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The Offer

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The Offer - A role-play between Lavi's and Seireitou's characters.

Dramatis Personae

Story

An Offer

Years have passed since that fateful day. Hotaru could hear it as though it were yesterday: "Patrol Corps Commander Hotaru Fujibayashi: for assisting in the taboo experiments conducted by Kisuke Urahara, you will be imprisoned in Underground Prison 2!" She was not part of the detention unit of the Onmitsukidō, though Hotaru knew of the place from her work. The thought of what might become of her if she was not timely rescued by her superior, Yoruichi Shihōin, and given the opportunity to flee. Her career was in shambles because of Aizen, as well as her future as the head of the Fujibayashi Family. Damn his name: it has become the synonym for traitor.

Hotaru sat upon the railing of her apartment room's balcony, facing the nearby river that runs through Karakura Town. One of the only places that she could call home: Soul Society was no longer such a place upon her sentencing. Reiatsu of all levels, great and insignificant, she could feel all over the town. It was hardly a wonder that Aizen would chose this place in order to sap enough soul energy to create the King's Key. She would have joined the fight against the Espada, but some things take a long time to change, or they never do.

"Yo," said a white haired man who had appeared on the roof above her.

Looking up, Hotaru gazed upon the man. His reiatsu was considerable in relations to others all over Karakura.

"What do you want?" she asked wearily. Not many spiritually high beings contacted her in such a manner. He could be from the Onmitsukidō, for all she knew.

"Your a runaway from Soul Society, arent you?" asked the man who had then appeared, side by side with her.

The first word that came to mind was 'creeper.' Now, Hotaru was on full alert, though the likelihood of him being in the Onmitsukidō has decreased significantly: though he suspected such a background so quickly.

"What does that have to do with anything?" she asked, the muscles of her gigai tense and ready to act.

The man faced her, "I too am a runaway, maybe you've heard of me, the infamous Seireitou Kuchiki?" he asked.

"Do you know who you are talking to then?" Hotaru answered back, pivoting on her butt and sliding off the metal railing, entering her apartment. She didn't know exactly why she did that: it just didn't feel right. A runaway Kuchiki speaking to her, of a lesser house. What are the odds?

"Aw, come on, dont be like that, cutie" Seireitou said as he too was already in the apartment as well with her.

Hotaru suddenly turned about, crossing her arms. "Don't flirt with me," she said sternly, "what do you want?"

Seireitou appeared right infront of her, scratching her chin gently, "Dont be so stern, im here for a request"

The moment Seireitou's finger brushed her skin, Hotaru's hand shot up to grab the Kuchiki's wrist and slowly pull Seireitou's hand away from her face. "Stop dancing around the bush and tell me what you want."

Seireitou grinned, "Too bad, you have soft skin" he said as he backed away slightly, "Buts that not why im here, im here to recruit you into the Vizards."

"You do know why I was forced to leave Soul Society, Kuchiki?" the Fujibayashi asked, looking away from the other. Vizards: that's what the fallen captains have become. To be accused for making them that way was uncomprehendable, in her eyes.

Seireitou gently grabbed her chin to make her face him, causing a slight blush in both of them. "You act as if the Vizards are ntohign but experiments. Well, your wrong, they are people, like you or me" he stated proudly, his hand still on her cheek.

"If the Vizards never existed, I wouldn't have to be here!" Hotaru roughly pushed Seireitou away, anger flooding her face. Her breathing rate accelerated. How dare he bring up her past! She has sincere doubts that Seireitou had any idea what kind of life she has been subject to the moments after being placed under arrest that fateful day. "I had nothing to do with them: it was all his doing!"

Seireitou got up and faced her, "You think i dont know that? I was one of those experiments as well, Aizen set you up, right? Well, how do you think i feel, the man was a role model for me, when i had no-one else, and he just turned around and betrayed me!" he yelled, hitting the wall as a picture came off of the wall. He then looked at her, "I remember that day very vividly, i saw a beautiful woman along with Aizen, i didnt know who she was but she seemed like a good-spirited girl, who was never capable of such a thing. When Aizen decided to scrape me from his project, that woman saved me by releasing me, which caused me to have feelings for her and also, debt. I searched to find this woman but only recently found out who she was, her name..... was Hotaru Fujibayashi, you..." he stated as he sat down on a chair, looking down

Hotaru was stunned. For minutes, she couldn't speak, her mind rolling over those words over and over. It made sense, yet it was difficult to believe. She did look into an earlier incident, and found a scary hybrid of hollow and shinigami. Her initial instincts were to get backup and take it down immediately, but something held her back. There was something in its eyes that indicated something less primitive. Hotaru let it into the human world, keeping watch for signs of bad activity, but none were given. She returned to Soul Society, saying nothing of such a happening. That was a vizard...

Seireitou then looked at her, "Because of you, i obtained the power to protect my loved ones, if anything, my life is indebted to you..." he said getting up and gently placed his hands on her shoulders and stared at her eyes. "I want to return that, as much as i can, by helping you, i want to help you and give you power that can be used in turn to protect the ones you care for. Join us... join me" he then softly spoke

For several minutes, Hotaru said and did nothing. "I... I can't..." She looked away, the mixed emotions within her clashing with each other.

"You can, your past doesnt define you, your choices do. If your willing to confront your past choices, then ill assist you 100% of the way.... oh yeah.. and also" he said as he continued, "I wanna repay you for that day, you might hate me for doing so but, I'll deal with it.." he said as he leaned in and kissed her lips gently for a second and pulled back smiling and jumped back slightly.

She didn't expect his lips to touch hers and was dumbstruck for a moment. Torn in two, Hotaru reflected on the choices she had presented to her. Because of her sentencing by the CC46, Hotaru had a grudge against the vizards. But some things have changed, if not all of them. Seireitou helped her realize that she changed a lot since her first days in the human world.

"I can't decide right now," Hotaru finally said, taking deep breaths.

"Understood, if you wanna join, ill be in contact" he said as he walked to the window, "Also" he said turning around blushing, "Your a good kisser" he said and with that, he disappeared

Hotaru took the steps necessary to reach the balcony in which she and Seireitou met minutes before. The moon shined upon her face as she looked on. An exhalation of the wind reminded her that it was getting late. The former corps commander closed the glass doors that led to the balcony, retiring for the night.

As she undressed to step into the shower, Hotaru recalled the time when she first found Seireitou in hollowfied form. Further, she reflected on the vizards, and of what to do as she dried herself after the shower. Such a choice is far from easy to decide upon. Her past was affected so much - no: "Your past doesn't define you: your choices do."

"What should I do, then?" Hotaru murmured to herself, sliding into the sheets of her bed.

"You're a good kisser." Hotaru allowed herself to smile at the words, drifting off to sleep.

Another Offer (the next day)

The next morning, Hotaru had to go to Karakura High for her classes, giving her more time to think about Seireitou's offer. There were benefits of accepting it, but there were also more moral things that come into play against it. After the last class was adjourned, Hotaru went straight home. She put down her messenger bag by her bed, and did what she has not done in a long time: left her gigai.

The sensation was a little weird as her physical body flopped down on the bed, though familiar all the same. She stepped outside. Flash stepped, to be exact. With reishi gathered beneath her feet to serve as an invisible platform in the air, she looked about. She let her reiatsu surge for a moment, then put it under control. Waiting for Seireitou to arrive.

"Hey" said Seireitou who appeared right behind her, startling her slightly, "Judging by your surge of energy, you wanted to talk with me, right?"

Hotaru turned about quickly as her ninja-like instincts kicked in. It was slightly slower than those years ago: her edge dulled a bit. "Yes. I considered your proposal, and I have one for you."

She let those words sink in for a few moments, and continued. "I will join the vizards on one condition: that I will not have to awaken my hollow side."

Seireitou happily placed his hands causually on her shoulders and smiled, "Of course, i never said you had to, anyways!" he said smiling but then, not exactly what, but he then, leaned in and kissed her again, not out of debt but of passion. In a minute or so he pulled back blushign and eyes widened, "I...uh...well.... didnt.. exactly....plan... that" eh managed.

Hotaru lightly slapped Seireitou across the cheek, staring into the other's eyes. "I'm not your wife."

Seireitou chuckled, "I know, im sorry, i guess i got caught up in the moment..." he said lookign away, still showing signs of extreme blushing.

The shinigami placed both hands on her hips. "Anyways, is there anything special I have to do, now that I'm in?"

Seireitou smiled and held out his hand, "Nothing, lets go meet with the others."

The others. Of course. Hotaru accepted the hand offered to her, and waited to see if the other was ready to shunpo.

He flashed away with her as they arrived at a warehouse, broken down. "Okay, here we are"

An old warehouse was not entirely unexpected. Hotaru scanned the building momentarily, before nodding to the other. "Alright, let's go."

They entered as a few members of the Vizard stood around, causually, waiting for their leader to return. "Hey guys, let me introduce our new member" he asked happily

Seireitou paused at that point, and it took only a moment for Hotaru to get the unspoken message. "I am Hotaru Fujibayashi, former Patrol Corps Commander of the Onmitsukido. Mr. Kuchiki offered me to join this group, which I accepted."

Seireitou smiled at her, "You dont need to be so formal, Sei will do fine, or any variation your fine with" he said as he turned to the group as Rika ran out, "Seireitou-kun!" she meowed jumping onto him, "Oh yeah, Hotaru-chan, this is Rika"

"Hello," Hotaru said. Something about her stood out from the rest. Being familiar with what makes a spiritual being queer or unusual, having to hunt those sorts of people down while in the Onmitsukido, she instinctively knew. On the outside, Rika seemed normal - it was something within.

Rika jumped off and went to take a nap in the corner as Seireitou went up to Hotaru, "Well, i guess all thats left is to find you a good room where you will be staying" he said as he gestured her to follow him

Nodding, Hotaru followed after Seireitou, momentarily glancing back at Rika. For several moments, she said nothing, but it was worth trying to know.

"Something's different about her," she finally said.

Seireitou looked down, "Yeah, it's a long story with her," he said as they reached a door and he opened it. The room was different then the rest of the warehouse, it was beautifully designed and a large TV was there along with a couch, refridgerater and queen sized bed. "Well, this is your room."

Hotaru looked at Seireitou questioningly. "Is everyone else's room like this?"

"No, i had this room specially made for you yesterday" he said smiling, "Hope you like it"

Hotaru took several steps into the room, looking around. She closed her eyes, and took a deep breath. "Thank you, Sei."

Seireitou chuckled, "Least I could, after all I'm indebted to you" he said as he began to leave the room, "It's getting late soon, you might wanna get some sleep," he said.

"Yeah," Hotaru agreed. Her gigai is still laying on her bed, but she didn't need to go back to her apartment to get it: it was the weekend, after all. A brief period of relaxation and catching-up with schoolwork. She flopped down onto the large bed provided to her, taking a moment to feel the comfort provided. Staring at the ceiling, she realized that this is the most active she has been, spiritually, in a long time. And this is only the tip of the iceberg. She slowly drifted off to sleep, thinking of the future.

Their First Night Meeting

As night fell, Seireitou was sitting up on the roof, thinking over his new recruit and many other stuff as he heard a small noise behind him.

Hotaru was there, slipping outside for some air. The one thing that her room lacked, but was present at her apartment, was a place to easily step outside for a moment. It has been a while since she has been active as a shinigami, though the queer sensation has ceased, since then. Dressed in the attire she had always worn since being a corps commander, she had nearly forgotten what it felt like for the wind to caress her spiritual body.

Both feet landed upon the broken down warehouse's roof lightly, though the rust coated upon her skills has gradually showed its full damage. She looked up, seeing the still form of Seireitou before her, and slowly walked over, sitting down next to him.

"It's been a while since I've left my gigai," she began, "my skills have dulled over the years."

Seireitou smirked, "Well, don't worry, I'll help you gain your skills back," he said as he faced the other way, blushing at the thought of their first kiss.

"You're real easy to read. You know that, right?" Hotaru said after him. What Seireitou was doing right now was just screaming something more intimate than just niceness to a recruit.

Seireitou sighed comically, "Well, I wanna apologize for.. being really direct before when I kissed you, I'm sorry about that," he replied.

Hotaru crossed her arms, looking up towards the moon above her. "Just don't do it again," she pouts.

Seireitou innocently chuckled, "I won't..." he then sighed, "I guess I... just.." he said, hesitating to finish his statement

"You like me, don't you?" Hotaru finished for him. "You complimented me as being 'beautiful' back at my apartment, yesterday."

Seireitou blushed and looked up, "I never said tha!....." he said sighing, "Am I really that easy to read?" he said as he laid down, looking at the moon. "Yeah, I guess I do.... like you... but..... it may be more then that...." he said, looking away.

The ex-corps commander curled up at her position upon the warehouse ledge. "I might have been inactive for years, but I was part of Onmitsukido: I'm used to answering questions that I can't ask. Anyways, I just met you. How can you be so sure it's something farther than liking me when you have a hard time keeping your lust in check?"

Seireitou sighed, "It a long story...... back when i was in Rukongai, i had no-one, and i literally mean, no-one. Everyone treated me like dirt, even though i was a Kuchiki, and then, Aizen appeared but soon betrayed me.... but then..... you appeared, and freed me from his experiments, you stood as a symbol of hope for me and it was then when I decided, that I would find you and protect you forever...." he said getting up, "Whether you liked me or not," he added.

"Protect me from what?" asked Hotaru, her head tilted to the side slightly in curiosity.

"From anything, if anything tried to harm you, I would gladly risk my life for yours" he said facing the moon, sitting back down. "Around then, I was never able to admit my feelings to anyone.. but, around you, I feel safer.... more calm..." he replied.

A few minutes of silence ensued, as Hotaru didn't have anything to say about Seireitou's words. It is extremely obvious that Seireitou has a passion for her at this point, and the possibility of love-on-first-sight frightened Hotaru a little. But, there was comfort in knowing that Hotaru no longer was alone. "I'm going back inside."

Seireitou hesitated, showing that he wanted her to stay but then looked away, "Okay, have a good night, Hotaru-chan... also, tomorrow night, could you meet me here, same time?" he asked, slightly blushing but looking away.

The -chan suffix. He must really like her for using that informal honorific. Hotaru paused in her step, considering the proposal for a moment. "Sure," was all she said, continuing on her way indoors.

Seireitou smiled, as he fell asleep on the roof

The Next Night: True Feelings

Another long day met its conclusion. Hotaru went back to her apartment to fetch her gigai that day, in case cleaning service comes in and think that she collapsed on her bed. Fortunately, that was a scenario avoided, and Hotaru laid her gigai on the queen-sized bed that Seireitou provided before heading off to a sparring session with the vizards. She found herself exerting so much energy that the shinigami had to take breaks to catch her breath. That was rare, especially for Onmitsukido: Hotaru was badly out of shape.

That night, Hotaru did not forget about the promise she gave to Seireitou the night before, arriving at the exact same time as before, to the very minute. Some skills in the Onmitsukido proved themselves useful for daily human life, at least.

Seireitou was sitting there, a blanket set up, with several foodstuffs assorted on the blanket. "Hey, good you're here. I thought, you know, we could have a little dinner, you know, to get you settled," he said chuckling a little while blushing slightly.

A slight smile rose to Hotaru's lips, and she slowly walked over to where Seireitou sat, sitting down next to him in a cross-legged fashion. For a while, Hotaru was silent, thinking. Although it did not seem like it, much has happened in such a short amount of time: Seireitou's sudden appearance and revelation, the vizards, returning to the spiritual realm, training to whet her dulled skill. Hotaru reached into an inside pocket of her jacket, withdrawing her zanpakuto, a tanto-shaped blade. Hayanome probably was thinking alone the same lines as herself: it has been far too long.

"Seireitou, how did you find me?" she suddenly asked. "Karakura Town might not be as large as Tokyo, but it is a spiritually powerful region. One would have a hard time finding me through detection with reiatsu."

Seireitou chuckled, "When we first met, i already had a good read on your spiritual energy, it was only a matter of waiting for the right moment I guess" he said as he looked outwards to see a festival where they were now playing a slow song. Seireitou got up and offered Hotaru his hand, "I hear music, care to dance, Hotaru-chan?"

Hotaru accepted the offered hand, rising up after Seireitou.

Blushing, Seireitou took Hotaru close to him, and slowly danced with her to the soft music.

Being held close to Seireitou, she could easily feel the vibrant reiatsu emitting from the Kuchiki's body. She felt the music's flow, synchronizing her movements with it. In those few minutes of music, she felt the most at ease in a very long time. Music has that effect. As the song came to an end, she felt a familiar presence for a moment, but it disappeared as quickly as it appeared. Hotaru looked up into the night sky, pondering the source, but no one came to mind.

Seireitou was lost in it all, his Id was telling him to kiss her yet his Superego was telling him to just keep dancing, he was conflicted but just decided to continue dancing as he noticed Hotaru's dismay. "Anything wrong, Hotaru-chan?"

Hotaru shook her head, slowly coming to a stop as the music ended. "No. It must have been my imagination."

"Oh, ok...." he said as he then hesitated and the said, "Hotaru-chan.... you might hate me for doing this... but I uh.... well..." he said as he leaned in and his lips meet hers passionately.

Hotaru allowed the romantic moment to linger for a moment, then sealed her lips and turned her head to the side to detach the other's lips. "Twice in a day's time is not enough for you?"

As those words left her lips, a reiatsu presence similar to what she felt moments before returned and remained where it was. She turned around to face this presence, and her eyes widened. "Uncle?!"

Families and Individuals

A shinigami garbed in the traditional black shihakusho stood in the air. His noticeably long zanpakuto was held in his left hand, in its sheath. The look on his face was grim, accompanied by a pipe. Smoke stormed from his nose as Hotaru's uncle exhaled, and the shinigami took the pipe from his mouth and stashed it within his shihakusho. Seireitou's presence did little to distract Hotaru's uncle's attention from his niece.

"Hotaru, you've been hiding long enough," he said in a gruff tone, "the Fujibayashi is without a future and you hiding from your past only hurts that future."

As Hotaru seemed to wanna continue, Seireitou intervened, "Maybe she doesn't wanna go back.... I wont let you take the woman I love away from me, without a fight," he said, staring into the man's eyes.

"Love?" the shinigami repeated. "I love my family, and intend to make sure that the noble house Fujibayashi does not disappear into the dusty corners of Seireitei's archives. We are not like the Kuchiki, with their secure status. Hotaru, it is of utmost importance that you return."

Hotaru looked down at her feet. The pinkish ribbon tied to her back, the symbol of her status of her future heritance of family leadership, flowed with the night breeze as she consulted herself. "Uncle Masaru, you need to understand, I don't like Soul Society for what it did to me. I don't want to return. But I do understand my importance to my family's future. Please, let me stay here until I'm needed."

Masaru stood there for a moment, taking in Hotaru's words. "You're needed now. Hotaru, I do not want to resort to the use of force to bring you back. Kohaku and I are willing to go to the Central 46 and overturn the order for your arrest and imprisonment."

"WILL YOU SHUT UP! Im sick of all that crap about honor and status. You damn idiots only care about the family and clans as a whole, but what about the individuals themselves?! Dont they matter?! Hotaru-chan means the world to me, reguardless of how she feels about me, I love her with all my heart, MY HEART, NOT MY CLAN'S" he said as as he opened his arms up, defending Hotaru, "You want her, you have to go through me."

"By your logic, an individual is worth enough to forsake the entire world for? One person's sacrifice for the sake of the greater population is worth it," Masaru began. An instant later, he was practically on top of Seireitou, his otachi-like zanpakuto sliding out of its sheath with a metallic hiss.

Hotaru quickly took a cautious step back, knowing of the pure skill and talent behind the combative ability of Masaru. A single mistake can cost Masaru's opponent the fight.

Seireitou merely frowned, "Regardless, every individual should have their own unbiased choice, no matter what. I'll fight to protect Hotaru-chan's freedom!" he said as he drew his zanpakuto, an anverage sized katana with a black hilt and red diamonds for decorative appearance. The guard resembled a windmill of 9 red spirals circling for eternity. "Bring it, Shinigami."

"You assume too much," was all Masaru said as his great blade came crashing down upon Seireitou. A lot of strength was channeled into the strike, even for a zanjutsu specialist. He was serious.

Seireitou blocked the attack with both his hands on the hilt of his blade. "I assume too much?...Perhaps, but...." he continued, pushing back Masaru back with a force equal to the strength displayed by Masaru. "But.... i dont care.." he said as he then turned his head to Hotaru, "Hotaru-chan.... promise me this... that no matter what happens, you will follow your own path, regardless of whatever anyone says, you will follow your own choices!" he stated, facing a slightly distressed Hotaru.

"Don't turn away from him!" Hotaru yelled, as Masaru struck again, this time horizontally with both hands on his odachi. The grip he used was a kendo form. Watching the whole movement at a distance, Masaru still had momentum pushing him away from Seireitou. At a first glance, he seemed off-balance, but the swordsmaster was in full control of his body. His odachi was long enough to allow a quick second strike while Masaru placed a foot behind him, gathering reishi in order to counter his backwards momentum.

Seireitou frowned as he moved his hand to his forehead and summoned his Hollow Mask to appear on his face as he blocked Masaru's attack but his attention as on Hotaru, "I wanna hear you say it!" he said in his hollow voice.

Duty and freedom were the values that were clashing at that very moment, between Masaru and Seireitou and within Hotaru herself. The Fujibayashi Family depended on her continued existence to help continue the family line, and lead it in the case that the previous head steps down. But individual freedom also gives meaning to one's life.

"Hotaru!" Masaru yelled, his blade scraping metal with Seireitou's. He recognized the sudden increase in strength, concluding that he could not risk taking any chances with this vizard. The Fujibayashi's future depends on the return of Hotaru.

As for herself, Hotaru could not decide on what to say.

Seireitou's eyes were blazing with determination, he refused to let Hotaru give up her chance at freedom just to lead a family who could lead themselves. At this point, he knew that Masaru onyl cared that his family was held high in honor, never about its continuation. Seireitou could tell that his spiritual pressure was beginning overcome Masaru and went back slightly, noticing his hand bleeding. "Your quite good to accually get me to bleed, no one since Aizen or Ulquiorra has been able to do that..." he said, spreading his blood on his hand and focused a ball of crimson energy, pointed at Masaru. "Gran Rey Cero!!" he yelled, shooting a large cero at Masaru.

Duty and freedom were the values that were clashing at that very moment, between Masaru and Seireitou and within Hotaru herself. The Fujibayashi Family depended on her continued existence to help continue the family line, and lead it in the case that the previous head steps down. But individual freedom also gives meaning to one's life.

Seireitou's eyes were blazing with determination, he refused to let Hotaru give up her chance at freedom just to lead a family who could lead themselves. At this point, he knew that Masaru only cared that his family was held high in honor, never about its continuation. Seireitou could tell that his spiritual pressure was beginning overcome Masaru and went back slightly, noticing his hand bleeding. "Your quite good to actually get me to bleed, no one since Aizen or Ulquiorra has been able to do that..." he said, spreading his blood on his hand and focused a ball of crimson energy, pointed at Masaru. "Gran Rey Cero!!" he yelled, shooting a large cero at Masaru.

The moment Seireitou began spreading blood onto his hand, Masaru flash stepped backwards, recognizing a potent kido being prepared. His speed, even at its maximum, would not be enough to stop the casting in time. As the cero roared, on its designated course, Masaru aimed his great blade at the compressed energy.

"Doraku-kengo..." he began, and the cero detonated as it reached the shinigami. Smoke engulfed Masaru as residue from the surrounding air was kicked up by the attack.

Hotaru gasped as her uncle disappeared in the aftermath of the great attack. Although she did not know him very well, the attachment of a family member was still there. Uncle Masaru...

She turned to speak to Seireitou, but the rush of reiatsu caught her attention. Masaru still stood, his shihakusho only slightly charred from the attack. He gripped his zanpakuto tightly, reiatsu pouring from his body.

"I will," Hotaru began, "follow my path."

Masaru threw himself at Seireitou, both hands wrapped around the hilt of his zanpakuto and ready to attack or defend himself from further assault.

Seireitou smiled, and faced Masaru, "I no longer need to fight then.... she picked her choice.." he said, sheathing his blade and went over to Hotaru.

Epilogue

Hotaru walked past Seireitou, towards Masaru, who landed on the building ledge with a hand still on his drawn zanpakuto. "Uncle, if I come with you, how long do you think it would take to override my sentence?"

Masaru sheathed his zanpakuto, watching a flock of birds fly, by for a moment. "Several days, at least."

The ex-corps commander then turned to face Seireitou. Her face showed nothing but determination. "I'm going to Soul Society then. Not because I have to, but because I want to."

Seireitou touched her shoulders and nodded, "Very well... I'll miss you, Hotaru-chan.." he managed to say. His expression showed happiness but his eyes could show his inner sadness. He smiled, "Good luck."

"My uncle and father will be there to help," Hotaru answered with a smile. She then gave a short chuckle. "Was expecting you to swoon over me with kisses."

Her uncle placed a hand on the younger shinigami's shoulder, lightly gripping to gain her attention. "We'll go when you're ready."

"I am," Hotaru answered. She gave a wave to Seireitou, turning to take a flash step with Masaru to a higher elevation, to enter the senkaimon and face her past. At last.

"Ah, wait a second, Hotaru!" Seireitou called out, hoping for her to just come back for a second.

Hotaru paused at his call, turning to face the vizard again.

Seireitou went up to her, and handed her a necklace, studded with diamonds and a small diamond in the shape of a Zanpakuto hanging on it. "This is for you.... to remember the time you had with us..." he said, smiling, handing it to her.

"I'm planning on coming back, so this is not the last good-bye," Hotaru promised, accepting the necklace. She admired the handiwork for a moment, then tied it around her neck. "Bye, Seireitou."

"Bye Hotaru-chan.... I'll miss you," Seireitou said, waving good-bye.

"Same to you," she answered, and the two were gone an instant later.

Seireitou smiled and then, slapped himself, "Damn it..... I should've kissed her when I had the chance..." he said, his head drooping down.

It only took a minute to reach Soul Society. Once there, the familiar, heavy "smell" of spiritual matter assailed Hotaru's senses. It has been far too long, and Hotaru never thought she would lay eyes upon the great fortress Seireitei again. With Masaru at her side, the young shinigami approached a gate guard, who quickly gave them entry.

Masaru gave a sigh. "Let's go home: your father is waiting."

Fin

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