In my mind, I had questioned his approach but I had never once doubted his conscience. I figured I had to search farther and wider to know more about him, even if I did not have it in me to go after something so trivial with dedication. Never mind that I had breached a long-standing rule around here, plus partaken into actions which didn't go well with the image I was conjuring for myself, because I most likely was falling headlong once more into another whirlpool of a ride from which I'd most likely get out with disappointment. Or worse.

I relieved Hisagi of his duties and reassigned Omaeda back to my division as soon as Kensei decided to show hints that he needed his impressive lieutenant back. So, as things were back on their normal track, there wasn't any more reason for me to expect some sort a follow-through from whatever had gone between me and the Ninth Division lieutenant. Unfortunately, Hisagi Shuhei, on principle, turned out to be very hard to get rid of.

"Did you forget something?" I inquired, when my office door was pried open one day to accommodate his figure. He looked fresh right out of a mission and had a vibrant energy about him.

"Not really."

"How may I help you, Hisagi?"

"If you'd let me rest here for, say, half an hour you'd be helping me big time, captain."

I found the prospect of him idling around me at this so late an hour unnerving. But, then again, hadn't I just days ago vaguely entertained his advances, even submitted partially to them? And therefore shouldn't this mean I was playing a part in this whole enterprise? However profound was my disdain for this kind of undertaking, I must, more than anything, make it a point to appear above any suspicion of being deeply affected.

"You can use the room in which you boarded in previously. Omaeda never uses it."

"There's no way I'd feel rested in there. Besides," He paused, and without realizing he had no business being so casual with me, approached my desk, "I'm here for one reason only; I wish to see you. It's been two weeks since you've given me your indefinite answer, not to mention we haven't exchanged a single word since. Come to think of it, there hasn't even been the merest swap of glances."

I was having more difficult time than usual trying to hold myself in check, and, as if an end to this wasn't going to show itself, I found myself half terrified yet half-elated all the same. I can't recall having said anything in response, but I was very conscious of his movements, of the fact that he was drawing near. I was starting to fancy he was about to do something which had very little to do with decency when, to my immediate relief, he pulled to a halt and gave me a warm smile instead. In return I shot him a dismissive glare and turned back on my papers; it was all I could do to hold myself in check.

"Do as you like, but I'm leaving in fifteen minutes. Be sure to lock the door and turn the lights off when you head out."

"Excellent."

Having no words to explain what I was feeling for him, I allowed this whim to develop into a routine, so that thrice a week I'd find him awaiting me in my office during post-working hours. In between exchanging furtive glances and brief cordial words I was repeatedly made I aware by his effect on me, that being able to repel his advances was something I no longer possessed. In time, I became his for the taking, although no verbal assent was given, nor hinted.

Inside that four-wall enclosure we kissed many times, held each other for long minutes on end.

I suppose that was what rendered me powerless—I was in love, if ever I really knew what love was. So regularly did he confront me with his ardor for me that I'm confident to say he left me no space to back away. It didn't matter if this connection was being forged so easily and in so short a span of time; what mattered was, it was there and once there it would remain for life. But what I didn't know was, happiness almost always tended to be short-lived, like a dream so easily transformed into a nightmare. And what could one gain from a connection of any form once it had gone sour, irrevocably marred?

It was one of those hectic days when units were being discharged everywhere as a response to a distress call from an uncommonly bothersome Hollow disturbance in the human world. Among the expectations were a high casualty count, and other sad news one would rather not hear. Amid booming reports pertaining to this misfortune, Commander decided to end this sinister incident once and for all by discharging Zaraki Kenpachi himself to the district in question. There, he found squads from the Seventh and Third Divisions, whose respective captains were deferred from taking a role in the melee. Soon after, rescue squads scampered about the scene, which had in it a look of a clear annihilation after Zaraki's presence. Nevertheless, countless individuals were bleeding to death.

I believed myself to be capable of handling many things no matter what their difficulties presented, and most of the time this confidence was proven to be grounded. In this occasion, I was faced with something I hadn't come around to tackling at any point in my life. It started when I headed straight to the hospital wing, to check on my comrades and to assess what was reported as 'incalculable damage'. In my inspection, I found that the death toll wasn't as grave as what the gossips had conveyed. In fact, by the time I caught a glimpse of the patients in the ward I was seized with the desire to abstain from the task in exchange for investigating the scene of the disturbance instead. But from the corners of my eyes a spectacle to behold begged for my attention.

About ten paces from where I stood, Hisagi, with his back on me, was kneeling over a woman whose back was propped against a futon. She was of the Seventh Division, of the squad which had rallied in advance yesterday. Nothing in the form of anything perturbing made its way to my imagination until the woman reached out for Hisagi's cheek and started to speak a few lines which happened to be too tender to be attributed to a casual relationship between a man and a woman.

"Shuhei, won't you take me home? You can take care of me there. You owe me that much, don't you? You've been coming in late every night and been leaving your dinner untouched all the time."

She had a face that could send necks craning at any given time, even in her injured state.

"Well, Yuuka, you'll be out of here in no time. For now, I really have to go. But I promise to spend more time with you when you're all better." Was Hisagi's sweet reply.

It was, needless to say, a spectacle fated to haunt me. In that moment in time, I came to admit all the shortcomings on behalf of my liberal treatment for Hisagi. I shouldn't have allowed him to kiss me, to hold me. If I had known better, sights like this would never have as much effect on me as it was having now. And so I turned around to retreat, looking more resolutely distant than ever, hoping that the brief espionage started and ended there.

If I were permitted an earnest reaction, I'd most likely rest content to just bury my head in my paper works, without having to feign enthusiasm on anything. But, as things were, not even solitude was granted me. I was restless for reasons I knew too well but could not accept. At the hour when darkness started to infiltrate the sky, I carried my feet to a pub deep within the residential district, my head filled thoughts that nobody else would have succeeded in guessing. So I sat myself across the bartender, dispersing the same chilly mood I was known for, as if my soul hardly underwent any sort of pain. Upon downing my second glass of beer, loud voices issued forth from the entrance. One by one, the Vice Captains and seated officers of ten or so Divisions made their way inside the dimly-lit venue. But before I could discern the specific demands of their presence here, I heard lieutenant Abarai's voice,

"Hey, Kira, isn't Hisagi-sempai tagging along?"

"His fiancée is currently recuperating in the Healing Ward. It seems he can't leave her alone."

And what choice did I have but to take their word for it? So Hisagi Shuhei, while mooning around with me, was betrothed to someone else all along. He was perhaps thinking that, because I hadn't officially pledged myself to him there was no guarantee a commitment was present between us. Therefore there was nothing in sight to suggest he had to break a preexisting relationship to give way to another. Well, to his credit, he had a right to assume that much, which went to say I had as much reason to make him miserable.

"Isn't that Captain Soi Fon?" Matsumoto Rangiku whispered.

"Oh. She looks nothing like a drinker. Shall we ask her to join us?"

"She's most likely not the drinking type. Moreover, she's probably investigating something here rather than enjoying herself. Let's just greet her on her way out."

The useless whispered exchange ran its course while the speakers themselves might as well have spoken through a megaphone. I wondered why people would always forget the fact that I was a spy besides an assassin. At any rate, the more shots I downed the clearer it got that it was an error to tarry here any longer. Yet, somehow, I was feeling obliged by one force or another to test the limits of my alcohol tolerance here and now. Downing one glass at a time, I would time and again shoot the lieutenants a furtive glance, and would find lieutenant Matsumoto staring nervously straight at me.

When I awoke I was in somebody else's room, on somebody else's bed. In a slow manner, it occurred to me that what I had witnessed at the hospital ward wasn't something which could be remedied by a good night's sleep, much less by a night of drinking spree. Just then, the Tenth Division's Lieutenant emerged into the room.

"Feeling any better, captain?"

"Did you bring me here?"

"Yes. This is my apartment. Anyway, you blacked out last night. I didn't know you were quite a drinker."

"I'm sorry for the trouble." I said. I got the message clear this time. I had gone off drinking and had failed to handle it. It was bad enough to crash into someone else's place, but it was even worse that this person seemed to have seen through me, or at least through my unhappiness.

"Are you okay, ma'am?"

"Absolutely. Listen, I'd appreciate it if not a word of my drinking habit were to reach somebody else's ear."

"Count on me."

She winked and smiled brightly, so that I couldn't find any excuse not to return the gesture. The best part was, she didn't find it necessary to inquire about the ungainly circumstances in which she and the other vice captains had found me last night. Initially they could not have believed I had been off drinking all by myself but I guessed, gradually, as the night had stretched, it had dawned on them that I had been really, purposefully intoxicating myself. Now that I was feeling somewhat better, I prepped myself to leave. Having thanked her enough and apologized for the trouble. I allowed myself to be showed to the door.

"Thank you, lieutenant Matsumoto."

"No worries." She was looking less engrossed now. As I remembered exactly how she had looked at me at the pub, I wasn't quick to ignore this sudden shift to her temper. But she spoke once more, "Captain Soi Fon, I think there's something I wish to tell you—about Shuhei."

My heart skipped a beat just then. I had quite reached the point where I was willing to do anything to blot Hisagi out of my memory, but it appeared everything was conspiring against that.

"…"

"Oh, captain Soi Fon, I wouldn't impose something like this on you if things didn't go out of hand. But last night you probably heard from Kira that Shuhei is…"

"Engaged. I saw him down the hospital ward, tending to the woman."

"Oh… well, you see, it's not like he's a..."

"Frankly, Matsumoto, I can't perceive anything else besides your friend's striking similarities to a lying bastard, perhaps the sort who would end up sprawled over the gutters. For that very reason, I wish you'd do me the honor of refraining from speaking in his favor. There's no defending his disposition just as much as I wouldn't normally spill out this much about myself and my mistakes, especially those which hint on delicate, otherwise dangerous implications. But, since I owe you for attending to me in my downtime, there you have it." I said with contempt.

"He's madly in love with you. He intends to let you know that much in due time. Right now, he claims he has Yuuka to handle. Please recognize the fact that he's in a deep tribulation too." She was pleading, her blush furious, promptly amplifying her beauty.

"Is he? He has a funny way of showing it."

I must have left her more agitated than ever. As far as I knew, that wasn't how it was cracked up to be. For all I knew, Hisagi needed to be broken, by me, most of all.

TBC