Warning: Spoilers for Bleach Movie 4- The Hell Chapter
Shades of Grey
He never thought he would relate to the younger man this way; that there would be a sort of kinship between them. Things had always been black and white for him. There was no deviating from his path, no second guessing or voicing of his own opinions. He wasn't even sure if he was allowed an opinion, not in things that really mattered. He had made one choice on his own, and look how well that turned out.
No, whether he admitted it or not, he was but a tool, a mere slave to the mediocrity of the aristocracy. It was his duty, nay his privilege to uphold the very foundations his clan had been built upon. And while not exactly happy, he had been somewhat content to go along with it all, never making waves, rowing the boat in a calm and boring manner. For this he had been born and bred. And so the days fell, like ripples on a lake.
Until that day when everything shattered and his world- his pristine and perfected ideals came crashing down, shattering on the ground. It took one person, a mere slip of a boy to rock everything he knew into the dust. It rankled him, twisting his mind in ways he had never considered, casting questions and doubts as heavy stones into his lake, driving him to wonder what was really right and what was wrong.
Black and white clashed with brilliant orange, a colour he despised, hideously garish and bright. The youth was crass and unmannerly in many ways, the complete opposite of himself. He thought the boy a fool, uneducated and weak. Easily cut down and trampled upon, left to die in pool of his own blood.
It was black and white, the way the world was supposed to be. The strong survived, the weak did not. Decorum and order reigned, chaos was simply not tolerated. However, from the moment he left the world of the living, left that body bleeding on the cold ground, the lines began to blur, and fade. Black gave way to red, white to gleaming hazel, and suddenly nothing was clear, nothing was the same.
Everything was different.
He was different.
Cracks formed in his heart, giving way to emotions he had long since buried. He began to feel again. It hurt at first, the realizations of all he had almost sacrificed for the sake of duty, almost lost in the ripples of being the perfect man. He looked upon his sister and saw not the dead woman she resembled, but the powerful girl his family had adopted. And felt pride in her accomplishments.
Not that one would know. He was still Byakuya Kuchiki after all, and had an image to up hold. But those who knew him could see the softening of his eyes when he saw her. Nevertheless, it seemed she was the only one to feel his concern, to know what his caring words sounded like.
The tortured screams of the young man brought him back to the present as his grey eyes focused on the horrific scene before him. Despite knowing much about Ichigo Kurosaki, he could still be amazed by the sheer forceful power the man possessed. Seeing him twisting about, clutching the pale body of a young girl in his arms, a furious cry ripping from his lips, the stoic captain flinched minutely as the sounds of agony swept all around them. It was confusing at first, this macabre play unfolding before them. He strove to comprehend just what had happened. Watching with detached fascination as Ichigo sank to his knees, begging and shaking his friend with desperate pleas for solace, for the tiniest hints that what he thought to be true was not, it took Byakuya mere moments to piece together the truth behind Ichigo's insane actions.
His sister, his little helpless, innocent sister had been dragged quite literally to Hell. In that second of dawning realization, the two men were at once on the same level. The facts aligned, and while Byakuya's own sister was still trapped in Hell, his worry was nothing like what the younger man felt. He listened with piercing clarity as the Head Captain cut into Ichigo, laying the fault solely at his feet. The crushing weight of it all must have been astronomical, something the older man knew all too well.
He shook his head, pausing outside the white covered tent that housed the body of Ichigo's youngest sister. He felt a flash of anger, resentment even towards his own leader, and frowned. While it was certain that the young man's actions had been rash, the entirety of the incident was not completely his responsibility to bear. The Soul Society with all its pompousness and shadows of righteousness, had often dug its own grave, pulling the dirt in afterward. Circumstances that should have been brought to light were left in the dark to fester mutinously.
This was one such mistake.
They knew who the intended targets had been, and yet had failed to alert the substitute Shinigami. Without that vital information, Ichigo was left to do what he did best- try to save the day once again. As it had been a direct attack on his family, whom everyone knew held the dearest place in his heart, it was only logical that he wouldn't think twice about rushing in where angels dare not tread.
For once, the old man was gravely mistaken. So, it was for that very reason that the stern man stood before the closed flap on the mourning tent. Quietly, he listened. Heartbreaking sounds of the deepest grieving filled the stillness around him. Pulling aside the sheet, he entered, stopping to silently observe a man he had come to understand, if not respect. He knew the deep chilling pain of a loved ones' death, felt the gut wrenching burn of seeing a life cut too short. He allowed Ichigo his privacy for several moments. It was wrong, he reflected, to see someone so bright in so much pain, so damaged and shattered. Ichigo was not meant for this kind of hopelessness. He was a brilliant being, filled with righteous fire.
Wincing slightly, Byakuya shook his head. He could feel a physical pain- empathy- for his comrade, blurring those lines again.
And as he took a step forwards, to offer the comfort only he could give, shades of grey filled the air. Black and white no longer had a place here, not for them, not any more.