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06 November 2016 @ 06:23 am
The Ishida Family in 28 Tales, part two  
Again, it's so annoying how LJ doesn't accept long fics. This fic is on tumblr under my name there schmalzmanma, on ff.net under debbiechan and also now on An Archive of Our Own at  http://archiveofourown.org/works/8484850



11. Fashion

Kanae had worn a servant’s outfit for so much of her life that adjusting to being the spouse of a wealthy young doctor challenged her. Mrs. Ishida had offered Kanae a guide to help her choose outfits shortly before the young wife, Ryuuken, and their small son moved into their first family home, but Kanae had refused. She thought it infantilizing that a stranger would be hired to help her pick out her own clothes.

One Saturday, she took Uryuu by the hand and told him they were going to a high-end boutique to buy “many many dresses” for his mother to wear.

“Why do you need so many?” The boy had asked.

“Parties, social events,” Kanae had explained. “There’s a certain way a woman needs to look on certain occasions, and the simple clothes I own now aren’t … pretty enough.”

“You look beautiful,” Uyruu had said.

At the shop, Kanae was right away overwhelmed by the choices. She had planned on purchasing two day suits, two cocktail dresses, a few casual skirts and blouses, and matching shoes and bags, but oh—she had no idea that there would be so many fabrics, styles, colors. The shop-tags, even though she had a credit card and Ryuuken’s command to “spend without considering the cost,” were marked with obscene prices.

The shop girl tried to help, but she talked fast and kept bringing out item after item which only confused Kanae more.

At some point, Uryuu told the shop girl which dresses to put back on the racks. “Those lacey things don’t suit my mother. And she doesn’t look good in black either. She doesn’t like it.”

He was right. Kanae didn’t own a single piece of clothing that resembled her maid uniform.

“She’s slim so something that is fitted around her waist, maybe?”

Kanae had always known Uryuu to be an observant child, but his ability to discern things like this?

“She likes to be comfortable too.” He touched the skirt of one pale blue dress. “What fabric is this? The name? It’s crinkly, like what you wrap desserts in, not comfortable at all.”

“Chiffon,” answered the girl. “This chiffon is a little heavy but— “

“This one.” Uryuu was palming another dress. “Looks big for mother but if you have it in her size, I think it would be nice. It’s simple but a purse and fancy shoes would make it fancier. The dress is pretty—what do you think, Mother?”

“It’s very pretty,” Kanae agreed. “I like the soft gold color.”

“What is this fabric called?” The small boy pushed up his round spectacles.

“Linen.”

And within an hour, Kanae had bought all she came for, her confidence buoyed by her son’s attention to her needs and by his curious questions about the specifics of the merchandise. “Maybe you will be a fashion designer when you grow up,” she told him.

He was helping her carry boxes and only his eyes showed over the top of them. “Can one be a fashion designer AND a Quincy?”

“I don’t see why not,” Kanae answered and hailed a cab.

12. Protect

Souken had told Uryuu that any one person’s life is always motivated by what that person wants to protect.

The idea helped Uryuu learn empathy. Did the science teacher who yelled when students didn’t do their homework want to protect ideas and make sure that facts were preserved—did Honda-sensei live in order for students to learn the sanctity of the scientific method? Did the strange old man at the barber shop who fed all those stray cats—did he want to protect the lost and abandoned?

Uryuu wasn’t sure what bullies on the street-corner who tripped kids and took their toys wanted to protect—maybe their delusions that they were tough.

Uryuu was home after school one afternoon when the phone rang and not long after, he heard his mother sobbing. He ran to the kitchen where she sat on a chair, his father stone-faced, his arm on her shoulder.

“It was time,”

his father said. “It was a lingering illness. To be honest, I’m relieved.”

Uryuu had never seen his mother angry before. She turned to his father and spat the words, “how can you say that? Relieved? She wasn’t even in pain. Souken saw to that. She’s gone, she’s gone. Your own mother.”

“All her life,” and here Father removed his hand from his wife and put it in his pants pocket. His stance was defensive. His tone was harsh. “All her life she fought for control of other peoples’ lives. She was trying to preserve an outdated, toxic culture. She … I know I owe her for my own life, and I tried to maintain my responsibility to her as best I could, but you know this yourself: she was a hateful, angry person. Life will be easier for our family without her.”

Mother dropped her face into her hands and sobbed. Father stood over her, appearing as if he wanted to comfort her, taking a step forward, then one back, but not saying a word, his face softening in a way that was perceptible only to someone like Uryuu.

Mother raised her face from her hands to say, “Ryuuken, she only ever wanted to protect you. She was your mother.”

A long silence. Uryuu did not feel any grief. He had not known his grandmother well. She rarely came to visit and when she did, she was cross and critical.

“I have arrangements to make for the funeral,” Father said. “I’ll be in my office. The family will take two weeks off for bereavement, no more. I’ll sell the estate while I’m there. I’m quite sure my father would prefer living closer to his grandson.”


13. Love

The Ishida men rarely spoke of love, even to their loved ones. This was an Ishida phenomenon, not a Quincy trait. In fact, in the Wandenreich, which had consisted of purebloods, had been a chivalrous and even romantic culture, given to the courting of women with poetry. It was only when the need to distinguish between Echt and Gemischt evolved that the relevance of romantic love diminished. It was only after exiles from the shadow world began interbreeding with spiritually non-gifted humans that noble families emerged, intent on preserving their status. These nobles were the Echt, who valued pride over frivolous emotions like love, who arranged marriages, who prepared with diligence and with Quincy secrets for war.

Ishida Ryuuken, who had come to Japan as a small boy, had in many ways learned to communicate in the oblique ways of the country to which his Quincy family had returned after centuries in the Wandenreich. His mixed-blood wife, even though trained as a servant, spoke her mind, as the best matriarchs were expected to in Japan. She was small but strong-willed, fiercely intelligent, a woman of impeccable principles, efficient and organized. Ryuuken expressed his pride in her often: a man required such a partner who could run a household because a man cannot be everywhere at once, and she was the most devoted mother in the world.

“I love you, Ryuuken,” she would say, without hesitation, after every argument. She would say it when he thought he had failed at work, when he believed he had disappointed her, when a patient died or when the world was, as it never failed to be, a wretched and unjust place.

He would never say the words directly back. He would say, “I am not worthy of your love.” An Ishida, he believed that actions spoke better than words, and he kissed her often. He made love to her every morning before dawn, with passion and tenderness. He never refused a request from her, no matter how large or small. She was sensible; she made a case for every new addition to the house or more family time with Souken, but he had already said yes in his heart before he spoke the word.

It was on her deathbed that he told her that he swore by not by his heart which was not as good as it could be, but by her own, which was pure, that he would protect their son. It was not until many years later that passing by her photograph as he always did, he paused, and for no reason he could name then or later, whispered, “Kanae, I love you.”

There were no regrets. She had always known.

14. Freedom

A misconception reigned among bigots in the human world that Quincy had no souls, were not reincarnated, or were eternally punished by Shinigami for their sins of blasting Hollow from the cycle of reincarnation by equally having their own souls disintegrated. “Bam, a Quincy keels over and dies, a Shinigami arrives, pops him on the head with a mumbo-jumbo spell—no after-life for you, Quincy!” Such a belief was held by spiritually aware people, of course—those who could sense the dead and see the monsters who preyed on those dearly departed. These people did not belong to any particular tribe or religion; they were simply those who knew who Quincy were and either feared them or looked down upon them.

Souken did not hide his identity. When people asked him what the emblem around his neck was, he said it was a Quincy cross. Most of the time, people asked no further questions. Every once in a while, a person stepped back, afraid. There were rumors about his healing powers, and after he died, the old superstitious women of Karakura told one another: what a shame, he was a Quincy, there is no afterlife for him.

But there was. He went to Soul Society, and even after suffering the tortures of the 12the division and dying there, Souken’s soul returned to the World of the Living to be reborn.

Such was also the case with Ryuuken’s mother. Her death had been the result of a Hollow attack that had tainted her with a mysterious illness her pureblood strength had fought for years; all of Souken’s magic could not save her. Her illness was not like what had stricken Masaki; there was no imminent danger of soul suicide as Kisuke had explained. The Hollow wound ate at her internal organs like a cancer and her unhappiness seemed to aggravate the spread of the strange disease. She died, but her soul, as mixed with sin and goodness as anyone’s, had flown to another realm.

Not so with Masaki and Kanae. Their deaths were what broke Ryuuken and made him renounce his heritage. His father had told him about the ability of the Quincy king to absorb the souls of other Quincy. Followers believed the process to be a coming home to God, but some had questioned how one entity could be so selfish as to yank others from of the balance of worlds, to murder each individual’s chance to evolve through reincarnation.

Kanae, lost forever?

The silver that Ryuuken dug from her heart was fashioned into an arrowhead that waited, for years and years, in a locked drawer in the secret basement of the hospital. Ryuuken and Uryuu had trained in that basement. Ryuuken did not want to use the arrowhead. He did not want to think about his son using the arrowhead. He did not want to believe that Souken was right about the Quincy king returning.
But if the king did return? Would Kanae return with him?

Uryuu shot the arrow into the chest of the Quincy king. A Shinigami split the Quincy king in half with a zanpaktou, the sword that cleanses souls from their sins.

It was in that moment that hundreds of thousands of souls, once lost, found freedom.
“Kanae,” Ryuuken heard himself say. He was standing at the base of what used to be the king’s palace. It had been made mostly rubble by war. “Kanae.” He felt her reiatsu. It was there, and it was gone.

Kanae had always been pure; her own heart could not be more virtuous—no Shinigami sword had been necessary to absolve her of anything, merely to set her free. There were particles lingering in the cold air—other souls. “Kanae?” A trace of her gleamed from the silver arrowhead and disappeared, as if she had wanted to hide for a moment. Clouds of souls spiraled around in invisible funnels for a minute or so. Then all spirit particles dissipated and went wherever they needed to go.

There was still a place inside him, though, where she held fast. Even in that moment of lightness, there was no freedom from the pain of missing her.


15. Betrothed

The girl was thirteen when she moved into the Ishida estate--her aunt, a second cousin of Mrs. Ishida, having passed from old age and her parents long dead from battling Hollow. She was not from a wealthy family, but she was a pureblood, educated, and Mrs. Ishida was nothing if not devoted to preserving the purity of the Quincy heritage. Mixed marriages with untalented humans were dangerous in her view; mixed children were brought up with improper ideas and their powers were weak or non-existent.

The girl began training right away with the best sensei available—short of Souken himself, who was busy with his own projects. Ryuuken rarely saw the girl except at breakfast and dinner, noted that she was pretty and talkative, especially bubbly for someone who had so recently lost a family member, and he heard that she was good at spells but untalented in archery, and that Mrs. Ishida was not pleased with her progress over the months.

It came as a shock, therefore, when his mother told him one day that he and the girl were to be betrothed.

Ryuuken’s glasses slipped a little off his nose, and he didn’t bother to adjust them. He looked at his mother over the rims. “Masaki?”

“She’s the right age. I have complete supervision of her in our home; I will make certain that she develops all the proper qualities for a Quincy wife.”

“You have control of her, you mean,” Ryuuken noted.

“Respect!” chided Mrs. Ishida, raising her voice only slightly. She was accustomed to her son’s irreverent remarks in private conversation; he was polite in public, but she still had no tolerance for the haughty tone he took against his own mother. “What I would like for you to do is to get to know her better. You seem to barely acknowledge her existence. It would help if the two of you were friends.”

Ryuuken considered the proposal. “We’re not very much alike.”

“Yes, yes, I know. She’s rather extroverted, and you like to keep to yourself, but I’ll arrange for the two of you to go to the movies, perhaps to a ramen shop.”

Ryuuken shut his eyes. This was going to be torture.

As it turns out, it wasn’t. Masaki was funny and engaging company, and there was no awkwardness because she didn’t know of the betrothal yet. Ryuuken learned, over the course of a year or so, that Masaki was smarter than she had first seemed, that she was very kind, and every time he saw her, she seemed to get prettier. All the boys in school were talking about her. She was developing what could only be described as a … voluptuous shape.

One day after school, she was munching on a seaweed snack (she was always eating it seemed) and she said in the most nonchalant voice: “Your mother told me that you and I are going to get married one day.”

“Is that so?”

“You mean you knew about this?”

“She told me, yes.” Ryuuken put down his book-bag. Some sort of discussion was inevitable
.
“There’s not supposed to be an announcement of the betrothal until after we graduate. It’s supposed to be a biiiig secret.” Masaki talked with food in her mouth, an unappealing habit. “So I guess we have plenty of time to get used to the idea.”

She didn’t seem perturbed. She didn’t seem unhappy.

She chewed her snack, swallowed and winked at him. “See you at dinner, cousin,” she said. And she ran up the stairs to her room.

Ryuuken sighed, a little bit in relief. His next sigh was broken and shallow. He was afraid he was falling for the girl he was supposed to marry.

16. Pride

Souken had always been, by all appearances, a humble man, but even Souken, like all Quincy who Ryuuken remembered from his early boyhood in the Wandenreich, spoke of the “pride of the Quincy.” The concept was so integral to Ryuuken’s identity that he could not remember a moment when it had been explained to him; he understood it as a devotion to a set of principles. Some of the most essential principles: no Quincy would allow an innocent to go unprotected, an injustice to be overlooked, or any challenge to the tribe and its legacy to pass without a display of Quincy merit and power.

After he lost Kanae, Ryuuken did not think he had any pride left in him at all, let alone Quincy pride. He wondered about how his own father had felt about not being to save Mother, but that was different. Souken still had faith in his ancient religion, in some bygone tradition and lore that he expected to hold up the universe. Souken had not lost the soul of the woman he loved to the unimaginable void that was the Quincy king. Kanae’s soul, eaten like rice, swallowed by a bloated power.

What was pride after that kind of loss?

Ryuuken searched for it, the way a man might reach for his glasses if he wakes up from a nightmare in the middle of the night. He tried to take pride in his exacting surgery, in every life he saved at the hospital. He didn’t feel a sense of accomplishment, let alone pride.

Uryuu would come home from school, look up with an expression that was so much like Kanae’s, and there were stirrings Ryuuken remembered from the early days when she would say “Look, Ryuuken, look who you and I made!” But Ryuuken would read over his son’s composition, marked with a high grade, and tell Uryuu the very words he wanted to tell himself:

“Not good enough.”

17. Kanae and Masaki

Ryuuken had never compared the two, never actually spoken the two names in the same sentence that he could remember, except perhaps once or twice to Isshin when mentioning how their wives had died. There came a day, though, that he chose to describe his feelings, in a complexity of detail that was decidedly out of his comfort zone, to his son Uryuu. It was after the defeat of Yhwach and such a thing felt necessary.

Uryuu already knew about Masaki, about how his friend Kurosaki Ichigo’s mom had once been betrothed to his own dad. Uryuu had heard the story from the shopkeeper Urahara Kisuke. Who knew the perverted Kisuke was that much of gossip?

Isshin had told Ryuuken: “Hey, I told Ichigo all about how he’s part Quincy, but word’s been around for a while. Did you know Kisuke told your kid? Not just the Quincy part but that you were in love with my wife long ago.” Ryuuken said a silent thank you to Kisuke for traumatizing his son, swore he would blow the shopkeeper’s head off one day, and nothing more had been spoken about the matter.

There really hadn’t been much to say; both Isshin and Ryuuken had been en route to the Royal Realm at the time with the intention of helping their sons save the universe from collapsing.

After it was clear that the universe was not going to do that, after the bodies were piling up, and that beautiful girl who cast the golden orb was tending to the many wounded, Ryuuken caught his son, as he had many times, staring at the girl with open adoration.

Ryuuken took off his jacket, muttered something about how he’d heard that Kisuke, that pervert, had made the girl put on that inappropriate costume, and told Uryuu to lend the jacket to the girl. “Go,” he commanded his son. He watched while the girl and his son talked, for at least an hour, for as long as it took to reject wound after wound. Sado-kun was healed at last: that giant kid never spoke much, but he listened, a towering presence over Inoue Orihime and Ishida Uryuu as the two knelt side by side, at ease with one another, talking and talking. Sado looked from one to the other and seemed to be thinking what Ryuuken was thinking.

“Your son has a thing for the girl in your jacket,” Isshin said.

“Shut up,” Ryuuken said.

Later, after Sado-kun gestured to the girl that there might be someone under the rubble and that he was going to lift a part of fallen wall to see, the girl and Sado left the scene. “Ichigo, come here!” shouted Sado” I don’t think this guy’s dead!” Uryuu was left where he had been kneeling, looking wistfully in the direction of his friends. Something about how his face looked so much like Kanae’s at that moment prompted Ryuuken to walk over.

“I know she’s in love with another young man,” Ryuuken said in as plain a voice as possible.

Uryuu blushed, stood up, and seemed stricken speechless.

“People can love more than once, I’m sure you know that,” Ryuuken went on. He felt itchy. He lit a cigarette. He cleared his throat. He took a drag, cleared his throat again. “There was a woman before your mother.”

Uryuu could only stare.

“Lives change.” Ryuuken took a long drag and exhaled a cloud of smoke. “My life did. One never knows, and this girl you like… well…” He was not sure how to phrase it. “Her affections could move on, the way this woman before your mother— “Another drag. “Hers did.”

“You mean Kurosaki Masaki, my friend’s mom.”

“Yes, yes, I know that disgusting shopkeeper told you about that.” Ryuuken was annoyed just thinking about it. “What you don’t know is how adults handle these sorts of situations. When people grow up, accept their lot in life, so much changes.” A long piece of ash on the tip of Ryuuken’s cigarette fell off by itself. He flicked off the rest. “Your mother was my best friend and the person I…” How could he explain Kanae? There was no explaining a love like that to a stupid teenager. “This girl, Inoue-san—her affections could move on. You—your affections could also….”

The look Uryuu was giving him was so exposed that Ryuuken could scarcely stand it. No, his son was too much like Kanae. His affections would never move on.

“Get my jacket back at some point,” Ryuuken said before walking away. “At least it will give you an excuse to go to her apartment.”

18. Failure

Ryuuken lost his pride, his identity as a Quincy, and for the most part, his will to live after Kanae died, but it was still impossible for him to admit failure. Yes, it was true, undeniably, that he had failed to protect Masaki. Yes, he had failed to save Kanae’s life. But there had to be a way out. Existence was tedious, people were stupid, the world was a crass and unjust mess, but Masaki had always delighted in it, and Kanae, good Kanae, had always looked for the best in people, even in bitter hypercritical old women like Mother, and had inspired kindness in everyone around her, even in a cynical bastard like himself.

A way out. A way out. Ryuuken had never failed at anything as a young man. He had excelled at sports, academics, Quincy training. He could be courteous if necessary, and he had inherited elegant good looks from his mother’s side of the family, looks which had been famous long ago in the Wandenreich; he was now Karakura’s richest, most eligible bachelor, and even women who didn’t know that he had recently been promoted to director of the hospital stopped dead in their tracks and stared when he walked down a corridor.

He never failed to be on time. He was always immaculately dressed. He didn’t fail his patients. He paid his employees on time, and he made certain that the garden Kanae had loved in the back of the house was weeded and trimmed by professionals and maintained exactly as she left it. The blue wisteria tree grew larger every year. How any unexpected cold snap could turn the plants brown overnight reminded him of the frailty of the World of the Living, but he kept paying the gardeners.

A way out. A way out. He experimented with the silver from Kanae’s heart. He created alloys with his own Quincy reiatsu. It was less powerful that way. Many late nights in the secret basement in the hospital, he considered what it would take to destroy the Quincy regime and kill the king. Every path led to failure.

Still, he manipulated the silver so that it took on its own organic spirit, became malleable and a thousand times more sensitive than any of the silver used in Quincy artifacts. It was pure, like Kanae herself, even though she had been a Gemischt. It was still not strong enough to kill the Quincy king.
Souken had said the silver gathered from the heart of a Quincy taken in the Holy Selection would be able to paralyze the Quincy king’s powers. For a few seconds, maybe longer. If Ryuuken only had access to other hearts from Quincy who had perished when ….

There was no way out. What would a few seconds mean? Still, he worked the silver into an arrowhead. He polished it and engraved Kanae’s name near the tip in small letters. He put the arrowhead in a box in the basement and locked the box with a silver key.

Father had failed to save his own wife from some Hollow poison. As well as Masaki and Kanae from the Holy Selection. Souken had been busy training in a secret reiatsu-sealed chamber that June 17th. Ryuuken had failed to save his own father later; he had sensed the old man battling the army of Hollow and figured that Souken could handle himself or that the Shinigami would arrive soon enough. Uryuu had been there, a non-combatant, ready to flee. Ryuuken had been certain of his father’s safety, of his own son’s safety. What if something had happened to Uryuu?

Ryuuken would not accept failure though. He promised his wife on her deathbed that he would protect their son.

The silver arrowhead in its box called to him some nights: A way out. A way out.

19. Isshin

The man was a damn fool, but Masaki, in all her foolish goodness, had sacrificed her life for his, and Kurosaki Isshin, in all his stupid virtue, had saved Masaki’s life. That shady shopkeeper who sold expired candies and sex toys in the same aisle facilitated the whole affair, and for that, Ryuuken was eternally grateful. Still, the day came when the wedding was announced and the shopkeeper had the goddamn nerve to tip his ridiculous sunhat in Ryuuken’s direction and say, “Am I or am I not an excellent matchmaker?”

“Cut the act,” Ryuuken had snapped. “I’m not buying it. You probably knew of another way. You did this to amuse yourself, and if I ever find out that you set up this match on purpose, I’ll blow your fucking Shinigami head off with a Quincy arrow, I can promise you that.”

“Ohhhhh, pardon,” Urahara Kisuke hid behind his fan. “Did not mean to offend. I take it you will not be a guest at the party?”

Isshin’s large hand slapped Ryuuken’s shoulder. “This man? Ryuuken is my best friend! Helped me set up the house clinic—no offense, Kisuke, but the papers you forged didn’t pass inspection to the top. The after-hours business is doing great now. Right, Ryuuken? You get a seat at the front table. You and your delicious wife, Kanae.”

“Please do not refer to my wife as delicious.”

“Oh oh, of course not, but let’s be a little proud of the fact—she’s a babe. Looking a little chunky in the middle but …” Here, Isshin made a loud stage-whisper. “It’s ok. I knocked up Masaki before the wedding too. Guess love can’t wait, eh?” He elbowed Isshin in the ribs.

The shopkeeper giggled like a girl behind his fan. “I wasn’t invited to the Ishida wedding.”

“Black tie,” Ryuuken said coldly. “Anyone wearing beach clothing would’ve been turned away. Isshin, are you inviting this person to your wedding?”

“I don’t see why not? It’s a small party at the house, after the stop to the government office. Ryuuken and Kanae, do you want to be the formal witnesses?”

“Perhaps I shouldn’t go,” Urahara said in a guarded tone. “Given that Ryuuken wants to shoot my head off. I’ll send some gifts along with my best regards. Ururu will deliver them. When did you say the date was?”

“Saturday!” Isshin boomed.

“That’s…. that’s … three days from now,” Ryuuken was amazed. “You didn’t send out invitations?”

“What’s the use of invitations? I’m here to get supplies for the BBQ.” He held up a bag of charcoal. “What are you here for, my friend?”

Ryuuken adjusted his tie. It was very late, but this shop kept the strangest hours. “Kanae had a craving for spicy potato sticks and lemon chews.”

“Ahhh very specific. Masaki eats anything. Usually a gallon of milk every morning.”

Ryuuken wondered if the offspring of Isshin and Masaki would be Quincy or Shinigami or both—would the baby need a gigai to function in the World of the Living? Whatever. It wasn’t his business. The shopkeeper would attend to such things.

The gigai was slowly zapping Isshin’s powers from him; in a way Ryuuken was envious. Sometimes Ryuuken wished to be rid of his Quincy power, and yet at the same time he did not want to identify as a mere human. He still found use for his special abilities. It was his culture and its dumb traditions he rejected, not his own gifts. Still, sometimes, when he heard the screeching of Hollow and the violent way they ate human souls, he wanted the gift of dumbness to the pain of that.

Why was Isshin always so happy? He could still sense Hollow; he knew of the horrors of the world.

There was only one answer: Isshin was an idiot.

“Okie dokie, Ryuuken, I’ll see you Saturday in the government office—I’ll phone you with address. I’m afraid I don’t remember it. No need to bring anything. We’re happy as can be. Tell Kanae to wear a pretty dress. Put everything on my tab, Kisuke.”

“Ah don’t leave first,” the shopkeeper said. “Doctor Ishida threatened to blow my head off.”

“That’s only if I find out you’ve been up to funny business,” Ryuuken said as Isshin left the shop, the door chimes jangling.

“Uh oh,” Urahara said. “I’m always up to funny business.”

“A dozen packs of lemon chews and all the spicy potato sticks you have in stock.”

“For you, discount price.”

The Kurosaki family and the Ishida family might have grown close, their children playing together, the parents revisiting memories of childhood, but Ryuuken didn’t want the families to mingle, insisting on a singular very human life for Uryuu. Then came the genocide on that summer day, July 17, and the wives died, and the husbands were no longer the men they used to be. Their friendship grew more and more distant; the years grew heavier with secrets they knew they should have revealed to their sons, but somehow the time was never right.

And yet, as Souken had always taught Ryuuken, a Shinigami was not a natural enemy—it was only that this one, Kurosaki Isshin was so particularly stupid and annoying. And as Masaki had taught Isshin, Quincy were an honorable people—Isshin often told himself, laughing, that this one, Ishida Ryuuken, was a bitter hard-ass with a terrible smell from all those damn cigs. Isshin saw Ryuuken less and less over the years but never without remarking on how smelly he was. “The cigarettes will kill you before any damn Quincy war.”

Ryuuken sometimes suspected that he and Isshin shared a destiny, if he were to believe in such a thing as destiny, that is. He had tried to keep their sons apart. Shinigami were trouble. Quincy were trouble. But there were too many neon signs pointing to the paths of the fathers crossing again. Whenever Ryuuken thought about Isshin, which was too often and always required a cigarette, it appeared inevitable that the fool would come lumbering into the hospital one day with a special request or a dire announcement. Some mornings, Ryuuken woke up and dreaded it: Kurosaki, not today, I have a conference. Let it be tomorrow you ruin my life again.



TO BE CONTINUED IN PART THREE
 
 
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