"I like you, Kyouraku," he smiled sadly. "But you have failed in your duties. You did not kill the girl when I ordered you to, therefore endangering my daughter and the rest of the Royal Family. As her protector, you have failed. I cannot allow failure in this instance."
Satoru lowered his head, not surprised at the disappointment being shown. He couldn't bring himself to kill Masumi, even if she wasn't redeemable. He had known her too long, trained her, befriended her. As a warrior, one of the hardest things was to see a friend fall- it was even more difficult than death. In death, one got to keep their honor and dignity if they fought well. But Masumi… in everyone's eyes, she had no dignity left. She had lost control of herself, acting against all the morals she had ever known. It wasn't like her, but in her case, this behavior wasn't acceptable. She had fallen. She had become something else entirely, yet Satoru knew his friend wasn't completely gone. That was why he had disobeyed orders- orders from one he had followed without fail. Did he regret his actions? Almost. Time would only tell if killing Masumi would have been the right decision.
"Kyouraku Satoru, you are released from your post. You are discharged from the Royal Guard and are to leave the realm immediately."
Satoru bit his lip, but bowed deeply.
"I understand, Highness," he said softly. He turned to leave, but a flash of scarlet caught his eye, causing him to pause.
"Wait," he was commanded. He stopped and turned to face his King once more. "I understand it is your duty to banish Kyouraku for his failures. But I ask to go with him. And with all due respect, I will go with or without your permission."
"Aren't you behaving a little rashly, Princess?" Satoru asked in a quiet whisper, shocked that the young girl would be so willing to give up everything she had known. Her father was just as surprised.
"I believe Masumi Ikeda has changed, but she isn't past redemption. She can't be," the Princess' face was etched with determination, an expression Satoru had seen often. He had been the Princess' guardian since she was a young child. He had trained her- practically raised her.
"Akahana, you have been attacked by Masumi. When your guardian failed to kill her, she returned, unchanged. I would have thought that these experiences would have been enough to show you that the world isn't pure. Not even here," the King sighed.
"You're so ready to give up faith in it," the Princess argued. "Kyouraku didn't give up faith in Masumi, and neither do I. Let us find her and bring her back. Let her prove to you that she hasn't changed."
"You're willing to be exiled to prove Masumi's dignity?" the King asked slowly. The Princess nodded. "If you bring her back, and you can prove she is unchanged, I will reinstate the three of you." The King said at length.
"If not?" Akahana asked. Satoru knew what was required of them if they failed. Once exiled from the Royal Palace, there wasn't any going back. Not unless you could prove yourself. The King wouldn't want to lose his eldest daughter, but he couldn't go back on the law.
"We'll discuss it when the time comes," the King sighed. "The two of you are dismissed."
Satoru bowed deeply to his King, muttering words of gratitude, before exiting the Palace. His Princess was not far behind him. He walked slowly, allowing her to catch up. They walked in silence for several moments.
"Princess-" Satoru began, intending to chide the girl.
"I'm in exile," she smiled. "You have to call me Akahana."
"Are you sure exiling yourself was wise?" he asked, ignoring her correction. "What if we can't prove that Masumi is still the same? That her new powers haven't corrupted her?"
"You had plenty of faith in her,"Akahana said softly, shrugging her shoulders. "That was enough for me. She's helped to guard me for nearly a century. She can't have attacked me on purpose. I won't believe it."
Satoru was silent. As much as he admired his Princess' faith in her companions, her father was still correct. Akahana had a very naïve view of the world. To her, everyone was good. She'd never encountered a murderer, she'd never seen destruction, she'd never seen a poisoned soul. Part of that was his fault- it was his duty to shelter her. To protect her. Yet, she hadn't gained an understanding of the poison that existed in the real world. Neither did she understand that filth existed in her own kingdom- the Soul Society itself. Satoru hardly believed that Masumi Ikeda was filth- but there was something about her power. Something dark. Masumi was strong- she was good at what she did. But this new power she had gained- whether by accident or on purpose- she wasn't able to control it.
"She didn't attack you on purpose," Satoru whispered. "She lost control of herself."
"You think so?" Akahana asked, her eyes lighting up with hope.
"I know so," Satoru sighed. "Princess… Masumi's new powers are similar to that of a Hollow. She couldn't control them. She may have them under control now, but that doesn't mean she's the same person we knew. You have to be prepared for that."
Akahana's face darkened, and she looked at the ground as they walked. "I know," she said softly. It seemed for the first time that she finally understood the gravity of her situation. Not that being in exile would be difficult for the Princess. Satoru would look after her- he had taken an oath to protect her with his life. He had been dismissed- but his Princess had been exiled with him. In his eyes, his oath was not nullified. It would never be nullified. "Where will we go?" she asked, no hint of fear in her voice, mainly curiosity.
"For a time, the real world. That is the only place I can think to look for Masumi. But we're going to make a stop on the way, if you don't mind. There's something I need to take care of."
Satoru tried to make it home as often as he could. As of late, his visits were becoming spaced farther and farther apart. His parents were very busy nobles, though he wasn't exactly sure what tasks filled their days. In all honesty, he didn't care to know- otherwise he would have chosen to follow his father's footsteps instead of joining the Royal Guard. He never saw much of his parents.
His younger siblings, however, were another story entirely. They were troublemakers, to say the least- not that he had been a model child, either. In fact, his siblings were very much like him.
As soon as he set foot in the house, he heard footsteps running toward him.
"Nii-san is home!" cried a small voice. Into his arms leapt a small bundle- she had the brown hair and brown eyes that belonged to all three Kyouraku children. She flashed a smile at her oldest brother, her round face flushed with excitement. "You've come to see us!"
"Of course," Satoru smiled, hugging her tightly. He held his sister out at arms' length. "You've gotten taller," he observed.
"Only by a couple inches," she sighed, blowing her bangs out of her eyes in frustration. "Shunsui says I'll be short forever, but I don't believe him. I'm almost as tall as Ito." His sister noticed for the first time, that Akahana was present. She beamed at the Princess- though unaware that Akahana was indeed her Princess. "You must be one of Nii-san's friends from the Royal Palace," she mused aloud. "I'm Sayu," she winked, offering a hand.
"Now, now, Sayu," came another voice. "Save your charm for Ito." Satoru's younger brother, Shunsui came striding in the room, beaming. He ignored his sister's response (which was to dangle her tongue out of her mouth rudely) and turned his attention to his brother. "Good to have you home."
"I can't stay for long," Satoru said slowly. "But I had to come and see the two of you." With his eyes, he indicated to Shunsui that he needed to speak with him alone.
"Sayu," Shunsui said, turning to their youngest sibling. "You've been trying to pawn off that kimono of yours for ages. Why don't you grab it and see if Satoru or his friend will take it off your hands?"
"Oh!" Sayu's eyes widened with joy, and she skipped off to another part of the house.
"I came to say goodbye," Satoru said, cutting to the chase. He preferred to be straightforward with Shunsui, especially since his brother was growing older. Shunsui was always intelligent, and would have figured something out eventually- whether or not it was the truth. "I don't know if I'll be back."
"I see," Shunsui said, softly. Satoru could see sadness in his brother's face, though Shunsui didn't pry, which was something that Satoru oddly appreciated. The news would get to his parents that he'd been exiled and he doubted they'd be happy. Shunsui and Sayu wouldn't think less of him- but just in case he was able to return to the Soul Society one day, he didn't want to completely smash their hopes.
"You won't tell Sayu," Satoru requested, stating it as more of a question. "I don't want her to worry over nothing. If everything goes well, I'll be back, but I'm not entitled to say much more."
"It'll break her heart to see you go. I can't say I won't miss you either," Shunsui said.
"Tell Sayu whatever you have to," Satoru requested. "Just don't let her think that I'm not coming back."
"But you have to promise to come back. Even if you have to break the rules. Please?" Shunsui pleaded. "The only case in which it would be acceptable to not return home is if you were dead. And who's going to succeed in killing you?" he laughed, a tinge of sadness coating his laughter. Satoru sighed.
"I guess I couldn't call myself a Kyouraku if I left rules unbroken, eh?" he grinned, pulling his brother into a one-armed hug,
Sayu came thundering back into the room, trailing a very large pink kimono behind her. Sayu had always been a tomboy- which was to be expected as she was essentially raised by her brothers- and there was no doubt that she did not find this kimono to be aesthetically pleasing.
"Ito gave it to me as a gift," she said, halting in front of Satoru. "But I hate it. It's pink. It has flowers. It's too big."
"I'm sure one day you'll fit into it nicely," Satoru smiled. "You may even like it. I can't take this from you, I'll ruin it."
"Oh, I wouldn't mind," Sayu said, a hopeful undertone in her voice. Satoru knelt and kissed his sister on the top of the head.
"I think Ito would be offended if he knew you were re-gifting your kimono," he laughed. He leaned closer and whispered in his sister's ear, "But I think pink is a very good color for Shunsui." He winked. Sayu giggled.
"I see," she said. "I'll save it for him, then."
Satoru lost track of time as he talked to his siblings. They were the only things he was sad about leaving behind. They were the only things in the Soul Society he cared for anyway- with the exception of his Princess, and she was coming with him. Unsurety was painful. He didn't know if he would be reinstated to the Royal Guard. Didn't know if it would be even possible for him to return to the Soul Society to see Shunsui and Sayu. It wasn't that he was worried about them. He knew they'd turn out just fine- they had each other. He didn't want to miss their lives.
"I love you, Nii-san!" Sayu called, waving from the door.
"Find me some cute girls!"Shunsui called from his sister's side. Sayu and Shunsui stood and waved goodbye to Satoru- who waved in return- until they had completely disappeared from eachothers' sight. As he walked, Satoru did his best to push them from his mind. Things would be easier, and perhaps more successful, if he were able to focus on his tasks and duties. He needed to find Masumi. He needed to protect his Princess. He reminded himself that nothing else should be important to him anymore.
"Thank you, Princess," he said, softly.
"For what?" she asked.
"You have faith in me. You're sacrificing everything to come with me- though things seem hopeless," he laughed darkly.
"You've given up much more for me," Akahana whispered. "You've given me your life."
"Not yet," Satoru grinned. "And no offense, Princess, but I don't intend on it. You have to put up with me until I'm an old man and I die peacefully in my sleep."
The gate to the real world opened before them. Satoru sighed, refusing to allow himself to look back, before stepping forward.
A/N:Sooo. I probably shouldn't be starting this just yet. But I am :) I have so many OCs I feel like my brain will implode if I don't write this. So yes. Kyouraku family love- I have 2 OCs (as you can tell). Satoru is the mysterious older brother we know nothing about. Until now. Another reason I shouldn't be writing this is because I haven't caught up with the main storyline- in the manga OR anime. So there could be parts of my storyline that don't work at all. BUT you guys will let me know if that happens, right? That way, we can just pretend this whole thing is AU. :) Also, just warning you now, there are lots of characters in this story, and I haven't quite decided if I will write different parts (published separately) until all the characters meet up, or if I will just switch POVs within this fic. You will know soon. And there will be lots of timeskips, you will also be notified of these. Anyways. That is about all I have to say. Leave a review with an opinion or suggestion or encouragement? My Bleach fics never get much attention, so if you could lemme know how I'm doing I will love you forever. Seriously.