No one really knew what brought this about or what caused it. All they knew was that something was palpably different. He was more…. How to put this…. He was more intense than usual. And given how intense his usual self was, this was quite the feat for him to have achieved.
The change in his demeanor was made all the more pronounced by the fact that he had been in a surprisingly good mood before. Why won't he be, what with Aizen having been defeated, and the exiled captains returning to take on leadership roles.
Actually, everyone was elated. They were decidedly relaxed, and enjoying a much deserved period of low activity, as Las Nochas took quite a beating in the onslaught of its leader's demise, which ensured remarkably low levels of Hollow activity.
Thus, Seireitei was in a state of cheerful relaxation. Which inadvertently affected him; after all, he had every reason to be happy. Or at least happier, now that his sister knew the truth and developed a new found understanding and appreciation for him.
This caused him to become visibly less intense. Not that he became sociable or anything. God forbid. He just became marginally less likely to chew someone's head off just for existing. Which, given who we're talking about here, was a remarkable improvement.
He even cut his hair, and managed to beat his own personal record, by refraining from sending Renji to the fourth in a bloody heap, for four months in a row. Yup, he was that chill. And a few days ago he even did the unthinkable and showed up to work without his precious kenseikan in his hair.
People actually had to stop and gawk at this one. The women held their breaths to stop from squealing at the sight of the fluttering silken strands of darkness, while the men wondered at the sheer impossibility of such an act.
No one dared ask him about it, even though it had been days since he stopped donning his symbolic hair pieces.
And why would they even bother? On the grand scheme of things, all was well. That is until something shifted and everyone felt the need to duck out of the Kuchiki heir's way as he stormed through the soul society.
For his part, Byakuya couldn't care less if they were terrified of him. As a matter of fact, the sight of people cowering closer to the ground just because of his domineering presence, and maybe an aptly placed glare or two, was its own reward. Actually, their fear, as well as a few wise words from Senbonzakura, were the only things keeping him back from tearing someone into ribbons just for the fun of it.
Byakuya stepped into his office, and watched as his sister and lieutenant sprung to their feet.
"Rukia." He said returning the girl's greeting, before thoroughly ignoring the saluting redhead.
He then assumed his regular spot behind his desk.
Rukia hesitated, but Byakuya fully knew why she was there so early in the morning.
She was worried, and she wanted to ask him what was wrong with him lately, and from the looks of it, so was his idiot lieutenant. Or maybe he was just pressured into being here by Rukia, for emotional support that is. They might be closer now, but Byakuya knew that it would take them a long time to get as comfortable with each other as he would like for them to be.
Letting his mind wander, Byakuya concluded that her captain might have something to do with her being here. After all, his ex-senpai, always was a proponent of the direct approach. If Rukia had gone to him with her concerns about her brother being troubled by something, he is sure to give her the very practical advice of going to talk to him.
As a matter of fact, the Kuchiki heir approved of that approach. He admired Ukitake for it too. It was the brave and honorable thing to do. That was one of the reasons why he was pleased with Rukia's placement.
Byakuya fixed his eyes on his sister, who has by now launched into a detailed introduction as to why she was there.
The squad six captain wasn't really listening though, albeit giving all the visual markers of someone who was. If you knew Byakuya well enough, you'd know that he never really listened when someone launched into a detailed account of a trivial matter. That was part of the reason behind his successful maintenance of an impassive look even when the most blatant of idiots were talking to him. He always tunes them out, and then he focuses long enough at the end of their speech to glean off some information to enable him to make them feel like idiots.
He had no intention of doing this with Rukia, but it sure was futile to listen as she prattled on endlessly, just to eventually end up telling him what he already knew she was there to tell him.
So while he gave every indication of active listening, Byakuya was actually wondering whether Rukia's talk with her captain about him is what prompted said man to ask to have dinner with him the other day.
It has to be that, since Ukitake did ask him if he was OK, while adding that he could talk to him about anything. Byakuya nodded and stated that he was much obliged. But he made no move to share anything. Honestly, even if Byakuya was into sharing, which he would rather have his arm cut off than do, how could the white haired man expect him to do it in the presence of the pink wearing, poor excuse of a captain that Ukitake saw fit to invite to dinner as well.
Byakuya mentally scowled at that thought. The eighth squad captain and fine dining just didn't mix.
On that thought, Byakuya observed as Rukia exchanged a look with Renji, who looked like he approved of what she was saying, while being terrified to the bones of what could ensue.
The Kuchiki prince liked that. Fear was good. Maybe he should remain silent a while longer just to terrify his lieutenant.
"Ano, I am just saying…. Nii-Sama…. I…. I mean we…. I mean…" She then looked at Renji, as if for help.
"Umm, Taicho, it's just that lately, you have been…" He trailed off, as Byakuya's intimidating grays settled on him. "You know, I mean….. ahem….."
"What is it that you mean, Abarai Fukutaicho?" The captain intoned, and Renji stiffened.
"Ummm… a…. I …" He mumbled before looking at Rukia for help.
Rukia cleared her throat.
Not fun, he was just getting started with Renji.
But before Rukia could launch into yet another formal speech, there was a knock.
The three occupants of the office shifted their attention to the door.
"Enter." Byakuya allowed, and a second later both Rukia and Renji found themselves gawking at the person, or better yet, the munchkin who just sauntered in.
Yachiru walked in, which was in itself bizarre since the pink hellion normally storms the place. This wasn't the only thing that was weird though, never mind the fact that she knocked; she was actually wearing a tiny little black suit, with a vest and a white undershirt and everything. Her signature pink locks were tied in a high ponytail, and she carried a small briefcase in her hand.
This was arguably the cutest thing she has ever seen. Adding to the cuteness was the fact that the girl was acting like a true pro. She entered, walked slowly to the middle of the room, stood there and greeted, "Good morning Byakushi-san, Horrible Face-Tattoos-san, Midget-san." She said formally, and Renji twitched at his moniker, while Rukia couldn't help but, "Awwwww" the little girl.
"Kusajishi Fukutaicho." The captain of the sixth said. "You requested a meeting." He added.
The girl nodded, but made a serious effort not to look too enthusiastic.
"Hai," She said in a contained manner. "I have news." Zaraki's kid added, allowing a big smile to grace her tiny face.
It was at that point that Rukia and Renji deduced that nothing good could come out of this, no matter how cute Yachiru might be.
"You may leave." Byakuya's voice echoed. "Rukia, Renji." He added for clarification, and the two had to stare at the man to ascertain the fact that he was being serious, and was in fact kicking them both out in order to have a 'meeting' with the tiniest vice-captain in Seireitei.
The look that he gave them assured the duo that they better leave, and fast.
As a response they nodded, and walked towards the door, stopping only to look back and see Yachiru assuming the seat in front of Byakuya's desk, and putting her suitcase on the small table.
"How have you been Byakushi-san?" She said conversationally.
Renji gawked, and Rukia had to draw him back and close the door, before her brother threw him out.
"Wow." Renji stated at the now closed door.
"You could say that again." Rukia concurred.
"The hell are you looking at?" Came the voice of a very irate Madarame Ikakku. The eleventh's third seat didn't really appreciate his training partner suddenly zoning off on him mid attack. The fifth seat just stopped dead in his tracks and looked up.
"I think I just saw….." Pause. "No, that's not even possible….. Oh but it looked so beautifully bizarre."
"You bloody moron, how about you focus on fighting?"
Yumi ran a hand through his hair and gave his friend an appraising and apparently disapproving look. "I am done with training; if I went any further I might sweat. I don't want to run this risk."
The third seat ground his teeth. Many years ago, things like that used to bug him, and he used to spend hours trying to get his self-proclaimed 'inhumanly gorgeous' friend to man up and grow a pair. Over the years though, he learnt that it was futile. Not to mention that he got sick of his colorful buddy constantly pointing out that manning up and growing a pair were the same thing. Pedantic little parrot look alike.
The bald man sighed.
"You're hopeless." He allowed.
Ayasegawa beamed at him.
"Irresistibly fabulous is more like it." He corrected, wagging a finger at his friend. "Of course I wouldn't expect you to understand such complicated aesthetic concepts."
"What the hell do you mean?"
"I rest my case."
Ikkaku sighed again.
"What the hell did you see anyway?" He allowed, as the two proceeded to walk back to the barracks. No need to keep standing in the training grounds, if the colorful brat has decided against fighting. Why does such an idiot get to be so powerful.
For his part, Yumi seemed to lighten up at the question. "Oh, I am pretty sure I saw flying kittens, our Fukutaicho in a suit, and Kuchiki-Taicho."
"What the hell?" The third seat exclaimed. "Did you spray yourself with too much of that hair stuff again?"
The beautiful fifth seat fluttered his lashes haughtily. "I resent the implication. And I am pretty sure that I saw what I saw."
"I know what I saw."
"Of course you do."
"I am telling you…" Yumi insisted.
"And I am agreeing." Ikkaku placated.
"Bastard." The fabulous fifth seat growled before stomping towards the squad eleven headquarters. "Bald bastard."
"Hey, who are you calling bald….." Ikkaku screamed after him. "It's a choice damn it!"
"This sounds quite serious." Ukitake allowed.
Rukia and Renji nodded.
"So he just kicked you out?" Shunsui questioned.
Again they nodded.
"And she was wearing a suit." Renji pitched in informatively. "Called him Byakushi-san."
"Hmmm…" The eighth squad captain intoned thoughtfully.
"Well we can't deny that Byakuya's behavior has been rather out of the ordinary lately. Even so, this is quite peculiar." The white haired angel allowed. "Did you get the chance to ask him what was wrong?"
"No, she showed up before I got to it." Byakuya's sister said with a downcast look. "I have to find out what's wrong with Nii-sama."
"If he remains that pissed off, I don't think I am gonna make it. Not to mention that my captain holding meetings with Kusajishi Fukutaicho is just plain weird."
"Well, maybe we should go find him and ask him once and for all." Shunsui offered. "He might have brushed me and Juu-kun off the other day, but with all four of us there, I am sure we could get him to share what's bugging him before someone ends up getting hurt." He finished with an easy wink. It wasn't that he particularly cared or anything, it was just that he was curious. And this, he theorized, had potential for entertainment.
"I agree." He said. "We should try and approach him once again."
Rukia and Renji shared a look, before nodding. "He should be at the house." Rukia declared.
Byakuya didn't care, he really didn't. People have been avoiding him, they've been scared. So what? He was pissed; his precious honor has been tarnished. What happened was borderline blasphemous. So he was entitled to allow his hate for humanity to manifest itself. And he did it with class too, if he does say so himself. He didn't yell or scream at anyone, and he delivered only the bare minimum of physical blows. In fact he was as stoic as ever. Yet, everyone felt his unparalleled wrath. This was soothing, very soothing to him.
However, nothing could remedy the impact of that treacherous blow that he received.
This is why he needed to find the vermin who committed this imponderable act, and ensure that his honor has been restored, and his now sullied family name properly avenged.
And if he had to align himself with Zaraki's hellion to do that, then so be it. After all, the target would never suspect her of working for him. And because of her ever buoyant nature, she was perfect for tracing down and capturing the mark, who would be very unlikely to resist or even show their true colors in the presence of the pink haired miniature shinigami.
All in all, it was only a matter of time before he has his revenge. This is practically why, he wasn't at all surprised when the girl came to his office and gave him the good news. He accompanied her back to the base of their operations, and just as he thought, the suspect that she had managed to capture had a lot of potential. As a matter of fact he was almost one hundred percent sure that this was the real criminal. Which was about time, since Yachiru brought him over 40 different abominations before this one, all of whom proved to not be the one Byakuya was looking for.
This is why, as he walked towards the bathtub, Byakuya allowed his eyes to drift towards the still unconscious figure of his would be victim, a rare sadistic smile making its way to his lips. Oh, but he was gonna enjoy this.
"He's not here." Rukia announced.
Renji blinked. "But Taicho always comes home right after work is done. It's like clockwork."
"That is odd." Ukitake commented, as the four of them walked out of the Kuchiki household.
"Where could he be?" Kyoraku pitched in. It was far too early for his fun to be over.
"Hey, did you just see that?" Rukia questioned pointing a finger upwards.
"You mean Yachiru Shunpo-ing around." The pink clad captain commented. "Yup."
"Let's follow her."
The water was running and Byakuya fixed his eyes on it for a few seconds until the giant tub was filled to the brim.
Leaning forwards, he stopped the downpour and straightened up, momentarily catching his reflection in the mirror above the tub. His eyes narrowed minutely at his reflection as he was reminded of the horror that befell him, before gracefully turning around so that his Kenseikan free hair fluttered about him as he regarded his target.
Walking towards the immobilized brat, he admired Yachiru's handiwork. The target probably didn't suspect that the little goofball had a Reiatsu restraining device on her. Which would explain why she managed to get close enough to bind the culprit and knock it unconscious.
Oh, sweet victory.
Byakuya leaned down and grabbed his passed out victim by the scruff, it had the Chakra restraining device around its neck and from the looks of it, it was still in the land of dreams.
Slowly, as if savoring the moment, he walked back to the bathtub, and without any preamble he dropped the cat in the water while maintaining his hold.
Almost instantaneously the feline's eyes snapped open, and met with the charcoal orbs regarding it with silent amusement.
The cat hissed and convulsed its little body around in an attempt to injure its assailant.
But unfortunately, Byakuya was very good at dealing with cats, and maintained his hands and face out of reach.
A second later, things got even worse for the cat, as it was plunged once again, before its face got submerged in the water.
Byakuya was loving it, it was surprisingly rewarding, and silencing the part of his brain that had issues with waterboarding a cat was uncannily easy.
Begrudgingly he drew the feline back up.
Watery eyes opened again, and the slits of its pupils narrowed, as it once again resumed its hissing fit, this time its growls thundered through the place as a threat of intended violence.
Byakuya wasn't deterred, his eyes met the cat's evenly and he regarded it with sadistic glee, before submerging it again.
The head of the Kuchiki clan repeated the motion time and time again. However, with each passing moment his enjoyment was decreasing, and he was getting more irritated with the cat.
He drew it back once more, and held it at eye level, easily avoiding an aptly aimed clawed paw.
His eyes narrowed again, before he set the cat down and walked away.
The creature wobbled on its feet, looking around for an escape, but before it could realize the hopelessness of her situation, Byakuya was once again standing right in front of it.
The feline looked up, and instantaneously got excited. He was holding the most mouthwatering piece of meat ever. As a matter of fact, if the cat's nose hadn't been stuffed from all the water, it would have sniffed it from a mile away.
Meowing invitingly, she sprung to her feet on instinct, only to be once again lifted by the scruff and held at eyelevel.
The piece of meat was dangled so close to the cat's nose that she could practically taste it, yet it was far away to escape all the attempts she was making at acquiring it.
Growling in frustration, the furry kitty shifted her attention to the man holding the treat, her eyes castigating and pleading. A mixture that only cats can pull off.
As if responding to her look, Byakuya gave a low whistle.
And a second later a dog came bounding obediently into the bathroom they were in.
Man's best friend wagged his tail at Byakuya before growling at the cat.
Hissing, the cat listened as the captain greeted the dog, "Good boy." He stated impassively. "Here." He added, before doing the most outrageous thing the cat has ever witnessed, he threw the treat to the dog.
"Oh, come on!" She hissed at Byakuya, before slapping a paw to her mouth, as if she made a mistake.
"Welcome, Shihōin Yoruichi."
"What is this place?" Renji questioned. They had followed the girl to the other end of the Kuchiki estate, and they were now standing very cautiously outside a rather beautiful, albeit almost run down building.
It was a building that has obviously stood the test of time. And it seemed like something too precious to be renovated, so it was just kept at its current state, and that current state entailed having a part of its second floor ceiling cave in. The tiny place was a vision though, all historical and thoroughly enshrouded in flowers that have long since climbed up the walls and infused themselves into the building all around.
"Wow." She said in awe. "I don't even know what this place is. I have never been here before."
"A few centuries ago, this was used by the Kuchiki clan as a housing facility for the criminals that the Shinigami of the family caught. You could see why there is no longer need for this building to be used, now that the Kuchiki clan uses Seireitei holdings to contain the criminals that its members capture." Ukitake elaborated.
"Well, why would Yachiru-chan come here anyway?" His best friend questioned, pushing his straw hat down to cover his face.
The four exchanged a look, as if to make the decision to walk in.
However, a second later, the decision kinda made itself for them.
"Where is she?" A murderous voice echoed, as the owner of said voice landed in front of them looking manic. In all fairness, he always looked manic.
"My, My, Zaraki-Taicho, what a lovely coincidence meeting you here of all places." Kyoraku announced.
"Where is she?" The big captain growled.
"Where is who?" Rukia questioned.
"The little brat?"
"Kusajishi-Fukutaicho?" Renji questioned smartly.
"Who else. That fruity bastard told me that he saw her a while ago with Kuchiki. I knew that he was behind this."
"Behind what?" Ukitake questioned confusedly, as he watched Zaraki produce his nameless sword and aim it at the gate.
"Behind all the damn candy she's been magically getting. 'Her profits' my ass."
And just like that, the gate was gone, and Zaraki was stomping forwards followed by four rather hesitant individuals.
A few seconds later, the five of them found themselves standing in the middle of a huge hall, mouths hanging open at the sight of a tiny pink haired brat crouched on the floor in the midst of what appeared to be tens of cats. The girl was using a piece of candy to orchestrate the kitties' meows while sucking happily on a piece of chocolate.
"What the hell are you doing brat?" Zaraki roared. "And what the F*** are you wearing?"
She blinked up at him.
"Hey Ken-chan. It's kitty opera, and this is my business suit." She said innocently.
He didn't seem amused.
"Why are you here, Yachiru-chan?" Ukitake questioned.
"I am helping Byakushi out. We're business partners."
"What exactly is your business?" Rukia inquired.
The girl grinned once again, obviously happy with the attention.
"Byakushi said that I have to catch all the black kitties. He said to go to them, and make like petting them, but then," She said dramatically, hand gestures and all. "I put the little round thingy around their neck and bring them to Byakushi and he gives me chocolate."
"I knew that bastard was the one feeding you sugar." The eleventh's captain growled.
"So Kuchiki-taicho had you capture all the black cats in Seireitei." Kyoraku surmised.
"Why would Nii-sama do that?"
"I have a hunch." Ukitake allowed. "Yachiru-chan, do you know what Byakuya does with the cats?"
She looked thoughtful for a second.
"Umm, he just looks at them and then tells me to throw them away. But I don't want to, so he let me play with them here. Oh, but the last kitty I got made Byakushi really happy, he took it to the bathroom."
"What?" Renji questioned, finally managing to gather his thoughts.
Yachiru seemed to have lost interest in the conversation though.
"Hey, Ken-chan can I keep the kitties?"
"Alright, what do you want?" A manly voice questioned, as the feline owner of said voice slowly became enshrouded in a cloud of smoke.
A second later, in her place stood a divinely gorgeous dark skinned woman, with the most dazzling golden eyes, and locks of an exquisite shade of lavender.
Byakuya eyed her wearily for a second, before resuming his ice-cold façade and turning around.
Slowly he peeled off his captain's Haori and handed it over to the gloriously naked lady behind him, without turning around.
"Cover yourself." He ordered.
"My, My, Byakuya-Bo, you're still as shy as you were as a boy." She said teasingly, deliberately letting the white item of clothing hang between them.
"I am acting out of manners, so should you."
She laughed at that one, a low intoxicating tenor.
"Well, then if you're not shy, turn around Bya-bo."
This time her laugh came at a higher volume.
"Why would you seek me out and go through all this trouble to get me to reveal myself, if you don't plan on looking at me?"
"Put it on Shihōin." He ordered. "Or I won't remove the restraining device from your neck." He threatened.
This seemed to work as the woman took the robe form his hand. He had the little collar custom made by the geeks at the twelfth, it allowed her enough Reiatsu to morph back into her human form, but while it remains in place, the woman had absolutely no access to her full power.
"It's safe to look." She sang, a hint of playfulness in her voice.
Slowly he turned to see her barely covered, he focused on her eyes. This was his safest bet, except that she was doing a bang up job of looking seductively back at him. Not that this would deter him… Nope wasn't affecting him at all….damn it!
Yoruichi smiled, a slow sultry display, "Are you going to remove the collar?"
Without thinking he complied. He was too proud to keep that collar on her. After all, she might think that he was scared of her or something and that's why he was keeping her enchained.
The metallic object chimed menacingly as it hit the floor.
"You have committed a grievous offense against the Kuchiki clan and its leader, Shihōin Yoruichi." He declared sounding like he was issuing a sentence.
As a response she smirked.
"Grievous, huh? Well, I wouldn't have had to commit it had you not refused to see me ever since I came back to Seireitei. Honestly, Bya-bo, I know you were pissed because I left without telling you. But it has been so long, can't you let it go? I mean, I was falsely accused of treason for crying out loud. And even you believed it were true, isn't that enough for you to try and forgive me. What with me trying to do the right thing and all."
Byakuya regarded her impassively, completely unyielding.
"The right thing was to tell me of what was happening, Shihōin. You only had to trust me."
"You wouldn't have believed me."
"You're wrong." He said icily, before merely regarding her.
"What do you mean I'm wrong? How on earth could you believe me if I said such a thing about such a sweet man like Aizen-Taicho." She said sarcastically. "Plus, you were just a kid back then."
Byakuya somehow seemed more pissed than ever at her words. How she knew was beyond anyone, since he seemed as unmoved as ever.
"I would have believed you. I never thought that you betrayed us." He offered. "I knew something was not right, however, I did not know what it was."
"Oh, Byakuya-bo that's…"
He glared at her before she could add how happy she was to hear him say that.
"Well, you could have told me all this once I have returned, instead of completely avoiding me." She accused.
Byakuya raised an eyebrow.
"I owe you no explanation. And nothing justifies the crime that you have committed."
"Well you do owe me something; a game of tag."
"Shihōin, where are they?" He intoned in a dangerous voice.
She smiled impishly back at him, seemingly unfazed. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"Hand them over…"
"Shihōin…." He growled murderously.
As a response, she stuck her tongue out.
"I think you should go back to wearing your hair in a ponytail, or maybe braids." She suggested, obviously un-intimidated by the man in front of her, and completely unrepentant for the crime she has committed.
And that was when all hell broke loose.
Zaraki, Yachiru, Rukia, Renji, Ukitake and Shunsui froze in their places as their senses picked up on approaching danger. A second later the six of them ducked down to the floor as a wall came crashing down in front of them.
"You'll never catch me, Byakuya-Bo and you'll never see those damn hair noodles ever again."
"I will murder you, Demon-Cat."
On that note, the two were out of sight, as they shunpo-ed away at a speed too fast for anyone else to keep up with.
A moment of complete silence passed, everyone seemingly too dumbstruck to comment.
"So that's why he stopped wearing those white hair stuff." Kyoraku concluded. "Well no wonder he was upset."
"What ever happened to Taicho… wait, was she… Naked?"
"Yup, fully naked." Zaraki assured his previous squad member.
Ukitake ran a hand through his white locks and sighed.
"It is rather good to know that no matter how much time passes, some things will never change." He said with a fond smile.
"Hey, ken-chan, can I walk around naked too?"
Just because I miss Bleach, I miss messing with Byakuya and I miss writing ;)
If you guys liked it, Please Review. It'd mean a lot to hear what you think.