Disclaimer: I don't own Bleach.
A/N: Ukiyoe includes, but is not limited to, pornographic scenes of naked young women. It's an art form. Used to be popular in the...Edo period, if Samurai Champloo is to be believed.
If this reads familiarly, it's because I'd put it up under a different summary and title. I've reworked it to my satisfaction; I hope it makes you happy too.
Do you ask an old man surveying an example of youthful exuberance if he would like to return to the prime of his life? Would you have the power to grant his wish if he said yes?
No, because no, you can't and it's rude to have him wanting something beyond your ability to give.
So Yamamoto Genryuusai Shigekuni (a name so long if you pronounced it during a battle against him you'd be dead before the last syllable left your mouth) looks at Urahara Kisuke, Shihouin Yoruichi, and Shiba Kuukaku but we don't know if he wants to be spry and thoughtless like them because I won't ask.
Kuukaku, the natural spokeswoman as she has the least to lose (her clan has been cast out of Seireitei. How much more trouble can she get in?) takes half a step forward to plead their case.
"It's all Kisuke's fault."
The other two don't even bat a single eyelash between them.
"We were trying to get along with Shunsui-sempai because Jyuushiro-sempai asked us to. He said he had the hots for a young seated officer called Yadomaru Lisa and did we have any idea how to woo a woman like that. Kisuke did some field research and discovered her thing for...uh," she looks to Sasakibe Chojiro, who inclines his head to convey, go on, say it. "Porn," Kuukaku voices, and Genryuusai doesn't react. "As to how our gathered gifts of magazines and ukiyoe paintings spread over the barracks...it seems Kisuke devised a faulty delivery system."
Genryuusai clears his throat and still speaks like rumbling thunder. "So. You think only he, Kisuke, ought to be punished."
"Of course, Yoruichi," Kuukaku gestures, "As a noble heir will take responsibility for collaborating with his actions."
"Blameless, your honor."
It is a curse, among the rearing of children, that they will never turn out the way you want them to. One thinks, they should be exposed to the vagaries of life so as to be liberal and open-minded adults, so you allow them freedom and they grow rebellious, wild and willful, not mindful of even their own common sense. The next batch, one intends to use a firm hand against them and they succumb too easily, never domineering, never guileful, always the stern adult uninterested in youthful pastimes.
So. Genryuusai stares down at the three smartasses staring back at him and ponders their punishment.
And ponders and ponders, and says:
"You may go."
A bout of blinking later they hasten to obey. Clemency is a rare thing. Chojiro is stunned.
Yamamoto Genryuusai has lived a long life. No, really. You can hardly grasp it. All he's seen and said and done. Only the soul king has a higher standing than him, a superior age. Genryuusai calls everyone child because the next oldest being in Soul Society, Unohana Retsu, is whole generations younger than him. Is your brain encompassing any of this?
Genryuusai has no one that knows him, because they're all dead. Born again. Recycled. And he's been singled out because Soul Society's citadel, Seireitei needs a powerful fist to grip its golden arm and navigate it through the dangerous waters of existence. Someone has to take the mantle up. Genryuusai is a better choice than most.
"Genryuusai-dono." Chojiro's voice is all hesitancy and disapproval. "Was that really the wisest course...? They'll be back in here before sundown, having celebrated escaping by drowning the documents someone has been working on all day to turn in tomorrow."
"I'm tired. I don't want to deal with them now." Genryuusai sits heavily and closes his eyes. "I'm old, Chojiro..."
His lieutenant steps forward to take the haori off his aged shoulders, rubbing the base of Genryuusai's skull to soothe the incessant, aching buzz there. Calling for tea, Chojiro asks if Genryuusai would like a nap.
"This tiredness has crossed the threshold of being allayed by sleep. Oh, my work never ends..."
The deputy knows that better than anyone, but he isn't accustomed to Genryuusai whining about it. Ill equipped to handle this mood, which has never been seen in the centuries of service he's supplied, Chojiro stays silent in the face of adversity. Genryuusai's grating tones carry on.
"Everyone addresses me so formally...it's always Yama-jii this and Yama-jii that. Or Genryuusai-dono. Or soutaichou-sama. Do you know I was once in the prime of my youth? A long time ago. And I had friends that called me Gen-chan. I'm not joking, Chojiro, are you listening to me?" Yes, he is. "Zaraki's little girl calls him Ken-chan and I'm hard pressed to not remember. Oh my own roguish days. Oh, to be a scrap of vagrant reiatsu fluttering in the wind. Have you any idea how much responsibility I shouldered? And, good grief, these pathetic children don't appreciate it at all! I seem heartless to them." He cranes his neck, trying to see Chojiro's face behind him.
"Come around here, I can't see you. Do you think I'm rambling?"
"Genryuusai-dono," Chojiro says calmly, "I have never respected anymore more in my life than I have you. As for closeness...doesn't Kyoraku-kun call you something familiar enough?" Far too familiar; if Chojiro has his way Shunsui will have to bow and kiss Genryuusai's robes every time he wants an audience with him.
"I have no friends, Chojiro. Only sons and daughters and subordinates. I'm the last of my generation."
"I think we're talking in two different veins."
A young shinigami (Genryuusai turns away in aversion) serves tea and retreats. Rich aromatic air wafts towards Genryuusai's impressive proboscis, and Chojiro takes his opening.
"Genryuusai-dono, what is troubling you exactly?"
"Nothing's troubling me," Genryuusai is the picture of complacency. "Can't an old man complain anymore? I'm ready for work. When those three young things come back at sundown, like you say they will, throw them in the Kuchiki compound for detention. Ginrei will straighten them out."
"Ginrei-sama!" Chojiro looks pleased at the thought of the clan head in that household, "Isn't he Genryuusai-dono's friend?"
"Quite," Genryuusai says, only to make his lieutenant happy, "Let's have dinner with him. I'd like to see the Shiba youth curb her still noble pride enough to serve a Kuchiki."
"You see Genryuusai-dono, it's still entirely possible to find things to live for in this life."
That isn't the point at all, but Genryuusai likes his tea too much to stop drinking it long enough to frame the argument. He's still bone-weary. After this many millennia, who wouldn't be? One dinner with Ginrei, who came after his time, isn't going to be enough. But there will be more dinners, and that is the point. Genryuusai will raise more generations, and each generation will have a surprise, a kid of a kind he hasn't seen before (because no two kids are the exact same, though he finds it hard to care enough to note the differences) and new Yoruichis, Byakuyas, Jyuushiros. He sort of hopes he doesn't have to deal with another Shunsui anytime soon. Peeling a Casanova off the ladies is one thing. Peeling a Casanova with an I.Q. to throw you so far off balance you're falling onto the ladies yourself is another matter entirely.
Move on, move out!
"You know, Genryuusai-dono…I am like your shadow."
He looks up, startled, Chojiro sounds softer than he ever has before.
"You chose me to be your companion, and I have devoted myself to you. I think I understand better than anyone left alive or dead. If you are the fire blazing a path for creation to meander through, I am the smoke following close behind, spreading the wings of your immense power. You know this. And if you would like, I will move past my respect of you to call you anything you like. Treat you any way you wish. Sir, would you like for me to know you well and call you Gen-chan?"
"Chojiro! Good heavens, man. That's a sacrifice I couldn't ask of you."
"My dignity means nothing to me, sir."
"It means something to me." Genryuusai pats his lieutenant's hand. "You mean something to me. And I've just realized, apparently I'm not so old to not have lessons to learn. You do know me. Here I am cribbing for companionship and I've got you right my side! Chojiro, forgive me."
"Genryuusai-dono, there's no need."
"I think I'll take that nap now."
"I'll have them prepare a futon."
Yamamoto Genryuusai Shigekuni is an old man. But that's no reason to hang about feeling sorry for him.