A/N: I was intrigued about the thought of Lisa considering Yumichika for the vice captain position of the 8th Division in the novels. This story revolves around that idea!
"I'm pretty sure you know why you're here."
Lisa stood unabashedly facing the only other occupant of the 1st Division main office, who had been sitting casually behind his desk.
"Come on now, Lisa-chan," Shunsui urged, waving his silly hand towards the flooring in front of him. She merely stared at it, making no intentions of moving. "There's no need to act too formal around me, y'know."
"I know I still don't have a vice captain," she said instead, going straight to the point, "But I'd like you to know that I'm exerting my efforts in finding one."
The corners of his lips rose subtly, as if he had been expecting that sort of reaction from her already. Perhaps he really did; they'd known each other for that long after all. He knew she hated senseless small talks that could be avoided; she knew he liked to be more casual about things if he could.
"You really haven't changed, Lisa-chan."
He chuckled, causing her to further purse her lips together.
"Fine then, let's have it your way. Let's get to the main point."
When she still said nothing, a long sigh escaped his lips.
"Perhaps your efforts aren't enough."
The way he said it had no malice, yet it gave an unwanted sting in her chest. She shut her eyes.
"Well, while I do know Nanao-chan has no qualms performing the vice captain duties of both the 1st and 8th Division, don't you think that's a bit unfair for her?"
Lisa was aware of that. Setting aside the fact that Nanao had been doing the 8th's responsibilities for the past several years, she also knew that the younger woman revered her, being someone like a childhood idol. For some reason, she felt unusually conscious of the long sleeves of the captain's haori around her arms.
"Who here has two vice captains, anyway?" she stubbornly retorted, "Look who's being unfair."
Shunsui said nothing, only giving off that characteristic, stupid smile of his. By that time, she knew he likewise hadn't changed. He had always been like that, trapping people in his little games, whether intentionally or not.
She breathed hard. She knew Central 46 had been bugging him too. It's been roughly a decade already, and reconstruction efforts for Seireitei were pretty much complete. She no longer had any reason to delay it.
"Fine. Give me a week then. I'll see what I can do."
Shunsui dismissed her with the same smile on his face.
Without wasting any minute, she fled towards the library to review the catalogue of all registered officers in Gotei 13. She flipped the book open, scoffing at her luck. She just so happened to open the 1st Division's page, and if glares could make holes, Shunsui's photo would've had a gaping one already. Sighing, she took a look at the photos beside his; Okikiba Genshirou and Ise Nanao.
Of course, she had already known it was out-of-question to take either of them for the 8th. Okikiba was dedicated to the 1st Division, since it had been his division even longer than Shunsui had. It would simply be wrong to place him in an entirely different squad. Meanwhile, separating Nanao from Shunsui was something unthinkable. Or at least, that's what she had gathered from various different sources, Shunsui and Nanao themselves included. Funny, given how Nanao herself wasn't aware that she gave off that impression. Lisa herself wasn't sure how much their bond extended to, but she didn't dwell on it further. Somehow, the mere thought of it somehow just gave her an unpleasant taste in her mouth. She didn't think she even wanted to know.
She dismissed her thoughts. She flicked the pages once more, going through all the divisions with a pen in hand and ready to take note of all the possible candidates. The few minutes of browsing through the register left her unimpressed, because by the time she reached the 12th division, she wasn't even able to fill half of the paper she prepared.
She glanced at Kurotsuchi's picture, with vice captain Akon beside him. It was a shame, really. Akon had been her first choice, but Mayuri just had to snatch him before she could.
She flicked the last page and found that there wasn't anyone in the 13th that she figured would fit the part.
She shut the book, turning her attention to her incredibly short list.
Yamada Hanataro, 3rd seat of the 4th Division.
Enjouji Tatsufusa, 3rd seat of her division.
Ayasegawa Yumichika, 3rd seat of the 11th Division.
Well, those three were more or less the same people she considered when she had asked both Nanao and Hinamori's help regarding her predicament. To be fair, the war had large casualties so she didn't have much choices.
She knew the easiest path to make Shunsui shut up was to nominate Enjouji since it would take the least amount of convincing; after all, he was already part of the 8th. On the other hand, there was a reason why she hadn't chosen him despite the convenience. A small fry, that's what he was, so definitely not a vice captain material.
Yamada Hanataro, on the other hand, should be a good option, being the brother of Yamada Seinosuke—prodigy medic from the 4th Division, who had been her fellow vice captain back in the days. However, seeing his overall jittery disposition simply did not pass her standards. . . Not so much of a vice captain material either.
And so she was left with Ayasegawa. Judging from his picture alone, he was the epitome of vanity. But never mind that, because out of the three of them, she thought he fit the part the most. Like a peacock amongst a flock of common birds. Hinamori did say he was an excellent person, although she also added that he had rejected transfers to other divisions so far. . .
An easy-to-get small fry wasn't really that exciting to think of, so he would be the last option. Meanwhile, a wimpy-looking kid with potential didn't sound so bad if she actually thought about it, but it also meant she needed to do a lot of work on him. On the other hand, there was an exceptional narcissist who apparently refused any transfers for some reason.
Now, she's curious. If she was going to have a hard time in either of the three anyway, she'd opt for the one which she'd have the most fun.
She turned her page to the 11th Division, jotting down all things she deemed important.
Ayasegawa Yumichika it is.
His zanpakutō was being moody, as usual.
Which shouldn't really be shocking, because if there was one thing to describe Ruri'iro Kujaku, 'moody' was the perfect word. Though he supposed it made sense due to the fact that he hadn't really called it by its name for so long. At least, that's what it told him days before anyway, when he did manage to sneak out from the division to have a rare heart-to-heart training by the mountains.
If you really insist on calling me that horrendous nickname, I'll really kill you one day, it told him before it went back to its unreleased state.
He held the hilt of his sword subconsciously, and he knew, he felt it was pouring out negative energy. Stubborn sword.
"Oi, you've been staring in space for a heck of time already."
He turned to see Ikkaku looking at him suspiciously. He regained composure immediately, gesturing towards what's right in front of them.
"I was just thinking about. . . her."
"Yes. I'm just wondering how she managed to convince the captain to have joint training sessions with our division for three straight days."
Ikkaku shrugged. "Lots of stuff changed after the war, the captain included. From what I understood, Captain Yadomaru went to Captain Zaraki because she wanted to train her officers and members. Said something about it being a win-win situation since the 11th could have their human punching bags or something."
Yumichika found himself looking at the back of Yadomaru's head, and at the same moment, he saw her glancing back at him, a watchful glint in her eyes as she remained conversing with Zaraki.
He would like to think himself as a perceptive person. He just knew that Yadomaru aimed for something else apart from the little joint sessions. From the image she exuded she was far from a friendly sort of person, therefore if she was really thinking of her division he deduced there were more reasonable choices for joint training in her perspective; she could've easily asked from her friends like Captain Hirako or Captain Ootoribashi. But why Captain Zaraki? Why the 11th, of all divisions?
And it wasn't all just that. For the past two days, he noticed the way she watched his every move; sometimes it was subtle, sometimes obvious. On more than three occasions she also just so happened to be in the same place he was at. Of course, he still had doubts, but he was suspicious nonetheless.
What finally convinced him that he simply wasn't just paranoid was when he discovered her resting her elbow by the window of his own quarters at the end of the day, an extremely bored expression marking her face.
"Such a lovely lady stalking me," he said coolly, shutting the door of his room in the process, "That's rather unbecoming, you know. Especially for someone with a rank of a captain."
For someone who had been caught red-handed, her facial expression didn't even flinch. "So you have noticed. Then you really are as sharp as they have described."
When he said nothing, her fingers tapped impatiently on the window sill.
"Well? Aren't you going to ask me to come in? I've been waiting a long time."
He blinked twice before shrugging.
"Be my guest."
She hopped inside flawlessly.
"Thank you," she said, "I will get straight to the point."
For an uninvited guest that would be most appreciated, he wanted to snap back, but he remembered she was a captain and still deserved some semblance of respect—never mind her questionable actions.
She paused for three long seconds.
"Be my vice captain."
It was his turn to pause for three long seconds.
"How . . . terribly blunt."
He wanted to say he felt shocked, but it probably would only be half the truth. It wasn't the first time he was offered a position from a different division—though perhaps it was a first time for him to be asked in such an informal, bizarre way. Either way he had no intentions of breaking his streak.
"I'm sorry, but I'm afraid I have to decline."
She didn't seem surprised at all. "You aren't even going to think about it?"
"Not really. Perhaps this may sound selfish but personally it has been my desire to obtain the 3rd seat of the division for so long, and I'm not really inclined to give it up."
Her eyes glinted curiously. "Isn't a vice captain position higher than the 3rd seat?"
"I know, but I'm not really one for a position of power." He lifted his hand up, tracing the kanji of the number three in the air. "I simply think that the number three is beautiful and I'd rather stay with it. I'm immensely flattered about your offer though."
She nodded firmly. "I see. I figured you'd say that."
Just when he thought she had given up already, she brought out pieces of parchment from the sleeves of her haori. She handed it over to him. His eyebrow raised curiously.
"A contract. This is my other proposition; please browse through it."
He took a quick scan and noted sections about her expectations from him and vice versa, along with different perks to receive should he accept, such as but not limited to discounted purchases from her business YDM Book Sales. Interesting.
"I just need Shunsui to stop pestering me about getting a vice captain," she explained, and he noted the irritation in her voice, "Just for a year is fine, but extended time for service would definitely be appreciated, should you wish it."
"This is rather long." He flailed the documents on his hand. "What's the main gist of it?"
She shrugged. "Well, you get to work under me and you'd have access to everything that the 8th Division has to offer."
"Hmm, not exactly that much appealing to hear, no offense meant. I'm not much into books, either."
"I have been informed you are interested in beauty products and assorted accessories," she mentioned without second thoughts, and for a moment he wondered how much back-up plans she had in store just to have him agree. "With my resources I could arrange special deliveries and discounts on products of your choice straight from the human world."
He feigned a frown, deciding to play along. "Just discounts?"
She huffed. "Fine. For the first six months, absolutely free of charge for everything. Discounted fees would apply for the next six."
An amused sound came out from his nose. Now, that was a tempting offer, he had to admit. But. . .
"This is a rather big decision, Captain Yadomaru—"
"You don't have to answer now. I could give you a day or two to decide."
"Besides, there's also Captain Zaraki that I need to consult—"
"There should be no issues. I personally asked your captain about his thoughts. He was surprisingly understanding of the situation and has no qualms. Apparently you have a lot of free time."
She even charged at that angle, huh? She was really that determined. He shook his head, realizing she wouldn't easily take "no" for an answer.
"Alright, I'll think about it," he said, just so they could end the exchange. It seemed enough for her as she began walking back to the window. One of her legs was already hanging out of the ledge when she brought up something else.
"Oh, before I forget, I realized there's also something that I've been wondering about. . . Your Shikai."
For the first time that night, he felt genuinely surprised that his pulse escalated.
"What about it?" he responded carefully, "You've seen Fuji Kujaku in training, haven't you?"
"You know I've been watching you, right? I've been doing so ever since you've trained by the mountains."
He folded his arms, hiding the way he clenched his fists. She continued without breaking eye contact.
"I'm pretty sure I heard you calling it a different name back then."
"Are you blackmailing me into agreeing in this whole thing?"
The tone of his voice changed, he knew, and a brief look of surprise flashed in her eyes. He didn't expect that.
"Just something I noticed so I was genuinely curious. I don't really get why you're so prickly about it." She paused and then slowly, an irritating smirk made its way to her lips, as if she had just connected all the dots. ". . . Unless, you're hiding it on purpose? Afraid I'll rat you out to your friends?"
Feeling all his buttons being pushed, heat rose to his head, and it took all his self-control not to lash out in front of a captain. Yadomaru must have noticed, because her smirk softened to smile, which then quickly shifted back to her usual scowl. Despite his annoyance, he briefly wondered if she was capable of producing a more beautiful, sincere smile.
"Just kidding. Whatever it is, I wouldn't really say anything, even if you decline my offer. I have other candidates for the position, anyway."
She hopped off her other leg outside, preparing to flash-step away when he spoke again.
She raised an eyebrow.
"You said 'candidates,' right? Meaning you had other choices. Am I the first choice?"
"Why me, then?"
She turned her head towards him, the lighting from his room reflecting brightly on one side of her glasses. From the other lens, he clearly saw the rich color of her irises.
"I just felt you got the looks for it. Guess I thought you'd fit the part the most."
And she jumped away, leaving him with several thoughts as he stared at the empty window.
The following day, he retired to his room early, reading through all of the contract. As soon as he finished it, he took his sheathed sword from his bed side and lifted it up, looking at the purple hilt wrapping of his sword.
He remembered her last words with him in particular.
I got the looks, huh?
He shook his head, bringing his sword down onto his bed. They seemed to think similarly. He also remembered the way her azure eyes softened in sincerity as she said them.
Azure. . . ? You like that, don't you? Ruri'iro Kujaku.
It replied nothing, of course, ever difficult sword, yet it no longer spread the negative energy. At the back of his head, he wondered whether or not they were the signs he had been waiting for.
A day later, he approached her division and finally agreed.
It had been a month since Yumichika signed the contract.
Honestly speaking, she was pleasantly surprised at the situation. She wasn't exactly what one would call a pessimist, but despite having plenty of back-up plans she was not expecting him to agree in the end. From what she gathered, the primary reason for his refusal to transfer was his immense loyalty to Kenpachi, Madarame and the 11th Division. While she went to the point of spending some of her business profit to give way for his indulgences, she did not expect it to work, even partly. She'd like to think it was a good investment.
. . . Or perhaps she actually read him wrong? Or to be more precise, perhaps she had not completely read everything there was to him, recalling their brief conversation about his Shikai. Based from his reaction it was a touchy subject so she figured she should be extra careful about playing any cards related to it. If she even needed to, anyway, because for now she already had what she wanted. There was definitely no urgency to bring out the topic again especially since he was already her vice captain. There was no need to test the waters when said waters were already at the perfect temperature. It was in their best interest that everything stayed as it was.
It didn't stop her from being curious nonetheless. What was he hiding, anyway?
"You've been staring at me for a while, captain. While I can't blame you for being enamored by my beauty, it could get a tad bit uncomfortable after some time."
She rolled her eyes, hiding her face behind the book she had been reading. Yumichika had so far been an almost perfect vice captain; he was bright, observant, and performed all his responsibilities dutifully. Almost, anyway, because he also had his own eccentricities that she had to deal with, like his insufferable obsession for aesthetics.
"Why don't you go off to your friends?" she replied instead, lowering her book so she only revealed her eyes, "We're done for the day."
It was written in their contract that as long as he had fulfilled his duties, he was free to do whatever he wanted, which of course included visiting the 11th Division. It didn't take a genius to know that he obviously shared a strong bond with Madarame, and she wouldn't want their current arrangements to affect whatever relationship they had.
"It's fine. Ikkaku and Captain Zaraki could do well without me. All they ever do is sleep, eat, or fight anyway. It's surprisingly refreshing to take a break from all of that."
It's another thing she liked about Yumichika. He was smart enough to know what she was thinking of and was quick to react that it was needless for her to unnecessarily over-explain things.
"Besides, I don't think it would look good for the 8th Division if I kept on going back to my previous division. Don't you agree?"
His remark caused her to completely put down her book. He only gazed back at her as the corners of his lips rose.
Ayasegawa Yumichika was certainly an interesting individual.
It had been two months since he worked under Captain Lisa.
He gazed at the calendar in front of him. He only had ten months until the whole thing was over. Meaning ten months left to settle things with his stubborn zanpakuto.
Ruri'iro Kujaku was the primary reason why he agreed to the whole thing; truthfully his zanpakuto's words began to bother him. It wasn't about fear of death, or fear of his own zanpakuto stabbing him in his sleep—he highly doubted that was possible anyway—but it was more about the fact that he was growing more apart with his own sword. He had no doubts that he loved the 11th Division, but their outlook towards kido-based swords had not changed even after many years. For him to further explore his own sword, he needed a different place, even just for a short time span. Zanpakutos were reflections of souls, and he needed to understand it before it would start eating him away from the inside.
The more he thought about it, the more he realized how favorable the whole setup with Captain Lisa was. He wouldn't even complain about the vice captain duties because he wasn't exactly a total stranger to them. The moment Ikkaku became the vice captain of the 11th was also the moment they learned how he didn't mix well with paperwork. He loved his friend to the point of performing those duties for him, but perhaps he had also spoiled him too much in the process. It would do Ikkaku well if he, Yumichika, wouldn't be there so he'd learn how to properly handle the duties of being second-in-command.
Apart from that, Captain Lisa, despite her eccentricities, was actually a sensible woman, and had no problems when he frankly said he wouldn't give any promises to stay at the 8th even after a year. In his mind, the 11th Division was still home, and if he wished to go back, she wouldn't persuade him to stay. Never mind the legalities of such actions, because Lisa assured him she had it under her control. She also didn't snoop around as much he thought she would, and actually allowed him to train in peace.
"I'll be leaving now," he mentioned, hand resting on the hilt of his sword.
"Off to train?" Her gaze stayed on the erotic magazine she had been reading. In his opinion she could've been the perfect image of a graceful, respectable captain if only the degree of perversion was toned down significantly.
"Yes, I'll be going to the mountains."
When she nodded in response, he took it as the cue to leave.
He was already at the door when she spoke again, calling his name. In the short time of knowing her, he learned she didn't really give a crap for formalities and preferred calling him by his first name. He actually thought it was strangely endearing for a person like her who seemed cold and distant.
"Yes, Captain Lisa?"
Her eyes still lingered on her book. "If you'd want, I could lend you my private training quarters."
He looked at her curiously. "You have one?"
"Well, technically I didn't make it, but it's something I discovered. No one's really using it, anyway. Did you know there's a secret training ground underneath Sokyoku Hill? Apparently there are a few more of those around Seireitei. The entrance of one happened to be outside my room."
He didn't know which information he wanted to process first. He must've seem dumbfounded, because he noticed she was smirking at him.
He crossed his arms, mirroring her expression. "Are you going to spy on me again?"
She waved her book slightly. "I'm pretty busy right now so it isn't likely. No promises in the future, though."'
"That's rather unsettling."
"Either the mountains where anybody could see you with a small possibility, or my training quarters where only I could see with a big possibility. Your choice."
He shook his head. He hated to admit it, but it was another thing he liked about her. How absolutely transparent she was. It was almost beautiful, if it only didn't tick him off the same.
He gave in anyway, asking her if she would do him the honor of showing him personally those said training quarters. He wasn't certain if he only imagined it, but he swore she stood up in an almost giddy way and skipped as she passed by him.
"What are you waiting for?" she asked, gesturing for him to follow her. As he did, he realized it felt nice. It actually wasn't so bad that someone else knew about his secret.
Captain Lisa was certainly an interesting individual.
It had been three months since the contract was signed.
So far, things had been good. She was delighted the days of being pestered by Shunsui was over. Seemed like Central 46 had no qualms either, though she wasn't sure how they'd take it if Yumichika would not to push through after a year. She decided not to think of the issue further and just cross the bridge when she'd be there.
At that moment, she had different issues to attend to, such as the thing bugging her head.
Ayasegawa Yumichika was a very stubborn individual.
It wasn't even about his whole secrecy about his Shikai, which was another issue in itself. It wasn't about his outrageous obsession about beauty and things related to it either.
He was generally a stubborn person who seemed to surround himself with thick walls that made it difficult for her to understand him fully. Every remark she made that she thought may possibly catch him off-guard would be brushed off with a witty reply, sometimes with him managing to relate even the most obscure ones to beauty. At some point it was entertaining, but as days passed she found herself getting frustrated and she couldn't figure out why. She considered herself a curious person and it had always been a journey for her to know what was hidden, no matter how long it took. It wasn't the first time she investigated a person either, but what was making her frustrated with Yumichika unlike her previous persons of interest?
She thought she found a plausible answer one day, during a spontaneous night out with some captains and vice captains.
She had been sitting with her fellow Visoreds initially, but as the night went on they left one-by-one, first actuated by Shinji who said he had to do his hair care routine or something. It was followed by Rose, who mentioned something about leaving so he could write about his latest muse inspired from events that transpired that night. Kensei would've stayed with her longer if Mashiro hadn't been reduced to something like a heavily intoxicated rag doll.
"Ya sure you're okay here?" Kensei said, holding Mashiro like a sack of potatoes over his shoulder.
She brought up her bottle, still half-full, and waved her free hand casually. "I'll be fine."
And she was left at the table, empty chairs, empty bottles and plates around her. She rested the side of her face on her hand, watching the busier scenery before her—several of the remaining high-ranking officers having the time of their lives with their unfiltered merriment. Eventually she shut her eyes, taking a swig from her drink, opening them only when she sensed a person approaching her.
"Why are you here?" she asked, "Haven't you had enough spending time with me for the past months?"
Yumichika dramatically placed a hand over his chest. "You wound me, captain. You sound as if you're tired of me."
She simply glared. Drama queen.
"How could I not go here, though?" He chuckled, taking the seat beside her. "You look rather miserable."
"If you consider anyone being alone as miserable, then I'd beg to differ with you."
"Of course not! I know the difference very well."
The conversation ended at that, and she realized they'd both resorted to watching their colleagues make a mess of themselves. Eventually she found herself fiddling with the neck of the bottle in her hand, and she noticed her own reflection. She knit her brows together. Did she really seem that miserable?
She looked at her periphery, and discovered that her vice captain was likewise checking out himself on the empty bottle in front of him.
"You know, you remind me of myself sometimes."
He seemed taken a back briefly. "I'm not sure how to feel about that. Was that meant as a compliment or an insult?"
She paused, placing a hand contemplatively under her chin.
"You know what, I'm not so sure myself. I guess I think of myself as beautiful too."
An amused sort of smile registered on his face. "I see. I won't argue with that. Though, I am more beautiful than you."
She pointed a finger at him. "See, that's what I was saying. I think that way too. I think I am more beautiful than you too."
The night went on, and despite being just the two of them at the table, it did not seem that empty anymore.
It had been four months since he became the vice captain of the 8th.
"I figured it out."
He looked at his captain curiously. Despite her apparent aloofness he learned there usually weren't any dull moments whenever he was with her.
Without looking away from her book with obvious lecherous contents, she spoke her next words. "It is true that you sucked Shuhei dry before, haven't you?"
He almost choked on his own saliva. No dull moments indeed.
"It's your Shikai," she clarified as she shut her book on her desk. "It has some absorbing abilities. I'm not sure of what though, but it's probably something like reiryoku."
Another thing he learned was how much of a stubborn individual Yadomaru Lisa was. When she had set her eyes on something, she wouldn't simply let it go until she got what she wanted. . . Just like what was currently happening.
He decided he'd neither approve nor deny her conclusions. "If you happened to be correct, what will you do with the information?"
She looked at him for five long seconds before her shoulders relaxed.
"Nothing, really. I am already satisfied in knowing what was previously hidden."
He did not realize he had been holding his breath until he caught a glimpse of her eyes. It was the same, rare softened way she looked before that somehow, he was sure she would keep her word.
"Have you ever considered telling it to Kenpachi or Madarame?"
Some things were better left unsaid, he wanted to say, but instead he shook his head. He was thankful she took his silence well, and she no longer pushed the issue.
He wondered if she already saw through him. At the same time, he wondered when he'd see through her.
Those thoughts returned a week after, when they were summoned to the captain-commander's office for their quarterly reports. Nothing seemed out-of-the-blue at first, but the longer they had been there, the more he noticed a subtle tension forming in the atmosphere—at least, more in his captain's part. He had mixed feelings by the time the meeting ended—one of them was relief that the awkwardness was over, another was a mix of disappointment and curiosity because it was the first time he witnessed his captain being that way.
As soon as they left the building, he mustered the courage to speak out.
"Is it possible . . . that you have feelings for him?"
She sent him a piercing glare which might have sent a weak-willed spirit cowering in a corner. Thankfully he was not one, and he still managed to look back at her without faltering.
"If you meant feelings of repeatedly stepping on his soon-to-be cold, helpless body on the ground, then yes, probably."
She faced forward again, walking ahead of him so he no longer saw her facial expression. He observed however the way the tips of her fingers vanished underneath the sleeves of her haori.
"Have you tried telling him that?" he asked, but she shook her head and said nothing else, continuing to walk ahead of him. For once, he thought he had an upper hand against her, yet he no longer pushed the issue.
Some things were better left unsaid.
Perhaps they were really alike in some ways.
It had been five months.
"Why don't we train together?" she proposed one day at her private training quarters.
He wiped the sweat from his forehead with the sleeves of his shihakusho, looking at her and then at the book she had abandoned beside the boulder she had been lounging on.
"Just zanjutsu is fine. I'd love to see how your division has taught you."
"Fine, then. Just so you know I don't go easy on ladies."
She took no offense as there was a playful tone in his voice, obvious that he merely said it in jest. He fixed his stance as she unsheathed her sword, her eyes meeting his.
"As you should. And just so you know, I don't go easy on vice captains either."
He smiled. "As you should."
She could tell he had been holding back at first, just as she did, as if they were testing out each other. Eventually he was putting more effort into it, just as she did. In no time she sensed the rush of adrenaline in her bloodstream as she countered his attacks.
Several exchange of hits later, she was convinced he was truly an exceptional swordsman. She was glad she wasn't wrong about him.
They were at the human world, assigned to take care of a group of gillian-class menos. Sixth year academy students were also with them as a part of their work exposure. Nothing too serious, until they discovered it was being led by some Adjuchas.
He felt the anxiety among the students, yet she calmly assured them they'd take care of it as she also gave instructions on what to do.
Without wasting a second, Captain Lisa donned her Visored mask, and took care of the Adjuchas with ease.
As she expertly jumped through different gillians, blood splattering on her face as she slashed through them, he thought how beautifully strong she was.
It had been seven months, apparently.
"Seven months, huh?" Yumichika seemed pleasantly surprised. "Honestly I wouldn't have noticed if you hadn't pointed it out."
Like him, she actively stopped paying attention to counting, and she would not have realized it if she hadn't been reviewing the financial statement for YDM Book Sales for the previous month.
"I have to be vigilant, of course. I can't keep on supplying you with skin care products at no cost. What am I, your sugar mommy?"
"That doesn't sound so bad, actually."
He snorted at first before it escalated into a laugh. She wanted to point out how ugly he sounded, but she found herself laughing along. It felt nice, she thought.
He found her at her office, halfway into braiding her hair. She stopped momentarily as he entered, not missing the way her gaze shifted to his own braided hair fashioned by the side of his face, towards the package on his hand.
He uttered a 'good morning' as he sat down, peeling off the packaging from the box he held and taking out the feathered accessories he ordered from the human world. He brought out a pocket mirror, and carefully placed a pair by the sides of his face, making sure they were parallel to each other. Throughout the process he sensed she had been watching him.
He walked towards her afterwards, holding out an extra accessory by the pads of his fingers. She raised an eyebrow as her own hand held the ends of her hair.
"This goes well with your eyes," he mentioned, and without waiting for her go signal, he hopped behind her and held her braided hair, doing the finishing touches. She made no protests as he meticulously arranged the accessory to secure the hairstyle. He handed his pocket mirror after and let her see his masterpiece.
"Hmm, nice." Her comment was short and undeniably lame, yet he didn't miss the way her smile softened. He thought that was the greatest feedback he could get from her.
As they exited the office later on, he also didn't miss the curious whispers and subtle awes from the officers as they passed by with matching accessories. He savored the moment as he thought how nice that felt, and judging by her subtle smile, he knew she enjoyed it too.
"Do you miss him?"
She turned to him after he spoke, the usual, teasing look absent on his face.
There was no need for her to clarify who he meant. Nine months was relatively short compared to her years of living, but she felt it was already long enough for them to know each other.
"Hardly," she said, and she expected him to ask her to clarify.
He didn't, telling her that he thought that was a reasonable feeling.
"Do you miss him?" she then inquired. Likewise Yumichika did not see the need to clarify, and looked at her with solace instead.
At the back of her head, she figured that made sense, that it should be a reasonable feeling too. She just wasn't sure if they shared the same reasoning, however—if they had the same understanding of the situation.
After all, in just a few months, he could be back working with Madarame again. She, on the other hand, wouldn't.
One year was nothing compared to a hundred years. His choice of voluntarily leaving his own division was also nothing compared to her forced leave of absence that made her question if it had even been right to consider Seireitei her home in the first place. . .
It was at the tenth month when Yumichika almost gave up being her vice captain.
"For the last time, captain. I will not do it."
It wasn't often that Lisa used the word 'please' for her requests, so he was already aware how different her current request was to her previous ones.
"Buy it for me."
They had been standing a few steps away from a book store in Karakura Town for the past several minutes. Lisa was being her usual stubborn self, but unluckily for her, he was, too.
"If you're going to force me to do something so inelegant, forget it!"
"I don't understand why you won't do it. It's just buying a damn book!"
"It's not just a damn book! It's a freakin' pornographic book that is totally unsightly for my precious hands!"
"I told you it's not porn, it's erotica! That's different!"
"Well if you seriously want to buy it, why don't you do it yourself?"
"I would if I could, but—" She gestured towards her get-up, the high school uniform she was oddly fond of wearing. "—the shop owner wouldn't let me!"
He rolled his eyes. "I don't see why you can't just wear age-appropriate clothes. What, are you that stingy that you won't consider buying one for this obviously important thing for you?"
"You think I haven't tried that before? The nosy shop owner already knows who I am. He's convinced I'm a minor who keeps on doing tricks to get my hands on something that I shouldn't be allowed to hold onto!"
"Then get a fake I.D. or something! Or a new gigai from Urahara Kisuke?"
"That would be too time-consuming! And too unreasonable for Kisuke."
"You think you aren't being unreasonable to me?!"
She frowned. "Well, look who's being unreasonable here! I am your captain and I gave you an order."
He gasped. "Oh, you did not just use that card!"
She crossed her arms. "I just did."
He crossed his arms the same. "Well if that's how it is, then I'll just quit as your vice captain!"
Her eyes turned to slits. "You haven't finished your one year, meaning I shall consider this a breach of contract. Therefore you need to pay for those free products I gave you tenfold."
He was taller than her by a few centimeters but she kept her stance and stood firmly, not breaking eye contact. It was obvious she had no intentions of giving up any time soon. He sighed heavily.
"Ugh, fine, fine. I'll do it."
It was almost cute how her eyes widened in delight. It didn't last long however, because it was replaced with mild annoyance when he grabbed her glasses without prior warning.
"But if I will be doing this, we will have it my way."
Her eyes turned into even thinner slits. He wasn't certain if it was due to her bad eyesight or her incredulity about the whole situation being turned, or both.
In the end, he somehow managed to convince her to play along what he planned. He took no great joy in being involved with superfluous displays of affection in public, especially not with Lisa (he thinks he does not really like her that way), but it did give him a sense of accomplishment how he managed to reduce his usually cold and strong-willed captain to a timid little girlfriend clinging onto his arm who relied on him not to bump onto surfaces. Unless she was that much of a great actress, he was convinced she did not like the situation one bit. Which was good, because he did not enjoy letting his beautiful hands hold such inelegant things either.
As they paid, his heart skipped fast as the store owner looked at them with bored curiosity. He felt Lisa cowering more behind him, adjusting his jacket around herself and burying her face even more onto the sleeve of his shirt. The owner handed the book after paying and the ordeal ended without trouble.
As they exited, Lisa snatched her glasses back and began rapidly browsing through the content shamelessly, unmasking the shy persona she had previously. Her eyes, the same beautiful azure eyes that he knew his zanpakuto would like, sparkled with intensity. While his views about reading such scandalous contents did not change, he figured there was something oddly beautiful with seeing her happiness at such superficial things. Perhaps it was worth staining his hand for such a brief moment.
In the middle of settling her financial statement for the month, she discovered an old book at her office. It was a book containing documents from more than a century ago, back when she had been a vice captain. She didn't open it; instead, she looked at the empty spot usually occupied by Yumichika.
It was afternoon already, several hours passed since she last saw him. She had dismissed him early since there weren't much paperwork to do; it wasn't a very busy season after all.
She guessed he was most likely at her private training quarters; for the past few days he had spending an awful lot of time there. She wasn't aware of the exact details, but judging by the way he treated his sword they had a rather rocky relationship—him and his obviously kido-based sword. And it was no secret that kido and the 11th Division did not go well together. It was also no secret for him and her that he did not want Kenpachi nor Madarame to know his secret.
She finally figured him out; his sword, it was definitely the reason why he agreed to their contract in the first place.
And in his brief stay at the 8th, he was having progress in whatever he was doing with his zanpakutō. The lengthier time he spent in Jinzen was enough proof to that.
Truthfully, it gave her mixed feelings. On one hand, as his captain (and friend), she knew she should be happy. Any decent person would be. Yet she also couldn't deny the traitorous bitter feeling in her gut thinking of the possible implications it may have in their arrangements, current and future ones, included.
She knew she didn't mind that he technically just used her, in the same way that she knew he didn't mind how she openly used him for her own benefits. It was the perfect setup for both of them, and as a businesswoman she knew opportunities like that were something one should snag when it's right in front of them, but. . .
She shook her head. There should be no strings attached. If he didn't want to push through even after their contract, she shouldn't stop him. She'd like to think it was like her monthly business profits; sometimes it had ups, sometimes it had downs. Perhaps if the return of investment wasn't so good, she should try to think of better options.
It's why she especially hated investing on relationships. She'd prefer taking risks on money rather than emotions. Money was something that could easily be gained with the right conditions; hurt caused by emotions and false hopes, however, was something harder to recover from.
At that moment, all the hurt she felt from their banishment returned, seeping slowly like poison in her heart. She knew there was no reason to blame Gotei 13 centuries ago, no reason to blame Shunsui because what had happened was way beyond their jurisdiction. She also knew that mainly had been Aizen's fault, along with those shitty bastards from Central 46 who made shitty decisions.
Likewise, she also knew it would be unfair of her to expect Shunsui, the person she valued the most that time, to defend them, or at least, to look for them when they had disappeared. Again, that was out of jurisdiction, and as soldier herself she knew they all had to move on.
Yet it didn't stop her from feeling. Hopes, expectations, they were inevitable, sometimes, and it just hurt when things didn't go as they expected them.
No, it wasn't even about Shunsui at all. It was about herself, how she kept herself from moving forward.
She only noticed she has been clutching the thick book tight when a single tear escaped from her eye, falling on the leather covering. She released the pressure on the book, making her fingernails return to their pinkish hue.
She harshly wiped the tear from her eye, returning the book on the shelf. She gazed at the memo on her table.
Perhaps, it was a good idea to accept Shinji's invitation.
That's what she thought at first, at least.
There had been a gathering organized by the 5th Division, a celebration for the hard work done by the headmaster of the academy. All officers of each division were invited as everyone had been involved in training the 5th and 6th year students. Initially, she hadn't been planning on going because she wasn't too keen in attending big social gatherings; she'd rather read books in her room. However, that stupid, unexpected waterworks from her eyes pushed her that she perhaps needed someone to talk to.
And she did have company—her dumb Visored friends, of course. They conversed night long, talking about the most meaningless things as they drank. She didn't share what had been bothering her; she never had any intentions to. After all, they've already been sulking about that for the past several years, and there was no reason to talk about that again. She only needed to focus on something else so it would be pushed back to the depths of her mind.
She thought she had forgotten about it anyway, but the moment she saw Yumichika again, chatting away happily with Madarame and Kenpachi, an unpleasant pinch in her chest surfaced, as well as several other irrational thoughts.
Is he finally going back to the 11th?
Is he saying how much he wanted to be back?
Perhaps, she should not have come at all.
She groaned, standing up, grabbing a barely consumed bottle of whisky. She felt the confused gazes of the occupants of her table gaping through her.
"I'm leaving," she declared.
"The night is still young," Rose interjected, "What are you going to do with that bottle, anyway?"
"I'm taking it, of course. I paid for it."
Kensei rolled his eyes. "Stingy bitch."
She ignored his comment as she waved her free hand, flash-stepping away. When she was no longer in their close vicinity, she resorted to walking, taking a hard gulp from the bottle as she directed herself back to her division.
Is he tired of me?
She knew she was not supposed to jump into conclusions, but she couldn't help it. Perhaps it was a bad idea to consume alcohol . . . yet she continued drinking, anyway.
It was an hour past midnight when he returned to the 8th Division.
As he walked by the corridors, his conversations with Captain Zaraki and Ikkaku kept replaying on his mind. Initially, he had been hesitant to approach them; after all, he knew how both of them prided in the values of the 11th, along with their unwavering loyalty towards it. At the back of his head, he felt he had betrayed them to fulfill his own selfish little personal journey.
Yet the moment their eyes met, he was greeted by Ikkaku's arm over his shoulder and a firm pat on the back by the captain. They spoke just like old times, the captain speaking about his silly hair washing routines, Ikkaku and his daily afternoon naps, their undying love for fighting. . . It was as if he hadn't really left the division at all.
At some point the topic shifted to the duties of a vice captain. He remembered the uncomfortable knot forming in his gut, as he anticipated them to berate him about his decision of shifting divisions. . . yet nothing ill-natured really came.
"Man, I never really knew what a pain it is to be vice until you left."
Zaraki nodded. "Kinda tough without you and Yachiru around."
They sighed in chorus, then drinking from their cups
"But we can manage." Ikkaku grinned, and Yumichika felt his cheeks warming.
"W-wait, you aren't going to ask me to come back?"
Ikkaku gave him a bewildered look. "Huh? Of course not. You're the vice of the 8th now. Unless ya wanna come back though, but I dunno how that would work with the higher-ups."
Yumichika then turned to Zaraki, who seemed to have a pensive look on his face.
"Honestly? I never really thought ya fit well with the 11th in the first place. I ain't talking about you and those frilly little stuff ya put on your eyes."
Zaraki's eye briefly casted over Yumichika's sword, and he wondered if the captain actually knew more than he let on.
"But as I began to know you more, I learned yer love for fighting is true, and I respect that. So as long as you want it, you could always come back us."
Yumichika's lips trembled as he heard Captain Zaraki's next words.
"Whatever makes you happy."
What did make him feel happy?
His hand made its way to the hilt by his side.
Do you know, Fuji. . . No, Ruri'iro Kujaku?
It was a rhetorical question, and despite them having a stronger bond after several months of active training, he didn't really expect his sword to answer.
And yet he felt a comforting glow emanating from it. He wasn't sure if he really saw it; he couldn't rely much on himself because he had drank a few cups or so.
He reached his destination. He knocked on her door, intending to submit some documents they needed the next morning. Captain Lisa, despite her seemingly nonchalant behavior on captain duties, was ridiculously anal about deadlines. Perhaps it stemmed from her whole businesswoman image and how late papers meant penalties, meaning loss of income.
The sight that welcomed him the moment she slid open the door was, well, unusual. Lisa stood in her sleeping robes, hair down. She wasn't wearing her glasses either, so he definitely noticed her bloodshot eyes despite the low lighting of her room.
"I forgot to give you these, sorry," he said, carefully watching her movements. She sluggishly grabbed it before uttering her 'thanks.' The door would've been slammed shut on his face if his hand had not stopped it.
"Captain." She was glaring at him, stubbornly trying to pull the door close. Yet given the current state she was in, he clearly had the upper hand. "Are you okay?"
"Of course I am. This?" She pointed at her finger towards her eyes. "I was just reading porn."
Lisa took advantage of his brief shock, taking the chance to completely shut the door. He wanted to knock again but ended up heaving a sigh. It had been a long day.
He turned his back intending to finally retire to his room when a loud resounding thud reached his ears. Immediately he stomped back to the source, opening the doorway to his captain's room only to see her lying on the flooring helplessly. As he stooped lower at her level, his eyes caught an empty bottle of whisky on her table. At their proximity, his nose caught a whiff of the alcohol emanating from her.
"Being a drunken mess is not very beautiful, captain."
"Shut up," she managed to mumble as he lifted her up, guiding her to a nearby couch.
"Is there anything you want?" he tried to ask, yet she didn't muster even a sound, eyes shut tight. Yumichika considered himself a level-headed person, and rarely did he have bouts of panic, but when a usually snarky captain was suddenly incapable of slapping back one of her witty remarks, he admitted that moment counted as one of those rarities.
"Captain Lisa," he tried again, lightly slapping her face a few times, "If you don't respond, I'm sending you to the 4th. Or better yet, perhaps I should call Captain Hirako or Captain Muguruma—"
"Don't. You. Dare."
He fought back a grin. There she was.
They sat in silence. Lisa was desperately trying to stop wobbling her head in space and ended up resting her neck on the headrest.
"You know what? I never even wanted this captain position in the first place. It was supposed to have been Love. He had been captain years back, but he declined. He figured it fit for me more because the vacant spot was the 8th Division captain. My original division. . . "
He listened on, opting to look at the way her hands trembled.
"I was already content being in the World of Living, you know. I enjoyed the freedom from all responsibilities, the headaches, the hurt. . . And yet here I am."
A small, almost pained chuckle bellowed from her mouth, and he found himself looking away. Lisa was currently in such a vulnerable state; he knew she wouldn't really want him staring. Before he knew it, he felt smaller, firm arms clinging around his torso.
Her statement, along with her actions, stunned him for a moment. He ended up chuckling. "What are you talking about, captain? I'm right here, aren't I? Who says I'm leaving—"
And then it hit him. He wasn't sure whether she meant him accompanying her at the present moment, or him staying at the 8th Division permanently. His contract left him two more weeks.
"Stay. . . Please."
Before he could even form a coherent response, she had fallen asleep, judging by her weight against him along with her steady breaths. He shook his head in disbelief, as he stroked her hair gently with his hand until he felt himself drowsing off as well.
The next morning had been. . . awkward, at least, he knew it had been on his captain's end, judging by the way she avoided his gaze as he entered her office.
"Whatever I said yesterday, forget it. If you wish to go after two weeks, I won't stop you." Her cold voice was back, nothing like her unguarded tone the night before.
"And here I thought you'd really want me to stay."
She finally looked at him, scowling. "I'm serious, you idiot."
"I'm being serious too."
She looked away. He felt something faltered with her gaze, but said nothing.
The next day, he performed Jinzen, entering his inner world. In front of him was Ruri'iro Kujaku, watching him intently as if it had been waiting for his presence.
You're going to ask me what you'd do, aren't you?
He smiled. "You know me too well it hurts."
There was an almost offended gaze in its eyes.
Of course I should! I am merely a reflection of yourself. Ultimately, you decide whichever you think would suit best for you.
It paced in front of him, bringing out branches from its feathers. They were definitely lengthier, thicker compared to the previous year. . .
Much more beautiful.
Isn't that what you've been doing in the past? Even if you kept calling me by that ugly nickname, I still appear. Even in such a restrained, incomplete form, I still appear.
It looked at him with deep, penetrating eyes.
Whatever happens to me, happens to you. Move forward, wherever that may mean for you, or not—your decision.
It continued to branch out further, the vines already reaching the sky. . .
You ever wonder about my comments about killing you? Who do you think here is really killing all his potential?
His meditation only ended with more questions in his mind.
For the remaining days, he simply resumed his duties while Lisa did too, who no longer brought up the topic about the contract again.
He did not give her an answer until the day came.
It had been a year.
She stared blankly as the brittle sounds of papers being stacked against her wooden desk reverberated in the quiet office.
"That's it for the day," Yumichika said, breaking the silence. She waited for him to say something else, but none came as she opted to observe him. Sighing, she pulled the drawer on her desk and brought out the folder containing the contract.
"It's been a year," she spoke, cutting to the chase. An amused smirk formed on his lips.
"I know, but I'm trying to savor the last few hours remaining in the contract. I thought you would, too."
She frowned. "There's no use in delaying the inevitable."
He laughed, walking towards the open window. The sun had been setting, basking his features in a warm orange hue. It mixed well with those orange arm bands he was oddly fond of wearing.
"Remember when it was you who had been sitting by a window ledge a year ago?"
She watched as he tried to copy how she had been seated based from his memory. He failed horribly, holding onto the sides of the thin window ledge to keep himself balanced.
"Sheesh, it's horribly unsophisticated and dangerous staying like this. How'd you do it?"
She crossed her arms, deciding to play along with his little diversion. "Took years of practice. When you need to investigate something you gotta be prepared to stay even at the most narrow crevices."
"You make it sound like snooping around was something to be proud of."
He chuckled, and before she realized it, she had been, too.
"You know, captain. Even if I'm no longer in the division, it doesn't mean I won't be your friend anymore."
She nudged up her glasses, hiding her sad smile behind her hand.
"I know. . ."
Yumichika's watchful eyes studied her, pushing her to turn her head the other way even more. Because of her action, she didn't realize how he had moved closer. From her seated position, she gazed up at his figure who towered over her. What was he planning? Give her a farewell hug or something?
"But you know what? I figured it wouldn't really hurt if I stay here even longer."
He chuckled loudly.
"What's with that look, captain? Are you honestly that surprised?"
She was surprised, happy truly, that she stood up just to study his face.
"This . . . better not be a joke, Yumichika."
He stopped laughing, and a warmer smile formed on his face. "Do I look like I'm joking? You wanna ask my reasons? Well, you know what they say, 'as commonly birds of a feather will flye together.' Or so it said on one of your little books."
"I . . . honestly don't know whether I should be more shocked of your answer or the fact that you've actually began reading at the division library."
He shrugged. "Don't really see a lot of that at the 11th. And these things are hard to ignore because books are so much everywhere here! Besides, being beautifully intellectual doesn't sound so bad."
She was . . . speechless, out of words, that she simply stood dumbfounded. He noticed it, of course, being the observant brat that he was. He then held out his hands to his sides.
"Well, what are you waiting for? You've been meaning to embrace your most beautiful vice captain, haven't you?"
She glowered at his teasing, but did so anyway, placing her arms around him.
"Only the prettiest captain for such a vice captain then."
"By the way, does that mean my discounts would have an extension too?"
"In your dreams. . . Who am I, your sugar mommy?"
He no longer really argued, swaying both of them in the embrace. In the end, like she knew she was looking for a place where she could belong, he was, too.