WHOOT! FIRST POST OF THE NEW YEAR! HAPPY 2012!
Byakuya stared at the report. How the hell had Kurotsuchi managed to find his lost twin sister? And in the jurisdiction of Avalon no less!
To top it all off, Yuri had not only died (for a second time) she had also had a daughter that was currently trying to survive under a malfunctioning blood ward.
He would have to rectify this situation and soon.
Once informed of the problem, Avalon was willing to let Byakuya retrieve his niece. Too bad they wouldn't allow him to act beyond protecting her.
The house she lived in was horrific, to say the least. He preferred having some individuality among buildings, if only to know what direction not to go in.
But this place...was a living nightmare. Every house was picture perfect, right down to the manicured lawns. It would have been a complete pain to track down the girl...had he not sensed the wards around the fourth house.
He knocked on the door, and noticed a young girl gardening. He frowned.
Why would someone make a six year old garden in this heat? Her raven black hair was very similar to his own, and she seemed far too small for a child her age. (He was mostly basing that on Yachiru Kusagishi, who was the youngest soul reaper currently in the Soul society.)
A woman who resembled a horse opened the door. It took a few moments to explain why he was there, and she seemed eager to get rid of him.
No, to be more precise she seemed very eager to be rid of the little girl outside. Byakuya noted no pictures of the girl growing up, though there were several of a fat pig with blond hair.
He detected the faint scent of dried blood from the cupboard below the stairs.
Once she learned of his relation to the child outside, (a simple blood test revealed she was in fact his niece) she yelled for the girl to come in.
She seemed timid, but not afraid. He could see bags under her eyes, and she appeared to be quite intelligent for her age. The clothes she wore were far too big for her frame, and they hung limply off. He could see that she had cleverly tied up some of the fabric into a simple knot to keep it from falling off her.
She didn't seem to care that someone had appeared on the doorstep coming to take her away. If anything, she seemed relieved.
When they left Surrey behind, she finally said "I always knew I wasn't related to the horse, walrus and large piglet."
Byakuya had deduced that the man in the photos was the husband, and agreed with her assessment of their physique. The did resemble animals.
"Did my sister give you a name?"
The girl shook her head.
"If my mother did, I have no idea what it is. For as long as I can remember, the horse and walrus call me Freak."
He frowned. That was not something a decent person would name a child.
"Knowing my sister, it was something flower related."
"So where are we going?"
She seemed to perk up.
"Isn't that the country with the pink flowers? The one they call the 'Land of the Rising Sun'?"
Byakuya stared in surprise.
"How did you know that?"
"I read. What are those pink flowers called anyway?"
"Sakura. Cherry Blossoms."
"I always liked the pictures of those trees."
It was then that Byakuya realized that the gods had a sense of irony. Out of all the flowers the girl could have picked, she had chosen the one that happened to be related to him.
"Since neither of us has any idea what Yuri named you, how would you like to be known as Sakura?"
The girl nodded eagerly. She liked that name better than anything else.
Sakura and Byakuya walked through the strange gate device. The odd man in the hat and wooden clogs had placed something special in it, so she could enter with her new uncle.
What she found on the other side surprised her. Word spread fast about her arrival.
It took little more than an hour for her to get used to having a proper room. And that she had an actual family.
Rukia, her newly found aunt, walked in with a grin.
"How would you like to see the Seireitei?"
"Sure, Aunt Rukia."
"Just Rukia. Knowing my brother, he will probably not mind you just calling him sir."
Sakura rather enjoyed the soul society. Even if the only person who would play with her was Yachiru from squad eleven.
She learned very fast that when the captain of squad twelve was around, run like mad unless someone you trust was around.
Even if she wasn't seven, she knew when to run. Captain Kurotsuchi gave her the creeps.
She learned very quickly how to navigate the soul society. She had an internal sense of direction.
It often lead her to other squads, who tolerated her presence. She may had been Byakuya Kuchiki's niece, but that didn't mean they had to bow their heads to her.
Sakura was unlike her uncle in many ways. He was stoic and cool, she was cheerful and friendly. He radiated an aura of cool disdain to others, she radiated a calm and intelligent aura.
About the only thing they shared in common was a love of cherry blossoms.
Sakura wandered into squad ten, and cheerfully waved to the soul reapers. She was a common sight around the barracks, if only because she was one of the very few people who could stand to be around their captain when he was in a foul mood.
Sakura had a very high tolerance to cold temperatures.
"Hey Toshiro!" she called out.
Sakura had a very good grasp on language and math. But her ability to use honorifics properly often gave Byakuya headaches.
Toshiro didn't twitch as Sakura walked into his office. He was used to her by now.
"Want to have a snowball war?"
"I have paperwork."
Sakura calmly walked to where Rangiku was still passed out, and whispered something in her ear.
Rangiku bolted up with a start.
"If you dare do that to me you little runt, I will hang you by your ankles!"
Sakura had played a prank on Rangiku once when she was passed out. It would never happen again if she had anything to say about it.
"Rangiku-san, did you drink too much again?"
"I barely had more than five bottles last night!"
"Then why aren't you helping Toshiro?"
"Because paperwork is sooo boring!"
"Lazy kitty cat. Maybe I should pull your tail and take away your milk," sang Sakura.
Rangiku glared at her.
While she liked Sakura for getting her captain to loosen up, whenever the girl became bored she was a menace.
"Didn't Byakuya-taicho say you could go to the academy early?" she whined.
"He said he would ask, since I can't go into the library without someone with me."
She had tried to go by herself once. It would never happen again.
(Kurotsuchi was dead set on getting her as an experiment, even though he had been repeatedly warned not to go near her without another captain accompanying him. The one time she went to the soul society library alone, he nearly captured her.)
Toshiro wasn't in the mood to hear Rangiku whine.
"Rangiku, why don't you take her?"
Now she was stuck. Either she could help fill out paperwork or she could spend four hours at the library.
"I heard they updated the adult section and have a book on the best sake in the world of the living..." Sakura hinted.
That was all it took for Rangiku to go with her.
Rukia took Sakura to the academy. Unlike her new classmates, she had yet to die. At least, that was what her family thought.
By the end of the first day, she had shocked everyone when she walked out of the academy with a sword. Everyone assumed she had taken one of the unnamed ones that all students got...
At least, until Rukia attempted to pick it up and got a nasty shock.
"He doesn't like it when someone other than me picks him up," said Sakura.
"Sakura-chan...you have a zanpakuto?"
"He says I'm not ready to hear his name just yet, but I can still use him to fight with."
Rukia did the only sane thing she could. She fainted from shock.
The news that Sakura Kuchiki not only had a sword, but was still among the living was met with shock and disbelief.
And a rather large amount of interest from the worst person possible.
Finding out the girl was able to manifest her sword before she was even dead only strengthened Kurotsuchi's desire to experiment on her.
Unfortunately for him, Sakura made very sure to stay near the other captains at all times.
Even the always drunk Kyoraku.
Sakura snuck up behind Renji with a grin. Rukia, who saw her, said nothing and didn't let him know she was there. She was very good at poker.
The girl managed to get up right behind him and shouted "BOO!"
Renji jumped a good two feet up.
"I've told you not to do that!" he growled.
"And I told you that you always leave your back wide open," she retorted.
She grinned when she heard something else.
"Even Zabimaru agrees with me!"
The two stared.
"You can hear his zanpakuto?" asked Rukia.
"Is his sword a snake of some kind?" she asked in return.
"Zabimaru is half snake, half baboon."
"Then it must have come from the snake half. I've always been able to talk to them."
"What about dragons?"
"I hear Hyorinmaru just fine. Why else would I get along so easily with Toshiro?"
Seeing them gape, she grinned.
"It doesn't hurt that my sword also happens to be a dragon. Can't tell which kind though."
Suddenly she shot a pebble she had hidden in her robes.
They heard a squawk of surprise, and when they went to look, they found Gin Ichimaru.
"Attempting to sneak up on me is liable to get you hit with something hard. I am a very good aim," smirked Sakura.
"I wasn't sneaking!"
"You were uncommonly interested in the conversation," she retorted.
"If you weren't the niece of..."
She grinned evilly.
"If you wanted retribution, you would have to catch me first. Unlike my uncle, I never pay any mind to nobility unless he forces me too."
Rukia spoke up.
"Actually, she has a point. I have never seen her act like a noble once, unless my Brother tells her she has to."
Seeing the Third captain make up his mind she whispered to her aunt "See you at supper!"
Sakura had an uncanny knack for knowing when someone wanted to get retribution...or experiment on her without her consent. Seconds after she bolted, Gin used shun po right after her.
Renji and Rukia looked at the direction the two had gone, and before long they were snickering.
Gin apparently hadn't heard the rumors that Soi Fon of squad two had been teaching Sakura shun po. According to the rather cranky woman, Sakura Kuchiki was a natural at runny high speeds without slowing down.
Only Sakura knew why that was.
"What have I told you about annoying the other captains?"
"He was being rude. And I apologized after," she informed her uncle.
Sakura was both a blessing and a curse to Byakuya. While she picked up on her lessons very quickly, even the ones she hated (namely how nobility should and shouldn't act) she also had a stubborn streak a mile wide.
Still, she did brighten up the Kuchiki compound.
"What exactly did captain Ichimaru do that was rude?"
"He was listening in on a private conversation with Rukia and Renji. I was telling them how I could hear the voices of snake and dragon type zanpakuto when I realized someone was listening in. I thought it was that creepy clown."
Byakuya could feel a headache coming on. While he had given her permission to annoy Kurotsuchi when he realized the man had an unhealthy interest in her, it also meant that anyone with a captain class reitsu (she couldn't distinguish reitsu just yet, unless it was either Byakuya, Rukia or Unohana from squad four) was open game.
And Sakura had taken to carry small but painful rocks with her everywhere.
(Surprisingly they had an added effect of taking out any hollow they hit. Though Rukia had a fit when she heard Sakura had been taken out in the world of the living with her class.)
Byakuya, sensing a losing argument, finally changed the subject.
"How far are you from learning his name?"
"He said I might be ready very soon. But I need to work on my kido first."
Byakuya would only admit this under pain of death, but he was actually quite proud of his niece. She took her studies very seriously, and only gave into mischief when they were done. Though it bothered him greatly that she already had a sword when she was supposedly still among the living.
"Uncle, may I go play in the seventh division?" she asked politely.
For reasons he had yet to understand, his niece had almost every division wrapped around her little finger. She could come and go in any division she wanted, though a few she avoided when she could help it.
Which was why he often had her as a messenger to the ones she frequented. She did a rather impressive impersonation of his voice.
"Try not to annoy the captain and lieutenant, and be back by supper."
"Yes sir!" she said, saluting him properly.
While she was technically a student in the academy, she wasn't allowed to be assigned to any squad other than the sixth. At least until she died in the world of the living or officially gained a soul reaper uniform.
Sakura did her best to sneak up on Komamura. For reasons that everyone could only speculate about, Komamura was the only captain aside from Byakuya who Sakura opened up to immediately upon meeting.
When asked by the seventh captain, she cheerfully admitted that it was because she knew he wasn't human. Humanoid, yes, but not human.
It was after that, that Komamura took off his disguise. At least around Sakura.
She was also the only person alive allowed to call him Fuzzy and get away with it. Well...her and Yachiru.
The two girls were imps in disguise, but at least Sakura only attached herself to certain people who she actually liked. Yachiru gave everyone she had regular contact with names.
"Mind if I hang around you today?"
"Only if you do not intend mischief like last time."
"I brought books."
Komamura shook his head. She had explained to him once why she rotated which division she stayed with. She was usually quiet, unless she intended mischief.
So long as she remained in a random squad, then Kurotsuchi would have more trouble finding her. The few times he found her, she had made very sure to leave early in order to get home safely.