Liralen Li (liralen) wrote,
Liralen Li

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Fanfic: Twin Souls Ch. 28: Duel Offered

Title: Chapter 28: Duel Offered
Arc: Twin Souls
Fandom: Bleach
Beta: incandescens
Rating and Warnings: PG-13 for explicit violence in a fight and a boy kiss.
Word Count: 5082
Summary: The boys invite the kids over for another snowball fight just before New Years, and someone uninvited comes to play as well.
Disclaimer I do not own Bleach or any of its characters, nor do I make any money off these writings.

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Jyuushiro took a week to recover from the winter testing for his disease. Shunsui had gone in with him, and simply shrugged at the knowing look Kiyoko had given them both. His friends made sure he had all the things he needed: homework, company, food, good-natured ribbing, and anyone he wanted to work against in regaining his strength.

"Yargh!!" Jyuushiro yelped as the snowball went down the back of his coat.

The gales of giggles from Yoruichi and Kuukaku made him grin, even as he saw Shunsui bounce against the bamboo next to the girls. A small avalanche of snow dropped toward them. A blast of wind kidou blew the cascade of snow to the side. The lumps hit Kenshin, who was securely on the ground, and knocked him sideways into a drift to much muffled swearing.

"Tessai! Our hero!!" the girls chorused. Kuukaku tumbled toward Tessai and his snow shelter, while Yoruichi flash-stepped up onto the branches of the bamboo.

Tessai pushed up his black-rimmed glasses and blushed fire-red. The snow from Kenshin's return volley made him duck back into his shelter with Kuukaku. The big boy was fitting in well into Yoruichi-chan's household, especially after she'd also brought in Kisuke and his father to be her companions.

Jyuushiro bit back his laughter with a cough, and carefully put together a freezing kidou before loosing it against the shelter. It coated the whole structure in a thick layer of ice. "That should hold you for a bit."

"Hey!! That's my man!" Yoruichi had completely lost her formal speech patterns against the Academy students. She flung herself through the air, feet first, at the hard shell. She bounced off with a thud and rolled away in a tightly controlled tumble.

That was when the iced structure exploded. Shards of shattered ice went everywhere.

"What the hell?" Kenshin waded toward the structure looking worried.

The shining disk of a quick seki kidou glowed in the midst of the destruction. Behind it a nervous looking Kuukaku, Kisuke, and Tessai peered out, unscathed.

Kenshin roared like a bull and charged in.

"You idiots! You could have killed yourselves! And where the heck did you get explosives like that?"

The kids scattered, with Kuukaku shrieking with laughter. Firecrackers peppered the air, and snow slid from higher branches, falling with soft plops all about them.

Hayato was sitting this one out, perched on a bench next to Daisuke-san. In the house was Daisuke-san's housekeeper, who disliked going out among the high and mighty of Seireitei, so most of the Tactics and Strategy team had come now and again to keep the older man company when he wanted to go out. All of them were now as familiar with his house and gardens as their own living quarters.

Most of the other gardens were dead this time of year, but Daisuke-san had chosen a good deal of bamboo for his garden. The evergreen grasses were an oasis of life amid black-limbed trees, bare hillocks of empty flower beds, and pure white snow, and they made a natural privacy fence. He had lent his garden for their play when he found out that they needed a place. The older man sat back and watched, listening to Hayato with half an ear. There were jugs of hot soy milk, sake, and tea sitting on a table near them.

Jyuushiro went back to the snowball fight, wondering where Shunsui might be.

He was distracted by a bombing run by both Kali and Kaoru, who jumped from slender branch to slender branch, the tops of the bamboo swaying wildly with their weight as they dropped snow on the kids. Tessai hid Kuukaku under another kidou shield, and Yoruichi gave a wild yell as she leaped up even further and started dancing across the swaying tops, letting the spring action of the bamboo stalks themselves fling the snow in all directions. Having the older students to goad her into greater things had improved her capabilities by leaps and bounds. Literally.

"You're getting me more than them!" Kisuke complained half-heartedly, from under a cap of snow on his blond mop of hair.

"You should get a hat!" Yoruichi said, laughing, as more snow rained down on everyone, young and old alike.

Kisuke growled and ducked under Tessai's shield.

Jyuushiro shook his head. That was when Shunsui, sitting cross-legged at the top of a clump of bamboo, started pelting Yoruichi with snowballs.

She yelped, lost her footing, and, with a flip and somersault, she found it again a few branches down; but now she was in range of Kali and Kaoru, and they took advantage. Yoruichi tumbled again, using bursts of shunpo against the branches to slow her fall before she rolled into a snowbank.

"Fmmph," she spat as she came out of the fluffy whiteness. Then she crowed, "They never let me do that at home!"

Everyone laughed. Jyuushiro knew his laughter was as much from relief as anything. It would not do for the heir of Shihouin to break her neck in the middle of a snowball fight.

"Hey, who's that?" Shunsui called from above.

"Who's what?" asked Jyuushiro from the ground.

"Someone came in through the side gate, not the front door." Shunsui's tone held warning in it, and everyone came to alert.

So it surprised no one when the man in the gold and blues of Hatsuzora strode into the clearing. The man made a picture-perfect warrior. His shining black hair rode in a perfect queue, his robes hung immaculate, his face was as handsome as some statue, and his eyes were black. His equipment was in perfect order, the scabbard bright against the darks of his kimono. He stopped in his tracks, hand going to his hilt, as he was suddenly confronted by so many.

All of the Tactics and Strategy class moved their hands to their hilts. Kenshin growled and flash-stepped between the stranger and the rest of the kids. Two ninja bodyguards appeared and flanked Yoruichi.

"Who are you lot?" the man demanded, frowning fiercely. "I am here to deliver a formal challenge to one Uekiya Daisuke."

Daisuke-san stood up. "That would be me. These are my students. Leave them be."

The man snorted. "As if they could cause me trouble."

Jyuushiro heard Yoruichi hmph. As if of one mind, everyone in the glade brought their intent to bear on the stranger. Reiatsu flared, pouring in and spilling throughout the compound. The man staggered.

"Stop," Daisuke-san commanded. They all dropped their power. "Sorry. Kids," he said quietly, and offered the man a bow with his apology.

The man snorted, his nostrils looking white and pinched. "They are nobles. You are not, except by association. I expect you will be easier than they are. I am here to challenge you, one on one, in formal duel. They will do as witnesses."

Daisuke-san stilled. "Why have you done me the discourtesy of not introducing yourself?"

The man shrugged. "They interrupted. I am Sato Takumi and I am here to kill you."

Kenshin gaped.

"Why in the world are you going after Daisuke-san?" Shunsui's tone was lazy, quiet, with none of the fear and tension that made Jyuushiro's palms sweat.

"I was insulted by his inclusion in the viewing of the full moon in the Itsutsuki Compound, and wish to redress that wrong."

Shunsui laughed and jumped from the top of the bamboo to the snow, landing lightly. "Bullshit. You're here because without him Yamamoto-sama would be half-crippled in Rukongai, and you want to stop the inclusion of commoners in the school and the fighting forces Yamamoto-sama is creating."

"What is that to you, boy? You're noble. You should be helping me, not challenging me."

Shunsui snorted and shook his head. "And here I am thinking Daisuke-san is worth a dozen of you."

"Be careful, or I might take insult of you as well, Kyouraku-kun." Sato's eyes narrowed, watching the student carefully.

Shunsui rubbed the back of his neck ruefully. "Well... if I thought Daisuke-san would leave anything of you, I'd help that impression along some more... but... at least wait until we get the kids out of here?"

Jyuushiro was already taking advantage of the distraction Shunsui provided, and started moving the kids off to Daisuke-san's house. Kenshin followed when Kuukaku clung to him. Yoruichi hesitated long enough to make Jyuushiro anxious, but then turned to go with them, her bodyguards following her into the relative safety of the small house.

Everyone paused at the sudden flare of Daisuke-san's grass-green reiatsu and a reiatsu that tasted of the first spears of dawn light. Kenshin and Jyuushiro sprinted back out.

From what Kenshin had said at the previous snowball fight, Sato Takumi was known as a first-draw specialist, faster than any other in Soul Society on that first cut. But incredibly, Daisuke-san was not only on his feet and alive, but there was a deep cut across Sato's right side. Steam rose from the fan of blood across the white snow. Sato still stood, legs wide, sword at the ready, watching Daisuke-san pace just beyond his reach.

"We can call it now. First blood has been spilled: there is no shame in taking you to the infirmary now," Daisuke-san said, persuasively.

"No. Face me, you low-born scum. You have no place in the ruling of Soul Society."

"I don't want a place in ruling Soul Society, you idiot. I just want to defend it. Hell, I want to defend you, why won't you let me do that?"

"Because strength should dictate rule." Sato's voice was reflective. "Every Clan leader has gotten their right through the death of those that opposed them. Why would you be any different?"

"Because I'm not part of any brain-forsaken Clan?"

A short laugh brought blood up to Sato's lips. "So you will bring us all down." He shook his head, more blood flying into the snow. "Come. Let us finish this before I cannot fight anymore."

"Let him bleed out," Shunsui said grimly. "Why the hell should you risk yourself for his pride?"

"Because he is fighting solely for his pride, Kyouraku-kun. That is worth honoring, as you may find some day."

Daisuke-san relaxed, and shifted so that his right side faced Sato, his arm and blade back, hand nearly at his left hip. When he took a step toward Sato, Sato blurred into motion toward him. Jyuushiro saw Daisuke-san just fall to his right, looking nearly clumsy in the face of Sato's smooth speed, but then he lunged so that he was just past the arch of Sato's draw and blade. His zanpakutou's edge went up into Sato's body with a meaty thunk that made Jyuushiro close his eyes.

A harsh grunt was wrung out of Sato with the blow, followed by his slow collapse onto the snow, blood spreading from him.

Daisuke-san growled softly, and now Jyuushiro could see that the stocky man was shaking as he approached his now still opponent.

"Ah, kami of earth and blood," Daisuke-san swore softly. "Do you wish a swift sending?"

To Jyuushiro's horror, there was a twitch of Sato's head, an assent. Daisuke-san gathered himself and brought his blade down on Sato's bared neck.

"You should go with them, Jyuushiro. You're more respectable. With two nobles to back you up, there should be no questions," Shunsui said quietly. Jyuushiro looked at him uncertainly. "Besides, Kenshin and I promised the parents to get their kids home okay, and we can clean up the body here more easily: we're bigger than the three of you combined."

Hayato laughed at that as Kaoru rolled his eyes.

Jyuushiro coughed discreetly into an already bloody cloth. "And you probably want me back at the infirmary sooner rather than later?"

Shunsui shrugged. Jyuushiro had only been released for the play time, not to go back to training, so the answer was obvious for both of them. "Well, that and you didn't end up drunk in that jail for three months running."

Jyuushiro chuckled and bowed gently to him, and left with the others.

Kenshin was uncharacteristically silent, looking downcast. Shunsui had expected to get punched in the shoulder for treating Jyuushiro like a wife or something.

Shunsui and Kenshin went back into the house and gathered up the kids to take them home. Yoruichi and Kuukaku were huddled together, though Shunsui could see that that the Shihouin heir's golden eyes were clear and untroubled even as she held Kuukaku. They had a long hug good-bye, and Kuukaku left on Kenshin's back.

Yoruichi, Tessai, and Kisuke went with Shunsui. Within fifty feet Shunsui couldn't stand the silence anymore, and he asked, "What are you all doing for New Years?"

Tessai and Kisuke looked at him like he was crazy.

Yoruichi gave a small smile. "Well, my clan is gathering the way it usually does, and everyone that is closely related to the family will be in the compound for three days. Two days beforehand to clean everything up and out, and then the one after to celebrate."

"Are... will we be invited too?" Kisuke asked, looking more at the ground than at Yoruichi.

"Of course!" she said. "You're part of my family now."

"Drat!" Kisuke said, looking up with a smile edging his eyes. "I hate getting dressed up and having to sit at that table for hours on end."

Yoruichi threw her head back in laughter. "Me too! Me too! Can you adopt me instead?"

"I wish." Kisuke kicked a clod of snow, sending a tiny avalanche down the side of the bank. "Oh well, I guess we'll just all have to get all stiff and stuff. Do they at least let you out on the rooftop to see the sunrise on the New Year and make your wish?"

Yoruichi jumped to the top of a stone fence, balancing neatly on the moving stones. "This year they will."

"What do you mean?" Tessai asked in surprise.

"I mean that since I never knew people did that, I want to do it now." Yoruichi delicately paced along the last few wobbly stones, then jumped back to the road with a grin. "And you can do it with me!"

Kisuke grinned, and when he saw Shunsui looking at him, he gave the Academy student a wink.

The other two were nonplussed when Shunsui burst out in laughter.

The body had stiffened while they were gone. Shunsui found Kenshin on his haunches studying it with a morose expression.

Shunsui suddenly realized that his experience in the graves of the Shihouin troop had changed how he regarded death, and he wondered if Kenshin had undergone a similar experience with the Kuchiki clan.

Kenshin glanced up as Shunsui came into the grove and frowned. "Should we leave this for the Academy guard?" he asked. "They'll want to see what happened."

Shunsui nodded. "I guess they should look it over before we do anything." He stood back, and then settled in the same bench Daisuke-san and Hayato had been in earlier, and sighed.

"What?" Kenshin asked.

"Nothing. I didn't say anything," Shunsui said quietly, and just waited.

"Oh." Kenshin sat back on his heels and started chewing on his thumbnail. The wind softly sighed through the leaves and the bamboo swayed about them.

Kenshin spat. "I didn't... I didn't think he'd die so easily."

Shunsui contemplated the statement quietly, and met Kenshin's eyes when the other man looked up. "Why?" he asked. "I saw quite a few people die with remarkable ease during the patrol."

Kenshin grunted in discomfort and frowned. "But this... he was supposed to be one of the finest duelists in Soul Society. The best of the best."

"And Daisuke-san felled him like some ox in a barnyard, hm?"

Kenshin spat again.

"How many people do you think Sato killed?" Shunsui asked quietly.

"Well, his record had twenty-three wins before today. All declared, witnessed, and set to record."

"How many people do you think Daisuke-san killed before he even died?"

Kenshin blinked at that.

"He was in more wars than he could even count. He's been hunting Hollows since. I wonder how many he's cleansed, how many have tried to kill him without fancy declarations or witnesses. Fights where there was no prize other than whether or not you're standing at the end of it." Shunsui closed his eyes and leaned his head back. "I wonder what that does to your fighting style. I think it might be something we nobles, no matter what our power, shouldn't disregard."

There was a long silence, that was finally broken by the voices and heavy footsteps of guardsmen. Shunsui relaxed when he heard Daisuke-san's voice among them. So he hadn't been locked up. With his need to have company that could have proven problematic, though Shunsui would have been the first to volunteer his company. He, at least, was used to sleeping in a jail cell.

Kenshin stood up and went over to Shunsui to give him a hand up as well. "I hadn't thought of that. Guess I'm glad he's teaching us, then, instead of fighting us."

Now it was Shunsui's turn to be surprised. He'd never thought of Daisuke-san or Yamamoto being against them. He narrowed his eyes at Kenshin, who looked away from him as the others trooped in.

Who the hell was putting ideas in Kenshin's head about fighting their teachers?

The moon waned with the passing of the last days of the year, and the weather warmed. All the snow disappeared like magic in a Western wind. Jyuushiro enjoyed the growing sun, even if it still flew low over the horizon.

New Years was quiet around the Academy. Many students went to nearby homes. The rest of the Tactics and Strategy class went to their homes and compounds within Seireitei as the various Clans did their shut-in to prepare for the new year. Jyuushiro had cleaned up his part of their room in anticipation, and was amused to find that Shunsui didn't believe in that, and simply left his part of the room as it always was.

Jyuushiro watched Shunsui toss invitation after invitation in the trash. Some of them smelled like jasmine or chrysanthemum, honeysuckle or gardenia, while others had the bright red seals of the various Clans.

Jyuushiro laughed. "Whatever you have planned has to be good."

Shunsui chuckled and sat back. "I haven't planned anything. I was going to start the new year the way I intend to keep it, which is to do nothing I don't want to do. What are you doing?"

"I don't know, either."

"Well, I half-promised Kisuke I'd do one thing, but the rest is just going to just have to happen."

"What is that one thing?" Jyuushiro asked curiously, wondering what could have been promised to that child.

Shunsui smiled at Jyuushiro. "I guess you'll just have stay with me to find out."

Jyuushiro had no idea Shunsui had a kimono the orange-red of a spectacular sunset with clouds along the lower hem, nor had he realized just how good Shunsui would look in such a flamboyant garment. Jyuushiro had dressed in layers of moss-green kimono, with the outermost one decorated with a wave motif that he was certain Aunt Mai had painstakingly added.

Together they turned heads, as they walked to the main shopping square in the city. There the local shopkeepers had set up a small fair of their own, lining the streets with booths where food sizzled, drink was poured, fortunes told, games were offered, and small trinkets could be bought. Red paper lanterns lighted the main road, zigzagging in brilliant array.

Jyuushiro happily sampled the takoyaki, crisp on the outside, chewy and tender on the inside, with a sweet brown sauce on top. Shunsui got a bowl of udon, slurping up the thick noodles eagerly before returning the bowl and chopsticks to the stand owner. One bench, covered with layers and layers of bamboo steamer trays filled with white chukaman, lured Jyuushiro closer.

"Sweet or salty?" he asked.

"Nikuman," the vendor answered.

He glanced at Shunsui who held up two fingers. "Four then," Jyuushiro said, and bought four of the pork-filled steamed buns. He handed two of the hot breads to Shunsui, and he ate and juggled his own two as they walked on.

They stopped by a tub of goldfish with a vendor saying, "One copper. One copper for as many fish as you can scoop up yourself!"

Shunsui tied up his sleeves. The large bamboo-based scoop made him laugh, and, as expected, it pushed the water about so thoroughly that the fish simply slid to the sides. Jyuushiro watched, fascinated, as Shunsui tossed the vendor a second coin. This time, he put the scoop in so slowly and gently that the fish never even knew it had changed locations when Shunsui pulled it out.

"I imagine Daisuke-san's pond could use a few fish," Jyuushiro said calmly. The vendor huffed, but poured the goldfish into half a section of bamboo for them to take with them.

There was plenty more to see. Scrolls of poetry, bolts of cloth for new outfits for the new year, bits of jewelry, cards, and flower arrangements. A gentle-faced old lady with handfuls of yarrow sticks smiled at the two of them.

"Let's do a reading for the new year," Shunsui said, pushing Jyuushiro gently toward the table.

"I don't have the money for..."

Shunsui pulled gold from his sleeve, and Jyuushiro shut up.

The lady cocked her head at the show of money and tsk'ed softly. "That is far too much, young scion. Of all things truth is worth less when given wealth than when earned through poverty."

Both of them blinked at her. Then Shunsui laughed, and sat seiza on the cushions she had set up on the customer side of the table. Jyuushiro settled on his knees next to him.

"What do we do?" Shunsui asked, watching the woman's movements closely.

"What is your question?" she asked, pulling out the bundle of sticks and clearing the table before her.

They looked at each other.

"Uhm." Jyuushiro hesitated as both of them looked at him, but then he plowed ahead. "I am wondering what the new year will bring. We're both Academy students, the first of Yamamoto-sama's classes, and I wonder how we and the Academy will do."

Shunsui chuckled. "I'm more interested in what's going to happen to me in the coming year, less about the other stuff. There's... it feels like too much to tackle."

The lady nodded. "So for both of you, you simply wish to see the shape of the coming year. Nothing about some girl or how your homework assignment will go?"

Shunsui burst out laughing.

Jyuushiro grinned. "Well, I wouldn't mind knowing how that kidou lab experiment will go."

At the arch look from the lady, Jyuushiro laughed and shook his head. "No, not really, I'm more interested in the bigger stuff."

She nodded and picked out one stick from all those in her hand, and then scattered the remainder before her. She divided them into two groups. Quick as a bird she went through an elaborate process of sorting, discarding, and grouping the sticks. She ended up with nine sticks that she put aside.

She went through the whole process again, and then one more time, ending up with three bundles that she quickly counted.

Then she put all the sticks together and did it all two more times. During the long process of sorting and counting Jyuushiro relaxed, just watching her deft motions and thinking about all that they had learned already. Whatever was to come should build on that, use it. He felt his zanpakutou spirit stir with mild curiosity as to what was going on.

"Ah... the qualities of youth," she sighed when she was done. "Only one of your lines is old, about to change, the other two are still young and vigorous."


"Here... see." She drew the lines from the bottom up, five solid ones and then one broken one at the top. "You two have gotten Tui, the Joyous, or the Lake on top, and Ch'ien, the Creative, or Heaven underneath. It is an odd upside-down situation which has to change to be resolved. Together they create Kuai, the Breakthrough, like a thunderstorm, a deluge. Tension and power has built to the point where it must be released. In human situations, this indicates that those in power are on the wane, dying like the moon. A resolute action, taken soon, will wash the culpable away."

Both of the boys looked at each other, eyes very wide indeed.

She looked at both of them and laughed softly. "What does that mean to you?"

"I... uhm...." Jyuushiro couldn't help but see Sato falling in a welter of blood, and he saw Shunsui's lips tighten as well.

Shunsui sat back, visibly relaxed, then grinned at Jyuushiro before dropping one eyelid in a quick wink. "Does that mean you'll let me break into you in the coming year?"

Jyuushiro felt his cheeks flood hot, even as he saw the woman fortuneteller flinch at the sheer boorishness; but he also realized that with that single stroke, Shunsui had made it impossible for her to think of anything else.

He jumped to his feet and stalked off. He heard coins ringing on the table before quick footsteps followed him. He considered stopping and just hitting Shunsui, but then whipped around a corner into an alley between two shops.

The footsteps followed him, then hesitated before getting within his distance.

"Hey..." The uncertainty in Shunsui's voice gave Jyuushiro the room to take a deep, slow breath to calm his shaking. He blindly reached out to the bigger man and was quietly enveloped in a warm embrace.

"Sorry about that," Shunsui murmured in Jyuushiro's hair. "Telling her that we're intent on overthrowing the order of Soul Society would have made too much of an impression, I'm afraid."

"Hmph," Jyuushiro said against Shunsui's shoulder. "Instead you impugn my honor."

"Well, you have so much honor flowing from you all the time, I didn't think it'd make much of a dent."

Jyuushiro looked up. Shunsui sighed and bent his head, hesitating just a moment before his lips gently touched Jyuushiro's. Jyuushiro sighed as well, closed his eyes, and kissed back just as slowly, increasing the pressure just enough to make them both tremble.

A few minutes later, pops and bangs brought both their heads up. A flowering of light in the narrow sky above the alley made Jyuushiro smile. He grabbed Shunsui's hand and dragged him out onto the main street and toward the square.

There were fireworks. They filled the sky with chrysanthemums of light. The smoke and bangs were all part of it, and Jyuushiro watched, rapt. He felt Shunsui's arm go around his shoulders, and rather than pull away, he moved in closer and put his arm about his companion as well.

Together, they watched the lights.

Afterward, Shunsui kept them moving, stopping for drinks or snacks here and there. A skewer of mitarashi dango they shared was salty, sweet, chewy, and smoky from the grill. Teppanyaki on a giant metal plate filled the air with the scent of fried vegetables and meat. A game of karuta came up with poetry so bad Shunsui laughed until he fell over. The sake hadn't made that hard, and that was when Jyuushiro switched to tea. Eventually, Jyuushiro's head had that tight feeling he always got when he was just a little too tired, and his breath had shortened at the end of each inhalation.

"Maybe we should go back to the dorm room."

"Mmm..." Shunsui looked to the sky and then to the east. "Yes. Maybe we should, I think the sun's just about to come up."

Jyuushiro groaned when they got there and Shunsui didn't go in the front door. "The door is over here," he said.

"And the ladder is over here," Shunsui said complacently and waited.

Jyuushiro went over and climbed the ladder. At the top, Shunsui simply stepped up onto the roof and walked across the tiles. For a second, Jyuushiro thought about the fall to the ground, and then he remembered his shunpo lessons and Yoruichi's tumble from the bamboo. He took the step into the light breeze that had sprung up, and walked across the tiles to sit beside his friend.

"What are we doing here?" he asked.

"What I promised Kisuke," Shunsui replied. "He was going to make Yoruichi sit on the roof to see the sunrise and make their wishes for the new year."

"And your promise?"

"Well, I kind of just winked at him, but I want to do the same thing. Beside, it's nearly dawn already: it's not like we have to wait."

There was silver lining the Eastern sky, though the West was still pitch black. Shunsui moved so that Jyuushiro could lean against his warm bulk, and he tried not to fall asleep as they watched. Soon the gleaming disk of the sun touched the edge of the sky and they could see the bright white edges of Seireitei, the black edges of shadows long in the low sunlight.

Jyuushiro thought hard about what he really wanted, what he would wish for, and found himself surprised. He hadn't known Kyouraku Shunsui for that long, but all that he'd learned up to this point only made his desire all the stronger. I wish to always be by this man's side, fighting for what should be against all that is evil.

He felt his zanpakutou's spirit leap up in recognition of the wish, even as the bright disk of the sun rose in the sky on the first day of the new year.

Author's Note:

I finally, finally, FINALLY got to use rasetsunyo's picture of Shunsui and Jyuushiro during fireworks, though I suspect she meant for it to be summer, not New Years, and she had a lot of other interesting chars in the background.

I actually didn't look up all the hexagrams to find the reading for them, the reading found me. For a more detailed list of how to throw yarrow sticks for an I Ching reading (which is actually Chinese, though the Japanese do them as well) you can look here.

> Next Chapter
Tags: bleach, fanfic, kyouraku, ukitake

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