Thank you for your continued support and patience! Your reviews are always such a thrill to read, and I hope you continue to enjoy what I write :)
Ichigo frowned as he stared at the family tree, tilting his head slightly as he saw his father's name linked directly to the name of the founder of the Clan. He rubbed his chin thoughtfully and muddled over the idea that he was a direct descendant of the founder.
Byakuya glanced from the tree to Ichigo and back again, for surely this information should never have been privy to his own eyes; he was from a rival Clan and he was certain that this was something that the Clan leader should have addressed in a Council instead of him being allowed to see it like this.
"Stark?" the Incubus murmured.
The brunette paused and looked around, casting his eyes over the tree himself; he blinked and back tracked, coming to stand beside the other two and inspecting it a little closer. He tipped his head to the side and folded his arms in thought.
In the background, Komamura watched them interact with interest, he had long hoped for Coyote-sama's return and although he didn't entirely agree with him having chosen a half-human for a mate, he would accept the human because Coyote-sama had done so.
"Well that was unexpected." Stark murmured.
"You mean you didn't know?" Ichigo asked, looking up at him shyly.
He met his gaze easily, "I have been away from home for a long time. Last time I was here this hadn't been put up. I have no idea."
"I believe you." The strawberry said without hesitation before he looked back at the tree, "Why didn't Dad tell me?"
"I don't know... We can ask him when we get back though."
"Yeah... I think we need to have a long hard chat about this," he frowned faintly, "What happened the Scalpturio?"
"He died." Stark said quietly, "Or he was supposed to have done."
"He... Disappeared about a thousand years ago. Even as demons we do die of old age eventually so... It was just kind of assumed that he had died." He paused, "Is it not the same for Dominis?" he asked as he looked at Byakuya.
The Incubus hesitated, "We are not supposed to speak of what happened to our Forefather with a member of another Clan, however as you have willing revealed the history of your Clan I shall repay you. Dominis was frozen in carbon about six centuries ago, promising to return one day and reclaim the Succubus Clan for himself and to destroy his biggest enemy."
"His... Biggest enemy?" Ichigo asked.
"The Werewolf Clan."
"Oh fun times..." he grumbled, "You guys sure love your feuds don't you?"
"It's not all bloodshed and lifelong hatred." Stark laughed.
"No, that's just the in-between bits." Byakuya smirked.
Ichigo rolled his eyes at both of them, "Unbelievable." He muttered, "Anyway... My curiosity has now been piqued so... Please do continue leading the way."
Stark chuckled as he saw his eyes roll but nodded, pecking his lover on the forehead before taking his hand and setting off again and leading him down the corridor towards Komamura; he nodded to his old friend and the wolf man once again led them to Yamamoto's office.
They came to a stop outside of a large oak door, Stark glanced at Ichigo to make sure he was alright before Komamura knocked on the door; when a low rumble of a voice called out in response the wolf man pushed open the door and stepped aside for them to enter. When the three had gone inside, he backed away and shut the door before returning to his other duties.
Stark swallowed as he saw his former Commander sat behind a large desk and he bowed his head to the man, putting an arm protectively over Ichigo's shoulder.
"Coyote Stark, it has been a long time."
"A long time... But by your own volition, Yamamoto." The brunette replied as he stood straight again and looked at the old man.
"Indeed, I cannot refute that claim." He stood up slowly, reaching for his walking stick and walking towards them slowly, "I am sorry for complying with the exile against you. I should have known that you would never lie to me about anything, at the time, Aizen Sousuke was a convincing man and I was tricked, as was everyone else."
Stark looked down for a moment and sighed, "An apology won't fix the past, however, had I not been exiled I would not have found Ichigo." He smiled and looked at the nervous man who was pressed against his body.
"Ah, indeed, the young man Byakuya informed me about. Kurosaki Isshin's son?"
"Yes, sir." Ichigo replied a little apprehensively, "I am Kurosaki Ichigo."
"Ah yes, Ichigo, that was the name."
Yamamoto sat down in a dark red leather seat and made himself comfortable, observing Byakuya from the corner of his eye before he gestured for them to sit as well.
"So as I understand it, you are currently pregnant?"
Ichigo shuffled as he and Stark sat in the leather bound loveseat, "Uh... Yes..." he mumbled.
"And one of the cubs is Aizen's? The other is Stark's?"
"And Aizen knows about the existence of his child."
"I... Yes he knows. But after I told him to leave us alone he left and to my knowledge we haven't heard anything else from him since." The strawberry confirmed, feeling a little overwhelmed.
The older man looked over at Byakuya, "And your take on this is what?"
"I'm not sure what you mean, Yamamoto." The raven haired male replied.
"Ichigo carried Aizen's heir, will you hand the child over to your Clan; will you hand the child over to Aizen, or will you take another route? As the temporary leader of your Clan the decision is yours to make. But know that if you were to take an option which I haven't suggested, your Clan may rise against you, and you yourself may be at risk."
Byakuya lifted his head slightly, nobility flowed him his every pore, "Both cubs will remain with Ichigo and Stark, unless such a time arises as it is necessary to reconsider."
Ichigo breathed a silent sigh of relief, he didn't know how he might have reacted if Byakuya had decided that one of his cubs might have been taken away, or worse given to that heinous pig who had helped impregnate him. Tch, it still made his blood boil just thinking about it.
Beside him, Stark also relaxed. Had Byakuya decided anything different, he would have killed the treacherous bastard in a most grisly manner. Maybe by spreading his entrails across the Demon World, for a start.
Byakuya was certain Stark had just imagined about one hundred ways to kill him in case he answered incorrectly, however it wasn't the fear of a painful death which had spurred him to decide that the cubs would stay with Ichigo, it was the fact that Aizen would be a terrible father and the Incubus Clan would have changed that cub beyond recognition. No, the best place for Aizen's heir was with Ichigo and Stark, two people who would raise the child to be honest and good. He hoped.
Yamamoto sat back and blew out a long breath, "Well... As long as you chose to remain here you will be protected from Aizen and the Incubus Clan, you have my word no ill fate will fall upon either of you. This I swear."
"Thank you Yamamoto." Stark murmured, putting his arm around Ichigo to comfort his mate, "We are both grateful."
"Please, I owe you this at least." He replied with a shake of his head, "Stark, your room has been kept the same as it was before you... Left. If you remember the way I suggest you retire for the evening, Ichigo looks ready to drop off right there."
The brunette glanced around at his mate and saw that his eyes were indeed a little hazy, "Yes I remember." He confirmed and stood up, pulling Ichigo with him as well.
"And as for you, Kuchiki Byakuya, what are your plans?"
"I must return to the Nocte Estate, the unrest there is far from being settled anytime soon. I fear an extended stay away from the Estate would end in disaster... I have at the moment left Renji in charge but goodness knows what might happen if he had to cope alone for a few days. I will return tomorrow to talk to you, Stark."
The brunette looked up, "Of course, I will be waiting for you. Now, if you will excuse me?" He inclined his head and lead Ichigo from the room.
Byakuya watched the pair leave and waited until the door was closed before he looked at Yamamoto, "He saw the family tree on the way here, I don't suppose you did that on purpose did you?"
"I am certain that I don't know what you are talking about." The old man replied as he brushed a hand down his beard.
"He is Scalpturio's Grandson." He stated calmly, "You should have informed everyone if you knew there was an heir... Kurosaki Isshin should NEVER have been exiled!"
"He fell in love with a human, he muddied the bloodline. Ichigo would never have any claim to Scalpturio's titles."
"That is NOT the point! He is still a blood relation! The other Council members need to be informed that there is an heir!"
"No." He simply growled, "Not until we can be certain that Ichigo's potential demonic powers match up to what he would need should he decide to stay here."
Byakuya sighed heavily and looked away, "Have it your own way. I shall tell no one of this regardless..." he shook his head, "Until tomorrow, Yamamoto."
The raven haired man turned on his heel and exited the room, leaving the Estate with equal swiftness and heading back to his own Estate, goodness he couldn't wait to simply fall asleep with his mate beside him, Renji's brilliant red hair would be a warm change from Ichigo's startling orange.
He shook his head, supposing that only time would tell what would be best for everyone involved. Aizen was an outcast regardless of how many wanted him to return and he would do everything he could to ensure it remained that way.
Meanwhile, back in the Human World, Aizen sat on top of Urahara's shop and contemplated what course of action he could take. His assassins had failed to murder Kuchiki Byakuya and now that Ichigo had left for the Demon World, he was unsure of how he would proceed with his plans to claim Ichigo, "Hmm," he murmured thoughtfully, "Problems, problems; problems..."
"Indeed, you seem to have a few at the moment."
Aizen stood and spun around, his eyes narrowing as he came face to face with Urahara Kisuke, "My, you have grown a pair to face me now like this, Urahara."
"Not at all, I merely care more about Ichigo's fate than I do about whatever you believe you can do to me." The Neko's hat was missing and he slowly unsheathed a long sword with a curved hilt from his side, "If I end you now, Ichigo will be free to do whatever he pleases."
"If? Do you not believe your own skills, Urahara?"
"I know I am strong, however you are a trickster and I should be weary."
"Good advice for anyone."
Aizen smirked and swept a hand to the side, summoning his own sword and grasping it as it appeared beside him, "Shall we?"