.
She couldn't believe that she had actually kissed that fool. She told herself over and over again that it was because of the sudden explosion of emotions and the fear, that she might not see him ever again.
Finally she tore her eyesight away from the horizon and turned around to go home. That was when she noticed something in her hand.
That's right, he gave her something right before he left. She didn't register it up until now.
Rukia lifted the small, silver, oval thing to her eyes and noticed the fastening. She was curious what could be hidden inside.
Rukia raised the upper lid and first notes of her favorite composition hit her ears.
Inside there was a picture of ballet dancer with tutu and Rukia felt tears in her eyes.
It was so beautiful.
And it was his.
When the melody was finished, she closed the carillon and hid it carefully in the pocket, as the most precious treasure.
I will be waiting, Ichigo.
~ Hi, it's been some time:D Hope you are still there, hating me only a little bit. Since Christmas is coming and, what's more important some free time is occuring (finally!) I hope I'll catch up with a few things.
Take care everyone, any feedback will be an honor! :)
* for those who are curious what it does sound like: Beethoven- For Eliza. You can type it on YT, there are tons of this :) And some of you might already guess, but this is the same melody which is played in the prologue.