Chapter 13 is ready for high def viewing, I hope you all enjoyed my last chapter, this one is going to cover the second half of the same day. Sorry this took so long, but this summer and school has been insane for me and then my computer crashed so I had to rewrite the story for me. We'll, the stage is set, now on with the show. "Dialogue", Bold= time/emphasis/location, italics= thoughts
Hanataro awoke with a sputter as he felt a splash of water on his face, causing him to jerk up from his position on the floor. Rubbing his kimono sleeve across his eyes he looked up to see Unohana and Ukitake sitting in front of him, the latter holding a glass while the former held Nel. Rukia was still sitting where she previously had been, with an unreadable expression on her face. When he looked into her eyes however...
"Hanataro is your head okay? You're not bleeding or anything are you?" Unohana said as she set down Nel and turned his head around, causing Hanataro to take his eyes from Rukia. The medic winced a little when she probed one spot of his head, she quickly healed the spot causing the pain to fade. Once she was satisfied she pulled her hands away from his head.
"Th-thanks m-mom." Hanataro said, his voice coming out in a depressed tone. Nel instinctively climbed up on his shoulder, patting the male on the head. "S-So I g-guess that's it then, I'll have t-to get ma-ma..." He couldn't finish the sentence, the idea of it all terrifying to him. Ukitake frowned at this, arms crossing over his chest. "Like hell you are. You're not going to commit to anything just because you grandmother wants you to. I'm sure my uncle would be thrilled to take you into my clan so you wouldn't have to do this"
"B-But." Hanataro stuttered, eyes going wide. "I-If I d-don't do something th-the clan will collapse. I-I'm not strong enough t-to take the b-bounty, this is the o-only way." Hearing this sentence seemed to bring Rukia out of whatever funk she had been in, the girl standing up silently and walking over to Hanataro.
She looked down at him silently for a moment before reaching down and wrenching him up to his feet and pulling him to eye level, the speed at which he causing him to feel dizzy. Unohana went to pull her off only to be stopped by Ukitake, who motioned for her to wait.
"Listen here Hanataro, and listen good. If you think I'd let you or anyone I consider a friend to be forced into a...a courtship that they did not want to be in, than you better toss that notion away right now. You are not marrying that woman, understand?"
She finished her last sentence with her large acting smile, something that right now seemed to be a cross of Gin and Unohana. He nodded a little bit, fearful to do otherwise. As soon as he did so Rukia dropped her intimidation smile, a smaller one gracing her lips as she pulled him into a small hug. "We'll figure something out , just trust me when I say that." Standing stock still for a moment he eventually got a small smile on his own face, slowly returning the hug. "Yeah, I understand."
The two might have held each other a bit longer if someone's didn't choose that moment to clear their throat. Rukia and Hanataro looked over at the two captains still in the room before jumping apart, a slight red tinge on their cheeks. Ukitake almost looked amused in a way, the corner of his lip tugging up in a smile while Unohana was looking at the two emotionlessly, a tinge of confusion only evident if you knew how to look for it. "Umm I suppose you all probably want to discuss this as a family, I'll go talk this over with my brother. Considering his marriage to my sister he might have some idea about this s-situation." She tried to give a reassuring smile to the two, but found it difficult to do so, feeling unusually awkward under the gaze of the two captains/parents in the room. Giving a quick bow she turned around and walked out the room, giving a slight breath of relief the moment the door closed. She immediately flashed out of the building, running down Seireitei's hallways towards her brothers offices
Why am I feeling so...exposed right now? I mean it's not like I was doing anything inappropriate with Hanataro-kun, I just gave him a hug. So why am - She felt herself stop in mid shunpo, almost tumbling to the ground in confusion at her thought, never having referred to anyone with that term before. After a second she simply shook her head, resuming her travel. It's just the stress from the last couple week and now this, I must be a little jumbled up. Besides he's a nice guy, why shouldn't I be a little fond of him?
Saying this and other things to herself she pushed the anxiety to the back of her head, continuing towards the 6th division. Still despite what she said to herself she felt her stomach twisting a little as she moved.
Back in the office the four family members were standing in silence for a moment, unsure what to say for a moment. For Hanataro despite Rukia's words he still felt uneasy about the whole idea of marriage. Unohana was feeling similar misgivings, looking over to her partner to see how he was dealing with it. She was both surprised and a little suspicious to see a small twinkle in his eye, almost as if he was hearing a joke nobody else could.
She was just about to ask him about it when Nel's stomach gave out a loud rumble, followed by a low grumble from the little girl. She reached over and pulled on Hanataro's sleeve, causing the teenager to snap out of his thoughts and look at her. "Hana I'm getting hungwy, can we get something to eat please?" at that moment her stomach decided to voice the same opinion, giving out an even larger growl.
"That is probably a good idea Nel-chan." Unohana said as she walked over to the two, handing Hanataro a small pouch. "Go ahead and take Nel out to lunch somewhere, visit your friends while you're at it. You're father and I will discuss the current situation, well meet back at mother's estateafterwords.." She ushered the two of them out of the office, closing the door behind them after pecking each of them on the cheek. Once she sensed they were far enough away she turned around to Ukitake, the smile of doom on her face.
"Ukitake, dear, would you mind telling me what was so amusing?" Ukitake chuckled a little, crossing the distance between the two and wrapping his arms around her. "Oh it's nothing honey, I'm just happy to see Hanataro has such a good friend looking out for him. Anyways I think we should follow Rukia's lead and drop in on my uncle."
Unohana stared at him for a moment before nodding in agreement, pulling away and dropping the topic. "Yes he is very lucky. Sometimes I wish Rukia was my daughter, such a kind and brave girl. Well let's get going before your uncle starts drinking. Which should be in little over an hour." Saying this she turned away, causing her to miss the knowing grin that materialized on Ukitake's face.
Unknown Rukongai District:Battle Field
The district was in a panic as axe smashed into broadsword, the resulting clash causing a small shockwave to travel through the air, cracks appearing in the ground. The two combatants struggle with each other for a moment before Bone RIpper flicked his arms to the right, sending the sword to the side and smashing down a building to the side.
The espada grunted, pulling the blade out with a smash and sending a vertical slash downwards. Bone Ripper lifted his battle axe, the blow causing the ground under him to crater in and explode outwards. Bone grinned as the destruction surrounded them, laughing at the screams of fleeing souls. For a few minutes the two clashed blades back and forth faster than any pedestrian could see, if they were stupid enough to stick around that was. The former espada swung his blade down two-handed, Bone holding his blade up to block. The sheer strength of the blow not only caused the land to crack around the combatants, but sent a shockwave that blew the brothel down in a collapse.
"You've gotten stronger espada, I watched your battle in Hueco Mundo and you didn't do nearly this well."
Bone forced the blade back, the espada stepping back and gripping the blade two handed. "Hmph, so you saw my battle, what is that to you?" Bone Ripper shrugged, expression set in a jovial way. "Oh nothing much, one must entertain oneself in some form or another. Like right now for example." Leaping forward he closed his mouth for a moment, went as if to swing at his side, then spit in the espada's eyes.
Before his opponent could recover Bone Ripper shot his arm forward, latching his hand on the throat and throwing his opponent to the ground. Still struggling the grounded former espada snapped his head forward into Bone's chin, causing a mouthful of blood to spray out. He was forced to stop moving however when the axe head was held above him, the pointed tip between the two blades poised above his eye.
"Sha...Sha...that was fun, haven't really brawled with someone like that in a long time. Thanks." The espada spit to the side, throat aching from where the thing had grabbed him. The scum's strong, it was like my throat was being gripped by two cinderblocks. "Tch, I don't need your thanks dumbass, just tell me what you want before the shinigami show up."
Bone's grin split open, revealing the bloody yet undamaged pointed teeth to the man below him "Ironic you should bring them up, tell me an...individual of your strength and power, why haven't you gone to join up with them? Someone of your reiatsu level could easily crush any ant who got in your way."
The former espada lowered his head, shoulders slumping down. "There was a time I believed that, that I could blow my opponents away with the flick of a wrist. But those two, those shinigami captain scum, they killed me, took my strength from me. Now I'm just another thug for shitheads and deadbeats." Bone Ripper shook his head, eyes betraying nothing of what he was thinking.
"So you'll stay here and wallow in pity for yourself? Bah where's the fun in that? I got something much better lined up for a man of your special...qualities. Your more than strong enough for it, but I can make you even stronger. Interested?" The former espada turned his eyes back to Bone Ripper, a small cinder of the anger and strength that had always been in them glimmered. "Alright I'll bite, what do you want with me?" Bone Ripper grinned and reached an unnaturally pale hand forward. The former espada stared at it for all of two seconds before reaching forward and clasping it, suddenly finding himself pulled to his feet.
"Well to understand what I want we'll need to talk about someone very important, someone integral to all of this. A young shinigami named Hanataro...
3rd Division: Cart Stand
"Wh-what about that place N-Nel-san? Th-they make good sushi." The little girl who was currently resting her hands on the top of his head gave this some consideration b-before shaking her head, the motion causing his head to turn as well. "No I don't like yucky fish, Nel wants something meaty and wid cheese."
Hanataro sighed, continuing to walk past the twentieth restaurant/food stand they had passed in the last half hour. While Nel was hungry enough to eat a horse (something that drew the ire of said horse's owner to Hanataro) she was a very picky eater. Truth be told she probably would have eaten at the first place if Hanataro had insisted on it, but he was used to being ordered around so why would that stop now? Anyways the unusual duo were drawing a number of people's gazes, some of the men grinning and laughing at the sight of an officer carrying the small child on his shoulder, while a couple of women cooed at it. Some of the looks weren't so friendly however...
Hanataro was just about too make another suggestion when the grip on the top of his head increased. Looking up he saw Nel leaning over his head, a small string of drool hanging down her mouth. "Hana-chan, do you smell dat? It smells tasty." Hanataro didn't quite understand what she was talking about until the smell of chicken and spices wafted in, causing his stomach to rumble.
"I-It s-smells like enchilada's, S-Sado-san let me try some last time I was-" He stopped talking when he felt Nel jump off his shoulders, the small girl sprinting off "YEAH, COME ON HANA!" Eye's wide Hanataro began chasing the girl, shouting apologies as he bumped into different people. "N-Nel-chan Wait! You don't know where you're going!" He called out to no avail.
Nel was to focused on the smell of the food, so much so that when she ran around the corner she ended up smashing into two shinigami, the three of them landing in a crumpled heap. As Nel sat up rubbing the spot on her head Hanataro rounded the corner he immediately headed to the girl. "Nel are you alright?" Nel looked up at the boy, eyes a little unfocused. "Unn Hana-chan why are you all fuzzy"
Hanataro chuckled for a second before a pair of hands grabbed him and twirled him around. "You again, I thought I told you to watch who you bumped into little bitch." Hanataro felt the color drain from his face as he stared into the same pair of 11th division members he had knocked down last time. Upon closer inspection Hanataro noticed several new scars and bruises covering the two bodies. Seeing his distracted stare the one not holding gave a sneer, leaning in closer. "After that little mishap last week 3rd seat Ikkaku decided to "practice his fighting skills" on our hides. How fortunate it is we ran into you twice."
The man holding him laughed as he lifted his fist up. "Yeah and no psychotic lieutenant to save you this- OWWW?!" The man jerked upwards as Nel who had been watching the scene with round eyes, decided it was high time she saved her older brother. By sinking her teeth into the bullies ankle, causing Hanataro to fall on his butt. The man looked down and growled rearing his leg back for a kick. "Get off you little brat!" Before he was able to kick out Nel jumped back onto Hanataro's shoulders, glaring at the two with half tears in her eyes "Leave Hana-chan alone!"
The man merely smirked as he and his compatriot walked towards the two. "Yeah and who's going to make us?" A hand tapped him on the shoulder, causing the man to turn around, just in time for a gloved fist to smash into his face. As the man staggered back, teeth and blood spilling out his mouth, Appaci closed the distance between them and slammed her foot into his chest throwing him backwards into a wall.
"YOU BITCH!" The other man yelled, raising a meaty fist to slam into Appaci. Before he could swing though his wrist was grabbed in an iron like vice, forcing the man to his knees. He turned his head to curse his restrainer, only to turn pale as he came face to face with Hisagi. "Attacking superior officers may be accepted practice in the 11th division, but it will not be tolerated outside your division, is that understood?" He emphasized the last point by twisting the man's wrist, causing him to wince in pain. Not wanting his arm broken the man quickly nodded his head, panic in his eyes.
Hisagi grunted at this, twisting the wrist a little more before letting go of him, the man scrabbling backwards. "Good now take your friend and get lost." The two men scrambled away, limping on Appaci's leaning on the other for support. She gave a snort of disgust before turning to the other two, a concerned look on her face.
"You guys alright? they didn't hurt you or anything did they?" Nel shook her head, small tears running down her face into Hanataro's hair. "No Paci-chan, dey were just mean. Why are the shinigami mean to Hana-chan?" She directed this last part more at Hisagi then Appaci. The lieutenant sighed, helping the two up from the ground.
"Some people are just idiots, don't worry about it. In any case what are you doing out here anyways?" Hanataro smiled as he dusted himself off. "W-We were g-going to get so-some lunch. W-Would you l-like to join us?" Appaci smirked, grabbing the two men by the arms and walking along. "Certainly, after all I've been tracking down this delicious smell, and I always enjoy good food after a healthy dose of violence." Before they could respond she dragged the two of them along, Nel cheering from her post on Hanataro's shoulders.
"So I think we're all agreed, we shouldn't allow any sake to this event. This should hopefully dissuade any trouble makers from crashing the party." Kuukaku said as she sat back, her pipe resting from the corner of her mouth. She and the other three sat around a small table in Isane's apartment, enjoying some tea and snacks. "Alright but I still think we should have someone watching the door just in case. The Seireitei has some pretty infamous party crashers and it wouldn't be the first time they went to a dry event drunk." Isane said, putting a hand up to her chin in concern.
"Well I suppose if they do we'll just have to introduce them to my sand kido. The kid deserves some time to relax, and I won't let him get picked on by those creeps anymore." Kuukaku looked surprised at this, staring over at the normally idiotic man. "I don't see how you're going to do that, I mean it's not like you can watch him from the Rukongai."
Ganju nodded as he crossed his arms over his chest. "Yeah about that sis, I know we haven't had the most warm memories with the shinigami, but I'm thinking about joining up with them officially." Kuukaku eyes opened wide, the Shiba head growling at this statement. "No offense to those currently present, but have you forgotten how they treated us after Kaien's death? I like Hanataro but that's not a reason to join up with them."
"Perhaps it is, Kuu we almost lost a friend we might have been able to protect had we been there. In the past few years I've come to see that many of the people in the Seireitei are good people, and worth protecting. We need to let go of what happened, otherwise how can we move on with our lives?"
Silence followed the question, the group very somber as each of them thought these words over. After a minute Kuukaku raised her hand and Ganju closed his eyes, preparing himself to be hit. He was surprised however when she laid a shoulder on his hand, a grin on her face.
"Who are you and what have you done with my brother? Since when did you come up with good ideas?" Ganju thought of the words Urahara had said to him earlier that month. "I guess I've just grown up a little is all. Still if you want to stay in Rukongai I understand."
Kuukaku simply grunted, removing her hand and relighting her pipe. "Yeah, well someone's got to make sure you don't do anything stupid. I don't want a repeat of Hanataro's last birthday." Ganju's cheeks turned red at this. "How was I suppose to know the kid had never drank before. He only had one drink and he was out like a light."
"No, he had one sip then you gave him a slap on the back and sent him tumbling down the stairs. That's what knocked him out!" Sensing another fight brewing between the two siblings Menoly decided it was time (once again) to change the subject. "So, judging from what I've heard of Hanataro's past life I'm guessing his birthdays aren't much better?"
Isane sighed as the other two broke their death glare, her hands wringing nervously in front of her. "Regrettably yes his birthdays on April 1st, or known by the humans as "April fools day" which involves a heavy amount of pranking and jokes. Hanataro just happens to be a prime target for this type of attention."
Menoly was going to respond angrily at this when a thought stopped her , the girl bringing her hand up to her chin. "Umm I'm sorry but you said that his birthday is April 1st? Isn't that two weeks from today?"
A looong silence followed this statement as the three shinigami in the room looked at her, blank expressions and sweat drops frozen on their faces. Just as Menoly was going to wave her hand in Kuukaku's face when she almost bolted up and leaned over the plans they had written out.
"Crap with everything going on we lost track. Alright, forget everything we said before, we got ourselves a birthday to plan."
Unohana and Ukitake were walking on a small path to the modest manor of the Ukitake clan. While it was nowhere near projected the noble feeling as the Unohana estate, it felt more friendly and easygoing. Across the fields the workers were pulling rice up from ponds, preparing them to be transported while their children played nearby. Close by in the Koi pond a massive specimen leapt out of the air, swallowing the food some of the children were throwing to it before crashing back into the water.
"BROTHER UKITAKE, UNOHANA-SAN!" The two captains looked over to see a number of white and black haired children run up to them, exuberant expressions on their faces. These were the siblings of Ukitake, eternal children who never aged even after numerous centuries. Ukitake smiled at them, crouching down to view them all closely. "Hello little siblings, it's good to see you all."
One of the children, a boy slightly larger than the others who could have been mistaken for a miniature version of the captain if not for his jet black hair, walked up to the two with a grin on his face. "Hey big bro, it's been awhile. What you been up to?" Ukitake grinned at the boys manner, reminded strangely of ichigo in his lack of formality. "Oh just taking care of some family business Riko, but that's not what your all here for is it?"
At this he produced a small bag of candy from his sleeve, the sight of it causing many of the younger children to practically drool at the sight. Riko's hand almost slipped under the bag, only for Ukitake to pull it back slightly before tossing it to him. As the younger brother was swarmed by the smaller children the two continued their brisk walk, finding themselves in front of the old doorway.
Stopping in front of it Ukitake raised his hand and knocked on it, the feel of the worn wood so familiar to him. It really has been awhile since I visited the Clan. "The door is open!" A voice yelled out as it had over a thousand other times. Shaking his head Ukitake opened the door and stepped inside, followed quickly by Unohana.
"Uncle are you inside, oh and decent?" Ukitake asked this last part, having occasionally walked in on things no man should ever see. Mifune Immediately popped his head from out a door, a slight waver in his step as he approached the two, thankfully dressed. "Ukitake old boy, you should have told me you were coming I could have made something. Unohana good to see you too lass."
Unohana nodded to him, her face still set in a serious expression. "Good to see you to Mifune-san, I'm sorry to drop by like this, but we need to talk to you." The old man simply waved her off, walking back into the room he popped out of, indicating for them to follow.
Stepping inside the two found themselves in a small office, with papers stacked somewhat disorderly on the desk. On the walls were numerous calligraphy scrolls, each one reading off the name of a former family member or ancestor. Some of the scrolls were so old they were begin to fall prey to time, if not for the glass cases they were held in they would have disintegrated centuries ago. In the middle of the desk were two items, along an very ornate brush, and afresh scroll placed next to it. Ukitake recognized the brush, but before he could ask Mifune had already swept it to the side, pulling out a trio of sake saucers and pouring each of them a healthy amount.
"I figured you might be coming by this week. But I'll admit I never thought it would be this quickly. So tell me, what's Fuyo got up her sleeve this time?" Saying this he took a big draught of his cup, carefully pouring himself another serving as he sat back, looking at the two standing before him. Unohana chuckled a little bitterly, taking a seat across from the man while pushing the saucer to the side. "My mother's that easy to read huh?"
Mifune shook his head, taking a quick sip before placing his saucer back down. "No, she's still as sharp as a sword and can be quite cunning when she needs to be. It's more the rest of your family that can't keep their faces straight. A few drinks and I know all I'd ever need to know." Ukitake shook his head, the similarities between his uncle and Shunsui were sometimes a little too close for comfort.
"Good to see your vision hasn't decreased over the years. I can assume you already know what she's planning?" Mifune nodded, a small sigh escaping his lips. "Considering the level of debt the clan is in it would take decades to pay off, assuming she could keep the interest from drowning them. Hanataro's reward as well as the removal of the Mikoto debt would wipe the slate clean and more, much more. Still it's surprising to know Fuyo actually let her clan fall so far into debt."
"I don't think she was really aware of it until recently." Unohana said, a frown slightly creasing her face. "Father trusted those men and mother had no reason not to. By the time she would have noticed a problem it was too late. Still, to think she would use her only grandson as a bargaining chip, it-"
Mifune held up a hand, the motion calming down Unohana a bit. "I doubt it's ever that simple. Fuyo may be a little old fashioned and quick tempered, but she would hardly do something out of personal gain. She feels boxed in, on the one hand she want's to restore her clan's honor but she also wants to ensure her grandson's future. To her this arrangement would seem the wisest course for everybody."
"We'll it's not." Ukitake said, frustration rising in his voice for the first time. "This isn't fair to Hanataro, he never grew up as a noble, he doesn't understand the rules or protocols of this life. She may not be meaning to but she's treating him like a commodity, something to be traded. That's not what I want for my son."
"I suppose not." Mifune said, picking up his saucer and swirling the contents, shoulders drooping a little. "Regrettably though I have very little I can help you with. The only thing I could do is try and make the kid the heir of this house. It would prevent this marriage from being able to take place, but-"
"But it wouldn't stop my mother's clan from falling, and Hanataro won't go for that. He'd rather sacrifice his own happiness than let others suffer." Unohana said, a feeling of defeat swelling up inside her. Mifune simply nodded, a heavy sigh escaping his lips. "Like I said, I'm very sorry."
Ukitake stiffly nodded his head, knowing this was the signal to leave, downing his saucer he and Unohana stood up. Giving a pained nod to his uncle he and Unohana left the room. Mifune downed the rest of his drink and moved to refill his saucer. Lifting it with a shaky hand he got right to the point where it might start pouring before throwing it down, the clay jar smashing into the ground. Sitting back he rubbed his forehead as the drink finally took him over, returning him to its welcoming haze.
"I'm just saying captain, if we want to get more recruits in the next quarter maybe we should have more social functions."
"Lieutenant Abarai while your suggestions may bear some merit I will not allow you to waste division resources for sake parties or for free glasses handouts. Especially since you would likely be pilfering from both of these events."
Renji went to argue more only for the 3rd seat to open the door, bowing to the two inside. "Forgive my interruption Captain Kuchiki, but Lieutenant Kuchiki is here to see you, she says it's urgent." Kuchiki nodded at the 3rd seat, indicating to let her in.
The two could tell something was wrong the moment she came in. Normally when she came to visit she would be bringing Byakuya his lunch, a small smile on her face as she poked fun at Renji, before remembering she was in front of her brother.
There was no levity on her face this time, her face set in a stony expression as she wordlessly sat down in front of her brother. On the outside she might have seemed calm on the outside but to those who knew her they could sense the fury sitting inside of her, ready to be sprung.
Renji and Byakuya both saw this on her face and predictably, the latter allowed the former to be the first one to probe her. "Oy Rukia is everything alright? You look more pissed than that time I said your interest in Chappy was becoming an obsession similar to..." Renji stopped talking as Rukia turned to him, her expression not shifting a centimeter as she stared down her long time friend.
"Renji if you don't mind could you give me and nii-sama some privacy, we need to have a little chat." At this emphasis Renji had to keep himself from bolting out of the room, simply nodding stiffly before quietly exiting the room. Once the door was closed Rukia sat down in front of her brother, laying her hands down in her lap.
"Rukia is this a business visit or...something more personal?" Rukia gave a weak half smile, nodding her head to the second part of his second. Always straight to the point brother.
"Yes I need your advice on a situation. Umm specifically a clan to clan situation. Except he's not really part of the clan yet, although knowing him-" Byakuya's eyebrow rose at this, to him Rukia had never showed much interest in the petty politics that plagued the Soul Society. "Perhaps you should inform me of the whole situation, starting at the beginning."
Rukia, slightly embarrassed by her rambling, took a moment to compose her thoughts before launching into the details of what she had learned. As she explained the story she did her best to keep calm about the whole thing, but Byakuya had been around her enough decades to pick up on her distress and anger about the whole situation. He chose not to remark on it however, instead listening to the situation at hand.
"And now his grandmother is trying to set him up with some...some stranger he's never even talked five minutes to. So now we're trying to figure out what to do-"
"We?" Byakuya said as he raised an eyebrow, causing Rukia to clam up. "I do not mean to sound rude Rukia but this seems to be more an issue between Hanataro and his family, I fail to see how this relates to us." Rukia ground her teeth together, frustration knitting across her brow. "Of course it relates to us, Hanataro has helped both of us and Soul Society multiple times, I owe him. And let's not forget that he's my friend-"
"Rurichiyo Kasumiōji is also your friend, yet I don't remember you ever trying to help her out of her arranged marriage. Nor any of your adopted cousins or other friends. So why is this situation any different?"
Rukia was silent at this, her gaze going downward as she thought his words over. He was right on all accounts, these kind of arrangements were common even at the commoner level, and was basically standard protocol. By all of these accounts she shouldn't be considering attempting to meddle with the Unohana Clan.
Brother is right to some extent, Hanataro is just my friend. I mean if he decides to go through with this then who am I to stop him? Maybe he might even end up happy like Ruriyicho. All of these thoughts and her brothers words would have made sense if it wasn't for one thing.
She had promised him she'd find a way out of this for him, and she wasn't going to break a promise to him. Not again.
Looking up Rukia stared her brother in the eyes, her face steeled back into its usual expression. "This is something I have to do Nii-sama, I owe Hanataro my life and he needs my help right now. Hanataro deserves to be with someone he chooses to be with, not forced on him by his family."
"And Rurichiyo and the others like him?" Byakuya asked, hating to twist the knife like that but he had to play devil's advocate. Rukia shook her head at this and gave a small sigh.
"They all to some level or another knew it was coming and had some say over their fate. This is different, Hanataro's grandmother is trying to strong arm Unohana and Hanataro to go along with this, using the debt they collected as the crowbar. I know she's trying to save her family this way, but this isn't right."
Byakuya sighed, knowing once Rukia had set morals on something trying to change her opinion on something was pointless. He sat back in his chair, eyes wandering over the book case. "What is it you wish to do about this Rukia? You'll need a plan in order to make this work."
Rukia nodded, hope entering her voice at her brothers semi-compliance. "Is there any way that Hanataro could pay off the debt, or somehow prevent any kind of courtship from taking place? Maybe we could give him a loan to help pay off the debt." Byakuya lifted a hand to his chin, contemplating how to answer the question.
"That is a... bit difficult to answer. Clan debts are only payable by members of the clan themselves, and knowing Lady Fuyo she would be unwilling to accept outside assistance to an internal problem. It would make her clan appear weak. This young woman Hanataro was introduced to, you said it was the first time they were introduced?"
At Rukia's nod he released another sigh, the beginnings of a migraine slowly worming it's way in. "Then I'm afraid our options are a bit limited. Clan princesses are normally only introduced once to a potential suitor before a proposal of matrimony is issued. Considering the nature of this situation I'd imagine she'll be properly offered by the end of the day."
Rukia frowned, her hands unconsciously gripping each other, the knuckles turning white. "So what can we do brother?"
"The only options available is to either prove Yamada-san is strong enough to be able to claim his reward, or another family would have to put forth a proposal to challenge the Mikoto clan's claim. For the former he'd have to prove his strength in front of the central 46 by defeating a strong opponent or completing a similar task." Rukia chuckled somewhat despondently at this, causing Byakuya to stare at her in surprise.
"And Hanataro can't do that, while he might have increased his reiatsu level to a 3rd seat he still has very little training in regards to swordsmanship or kido. On a side not e we may wish to review the work ethics of the instructors at the academy from now on. Make sure they're teaching all of their students with a fair hand."
It was Byakuya's turn to frown at this, although no one outside of his inner circle would be able to tell. The idea of incompetence at the Shino Academy was one that made his blood boil. Perhaps a visit from the special forces would be in order, just in case. Byakuya pushed that thought away for another time, coming out of his musing to find Rukia looking at him expectantly.
"In that case our only option would be to contest the Mikoto clan's claim. Either their own claim would have to be discredited or someone else would have to approach the Unohana clan with a different proposal." At this Rukia leaned towards her brother, a sharp glint appearing in her eye. This look caused Byakuya's stomach to twist in discomfort, seeing his sisters mind whirling with ideas. "What exactly would happen if a clans proposal was challenged in such a way?"
Byakuya shifted in his seat uncomfortably, but knew he was in too deep now. Might as well go all the way. "In general the two clan proposals and those involved would be put under major scrutiny by the proposed clan. Once a determination or an accord was made they would side with one clan or another. This process however is often long, taking weeks, months even years if need..." Byakuya trailed off as a very large grin appeared on Rukia's face.
"You have a plan...and I'm not going to like it am I?" Rukia shook her head at this, although the grin did decrease a little bit as her face became a little embarrassed. "No, I dont think you will. Still it'll be good in the long run. We'll need to go home first though, I need to get something from Homura."
Appaci and Nel were both happily munching on soft shells while Hanataro and Hisagi were sitting besides them, the two chewing their food a little more slowly. "Yeah so are you sure you're alright Yamada-san?" Hanataro nodded, a small smile on his face. "Yeah, th-thanks for your help Hisagi. S-Sorry to have caused you t-trouble."
Hisagi shook his head, eying the young medic evenly. "It's no trouble, I happen to hate bullies, part of the reason I refused to join the 11th." He took a bite of his lunch, watching as Hanataro turned back to his meal. Hanataro stared down at his food, giving it a few pokes before looking back at the lieutenant.
"Umm Hisagi, can I ask you something?" Noticing the lack of a stutter from the young teen, the tattooed man nodded, eyes taking on a serious edge. "I suppose it depends on what the question is, a question is fine but I may choose not to answer it."
"Well, as a lieutenant you m-must often find yourself facing tough situations r-right?" The lieutenant nodded, wondering where this conversation was going. "I-I have to make a decision, o-one I don't want to make b-but one I have t-to."
"I assume this has something to do with your family correct?" Hanataro was flabbergasted at this, was he that easy to read? "H-How did you know?" Hisagi sighed, placing his food off to the side. "In most situations it usually boils down to family on some degree or another. And most families aren't usually made up the way your family is. So what's the situation kid?"
Hanataro didn't answer for a moment, having to take a moment to compose his thoughts. Once this was done he began talking. "Well, C-Captains Unohana's clan w-wants me to join with them, to b-become the clan heir?"
"Sounds okay so far, I assume there's a catch to joining them?" Hanataro nodded, a small frown set on his face. "Th-They want me to d-do something, not something I w-want to do but if I don't it'll be bad for the clan, I d-don't know what to do. And if I don't do it the clan will fall."
Hisagi sighed running a hand through his hair. "Sounds like you're stuck between a hard place and a spike. This is why I thought it would be family, they tend to screw things up for us." At this he looked a little wistful, lost in thought for a moment. After a second he shook himself out of it as Nel finished her meal and crawled into Hanataro's lap to scarf his.
"I guess the only advice I can give you is to follow your gut kid. If that means not doing as the clan means then so be it. When your stuck between two choices you don't want to deal with you have to choose the one that will ultimately be less painful." Hanataro was silent as his arms wrapped around the green haired toddler on his lap. After a minute or so he looked up at Hisagi, a resigned but content look on his face.
"Thank's Hisagi-san, th-that helped a lot. I suppose we should head back Nel." The little girl who had just swallowed half of his meal in one gulp simply nodded. Giving a quick goodbye to the two they walked off, Nel waving at the two with her mouth still stuffed. Hisagi watched the two walk away, when he felt a small jab to his shoulder
"Hey Tattoo-face, that was nice of you to say to him." Hisagi turned to look at Appaci standing behind him, a slight smile on the girls face. Hisagi huffed, turning and walking back towards the 9th. "I didn't really tell him anything useful, besides he's a nice kid. Now let's head ba-"
He was cut off as Appaci grabbed his arm, stopping his movement. "Screw that, you heard Captain Blowhards orders, no bothering him for the rest of the day. Now come on, show me the things to do in this town." Appaci dragged him off again, holding his arm to her side obliviously, unaware of the small color adorning the lieutenants arm.
Unohana and Ukitake were wlking in silence from the Ukitake estate in silence. "Well, that could have gone better." Unohana said, frustration clear in her tone. Ukitake simply nodded putting his arm around the woman. "We knew it was a longshot, at the very least we gave an effort.
"But he doesn't even know this woman, how can we expect him to get along with her, let alone love her?" Ukitake sighed agreeing with her as the two approached the Unohana estate. "Well we both have saved up a lot maybe we can take off some of the debt."
Unohana shook her head at this, giving a small huff of indignation. "Clan debts have to be paid in full, not in installments, we might be able to pay off some of the smaller ones but no way we could afford the Mikoto debt."
"So in essence we have no choice in this." Unohana nodded, face twisted in a sad expression. "I don't know how we're going to tell Hanataro. We're his parents, if anybody should have a say in who he sees it should be us."
Ukitake stopped walking pulling Unohana into a hug. "I know, but I know our son, he'll understand. Not that that makes it any better." Unohana squeezed him back for a moment before pulling away. "I suppose we should go meet him now, he may already be back at the estate." The two flashed away, leaving the path they were walking empty. Once they were gone a section of the wall seemed to melt away, Scholar Ling standing there. She wrote down a few things in her scroll before materializing back into the wall, a small distortion almost invisible to the eye shooting through the ground as she went to follow them.
Hanataro approached the gates to the estate where he saw his grandmother standing at the steps to the clan house. The prim woman was looking at the approaching male, face smiling at the sight of the boy, although she got a curious expression on her face when she saw Nel on his shoulders.
"Ah Hanataro it is good to see you back. May I ask who the little one with you is?" Hanataro was going to speak when Nel jumped up to stand on his shoulders. "Aye Nel-chan is Hana's sister." Fumiyo raised her brow at this, looking to Hanataro for explanation.
"Umm Nel and one of the other former arrancar are kind of my adopted family. Her name is Menoly."
"Well I suppose you'll have to introduce this Menoly to me at some point or another, considering her importanceto you." Snapping her fingers her butler Kuma appeared next to her, motioning to Nel. "Nel dear, would you like to go with Kuma-san to the kitchen for a snack dear, I'd like to talk with your brother if I could."
Enticed by the promise of treats Nel immediately leapt from Hanataro's shoulder and running over to Kuma. The butler resisted the urge to chuckle as he lead the little girl to the kitchen, leaving Grandmother and Grandson alone.
"I suppose by this point your mother and father have made you aware of our situation." Fuyo said to the boy, an authoritative tone in her voice. Hanataro nodded, feeling like a small mouse under this womans gaze. "Have you come to a decision then boy?"
Hanataro nodded, as the sound of music began to drift from the corridor he just entered. The two looked over to see banners flying above the wall, as well as the edges of a palanquin. Fuyo looked down with a little shame, tentatively putting a hand on Hanataro's shoulder.
"Then for what it's worth I'm sorry to be putting you into this position. This isn't how I wanted-"
"I-It's alright Grandma, I u-understand, th-there's no reason to apologize. L-Lets just get th-this done with." Fuyo nodded with a sigh, removing her hand and putting her stoic face back on as the parade approached. Finally the parade turned the corner, a small gathering of servants and nobles marching in formation, the former helping to carry the palaquin with Fuu sitting in it, wrapped in the pink and reds of the Mikoto clan. At the head of the formation stood a squirelly old man, teeth broken in some parts and looking wizened, as if time was slowly eating him away. Once they were about twenty feet away the parade stopped, the servants carefully and slowly lowering the palaquin off their tired shoulders to the ground.
The old man walked forward, clearing his throat before removing a scroll from his robe. "Honorable Unohana clan, we the Mikoto clan come before you out of friendship and loyalty with the offering of this young woman, Fuu Mikoto the daughter of the head of our clan Renshi Mikoto. We do so believing her to be worthy of marriage to your Lord Hanataro and wth the full intent of strengthening the bond between our two clans." Walking forward he gave a low bow before the two then daintily put the scroll into Fuyo's clasped hands. Stepping back the thin noble gave another bow then gestured his hand to the side.
"With your permission honorable Unohana-san the princess of the Mikoto clan requests the right to speak on our behalf." Fuyo gave a short nod aimed towards the young woman as opposed to the man. Hanataro noticed his grandmother didn't seem to like this man, despite the respect she was showing him Fuu stood up and daintily stepped down from the palaquin, her steps showing a swiftness and practice as was expected of a noble woman. Stepping down she took two steps forward before lowering her head, speaking more towards her feet as oppossed towards the two.
"My lord and lady, I understand perhaps your hesitance in considering me worthy to become part of your family. The relationship between our clans has always been one of lord and master and some may see it as beneath you to consider a marriage between our two families. I feel however that this union would help mend some of the ties that has caused strain between us in the past. This proposal is offered in our earnest desire to solve our mutual problems."
Fuu raised her head slightly to look at the two, eyes lingering over Hanataro for a moment before locking onto Fuyo, the momentary slip going by unnoticed. "Should you consider me suitable to join your family I will promise to serve your family with faith and diligence, to be loyal to lord Hanataro and to work towards the betterment of the Unohana clan. This is not only the pledge of my loyalty, but the pledge of the clan as well." At this she dropped down into a low bow again before returning to her palaquin. Fuyo walked forward to give an adress to the gathered crowd, when she stopped and turned to look of in the opposite direction from which the Mikoto had come.
"Umm lady Unohana-sama, is there a..." The mikoto noble stopped talking as a faint sound could be heard approaching, the sound of flutes and drums being played. How the woman had noticed before them was anyones guess but now that they had the group looked over towards where the sound was coming from.
Probably the last thing anyone was expecting was a huge embroided sign of the Kuchiki clan to be coming down the corridors, with hundreds of people marching in careful formation, with a massive Palaquin sitting flat in the middle of it.
Unohana and Ukitake could only watch with what could be described as complete shock as the procession of servants and nobles moved by them, each of them moving with a distinct purpose and speed. Many of them were carrying banners and standards as they progressed through the halls, the symbol of their clan floating above the crowd freely in the wind. Hundreds had already passed by the pair of captains, and they hadn't even reached the middle of the procession yet. The two looked over at each other, one of which seemed to have a grin portrayed on his face. This ended though upon the sight of his lovers frown, a look that rarely was seen in this world, and for good reason.
"Honey, when you said he and Rukia were good friends, did you mean they're friends or they are friends?" This last bit was asked with a bit of venom in her voice, eyes seeming to be pinning Ukitake to where he was. "W-Well you know what they say dear, sometimes f-friends can be at different levels and different awarenesses."
Unohana simply took a step closer, and to an outsider it would seem to be nothing more than the prelude to a lovers embrace. For Ukitake however he knew if he said the wrong thing it would be the promise of untold pain later. Never screw with a woman who can paralyze you with a single pressure point. "but not above your level of awareness dear. Pray tell, what would you compare their friendship level to, knowing or unknowing."
It was at this moment the white and black Palaquin happened to be passing by the two, drawing there attention to who and more important how that individual was sitting. They only got the briefest of looks, but it was more than enough to give away the answer. Still already being doomed, Ukitakes mouth decided to act without regards to it's owners wishes.
"Umm, around the third year of being a student in your class at the academy?"
Those gathered in the courtyard could only watch in utter amazement as the Kuchiki procession made it's way into the courtyard. While the Mikoto clan had been nothing to laugh at, the sheer size and difference in power between the two clans couldn't be clearer. For every person representing the Mikoto clan there was at least seven for the Kuchiki clan. Many of the robes that the Kuchiki servants wore on their own would be worth a hefty sum, and as for the two palaquins well, the Mikoto's was about the size of a small car. The Kuchik was about the size of a small house.
Once they were in position the servants lowered the palaquin to the ground, the gracefully stepping away to fall in line with the rest of the gathered servants. All except for a familiar old woman who chose at that moment to step forward.
"L-Lady Homura, wh-what are you-" The housekeeper who at the moment was wearing a fine robe of black and gold, reached into her pocket and pulled out a scroll holding it up. "Lady and Lord Unohana, my master asks for your forgiveness in regards to disrupting your day but he felt that it would be best to meet with you as soon as we could. He was not aware however that you already had guests visiting at the time."
This last bit was said with the tiniest uplifting at the corners of her lips, indicating to Fuyo this was a blatant lie, but one done with decorum. Fuyo gave a look at Hanataro for a moment, one both of suspicion and somewhat of respect, although why he couldn't say. Realizing her slip however she turned back to the housekeeper, the usual act back into place. "In regards to Lord Kuchiki's whims it is no inconvienience. I must admit though curiousity does make me wonder what business your clan has with us. Is it of enough importance to warrant this form of interruption? Or is it a message from one of his ranking advisors?"
"I'm afraid it is not my place to answer, Lord Kuchiki instructed that only my mistress would be permited to answer."
Almost as if waiting for that exact moment the palaquin curtains would open, revealing the occupant sitting there.
And that is a wrap, sorry it took so long to get this done, the last few months things have been insane for me both at home as well as in school. Personal issues combined with the subsequent crashing of my computer forced me to retype and push this back a few times. I know I also left you with somewhat of a cliff hanger but don't worry, all will be revealed in the next chapter. Review and let me know what you think. Also to Squalo king I'll be reading your story some time this week and will give you my thoughts on it like you asked for. See you later alligators.