You could feel chills all over your body, a sensation that you hadn’t known since childhood. “She… she can’t be…”
“She’s at the main house right now. She even had the gall to demand you be brought home so here I am. It is your choice, little bird, are you coming with me?”
“Thank you, brother.” You bowed your head, to everyone’s surprise. “I need a few days to make my decisions, after all this is… unexpected.”
“Of course, you have plenty of things to consider and if you do decide to come home, you should get your affairs in order.” Hayato and the honor guard left after that.
“___,” Kyoraku called your attention. “A word please.”
“Everyone else is dismissed for the time being.” The captains filed out of the room. You met eyes with Kenpachi as he was leaving but he didn’t linger. You sighed, unsure what kind of reaction you expected from him but that was disappointing. “___.” You turned to the head captain who wore a grim expression. “Come on,”
You knew exactly what Kyoraku was going to say but he had yet to say anything. You moved to his office, knowing that this was where he would lay into you about what may happen. He sat behind his desk sighing heavily. It had been a long time since you felt like you were being scolded but this situation definitely had that vibe.
“___, what are you thinking?”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“You told me everything the day you entered the Gotei 13. You defended the Maggot’s Nest against two of the Sternritter so upon admittance into the Gotei 13, I offered you something as a reward. Other than being placed on Squad Eleven, do you remember what you asked for?”
“Of course, I do.” You stated plainly.
“You said you wanted to leave your old life behind so why now?”
“Head Captain Kyoraku,” you started, “If you are having this conversation with me thinking you can talk me out of what my brother is planning, there’s really no point. I haven’t agreed to leave yet and if I do, you won’t change my mind.”
“If it’s something to do with Kenpachi,”
“You know it is. I have no desire to be where I’m not wanted.”
“Yeesh, what did he say?”
“…that he has never thought of me as a member of Squad Eleven,” you sighed. “Which when I think about it, it makes sense. Running to my rescue after I was foolish enough to get kidnapped, coddling me when I had nightmares, he never treated me like a squad member. It was like he was taking care of a spoiled princess, no wonder he got annoyed.”
“Such a shame,” Kyoraku sighed. “You’re so smart but you can be a little dense, can’t you?”
“Sir! That’s mean.”
“The truth can be a little mean.”
“Captain Zaraki said something similar. He said for someone so smart I don’t understand anything which is annoying because I never felt like I didn’t understand anything until I met him.” You sighed.
“You could just switch squads. Shinji is still dying to have you, Byakuya seemed interested too.”
“If I decide to stay I might do that. Thank you for the offer,” You bowed your head.
“___, I can’t stop you but when it’s done, you know I can’t let it go either.”
You flashed a smile as you sat up straight. “I know, thank you,”
You made your exit after that, leaving the head captain with a worried look on his face. “Not something you should thank me for,”
“-You can’t possibly be considering it!” Ikkaku’s voice had hit a volume that was not okay in as close of quarters as everyone was to you.
“So loud,” Rangiku frowned. You were seated at a table once again surrounded by some of the friends you had made including Ikkaku and Yumichika. “He’s right though, hon. You fought so hard to get here, I don’t get why you’d give up so easily.”
“I wouldn’t say I’m giving up,” You shifted. It was easier to keep a straight face when talking to the head captain but among your friends, you felt sheepish. “It’s just… my reason for being here is now causing me grief so I’m considering redirecting my focus before it causes any trouble.”
“I don’t believe it! What about your investigation? Are you just going to abandon it?” Shuhei asked, just as frustrated as the rest.
“If necessary, I have made arrangements with Captain Kuchiki and Captain Kurotsuchi to continue investigating.”
“That’s pretty nice of you,” A new voice cut into the conversation.
“Lieutenant Iba,” he was standing by the table.
“Mind if I join you?”
“It’s no trouble,” you motioned for him to sit. “I’m sorry, if I go I won’t be here to celebrate your promotion to captain with you.”
“That’s the least of my concerns. I can’t believe you might actually be leaving.”
“For someone who’s not certain she’s leaving, you’ve already made arrangements as if you are.” Izuru pointed out.
“If I had a reason to stay,”
“You’re a member of Squad Eleven!” Ikkaku snapped, slamming his hands on the table.
“No, I’m not!” you had been trying so vigorously to keep your feelings in check but that became impossible the moment he had begun yelling. Your next words were quiet, almost a whisper but they heard it clearly. “Captain Zaraki has already informed me that he has never once considered me a member of Squad Eleven, so why should I continue to pretend like I fit in?”
“They call me “the Flower of Squad Eleven” because I’m out of place, aren’t I? I tore myself apart to get here and I… I…”
You noticed little droplets hitting the table before reaching up to wipe the tears from your eyes. “Now look at me! Crying like a child.”
“___, sweetie,” Rangiku put her arm around your shoulder. “It’s alright.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Here,” Yumichika dabbed your cheeks with a handkerchief, “Crying is an ugly habit but your eyes are going to look irritated if you rub them like that.”
“Why would the captain say something like that?” Ikakku said thoughtfully.
“He can be so insensitive,” Yumichika grumbled.
“You know,” Iba started, pouring himself a new glass of sake. “You took being called a flower as an insult. I know the head captain coined the nickname but did you consider what he might actually mean by it?”
“When I think about it, flowers are meant to breathe life into the area around them, a bit of color or happiness. Sure, Squad Eleven is made up of some of the roughest and toughest fighters in the soul society and I think that scares some people. But knowing that someone like you is standing tall, just as strong among them makes everyone see them in a new light. A flower on its own is just a plant, but a flower growing in the midst of the battlefield makes the scene beautiful. The flower then isn’t considered delicate, it’s strong and making everything around it brighter.” He finished his drink in one gulp. “That’s just my opinion on the matter though, I wouldn’t take it too seriously.”
“No! Thank you!” you smiled.
“Yeah, Iba. That was almost poetic!” Rangiku agreed.
“That was a beautiful image!”
“That’s how everyone sees you,” Shuhei spoke up. “Squad Eleven was devastated after the attack. Not only did they lose the most in number but everyone in the squad was so close that the losses hit them hard. They may be fond of fighting but there’s nothing honorable about watching your friends die in a slaughter. The members were irritable and had a hard time being around other squads but then you showed up and their demeanor seemed to change overnight. You’ve been around for about four months now but your squad mates act like you’ve been there all along.”
“I don’t think I made that big of a difference-”
“Don’t you dare sell yourself short!” Ikkaku countered yet again.
“Do you honestly think I would spend so much time fussing over you if you weren’t worth my time?” Yumichika agreed.
“Squad Eleven wouldn’t be the same without you,” Everyone matched Ikkaku’s smile.
You tensed your face, trying not to cry again as you downed the sake in front of you. “Drinks are on me tonight!” You announced as you set the glass down.
“Yeah!” cheers erupted from the group.
Kenpachi stood speechless over the soul reapers passed out around the table. “Thanks for coming by, Captain.” Ikkaku heaved Rangiku onto his back as he spoke.
“You guys had a party?”
“We toasted a great many things although the actual reason escapes me,” Iba chuckled.
“Getting everyone back to their own barracks will take a bit so if you could take ___ back, we’d appreciate it.”
“___ is here…?” Kenpachi’s attention went to Yumichika who was attempting to coax someone out from under the table.
“I warned you not to drink too much. Come out so we can get you to bed.”
“But isssh okay...Yumisshika!” Your voice dropped from a shout to a whisper, “If I sleep under*hic* under here, the hangover can’t find me.”
“It most certainly will!” He scolded, glancing at Kenpachi before smiling. “When you help the Captain with his paperwork tomorrow, he’s going to make fun of you.”
“Naaaah, he won’t…” You stated, waiving your hand nonchalantly, the only part of you that wasn’t under the table. “I don see him anymore… I do the paperwork in the mornin’ while he’s assshleep so I don have to see him…”
“I thought the purpose of you going so far to help him was so that you could see him every day.”
“But he doesn’t wanna see me! I *hic* like seein’ him but if he don wanna see me what should I do…”
“You say something to her, Captain.” Yumichika sighed, “this is, after all, your fault.”
“___,” he spoke, kneeling down. “Get out from under the table,”
“Nuh uh! I won come out! *hiccup* Don wanna…” He grumbled before grabbing the edge of the table with on hand and lifting it up. You curled up into a ball, covering your eyes. “Not looking!”
“You’re a stubborn drunk,” he huffed before grabbing your shihakusho by the back of the collar and dragging you closer as he set the table down. You attempted to scurry back underneath but his grip was ironclad. “Oh no, you don’t.” He tossed you over his shoulder as he stood back up.
“Good luck, Captain.” Ikkaku chuckled as he watched Kenpachi leave.
Kenpachi set you down, pulled out the futon and started getting everything ready for bed. You sat there with your hands still glued over your eyes, not peeking even once. “Get changed and go to bed,”
“I can’t…” you shook your head. “I can’t feeeel my legs…” you cradled too far and fell on your back. “I can only move my legs with mah reisssshi and… I’m too *hic* drunk!”
“Damn it,” he growled as he opened the closet, and pulled out one of the drawers in the small dresser you had sitting inside. It didn’t take him long to find clothes for you to change into. “Come on, take these and change.”
“You-” he pulled you upright but you hadn’t moved your hands.
“If I don look at you, yer not really here!”
“Hate to disappoint you but I’m here whether you see me or not.” He pried your hands away, looking you in your glossed over eyes.
“Oh, *hic* I mussss be dreaming then…”
“Not yet,” You didn’t waste any time in pulling your clothes off so he hastily turned away. Moments had passed with only silence. “Hurry up,”
“Wheeeeere did my arm go…? Oh! There you are…” A plethora of drunken giggles came from you finally so he cautiously peeked to see if you were finished. You had completed task but you still looked quite disheveled.
“You really went all out with the drinks tonight, huh?” he adjusted your clothing before lifting you up and setting you down in the futon.
“Yeaaaah… cuz I was ssmad… is that the word? Sad mad… smad…” you giggled again. “Hey, hey, Cap’n!”
“Go to sleep,”
“I wanna good night kisssh!” Your fingers had latched onto the collar of his haori.
“What? Are you crazy?”
“Isss okeeee… Itsss a dream… I won tell the real Cap’n. He don wanna see me anyway… izzz lonely…”
“You’re an idiot, you know that?”
“Uh huh! Thaz why the Cap’n don like me anymore… I try *hic* I tried to change *hic* what I am but that made him hate me…I jusss *hic* jusss wanna…” You had begun crying yet again. “I jusss wanna be around him but he hates me now…” You released your hold, curling back into a ball as you turned away. “I wanted to see him ssssssssho badly so I tried hard every day… to be strong so he would look at me but- *hic* whatss the point of walkin when you got no one to chase after…?”
He stared at you for a long time, processing the things that had come out of your mouth. It was a great surprise to him, almost like clearing the air. Suddenly, his worries seemed to start picking themselves apart as your words from that first spar came back to him.
“One of us would surely be dead and then us meeting again would have been totally pointless.”
“___,” he grabbed ahold of your shoulder gently, turning you towards him. He planted a soft kiss on your forehead. “When you’re sober, say that again.”
“A good night kisssh isn’t on the forehead!”
“Then I guess you better say that again when you’re sober.”
“No way! Cap’n will hate me more…”
“___, never since the moment I saw you have I hated you and there will never be a time that I do.” He stated before realizing that your consciousness had given in to sleep finally. He chuckled, pulling the blanket over you. “Your reaction will be enjoyable tomorrow. Sleep well,” He left the room, shutting the door quietly behind him.
‘I thought maybe I was responsible for destroying her life but…did her life start with me? That day so long ago, when I witnessed a smile that had never been seen by anyone? Physical power has nothing to do with it, although the spunk increases her charm. I made a mistake back then by thinking that she was too weak to handle me. She’s always been this strong. I was the one who...’
Kenpachi yawned as he walked down the hall. People were more distant than usual today. He never used to notice or question it but after spending so much time with you so close by, now that he was on his own he realized that you had made him seem somewhat approachable before.
“Man, I don’t know how you can be so heartless, Zaraki.” Shinji was standing in a doorway as he passed.
“What are you on about now?”
“I thought you’d at least see her but here you are walking around like nothing is wrong,”
“Why would I?”
“What-?! This is ___ we’re talking about!”
“She’s sleeping off a hangover and you really want me to wake her up? And you say I’m heartless.”
“Hangover?” Shinji’s face was genuinely surprised which was a worrying sign. “___ isn’t hungover, she’s leaving!”
“Wait, what are you-?”
“___ and Hayato are leaving the Seireitei right now!”
To Be Continued…