Romance Ain't Dead

BY : valentine
Category: Bleach > AU - Alternate Universe
Dragon prints: 899
Disclaimer: I do not own Bleach. This story does not generate profit.


April mornings in Soul Society were cool and crisp. Fog and ice clouded a view of Spring; the cherry blossoms were held captive as buds to the last chill of Winter. They waited for sunshine, for the warm embrace of May.

The Royal Quarters in Seireitei were housed in a grand, ornate building in the centre. Once a library and temporary retreat for the Royal family, it now leant itself as permanent shelter to the crown princess, Mei. Her home was surrounded by gardens and a winding lake, with cherry trees that the princess had looked for shade under since childhood. She had often visited these quarters as a child, when her parents would come to speak with the shinigami, or with Room 46. When she was sixteen, however, her parents had decided Seireitei would be a better place for her to continue her training as a warrior princess and soon Mei found herself amidst the shinigami, feeling entirely lost.

She was lucky not to be alone; the royal household had granted her an entourage of servants. What half of them did, she had no idea- the princess was ushered from class, to training, to auspicious event and back again. Every day seemed the same, endless and beautiful was the life of a princess although, whilst Mei was grateful no doubt, the nineteen year old royal longed for something more.

She had had that once. That excitement, that passion, that lust, that adventure. But all at once, it was taken from her; just as everything else was. Such is the life of a princess. Such was her life.

Mei was tangled in a mess of blankets and sheets, entirely at home in her over-sized, overly-ornate bed. She smiled as she felt the first breeze of the morning caress her back as she buried her head further into the pillows. She knew her balcony doors must be open to entice such a breeze into her room; Emiko, the servant who headed Mei's ladies-in-waiting, must have opened them in a bid to wake the princess for her classes.

Said princess opened her eyes slowly and blinked against the first rays of sunlight.

"The new Taichou will be arriving this afternoon." Mei lifted her head slightly and brushed her long brown curls away from her eyes. Emiko was whispering to another woman, both were stood outside on the princess' balcony.

"She's nineteen!" The other woman, Mei instantly recognized her voice as Lily, another of her maids, voiced the princess' concerns. "She hardly needs protection," Lily scoffed, "what's all the use in training her if she is to be protected?" Mei, who was lying face down on her bed, propped herself onto her elbows and craned her neck to get a better look of the pair on the balcony. The girl frowned; why would her parents send a captain to guard her? She hadn't needed one in years. Mei could see her two maids, both looking out into the gardens, arms folded, looking nervous.

"Word has it," Emiko dropped her voice to a whisper, "that Aizen is moving." Mei's shoulders slumped in exasperation; if the enemy was about to bear arms then that meant security would be doubled around her! Mei finally rolled over onto her back and sat up with a sigh; their patronizing was infuriating. Emiko and Lily seemed to hear her move and came in from the balcony.

"Good morning, your highness," Emiko said with a smile as Lily went to Mei's wardrobe to pull out her clothes for that morning.

"Good morning," the princess smiled and looked on greedily as Emiko opened the doors to take a breakfast tray from another girl and bring it over to the bed. Mei reached over for a glass of water as Emiko watched her with a small smile; she had seen the princess grow up and had been around her all her life. It was strange to see that fragile, innocent child, become this beautiful, deadly and delicate princess. Mei had grey eyes that were responsible for her nickname with the people of Rukongai: Haiiro no Hime (the grey princess). And fair skin that looked pale as the moon next to her dark waves of hair. She looked every bit at home, sat in the middle of her gigantic circular bed, with a bedframe of gold and pale cream curtains that hung down from the ceiling to form a canopy above her. She was a good princess. She would rule, one day, and Emiko would still know, deep down, what the princess truly longed for.

Since coming to Seireitei, Emiko had been beside Mei, comforting and calming the restless princess, who grew impatient and bored with her wonderful life.

"What talk of a new guard, is there?" Mei asked suddenly and Lily, who came and placed a pale blue dress on the princess' bed, frowned at the girl and seemed to share a similar feeling of resentment.

"We do not need to worry ourselves about a new captain," Emiko spoke before Lily had a chance. As the elder of the two maids and therefore the one in highest authority, Emiko spoke harshly so Lily knew not to interrupt.

"I don't need a guard." Mei responded and the two maids looked at her.

"You are a princess," Emiko said kindly and brushed Mei's hair from her face, "every member of the royal family is getting one at this time." The woman spoke as if that finished the matter. Mei, who was usually quiet and content when Emiko spoke, looked up to Lily.

"Would you leave us a moment?" The princess asked and Lily obliged.

Once the door shut behind Lily, Mei remained seated and Emiko stood in silence for she knew what was coming. Mei had seen right through her; Emiko was acting far too cheerfully for this to be any other day. This could only mean one thing.

"Which Captain?" Mei asked and Emiko avoided her eye. The maid said nothing, "I asked," Mei said with more command this time, "which-" Emiko was about to interrupt her to tell her not to ask but Mei silenced her with a look. "Which Captain will be acting as my guard?" Emiko did not need to say the name, she simply looked up, fearfully at the princess with eyes full of hopelessness. She watched as the princess bowed her head and took a few deep breaths.

"It can't be him." Mei whispered to herself. "Please, not him."

Matsumoto, lieutenant of the 10th Division, stood outside her Taichou's office with the sinking feeling of apprehension crawling around in her stomach. She closed her eyes and clenched onto the papers in her hands tightly; this was going to be a difficult morning.

"Don't just stand there," she heard her Taichou's harsh voice carry from the other side of the door, "come in." He called and she obliged. Creaking the door open, she slithered in and saw him stood, with his back to her, looking out of his window. Matsumoto walked gently as though every step was sure to disturb him; news of his new position came this morning and she was sure it would put him in a bad mood. She stood behind his desk and put on a smile.

"Why don't we get some breakfast?" She said happily and waited for a response. He said nothing. His robes licked the floor as they swayed in the breeze. "Taich-"

"Babysitting." He said plainly and finally turned to her. Captain Hitsugaya appraised his lieutenant's smiling face and looked away in annoyance. His emerald eyes glittered in the sunlight and narrowed on the papers she had put in front of his desk. They had the details of his new position as the princess' guard and seeing Mei's name written so casually on the folded paper made him slam his fist down on the table.

Matsumoto jumped; she was used to the cool and calm Captain that was usually seen in this office. She did not think he would take the news this badly; it had been two years since-

"They want me to watch over a spoilt princess!" He exclaimed and looked to the woman as though for an explanation. Matsumoto had none; she was unsure of how to approach the situation. "Get this out of my sight." Her captain said quietly and Matsumoto did as told; she bundled up the papers in her arms and left his office immediately. She turned at the last moment, before the door slammed shut, to see Hitsugaya sat at his desk, his head in his hands.

When the door shut, Matsumoto leant against it and let out a long breath; that was a lot harder than she thought. As she made her way through the 10th Division's building, she could not help but think about what had happened only three years ago, just after she had met Hitsugaya who was still in training.

It was common knowledge that Captain Hitsugaya had guarded the princess before; when they were both six/seventeen. Whilst waiting to hear if he had been made captain, Hitsugaya went to stay at the Library, the Royal House in Seireitei, with the princess for almost a year as her guard. Then, without notice, two days after being unofficially appointed Captain, Hitsugaya entered the 10th Division with no word on his previous mission. He entered as a mature and gifted, young shinigami. Quiet, almost, resolute and wise; his reputation as a genius was intimidating to most of his subordinates. But Matsumoto knew that look; she knew why it was he remained silent and desolate. Upon entering the 10th Division, Hitsugaya Taichou brought not only the title of Captain with him, but the sorrow of heart break.

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