Arc: Twin Souls
Word Count: 2180
Summary: More than 2000 years ago, before the Gotei 13, before captains, before Divisions, there was only Yamamoto's Academy. Kyouraku leaves Ukitake and Ukitake carries on...
Thank you, incandescens.
The weeks went by.
Jyuushiro got woken up in the early hours of the morning a few more times than he cared to count. He usually just rolled over and went back to sleep.
After the first two weeks of Jyuushiro trying to wake Kyouraku-kun up for the first class of the day, Kyouraku-kun started disappearing all together. He just never showed up back at their room while Jyuushiro was there. Jyuushiro looked for him the first couple of mornings, but then started hearing rumors that Kyouraku-kun had figured out a way into and quietly out of the girls' dorms and that some of the local bars, which had figured out which side of their bread was buttered, were offering a free sleeping area after a hard night out.
He started looking for his roommate in his classes, but never really found him. Sometimes Jyuushiro wondered if Lady Kuchiki Akemi even knew that she had Kyouraku-kun in her kido class.
Sometimes he'd see Kyouraku-kun's belongings rearranged, clothing in the laundry hamper for the attendants, when he came back from classes, so there was some sign that he was still alive and keeping some decency of dress. Jyuushiro did notice that some of the non-uniform kimonos Kyouraku owned would have paid the rent, utilities, and food for his family for months. But he nearly never actually came face to face with his prodigal roommate. He did leave Kyouraku's stuff strictly alone, though the wealth of good ink, brushes, and paper made him ache.
In some ways his basically single room was a blessing. Jyuushiro could study all he liked, never get interrupted in his sleep, and do as he liked in the room.
But, one night, as he was trying to go to sleep, he realized that what was lulling him to sleep was the sound of Abe-kun in the next room snoring. At home he'd be sharing futon floor space with most of his siblings. Their breathing had always been there when he slept. The really littles would sometimes crawl into bed with him to be comforted from their nightmares. He missed the comfort of that closeness, if not the elbows and knees in the gut and back that inevitably followed.
He couldn't do much about how being so alone made him ache, so Jyuushiro threw himself more into his classes and his classmates.
Jyuushiro looked back at the girl's voice shouting at him. "Hoshiko-chan? What do you need?"
Hoshiko laughed and swung about him on her toes, "I wanted to say thank you!"
"Yes! Yes! Your hint about the fire balance in my spell structure really helped me build it properly, and Kuchiki-sama said that she'd like me to help with her spell research efforts after this! She offered me a scholarship to be a research assistant!" Hoshiko laughed.
"Congratulations!" Jyuushiro said warmly. He knew that Hoshiko's family was outside of the main city walls, in one of the higher districts, but still not exactly rich. The scholarship would help her out a great deal.
Suddenly, Hoshiko moved in very close and kissed Jyuushiro on the cheek, "Thank you, so very much." And then she whirled away again, laughing, as he felt his face heat. "See you!"
"See you later."
Ryuu-sama walked down the line of his hand-to-hand class, and everyone cringed -- even as they tried not to look like they were cringing -- in their practice gear. Ryuu-sama loomed over everyone, his musculature solid but lean as a whip, and everyone knew that his hand-to-hand combat skills were only rivaled by his own zanpakuto skills. He scared pretty much everyone.
"Line up for practice against each other," growled Ryuu-sama.
Okay... he scared nearly everyone. He didn't seem to scare Shiba Kenshin one bit. Kenshin-kun was big, too, and he stood with his head up, his hands behind his back, and a smirk on his face. "I don't want to practice against these losers. Hey, if Kyouraku-kun can have private lessons without these wimps, I can too. If you want to beat me up, I'll gladly learn from you, but these other weaklings can't teach me a thing."
Ryuu-sama furrowed his black brow. Jyuushiro felt his heart rate pick up when Ryuu-sama looked down at him. "Ukitake-kun. Teach him."
Jyuushiro blinked. Then he nodded. This was about class discipline. About respecting each other as classmates because they were going to be fighting together sometime, and that attitude was going to get someone killed.
Kenshin-kun was laughing and saying something like, "That white haired freak couldn't land a..."
And Jyuushiro kicked him in the jaw. Kenshin-kun went down like a tree, then, howling, got back up and rushed Jyuushiro. Jyuushiro faded to Kenshin-kun's left, remembering the bigger boy's tendency to strike solely with his right side, and put an elbow hard behind Kenshin-kun's ear. Even through the practice helmet, the blow landed hard.
He heard the bigger boy's body thud into the ground behind him. He looked back and didn't see the boy stir. He looked at his teacher and got the nod he was waiting for.
Then he let himself cough.
Six weeks into the school year, there was a gathering around the announcement boards and much whispering and some glances in Jyuushiro's direction.
He walked over to the boards, feeling eyes watching him from all over.
It was Kenshin that came right up to him, "Did you see?"
After the fight on the hand-to-hand grounds, Jyuushiro had treated Kenshin-kun with complete respect. And in response the other boy had become more friendly and open than Jyuushiro had seen him with anyone else. It was a lesson Jyuushiro would remember.
"On the detention and running boards..."
Jyuushiro was taken aback, "The punishment boards?"
"Hai. Kyouraku-kun is listed for nearly full-time detention and laps on the track."
"Kyouraku-kun?" Jyuushiro blinked and then laughed, "Well, if they can catch him and put him there... all power to them..."
"But..." Kenshin frowned, "But... he's..."
"He's my roommate?" asked Jyuushiro.
He shook his head, "Not since a couple of weeks into the year. He left as far as I know."
The murmurs all around him slowed, and folks started talking with him, face to face, about the flagrant waste of an education... but Jyuushiro, remembering the man mopping up a floor, felt a niggling sense of guilt at indulging his own outrage.
Jyuushiro heard her crying all the way down the hall as light footsteps approached his sliding door, so he washed his brush and ink stone and put them neatly away before the knock came on his door.
"Hai?" he said quietly. "Come in?"
The door slid open and Takahashi Rina peeked in, her face streaked with tears. "Oh..." she said and the wealth of disappointment in her voice was hard not to take personally. "Good afternoon, Ukitake-kun. Where is Kyouraku-kun?"
He bowed politely, "Good afternoon, Takahashi-san. I have no idea where he is. He does not leave me any information as to his whereabouts or goings."
"Oh," Rina said, so sadly that Jyuushiro felt his spine unbend, which made him smile a little at the memory of another unbending.
"I miss having a roommate," He found himself saying to his surprise, "Even when he was impossible to wake up in the morning."
Rina looked up at him and then shook her head and he heard the faintest of giggles from her, "He is impossible to wake up in the morning."
"So we share something. May I get you a cup of tea, Takahashi-chan? And you can tell me where you've seen him and maybe I'll start a search for him."
She smiled at the change in address, "I would enjoy the tea, Ukitake-kun, but..." she bit her lip, "I haven't actually seen him for a week, so I'm not sure I'd be of much help in finding him."
Jyuushiro went and got the tea, and, for the first time felt more unease at the absence of his roommate than his usual irritated relief.
The next day, Jyuushiro went to campus security. He knew a few of the folks there, from having organized some of the class events the previous year, and he asked around a bit about what to do about what might be a missing student.
Abe-kun's uncle, big Abe Michi, was stuffed behind the main desk. "What do you mean a missing student?"
"Uhm... I mean... someone that just... skips out on class and his living arrangements and... well..."
"No, no, I mean. WHO are you talking about, Ukitake-kun? I'm not good at dealing with maybes and whatsits."
"Oh." Jyuushiro hesitated. He didn't want to get Kyouraku-kun into trouble... but... "It's... Kyouraku Shunsui. People here haven't seen him in..."
Michi laughed, laughed a deep belly laugh that shook his jowls. "Shunsui-kun. He's funny, especially when he's drunk. He's not missing, he just ends up here some evenings when he's too drunk to keep his damned asauchi in his belt. He's still here from last night."
"He is?" said Jyuushiro, surprised.
"You want to see him? I think he's got a pounding headache at the moment, but you can see him..."
Jyuushiro thought about it, about the probable embarrassment of seeing his roommate for the first time in a cell and in pain. And he sighed, "No... I don't need to do that. I was just worried..."
"Well, if you need to see him, here's as good a place as any." said Michi with a wink.
"Thank you, Abe-san."
"You're quite welcome, Ukitake-kun. I'm glad you're doing better than he is."
Jyuushiro was surprised to find that that last phrase hurt more than it caused him any pride.
Yamamoto-sama's reiatsu rolled through the dormitory. Jyuushiro woke with a start and heard dozens of yelps, gasps, and startled noises from all the rooms around him. The old man was mad. This was going to be bad for whomever was the target of that burning temper.
He almost, but not quite, expected it when that fiery presence stopped in front of his door.
The single rap on the door was sharp. He heard at least Abe-kun and Sato-kun in the room next door jump at the report, but Jyuushiro took a deep breath and calmed himself over the deep fear he felt, and slid open the door.
"Good evening, Yamamoto-sama," he said, "How may I help you?"
"Good evening, Ukitake-kun. You may come with me."
And Jyuushiro followed that fiery presence, doing his best to breathe, and heard the whispers at his back. He hadn't actually seen the head of the school since being recruited to the school. It made sense. Yamamoto-sama was also the head of all the fighting forces in Soul Society, so he wasn't around as much to teach as the other teachers did, though all the teachers took some rounds with the regular forces in holding the Hollows at bay from the city proper.
The purpose of the school was to create more honed fighters. Right now Soul Society just barely held the peace in the city. The plan was to have a larger number of effective people who could use reiatsu to keep peace in all the areas around the city as well. Jyuushiro knew that in the future, Yamamoto-sama wanted to help all ghosts move on from the living world, rather than falling victim to the Hollows. Stop the problem at its source rather than just fighting the effects here.
It was a vision Jyuushiro really believed in.
So, even with fear in his heart, he followed the old man into the security building for the school.
He was startled, badly, when the old man led him to a secured room in the heart of the building. The walls screened reiatsu, and he couldn't feel anything beyond the reaches of the room. It was like putting on a hood, muffling senses he always took for granted.
Worse yet, all the second year teachers knelt behind a table in the room. Two older men that looked like guards stood by the door.
Bird-like Lady Kuchiki Amemi, the teacher of the kido classes, was the only one that was perfectly composed in her severe teacher's kimono and haori. Lord Shiba Kaede, more slender than his nephew, but with a shock of the same colored hair falling over his mild eyes, was the agility and shunpo instructor. The black gaze of Lord Ryuu Kurogane met Jyuushiro's somberly. It was Jyuushiro's gaze that dropped.
Jyuushiro saw one tatami mat set up in front of the table. Yamamoto swept an arm in the direction of the mat. "Kneel to the left."
"Yes, sir," Jyuushiro knelt to the side of the mat.
Yamamoto gestured to the guards, "Bring him."
Jyuushiro was totally unsurprised when the two men dragged in a cuffed, ragged, and red-eyed Kyouraku Shunsui to kneel next to him.
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