A/N: I'm BACK!
No I'm not dead, I didn't run away and join the circus, I didn't elope, and I didn't win the lottery (unfortunately). So much has been going on in my life these past couple of months that unfortunately I had to put this lovely FF on hold while I sorted through some things. I know 7 months of absence is unforgivable, but please try and find it in your hearts to have mercy on my soul, as I give you this lengthy chapter as a peace offering.
I Do Not Own Bleach,
Konbanwa = good afternoon (very formal)
After the initial introduction's, a good 5 minutes of embracing, and strings of 'I miss you's and 'what have you been up to's, Yutaka had decided he would take a break from street entertaining, and offered to treat Karin and Orihime out to some coffee. Yutaka chose a rather expensive looking café that was occupied predominantly with foreigners and businessmen, and had requested an outdoor seating placement on the café's patio deck.
"Are you sure it's alright if we take you from your show Yamazuki-kun?" Orihime questioned concernedly, as she sat down at the café table that she, Yutaka and Karin occupied.
"Don't worry yourself Inoue-san. I wasn't even scheduled to perform until much later. Me and my assistant Har- Hana, sorry, are actually slated to perform tonight, just before the fireworks. I was only street performing today because I didn't have much to do, and I've really missed the streets of Karakura" he replied, squeezing Orihime's shoulder in assurance, a bright smile ever-present on his face.
"Well, if you're sure…" she said putting her finger to her lip as she contemplated what to say next.
"So Karin-chan, how do you and Yamazuki-kun know each other?" Orihime asked, curiously.
"We're childhood friends" Karin said, smiling nostalgically. "We've known each other since as long as I can remember. Yutaka, Me, Yuzu, Ichi-nii and sometimes Tatsuki-chan would play together all the time. We'd even sleep over on the weekends, and spend family holidays together. All of us"
"You know Tatsuki-chan and Ichigo-kun as well?" Orihime gawked in surprise.
"Haha, yes, I do. They are both quite dear to me. Judging by how beautiful you are, you must be Ichi-nii's girlfriend. Or his wife, if he's as smart as I think he is" He said, winking cheekily.
Orihime turned a furious shade of red at the comment, spluttering her reply.
"a-ah no… Ano… I-I'm n-not in a relationship with I-chigo-kun. R-r-r-Rukia-san is engaged to him"
"Rukia-san?" Yutaka said, looking to Karin for some sort of explanation.
"Rukia is, as Orihime-chan said, my brother's fiancé. You wouldn't know her though. She came around way after you left. Speaking of which 'Taka… why did you leave?" Karin said, an almost tangible sense of hurt present in her voice.
"It's a very, very long story Karin-chan. Perhaps later on, if you'd let me meet up with you again, we could talk about all of that… and hopefully more?" he said, optimism in his eyes, as he reached out for her hands and squeezed them lightly.
"Of course, I would love it if we could get some time to just talk. Do you have a number that I might be able to reach you at?"
After Karin and Yutaka exchanged numbers, the pair and Orihime paid their tab, and walked down the avenue by the café, in the direction of the center of where the festivities would take place. As they continued down the street, a light breeze began to blow, and trailing it was a familiar reiatsu that instantly made Karin stiffen in concern and Orihime furrow her brows in confoundedness, while Yutaka seemed more or less oblivious to the spiritual pressure that just barely laced the air. Karin was sure it was his…that familiar, overpowering reiatsu that reminded her of the springtime, only strained and suppressed. As if the small amount of reiatsu that did leak from its source was being forced out purposefully, to make his presence known. He was just east of them, that much she could tell, and judging by the strength of the reiatsu (although infinitely weaker than it would've been in its free flowing form) that grew stronger and stronger as they walked towards its source. Feeling a sense of urgency to get to him Karin began to advance towards the unmistakeable reiatsu with Orihime and Yutaka in tow, when a loud hiss escaped Yutaka's lips, his hand instantly grasping his shoulder and his face twisted in obvious pain.
"Is something wrong" said a concerned Orihime, reaching out a hand to touch Yutaka's affected shoulder.
"Don't touch it!" Yutaka yelled, slapping Orihime's hands away and almost sneering at her. When both Karin and Orihime's bewildered expressions registered with Yutaka, he immediately morphed his countenance into a softer expression, before apologetically explaining himself, his words rushed and forced.
"Gomennasai Inoue-san, but touching it will only make it worse. I… I need to get out of here" he said before standing straight and taking off without giving anyone a chance to say their farewells.
"I wonder what could be wrong with Yamazuki-kun?" Orihime wondered aloud.
Karin watched as Yutaka's form slipped into the mass of the crowd, and let out a slightly depressed sigh as she watched him go. Maybe it was for the best however, she thought. It would be less troublesome if he left, instead of staying for her to introduce the man she was chasing after to Yutaka. Although, it slightly bothered Karin when she internally acknowledged that her concern over what Byakuya would have thought about Yutaka was her main reason for seeing Yutaka's sudden departure as a blessing. Shaking her head, Karin kept walking, holding onto Orihime's hand to avoid being separated by the bustling crowd.
"Can you sense it too Orihime-chan?" Karin asked as the two of them continued to advance towards the supressed reiatsu
"Hai, Karin-chan, I felt it since we were back with Yamazuki-kun near down the street. But what would Kuchiki-sama be doing in the living world in the middle of the day?"
"Well, that's what I want to find out" Karin said, reaching out her reiatsu to more accurately pinpoint Byakuya's location. Their reiatsu's brushed against one another for a second, and a visible string of reiatsu appeared, acting like a line-trail towards the man in question. Karin took off towards the east, shuffling through the crowd across the streets. Karin's pace gradually quickened into a run, as she felt the pressure of Byakuya's reiatsu fluctuate slightly. Karin turned down another busy street as fast as she could, barely acknowledging the figures she negotiated through in her blind pursuit, and completely forgetting about Orihime who's hand she had let go of in the midst of breaking out into a sprint. Karin was so concentrated on following the string of reiatsu, that she almost didn't realize his proximity to her until she ran right into a very solid chest.
Still unused to being in an artificial body, the force of the contact that the onyx-haired woman had made with him, proved too much for him to support. Instinctively wrapping his arm around the woman, Byakuya (albeit grudgingly) allowed gravity to take both him, and Karin to the ground. For the onlookers, the fall looked amorously graceful and almost practiced; the contact that Byakuya's physical body made with the ground hardly even hinted towards the notion that gravity was in control. Byakuya had been completely unaware of Karin's presence until she hit him. His senses felt extremely supressed in the uncomfortable clamor of organic flesh. He tried to splay his reiatsu across the area, in search of Karin's but it required a great deal of force to propel his usually free flowing reiatsu. And even with his reiatsu finally let loose, because of the interference the Gigai caused, it proved quite a challenge to even detect other's reiatsu with his own. It was obvious to the noble that his Gigai was either incomplete or defective. Byakuya's only option then was to simply pour as much reiatsu as he could (without attracting hollow masses) across the region, and hope that Karin would sense it and pursue him. As Byakuya devoted part of his mind to forcing out his reiatsu, Byakuya began to scrutinize the numerous imperfections of the Gigai Yoruichi had handed to him. His movements felt rigid, and his sensory system felt incredibly weakened. It was difficult for him to allow his reiatsu to permeate the Gigai, and it was almost as if the Gigai didn't allow him to sense that of others. Even flexing his hand felt rather sloth-like in comparison to the speed he would have possessed if it he were not confined to the accursed piece of equipment. If this was the normal level of mobility for a human body, Byakuya pitied mortals greatly.
Having recovered from the surprise of being more or less tackled to the ground by a much smaller body, Byakuya fully registered what had happened, and immediately looked down at the porcelain hands clutching his shirt. Just as Byakuya was about to demand that the cretin that had pushed him to the floor remove themselves from his person, the woman let out a groan that sounded unmistakeably familiar. Quickly adjusting himself, Byakuya lifted himself off of the ground, simultaneously pulling Karin up with him. Byakuya gave Karin a once over, looking for any visible bruises or cuts that she may or may not have acquired as a result of the fall, and inadvertently appreciating the way her jeans held on to the contours of her shapely legs. Once he was absolutely sure that no harm had been done to Karin, he raised his gaze back up to Karin's face, taking note of the light blush that adorned her cheeks.
"Byakuya, what're you doing here?" Karin asked, trying to fight down the blush that was rapidly staining her cheeks. No matter how many times over the past couple of months he had looked at her, the way his smoldering grey hues had possessively analyzed any every pore of her body never ceased to cause her cheeks to heat up, and shiver to travel down her spine.
"Do you not recall?" said Byakuya and then he continued, "It had been previously arranged between the two of us that I would provide you with further training in the human world due to your commitments preventing you travelling to Seireitei" Byakuya finished, slightly offended that Karin had forgotten about their training date, but making sure to feign indifference to the fact, lest she figure out how much he had been looking forward to it.
"How could I forget! It had completely slipped my mind" Karin exclaimed, slapping herself on the forehead.
"I had fully intended on meeting up with you at Urahara's but I forgot that our training date was on the same day as Wakamono Matsuri. To be honest, I didn't even plan on coming to the festival, but Orihime-chan called and… she thought it was a good idea for me to get some fresh air" Karin continued, making sure to exclude her real reason for going out to the festival. Even though she didn't think Byakuya would relay any details to his sister, Karin thought it was best if fewer people knew about how much Rukia and ichigo's engagement had affected Orihime. As if on cue, Orihime turned the corner and bolted in the direction of Karin and Byakuya, red faced and panting slightly. When she was finally within reasonable distance of Karin she came to a stop, hands resting on her knees to catch her breath. Once her breathing had evened Orihime opened her mouth to chastise Karin for running away so abruptly, but instantly shut it and spluttered upon noticing whose presence Karin was in.
"Kkk-konbanwa Kuchiki-sama!" she said bowing, her face turning an even deeper shade of red at her own embarrassment for stuttering.
"Hn." Byakuya grunted in acknowledgement.
Karin rolled her eyes at Byakuya's rather unfriendly way of greeting people, and turned to face her strawberry blonde companion.
"Apparently, Byakuya over here was the source of those bursts of reiatsu that were echoing across town" Karin explained.
A look of realization crept onto Orihime's face in response to Karin's words. "Ahh, that's why the reiatsu seemed so familiar. I couldn't put my finger on it, but I knew I had felt it before. Have you come to spend time with Rukia-san and… Kurosaki-kun, Kuchiki-sama?" Orihime said the lack of genuineness in the smile she had forced onto her face at the mention of Rukia and Ichigo almost palpable. Byakuya raised his eyebrow, but did not comment at the almost dispassion of the strawberry blonde.
"As pleasant as spending time with my sister and her … simplistic choice in a suitor may have been, I did not come to the living realm to fraternize. I have responsibilities to attend to that unfortunately require my commute here" Byakuya said rather matter-of-factly.
Karin ignored Byakuya snide comment about her brother, and filled in the blonde in on Byakuya's actual purpose for being there.
"I was supposed to train with Byakuya today, but I had been so caught up with the festivities that I had completely forgotten about our training date." She said shrugging, and then she continued,
"I guess it's only right that I train with him now that he's here. Is it alright with you if I head back to Urahara's with Byakuya? You can come along too if you'd like" Karin offered.
The slight disappointment in losing her escape from her depression was evident, but with a fake smile and a wave Orihime played it off as soundly as she could.
"I-it's perfectly fine Karin-chan, I need to get going anyway. Thank you so much for spending time with me today." She said.
Karin nodded, and gave the other girl a quick embrace. "I will call you later alright?"
"… Thank you Karin-chan" Orihime said softly, giving Karin an extra squeeze before letting go and waving Karin and Byakuya off.
After leaving Orihime , Byakuya and Karin fell into a comfortable silence as they walked through the streets back to Urahara's shop.
"You didn't have to come out all this way too look for me you know" said Karin as she stared at the sidewalk in front of her eyes running over the various cracks in the weather-worn concrete.
Byakuya looked at Karin out of the corner of his eye, holding his gaze for a moment before he spoke,
"Are you implying that you did not wish to see me today, Karin-san?" Byakuya said evenly
At this, Karin flushed slightly and tried to explain herself properly, "I didn't mean it like that! I really look forward to spending time with you – for training and stuff," she said, adding in the last part quickly. It was true that she enjoyed their training sessions, but much to her horror she found that being in his general presence was really what made her day.
"Ah, training of course. I suppose we should relinquish participating in any of our usual leisurely activities, since they obviously seem be the cause of more distress than gratification for you" he said, with slight mirth in his voice, and a gentle smirk adorning his features
"No, I didn`t mean – shutup!" she said, nudging byakuya lightly, "You always do that to me"
"And yet, you fall victim to my jesting every single time. A shinigami who falls for the same trick repeatedly, is hardly a shinigami Karin-san" Byakuya replied
"Whatever Byakuya, we'll see if I'm hardly a Shinigami after Kiyogetsu rips your shihakusho to shreds" Karin countered grinning.
Few were ever familiar with, or even exposed to Byakuya's humorous side; in fact, most people didn't even think it existed. The 6th division captain was far from the most sociable type and someone would even say he was downright hostile toward any attempts at making conversation. But for Karin it was far different; she had managed to burrow under a few of the pompous layers that comprised of his exterior façade and had managed to discover the banter-laden sense of humour that Byakuya harbored. Karin was rather surprised the first time she genuinely saw Byakuya chuckle or smirk humorously at something she said or did, but his responses were nonetheless welcome. After recovering from the shock of learning that Byakuya indeed had a sense of relatable humor, Karin had not long after decided that the man had an award winning smile. His smiles were so rare and so memorable that she often caught herself daydreaming of one of those moments where he did smile, much to her frustration as she always ended up daydreaming when she was doing something that required her undivided attention. Their banter had originally started out as genuine insults being thrown at each other, but somewhere along the line they had managed to discover that they both had a proclivity for morbid, sarcastic, and antagonistic humour. Unwittingly through their bickering and quarrelling they had found another common ground, and more than even either of them had realized the more common ground that they found, the more connected to one another they became. Their initial meeting and disdain for one another had slowly morphed into a rather warm companionship that had reached the bordering regions of transcendence into intimacy, but had been rather delayed in making that final step.
The candy shops occupants had completely vacated, including Yoruichi, Byakuya noted with relief. He knew the woman loved seeing him squirm and the last thing he was looking forward to was being teased about his growing… fondness, for his raven haired protégé when the lady in question was in his midst. Karin used the key Kisuke had given her to enter the shop and the duo wasted no time in getting to the underground training area that was under the shop.
Removing their human and gigai forms and leaving them in the shop, Byakuya and Karin headed out into the training area, using shunpo to cover more area, faster. They sped across the vast expanse until Byakuya decided to come to a stop by a region that was mostly flatland.
"As shinigami, we are taught to use our surroundings to our advantage when fighting hollows. This is a highly valuable survival skill, that has proven its worth a thousand times over for any seasoned shinigami. However for many shinigami, they become reliant on structures both natural and man-made to help defend themselves, or even to aid in delivering killing blows. Shinigami with such a handicap become utterly useless in situations where the landscape that they are fighting in has little or no cover area or major obtrusion" said Byakuya as he began walking forward, away from Karin.
"I will not have you disgrace yourself or my mentoring abilities by becoming one of those Shinigami. For this exercise you and I will spar in a wide open space, so that you will be forced to use nothing but your zanpakutou to defend yourself in battle" He finished, pulling senbonzakura from its sheath and turning around to face his opponent.
"Hit me with your best shot, Taichou" Karin said cheekily, pulling out kiyogetsu and setting herself in battle stance.
Byakuya began his attack first, using shunpo to close the distance between the two of them rapidly. He raised his blade over Karin's head and pulled his sword down, but his attack was blocked by Karin as she held Kiyogetsu above her head to block. Moving quickly Karin focused reiatsu into her legs and used them to kick at Byakuya, propelling herself into a back flip and exiting the sword-to-sword deadlock they had found themselves in. Byakuya reacted swiftly, and shunpoed behind the spot he predicted Karin would land at. As expected Karin landed right in front of him and Byakuya slashed horizontally at Karin, missing her by only a fraction of an inch as she shunpoed away from his strike. The fight soon turned into more of an evasive dance as Karin found herself trying to avoid Byakuya's blows. Karin began to realize it was much harder than she had previously anticipated fighting in the open would be. As impressive as her kenjutsu was, when it came to Byakuya she knew she'd only get some real damage done with her shikai activated. Byakuya must have read her mind, because he suddenly distanced himself from her and held Senbonzakura out in front of him.
"Chire, Senbonzakura" Byakuya uttered aloud, the blades of his zanpakutou breaking up into thousands of razor sharp cherry blossom petals.
Karin nodded, and a smirk adorned her features. Now she felt like they were going somewhere; using her shikai was her preferred method of combat when zanpakutou were involved because her zanpakutou allowed for more freedom of movement, and if there was one thing Karin loved, it was freedom of movement. Karin raised her blade above her head revelling in her own reiatsu, and called upon her blade to release her shikai.
"Hikaru to Oreru, Kiyogetsu!"
Karin's blade glowed brilliant white and shattered, flaming white moonflower petals igniting from the shards. Using the hilt of her zanpakutou Karin guided the petals to surround her in a semi defensive position. Byakuya noted the defensive position that she had used to guard herself from attacks, and felt his chest swell with a small amount of pride. When Karin had first used her shikai, she had been somewhat awkward and unaware of the way she used Kiyogetsu to attack and offend. She used to stream Kiyogetsu into a sort of singularly directed blast that either served the purpose of blocking attacks, or giving one head on blow to her enemies. After the first couple of sparring sessions, Byakuya wasted no time in showing Karin how vulnerable her style made her, and quickly began the process of correcting Karin's form to incorporate both self-preservative techniques and offensive techniques at the same time. As of that very moment Byakuya could tell that she had improved greatly in terms of her control over her shikai petals, but his scrutinizing eyes could still detect rather apparent lacks in precision, but that would only get better with time.
Karin leaped forward at Byakuya, attempting to use Hakuda and her shikai at the same time. Karin directed a small portion of moonflower petals to envelop her wrists and ankles, and sent a cross-chop in Byakuya's direction. Byakuya smoothly evaded Karin's attacks by shifting senbonzakura's petals to form a wall that blocked Karin's attempts. Karin did not relent however and kept sending attacks Byakuya's way, shunpoing in all directions to find an opening to launch her attack in. Karin had only recently discovered that she could armor herself with the moonflower petals of Kiyogetsu, and had taken an instant liking to this method of battle. Each time Byakuya had watched Karin fight him hand to hand whilst using her Shikai, he couldn't help but think how delighted SoiFon would have been if Karin had been her protégé. Her style was rather unusual amongst most shinigami, almost Yoruichi-esque, but it was nonetheless useful and Byakuya had to admit that Karin had almost landed quite a few nasty blows on him using this technique. Almost.
The two shinigami went at it for hours, the whirring sound of the razor sharp petals clashing together echoed through the training ground as their sparring intensified. When using Hakuda to fight had begun to take a toll on Karin's body, both through physical exhaustion and Kiyogetsu's petals actually starting to burn her, she opted for using a less hands on approach to fighting and returned to her defensive stance, commandeering her blades to fly after Byakuya whilst simultaneously trying to defend herself.
When their training Karin exhaustedly dropped to the floor, and it took a great amount steel will for Byakuya to act as though their sparring had not winded him.
"Your performance was satisfactory Karin-san. Your ability to utilize your own zanpakutou as a means of defense was effective, however, I must emphasize – what has happened to your arms?" Byakuya said, after noticing the painful looking red marks on Karin's wrists and by her ankles.
"It's nothing Byakuya. It just happens when Kiyogetsu's petals stay around my ankles and wrists for too long. The burns won't scar, as long as I get into the springs and heal up. Honestly, I'm fine" she replied to him, forcing herself up off of the floor and attempting to shunpo to the area of the springs only to wince at the pain in her ankles and buckle underneath the pressure of her own body weight.
Byakuya almost instantaneously shot his arms out to grab Karin, supporting her slender frame by holding her up against him.
"Karin-san?" said Byakuya, his concern over her well-being slightly palpable in his voice, much to his chagrin. Karin stared up at Byakuya, and stubbornly tried to stand up and support herself.
"I said I'm fine Byakuya. I just tripped over… the dirt." She said trying to limp away from him only to stumble and be forced to grab hold of Byakuya to support herself.
It was obvious that Karin was not going to make it very far on her legs, without adversely agitating her wrists and ankles, and Byakuya would not allow himself to stare at Karin as she only caused herself more harm. His concern lay only in the fact that any injury to her would be a hindrance to their training, or so he tried to convince himself. Letting out an inaudible sigh, Byakuya positioned his hands in one swift motion; he swept Karin off the floor and into his arms, bridal style.
Karin motioned to begin protesting Byakuya's actions but one look in his face told her that she would get nowhere in her protest, and with an indignant huff she resigned herself to being carried as Byakuya leapt off into shunpo. Karin's huff inadvertently caused her to lean into Byakuya, and Byakuya stiffened at the contact. With Karin's side pressing into him firmly as a result of the g-force acting on their bodies, he became painfully aware of the soft yet firm composition of Karin's body. His mind drifted back to the time when he had first had an opportunity to feel the silkiness of the skin on her legs, but Byakuya quickly rebuked himself of such thoughts, lest they cause his reiatsu to fluctuate strangely or his anatomy to respond inappropriately. Besides, such thought were perverse and improper; she was his protégé for Kami sake.
Byakuya landed, carefully adjusting his grip on Karin as he strode towards one of the larger springs.
"I think I can walk from here" She said, unsuccessfully trying to remove herself his grip.
"Is that a yes?" she said, eyebrows raised in slight irritation
Byakuya brought Karin all the way to the edge of the springs, and gently laid her down.
"Undress and bathe. I will return shortly" He said, turning his back to her and walking away.
Karin didn't even get an opportunity to reply to him before he disappeared in a flash of shunpo, leaving her alone with her thoughts, and her terribly aching limbs.
"Guess I overdid it this time, ne Kiyogetsu?"
"Practice makes perfect Karin-sama. The power in my blade is one so destructive that even its own master is not entirely immune to the intensity of its heat" Kiyogetsu echoed in her mind
"But, I've heard Yamamoto-Soutaichou has a fire based zanpakutou with the most deadly destructive force in all of Seireitei, and he's allegedly engulfed himself in the flames without feeling any adverse side-affects from doing so. And Toshiro-kun has never complained about feeling frostbite after using Hyourinmaru, so why am I the odd one out?" Karin said confusedly
Kiyogetsu was silent in Karin's head for a long moment. Just when Karin was about to reiterate her question just in case Kiyogetsu hadn't heard her, the moonflower wielder spoke up,
"In the case of Hyourinmaru and Hitsugaya-sama, the nature of their power is made to incorporate Hitsugaya-sama's body, thus the appearance of claw-like appendages in his bankai state, as well as wings and a dragon's tail; in essence, Hitsugaya-sama being able to manifest characteristics of his zanpakutou on his body as an aid in battle was probably something that was reflexive, whereas your fighting technique has been acquired. In the case of the Soutaichou, he has lived for many years; a hundred or more of your lifetimes. Thus, he has had eons to train and harness his power, and has learned to refine his control over Ryuujin Jakka`s powers at even the most miniscule levels. Because of this, he has probably learned the art of controlling the way his zanpakutou`s fire affects him. Once one has become truly attuned to their zanpakutou they develop an unprecedented level of control, however such occurrences are rare, even with years of practice"
"Do you think I could ever learn to do that, Kiyogetsu?"
"It depends on whether or not you want to learn" Kiyogetsu said, her voice fading as her presence slipped into the back
Knowing that that answer was all she would get from Kiyogetsu, Karin brought herself back to the present, and began undressing herself. The healing water of the hot spring instantly began bubbling around Karin's arms and legs, and almost immediately Karin began to notice that some of her pain was subsiding. The soothing feeling of the healing waters enveloping her skin put Karin into a trance-like state, and before she could even think about anything else, she drifted off to sleep.
When Byakuya had finally returned to the spring he was pleased to see the bundled up shihakusho on the other side of the spring. As much as he knew it would probably be the best option (seeing that Karin's wrists and ankles were scorched), he doubted that he had the capacity to remain composed if he were to assist her with undressing and entering the pool. No amount of reasoning could deter him from facing the disturbing conclusion that he had indeed evaded a woman out of the fear that he would be unable to resist reacting to her nudity. A few months ago, he would have never even thought twice about assisting a 'protégé' undress so that they could receive first aid; it was a necessary measure, and there was hardly anything sexual about it. Until now, such issues never really bothered him in his adulthood; he had inevitably seen his fair share of nude women during his apprenticeship in the art of healing Kidou, and many of them were what would be considered very physically attractive women. Yet, he was always able to see them merely as unwell individuals, who required medical attention; nothing more, and nothing less. Byakuya was at a loss for trying to discern why all of a sudden Byakuya was having issues with differentiating his professionalism from his infatuation, solely when it came to Karin. He had never even felt that way when he had first met Hisana… and that bothered him immensely. The disgust he felt for himself at the idea that he could have developed an inexplicably deep sense of want that he had never felt for anyone else, not even his own wife. A correction of self was in order, he thought as we strode idly around the springs. Karin didn't really matter to him emotionally, he tried to assure himself. His infatuation with her was fleeting at best, a result of kindred spirit-ship being misconstrued as romantic potential; besides, he doubted she would feel the same way about him even if circumstance was different. Karin was a beautiful young girl with a teeming social life who was obviously infatuated with Hitsugaya-Taichou; he had no place in her life, romantically speaking at least. Hisana was the only one for him, and he would wait for her eternally until his soul could be reunited with her be in this realm, or in the realm of the living. His resolve was ironclad and unwavering… or at least it was that way right up until he finally laid his eyes on Karin's sleeping form in the hot spring. There was a slow in the flow of time, and all of Byakuya's previous thoughts seemingly dissipated at the sight of her. Her hair was let down out of its usual high ponytail, the long raven tendrils were pasted to the side of her face and covering her partially exposed bosom. Her face was calm and peaceful, a mountain of strength of character, teeming underneath a countenance that spoke of so much vulnerability and innocence. The simplicity of her beauty was captivatingly regal, and as much as he wanted to abhor himself for his weakness, Byakuya couldn't help but stare.
"You. Little. Pervert."
If Byakuya was any less of a man he would have jumped out of his skin out of embarrassment at being caught staring, and at being pulled so harshly out of his musings. However, he would rather commit sepukku in front of his entire household staff then give that purple haired she-devil the satisfaction of knowing that she got a jolt out of him.
"I cease to see the perversion of my actions, Yoruichi-san" Byakuya said coldly.
Yoruichi had a sickeningly mischievous grin on her face as she stared down Byakuya with her playful golden orbs. "You know what; you're right Byakuya-bo. A far more correct term would be hypocrite, or STALKER. You know it's one thing for you to watch her sleep every night when she's at your estate, but watching her sleep while she's naked?! And then you have the nerve to chastise me for unintentionally catching you naked a couple of times. Oh Byakuya-bo your grandfather would be so disappointed in you." said Yoruichi, mock whispering dramatically and feigning astonishment, much to Byakuya's chagrin.
Despite his seemingly unaffected countenance, Byakuya almost shat himself mentally as Yoruichi exposed a guilty pleasure of his that he was almost entirely positive that no-one was even aware of. Whenever he was unable sleep at night he had admittedly gone into Karin's room and watched her sleep, but only because the sight of her sleeping was incomprehensibly therapeutic to him on nights where even the pleasant conversations that they had was not enough to get him in the right frame of mind for a proper nights rest. How Yoruichi managed to go unnoticed stalking him while he… err… observed, Karin sleep was beyond him. However, being the prideful man that he was as well as being conscious of Karin's presence not too far out of ear shot, Byakuya blatantly denied Yoruichi's accusations.
"Defamation of character is a new low, even for you Yoruichi"
"Oh REALLY? I WONDER WHAT KARIN WOULD SA-"
"Control your tone Yoruichi" Byakuya commanded
"But if it isn't true why would it matter Kuya-chan " Yoruichi purred.
"I do not wish to disturb Karin's rest. Such disturbance may interfere with her body's recovery rate"
"oh, so she's 'karin' now?" said Yoruichi, emphasizing Byakuya's lack of honorific use.
"Whatever you're thinking, you're mistaken." Byakuya shot back coldly, whilst silently berating himself for his slip up.
"Kami. You really do have the hots for this girl Byakuya-bo!" Yoruichi exclaimed
"Your tone Yoruichi" Byakuya almost hissed. The urge to rub his hands on his temples was becoming more and more enticing by the second. Yoruichi seemed to have a penchant for bringing up subjects he didn't want to think about, at the worst possible time.
"Yare Yare" Yoruichi said, waving her hand at him dismissively. "Let's just take this conversation somewhere else" Yoruichi said, grabbing Byakuya by the risk and shunpoing rapidly before he could even protest. Once they were a good couple of meters away from the hot spring, Yoruichi turned around to look Byakuya in the eye, with no playfulness detectable in her gesticulations.
"You should tell her how you feel Byakuya. Girls like her are hard to find, and they get snatched up pretty quickly" Yoruichi said, sounding more serious.
"Karin and I have nothing in common Yoruichi. I assure you that there exists no potential for intimate development between the two of us"
"And why is that, Byakuya?"
There was no point in trying to deny it with Yoruichi, Byakuya realized. She obviously knew far more than he would have liked her too, and she was more unlikely to relent with her antics if he continued to deny that he had feelings for the raven haired Kurosaki. Answering honestly, Byakuya tried to articulate one of the primary reasons for his apprehension when it came to Karin.
"Hisana. I could not betray my loyalty to her after al- "
"Shut the hell up Byakuya. Do you think that Hisana would want you to be lonely for the rest of your life? I may not have known her that well but I know you, and I know you would've never married a woman that selfish" said Yoruichi, interrupting Byakuya's excuse.
Byakuya was silent. There was some merit to Yoruichi's words, and the fact that he had to admit that bothered him. Still though, after investing so much of his life and love into honouring Hisana's memory, the idea of acting on these feelings that he had begun to develop for Karin felt almost unnatural to him. Conflicted, Byakuya tried to find another way to rationalize his reasons for being reluctant to pursue Karin. After mulling through the possible variables that would constitute a viable excuse, Byakuya finally spoke
"Even if I were to pursue any romance with Karin based off of an alleged 'amorousness' towards her, I highly doubt that she would be receptive of such advances. As apparent during many of the training sessions that we have had, Karin has displayed several lapses in concentration which I am led to believe are the result of fantasizing, presumably of an individual of the opposite sex, who has captured her fancy"
"So this is what this is really about; a fear of rejection. I suppose a half of century out of the dating game would make that a concern for even the most confident man." Yoruichi said, a slight smirk making its way onto her lips. "It doesn't matter if right now she might have eyes for someone else. If you really care about Karin – which I know you do so don't try and convince me that you don't – Then turn her gaze away from the bastard, and turn them on you"
"The elders will never approve of my advances" Byakuya replied, finding another reason to try and rationalize why a relationship between him and Karin would be unethical at best.
"If they approved of Rukia and Ichigo then I hardly see how they would not approve of you courting Karin-chan. Those greedy bastards would probably jump at the idea as they did with Ichigo's advances, because of the high esteem saving the realms from destruction has put the Kurosaki family name in. Having a family of powerful heroes linked to your own does wonders for the noble image"
"It will be frowned upon" He tried to argue.
"The only thing that should be frowned upon is the fact that you haven't been laid in almost 50 years" Yoruichi shot back evenly
Byakuya's eye threatened to twitch in irritation as Yoruichi brought up the subject of his sex life, or lack thereof. The smirk on Yoruichi's lips grew into a broad smile, as she cackled heartily at the stiff, aggravated body language of the man in front of her. He was selling himself short of happiness and he knew it; if he needed some snide remarks thrown his way to make him realize it, she'd be more than happy to dish it out. Besides, he looked absolutely priceless when he started to get flustered.
"My personal life is no business of yours, especially not my sexual endeavors"
"It really does become my business when the word amongst new Shinigami is that coming under my discipleship turns skilled shinigami into prudish drones with sociopathic tendencies" Said Yoruichi, referring to newer Shinigami's opinions of both Byakuya and Soifon.
"Don't start going all monotone response with me. You care for that girl and no amount of denial or rationalization is going to change that fact, or make it any less natural for you to pursue her. It's not a crime or a sin to want the attentions of someone else in your life; it's been 50 years" Yoruichi reasoned with Byakuya, crossing her arms impatiently as she waited for the sense to finally kick into gear. Byakuya was a hard person to convince, and it was hard to tell whether or not reasoning worked with him, as he never wanted to give anyone an indication of whether or not he was listening.
"You don't have to follow my advice Byakuya, but you should. This could very well be your last chance at happiness and you're depriving yourself of that. Just don't become even more of a sociopathic prick when some wiser, more ambitious man comes along and snatches her right out of your grasps" Yoruichi finished, shaking her head admonishingly before shunpoing away, presumably to the exit of the training ground.
Byakuya stood by himself mulling over his and Yoruichi's exchange. An uncomfortable sense of confliction was enveloping him, choking the passageways of clarity of thought, and putting Byakuya in a position that he loathed with no small measure; uncertainty in his own actions. In his heart of hearts he knew that Yoruichi was right in all that she had said to him, but even 50 years seemed too soon to simply move forward with his life, and forget his first love. And would his efforts really be worth it in the end? There was no guarantee that he would even be able to so much as get Karin's attentions, especially since her relationship with Histugaya-Taichou seemed to run quite deeply. And if she were to be unreceptive of his advances there could be an unprecedented number of negative repercussions. His advances could potentially cause her to no longer wish to receive instruction from him, which would then of course lead to questioning from the Soutaichou, which ultimately could land him in a magnanimous amount of misfortune; anything from a loss of integrity amongst his peers, to dismissal, or worse yet, the disgrace of his entire clan. The sheer amount of variables both positive and negative were overwhelming for Byakuya, and after such a relatively pleasant day the last thing he wanted to contemplate such matters. Permitting himself a moment of submission, Byakuya rubbed his temples earnestly and shoved his thoughts into the back of his mind for reassessment at a later date. Right now his only responsibility was to complete his instruction session with Karin; not to psychoanalyze the plausibility of a relationship with her. With his mind temporarily made up, Byakuya headed back to the hot spring.
A/N: Well that's it for now, Hope you liked it!
Sorry for any spelling errors/grammatical errors, but this one is fresh off the press. I saw all the inboxes and emails I got from fans asking if I was going to continue with this story, and I felt so bad for neglecting it that I spent a good couple of hours furiously typing so that I could get this out today. This chapter is far from my favourite, but it was necessary in order for the events in the next couple of chapters to make sense. It's pretty choppy, I know, but I couldn't bare to let another day go by without giving all of you something to read. I promise that I won't go so long without updating again, and I will eventually publish some of the new things I have been working on as well.
P.S. Thankyou all for reviewing, this story now has over 100 reviews!
Hugs & Kisses until Next time, and feel free to inbox me with any questions you might have