AN: I have an update for all you nice people.
Disclaimer: I still don't own anything.
When Shiranui stepped out of the Senkaimon, Kyoraku and Ukitake flanking him on either side, almost protectively, Seireitei was eerily silent and it caused the fur along his neck to rise minutely in uncertainty. The last time he was here, it had been terribly loud and busy, but happy. Now things seemed oppressive and the air was charged, as if waiting for something to go wrong.
"Many of the other Shinigami are on patrol, attempting to put a stop to the hollow attacks everywhere." Ukitake explained, seemingly sensing Shiranui's unease. Shiranui nodded shortly and followed slightly behind the two other men as they trekked to, what he could assume, was the First Division Barracks, where the Soutaichou had his office. Shiranui looked around him trying to take everything in again.
Nothing looked terribly different. Some of the buildings were a different color, which Shiranui could only assume was from repairs to damage. He briefly wondered what could have gotten in and caused any damage to Seireitei. He was brought out of his reverie shortly by a hand on his shoulder and he looked over, smiling nervously, at Kyoraku. "We can't go in with you, but we can take you to the door." He looked up and realized his was standing at the foot of a flight of stairs and, at the top, was a tall pair of doors.
He took a deep breath and, bolstered by the warm presence of Skalenvenier at the back of his mind, nodded. Kyoraku and Ukitake stopped at the top of the flight of stairs and Shiranui continued forward without looking back. Two guards looked at him shortly before the door was opened and he was ushered inside to the meeting room, where another pair of guards were waiting for him.
Apparently he was expected.
This new set of guards led him through several doors and down a few long halls before he was stood in front of a sliding door. Recognizing this as the office, he dropped to his knees and knocked. "Shiranui Aramani, Soutaichou Yamamoto." He said. There was shuffling on the other side of the door that he was pretty sure was the other man sitting down. "Enter." A voice rasped. Shiranui opened the door and stood, entering the office. He paced forward, paws thumping on the wooden floor before he came to stand in front of the desk, bowing deeply.
He held that for a few minutes before he stood up, facing the other man. "I am at your service, Soutaichou Yamamoto." He rumbled. The old man was looking at him sedately and Shiranui felt slightly unnerved, even after all these years. "So I see." Shiranui shifted again.
"Soutaichou, permission to speak freely, sir?" He asked, hands at his side. The older man nodded. "I don't plan on coming back permanently. I'm only here to help until your problem is taken care of, and then I wish to return to the Temple I was guarding." He said. He wanted to get this out of the way as soon as possible, so no one tried to box him in when his time to leave came.
Soutaichou leveled him with an even gaze and Shiranui stood tall and certain. "Very well. I understand your decision and we'll be happy to have you while you're here." Shiranui let out a breath he hadn't realized he's been holding and relaxed the muscles in his shoulders. "Sir, where will I be stationed while I'm here?" He asked. He assumed he wasn't going to be allowed to run around without a Taichou to report to while he was here.
"Well, I'm very tempted to give you your old position back." Shiranui tensed. "With all due respect, Sir. No way in hell. I'm assured that, by now, the position is filled and I refuse to kick them out of their job." He said firmly, but with the respect the other man was due in his higher position. The Soutaichou let a smile grace his face for a very brief moment before he nodded. "I figured as much. You never took anything without working your way for it before and I expected no less. Would you consider taking a seated position?"
Shiranui paused for a minute. Seated Officers were chosen once every other year by a test, usually a melee spar where, whatever number of people vying for position, were set on each other, with orders not to cause major injuries. Because First and Second seat were already taken by the Taichou and fukutaichou respectively, the last eighteen contestants standing were given seated positions based on the number they fell after the group had been narrowed down. First to fall was given the Twentieth Seat and last to fall was given the Third Seat.
"When are the Officer exams?" He asked. "Next week for all divisions." He was told and Shiranui nodded. If he was going to be here, he might as well take on some responsibility while he was at it. "I will." He said. "The Fourth Division is going to have their hands full if all the divisions are doing this next week. Besides the Fourth proper and maybe the Twelfth, that's elven divisions having brawls all at once." Soutaichou nodded. "Yes, but this way is better, unfortunately. The written exam was bringing up too many matched scores for us to properly assign seats."
Shiranui nodded. This was all well and nice, but he kinda hoped the older man would give him his assignment and whoever came to get him let him stop at some kind of tailor or store so he could get clean clothes and a few personal things. Sensing his urge to get out, the older man gave him a gentle look, not quite a smile, and handed him a packet. "You'll be assigned to the Tenth Division. You'll report to Hitsugaya-Taichou. But first, you'll be taken to a shop to get the things you'll need. You'll be given orders to complete while you wait for the officer exams."
Shiranui nodded and opened the packet, reviewing the information inside. There was a map of the entirety of the Seireitei, which had changed slightly since he was here, with what he assumed to be the Tenth Division marked, a handbook of rules, which obviously would have changed, a small card with his name and division on it and a small amount of money, which he assumed would be just enough to get a few things to start him off. He closed the folder and brought a hand up to scratch the back of his neck, when his hand came across the silk ribbon around his neck.
"Sir, I realize my bell collar is against certain rules, but I would ask that you allow me to wear it. There is also a pendant wrapped around the hilt of Skalenvenier. My caretaker from the temple put it there for my good fortune and protection." The Soutaichou watched him evenly for a few minutes before he nodded. "The new rules allow you to have the pendant on the hilt, but I will also allow you to wear your bell collar, on the provision that, should you be on a mission that requires silence, you remove it completely."
Shiranui nodded easily. That was more than reasonable request. "Then I shall alert Hitsugaya-Taichou of this." Shiranui nodded. He was about to speak again when there was a knock on the door. "Matsumoto-fukutaichou, reporting as requested, Soutaichou Yamamoto." Shiranui's ears swiveled over and he listened carefully. They'd sent the fukutaichou to escort him around. That rarely happened when he was here, if ever. "Enter." The man said and there was the sound of someone standing up and the doors opened. Shiranui turned around and gaped. The woman in the door was, by any standard, a knockout. He felt heat flush his pelt and turned back around. He may not have an interest in this woman, but he wasn't blind. "This is Shiranui Aramani. He'll be joining the Tenth Division. He needs to report to Hitsugaya-Taichou, but first, he needs to stop at a shop and pick up a few of the basics." Shiranui turned around a bowed respectfully. "Yes, Soutaichou." She said. Shiranui turned back around and bowed to the older man, bid his farewells and followed the fukutaichou, Matsumoto, out of the room.
"I'm not gonna bite, okay? You can relax." Shiranui dropped the tension he'd been carrying in his shoulders and sighed a little, padding up to walk at a more even pace with the other Shinigami. "Sorry, sorry. Its just...I never thought I'd be coming back here. Ever." She nodded in understanding and placed a hand on his shoulder for a brief minute before she pulled it away. "I, uh, guess I should introduce myself better. Shiranui Aramani. Pleasure to meet you." He said brightly.
This pulled a laugh out of his walking companion, who released her own tension and smiled at him just as brightly. "Rangiku Matsumoto, fukutaichou of the Tenth Division." Shiranui smiled warmly and he felt a prodding at the back of his mind and a quiet, contented hiss. Shiranui couldn't help but smile. She wasn't freaking out. This was going so much better than the first time he'd ever been introduced to a Shinigami, which had resulted in screams and insults.
"I have to admit, I wasn't expecting another one of you." Shiranui blinked. Not only was this completely out of the blue, but it really made no sense at all. "How do you mean?" He asked nervously, almost afraid to get the answer. "I always thought Komamura-Taichou was the only animal-person around, but it looks like I was wrong." Shiranui grunted. Still no yelling or anything, so he decided to sit tight and see what happened.
"Do you have a tail?" Shiranui was unprepared for the question and he choked on his breath, having been blind-sided by the other person. He looked over at here and blinked. "You're serious, aren't you?" he asked incredulously, blinking in shock. When all he received in answer was an earnest gaze he unwrapped his tail from around his waist, where it had been hidden in the folds of his robe.
Matsumoto squealed in childish delight and reached forward with a surprisingly gentle hand and ran her fingers down the length of his tail, down to the bottom of his bandages. "What happened?" She asked and Shiranui shrugged his shoulders. "An accident at the temple earlier. Somebody stomped on my tail." She blinked. "How do you step on a panther's tail?" She asked.
Shiranui blinked in stunned silence for a moment before breaking into a fit of laughter for a moment. "You don't. My form in the world of the living is that of a rather large black cat. I fear the public would not have taken kindly to a panther running around, temple in the rural areas or not." She nodded, seemingly nonplussed by his bout of laughter. "You were a temple cat?" She asked. "Yes. For the last sixty years, I have guarded Surētoiwa-ji while keeping the disguise of a harmless temple cat. A rather brilliant disguise if I do say so myself."
Matsumoto only nodded and continued to drill him for information about his life outside the Seireitei.
Matsumoto took Shiranui to the barracks first to drop off his packages. Two new Shihakusho tailored for his larger frame, a light gray yukata, and a few things like unscented shampoo and a nail file for his back claws, which didn't retract and would click on the wooden floor if he let them get to long. When Matsumoto asked about the lack of footwear, Shiranui explained carefully and patiently. "Because of the way my back paws are, they don't allow for wearing any remotely comfortable footwear. In my experience, I've met one other like me in my travels, you either end up with feet, or paws. I got paws." He said and she nodded.
Once his things were settled in his room, which he would share with another person, Matsumoto led him along the wooden porches until they reached the building where the offices were. "Hitsugaya-Taichou will be expecting us. You'll need to check in and get your temporary orders before I can let you mingle with the rest of the Division." Shiranui nodded and Matsumoto stopped them in front of a sliding paper and wood door. Shiranui was about to drop into a bow when Matsumoto stopped him. "Taichou says we don't have to do that if we're entering the office, so long as we remember to use the proper greeting. But only in the office and only if its him."
Shiranui nodded and Matsumoto raised her hand, knocking. "Taichou! Its Matsumoto and I have the new guy!" She gushed and Shiranui jolted. "That's not a proper greeting!" He hissed in surprise and she just laughed jovially and waved him off. There was a sigh from the other side of the door and then a young voice answered them. "Come in, Matsumoto." Matsumoto flung the doors open and they both entered the office. Behind the desk was a young man with shockingly white hair and piercing turquoise eyes. Once both Shiranui and Matsumoto were in front of the desk, Shiranui dipped into a bow.
"Shiranui Armani, at your service, Hitsugaya-Taichou."