Recalling You (3/?)
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach.
Warnings: a little mention blood.
Notes: If anyone knows the type of government/system the Kuchiki Clan holds, I would appreciate being told. I had trouble with explaining it in this chapter.
As the sun begins to rise, Ishida notes how interesting the colors look. The light blue invades the dark sky, followed by steady glowing hues of oranges and yellows. The sight hits him with great unfamiliarity, as if he has just noticed the amazing skeptical. And it is amazing. Perhaps his Other Self never had thought to stop and appreciate it. Well, that changes now, Ishida decides, as he steps out from the bedroom and out into the small courtyard, anxious to observe other things the 'other him' had been too busy to miss. Part of the spontaneous conclusion is in spite, the animosity towards the old Uryuu clear. Though, the realization that he knows he's never taken the time to watch a sunrise drives Ishida forward. He must find what he has robbed himself of in the past.
Along the open hallway, on wooden floorboards, a variety of the same-colored flowers line the walk, framing the way. On the other side, along the wall, are doors much similar to his. They slide open horizontally and are designed with thick rice paper. He opens a few to peer inside and finds they truly are like his. Ishida assumes these must be for guests. Despite the lack of company, he supposes the clan expects visitors often by the amount of rooms.
The estate is well taken care of; something he notes as he explores. A couple of servants, a boy and a girl, run into him and Ishida kindly asks for information (to his surprise, they know who he is already). They explain the small palace is quite old, dating back generations. It has always belonged to the Kuchiki family and there is always a leader to the clan, who is presently the rather young Kuchiki Byakuya. There is a not a monarchy form of rule as he had first believed—instead the power is shared between both the head and a council of elders. These elders, as described by the servants, have stayed within the family since a young age; the idea is that they have grown with wisdom, seeing the clan's functions throughout the years. There are a selective few of ten and the group stays segregated to age only. The clan head is from parent to child and down the line of one specific family, as Ishida previously suspected.
"Rukia-sama is rumored to be the heiress of the clan," the girl servant slips out, brushing her short, practical hair behind her ear neatly.
This new information is somewhat startling. Rukia? Though Ishida has no doubt she owns leadership skills (bossiness seems to be a dominate trait for the young woman), he cannot see her desiring to take up such a responsibility. By the sight of the estate and the way she carries herself, the clan seems to be of high importance. Do shinigami usually have other duties like this? It seems like being a shinigami would be a full-time occupation, though, it appears there is much more than that.
The other servant, a lanky and noticeable timid boy, places a hesitant hand on her wrist, as if to silence her. With a blush, he stares up at Ishida, a slight bow when he speaks, "Youko means no one is certain. Just gossip."
The one named Youko makes a sound of exasperation at the small attempt of reproofing. Waving a hand, she tells Ishida, "Oh, it doesn't matter anyway. Kuchiki-sama is strong and it will be years until we see a new leader." She pauses for a moment, large eyes flickering between the boy and Ishida. Gasping, she smiles as she questions, "Did Haru tell you? He's your servant! Well, you know. He'll just bring food but he keeps good company. Haru's a good listener."
Red continues to stain the poor Haru's cheeks and Ishida offers a gentle smile. "I'm certain he is."
"Well, we've got chores to do. But your breakfast won't be long! Haru will be by in an hour and show you the washroom," the animated Youko assures him and drags Haru away by the wrist, continuing to carry on her one-sided conversation.
Ishida thinks they're an odd couple of friends, though he's really not one to talk. He must have been an abnormal young man before this memory-loss business to have attracted such a strange woman like Rukia. She's a headache, honestly. A puzzle. He remembers the first sight of her: a relieved, happy smile. It was breathtaking. Ishida longs for that expression, just once more so that he'll be ensured it will never be forgotten. If he must make new memories, he'd like to think that single image will last.
Frowning slightly, Ishida considers if that means he's actually wishing to be her friend now. Weighing the new idea, Ishida chooses he'd only a little disappointed with himself if he were to desire the woman as a companion. Rukia, over all, is beautiful. It's simply that one fact that has him in constant wonder. Why does she insist on covering her emotions? That passionless mask covers her face, to his dismay. It's not a big deal, really. But it'd be nice to have something else to see other than that same detached expression.
Looking around once again, Ishida breathes in the air deeply. Gardens are mostly everywhere outside, a little water system, that can be easily mistaken for regular scenery of ponds and streams, runs through the landscape. Through the many, small courtyards there are different designs—some with a theme of a colors or twisting shapes.
Ishida likes it here. Just a little. So maybe he'll stay for awhile. Ishida's sure Rukia would relocate him if he wished it; after all, she had taken him from Karakura Town. It's not like he's in rehab (a legal one, anyway).
Footsteps near him slowly and he turns to inspect. An older man, clad in black and gray robes and a white, aged beard, approaches him slowly. His eyes, slightly open, face wrinkled with age, set on Ishida's face with scrutiny. Inwardly, Ishida recoils under the hard stare.
With a deep, scratchy voice, "I assume you are Rukia-sama's guest."
For a lack of a better response, Ishida deeply bows his head, signaling Yes. The elderly man nods with understanding, however he stays rooted in front of him. Ishida ponders the relationship this man may have with Rukia. Some sort of relative? Grandfather, perhaps. Or is it he is linked to the Kuchiki name by a business? However, it's possible he may be an Elder, which sends an alarm in his head. Awkwardness fills Ishida's perspective until the man speaks again.
"You are not worthy of living here," the statement strikes him harder than he could have imagined, "Byakuya led one stray in here, and now others have come to follow her. If it were up to me, I would have you sleeping at the gates, even if you were to die of whatever illness she believes you have. It's disgusting."
A tint of red spreads across his face like a wildfire, burning with anger and humiliation. Before he blurts out anything stupid and ridiculous, he stops himself. Something ceases the expected, brasher reaction—something habitual and almost drilled into his being. He's not in his own home. This is someone else's house and he knows whoever stays under it should be respected. It hurts him, but he offers a low bow, staring at the floorboards until he hears the man shuffle off past him.
Taking in a long breath, Ishida shrugs off the degradation and turns to his sleeping quarters.
It's late at night when she drifts into his room.
Regardless of the earlier events, he still cannot sleep, although exhaustion gnaws at his body. It's been a wearisome few days but it's a challenge to rest when perplexing dreams plague him. They come in short, periodic ruptures, almost. As if replaying scenes from a life he's never had. Ishida doesn't mind them until he thinks about it later and it's usually when he wishes to sleep.
She must think he's resting, Ishida observes as she slowly creeps through the sliding door and lightly steps around the mat of his bed. His eyes are open slightly as he watches her kneel next to him, hands folded within her lap. A memory flickers inside his mind. The first day he awoke was the day he saw her face and suddenly déjà vu reigns his thoughts as he studies her through the slits of his eyes.
Solemn and apparent exhaustion falls upon her features but he's used to that expression by now. Next to the emotionless mask she shows the rest of the world, tiredness is next in line. Those violet eyes have faded and he assumes the last couple of days have been weighing heavily on her. More than anything at this moment, Ishida wants to grasp her wrist and bring her closer, tell her that this not her responsibility, that he can take care of himself and be gone. However, it's her hand that reaches out first. Before he can react, those small fingers touch his resting hand on the floor and holds it.
This time, he lets her. It's nothing special to him, but Ishida thinks that maybe this gesture means a great deal to her. Perhaps his former self allowed it before. Or maybe he initiated it. Either way, Ishida knows that he certainly isn't used to the contact and wants to repel. It's the closeness that is alluring to him and he wonders if he had always been this way.
Minutes pass and he begins to doze off until she moves suddenly. With subtle reaction, he watches as she slips away, stands and starts out the door from which she once came. Foreign feelings wash over him like flood water and, instinctively, he jolts up and calls out to her.
"Rukia," and before he can stop himself, "Thanks for the company."
He feels as if he's acting out a memory, or an action that happened before. They're reacting something, though the roles seem a switched this time. And, as Ishida studies the shocked face of Rukia, he realizes that is very possible. It had seemed like a dream at first, but he has come to think of it as something that may have occurred for real.
Her expression hardly changes, even seconds later, when he gets up and slowly makes his way towards her. She's frozen with some emotion he has yet to recognize. Part of him, the part he's made up for now, screams and cries out to stop and turn away. However, another part, the part that somehow creeps from the depths of his mind, controls him for now. And it's that part he's sure is the Ishida Uryuu she knows.
With unwarranted self-control, he raises his hand and grasps the side of her neck, not as a soft caress, but a curious touch. Is all this familiar to him? He can't tell yet and almost immediately Rukia breaks from her stillness, nearly jumping at the contact. Her eyes fly to meet his and he wonders why there is hurt.
"Do you know what you mean when you say those words?" she whispers, as if containing anger or pain. Disoriented by the small demand, he doesn't know which she feels.
Confusion clouds his mind further and he narrows his eyes. "Maybe you should tell me."
For a moment, it appears she really will explain and tell him what truly is going on. But Rukia shakes her head and sighs, turning towards the exit. His shoulders slump with defeat as he realizes there will be no answers and only more questions. Looking after her retreating form, Uryuu hears Rukia's soft voice drift through the night air.
"I didn't know you'd be so different."
The days following that night are slow and nearly excruciating. In fear he'll run into one of those elderly men, who seemingly run the clan, Ishida hides either in the room or escapes to the garden outside of it. Despite there being many other gardens flourished with colors and beautiful scents, he opts for the only one he can spend time in. In case someone sees, he'll dash into the room, where no one particularly wishes to bother him there. Ishida finds he has more energy by the lack of activity, however it's obvious the weakness is still nibbling at his physical well-being.
A single servant attends him throughout the day. The timid boy named Haru, with shaggy blond hair that falls in front of his eyes. Ishida will strike occasional conversations and inquiries and the boy will answer in short sentences. He's gathered only a little information this way, seeing as the servant boy doesn't offer much to say. Ishida has learned more of the shinigami and their operations—much like an executive branch of government, carrying out the law of the land. Their main purpose is to carry souls over, so that they may not be lost. Haru gives little explanations, much to Ishida's annoyance.
Other than that, once a day, a young woman visits him in the afternoon. Her gestures are shy and her shoulders haunch, as if to hide her tall form, but her eyes are fierce. Ishida thinks she must be in some high command somewhere. She has amazing features: a pretty face and shocking white hair. She calls herself a medic and performs odd charms and spells. He doesn't question her, however. Each time he attempts to, the force of this "medical care" causes him to grow tired and sleepy. So speaking isn't much of an option.
He's seen as a stray here and he can't help but feel out of place. Something inside tells Ishida that he's not used to being treated in such a bad manner. It's beginning to gradually annoy him. Apathy has crept away days ago and he questions what really is happening. However, Rukia is never around anymore, a better duty calls her away from him. Ishida sighs when he remembers he certainly helped with that. He can't help but feel as if he's part of her dark side—an embarrassment or simply a priority pushed aside.
No longer can he ignore the bothersome doubts of Rukia's real motives. Why is she the only one involved? Where is that Urahara from the deceitful shop? And how does he begin to sort out this shinigami business? It's not as big of a surprise as it probably should have been. Perhaps there's a distant, strong memory that has blocked the complete confusion and lack of faith with what he has been told. He's in another realm, which is certain. It's real. And he cannot ignore it. But he worries for Rukia. Why is she so focused on helping him regain both strength and memories? Is he all she has? He suspects it's rather guilt than the worry of losing an only friend. Something must have happened. Ishida knows that's why his memories have not returned; he does not ever want to find out. Rukia is involved with that, somehow.
The weather is cooler than normal today. The wind blows quietly against the long grass and through the stems of blooming flowers. Autumn, apparently, happens even here. All he can do his sit in the small garden of the tiny courtyard and wait for the day to end (and, though he'd rather not admit it, he waits for Rukia).
A jolt of wind hits his back and a large shadow falls over him. Startled, Ishida jumps forward, stands and whips around. Someone stands close to him. A man of tall stature, black hamaka and white haori. His black hair is rather longer, past the shoulder and three parts fall intentionally in his face neatly. Ishida eyes him closer and realizes this man strictly reminds him of Rukia. Before he can bow and leave, the man speaks.
"Rukia has informed me of your stay here." His voice, deep and smooth, has an air of superiority. Ishida wonders his role in the clan. "She insists you temporally live here until you've healed."
"Yes, sir," Ishida bows. "That is correct."
"I am also aware that you have lost your memory. Even long term."
"Yes," Ishida nods. "However, if this is an inconv—"
"Do you remember anything?"
Ishida frowns at the abrupt question. Opening his mouth to answer a negative, he closes it upon a certain thought. The dreams. Is it possible they truly offer the window to his memories? It's possible and, with his distant knowledge, it's happened before to other people. But to him? Ishida doesn't want to believe all those strange things actually happened. It goes beyond reality (but then again, he's still split on the whole "Soul Society" deal).
Looking up to the man before him, Ishida spots a glimmer of knowing in his eyes. "Yes. When I sleep—"
"Why have you not told my sister?"
"Because I—" Ishida stills in his cheap excuse and stares at him in horror. Sister. Rukia is this man's sister. "E—excuse me?"
The older Kuchiki's face remains neutral. "Why haven't you told Rukia?"
"I..." Ishida glances away, face burning in embarrassment and awareness. This is the Kuchiki Clan leader. And he's been speaking so casually? "I...I don't know...sir."
Turning back to see the clan head, Ishida is surprised to see no one there. Huh. Must be a family trait.
The night air is soothing tonight as he sits at the table. Window open, spring wind drifts through the room, brushing against his cheek. The book in his hands, however, has lost his interest. Instead, he looks across the room, deep in thought. He's thinks of the family business, how rough it's going now. The work of being the CEO of the hospitals of his family's name has taken a mental toll on him, much more than he had once believed. He isn't completely in charge yet, having a university to attend and his duties as a Quincy.
A knock at the door causes him to frown. The question of who would come pay him a visit tonight is soon drowned by the answer as he opens the door to find her. Dressed in that black kimono, sword in its hilt and fists at her sides. Now the only question is why? Her gaze lands on his and she smiles with a small shrug. Strange how he remembers the smile more than anything else. Especially since she drops unconscious on his doorstep the next second, bleeding, bruised and just came fresh from beating an enemy. Maybe because the smile is a sign of relief or maybe it's how her eyes brighten in some morbid happiness that he is there.
Dropping to his knees hurriedly, he cradles her in his arms and brings the nearly lifeless body inside. Laying her on the bed with the intent to retrieve medical supplies, he withdraws his hands. With great horror, he finds his arms blanketed in red.
Angrily, Ishida turns to his side, throwing the single pillow he has across the room with a bitter cry.
Why can't these dreams make sense? It would be easier if they didn't exist at all, if there would be no dreams to come to. All he wishes for is rest but in return there are only waves of emotions. Night after night, they have become more frequent. Sometimes, they replay themselves again, as if he would forget. He knows each dream by heart. It's difficult not to think of them in the daytime. It's draining him.
They are his memories, Uryuu acknowledges in great displeasure.
Knowing how childish it is, Ishida curses his other self, the self before all of this. He curses the other Ishida because it was him who got into this mess. And it's him who is trying to fight back, throwing dark scenes of blood or the rare, lively smiles from the only woman who can haunt Uryuu.
Groaning, Ishida stands and unenthusiastically strides to the door. The servant boy will be here within the hour. Perhaps Ishida could pull some more answers from him. Talking is comforting; hearing someone's voice rather than his storming thoughts is far better than anything else at this point.
Strangely, he senses someone coming before the sound of footsteps reach his ears. However, by the time he does hear them, Ishida knows exactly who is coming his way. Pat, pat, pat, pat. Peering out the door, he watches as Rukia heads towards him on the floorboards of the outside path, head bowed and hands at her sides. Another outfit adorns her form this time, something blue and pretty but he's too caught up in the revelation she's actually here.
Uryuu pretends his heart doesn't skip a beat when she glances up with delightful surprise.
"I didn't know you would be awake," Rukia nods slightly to the sky, which still has yet to grow brighter for morning.
Silently, he wonders why she would come if she thought that. Would she have waited for him to rise from sleep? Or was it to check up on him, as if he were some child?
"You haven't visited in a while."
Her eyes avert away from his and she adds in a murmur, "Only eight days."
Crossing his arms, Ishida leans against the doorframe. "Would you like to come inside?"
Lifting her head with something unusual dancing in her eyes, Rukia states, "Actually, I was wondering if you would accompany me with a walk."
He can't believe it. Going outside from this prison? Away from the Elders and annoying routines? Could his ears be deceiving him? Rukia looks serious as she patiently waits for an answer. He surely hopes it doesn't mean a walk around the large mansion of a house rather than beyond the gates, but he grabs at the chance anyway. Anything to have someone share a presence with him.
With a charming smile, "How could I refuse?"
Thankfully, his prayers are answered and they walk outside the gates. Dressed in a light blue kimono, silver flower designs snaking around the cloth, Rukia keeps her gaze forward. Ishida spots certainty in her expression, along with an abnormal airy feeling. She's comfortable, he realizes with some shock.
Though, he's not one to talk, as his steps are a bit lighter and his arms swing at his sides with confidence and newfound freedom. With her at his side, it feels better rather than being alone. Having to lend him a male's kimono (so that he would not stand out as much as before with blue jeans and a long-sleeved shirt), he takes some time to inspect it. The outfit is soft and fits him well; gray fabric and baby blue patterns cover him. They nearly match, he notices with some amusement—Rukia must have arranged that somehow.
Glancing down at his company, Ishida catches her staring up at him with a small smile. A burst of awe explodes in his chest, tingling his skin and tinting his cheeks red. That's what he had wanted to see: that lovely, intoxicated smile. Almost as if it were wrong, Rukia quickly turns back. A silence blankets them suddenly and it's on a steady course to being uncomfortable. To change the sudden awkward mood, Ishida strikes a question.
"Where are we going?"
It works. There's another hitch in her step as she points ahead to the incoming buildings he recognizes from before. "Seritei" that one servant boy called it. The headquarters for the operations here in the Soul Society. He frowns again at the strangeness of it all but ignores it as Rukia speaks.
"First, we are visiting Unohana-taichou of the Fourth Division," she answers with a slight hint of a secret.
Quietly, Ishida reminds himself of what Haru, the servant, had told him about the ranks and different divisions of the system here. Fourth Division is in charge of medical care. That means this was all a ploy. Turning to her with a slight glare, she sighs and averts her gaze.
"I...confess this is part of a check-up. Unohana-taichou is the best there is and I want you to feel better. Get better," Rukia explains quietly. Sighing, he accepts it. "But," she continues with a smile, "may you still be interested in a tour? That is, if you aren't angry with me."
With a fleeting smile, he answers, "That's why I came along, isn't it?"
Something in her eyes dim just a little and he has a hard time deciphering what that means. "Yeah..."
The 'check-up' is quick and painless. Lying on the small hospital bed, the Fourth Division captain ran the simple tests any normal doctor would. Checking for normal pulse, breath intake, blood pressure. Apparently, he's almost good to go; at least he is physically. In that calm and gentle way, she tells him he will still experience fatigue, though he will no longer need medication.
"Your mind is at a constant unease. I'm not sure if the memories will come back spontaneously or over a long period of time," the captain says to Ishida.
Deciding not to mention they already have, Ishida stays quiet. Nodding, he turns to Rukia, who has her arms crossed in a subtle hint of discomfort. That stoic expression is disgustingly plastered on her face and he has to blink away, banishing the image.
The next moment, "Is that it? May we leave?"
Unohana-tachiou's line of sight flutters to Rukia then back to him. With closed eyes, she nods. With a smile, he glances at Rukia again. To his dismay, her passive features have now turned to a deep frown.
Waving her hand to the door, she says, "I'll be only a second, Uryuu. I must ask Unohana-taichou something."
Mentally sighing, he bows his head once in the captain's direction and exits the room, closing the door gently behind him. Turning his face to the ceiling, he releases a heavy breath, shoulders slumped. Even now, Rukia gives him more mysteries to sift through. What could she possibly want to discuss with the captain? Ishida sighs again and runs a hand through his hair.
"Is there a possibility his memories have already come to him?"
Ishida's ears perk at the sound of Rukia's voice. How is he hearing them? The door is made of solid wood and these walls must be thicker. It sparks some interest as he thinks that maybe by the simple wish to hear has brought about this sense. Probably not. Though, he remembers his strange sixth senses from earlier events; like how he always knew it was Rukia who was coming, despite not be able to see her at first.
The soft voice of Unohana-taichou follows seconds later, "Yes, it is. However, in this case, it seems his memories will appear in dreams rather than all at once. The information Urahara has given me...it seems more probable as I observe his behavior. And the fact the process of vanquishing his memories hadn't been complete—you had reached him in time."
"You mean he already remembers?" slight panic sweeps over Rukia's tone and Ishida questions why that would be such a big deal.
"More in likely, yes." A silence falls and Ishida expects the door to open. However, the captain's voice begins again, slow and gentle, "You mustn't worry, Kuchiki-san. Honesty and kindness is useful in these situations."
The advice seems to be directed at the both of them, though he's not sure how she would sense he is eavesdropping. But he realizes those are good words: honest and kindness. Do those go hand in hand now? How could he explain to Rukia all those dreams leave him in bewilderment and nearly kills him? There is no comfort in telling her the truth and he assumes she's doing the same thing.
With a polite thank you, Rukia steps outside in the hallway with him and offers a brief, forced smile. He feigns one back.
Emerging back onto the streets, Ishida and Rukia walk together, passing the others dressed in black kimonos. They all stare momentarily until blinking away their curiosity and go about their business. Glancing down, Ishida notices a new tenseness Rukia possesses. Something has unsettled her. Was it what the captain had said? Or perhaps something else?
Without thought, he links his arm through hers, nearly causing to her jump in panic, and flashes a grin.
"Where to next?"
Matching the intensity of his grin with her own smile, she says, "Anywhere our feet take us."