Arc: Twin Souls
Beta: incandescens -- without her this wouldn't be possible.
Rating: PG-13 -- Warning: Adult Concepts about Consequences
Word Count: 1969
Summary: Consequences catch up to both Kyouraku and Ukitake
"The Shinio Reijutsa Academy Discipline Board is now in session," said one of the guards, crisply.
Jyuushiro and Shunsui traded furtive, quick glances with each other where they knelt on the mat. Shunsui looked away first.
Yamamoto-sama sat up and intoned, "This is not a court of civilian law, this is a court of military law. All the material damages brought before the civilian law court will be dealt with there. Please bring forth the charges against Kyouraku Shunsui as to his dereliction of duty and abandonment of his posts in the Academy."
Jyuushiro saw Shunsui's lips move over the word abandonment and he saw the dark lashes close over those dark eyes. Jyuushiro brought his gaze back to the grass mat in front of him, studying it intently. He kept studying it for the next two hours as he learned more than he had ever thought he could about how someone could escape the Academy and do anything but study. Shopkeepers, brothel masters, and barkeepers brought records of all the times Kyouraku was in their establishments. Guards brought logs of when Shunsui had left and when, if ever, he returned. All the teachers brought all their attendance records, test scores, and other evidence of the fact that Shunsui had in all practicality never attended.
On top of that, they brought in evidence of how Shunsui's disappearance affected the attitude and morale of the other students. Ryuu-sama brought forth Kenshin's assumption of how to interpret Shunsui's absence from his classes. Jyuushiro bit his lower lip while Ryuu-sama went on to describe Jyuushiro's actions to dissipate some of the effects.
There was a long period of silence after all the charges were brought forth.
Yamamoto-sama then roused himself, "Kyouraku-kun. Do you have anything to say for yourself?"
Shunsui's head was against the mat as if the weight of all those charges weighted him down physically. "No, sir. Nothing. I'm just as worthless as everyone says I am."
Yamamoto-sama's reiatsu flared. In that closed space it was a blow to the head. Jyuushiro whimpered in protest. He had no idea how Shunsui, who was the focus of that force could just kneel there, silent.
Suddenly the old man flowed over the table, like a flame jumping a fire break. He wrapped his fingers in Shunsui's hair, right at the scalp and pulled the young man's head up to look him in the eye. "That is not what this is about, young Shunsui. You are worthy of this academy. Of this work. Of this place. Regardless of what your father might have told you. Lack of your abilities leaves a hole in what we can do, what peace we can achieve. You need to take your place in it. What will it take for you to do that? Realize that? Your mother thought you would do well here, with your strengths, your sense of justice, and your deep desire to protect those that cannot protect themselves. Where did that go, young Shunsui? Why did you drown and bury all that for nothing?"
Jyuushiro, pressed flat against the tatami from the pure pressure of even the edge of that regard, watched as silver rivulets of tears started streaming down Shunsui's cheeks.
Shunsui shook and answered, "I... I don't know..."
"We failed you. Failed to discipline you as you needed to be, earlier. Failed to call you back, to make you know that you were missed. So we do what we can, now. We, as new teachers in a trying time are learning as well. You have done everyone in the academy wrong. What will you do to atone?"
Shunsui's breath wavered, his eyes closed, "I can atone?"
"Take a punishment that you feel fits your crime," said Yamamoto-sama, his gaze grim. "But remember, it needs to be such that you feel that you really have paid for what you have taken from us. Our time, our regard, what your fellow students could have learned from you and your strength. If you pay it you will feel as if you have given equal measure to what you took. It would be better if it was something everyone could see, could feel as if they were paid back for your disrespect of their efforts. You propose, we will approve if we deem it enough."
Shunsui said softly, "Pay. Money is nothing. It flows from my family like leaves off a tree."
Shunsui's eyes opened and in their dark depths, Jyuushiro saw something ridiculously like hope. "Would... would pain do? And... and... time..."
"What kind of pain? What kind of time?"
"T...tw..." Shunsui's breath stuttered, "Twenty lashes from Yamamoto-sama in the public area."
Yamamoto-sama reared back. "Twenty? That is the punishment of man who maims others unto disability..." Then a slow rumble of thought. "It would certainly be memorable and do much to heal the sense of injustice the other students harbor. And the time?"
Shunsui's voice gained strength. "I will attend every class when I am healed, and help with mentoring in what classes I am able."
Yamamoto-sama turned to the other teachers, "Is this acceptable in your sight?"
Ryuu-sama eyes narrowed, "Twenty could maim him. I need him whole. I propose to make it fifteen, the same as a criminal who has both stolen from and hurt others who can be healed. I'll take as much time of his as I can get."
Kuchiki-sama laughed, "He's useless to me as he is. But the lashes would certainly tighten up some of the slack I'm seeing in some of the students who think less of my classes. I'll support Ryuu-san's propsal."
Shiba-sama sighed, "It seems awfully barbaric to me. But..." He watched Shunsui's face quietly. "I think Kyouraku-kun is determined and that's enough for me, if it can bring him back to actually study with us."
Yamamoto-sama's flare contracted and slowed. "Good, then." He gently loosed his grip on Shunsui's hair. Shunsui now kept his own head up, watching the old man. "Then let it be recorded that on the fifth day of the month of Shimotsuki Kyouraku Shunsui will be hung on the pillory and given fifteen lashes by myself for his crimes against the Academy, its students, teachers, and dependents."
Kuchiki-sama wrote the records down with a quick brush. "Now, what about Ukitake-kun?"
"What about Ukitake-kun?" asked Shunsui, startled, "Isn't he here as a witness against me?"
Jyuushiro flinched at that. He didn't want to do that. He...
"No," said Yamamoto-sama. "He is here as co-defendant."
"What?" said both young men in almost exactly the same voice.
Yamamoto-sama looked down at Jyuushiro, "Ukitake-kun, would you have let Haru-kun get away with what you let Shunsui-kun do?"
Jyuushiro reared up in protest, "But... but Kyouraku-kun's not my..." And suddenly, he got it. All those doubts, that unease he'd been feeling all along. His brother. This was like Shiba-kun but... oh gods, far more so. Jyuushiro glanced in Ryuu-sama's direction and this time the dark gaze gave him an encouraging nod. "Oh..."
"Leave him out of it!" shouted Shunsui, "I kept away from him, so I wouldn't get him in trouble. Kept my distance so I wouldn't smear him, too. He's good. He's not strong enough for..."
"And there is your mistake," said Yamamoto-sama. "I know Ukitake-kun is strong. And the stronger you are, the more responsibility you must take for your actions... and inactions. You have taken responsibility for what you have done. He needs to take his own. You are connected to this young man, no matter how much you try to push that connection away or belittle it."
"But I'm not belit..." Shunsui looked at Jyuushiro, really looked at him and Jyuushiro met Shunsui's eyes and Shunsui shut up.
Then Jyuushiro bowed down low to Shunsui in the attitude of apology, near abasement, "I apologize to you, Kyouraku-san, for abandoning you and stealing your one solid connection with the school." From his position, he saw Shunsui's bound hands tighten into fists.
Then he came up to bow to Yamamoto-sama as well, "Thank you for this chance, Yamamoto-sama. I think I'd like the equivalent of someone stealing someone else's livelihood, five lashes in addition to paying the person back."
"So... the repayment, Ukitake-kun, you will help him mend his relations with the rest of the school?"
"That is good then." Again, Yamamoto-sama turned to the other teachers, "What say you?"
Kuchiki-sama tsked, "This is madness. He's the best student I have at the moment. I don't understand this need to go to such extremes."
Shiba-sama nodded his head, "I have to disagree with this as well. I don't see the point to physically punishing a student who is doing so well simply because of an extremely weak association."
Jyuushiro shivered in protest, but these were his elders, his teachers and he had no great reasons he could say as to why he had to do this, either. He could only feel it in his gut, in his heart.
Ryuu-sama studied both young men quietly with his black eyes and his brow furrowed, "And that is why they should go through this together."
"What?" asked Shiba-sama.
"The problem is that the connection is too weak. Shunsui-kun has no reason not to go and destroy himself again if the only punishment metted is on himself. On the battlefield, this attitude is madness. When a fighter goes down, it's not just him that is destroyed, the order of the line is destroyed, the people on either side of him are endangered. I think he needs to learn that if he goes down, he drags others with him, intended or not."
Jyuushiro heard Shunsui's breath catch at the logic.
"Besides, if Ukitake-kun goes through with this he is going to make excellent officer material someday." The dry compliment rattled Jyuushiro like no accusation could. Ryuu-sama nodded. "So I say aye. Let it be done as the boy says."
"So... it is two for and two against, and you, Ukitake-kun, have the balance of the matter," said Yamamoto-sama.
"You mean, I could... I could just go free?" asked Jyuushiro, astonished.
"Would you be free if you did?" asked Ryuu-sama.
Jyuushiro closed his eyes, dizzy with the lure and possibility of just getting out of this whole mess. The pillory frightened him, this whole thought of going up in front of everyone and getting... humiliated, punished scared him in the heart of all he'd been. He'd always been the good one, the one that did what was asked of him, the one who was always right. He searched his heart and the image that came to him was of Shunsui going out the door that last time he'd seen him, his face closed. Letting him go alone again was far more frightening than the rest. And in realizing that, he felt a sense of peace.
Jyuushiro took a deep breath. "No. I wouldn't. I... I'll accept the pillory."
An enraged howl came snarling and ragged from Shunsui's throat, wordless protest, and his bound fists pounded into the mat. But he didn't say a thing. Then the fists loosened to just grasp at the edge of the mat and Shunsui broke down and sobbed.
Yamamoto-sama nodded and said precisely, "Then let it be recorded that on the fifth day of the month of Shimotsuki Ukitake Jyuushiro will be hung on the pillory and given five lashes by myself for his crimes against the Academy, its students, teachers, and dependents."
> Next Chapter >