A/N: There were no reviews for the last chapter, so I'll just have to thank anyone who put this or its author on their lists.
Disclaimer: I do not own the Inuyasha and Bleach characters, mangas, animes, movies, etc. They belong by copyright laws to Rumiko Takahashi et al, and Tite Kubo et al, respectively.
Ichigo tried to tamp down his anger at Shippou, knowing that his reiatsu would sicken his sisters if it smothered them. He felt wildly discontent about not being even on the same floor as Rukia. Hisana had hijacked a suite on one of the upper floors and was currently holding court while the girls ate a spread that had magically appeared moments after their arrival. He'd only found out when he'd dropped off their suitcase with her clothes inside. Even though Byakuya had wanted their belongings separated, it didn't make sense for them to share now that they weren't sharing space.
"Onii-chan, Rukia-neechan will be fine," Yuzu tried to comfort their brother while she set their own table with its magically appearing meal. Ramen had been on the agenda, and although it wasn't his favorite dish, at this point, he wasn't going to complain.
"I know. I just don't like her being in the company of someone I don't fully trust. Same goes for Tatsuki and Inoue. They're powerful, but Hisana could still make mincemeat out of them. Or rather, piles of bubbling goo," he muttered the last under his breath, hoping to not scare the younger twin.
"You just don't want to be away from Rukia-nee," Karin snorted a laugh. She was stretched out on the sofa that sat facing the wide window. It gave a good view of the park and no doubt she was contemplating which rides she wanted to go on.
"She's in good hands, my son," Isshin reassured, not entirely in jest. "Byakuya may be on this floor with us but have no doubt that he knows exactly where she is at all times. That boy feels that he has a lot to make up for and he'll become a great big brother in no time. I have no doubt that's exactly why he agreed to be a chaperone, regardless of the fact that he should be doing his job as a captain."
"I know, I just don't like being where I can't help my friends."
"Friends, sure, we'll call it that if you want," Karin snarked. She wrote something down on a list and tucked it away for later.
"What are you going on about, squirt? Rukia and I are friends, nakama even. We have each other's backs and are close because of that." If he occasionally reached out and felt for her spirit ribbon and felt a little down when she wasn't on this side of the Dangai, they didn't need to know that.
"Karin-chan, you shouldn't bait him. Just because Onii-chan doesn't see what we do, doesn't mean you can pick on him." Yuzu gave her twin a knowing glance. "He'll figure it out eventually. Now come on and eat, everyone." The youngest member of the Kurosaki family ruled at dinner time, and no one was dumb enough to disobey her orders.
"Enough sad faces, my dear boy. Let's think happy thoughts. What rides do you want to go on?"
"Don't know. I haven't gotten a chance to look at the brochure or check the website. Someone made off with the information packet the moment we got here and has been hogging it ever sense." Ichigo gave a pointed look at Karin.
"You were busy," his sister reasoned. "They have scads of activities for both old and young. I have to say that I'm impressed. Some parks only have a handful of things for shorter and younger people. The Taishos really thought things through."
"Che, not surprising. Kitsune are known for their love of games. At least Shippou is," Ichigo muttered. He'd been forced to explain the whole situation to his sisters when they cornered him earlier. "That Ferris Wheel and the ride across the length of the park looks interesting. Could see the whole place that way and find out where the shorter lines are."
"Taking my third daughter on a private romantic ride for two?" Isshin teased.
Ichigo shot his dad a dirty look. "You do realize we'll have to watch not one, but two Kuchikis like hawks, don't you? Byakuya might have done some research on modern conveniences, but I doubt he's ever been on a ride in his life."
"True. I do not think Byakuya has ever been on a vacation to the Living World," the ex-captain mused. "We'll have to get him to loosen up at bit."
"Right, like that's going to happen. He's going to take the whole chaperone thing seriously; you know that don't you?"
"Chaperones are important in places like this," Yuzu defended.
"Don't worry. I've known that boy since he was young. He has his moments."
"Can't wait," Ichigo said sarcastically and dug into his noodles. He'd pay good money to see Byakuya loosen up.
Maybe Urahara would like to get a betting pool going.
Ishida looked at Shippou out of the corner of his eye and raised an eyebrow. The kitsune had been sulking ever since he'd joined them in the room. His ramen sat untouched, surprising the Quincy. He could have sworn that human stomachs hadn't been the only ones to growl earlier. "Is something the matter, Taisho-san?" he asked, feeling obligated. The demon was their host.
"I've been had," he was told.
The archer contemplated the statement briefly before giving the older male a wry smile. "Ah. We could have warned you the dangers of having anything to do with Kurosaki's father. The man is not known for his sanity. He habitually acts the fool, partly to hide his real identity and partly because he is one."
"I should warn you; I believe he has something cooking with Grandmother." Shippou slumped in his seat but pulled his bowl closer. There was no reason to let good food go to waste.
"Very likely. It has been said that he loves to make trouble. The majority of Shinigami are not known for their seriousness." Most of the ones he knew had a few screws loose when they weren't fighting for their lives.
"Ichigo's dad is a riot, I don't know why you guys are so glum," Keigo said, slurping his noodles gustily. It was really topnotch. "He'll let us do whatever we want."
"Be that as it may, he'll also use every opportunity given to him to annoy us," Ishida shot back. "Some of us are not as tolerate of fools as others." He didn't mention that Keigo only liked the elder Kurosaki because they were two of a kind.
"Man, Ishida, you really need to lighten up. The war's over, you know."
Shippou didn't quite flinch when the subject was brought up, but it was close. "Will you take a piece of advice from someone who's lived a long time?" he asked the teenagers. Mizuiro and Chad had only been kind of listening to the conversation.
"Certainly." Ishida narrowed his eyes and studied the kitsune. Something had triggered a mood change.
"You should accept joy into your life when it comes. There are never too many opportunities. Learn to have fun with your friends and laugh when you can. Having said that, you must also always be prepared for danger, now that you are part of a group that protects."
"Danger comes from many corners," Chad intoned. He had sensed Shippou's change as well.
"Yes, and sometimes from places you cannot see." Draining his bowl, the kitsune rose and stretched. "Enough somber thoughts. Have you looked at the welcome kit? What sounds like fun?"
"Everything," Keigo said honestly.
"The petting zoo," Chad put in, earning good natured groans from his friends. He liked cute things, what could he say?
"The water rides section," Mizuiro added. "We did not have much of a chance last time."
"True," Shippou agreed.
"You just want to see hot babes in bikinis," Keigo ribbed.
"I am unsure," Ishida answered. He hadn't had many chances to go to amusement parks in the past. His grandfather had tried to balance training with fun, but after his death, going to such a place by himself had never appealed to him.
"Well, you have plenty of time to explore tomorrow and the day after. I've given you unlimited access so do not hesitate to use those wrist bands." The kitsune grinned, showing fangs and a calculating glint in jeweled eyes. If his employees were at the top of their game, the high schoolers would have a very interesting time.
Ishida narrowed his eyes and probed his host's youki with his own spiritual energy. The demon didn't waver, and nothing seemed out of place, but the Quincy had a feeling that the kitsune had something in the works. "We will make the most of it, Taisho-san," he assured.
All the while on the lookout for trouble.
Rukia and the other girls gazed out at the twinkling lights of the park while drinking the last of their tea. Upon reaching Hisana's suite, they'd been met with a feast of Japanese delights and delicacies. As hungry as they'd been, it hadn't taken long for them to consume almost every last dish. "Your amusement park looks very inviting from here," the Shinigami said to her hostess.
"Thank you, but I cannot take the credit. This is truly Shippou's baby. As a kitsune, he's always loved games and tricks, so it was a fitting project for the boy. When these contraptions were first invented, you should have seen the expression on his face. Kagome nearly had to sit on him. He immediately jumped at the opportunity to design some himself."
"Gotta say, they do make some pretty wild rides these days," Tatsuki said. "All the companies are always looking for new ways to defy gravity and scare the crap out of us."
"Personally, I enjoy the originals. The Ferris Wheel has always been a joy when I've wanted to be up high but can't find a safe place to do so myself. The Carousel is also nice. Shippou once fiddled with one and made everyone so dizzy they lost their last meal. Including Sesshoumaru. Needless to say, the cub didn't get to sit for a very long time." Hisana chuckled softly, lost in family memories.
"I've always thought the Ferris Wheel romantic," Orihime sighed.
Gold eyes sharpened on the flower wielder. "Yes, I suppose, you're right, child. The enclosed space meant for quiet conversation, and in some cases only meant for two. I imagine that there's a young man who would not mind having a few moments alone with you."
Orihime blushed scarlet as her mind went to Ichigo. "Well…"
Her friends shot sharp looks at Hisana, trying to silently tell the demon not to encourage those thoughts. Hisana ignored them. "A certain archer, perhaps?
"Archer? You mean Ishida-kun? He is a dear friend, and we haven't had a lot of time to talk lately… I suppose it would be nice," Orihime answered, confused.
Rukia winced and Tatsuki mumbled an apology to the absent Quincy. The fact that Ishida had feelings for their friend had never been a secret from anyone but Orihime. "Perhaps we should prepare for bed," Rukia interjected. "No doubt there will be some people up early and ready to go to the park once it opens. I would rather get a good night's rest before having to deal with them." Her brother included. The older Kuchiki would be up at dawn, regardless of the fact that he was supposed to be on vacation.
"An excellent idea, my dear. Yes, you children have a nice bath. There are some things I must tend to, business wise, before I can settle in." Hisana waited until they were out of earshot before grinning, fangs very much in view. So the archer did feel for the healer as she thought he did, as evidenced by Rukia and Tatsuki's reactions to Orihime's confusion. Perhaps her little matchmaking scheme wouldn't be as difficult as she feared. A little time at the top of the Ferris Wheel might help things along.
Shippou would forgive her for tinkering with it eventually.
Alone in his room, Byakuya calmly studied what he could see of the park from the hotel. Not satisfied with the limited view, he exited his gigai and passed through the window, careful to keep his spiritual energy hidden. He didn't want to frighten his sister or any of her friends, and he didn't want to alert the Taishos that he was doing anything that they might object to.
Slowly he made his way around the giant expanse of land, using the map he'd memorized as a guide. He made a mental note of all the spots teenagers could hide in the event that they wanted to get up to something they shouldn't. Several youkai watched his passing with little interest and Byakuya supposed that they had seen a Shinigami before or been alerted to his presence.
Eventually satisfied that he had scouted the area enough, the captain returned to the hotel and slipped into his gigai. He felt his sister's reiatsu brush against his and a small smile slipped across his face briefly. Obviously, she had felt him leave his temporary body and wondered. Byakuya returned the gesture, feeling the relief of the younger Shinigami.
There was no need for her to know why he had gone scouting. These amusement parks might offer enjoyment of all kinds for ones as young as Kurosaki, and to his sister, but as a chaperone, he needed to know all the dangers as well. He had no doubt that there were plenty of safety measures in place for the rides and attractions, but letting teens disappear for untold lengths of time were a danger not often thought about. The Shinigami captain approved of the chaperone rule and wondered if he shouldn't think about implementing that when Kurosaki came to visit. There was no telling what the kozo would think of to try now that they weren't fighting for their lives. It was something to consider. In the meantime, he'd have to be satisfied with the little kido traps he'd put around the amusement park.
Rukia would thank him later.